Tuesday, June 26, 2007


My sister got my younger son an Automoblox C9 for his third birthday this past weekend. Thanks, Aunt Jenny!

I'd never heard of the company or product before. Man, this thing is trick. Aaron loves it, the quality is outstanding, and the concept is fresh. I think Dad may have to score some more of these.

If you have children, or even if you don't, go check Automoblox out. These kits are like seventh-grade study hall brought to three-dimensional life. I'm looking forward to having a few more kits to mix and match with.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Miss Belvedere: Pretty rough, even for a 50-year-old hag

In June 1957, the city of Tulsa placed a time capsule underground near the courthouse. The most famous item buried was a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere. Contest entrants wrote down what they thought the population of Tulsa would be in 2007, with the closest (or his/her closest living relative) winning the car when it was unearthed, 50 years forward.

Said unearthing occurred recently, and the winner is R.E. Humbertson, who put Tulsa's 2007 population at 384,743. (The official U.S. Census count is 382,457.) Think he wants it?

Its vault was said to be able to withstand a nuclear attack, but apparently not water. Clearly a concrete vault above ground would have made more sense, but that lacks romance, doesn't it? Oh, well. At least the phrase "low miles" can be accurately applied to "Miss Belvedere," as it's being called.

Still, I expect someone will restore it. Several pieces will be fine once cleaned up. Objectively it's a slam-dunk that it will cost more to put it right than the car will likely be worth, but at the same time, the car's history may offset more of that difference than I think.

Thanks to kotv.com for the images.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

RIP, Accord Hybrid

Honda just killed the Accord Hybrid. They sold about 25,000 of them in a little less than three years.

It was not a bad car. In fact, it was a great car. The problem was that it offered two divergent primary features that were each individually available for significantly less money in conventionally-powered Accords, and not enough somebodies wanted both of them badly enough for the market to support a $31,000 Accord.

Essentially, the Accord Hybrid offered the performance of the Accord V6 and the fuel economy of the Accord 4-cylinder. But see, here's the thing. The conventional Accord V6 fuel economy isn't bad, nor is the conventional Accord 4-cylinder performance bad--certainly not bad enough in either case to attract undue attention. Consequently, a customer who wants guts is going to save a few thousand and get a conventional V6, with acceptable gas mileage; and a customer who wants economy is going to save several thousand and get a conventional 4-cylinder, with acceptable power.

And you can forget the hardcore green crowd. A hybrid that can't be worn like a badge has no traction in that arena. The Accord Hybrid looks almost exactly like a run-of-the-mill Accord, and that's no good. If it's not obvious at a glance How Much You Care, as it is with the iconic and, ahem, distinctive Prius, then why buy it?

To me, the thinking person's choice has always been the 4-cylinder anyway. I send lots of people to drive Accords, and I always tell them to drive a 4-cylinder first. It's one of the sweetest 4s on the planet. Its fuel economy, both in town and on the road, is impressive, and it's got plenty of power for most people. It's also a highly refined engine in terms of NVH.

Mind, Honda's not abandoning alternative powertrain technologies. The Civic Hybrid is going strong, and Honda still plans to be first with a mass market hydrogen-powered vehicle (the FCX, due next fall). But the Accord Hybrid is no longer part of the vision.

Cause of death: insufficient market convergence.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Man, you can see for miles in here

Hey, guess what? Almost nobody reads this blog!

Nevertheless, I'll keep it around for when I do want to wax automotive. That's going to happen once in a while, and WmWms doesn't quite seem like the place to do it. However, if I write something I'm proud of that I think has broad appeal, I may link here from there.

In my view, part of the problem has been a lack of documentation of the cars of my past. I have a reconnaissance trip to Birmingham planned to get some photos of the more notable cars in my childhood. (There are a couple of folks there who likely have such photos.) That will help. I haven't written about our '53 MG-TD at all, primarily because I don't have photographs to accompany the story, and the car definitely deserves them.

Actually I'd like to have included some photos of Big Red and Frankenvette in the previous post, but again, I don't have any. Jay (in Birmingham) probably does. I'll add them if I get them.

Anyway, here Cowl Shake is and here it will stay, but for the moment I've dropped any expectations of building any sort of substantial readership. Nevertheless, if you are interested (and "thanks!" if you are), check it out occasionally. I'll write something once in a while.