Comments are back on The Cog Blog

Orphan car fans: it’s time to start pounding your keyboard once again! I’ve enabled the “Comments” feature again on The Cog Blog.

I received a few passionate emails about my recent Hemmings Classic Car rant. They were private communications, because there was no other way to talk to me about them. So I felt it was time to open the two-way communication pipe once more.

Another important development was that my web site software publisher upgraded its software to enable comments through a non-bankrupt third party.

So feel free to tell me how you really, really feel. (Please consider cooling off first if you really need to blow a valve. I try never to write when I’m hotter than a bucket full of molten steel.)

Important note: the “Comments” feature is located at the very end of every blog entry. It’s in red type.

1) Click on the red “Comments” type.

2) The screen will refresh. You might notice a lot of blank space. If so, scroll down to the very end of the page. You’ll see a white empty text box. That’s the place to type your comments.

3) Below the white box are additional text boxes for your name and your email address. (I’d appreciate at least a name.)

That’s it! So what’s on your mind?

Hemmings: freefalling into Geezerland?

I generally love Hemmings Classic Car Magazine. They cover the orphans extensively. They have great articles about extremely obscure orphans as well as newly-found models. I really enjoy reading about new products available to classic car fans like me. Overall, I find the magazine’s efforts pretty satisfying.

However, their June 2010 issue took three huge leaps toward becoming the only classic car magazine that any change-hating, apathetic, self-appointed stylist will want to read.

First off, Editor Richard Lentinello proudly proclaims: “...The magazine now has a significantly cleaner, more conservative look to it, which was our intention from the get-go. I firmly believe that the cars are the stars, not the graphics.” Yes, Mr. Lentinello. The cars are the stars, but graphics - like wrenches, screwdrivers, and socket sets - are tools that you use to enhance the appearance of the cars and the stories that you tell about them. Why are you so firmly in favor of making the magazine look like a tax form?

Next, Lentinello snorts: “We deleted Next Generation because not only was it a constant struggle trying to find young enthusiasts to feature each month, but those that did send in their stories mostly owned late-model Mustangs and lowered pickups. Who wants to read about ’79 Mustangs all the time? Certainly not me.” Congratulations, Mr. Editor. You’ve successfully driven away anyone who isn’t already taking Geritol or Viagra.

The next article that made me want to turn the dial was Patrick Foster’s. He reminisced about AM radios, 8-track players, cassette decks and CB radios. It was a folksy recitation of all the sonic tech installed in the cars that he grew up with. Then he ended with: “Nowadays kids speak a language I’m having a hard time learning: MP3, iPod, streaming, etc. Whenever I hang around with some of my younger friends, I feel a little like Rip Van Winkle. But like most folks my age, when kids speak, I just nod and solemnly pretend I know what they’re talking about. It works fine.”

Cluelessness is not exactly something I would be proud of, especially with technology that’s been around for 10 years. Moreover, this lack of intellectual curiosity, disguised as a bit of wistful self-deprecation, seems really weird coming from a guy who proudly proclaims himself a member of MENSA. Unfortunately, Foster’s column reinforces my perception that the magazine is run by old guys who are blissfully apathetic about new people, new ideas, new approaches.

The final blow to the head (or mind) comes from Jim Richardson. He anoints himself automotive fashionista by going on an extended rant about ugly cars. He coughs up most of his bile when talking about the Nissan Cube: “The thing is an affront to all of the automotive stylists who ever lived. It is anti-styling. The designer should be dragged from his creation and made to wallow in a pit of his own filth for even conceiving of such a thing. It’s a crime against humanity.” Really, Jim? Does the look of a modern, progressively-designed automobile get you so worked up that you feel compelled to give us the full Limbaugh treatment? How does being a hater actually convince me that your argument is even remotely valid? Or worthy? (Full disclosure: I would totally own a Nissan Cube with the Krom package in a heartbeat. I love that little Dr. Seussmobile!)

So we have three Old Geezer points of view on full display in the June 2010 Hemmings Classic Car. One: the Proud, Regressive, Anti-Change Agent. Two: the Blissfully Ignorant. Three: the President of the Automotive Tea Party.

Like I said, I love Hemmings Classic Car. You guys almost always have something interesting to read. And I’m sure you’re very nice people who would pause and reflect on this criticism rather than angrily dismiss it. (Because I’m sure that you’re all calm, rational, and analytical.)

So allow me to offer some gentle suggestions: hire more people as young as Dan Strohl. (He must be so lonely at Hemmings.) Give that group some creative control, and give them some magazine space to invent and experiment with different ways to creatively tell the stories of the classic cars that we all love. Why not do the story of AMC as a graphic novel? Why not talk to some young designers currently working for automobile companies and ask them what their favorite classic designs are? Why must you only focus obsessively on car history articles that often read like book reports? (If car companies followed your lead of a staunchly conservative approach, they would need government bailouts...oops.)

Take a chance, and assemble a group that creatively challenges you instead of sycophantically agreeing with you. Take a chance on new ideas that take you down some fun and unexpected roads. Take a chance on positive, open, enthusiastic dialogue with your readers instead of the close-minded, disinterested, hate-filled language of your latest issue. You might find that taking chances becomes (wonder of wonders) familiar. Think young about old tech!

Cyclecar renaissance?

In the May 2010 edition of Hemmings Motor News, David Adolphus writes about the cyclecar niche of the Nineteen Tens and Twenties in his article The Little Microbe Car.

Depending upon your point of view, these cars look like shrunk-down roadsters or giant soap box derby cars. They’re cigar-shaped, skinny-framed, motorcycle engine-powered cars that disappeared without any kind of subsequent resurgence.

Adolphus suggests that “with increasing legal opportunities for Low-Speed Vehicles to drive on public seems to us the time is ripe for a cyclecar renaissance.”

Maybe. But after learning the price tag of the Tango from Commuter Cars ($108,000), an electric cyclecar descendant that I saw at the 2010 North American International Auto Show, I wouldn’t invest in this particular little microbe. Biotech seems like a safer bet.


1959-1968 Sunbeam Alpine in Hemmings Motor News

It’s nice to see an article about some British orphans in Hemmings Motor News. Would you believe five whole pages about the Sunbeam Alpine? (It’s the car that Maxwell Smart drove in Get Smart).

Torq-O sells a DVD that features a promotional film about The New Sunbeam Alpine from 1959. Preview a scene from that film here or on our YouTube channel. Or you can buy the DVD at the Torq-O Store.


Oldsmobile F-85 in Hemmings Motor News

I like the Hemmings Stock Exchange article on the Oldsmobile F-85 in the May 2010 issue of Hemmings Motor News.

The 1961-63 F-85 was the base model in the Cutlass line with a Buick engine and Oldsmobile heads. Every F-85 was a V8 that pumped out 195hp.

These cars look a lot like the 1965-66 Rambler Classics from that time, but they would definitely leave the sensibly spectacular Rambler all alone at the light if Granny ever seriously challenged one.

(The Torq-O Media Archive contains a rare 1963 Oldsmobile color film that includes the entire line, including the F-85. Give us a shout if you ever want to see an F-85 clip.)

Oldsmobile faithful: motor ye to

There’s something for every Oldsmobile fan at the 442 web site.

Don’t let the ’68 442 on the home page scare you away. This is a site for ALL Olds fans.

Suggestion: although the 442 is maybe the sexiest piece of Oldsmobile iron, a lot of Olds fans also like Toronados, 88’s of all flavors, the Vista Cruisers, F-85’s, Cutlass Supremes, yada, yada, yada.