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The Latest Auto Extremist Rants

THINKIN' 'BOUT THE TIMES I DROVE IN MY CAR, PART I.
by Editor
23 Jan 2023 at 11:55am
Editor's Note: In this week's Rant, Peter discusses how our individual and collective experiences with cars has everything to do with who we are, and how this nation was transformed with a wandering spirit that allowed us to roam for the sheer hell of it. In On The Table, the first electrified Corvette, the 2024 E-Ray, is worth another look. We also feature a tribute to another departed rock great, David Crosby. In Fumes, Peter introduces a new series "The Great Races" - which will capture those fabulous and memorable moments in motorsport. This week he talks about the famous Avus circuit in Berlin, and a race that saw speeds in excess of 170 mph - in 1937! And finally, in The Line, the qualifiers for the Daytona 24 Hours are set for next Saturday afternoon's race. Enjoy! -WG

By Peter M. DeLorenzo 

Detroit. It’s 3:00 a.m., so often my normal writing time, and it’s time to get it into gear. This business is so dominated by betting on the come of the battery electric vehicle explosion that I’m afraid this industry may have completely lost the plot. Yes, I know, this is nothing exactly new from me, but it bears repeating. This EV transition is going to play out in fits and starts, and to assume everything is going to go according to plan is a fool's errand. But that won't stop certain manufacturers - and their executives - from touting their EV prowess and boasting how successful they're going to be, because that just comes with the territory. I mean, after all, if auto executives stopped overpromising, something would be very, very wrong, wouldn't it?

I am going to set that aside, however, since this is a drum that will need beating for years to come. 

Today I'd rather write about what got us here in the first place. I’m talking about our collective experiences with cars and the road that are all different and individually significant, but all special in their own way. The people you were with, the places you experienced along the way, and the fleeting moments in time that are indelibly seared in our memories. And they’re simply irreplaceable.

As you might imagine, I have a few car stories. I try to dribble them out now and again – people never get tired of my Bill Mitchell columns, for instance – just to keep things interesting, but today I will offer up a few more glimpses of what has amounted to be a pretty special car life.

It was late March 1966, and my brother Tony was in his last year at the University of Notre Dame. He and a friend – Gary Kohs – and others had organized the third edition of a sports car show on campus for the first three days of April. This “Sports Car Spectacular” as it was called, turned out to be spectacular, indeed. 

Because of my dad’s heavy-duty contacts throughout the industry, this little car show was a very big deal. All the manufacturers weighed-in: Ford sent Jim Clark’s 1965 Indianapolis 500-winning Lotus-Ford and several hot production and racing cars from its “Total Performance” marketing era, including one of Fred Lorenzen's cars. Chrysler was represented, too, with a plethora of hot production Hemis and a full-on NASCAR stocker from Richard Petty. But that wasn’t all, because besides several of its current Styling concepts like the Corvette Mako Shark I and II and Monza GT and SS, what GM brought to the show was a shocker and is still talked about to this day.

I will get to that in a moment, but it’s worth talking about how we traveled down to South Bend from Birmingham, Michigan, the day before the show. A remarkable collection of cars was poised in my parent’s driveway for the trip down to the Notre Dame campus, because they were going to be added to the show once we got down there. There was a bright red 1965 289 Shelby Cobra and a 1965 Shelby GT350 Mustang (white with blue stripes) borrowed from Ford. And then there was a Nassau Blue 1965 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray roadster with a removable top and white interior, complete with a 396 cu. in. V8, bulging hood and side pipes. 

This was no ordinary Corvette, however. This car was specially built for Ed Cole (one of GM’s legendary engineers who developed the small block V8, among a thousand other brilliant accomplishments) to give to his wife, Dolly. As I’ve said many times before, many of the legends of GM’s heyday were family friends we hung out with, it was just the way it was back in the day. Dolly was a memorable, fiery blonde from Texas with a razor-sharp wit who loved to drive her “Bluebird” as she called her special Corvette; and she didn’t mind letting my brother borrow it now and again. And this was one of those times.

Our Horsepower Convoy left at 4:00 a.m. with two additional chase cars (including a 396 Impala). As quiet as we meant to be, it was damn-near impossible as the Cobra, GT350 Mustang and Corvette woke the neighborhood and rumbled out into the darkness. Tony was in the “Bluebird” followed by the Cobra, and I was riding shotgun with my brother’s college roommate in the GT350. The ride was memorable in that it rained most of the time and the rawness of the GT350 - and the wonderful noise - made it even more interesting. And visibility was challenging, to put it mildly, as the wipers were a mere suggestion in the heavier bits of rain we encountered. It didn’t matter, it was a flat-out blast. I mean, how often do you get to be in a convoy of cars like that?

We had some dry road moments on the way to South Bend, where we were able to hammer the cars at will, but there were moments when we had to cool it, too, as the cops took great interest in our little convoy at times. But we made it just fine, with no tickets, which we rightly assessed was a notable achievement.

Not long after we arrived, a GM transporter showed up. Zora Arkus-Duntov had called Tony and said that he’d be sending “something special” down to the show, and he wasn’t kidding. After the back doors were opened and the ramps installed, out comes a silver metallic blue Corvette Grand Sport roadster. Not only were the Grand Sports not supposed to exist after one of GM’s annoying “no more racing” edicts, this roadster had clearly just been finished and refined down to the last detail. It was simply stunning to behold. The transporter driver fired it up and drove it into position on the show floor, and right then and there, that little “Sports Car Spectacular” became legendary. All for just a $.75 admission fee too.

(One other side note: there was a Griffith Ford on display at the show that had been painstakingly hand-painted in a Tartan Plaid. Remember, no “wraps” back then. We all agreed that whoever painted it went crazy soon after.)

The road trip back was memorable for another reason. As some of you out there may have experienced along the way, when you rode in a Cobra back then you could smell the burnt rubber from the soles of your tennis shoes because the floor got so blistering hot. That wasn't all. The Cobra developed a pinpoint fuel line leak under the car that would deposit wisps of fuel on the exhaust pipe about every 20 minutes, which would then flare up with a brief flash while we were driving. Needless to say, that wasn’t good, but we decided to press on and made it back okay.

What does it all mean? As I said, our individual and collective experiences with cars and being on the road are seared in our memories and are irreplaceable. Where we’ve been has everything to do with who we are. This nation was transformed with a wandering spirit that allowed us to roam for the sheer hell of it. And our culture was and is still defined by it. 

I’m afraid if we lose that piece of who we are, we will lose a large part of the soul of this nation. Our machines may change, but our need to wander never will. 

As for the title of this week’s column, it’s an homage to the memorable Eric Clapton/George Harrison composition “Badge,” as performed by Cream. 

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

(Photo by Robert O. Craig)
Editor-in-Chief's Note: This is Corvette Grand Sport 002 restored to as it appeared at the 'Sports Car Spectacular" at Notre Dame; part of the Jim Jaeger collection.


RIGHT NOW? IT?S UGLY.
by Editor
16 Jan 2023 at 9:47am

Editor's Note: In this week's Rant, Peter discusses how ugly the business is right now. In On The Table, we take a look at the first-ever electrified Corvette, the 2024 E-Ray. We also discuss how Acura blows it - yet again -  and feature a tribute to the great Jeff Beck. In Fumes, Peter concludes (for now) his much-talked about series - "The Drivers" - which pays homage to the giants of motorsport. This week he talks about the terribly underrated American racer, Peter Revson. And finally, in The Line, read more about the runup to the Daytona 24 Hours. Enjoy! -WG

 

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. What used to be known as the “What have you done for me lately?” sobriquet in this business – and in contemporary life – has now transitioned to the more immediate “Everything all the time!” mantra. But even that fails to capture what is going on right now.

Right now, as in how much can we cram as into the moment as possible? And then, go ahead and triple that. Learning from the past and gaining perspective from that in order to make better decisions? That’s dismissed as being quaint or out of touch. Yet people are launched into the system without perspective or an understanding of the fundamentals. Mentorship has gone by the wayside in basically everything, and people and projects are left floundering, while expectations remain urgent. 

The seemingly endless limbo fueled by scarcity and shortages, which has allowed manufacturers and their dealers to register huge profits and record transaction prices is about to come to a screeching halt. Why? The inventories are creeping up, and the lots are filling up with cars and trucks. The stone-faced, “take it or leave it” attitude haughtily displayed by dealers, complete with payments that are $200-$500 more than they were less than twelve months ago is about to go poof. 

Dealers have been quick to point to the rise in interest rates, parts shortages and lack of vehicles to sell as as the primary reasons for the higher payments, and yes, all of those factors have contributed to the mess consumers find themselves in. But that’s conveniently glossing over the one factor that is ever-present: greed. Who’s kidding whom here? Left to their own devices, dealers are going to dealer. Maximize the money. Crank out the cash flow. Bask in the glory of record monthlies. It’s all good. Until it isn’t.

In case the dealers out there are firing up their email machines, I have absolutely nothing against making a buck, that is the name of the game, after all. But what has been going on has been borderline usurious. (Look it up. -WG.) The fact of the matter is that dealers and some people toiling away at the manufacturers don’t know when to quit. They live a life metered out in 30-day increments, even if they vehemently deny that is not the case in this new era of “enlightenment” in the auto industry. But that is the crushing reality. 

How do I know that they do not know when to quit? The dealer mentality revolves around the fact that you’re graded on the sales for the month, as in, “What have you done for me lately?” But as I pointed out earlier, that has given way to “What are you doing right now?” And what are the manufacturers’ financial arms doing right now? They’re unleashing a fresh round of 84-month financing into the waters, as in, “let’s extract as much cash as we can out of consumers before this thing blows up real good.” 

I’ve said it at least a hundred times before in this column, but I consider 84-month financing to be borderline criminal behavior. Knowingly signing up consumers to a loan that maybe one percent of the participants will actually stick with until term is usurious. People are being enticed to enter into a contract that puts them upside down to the tune of thousands of dollars before they even leave the dealership, with no hope of ever recovering from it. As in none. And then two, three or four years down the road when they’re itching to get something new, these same consumers are forced to make up the difference to the tune of thousands of dollars still, or, even worse, rolling that considerable difference into their new payment.

The auto manufacturers and their dealers know this behavior isn’t sustainable, which is why you’re starting to see 84-month financing being pushed in dealer TV commercials and online. Because they know that the current “take it or leave it” strong-arm bubble is about to burst. Inventories are creeping up, and you can bet that by the end of February, incentives will wash over this business like a torrent, and all of the people who were forced to – or who thought they were forced to – sign up for those egregious 84-month loans will be crying the blues for years to come.

I get this right now mantra, I really do. We’re living in a world of immediacy never experienced before, in everything we see, hear, feel and come in contact with. It has blown way past everything all the time. Now, it’s a drowning pool of sensory overload that we can barely keep up with. 

But that’s not an excuse for the shortsightedness being displayed by the auto manufacturers’ financial arms and their participating dealers. That’s not an excuse for untoward behavior and using people just because they can. It’s exploitation in its most basic form, and it’s embarrassing and flat-out inexcusable.

I’m sorry to say that right now, this business is ugly. 

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.


A LIGHTNING BOLT OF PURE ABSURDITY.
by Editor
6 Jan 2023 at 3:44pm

Editor's Note: In this week's Rant, Peter discusses the absurdity of naming in this new EV era. In On The Table, we get a look at the Ram Evolution BEV Concept, as well as BMW Group's 'vision' as presented at CES and news from McLaren Automotive. In Fumes, Peter introduces us to a new chapter of The Drivers, his much-talked about series about the giants of motorsport. This week he talks about the great American racer, A.J. Foyt. And finally, in The Line, read the news about Andretti Global and General Motor's plan to compete in F1. Enjoy! -WG

 

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. So, there I was, at my desk, contemplating what my first column for the new year would be about –and frankly not coming up with anything interesting – when a gift emerged out of the blue from the ether. Sony Honda Mobility unveiled the brand name for its new line of EVs at CES in Las Vegas, which will start arriving in 2026: Afeela. 

Yes, every once in a while, when you think that this business couldn’t possibly get more mired in mind-numbing boredom and tedious corporate inertia, a lightning bolt of pure absurdity strikes with no warning whatsoever. Are you afeeling me? Afeela is the brand name that Sony and Honda alighted upon to present its EVs to the public? Afeela is the brand name that Sony and Honda will stake their joint technical prowess on? Afeela is the brand name that will inspire consumers to take a serious look and maybe even buy? In the immortal words of the great Vince Lombardi: “What the hell is goin’ on out there?!?”

Straight from the “You Just Can’t Make This Shit Up” File, Sony and Honda have provided everyone with a piñata of endless laughs and ridicule, and it’s damn-near priceless at this point. I mean, I would have loved to have been at the final brand naming meeting when they revealed Afeela, because they obviously missed having someone there who could clear his or her throat and exclaim: “Uh, WTF are you morons thinking?”

So, as a service to our legions of AE readers, we thought we’d give you a preview of some other unexpected EV sub-brand linkups you can expect over the next few years.

Acura Energizer: JUICE

Alfa Romeo Barilla Mobility:  FARFALLEV

Aston Martin Holland and Holland: DELUXEV

Audi Eilenbergers Bakery: MOIST 

Bentley James Purdey: SIDEVLOCK

BMW Dr. Martens: PUG 

Buick Darjeelng: SLEEPEV

Cadillac Hermes: IDYLIQ

Chevrolet Coca-Cola: FIZZ 

Dodge Liquid Smoke: FOGG 

Ferrari Ferrari: LADOLCEVITA 

Ford Carhartt: SADDLE

Fu-King Motors: FUKMEV

Genesis Warner Music Group: PHIL

GMC L.L. Bean: FLEEVCE

Hyundai Buydeem: TOAST

Jaguar Austin Powers: SHAGUR

Jeep Huckberry: ROCKEV

Kia KIX:  ISPY

Lamborghini Lamborghini: AGILIVE

Land Rover John Rigby: PUMP

Lexus Larry David: EHH

Lincoln Lincoln Logs: OOD

Lotus White Lotus. PRIVI

Maserati Maserati. ALFI

Mazda Hasbro. SCRABBLE

McLaren McLaren: NZT

Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-Benz: TUNG!

Mini Mini: WHIF

Porsche Porsche: NO$UB

Ram Trucks Hammer Made: TONGS

Rivian Rivian: SHOBT

Rolls-Royce DreamCloud: FLOAT

Sony Honda Mobilitiy: AFEELA

Subaru Pet Smart: FURZ

Toyota Walt Disney: MICKEY-V

Volvo Brinks: VAULT

VW Birkenstock: FUNC

As you can see, the Sony Honda EV partnership is just the tip of the iceberg. It is setting off a firestorm – well, maybe using the word “fire” with BEVs is inappropriate but hey, it’s early days – of niche upon niche vehicles. We’ll have everything from mundane EVs made out of balsa wood, to dramatic EVs oozing style, and anything and everything in-between.

Just be forewarned that when you’re looking for an offshoot of your favorite brand going forward, expect the unexpected. Or a lightning bolt of pure absurdity.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this first issue of 2023.

 

Editor’s Note: If you missed our 2022 Year in Review, you can read it here. -WG


MO EVS, MO PROBLEMS. UNCTUOUS PRICKS AND SWINGING DICKS. AND THIS JUST IN: OU...
by Editor
20 Dec 2022 at 8:51am

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. I have used that word “tumultuous” to describe this business for more than half a decade, and there’s no reason to stop now, because the chaos continues. The auto industry – along with every other industry in this country – has been brutalized by shortages and supply chain issues. We’re living in perilous times, and on every imaginable societal level too. Sometimes writing about this business seems trivial at best, but then again it isn’t, because this industry is leading the way to greener pastures for this nation, whether we’re ready for it or not.

This “Grand Transition” to Battery Electric Vehicles has already been fraught with peril, missteps and wrong turns. No, a switch can’t be “flipped” and it won’t all be figured out with our collective finger snaps either. It will take serious, intensive, all-consuming work in battery development, the judicious use of essential resources, the building out of the charging infrastructure and dramatic improvements in the supply chain to pull this off. And that doesn’t even begin to get at the most difficult marketing challenge in automotive history, which is to create the fundamental desire and want for BEVs. 

While the Sturm und Drang continues over this transition, the pushback from people who either don’t believe it will ever happen or don’t believe that it should happen seems to be gaining strength by the day. The reasons are many: The infrastructure isn’t there and won’t be there for years to come. Range continues to be a perceived problem. Charging remains an issue, both for the time it takes and because it in fact excludes apartment dwellers en masse. The list goes on from there. Some people are just disinclined to entertain BEVs under any circumstance, when it comes right down to it. 

And I get it, I really do. As someone who grew up immersed in some of the finest high-performance ICE machines ever built, a world that doesn’t echo with the sound of hungry V8s rumbling across the landscape is simply hard to imagine. But then again, as I’ve said repeatedly, those machines will be around for decades to come. They will be collected, nurtured and preserved indefinitely. And that is a very good thing from my perspective. 

It’s not as if your local “Donuts, Lotto ‘n Gas” station is going to disappear overnight, taken over by charging islands. It is going to take time. A very long time. But it’s also clear that for a large portion of the driving population, BEVs will become a staple in every geographical region here in the United States. And to pretend otherwise is just foolish at this point.

But what is it about cars, anyway? Is it the fashion statement? The fundamental sense of motion and speed? The image-enhancing power that automobiles possess? Or all of the above?

If anything, I keep going back to the one thing that’s undeniable about our collective love for the automobile, the one thing that no computer simulation – no matter how powerful or creatively enhanced – can compete with. And that is the freedom of mobility. And that will not change in the upcoming BEV era. The ability to go and do, coupled with the freedom to explore and experience, is not only a powerful concept, it is fundamental to the human experience, which is why the automobile in all of its forms remains so compelling and undeniably intoxicating.

The automobile business itself can be mind-numbingly tedious at times, as I’ve well documented over the years. And it is without question one of the most complicated endeavors on earth, made up of so many nuanced ingredients that it almost defies description. But the creation of machines that are safe, reliable, beautiful to look at, fun to drive, versatile or hard working – depending on the task they’re designed for – is more than just a cold, calculated business. It is and has been an industrial art form that has come to define who we are collectively.

The automobile obviously means more to me than it does for most. I grew up immersed in this business, and the passionate endeavor surrounding the creation of automotive art has never stopped being interesting for me. And it is very much art, by the way. Emotionally involving and undeniably compelling mechanical art that not only takes us where we want to go but moves us in ways that still touches our souls deeply.

That AE is as relevant as ever is obvious, except to the critics out there who loathe me and everything about the AE brand. I remind people that this publication has never been about being all things to all people, and I don’t have a compelling need to be liked, which pisses people off even more. In some respects, AE can be good for the mind, because we clear the air and provide a moment of clarity for the lost souls wandering around in the automotive wilderness, the ones who can’t seem to separate the real from the imagined, or the pipe dreams from what’s truly important.

As I’ve said repeatedly, designing, engineering and building automobiles is still one of the most complicated endeavors on earth. And to do it properly takes vision, creativity and an unwavering passion that makes other pursuits seem positively ordinary.

Fortunately, I can say that things are getting better in this business. Fundamental accountability seems to be on the upswing. The days when everyone got a group hug and a trophy just for showing up seem to be waning, at least just a little, replaced by a burgeoning effort to strive to do better, punctuated by attempts to achieve actual greatness.

One extremely positive thing about this “Grand Transition” to EVs? The development is going at a furious pace. Every facet of this transition, from infrastructure and battery composition to vehicle design and execution is front and center. The True Believers are embracing this challenge, which means that there’s no room for abject mediocrity. The challenge is too great and the competition is far too tough.

And even though some of the issues with this “Grand Transition” seem daunting and too far off to become mainstream, there’s no denying that in the hands of the True Believers we will get there. You only have to look as far as the stellar machines of our day. We’re living in the golden age of automotive greatness, in case you haven’t noticed. These machines aren’t the product of “it’s good enough.” Instead, they bristle with the passion, vision and commitment of the men and women who created them, those “True Believers” who are now knee-deep in making this “Grand Transition” work. Let me be clear. if it weren’t for them, this business would be riding on the Last Train to Nowhere.

Thankfully, going against the grain is our specialty here at AE. For many, the kind of unflinching commentary that we specialize in is like a tonic for the soul in this swirling maelstrom of shit masquerading as the world we live in today.

And in case you’re wondering, after all this time, non, je ne regrette rien. Editor’s Note: Edith Piaf sung it best. -WG

WG and I have put together the following highlights from AE from the past year. And don't forget to check out "The Best Of On The Table," "Fumes" and "The Line." I’ll be back at the end with a few closing thoughts.


“But he hasn’t got anything on!” the whole town cried out at last.  The continued canonization of certain car executives by certain bootlicking members of the media (and by certain card-carrying hacks on Wall Street) is pegging the AE Disgusto Meter. Being in the right place at the right time and not screwing things up – at least not yet – shouldn’t be a ticket to Sainthood, but alas, in the twisted times we’re living in, that’s what we’re being inundated with. But don’t worry, with every unexpected big-dollar recall and the worrisome upcoming product launches – which will be botched as certain as it snows in Michigan in January – it’s just a question of when and not if that one dubious halo in particular will be irrevocably tarnished. “INTRODUCING THE AE DISGUSTO METER.” (1/5/22)

 

Can’t stop ‘til I see my name on a blimp. As I’ve stated repeatedly, the companies who can have each foot planted in both arenas – with the ability to manufacture competitive EV and ICE vehicles – will weather this EV transition in the best shape. In the meantime, the more EV vehicles in the market, the more the problems associated with EVs are magnified. “MO EVS, MO PROBLEMS.” (1/12

 

Long live Jimmy and Sonny! Fast American muscle cars are overflowing in their underground garage, which is an enthusiast's cornucopia of greatest hits. Jimmy was happy to provide me with an update of their Fu-King Motors fleet. They sold-off one of the three Purple Dodge Demons (each modified to deliver 1000HP) to one of their best, long-term suppliers (whose son promptly wrapped it around a light pole). The two original “narrow-hipped” 427 street Cobras remain, along with the matching ‘68 L88 Corvettes. The two new Corvette C8s (one black, one white) are already gone. Jimmy gave his black one to his administrative assistant, and Sonny gave his white one to his latest girlfriend. No worries, Jimmy pointed out, because they each have an upcoming Z06 on order. Their favorite hot rods (and our readers’ favorites, judging by the mail we’ve received) are a couple of custom-built Willys Gasser replicas from the ‘60s powered by race-prepared Chevy 502 big-blocks. These ultimate bad-ass machines – with open headers – are reserved for terrorizing the neighbors in the middle of the night. “FOREVER FU-KING MOTORS.” (1/19)

 

I get why the latest manufacturer focus is full-zoot rough riders and all-terrain mashers. Sort of. After all, that’s what they think people want in order to attack the Canyons of Costco and the Home Depot hollers. Even if you aren’t planning to go to Moab next week, you could if you wanted to, right? And therein lies the hook. The “hook” that auto manufacturers have exploited since people traded in their horses. (Back then the hooks were: You could sit on the front row at Indianapolis in your BelchFire8, if you wanted to; or you could qualify for Le Mans in your SuperSqualo Meteor, if you wanted to. And even now: You could qualify for an IMSA GT race in your Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, if you wanted to.) Those hooks are lethal, and highly profitable. “INTRODUCING THE OFF-ROAD DUDE RANCH SEGMENT.” (1/26)

 

We wouldn’t have it any other way. Twenty-three years on, I am proud to say that we still take you "behind the curtain" to give you an up-close look at the Wizards, the Dullards and everyone else in between in this business. I still say what the others are only thinking (or whispering) in deep background or “off-the-record” conversations, and I will continue to do so. Delivering the Truth, The Whole Truth... and absolutely nothing but The High-Octane Truth has been an exhilarating ride. “WRITE HARD, DIE FREE: AN UPDATE.” (2/2)

 

Reasoned, intelligent discourse? It’s for the history books. Now that we are firmly entrenched in this era of “everyone has ‘rights’ but no one wants the responsibility that comes with them,” it’s no wonder that where we go from here is fraught with peril. In fact, the tone and tenor of our society at large has been a burgeoning nightmare for years, and it continues to negatively reverberate through every aspect of our life as we know it. The chatter hanging in the air and permeating social media is all about “what we deserve,” “what we’re owed,” and oh, by the way, “you suck.” Reasoned, intelligent discourse is for the history books, a quaint notion from a bygone era that’s as obsolete as pay phones. And hand-wringing about it seems to be a fool’s errand as well, because no one cares and everyone wants “what’s mine.” “LESS THAN ZERO.” (2/16)

 

The Drive. It’s always about The Drive. I made it a weekly ritual that summer, each time emboldened by the fact that there was not only minimal traffic, but the polizei were nowhere to be found. The best run was my last, at least for that summer, when I was able to hammer my Turbo – foot-to-the-proverbial-floor – for ten flat-out, uninterrupted, no-lift miles. Which was an indicated 165+ mph, or thereabouts, on the speedo. Needless to say, it didn’t take 45 minutes to get to Ann Arbor at that speed. And I could enjoy a nice steaming cup of coffee, grinning to myself, before the trip back. “NO PARTICULAR PLACE TO GO.” (2/23) 

 

Yes, it’s a list, I’ll say that much. Is it complete? Oh hell no. But if this is the end of an era, and these are the cars in my ICE Garage to visit and drive while I motor around in the latest BelchFire Electric GT, then I would be exceedingly happy. Needless to say, I don’t plan on going gently into the night. I will hammer whatever I have for all it’s worth and make every single moment count as the glow from the ICE era slowly fades into the twilight. “RAGING AGAINST THE DYING OF THE LIGHT.” (3/2) 

(digitaltrends.com)

1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider. What else would you drive down to the Amalfi Coast? It's simply one of the most seductive combinations of speed and style ever created. 

(GM)

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray. Of the many achievements to come out of GM Styling under the great Bill Mitchell's tutelage, the Corvette Sting Ray remains a singular achievement that is still stunning to this day.

(GM)
Another one of Bill Mitchell's milestone cars: The 1963 Buick Riviera. I actually prefer the '65 with the hidden headlights, but you get the idea.

(mecum.com)

1964 Shelby American 289 Cobra. Shelby's original creation is still my favorite – compact, lithe and like a bolt of lightning in its day. I am lucky enough to have experienced it in its prime.

(legendarymotorcar.com)

1966 Shelby American 427 Cobra. Shelby took his original concept and said "more." The result? A better, wider chassis, better suspension, better steering and brakes, and, of course, big horsepower. It is still, to this day, one of the most ferocious sports cars ever built. (And no, not the "S/C" version; the street version with under car exhausts.)

(Richard Michael Owen/Supercars.net)

1966 Lamborghini Miura P400. Groundbreaking in design and engineering, the mid-engine Miura remains one of the most significant cars of its era. 

(hiconsumption.com)

1973 Porsche 911 RS. I have many "favorite" Porsches from over the years, including the present-day 718 GT4. But if I could have only one - actually, if I could only have one vehicle in my ICE Garage - the 911 RS would be it. 

(Ferrari)
Yes, I would prefer the mid-engine, 829HP V12-powered Ferrari Daytona SP3 - our 2021 Autoextremist Car of the Year - but that isn't happening. Frankly, the new 2022 Ferrari 296 GTB isn't happening either, but, wow: What. A. Machine.

(Chevrolet)
And the 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z06. It's everything the new mid-engine Corvette is, and much, much more. It's a tribute to GM's True Believers, who deserve all of the kudos coming their way.

(Dodge)

2022 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Shaker Widebody. I would need to have one, purely Bad Ass car in my ICE Garage, and no, I don’t need a Hellcat. The normally-aspirated 392 Hemi V8 would do just fine.

 

We’ve seen this movie before; it never ends well. So, in order for Ford to get to that “Shining City on the Hill” and the future promised by millions of Shiny Happy EVs of all stripes and segments dotting the landscape and boasting their blue ovals, the ICE vehicles will have to pull their weight indefinitely, and that fundamental transition to The Future will have to occur seamlessly with no hiccups or disruptions. But this business flat-out doesn’t work that way, especially at Ford, where botched launches and crushing warranty costs are standard operating procedure. Combine that with a maliciously incompetent purchasing department and an IT function that still operates with Stone Age-like precision, at best, and you have a continuing recipe for disaster, despite the visionary protestations from the CEO. “SAME AS IT EVER WAS.” (3/9)

 

We don’t call it the “wandering spirit” for nothin’. What does it all mean? As I said, our individual and collective experiences with cars and being on the road are seared in our memories and are irreplaceable. Where we’ve been has everything to do with who we are. This nation was transformed with a wandering spirit that allowed us to roam for the sheer hell of it. And our culture was and is still defined by it. I’m afraid if we lose that piece of who we are, we will lose a large part of the soul of this nation. Our machines may change, but our need to wander never will. “THINKIN’ ‘BOUT THE TIMES I DROVE IN MY CAR, PART I.” (3/16)

 

I am the passenger. I am a Technicolor Dream Cat riding this kaleidoscope of life. I’ve seen some things, indeed, more than most. Magic things. Loud things. Fast things. I once looked up at a ghostly tornado finger drifting overhead in Flint. It was ominous and beyond scary. A lot of people died that day too. But then, a few years later, I saw my first 707 hanging in the sky. It was majestic and powerful. And the Jet Age was on. I got introduced to horsepower, side pipes and chrome, and I happily got sucked in. Corvettes and 409s, GTOs and Starfires. And Sting Rays. Forever Sting Rays. And in the midst of all that, I bought and rebuilt a Bug go-kart, had the Mac 6 engine rebuilt and hopped-up, painted it bright orange, and spent one summer terrorizing our neighborhood. I dubbed it the Orange Juicer Mk. 1, and found out how fast 60 mph felt that low to the ground. It was everything, all the time. “IT WAS GOOD. AND HARD. AND FAST.” (3/23)

 

“Good enough” is never good enough. The stellar machines of our day – and we are living in the golden age of automotive greatness in case you haven’t noticed – aren’t the product of “it’s good enough.” Instead, these machines bristle with the passion, vision and commitment of the men and women who created them, those “True Believers” that I often write about. If it weren’t for them, this business would be riding on the Last Train to Nowhere, next stop, Oblivion. Railing against mediocrity and mediocrity “creep” is an essential component of the Autoextremist Manifesto. “THE AUTOEXTREMIST MANIFESTO RECHARGED.” (4/13)

 

The silence will be deafening. I intend on immersing myself in the experience of a high-performance ICE V8 for as long as I possibly can. Because despite the eye-popping performance numbers generated by EVs, they will never compare to the thrilling aural appeal of a high-performance ICE machine. It's just not possible. When the streets and byways of America go silent with the perceived – both real and imagined – bliss of BEVs, and the sounds of ICE Age machines slowly fade away except for special car events and at racetracks, I am quite sure about one thing: We’re going to miss it. “WE’RE GOING TO MISS IT.” (5/4)

 

Personal mobility is a powerful concept, and the freedom it brings to people cannot be overstated. And it will remain that way too. Yes, in our urban city centers compromises must and will be reached. But this is a vast country, and people will still want to roam to the far reaches of it. And the automobile - newly reinvigorated and environmentally cleansed - will still play an integral role in America’s everyday life for a long, long time to come. “CARRY ON.” (6/1)

 

A legacy worth remembering. But in the face of a business that grows more rigid, regulated and non-risk-taking by the day, there are still lessons to be learned from the legacy of Bill Mitchell in particular. If anything, we must remember what really matters in this business above all else – something he instinctively knew in his gut – and that is to never forget the essence of the machine, and what makes it a living, breathing mechanical conduit of our hopes and dreams. “DESIGN MATTERS.” (7/6)

 

What makes us gravitate to one shoe or another? Design. What about to a coat or a particular pair of boots? Design. And how about furniture? Design. Everything we come across as we go about our day is directly attributable to design, from residential and commercial architecture to graphic presentations in videos and on TV, and everything and anything in between. Even mundane places – such as gas stations and their attached convenience stores – have graphic designs helping to create their look and feel. Design sets the tone and creates an ambience, and even if we’re not consciously aware of its power and influence, it is always there. And when it comes to automobiles, of course, it’s no secret that the power and influence of design are magnified exponentially. Design not only matters in the automobile business: It. Is. Everything. “DESIGN MATTERS, PART II.” (7/13)

 

That intro was kind of a labyrinthian way of getting to my final discussion topic, which is a question that I get asked all the time: “Given everything you know (and have discussed especially these past few weeks), who’s doing design well right now?” That’s the billion-dollar question, isn’t it? Design matters more now than at any other time in automotive history. In this 24/7, nanosecond-attention-span world we live in today, the hot “street look” of the moment captures all the attention and interest, and usually results in red-hot sales figures too. Exotic cars lead the discussion, but just because a car is expensive doesn’t mean its design is automatically compelling. Unless, of course we’re talking about Ferrari. The newest Ferrari – the 296 GTB – is compact, lightweight and has a taut skin that stretches over its fenders and haunches to create a damn-near perfect form. It is simply extraordinary from every angle, and it is the definitive supercar of the moment. “DESIGN MATTERS, PART III.” (7/20)

(Ferrari)

The 2022 Ferrari 296 GTB.

(Ferrari)

(Ferrari)

(Ferrari)

 

As I’ve said many times before, the artisans who toil in design studios are the most influential people in the automobile business. They set the tone for brands and lead the word-of-mouth, “street look” discussions, and their visionary work can make – or break – a car company’s fortunes, as I stated previously. This work requires, vision, discipline and a savagely creative mindset that is instantly graded the moment the wraps are taken off of their latest designs. It is a tough, tough profession, but when you talk to designers, most wouldn’t trade it for anything. Seeing something in concept or production form that they had a key role in creating presents a level of exhilaration that’s extremely hard to beat. As if to underscore my series on Design, the Cadillac CELESTIQ is the most stunning vehicle to appear on the automotive scene in 25 years. Period. GM Design, under Michael Simcoe’s leadership, has not only returned Cadillac to being “The Standard of the World,” but the support given to nurture the development of this machine speaks volumes about GM upper management’s commitment to projecting GM as an industry leader into the EV Age. “THE CADILLAC CELESTIQ: SPECTACULAR WOW.” (7/27) 

(GM Design images)

 

If you can’t afford it, you won’t bother even asking. But in the midst of all of these crises and the swirling maelstrom driving this market, there’s one more crisis that this industry has refused to take meaningful strides against, and that is the crisis of affordability. I’ve written about this often, and I will write about it many times in the future I’m sure. But the basic affordability of vehicles is slipping away and we’re watching it unfurl like a train wreck in slow motion. “THE AFFORDABILITY CRISIS.” (8/3)

 

This just in: We’re Not There Yet. In terms of the supply chain issues, the endless search for precious metals, realistic charging speeds and the national charging infrastructure itself, this industry is not even close to being there yet.  Add in the fact that consumers, even with sky-high gas prices, have to be sold on the fundamental efficacy of EVs – let me repeat that, have to be sold on the fundamental efficacy of EVs – and you have a Grand Transition to EVs that’s fraught with peril meted out in fits and starts. Going forward, some days are going to be all Blue Sky and Big Dreams, and others are going to plumb the depths of despair. “WE’RE NOT THERE YET.” (8/10)

 

Swinging Dickism, still present and accounted for. It’s the same luxury accoutrements, the same rote regurgitation of “luxury” words and phrases that are mumbled in an interchangeable soundtrack from brand to brand, and the same platitudes and cloying familiarity that blend together in a dismal cadence of vacuous-ness that goes by like a blur of marketing cotton candy, a fleeting sugar rush of pseudo substance followed by the inevitable crash of emptiness. Yet automakers drop, collectively, at least a hundred million dollars out in Monterey every year like clockwork. Why? Because the lingering question hanging over the marketing troops isn’t, “Maybe we ought to reevaluate this whole thing” but, “What happens if we’re not there?” Which isn’t exactly an answer that makes a lick of sense, now does it? “SWINGING DICKISM WRIT LARGE: WELCOME TO MONTEREY CAR WEEK.” (8/16)

 

To say that the ‘50s and ‘60s were a different era in automotive history is not painting a proper picture of just how different it was. Detroit was much more of a freewheeling mindset back then. Car executives were bold, decisive, conniving, creative and power-hungry personalities who inevitably went with their gut instincts – which could end up being either a recipe for disaster or a huge runaway sales hit on the streets. The only committees you'd find back then were the finance committees – and they never got near the design, engineering, marketing or even the advertising unless there was some sort of a problem. These Car Kings worked flat-out and they partied flat-out, too, ruling their fiefdoms with iron fists, while wielding their power ruthlessly at times to get what they wanted – and rightly so in their minds – as they were some of the most powerful business executives on earth. In short, it was a world that was 180 degrees different from what goes on today. “THE FLYING CAMARO.” (8/24)

 

How did the car “thing” evolve from desiring faster horses, to the building of transportation that transformed the world? What propelled the automobile from being an extravagant convenience, to a cultural touchstone that’s such an inexorable part of the American fabric that even the most hostile of the anti-car hordes can’t seem to dampen our collective enthusiasm for it? Is it the fashion statement? The fundamental sense of motion and speed? The image-enhancing power that automobiles possess? Or all of the above? If anything, I keep going back to the one thing that’s undeniable about our collective love for the automobile, the one thing that no computer simulation - no matter how powerful or creatively enhanced - can compete with. And that is the freedom of mobility. “FOR THE PLAIN UNVARNISHED HELL OF IT.” (8/31)

 

You’re damn right I ordered the Code Red! Oh, and one more thing. I refuse to sit by and let manufacturers create artificial sounds for their EVs and call it “good” or acceptable. Stellantis is touting the artificially-created muscle sound emanating from its new Charger EV prototype as something that is authentic and desirable. But that is Unmitigated Bush League Bullshit. Electronic-generated and projected sound – no matter how enhanced – is the quintessential definition of synthetic phoniness. There is nothing “authentic” about it and there is no “there” there. The High-Octane Truth is that it is flat-out stupid, no matter how it’s presented. And it’s the most depressing development to hit this business in a long, long time. “SOME OF YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE HIGH-OCTANE TRUTH.” (9/14)

 

And there are no “finger snaps” or flipping of a giant switch to make this all happen instantly, either. It’s a relentless grind marked by fits and starts. Major problems are counteracted by little victories, which ultimately result in meaningful progress. It’s the day-in, day-out of it all that’s the reality for the talented men and women in the trenches working on making the EV “thing” happen. Is progress being made? Absolutely. The pace of noteworthy developments is accelerating. Remarkably enough, it mirrors what happened with the invention of the automobile way back when. Back then, the developments came in waves in little shops scattered around the Midwest and the rest of the world. People with vision and drive transformed the horseless carriage from being a curious novelty to a vehicle that fundamentally changed the world. And history is on the cusp of repeating itself. “ONLY THE BEGINNING.” (9/21)

 

It’s hard to believe now, but Pontiac was just another GM division back in the mid-‘50s. It had a lineup of stodgy cars, and there was nothing to write home about. The division existed under the GM corporate umbrella, but it was decidedly lacking in just about everything when compared to GM’s other divisions: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and Oldsmobile. But that would all change when Bunkie Knudsen was appointed a GM vice president and the division’s general manager in July of 1958. Knudsen was given the assignment to inject some life into the division and increase sales, and he was given carte blanche to do it. “SOUL SURVIVOR.” (9/28) 

(Pontiac)

Editor's Note: This is Peter's famous ad for the 1981 Pontiac Trans Am Turbo V-8. As Peter says, "It was a different time and a different era." Truer words were never spoken. -WG

 

If you’ve often wondered what goes on in high-level meetings at an auto company, today is your lucky day. Let me introduce The Players in attendance: The Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The Chief of Manufacturing (COM). The PR Chief (PRC). The Divisional President (TDP). The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). The Chief Technical Officer (CTO). And, of course, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). On today’s agenda is a crucial product launch, which is sort of redundant, since they’re all crucial, but nonetheless, it’s the subject at hand. And as is his wont, the CEO opens the meeting... “BAKING IT IN.” (10/12)

 

Speaking of unctuous pricks… The human condition is ripe for egomaniacal behavior, in any endeavor. That this afflicts automotive CEOs more so than others in this business is no secret and no surprise. After a while, with bootlicking sycophants constantly lapping at their feet and agreeing with every random thought balloon uttered, it’s easy to see how these executives lose their way. Look no further than Elon Musk, the new Unctuous Prick in Chief. That Musk openly hawked “full self-driving” on his Teslas – and charged customers through the nose for it – when it never worked, was the most egregiously unconscionable act ever perpetrated on this business, and that’s saying something with the VW Group’s diesel cheating fiasco still fresh on everyone’s minds. If there’s any justice left at all in this world, the criminal charges being discussed right now for Tesla at the DOJ will result in billions – not millions – but billions of dollars in fines meted out to that company. (I’m thinking that a nice round 50 billion ought to cover it.) Amazingly enough, there are certain CEO-types in this business who openly admire that walking, talking Muskian Nightmare, which is just pathetic and sad, and their respective companies are going to pay dearly for their blind fealty, especially when their company overlords aren’t paying attention. “THE HIGH-OCTANE TRUTHS, PART I.” (11/2)

 

As long as we’re living in this automotive Twilight Zone between the end of the ICE era and the dawn of the BEV era, things are bound to be more than a little unsettled. Or boring. Or both. It seems like the entire industry is lost in that traditional mindset of "It won't be long now!" Translation? Give us another year and we'll be smokin'. In the meantime, have another SUV and you'll be fine. Or something like that. If the boring and soulless EQE SUV and AMG EQE SUV are the best Mercedes can do for its EV SUV entrants, then we are doomed, and this industry is officially out of ideas. With that in mind then, I have a few questions for you (as inspired by one of my heroes, David Byrne)... “SAME AS IT EVER WAS.” (11/9)

 

Changing the subject, there is definitely a virulent anti-EV faction “out there” that is equating the notion of the “Grand Transition” to EVs as some sort of plot against politically right-leaning individuals. The vitriol aimed at anything to do with EVs – and any individual who comments on it one way or the other – is growing uglier by the day. It’s easy to see why this ugliness is happening too. It’s part and parcel of the deterioration of any shred of rational discourse that has consumed this country over the last six years. The polarization of our society has now crept into the EV vs. ICE discussions, and it is truly unfortunate. “THE YEAR OF THE DANGEROUS IN-BETWEEN.” (11/30)

 

Despite the societal headlong rush into EVs, it turns out that my dreams are still not battery-powered. They are fuel-injected and raucous, a cacophony of thumping V8s, boosted flat-sixes and screaming V12s, playing out in a kaleidoscope of frenzied images and frantic video POVs that piece together a lifetime. There is little rhyme or reason, no detectable pattern and the furthest thing from a chronological order that you can possibly imagine. They are nightmarishly chaotic and, in some cases, achingly real. It turns out that the leap from 2030 to 2035 is dramatic and for some, like me, frightening. “THE BEAST IN ME.” (12/14)

 

It’s probably not surprising to most of you out there that I still have The Hunger, the yearning deep in my soul for something more. I still take life in fleeting moments as I always have. Devouring a country road with a great driving machine will never, ever get old. Drinking in a majestic, threatening sky or a powerful landscape. Breathing in the crisp, cool air of fall while nature’s paintbrush unfolds. The sheer joy of watching the unfiltered lives of animals as they weave their spell throughout our lives.

But my total embrace of the automobile business? Needless to say, it is evolving. I still relish the emotional power of a brilliantly conceived and executed advertising campaign. I’m still in awe of a breathtaking design execution, and I still relish being drawn into its presence on the road. And I will always honor the True Believers in this business, the men and women who make a difference every damn day. 

But the commoditization of this business grew tedious for me years ago. Some might say, “That is just not true, there are exceptions to that part of the business.” To that I say, really? Have you ever seen a picture taken outside of an exotic luxury automaker, with rows and rows of its production of super-hot vehicles lined up like so much cord wood? It tends to dampen the notion of exclusivity immediately.

So, I will pick and choose my involvement – and my interest – in this business as I always have. But I will always be on the lookout for more, or what’s next, or what’s new. 

Something that resonates deep in my soul. 

Something that captures my imagination. 

Something that satisfies The Hunger. 

As U2 so eloquently put it, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for 2022. WordGirl and I wish the best to all of you out there, and we hope you and yours enjoy the Holiday season and have a Happy and Peaceful New Year.

 

 

Editor's Note: You can access previous issues of AE by clicking on "Next 1 Entries" below. - WG
THE BEAST IN ME.
by Editor
11 Dec 2022 at 9:15am

Editor's Note: In this week's Rant, Peter takes us to a future transportation dimension, where things get - ahem - a bit out of hand, to say the least. In On The Table, we get an update on the Lamborghini museum and a visit from Nick Lowe. In Fumes, Peter introduces us to a new chapter of The Drivers, his much talked about series about the giants of motorsport. This week he talks about the great American racer, George Follmer. And finally, in The Line, we get another optimistic report about the new IMSA GTP cars after an early test at Daytona. Enjoy! -WG

 

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. When I last visited this theme a couple of years ago, the year 2030 was upon us. As I stepped out into the darkness in the throes of another sleepless night, I found myself wandering around in a world that looked remarkably as it looks today. I noticed a few stray autonomous vehicles doing their rote routines, with their blue LEDs indicating what they were. But they were – not surprisingly – insignificant, part of the thrum of a new reality, but only a bit part.

And as the darkness lightened slightly, I started to see the ebb and flow of traffic on Woodward Avenue. It was reassuring to see that it still hummed with activity. Some avant-garde designs were noticeable – aero shapes punctuated by their wildly diverse lighting systems – but they were clearly full-zoot luxury machines. Other cars were decidedly less adventurous, a mix of small- to medium-sized conveyances that really didn’t look all that much different from today. And yes, the traffic flow was dominated by SUVs and trucks still, the American consumer having long ago abandoned any thought of going back to a typical passenger car.

The sounds were diverse too. A mix of BEV whine, hybrids and yes, full-on ICE machines as well. It was obvious that the prognostications of a complete transition to BEVs were dead wrong. The “grand transformation” was clearly a work in progress, with scores of people happily clinging to their piston-powered vehicles for two reasons: cost and the freedom of movement with no limitations. I did notice that as I walked past the local Speedway gas station/convenience store, half the gasoline pump islands had been replaced by quick-charging stations for BEVs. They were empty now, but the gas pumps were already busy. 

But as that dream began to fade, the realization that time had accelerated again overwhelmed me. It was with certainty that I could sense that things had fundamentally changed. As Don Henley once said, “Time keeps ticking… ticking away,” and I found myself immersed in a new world, five years on. 

But was it actually happening? As you get older, they say sleep seems to become more fleeting. There “they” go again. All-knowledgeable, all-powerful and all-tedious. It turns out “they” don’t know jack shit, a secret society seemingly dedicated to cluelessness and misinformation that wreaks havoc on everyday life with impunity. To borrow a catchphrase from John Boehner, “they” can go fuck themselves. 

Despite the societal headlong rush into EVs, it turns out that my dreams are still not battery-powered. They are fuel-injected and raucous, a cacophony of thumping V8s, boosted flat-sixes and screaming V12s, playing out in a kaleidoscope of frenzied images and frantic video POVs that piece together a lifetime. There is little rhyme or reason, no detectable pattern and the furthest thing from a chronological order that you can possibly imagine. They are nightmarishly chaotic and, in some cases, achingly real.

It turns out that the leap from 2030 to 2035 is dramatic and for some, like me, frightening. 

I found myself in a gray-tinged room, with a simple rectangular table in the center flanked by three chairs on one side and one on the other. Cameras were visible, as was a one-way glass picture window. I was facing two bureaucrats from the State of Michigan – a man and a woman (“Mr. Baker” and “Ms. Worley”) – and one representative from the Feds, a female agent named “Ms. Carmichael.” I had no time to figure out why I was there, before they began questioning me, but “Ms. Carmichael” said I could call her by her first name, which was “Tessa.” I declined.

Ms. Carmichael: “Mr. DeLorenzo, on the night of April 10, 2035, you were apprehended on the I-696 expressway for speeding, is that correct?”

“Yes,” I said.

Ms. Carmichael: “We are joined today by the State of Michigan, represented by Mr. Baker and Ms. Worley, who have brought with them all of the salient details from this incident for the purposes of this meeting, including the visual and audio recordings from the State Police Robotics Division, which have thoroughly documented that night.”

Then without missing a beat, they played a series of HD color videos of the event. You could see my jet black 2024 Corvette Z06 as clear as a bell, with my registration and insurance information projected on the screen – along with my driver’s license labeled “RESTRICTED” - as I blew through the various camera angles and checkpoints. 

I didn’t say a word.

Ms. Carmichael: “Mr. DeLorenzo,” she continued in a voice free from nuance or tone, “Not only were you in an unauthorized vehicle, your speed was registered, verified and documented over a six-mile stretch as varying between 195 mph and 206 mph. Do you deny any of this?”

“No,” I said. I mean, what could I say, “It wasn’t me?” They even had enhanced video of me behind the wheel, slowed down and magnified. I looked super-focused at least.

Ms. Carmichael: “You are aware, of course, that this particular expressway is limited to three types of vehicles: the far-right Green Lane for piloted BEVs and Hybrids, the middle Orange Lane for guidance-optional assisted vehicles, and the left Blue Lane for fully autonomous vehicles. Yes?"

“Yes,” I said. The roadways had become heavily skewed to minimizing involvement behind the wheel, apparently, and I was clearly doing the exact opposite, flagrantly violating the rules in an extreme way. 

Ms. Carmichael: “Mr. DeLorenzo, you’re also aware that because of your age you’re no longer allowed to drive any vehicle of any kind. Your license says “RESTRICTED” because it is only functioning as a national I.D. But I’m not telling you anything new, correct?"

“I get tested twice a year,” I was agitated now. “I go through certified high-performance driving programs every year. I have a long list of recommendations and verifications from accredited sources. I’ve forgotten more than you people will ever know about driving." (I loved using the phrase “you people” with bureaucrats.) "I don’t understand why this is a problem, or why it is being held against me.” 

Ms. Carmichael. “Nevertheless, Mr. DeLorenzo, those self-certification programs are irrelevant to this discussion. You have intentionally flouted the law, and apparently this isn’t the first time, according to your record, is that correct?”

I nodded. 

Ms. Carmichael: “Because of your long list of transgressions behind the wheel, and this latest and most egregious incident, I have no choice but to send you to the Driver Attitude Redirection Bureau for no less than six months, or until we are satisfied that you have been redirected properly. Are you clear as to what is expected of you?”

My mind wandered. This was a death sentence. “DARB” was developed by the Masters of Silicon Valley and deployed in 2032 in Sacramento, and the results were so positive after a year – according to government operatives – that the program was expanded nationwide. At “DARB” they put you in EV simulators that are programmed to run a different course every day – a mix of residential streets, urban and suburban landscapes and freeways – and you’re required to drive by the book, while adhering to every law – with various surprises thrown in – for eight frickin’ hours a day. And each time you make a mistake you receive an electric shock through the steering wheel, which varies in degree depending on the perceived offense. An old friend of mine cracked up one day after four months of this torture, apparently. He stood on the go-pedal hard, and after five minutes of going flat-out through that day’s route, blowing through intersections and running cars off of the road, the shock delivered was so severe it vaporized him. The only thing they found was a trace of his right shoe.

Ms. Carmichael: “Mr. DeLorenzo? Do you comprehend what is expected of you? You have been ‘zeroed-out.’ You are being removed from the societal landscape until you demonstrate that you can function according to the rules. It’s completely up to you if you are able to return to the Real World.”

The Real World? Fuck me. I can’t wait to get a hold of that EV simulator. Rest assured, they won’t find a trace of me.

Then, I woke up with a start. The sounds of “The Beast in Me” by Nick Lowe (listen here) flowed from my phone. 

And I was ready to face the day…

The beast in me is caged by frail and fragile bonds
Restless by day and by night, rants and rages at the stars
God help the beast in me

The beast in me has had to learn to live with pain
And how to shelter from the rain
And in the twinkling of an eye might have to be restrained
But God help the beast in me

Sometimes it tries to kid me that it's just a teddy bear
Or even somehow managed to vanish in the air
And that is when I must beware of the beast in me

That everybody knows
They've seen him out dressed in my clothes
Patently unclear, if it's New York or new year
God help the beast in me, the beast in me

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

 


Editor's Note: You can access previous issues of AE by clicking on "Next 1 Entries" below. - WG



THE CORVETTE FILES.
by Editor
5 Dec 2022 at 3:39pm

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. As longtime readers well know, the Chevrolet Corvette has played an inexorable role in my ongoing car addiction. I’ve been honored to have experienced some of the most famous and spectacular Corvettes ever built in period and in real time. Those experiences are forever etched in my mind, and for reasons I’ll explain later, I think it’s high time I give you a glimpse into my Corvette history, because for me, it never gets old.

(GM)

The 1959 Corvette Sting Ray racer (photographed in the GM Styling viewing courtyard at the GM Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, in 1960). As I’ve stated many, many times in these pages, this machine is my all-time favorite car. I first saw it one blistering summer afternoon in our neighborhood in 1962, and I will never forget it. I was still in my bike-riding days back then, but I remember resting with my buddies on a corner in our neighborhood after a long, hot day of riding around aimlessly – we did that often back then – when we heard a rumble and roar coming from off in the distance. I knew right away that it wasn't motorcycles and that it was more than one of whatever it was – and just then a pack of the most stunning cars we'd ever seen burst around the corner and came rumbling right past us – the sun glinting off the barking pipes and the canopy of trees shimmering off the perfect mirror finishes of the paint jobs. This "horsepower train" was led by the 1959 Corvette Sting Ray racer in Silver, followed by the XP700 Corvette (a "bubble-top" show car with side pipes also in Silver – it was Mitchell's favorite color), the first Mako Shark Corvette and a concept called the Corvair Super Spyder (also in Silver), a wild, racing-inspired show car with dual cut-down racing windscreens and three pipes curling out and around each side in the back. 

(GM)
A rare photo of the Corvette Sting Ray racer in its original red livery, taken at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, in 1959.

(GM)
The Corvette Sting Ray racer as it appears today.

(conceptcarz.com)
The Corvette Sting Ray racer "live" at a car show.

(GM)
The 1963 Corvette Sting Ray production car and the 1959 Corvette Sting Ray racer, photographed in the GM Styling viewing courtyard in the fall of 1962.

(GM)
Legendary GM Styling Chief Bill Mitchell photographed with the 1959 Corvette Sting Ray racer and the 1961 Corvette Mako Shark at the GM Technical Center test track, in Warren, Michigan, 1961.

They were so loud we couldn't even hear ourselves screaming whatever it was we were screaming, but after a split second to think about it we took off, pedaling our guts out after them. It was apparent that these machines were heading for our part of the neighborhood – and as we tried to keep them in sight, I realized they were turning on to my cross street…

We came around the corner and saw them pull into a driveway, exactly one block from my house. We stopped right at the end of the driveway with our mouths gaping down to the asphalt, as the drivers of the other cars handed the keys to the driver of the Sting Ray and he took them up to the front door where a woman collected them. Then, an Impala pulled up and the four men got in it and were gone, leaving the cars sitting in the driveway all lined up ticking and spitting as their pipes started to cool. This became the Friday afternoon ritual in the summer, because that’s the way Bill Mitchell wanted it. GM’s legendary design chief liked having a selection of his toys to play with on the weekends, and I was lucky enough to live just a block away from him.

All of those cars were special, but the ’59 Corvette Sting Ray racer was by far my favorite the moment I laid eyes on it. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing the original Sting Ray racer in person, it is a stunning machine. (Although for those who haven’t, you might not be prepared for how compact it is.) 

Its taut, beautifully rendered lines absolutely glow in Mitchell’s favorite color – German “Silver Arrow” racing metallic. A favorite story? When Ed Welburn took over the reins of GM Design many years ago, the first thing he did was order the restoration of the ’59 Sting Racer, which had fallen into neglect and in desperate need of rejuvenation. And the GM artisans did a phenomenal job bringing it back to its previous glory. But the one area they didn’t touch? The seats, because Ed wanted them to remain in their original condition, in honor of all of the famous people who sat in them. An exquisite touch, and it remains the jewel of GM’s collection of historic vehicles.

No, I don’t count myself as one of those famous people, but I did have the honor of riding shotgun in the ’59 Sting Ray racer several times with Bill Mitchell at the wheel. The memory remains as technicolor vibrant as if it happened yesterday.

(GM)
The wild 1958 Corvette XP-700 concept from GM Styling.

(GM)

1958 Corvette XP-700 concept. This wild Corvette concept was the first car I rode in with Bill Mitchell at the wheel. Some may not like the looks of this beast, but it was surprisingly alluring in person. The one thing I can report is that its “bubble” top – which was an infatuation of Mitchell’s at the time – redefined the concept of “solar gain” as it baked your brains out in the summer sun. And that was fine with me, because to ride around in that cool, futuristic machine was a treat beyond words. The XP-700 eventually disappeared. Why? It became the underpinnings of the next car…

(GM)

1961 Corvette Mako Shark I. The Mako Shark concept (XP-755) was another thing altogether. This machine bristled with remarkable details, like the “gills” that doubled as sequential turn signals, the glorious side pipes and, of course its bubble top. But the most remarkable characteristic was its fantastic paint job, which mimicked the gradations of a Mako Shark. That paint job was mesmerizing back then and amazing in every sense of that overused word. Today, this machine is in desperate need of a full restoration, but that paint job remains its signature. How did this all come about? One of the countless anecdotes from the Mitchell era was that he caught a Mako shark on a fishing trip in Florida and had it mounted on a wall in his office. He kept telling the designers that he wanted the paint job on the Mako Shark concept to look exactly like the shark on his wall, with the same color gradations. After Mitchell rejected several attempts at painting the XP-755 and amid growing frustration, a few designers sneaked into his office late one night while Mitchell was out of town and removed the shark from his office wall. They then had the paint shop paint Mitchell's prized catch exactly like the latest version of the paint job on the Mako Shark concept. They then put the shark back up on his wall and presented the new paint job on the Corvette Mako Shark concept to Mitchell, who pronounced it "perfect." 

(GM)
The paint job is truly wild - and stunning - on the Mako Shark I.

(GM)
The 1961 Corvette Mako Shark I as it appears today.

(GM)
The 1961 Corvette Mako Shark 1 and 1965 Corvette Mako Shark II, photographed at the GM Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, in 1965. 

(GM)
The 1963 Corvette Sting Ray remains one of the most iconic automobiles ever built. 

Ed Cole’s 1963 Corvette Sting Ray. We got to know Ed (and Bill Mitchell, of course) through our father, who was in charge of GM PR from 1957-1979. Ed took note that my brother Tony was totally into cars, so he often would send over cars for my brother to drive. One year he sent over his personal driver, which was a 409 cu.in. V8-powered Chevy Impala with a 4-speed. The only other 409 in existence was in “Dyno” Don Nicholson’s hands at the NHRA finals. Needless to say, we had a blast mopping up everything in sight on Woodward Avenue that weekend. But the most memorable car that Ed sent over was his personal 1963 fuel-injected Corvette Sting Ray coupe in Sebring Silver (with a 4-speed gearbox, of course). The new Sting Ray had been announced, but there were none on the street yet, except for Ed’s company car. To this day, the Sting Ray was one of the most dramatic and memorable auto introductions of all time, and driving it that weekend was like piloting a rolling space ship. No other car said “The Future” like the first Corvette Sting Ray. It was simply spectacular.


(The DeLorenzo Archives)

The 1964 “Zora-ized” Corvette Sting Ray (as it appeared for the SCCA Driver's School in Watkins Glen, New York, 1964. Note the straight pipes out the back). By early summer of 1964, my brother Tony’s automotive bug started to seriously turn toward sports car racing. He innocently asked "big" Tony if we could order a Corvette company car for the summer, and little did he know that the adventure was just beginning. As my brother said: "He made two errors: 1.) He agreed to do it and 2.) He let us order it!" And order it we did: A Black/Black 1964 Corvette Sting Ray Coupe with Heavy Duty finned drum brakes; Heavy Duty gearbox; knock-off aluminum wheels and radio delete. Little did our father know that Tony planned to take it to SCCA Driver's School in Watkins Glen, New York. So, the moment we got it we took the interior carpeting out, took the bumpers off, removed the spare tire carrier, and then we had a roll bar put in and we were good to go. Or so we thought. While Tony was sitting at his desk at Chevrolet Sales Promotion (his summer job) a few days later, the phone rang. This is how he remembers it:  

"Hello?" 

"Tony, this is Zora Duntov." Yikes, it was the God of the Corvette calling. "Your father has ordered a heavy-duty Corvette. Who is going to drive it?"  

"Um… He is?!!"  

Silence.  

"Who is going to drive it?"  

"Um, I am." 

“What are you going to do with it?”  

"Uhhh… I'm going to go to SCCA driver’s school at Watkins Glen." 

“Ok.” 

And “God” hung up. But not before requesting that we drop the car off at Chevrolet Engineering at the GM Tech Center in Warren so he could "take care of a few things." Two weeks later we went back to get the car, and Zora took Tony out to the little test track that sits inside the Tech Center. And there it was, it was the same Corvette but it sat lower and it was wearing the biggest Goodyear Blue Streak racing tires that could fit inside the fenders on the knock-off wheels. Zora also pointed out that the stock exhaust system underneath now had flanges just in front of the mufflers. Those flanges had been put on by Bill Mitchell's famous Styling Garage mechanic, Ken Eschebech, so that once we got to Watkins Glen, we could attach 4' long straight pipes designed to hang on special hangers, so that they would shoot straight out the back. Because, well, you can't run a Driver's School at Watkins Glen with standard mufflers, right? Zora was a genius.

But those changes were just the tip of the iceberg. The car had been completely gone through, including the brakes, the suspension and sure enough, the engine. In retrospect, we were convinced that Zora had the engine yanked, gone through and tweaked, because the thing was a rocket. 

That trip to Watkins Glen was an adventure unto itself. We arrived very late one night at the rustic Glen Motor Inn, and the one and only Vic Franzese (the proprietor) checked us in, but not before he could show us his beautiful Lotus 11. The school went exceptionally well for Tony; at one point the Chief Instructor went to ride a couple of laps with him and emerged muttering something like "he's doesn't need any more instruction" – and that was the beginning of Tony's racing life. The return trip was eventful, too, as were so tired by the end of the weekend that we said, "screw it" and left the straight pipes on, rattling hearts and bones all the way back. 

There's more to this story. It was getting toward the end of that summer, when dad informed us that the car had to go back to Chevrolet to be put back into stock condition. It turns out that our oldest sister's boyfriend at the time, who lived in Chicago, had expressed interest in buying the car. We took the roll bar out, piled the stock components in it and voila! It returned two weeks later as if none of it happened, with dad saying: “When that car comes back to the house, don’t touch it!” We didn't. The sad end to this chapter? The guy in Chicago had it for two days. On the second night it was stolen, stripped – and totaled.

Dollie Cole's "Bluebird" 1965 Sting Ray convertible. Ed Cole was the brilliant engineering genius and true enthusiast who was one of the creators of the small block Chevrolet V8 and who led GM Product Development in its heyday. Ed is a true icon of the industry. Dollie was his radiant wife, a fierce defender of all things Ed and a fiery enthusiast in her own right. She roared around Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham - two northern suburbs of Detroit - in her '65 Nassau Blue Corvette roadster with a white interior, a removable hard top, a 4-speed and side pipes. Dollie also had a lead foot and drove the hell out of it. She famously dubbed it her "Bluebird." Ed stuffed a big-block 396 V8 in it months before the engines were released to the public. She let Tony borrow it on several occasions. It was quick and suitably loud. 

(GM)
The 1965 Corvette Mako Shark II. What can be said about this machine other than the fact that Bill Mitchell and his handpicked designers turned the dial up past “11” to come up with one of the most iconic Corvette shapes of all time? The obvious successor to the Mako Shark I, the “II” bristled with spectacular details that even today – in its “Manta Ray” guise – resonate mightily. 

(GM)
The Mako Shark II transformed into the 1969 Corvette Manta Ray, which is how it appears today.

(GM)
The 1969 Corvette Manta Ray photographed at GM Styling in Warren, Michigan.

(The DeLorenzo Racing Archives)
Wilmot Hills, Wisconsin, May 1967. Tony DeLorenzo's first race in a Corvette - and first win in "A" Production - came at an SCCA Regional in Wilmot Hills, Wisconsin, in this brand-new 1967 L88 Corvette Sting Ray roadster sponsored by Hanley Dawson Chevrolet in Detroit. It was also the first time a 427 Cobra encountered the new L88 in an "A" Production race. This well-traveled Sting Ray is one of the most valuable Corvettes in the world not named "Grand Sport."

The 1967 Corvette 427 L88 racing car. Tony began his racing career in something much more realistic and affordable than a Corvette, which turned out to be a '65 Corvair. We started out pounding around at our local track here in Michigan – Waterford Hills – and from there it was on to Nelson Ledges, Ohio, and Mid-Ohio; a one-time event at an airport in Grayling, Michigan; Lime Rock Park, Vineland (New Jersey); and on and on. Two years later Tony talked Hanley Dawson, who owned Hanley Dawson Chevrolet in Detroit at the time, into sponsoring a Corvette in SCCA Racing. And after he agreed to do that, we ordered one of 20 L88 Corvettes made in 1967, in Black, of course (it actually turned out to be the first one built that year). I’ll never forget going down to the dealership after it arrived and taking it around the block. The thing was a monster in every sense of the word, and the sound that L88 made was spiritual. The first weekend we had it we installed a roll bar, replaced the stock exhaust system with a set of "OK Kustom" headers (from Flint), added a set of “Torq-Thrust” American Racing wheels, a set of Firestone racing tires, and we removed the windshield, cut the windshield posts down and put a plexiglass windscreen on. The debut race – and win – for Tony and that famous L88 Corvette came six weeks later in an SCCA Regional race at an obscure road race track in Wilmot Hills, Wisconsin. He went on to qualify for the SCCA Runoffs with that car, and then it eventually disappeared. It surfaced again, and after Tony documented its authenticity, it was restored back to its street configuration; then it was returned to its racing configuration – with Tony driving it in the Monterey Historics – then back again to its street configuration. This has become one of the most valuable L88 Corvettes in existence, and I think the last time it changed hands was for just under $2 million.

The 1969 Corvette “Daytona GT” L88 convertible. After the Owens/Corning Fiberglas sponsorship came to fruition for our Corvette team, we had the idea of building a limited run of street Corvettes that would be branded as the “Corvette Daytona GT.” We build a prototype, which was based on a Black/Black (of course) Corvette convertible powered by a 427 L88 and equipped with our competition headers and side pipes, our FIA-specific Plexiglas covered front headlights, American “Torq-Thrust” wheels and racing tires. We even displayed it at the Detroit Auto Show at Cobo Hall that year. From the “Best Laid Plans” File, the demands of our burgeoning – and successful – racing effort overwhelmed everything else, and the Daytona GT idea fell by the wayside. But that wasn’t exactly the end of the story. The car was stored at my parent’s house, and I was tasked with keeping it in running condition, which I performed with relish. Needless to say, a Black/Black L88 Corvette with open side pipes caused quite a stir on Woodward and the surrounding environs. It was the quintessential Bad Ass machine. What happened to it? A Lufthansa Airlines co-pilot befriended Tony at Daytona, and he eventually asked Tony if he would consider selling him a OCF-prepared Corvette. A deal was reached, and the Daytona GT was converted to OCF Corvette Racing specs. But not before Randy Wittine, the brilliant GM designer who created all of our iconic racing team liveries back then, came up with a wild “psychedelic” paint job for it that was drop-dead gorgeous. (Pictures exist somewhere, but they haven’t turned up.) Tony and I dropped it off at Detroit’s Metro airport, and watched it being loaded on to a Lufthansa freighter. That pilot proceeded to terrorize the equivalent of German SCCA national racing with that monster, humbling the usual assortment of Porsche 911s in the process. The car ended up back in the states somehow and is now used for vintage racing. Another Corvette life well lived.  

The 2022 Corvette Stingray Coupe. I tested a 2022 Corvette Stingray Coupe early this year and I loved it. The well-optioned machine looked fantastic in its Hypersonic Gray Metallic and its “Morello Red Dipped” interior. And so, a new chapter begins…

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

(GM Styling)
Bill Mitchell pulling out of his driveway on Bradway Boulevard in Bloomfield Village, Michigan, in the 1959 Corvette Sting Ray racer. He drove his favorite cars all the time.


Editor's Note: You can access previous issues of AE by clicking on "Next 1 Entries" below. - WG



THE YEAR OF THE DANGEROUS IN-BETWEEN.
by Editor
28 Nov 2022 at 11:25am

Editor’s Note: In this week's column, Peter reminds us of a few things, because it seems that some out there still have a tendency to forget. In On The Table, we look at Giorgetto Giugiaro’s interesting connection to Hyundai, and our AE Song of the Week is “Linger” by The Cranberries. In Fumes, Peter continues his much-praised series on “The Drivers,” this week featuring one of the iconic motorsports figures of all time – Dan Gurney. And check out The Line for any new developments on the racing scene. -WG

 

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. And so, we go on. With Part II of The Holidays – Thanksgiving – completed (Halloween has become the de facto Part I), the inexorable march to Christmas (or Part III) will unfold in the coming weeks. It’s always a weird time in this business, as next year’s budgets are being finalized with a fervor that swings wildly between calculated, reasoned business decisions and capricious whims and gut feels. Production and sales projections are also (gulp) being laid on the table with much hand-wringing and trepidation, and manufacturer operatives and dealers are scrambling to record as many sales as possible. In other words, the Swirling Maelstrom continues unabated.

I would love to report that things are progressing nicely in terms of the “Grand Transition” but it turns out that the chip shortage is nowhere near to being jettisoned to the rearview mirror, and this will affect ICE and EV builds all through next year. In fact, 2023 is shaping up to be one giant drag for the automobile business in general, a seething cauldron of Sturm und Drang that will hang over this business like a long, low black cloud for another year, at least. This is, needless to say, a giant bowl of Not Good.

Going into 2023, which I’m now officially naming “The Year of The Dangerous In-Between,” the progress I’m looking for is only coming in fits and starts, and too often it seems to be veering off into the three-steps forward, five-back Dance of Mediocrity that has plagued this business for decades.

To wit, just last week, Phoebe Wall Howard reported in the Detroit Free Press that Ford’s product issues not only remain unresolved, they’re actually getting worse. To wit:

“Ford Motor Co. has issued yet another recall on 2020-23 model year Ford Bronco Sport and Ford Escape SUVs following customer reports of fires with injuries as well as under-hood fires that occurred after the vehicle was turned off.

The cause: spilled fuel or leaked vapors on the hot engine or exhaust components caused by a cracked fuel injector.

As many as 521,778 vehicles, with 1.5-liter, three-cylinder engines, are potentially affected in the U.S., including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Specifically, 333,342 Escapes and 188,436 Bronco Sports.

More than 100,000 vehicles in Europe and South America are also affected, Ford spokeswoman Maria Buczkowski told the Free Press on Thursday.”

At one point, Ms. Howard provided a succinct summary of Ford’s continuing product problems: 

“Ford CEO Jim Farley tapped a new quality czar early this year, revamped quality management and has seen recalls and warranties eat into the company’s profits.

This latest action follows a recall of 550,000 F-150 pickup trucks for a broken windshield wiper motor. Ford has had more recalls in 2022 than any other automaker.” (Italics mine.)

The continuing saga of Ford’s product issues keeps unfolding like a bad dream for the company’s wunderkind CEO. Except that Ford’s “savior” CEO is now 60 years old and the problems aren’t being solved. In fact, they seem to be accelerating at a prodigious rate. Make no mistake, every auto manufacturer has recalls, because designing, engineering and developing automobiles is one of the most complicated endeavors on earth. But there is something deeply wrong within the Ford system of developing and building cars, and if the guy running the show – who claims to be preordained for that role (as if) – can’t get a handle on it, his tenure will fizzle out like all of the previous tenures that fizzled out before he arrived on the scene.

Changing the subject, there is definitely a virulent anti-EV faction “out there” that is equating the notion of the “Grand Transition” to EVs as some sort of plot against politically right-leaning individuals. The vitriol aimed at anything to do with EVs – and any individual who comments on it one way or the other – is growing uglier by the day. It’s easy to see why this ugliness is happening too. It’s part and parcel of the deterioration of any shred of rational discourse that has consumed this country over the last six years. The polarization of our society has now crept into the EV vs. ICE discussions, and it is truly unfortunate.

I have repeatedly gone on record as loving the sound and fury of high-performance ICE vehicles, and I will miss them once they fade from view. But realistically that will not happen in our lifetime or even a couple of lifetimes after, either. Those vehicles will remain part of our nation’s culture for many decades to come. 

But I also see a role for EVs going forward, especially in urban environments where the driving is limited and travel is becoming more and more restricted. Are there still monumental challenges associated with EVs? Absolutely. As I’ve stated repeatedly in this column, the national infrastructure for EVs isn’t there yet; in fact it’s not even close. And there are several critical issues that need to be solved, including the search and sourcing of critical raw materials, the generation of electricity itself and the systematic recycling of batteries that will ultimately benefit all. These are not insignificant problems, but we were at a similar point 125 years ago with the countless issues and problems associated with the dawn of the “horseless” carriage era, and we figured it out.

EVs will be a key part of our transportation future, there’s simply no denying that fact. Will it leave some behind? I have no doubt that it will. But to simply rain hate down on anything or anyone associated with the coming EV era is predictably short-sighted and flat-out stupid. 

As I suggested last week, I take the hate-mongering trolls with glee. In fact, the constant vitriol directed at me fortifies my spirit. So yes, go ahead, keep making my day.

The Year of the Dangerous In-Between is going to be challenging and tedious. But I am confident that the True Believers operating in every discipline in this business will make the difference for The Future. They always have and they always will.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.



Editor's Note: You can access previous issues of AE by clicking on "Next 1 Entries" below. - WG



BEING THANKFUL.
by Editor
21 Nov 2022 at 2:37pm

Editor’s Note: In this week's column, Peter presents an unexpected way to look at being thankful. In On The Table, we remind everyone that no car company in the world is more skilled at extracting as much ca$h-ola as possible from its faithful than Porsche. And Toyota breathes new life into the Prius by actually designing it – and rather successfully – for a change. In Fumes, Peter continues his much-praised series on “The Drivers,” this week featuring the great Sir Stirling Moss. And The Line wraps up the 2022 F1 season from Abu Dhabi (we frankly couldn’t wait for it to be over). Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! -WG

 

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. Being thankful is a wonderful, soothing concept. It gives us an opportunity to take stock of the positives in our lives and count our blessings, however miniscule or grandiose they may be. For most of us, somewhere between those two extremes is perfectly fine, especially given the various hostile climates exerting pressure on our day-to-day experiences. 

I’m thankful for a lot in fact, too much to go into here, but suffice to say, even though it’s the cliché of clichés, I’m thankful for my health and that’s perfectly enough for me. But being The Autoextremist, when it comes to “the Biz” I’m thankful for a few other things as well.

I’m thankful for egomaniacal CEOs, the kind who have grown accustomed to having certain “less than” members of the press hang on every thought balloon they utter, giving them the unfortunate – and pathetic – impression that people actually hold them in the highest esteem, when in fact, the complete opposite is true. “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is a wonderful literary folktale by Hans Christian Anderson, but it plays like an endless documentary around these parts when it comes to certain delusional CEOs who have too many sycophants, recalcitrant twerps and spineless weasels feeding their boundless egos. It’s the Runway Show that never seems to go out of style or run out of new seasons. And thank goodness for that.

I’m thankful that Elon Musk has finally been exposed for the carpetbagging mercenary he always has been. He fleeced Tesla customers to the tune of millions of dollars by pushing “Full Self Driving” and charging them through the nose for it, even though it never worked and it cost several blindly devoted “muskateers” their lives while “beta” testing it on public streets and byways. He allowed seriously flawed vehicles to be churned out to meet sales numbers designed to appease industry analysts who were looking for vindication of their outlandishly optimistic pronouncements about Tesla and its Visionary Esteemed Dear Leader. His fabled car company has lived on “regulatory credits” for years, a fact that was vastly underreported by certain slavishly gullible members of the media who bought into the Cult of St. Elon hook, line and sinker. And now that Twitter has become a full-blown Muskian Nightmare, exposing his management “style” for what it is, which is a chaotic exercise in seat-of-the-pants whims, reactionary missteps and bloviating whiplash, we are finally – finally – finding out who Musk really is: A self-indulgent, painfully self-righteous blowhard/user who is always a half-step away from flying the whole damn enterprise into the ground, while taking everything and everybody with him. He is truly America’s Creep-in-Chief, an embarrassingly vile facsimile of a human being who has too much money for his own – and this country’s – good.

I am thankful that the “Grand Transition” to the electrification of our nation’s fleet is playing out in very measured, incremental steps of progress. As in very s-l-o-w-l-y. Forget about range anxiety, because let’s face it, 250-350 miles of range is more than most people will need for their urban travels. The real issue right now and one that will remain the issue for years to come is that the charging infrastructure buildout is woefully lagging behind the arrival of the more mainstream BEVs due in 2024. Let me restate that – except for a very few pockets of availability, the charging infrastructure in this country is damn-near nonexistent. Will that change? Sure, eventually. But we’re not there yet, in fact, we’re not even remotely close to being there. In the meantime, I am thankful for the finest array of ICE vehicles ever built at our disposal. For enthusiasts, the time is now to enjoy the kind of visceral high performance that will slowly fade from view over the next decades. I will admit that it has fostered an “End of Days” feel, but all the more reason to savor the glorious machines that are available and are begging to be driven right now. Drive, we said.

I’m thankful for the gutter trolls who send missives to our website hiding behind their phony email addresses (at least they think they’re being clever; it’s amazing how easy it is to find out who people really are “out there” -WG) and spewing their embarrassingly tedious and hate-filled vitriol at me, thinking that it somehow derails my day or my focused train of thought. I’m exceedingly happy to report that it in fact has the exact opposite effect. It makes me that much more motivated and inspired to double-down and bring the High-Octane Truth to these pages every week. So, go ahead, keep making my day.

And finally, WG and I are thankful for the industry people from all of the various disciplines - especially the True Believers - the authentic media practitioners, the accurate analysts, those in the motorsports community, and the astute readers from all walks of life who come here every week. 

We wish you and yours a Peaceful and Happy Thanksgiving, and hope you can enjoy the moments.

That’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.


UNLEASH THE SHOOTING STARS.
by Editor
14 Nov 2022 at 10:25am

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit.

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” 

– Jack Kerouac, On the Road

We’ve reached an inflection point in this mad, mad automobile industry. Creativity is at a new peak in Design, Engineering and Product Development. The onset of the BEV Age is demanding everything, all the time, out of everyone involved. It’s all hands on deck for the True Believers across the entire spectrum of the auto industry. 

The auto companies – and their supplier partners – are deploying their “best and brightest” talent to massive BEV development programs. What does that mean, really? In GM’s case, to consider one company in particular, that means that the majority of the people who were involved in the development of the new Corvette – hands down the best car GM has ever built – have been hard at work on the company’s BEV programs for going on three years now, which says a lot about how Mary Barra, Mark Reuss & Co. see The Future. 

I have noticed that some DoomSlingers have started to come out of the woodwork to suggest that some of these companies – FCA, Ford, GM and VW just to name a few – are way out front of the transition to BEVs, too far out front, to be more precise. That means that some out there feel that the auto company executives who are actively bullish on this BEV transition are leaving their companies exposed to the vagaries of a driving populace that is still not down with the EV “thing” yet. 

These are the same people, of course, who made a cottage industry of mocking the Detroit automakers over decades for always lagging behind the curve, for always being behind the trends, for always playing catch-up. They’re the same people who suggest that the only worthwhile auto manufacturer is Tesla, that “Detroit” is collectively behind yet again, and that it would be better for all concerned if the “traditional” American automakers just faded away and allowed “hip” Tesla to become the only American automaker.

And that is so much unmitigated bullshit too. 

Last time I checked, Tesla is still not out of the woods when it comes to building its vehicles without major quality issues. We’re not talking about minor electronic glitches either – a common annoyance for all manufacturers – no, we’re still talking about system failures and parts falling off. It’s hard to mask that with descriptions of “minor” issues – unless you’re a card-carrying member of the Cult of St. Elon. It is simply unacceptable by any measure. Can you imagine if some of the quality horror stories that have plagued Tesla had hit FCA, Ford or GM? The mainstream media and the stumblebum politicians in Washington would be wielding their pitchforks with glee, demanding that “Detroit” be punished for their atrocities against humanity.

The fact of the matter is that Musk has become a toxic, malicious entity on several fronts, and I predict Tesla will pay the price for his rapidly deteriorating persona. One good thing about the Twitter fiasco? It has exposed the fundamental failings of Musk to a much broader swath of people, which is a very good thing from where I sit. That he pushed "full self driving" as an authentic feature on his cars – and charged thousands of dollars for the "privilege" of ordering it – and then had the temerity to have Tesla customers do the real world "beta" testing of the feature, when it clearly didn't even come close to working as advertised, is one of the most unconscionable and egregious affronts ever to be perpetrated on this industry. And that's saying something with the outrageous – and unforgivable – VW Diesel cheating scandal still fresh in everyone's minds. As I've said previously, I predict that Tesla is going to be slammed with massive fines from the U.S. government that will run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions. And it couldn't happen to a more deserving guy. It's just too bad the rest of Tesla's workforce will be subjected to the penalties of being associated with America's Creep in Chief.

Resuming our regularly scheduled programming, the notion that the more “traditional” automakers are too far ahead of the unfolding BEV transition is laughable. It’s not just traditional industry lead times at play here; it’s the fact that the prevailing winds across the globe are blowing in the direction of fundamental change, and to deny that is simply akin to plunging one’s head in the sand. This can’t be dismissed as a “trend” or a “fad” either. We are moving into a new global sensibility that is picking up speed by the day. 

Consumers will slowly but surely come around to the efficacy of BEVs, while the last vestiges of the “ICE Age” play themselves out over the next decades. But major issues remain, specifically the charging infrastructure – or lack thereof – and affordability, battery durability and the limitations of long-distance travel. Just today (November 14th), The New York Times published a lengthy article about the growing acceptance of EVs. The article started off with glowing reports from the EV front, with people gushing about how much they’re loving their EVs. But that perspective was countered with a story about a mom and dad driving their daughter up to Michigan State – with all of the associated flotsam and jetsam needed for college life – in a VW iD4. The mom thought she had charted the trip from Columbus, Ohio, to East Lansing with precision, planning to stop for a recharge in Toledo. Except that with the extra load of people and belongings on board, she realized as she was approaching Findlay, Ohio, that they weren’t going to make Toledo, because the VW was using juice at a prodigious rate. Upon arriving in Findlay, the few chargers available were either not working properly or were behind locked gates. The family ended up having to rent a van to complete the trip. As you might imagine this was a giant bowl of Not Good and perfectly crystalizes why this transition to EVs is going to be painful, as I’ve been saying all along.

But to pretend that this “Grand Transition” isn’t marching inexorably forward is to simply deny the reality of what’s happening. Yes, this new “EV Age” is going to take time, especially in the heart of the mainstream market. The super-expensive “show pony” EVs are nice and everything, but the real action will unfold in 2024, when many more affordable choices arrive on the scene. 

So – and this is coming from a diehard high-performance ICE enthusiast – the new EV Age will take more time in this country, but there’s no denying where this is going. So, are the companies going “all-in” to the BEV transition gambling with their futures? Guess what, these companies gamble with their futures every day, so this is nothing new; it’s just part of the game.

As I mentioned earlier, the transition to BEVs is demanding everything out of everyone involved, all the time. That this business isn’t for the faint of heart has been well documented in these pages. That it’s an “up at dawn, pride swallowing siege” (thanks, Cameron Crowe) is just part of the deal. The BEV imperative is placing new demands and new urgencies on the True Believers across the board. 

And right now, it’s time for these True Believin’ shooting stars to soar to new heights. Good enough isn’t even part of the lexicon for these people. Neither is complacency or going through the motions. These people push and strive as a matter of course. Yesterday’s breakthroughs give way to tomorrow’s starting points. Make no mistake about it, the BEV Era is bringing out the best from the best and the brightest, which is why I remain optimistic about where this is all going.

Yes, a booming V8 will always remain close to my heart, but I envision that the BEV Era will accelerate the possibilities for companies and consumers alike. Change, in this case, as hard as it is to contemplate at times, will be very, very good. 

Not that these companies need to be admonished to do so, but they should unleash their shooting stars and let them soar unimpeded. I firmly believe that the results will be breathtaking.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week. 


Editor's Note: You can access previous issues of AE by clicking on "Next 1 Entries" below. - WG

SAME AS IT EVER WAS.
by Editor
7 Nov 2022 at 10:23am

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. Today’s column will be, well, a little different and unexpected, because as long as we’re living in this automotive Twilight Zone between the end of the ICE era and the dawn of the BEV era, things are bound to be more than a little unsettled. Or boring. Or both. It seems like the entire industry is lost in that traditional mindset of "It won't be long now!" Translation? Give us another year and we'll be smokin'. In the meantime, have another SUV and you'll be fine. Or something like that. If the boring and soulless EQE SUV and AMG EQE SUV are the best Mercedes can do for its EV SUV entrants, then we are doomed, and this industry is officially out of ideas. (See them again in this week's On The Table. -WG) With that in mind then, I have a few questions for you (as inspired by one of my heroes, David Byrne)...

Go ahead and ask yourself
What am I doing?
Go ahead and ask yourself
And what is it for?
Go ahead and ask yourself
Am I going where I want to go?
Go ahead and ask yourself
Or am I just running in place?
 
Go ahead and ask yourself
Is this as good as it gets?
Go ahead and ask yourself
Or am I missing something?
Go ahead and ask yourself
Is this the life I signed up for?
Go ahead and ask yourself
Or am I going through the motions?
 
Go ahead and ask yourself
Am I spending my time asking why?
Go ahead and ask yourself
Or am I living for why not?
Go ahead and ask yourself
Do I have it finally figured out?
Go ahead and ask yourself
Or am I closer to where I started?
 
Go ahead and ask yourself
Have I stopped learning?
Go ahead and ask yourself
Or am I better than yesterday?
Go ahead and ask yourself
Are my regrets stifling my soul?
Go ahead and ask yourself
Or is my past fueling me forward?
 
You may ask yourself
Am I still writing chapters?
You may ask yourself
Or is it time for my next act?
You may ask yourself
Is this all there is?
You may ask yourself
Or am I good right here?
 
You may ask yourself
Is it time to run?
You may ask yourself
Or can I run but not hide?
You may ask yourself
Is this the best me?
You may ask yourself
Or a pathetic facsimile?
 
You may ask yourself
Am I ready for The Future?
You may ask yourself
Or am I mired in the way it used to be?
You may ask yourself
Will it really be all that new?
Or will it be the same as it ever was?

I’ll leave it to The Man himself, Mr. Byrne, to close things out:

You may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
You may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right? Am I wrong?
And you may say yourself
"My God! What have I done?"

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week. 




Editor's Note: You can access previous issues of AE by clicking on "Next 1 Entries" below. - WG



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