Gulp

Today as I was driving to work (really had planned to bike today, but…) I was in stop-and-go next to a Maserati. “That’s a handsome automobile,” I thought. About then I caught a whiff of the oil going out my tailpipe and that brought to mind the mortality of all useful machines. I stopped to look at one of the Maseratis that parks in my structure. It is indeed handsome, even on extended inspection. “I wonder of there’s a Maserati convertible?” I pondered.

There is a Maserati convertible, it turns out. And it’s also a handsome automobile. And… it’s pricey.

Ha. “Pricey.” OK, I know a prestige marque commands a premium, but I wasn’t ready for a price tag that’s damn near twice the Jaguar F-type. That’s the competition, I figure. And while I find the Jag a little butt-heavy (I have heard that the trunk had to be expanded to meet the marketing requirement that it could hold a big-ass set of golf clubs – but if it can only hold one set, that’s what the passenger seat is for), and the Maserati is allegedly a four-seater, there’s just no way to justify spending absurdly too much for the Maserati (assuming you are already reconciled to spending far too much for the Jaguar).

Unless, unless, the Maserati has fewer stupid gizmos. There’s stuff on most modern cars I’d pay to not have. It would take a lot of not-having to justify that price, however.

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Return of the Ugly

The other day I was using a car to get home from work, and in front of me at a traffic signal was a Cadillac with what might have been the Single Ugliest Rear End of All Time. This honor was once held firmly by the Pontiac Aztec, but in recent years our friends in Asia have produced some marvelously hideous-looking cars. Mind-boggling, to tell the truth.

So I guess the boys at General Motors decided to give the guy who made the Aztec another shot at glory. (This Caddy’s rear definitely had some of those Aztecan sensibilities.) They managed to find the storage room where they’d been keeping him, brushed most of the dust off him, and turned him loose on the newest Caddy. I thought I’d go to the Cadillac Web site and poach a picture so we could all appreciate the grotesquery.

Only, when I go to the Cadillac Web site, I see that while their CTS-V coupe rear (the closest match to what I saw) is by no means pretty (vast plains of plastic, almost no glass), it lacks those finishing details of the one I saw that put it into the running for all-time ugliest. Which means that they’ve already thought better of the horrid design. Maybe GM put it out for one year to reclaim the ugly crown, then backed off to merely “rather ugly” so people would buy the car. If someone were to say to me, “You know, I kind of like that look”, I would merely shrug and wonder quietly to myself what the hell is wrong with that person. But I know those people are out there.

On the subject of ugly cars, every once in a while I put “Electric Roadster” into my search engine to see if there’s any news on a viable electric replacement for my aging Miata coming down the pike. The answer is, alas, “not yet.” Tesla has announced a retrofit to its lotus-based roadster to put in better battery technology, so that’s progress.

The search engine results provide a wide range of things claiming to be electric roadsters. Most of them are not. Golf carts are not roadsters, even when they look like this:

http://californiaroadster.com/rlimo.php

If it can’t go more then 25 mph, it’s not a roadster. http://californiaroadster.com/rlimo.php

And then come the ugly ones. Boy howdy. The overall trend in automotive design these days is to add fiddly bits and creases to the car until there’s no surface area left to add bits to. Take this monstrosity:

From the highest branches of the ugly tree.

Pride forbids me from considering this vehicle. http://torqev.com


It is clearly designed to appeal to men, and the performance numbers are quite impressive. But… wow.

Along those same lines, only much more expensive, we find Detroit Electric’s entry in the field.

Detroit Electric SP:01

Maybe in person it wouldn’t seem so ugly. http://detroit-electric-group.com/sp01.html


There are some angles that make this car look kind of nice. Others, bleah. The Detroit Electric Web site seems to be aware of this, and you have to dig to see a view of the car from more than two feet off the ground. But holy crap, the performance numbers are mighty impressive. What a pleasure it would be to be stuck in stop-and-go traffic in this baby.

The Europeans, meanwhile, are heading off in a distinctly different direction. While this vehicle doesn’t fit my definition of ‘roadster’, that hasn’t stopped other people from calling it that:

Volkswagon electric concept

Just a concept car, but wow. Mashable


A car like this will not grace our streets any time soon, and while I’m not too sure about this design, at least it’s ugly in a different way that I find encouraging. More ugly-because-it-doesn’t-look-like-anything-we’ve-seen-before ugly, than ugly-because-we-had-to-add-more-fiddly-bits-to-make-it-distinctive ugly.

Finally we have this car, a one-off unconstrained by having to conform to any laws, that shows that out there are still some automotive designers who haven’t fallen into the more-is-better trap. We can thank the Italians for this one, and we can thank the Germans for paying them to build it:

bmw mini superlegga

Awesome inside and out – unconstrained by practicality. Design Boom


This is actually not the most flattering picture of the car, but it does show a lot of the design elements. It really is a clean design, and the interior of the car, especially the control panel, are awesome. The article linked in the picture caption is interesting as well, showing the process of building the car.

Music to my ears:

‘In this car all unnecessary equipment or decoration is sacrificed, as performance is gained through lightness and efficiency of the bodywork and interior.

Who knows? That might be my next car, right there, if they can keep the original aesthetic intact and get it to market.

A Particularly Shitty Couple of Weeks

A couple years ago, we lost out entire kitchen to a plumbing problem. Since then, we’ve had two near misses. The laundry room under-floor will never be the same, but we can pretend all is well. Then there’s the leak that’s been going on long enough it has been supporting its own ecosystem. Our plumbing is crap.

It came down to this: we would never sleep well at night until we tore out the horrible plumbing in our home and replaced it with not-horrible plumbing. Money has been tight, but we agreed that it was worth spending some cash to end the ongoing risk of catastrophic and expensive plumbing failures. It took all our immediate savings and some sale of fruit-flavored stock, but after a week of what might otherwise have been a relaxing time off work, the plumbing crew was mostly finished. A stressful week, but one that promised peace of mind on the other side.

There were a couple of hitches, so on Tuesday the plumbing company sent a guy out to fix them. Our wee doggie has not dealt well with any of the plumbing intruders, but as I got into the car Tuesday morning I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. We had better pipes. The endless worries about losing months of our lives to home repair were soon to end.

It was raining Tuesday; that’s why I drove. That’s why the roads were slick. That’s why the kid in the Corolla slammed into me.

I’m not hurt. Roxy, the 2001 Ford Escort, is mortally wounded. Roxy has only 40,412 miles on her, which means There are simply no comparable vehicles out there. And there’s the bitch of the thing. The actuarial tables State Farm uses will not yield a number that comes remotely close to the replacement value. We could have ridden that car for another decade easily. The thing just plain did its job.

So now the showdown begins. State Farm will offer us money for our car. That money won’t be enough. Our position: make it like it never happened. Put a car in our garage that fills the same role. It’s not about money. Their position: We’re buying your wrecked car for a fair amount.

Meanwhile, we just gave all our spare cash (and a little more) to plumbers. We’re not ready to take on car payments.

I know, as I bitch about the ill fortune that has beset me, that a lot of people have it worse than I do. Most of planet Earth, in fact. People in camps near where I live would scoff at my problems. But a twenty-year-old kid driving like twenty-year-old kids do has put us in a serious financial bind, and honestly I don’t see the right answer.