This is the ADVENTURE issue of R&T so naturally it features an ADVENTURE BIKE doing ADVENTUROUS things. If you’re not ready for that level of adventure, however, may I show you something from our Milder Adventure Department?
When I hear the name Pontiac, I think Bonneville. Oh sure, for most people, it’s GTO or Firebird or Trans Am or Super Duty. But being of the more Broughamtastic persuasion, I prefer the Bonneville, Grand Ville, Grand Le Mans and Grand Prix. That’s just how I roll.
Using the only criteria that matter — the ones maintained by the 12-year-old boy in the back of our brains — what was the absolutely most cool/awesome/dope/fly machine in human history? It wasn’t the P.K. Ripper or the 917K, cool though they may be. Nor was it the AR-15 or the Cigarette boat driven by Sonny Crocket. It wasn’t even the F-104 Starfighter, although that is the plane I would buy if I won the lottery tomorrow.
The apex machine, the alpha dog of technological achievement, is surely the SR-71 Blackbird and its “Oxcart” sibling. It went faster than the missiles fired in its direction and it made Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter look like a Toyota Yaris. I don’t know about you but I’m looking forward to the “Hidden Figures”-style movie to be made about it where we find out that the Blackbird was invented not by a bunch of nerds with pocket protectors but rather by a diverse team of women’s studies majors, bronies-of-color, and MS-13 lieutenants. Good stuff.
The SR-71’s hull was made of titanium, a necessary inconvenience that required a massive amount of duplicity on the part of American intelligence agencies and/or corporations. Titanium is the king of metals: strong yet ductile, inert and hypoallergenic, able to withstand more heat than the other options in the craftsman’s arsenal. I have lived the vast majority of my life with various different titanium bolts holding me together.
There is little that titanium cannot do. Having saved the world in the Cold War (for a while, anyway) it is now ready to save the world yet again, in the greatest battle humanity has ever faced.
I have a bit of a distaste hierarchy when it comes to made-in-China stuff. Are you a Chinese company, using your own brand and forthrightly discussing Chinese production? Then maybe we can do business — this article is being written on a Lenovo Y900. Are you an American company that makes some of your products in China, clearly labeling them as such? Okay, Pelican and SILCA… let’s give it a shot (although I just had an unpleasant experience with a Chinese SILCA product, more on that in the near future). Do you obscure the place of production in favor of long bullshit rants about American design and sustainability and being a force for good? Sorry, Patagonia, you can fuck off.
Ah, but there’s a level of Chinese obfuscation even below that of Patagonia et al — the level where you claim to make things in Western countries, or in Japan, only to send me Chinese products when I order them.
The last several posts of mine, to no one’s surprise, have been various and sundry large American luxocruisers. Well, what can I say? I love them. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like other stuff. It doesn’t have to have opera lamps and a Cayman-grain padded vinyl roof to catch my attention. And who could disagree that the early Porsche 911s weren’t beautiful?
What can one say about the Porsche 911 that hasn’t been said already? For many, it’s been THE Porsche. For generations. Well, there is one thing. Sometimes, I get tired of the pervasiveness of 911s in Porsche books and literature.
Hoo boy, this is a bad picture. But if you’re either a frequent reader of this site or a resident of certain urban areas, you’ll recognize it nevertheless: It’s the Xiaomi Mi scooter used by BIRD as its the base platform for its “mobility solution”. I saw it at a Xiaomi-specific store in Kuala Lumpur. We might consider Xiaomi and the other Chinese home-market brands like it a sort of weird cheapo unobtanium primarily sourced through Massdrop and Alibaba, but in Asia they have stores that are as big and as diverse as the ones operated by Apple. The Samsung store I saw was even more impressive; they’re wayyyyy ahead of what you can get here.
Speaking of Samsung, and of Korea in general: During my twelve-hour layover at Incheon two weeks ago, Danger Girl and I took a “temple culture tour” offered by the South Korean government in cooperation with the airport authorities. We didn’t have to get our passports stamped or anything like that; we were simply released into the wild through customs control without so much as a single question asked and told to meet a bus operator in 90 minutes. The bus took us to some temples. These temples were, by and large, ground-up reconstructions of temples that had existed a long time ago. I was mildly upset by this. Where’s the “authenticity” in a brand-new temple designed to look like an old one? I’ll write a bit more about this in the future, but in the meantime here’s a fascinating essay on the differing ways that East and West regard concepts like “originality” and “copying”.
For some all-original, uncopied content, click the jump.
When the fat family moved, I became the old man of my cul-de-sac. Fifteen years prior, I’d been the new kid on the block, a buzz-cut bounder in my late twenties with a flashy BMW and a willingness to check every box on my builder’s option list. Eighty-eight homes in the subdivision and mine was the last to go up, sold at the highest price in arrogant defiance of my father’s rule-of-thumb that you should always own the cheapest house on your block for resale’s sake. But as the years flew by and I dutifully followed Thoreau’s decree to be what he called “new wine in the old bottle”, my neighbors drifted off in dribs and drabs. The recession of 2008 blew many of them away, short-selling if they were lucky and enduring foreclosure if they weren’t. Then one day I looked around and I realized that I was surrounded by strangers a decade or more younger than I was, raising children on tight budgets and carefully washing their pre-owned Toyotas on Saturday. They staged parties and cookouts to which I was pointedly not invited. Seemingly overnight, I’d become the “horsey people” from Updike’s Couples, the staid holdouts to whom the social rhythms and beating hearts of the hood were a complete and utter mystery.
Perhaps it’s not accurate to say “the fat family”. Not because they weren’t fat. They were spectacularly, gloriously fat. The husband and wife were both pink and plump from wrist to cankle like prime pigs when I moved in though they were scarcely any older than I was. They had a daughter who cleared two hundred pounds before she cleared the age of ten. Around that time the husband lost his job and had to take a temporary gig as a Wal-Mart greeter. Not surprisingly, the wife packed his bags for him shortly afterwards and it became just her and the daughter. She didn’t seem to age; you don’t really get wrinkles if every inch of your skin is under a Nissan GT-R’s worth of boost pressure. By the time the daughter was a teenager I couldn’t tell them apart. They even dressed the same, in a style I nicknamed Country Kitchen. Periodically, the husband would stop by for visitation, levering his sad big body out of his Saturn Ion in such a manner as to effectively broadcast his misery to all and sundry inside Neptune’s orbit. Sometimes he would have to wait until his ex-wife shooed-out her date from the previous night. Yes, she had boyfriends. It must be amazing to be a woman. If I go three days without using conditioner on my hair I can feel my visibility to the fairer sex evaporate like fog on a sunny Ohio morning but this chick had ’em lined up like Cedar Point’s Millennium Force despite not being able to fit in the seats of said roller coaster or, indeed, any other roller coaster I’ve ever seen.
The fat family’s house was purchased by an upwardly-mobile young couple whose every aspect seemed calculated to both raise my envy and irritate my pride. She was Generic Corporate Blonde, pantsuited but trim and muscular in the mandatory fashion for director-level advancement, steering a Prius in distracted fashion, early to work and late to return. He was a dark-haired version of the fellow who plays Jamie Lannister on GoT, striding out to his brand-new 528i every morning in a manner that indicated his eagerness to take on the world and beat it. No kids, no parties, no raised voices, not a hair out of place. Ah, but there was trouble in paradise.
The Bonneville Brougham. Most primo Pontiac of them all. And my buddy, The Brougham Whisperer, Jason Bagge, found one out in Spokane. He posted pics. He bought it. I got excited. So excited I did a preview post last month. Why? Simple. I love these. Absolutely. Love. Them. Let me tell you why.
This past week, about a hundred of my best Malaysian pals and I drove 2,877 kilometers from Kuala Lumpur to Hua Hin and back. Our vehicles ranged from the prosaic (an RHD NC1 MX-5 which has the same “4×4” ride height as its American sibling) to the unbelievable (a pair of Kevlar-bodied Bufori Genevas, about which more later). In the weeks to come, I will be bringing you all sorts of pictures, stories, and analysis pieces from this trip.
This was a true vacation for me in the sense that I hardly worked during the trip. So this Roundup will be a light one, but I do have two full-length print pieces which have just made their way on the Web.