Guest Post: Will Gibson Go The Way Of Studebaker?

Ronnie wrote this nearly a month ago, but I was lazy and didn’t get it posted. With the recent Gibson bankruptcy speculation in the news, this piece now looks reactive rather than predictive — that’s on me, not Ronnie — JB

Did you know that Studebaker still existed as of just a few years ago? Yes, they stopped building cars in 1966 but in 2009, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that Cooper Industries was the legitimate corporate heir of the Studebaker Corporation and thus responsible for the environmental cleanup of Studebaker factory sites in South Bend. Cooper Industries makes electrical components like circuit breakers and has since been acquired by Eaton. That’s just the latest in a series of deals that started when the Studebaker corporation, no longer making cars, merged with Wagner Electric and the Worthington Corp. to form Studebaker-Worthington in 1967. McGraw-Edison bought Studebaker-Worthington in 1979 (except for Studebaker-Worthington Leasing, which still apparently exists, providing financing for industrial equipment) and Cooper Industries bought McGraw-Edison in 1985.

Starting in the early 1950s, Studebaker’s position as an automaker became increasingly precarious. Though they had one of the earliest genuine postwar car designs in 1947, they really didn’t have the financial resources to go toe to toe with the big three Detroit automakers, particularly as GM, Ford, and Chrysler introduced modern, high compression V8 engines. What should have happened was a merger of the major independents, as was proposed by George Mason, who ran Nash (and merged it with Hudson to form American Motors), and wanted to merge with Packard, Studebaker and Kaiser Frazer, which had bought Willys. James Nance, who ran Packard, wasn’t willing to give up any power so a fourth major U.S. automaker never came to be. Eventually, though, Packard’s worsening financials forced them to merge with Studebaker, not realizing that Studebaker’s automotive operations were probably in even worse shape.

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Cougars And Firebirds – The Ponycars Of My Youth

Note: Please welcome Joel Miller to Riverside Green. Another emigre’ from the old site, Joel’s passion is 1970s Detroit rolling stock, particularly the 1977-81 Firebird and full-size 1973 Pontiacs. -TK

The car that first really hooked me was the Mercury Cougar. I was probably four or five when I first spotted a ’69 or ’70 Cougar though the window of my mother’s Mark III Lincoln. Whoa, what’s that? The sequential turn signals were mesmerizing!

At around age six, I finally figured out what I was looking at. From that point on, everything was about the Cougar. My half-brother drove a white ’69 XR7 for a few years, although I don’t ever remember riding in it. I probably stared rust holes in it though!

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Guest Post: Granny Get Your Gun

Photo courtesy of Japan Today

Over the last few months, there has been a rash of age-related car accidents in Japan.  Just yesterday, a 9 year old girl was killed and four other children injured when 70 year old driver rear ended another car and sent it spinning into a group of students walking home from school.  Last week, an 85 year old driver who had been warned by his family not to get behind the wheel, veered onto a sidewalk after striking another car and ran down two high school girls on bicycles before flipping his car onto its side.  In November, an elderly woman suddenly accelerated through a lowered parking lot gate and shot across the street where she killed two pedestrians.  A month before that, seven people, including a two year old boy, were injured when an elderly driver hit the wrong pedal while exiting a parking lot and barreled across crowded sidewalk near a major department store and, earlier in the year, a 76 year old killed one person and injured five more when she lost control of her car in a parking lot.

According to the Japanese police, drivers 65 and older were responsible for 965 fatal accidents in 2016.  That’s more than 25% of fatal car accidents nationwide and, because Japan is an aging society, there is a great deal of fear that the number will to grow in the coming years.  To help mitigate that growth, in early 2017 a cognitive assessment was added to the existing mandate that all drivers be retested at 70 years of age and, rather than face the possibility of being found unworthy, more than 106,000 people voluntarily surrendered their licenses in the months prior to the new rules going live.  While it’s certain that many older people were opposed to the new rules, there was little public outcry.

Of course, it will take time for the rules to take effect.  An entire generation of drivers were retested at 70 before the cognitive assessment was added to the regime and they continue to be out on the road.  But overall, the new rules are a genteel solution to a serious problem from a civilized society and it says a lot about the Japanese.  Of course, I do not believe for on minute that we could do anything like it in the United States without a good old knock-down drag-out fight.  We’re just not wired the same way. Continue Reading →

Guest Post: Thoughts On A Motor-Sportsbook

(Contributor Michael Briskie is back, offering an idea to preserve the future of motorsports — JB)

“And here comes number 8, roaring off the exit of turn four! He looks to the inside, but the door is slammed shut… a quick move to the outside and he finds a lane for the pass. Every inch counts now, they are on the final straight, it’s going to be close… and Hoof Hearted sprints over the line for the win by a nose, followed closely by Deweycheatumnhowe!”

A dozen sweaty, snorting horses slow to a trot, and the victorious pony and rider are showered in garlands and champagne. You can almost smell the money in the air. The tension begins to evaporate, and the faces in the crowd, red from yelling, cheering, and willing their prize animals to victory, are either triumphant or dejected. Bets have been won and bets have been lost. At the horse race the adrenaline rush for the spectators appears to match that of the riders. By comparison, an auto race is an almost identical concept, but by the time a car rolls into Victory Lane, the luckiest fans haven’t won a dime. Maybe they leave with a tan instead of sunburn.

Henry Ford said, “The first auto race was born 5 minutes after the second car was built.” While it is undisputed that the automobile replaced the horse as the means of modern transportation, the car, despite its superiority in so many ways, has not vanquished its ancestor in popularity at the race track. Gambling, in no small part, contributes to the reason why.

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Guest Post: For Old Time’s Sake

Over the last couple of weeks, I have written two articles about my evolving relationship with technology.  In the first, I discussed the reasons for my reluctance to purchase a cellular telephone for my middle-school aged son while, in the second, I talked about why I am opting to use what many people have told me is a substandard workaround to play digital audio through the factory stereo in my new-to-me Nissan Hardbody.  Although both essays were intended to be short and simple, I found them difficult to write.  The second piece was especially so as, to get at the truth, I had to acknowledge the fact that I have a history of making poor choices and that I have, over the years, been incredibly wasteful.

But even though I struggled to write that second piece, I understand that many people my age are in the same boat.  To paraphrase one commenter, the entirety of Generation X came of age during a period when, thanks to the pace of technological advance, our music collections became obsolete again and again.  He’s not wrong.  Virtually every machine I included as proof of my poor decision making abilities was superseded by improved technology and, because I am not an early adopter, that happened only when the machines were so outdated that it became difficult to find new releases on the old media.  It turns out, then, I had hung onto things!  But that led me to another question: Which of my possessions is the oldest? Continue Reading →

Guest Post: Get Out There And Drive

About three times a year, on the big holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter) I am required by marriage to drive south from Louisville, Kentucky to Hodgenville for a family dinner with my wife’s extended family. This past Thanksgiving, I had recently purchased my 2016 Corvette and it was quite the conversation starter unlike my last car.

“I got a Corvette too!” My wife’s cousin exclaimed as we sat down to dinner. “Check out my license plate!”

He pulled out his iPhone and showed me his near-showroom condition 1998 Corvette convertible, complete with a pristine Torch Red paint job in a massive garage.

“Nice!” I replied. I then proceeded to get nerdy, because I felt a potential common bond forming. I am a man of passion, so when I find others share similar interest, I can’t help but get more into the conversation.

“Auto or manual? Does it have the Z51 package?” I inquired, hoping and praying I could not only learn the specifics of the car, but maybe something new about the C5 I didn’t know.

“It is an automatic, but it has an LS1! My license plate tells you it is a 1998 LS1!”

Uh oh.

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Guest Post: Consumerism Gone Cold

This Christmas, my sister sent my kids $25 Amazon gift cards.  Given the absolute bounty my children received, I promptly set these cards aside and, I am ashamed to admit, forgot about them until late last week when I finally thought to mention them.  The results were entirely predictable.  My son, who has a surprising amount of money in his piggy bank, calculated the amount as a part of his overall tally and, after considering his options, decided that the satisfaction of having so much cash outweighed the pleasure of anything that he might actually purchase.  My middle child, meanwhile, demanded that I immediately log into Amazon so that she could spend every last cent as quickly as possible while my youngest, still unclear on the concept of money, was just happy to sit beside her sister and examine the various toys that popped up.  In the end, however, no money was spent as I decided to use the opportunity for what I like to call, “a teachable moment.”

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Guest Post: Haiti Is A Shithole, From The Perspective of a Haitian

Please welcome my lifelong friend, Jadrice Toussaint, as he shares his thoughts on the alleged recent comments made by Donald Trump regarding Haiti—Bark

I’m Haitian, and I’m proud. As a matter of fact, as I write these words, I am in Haiti, celebrating my birthday with my friends and family. And I’ve asked all of them the following question: Why should we be upset as Haitians at Donald Trump for telling the truth? Because he’s right—Haiti is a “shithole.”

We Haitians are amazing and wonderful people. I do find it appalling that a president, who is supposed to be an example as a leader, should make these statements.But for him to say that Haiti is a shithole…well, think about it.

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Guest Post: Red State, Grey Market

(Many thanks to Michael Briskie for some insight on this! — JB)

The import/export business can be confusing – just ask George Costanza. What used to be American-as-apple-pie brands like Cadillac and Buick are now putting Chinese built inventory into their patriotic showrooms, and the CT-6 Hybrid and Buick Envision are just the start. By next year, the Ford Focus will be on the list as well. This nonsensical supply chain is a head scratcher for sure, leaving us with new terms to understand like “domestic imports,” and “American designed.” However there is an even stranger case in the export markets. How can anyone explain why six figure luxury German SUVs manufactured at a Mercedes plant in Alabama, or a BMW factory in South Carolina, built by Americans and intended for Americans, end up being shipped by the tens of thousands bound for mainland China? The globalization meter is getting turned up to 11.

The other day a curious Craigslist post caught my eye while searching the classifieds for another bad financial decision. I had entered “Must Sell” in the home page keyword search, which if you don’t know, is the expert way to find interesting deals on wheels. Buried in between the listings of rotting MG’s and partially completed Chevy Nova restorations was a headline that proudly exclaimed “Luxury Auto Buyer — $3000 to $5000 per car!!!!” Along with it was a picture of a shiny Range Rover Sport.

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Guest Post: Enter The Bitcoin, Part Two

(Pete’s second post on Bitcoin is a sequel to his original post and my followup — JB)

So how does Bitcoin actually work?

It works by the voluntary association of peer-to-peer computer nodes all around the world, much like BitTorrent. Except whereas BitTorrent each carry slightly different files on them, each Bitcoin node carries the exact same data on its SSD, namely, a full history of all the Bitcoin transactions that have ever occurred on the network dating back to 2009. Having each node store all the transactions provides redundancy and decentralisation, while the fact that the overwhelming majority of nodes have their software tailored to the specific needs of their users provides ecosystem diversity in the face of Heartbleed and other 0 day exploits.

Within each full transaction history on each node, transactions are chunked into “blocks” that are no more than 1 MB in size with a median transaction being 227 bytes in size. There are now over 500,000 such blocks that are indelibly linked together to form a “blockchain,” which can be thought of as an append-only registry that keeps track of all the bitcoins in existence. Since this registry is public, Bitcoin “ownership” is therefore simply the ability to use one’s private key to demonstrate control of a piece of the blockchain by cryptographically signing a transaction. He who owns the keys, owns the kingdom, as it were. Once the transaction is signed, it’s broadcast to the other nodes on the network who ultimately relay the transaction to a miner. If the miner likes the look of the fee attached to the transaction (there is a competitive fee market, currently around $10 for a median-sized transaction), the miner incorporates that transaction into the next block he “discovers,” which is then appended to the longest chain.

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