Small Wonder

In the 1980s, Honda decided to sell motor scooters in the United States. I remember the commercials, a series of funky, fresh ads that featured popular music, slickly edited scenes of exciting urban environments, and snappy lines that drove your urge to purchase via memorable phrases like, “Don’t settle for walking.” The fact that I recall these commercials 40 years later shows they had some impact I suppose, but I’m not sure if they led to the spike in sales that Honda hoped. Perhaps it’s because I am from the countryside, I don’t know, but with the exception of my time in places where tourists can rent scooters without motorcycle licenses, I can’t recall ever seeing one on an American street when I was a young man.

That changed a few years ago. Maybe it’s the price of gas and insurance, maybe it’s the fact that today’s young people have diminished expectations, or maybe it’s because as an older man I now live closer than ever to the urban scenes depicted in those aged advertisements, but I am finally seeing scooters here. I can’t say I see swarms of them at every stoplight like I do when I am in Japan, but I do see them and, as someone who has spent a lot of time on two wheels and who lives a mile or two away from my commuter train, that got me thinking. Continue Reading →

Thirty Years of Progress?


Reviewing your own cars is usually a big no-no. When a person plunks down their own hard-earned cash, it makes things personal. And when things are personal for a reviewer, there are usually just two outcomes. They either love their car with all their heart or they hate it with such a passion that they want it, and all others like it, excised from the planet. Extreme examples, of course, but even when they do their best to moderate their passions, self-reviewers still tend to skew one way or another. That leaves it to the reader to sort fact from fiction. But hey, no problem! Americans are good at spotting spin, right?

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: Up In The Air Edition

It would be dramatic to call it a nadir, but that moment seven weeks ago where I found myself fish-flopped over a Galapagos-ish boulder on Angel Fire Mountain’s “Hungry Hippo” trail — very recently unemployed, attempting to continue a vacation with my son despite said unemployment while also freaking out about how I was going to get my new house finished, and the owner of at least three newly broken ribs — well, that certainly felt like one of the lower points in my adult life.

Thankfully, a low point is what it was. The positively luminous response to my Substack meant I could finish my house and shop. A variety of new opportunities have slouched along since then. Best of all, as of yesterday I’m back on my bike and hoppin’ to it. Can’t quite muster the two-foot hop that I had last year, but I am fifty years old, and I’ll improve once I have my own little bike park set up at the farm.

I had a couple of freelance pieces show up last week; here they are.

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1978 Pontiac Bonneville: Middle Class Lux

A few days after I posted that ’78 Fleetwood Brougham previously discussed, I ran across this Bonneville in similar colors, just with a light gray top instead of black. I’ve always liked these, Dad had one, and I love their clean flanks and fender skirts. This one was for sale in Chicago on Marketplace.

Thin description, rather sucky pictures (I cropped/prettied them up for this post), and it always bugs me when the seller has to hide the price. “$1.” Oh OK, I’ll take it, and if you say it’s more I’ll sue for fraud, bwahahahahaha! Or: “The price is a secret. If you beg and plead, maybe I’ll tell you what it is, hurr hurr!” Great.

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This Week’s Klockau Lust Object: 1976 Jaguar XJ6C

1970s Jaguars are pretty cars but fraught with period Blighty quality and reliability issues. But they sure look good. And the other day this one popped up on Finding Future Classic Cars. Would I own it? Nah. But I can still appreciate these cars, especially in pillarless coupe form. The white paint, black top and red leather interior is particularly striking. Continue Reading →

1998 Chevrolet Lumina LS: The Invisible Car

My friend in Texas, Mike Massey, recently listed this Lumina. Remember those? The 1990-94s were pretty nice cars, with the Euro high-trim versions, the 3.4 coupes and the ultra-modern looking APV ‘Dustbuster’ minivans. The 1995 restyle made it a sedan only body style, as the coupe was renamed Monte Carlo-though the minivan continued through ’96 before being replaced by the utterly conventional Venture. Those ’95-’00 Lumina sedans were pretty plain to me, with the exception of the seldom-seen LTZ versions with their leather seats and alloys. Sure, the brochures frequently showed them with the LS alloy wheels and such, but most of the Luminas I remember seeing were like this one. You’d expect Mulder and Scully to get out of one. Subdued colors, with the base silver plastic wheel covers. But after Mike posted the ad, it occurred to me that I haven’t seen one in quite a while.
One of the last family vacations my parents took us kids on was to South Padre Island for Christmas 1999. We flew into the Brownsville airport and were supposed to get a Chrysler minivan. None were available, and they actually tried to pawn a pickup on us. Dad flatly refused, and they managed to find a new Lumina LS for us, in burgundy with that then-ubiquitous dark gray interior. I drove it once or twice and it was roomy and comfortable, but a bit plain.

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