Made In Detroit: Shinola and how you can support Riverside Green

Over the years, we’ve been reluctant to take any money from you, our readers, despite your many generous requests to offer it. This website has never been anything but a vanity project. It doesn’t serve as a portfolio, nor does it help us curry any favor with OEMs—quite the opposite, as the virtual army of people who comb every word of this blog for ammo to use against us with our employers, family, and friends continually demonstrates.

We tried Google ads for a while. They didn’t even cover our hosting costs, and they were distasteful. So no more of that.

Some of you have suggested Patreon. That feels even dirtier than Google Ads to me. Transparently, both Jack and I earn well above the national median income, and there’s no reason why anybody should pay us money directly in these times when so many people are unemployed and in greater need than we are.

However, I was recently offered the opportunity to help promote one of the brands that both Jack and I have written about at length, and a brand that I have personally spent more money supporting than any other (with the exception of Ford and Genesis) in the last 8 years. That brand is Shinola.

We’ve talked about Shinola here, here, and here. I bought my first Shinola watch, a blue 41mm Runwell, in January of 2016 and I bought my most recent one a few weeks ago. In between those purchases, I have bought 14 other watches, multiple wallets, business card holders, belts, and even hats. I constantly scan eBay for deals. I have my own personal contact at the Grand Rapids store who shoots me off any photos of interesting models. When Shinola launched their first automatic version of the Runwell watch, I immediately ordered serial number 5, in honor of my father’s number at Notre Dame, my number in high school sports, and my son’s number on his club soccer team, and it has become my everyday watch. I have everything from that top of the line $1100 automatic Runwell to a $395 resin body Detrola, as well as a Guardian, a Bedrock, a Canfield, 2 Canfield Bolts, a Black Blizzard, 2 Brakeman, and 6 Runwells. You can see much of my personal collection in the very poor photo at the top of the page.

So, yeah, I believe in the brand. Which is why I am completely comfortable offering my endorsement of it to you, our readers.

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Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter: Motel Mascot

Back in the late summer of 2015, I had agreed to trade in my 2006 Volvo V50 wagon for a 53,000 mile 2004 Town Car Ultimate at Strieter Lincoln. As they were holding the car for me, I still was driving the V50 for a few more days. So I decided to go up to the lake, go to the Mt. Carroll downtown car cruise that Saturday, maybe do some swimming, and then head north into Wisconsin to see House on the Rock.

All in all, it was a nice weekend and cool to see House on the Rock since the last time I’d been there was on a family vacation in 1990. But on the way home I passed this motel and had to stop and check out this plane, sitting out front of the Don Q Inn, a themed motel in nearby Dodgeville, WI. You couldn’t miss it.

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A Very Civic Christmas

We don’t say Happy Holidays here at Riverside Green; it’s Merry Christmas, the holiday to celebrate the birth of our risen Savior, Jesus Christ. Before you fedora-tippers say anything, we’re perfectly aware that Christmas and Easter were both time-shifted to replace existing pagan celebrations. Celebrating Christmas around the winter solstice is no more illogical than espousing an evolutionary origin for pressurized organs. So there. (Yes, I read Stephen Jay Gould’s arguments for that, too.)

As we celebrate Christmas, the nice people at Honda are celebrating Civics. The Twin Ring Motegi track is currently hosting a Civic heritage display; some photos and a video are below, with various comments.

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Bark Buys: How I learned to stop worrying and love CarMax, or my 2017 Genesis G80 purchase story

I’ve been writing car buying advice columns for years, and for good reason—most people have absolutely zero idea about how to buy a car. When I say that, I mean that they are completely uninformed about the entire process, starting with the selection of the car, whether to buy new or used, how to negotiate, whether or not to get an extended warranty, etc. Sure, your Uncle Bark can help, and I’m always happy to do so, but more often than not, even people who reach out to me for advice end up missing out on one key piece of the journey, and that one piece can often cause serious financial and time-oriented headaches.

This is why CarMax is so incredibly successful. For reasons that we will absolutely address later in this blog post, CarMax appears to be the only dealership chain in the country that truly understands how much most people loathe everything about buying a car.

Pricing transparency? Got it. Everybody pays the same price. Financing transparency? Also got it. Not sure what car you want? No worries—they’ll find it for you. Worried that your car will break? They’ll give you a free limited warranty and sell you one that covers anything else.

So, yes, CarMax is successful, but if you are one of the few automotive consumers who really does know what he’s doing, dealing with them comes at a somewhat terrible price—namely, you’ll likely pay too much for your car. After all, the reason we do all of that silly negotiating and backslashinforth in the first place is because we want to save money, not because we particularly enjoy it. Having a fixed price relieves the anxiety for most customers because everybody walks away feeling like they got the same deal anybody else in their shoes would have gotten.

It’s a well known fact in the car biz that the customers who get the best deals walk away the angriest. It’s the customers who get absolutely cracked who write great Google reviews and refer all of their friends from church. So it’s no wonder that people love CarMax—everybody gets cracked.

Or do they? I was determined to find out. Why, you may ask?

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Remembering Kevin A. Campbell

I was saddened to learn this past Monday that a friend of mine, Kevin Campbell, passed away last week. He was one of my online Brougham compadres. We could comment or message back and forth about Cadillacs, Lincolns and Buicks easily-and frequently.

Kevin was someone I met through Facebook, on the various Cadillac and Lincoln groups, like the American Brougham Society headed by Dave Smith, and the 1970’s Great American Land Yacht group. Over the years he’d owned many different U.S. luxury cars. But he was a major Buick fan, and daily drove a 1995 Buick Roadmaster.

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Made In The USA: Vyper Chair

Like everything else in the modern United States, hand and shop tools have been split into an upper class and a lower class. The upper class is the Made In USA stuff like Snap-On and SK; the lower class is Harbor Freight and the various Chinese tool brands you find in Lowe’s and AutoZone. We used to have a middle class, the USA-made Craftsman tools that kept the Sears brand alive a solid decade past its sell-by date, but as of late Craftsman has mostly decamped to the Chinese side of things. (They’re trying to come back, now that Trump The Great Satan has leveled the playing field with China a little bit, and I hope they succeed in this.)

Over the past thirty-five years I’ve made it a habit to buy the best tools I could afford, even when I didn’t have any money. That’s why I had (and still have!) Park spoke wrenches that cost eight bucks a pop when I was making two dollars an hour after taxes, and it’s why I have SK ratcheting box wrenches nowadays. One thing I never had was any kind of rolling shop stool, even though it would have improved my quality of life quite a bit over the past decade as my back has increasingly complained about leaning over to change wheels on cars and adjust derailleurs on bikes. This was partly due to the fact that I didn’t expect any $30 Harbor Freight stool to hold up for any length of time, but it was really a matter of snobbishness. How could I feel good about rolling a crooked Chinese stool back and forth between my Herman Miller benches and tables? Better to just pull out a Miller wire base table out and sit on it.

Doing that sucks, by the way.

So now I have something new: the USA-made, painstakingly-machined, no-expense-spared Vyper Chair, complete with custom embroidery. And it’s already proving to be indispensable, admittedly for a quite depressing reason.

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Guest Post: While We’re On a Renaming Kick, Let’s Get Rid of Wilson, Yale, and Stanford

Sengbe Pieh

The names of those American military bases memorializing Confederate generals, like Fort Bragg in North Carolina or Fort Hood in Texas, have become fodder for the culture war. Despite the fact that some were capable commanders (many of those, it should be noted, were graduates of the Union’s military academy at West Point), the simultaneous fact that they fought for a cause now thought odious is considered by many to be grounds for erasing their names from those installations. I can personally think of valid arguments on both sides of the issue.

When it comes to renaming things, particularly with a political motivation, I’m reminded of something an Indian fellow who worked for an automotive vendor told me during the big Detroit auto show. Continue Reading →

Messages From The Lizard People

Five months ago, a space of time which today seems almost paleontological, I found myself explaining the Lizard People to my boss, Mr. Larry Webster. I was driving Larry’s newly-acquired ’94 Mustang Cobra in some rather dicey weather, chatting with him about various personages in the automotive world, and I said something like, “Well, he’s one of the Lizard People.”

“The what?” So I had to break it down for him. Wikipedia will tell you that the Lizard People are part of a very serious conspiracy theory, but Wikipedia has SJW-policed itself into utter irrelevance lately; witness their entry for Boogaloo. Nobody (alright, almost nobody) thinks that interstellar reptiles have taken human form among our country’s leaders. Rather, the Lizard People theory is a hyperbolic way to express something which we all know to be true, namely: virtually everyone in our country’s “one percent” is at least a sociopath and possibly a psychopath.

They don’t think like we do — not even close. The majority of them were blessed with some haystack-needle combination of personal circumstance and professional luck. People who were born on third base, think they hit a triple, then manage to steal home because the catcher has a heart attack. To avoid facing the unpleasant (to them) fact of their lottery-winner existence, they eagerly consume (and produce) countless utterly generic diatribes on meritocratic-sounding skills like “leadership”, “vision”, “success”, and similar topics. Carly Fiorina, known in most circles as the woman who single-handedly destroyed Hewlett-Packard, has written three bestselling motivational books. Chew on that for a minute. This woman literally ran an American institution into the ground, causing tens of thousands of people to lose their jobs and destroying billions of dollars in shareholder value — and she thinks she’s a tremendous success. That’s psychopathic behavior.

Let me be clear: I’m not talking about the kind of fellow who grinds through medical school, starts his own practice, and rewards himself with a McLaren Senna GTR at the age of fifty. I’m not talking about Steve Wozniak or even Steve Jobs. I’m not talking about Larry’s boss, McKeel Hagerty, who took a neighborhood insurance agency and built a billion-dollar company through meticulous attention to detail. I’m talking about all those people who earn six or seven figures in ill-defined, completely unproductive jobs. The marketing gurus, the “Silicon Valley wizards” who have never shipped a memorable product, pretty much every MD and above in the finance business (except, ahem, this one chick I know). The people who sit on eight corporate boards and nobody knows why. The CEOs who shipped jobs overseas to make a quarterly earnings call look good, the people at Boeing who managed to trash the world’s best brand in a matter of years. The Lizard People.

Real Lizard People are a lot easier to discern than their sci-fi counterparts. Witness, if you will, the above video.

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Sometimes A Great Notion, Sometimes Not

This 1973 Camaro, currently on eBay at 15,500 Buy It Now, is preying on my mind a bit. For what it is — a largely unadorned take on Sergio Pininfarina’s favorite American car. From 1970 to 2003 or thereabouts, the Camaro managed this utterly hilarious trick of being an utterly gorgeous and outrageous car which earned your contempt through mere ubiquitous familiarity. A 1973 Camaro… a 1982 Camaro… a 1994 Camaro… with a Ferrari badge and a production volume of 500 a year… can you imagine how people would go crazy over it? A few months ago, we had the Pegasus Firebird in Hagerty’s Traverse City home office and it was just different enough to make you see what you should have seen all along: the second-generation F-body was America’s 250GTO.

Mercifully free of the hockey-puck black plastic which came to define the interiors of the equally striking third-and-fourth-generation cars, this Camaro is gorgeous, exotic, and quite unusual with its rare opera windows. Yes, they are deservedly rare, perhaps, but with forty-five years’ worth of perspective I can appreciate them both aesthetically and functionally. I’ve driven a few of these cars and you need all the rear-quarter vision you can get.

As much as I love it for what it is, I also adore our opera-windowed ’73 for what it represents.

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