Wednesday, August 11, 2010

742 Automotive Graveyard

742 Automotive Graveyard

Friend and colleague Don Blair of Florida is writing a book about old cars, American brands no longer among us. If it's typical Don, it'll be well researched, easy to understand by car freaks and non-car freaks alike, entertaining and informative. There's a gold mine of dead steel (and sometimes dead plastic) to write about and photograph. Here are but two.

Preston Tucker is well known to readers or listeners of this space. Was he a con man or a visionary or both? Was he victim of the big corporations? Was his stock trading misdeed a setup?" There's no question that Tucker's "Torpedo" was ahead of time and scared Detroit out of its oil pans and Grosse Pointe golf links. And his car was important for what it brought to market or failed to bring to market.

But the most important of the dead brands was the Edsel, Ford's attempt to squeeze a line of cars between its low and upper mid priced lines. The thing was comical and/or ugly, and before wrapping up and calling it quits, Ford lost $250-million on the project, ending in the 1960 model year. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis website, $250-million in 1960 would be about two billion in today's dollar. Ford was not sent reeling by this write off. What happened was this: they built a pretty good car, but a goofy one, and put into what they saw was a niche. Turns out the niche didn't exist. So, Ford took a bath, but barely got wet.

But the kind of loss that would stagger any industrial venture today was little more than a bump in the road for them then. And that's emblematic of what's happened to industry in America.

Don, being the media savvy guy he is surely will see the parallels between cars and broadcasters. When the founder hangs on too long, the successors generally screw things up. Henry Ford (Ford Motor,) Bill Paley (CBS,) Leonard Goldenson (ABC.) And even if the man or woman most closely associated with the enterprise is not the actual founder, it's the same: David Sarnoff (RCA/NBC,) Katherine Graham (Washington Post,) Hedley Donovan (Time/Life,) Alicia Paterson (Newsday.)

Ford survived all the way into the present crisis. What about the others?


Shrapnel:

--Levi Johnston of Palin fame apparently wants to follow his future mother in law or future non-mother in law into politics. "E! Online" reports he is considering a run for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. Just what they need: another ambitious and talentless politician, but he has legs as good as Sarah's -- which we know from his magazine photo shoot, and hers.

--Instead of all this hoo-hah about a Muslim center at ground zero, why don't they just build an interfaith center and let everyone have a chunk of it? If proponents of the mosque are serious about their intentions to "strengthen relations with the non-Muslim world" at the Trade Center site, what better way to do it? Still, it's easy enough to understand why there's opposition.

--Batten down the hatches, a certain Jersey Girl is about to take a two-months plus trip to the far east. When this Kearny Kidnik leaves for a long trip, natural and unnatural disasters happen here, and this is nothing new -- it happened even when she was a child. When she left the country in which she was born, its entire economy collapsed.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010