Wednesday, May 25, 2011

865 Car Bunk(le)

865 Car Bunk(le)

Jerry Flint died in August of 2010 and since then a quiet celebration has been on going the likes of which have not been seen since the death of Tom McCahill in 1975.

Who were these guys? Flint was an editor at Forbes and after retiring wrote their auto column. McCahill was purer. He was “only” an auto writer and test driver without pretensions to any higher calling.

Thing is, both guys loved cars and loved Detroit and wouldn’t stand for Detroit’s shenanigans any more than a loving but rational parent would stand for a felonious teenage son or daughter. Now that they’re gone, the goons who run the auto industry in the countries that matter (the US, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Italy and France) can rest easy.

Flint looked at the auto industry as a whole. McCahill told readers of Mechanix Illustrated about individual cars. While Flint mocked Jurgen Schremp of DaimlerChrysler and later the comical Dieter Zetsche, McCahill mocked the cars the company produced as has this site.

The Obama administration reports Chrysler has paid back $5.9 billion. The press release omits mention of the dreary sales of its generally disposable cars. Chrysler has been a favored topic in these posts, a true nine-lives back-from-the-dead story from the annals of America’s single most important industry.

So, in an effort to channel these Tom and Jerry, we turn to this newly captured captured subsidiary of the world’s unintentionally funniest car company, Fiat.

From the days of Walter Chrysler to the days of Lee Iacocca, Chrysler was “The” engineering company. Thereafter, it was “The” styling company. What’s more macho than today’s Chrysler 300? What is more fear-provoking than today’s sinister Dodge Charger? What’s more rugged than a Jeep? Except that when you read Consumer Reports and talk to owners they’ll tell you what Flint would have told you: these cars are all show and no go and McCahill would have described as junk on wheels. Even Iacocca said “We can’t regain our reputation by shipping crap.”

What would these guys have said about the Toyota floor mat baloney? What would they have said about Renault-dominated Nissan? What would they have said about the Cadillac Escalade, GM’s gorgeous and unreliable science fiction-mobile?

McCahill gave us the 0-60 test, something he created using a heavy foot and a stopwatch. Flint gave us the point of view of a cheerleader who understood the pom-poms and miniskirts and big smiles sometimes needed a rest.

There are people out there who still can do this, but most don’t. And should. One exception: Doron Levin, late a Bloomberg colleague and now writing for the Daily Beast, Fortune and his stuff gets posted on CNN Money. Read him!

Shrapnel (Bar Fly edition):

--A Gen-u-ine saloon has opened in a nearby town. Beer, wine, hard liquor. Smoking is permitted, even encouraged. One tiny problem: unless you drink your entire meal, you can’t get dinner at a place that serves no food, not even bar pretzels.

--Smirnoff has started stamping its name in Russian on the plastic 750 ml. bottles. They say Водочка Smirnoff. An obvious but left over commie plot designed to corrupt American boozehounds.

--And Coors is printing its beer cans in both English and Spanish. This is an obvious plot to Americanize Mexicans. Adolph Coors is twirling in his grave, and let him!

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2011

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