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BACK SEAT DRIVING - MARCH 2006

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Tue, Feb 28, 2006

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

BT JUSTICE BACK SEAT DRIVING IT'S TIME TO STEP UP TO THE PLATE March 31, 2006

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Anti-Gay AFA Calls for Boycott of Ford Products The Mississippi-based American Family Association (AFA) has called for a boycott of the Ford Motor Company because of what the group views as the automaker's continuing support of pro-homosexual groups pushing for same-sex marriage. You may recall the AFA originally called for the boycott in May of 2005, but, at the request of several Ford dealers, the boycott was suspended to allow time to resolve the issue. In December, however, the Ford Motor Company chose to dig in its heels, announcing that it will run corporate advertisements in gay publications. The corporate ads include all of Ford's brands. "It is my hope that this will remove any ambiguity about Ford's desire to advertise to all important audiences and put this particular issue behind us," Joe Laymon, Ford's group vice president for corporate human resources said. AFA founder Don Wildmon says the boycott includes all automobiles manufactured by Ford, including Ford, Mercury, Lincoln, Volvo, Land Rover, Mazda, and Jaguar. Gays Should Respond To Boycott By Buying Fords In standing up against the AFA, Ford took a business risk. In a letter to gay, lesbian and human rights groups who met with the automaker, Ford said it has decided to run corporate ads in the targeted publications in 2006. "You asked us specifically to reaffirm our principles of nondiscrimination and inclusiveness. We agreed, without any reservations, and issued a statement immediately after the meeting in which Bill Ford did so personally," said Joe Laymon. Laymon continued, "Ford Motor Company and its brands value diversity among all of our constituents and pride ourselves on strong and clear values - respect for our customers, communities, employees, suppliers, and dealers; acceptance of our differences; inclusion of different people with different perspectives; and integrity." Those are pretty ballsy statements from one of the largest car companies in the world. But these are not empty words. Ford was given a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index. They have been on DiversityInc's "Top 50 Companies for Diversity" list since the rankings have been published. Ford is also the first automotive conference aimed at bringing diversity to the car industry. For sticking its neck out, advocacy groups should be calling on gays and those who support gay rights to buy Ford products. A Ford for Every Occasion "I'd buy a Ford, but they don't make a vehicle that appeals to me." Anyone who thinks that hasn't taken a careful look at the current spectrum of Ford products. They include two very reliable hybrid vehicles (the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner hybrids), arguably the sportiest and best-looking compact car on the market (the Mazda3), a trio of cutting-edge family sedans (the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, and Lincoln Zephyr), the best-selling pickup truck (F-Series), one of the best "bang-for-the-buck" performance cars on the market (the Mustang GT), a product line of some of the safest vehicles made (the Volvo line), a bevy of some of the most capable off-road vehicles around (the Land Rover line), and numerous other excellent vehicles. Ford put its money where its mouth is. It's time for the community to reciprocate. - BT Justice Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD MY OTHER CAR WAS THE FERRARI THAT CRASHED IN MALIBU March 28, 2006

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Stefan Eriksson, who's Ferrari Enzo was totaled in a spectacular and highly publicized crash last month, lost his $400,000 Mercedes McLaren SLR yesterday, according to David Pierson and Richard Winton of the Los Angeles Times. According to Pierson and Winton, Beverly Hills police confiscated the vehicle after Scotland Yard said the car might have been stolen. Police told the Times that the officers stopped Eriksson's wife, Nicole Persson, 33, about 2:30 p.m. on the corner of Beverly Drive and Wilshire Boulevard because an officer found the car's European license plate suspicious. "The officer then discovered that Persson lacked a driver's license and that the car was not registered in the United States," reports Pierson and Winton. "We contacted Scotland Yard and subsequently learned that the car was perhaps stolen" out of the United Kingdom, Lt. Mitch McCann told the Times. The entire incident was caught on tape by 13-year-old exotic car buff Spyder Dobrofsky, who has filmed Eriksson's vehicles in the past, according to Pierson and Winton. Last month's crash prompted an accident investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. For more background on the Ferrari crash, see below. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD HE'S LOVIN' IT March 21, 2006

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Owner Runs Cars On Leftover McDonald's Grease Ba da ba ba ba. That's part of the slogan for McDonald's. It's also the sound of Robert Tomey's Volkswagen New Beetle and Ford pickup truck - both of which run on leftover used vegetable oil drained from his four McDonald's franchises. According to Emily Le Coz of the Associated Press, "it's a little messy to pour into the gas tanks and smells a bit like popcorn when leaving the exhaust system, but the fry grease powers his vehicles the same as regular diesel." Says Le Coz, "Tomey once spent more than $350 a week for diesel. He now spends next to nothing." "I couldn't believe it was that easy," Tomey told AP while pouring gooey grease into the tank of his silver Beetle. "It's incredible. I want everybody to do this." Tomey envisions an alliance of Northeast Mississippians running their cars on his grease, according to Le Coz. Tomey operates his McDonald's franchises out of that region. "If they make the conversion, he said he'll supply the fuel. He's got enough of it to power 20-30 vehicles annually." Tomey used to throw away 10,000 gallons of grease every year from his four restaurants, reports Le Coz. "I have more than I can use." Steve McMullen, the service manager at Aberdeen Ford, which converted Tomey's vehicles, thinks such an alliance is realistic. "The conversions worked so well," McMullen told Le Coz, "It'd be puzzling if more people didn't do the same thing." As it turns out, Aberdeen Ford installed the converter kit that Tomey bought from an online vendor, Greasecar. After outfitted the pickup, they installed a second kit for the New Beetle. For more information, see the AP story, Fry Fuel. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE March 16, 2006

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Was The Ferrari Enzo Crash Videotaped? The investigation into the high-profile crash of the Ferrari Enzo in Malibu last month is now focusing on a videotape that was purportedly shot from inside the vehicle at the time of the accident, sources close to the case reportedly told the Los Angeles Times. Richard Winton and David Pierson of the Times report that Ferrari owner Stefan Eriksson and the other man in the car, "now identified by authorities as Trevor Karney, had a video camera rolling as they raced on Pacific Coast Highway on the morning of February 21st at speeds in excess of 162 mph." No video equipment was recovered by authorities on the day of the accident. However, Winston and Pierson state that Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department detectives were later told that the high-speed driving was taped. The sources evidently spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is under investigation. To view the Sheriff's Department's recreated animation video of the accident, see video. For more background, see The Case of the Missing Ferrari Driver. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD CONSUMER REPORTS GETS A LESSON IN MATH March 13, 2006

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Consumer Reports readers are smarter than the average bear. At least, that's what the magazine boasts when it comes to consumer issues. It turns out, sometimes the readers are even more well-informed than the Consumer Reports editors. Earlier this month, the magazine issued a press release for its annual, April automotive issue, asserting (among other things) that hybrids can cost up to $13,300 more to own over five years than similar vehicles. Moreover, the report asserts, no hybrid model today pays for itself in fuel savings. A number of readers looked at the report, and spotted a calculations error. The original study examined the costs of owning a hybrid over five years and 75,000 miles of driving and assumed that gas prices escalated to $4 a gallon. Under those parameters, Consumer Reports found that even the most efficient model costs $3,700 more to own than a similar vehicle. However, the magazine now admits it miscalculated the extra depreciation costs it had tagged onto the hybrid models, which added anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000 to their costs. Correctly calculated, the magazine says Toyota's Prius saves an owner about $400 over five years and Honda's Civic Hybrid saves $300 - assuming both owners filed a federal tax break for hybrid vehicles. Customer Relations Coordinator Jenny Martin responded to all those that wrote in regarding the error: "Thanks for taking the time to contact us regarding our April 2006 report, 'The dollars & sense of hybrids.' Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience you may have experienced. We've corrected a calculation error involving the depreciation of the six hybrid vehicles that, in the report, were compared to similar conventionally powered counterparts. The error led us to overstate how much extra money the hybrids will cost owners during the first five years. Our revised analysis shows that two of the six hybrids are projected to recover their price premium in the first five years and 75,000 miles of ownership." Although it's too late to correct the April issue, Consumer Reports Automotive Editor Rik Paul said a corrected version of the story is posted on the magazine's Web site. "We deeply regret the error," Paul said. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD CHICAGO REQUIRES DRIVER'S ED FOR THE BLIND March 11, 2006 Dozens of visually impaired sophomores in Chicago schools are required to pass a written rules-of-the-road exam in order to graduate, according to the Associated Press. "In other classes, you don't really feel different because you can do the work other people do," Ramirez said. "But in driver's ed, it does give us the feeling we're different. In a way, it brought me down, because it reminds me of something I can't do." Hundreds of school districts in Illinois require students to pass driver's ed, although the state only requires that districts offer the courses, reports AP. "It defies logic to require blind students to take this course," Meta Minton, spokeswoman for the state Board of Education, told the Chicago Tribune. About 30 students at two Chicago high schools with programs for the visually impaired recently formed an advocacy group in part to change the policy, according to AP. A Chicago Public Schools official said the district would be open to waiving the requirement. "I can't explain why up to this point no one has raised the issue and suggested a better way for visually impaired students to opt out of driver's ed," said Chicago schools spokesman Michael Vaughn. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD ALLEGED CAR THIEF ARRESTED AFTER ASKING DIRECTIONS FROM CAR OWNER'S FATHER March 9, 2006 A man accused of stealing a car was arrested after stopping to ask for directions at the car owner's father's house, authorities told Associated Press. Michael Chapman, 54, is accused of stealing a car Wednesday morning in Hopedale, about 130 miles east of Columbus near the West Virginia state line. According to AP, Chapman drove east for three miles, then pulled off state Route 151 needing directions to a nearby town. He stopped randomly at the home of Thomas Eltringham. Eltringham, 67, gave the directions, but when Chapman drove off, Eltringham called his daughter, fearing that the gold 2001 Buick LeSabre might have been hers, said Captain R.J. Myers of the Harrison County Sheriff's Office. AP reports that Norma Harris told her father that she had started the car, left it running so it could warm up and went back into her house, Myers said. A patrol officer spotted the car about 25 miles away near Smithfield and chased it. The driver pulled into a driveway, got out and ran away, authorities said. Chapman was found hiding behind an auto sales office and arrested. Chapman, was being held Thursday at the Jefferson County Justice Center on charges of car theft, drunken driving and driving without a license. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD A MEDITATION ON THE SPEED LIMIT March 7, 2006

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What would happen if, all of a sudden, you decided to obey the 55 mph highway speed limit? Student film directors Jordan Streiff and Amanda Hunter solicited the help of Max Spencer, Nadia Shadravan, Ferril Collins, Andy Medlin, and Alisha Salzman to find out. The target was Atlanta's Highway 285, where speeds average upwards of 80 mph. With their vehicles in hand, the crew proceeded to travel down the 285 in formation, occupying every lane on the highway. The students got it all on film - a barren highway, followed by a procession of cars traveling at 55 mph, followed by honking horns, and angry motorists. One van driver even tried to circumvent the legal blockade, clipping someone else's mirror and speeding past after going off the road. It's not clear what it all means. Should the speed limit be raised to meet reality? Or, should we all be traveling at 55 mph, thereby saving a lot of petro in the process? Whatever it means, it's an entertaining view. To see the film, go to A Meditation on the Speed Limit on CampusMovieFest. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD GREEN CARS FOR OSCAR'S RED CARPET March 4, 2006

Kermit & Hybrid

Celebrities have been arriving to the Academy Awards in green cars for a few years now. For the 78th Academy Awards, automakers are getting into the act. This year's "Red Carpet, Green Cars" event is co-sponsored by Toyota Motor Corporation and the environmental organization Global Green USA. In all, 25 VIPS are expected to arrive Toyota Priuses, Lexus RX400hs, and the hybrid version of the new Toyota Camry, which goes on sale in May. Oscar nominees Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, Frances McDormand, Jennifer Aniston and George Clooney are all expected to arrive at the Oscars in Toyota or Lexus hybrids, including the Toyota Prius, Lexus RX crossover and a hybrid version of the Toyota Camry, which goes on sale in May. Ford Motor Company won't let Toyota hog all the glory. According to the Associated Press, Cathy Schulman, the producer of best-picture nominee "Crash," plans to arrive in a hybrid Mercury Mariner, while best-supporting-actor nominee Gyllenhaal's entourage is scheduled to show up in a Ford Excursion powered by clean-burning biodiesel. General Motors Corporation will be bringing VIPs to the ceremony, but its focus will be on luxury rather than fuel efficiency, reports AP. GM spokeswoman Ryndee Carney informed AP that a fleet of 50 Cadillacs - mostly 2007 Escalade SUVs - will be used to pick up and drop off celebrities. Carney said the automaker also will run ads during the broadcast featuring GM's two other luxury brands, Hummer and Saab. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD THE CASE OF THE MISSING FERRARI DRIVER - EPISODE 5 March 3, 2006

Enzo

Trail Leads to a Nonprofit Operating Out of a Monrovia Repair Shop The case of the missing Ferrari Enzo driver has taken an interesting detour. Sheriff Department investigators are now turning their attention to a nonprofit organization that provides disabled people with transit in the San Gabriel Valley, reports Richard Winton and David Pierson of the Los Angeles Times. Car owner Stefan Eriksson, a former video game executive from Sweden, told Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies at the scene of the February 21st accident in Malibu that he was deputy commissioner of the San Gabriel Valley Transit Authority's police anti-terrorism unit, according to the Times. "Sheriff's officials are looking into the transit organization to see what connection, if any, it has to the case," said Winton and Pierson. "The organization is a privately run nonprofit that has agreements with Monrovia and Sierra Madre to provide bus rides for disabled residents." The San Gabriel Valley Transit Authority website lists its address as 148 E. Lemon Ave. in Monrovia. "The location is Homer's Auto Service, an auto repair shop," asserts Winton and Pierson. "A transit authority bus was parked in one of its driveways, but nothing on the storefront indicated it was a headquarters for the agency. Inside, a young woman, who declined to give her name, said she was a dispatcher for the transit authority. She telephoned someone she said was an agency official, who declined to be interviewed." The SGVTA website reveals that the organization also has its own police department with a chief, detectives and marked police cruisers. Sheriff's investigators said to the Times that Ferrari Enzo driver Stefan Eriksson told deputies that he was deputy commissioner of the department's anti-terrorism unit. According to Winton and Pierson, Eriksson's civil attorney, Ashley Posner, is chairman of the transit authority board. For more background, see The Case of the Missing Ferrari Driver. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD THE CASE OF THE MISSING FERRARI DRIVER - EPISODE 4 March 2, 2006

Enzo

"Homeland Security" Officers Involved? Sheriff's investigators are trying to find two men claiming to be "homeland security" officers from a small San Gabriel Valley transit authority who showed up at the site of the crash last week of the million dollar Ferrari Enzo, according to Richard Winton and David Pierson of the Los Angeles Times. The two men evidently spoke with the owner of the car, Stefan Eriksson. According to the Times, Eriksson told investigators that he, too, was a commissioner of the transit authority. Eriksson survived the crash of the Ferrari, which the Sheriff's Department is now saying was traveling at more than 160 mph. "When emergency workers arrived at the scene, Eriksson produced a card identifying him as "deputy commissioner" of the San Gabriel Valley Transit Authority police department's antiterrorism unit, according to the Sheriff's Department," said Winton and Pierson of the Times. A few minutes later, two unidentified men arrived at the crash site on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu and flashed cards saying they were from "homeland security," according to a Sheriff's Department report. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Phil Brooks told the Times that the men were allowed by deputies onto the crime scene, where they spoke to Eriksson before leaving, according to The Sheriff's Department is appealing to the public for help in identifying the two men. For more background, see The Case of the Missing Ferrari Driver. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

CHUCK DAPOZ: BSD WOMAN FAKES DEATH TO AVOID PAYING TRAFFIC TICKETS March 1, 2006 It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Kimberly Du, 36, of Des Moines, Iowa, had racked up $500 in traffic fines. Rather than pay, she faked her death, according to KCCI-TV in Des Moines. Du is accused of sending a letter to the court, with her mother's forged signature, saying she was killed in a December 5 car accident. Accompanying the letter was a mock obituary made to look like it came from the Website of the Des Moines Register. We assume Du was feeling good for a few weeks about eluding the long arm of the law. Then in January, she was pulled over for another traffic violation. It's bad enough to be caught with an expired license or registration. But when you yourself are expired, or are supposed to be, that's bound to raise suspicion during a traffic stop. Du is temporarily residing in the Polk Country Jail, accursed of forgery. She faces five years in prison if convicted. Her mother denies any involvement in the alleged scam. - Chuck Dapoz Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

A JOURNAL OF LOS ANGELES & ITS CAR CULTURE

Flying Spur

That was LA Car's subtitle when it started back in 1997. Since then, it became Reporting From Car Culture Ground Zero, then From The Heart of Car Culture, to today's The Cars and Culture of Southern California. At all times, however, we aimed to chronicle the Southland's spirit - much like a journal. Now, the diary goes semi-daily. LA Car has always been a great source to come back to from month-to-month, to see what articles and reviews have been added to our rather staggering database. With Back Seat Driving, a.k.a. BSD (note the similarity to two well-worn abbreviations, BS and BFD), we give you a reason to come back more often (all opinions, by the way, are those of the respective author). So, go ahead and bookmark www.lacar.com. We'll be sure to always provide a link to the latest blog entry. In the meantime, welcome to the journal and journey into the cars and culture of Southern California. - Roy Nakano

For past Blog entries, click the following: February 2006 January 2006 December 2005 November 2005 October 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 June 2005 May 2005 April 2005 March 2005 February 2005 January 2005 December 2004 November 2004 October 2004 September 2004 August 2004 July 2004 June 2004 May 2004 April 2004

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