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BACK SEAT DRIVING - OCTOBER 2007

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 Mon, Oct 1, 2007

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

LA Car Review Editor Harold Osmer raced this Volvo in the 24 Hours of Lemons

JUSTICE: BACK SEAT DRIVING THINGS YOU DID BACK IN THE DAY THAT YOU WOULDN'T LET YOUR KIDS DO TODAY Taking a page out of Peter Hartlaub's SFGate essay, "Warning, Fun Ahead," we asked our staff if there were things they did back in the day (automotively speaking) that they would absolutely not let their children do today. Here's BT Justice's response: Two stories come to mind. VOLVO FOR LIFE Well besides the motorcycle adventures, my craziest story occurred, probably in or around 1984, when my parents went away for the week. Dad left his new Volvo, which at the time was not a Ford. A bunch of friends and I skipped school, took dad's car (which I was very prohibited from driving), and went out into the hinterlands for a day of skiing. Of note, I learned to drive (not long before) in a 1979 front-wheel-drive Honda Accord. At the time, the Accord was about the size of a current day Civic. And the Volvo was rear wheel drive, and just a bit bigger and heavier than the Accord. On a good day the roads from my suburban home in upstate New York to the local ski resorts are a bit precarious. One lane in each direction, lots of blind curves, tall snow banks, etc. Of course, I always considered this a bit of a challenge and would drive them just as fast as I could, always trying to beat my best time. Heck, this sure didn't seem dangerous compared to the tree skiing and jumping I did on the slopes. On the way back from a great day of skiing it started to snow. There was low visibility and the road was a bit slick. With adrenaline still pumping from the illegal day off, the skiing, and the Dad car full of friends, I, but a youngster, was driving the twisties a bit too fast. I hit some black ice, and each adjustment I made to gain control just made the car swerve even more out of control. That is one of the most frightening times I have ever had. At a certain point the Volvo swerved to the right side of the road and bounced off a snow bank. Somehow that righted the car and I was able to gain control. After slowing down and catching my breath, I was amazed to discover there was absolutely no damage to the car. Had my luck been any worse I would have hit an oncoming vehicle or perhaps smashed into a tree. Of course, the incident didn't slow my driving very much. Instead of being glad I had been in a Volvo tank, I just decided that the incident was the result of my unfamiliarity with the car. So I continued to "race" that little Honda, which I knew like the back of my teenage hand, on every twisty road I could find. Perhaps ironically, now all four of my vehicles are rear-wheel-drive (well, the Bronco is a 4x4). I guess I just love the adrenaline rush.

Apologies to the Keystone Cops HANGING ON FOR LIFE I have to thank Peter Hartlaub for triggering this next memory. Back at summer camp in the Adirondacks, we would love riding on the side of a former WWII military truck. The camp had several of these "jolly green giants" and the campers just loved to ride in and on them. The trucks were used for all kinds of things such as transporting people and materials around the camp. I'm not sure what kind of trucks they were, but think they must have been GMC 2 ½ ton 6x6 "deuce-and-a-halfs." Getting a ride was a rare treat. The counselors would sometimes have the kids ride on the outside, hanging on like firemen. Our feet would stand on a rail on the side and we would hold onto another rail just a few feet above. The best part was when they drove on the rough dirt roads around the camp. We would bounce all over the place and just have a blast. Dirt and rocks would kick up (unless we were going through mud)! I even recall the trucks rocking back and forth, having our backs skim the trees, hitting bumps such that our little bodies would pop up off the truck, etc. We always knew the counselors who would give us the best ride. We were holding on for dear life and certainly knew the dangers. We were scared to death, but that's what made it so much golly darn fun. As the whole point of the camp was to toughen up boys in preparation for a harsh future a men (including possibly going to war) I think these experiences were quite appropriate. They provided challenge and confidence. And I don't think anyone ever fell off. Those memories of a bygone era still bring a huge smile to my face. I doubt any son of a yuppie has ever had such fun. - BT Justice Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

Herbie © Buena Vista Pictures

STOKES: BACK SEAT DRIVING THINGS YOU DID BACK IN THE DAY THAT YOU WOULDN'T LET YOUR KIDS DO TODAY Taking a page out of Peter Hartlaub's SFGate essay, "Warning, Fun Ahead," we asked our staff if there were things they did back in the day (automotively speaking) that they would absolutely not let their children do today. Here's Doug Stoke's response: It was 1959, the year I graduated high school ... had this 1954 Volkswagen, cloth sunroof, 1131cc motor, and semaphore (flipper) turn signals (It would be worth 20K+ now). Of course, I had heard that Doctor Porsche had designed both the Porsche and the Beetle, so I drove my Volksie like a frickin' Porsche at all times under all conditions. I had heard somewhere about a low-bucks way of getting better rear end traction, it was to knock the hub cap keeper springs off the wheels with a cold chisel and put the wheels back on backwards for an instant 5-inch gain in rear track width and almost neutral (as opposed to positive) camber. It put huge loads on the axel bearings, but the Germans had thankfully over-designed that part of the car. It seemed that a number of my sports car-owning college (Mount SAC, if one could call that "college") friends did illicit timed runs up to Mount Baldy on selected Saturday nights. Each run was self-timed and on the honor system. As lying a sonofabitch as I was, I was never fastest, nor even on the podium (if we would have had one) ... But ... I was always high on the leader board (if we would have had one of those) in the impromptu all-comers "Baldy Grand Prix" on the way back down. How I did not splatter that little tannish-gold-colored Bug all over the side of that mountain road I'll never know, but no one ever passed me and I sure as shooting passed a number of highly-prized sporty (MGs, Austin Healeys, and TR4s) cars along the way back to the lower altitudes and flatter ground. I really think that most of them were simply getting out of my way in mortal fear of the madman in the Volks. In actuality that car could not have possibly done any of the things that I had it doing, and I could not actually drive it that fast ... It must have been Ferdinand and the force guiding that German unguided missile down the mountain with me switching the ignition on and off to make a banging fireball shoot out of the exhaust every third or fifth curve! I don't have any kids, but if I did, I would not like to hear this story repeated by one them. - Doug Stokes Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING LOSING WEIGHT OVER HIGHER GAS PRICES Here's one we didn't see coming. It seems that higher gasoline prices may be reducing obesity. According to a new study from Washington University in St. Louis entitled "A Silver Lining? The Connection between Gas Prices and Obesity," an additional $1 per gallon in real gasoline prices translates to a 15 percent reduction in U.S. obesity after five years. The study, written by Charles Courtemanche for his doctoral dissertation in health economics and reported on by Reuters, found that the 13 percent rise in obesity between 1979 and 2004 can be attributed to falling pump prices. The study indicates that higher gasoline prices can reduce obesity by leading people to walk or cycle instead of drive and eat leaner at home instead of rich food at restaurants. Courtemanche said he became interested in the link after rising gasoline prices made him think about eschewing his car for public transport, reports Reuters. "I was pumping gas one day, thinking with gas prices so high I may have to take the Metro," he said, referring to the public transportation system serving the St. Louis area. Courtemanche said he figured he would get an extra 30 minutes of exercise per day by walking to and from the Metro station. "Obesity, defined as having a body mass index greater than 30, has been considered to factor in as many as 112,000 deaths annually," according to Reuters. "U.S. health costs related to obesity are estimated at $117 billion per year as studies sponsored by the U.S. government have linked it with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke." Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

KENNEDY: BACK SEAT DRIVING POMONA STILL THE GREATEST Here's a great idea. Spend $24, walk 6.5 miles, and do it all to save $20. Makes no economic sense, but that's what I did Sunday as I spent the morning at the Pomona swap meet. In the end, I scored two Mustang hubcaps for $10 each (the eBay price seems to be about $20 apiece), and walked for five straight hours. But I don't regret it a bit. It was fun, and looking at the hundreds of cars for sale gave me a bit of a sense of what's going on in the hobby right now. So because I figure you might not have been there, here's a quick, non-scientific report of what I saw. First, there were few outright bargains, but a good handful of cars that would quite respectably fill any holes you might have in your garage. Not if you wanted a Mustang, however. The ponies were mostly overpriced junk. How about a 1965 beater fastback in black for $23,500? Or a '66 yellow coupe with horrible paint for $7200? Not your style? Then maybe you'd like a '66 6-cylinder coupe for $4500? Only if you don't mind repairing rust, though. There was one nice coupe for $17,500, but it was pretty plain-Jane, and probably worth several thousand less. From there, things got better. There was a pretty, original 1970 Skylark for $9500, a 1972 Cutlass Supreme in what looked like original silver paint for $4500 (decent enough to drive while you fix on it), and a cherry-red, recently painted and very clean 1968 Cutlass for around $14K. The latter tempted me more than a little bit. It had cold a/c and had been driven from Arizona, so is, presumably, reliable. Other beginner collector bargains included a 1968 Newport, red, with a 383ci engine. The price was $5,000. Oh, and there was one fairly priced Mustang. A 1968 coupe in yellow and what looked original paint. It was dinged up, but decent. $8500 took it. Around the same money was a 1962 Buick Wildcat. The paint was original, and again, while it needed some restoration, it was pretty, didn't seem to have been beat on, and would make a good first collector car for someone who wanted to learn how to live with an older vehicle. There was also a 1968 Torino GT, again in red, with a 390 engine. It was priced at $12,500. Like many of the others, it was a nice #3. You'd have to do the body at some point, and it wouldn't win a show right now, but it all there and nice inside. Way better than most of what you'd find for that kind of money on your local dealer's lot. In the "very tempting" category: a 1968 gold Super Bee. The price was $21,500, and I have no idea what the market for these is, but boy, was it amazing. The crowd of Japanese nationals crowded around it, led by an older man who looked like he had some bucks, probably predicts that it will be bought and exported. Good for whoever gets it. This thing would certainly be as much fun to wax and look at as to drive. And if you had big money to spend, a 1968 GTO in gold was $28,500 without a flaw. There was a 1940 Ford Deluxe two door restored to exacting standards and really lovely for mid-30s cash. Speaking of big money - I didn't get to the Corvettes, but from a distance, there looked to be a lot of nice cars up at that end of the field. They just aren't at my end of the price spectrum, so instead, I went after those hubcaps I mentioned. Ten bucks apiece, and I don't have to wait around and wonder whether they'll look as good in person as they did on their eBay listing. - Brian Kennedy Brian Kennedy's book, Growing Up Hockey, is about how what you love as a kid remains with you as you become an adult. See the LA Car review here. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING STEAL AN ONSTAR CAR, GO TO PRISON Okay, maybe not go to prison, but the newest feature by OnStar should go a long way toward deterring car theft and the safety concerns associated with it. The new technology, known as Stolen Vehicle Slowdown, is the latest enhancement to OnStar's stolen vehicle service and can allow OnStar advisors working with law enforcement to send a signal to a subscriber's stolen vehicle to reduce engine power slowing the vehicle down gradually. "From its inception, the motivation behind OnStar has been the safety and security of our subscribers and others on the road" said Chet Huber, OnStar president. "Every service we add builds on this original promise. The Stolen Vehicle Slowdown service will allow our subscribers added peace of mind by possibly preventing their vehicle from being used as an instrument of harm if it happens to be stolen." According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics, about 30,000 police chases occur yearly and approximately 300 deaths occur as a result of those chases. Powered by OnStar's newest generation of hardware (Generation 8), GM will make Stolen Vehicle Slowdown available on nearly 1.7 million Model Year (MY) 2009 vehicles. GM's largest division, Chevrolet, will be leading the way, making up for more than 60 percent of the total vehicles equipped with this new technology. Stolen Vehicle Slowdown is an enhancement to OnStar's Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance, which the company has offered to its subscribers since 1996. Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance uses Global Positioning Satellite technology to pinpoint the location of a vehicle that has been reported stolen. OnStar provides the location to law enforcement to assist with the vehicle's recovery. OnStar receives approximately 700 Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance requests from subscribers a month. The company has helped in 28,000 requests over the past decade. "The IAFC sees this technology as an opportunity to improve the likelihood of a positive outcome for all involved in such dangerous road situations" said Chief Steven P. Westermann, President, International Association of Fire Chiefs. "On behalf of all firefighters, we appreciate the research and commitment of General Motors to tackle these issues and come up with a safe solution." The process for Stolen Vehicle Slowdown is: Once the vehicle has been reported stolen to law enforcement, the subscriber can call OnStar and request Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance. OnStar will confirm the subscriber has not opted out of the Stolen Vehicle Slowdown service. OnStar will use real-time GPS technology to attempt to pinpoint the exact location of the stolen vehicle and provide this information to law enforcement to help them recover the vehicle. When law enforcement has established a clear line of sight of the stolen vehicle, law enforcement may request OnStar to slow it down remotely. Safeguards will be in place to ensure that the correct vehicle is slowed down. OnStar then sends a remote signal to the vehicle that interacts with the powertrain system to reduce engine power which will slow the vehicle down gradually. Research has shown that 95 percent of OnStar subscribers want the Stolen Vehicle Slowdown service available on their cars and trucks. OnStar subscribers have the choice to opt-out of the Stolen Vehicle Slowdown service at any time by contacting OnStar if they prefer not to have this capability on their vehicle. This will not affect the rest of their OnStar services. OnStar's Stolen Vehicle Slowdown will be included in the one year OnStar subscription that customers receive when purchasing an eligible MY 2009 OnStar-equipped vehicle. OnStar's suite of services also includes Advanced Automatic Crash Notification, Emergency Services, Remote Door Unlock, Roadside Assistance, Crisis Assist, OnStar Turn-by-Turn Navigation, Hands Free Calling and OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics. Attention, would-be car hijackers: Stay clear of OnStar-equipped cars, or else be prepared to spend a significant portion of your escape by foot. To view a video of OnStar's Stolen Vehicle Slowdown, click here. For more information regarding OnStar's services, go to onstar.com. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

The Anaheim Convention Center is the venue for the OC Auto Show

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING IT ALL BEGINS IN ORANGE COUNTY The 2008 Auto Show Circuit Commences It's October, and that means it's the start of a new model year of auto shows. Orange Country, California has the distinction of being the first show of the model year. While the decision to move the LA Auto Show to November has taken some of the wind out the OC show's sails, it remains as popular as ever. You can view LA Car's report on the show here. HOURS ADMISSION Thursday & Friday 12 noon - 10 p.m. Adults (13 & Older) $10 Saturday 9 a.m. - 10 p.m. Senior Citizens (62 & Older) $6 Sunday 9 a.m. - 7 p.m. Children (12 & Younger) FREE AUTO SHOW INFORMATION · Official Web Site: www.OrangeCountyAutoShow.com · Show Office Phone: 714.765.2041 · E-Tickets: Purchase advance E-tickets online to skip the box office and go directly to the show entrance. DISCOUNT COUPONS · Official Auto Show Web Site: Coupons for $2 off one weekday adult admission may be downloaded from: www.OrangeCountyAutoShow.com. Valid Thursday, Oct. 4 & Friday, Oct. 5 only. · Newspaper Coupons - Check the Orange County Register and the Press-Telegram for special 2-for-1 weekday adult admission offers to attend the auto show. Valid Thursday, Oct. 4 & Friday, Oct. 5 only. DIRECTIONS & PARKING When traveling to the Anaheim Convention Center, take the I-5 to Katella Avenue or Harbor Boulevard. Follow the signs for convention center parking - more than 5,500 spaces are available. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

Pasadena-based Spicoli Team (Red Bull/J. Kosman photo)

DACUMA: BACK SEAT DRIVING SOAPBOX DERBY Local Team Finishes in the Red Bull Top Five The results are in from the weekend. Spicoli Team didn't win, but they had one sweet car. They came in 5th for speed, finishing the half-mile race in 49.6 seconds! Here's the post-release of the event. Thanks again! - Mary Aurelia Dacuma, Manning Selvage & Lee Speed and Creativity Rain Supreme at Red Bull Soapbox Race More than 40,000 stood in the rain on September 29, 2007 to watch 35 teams take on Seattle's steep downhill course at Red Bull Soapbox Race (see September Back Seat Driving). Teams from as far away as Miami came to race their homemade human-powered soapboxes down Fremont Avenue, navigating a berm, a chicane and a seven-foot start ramp before reaching the checkered flags. In the end, Mr. T took home the first place prize with his A-Team and a perfect combination of flair and function. "It was amazing to see all these people turn out in this many cars. I was a little worried about the berm at first. I though we might end up doing a smith grind and going off the side of it, but we stuck in there and, yeah, it was awesome," exclaimed the team's driver, Kevin Walsh. Local favorite Nickerson's Rainier Racer squealed into second place with their beer bottle on wheels. It was team Rollin' Troll of Fremont that nabbed third on the podium with their horizontal rendition of the tourist favorite, the Fremont Troll, that kicked its legs as it sped down the course. Team Rollaroid 600 won the hearts of Seattle as well as the People's Choice Award with their retro racer modeled after an old school Polaroid camera. Of course, team member Jessi Kempin had a trick up her sleeve. "I was hitting on people all day!" she said. Center of the Universe It's a good thing that around Fremont there's freedom to be peculiar because today's racers were anything but ordinary. Cars included a replica of Bob Saget and the Olsen Twins, a homage to Mad Max and even everyone's favorite childhood toy, Lincoln Logs. The SuperSonics dance team, local mascots Squatch and Blitz, Blue Thunder and even the Red Bull NASCAR show car also made appearances on the track. Deciding the winners were today's judges, including Olympic Gold Medalist Amanda Beard, hip-hop legend Sir Mix-A-Lot, SuperSonics power forward Nick Collison, local news anchor John Curley, Red Bull Air Force member Othar Lawrence and motocross legend Travis Pastrana who quipped, "The people, the energy, I mean it's freezing cold, it's raining and there's 40,000 people lined up to see this stuff. It really lived up to everything I had thought plus some." While speed was abundant, there were also a few spills. High school hopefuls Bull-A-Cuda took a short swim with their craft as it crashed into the side of the berm, while the local engineers on team Din and Tonic only made it as far as the chicane before succumbing to the hazards of the road. Rules of the Road While these driving daredevils are the latest bunch to hit the road, there have been many before them behind the wheel. The first Red Bull Soapbox Race took place in Brussels, Belgium, in 2000, and has since visited over 30 countries including Austria, England, Jamaica, Czech Republic and Australia, to name a few. The first U.S. pit stop was in St. Louis in 2006. It may be the most outrageous race around, but there are still a few rules of the road. All driving machines must be entirely human-powered: no stored power or external energy sources allowed. Secondly, all vehicles must be less than six feet wide, less than 20 feet in length and no more than seven feet from the ground. Finally, all crafts must weigh no more than 176 pounds (not including the driver). For more information, visit redbullsoapboxusa.com. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING THE HOTTEST CAR COLORS Silver Continues Its Reign Nearly 20 percent of all 2006 vehicles (the latest year for which figures are available) were silver, reports Erin Peterson of Bankrate.com. According to Peterson, it's the seventh consecutive year that the color has taken the top spot. Chris Webb, the exterior color and trend designer for GM North America, says there's good reason for that: "There's no question that silver on a vehicle looks incredible. When the light hits it and refracts, it shows off the vehicle's architectural form beautifully." The color has other advantages, too: It hides dirt, and it's evidently easier to resell than other colors. "In the United Kingdom, many police agencies have switched from white to silver, because the silver cars fetch a higher resale price - up to 10 percent higher than white cars - after they've been pulled from the fleet," says Peterson. White, gray and black take the second, third and fourth spots on the list, respectively, reports Peterson. "While the colors may be popular, they don't necessarily represent what buyers actually want," says Barb Parker, a color designer for JDSU ## Flex Products. "In the United States, most cars are bought off the lot. Dealers pick gray and silver and black because they're safe." The numbers reflect the percentage of vehicles manufactured during the 2006 model year in North America, as compiled by DuPont. 1. Silver (19 percent) 2. White (16 percent) 3. Gray (13 percent) 4. Black (13 percent) 5. Blue (11 percent) 6. Red (11 percent) 7. Light Brown (7 percent) 8. Green (4 percent) 9. White Pearl (3 percent) 10. Yellow/Gold (3 percent) Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

A JOURNAL OF LOS ANGELES & ITS CAR CULTURE

LA Car

That was LA Car's subtitle when it started back in 1997. It's original website address was about five times the size of lacar.com. Since then, La Car became LA Car. Its subtitle 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 automotive spirit - much like one's own journal or diary. LA Car has always been a great source to come back to from week-to-week, 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) and Live Wires - Hot & Tender News From the Car Culture (co-located with Back Seat Driving, and updated at least daily), we give you some reasons 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 Live Wires and the latest Back Seat Driving blog entry. In the meantime, welcome to the journal and journey from the heart of the car culture. - Roy Nakano

For past Blog entries, click the following: September 2007 August 2007 July 2007 June 2007 May 2007 April 2007 March 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 November 2006 October 2006 September 2006 August 2006 July 2006 June 2006 May 2006 April 2006 March 2006 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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