Archive for the ‘Drivers’ Category

Bruce and I were just coming back from our favorite charity fund-raiser: Save the Intellectuals. We both feel like this is an endangered group of people that is being overlooked by media, the populace, and of course the unintelligentsia also known as the great unwashed. Since we were dog-tired of the pseudo-concerned talk of the members involved, our conversation got around to, not unsurprisingly, to politics. The question we both spoke, out loud, simultaneously was ” Is the best we can do?”

Ahhh, democracy!

Passing one of those do-it-yourself, serve-yourself yogurt shops popping up so much like mushrooms after a rain, it dawned on me that the current offering of candidates is nothing different than pull-the-center lever for a blend of nothing resembling anything. We’ve got three white men and an African-American running for national office. Without a doubt, there is not really any difference in flavor of these guys. Like cola drinks, they all have different slogans, but still pretty much taste the same anyway. Bruce and I are going to stand up and do something about it.

Yes, yes, we know – third party candidacies never work. Until now. We have, thorough, extensive research and countless non-fat lattes, determined what other third party candidates have been lacking: money. That’s it. Stone-cold, hard and dirty, under the table if necessary, filthy lucre – CASH! With enough of that stuff, you can win. Without it, well, can you say Thomas Vanderweist? No, of course not. TV as his friends (both of them) called him was so underfunded as to be considered maybe a fourth or fifth tier candidate for president in 2000. TV’s candidacy wasn’t covered because absolutely no one knew of it. This is exactly the kind of underdog Bruce and I love and naturally gravitate towards. Everyone loves the lovable loser.

Barney, not old TV.

TV was that and more. Looking more Barney Fife than Barney’s Men Store, he was the type to be overlooked in a room of only him. But he had determination. In his eyes, his candidacy was not a flight of frivolity. He was dead serious. And this seriousness, this one-mindedness cost him dearly. In an attempt to crash and participate in the presidential debates in 2000, TV, while still carrying his campaign placard on his bicycle and not looking both ways before crossing the street, was run over by a drunk driver in Joe Lieberman’s motorcade. It was an event mostly over-looked by the media as they thought he was a meaningless pizza delivery guy.

But this is the gist of his life. He was willing to die for his beliefs. Or that’s what his widow said between scotch and sodas.

So in honor of TV, we are launching a new campaign in the spirit of his, sans the bike accident. (We always look both ways.) But like any other well-oiled (that would be Bruce by 2:00 PM each afternoon) campaign machine, we will need cash. Advertising ain’t cheap, even on small cable channels featuring the Sham Wow. Before that though, we will need a candidate for all of us to rally around. Neither Bruce or I are suitable. There are a few incidents in each of our pasts we would rather not revisit. We also don’t not want to go the typical route of a vetting candidates in primaries. What a waste of money. Let’s save that, in honor of old TV, for victory party pizzas.

Please consider this an open invitation to toss your hat into the ring. Your country needs you. Your country wants you. Your spouse probably wants you out of the house. What could be more perfect?

Yes, your country wants you! Insert your face here.

All parties interested please tell us a little about yourselves: hobbies, favorite color, first pet’s name, third grade PE teacher, and favorite ice cream flavor. Really, this is all we need to vet you as the next president. It’s that simple. Don’t delay because the election is just about 10 weeks away and your country does need you. Besides, just like the other two political parties, we don’t have anything to do before the holidays.

The Bruce and I were driving our vintage 1983 Pignasaurus back from the Concours d’Elegance. We were somewhat disappointed that our much beloved yet widely maligned “Pig” once again won no honors for its design and lineage. The Pignasaurus was an unlicensed, therefore illegitimate (read bastard of a car) version of the illustrious Italian classic Pignatelli.

                                                                                                                                                                                         The real Pignatelli. (autoweek.com)

We believe the Pignasaurus to be one of the finest examples of Romanian racing technology. Most people are unaware of that as it was kept secret under the paranoid Ceaucescu administration. It had its debut and subsequently final race (bursting into flames as the starter button was pushed) at the Bucharest Grand Prix one year after Ceaucescu’s involuntary decision to leave this mortal coil.

Ceaucescu in an early Pignasaurus sedan. (sv.wikipedia.org)

The “Pig” on the few occasions it was viewed by the western press, astounded all who fell under its thrall. Its porcine heritage was obvious by the fuel it consumed: pork fat. That being the primary food source in Romania at the time, there were often fuel shortages that the government played up to it’s own benefit. But when there was fuel, the “Pig” was in its glory, a true hog heaven. There isn’t a middle-aged Romanian who when they smell bacon, isn’t reminded of the fragrant exhaust of a vintage “Pig”.

Powered by the inestimable WildBoar V-3, (a uniquely Romanian design, characterized by the grunting sound upon starting), the “Pig” while not fast on level or inclined roads, more than held its own on most descents. With a unique 75%/18% weight distribution (the missing 7% being claimed as an intentional design feature), the snout-heavy “Pig” once rolling was nearly impossible to stop. This was exacerbated by the questionable design feature of being brakeless. Pignasaurus engineers claim it was to save weight which is also questionable since the frame was made of a state-of-the-art bonded composite consisting of two-ply Charmin and balsa wood. Corporate greed insisted they pursue this questionable design. But, that was not important to us as much as the sheer in-your-face presence it displayed.

An early “Pig” Prototype, not in Romanian racing colors. (clayzmama.com)

Available in only two colors, Romanian Racing Beige and Ceaucescu Fawn, and providing only few options allowed delivery on these wonders quickly. Most automobile archivists have extreme difficulty in discerning between these two colors. Seen in the proper light though, one can detect the early photo-chromic qualities of the Fawn version. Or it could just be the mildew coming through. As examples of these automobiles are increasingly scarce, no one is willing to examine them any closer than necessary for fear of damaging them. Mere exposure to air has been know to incapacitate them for weeks.

While there were few offered options, (door handles, gas and radiator caps, passenger seats to name a few), the after-market was enormous. If a part had a hole for a screw, clever owners found ingenious ways to work it into/onto (they were not very discriminating) the vehicle. One favorite add-on was the fin from a D-Type Jaguar racing car. Since the D-Types themselves were rare, yet another aftermarket arose for counterfeit Jaguar fins. The “Pig’s” design allowed for the curious placement of this only on the front of the already nose heavy car. Claiming it enhanced the aero-dynamics, owners couldn’t buy these fast enough. “Pig” owners are eccentric. Their pride exists as the owners of a rare and broadly perceived undesirable and undistinguished automobile. They are so wrong.

In 1973, during the height of the gas crisis, Tazio Schmitt won the Pike’s Peak Downhill Grand Prix race owing to the “Pig’s” malevolently placed center of gravity. Not for the faint of heart, Schmitt crossed the finish line at an unbelievable speed only to die tragically because of the aforementioned brakeless design of the car. Shortly afterwards, Pignasaurus’s were forever banned from downhill racing.

The Pignasaurus final downhill race. (nextgn.com)

That said, one can occasionally spot a “Pig” driving in a VFW Memorial Day parade followed by a bunch of Shriners on little go-carts – an ignominious declaration on an otherwise overlooked classic.

Even with this history, Bruce and I will never give up our “Pig.” We love it way too much. All our children beg us to get rid of it, but we know they would then fight each other tooth and nail to get their grubby little hands on it. It deserves so much better than that.

Any offers?

In 1988, Oldsmobile, the late and properly unlamented automobile, introduced the tagline “It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile” thus sealing their fate indelibly as your father’s Oldsmobile.

They could usually be found gathering (sort of like pack animals) at potluck dinners everywhere; Kiwanis meetings; VFW parades; bowling alleys; urology clinics; all the places where fathers could be found while hiding from Mom or the kids. Too late to that party came Olds’ realization. They were toast. Remember, if you can, they say the mind is the first thing to go. Then the driver’s license.

But Olds is gone. One might think that now without such an automobile still slowly oozing down the highways, such as the aforementioned Kiwanian parades, traffic would finally move more efficiently.

No, no, no, no, no! It has been replaced by, drumroll please…the Buick, usually of the LeSabre or Electra 225 persuasion. True that. Try this test. When in a slowly moving clump of traffic, find a way to get through and spot the culprit. Aha! It is a Buick. Probably driven by a disgruntled former Oldsmobile owner who misses their dear Rocket 88.

Pull up next to one at a traffic light and see what happens when it changes. You and like-minded traffic will proceed accordingly, but the Buick driver will still be wondering whether or not they took their Metamucil this morning. Certainly their driving will reflect that indeed they did not.

And in a reverse version of The Portrait of Dorian Gray, while all those imported cars are still holding their looks and value, the Buicks in somewhat of a testament to their peculiar longevity (in a psychic attic all their own) seem to be aging before our eyes yet they gamely soldier on.

So your father’s Oldsmobile is no longer. Fear not, it’s been replaced by your mother’s Buick. I can see it now, the new advertising campaign for Buick: “This is not your mother’s Buick.” And were it not for Buick’s amazing popularity in China, it too would probably follow the Oldsmobile into the great car crusher in the sky only to be returned to us in the form of some useless metal tschotke from… China.