Meet Oliver

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While I’ve only ever had one car, I can already tell there’s nothing like a first car.  What a car meant to be growing up was freedom, and that’s exactly what my first and only car still represents to me.  His name is Oliver.

Oliver is a 2008, 4-door Mercedes C 350, similar to the one your read about previously.  He’s silver, sports a mean grin, and has an attitude that matches my own in almost every way.  He has some electrical glitches from time to time, mirrors don’t fold in, windows operate irregularly, and there is a french fry between the seats that I’ve never quite been able to reach with the vacuum, but he was one of the first big things I’ve been given the responsibility to call mine.  He’s never been to a car wash.  Once a week I fill a bucket with soap and water and douse him myself, making sure every speck is removed from his finish.  I’ve always put a lot of pride in him, making sure that his appearance is a reflection of myself.

Most of the things I’ve been through since I turned 16, Oliver has experienced with me.  Finishing high school, my last summer with my childhood buddies, surfing trips, road trips, college adventures, trips home, dates, boyfriends, surprises, the happiest of times, and the saddest of moments.  A lot of people look at cars and see dollar signs, status symbols, and manifestations of wealth or a lack there of, but regardless of how old Oliver gets, or the his serpentine belt in the front engine compartment that squeaks after a period of time without service, or his quirks, he is a manifestation of one thing, and one thing only: growing up.  The memories I have with Oliver are the things that make me cringe when I think of selling him.  

Society tells us cars represent wealth.  I’m telling you that cars are machines that cost money, but we make relationships with them that can’t be replicated.  Oliver isn’t just a car to me, he’s a physical representation of the memories I can’t hold in my hand.

 

“Everybody knows he ain’t just tough, he’s strong”

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Americans have created a very unique persona for themselves.  The first president Roosevelt, the old Rough Rider, advocated the strenuous life, a life that Americans have been revered for living.  The life that begs you to work 9-5 and 5-9 and rewards you with an impeccable work ethic, callused hands, and the satisfaction of creating a life for yourself.  This has been the American way.  This country may have been built on the backs of hard working people, but it was built on the backs of hard working people who remembered God, family, and their fellow countrymen.  People who sacrificed, cared about their neighbor, but never asked for anything in return. They remembered exactly what it is that makes them work 9-5 and 5-9.  They never forget exactly what drives them.

Historically the average American has been depicted as someone with callused hands and shirt sleeves rolled to their elbows.  What does this man drive?  A Chevy Silverado.  Tough.  Strong.  Rugged.  Capable.  All things that describe him also describe his truck.  It isn’t just the capability of the truck, but what owning a Silverado says about the person driving it; it has a reputation and a persona all its own.  The Silverado (along with its GMC counterpart the Sierra) is the latest full sized pick up truck to be designed by General Motors.

It has been a name-making decade for the Silverado.  It was first introduced in 1998 to compete with Ford’s new truck; the beginning of the F-Series: The Ford F-150.  The Silverado has three generations to the F-150’s twelve.  I usually avoid clichés like the plague, but I suppose Chevy went with the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, and they couldn’t have been more right.  Chevy’s constituency with the Silverado made it a land mark vehicle and gave it an opportunity to create a name for itself in a very short period of time.

Chevy’s latest (and classically corny) commercial features the song “Strong” by Will Hoge.  Chevy’s new anthem seems to be “everybody knows he ain’t just tough, he’s strong”.  The song described the quintessential American, so perfect for an American-made truck commercial that I’m sure Ford would have jumped on it had they found it first.  “He’s a shirt of his back, give you his last dime, he’s strong”.  Chevy has been able to make “old time America” synonymous with Silverado, and much of the truck’s success can be credited to this.  “Ain’t nothing gonna knock him off the road he’s rolling on, he’s strong”.

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Sources

http://www.autoanything.com/articles/the-history-of-the-chevy-silverado.aspx

http://trucks.about.com/od/fseriespasttopresent/tp/ford-trucks.htm

“Strong” by Will Hoge can be found at:

We Lose A Fellow Gear Head

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As many have heard Paul Walker died this past Saturday in a fiery car crash.  He was 40 years old.  Now before I write this article, which is sure to piss a few of you off, I want to say how tragic this death was and how horrible it always is to hear of the loss of man who was so young and so prominent in the automotive community.  I take into consideration that Paul Walker wasn’t just a movie guy, he was a car guy, hence why I’ve taken it upon myself to write this article.

Everywhere I turn I see “RIP Paul Walker” and many of my fellow gear heads talking about how this is the most they have been moved by the death of someone they never knew.  He was an actor, guys.  Sure, his death was unexpected and tragic, but he made movies.  He didn’t cure cancer.  He didn’t genetically engineer a plant that could grow perpetually without any nourishment.  He stood in front of a camera and said a collection of rehearsed lines when he was scheduled to do so.

He contributed to the automotive world in a very real way, there’s no denying it, but in a world where Chris Kyle, an American war hero, dies and no one, including the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, says anything, this outpouring has me wanting to rip my hair out.  The man didn’t invent the internal combustion engine or spend his entire youth risking his life defending your freedom and right to drive a car that implements one.  He acted.  That’s it.

As a fellow gear head, I raise my glass to him, but as a human being I am disgusted that celebrities are constantly given more credit than they deserve.  Whitney Huston, a woman who killed herself with a fatal alcohol/drug mixture in her bath tub, was mentioned by President Obama who demanded the flag be flown at half mast, an honor reserved for only the most deserving recipients.  Chris Kyle wasn’t given this honor until almost a month after he was killed and was not once mentioned by his Commander-in-Chief.  My fellow gear heads, I want you to ask yourself what kind of world we are living in and if its a world you are proud to be apart of.  Accept Paul Walker for what he is, say a prayer for him and his family, but end things there.  Remember he was an actor.  Remember there are people out there far more worthy of your twenty-line Facebook posts.  Remember the bigger picture, and remember that some people are more worthy of your mourning than others. 

Some things are simply more important, my friends.  Even more important that cars.

 

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Sources:

http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/30/showbiz/actor-paul-walker-dies/

A Small, Vicious Animal That Eats Mustangs

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There are very few cars that define the era they’re created in.  I’ve focused on a few of them up until this point, but this blog wouldn’t be a car blog if I didn’t give a nod to one of the most famous American muscle cars of all time.  Hitting dealerships for the first time in September of 1966, this car was put out by General Motors to compete directly with the Ford Mustang.  It’s a car that gave onlookers whiplash as they craned their necks to try to get a glance.  A car that makes just as big of a statement today as it did in ’66: The Chevy Camaro.

The Camaro was introduced as a muscle car that packed a punch.  Taking the place of the Nova, a car that was supposed to be a family grocery getter, this car was true 100% true American muscle from day one.  The first standard Camaro put out 140 hp backed by a three speed transmission.  The car was almost entirely built within the United States, most coming from Norwood, Ohio and Van Nuys, California.  If its speed, sound, and place of production didn’t make it true American muscle, pacing the 1967 Indie 500 certainly helped.

Today the choice seems to be between the Mustang and the Camaro and as far as the modern versions of this car go, the Camaro is by far the superior vehicle.  From its sound to its horsepower to its pissed-off-looking grill the Camaro still screams American muscle in a way that Mustang doesn’t.  The Mustang seems to have lost its way, becoming almost what the VW Jetta is to 16 year old girls.  The Camaro without all the bells and whistles is still a Camaro: it still looks, sounds, and feels like an American muscle car.  The mustang without all the bells and whistles looks like a nice coupe, sounds like a Focus, and feels like the grocery getter that its become.

The choice wasn’t so easy in the 60’s, in fact when Shelby had ahold of the Ford Mustang my opinion flips exactly 180 degrees.  The engines ford was putting into cars in the 60’s were simply unmatched by any domestic automative company.  Aesthetically, the classic cars are neck-and-neck.  Both look mean, both make a big statement about American muscle, and both have the attitude that only being the best can carry successfully.  In this case, the Mustang gives the Camaro a run for its money.

The Camaro has had a huge impact on the American automotive industry.  Not only did it pose a constant threat to the Ford Mustang, but it put a new spin on what an American muscle car should be.  As a replacement for the Nova, GM put the Camaro out as one thing and one thing only: American muscle.  The response of a GM executive to the question of what the meaning behind the word Camaro was made their goals very clear: “a small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs”.

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Sources:

http://www.chevyhardcore.com/news/what-exactly-does-the-word-camaro-even-mean/

http://www.hagerty.com/camaroproject

http://www.edmunds.com/chevrolet/camaro/history.html

Another Bull

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Lamborghini doesn’t mess around with its flagships.  It takes its time.  The Miura.  The Countach.  The Diablo.  The Murcielago.  They span half a century.  Each are named after bulls who fought valiantly in the arena throughout history and each mark a significant chapter of Lamborghini history.  It is rare for Lamborghini to add flagships to its fleet, and that’s why gear heads around the world sat on the edge of their seats during the 2011 Geneva Motor Show.  Super car history was made with the announcement of Lamborghini’s new work horse: the Aventador.

Named after a bull who fought in Saragossa, Spain in 1993, the new addition boasts a 6.5L V12 engine and a 7-speed flappy paddle gear box.  Designed by Filippo Perini in Italy, the Aventaor was supposed to put handling above top speed on its list of priorities.  The perfect example of having your cake and eating it to, accelerating from naught to 60 in 2.9 seconds, the car tops out at 217 mph, making it faster than its big brother, the Murcielago.

While the speed and handling of the car are impressive, what really packs a punch is the body.  Referred to as many as “The Bat Mobile”, the Aventador was designed after the F-18 fighter plane.  Its mean front end and back end that screams “catch me if you can” make this one of the most ascetically pleasing and ridiculous cars Lamborghini has ever produced, and the consumer seems to agree. Not long after the unveiling Lamborghini announced that it has already sold 12 months worth of production vehicles, a feat any car company would boast.  It’s safe to say that the Aventador has earned its spot on Lamborghini’s list of flagship cars.

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Sources:

http://www.lamborghini.com/en/models/aventador-j/overview/

http://www.lamborghini.com/en/models/aventador-lp-700-4/overview/

http://www.topspeed.com/cars/lamborghini-aventador/ke3624.html

Shelby Automotive

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It’s rare that the average person knows the name of the guy who designed their car.  It’s even more rare for a man to become even more famous than the era-defining car that he designed.  There is no way to contest it, Carroll Shelby is an American icon and is the creator of one of the most infamous American muscle cars ever made; the car that made an appearance in movies like Gone in Sixty Seconds, Transformers, and a number of the incredibly corny Fast and Furious movies.  It’s the Shelby Mustang.

Carroll Shelby was known for his no-bullshit attitude and for taking on the challenge of making the fastest and best looking cars in the world.  An outspoken man from East Texas, Shelby competed with car companies from around the world including Ferrari, who bitterly defeated him in the 1964 World Sports Car Championship.  Shelby’s famous response was “next year, Ferrari’s ass is mine!”

That’s that preverbal middle finger that we seem to love so much.  It’s a quality that Shelby put into his cars.  The first Shelby Mustang was built as a higher performance Ford Mustang by Shelby American from 1965-67; the car was then built under Shelby Automotive from ’68-’70 and it wasn’t until 2007 that the Shelby name was put back on a mustang.  The ’65 GT 350 was not built for comfort.  It’s detentions were pure racing specs that adhered to the SCCA racing regulations.  Unlike the Nova, this was not a grocery getter, and it certainly wasn’t your father’s vehicle.

1967 was the year that Shelby Cobra GT 500 was introduced along side its kid brother the Shelby Cobra GT 350.  In ’68 the letters KR were modestly added at the end of the name representing the words “King of the Road”.  And it was.  This car was equipped with Ford’s new 428 Cobra Jet engine, an engine that ford referred to as its “bread and butter”.

Arguably, one of the most remarkable things that the mustang is that it still exists.  Not only does it still exist, but it’s still turning heads as proven at the 2012 New York International Auto Show where Shelby Automotive announced the Shelby 1000,  a car that will cost between $150,000 and $200,000.  Carroll Shelby passed away in May of 2012 at the age of 89.  If he couldn’t live forever, he certainly designed and created something that will.

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Sources:

http://www.roadandtrack.com/new-cars/words-of-wisdom-from-carroll-shelby

http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2012/06/20/family-fight-continues-over-carroll-shelby-remains/

http://mustangs.about.com/od/history/a/shelby-mustangs.htm

The Germans

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As far as world history goes, Germany has had a rough go of it.  As far as cars go, Germany knows what it’s doing.  The North and Baltic Sea bordering state produces some of the most quality and polished luxury cars on the face of the planet.  Among these are BMW, Mercedes, and Audi; while Lamborghini is an Italian car it is owned by the German car company Volkswagen.  That’s right, that Veneno is a Volkswagen that costs over $4 million.  Volkswagen is also the owner of company that produces the fastest street legal car in the world: Automobiles Ettore Bugatti.

An impressive track record for an automotive industry by any scale.  One of the most impressive manufactures to come out of Germany is Mercedes-Benz, the maker of the limited addition McLaren/Mercedes sports cars and up until this year the Maybach.  As the Bugatti has a Super Sport option, Mercedes has an AMG option that will send the price of a SLS GT over $200,000 before you add on all the bells and whistles.

Cameron is a 21 year old living in Riverside California.  More importantly he drives a 2012 Mercedes-Benz C350 coupe, a car that he describes as having “lots of sports buttons to press”.  He couldn’t be more right.  This little sports car puts out 306 HP and still doesn’t hurt at the pump, getting 28-30 miles to the gallon.  Cameron’s car doesn’t have a name, but he assures me she won’t be having in identity crisis any time soon; she gets plenty of attention.  So much, in fact, he’s about 7,000 miles over the milage on his lease and still has fifteen months to go.

“It’s going to be hard to part with,” he tells me leaning back in his chair in the bustle of a Los Angeles coffee shop.  “This isn’t just a C350, it’s my C350.”  That’s the gear head talking.  It doesn’t matter what new model is out there or how much horse power we’ll gain with the trade in, the bond we make with our cars is what separates them from the rest.  The bond we make with our German cars is unlike any other.

The innovation and automotive engineering coming out of Germany and German car companies is nothing short of incredible.  With so many luxury cars being produced there and German-based companies collecting super car companies and their brands from around the world, it is safe to say Germany has a foothold in the global car industry.

Sources:

http://www.mbusa.com/mercedes/benz/innovation

http://www.mbusa.com/mercedes/index?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Brd%7CSearch%7CCorp%7CTrademark_Exact&utm_term=mercedes%20benz&utm_content=sjrjnuPr2_dc|pcrid|28035457135|pkw|mercedes%20benz|pmt|e

And a big thank you to Cameron, interviewee and C350 owner.