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Brandon Seiler's Blog on Cars

Archive for December 2010

“Pimp My Ride” cancelled, Xzibit broke

You know him as Xzibit. The Feds know him as Alvin Joiner; a guy who owes them nearly $1 million in delinquent Federal taxes. Joiner blames the cancellation of Pimp My Ride for his financial woes. From The Detroit News: 

“Xzibit no longer enjoying a pimped lifestyle

Former “Pimp My Ride” host Xzibit, a double-threat Detroit-born rapper/actor, owes more than $959,523 in delinquent federal taxes, according to public records.

A lien filed last month is the fourth tax problem in recent years for Xzibit, real 
name Alvin Joiner, who had a cameo as a lunch-line linguist in Eminem's “8 Mile.”

Xzibit traced the roots of his financial problems to the cancellation of his MTV show and the imminent foreclosure of his Woodland Hills, Calif., home in July 2009, according to U.S. Bankruptcy Court records.

He's filed bankruptcy twice since 2009, but both filings were dismissed for various reasons. On July 29, 2009, he listed assets totaling $739,433 — mostly homes in California and New Mexico — and more than $1.4 million in liabilities, according to court records.

For a man who reached mainstream fame through an MTV show about pimping vehicles, Xzibit didn't own one. He was leasing a 2006 Range Rover for $2,230 a month, according to bankruptcy court records.

The bankruptcy filing provides rare insight into the volatile fortunes of an entertainer. In 2007, he earned $497,175 starring in “Pimp My Ride.” But after the show was canceled, his income plummeted to $67,510 in 2008, according to court records.

In the 2009 bankruptcy filing, he acknowledged owing the IRS and said he had a verbal agreement to pay $250/month.

What's owed:

-The IRS filed a $22,196 lien against him Nov. 2 with the Los Angeles County Recorder.

-The IRS filed a $435,487 lien July 21, 2009, with the Bernalillo County Clerk in New Mexico, where he owns a home.

-The IRS filed a $205,485 lien Feb. 4, 2009, in Los Angeles County. He owes income taxes from 2007, according to the lien.

-The IRS filed a $296,355 lien April 17, 2008, in Los Angeles County for unpaid income taxes from 2006, records show.

The address on the most recent lien is a public accountant's office in West Hills, Calif. But here's his former 7,650-square-foot house (http://tinyurl.com/28o6s29) in Woodland Hills, which was sold last week for $610,000:

His side:

Xzibit could not be reached for comment. His lawyer Arnold Ogren also could not be reached this morning.”

Source: The Detroit News (http://tinyurl.com/crv9xr) 

MotorSpaceNW’s Holiday to Fordneyland (2)

It was eight degrees and 12:43 in the morning when we arrived at the Dearborn Inn. Just inside the lobby a giant gingerbread Ford Model T lavished with a dizzying array of treats welcomed us in from the frigid Michigan winter. Ford Candy Land. The eldest of our auto journalists dropped his bags and hurried over to inspect the edible wonder. 

“Would you look at that”, he marveled, close enough to eat one of the iconic fenders. 

Dinner had long since concluded in the Alexandria Ballroom. There was nothing left to do but sink into one of the Inn’s heavenly beds and pray for a few hours of sleep before breakfast at 7:00 a.m.

At 6:52 in the morning I stumbled from the bathroom in a desperate haze to guzzle the single cup of coffee that was left brewing while I showered. 

Apparently the cup never made it under the drip. A pile of bath towels and a fruit cocktail later our group of auto journalists boarded a shuttle to Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant. 

Besides the privilege of being introduced to a handful of Ford’s still top-secret upcoming models, the plant itself was reason enough for the trip. After years of pumping out large SUV’s during their glory days, Ford recently spent $550 million transforming the 1.2 million square foot facility into the world’s first factory to build not only gas-powered cars, but also three production versions of electric vehicles, including battery electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid. 

Half a billion dollars later, with a healthy dose of input from the United Auto Workers, the U.S. based plant is now Ford’s most flexible, high-volume and modern manufacturing location of all its global operations. 

“If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that customer wants and needs can change quickly – much more quickly than we have been equipped to efficiently respond to in the past,” said Jim Tetreault, Ford vice president of North American Manufacturing, “At Michigan Assembly, we will achieve a level of flexibility we don’t have in any other plant around the world, which will allow us to meet shifting consumer preferences in real time.” 

Let’s dig into that PR jargon a bit:

FLEXIBLE: Changes at the plant make it possible to run multiple models down the same 3.2 mile assembly line without having to shut down production for the changeover of tooling. For example, two different models of the Focus can now be adjusted between builds without throwing a wrench into the work flow. 

MODERN (This is a biggin’):
-500 new robots capable of 4,000 welds per vehicle
-New internal communications system flashes updates and information to the plant’s 3,200 employees via 163 monitor screens
-Michigan’s largest solar power generation system - Stores up to 2 million watt-hours of energy using batteries – enough to power 100 average Michigan homes for a year, resulting in projected energy cost savings of $160,000 per year

In a nutshell, or a building the size of 22 football fields rather, the new plant embodies everything Ford is working to become: 

Modern. Efficient. Flexible. Global. Sustainable. 

Before we were allowed to tour the new mother of all things Ford, we were ushered into one of the plant’s massive corners for a presentation on a handful of new cars that would soon be rolling off her assembly line. None of them were known to the general public. 

The area was walled off with towering blue dividers. A polished Ford emblem the size of a Volkswagen hung ten feet from the ground on the front entryway. This wasn't Kansas. 

Stay Tuned.

Part 1: http://tinyurl.com/27cl96m

Tragedy rocks Brandon’s Blog: Back to Jalopy-ville (1)

The car gods totaled my 1995 Honda Civic hatchback. In return they gaveth me a $3,511 check. With the blood money tucked into the glove compartment of a borrowed 1994 Ford Taurus wagon named Able, I had but one day off from my day job to purchase another car worthy of surviving the impending snowmageddon of winter. 

Rewind.

It was Tuesday morning, 9:54am. My insurance check was in Burien at Insurance Auto Auctioning; a terrible place where dreams die. 

(Burien) 

Craigslist showed a 1996 Subaru wagon for sale, located just minutes from the insurance place. The wagon was listed as having only 112k miles and a new timing belt. A guy named Nam wanted $3,200 for it. I called him up. 

Nam’s English was much like my Civic after the wreck. Several minutes into a very confusing phone conversation I managed to translate his address to a sticky pad. Moments later I was in Burien. At the auto auction a friendly lady by the name of Sally handed over the check for the Civic and wished me luck. 

Once the death letter was cashed, Able and I made our way out onto the dreary streets in search of Nam and his Subaru wagon with the Russian roulette of Map Quest as our only guide. 

Nam had failed to mention, or possibly didn’t, that his address wasn’t for a private residence but for an auto body shop where he worked. I asked for him at the front desk. 

He was incredibly short and had an odd limp, possibly from a game leg that made him totter left to right like Cotton from King of the Hill. His Subaru was parked in front of the shop, boxed in from the rear by another car. He tossed me the keys to the wagon and hopped up into the driver’s seat of the blocking car to move it out the way. 

While Nam motored to the front of the garage, I sized up the Subaru. It looked beat up, but still a contender if the engine was strong; in all likelihood it would be if the timing belt had in fact been replaced. 

I turned the key in the ignition and nothing happened. I went looking for Nam to see what the problem might be and found him still sitting in the car he had moved, parked in front of the shop. He was yelling something at me from behind the glass of the driver’s window and gesturing frantically with his hands. Apparently he was trapped and needed me to let him out. 

Once free, he hurried to grab a jump-start kit from the garage. With a straight arm he stood upright, lifted the kit several inches from the ground like a giant suitcase and wobbled dangerously over to the Subaru. The engine rattled to life. Nam said he didn’t have the paper work for the timing belt and told me to take her for a spin. 

Several feet from the parking space I touched the brakes for the first time. They pulsed rapidly back against my foot as if the ABS was on the fritz and made a startling beeping noise like a clothes dryer buzzer when the load is done. 

I decided to keep her off the highways and stick to the back roads, already knowing that this was not the car for me, anyone who valued their general well being or that of those around them. 

Eight horrifying minutes later I dropped the keys off back at the front desk and thanked Nam for his time. My only other leads for the fateful day were in Lynnwood on the historically gritty used car skid mark of Highway 99.

Next up: A 1997 Volkswagen GTI and a 1998 Subaru Legacy Outback wagon. One of these cars came home with me. One of them had to. 

Stay tuned. 

Part 1: http://tinyurl.com/2bwtosf

MotorSpaceNW’s Holiday to Fordneyland (1)

 

Ford likes MotorSpaceNW. So much so, they invited us back to Michigan and leaked privileged information on four blue oval wonders that won't begin to hit the market until 2012. They also spent $550 million retooling their Michigan assembly plant. It took me all of twenty minutes to veer off the tour and accidentally trip a motion sensor alarm. 

Oh MotorSpace, you just don’t fit in. 

The trip was plagued by a comedy of troubles before the plane ever left the ground. Firstly, the flight was delayed from 9:25 AM to 11:40 AM due to bad weather in the east. Secondly, the plane made an unexpected landing in Minneapolis when an electric motor in the tail went out. 

Delta: The bus of airline travel. 

Luckily I was seated next to an elderly man with light dementia. Our conversation revolved continuously around World War II, the American auto industry and how to operate the television screen on the seat ahead of him. 

Cocktail!

Somewhere past the third explanation of how to adjust the volume he offered me some homemade Chex Mix from a Ziploc bag and asked that I write nice things about Ford; he had lived in Michigan his entire life and thought highly of quality American cars. 

“It’s a global industry now,” he said. Several times. 

He was right. Ford was flying auto journalists from around the world to the new hub of their global productions in Motor City. The magical factory was said to be the first in the world to build not only gas-powered vehicles, but three production versions of the electrified variety. 

Much of what I saw there is still deemed embargoed news and can’t be discussed until early January. For now I’ve been given permission to talk about the 2012 Ford C-Max. If you haven’t heard of it, you probably haven’t halted a half billion-dollar assembly line by sprinting through a gauntlet of robotic arms either. 

Stay tuned.
 nd 

Tragedy rocks Brandon’s Blog: Back to Jalopy-ville (3/Thrilling Climax)

A custom racecar garage was an unlikely location to go searching for a reliable commuter. It didn’t help the only access to it was down an alleyway off of Highway 99 in Lynnwood, Washington between the Armadillo Restaurant and the coffee stand Jitters. On the bright side, if the 1998 Subaru wagon I was checking on turned out to be a lame duck there would still be plenty of quality java, barbeque and crack-cocaine for sale. 

Able (a 1994 Ford Escort wagon) was just skinny enough to squeeze between Jitters’ drive-up line and the crammed parking stalls off the side of the little Armadillo building. Into the long bend of the alley the sound of perpetual traffic softened to a low drone behind us. The last of the day’s light blinked out to nothing. We puttered into the darkness.

Behind the Armadillo’s rear kitchen doors, J***** Racecars revealed itself in the dim yellow glow of our single headlight. The tiny lot was guarded by a tall chain link fence that seemed to be the only thing keeping the windowless walls of the surrounding buildings from closing in on it like a trash compactor. 

But this wasn’t the disturbing part. Instead of racecars, the lot was packed bumper to bumper with what appeared to be a smorgasbord of Craigslist three grand wonders, one of which was my blind date - A 1998 Subaru Legacy Outback wagon, Forrest Green. 

She looked fine, so fine. The ‘Limited’ emblem meant she was a real giver; fully loaded with leather and all the feel-good options - Mirror defrosters, heated seats, cruise control, power everything. The tires were close to new. 

My beater senses were tingling. 

A wave of paranoia blindsided me into a Jimmy Stewart-esque vision of my future were I to purchase this fabled vehicle, the mother of all Northwest automotive stereotypes:

(Fogginess clears to scene)

I’m exiting a Seattle grocery store with quadruplets, all on toddler leashes. It’s difficult to push the heavy shopping cart wearing socks with sandals. Later that day I escape in the Subaru to a Starbucks to blog smugly between sips of a latte. This ritual continues on repeat every weekend for the next twenty years as a pile of used timing belts accumulates in my closet. 

A light behind the single barred window of the shop cut through the horror. In the garage a man in a welder’s mask was crouched over the flame of a blowtorch, working on the roll cage of a dune buggy. His vibes were wholesome but there was little to discuss before I put the baby-mobile through its paces. 

Our first date was on 99. With 189k on the odometer, she was tired but not sleepy. The engine ran a tad rough, the transmission waited a bit too long to shift, but she was solid, void of any leaks, noises, smells or shimmies that felt like a red flag. 

Even better, there was a slight dent in the driver’s side door and it appeared that someone had keyed the hood with a Christmas tree. These were just the sorts of frivolous cosmetic issues that would keep the price haggling advantage in my corner. 

Time to dance out a deal, but there were still several disconcerting mysteries that needed to be solved, namely just what Mr. Blow Torch’s deal was. 

In his office he explained that in addition to the race shop he was an independent car dealer with a clever gig: The larger car dealerships on the strip sold him decent cars they couldn’t get rid of due to the sorts of small defects the Subaru had at dealer prices. Each sale generated a couple hundred bucks, enough to help keep the race shop healthy. 

It all sounded legit. Torchy’s office was lined with neatly organized children’s toys. The walls were filled with pictures of him racing amateur stock cars. In several he stood with his wife and kids proudly holding a trophy. 

Just behind his desk hung a picture of the main characters from the movie Talladega Nights. In it, Ricky Bobby and Cal Naughton Jr. were giving each other the ‘Shake and Bake’ pound. 

Both actors signed it. 

$3,150. 

A small price to pay for: Forrest Whitaker.


PART 1: http://tinyurl.com/2bwtosf
PART 2: http://tinyurl.com/2a6pc57
PART 3: http://tinyurl.com/2cspp83

Seattle Police use Twitter to find stolen cars

Seattle Police have a new weapon in the battle against car theft: Twitter, ironically one of the many forms of social media that’s not supposed to be used while driving. Nonetheless the SPD is now extending the long arm of the law to the Internet in hopes Twitter followers throughout the city will read reports of stolen cars and notify the authorities if they spot a missing vehicle. From the New York Times: 

Car thefts are on the rise in Seattle — nearly 10 a day, and up from 8.46 a day — and the Seattle Police Department is turning to social media to help nab the criminals and recover the stolen cars.

In a blog post last week, the department announced a plan to send Twitter messages with the details of cars that had been reported as stolen:

When a car is reported stolen in Seattle, employees in the Seattle Police 911 Center will tweet the color, year, make, model, body style and license plate of the stolen car. Twitter followers who spot a car that has been tweeted as stolen on “Get your car back” should call 911.

The police emphasized that citizens should not confront the occupants of the car.

“I believe that this program will integrate seamlessly into our strategy to prevent and reduce auto theft in Seattle,” said Police Chief John Diaz. “It will also serve to increase public awareness on the subject.”

This measure reminds me of a story I wrote for The Times two years ago, when another, more primitive form of social media — online forums — was instrumental in recovering a rare 1991 Nissan Skyline GT-R in Alberta, Canada.

In that case, Shaun Ironside reported the car stolen from his dealership on an enthusiasts’ forum. Less than 24 hours later, the car was found, and within 48 hours the police had a suspect in custody.

Source: http://tinyurl.com/267gzz8 

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About this blog

Brandon Seiler is a bonafide car guy, member of the Northwest Auto Press Association and proud Washingtonian. He covers the latest auto news, technology, and pretty much anything having to do with car culture. You don't have to like cars to read his blogs, you just have to be able to read.

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