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Brandon Seiler's Blog on Cars

Archive for February 2010

Shove your beater off a cliff; will buy you a new car


The contest is called “Cliff Your Ride” and the rules are simple: Submit a video to explaining why your car deserves to be pushed off a cliff (“cliffed”). Visitors to the zany site will vote on which car they think needs to be destroyed immediately before a panel of judges determines a winner from the top twenty vote getters. This lucky person will have their car shoved off a cliff and receive $30,000 towards the purchase of a new car on the site. From a February 12 article: 

“Last week, AutoTrader set up video booths at university house parties and pubs, asking students to complain about their rides, and then posted those videos on its website.”


Members of MotorSpaceNW’s online group “POS Pride” are specifically encouraged to apply. Bust out those video cameras and tell the story of what makes your ride worthy of a short trip off a cliff. Don’t dawdle, the contest runs through April 10 and climaxes at the end of April:

“AutoTrader will strip the car of recyclable materials and debris before it's pushed off the hill (at an undisclosed location), and the expected final result, besides cheering from the owner, is a fiery explosion.”

Watch the official ad in New Videos or at


Government makes electronic stability control standard by 2012


Beginning in 2012, any new car bought in the United States will come equipped with electronic stability control (ESC). The new mandate comes after studies conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found: 

“.. ESC will reduce single-vehicle crashes of passenger cars by 34% and single vehicle crashes of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) by 59%, with a much greater reduction of rollover crashes. NHTSA estimates ESC would save 5,300 to 9,600 lives and prevent 156,000 to 238,000 injuries in all types of crashes annually once all light vehicles on the road are equipped with ESC.” (1)

“No other safety technology since the seat belt holds the potential to save as many lives and prevent as many injuries as electronic stability control,” said Nicole Nason, administrator for the NHTSA. (2)

Currently, it’s estimated that only 40% of new vehicles come with ESC standard, and adding ESC to these vehicles will cost the automotive industry $985 million. Despite the cost, Automotive Digest reports that Ford will beat the 2012 deadline by 3 years on all Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands sold in the US, while GM and Toyota will have ESC standard by the end of 2010; ESC is now optional on all Toyotas. (2)

In particular, Consumer Reports found that “ESC provides an even greater safety benefit for SUVs. That is because it can prevent a vehicle from getting into a situation where it could roll over, a particularly lethal type of crash seen more frequently with tall vehicles. According to the IIHS study, ESC reduces the risk of fatal single-vehicle SUV rollovers by 80 percent.” (3)

In addition to the direct effects of the new regulation, Consumer Reports also noted that, “An expected benefit of this rule is that ABS and traction control will become a standard feature across all segments, including low-cost models that traditionally have been difficult to purchase with ABS.” (3) 


“Electronic stability control uses a computer linked to a series of sensors—detecting wheel speed, steering angle, and sideways motion. If the car starts to drift, the stability-control system momentarily brakes one or more wheels and, depending on the system, reduces engine power to keep the car on course. ESC can't overcome the laws of physics, however, so drivers still need to be careful in turns, especially in slippery conditions.” (3)



Ted Bundy’s VW Beetle on display in museum


Older Volkswagen Beetles have an endearing charm about them, unless Ted Bundy owned them. His beige 1968 V-Dub is now on display at the National Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington. From the New York Times:

“Acquired by lease from a private collector in New York, the unrestored VW, with its cracked windshield and faded Utah state inspection sticker, was where he allegedly beat and strangled some of them.”

“The Bundy Beetle replaced John Dillinger’s 1933 Essex Terraplane getaway car in the museum’s lobby. According to Janine Vaccarello, chief operating officer of the Crime Museum, this is the first time that the car has been shown publicly since it was sold to a Utah police officer and subsequently auctioned to its current owner. She said that Bundy bought the car used.”

Bundy confessed to 30 murders from 1973 to 1978 before he was executed in Florida in 1989. It takes one sick SOB to make a Beetle look this scary. Disturbing questions include:

1. Who buys Ted Bundy’s Beetle?
2. What does it smell like inside?
3. That’s rust on the hood, right?

Answers to these questions and more could be available at the museum where the car will be on display at least through May. 


Top Gear coming to USA

Fans of the juggernaut car show, Top Gear should be delighted to hear that a US version of the program is currently under production. For some reason its going to be on the History Channel where they’ve ordered up between 10 and 12 episodes and are now trying to find people to host them. 

Funny/car guy Adam Carolla broke the news on his CarCast show that he’s in the running for one of the three hosting spots. Other candidates remain somewhat of a mystery at this point, but Jay Leno has said he’s not interested. Personally I’m okay with that. 

On a lighter note, Jalopnik is offering a $5,000 reward for the pilot of Top Gear USA that was originally shot to air on NBC. The episode is said to have been hosted by Carolla, racer Tanner Foust and interior drapery design consultant Eric Stromer (Pictured). From Jalopnik:

“We know someone out there must have it. So we're willing to pay $5,000 to the first person who can provide us with a full copy of the unaired Carolla/Foust/Stromer NBC pilot of Top Gear USA.”

“There are some ground rules: Our standard contest rules apply. We expect you to stay within the bounds of the law. We reserve the right to limit, or restrict upon notice, participation in the Contest to any person at any time for any reason. Void where prohibited. So who's in? E-mail me directly at ray-at-jalopnik-dot-com.” (2)




World’s Best Trucker Songs

Yes, the theme to Smokey and the Bandit is included here, but that’s just the tip of the smoke stacks. Truckers' mainstream popularity as lone wolves of the road peaked several decades ago. Let’s take a look back in that direction at the greatest trucker songs to ever come crackling out of a Kenworth’s radio. In no particular order:

1. “East Bound and Down” by Jerry Reed

As the main theme to 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit, East Bound and Down is one of the most famous trucker songs of all time, a raucous ode to smuggling Coors across state lines in an 18-wheeler, and also friendly roadside prostitutes in Winnebago’s, Trans Am’s and Burt Reynolds inexplicable attraction to Sally Fields. In sum:

“Keep your foot hard on the pedal. Son, never mind them brakes. Let it all hang out ‘cause we got a run to make. The boys are thirsty in Atlanta and there’s beer in Texarkana. And we’ll bring it back no matter what it takes.”

2. “Gear Jammer” by George Thorogood

Leave it to George Thorogood’s crazy ass to write a song about a trucker jacked out of his mind, driving “Nine long days through twenty three states.” There’s no literal mention of taking trucker pills in the lyrics, but it’s easy to draw the connections: 

“Running my rig about ninety-five, I’m a-rockin and a-rollin’ in overdrive. My heart’s beating like a jackhammer, it’s the midnight ride for the gear jammer.” 

Main themes of the song include:

Paranoia- “The police catch me I’ll end up in the slammer,” and:

Rage- “Something gets in my way you know I’m gonna ram her. Nobody fools around with this gear jammer.”

3. “I’m a truck” by Red Simpson.

This song is written in first person from the perspective of the truck. Making it even more unique, the truck hates truck drivers, alleging that they’re a bunch of womanizing chauvinists: 

“There’d be no truck drivers if it wasn’t for us trucks. No double clutching gear jamming coffee drinking nuts.” 

The truck goes on to lambaste its driver by telling a particularly unflattering story about him: 

“Well there he sits in that café drinking coffee and tellin’ lies. Probably tellin’ ‘em about that hill we topped ten miles back. Oughter tell ‘em about how he missed a gear and that Volkswagen bus full a hippies passed us like I was sittin’ up on jacks.”

4. “Teddy Bear” by Red Sovine. 

In contrast to the hateful lyrics of “I’m a truck”, Teddy Bear tells the tear-jerking story of a small crippled boy who sits at home with his CB radio, pleading with truckers to talk with him:

“Come on back truckers, and talk to Teddy Bear. Mom says you’re busy and for me to stay off the air. But you see, I get lonely and it helps to talk, ‘cause that’s about all I can do. I’m crippled and can’t walk.” 

Making matters worse, the boy’s father was killed in a trucking accident a while back: 

“Mom has to work now to make ends meet, and I’m not much help with my two crippled feet.” 

The boy goes on to say all he wants is to go for a ride in a semi truck like his dad used to take him on. When a noble trucker eventually arrives at Teddy Bear’s house to grant his wish, the true spirit of trucking/Christmas surprises them both:

“18 wheelers were lined up for three city blocks. Why I guess every driver for miles around had caught Teddy Bear’s call, and that little crippled boy was having a ball.” 

5. “Old Home Filler-Up” by C.W. McCall

You were probably expecting to see “Convoy” by C.W. McCall on the list, but that would be cliché. Plus, I like this song better. It’s about a trucker and his dog Sloan who stop off at the Old Home Filler Up, “A lookin’ for Mavis.” 

“Now we’ve been every place between here and south Sioux and we’ve seen us a truck-stop waitress or two, but this gal’s built like a burlap bag full of bobcats.”

Unlike Sally Fields. The trucker saunters up to the counter and asks ‘ol Mavis if she might like to go for a ride in his rig, implying there might be some sleeper action involved. She agrees, but asks that her mother come along as a chaperone to keep the outing respectable. 

“Well, we geared that tranny into super-low and the four of us went to see a picture show. Yeah, I took ‘em to the drive-in theater over by Pisgah, to see True Grit.” 

And then he drives them all home… Here’s a link to Convoy:


(2) truckingsongs.html

Man builds bridge to living room for Ferrari, neighbors not happy

Holger Schubert built a bridge from his street to his living room, and parked his 1984 Ferrari 512 Boxer next to his couch. “I wanted to create a backdrop for the car as a piece of art,” Schubert said, “This is a space whose only purpose is to enjoy the car.”

Genius? Perhaps. Last year the showroom won Architectural Digest magazine’s Design Driven contest, but not everyone was so impressed. Schubert is currently in a legal battle to save his $1.5 million dollar bridge. From the LA Times:

“Neighbors complained about the bridge, alleging that the city erroneously approved its construction to create both a safety hazard and a development precedent that could degrade hillside neighborhoods throughout the city.” 

“City planners have withdrawn permission for Schubert to use a bridge to connect his Ferrari's third-floor resting spot with North Tigertail Road.”

“The ruling sets the stage for the city to issue an enforcement order that will force Schubert to tear down the 10-foot-long, 15-foot-high bridge if he does not obtain a zoning variance for it or win a court reprieve that preserves it.” 

Schubert’s showroom is equipped with a hydraulic ramp that lifts the front of the Ferrari up, allowing the car to coast backwards across the bridge without starting the engine. That way no exhaust fumes enter the house. 


(2) Picture:

2011 GT 500 goes all-aluminum with 550HP

In the year 2011 the Shelby GT500 will lose 102 lbs and gain 10HP via an all-aluminum 5.4-liter supercharged V8. That’s 550 HP and 510 lb-ft of torque with 80 percent of the juice available between 1,750 and 6,250 rpm.

Ford hopes the lighter, more powerful beer can engine will drop the guzzler tax from the coupe with expected fuel economy of 23-MPG highway and 15-MPG city. From Jalopnik:

“It's almost like taking an entire passenger out of the cabin and yeah, it'll probably have an impact on steering feel, track performance and overall balance in the notoriously nose-heavy GT500.”

Speaking of track performance, the 2011 GT500 will come with an available SVT Performance Package that includes Goodyear EagleR F1 SuperCar G: 2 tires designed specifically for the Shelby, lighter wheels, stiffer springs, and a higher rear axle ratio. The package is said to shave an average of 3 seconds off trips around a 2.3-mile track. 

Other hot options include the glass roof currently offered on lower level Stangs, standard HID headlights and MyKey. RrrrrrRRRRRRrrrrrr!!  

Beater Diaries: Joe’s 1996 Dodge Caravan

Although technically a minivan owner, Joe’s relationship with his 1996 Dodge Caravan brings to mind the Custom Van culture of the 1970’s. When I arrived at his apartment complex his pride and joy was parked in a bus stop on the street. 

Name: Joe
Vehicle: 1996 Dodge Caravan

The Interview 
(J=Joe, B=Brandon): 

B: I see your van is parked in a bus stop…

J: Yeah… so?

B: So what are the perks of driving a minivan? 

J: It’s discreet as far as getting pulled over. No one suspects the minivan. 

B: Why are there no back seats in yours?

J: Gas mileage and in case you need to lie down and go to bed you got the option. You got a little studio apartment waitin’ for ya. 

B: Have you ever invited a lady into..

J: (Cutting me off) Yes. 

B: How many? Do you have a tally going? 

J: No tally.

B: You prefer not to record those sorts of things?

J: I’m above that. 

B: Fair enough. As a desirable bachelor, if you suddenly had a wife and children, would you buy a sports car to be ironic?

J: I’d upgrade to the sport minivan. 

B: How fast do you think your current van can go?

J: 90mph. 

B: How would you describe the color of your van?

J: An off teal.

B: I was going to say sea foam. There’s usually several gas cans in your van, sometimes with gas in them, yet you still smoke cigarettes while driving. Comments? 

J: This is not true. There’s no gas in the gas tanks. 

B: So why are they in the van?

J: In case I run out of gas. 

B: What else is back there? 

INTERLUDE: Incomplete list of items I found in the back of Joe’s Caravan: 
-Dirty rags
-Unopened insurance bill 
-Various receipts 
-8 empty cigarette packets
-Packets of “Breathe Deep Yogi Tea”
-Vaporizer tube
-Empty plastic bottles/Fast food bags
-AC adaptor 
-Spare key to a boat
-Empty gas can
-Used kitty litter box
-Irish flute
-Dog leash 
-Guitar tuner
-Empty cardboard boxes
-Coat hangers
-Two beanies
-Single glove with fingers cut off
-Pair of dress shoes
-Tennis ball
-Empty Prescription bottle from the dentist 
-Two Frisbees 
-Two books of CD’s 
-Broken tape adapters
-Empty bottle of chloraseptic spray 
-Work truck keys
-Bottle of hand sanitizer
-Packet of hot sauce 
-Pizza Hut Parmesan packet (J: From my pizza delivery days)
-Empty prescription drug bottle made out to a woman who will remain anonymous
-Sun block/Spray Aloe 
-Set of Allen wrenches


B: Whenever we drive anywhere in your van, you demand we listen to Led Zeppelin. Is Zeppelin your driving music? 

J: No, Zeppelin’s my everything, my everything music. 

B: With all the mechanical troubles your van has been having lately, can you see yourself selling it?

J: I don’t think anyone would buy it. I think it’s unsellable. I’d have more satisfaction driving it into the ground myself then having someone else do it. 

B: Why do you love your van?

J: Because people look down on me for driving a minivan. They think I’m borrowing my mother’s car.. And then the look on their face when I say that (expletive) is in my name. 

B: You love your van.

J: I do, I love my van. I love that it’s not socially acceptable for a young single male to own and drive his own minivan. 

The Test Drive:

Joe says the tires are almost shot and the transmission is slipping badly. I didn’t notice these issues so much on a short jaunt to 7-11 for Twix, but we both agreed the heater makes a noise like a broken coffee maker. Despite the odds, for a ’96 Caravan with “200+” miles on it, I could see this van lasting another couple years on good luck and plenty of transmission fluid. 

“No one suspects the minivan.”

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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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