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Brandon Seiler's Blog on Cars

Archive for August 2011

Kirkland Car Show gets misty, won’t quit


“Don’t worry, that’s just liquid sun!” a DJ boomed over the show’s speaker system. 

The owner of a convertible 1965 Ford Mustang started her engine and closed the black leather top down on her car. 

It was raining on the last day of July, at a car show. Any other year the moderate drizzle might have been enough to send spectators running for the hills. Luckily most of the people in attendance were La Nina-hardened Vitamin D deficient north westerners that didn’t seem to care; the show had to go on. 

Chubby Checker’s ‘The Twist’ began blasting desperately over the speaker system.

“Anyone who’s got the twist in them needs to start twisting to keep warm!” The DJ yelled, 
“Oh! She’s got it!”

She did have it. Damn if that song doesn’t still get people moving. 


-1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass station wagon. 

Dubbed the ‘Brown Bomber’ by its owners, it was no coincidence the Oldsmobile Cutlass became America’s best-selling car in ’76; the early to mid-seventies marked a slow decline in taste amidst the American auto industry. No one knew any better and the Cutlass reigned supreme. 

In 1978 the Cutlass would be downsized to GM’s new A-Body, cutting its curb weight to a relatively petit 3,300 pounds, establishing its predecessors such as the Brown Bomber wagon as one of the last true family boat-mobiles (1). 

-1972 Ford F-250 Camper Special

There’s just something about old pickup trucks. This beauty was for sale and had a tiny shivering dog trapped in its cabin, unable to twist to keep warm. He leapt barking at the windows whenever a passerby came near, perhaps to defend the truck, perhaps in a desperate plea to be rescued before the hypothermia set in. 

In the owner’s absence prospective buyers were left to wonder if he neglected oil changes the way he did the dog, but that wasn’t enough to discount the strong selling point that Ford Camper Special pickups were built with higher GVWR ratings to accommodate the added weight of a camper and all the fun things pickup folk would pack into them. 

This F-250 looked like it had plenty of trips left in it, and possibly a free dog thrown in with its purchase. 

-1931 Ford Model A coupe, with Coors Light beer trailer

Beer trailer? Beer trailer!

The Model A sold close to five million units between 1927 and 1931 – an amazing feat by modern standards, but not once during its production years did a Model A roll off the assembly line with a beer trailer full of Coors Light behind it (2). 

For years this obvious design flaw went unnoticed until a noble lady of the hotrod scene took the initiative to design, or possibly buy her very own beer trailer, one that appeared to also serve as a cooler. The craftsmanship of it was professional and in step with the year of the car.

She sat proudly behind the hotrod Rocky Mountain ride and discussed good morning-time beach drinks with passersby, one of which asked her if she had seen his small yappy dog anywhere.

-1967 Ford Thunderbird 

Suicide doors are the elegant non-douchebag counterpart to Lamborghini (scissor) doors. The sixties showcased the suicide door on luxury vehicles such as the Lincoln Continental and this fifth generation ’67 Ford Thunderbird, considered to be Ford’s personal luxury car. 

How does a ‘personal’ car originally conceived as a coupe wind up with suicide doors you ask? 

In 1958 it was then Ford executive, Robert McNamara that pushed for the Thunderbird lineup to include a four-seater model in order to increase its sales potential to a broader audience, resulting in the first suicide door Thunderbird in 1967 (3). 

By that time McNamara was serving as United States Secretary of Defense and pushing for the escalation of the Vietnam War. 

“All he did was create suicide machines, man!” A Volkswagen hippie bus chimed in. 

It was promptly ticketed and towed violently from the premises. 

Perhaps the most telling moment of the show was on display in front of the Bikini Beach Swimwear Shop. A canvas-top H1 Hummer was parked in front of the store’s display window with a surfboard strapped to the front brush guard and a chrome mannequin in the truck bed sporting a sexy bikini. The shop’s logo was painted on the Hummer’s door. 

Behind the Hummer, five beautiful immaculately tanned young ladies stood shivering and smiling in teeny-weeny bikinis. They posed for pictures with pedestrians and climbed into the back of the Hummer for photographs with the mannequin. 

“Aren’t you a little underdressed for the weather?” An old codger yelled at them. 

The girls laughed and convinced him to climb into the back of the Hummer for a picture. He left with a coupon and a big grin on his face. There were more cars to be seen and no amount of drizzle was going to dampen the mood. 

Check out the vehicles mentioned above in the photo albums portion of the page at:



2012 Volvo XC70: To Oregon, and beyond Part II


If there’s a better way to gather information for an auto blog about a new family car than to pack a family into it and go on vacation… There just isn’t. It’s a brilliant idea and in lieu of conducting a useless Google search to verify it’s never been done before, one that I’ll take full credit for coming up with. 

It didn’t hurt the press car in question was a Volvo XC70: A crossover of sorts that draws its inspiration from the Volvo V70: 

A station wagon: The classic family hauler that over the decades has carved itself a special place in the heart of the American vacationer as a trusty steed capable of transporting nine or more people from the drudgery of the work-a-day world to the Grand Canyon, Grandma’s house, roadside attractions showcasing the world’s biggest inanimate objects and beyond. 

Appointed with every luxury option and technological advancement in the book, our leisurely five hour drive to the Oregon coast would have been a fat pitch for the XC70 to knock out of the auto review ballpark, were it not for the lurking threat of familial melt downs the family car plays host to all too often. 

The scene is all too familiar - Every four hundred miles or so, with their complex and often delicate relationships condensed together tighter then Timmy, Tommy and Sarah’s thighs on the rear bench, a family's vacation-mobile will erupt into an inescapable sweat-coffin of the “So help me, I’ll pull this thing over if I smell that again!” variety.

Luckily for our family, the intrigue of the XC70’s fineries continued to absorb much of our attention long after we merged onto I-5 South. noted the matte wood and white leather trim adds to the cabin’s “showcase of modern Swedish style,” But went on to lament, “Sadly, the navigation system remains cumbersome because of an awkward interface that utilizes steering-wheel-mounted buttons and a handheld remote that duplicates those controls for the passenger.” (1) 

Indeed, the XC70’s interior ensemble made the Ikea furniture in my apartment look like a pile of dirty park benches, but the excitement of logging our destination into the GPS and tracking our progress down the coast was stifled by the navigation system’s… cumbersome awkwardness. 

Eventually I became so absorbed with trying to figure out how to set Lincoln City as our endpoint I was reduced to a monkey-like state, prodding at the steering-wheel buttons with dumb inarticulate fingers. 

I began to drift out of our lane. 

Beep! Beep! Beep!

The Volvo’s lane departure warning system had recognized I could barely operate a flip phone and was warning me to stay focused on the driving portion of my duties behind the wheel. 

Never having been reprimanded by a car before, I set the cruise control to seventy miles per hour, as if to say, “Do you want to drive?”

The Volvo did, and could. 

When we started to run up behind a slower moving Ford Explorer in our lane I began to move my foot towards the brake to disengage the cruise control, but the Volvo was already slowing us down. 

Our speed dropped to sixty-five miles per hour to keep pace with the Explorer at a safe distance of about four seconds behind.

Eventually the Explorer moved out of the carpool lane to let us pass. As soon as it was completely out of the way, the Volvo accelerated back up to seventy miles per hour again, not in the way pressing “Resume Acceleration” on an older car will jack the RPM’s up to redline and splatter juice boxes against the rear window, but in a smooth… human way. 

James Cameron had warned of this sort of thing. 

Before there was time to wrap my head around what had just happened, the navigation screen rose unexpectedly from its resting place within the dashboard. 

Sweet Schwarzenegger maid, were the machines really taking over?!

No. My dad had discovered the screen’s remote control in the center console and had figured out how to program our destination into the GPS from the back seat. 

Moments after the fear subsided, a calm British voice came over the speaker system:

“Take exit 17 to Salem in 43.7 miles.”

We named him Smithers. He was pleasant, dutiful, and added a much needed human element to the artificial intelligence. Under his care, we turned our attention to XC70’s long list of amenities, and eventually began to flatter ourselves silly with luxury. 

One notable shenanigan included cranking up the AC to sub-fifty degree temperatures until the cabin was frigid cold, then turning on the heated seats to simulate blasting through the desert at night in a convertible on an impromptu trip to Vegas. 

For audio enjoyment, I located Tom Petty’s XM Sirius satellite station. His vintage rock and roll deep tracks flowed magnificently in high definition from the 650watt 12-speaker Logic II Surround Sound system. 

During a song break, Petty’s nasally drawl was interrupted abruptly with directions from a voice we hadn’t heard before, an American voice - bland and boring. 

We named him Craig and despised him.

At the next rest stop the navigation screen turned on, showing nothing but a glowing red orb. Smithers’ voice came over the speakers:

“I don’t care very much for Craig, do you?”

I turned the navigation system off. We were approaching the final leg of the journey on the twists and turns of Highway 101. 

Thick woods closed in on either side of the road and all signs of civilization fell away. There would be no more exits until the Highway merged with the coastline just minutes from Lincoln City. 

It was time to see what this Volvo could do. 

“Get my albums!” I yelled. 

‘Break on Through’ by The Doors pumped out of the speakers in harmony with the whistle of the turbocharger. A Vista Cruiser surely would have broken on through a guardrail under the same stresses. 

The XC70 handled the twists properly with plenty of fun churning from the engine, but the higher center of gravity and notable degree of body roll compromised the elegant highway ride when pushed aggressively through the turns.

She just wasn’t a sports car after all. As soon as we dropped back down to reasonable speeds the premium feel resumed. 

Abruptly the trees parted from the highway. The smell of salt water wafted in through the sunroof. 

We were in Lincoln City; the promised land of beachfront rentals, deck lounging, kite flying, saltwater taffy and cruises down 101 from shop to shop in a luxurious car no one suspected was a on loan from a press fleet, save perhaps for the New Jersey plates.

We dubbed our XC70 ‘The Situation’ and spent the entire vacation feeling as such. 

-Interior style, comfort, and space (72 cubic feet)
-Very capable turbocharged V6 option
-Legendary Volvo safety features 
-Sexy exterior style

-Pricey compared to much of its direct competition
-Turbocharged V6 option is thirsty (17city/22hwy mpg)
-Not very sporty in the turns


Properly outfitted, the XC70 is a solid to impressive buy for the target demographic willing to pay a little extra for its selling points.


2012 Volvo XC70: To Oregon, and beyond!

Most people who cross state lines in a car they don’t own and didn’t pay for probably never had a stable father figure in their lives. My dad was nestled in safely in the rear seat of our 2012 Volvo XC70 as we cruised majestically over the Columbia River for a week’s worth of wholesome family vacation on the Oregon coast.

Pride radiated from his eyes; the luxury press car was borrowed legally from Volvo’s press fleet with no strings attached beyond the cost of fuel and several things written into the small print of the contract I had signed but didn’t care to be made nervous of by mentioning aloud.

There was good reason to take such precautions. Volvo’s XC90 won the luxury division of the Northwest Auto Press Association’s Mudfest this year, ( beating out competition from Land Rover and Mercedes just to name a few. 

As a card carrying member of the NWAPA, it was my duty to hold the XC70 to the same scrutinizing lens, despite any amount of giddiness it might inspire. 

It had arrived the previous day in front of my lowly studio apartment in Seattle, polished to perfection in Caspian Metallic Blue. 

Property values skyrocketed. Several of my neighbors were driven from their homes by a realtor wielding a length of rubber hose.

Just about any new model year luxury car will make an entire city block pale in comparison when professionally detailed, but there was more to the XC70 than a thin sheen of Turtle Wax glazed expensively over an imported station wagon.

At first glance one would quickly reference the XC70 as such: Station wagon; to be associated with a family of six or more, ill-fated vacations and Chevy Chase’s hilarious follies.

At second glance it was apparent this wasn’t the 1977 Vista Cruiser my dad referenced heavily when he reminisced lovingly of the station wagon’s glory days. Instead of dog dish wheels and fat sloppy rubber, the XC70 had low profile tires, eighteen inch wheels, 8.3 inches of ground clearance and rugged SUV-like styling.

Beneath the glitz a turbocharged three hundred horsepower 3.0L V6 and all-wheel drive system pushed it to an even farther distinction from Volvo’s V70 wagon, into the ever-expanding crossover segment.

For an auto blogger whose bed was shoehorned into a closet atop empty crates of Costco Top Ramen in a studio apartment, being handed the key fob to a $45,000 luxury press car of this brave new variety was the stuff dreams are made of, even without taking into account the rich family bonding it would surely inspire on the trip down to our annual summer getaway in Lincoln City, Oregon.

Stay tuned for incomparable automotive critique and dazzling accounts of all the wonderful things that occurred along the way.  

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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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