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Brandon Seiler's Blog on Cars

Archive for January 2011

Seattle’s famous cars/owners: A mostly sordid history

The Emerald city has no shortage of celebrities. Some are human, others are vehicles. A few blur the line beyond comprehension. Below you’ll find a brief history of such local flavor, most of which do not have happy endings. To quote Bill Cosby, “If you’re not careful, you might learn something.” 


Seattle’s most savage dunker was glorified at the peak of his career for rattling backboards alongside the likes of Gary Payton and Detlef Schrempf. During the good times, the Kemper owned as many pimped out rides as the next NBA big man. After leaving the league in 2003 and fathering at least seven children, he was arrested on April 4, 2005 in Shoreline Washington for rolling dirty. 

Along with another man, police found Kemp with cocaine, about 60 grams of marijuana and a semiautomatic pistol (1). The Seattle Times caught up with Kemp several months later as he prepared for a triumphant return to the NBA:

“HOUSTON — Shawn Kemp is standing next to his car, a Dodge Magnum RT with Oregon plates and 24-inch chrome rims and windows tinted black. He's strapping 25-pound weights on each ankle. Dressed head-to-toe in swooshes — Jordan socks, Nike Shox and red and white shorts — he shoves two American flags into the ground at George Bush Park.

His hill awaits. But why the flags?

“This is the American dream,'' Kemp says.” (2)

Kemp never made it back to the NBA. He did manage to live the America dream for a short while. His taste in automobiles is evidence enough of that. 


Ironically enough, the Northwest rock icon took his life in 1994, but was terrified of getting into a car accident prior to the suicide. The best sources I can gather on the Internet agree that Mr. Cobain’s grungy car of choice was a late 70’s Volvo. He puttered about Seattle in it at agonizingly slow speeds to avoid peril. Supposedly he was informed Volvo’s were the safest cars a person could buy. 

If only Volvo could protect against heroine, shotguns and Courtney Love.. 


The former mayor of Seattle was touted for a time as being the country’s “greenest” mayor for his commitment to proliferating environmental progressiveness in the city. Much like Seattle’s sports teams, the glory soon turned to resentment, and eventually failure. From the Seattle Times:

“GRABBING THE mantle of “environmental leader” always comes at a price. Nickels faced charges of hypocrisy just like Al Gore did. Though his personal car is a Toyota Camry, he took heat for being driven around in a gas-guzzling city Cadillac. By the end of his term he rode in a city-owned Toyota hybrid.” (3)

A poll of likely Seattle voters in late 2008 showed that 31% approved of Nickel’s performance while 57% disapproved. The numbers didn’t get much better by August 2009 and he was defeated in the primary election for his third term as mayor.(4) 

Maybe “city” Cadillac’s are just more of a Bellevue thing. 


By the time city officials realized their newly-installed trolley line carried a potentially damaging acronym, opponents of the controversial project at Kapow! Coffee house had already begun distributing T-shirts that read “Ride the SLUT.” From the Seattle PI:

“We're welcoming the SLUT into the neighborhood,” said Jerry Johnson, 29, a part-time barista. Johnson said the T-shirts were done just for fun, but they seem to have tapped into something: The first 100 sold out in days and now orders for the next 100 are under way.”

“There was a meeting with representatives from the city several years ago,” Johnson recalled. “They asked us what we could do for you. Most people raised their hands and said 'affordable housing,' ” he said.”Then the people from the city huddled together — 'whisper, whisper, whisper,' — and they said, 'How about a trolley?' 

Officially, the trolley is now dubbed a streetcar, making it the South Lake Union Streetcar to avoid rueful chuckles from the townsfolk. But as the PI acknowledged:

“..the trolley name already has caught on, and in the old Cascade neighborhood in South Lake Union, they're waiting for the SLUT.” (5)


From 1980 to early 2005, any motorist passing by Lincoln Towing yard at Fairview Avenue North and Mercer Street would be hard-pressed not to notice the iconic Lincoln Toe Truck. 

Crafted from a broken-down VW bus, the pink vehicle sported giant toes bolted atop its cab with the big toe reaching nearly 11-1/2 feet into the air. After 25 years of mostly stationary service, visible to millions of motorists, the beloved pink oddity led a parade from Seattle Center to the Museum of History & Industry where it currently resides. (6) 

And there you have it, a happy little jewel at the end of a long dark list of regional automotive lore. Aficionados of the subject will note that the Fremont troll (crafted out of a VW Beetle) was not included here. To that I say, “Google it;” these blogs can only be so long and fewer people know about Shawn Kemp’s Dodge Magnum RT. Until next time, keep on commuting Seattle. 


MotorSpaceNW’s Holiday to Fordneyland (3)


C-MAX. Think minivan, crossed with a crossover, void of the unmentionable characteristics of a mini-van. It seats seven, has dual sliding doors, runs on gasoline, hybrid or plug-in hybrid technology. Ford claims it will out perfrom the Chevy Volt. 

With comparable dimensions to orignal mini-vans, the C-MAX represents yet another progressively BOLD move from Ford. 


I first laid eyes on the C-Max in Michigan at Ford's newly refurbished Michigan assembly plant. Before the presentation of several secretive new vehicles, lunch was catered and delicious. 

Alan Mulally and other Ford celebrities were swarmed by auto-press vultures as if they were Paris Hilton with a job. I hung back at my table, ate pumpkin chili and chatted with a lesser-known Ford executive about football. I'm pretty sure it was more productive than loosing a finger in the press scrum. 

At the presentation of the secret vehicles, the C-MAX was the first to spin out onto the revolving stage. 

“What?” was my first impression. But then I listened attentively to Ford’s presenters relay facts such as these:

-If you like gas engines, but not the thirsty kind, the C-MAX is available with Ford’s first application of the all-new 1.6-liter EcoBoost I-4 engine in its North American C-class vehicles (168hp/173lb.-ft torque).

-The lil’ I-4 is all-alluminum, combines high-pressure direct injection, low-inertia turbocharging and twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT) for a fuel economy up to 20 percent better than naturally aspirated, larger-displacement gasoline engines with a similar power output, resulting in what Ford belives will be class leading power and fuel economy.

Fun Fact:

“By 2013, 90 percent of Ford’s vehicles in North America will be available with EcoBoost, with I-4 engines making up 66 percent of the EcoBoost lineup.”

With that, the first C-MAX swivled out of sight behind the high-tec stage curtain. A music change took place, different lighitng schemes illuminated the scene and two alternate versions of the C-Max spun out to the audience’s attention:

C-MAX Energi- Ford’s first-ever production 
plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.

C-MAX Hybrid- A full hybrid variant that’s set to land in North America in 2012 and Europe in 2013. 

After witnessing the gasoline-powered C-MAX, these two electrified introductions gave me the impression I was watching a live action evolutionary chart of the automobile, or at least a calculated one-upper on the blue ribbon guys at Chevrolet. 

From the press release:

“C-MAX Energi targets more than 500 miles (800 kilometers) of driving range using the battery and engine, more than any other plug-in or extended-range vehicle. It also targets AT-PZEV (Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) status and delivers better charge-sustaining fuel economy than Chevrolet Volt.” 

As for the Hybrid C-MAX, Ford says its capable of better fuel economy than the 41mpg Ford Fusion Hybrid, due in part to the C-MAX’s ability to operate in fuel-saving electric mode beyond 47mph. 

Keep in mind we’re talking about a vehicle comparable in size to a minivan,that Ford themselves has compared to a minivan. But the C-Max is supposed to be better than its family-oriented inspiration. 

Whether it actually will be or not is still hard to say, regardless of how many factoids I throw around here. Having said that, it looks good on paper and dazzled me on the spinny platform thing. 

Two more titilating cars graced the carousell before the presentation was over. One was a concept. The other was the new Ford Focus, which by the way, just got a whole lot sexier. 


-One of the cars was an all-electric version of the Focus (No plug-in required). 

-I’ve been invited to the launch of the new Focus later this month in Los Angeles. 

Stay Tuned.

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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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