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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Weird Auto News

If it’s wrong to strap a panda into a Fiat 500 for a crash test then Fiat is as wrong as wrong can be. In a series of new print advertisements the Italian automaker shows a Fiat 500 being smashed from various angles with wildlife animals seated inside the car as crash test dummies. 

The point is that Fiats are safe for the environment as well as their passengers. In addition to a panda who endures a brutal head-on collision, other animals used in the freeze framed carnage include a walrus and a couple of penguins, which is truly absurd when you consider the average penguin is far too short to operate a motor vehicle. 

Regardless, the advertisements’ tagline, “Engineered for a lower impact on the environment,” is fairly believable as the ads also mention the fact that Fiat produces an average of just 133.7 grams per kilometer – the lowest carbon emissions of any brand in all of Europe. 

See the ads here:

Be forewarned, the panda gets it hard. (1)

The best-selling car in 2008 moved more than 457,000 units and retailed for about $50. That’s right, it was the Little Tykes Cozy Coupe. You know, the little red one with the yellow top and the beep beep horn? Chances are it may have been your first car and many of your playmates’ as well. To celebrate it’s 30th anniversary, the Cozy Coupe has been inducted into the prestigious Cleveland’s Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum, named one of the top 10 automobile museums in the country by Car Collector Magazine. (1) 

Personally, I found the Cozy Coupe hard to maneuver, underpowered, and the styling barbarically muddled in a Flintstones meet the Jetsons meet Dr. Seuss homage gone horribly awry. But that’s just me. If you’re still not sure what I’m talking about see for yourself at the Little Tykes website:

Besides the Cozy Coupe, the two top selling vehicles in the Month of May were both domestic and both pickup trucks. Here’s the official list from the AP: 

Top Selling Autos in May

1. Ford F-series (33,381)
2. Chevrolet Silverado (31,463)
3. Toyota Camry/Solara (31,325)
4. Toyota Carolla/Matrix (23,576)
5. Honda Accord (22,597)
6. Honda Civic (20,723)
7. Ford Fusion (19,786)
8. Chevrolet Impala (18,709)
9. Nissan Altima (18,408)
10. Ford Escape (16,391) (3)

I’m not sure whether it’s a good or bad thing that we’re outselling imported cars with gas guzzling pickups. The rest of the list is dominated by fuel-efficient imports, implying that demand is centered about economy. What we might be seeing here is the result of Chevy and Ford slashing prices on big trucks to move them off the lot. Or it could be that as evidenced by the crazed popularity of our new muscle cars, there’s still plenty of demand for power and size. Maybe it’s a combination. 


Outside of his famous airplanes, Howard Hughes designed at least one custom car for his personal use and appropriately it seems to be a mixture of madness and genius. Last week former Portland Trailblazers center Bill Smith bought the 1936 Lincoln Boat Tail Speedster designed by Hughes at an auction for $1million, a price Smith believes was a bargain. 

The car started out as Hughes’ 1936 Lincoln K model V-12 Limousine, but being crazy and the fastest man in the world by air at the time, he decided to transform the limo to fit his vision of a ’36-37 Boat Tail Speedster. (4) From 

“After reducing the original weight by thousands of pounds and modifying the engine and exhaust this car would have easily cruised in excess of 100 MPH.”

Theories abound as to exactly why Hughes decided to develop a car so beyond the performance standards of the era, and from a limousine for that matter. Some believe he was planning to compete in a speed or endurance contest, or that he was developing his stab at the ultimate concept car. (4)

Others say that it was purely an experiment to develop a formula intended to boost fuel economy and engine performance by weight reduction and aerodynamics, which would make travel at high speeds more economical. If this were the case, Hughes could have used what he learned from restructuring the Speedster to set several of his world flying records. (4)

Others still believe that with its long wheelbase the car would have been very stable at high speeds and could have been used to keep up with the takeoffs and landings of aircraft Hughes was developing so he could film the tests. The car could have been especially handy in filming Hughes’ invention and refinement of retractable landing gear. (4)

Whatever the car’s purpose, assuming that there was one at all, it's now owned by Smith who says he would prefer to keep it alongside Hughes’ most infamous invention, the “Spruce Goose” at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. 







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