Are the Roads Too Loud or Too Quiet or Just Right?

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Naturally, electric cars are extremely quiet on the road.

With the emergence of hybrid and electric vehicles, an old debate has been brought to the forefront again: vehicle noise. This is because new hybrid and electric vehicles have become notorious for operating at extremely low decibels. In fact, when these vehicles are traveling under twenty miles per hour, they are near impossible to hear.

Studies performed by psychologist Laura Rosenblum of the University of California back this up, as well. According to Scientific American magazine, “Blindfolded subjects who listened to recordings of cars approaching at five miles per hour could locate the familiar hum of a Honda Accord’s internal-combustion engine 36 feet away. But they failed to identify a Prius, running in electric mode, until it came within 11 feet- affording them less than two seconds to react before the vehicle reached their position.”

Even though there was no concrete evidence linking electric and hybrid cars to pedestrian accidents, studies like the one above had a lot of people worried. Many believed that pedestrians were at greater risk for danger and injury. Advocates for the National Federation of the Blind and representatives from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spent a great deal of energy to push for increased noise in these vehicles. Their efforts were rewarded when legislation and rules were passed requiring manufacturers to include artificial sounds to electric vehicles when they are traveling less than 18.6 miles per hour. However, this wasn’t a movement without opposition.

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New laws implemented in America have required sound enhancer on hybrid and electric vehicles when they are traveling less than 18.6 MPH

The debate over vehicle sound is not a new one. It’s actually been around for years, for as long as vehicles have ripped through cities and towns across the country. And usually, it isn’t about including MORE sound. Back in 1978, U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. William H. Stewart, said, “Calling noise a nuisance is like calling smog an inconvenience. Noise must be considered a hazard to the health of people everywhere.”

Despite this proclamation from America’s leader in public health issues, vehicle noise actually increased over the next 35 years. Some of this had to do with the emergence of aftermarket exhaust systems, more ferocious engines, larger-wider tires, and thumping stereo systems. Today, purists are fighting the movement to create sound in electric and hybrid cars. They want a return to the days when the quiet countryside ruled. Some opponents of vehicle noise are fanatical in their stance; Dr. Marek Roland-Mieszkowski says, “Noise pollution caused by modified vehicles is a very fast growing problem. They are the weapons of intimidation and acoustical terrorism in the hands of disrespectful and ignorant people.”

But, is this noise really that big of a problem? Or are the complaints coming from curmudgeons that too closely resemble old, bun-haired librarians?

Are quiet cars really a danger to people? Or do we just like to hear the purrs and roars of our engine?

There are a lot of questions with only one real answer: roaring engines will continue to live on.

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Karmann Ghia Restoration

This past weekend, I was in my father-in-laws garage working with him on the restoration of a ’74 Karmann Ghia convertible. I just joined the team, but this is a project he has been planning and working on for years. Just a few months ago, the car was nothing but a rusted junker. But now, it’s already starting to show promise.

Currently, all the pieces are lined up to make this bad boy perfect; the work is the only thing left to do. Yesterday, we were sand blasting different parts, making them them look as good as new. Check out the pics. I’ll have more updates soon!

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Here is the Karmann Ghia on the lift.

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Yesterday, for the most part, we worked on sand blasting a few parts to make sure they looked perfect.

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The inside of the sand blaster. That thing was loud as hell.

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Right now, the car is hollowed out, but in a few months, it’s going to look good as new. We still have the original seats, and they’re in mint condition.

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A standard 4 cylinder engine. Karmann Ghia’s were originally made with standard Volkswagen Beetle engines, which weren’t always so hot.

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The motor goes in the back of the car.

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My father-in-law checking a piece out after it was sand blasted.

The History and Restoration of the Classic Karmann Ghia

A classic, fully restored '74 Karmann Ghia. Currently, my father-in-law and I are working on a convertible version of the '74.

A classic, fully restored ’74 Karmann Ghia. Currently, my father-in-law and I are working on a convertible version of the ’74.

A new Volkswagen Karmann Ghia hasn’t been made since 1974 (that’s nearly 40 years), but its reputation as a classic automobile has continued to grow since that time. Today, a fully restored Karmann Ghia can sell for upwards of $30,000! Much of this reverence can be attributed to an extremely rich history. The Karmann Ghia has roots and influences from countries and manufacturers across the world, drawing respect from car enthusiasts and turning heads on every block on which it’s driven. Within the next few months, I will be involved in the restoration of one of these classic automobiles.

History

The first Karmann Ghia was produced in 1955 under the direction of two men: Dr. Wilhelm Karmann (Germany) and Luigi Segre (Italy).

Karmann was a prominent West German coachbuilder who was working for Volkswagen in the early 50s, developing new concepts for the already world famous Volkswagen Beetle. He was an expert in the internal working of Volkswagen vehicles, but his body designs didn’t seem to make the cut. Almost every one of Karmann’s body design ideas was expelled by the company. Extremely frustrated, Wilhelm looked for help from Luigi Segre.

Around this time, Segre was working for top Italian Styling house, Carrozzeria Ghia. Recently, Segre had done some freelance body work on a Volkswagen Beetle, morphing the conventional two-door Beetle body into a coupe body shell. Many believe that this design was inspired by the 1953 Chrysler-Ghia D’Elegance concept car, which was a collaboration between American designer, Virgil Exner, and the Carrozzeria Ghia Company.

Many believe that the Karmann Ghia was heavily influenced by the '53 Chrysler Ghia-D'Elegance concept car.

Many believe that the Karmann Ghia was heavily influenced by the ’53 Chrysler Ghia-D’Elegance concept car.

The partnership of Karmann (who handled the internal workings) and Segre (who designed the body) turned out to be extremely successful, producing the first ever Volkswagen Karmann Ghia in 1955.

Popularity and Pop Culture

Right off of the bat, the Karmann Ghia proved to be a very popular model with more than 10,000 models sold during the first year. The car had the style of a sports car and the sensibilities of the everyman. The engine was the exact same as the Volkswagen Beetle- “The People’s Car”. In 1957, the Karmann Ghia added fuel to the fire of excitement by releasing the convertible version of the car.

Pretty soon, thousands of Karmann Ghias could be found all over the world. The vehicle was even a staple of pop culture. It was the featured vehicle for agent Maxwell Smart on the popular television series, Get Smart. The car lent its name to one of the featured characters in the 1968 Academy Award winning film, The Producers. And, it appears in the opening credits of the 70s sitcom Good Times. I’ve got to say: that’s a pretty DYNO-MITE résumé.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, over the next few months, I will be releasing blogs and photos of a full restoration job on a ’74 Karmann Ghia. The leader of this small production will be my father-in-law, and we will be working from his own personal two-lift garage. Stay tuned for news and photos and subscribe to my blog to stay in touch. Thanks.

Bullitt- The Film that Spawned a Million Car Chase Movies

During the 50’s and early 60’s, television and home entertainment was growing to unprecedented levels across America. For studio executives in Hollywood, there couldn’t have been anything worse. Studios had been making films with no legitimate competition for thirty to forty years, but now there was a new kid on the block; “To it’s horror, Hollywood discovered that old-style movies made in the old-style way had ceased to make money…In one fell decade, Hollywood was knocked down by TV, kicked in the jaw.”

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During the 50’s and 60’s, television gave movies a serious run for its money.

To rival and counteract the convenience of television, movie studios started releasing outrageous, over-the-top films to keep audiences coming (it’s actually very similar to what has been happening in the past 5 years). Bad story lines and bad acting and bad habits started to develop. Studios leaned on gimmicks; for example, 3-D films initially boomed and became popular at this time. But, these plans only backfired and pissed off the general public.

Cue Stage Right- A New Wave of Filmmakers

As Hollywood was starting to dip and lose credibility, a new wave of filmmakers, known as the New Hollywood group, came into the picture during the late 60s. The writers, directors, and actors of this period were young and college educated. They were figures that represented the emerging counter culture and a new way of doing things. Their fresh approach and attention to detail helped to revitalize the film industry, creating some of the most classic films and movie stars in film history. Some of the actors include Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, and Clint Eastwood. Some of the films include Easy Rider, The Graduate, The Godfather, Bonnie and Clyde, and Planet of the Apes. But, to us car enthusiasts, the most important film to come out of this period was Bullitt.

Bullitt Gives Birth to the Modern Car Chase

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Bullitt’s car was a 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT

Bullitt is an American classic, released in 1968 and directed by Peter Yates. The film is about lieutenant Frank Bullitt (played by a brilliant Steve McQueen) of the San Francisco police department. In the film, Bullitt ends up taking on the mob as he tries to rid the city of the evil forces that dictate the everyday life of ordinary citizens. But, all of this is secondary. Despite the amazing story line and awesome acting, the true joy and historical greatness of the film is with the car chase.

Concerning the car chase, film critic Emanuel Levy says, “Bullitt contains one of the most exciting car chases in film history, a sequence that revolutionized Hollywood’s standards.”

Life magazine also named it as one of the 15 Greatest Car Chases of All-Time, saying, “[It’s] the one, the first, the granddaddy, the chase on the top of almost every list. Bullitt’s car chase is a reminder that every great such scene is a triumph of editing as much as it is stunt work. Naturally, it won the year’s Academy Award for Best Editing.”

Movies like the Fast and Furious franchise, Smokey and the Bandit, and Gone in Sixty seconds were all born out of and influenced by this movie. Truly, it’s a must see for any auto enthusiast and every film fan. Check it out here:

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Jerry Seinfeld’s Incredibly Bad Acura Commercials

Earlier this year, Will Ferrell came out with a series of incredibly “so bad, they’re actually kind of good” Dodge Durango ads.  Now, Jerry Seinfeld is doing the same thing for Acura.

Seinfeld’s Motivation

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Seinfeld has been a part of some of the Super Bowl’s most memorable commercials.

Recently, Seinfeld –who skyrocketed to fame in the 90s on his self-named sitcom- has been working on a new web series called “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” The show is hilarious and has been a smash hit on a very tough and competitive medium, the internet. This show was an incredible risk for Seinfeld, too; putting out a bad web based series could’ve tarnished his reputation with the younger generation. So why did a writer-actor of Seinfeld’s caliber take the chance? The most important reason is: creative control.

Seinfeld says, “[The show is] very much like the experience of being a stand-up comic in that you come up with something and you bring it right to the general public…I just went right to the public with it and they liked it and it didn’t really matter much what anybody else thought about it.” This creative control has allowed Seinfeld to be extremely innovative, as well. “Comedians in Cars” is basically just a one-on-one interview with some of the most legendary writers and comedians of this era; Seinfeld often jokes that this show is his “actual show about nothing”. That, of course, doesn’t prevent it from being unbelievably hilarious. Seinfeld’s knack for humor when it comes to the minute and mundane aspects of life shines through during every episode. It’s obvious that Seinfeld has never been afraid to push the envelope, and now, he’s doing it again with his new series of Acura commercials.

Seinfeld, the Pitchman?

To compliment his show, Seinfeld has been working as a copywriter, developing eight new Acura commercials. These commercials will be placed at the beginning and end of each of his webisodes, and the entire idea is….well, it’s genius. Seinfeld is not only writing, producing, and starring in the show; he’s making the commercials, too! This could be a huge step for the way advertisement is done.

If advertisers used the actors from the shows, it could be beneficial to all parties. Obviously, people tune in to a program to get their fill of certain personalities and energies. By keeping the commercials similar to the show in tone, agencies will be engaging watchers and keeping them locked in to what is being sold. This approach is also brilliant on Seinfeld’s part. It gives him a stranglehold on everything that is going on, which means more money and power for him. It’s just more proof of how incredibly savvy Jerry Seinfeld actually is.

Are the Commercials Really Bad?

Seinfeld has received a lot of attention over his new Acura commercials. Some people think that they are terrible, and some believe they are the funniest commercials that they’ve seen in years. I’m with the crowd that believes that the commercials are hilarious. I’ve been sick of the common car and truck commercials for years; there’s only a certain amount of times I can watch a Ford 4×4 drive through the mountains and tell me how tough they are. Also, I’m always ready for anything being written by Jerry Seinfeld. The guy is a comic master that never fails to disappoint. If you haven’t seen the commercials, take the time to check them out.

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Fiat Falling Flat in the United States

2013 was supposed to be the year that Fiat came into its own here in the United States. This just hasn’t happened. After a promising start to 2013, sales have started to decrease in the latter half of the year. This has been devastating to many dealers around the United States.

Dealers Losing Money

In 2009, Chrysler- who was on the verge of bankruptcy- was taken over by Fiat. At the time, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne promised to move Chrysler away from its gas guzzling reputation. His leadership and approach has helped Chrysler bounce back, but it has come with a price: Fiat dealerships. Currently, there are approximately 210 Fiat dealerships around the United States, and many of these are being run by owners that have large investments in Chrysler. This piggy backing technique has cost a lot of people a lot of money.

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Fiat dealerships have been leaning heavily on the Fiat 500 model.

Gary Brown, who is the chairmen of the Chrysler Dealer Council and also owner of a Fiat dealership, says, “I’m struggling to break even. With the one car in a small (volume) segment, it’s a tough go right now.” He is just one of a number of people who are learning that the Fiat might not be suited for Americans quite yet. Alan Haig, president of the automotive services for Presidio Group, says, “I think most dealers have been disappointed in the performance of their Fiat dealerships…It’s sad to say, but it’s become a stepchild. Chrysler doesn’t want to hear that, but that’s the reality.”

When Will the Tide Turn?

For the past year or two, these are the type of reports that have been coming out about Fiat. Fiat has been trying to weather the storm. Company representatives have been saying that Fiats will take a while to gain steam here in the United States.

Okay. That seems reasonable; after all, it had been 16 years since the Fiat line was sold in the United States.  So, maybe it will take some time.

The company has also been putting a lot of stock in the fact that new product lines and more options will help the sales of the car. At the beginning of 2013, almost all of their sales were hinging on the Fiat 500, a two door, light weight, fuel efficient car.

Well, this past summer they released the Fiat 500 L, and sales haven’t gotten any better. The 500L is a four door alternative that was supposed to appeal to American’s love of bigger cars. However, this car is not doing well, either.

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The 4-door Fiat 500L has failed to spark significant increases of interest.

The problem with the Fiat strategy is that they are trying to sell Americans on something that they just don’t want. In a way, it’s kind of like soccer. For years, there have been commercials and product pushes that try to get Americans excited about soccer. But, it just isn’t going to happen. Americans want football and basketball, sports that are based on size, power, athleticism, and STRENGTH.

The same goes for automobiles. Fiat has had a lot of success taking over Chrysler because they scaled back a company that had gone too far with the bigger, badder, gas guzzling mentality. But at the same time, they didn’t take away what we Americans love. So far, Fiat lines haven’t embraced the American way. They haven’t looked to fully incorporate speed and muscle into their European formula. Basically, they haven’t been giving us something that we actually want. They’ve simply been pushing what Europeans want. Until they change this, Fiat will have a rough time.

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Volkswagen Has Big Plans for 2018

Volkswagen- also known as the people’s car- was originally founded in 1937 under the watchful, militant eye of the Nazi regime. Over the course of their long and winding history, Volkswagen has seen their fair share of bad times. During the 80s, things were so bad for Volkswagen that they were forced to shut down a number of plants here in America because they couldn’t compete with major Japanese competitors like Honda and Toyota. At the time, consumers believed that Volkswagen cars were too pricy, mediocre, and that they sounded terrible.

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The 2013 Volkswagen Golf was named the World Car of the Year

However, Volkswagen has seen their share of good times too, especially as of late. Volkswagen has won 4 of the last 5 World Car of the Year awards, and their profit margins have risen steadily year by year. According to Volkswagen, this is all groundwork for the future, which has been the focus of the company for the past few years. Volkswagen CEO, Martin Winterkorn, says, “We are starting at exactly the right time. We are electrifying all vehicle classes, and therefore have everything we need to make the Volkswagen Group the top automaker in all respects, including electric mobility, by 2018.”

Currently, Volkswagen is the third most profitable auto manufacturer in the world, ranking only behind GM and Toyota. But, Volkswagen has a detailed plan to take down these historic juggernauts. The mission- which was originally launched in 2007- has been labeled Strategy 2018. The details of Strategy 2018 have been presented a number of times by the Volkswagen team and circle around a few basic philosophies that include:

  • A commitment to deliveries, success, and profitability. This will help to make investors comfortable backing their line, so they can continue to push the boundaries of the auto industry.

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    The Volkswagen Factory in Wolfsburg is the largest auto plant in the world.

  • A commitment to employee and customer satisfaction. This, of course, is unrivaled in importance, as they will take into consideration what the market wants.
  • A commitment to the environment and society. With the shift in the automotive industry, this is an important strategy to make sure that Volkswagen stays relevant in the modern world.

These philosophies would be meaningless if there was no plan of action to be followed (just look at the current mess in American politics), but Winterkorn has given numerous speeches and published a number of reports going into further detail. More importantly, these words have translated into some bold actions, as well.

Since the beginning of Winterkorn’s appointment as the CEO of Volkswagen, he has not shied away from expectation. Recently, he has been quoted as saying that he expects Volkswagen to sell an average of 1 million vehicles per year in the United States, which is a number that many naysayers have scoffed at. However, the growth that he has achieved on a worldwide level makes the number seem attainable. When Winterkorn first took over Volkswagen in 2007, the company was selling 6.2 million units per year; now, they sell over 10 million!

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The Volkswagen storage facilities in Wolfsburg.

To continue the upward trend and ensure future success, Volkswagen is now investing 80 billion dollars in their operations, an unheard of number. They plan to use the money to build manufacturing plants around the world, create new products (like diesel, plug-in hybrids), and create more American-friendly products (a complete turnaround from the depleted 80s). Nobody is more excited about the execution of the plan than Winterkorn himself. He says, “We have our sights firmly set on our long-term goal: We want to and will make the Volkswagen Group a beacon for the automotive industry.” Looking at their trajectory, it wouldn’t be surprising if they end up there.