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Posts Tagged ‘automobiles

“The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started”*…

For the last six years I’ve kept a spreadsheet listing every parking spot I’ve used at the local supermarket in a bid to park in them all. This week I completed my Magnum Opus!..

A marvelous tale from Gareth Wild (@GarethWild): One man’s quest to park in every space in a Saintsbury parking lot in Bromley (UK).

* T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets “Little Gidding” pt. 5 (1942)

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As we turn in, we might recall that it was on this date in 1948, at the Amsterdam Auto Show, that the original Land Rover (the Series 1) was introduced. Inspired by the Jeep, its progeny pioneered the luxury SUV category.

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Written by LW

April 30, 2021 at 1:01 am

“Vanity, not love, has been my folly”*…

 

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When a DMV customer wanted to supposedly express his affection for his two children, Kyle and Sean, he applied for a vanity plate that read “KYLSEAN.” A sharp-eyed DMV staffer reviewing the proposed plate quickly raised an alarm. “Kill Sean!” he scrawled on the side of the application. Request denied.

KylSean was one of 20,000 requests for personalized plates that the California DMV received that month; nearly 250,000 were fielded by the department in 2018. Applicants are required to fill out a form listing the personalized plate they desire, along with a brief explanation as to why they want it. Whether or not the plate sees the light of day falls to a panel of four beleaguered bureaucrats, who weed through the slush pile and ferret out requests that are racist, tawdry, or otherwise offensive. It’s a tougher job than you might think. Ever since vanity plates were introduced in 1972, Californians have tried sneaking all manner of sly euphemisms and overt obscenities past the department’s guardians of civility…

As one of the most diverse states in the Union, California contains an expansive lexicon of offensive, lewd, and inappropriate words and cultural references. (Californians speak at least 220 languages—that’s 220 different ways to say “poop.”) But armed with Google Translate, Wikipedia, and Urban Dictionary, the DMV’s sentries gamely manage to weed out profanity in multiple languages, coded Nazi symbolism, and obscure internet acronyms…

Los Angeles Magazine obtained thousands of rejected applications via an official records act request.  See a few of the more brazen, creative, and accidentally provocative plates, complete with the applicant’s explanation and the DMV’s deadpan response: “Rejected Vanity Plates: inside the important job of keeping poop puns, dick jokes, and hate speech off California’s roadways.”

* Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

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As we keep it civil, we might spare a thought for André Jules Michelin; he died on this date in 1931.  Co-founder, with his brother Édouard, of the Michelin Tire Company (Compagnie Générale des Établissements Michelin) in 1888, he earned a place in the Automotive Hall of Fame for creating the first pneumatic tires that could be easily removed for repair (for bicycles in 1891 and for automobiles in 1895), and for introducing tire tread patterns, low-pressure balloon tires, and steel-cord tires.

Anxious to promote tourism by car, André created a tourist guide organization which placed milestones on French roads and established a standard road map service for most of Europe.  He created The Green Guide, a gazatteer and inventory of sites and attractions.  And with  Curnonsky (Maurice Edmond Sailland), he created The Red Guide, with hotel and restaurant ratings… all of which remain in operation– and in heavy use by tourists– today.

220px-André_Michelin_1920 source

 

Written by LW

April 4, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Some people call it global warming; some people call it climate change. What is the difference?”*…

 

The Battle of Terheide.

Climate change has had, and probably will have, very unequal consequences for different groups of people. We often assume that developed societies will fare better in a warmer future than the developing world. Yet the Dutch thrived in the 17th century not simply because their republic was rich, but because much of its wealth derived from activities that benefited from climate change.

Today, we can learn from the republic by strengthening social safety nets, investing in technologies that exploit or reduce climate change, and thinking proactively about how we will adapt to the planet of our future. It just so happens that much of the federal government in the United States is abandoning these policies, but there are more optimistic stories at the state and municipal levels, and there is exciting news coming out of China and India…

Compared to the climate change we’re experiencing now, the Little Ice Age — which chilled the globe from the 13th to the 19th century — was modest. “The world has already warmed more, relative to mid-20th-century temperature averages, than it cooled in the chilliest stretches of the Little Ice Age,” says Dagomar Degroot, a historian at Georgetown University. “And there is much more warming to come.”

In his new book, “The Frigid Golden Age,” Degroot argues that the Little Ice Age– and more specifically, the Dutch experience of the period–  has a lot to teach present-day societies about coping with climate change.  He summarizes his findings at: “When the World Was Cold.”

* Frank Luntz, Republican pollster and political consultant

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As we beat the heat, we might recall that it was on this date in 1955, at General Motors cars how in Detroit, that G. M. engineer William G. Cobb unveiled the “Sunmobile”– a 15-inch prototype of an electric car powered by the sun, the first working solar-powered car.

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Written by LW

August 31, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Our inventions mirror our secret wishes”*…

 

Try your hand at recognizing products from the diagrams, like the one above, submitted with their patent applications: from the collection in the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History, “Can You Guess the Invention Based on These Patent Illustrations?

* Lawrence Durrell

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As we turn up the tinkering, we might spare a thought for Freelan Oscar Stanley; he died on this date in 1940.  Working with his twin brother Francis, Stanley developed (in 1883) a dry plate photographic process, and started the very successful Stanley Dry Plate Company (sold to Eastman Kodak in 1905).

But Stanley and his brother are bettered remembered for their second enterprise, the Stanley Motor Company. The brothers began working on steam powered cars in 1897, and built thousands of them them until the 1920s.  At racing events, The Stanley Steamer often competed successfully against gasoline powered cars; indeed, in 1906, it set a world record for fastest mile (28.2 seconds, at a speed of 127 mph).

It’s worth observing that Freelan Stanley shares his passing date with Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot, who died on this date in 1804.  In 1769, Cugnot, a military engineer, invented the world’s first fuel-propelled vehicle–a gun tractor commissioned by the French government.  The following year he produced the first mechanically-driven “horseless carriage”; his steam tricycle, driven by a steam engine, carried four passengers and was the forerunner of the modern motor car– and more specifically, of the Stanley Brothers’ Steamers.

The Stanley Twins, Freelan back/right

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Written by LW

October 2, 2015 at 1:01 am

From scratch…

 

The 1961 series II Aston Martin DB4 is a certified classic.  So it’s no surprise that Ivan Sentch would want to create a scratch-built replica… but what is surprising is that, while he’s building the car on the platform of a Nissan Skyline GTS25T, he’s creating the Aston Martin body entirely with a 3D printer.

Ivan’s progress to date…

Read the background at Autopia, and follow Ivan’s progress on his blog.

[DB4 photo, via Bonham’s; Ivan’s body, via his blog)

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As we make room on the dashboard for the ejector button, we might send delighted birthday greetings to Peter Hodgson; he was born on this date in 1912.  An advertising and marketing consultant, Hodgson introduced Silly Putty to the world.  As The New York Times recounted in his obituary,

The stuff had been developed by General Electric scientists in the company’s New Haven laboratories several years earlier in a search for a viable synthetic rubber. It was obviously not satisfactory, and it found its way instead onto the local cocktail party circuit.

That’s where Mr. Hodgson, who was at the time writing a catalogue of toys for a local store, saw it, and an idea was born.

“Everybody kept saying there was no earthly use for the stuff” he later recalled. “But I watched them as they fooled with it. I couldn’t help noticing how people with busy schedules wasted as much as 15 minutes at a shot just fondling and stretching it”.

“I decided to take a chance and sell some. We put an ad in the catalogue on the adult page, along with such goodies as a spaghetti-making machine. We packaged the goop in a clear compact case and tagged it at $1.00”.

Having borrowed $147 for the venture, Mr. Hodgson ordered a batch from General Electric, hired a Yale student to separate the gob into one ounce dabs and began filling orders. At the same time he hurried to get some trademarks.

Silly Putty was an instant success, and Mr. Hodgson quickly geared up to take advantage of it…

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Written by LW

August 15, 2013 at 1:01 am

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