Archive for the ‘ Cars ’ Category

One of The Whiz Kids

It’s a car thing.  I love them, I love talking about them, I love driving them; I’m just a car guy.

On November 9, 1960, Robert McNamara became the first non-Ford family member to become the head of Ford Motor Company.

Business Week Cover

That’s a pretty big deal, the Fords were a tight outfit!

Prior to that, he served the country during World War II as Lt. Col in the US Army Air Force.  After the war, in 1946, Tex Thornton, his colonel, culled the best officers from his AAF Control operation to start a business. McNamara was in that group.

Thornton read an article in Life Magazine that claimed Ford Motor Company was in “dire need” of help, and Henry Ford II, also a vet from WW II hired Thornton’s group to restructure the company.

They shook things UP, changed policy and procedure, and asked so many questions, they earned the nickname of “The Quiz Kids”.

I’m sure there were others; but no one’s talkin’.

Ford was bleeding cash at that time, and the Whiz Kids worked on the outfit’s less than modern system of organization, management, control systems, and planning.

Rebranding themselves as “The Whiz Kids”, they backed UP their new name with results.

McNamara moved UP quickly from manager of planning and financial analysis to several top-drawer assignments.

Falcon

His innovative thinking helped Ford enter the compact race with the Ford Falcon, which became a hit.

McNamara and the 1959 Ford Line UP

He also pushed safety as a car concept.

He created the “Lifeguard” package of options which introduced the seat-belt (my sister just quit reading now, and has a new villain) which was a “novelty” at the time.  It also included a steering wheel design that prevented the driver from being impaled in an accident.

But, a month after his appointment to the top job at Ford, newly elected JFK came calling, and McNamara was tapped to be the eighth secretary of defense.

As Secy of Defense

McNamara remains the longest serving Secretary of Defense.  He stayed in the job for seven years, working for both JFK and LBJ.

He became more and more controversial in the mid 60s, and his clashes with LBJ and most notably, the Joint Chiefs of Staff over Viet Nam became headlines.

His suggestions that the US freeze troop size, stop bombing North Viet Nam, and relinquish the fighting on the ground to the South Vietnamese nationals were “rejected outright” by LBJ.

A few days later, November 29, he announced his resignation stating he’d accepted the Presidency of the World Bank.

McNamara went on to accomplish much more at the bank and in his retirement, but will forever be associated with the escalation and de-escalation of the Southeast Asian Conflict.

But, in reality, he was a car guy.

See The USA…

…in a Chevrolet, still rings in my head from old commercials.

But, on November 3, 1911, this guy…

Louis Chevrolet

Louis Chevrolet

…a Swiss born, American race car driver, and this guy…

William Durant

William Durant

…an American businessman and car maker, started this…

Chevrolet

,,,which became this…

Bowtie

… and gave us wonderful things like this…

1960 Chevrolet Impala

…so we can drive around and see things like this…

Mt. Rushmore

…and this…

Grand Canyon

…aren’t you glad?

We were…

Paul David and Kitty Tom

That’s me UP there in front of our 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air.  Kitty Tom was not amused.

Dodging The Issue

I love cars.

Really, the freedom they provide sunk in at the ripe old age of 16.

I can’t work on them, fix them, and I don’t even sell them, but I do like them and especially their history.

There is a series of new Dodge Commercials running (for reasons I’ll not go into, I’m rather nostalgic about Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep/Ram today) that may sell cars, but skirt the truth a tad.

This one lets us in on the fact that the Dodge Brothers  – who started Dodge Brother Company – were outsiders.

True and not so true. They were automotive insiders who started making transmission for Olds and parts for Ford.

They were societal outsiders, new money, crass, and wild. They were referred to as “crude and aggressive”, and the Detroit of the early 1900s wasn’t ready for them.

Detroit society deemed Horace the lesser of the two evils, he married UP – well, not UP, but up – his wife was educated, cultured, and musical.

John on the other hand was even more crude, had a wild temper, and became influential in Republican politics.

Detroit may not have been ready for the Dodge Brothers, but they were ready for their money!

Selling their stock in Ford Motor Company back to Henry Ford when he stopped paying dividends, the Dodge Brothers suddenly had 25 million bucks – in 1919.

The commercial above and others lead us to believe that Horace and John Dodge created the Dodge we know today.

Well, not so much.  Sure, they were premier truck makers, selling trucks to the Army, bread companies, and the like, but the Charger, the Challenger, and the Durango wouldn’t come along until long after the Dodge brothers were both gone.

John died in January of 1920 after contacting influenza in the same pandemic that nearly took out Lady Cora over at Downton Abbey.

John

Horace died in December that same year.  Some say from grief at losing his brother, John, to whom he was very close, others say it was cirrhosis.

Horace

Either way, the Dodge Brothers were no more. After a brief try at running the company with faithful friends of the brothers, their widows sold out to Walter Chrysler for $125 million.

The commercials are designed to make you feel great about the American heritage and legacy of Dodge. They are great and they may sell cars, but they Dodge the issue. Dodges aren’t Dodges, they’re Fiats.

It Only Takes A Spark…

When I arrived at the Dayton Airport last Friday, I breezed my way to baggage claim, found my CarMax blue bag in a flash and dashed on over to Dollar Rent A Car where I had a prepaid via Travelocity transport waiting.

Or so I thought.

When it got there, it was like the scene from The Outoftowners with Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin.

We have cars

You may remember it, they get to the car rental place, the sign says We Have Cars, but they don’t.

Well, it was deja vu all over again!

The Dollarette behind the counter told me it would be 2 to 3 hours before they had cars, and if I’d take a seat, they’d call my cel number.

To quote the late Whitney Houston, “Oh, hell no!”

As I pondered what to do, knowing full well I didn’t have two to three hours, the Enterprise girl looked alluringly at me so I dashed over, and asked what she could offer me that the Dollarette couldn’t.

She had a car.

Well, half a car.

I let her abuse my Visa card, called Travelocity for a refund from the Dollar people, and followed the yellow line to the rental car place…honestly, the Dayton airport isn’t that big, I could see the rental cars from the door…and arrived where Brandon greeted me and walked me to my Valley View Blue Chevy Spark!

Spark

I said, “Where’s the rest of it?”.

To which he replied, “Hey, it’s a four door.”

Well, that made all the difference in the world.

Not having time to argue, friends and family were awaitin’, I signed the paper work, threw the luggage into the “back seat”, and drove off.

Oddly enough, the carette was roomy on the inside.

Inside the spark

Interstate driving was, what’s the word, terrifying, yeah, that’s it, and I got more than my share of stares. The smooth ride of a Chevrolet was not present.

But, A. it did the trick.

B. it got 38.4 miles per gallon.

And, after-all, it got me to the Fish on time!

Oh, and it was easy to park!