March 30, 2008
The other day we were talking about Disney and Pixar’s animated film Cars. I love that the film is not just another cartoon but an expression and record of culture, the American car culture.In being a film expressing culture it is inspired by the car culture.In making it they could have easily chose to create generic cartoon cars but they chose to use real and historical cars.Here are a few of the inspirations for the film.
The mountain range making up the landscape surrounding Radiator City was clearly inspired by the the famous Cadillac Ranch located in Amarillo, Texas along the classic Route 66. The creators buried 1949 to 1963 Cadillacs so their rear halves pointed out to the skys. The point was to emphasize the beauty of the chrome and fins era in which the cars were made.
The Cozy Cone motel came from the wigwam motels also along Route 66 with the closest one in San Bernardino, CA.
The cars and characters were also inspired. “The King” character was based on the famous NASCAR 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner driven by Richard Petty. Petty himself even supplied the voice for “the King.”
Doc Hudson was characterized in resembliance to the Fabulous Hudson Hornet which is from the legendary winning car of the early years of NASCAR. The voice was provided by Hollywood car guy Paul Newman. Newman himself was also a race car driver.
It is also worth mention that the name of the main character Lightening McQueen. Steve McQueen was also a Hollywood car guy and a skilled motorcycle racer. McQueen starred in and did much of the stunt driving in Bullitt which contains one of the greatest car chases filmed.
February 21, 2008
The other day I got to witness the birth of a newly independent nation on the other side of the Earth when Kosovo announced its independence from Serbia and the parades and celebrations of its people filled the streets. The images of the joy and celebration were especially touching. To be able to see and share in the excitement of that population’s first taste of liberty after fighting for it so long for it allowed me to live in a small way what is so deeply important to our character as a people.
Watching the news on the television and seeing the large colorful photographs on the front pages of the newspapers for the next couple of days brought hope for the young democracy moving to the brighter future they have longer for and a reminiscence of our own history fighting for what is right and free. The images brought to mind old photographs of the celebrations within this nation after fighting for what was most precious to Americans in wars such as World War I and World War II.
The images of Kosovo’s celebrating were very bright and filled with red both on television and in the headlines. The red came from the flags being waved: the flag of their providence, their new nation and of the United States. It brought me warmth and peace to see our flags being waved by the hands of those excited and newly free people. At a time when the world seems to be against America it is nice to see our flag is still cherished by those who truly love freedom and
justice, by those who fully understand
the value of it having lived without it.
The headline that was my favorite was the one announcing America’s support for the new nation proving that America remains a friend to those who value freedom and is willing to defend those friends. The day we are no longer friends to those and are unwilling to defend them is the day we cease to be America. O’ we may still be The United States of America and we may still be called “Americans” but we would no longer truly be Americans.
February 9, 2008
It appears we are entering a new era of horsepower wars in the American automotive industry. I welcome it. It is bringing back a competitive nature to the industry reminiscent to the glory days of the horsepower wars of the sixties.
Many of the elements of today’s industry are just the revival and rejuvenation of the things of old. Chrysler has bought back the Hemi. V-8s that were recently reserved for trucks and SUVs are returning to their homes in family sedans and midsized cars. Chevy has plans to return to rear wheel drive on the many of their cars. The Camaro is fighting its way back into existence.
Good things are to come and you can see it in the competitive air within the industry. They say competition is the mother of invention and it has been proven time and time again as surges in technology and knowledge accompany all our major wars.
A competitive spirit leads to experimentation and discovery, and in the fifties and sixties it gave us a generation of mad scientists each working to squeeze out more horses, more torque and more speed then the next. And in the time before insurance difficulties, legalities, government restrictions, the oil crisis and environmentalism horsepower and speed thrived. (The Hairy Olds pictured here is an excellent example of some of the mad experimentation taking place. It was all wheel drive with two blown 425’s, one powering the front the other the back.)
It was a time when the family sedan could also be used to pull trees. It was a time when buyers got more then what they paid for (rather then less). The automakers were notorious for selling you a car that had an advertised “300hp” but in reality had much more.
I recently heard that a cable automotive show decided to build exact replicas of a few of the greatest engines of the sixties and dyno test them to find their true horsepower numbers. These engines from the sixties were sold with horsepower ratings in the 400s and 500s. When put on the dyno they proved to have horsepower ranging from the 500hp to approaching 800hp. Proving the long time suspicion that American car buyers of the sixties were getting more than what they paid for.
Today the industry seems to be returning to its competitive ways. They still have the restrictions of fuel economy, insurance costs and smog laws and so that is where the experimentations are being made by today’s scientists. They may not be the mad scientists of yesteryear but are instead geniuses of perfection and invention. They have worked to make the great massive Hemi more efficient than ever before. At Chevy they are using Displacement on Demand and they have supercharged the Corvette giving the “everyman’s sports car” the “700hp” it needs to feed on the expensive European super machines, at a fraction of the price. It’s only going to get better!