No. 951
June 20, 2018

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Good luck with that.

Judging by recent articles, it seems that Ford CEO Jim Hackett is spending much of his time on the plans for Ford's new campus at the Michigan Central Station. Ford is making glowing statements about how this will attract young professionals to work at Ford, rather than Silicon Valley — good luck with that.

GE's Jeff Immelt made similar pronouncements when he spent hundreds millions to relocate the GE headquarters from Connecticut to Boston. How'd that work out for GE? Well, it seems that Immelt should have spent more time on the nitty-gritty of GE's business, rather than relocating the headquarters, as he was out the door not long after.

I think this move by Ford isn't as bad as Cadillac's move to Manhattan, but I doubt it will do anything to move the needle on their business. I think that Ford would be better off if the executives spent their time on the car business, rather than on urban redevelopment.

Boston, Massachusetts


Ultimate Pony Car.

The new BMW 850 appears to share it's DNA with the Ford Mustang. And, it's got a V-8. I'll bet it probably has IRS as well. “The Ultimate Pony Car”!

Rick S.
Baltimore, Maryland

German Mustang.

Sorry, I'm not impressed with the design of the new BMW 8 Series. I have always thought of German brands as leaders, not followers. But this new 8 Series may change my mind… it's a Mustang with a BMW nose and a Lexus tail. C'mon BMW, you can do better than that...

Rochester, New York


Racing and such.

Your rant about IMSA and French ACO/whatever is but another reason why I rarely watch races anymore. There is nothing about most forms of racing that offer any relevance to vehicles that people aspire to own – neither drivetrain nor chassis or styling.

I will say that the younger 20- and 30-somethings are doing great things with their Japanese tuner cars. There's a guy in my neighborhood with a 2003 Civic coupe that he's turned into a beast. Accord block and head, de-stroked to 2 liters, and put on a turbo the size of a bowling ball. Lord knows what else is in it, but he and his friends have done it all themselves during evenings and weekends. He runs it on E85 and has a dyno sheet showing 700+ HP at the wheels. He takes it drag racing and usually cleans up in his class. Now THAT is racing.

The car looks like a typical rodent Civic. Heck the wheels don't match! In other words, it's perfect. I told him to avoid making it too nice, and of course he won't.

Jim Jones
Cape Flatulence, Missouri


The new BMW M850i.

In other words, the 850i will be a maintenance nightmare when the warranty runs out. I guess that's why people lease most BMWs. My brother is paying through the nose for his BMW post-warranty. If I wanted a Mustang, I would buy the real thing and it would probably be more reliable and it is better looking. And one more thing… 4,478 lbs. You've got to be kidding. Cars are getting way to heavy with all these b.s. options.
J. Prinzivalli
Antioch, California


Time for a change.

The FIA has put the world on notice. It is time for a new/old Can-Am series based in America. Forget about ersatz top of the line unobtainable “production” hyper cars.

Minimize rules, maximize noise!

Rockville, Maryland

Mustang vs. BMW.

Ha – I thought the same thing as soon as I saw the photos of the undisguised new 850i – it's a Mustang GT with 1000 lbs. and $100,000 added. Here's a visual comparison I made up this morning:

Austin Steele
Fullerton, California


Balance of Politics.

WEC is a dying series. Grandstands are mostly only partially filled. Managed competition and cost will drive competitors away. Jumping the shark with a winter series probably won't work.

BoP = Balance of Politics

(BTW, the photo of Le Mans in 1967 indicates pit stops then were a bit more leisurely than today.)

Rochester, New York

The Corpulent Driving Machine.

At 2262lb, the ’68 BMW 2002tii is just a tad over half the weight of the 2019 M850i xDrive: The Corpulent Driving Machine. After fifty years of pursuing superior driving dynamics, they’ve discovered road-hugging weight. And thank you for the (Tom) Pease & “karats!”

Chris Blanchard
Prescott, WIsconsin


Motor City shuffle.

I see a lot of evidence of a lot of people all doubling-down on Detroit, and I guess that's a good thing. But you are correct in wondering if, ultimately, there's any ‘there’ there. But what choice is there? “Detroit” has to fight for domination over transportation, no matter what form it takes. The stakes are too horrible to contemplate, and at least people can say ‘we tried’ if it doesn't work out.

Ford deserves HUGE kudos for having the balls to actually buy Michigan Central Terminal and transform it into a showpiece property. I'm truly awestruck by the vision, the courage and the commitment their decision represents. I know it'll be magnificent when it's done. But then there's the whole rest of the City that needs fixing…

I agree tat the dizzying pace is, well, dizzying. But it's also majorly satisfying, if not downright freak-me-out-I-never-thought-I'd-see-this-in-my-lifetime crazy. One can actually see young couples pushing strollers in Campus Martius at 10:00 at night. Freakin' WEIRD!

As for the Q-Line. It is a great big, giant ‘MEH’, but it was built mostly with private money. And we'll see if it's ever added onto. I think a link from Eastern Market towards Campus Martius might make the thing actually useful. Again, a giant bowl of we'll see, right?

All of this leaves one wondering when the termites will go after the ‘autonomous balsa wood smiley cars’. And do they replace the flatulence-powered clown cars previously predicted? I say let's leave the clown cars to the clowns in Silicon valley.

Motown and Beyond

Editor-in-Chief's Note: Yes, the flatulence-powered clown cars have been superseded by the new-generation autonomous balsa wood smiley cars. Progress! -PMD


Johnny Cabs.

I refer to these autonomous vehicles as “Johnny Cabs” (from the 1990 movie Total Recall). How are the Johnny Cabs supposed to work when our present road infrastructure is so abysmal? Heck, we can't even get the lane stripes repainted on a regular basis. I can't believe the auto companies are so gung ho to assume all the potential liability of these Johnny Cabs. Besides, I like to go where I want, when I want, and on my own. If I don't wish to drive, I'll take the bus or taxi.

D. Miller
Dearborn Heights, Michigan

Time for a change.

When Don Panoz worked with the ACO to bring the series together, I was all for it. But after this years 24 Hours of Le Mans, it is time for the US to do its own thing. This year's Le Mans was a complete sham.

Tucker C.
Richmond, Virginia


Le Mans, etc.

You're too easy on Le Mans. What a BS event it has become. BOP changes at the last possible moment. And it seems that BOP adjustment instead of facilitating competition anoint the chosen for an EZ road to the top; did anyone say Toyota or Porsche? Maximum laps between stops, minimum refueling times. Oh didn't it used to be about innovation?
Really has it come to this? In GTE Pro do they sit around a table and assign who will win this year and for others to await their turn. Not a fantasy thought here. And I have followed the event since at leas 1960.

Hackensack, New Jersey

Editor-in-Chief's Note: Too easy on Le Mans? Hardly. I have been the most vocal critic of the ACO/FIA for years. The ACO/FIA basically determines which teams will be competitive before the races are run. Especially in GTE Pro. The ACO blatantly allowed Ford leeway with the GT to make sure it would either win, or be close in 2016 to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of Ford's first win with the GT in 1966. Hell, the Ford GT didn't even see production until almost eighteen months after the Le Mans win in 2016, which is a blatant disregard for the rules. But then again the French have always made up the rules as they go, and it usually depends on who wants to line their coffers the most which determines where the favors are bestowed. And it is unmitigated bullshit. I've never been a fan of the French controlling racing, and I've never seen the point of American racing interests bowing to them at every turn. And it's time for it to stop. -PMD


A giant "we'll see."

Your description of the QLine was right on! It's refreshing to see the truth in print.Thank goodness there is some sanity in our neighboring county executive offices that resist expanding this white elephant, and the unbelievable waste of money it represents. There are better, cheaper ways to get at the problem (how about a bus system that WORKS?).

And in regard to Ford and it's “urban development project”, it's nice that they are dropping the money on this project and I'm sure it will improve the landscape. It will surely change the area -- but hopefully, not ruin the existing neighborhood culture. I just can't help feeling that Ford is “trying too hard” to prove they are “relevant” in this new autonomous movement. A “new office design layout” will not determine their success or failure in the New Mobility. This remains a big “we'll see”.

Canton, Michigan

Le Mans, back in the day.

Le Mans is a favorite motorsports subject of mine. Nobody told the story better than Steve McQueen. We are all lucky that the movie was made. Le Mans has also always been a favorite of American drivers and car builders from the very beginning. It has always been a race run with ever changing rules and motives but at the end of the day, we still get a good dose of racing. 

Actually, the first race run at Le Mans was the 1921 French Grand Prix. That was the first Grand Prix after World War 1. The FIA decided to set the entrance fee at $4000 per car to keep the Germans out. 30 minutes before the entry deadline, Champion, the French spark plug guy who lived in New York, entered four Duesenbergs. The French were a little bit miffed. Fred Duesenberg hired a former signal core officer to run the team of four cars and drivers. He invented pit communications for this race. They hit Le Mans a month before the race to get ready and to practice. 

About two weeks before the race, Jimmy Murphy, an American driver, lost control of his car trying to avoid a horse and wagon that had strayed onto the course. He was found underneath the car severely injured. Hospitalized since the accident and two hours before the race, Jimmy was taken from the hospital in a full upper body cast and shoe-horned into the No. 12 Duesenberg. White and blue, it was and still is, a beautiful machine. 

Those Duesenbergs were the first race cars with hydraulic brakes. Fred didn't go down to the corner hardware store and buy the parts he needed either. He invented the fluid, the seals and the whole set up. The front brakes apparently were a little too effective at the race course so that problem was solved by breaking an inch off of the brake shoe width with a pair of pliers. Anyway, Jimmy was the first “late-braker” and also, “The King of the Boards”. He ruled the wooden board track scene and those guys were racing at 140 mph a couple of decades before they were at Indy. Jimmy could enter into the corners at a far greater speed than the competition with those superior brakes and along with 
Mechanican andhis racing skills, took over the lead. 

This was a tough, physically brutal race and race course. The roads had areas covered with rocks as big as your fist. If you look at the cars, they had rock screens instead of windshields but those babys were fast. Jimmy won with a lap speed of about 85 miles per hour. He had a hole in his radiator the size of your fist, the engine was white hot and he had two flat tires. Jimmy knew that if he kept his speed up, he would ride on his side walls so he wouldn't stop to change them. He won by 15 minutes. The French were so pissed-off that they refused to play the National Anthem as was already the custom. Ballot, a French competitor was said to be livid and demanded the rules be changed so that in order to win, your car had to be able to be entered into the next race with no repairs. That didn't float. Murphy and Robertson, the team manager went to the awards banquet that evening and entered just in time to see the third place Frenchman toasted first. They turned around and walked out. Some say that there was an altercation, others say that they just headed to the nearest French restaurant and ate a big dinner of ham and eggs. 

Anyway, take comfort in a couple of things. The FIRST race of the “modern era”, the 1921 French Grand Prix, was won by an American, Jimmy Murphy with Ernie Olsen as his Mechanican and they were driving an American car. Technically, that means that the first Le Mans race was ALSO won by an American driving an American car because they were both run on the same track. Dan Gurney was gracious enough to start acknowledging that changing his claim to being the first American to win Le Mans, to him being the second after Jimmy Murphy. What's best though is the Grand Prix/F1 driver with the highest winning percentage of all time is also an American: Jimmy Murphy. He won the 1921 French Grand Prix and placed third at the 1923 Italian Grand Monza, His winning percentage? 500. Jimmy purchased that No. 12 Duesenberg using $6000 of his $35000 cash prize for winning the French Grand Prix. He then put a Harry Miller built engine in it and won the 1922 Indianapolis 500. The No. 12 Duesenberg is in the Indianapolis 500 Museum. It is considered to be the most valuable car in the world being the only one to win both a Grand Prix and a Indianapolis 500. Its estimated value is $65 to $70 Million. By the way, that same Miller engine in Jimmy's car is a lot like that Offenhauser that they were running at Indy up until 1985. That's because Fred was Harry's chief machinist and they are basically the same engines....

Detroit, Michigan


Just watchin' the wheels spin 'round and 'round.

It is fun to watch the wheels spin round & round. 40 years ago Henry Ford II basked in the glow of his $300 Million Renaissance Center. 20 years ago Jack Smith & GM took the Tubes off Ford’s hands for $100 Million.

Now Bill Ford is spending big on Mobility, while the Ford World Headquarters is looking a little dated.

Not sure that I’ll be around for the next rebirth.

Chuck S.
Royal Oak, Michigan


In on the cheap?

St. Louis is adding an “entertainment” urban trolley system that travels from a heavily restaurant, artsy commercial area to the history museum in Forest Park, home of the 1904 World's Fair. On the low down, $51m has been spent so far to install 2.1 miles of dedicated trolley tracks. Two cars of the three total have been delivered and, so far, have been towed around the route by HD pickup trucks to “make sure there is enough clearance”. Every time a snag develops and additional $500k or so is needed to keep the wheels rolling. The line will not become operational until the third car is delivered in order to have a spare to avoid service interruptions. Looks like we got in on the cheap compared to Motor City. Maybe we had fewer fingers in the pie? On a similar note, why didn't they consider trolley replicas based on the available electric or hybrid medium duty truck chassis? You could still make them go Clang, Clang, Clang. More versatility and expand-ability versus dedicated rails, no or near-zero emissions, and not having to work with relic trams. The ones being used in St. Louis came from Germany.

Fred McKenna 
St. Louis, Missouri