V&R Stories: Preview of a Winter’s Tale

State Street, Madison 1
Photo by Randy Stern

Part of being there is getting there.

A destination is only a place – Point B, if you will. While you are at Point A, considerations are made to make sure you get to the other side of the journey.

The automobile is motivation. Yet, it requires work. The work that is physical and mental at the same time. This work is not trivial. It is routine, but entertained by different vistas – if you venture beyond the familiar.

As Victory & Reseda, most of my journeys have been within familiar territory. The hub of the Twin Cities gave me access to vast miles of highway in a terrain that is dictated by the climate. It takes about a few hours – at least – to get somewhere really different. Madison, Fargo, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Sioux Falls are examples of “different.” By now, they are familiar. Before 2000, these places were not on my radar. By now, each one has been visited at least once.

Every year, I try to go somewhere unfamiliar. Continue reading

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My Favorite Mopars of All Time

All Photos by Randy Stern

Yes, I am Moparian. You know the story – it’s been told many times on this blog. Why should I epxlain this further?

Because I am a Moparian (by decisions made by a family member that I shall not get into without going into rant mode), it does not mean I am exclusive to the products made by the combined forces of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. I cover every brand sold in the USA for all of my outlets. No questions asked.

However, this blog gives me more freedom to express deeper thoughts and provide some leeway for subject matter. I am also blessed with a readership that is loyal – including some die-hard fellow Moparians and staff at FCA.

It is for those great readers that I dedicate this My Favorites list. However, I have to start somewhere…sixty years back.

Continue reading

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The Speculator: The Avenir of Buick

Buick Avenir Concept - All Photos (c) GM

Buick Avenir Concept – All Photos (c) GM

Considering how careful I was on remotely covering the North American International Auto Show, there was something I probably forgot to mention…

The Buick Avenir concept.

Let me make this clear. I did not forget about the Avenir. It is a lovely looking concept that evokes a specific path for the brand. It won is share of “best of” awards from the show, as well as the praise of the media in attendance at COBO Center.

The issue is the idea of a concept. It has been said before on here how I tend to not go bonkers over them, even if they are close to production. You can show me a look, but when it comes to production, there might be some loss in translation in the design. Some aspects of the design might be too costly to produce on the assembly line. The technology might not be available for the first pre-production units when they are looked at by the media.

Most of all, that tinge of disappointment when the final product arrives. It is frustrating to the consumer when the promise of a work of automotive art gets so watered down

A few concepts did translate well into production. Continue reading

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V&R Stories: Being a “Zipster”

Zipcar 002
All Photos by Randy Stern

The push for personal sustainability may have been thwarted. Or, has it?

At the onset of a new year, some communities across the USA are seeing something they have not seen in a very long time: Very low gas pump prices. Pump prices have dipped below $2.00 a gallon in plenty of places – which is either good or bad news, depending on where you sit.

This could be a temporary situation. Traditionally, gas prices start to climb sometime after the first of the year. Enjoy it, while you can!

For a non-car owner, it will not affect them. They already pay fluctuating ride costs when they tap on their Uber or Lyft app. Public transit has already set fares to recoup their own fuel and operations costs. Taxis are not going to lower fares, either.

Car sharing operations are in the same state of flux. Who knows what the price of gas will be next week…or month? They have a set rate per hour – or minute – and their subscribers know how to work the system of the service they use.

In these days of temporary gas price relief, is car sharing still relevant?

Continue reading

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V&R Stories: Looming on the Dream Horizon for 2015

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 5
Photo by Randy Stern

Winter is the time of pondering.

Up in the cold of Minnesota, dreams are what we have to hold on to. Dreams of warmer days, fun outdoors and to go places to follow the sun. We yearn for those times when we can do exactly that. We also wish for the sub-zero temps, wind chills and snow to magically disappear.

This time of staying indoors helped in plotting out vehicles I would love to drive for 2015. Compared to when I first got serious about this work to now, the list of “dream cars” have been narrowed. I have not drove everything, but it would be great if I did.

Yet, the list keeps on growing. New entries tantalize and excite at every turn. Experiential moments evoke the desire to accomplish something special. Some readers – you included – will get a chance to experience it along with me.

What am I talking about? How about a list of vehicles I have yet to drive – and would like to for you this year? Which one should I start with? Ummm… Continue reading

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Detroit 2015: Just My Headlines

Ford GT Concept - Photo courtesy of The Ford Motor Company

Ford GT Concept – Photo courtesy of The Ford Motor Company

Here’s the deal: One of my freelance clients asked me to get credentialed for the 2015 North American International Auto Show. I received my credentials, however I was unable to get the funds for travel to do so. Long story…I rather not get into it.

However, that does not preclude me from covering the show. Technology is a wonderful thing that allows me to do so from the comfort of my own office. It might not be the same as being on the floor of Cobo Center, but it will have to do.

From the office in Robbinsdale, here are my headlines from Detroit…

Continue reading

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Commentary: The Balance of Social Media, Life and Automotive Enthusiasm

Social Media 2015
Photo by Randy Stern

The calendar is right – it is a new year!

A new year means new adventures. Not just in physical new adventures, but to do written ones. You may never know what the world will dish out to influence a story – or several.

As we settle into 2015, expect a lot of related material that pertains to not only the automobile, but to its culture. For example…how do we connect as a Carmmunity?

Social networking and media is old hat, by now. It built communities – carmmuniies, to be specific -through technology unlike anytime in our history. It also breaks down barricades between us and expands the possibilities of human connectivity.

However, has our personal social media strategy replaced real honest-to-God friendships? How much of it has imitated life?

The fast answer to these questions is simple: Continue reading

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Historiography: The Call of The American Road

Riding with MNSubarus - IGH-Red Wing RT
All photos by Randy Stern

As drivers, we yearn for the open road.

Thousands of miles of paved ribbons are laid out as an Etch-O-Sketch from Maine to Hawaii, Alaska to Florida. A car lover knows that these are mere points on the map worth exploring when the opportunity becomes available.

These roads we know today have been here for decades. At least the original road that would be superseded many times thanks to progress. In some cases, these roads existed before the invention of the automobile – traversed by horse, human beings and other animals. They may have laid down by the indigenous population before the arrival of the colonizers. Roads that still are traveled today, but unrecognizable to the ancestry.

The trails laid down by our ancestors did create a network of roads to be passed by all who have followed the blazers. When you start putting anything with wheels – covered wagons and stagecoaches, for example – then one would consider ways to make them safe for the next wagon train.

Continue reading

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V&R Analysis: The Sales Ticker for 2014

2014 Ford F-150 XLT 4WD SuperCrew
Photo by Randy Stern

The sales numbers are in! Let’s see who made out big in 2014…

First off, General Motors sold the most of any manufacturer in the USA. The final tally came to over 2.9 million units sold across all brands – over two million of them were Chevrolets. However, the Bowtie’s numbers were not enough to take the title of top selling automotive brand in the USA. That would be Ford with 2.37 million units leaving the lots. Toyota also sold over two million cars, trucks and utilities by its brand alone.

Ford Motor Company’s total came to 2.47 million, with Toyota Motor Sales USA and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles also selling over two million units across their respective brands. Among luxury brands, BMW sold the most in the USA with over 335,000 units, followed by Mercedes-Benz and Lexus – both selling more than 300,000 units each.

From these numbers alone, they came as no surprise. The pundits have said that we would expect a huge sales year across the board as the economy still continues to improve. Trucks still remain the backbone of sales, while mid-sized sedans and compacts still make up the heart of the passenger car market. However, it would be the compact crossovers and SUV segment that made the biggest inroads in terms of sales growth and market share. The top eight entrants in this segment had year-over-year sales growth – some with double digit gains.

We have seen these patterns unfold. Continue reading

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Commentary: The Lost Language of The Written Word

Intermedia Arts 4
My pre-automotive hack life…reading at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis, May 23, 2007. Photo provided to Victory & Reseda

How could understanding language help in writing about the automobile?

Eight years ago, I attended a writer’s group here in Minneapolis. As a part of this group, we got a chance to listen to other writers as they share out their craft with other fellow writers. It is also a place where I can try out new things and hear feedback on whether I am on the right track or not.

There was one particular meeting that proved to be a pivotal point what would become the work you are reading now. I read three new pieces for the first time and received what I consider to be a common feedback for my work. I was writing poetry back then – if you believe that an automotive writer would venture into such a genre.

Compared to most poetry, I did not use flowery or oblique language. This is often the reason why many people shy away from poetry at first. People who have either read my work or listened to it often come away with a complete comprehension of the poem and can relate in direct language and normal terms what the poem is all about.

I was encouraged by this at the time. Continue reading

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