Commentary: Cars vs. Crossovers…and The Debate Itself

2018 Lexus RX 350L
All Photos by Randy Stern

Reality is setting in. Not a lot of us are liking it.

The headline that has been on auto-repeat for the past few years has been the proliferation of the SUV/Crossover. They have been ruling the new car lots becoming volume leaders above mere mortal sedans, coupes, hatchbacks, minivans, and wagons. Manufacturers are banking on these family vehicles by supplanting slow-selling sedans, etc. with SUV/Crossover models.

According to you, this is unacceptable. You want cars.

You are angry that Mitsubishi slapped the Eclipse name on a compact SUV/Crossovera pretty good one, by the way. You are angry that the next Chevrolet Blazer will not be able to follow a Jeep Wrangler onto an off-road park.

The latest slap in the face of the car was a recent report by Automotive News that Ford will introduce their own “ruggedized wagon” that will compete with the Subaru Outback – and call it the Fusion. That’s OK, Ford is already paring down the Focus lineup to a single ruggedized model built in China positioned against Subaru’s Crosstrek. I know you’re angry about these issues, too! You’re cherished Focus ST and RS have been swept aside for an Active model.

Moreover, you are angry that you have to share the road with an SUV/Crossover because they are in your way from having a little fun.

I feel your anger. Continue reading

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On The Dial: Songs of The Summer

Photo by Randy Stern

Listening to summer songs on the radio – what a novel idea!

It was. It still is.

Think about those summer road trips you took when you were younger. Radio was the source of those summer songs. They remind you of where you were going and the memories on the journey back.

What makes a radio-friendly summer song? One would go immediately to a station playing “the hits” – namely, songs from Billboard’s Top 200 singles. At least, the top 40 of those 200.

Back in the 1950s through the 1970s, Pop music was radio gold. The AM dial made it convenient for one to flip from the news to the ballgame and to the Pop radio station. FM added stereo sound and higher fidelity of the music. Today, “hit radio” has been sub-divided and muted, thanks to Satellite radio and music files.

Still, there is still talk of summer songs. The music press stirs it up. The listener yearns for it. Radio stations program them, while others blog about it.

What are those summer songs? I have a few selections from my cranial Rolodex…shall I list them out?

Continue reading

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The “Old Car Show” in Central Wisconsin

IOLA '18
All Photos by Randy Stern

I know you’re curious, but let’s ask the question: what is Iola?

Iola is an “old car show” located east of Stevens Point, Wisconsin that includes various locations for vehicles, swap meet vendors and celebrity appearances. According to the organizers, the show attracts about 120,000 people over the course of three days, with 2,200 show cars on display, 4,200 swap meet spots, 1,600 campsites available for visitors and participants, and 1,000 car corrals. All of this located on 300 acres of Central Wisconsin land.

One of the major aspects to Iola is the celebrity appearances during the weekend. These celebrity appearances include Henry Winkler (Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli on “Happy Days”), Cristy Lee (television presenter of “Barrett-Jackson Live” and “All Girls Garage”), Bogi Lateiner (“Bogi’s Garage”), Rachel De Barros (“All Girls Garage”), Gene Winfield (“Kings of Kustoms”), RingBrothers (Custom car builders and parts suppliers), KC Mathieu (KC’s Paint Shop), Butch Patrick (Eddie Munster on “The Munsters”), and Jo Coddington (motorsports personality)…among others.

Iola had been on my radar for quite some time. Continue reading

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My Favorite Cars I Never Got To Drive

Eurowerks 2015
All Photos by Randy Stern

That list of vehicles I have never driven keeps on getting smaller and smaller.

The benefit of this work is to experience access to some of the finest automobiles in the world (have I said that before?). And, some that are just ordinary (is this considered a put-down? Oh, my bad…).

The toughest thing to compile are vehicles that I have never got the chance to experience – rather, to drive. Missed opportunities for vehicles that may have meant something in my memory bank – not just for experience sake.

What are those vehicles? Let’s see if I can compile a My Favorites list of missed opportunities in vehicular experiences. Would it be better if I called “vehicles that I never got the chance to drive?”

Let’s get to the list…

Continue reading

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Commentary: For The Love of The Big Cars

2018 Toyota Avalon Limited
All Photos by Randy Stern

Here is something you should know about me…I have a soft spot for big sedans.

Perhaps I always had. Of course, size being relative over the years I enjoyed the large car. My first car was a 227-inch long 1972 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Luxury Sedan. From there, I always enjoyed cars that would be considered “big” by today’s standards – the Ford Taurus, Mercury Sable, Dodge Intrepid, Dodge Charger, Chrysler 300, Toyota Avalon, and so forth.

There is nothing like a big car. They are supreme cruisers – nice ride with plenty of power to go anywhere. Room for five, but more importantly – room for me behind the wheel. Of course, I was bigger during those days.

As a kid, I never thought of cars being small. Continue reading

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Historiography: The Malaise Era

Spring Dust Off Show
All Photos by Randy Stern

Merriam-Webster defines the word “malaise” as follows:

1: an indefinite feeling of debility or lack of health often indicative of or accompanying the onset of an illness

2: a vague sense of mental or moral ill-being

In the automotive context, the word “malaise” recognizes these definitions but uses them to describe an era of decline in engineering, design, and execution. In America, the “malaise” era described a period where the industry acquiesced to new Federal standards in emissions controls and vehicular safety, several engineering-based measurements by the Society of Automotive Engineers, and a challenge by oil producers outside these shores regarding access to petroleum products.

These themes should be familiar to you – as they often appear in the Historiography column. Continue reading

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My Favorite Places to Stay – Part 2

All Photos by Randy Stern

When on business, you end up being sequestered in a hotel. Sometimes, that is not a bad thing.

In fact, it is a good thing. When you check into a fantastic hotel, you want to do as much as you can. You get superb service, a clean room, plenty of amenities, and a comfortable bed. That is all you want, right?

The last time I compiled a My Favorites Hotel list in 2016, I pretty much concentrated on just five of them. However, the list has bene growing a lot lately. Recent trips introduced me to places that simply wowed me.

Come and stay with me…but, you better get your own room!

Continue reading

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My Favorite USA Destinations – Part 2

All Photos by Randy Stern

I do love to travel – that is, when I can.

A couple of years ago, I began a list of of my favorite destinations. I limited the list to five: Austin, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; Los Angeles, California; and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. There was one honorable mention of Fargo, North Dakota.

These six would be sufficient, right? Well, no. I have been to more places that were listed here. Most places I have not been in years – let alone, decades. Still, their fondness sometimes comes up in discussions and memories on social media.

Let me dig deep into my memory bank and talk about another set of my favorite destinations. Places I may not have been in a while – or, recently visited with positive vibes – and go from there. Or, maybe I should go back…

Here’s the list… Continue reading

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V&R Stories: My Partner and The Car Buying Experience

All Photos by randy Stern

My partner bought a car recently.

As much as I try not to embarrass Jason, I figured I’d discuss the happiness he has with this purchase, but also some cautionary tales regarding the car purchasing process.

Before we discuss what Jason bought and the machinations that went into the process and aftermath, we should explain how he got to this point.

The plan was to replace his 1999 Mercury Mystique, which he had for several years in both Madison and his current home of Mukwonago, Wisconsin outside of Waukesha and Milwaukee. The gold/beige colored four-door sedan was once the upscale version of the global Ford Mondeo for North America. It belonged to his late mother before Jason inherited the car after her passing. All told, it had 200,000 miles on the odometer with major brake service looming for it.

The Mystique served Jason well. Continue reading

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Commentary: The New Chevrolet Blazer and The Future of the Crossover/SUV

2019 Chevrolet Blazer Premier – Photo courtesy of General Motors

You know what they say: “just when you least expect it…”

At a private media event in Atlanta, Chevrolet rolled out their latest addition to its lineup of SUVs and crossovers. It was an ongoing rumor that the nameplate would return, but it speculated that it would be a capable SUV built off of the Colorado’s pickup truck platform…

We were half-right.

Continue reading

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