Historiography: The Holidays, 1972

1972 Ford Torino
A symbol of a world in transition (1972 Ford Gran Torino coupe) – All Photos by Randy Stern

Forty-five years ago, we lived in interesting times.

The USA general election produced a landslide victory for incumbent President Richard Nixon. Yet, what laid below the surface was a major scandal that began earlier that year with the break-in at the Watergate Office Building in Washington, DC at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee.

Meanwhile, the USA was still fighting a war in Southeast Asia. Nixon escalated the war effort in 1969, and it was not going well for our troops. Meanwhile, the Olympic games held in Munich, (West) Germany was marred by the attack on the Israeli team by a terrorist group at the athlete’s village.

At home, a major change happened in our family. My father left us. He decided that after 22 years of marriage that he did not want to be a father to my brother and I and a husband to my mother.

Our Holiday season changed. Continue reading

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The Mazda3 vs. Everything and Everyone

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring 5-Door – Photo by Kevin Tran//Media

Let us get this one fact out of the way: the Mazda3 is still the enthusiast’s choice in compact cars.

That line has been used on the website for years. This goes back to the introduction of the current generation of the Mazda3. The KODO – Soul of Motion styling, Skyactiv engineering, and driver-focused cabin have been hallmarks of a car that satisfies the small and loyal band of owners.

In recent months, its lofty place in the automotive world had been challenged. The two-time #VOTY Finalist Honda Civic had been hammering on the Mazda3 with its wide lineup. This newest generation now includes enthusiast-focused models, such as the Si and Type-R. The Subaru Impreza and Crosstrek showed marked improvement in various places – including an interior that caught the eye of the editors of WardsAuto.

Then, there’s the Mark VII Volkswagen Golf. If you include the SportWagen, the Alltrack, the GTI and the Golf R, it is a compact car lineup that should be the envy of the business. The execution is unlike anything in the marketplace – even from its lowest model to the R. Plus, you now have the Hyundai Elantra GT Sport and Kia Forte5 SX are in the hunt to play in the GTI’s “hot hatch” sandbox.

While this is great for the compact car segment in the USA, it does have its drawbacks. Customers love choice and want as much as it would cause seismic revolutions inside the brain. Newer products will push some favorites out if the way – that’s a given.

However, any discussion of great compact cars should always include the Mazda3. Continue reading

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The New Automotive Podcast In Town!

Photo courtesy of Alex Nelson via Overcrest Productions

It is not enough that the Twin Cities is a place where automotive enthusiasm thrives. There is more to it.

Minnesotans love cars, trucks, and SUVs. This is an absolute fact. Our consumerism is strong thanks to a steady economy that has defied national trends at times. Yet, we have plenty of opportunities to let our best vehicles thrive from April to October, while turning our attention to other modes of winter fun during the rest of the year.

These facts and observations have been chronicled on this website. There is another layer to it that is growing. A layer that had been bubbling under the surface for years.

The Twin Cities and Minnesota are not primarily known for presenting the auto scene to the world. Joel Feder’s Accelerate Mpls website put the Motor Authority video reviewer on the map, while Alex Bellus, Josh Hway’s Dynamic Photowerks, and Jacob Stevenson’s Golden Peaks Productions were creating art from their respective lenses.

Somewhere in the mix was this website. You know which one, right? The one named after an intersection in the middle of the San Fernando Valley…some 1,500 miles away from the Mary Tyler Moore statue and the Spoonbridge and Cherry installation at the Walker Art Center.

As the spotlight on this region grows among automotive enthusiasts, more outlets are popping up to help celebrate it. Continue reading

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On The Dial: In a Holiday Mood

Photo by Randy Stern

We either celebrate or cringe when Christmas music is piped through the speakers of any given shopping center before Thanksgiving. Why do we react the way we do?

The music of the Holidays is part of the routine we go through in preparation for the gift-giving season. Whether it is faith-based or secular, the music of the season provides a backdrop of memories and emotions.

Let me ask you this: How do you listen to Holiday Music? More specifically, Christmas Music?

If I were to conduct a poll, I will bet you that you most likely listen to it on the radio. To qualify this, Muzak systems also count on radio airplay through some surveys. Inclusive of pre-programmed radio for businesses – Muzak being the number one in this business – is SiriusXM with their delivery of their satellite stations through business networks.

It is safe to say that everyone is getting into the act of piping Holiday Music into your ears.

It is now. Continue reading

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Commentary: A Justification for the Lamborghini Urus

Photo courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.

Why does the Lamborghini Urus exist?

Why does the Bentley Bentayga get all of the attention these days?

Why, oh why…

Not exactly eternal questions, but they do point to a factor that we have seen recently that actually works with certain brands. The factor of creating an SUV product – something that holds sales equity to any manufacturer – to augment an established lineup befitting of that brand.

To this point, one needs to focus on a particular sports car brand with a long-time iconic product that actually made two such SUV products. This brand is based in Stuttgart, You know which one…

Continue reading

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Choosing a Great Truck

2018 Ford F-150 SuperCrew 4X4 Platinum
2018 Ford F-150 SuperDuty 4X4 Platinum – All photos by Randy Stern

Needless to say, the current generation Ford F-150 is enjoying a great run.

For example, the mid-cycle refresh has been well received, with its cleaner look and availability f the 10-speed automatic transmission across the board. The Raptor remains the standard of truck performance with its 450-horsepower 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. To top it all off, the F-150 was named Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year.

Did I mention that it was a finalist for #VOTY17?

In this business, timing is everything.The arrival of the 2018 F-150 SuperCrew 4X4 Platinum came at the right time – the #VOTY17 announcement, the Motor Trend award, and remote coverage of the Los Angeles Auto Show. Needless to say, it arrived during a very busy week.

If there is a story to glean from this F-150 is something that is not immediately seen here. Continue reading

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Los Angeles 2017: The Small SUV vs. Everyone Else

2019 Volvo XC40 – Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

If there was a theme for the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show, it would be “how small would you like your SUV to be?”

Maybe it is a justified theme. I’ve heard reports of analysts expecting us to pay more for gasoline through 2018. Without citing any factors as to why, but any rise in fuel pump prices will translate into higher sales of smaller vehicles. The Compact crossover/SUV is where the market is centered these days, alongside mid-sized SUVs. Mid-sized and compact sedans are showing strength in the market, even as trucks are still maintaining its volume dominance.

Everything here points to a potential trend – one that has been bubbling under the consumer radar for a few years. If the subcompact SUV segment is the way to go, who will take the lead in it?

This is just one storyline coming out of Los Angeles. Let’s explore the major introductions and analyze them in terms of themes and future trends.

Continue reading

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Photo Essay: Porsche “Pops Up” For The Holidays and the Super Bowl

All Photos by Randy Stern

Your Holiday gift shopping is probably routine. Gifts for the spouse, children, close friends, co-workers, neighbors…you.

You walk by all of the stores, their displays, looking for something that will catch your eye.

Then, a car appears…OK, three cars. Then, your brain starts swirling. “Hmmm….a car for the Holidays!”

In this case, it’s not just any car. These three cars just happen to be Porsches. They’re full-scale, full-priced machines that are the stuff of legend.

If you’re transfixed in front of that Porsche store, then the Carousel Group thanks you. The Twin Cities’ dealership group combined their Minneapolis and St. Paul Porsche stores to create a brand experience stop at the Galleria Edina, southwest of downtown Minneapolis. Being a shopping center for upmarket and luxury goods demographics, Porsche was a perfect match to create a “pop-up” store that combined its products, heritage, and a multimedia experience focusing on the essence of the brand and its iconic product line.

Continue reading

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Not The Turkey…or The Stuffing

2017 Jeep Renegade Deserthawk
2017 Jeep Renegade Deserthawk – All Photos by Randy Stern

What goes well with Thanksgiving?

Turkey is a given. Some people substitute it with Tofurky, but others will tell those who eat it that it’s not what the Wampanoag tribe and the Pilgrims/Puritans had in mind. Cranberries, which are natural for New England. Stuffing…which comes down to bread, vegetables, and seasoning if you consider the basics.

OK…how about a Jeep?

Jeep. The most important implement of victory in World War II. Made into a civilian at war’s end only to be traded through several hands before becoming the brightest asset of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ global product portfolio.

Unlike Arlo Guthrie’s traditional long-form recording heard on Adult Album-Oriented Rock stations across the USA, the Jeep story is something of “tradition” within this work. Continue reading

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V&R Stories: The Insanity of Self-Relocation

Robbinsdale Move 005
The pratfalls of self-relocation in the snow. – Photo by Michael Larson

Moving day.

We have all been there. Most of us will most likely use a rental vehicle to achieve either a cross-town or cross-country move. Some of us will rely on friends and their vehicles to help. Others will hire a moving service to do the job for us.

With the exception of a utilizing a moving service, I’ve done my share of self-moves to some insane heights. Aside from the conventional methods, I’ve done moves via the postal service, as checked baggage on a flight or a train ride and on local public transport. I also did some moves in rented SUVs, including the epic cross-country trek from Northern Virginia to Madison, Wisconsin in a GMC Jimmy.

Aside from these methods, I always try to do the best possible move I can make. I try to plan accordingly, get the right vehicle, budget enough for vehicle rental fees, fuel, and food for anyone who helped.

Even the best-laid plans are always thwarted. Time impacts, weather, friends who say they help that never show, the behaviors of soon-to-be-former roommates, neighbors, property managers, rental vehicle agency staff, fellow motorists, soon-to-be-new property managers, roommates and neighbors, petrol station staff and patrons…all of the challenges that add to the stress of moving.

How can we make the self-relocation easier and less stressful? I have no clue.

Continue reading

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