Chicago 2002: A Look Back

2002 Chicago Auto Show MINI Cooper

All photos by Tom Wray, Great Lakes Den/Tillery Publications

Stockard Channing had this monologue in the movie “Six Degrees of Separation” where she proclaims that her encounter with the young man who turns out not to be Sidney Portier’s son was “an experience” and it perceived to be “an anecdote” to her life. Now, I don’t know about all that, but I must say that my first foray into “serious journalism” back in 2002 was an experience nonetheless.

As I mentioned before, I love cars. Through the experience of reading the automotive enthusiast magazines, I entertained the idea of a possible career as a road test reviewer. To be able to drive some of the hottest cars on the market for 1,000 miles at a time and criticize its characteristics seemed like to be one of the coolest jobs on the planet.

Before I was asked to write and be the Managing Editor for a friend’s culturally-specific website out of Chicago, I already dreamed of being an equal to the likes of L.J.K. Setright, Georg Kacher, Csaba Csere, David E. Davis and P.J. O’Rourke. Unfortunately, Mr. O’Rourke graduated to be being a right-wing, whining Baby Boomer pinhead with a successful portfolio of books – though he was quite funny at being so. Yet, unlike the late Mr. Setright, I could not ride the two-wheeled variety of vehicles he fancies alongside the Rolls-Royces, the Bristols and the Ferraris.

I wanted an opportunity to expand my journalistic world away from commenting on the Bear community. I love my brethren, but there’s more to life than bar nights, “bear runs,” sleep disorders and all other sundry benefits of being in a specific culture.

For this leap into “serious journalism,” I picked the 101st Chicago Auto Show, which was held at the massive McCormick Place convention center south of The Loop. To make this work, I had an accomplice, Tom Wray, my publisher at the time. We ran around in our badges, took shots of concept cars, the latest productions vehicles and having Tom witness squeezing my large body into everything from the Chrysler Prowler to the rear seat of the Lincoln Town Car Cartier L. All of this with the intent on creating a main story piece relating the auto show experience for its intended readership.

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The Anxiety of the Infrequent (Air) Traveler

Photo by Randy Stern

Ah, the pratfalls of air travel!

You know the feeling after you booked your tickets, your accommodations and your chosen mode of transport to use to get around town. All of sudden, you realized that there are a multitude of things you need to do before your departure date. Not just the items you need to pack, the documents you need to gain entry into another country and the items the Transportation Security Administration has restricted that you would probably need somewhere along your journey. No download of apps or diarrhea medication prescription can even scratch the surface all of the intangibles that goes into travel preparation.

So, let me ask you one question: how prepared are you when you travel?

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Which Half-Ton Pickup is The Best?

All Ford Show Shakopee
All Photos by Randy Stern

There are currently six full-sized half-ton pickups to choose from in the U.S.A.

I know, big deal! However, please understand why this topic is important. By volume, the pickup truck is the backbone of the Automotive Industry in North America. They offer the highest yield of revenue and profit of any vehicle built for sale in this country. They also serve a purpose as the main mode of transport to keep this country’s economy going.

There is a lot riding on the full-sized half-ton pickup. There are construction companies that rely on pickup trucks for jobsite transfers. There are farms that need them as a lifeline towards crop development and cultivation. There are those who buy them to tow their toys up to the lake and back.

With five manufacturers, making six distinct lines – mostly right here in the U.S.A. – you could ask which one is best. Obviously, I was unable to get all six models at the same time to do a fair comparison. Instead, I reviewed my notes from each model from the five manufacturers of pickup trucks to actually see where they stand out in terms of competencies.

Let’s give it a go, shall we?

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Quickies: The Anticipation is Over!

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti Q4 – All Photos by Randy Stern

The most anticipated automobile in years have arrived. It is slated to become the savior of the Alfa Romeo’s return to North America.

You have read those first two sentences before. They may have been written differently – or the same. Yet, they are two statements that define the 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia. These are the reasons is to why Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have a lot riding on this new premium sedan for this market and beyond.

FCA, the Alfisti and everyone else have been waiting for too long for a Giulia to arrive at any showroom in the USA and Canada. Because of its position in the marketplace, Alfa Romeo has placed a lot of chips on a red spot on the roulette table. This and the upcoming Stelvio SUV are what FCA thinks we need for us to return back to the lair of Milan’s finest products.

The Giulia’s arrival into North American showrooms is a huge step. Continue reading

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V&R Stories: Ode to the Hero in the Jaguar V12

Holter Racing Car Show
Photo by Randy Stern

Currently it is January here in Minnesota. There is snow on the ground, salt on the roads and rolling across those roads is a bleak selection of cars. You have blob-shaped quasi-all-wheel-drive crossovers, the occasional automatic Teutonic sports sedan unbalanced with AWD and a gaggle of sad rusty front-wheel drive 1990s era midsized sedans. It’s six months of purgatory for a car enthusiast.

But every once in a blue moon a hero emerges from the masses. This hero gives you hope that car enthusiasts still exist and there will be warm weather again. For me this hero drives an early 80s Jaguar XJ-S V12 I have seen on Interstate 394 multiple times.

Now before everyone cries fowl at the notion of ruining such a classic, I promise you it’s not a concours car. Continue reading

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V&R Stories: “Doing A Little ‘East Coast Swing'”

The Capitol 2
All Photos by Randy Stern

Twenty-one years ago, I embarked on a life-changing journey.

As corny as it sounds, the “life-changing” part is very true. At the time, I did not know how much it would change my life. It certainly altered the course of my future in various ways.

On the evening of January 29, 1996, I boarded an America West Airlines jet from Oakland Airport to Las Vegas. It would only be the first leg of a remarkable trip. When I arrived around eleven in the evening, the lights of the slot machines in the terminal blared as I hoped to catch the last nonstop flight to Philadelphia. I was originally slated to layover at McCarran Airport until 2:00AM, but was desperate to get eastbound. The flight was full, so I waited stand-by. It was also Super Bowl weekend as the flight had fans coming in from Phoenix on-board. My lucky break arrived as I was the last one to board the Airbus onward to Philadelphia. The door closed and I took a middle seat on the red eye out East.

My mission was to promote my work, called Gen-X Bears, to the people in Philadelphia, Washington DC and Phoenix. This would be a week-long expedition covering places I never been and meeting a whole slew of people for the first time. I was a neophyte in international cultural community organizing, always relying on local resources to promote my work in the community.

So, what was this overweight substitute teacher from California doing in these places promoting an idea that already pissed off half of the Bear community? When I walked the streets of Philadelphia, Washington and Phoenix, I asked myself the same question. Then, I came upon some inspiration in the mortal words of Admiral David G. Farragut: “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”

With eyes wide open to new experiences, this was a journey that accomplished a lot in my life and for my people.

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Iced Mango with Fog on Top

2017 Dodge Charger SXT Plus AWD
2017 Dodge Charger SXT Plus AWD – All Photos by Randy Stern

If you have been a reader of Victory & Reseda before it was called “Victory & Reseda,” then you already know that I have a soft spot for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ LX Platform.

As a recap of what the LX Platform consists of, it was originally a former Mercedes-Benz E-Class platform – OK, not all of it, but enough to trace its origins to one – that was the basis of the rear-drive, large car format that would serve DaimlerChrysler, Cerebus and FCA well. While the undercarriage, subframe and other associated parts point to the Daimler side of the “merger of equals,” the rest was all Mopar. The HEMI V8 returned, along with higher powered versions tweaked by the SRT team. Ralph Gilles gave these big machines style – from the audaciousness of the 2005 Chrysler 300 and 2005 Dodge Magnum to the retro return of the Dodge Challenger.

Two generations later, one such LX still provides a bit of glee in my heart – the Dodge Charger. While I like the Chrysler 300 for its luxury and boldness and the Challenger for evoking my childhood, the Charger is my sweet spot. It is a four-door sedan – a body style I found to be very practical for my needs – that weighs less than a comparable Challenger. And, overall, I found the current iteration of the Dodge Charger to be even more fun to drive than any of the LX platform models I captained since the beginning.

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“Radio, It’s A Sound Sensation…”

2017 Mitsubishi Lancer SEL 2.4 AWC
Photo by Randy Stern

Welcome to the Twin Cities, where the radio market is dominated by iHeartRadio and its multicasting in HD Radio that is full of pre-programmed stuff from studios across the USA. Then, there’s Minnesota Public Radio with its own multicasting channels that fit its three main channels from eclectic, cool music to classical to the news.

It is no wonder why I listen more to SiriusXM these days.

Radio has been around for my listening pleasure since the days of my youth. Without it, I wouldn’t have discovered a lot of the music that has forged my life throughout the years. As a kid in Reseda, that Montgomery Wards stereo worked hard to get KDAY and The KAT (later KKDJ) from the AM dial straight out of South Central Los Angeles. If it weren’t for those two seminal stations, hip-hop wouldn’t have been a part of my soul.

When KDAY blasted the long version of “Rapper’s Delight,” I thought I was heaven. Nowadays, when these Instagram and Snapchat rappers come on one of these corporate-owned FM jukeboxes and on a select few SiriusXM channels, I just want to cringe.

What has changed? Let me go back a few years…

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V&R Stories: The Last Ride of The Taurus

2005 Ford Taurus at Wasafarm
2006 Ford Taurus SEL. Photo by Randy Stern

In 1986, I had the opportunity to drive my first Ford Taurus. It came as I rented the car for the weekend as I had tickets for a San Diego Chargers game down at Jack Murphy (now Qualcomm) Stadium and my employer’s holiday party. It was a daunting task to drive from Reseda to San Diego and back in time for the party in Woodland Hills, but I was up for a challenge. Besides, this would be the first time I would drive between two major cities.

After piling up the miles on that first trip, I was impressed with Ford’s breakthrough family sedan. Impress enough to welcome it again a couple of months later when I had to drive up to the Bay Area to retrieve some items from my late father’s estate. For the amount of travel I have done between both Northern and Southern California, a Taurus helped me achieve my first ever trip between the two areas from behind the wheel. Interstate 5 through the Central Valley can be a lonely highway, but that 1987 Taurus GL was a true traveling companion.

During these past two decades, the Ford Taurus became the car that was my ticket to adventure. I never owned a Taurus to get the full experience of the car, but I had driven more of my share of them to rack up some wonderful times behind the wheel. With the exception of the SHO, I may have driven every version of one of the best products Ford created.

The “jellybean” shape struck a chord with consumers looking for a family sedan that stood and performed admirably. On December 26, 1985, the Taurus, along with its twin the Mercury Sable, arrived at dealerships to a hungry public. In turn, they had one of the best new car introductions in Ford history selling as many Tauruses as they did in the first year of the Mustang in 1964.

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Commentary: The Challenge of Mobility…and Then Some

A temporary mobility fix – All Photos by Randy Stern

Let’s talk about mobility…again

I spent the week of the North American International Auto Show without working with a vehicle for publication. I figured I would utilize the entire spectrum of alternative mobility to fulfill my commute to my day job and other things I might have to do in the meantime. This involved the use of local public transit, shared ride services, car sharing and rental cars.

Obviously, each mode of transport offered their own set of challenges. The three-bus commute relies on meeting transfers within short layovers. Lyft, Uber and taxicabs rely on making sure drivers are available locally for a short pickup time. Zipcar is not just about availability of a certain vehicle at a location, but in matching the promised rate for that rental time.

However, there was a larger challenge that was made last week’s use of mobility interesting. The week had a mix of weather that ranged from ice storms to snow accumulations to sub-zero temperatures. It made for some adjustments and pratfalls in accomplishing two things: getting to my day job and going home.

To summarize the week: with all of the stress in my day job, one does not need further stress in the commute.

At the end of the day job’s work week, I was itching to drive. Continue reading

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