Archive for the ‘cars’ category


These seem very fashionable right now

01.04.2023






 
I keep saying that 2022 was a lot like 1973 stylistically, so now that it’s 1974 I find myself strangely compelled by these Audi 50 press shots. You might know this car better as the Volkswagen Polo, which it later became, though with a lower specification initially. It lasted longer than the original Audi.

There was one in Wellington many years ago, though I imagine it’s since gone to the scrapyard in the sky.

You’d think that an efficient, front-wheel-drive car would be the in thing but one departure from 1974 is that most people seem to want massive, energy-consuming vehicles. (I don’t care if it’s an EV: you’re going to spend more time charging the thing if it’s heavy with a big frontal area.)

When will the industry rediscover aerodynamics and efficiency?
 
Speaking of 1974, how about this cover by Italo Lupi and Liliana Collavo for the September–October issue of Abitare? Photograph by Maria Vittoria Corradi. It looks wonderfully fresh other than the method of typesetting in the masthead. Even the topic would feel at home in 2023.
 

 

Of course, not everything from that year feels fresh, but these are particularly good examples of modernist design that appeal to me right now in 2023.


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The golden age of Pontiac illustrations

17.03.2023

The gargantuan full-size 1971–6 Pontiacs (Laurentian, Catalina, Parisienne, Bonneville, Grand Ville and Grand Safari) went up on Autocade last week, and they reminded me of the golden era of Pontiac illustrations. That era didn’t stretch into the 1970s that much: you saw them for the 1967s through to the 1971s, before photography took over.

I had some saved up over the years on the hard drive, and a few went into my blog gallery when that was still public (Google will have you believe it still is, with a lot of their top 50 devoted to it; so much for that search engine updating quickly).

First up is the 1967 Bonneville, with its sharp, new grille emphasizing width and sportiness. I believe this image came by way of Twitter, pre-Musk.

Here’s the 1969 Bonneville, probably the year that was the zenith for a lot of GM divisions’ designs.

I’m unclear on the origins of this scan, but it was shared on OnlyKlans when I used it. It’s the 1969 Firebird 400.

From the gallery are the 1969 GTO convertible and Firebird, showing just how right these two designs were for the era.

And here are two 1971 Canadian Pontiacs, the Laurentian and the Parisienne Brougham, which sat on the 124 in wheelbase rather than the 126 in of the US Bonneville, Grand Ville and Grand Safari that year. You can feel the white country club of the 1960s just barely hanging on before the decade gave way to more brown shades and gritty urban decay. The garish pointy noses (which Bunkie Knudsen tipped Ford off to when he went to work there) and vinyl roofs all contributed to a heaviness that the decade characterizes for me.


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Autocade is about to turn 15

03.03.2023


Above: The 1966 Alfa Romeo Giulia, the most recent entry to Autocade.
 
Next week, Autocade will turn 15. I don’t expect big editorials extolling its history, mainly because the site has not changed much in principle or appearance since it was first conceived in 2008.

We did a single video under the Autocade name, which my friend Stuart Cowley filmed, edited and directed. But as we both have full-time jobs, it never took off into a series of web videos.

There could be a surprise development from Autocade that’s actually Amanda’s brainchild, but I’ll have to work out how much time is involved. It looks like the next major addition to the Autocade world will happen in its second 15 years. It won’t be an online magazine—I once registered a domain related to Autocade and stuck a Wordpress installation on it, but nothing came of it, and I gave up the name. Besides, there are plenty of entries already in the online automotive space, and I’m not interested in being a latecomer.

The original site is getting close to 31 million page views, which I am very happy about—not bad for a hobby, spare time site that so many have found some utility from. Thank you, everyone, for your visits and your interest—and big thanks to Nigel Dunn, Keith Adams, Peter Jobes, and my anonymous (at his request) friend for your huge contributions.

Extra thanks to Graham Clayton for being our number-one commenter (when we had Disqus forms running). I’ll be back with a “traffic report” during March, and maybe a hint of what we’re up to for Autocade in 2023.


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It’s got a picture of the Queen in it

07.01.2023


 
To the best of my recollection, this is the only photograph of HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh that I shot and own. You’ll have to look closely. In fact, you might not even see them at this resolution.

I gave the print to someone at Warehouse Stationery who was a big fan of the Queen, but I came across this scan yesterday. I still have the negative, of course.

This was from the royal visit in 2002, her last to Aotearoa. As Labour was in, and they weren’t big royalists, there wasn’t a huge welcome, and the Queen and Prince Philip were ferried around the back roads from Lyall Bay through Rongotai and Kilbirnie. Here they are in the viceregal Daimler Limousine on Coutts Street: I stopped my car to take the photograph from Mamari Street.
 
Congratulations to those who spotted Graham Payn’s line as Keats in The Italian Job used in the title.


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The expectation of invisibility

03.01.2023

I rewatched Princess of Chaos, the TV drama centred around my friend, Bevan Chuang. I’m proud to have stood by her at the time, because, well, that’s what you do for your friends.

I’m not here to revisit any of the happenings that the TV movie deals with—Bevan says it brings her closure so that is that—but to examine one scene where her character laments being Asian and being ‘invisible’. How hard we work yet we aren’t seen. The model minority. Expected to be meek and silent and put up with stuff.

Who in our community hasn’t felt this?

While the younger generations of the majority are far, far better than their forebears, the expectation of invisibility was something that’s been a double-edged sword when I look back over my life.

The expectation of invisibility was never going to sit well with me.

I revelled in being different, and I had a family who was supportive and wise enough to guide me through being different in our new home of Aotearoa New Zealand.

My father frequently said, when speaking of the banana Chinese—those who proclaim themselves yellow on the outside and white on the inside—that they can behave as white as they want, but there’ll always be people who’ll see the yellow skin and treat them differently. And in some cases, unfairly.

He had reason to believe this. My mother was underpaid by the Wellington Hospital Board for a considerable time despite her England and Wales nursing qualification. A lot of correspondence ensued—I still remember Dad typing formal letters on his Underwood 18, of which we probably still have carbons. Dad felt pressured—maybe even bullied to use today’s parlance—by a dickhead manager at his workplace.

Fortunately, even in the 1970s, good, decent, right-thinking Kiwis outnumbered the difficult ones, though the difficult ones could get away with a lot, lot more, from slant-eye gestures to telling us to go back to where we came from openly. I mean, February 6 was called New Zealand Day! Go back another generation to a great-uncle who came in the 1950s, and he recalls white kids literally throwing stones at Chinese immigrants.

So there was no way I would become a banana, and give up my culture in a quest to integrate. The parents of some of my contemporaries reasoned differently, as they had been in the country for longer, and hoped to spare their children the physical harm they endured. They discouraged their children from speaking their own language, in the hope they could achieve more.

As a St Mark’s pupil, I was at the perfect school when it came to being around international classmates, and teachers who rewarded academic excellence regardless of one’s colour. All of this bolstered my belief that being different was a good thing. I wasn’t invisible at my school. I did really well. I was dux.

It was a shock when I headed to Rongotai College as most of the white boys were all about conforming. The teachers did their best, but so much of my class, at least, wanted to replicate what they thought was normal society in the classroom, and a guy like me—Chinese, individualistic, with a sense of self—was never going to fit in. It was a no-brainer to go to Scots College when a half-scholarship was offered, and I was around the sort of supportive school environment that I had known in my primary and intermediate years, with none of the other boys keen to pigeonhole you. Everyone could be themselves. Thank goodness.

But there were always appearances from the conformist attitudes in society. As I headed to university and announced I would do law and commerce, there was an automatic assumption that the latter degree would be in accounting. I would not be visible doing accounting, in a back room doing sums. For years (indeed, until very recently) the local branch of the Fairfax Press had Asian employees but that was where they were, not in the newsroom. We wouldn’t want to offend its readers, would we?

My choice of these degrees was probably driven, subconsciously, by the desire to be visible and to give society a middle finger. I wasn’t going to be invisible. I was going to pursue the interests that I had, and to heck with societal expectations based along racial lines. I had seen my contemporaries at college do their best to conform: either put your head down or play sport. There was no other role. If you had your head up and didn’t play sport at Rongotai, there was something wrong with you. Maybe you were a ‘faggot’ or ‘poofter’ or some other slur that was bandied about, I dare say by boys who had uncertainties about their own sexuality and believed homophobia helped them.

I loved design. I loved cars. Nothing was going to change that. So I pursued a design career whilst doing my degrees. I could see how law, marketing and management would play a role in what I wanted to do in life. When I launched Lucire, it was “against type” on so many fronts. I was doing it online, that was new. I was Chinese, and a cis het guy. And it was a very public role: as publisher I would attend fashion shows, doing my job. In the early days, I would be the only Chinese person amongst the press.

And I courted colleagues in the press, because I was offering something new. That was also intentional: to blaze a trail for anyone like me, a Chinese New Zealander in the creative field who dared to do something different. I wasn’t the first, of course: Raybon Kan comes to mind (as a fellow St Mark’s dux) with his television reviews in 1990 that showed up almost all who had gone before with his undeniable wit; and Lynda Chanwai-Earle whose poetry was getting very noticed around this time. Clearly we needed more of us in these ranks if we were going to make any impact and have people rethink just who we were and just what we were capable of. And it wasn’t in the accounts’ department, or being a market gardener, serving you at a grocery store or takeaway, as noble as those professions also are. I have family in all those professions. But I was out on a quest to break the conformity that Aotearoa clung to—and that drove everything from typeface design to taking Lucire into print around the world and running for mayor of Wellington. It might not have been the primary motive, but it was always there, lingering.

This career shaped me, made me less boring as an individual, and probably taught me what to value in a partner, too. And thank goodness I found someone who also isn’t a conformist.

When we first met, Amanda did ask me why I had so many friends from the LGBTQIA+ community. I hadn’t really realized it, but on reflection, the answer was pretty simple: they, too, had to fight conformist attitudes, to find their happy places. No wonder I got along with so many. All my friends had stood out one way or another, whether because of their interests, their sexuality, how they liked to be identified, their race, their way of thinking, or something else. These are the people who shape the world, advance it, and make it interesting. They—we—weren’t going to be pigeonholed.
 

With fellow nonconformist Stefan Engeseth in Stockholm, 2010


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Autocade reaches 30 million page views

08.12.2022

I was hoping we’d crack 30 million page views by the end of November, but it’s taken an extra week or so to get to this milestone at Autocade.

The stats’ counter shows 2,375,730; added to the last recorded total of 27,647,011 before the server upgrade and a new MediaWiki installation, and we’re comfortably in the 30,000,000 territory. In fact, I believe we would have got here yesterday when the counter was 2,354,000, but I didn’t have time to check the old total.

I had looked at the daily increases and there were some days when the page views jumped by 20,000. The smallest was 7,000. Typically I’d see 10,000, maybe a little more.

Overall the pace has been far slower this year than last, possibly due to Bing acting like it’s on life support, and dragging all its proxies (Duck Duck Go, Ecosia, Yahoo, Qwant) with it.

Fewer models have gone up, too, admittedly, with the total now at 4,631; in early August we had hit 4,600. But it has been a bit busy here lately and do people really want to see another SUV?

The top 10 model leaderboard is still very interesting:
 
Toyota Corolla (E210) (6,892 views)
Ford Taunus 80 (3,438 views)
Daewoo Winstorm (2,792 views)
Ford Fiesta Mk VII (2,599 views)
Peugeot 206+, 207 (2,591 views)
Renault Mégane II (2,536 views)
Opel Astra J (2,495 views)
Rover SD1 (2,391 views)
Renault Mégane III (2,256 views)
Ford Cortina Mk III (2,241 views)
 
The Daewoo Winstorm continues its rise, the previous-generation Fiesta has overtaken the 206+ at last, while the Kia Morning (TA), which experienced a surge in August, has now departed the top 10. The Renault Mégane III is now ninth, which makes me rather happy due to my own bias (not that I have been responsible for any clicks).

As the numbers get back up to what they were before the reset, these rankings will become less meaningful, but for now there’s still some academic interest to see them jostling for position.

So here’s how we stand in terms of our traffic development.
 
March 2008: launch
April 2011: 1,000,000 (three years for first million)
March 2012: 2,000,000 (11 months for second million)
May 2013: 3,000,000 (14 months for third million)
January 2014: 4,000,000 (eight months for fourth million)
September 2014: 5,000,000 (eight months for fifth million)
May 2015: 6,000,000 (eight months for sixth million)
October 2015: 7,000,000 (five months for seventh million)
March 2016: 8,000,000 (five months for eighth million)
August 2016: 9,000,000 (five months for ninth million)
February 2017: 10,000,000 (six months for 10th million)
June 2017: 11,000,000 (four months for 11th million)
January 2018: 12,000,000 (seven months for 12th million)
May 2018: 13,000,000 (four months for 13th million)
September 2018: 14,000,000 (four months for 14th million)
February 2019: 15,000,000 (five months for 15th million)
June 2019: 16,000,000 (four months for 16th million)
October 2019: 17,000,000 (four months for 17th million)
December 2019: 18,000,000 (just under three months for 18th million)
April 2020: 19,000,000 (just over three months for 19th million)
July 2020: 20,000,000 (just over three-and-a-half months for 20th million)
October 2020: 21,000,000 (three months for 21st million)
January 2021: 22,000,000 (three months for 22nd million)
April 2021: 23,000,000 (three months for 23rd million)
June 2021: 24,000,000 (two months for 24th million)
August 2021: 25,000,000 (two months for 25th million)
October 2021: 26,000,000 (two months for 26th million)
January 2022: 27,000,000 (three months for 27th million)
April 2022: 28,000,000 (three months for 28th million)
August 2022: 29,000,000 (four months for 29th million)
December 2022: 30,000,000 (three months, 10 days for 30th million)
 

The latest model entered: the current Nissan Fairlady Z. For once I had something cool to show for one of these million-milestone posts.
 


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Tesla to a typeface designer, and a big missed target

03.12.2022

Now that the quartet has been launched, it’s evident that Tesla’s naming strategy is all wrong. This is what they should be called.
 

 
On a related note:
 

 

Since I haven’t seen the March 15 video now circulating on OnlyKlans, I mean, Twitter, I can’t use the DIA reporting form. But those who have, should.

If it were a New Zealand website doing the distribution, a warning would have been issued at the least; and I bet it would have been blocked by now. The person running the site would probably have been charged. Basically what our government is signalling is that a foreign fascist sympathizer has greater freedoms than the rest of us. And what the opposition parties are signalling is that that’s OK, too, because here’s a real thing that they can sink their teeth into, but they prefer to gaslight over other stuff.

The Christchurch Call website has not been updated since September.

Anyone in politics who actually has some bollocks?


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Autocade slowly gets to 29 million page views

27.08.2022

It took a while, but Autocade has now finally reached 29 million page views.

The stats’ page since the count was reset shows 1,362,506 views. Add that to the 27,647,011 recorded on March 19, 2022, and we have well and truly crossed the 29 million mark (by 9,517, in fact).

We probably got there yesterday given that the counter is no longer updated live (so much for improving technology), and I didn’t get a chance to look in.

Sadly, this does mean the slowest growth in reader numbers since 2019.

I’m sure part of it is down to Bing’s collapse, which must have shaved off at least six per cent of our daily totals.

What I have found fascinating is our model leaderboard. The Ford Taunus 80 had been leading for some time since the reset, but it’s been well and truly beaten by the current Toyota Corolla. What caused a sudden surge during August is anyone’s guess, but all I know is that I’m grateful for it. It’s a newish page as well.

The Kia Morning (TA) is now third, another newer entry that shot up the ranks.

I’ve also been watching the pages for the Peugeot 206+ and 207 jostle for fourth place against the Daewoo Winstorm. (At the time of writing, the Winstorm is ahead by five views.) Another former leaderboard champ, the Ford Fiesta Mk VII, now sits in sixth, while the Renault Mégane II, Opel Astra J, Rover SD1 and Ford Cortina Mk III complete the top 10.

Here’s how the Autocade traffic watch is going:
 
March 2008: launch
April 2011: 1,000,000 (three years for first million)
March 2012: 2,000,000 (11 months for second million)
May 2013: 3,000,000 (14 months for third million)
January 2014: 4,000,000 (eight months for fourth million)
September 2014: 5,000,000 (eight months for fifth million)
May 2015: 6,000,000 (eight months for sixth million)
October 2015: 7,000,000 (five months for seventh million)
March 2016: 8,000,000 (five months for eighth million)
August 2016: 9,000,000 (five months for ninth million)
February 2017: 10,000,000 (six months for 10th million)
June 2017: 11,000,000 (four months for 11th million)
January 2018: 12,000,000 (seven months for 12th million)
May 2018: 13,000,000 (four months for 13th million)
September 2018: 14,000,000 (four months for 14th million)
February 2019: 15,000,000 (five months for 15th million)
June 2019: 16,000,000 (four months for 16th million)
October 2019: 17,000,000 (four months for 17th million)
December 2019: 18,000,000 (just under three months for 18th million)
April 2020: 19,000,000 (just over three months for 19th million)
July 2020: 20,000,000 (just over three-and-a-half months for 20th million)
October 2020: 21,000,000 (three months for 21st million)
January 2021: 22,000,000 (three months for 22nd million)
April 2021: 23,000,000 (three months for 23rd million)
June 2021: 24,000,000 (two months for 24th million)
August 2021: 25,000,000 (two months for 25th million)
October 2021: 26,000,000 (two months for 26th million)
January 2022: 27,000,000 (three months for 27th million)
April 2022: 28,000,000 (three months for 28th million)
August 2022: 29,000,000 (four months for 29th million)
 

Toyota’s unsuccessful Verossa was the latest entry into the database.
 


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Are hybrids better for the environment than pure EVs?

19.08.2022

Shared by a family member. Hear out Dr Graham Conway, principal engineer in the Automotive Division at Southwest Research Institute, and why zero-emission vehicles are not truly zero-emission. It’s a point I’ve made way, way back (in the 2000s) when I cited a study which showed the Ford Fiesta Econetic, a diesel car, was the best vehicle for the environment over its lifetime.

This TEDx talk is from 2020, and Conway believes hybrids are a better bet for the environment than full EVs. Have a watch as he explains why.
 

 

TED has flagged Conway’s talk with the following statement: ‘This talk only reflects the speaker’s personal views and interpretation. Several claims in this talk lack scientific support.’ I’d be irresponsible if I didn’t quote this. It’s also worth having a read of this from 2021 and this from 2020. Here’s one more link from Green Car Reports in 2020, titled ‘Lifetime carbon emissions of electric cars are much lower than previously suggested’. All of these suggest that newer production processes and decarbonization may be helping EVs rank better when their lifetime (including production) emissions are counted.


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Rising popularity on Autocade

07.08.2022

Ever since we had to reset the counter for Autocade in March, because of a new server and a new version of Mediawiki, it’s been interesting to see which pages are most popular.

The old ranking took into account everything from March 2008 to March 2022. With everything set to zero again, I can now see what’s been most popular in the last few months.

Some of the top 20 were among the top pages before March 2022, but what’s surprising is what’s shot up into the top slots.

Over the course of half a day on Friday GMT, the Toyota Corolla (E210) page found itself as the top page, home page excepting. And the Kia Morning (TA) page shot up out of nowhere recently, too.

I know our page on the Corolla is number one on Mojeek for a search of that model but that can’t be the only reason it’s done so well. I haven’t studied the referrer data. A shame that link: no longer works on search engines.
 

 

Corolla fans, thank you for your extra 6,000 page views! It’s helped our overall total, but the viewing rate is still down at 2019 levels thanks to the collapse of the Bing index, and the search engines that it’s taken down with them.

I almost feel I’ve shot myself in the foot for promoting Duck Duck Go so much since 2010! But then I hopefully spared a lot of people from being tracked (as much) by the big G.


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