I know that in days past, I expressed my love for the new Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, which delivers over 500hp from a 2.9-liter V6. This list, however (via Insty) seems to take the whole thing over the top. Cases in point:

— Does anyone think that Dodge can make a car which can handle well enough to push out over 700hp without killing the driver and everyone else within a quarter-mile of its crash?
— Will anyone who wants to tow a boat even look at the BMW X5 (567hp, $100k+) as the horse?
— A 640hp Cadillac? What are these guys smoking?
— I make no comment about the Shelby Mustang, Camaro or Corvette because their owners, like those of the Dodge Hellcat, are probably not long for this world anyway.

I know, I know: we’re a nation founded on power and excess and all that good stuff. But at some point, someone at a car manufacturer has to ask the question: “Why?” (And listen to Jeremy Clarkson — the world’s foremost “POWAAAAHHHH!!!” speed freak; even he has admitted on occasion that a car can be too powerful.)

Most people can barely handle 150hp in their cars, let alone more than 500hp — use your favorite search engine to look up “Bugatti Veyron crash” for a simple flavor, and this in a million-dollar-plus car which has far less than 500hp and handles like a dream — which makes me think that these powerhouses should probably come with a mandatory driving course entitled: “When your IQ is less than a sixth of your car’s horsepower.”

I once watched a guy trying to reverse his McLaren F1 out of a parking space at Eatzi’s in Plano. It took him several minutes, multiple tries and half a dozen near-collisions with other parked cars because he had no idea how to handle the F1’s power for what is, after all, the most mundane of tasks we ask of a car.

My only consolation from all this is that the consumer market for the above will be refreshingly small, kept that way by cost, commonsense and, sadly, attrition.

I still want the Quadrifoglio, of course, because a.) it’s beautiful and b.) it’s an Alfa Romeo, but I’d still want it even if it had half the stated horsepower. How many of the other cars on that list would remain as desirable under that criterion, I wonder.

Plutocrat Problems

Seen in a recent real estate listing here in West Plano:

Not sure about the Ford GT on the right, but otherwise I don’t think you can fault the man’s taste.

The house looks out onto the Gleneagles Country Club golf course, and is listed at $1.2 million which, in that neighborhood, makes me wonder if there’s something wrong with it.

But that’s not what I want to talk about, because it’s Saturday and I’m not a realtor.

Here’s the question: let’s assume you’re that guy, and the Fast & Furious crowd stole all your cars one night. The insurance has paid out, and you want to fill your garage with different ones of about equivalent value (i.e. the sky’s pretty much the limit). Which four cars would you buy? (Assume you need at least one SUV as a “guns ‘n groceries” conveyance, just to make it interesting. And please:  I don’t want to hear any guff that you only need one car, and you want to use the rest of the garage as a workshop. Play the game.)

Answers in Comments. My choices are below the fold, but make your choices first before looking at mine, lest I influence your selections. Read more

Grinding Halt

Like many people, I suspect, I have become fascinated by the advancements made in robotics — not from a technological standpoint (because I’m a high-tech retard), but from a sociological one. I’m also not interested in robots which will perform brain functions: the arrival of spreadsheets and their macros in programs like VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3 foreshadowed all that, and considering that most of life is incredibly boring bureaucratic shit (e.g. legal documents), I have no problem with delegating the mundane tasks of life to the bots — as long as I still have final control over the output, that is.

No, I’m very interested in the effects that sexbots will have on our society. I’m completely ignoring the bleats of womyn who see, correctly, that female sexbots will eventually replace actual women in  terms of the male meat market, where schlubs who used to live in their parents’ house will now be able to score with a “woman” who won’t castrate him and/or pillage his wallet. Sure, sex with a bot isn’t going to be as good as with a live, breathing woman, at least until the technology improves anyway (although quite frankly I can think offhand of about half a dozen women in my experience who would make the most basic sexbots feel like porn stars, so indifferent were they to sexual activity).

I often use the old movie Cherry 2000 as an example: the “housewife robot” (played by the exquisite Pamela Gidley) was charmingly termed a “gynoid” (vaginoid would have been a better description) who is in all respects a perfect wife: she cooks, cleans does laundry for her owner, and has a voracious sexual appetite. (Evil Kim also points out that she has an OFF switch, which would be a major selling point to most men.)

Given the transition of modern women from Donna Reed:

to this (fortunately anonymous) specimen:

…it’s not too difficult to understand why a great many men might prefer a Cherry 2000 — here’s Pam Gidley:

CHERRY 2000, Pamela Gidley, David Andrews, 1987, (c) Orion

…or, in realistic terms, they’d even choose instead a RealDoll:

Well and good. Now let’s assume we’ve made at least a partial leap from inanimate RealDolls to something a little more lifelike so we can take this situation to the next level. Of course, men being the fantasists that they are, it was only a question of time before sexbots could be offered in “custom” finishes: apparently, for a small premium, one can order a RealDoll which is a licensed replica (replicant?) of various porn stars. Which leads to the next logical step: why not a non-porn star, such as the lovely Mila Jovovich? (Who kinda looks RealDoll-y in this pic anyway.)

With advances in 3D printing, such a concept is eminently doable. Needless to say, this has caused a scramble among movie stars to seek legal protection from having their likenesses used for this purpose without their consent. (As I understand it, a couple of them were too late, and anyway, I foresee a booming black market for unlicensed sexbots replicating all sorts of fantasy women. Can’t find the “Nigella Lawson” model anywhere, incidentally.)

Even this situation is all well and good. It’s actually an example of how “the market” works: there is a desire [sic] for a product, and the market rushes to satisfy it, with all the little complications involved.

Now let’s take it to the next — and perhaps darkest — level: what about LittleGirl sexbots?

Aaaah, well now we have a problem, don’t we? Because pedophilia is super-doubleplusungood — and yes, justifiably so — one might say that having little-girl sexbots is Beyond The Pale. Which was my initial reaction.

But let’s talk about this logically, if we can. We know (from Science) that as a psychopathology, pedophilia is largely irreversible / incurable — once a pedo, always a pedo, hence the Sex Offenders Registry. That being the case, and as we seem to be incapable of locking these criminals up for life, why not LittleGirl (or, ugh, LittleBoy) sexbots? Is it completely unfeasible to think that if these sick assholes have a surrogate child with which to play their abhorrent little reindeer games, then they’d be less likely to hit the playgrounds and schoolyards? Maybe, maybe not. If there’s one thing we know about the human condition, it’s that once sated, a sexual urge will tend to seek greater titillation and stimulation, often through deviant ways and practices. So maybe we draw the line on this side of child sexbots, and say, “No” to the Pedophile-Industrial Complex. But I’m tempted to give it a chance nevertheless — with all sorts of safeguards and caveats. Even the Supreme Court may be thinking as I do, in that they held that cartoon porn, in all its variations and including pedophilia, is not the same as real-life porn.

I have to say that I’m undecided on the issue.

Because I am who I am, however, if we were to allow the manufacture and sales of child sexbots, I would support drastic punishment for a pedophile who owned a child sexbot and then still went out and molested a real child — and I say “drastic” in the sense of “summary execution” (and yes, I know that this might suppress sales of said sexbots; don’t care).

This is a complex issue, and it goes far beyond the topic of driverless cars, autonomous shopping carts, drones and so on. As I said earlier: this group of things addresses the mundane tasks of life; but when we start talking about things which affect us on so personal a level, it starts becoming difficult. I hope I’ve been able to shed just a little light, or at least a slightly different perspective, on the topic — because make no mistake: this issue is not going to go away. We need to address it in terms of our societal principles and mores, and start deciding on boundaries, sooner rather than later and before it runs away with us.

Holiday Cars

I’m using the word “holiday” in its universal sense, not in the American one (which refers to “holy days” because we’re too literal). I’m doing that because “we’re going on holiday” sounds more cheerful than “we’re taking a vacation”, and this is a cheerful post.

So you arrive at your holiday destination at some excellent beachside place (Cannes, Cabo, Caymans, whatever) and decide that you want to do a little exploring of the town, the area, whatever. Assuming that you’ve flown in and not driven, how are you going to get around?

Well, that depends. If you’re in the Greek Islands or somewhere thereabouts, you’ll either rent bicycles (ugh… way too much hard work) or one of the near-ubiquitous Vespa scooters (fun but dangerous, even if you are, as writer George Mikes once described it, walking sitting down).

The problem is that both bicycles and scooters are pretty much single-seater conveyances — yeah, the Vespa nominally has two seats, but on anything other than downhill you’ll be traveling at slower than walking pace (especially if like me you are a Fat American and therefore, statistically, your companion will also be a Fat American). Really, if you aren’t traveling solo, a single-seater isn’t an ideal option. So you want a car; but yuck, you’re in some sun-bleached paradise, so you want to be en plein air (if you’ll excuse my French) rather than in a small rental econobox with, most likely, no air-conditioning.

What to do?

Unfortunately, now that Foul Government has stuck its safety-first fat nose into all our fun activities, our options are limited because what was fun and available in the 1960s, for example, is now streng verboten (yeah, sounds better in the original German, doesn’t it?) and I’m going to suggest at this point that we may be safer nowadays, but we’re the poorer for it.

What am I talking about? I’m talking, of course, about little open-air runarounds like the VW Thing, the Austin Mini-Moke, and the Fiat Jolly, all of which can still be found, but sadly in ever-shrinking numbers. Pound for pound (and dollar for dollar), these little things probably offer more fun and excitement than any other car ever made. Here they are, in the same order:


Now at this point, of course, the Safety Nazis are reaching for the smelling salts because OMG no seatbelts! no roll bars! no doors! wicker seats? and all the usual crap that the PC Crowd like to throw around when telling us how to behave For Our Own Good. And yeah, I know they’re unsafe, by any standards let alone today’s. But I have to ask myself (and I have absolutely no data to back this up): did people die in their thousands from driving these wonderful little buggies around in the manner intended? I sincerely doubt it. If driven around at 20-30 mph around seaside towns and villages (i.e. as they were most of the time), I bet the total “death toll” in the 1960s would have been measured in single digits, if there were any deaths at all.

Imagine what the Safety Nazis would think when seeing this little sight:

They’d probably have a collective heart attack. Which would be a Good Thing. (I would too, just for different reasons.) And let’s not even talk about the decorations one could add to these lovely little runabouts:

No wonder they’re banned. That’s Way Too Much Fun for our modern-day Puritans.

Afterthought: I know some crowd called “Jollycars” is retrofitting the new Fiat 500 into a modern equivalent of the Jolly:

…complete with either canvas seats or wicker ones. Problem is, these cars are selling for $85,000 — or, the cost of a new Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.

No comment.



Restored Beauty

As a rule, I’m not one for restoring old cars — I’m irretrievably non-mechanical and worse, I hate getting my hands dirty — so when Longtime Friend Knob sent me an email about the old Citroën Type H Van being restored, it took me a while to get up the enthusiasm to click on the link. I mean, sure, the Type H was in production from 1947 until 1981(!), and apart from only a few cosmetic changes, looked pretty much in  1981 as it did in 1947.

When you’ve got decent style, good engineering and excellent functionality, why change, right? (And yes, I do love the Colt 1911 for precisely the same reasons.)

To be honest, the Type H never got me going, although I cannot deny its appeal: those corrugated panels make it look like the French van-equivalent of a Junkers Ju-52 transport airplane (which is unsurprising, because the Citroën engineers actually copied the Ju-52’s style), and its 1.9-liter engine was more powerful than most other Euro vans of the late 1940s. (By the way, although the Ju-52 originally started production in 1931 and finished in 1952, it remained in service with various airlines around the world until the 1980s — making the similarities between it and the Type H even more striking.)

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about today.

When I finally did click on the link Knob sent me, it was not some boring nut-by-bolt restoration story; oh no, it involved transforming a modern Citroën Jumper van back into a Type H. Here’s what the Jumper looks like before the retrofit:

…which is okay, but dead boring in the usual modern wind-tunnel-design kinda way. However, here’s the retrofitted Type H:

…and I think it looks fantastic. Of the two, I’d take the retrofitted Type H any day of the week; but you knew that about me already, didn’t you?

Bucket List Entry #3: Spa Francorchamps

I’ve never been a racing driver, nor wanted to be one. However, I do like driving sports cars hard, ever since a buddy let me cane his Alfa Romeo Montreal over a newly-opened freeway outside Johannesburg. I haven’t had much opportunity, however, so on my bucket list here’s a simple entry: drive a sports car around a race track — and the track of choice would be Spa Francorchamps, in the Ardennes Mountains in Belgium.

…and I have to tell you, a large part of my desire for Spa is that the countryside surrounding it is just gorgeous. Ditto the Circuit Paul Ricard, because it’s in Provence, fer goshsakes (but Spa still wins it every time, for me).

The car? I don’t really care, as long as it doesn’t break down in mid-circuit. Modern sports cars are too clinical, too perfect with all the mechanical and electronic doodads they bring to the party — not that I’d say “no” to a flip around Spa in a Ferrari California, though:

But I’m an old fashioned kinda guy, and I’d prefer to drive something a little more… elemental, something which captures the spirit of a bygone era. Something like a Caterham Seven 360, which is based on the old Lotus Seven of the 1960s:

Six-speed manual gearbox, 2.0-liter Duratec engine (yeah, from a Ford Mondeo) which puts out 180hp — on a chassis that weighs less than I do — all in a car that seats my ass but six inches off the ground and can out-drag a Kawasaki.

Sounds like fun, dunnit? Which is why it’s on the old Bucket List.