Hot cars often play supporting roles in Tinseltown productions, but in the last few years they really seemed to have settled into a groove.
There was Nick Cage's glam-car extravaganza ``Gone in 60 Seconds'' and last summer's tuner-car/street-racing gear jammer, ``The Fast and the Furious.'' One of the latter's stars, Vin Diesel (with a name like that shouldn't he be in a trucking movie?) recently got top billing in the explosion-laden ``xXx.'' But one of the flick's real scene stealers was the customized muscle car his ``Secret Agent xXx'' character tooled around in: a slick 1967 Pontiac GTO.
The car-which we admit has always been one of our favorite rides-sports various weaponry, computerized gizmos, information centers and cool gadgetry. And, according to the Specialty Equipment Market Association's enjoythedrive.com Web site, for more sparkle the Goat rolled on chrome-plated Weld Racing custom wheels shod with raised-white-letter BFGoodrich T/A radials made by Michelin North America Inc. After all, SEMA said, a special kind of guy like this secret agent needed to drive a different kind of vehicle.
Actually, the Goat's customizer, Eddie Paul of Circle-scan 4D, created seven exact replicas of the car for use during filming. He even added cool, non-original-equipment stuff to the car like headlights that flipped up so rockets could shoot out of them during chase scenes. Man, what we wouldn't give for a feature like that to help smooth out the daily commute to the office.
This 'n that
Motor show no go-With apologies to Tennessee Williams: At the 2002 Paris Motor Show, Ford Motor Co. unveiled the ``StreetKa,'' a mini-roadster designed by Pininfarina.
It's based on the platform of the car maker's tiny Fiesta econo-box. But alas, if you desire this StreetKa, you won't be able to get it in North America since it doesn't meet U.S. crash standards. Stella!....
Safety belt salute-We pause for a moment's silence in gratitude to Nils Bohlin.
The Volvo engineer, who died Sept. 21 in Tranas, Sweden, at age 82, is credited with inventing the three-point safety belt-a design that is credited with saving millions of lives the world over since its usage began in the late 1950s.
Ironically, Mr. Bohlin died on the very day he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron. He was represented at the ceremony by his two sons.
Back-handed compliment-Back for a moment to the Paris Motor Show, where General Motors Corp.'s vice chairman, Robert Lutz, paid a bittersweet compliment to competitor Toyota Motor Corp.
The GM exec marveled at how the Japanese auto maker's excellence in manufacturing had allowed it to turn an ``almost grotesque'' car into something beautiful. He was referring to the Camry mid-sized sedan. ``Why does a Toyota Camry look so good when the fundamental shape and design of the car is so ugly?'' he asked. He did go on to say the car is ``a triumph of execution over basic design.''
But tell us, Bob, how do you really feel about it?
Backward/forward fun-Today's grammar lesson, class, is on the peculiar compound word or sentence structure that communicates the same message when read in reverse order.
We're talking about a ``palindrome,'' which comes from the Greek word ``palindromos,'' meaning running again or recurring. And an example of this fascinating construction? How about ``race car.'' Or you can go with the ``mother of all palindromes''-the supposed introduction our forefather, Adam, used on Eve in the Garden of Eden: ``Madam, I'm Adam.''
Health alert-A Tire Business correspondent who shall remain nameless tells of the comment his nutritionist wife made to him about suffering from ``Dunlop disease.''
``Huh?'' he said, to which his honey-pointing at his burgeoning belly-replied: ``It done laps over!''
Erin go bragh-An interesting item from the world of corporate name dropping: Save the World Air Inc. of San Diego announced the addition of Specialty Equipment Market Association Board Chairman Nathan Shelton to its board, along with activist Erin Brockovich. How about a special guest appearance by Julia ``Pretty Woman'' Roberts?
A taxing situation
Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but our beloved Internal Revenue Service has lowered the 2003 national per-mile business driving rate to 36 cents for U.S. taxpayers, effective Jan. 1, 2003.
For those of you keeping score, that's a 0.5-cent decrease from the rate established for this year, according to Runzheimer International. If you're planning a business trip, it's not too late to push ahead your schedule a bit to get that current 36.5 cents-per-mile rate. Heck, in this economy every fraction of a cent counts.
So brother, just follow Neil Diamond's advice: ``Pack up the babies and grab the old ladies....''
Remember when it was all the rage to strategically sit on a copy machine to produce a unique personal rendition of one's, uh, posterior parts? Well, maybe not quite the rage, but no doubt somewhere someone is blushing just thinking about those kinds of antics.
An 11-year-old English lass tried to do a variation on that routine by attempting to scan her face into her personal computer, with disastrous, embarrassing results.
A spokesman for the fire department in Ipswich, England, told Reuters that this young woman was experimenting with an old-style scanner when she got her lip caught in a roller. Her mom couldn't release her, so in desperation she called fire fighters. In a delicate operation, one fireman held the girl while another rolled her lip out of the contraption.
``We have the tools for these kinds of things,'' the spokesman said, ``although this was certainly a little bit different. She was in quite a lot of pain.''
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (which sounds like a counterpart to our Occupational Health & Safety Administration) acknowledged the little girl's misfortune was a new wrinkle. ``It goes without saying that it's not a good idea to put parts of your body into a computer scanner,'' she told Reuters, ``but then kids will be kids.''
As the saying goes, don't try this at home, unless you want to hear: ``Smile, you're on candid scanner.''
Some great news for Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd.-but we can't help wondering about the size of some cars hitting our highways.
The Tokyo-based company, parent to Yokohama Tire Corp. in California, has snared an original equipment contract to supply tires for the first edition of German company smart-Brabus GmbH.'s micro compact (read that really tiny) car. It's been available in European markets since June, but there's no word on whether we'll ever see this one Stateside.
The tire maker's A539 and A520 high-performance tires were chosen, the company said, because they offer ``outstanding kinetic performance and improved wet grip capabilities.''
Now, take a gander at the smart-Brabus vehicle (above). Kind of like a roller skate on performance tires.
Edited by Sigmund J. Mikolajczyk