Great at any speed?
Remember the big brouhaha consumer crusader Ralph Nader created with his book Unsafe At Any Speed, about the lowly Chevrolet Corvair?
Seems our country's top motor vehicle safety regulator, Dr. Jeffrey Runge, is a big fan and undisputed lover of the little rear-engined albatross. It was, after all, Mr. Nader's book that led to the creation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the agency which today is headed by the good doctor.
Dr. Runge revealed his Corvair affinity recently after General Motors Corp. asked invitees at a Washington, D.C., party it threw to tell stories of their favorite cars. He said he became smitten with the vehicle at age 7, when his mother won a Corvair in a department store drawing.
Had the family held onto it, that 'Vair would be quite the conversation piece today.
Amidst all the hoopla at the annual North American International Auto Show-dubbed the Detroit Auto Show-visitors found glitzy concept cars aplenty, as well as new vehicles just waiting for rabid buyers to put the pedal to the metal.
But there's another vehicle plying the highways around Motown that you won't find in any auto show or car dealership showroom. It's the hot-pink ``Piggybank Mobile.'' Created by the Michigan Education Savings Program, the porkmobile's meant to draw attention to the state's Department of Treasury plan to provide families with a flexible way to save for their children's future.
Who knows...the eye-catching Ford Focus, shod with Pirelli tires, could start a trend. Are you motoring around in what might politely be referred to as a ``gas hog''? Then slap a snout on it and drive with your head held high.
This 'n that
Round, black...and tanned-We got a chuckle from an old flyer we just ran across for the Northeast Ohio Regional Tire Dealers Association's meeting last October. It was held in a place called the ``Magic Tanning Salon and Banquet Hall.'' (Tan while you eat?)
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A very short circuit-Poet Robert Frost noted that ``the brain is a wonderful organ. It starts working when you get up in the morning and doesn't stop until you get to the office.'' (Boy, is he right.)
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Look who's squawking-American humorist Will Rogers offered words to live by: ``Lead your life so you wouldn't be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.''
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So bad they're good-Ya gotta love a company with a name like Bad Toys Inc.
No, it's not some reject-bin throwaway. The Nevada corporation makes and sells custom V-Twin motorcycles, definitely toys for discerning, speed-seeking adults.
Alas, the recently unveiled annual Pirelli S.p.A. pin-up calendar features no tire company officials in swimsuits.
Created by Nick Night, the British lensman ``posed his models in an ambience that is dreamlike and fantastic but unequivocally feminine,'' the company said, producing a calendar that is ``vibrant in its color, abstract in its design and magical to the eye.''
Wish we could show you a few shots from its pages, but our censors would have to work overtime judiciously editing the images for family consumption. Pirelli said each image in the calendar is based on ``ideas expressed'' by several noted women (who did not pose), including Islandic singer Bjork, French actress/beauty Catherine Deneuve, the infamous ``Hollywood Madame'' Heidi Fleiss, American actress Liv Tyler and punk rocker/sometimes actress/oftentimes bad girl Courtney Love.
But we can assure you that, as in past years, the calendar does indeed have 12 months-with the dates hardly visible on each glossy page-and no tires to be found anywhere.
The Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University recently released its study of 2001 federal highway data, and it confirms that we're indeed spending more time in our vehicles (but enjoying it less?).
According to the study, reported in USA Today, the average driver wastes 51 hours a year stuck in traffic-an hour more than a year before and an increase of four hours over a five-year period. When the study was first compiled in 1982, our highways were congested an average of 4.5 hours a day. That number's up to seven hours now.
No surprise that Los Angeles leads the list of congested cities, with an average 25-minute commute in L.A. that stretches to 43 minutes during congested periods, according to USA Today. That works out to drivers there spending about 90 hours a year stuck in traffic.
San Francisco was second, with drivers wasting 68 hours annually in their cars; Denver and Miami were close behind, with 64 and 63 hours, respectively. Boston, Portland, Ore., and Washington, D.C., drivers tied for the No.'s 8-10 spots on the top-10 chart, logging 58 hours a year in their four-wheeled prisons.
Several possible solutions to ease the logjams were cited: more public transportation and the addition of 2,875 miles of new lanes on freeways and arterial roads.
We've also got a suggestion. Some savvy tire dealers may want to consider this seemingly captive audience and bump up their investment in radio advertising. All those drivers will inevitably need tires-and probably something to relieve any impending bouts of road rage.