Monday, February 9, 2009

The Philly Auto Show

Yesterday, Alex and I partook in the Philly Auto Show, a yearly tradition at the Convention Center. We had a good time walking around displays, checking out new cars. I was disappointed they didn't have the new Chevy Volt - apparently it had to make a visit to Washington, D.C. but there were tons of hybrids and "low emissions cars" and a few fun designs. Some of the more interesting things? Well, hybrid does not necessarily mean lower emissions. The Chevy Malibu hybrid comes off the lot with a higher "Smog number" than most other new vehicles. Strange, you might say? Well, it appears that, with all the room you have to make for both an electric engine and a gasoline engine, in the same size car, you have to make some cuts on the gas engine's clean and efficiency factors. Weird, right? And they're coming out with some new hybrid trucks. Alex and I were under the impression that hybrids in trucks were just not a good idea yet since the electric engine doesn't produce enough force (torque?) to carry/pull loads like trucks are expected to do. But there they were on their little rotating pedestals, claiming hybrid efficiency and better gas mileage. Yeah, you know what your big gain in gas mileage is? From 19mpg to 21mpg I shit you not. WTF, right?
I think a lot of the show was just kinda sad. It's sad to see American industries that had been at the top of their game in the golden years slowly and surely die away as European and Asian car companies have obviously prepared for the inevitable end of the gasoline era much better. To see Chevy and Chrysler asking for bailout money, desperate to keep factories open while producing arguably sub-standard cars is really kinda sad. My Dad's an old car enthusiast. He loves any and all old cars, even rust buckets and falling apart chassis. I think a lot of it is nostalgia. A bygone era, before WWII, when the country was a little bit more innocent. When people could start their own car companies and produce cars in their own backyards (you'd be surprised how often this happened). When American innovation and technology was coveted around the world. Now, we're just stuck in some black hole of horrible labor relations, pensions that have been mismanaged or are nonexistent, CEOs flying in private jets around the country while the regular workers are struggling to put food on the table. I am pretty sure the unemployment rate in Michigan is close to 50% (ghastly, isn't it?). All of these things were flying through my head as we checked out the displays.
And then we stumbled upon a display from some local museums, showing off some cherry looking beautiful old brass era cars as well as some old T-birds, a great old Maxwell and a beautiful Packard. Man, were those cars amazing! Some took me back, picturing Al Capone and his gangsters rum running around Chicago. Others made me think of elegant women, wrapped in furs, climbing into these cars and riding around in the dead of winter (remember, no windows and often no roofs!). Some just cracked me up, like the long nosed Jaguar with only one seat or the Dodge Charger with the giant wing on back (made for racing). These cars spanned lifetimes and eras, and I was so grateful to the owners for preserving this (mostly American) valuable history. There was even a '77 Lincoln Continental, the car my Dad threatened to purchase for me upon my turning 16 so I could not possibly hurt myself while driving thru the 'Nard. Thankfully I ended up with the fancy Mitsubishi Expo so it wasn't quite as cool as the Lincoln.
I'm not quite sure how this turned into a commentary on all things auto, but it did. The auto show is a good afternoon, if you enjoy cars. And it may be one of the last given by some of our Detroit hangers on.


Randi said...

I think Buzz might mount you for mentioning Michigan.

Buzz said...

...maybe if you had thrown in the state bird (Robin) or flower (apple blossom)...