DSC_5187And a bunch of Wild Childs they are! That’s a century old Case steam tractor being fired with renewable fuel… Corn cobs! Case barely survives as half the current brand name Case-IH, but given that FIAT/IVECO spinoff CNH (Case New Holland) also owns New Holland which we used to call Ford, the Case name’s days in the tractor market may be numbered.

DSC_519960s Minneapolis-Moline, note the pioneering use of clean propane fuel… These days they give you a big tax credit for that. MM along with several other tractor makers was bought up by White in the 60s and run into the ground.

DSC_5201CO-OP, built for a network of farm cooperatives from the 30s through the 50s, IIRC this one is a rebadged Oliver, another victim of White’s tractorcide.

DSC_5203Ferguson 30 from the 50s… Henry Ferguson and Henry Ford were partners in creating the Ford N series tractors, then the Henrys had a falling out. The result was Ferguson building his own line of near identical tractors to the Ford N, ‘cept they used overhead valve Continental engines and kept the design alive with more power after Ford dropped the N series. Ferguson survives as half the Massey-Ferguson name now owned by AGCO.

DSC_5205More Case tractors…

DSC_5204.JPG

DSC_5210McCormick-Deering brand of International Harvester (IH), lives on as half the Case-IH brand name, but some of ’em are startin’ to look a lot like New Holland tractors.

DSC_5213British built IH diesel from the 50s.

DSC_5212Ford 8N, last of the line of N series tractors built from the late 30s to early 50s. Reputedly half the Ns every built are still running, despite Ford having bought implement maker New Holland and switching to that brand name, then selling of their whole tractor business to FIAT/IVECO. The closest thing you’ll find today to a Ford tractor is an all wheel drive Super Duty, which has plenty of power and pull but no rear PTO or 3 point hitch to put said power to work. This orphan’s been workin’ out, flexing the muscles of a flathead V8 transplant! Ford may have given up on tractors, but Ford lovers never give up…

DSC_5191The Case steam tractor beginning it’s 2nd century of work. Wonder when the 3 surviving big tractor makers will catch up and come out with a tractor that can be fixed by any local blacksmith shop and runs on renewable fuels?

Thanks to Minnesota’s Machinery Museum in Hanley Falls for another great Threshing Show!

 

 

No, I won’t even call them hobos, a hobo is an honorable person who travels to obtain work when work ain’t available in their locale, a tramp is just lazy and finds the railroad an easy place to loaf. Couple years back a bunch of Wall Street raiders headed by Bill Ackman saw an open door on a CP locomotive and hopped aboard. If they’d just hopped in any empty boxcar nobody would have minded, but Ackman sat himself down in the conductor’s seat even though he didn’t even know how to couple a car never mind couple with another railroad. Then he invited the CEO who damn near ran CN into the ground, Hunter Harrison, into the engineer’s seat so he could work the same “magic” on CP.

What followed has been a couple years of customers pulling the pin while these Wall Street whiz kids tried to shrink what they viewed as their toy railroad until it would fit on the executive boardroom table, customers and employees be damned. The hoped for couplings with a major eastern railroad never happened, I swear both NS and CSX would have run their trains into the Atlantic Ocean before they’d merge with the barely rolling wreckage that CP was becoming.

But the Wall Street whiz kids weren’t able to derail CP, and despite Ackman dumping a bunch of stock on the market today CP’s stock price dropped a couple percent and is recovering. With over a century of history behind them, even the Wall Street whiz kids couldn’t kill CP. Lesson for Wall Street: You worry about your corner offices, and let the railroaders run the railroads!

Dear Diana,

Thank you for your interest in purchasing a Ford GT!

We are thrilled that you share our passion for performance and the all-new Ford GT.

The demand for Ford GT from enthusiasts like you has surpassed our very limited production. Unfortunately, we do not have enough Ford GTs to fulfill your request at this time.

We have confirmed our Ford GT production plans for only two years. However, if additional production is confirmed, your application information will remain in your profile for easy updating.

Meanwhile, we encourage you to stay connected to the latest announcements, news and information through our website: www.fordgt.com.

Thank you, again, for your passion for our all-new supercar.

Regards,

The Ford GT Team

To be honest, I didn’t expect to be “selected” to buy a Ford GT… Heck, without some very creative financing I’d probably have to live in the the car, and the accommodations look pretty spartan. So Ford, in the best tradition of ol’ Henry, why not make more? And thanks to the miracle of mass production, spread out the millions in development costs over thousands more Ford GTs. Heck, probably could even drop the price a below the current $400k plus, maybe even hit the $100k sweet spot that would make Porsche sweat!

About now some Ford middle manager is saying “This Gearhead Grrrl don’t know nothin’ ’bout what it costs to build a car outa carbon fiber, and them pretty Brembo brakes ain’t cheap either!”. They said that about aluminum decades ago, and now Ford is making even pickups out of aluminum. They can afford to make pickups out of aluminum because way back in the 60s Ford was one of the pioneers of welded aluminum body building with the optional aluminum W series truck cab. After a decade and change of practice as a low volume option, they made aluminum standard for the CL series cab and made aluminum an option for the higher volume 2nd generation Louisville series trucks. The formula is simple- Make more, you get better at it, and prices drop. As for the Brembos, we’ll be happy with black.

So build more Ford GTs, and let ol’ Henry relax in his grave…

Sorry Diogenes, but ethics ain’t improved much during the last couple millenia since you went on a fruitless search for an honest man. In the latest charges against VW in the growing DieselGate scandal, the Attorney Generals of New York and a couple other states allege that the “cheat code” was more than just a hack to get VW past U.S. Emissions standards ’til they could get new models designed around Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) tanks into production and wasn’t just vestigially present but inactive in the rest of VW’s diesels for going on a decade. Turns out that the cheat was on in pretty much every VW TDI diesel sold in the U.S. since late 2008, and maybe longer in the rest of the world. VW is probably the largest volume builder of diesel cars in the world and has a big chunk of the light commercial vehicle biz too… Which means that VW may very well have been the biggest producer of NOX and other emissions for the last decade. Sorry VW, this is no longer an insignificant small market half million car “oops”.

Apparently there’s no more honesty to be found in the heavy truck biz…The EU’s antitrust regulators and prosecutors just came down hard on their market’s heavy truck makers, hitting Daimler, IVECO, Paccar, Volkswagon, and  Volvo with a few billion in fines for using the tightening emissions standards as an excuse to collude in price fixing. Knowing what the hardware to meet the new standards in 2007 and 2010 in the USA cost, I was somewhat taken aback when the big truck makers uniformly seemed to jack prices by $7500 for the 2007 models and yet another $7500 for the 2010 models. No surprise, given that the guilty parties in the EU are also 3 or the 4 surviving U.S. heavy truck makers.

In the corporate world Diogene’s search has been taken over by Ethisphere, a non profit that rates companies and even nonprofits on their ethical behavior or lack of the same. Participation is voluntary, but I would guess every Fortune 500 company with a chance of winnin’ their awards is applying for them… So how come only one automaker, Ford, has made Ethisphere’s awards list for several years now, while Cummins of engine fame has been a regular honoree for over a decade now? No surprise, Ford has given up trying to fool us with a half dozen upmarket variations on the same vehicle and they knew better than too even try to get a diesel car certified in the USA. Cummins is big in natural gas and pays the worlds best architects to design public buildings in their hometown of Columbus, Indiana. The lone truck only maker to merit Ethisphere honors is Oshkosh, who makes mostly military trucks but is known for underbidding Navistar by so much on a lucrative contract that losing Navistar protested that Oshkosh’s prices were too low. Locomotive and just about everything else electrical builder GE earned honors too, as did Deere in the tractor biz.

So how come VW didn’t make Ethisphere’s honor roll? And Toyota, GM, Honda, BMW, Daimler, Suburu, Isuzu, Paccar, Fiat Chrysler, ad nauseum?

  • Which given the great location, a suburban county fair park, was no surprise. The surprise was that the usual padded attendance was only around 6000. For an isolated location like Billings that would be good turnout, for an upstate western New York location within a days ride of at least a half dozen multi-million population megaplexes, it’s a real letdown. Perhaps not too many riders cared to be affiliated with the club now that they’ve with no notice, never mind board and membership authorization, moved to BMW of North America’s corporate campus?

Ever wonder why they’re trying to sell you a “connected” car, etc.?

Back in the old days, we owned stuff… Heck, sometimes we even made our stuff. My grandparents never even borrowed to buy a house, they build it from a shell they bought in the depression, adding on attic dormers, a kitchen and garage in the back, and a full basement and furnace underneath. They didn’t build their own cars, but they bought them cash and were quite proficient in the operation of valve spring and piston ring compressors. My parents paid off their house on a 30 year mortgage, and as long as the terms of said mortgage were satisfied, they were free to do as they pleased with the property. They paid cash for their cars and could darn well have rebuilt them if need be, and we kids rebuilt a couple engines in the driveway.

I belatedly became a homeowner, but the current generation of twenty and even forty somethings seem locked out of the mortgage market, the big banks preferring to lend to big apartment developers who will assure these young folks never acquire equity and the resulting retirement security of owning a home. Same with cars, trucks, and motorcycles as leasing replaces financing, and you’ll be penalized if you dare show up at the dealer with cash. And just to keep you yoked to the dealers and manufacturers wagon, they’ll be happy to hook you into years long maintenance contracts, etc..

This sleazy business practice is called “rent seeking”, and it’s a currently popular business model, which explains why your cell service provider wants to “give” you a “free” phone, then hits you for a hundred or so a month for the next couple years to pay for it. Same with vehicles, and all the manufacturers will be happy to tie you to one lease and maintenance plan after another for posterity. But rent seeking is so 2007…

Welcome to the brave new world of connected cars and kill switches! Like the assembly line which was actually invented by the packing houses to disassemble carcasses, the earliest example of this new economic model comes from poultry and hog barns, where Swift, Perdue, etc. own the livestock and the farmer provides the land, barn, feed, and everything else. Then when the livestock is trucked off for slaughter, the packer decides how much to pay the farmer. This scam obviously works to the benefit of the packers, who have nothing invested but some hatchlings and baby oinkers, while the farmer is in hock for millions to buy the land, tractors, feed, barns, etc.. And when the animal lovers demand bigger cages and the consumers demand organic, the farmer is on the hook for those extra costs. And if the packer screwed up and is having a bad quarter, they just pay the farmers less and look like Wall Street wiz kids. This has not gone unnoticed by the telecom companies… Apple hit AT&T for $400 and more for every iPhone sold back when they were the sole provider, then had to make that back over a two year contract. Try to escape that bad deal by rooting your iPhone, and Apple got even by throwing their “kill switch” and bricking your phone, even if you’d paid the $400 or more for it and owned it free and clear. No wonder my $25 el cheapo smartphone keeps getting “updated” by Sprint to try to make it leach off of my AT&T WiFi hotspot instead of their Sprint cell site!

So the auto and truck makers and soon the motorcycle makers too, still hurting from the last recession, are following the “killswitch” trend. Almost everyone is pushing “connected” vehicles, continually “calling home” to keep the maker appraised of where you’ve been at what extralegal velocities and RFID willing, how many cases of beer you overloaded the vehicle with. DIY repairs? Paper manuals that can sit on the bookshelf awaiting a later this century restoration are gone, and manuals on CDs and DVDs are an endangered species. You’ll rent access to service data for vehicles you thought you owned, if they let you access manuals at all… Volvo Trucks won’t sell you service data or parts to fix their automated manual transmission at any price, assuring a steady recession proof revenue flow and profitably (for them) shortened trade intervals. That’s just the beginning…

Remember how recently hackers revealed that late model Fiat Chrysler cars can be hacked, controlled, and shut down remotely over their “connected” network? As the techs used to joke… “That ain’t a bug, that’s a feature!”. Yup, wouldn’t be at all surprised if Fiat Chrysler built that “bug” right into the software to make repos easier. The insurance companies will love this new way to recover stolen cars, and don’t you dare forget to pay that insurance bill! But it’s the EPA that will make it mandatory, ’cause it gives them an easy way to shut down the “coal rollers” that defy them and the poor working stiffs just trying to keep there vehicle running by bypassing emissions hardware they can’t afford to fix.

Give ’em a decade or so and they’ll have it mandated on new vehicles. You’re driving along and every 10 miles or so, just like the Chicago area toll roads, your smartphone will play over “your” connected car’s “In Car Entertainment” system “Manufacturers service fee due”. You grit your teeth (don’t swear, they’re listening) and swipe your cell phone across the ICE screen and pay the ransom, ‘fore they KillSwitch” “your”car!

I turn 66 today. I’m supposed to slowly drive over to the Social Security office, fill out the paperwork, then recline back and wait for the checks to roll in. No thanks!

Having refused the recliner and the inevitable slouch toward the nursing home bed and coffin, the Democratic Party of which I am a low level official has designs on my time. By around this time of an election year you can pretty much predict how things will play out… The party will blow their wad electing Hillary by a landslide and completely forget about winning back congress. And the winnable elections out here in farm country? Not even on their beltway based radar. So no, I’m not going to waste the rest of my summer doing parades for good rural candidates that the party long ago abandonned.

So what the heck am I gonna do?

Dive even deeper into technology and science for a start. This is a nation and world that has elevated electric cars and belching super sized pickups to sacred status, yet neither is the solution to much of any problem. And heck, there’s whole cults of junk science out there either totally denying that global warming is a problem or tersly warning of imminent incineration if we don’t cover our driveways with electric cars and our roofs with solar cells.

In the mists of these cults of self serving misinformation lies reality, and that’s where I intend to take my studies (I ain’t wastin’ free college for seniors!) and this blog.  Example: Did the numbers a while back and figured out that my not even $2000 wood pellet and corn fueled home heating unit was reducing global warming more than a $100,000+ solar array.  My little biomass stove is fuelled by carbon absorbed by trees and corn plants while growing, then the released carbon is reabsorbed by plants and the cycle repeats, with the environment being no worse for wear. And if we can heat our homes with renewables, why can’t we run our vehicles on bean and corn squeezin’s too? Global warming, cheaply solved… But neither big oil and their “coal rollers” nor big solar and Tesla stockholders want to talk about simple solutions that deny them billions and defy their cult.

But it’s science, technology, and solutions that this blog exists for. And the lasting joy of old and simple motorcycles, too…