So the judged has judged, and it’s official: Arms twisted by the combined might of EPA, DOJ, CARB, and every state AJ along for the ride too, VW has committed under penalty of further legal arm twisting to buy my ’13 WV TDI back for pretty much what I paid for it, minus a measly nickel a mile over 62,500. Turn in date is at least 2 years out, and here’s the starting point:

dsc_5460Oil and filter changes are due every 10k miles, add a fuel and air filter to that every 20k. Every 40k there’s the big transmission fluid and filter change, and of course the battery and sundry other bits are in the way. The big one, the timing belt change, is due at 130k… $250 in parts and a few more special tools I don’t have. So another 100k or so miles of highway haulin’ and hell raisin’ sounds like a worthy goal before I surrender this 40 MPG “light truck” to VW and probably the scrapper.

So “That’s too far away” is no longer a valid excuse….

Consumer Report’s annual auto reliability survey results are out, and auto maker press flacks will be in CYA mode for the next few days. Here’s the link to CR’s report.

The “topline” results are that Toyota’s brands are back on top, perhaps thanks to the loss of underperformer Scion. Buick is up there too, Chevy even narrowly beat out Ford, but GMC and even Caddy is still stuck in the basement reliability wise… You don’t always get what you pay (more) for. Same at FoMoCo, where Fords were more reliable than the gussied up Fords otherwise marketed as Lincolns. But at VW group, Audi was right up there with the best while Porsche barely bested Chevy, and VW flirted with long time bottom dweller Fiat Chrysler. Kia/Hyundai put in solid performances at the high end of the pack along with Mazda, with BMW, Nissan and Honda merely “above average”. Mercedes tied Ford, and FCA easily held on to their title of least reliable, thanks to Ram trucks no-star performance of 15 on a 1 to 100 scale. Tesla slumped further into FCA’s basement dwelling, and wasn’t FCA looking for a “Partner” to build cars for them? Sounds like a marriage made in hell…

But for us stats geeks, it’s the details in the “cross tabs” that are revealing. For example, on first glance it appears that none of the domestic pickup trucks, even Ford’s, have risen above “below average”. But follow CR’s links back and look up the results for individual models, and you find in almost every case the problem is the 1/2 ton models, with the 3/4 and 1 ton equivalents in almost every case performing more reliably. That suggests that the 1/2 ton pickups, which are essentially old school ‘merican cars missing a trunk lid, aren’t up to real truck duties.

Digging further in the details, VW’s score of 30 on that 1-100 scale is dragged down by the poor performance of the latest generation of VW’s Golf/Jetta, and Audi’s A3 twins is dragging Audi down too. The current Golf has slipped all the way to “far below average” and is off the shortlist for replacing my TDI, but that’s a couple years away so VW gets a do-over on that. One finds similar disparities in Ford’s lineup, with the Fiesta and Focus far below average, largely thanks to the problems Ford and their customers are having with those model’s dual clutch automated manual transmission. The Fusion and Transit Connect use much the same engines with a conventional automatic, and despite having more bulk and mass to haul around, they rate average on CR’s reliability survey.

This shows some of the weaknesses in CR’s survey- CR’s statistical rigor is above reproach and no one else has as vast a sample size, but their statisticians don’t seem to understand that many of these vehicles are available with a variety of powertrains, and lumping them together screws the validity of some of CR’s findings. For example, if you search out and find a Fiesta or Focus with a manual transmission, you might get a damn reliable car. In the mass market models like the pickups, there surely are big enough sample sizes to break out results by powertrain like CR used to do. Same at VW, where the loss of the diesel option from the 2016 models may cause the remaining gas engines to drag down the brand’s reliability.

So take CR’s results with a healthy helping of salt. And the motorcycle survey results… Appear to have disappeared from CR’s web page. They included motorcycles in this years survey, and hopefully those results will appear again next spring or earlier.

dsc_5456The leaves are fallin’, and the corn is gettin’ picked so pretty soon you won’t need a drone to see over it. The thick groves will  be revealing their fruit soon, in the form of thousands of old cars, trucks, tractors, whatever. And no need to wait for the leaves to finish their fall, as harvest is already flushing out the best of the old machines to haul the harvest. Amidst the sheds, silos, and implements above is  a garden variety IH Loadstar in the background, must have seen at least  a dozen already today. But what have we got right and front of the silo… Not one but two classic cabovers! The white one is an IH Cargostar, built anywhere from the late 60s through the early 80s. The blue one is a Chevy/GMC T series, built from the late 50s through the 80s, when it was replaced by a badge engineered Isuzu.

dsc_5435Ford LTL9000, reporting for duty at a sugar beet “piler” in western Minnesota. Well, I think it’s an LTL, the fairly rare Louisville Line variant with a long hood and deluxe trim, etc.. But could be an aftermarket LTL style hood on a plain medium length hood Louisville, company in Minnesota sold a lot of them. But judging by the fit between the cowl and fender I’d guess it’s a genuine LTL. The steps on the passenger side means it was built with only a single fuel tank and was a dump truck from the start, kinda rare as most LTL’s were long haul highway tractors with sleepers.

dsc_5434This Bulldog’s been called up for beet harvest duty too, it’s an early 80s Mack Western which means lightweight chassis for maximum payload. But the hood bears both “RS600LS” and “Valuliner” insignia, so it was probably born Allentown whereabouts… The “Valuliner” replaced the “RS” and “RL” models. Having the insignia of both models suggests this one was built around the early 80s when production was moved to Pennsylvania after the Mack Western plant in Hayward, California shut down.

dsc_5458And the usual rural automobilia… This stonework was originally a gas station in Arco, Minnesota and is now a residence. The same artist did several statues including a statue of liberty in the town park.

Time to get back on the hack’d Super Tenere and find some more pictures…

If you’ve been following the news, VW is buying a quarter of Navistar, builder of International trucks… That officially makes them ‘an item”, and engagement and eventually marriage is expected soon. Nothing new for International, who’s been “sleeping around” since they went all but bankrupt in the 80s. Let me check the “little black book”… International was shacking up with DAF first, then got kicked out and the whole deal fell apart before they could even badge engineer and federalize a cabover for us ‘mericans. That was followed by one night stands with FIAT’s IVECO and Nissan, then a long term relationship with Ford that went as far as assembling Ford trucks as well as diesels for Ford. After that relationship soured and Uncle Sugar quit buying half million dollar armored SUVs to get blown up in the middle east, International had a fling with MAN that led to the birth of a 13 liter engine, which International then misdiapered and damn near lost custody of the whole company when the EPA caught up with them. VW bought MAN and Scania too, while newly outa bankruptcy GM decided to get back into the medium truck biz. So while rumors of a VW proposal to International swirl, International hops in bed with GM and forms a relationship to assemble said medium trucks for GM. Then VW comes up with some hard cash, and suddenly this is “serious”.

So promises are made: VW will give International their next generation engine design and the aforementioned dowry. International will… Print up a bunch more stock certificates and give them to VW. All will be sweetness and light, and unicorns will grace the hoods of future Internationals. Heck, this morning I even heard rumor that International will be selling VW’s medium cabover trucks.

But like a certain infamous presidential candidate, International just doesn’t seem cut out for monogamy. With the principals barely sobered up from the party with VW, International jetted off to Australia and announced an affair with IVECO to market International trucks through IVECO dealers, while Cat reassured all that their “arrangement” where International supplied Cat with badge engineered trucks for Australia was still alive.

As an admirer of VW with custody of a few of their prodigy I was thrilled by the news of the relationship and hopefully marriage. And heck, with a couple International dealers closer than the nearest VW dealer, I’d love to be able to buy VW parts closer to home. And if a medium cabover is reputedly coming to International showrooms already, and doesn’t VW have a new 3 row SUV coming online at the Chattanooga Plant? And as long as they’re going to be Ro-Ro shipping them medium cabovers up from Brazil, why not fill out some of the gaps in the load plan with some of them neat little VW compact pickups?

That rumor came and disappeared in just a few of the last 24 hours. Like VW, I’ve been jilted again. And while VW may have anticipated International’s slutty ways in the pre-nups, good luck collecting in bankruptcy court. I sure as heck won’t be fangrrrling around the International dealers waiting for a 21st century Scout or Travellall…



Spent much of today on the internet trying to talk some people into some travel. No, I haven’t taken up gainful(?) employment as an obnoxious travel agent, was just trying to convince them to get out of the way of 140 MPH winds, 10 foot and higher storm surges, and maybe a foot of rain, frogs, and locusts thrown in for good measure.

Most infrastructure like buildings, utilities, telecommunications, and transportation are built for a design wind speed of 100 MPH or so. The below ground infrastructure is built to survive an inch of rain an hour and a once a hundred year flood. Thus a Cat 4 hurricane with the aforementioned assets will likely take out your phone and internet as well as electricity and your toilet won’t flush. The either the walls will blow down, the roof will blow off, or you’ll get flooded and get to drown in your own home instead of killed by your own home come crashing down on you. At that point, the loss of internet access and flush toilet won’t really matter.

Now this catastrophe is forecast to be visited upon the east coast of Florida from around Palm Beach to the state line tonight and friday, and on up along the coast through Georgia and the Carolinas over the weekend. Hop on the bike, car, whatever and head 50 miles west and you’re out of danger. Now I’ve always been suspect of the ability to evacuate the millions of Florida’s east coast citizenry by Florida’s under built highway system, and you’d think that with so few miles between catastrophe and safety, those under built highways would have been jammed… But for the last few days before tonights landfall, westbound traffic counts were up only a thousand vehicles an hour or so at most.

So with safety just an hours drive or even a days bicycle ride west on the Tamiami Trail, Alligator Alley, Bee Line Highway, I-10, and many two lanes, why did folks stay encamped in the hurricane’s path? I heard detailed descriptions of the “nesters” plywood covered windows, reserves of food and water, and stashes of batteries, candles, camp stoves and flashlights. That might work fine up to 100 MPH winds, hundred year floods, and a “garden variety” hurricane. But at 140 MPH it becomes am admittedly comfy but none the less coffin.

Sadly, we have lost our national national need to wander… Used to be that we’d drive 50 miles just to see a good thunderstorm, never mind escape a hurricane. And we’ve become so inept at science that we have no concept of the power of wind, and how it grows in logarithmic fashion. Give us some social media and munchies, and we’ll climb into coffins of our own making and passively await our deaths…

Was perusing the Energy Department’s just released 2017 Fuel Economy Guide the other day and noticed a dearth of diesel cars. Other than Jaguar’s 5 diesel powered models which I don’t believe have even hit showrooms yet, there’s nothing listed.  Just last year we had 24 models from BMW, Mercedes, GM, Fiat Chrysler, and even Rover to choose from, even after VW’s diesels were given the boot by the EPA.

It’s already an open secret shared by displeased customers that Mercedes has pulled it’s 2017 diesel lineup. With rumors suggesting that VW may not be the only emissions cheater circulating, have most all the diesel car makers pulled their offerings before they step deeper into the do-do? Or are the EPA and CARB giving them extra scrutiny before certification, like they did last year?

And here I was, happily ready to hand over the title to my ’13 TDI for what I paid for it, assuming that I’d just turn around and buy another, then diesel on in peace for another decade or so. Perhaps EPA and CARB think that if they deny me a diesel, I’ll give in and accept one of their limited range throwaway electric cars, or at least a throwaway hybrid? Sorry, but even with hybrids being rebated down to the price of their gas equivalents I’m not about to buy a car that will annoy me with “replace hybrid battery” warnings for over half it’s time in my possession. If I’m denied a diesel, the cost of fueling a gas car makes turning in my TDI vs. letting VW “fix” it a wash. And if the EPA and CARB refuse to approve a “fix”, maybe I’ll just have to drive my “dirty diesel” another couple decades…

And did I mention that I’ve got another TDI, a 2003? And if pushed, I ‘spose I could transplant the really dirty diesel out of my ’86 Golf into bodyshell that still has a full floor, then pull out a wrench and screwdriver and crank the injection pump up to “coal roller” setting…


Yes, the lowest of the tractor pullin’ trash has visited my county, again! What the lil’ pullers give up in tonnage they more than make up in action, ‘specially when the propulsion is provided by a surplus UJM 750cc. or bigger inline 4. Heck, even this what looks to be Kohler horizontal twin powered tractor ain’t doin’ too bad. With the opportunity to assist the (barely) forward motion with more than a bit of body english and rapid fire pulls, these lil’ pullers put on a good show!


‘Nuf o’ the summer fun and games, y’all get back to school now…!