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The Wall Street Journal and Seeking Alpha are reporting that “Today's Gas-Guzzling Exotic Cars May Get Zapped by New Fuel Rules.” So-called “footprint based” Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards will virtually guarantee that “Specialty, high powered luxury and sports cars cannot meet the compact and midsize footprint mileage requirements. They will have to either redefine luxury and sport, or pay fines.”
Not surprising. In fact, Speedzzter predicted it. One-size-fits-all bureaucratic tampering with the free market often adversely affects fringe and niche segments more adversely.
Don't be surprised if we see "footprint" circumvention through larger "Bonneville" streamliner-styled sports cars (i.e. a larger, "lower-density" aerodynamic vehicle designed to artificially increase the "footprint" through wider tracks, tapered and extended tail sections and larger front "splitters"). Also don't be surprised if we see more "trucklets" (Utes, "Rancheros," "El Caminos") and CUV-based "sports cars," with just enough "truck" features to qualify under the more generous truck CAFE standards.
One thing is sure, the new rules will bloat the price of high performance models and will tend to reduce nimbleness.
“SPEED RACER” CRASHES AND BURNS?
Nikki Finke and the Drudge Report claim that the new film “Speed Racer” is a flop.
Of course the mere idea of making a hugely expensive CGI-live action version of a relatively obscure and crude Japanese cartoon has always seemed dodgy at best.
But “Speed Racer’s” crash and burn has caused some to question whether audiences will respond to ANY film on motorsports.
It remains to be seen whether or not current audiences will watch a great film about automobile racing (or automotive themes, for that matter), because Hollywood hasn't produced one in almost three decades.
(And just because "Talladega Nights" generated big “box office” with crude and "racy" humor in a NASCAR setting doesn't make it a great RACING movie. Nor does the "01" painted on the side of the "Jumpin' General Lee" make the "Dukes of Hazzard" mess great).
"Speed Racer" merely bloats the list of acerebrially stupid "car racing" movies, along with such forgettable duds as "The Fast and The Furious" franchise, "Da[ze] of Thunder," "Six Pack," "Stroker Ace," "Driven" and others that are simply too horrible to mention.
"Speed Racer" apparently flopped because it was: (a) too ridiculous to appeal to knowledgeable automobile enthusiasts, hot rodders, racing fans and other "gearheads;" (b) too coarse and crude for family audiences; (c) too old and obscure for trend-savvy kids; & (d) too heavy on the computer-generated, video-game FX for older, more serious cinema afficionados.
What a waste!
A MODEL T FOR THE 21ST CENTURY?
Ford Motor Company ® is sponsoring an elite contest among a select group of design colleges to come up with a Model T for the 21st Century. The new “Universal Car” has to come in at a $7,500.00 price point.
In today’s complex and highly regulated auto market, that’s a tall order.
Undoubtedly, the design teams will submit a slew of simple, futuristic and minimalist designs. However, Speedzzter would suggest the following attributes should be included to truly capture the spirit of the original Model T:
1. Modular construction – Henry Ford’s legendary Model T could be easily configured into numerous body styles and uses. Abandoning the restrictions of the modern unitized body for some sort of a space frame platform would seem necessary to provide this flexibility.
2. Home serviceability – Nearly every farmer with an ordinary set of tools could maintain and even rebuild a Model T. To be true to the spirit of the original, the new “universal car” would have to be simple and accessible enough for home mechanics to keep running.
3. Off-road capability – Henry’s T was designed for both paved and unpaved roads. One could argue that the WWII Jeep ® was little more than a four-wheel-drive version of the same concept packaged in a utilitarian semi-envelope body. A spiritual successor to Henry’s T would need to be able to function even where the pavement ends.
4. Performance – High performance is not usually associated nowadays with Henry’s T. But at its 1908 introduction, the Model T virtually doubled the amount of horsepower and torque available at that price point. And Henry’s factory Speedsters and numerous aftermarket conversions were at the heart of hot rodding and grassroots American motorsports for over a generation. Any modern iteration of the Model T which does not capture this aspect of its design would not be a valid spiritual successor.
5. Flex-fuel capability – Henry’s T was designed to run on a variety of fuels, including renewable, farm-based ethanol. A modern Model T should also contain this capability.
6. Simplicity – Model T clubs have demonstrated the ability to assemble one of Henry’s Model Ts in less than 30 minutes (with the drivetrain already put together and ready to drop in). That’s a testimony to the simplicity of the original design. A modern successor should also strive to reduce complexity in the non-power train systems as much as possible.
7. Size and weight – The original T wasn’t a tiny microcar. But neither was it a heavy weight. It could snugly fit four full-sized Americans in its most common forms. Thus, a modern T should not be so downsized as to cramp its primary function as flexible transportation for passengers and cargo.
The Model T wasn’t the first car or even the first simple car. But it became a legend because it was the first relatively inexpensive, mass-produced car which incorporated the foregoing functional elements.
A number of more specialized simple cars have been designed since, such as the aforementioned Jeep ®, the Volkswagen Type 1 Beetle, the Citroën 2CV, the Lotus 7, the BMC Mini and a number of others. However none of these later cars have captured the complete essence and functionality of the original “Universal Car.”
Thus, even attempting to design a worthy modern version of the Model T is a daunting task.
(Probably one more suited to a group of savvy “hot rodders” and tinkerers in tune with Henry Ford’s way of thinking than it is to young design students).