1978 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham: Curtain Call For The C-Body

Sometimes, a name can be more important to success than the actual thing itself-at least when it comes to cars. Chrysler’s premium Cadillac fighter, the Imperial, a separate marque from 1955-1975, is such an example. Intended to move Chrysler Corporation more into Cadillac and Lincoln territory, it never really took off despite attractive design and plenty of luxury features. But for many, it was always a “Chrysler Imperial,” and thus not as prestigious as a Continental or Fleetwood Brougham. That was what ultimately brought the Imperial as a marque to a grinding halt in 1975. Funny thing, though. The car itself continued. As the ‘new’ Chrysler New Yorker Brougham.

The chronic Mopar misfortune held steady through the ’70s. In 1974, all their new full-size C-bodies, from the Plymouth Fury to the Imperial LeBaron, were redone with more formal and Broughamier sheetmetal. Although not drastically different size-wise from their fuselage predecessors, they looked bigger. And when the gas crisis hit in late 1973, just as the ’74s were debuting, Chrysler got screwed–again. Despite the company’s continuing bad luck, all their new models were attractive despite styling cribbed directly from GM–something especially noticeable in the Plymouth Fury’s Oldsmobile 88 cues, and in the Dodge Monaco, which looked suspiciously like a 1973 Buick LeSabre.

At the top of the heap was the C-body full-size Imperial LeBaron, arguably the most attractive car of the bunch–as well it should have been, considering its premium $7,200-7,800 pricing. The Imperial’s 124″ wheelbase was the same as lesser New Yorkers and Newports, but the car itself was longer overall and featured exclusive hidden headlights; button-tufted upholstery, in velour or optional leather; and four-wheel disc brakes.

But it didn’t sell: After selling just 14,483 1974 models and a mere 8,830 ’75s, the Imperial finally left the building. Well, until 1981, but that’s a story for another time. Continue Reading →

Forget It Jack, It’s Chinatown: Meyer Optik Nocturnus

This is what they call the double whammy: A German holding company created several brands for use on Kickstarter, where they pimped new Made-In-Germany camera lenses at prices of $3,000 or more. Then the “brands” went bankrupt without fulfilling all of their Kickstarter orders. As is common practice on Kickstarter, that doesn’t mean you get your money back. So a lot of people paid three grand and didn’t get a camera lens.

The people who did get their lens? Well, that’s the second part of the double whammy.

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Weekly Roundup: Thank G-d! Now You Can Buy Watches And Precious Metals Right Here At Riverside Green Edition

When the nice people at Hodinkee changed their business model from “selling ads on a website that writes about watches” to “selling watches on a website which writes about watches”, I have to confess that I wasn’t totally sold on the wisdom of that idea. Retail is a tough business — much tougher than “influencing”, and much more unforgiving when it comes to evaluating the balance sheet. I’ve seen firsthand lately how much money some of the influencer/promoter parasites want for their attention. A lot of these proposed contracts are in the six-figure range. It’s tough to make that kind of money selling special-edition Swatches on your website.

Or is it? Maybe I should find out for myself. I have a few things I’d like to sell over the next months; the nice people at Guerilla Gravity are finishing my MegaTrail much earlier than I’d expected and I’d like to make some room for it in the basement. (I also have to pay for the thing.) Before I list these items elsewhere, I will throw them up here. Unlike Hodinkee, most of what you see here will be cheaper than it would be elsewhere. What’s coming up? Uh, I have no idea offhand, but it could include:

  • Some precious-metal proof and bullion coins;
  • Various rare guitars in the $3k-12k range;
  • “Doubles” of my Japanese guitar collection;
  • A variety of new-with-tag clothing and shoes from Borrelli, Allen Edmonds, Turnbull&Asser, Brioni, and others;
  • Quite a few vintage issues of Panorama, Roundel, R&T, CAR, and other magazines;
  • Press materials and dealership brochures for various exotic and non-exotic vehicles of the Nineties and Oughts;
  • And… watches! Of course watches!

We’ll start the party with a very expensive coin and a very cheap watch. I should point out right up front that these shameless exercises in hucksterism will be limited to about one per fortnight. Other than that, the site will continue as before.

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Jason’s New Ride: 1977 Royal Monaco Brougham

My buddy in Spokane, Jason Bagge, AKA That ’70s Car Guy, AKA The Brougham Whisperer, has found yet another remarkably well-preserved land yacht. This time, it’s the C-body Dodge Monaco, made famous on The Blues Brothers.

“They broke my watch!” “You want out of this parking lot? OK!” “You traded the Cadillac for this?” “Hi! you want to hand me the mike? Thanks a lot. Uh, this is car number…what number are we?” “Five five.” “Car fifty five. Uh, we’re in a truck!”

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Welcome To The Future! We Didn’t Figure Out Flying Cars, But Here’s A Device That Continually Checks Your Work Conversations For Signs Of Ungoodthink

Here we are in the distant future. February of 2020, after Blade Runner and entire decades after the putative settings of various space odysseys and whatnot. We’re still woefully short on:

* space travel
* flying cars
* intelligent robots
* aliens
* lightsabers

and that’s just the beginning of the list. To make matters worse, we are facing an unprecedented crisis. A critical resource, one which employs tens of thousands of people across the country and which is absolutely essential to all segments of the American economy from academic to governmental to corporate, is becoming harder and harder to find. Once upon a time it just bubbled up from the ground; you could find it everywhere from small-town public squares to the Los Angeles streets. Then we had to start digging for it, seeking it out beneath deep layers of rock and out in the ocean. Now, we’re using complex technology to ferret out the last remnants. We’re also creating some of it via artificial means, although the fake stuff doesn’t work as well as the real thing. In the near future, we may have to start looking at serious rationing, just so there’s enough to go around for everyone.

No, I’m not talking about oil. Why would you think that? I’m talking about racism and sexism — but don’t worry, we have our best people on it, and they’ve come up with a brilliant solution to the problem.

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Lyle, Interrupted

To entirely misquote Prince Hal, I could have better spared a better-known musician. Lyle Mays died yesterday, after what his niece called “a long battle with a recurring illness”. Just how long of a battle? It is not possible to know, although perhaps there is a hint of it in the interview section of a 1994 Pat Metheny Group DVD in which Mays says, “I think a lot… about time… and what to do with the time I have.” Mays was forty-one years old at the time; the comment came off as an uncomfortable mix of ego and baked-in oddity. In retrospect, perhaps it was merely a statement of fact from a man who knew he had an expiration date.

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My 1966 Chrysler Windsor, Part 2: Fighting A Rust Monster

Note: This is the continuation of Mike Batch Kirouac’s ’66 Windsor saga (Read Part 1 here, if you missed it). As previously related, he’s a friend of mine, met during the olden days, at Cantankerous Coot, ha ha. Hope you enjoy. He finished this car last summer, and I am hoping he will write up a brand new post with the fascinating conclusion. As always, republished with his permission. -TK

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I am fighting a rust monster. I haven’t seen it, but the signs of its voracious appetite are everywhere. The monster’s corrosive, salty venom has taken its toll on my 1966 Chrysler Windsor, even eating away structural components such as frame rails and body mounts.

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My earlier article on the Windsor ended in a cliffhanger in the fall of 2011, just as I pulled the trigger on restoring the body. I removed the grille, bumper, radiator, underhood wiring harness, engine and transmission.

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Weekly Roundup: How Do You Describe An Odor Like Harvey’s Edition

I can’t say that I have a lot of interest in the Harvey Weinstein affair, so to speak. Like most folks out here in flyover country, I’ve always assumed that Hollywood is filled with broken people doing terribly broken things to each other. Which is not to say that I don’t have any sympathy for the women involved. None of them deserved to be abused or raped. But there is also some evidence that many of them considered it a hugely miserable but nonetheless unavoidable part of the job, the same way that wearing the yellow jersey of a Tour de France leader likely means you’ve been exposed to the kind of drug, training, and behavior regimes that aren’t even approved for use on farm animals. Presumably there are plenty of would-be actresses (and actors, this isn’t just something that happens to women) who see their first casting couch and run screaming back to Minnesota — but you’ve never heard any of their names, for the same reason that you’ll never hear the name of those first-rate road cyclists who have an unconquerable fear of large-bore needles.

There was, however, something in Jessica Mann’s testimony which caught my eye — and it wasn’t her remarkable assertions that Weinstein had no visible testicles and a male organ which needed to be drawn out using another kind of large-bore needle. I think the “deformity” is just a case of Weinstein being grossly obese. All the stuff’s in there, it’s just hidden by six or seven inches of “FUPA”. It’s true that society is generally more accepting of men who wander outside the MetLife height/weight charts (thank G-d) but there’s a point at which you’re not really fit for service, so to speak. There is something fascinating about the fact that Weinstein apparently had sex with nearly every major leading lady in Hollywood but he couldn’t be bothered to stay healthy enough to do it with some kind of needle. Maybe that’s the ultimate expression of power: to make something as unpleasant as humanly possible for your victim. Like O’Brien making Winston see five fingers instead of four.

But I digress. The truly interesting part of Ms. Mann’s statement to the court is a matter of language, not lingam.

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I Swear I’m Not Gonna Buy This Guitar, But You Could Buy It

Almost seven years ago, I wrote a paean to the awkwardly-named uber-Matsumokus named “Skylark” and sold by JC Penney department stores. Well, there’s a perfect example of the big-dog model on Reverb right now. The seller says he won’t take a penny under $800.

If I buy this thing, it will go in my steel-shelf archives with over one hundred of its closest relatives. If you buy it, you would have an absolutely first-rate guitar for the same price as a new Chinese Fender. Someone should play it. There’s no sense in saving it for the future. Who will care about guitars in an era where most people can’t be bothered to learn an instrument?

Maybe you don’t want to spend that much. So here’s an offer which I might repeat in the future but might not: For $299 net Paypal or Venmo, I’ll ship you a very nice Japanese guitar which will only need a quick setup and a change of strings to play pretty well. I have some duplicates I’ve been meaning to shuck off. Stuff like these. My purpose here is to spread the gospel of Matsumoku guitars. If you want to spend more than that, let me know. If you want to spend $800, skip me and buy that SKylark. That’s all, folks!

Weekly Roundup: He Doesn’t Know Why, And “He” Means “It”

This is the story of an ethical dilemma. In the summer of 2018 I took a gig with JPMorgan Chase on the team that designed automated teller machine software. There’s been a fundamental change in the way ATMs work over the past few years. The original ATMs were simply video terminals with an ability to dispense cash; all of your interactions with the machine were actually with a mainframe located on the other end of a dedicated phone line. By the Nineties, ATMs were “real-time” computers which could do a little bit of thinking on their own in-between those mainframe queries. Those worked very well for a very long time.

About half a decade ago, the ATM was reimagined as — ugh — a Web browser with the ability to perform a few mechanical interactions on-site. This is also the way that the VitalPath oncology dispensing system at Cardinal Health, for which I developed the server-side infrastructure and Arduino-based electro-magnetic cabinet locking, works. The advantage of this method is that you can make things look very nice in a hurry, using low-skill developers and established methods. That’s about the only advantage, but it’s a very important one in the modern inverted-pyramid software development lifecycle in which there are multiple “app owners” and “project managers” and “scrum leaders” for every coder who actually does anything.

The disadvantages, on the other hand, are readily apparent to everyone: the machines don’t work reliably, they don’t work quickly, and they are prone to all sorts of unpredictable behavior. It perhaps has not escaped your notice that ATMs don’t work as well as they used to. It certainly hasn’t escaped mine, and I took the Chase gig with an intent to help address this situation.

Which is where the ethical situation comes in. My manager asked me to develop some machine-learning routines to predict ATM failures before they happened. The idea was that the ATMs would often throw various combinations of errors prior to closing up shop. He offered to free up some serious computing power and to give me carte blanche on the project for as long as I needed. This was hugely attractive to me — and did I mention that this particular Chase office had free motorcycle parking? There was just one problem: We didn’t need a machine-learning environment to accomplish this task. There were a few pre-existing log analysis tools which could do the trick. At least two of them were actively licensed and used by our department for other purposes.

So: Should I let my manager know about this, set up the solution, and return to the pool of sysadmins who were wrestling with a monstrously ill-advised project to move much of our banking infrastructure to the Amazon Clown? Or should I spent six months or even a year enjoying solitary time designing an overly-complex system and enjoying a rare chance to do some actual computer science?

Luckily for me, this Gordian knot was neatly cut by the Pirelli World Challenge series. I needed to participate in a Friday practice at Watkins Glen, and my manager said I was absolutely not permitted to take the day off. Goodbye machine learning opportunity, hello Optima Battery Best Start award! But I picked up quite a bit of machine-learning knowledge on the run-up to that fateful weekend, and that’s why I’m not surprised at the fact that a machine can play halfway decent chess without actually being programmed to do so.

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