Monthly Archives: July 2015

Bumps of misery

Sometimes, as in life, the dirt just won't come off...

Sometimes, as in life, the dirt just won’t come off…

See, it’s ‘pebbled’- rough, not smooth, mountainous, you follow? – and I’m at a loss to figure out why.

My car is a 1st Generation Chevy Cruze (2011-2015), a capable little vehicle with comfy front seats and impressive highway gas mileage, but one minor gripe is becoming very distracting.

The plastic surfaces on the interior – the dash, door panels, console – are impossible to keep clean. This is because you can’t get them clean to begin with.

Why? It’s pebbled.

Can you see where the paper towel was? Can you?!

Can you see where the paper towel was? Can you?!

While the overall appearance of the interior is pleasant (“Classy stuff,” people used to say of the tu-tone fabric inserts), the pebbled black plastic is a product straight out of Hell.

Not only does the millions of channels, grooves and valleys of this surface trap dirt and dust, but they help save it from being removed by cloth or towel.

And paper towels? Prepare to have those shredded as you attempt to Armour All that rough surface, thus adding white paper to the already dirty depressions in the now off-black plastic.

Yes, attempting to clean it actually makes it worse. It’s like trying to clean sandpaper.

Cleaning an interior in any other car I’ve owned has always been a breeze. Very pleasant, really. Paper towel + cleaner = all you needed.

A close-up of the culprit, bathed in a forgiving sunset glow.

A close-up of the culprit, bathed in a forgiving sunset glow.

Not so in this mass-produced vehicle. That gleaming, mirrored polish you see on other dashes, and on the labels of cleaning products? The one that sparkles and shines like a gangster’s shoes? Nowhere to be seen after all that effort and expense.

Flat plastic is boring, I know, but is pebbled plastic the answer to that problem? At least the former can be cleaned.

All of this boils down to a minor First World bitch and moan fest, to be sure, but the pointlessness of having such a surface in a car has gotten under my skin.

Who flicked the ‘Let’s Do This’ light that led to this situation?!!

*calming breath, calming breath…*

Owners of the 2016 Cruze likely won’t have to put up with this  madness, as it looks like the interior will do away with the pebbled dash.

I can only imagine how satisfying it would be to wipe one of those down.

Get HIGH with Hertz

Yes, please take me away!

Yes, please take me away!

If any rent-a-car ad will compel you to build a time machine, it’s this 1965 spot for Hertz.

Even a postmodern person would want to travel back to the Don Draper era after seeing this vision of ‘friendly skies’ air travel, monstrous open-topped cars and copious amounts of disposable income mixed with youthful vitality.

Hell, I’m already envisioning myself bitching about Lyndon Johnson while tuning a Hi-Fi set.

While the golden age of the West, air travel and car renting seems to be receding in the rear-view, at least we still have these whimsical reminders of that halcyon bygone age.

Down with the sickness

1981 Chrysler LeBaron Special - a stripper with a nice face.

1981 Chrysler LeBaron Special – a stripper with a nice face.

The so-called Malaise Era – the turbulent 10 years from (roughly) 1973 to 1983 – brought us many automotive gems.

Who can forget that heady time when a 460 cubic inch Lincoln V-8 (7.5 litres) managed to wheeze out a paltry 190 horsepower?

Or when automakers began crash-diving the displacement of their already detuned V8’s to satisfy federal regulators? (Ford’s 255 Windsor, GM’s 267 small-block)

What about those hackneyed attempts at downsizing that still flaunted all the trappings of big car luxury? (Landau tops, opera windows, retractable headlights, velour, velour, velour)

1981 Chrysler LeBaron Salon coupe, the Special's higher achieving sister.

1981 Chrysler LeBaron Salon coupe, the Special’s higher achieving sister.

In addition to smog-choked land yachts, the Malaise Era also brought us leisure suits, wide lapels, disco, and Three’s Company. Obviously, we owe it a debt of remembrance, if only to say ‘never again’.

Horsepower values reached their deepest trough in 1981, the same year gas prices and interest rates skyrocketed to their tallest postwar peak. No automaker was struggling more than Chrysler at that time, and besides the new K-car (which ultimately saved the company) malaise wasn’t hard to find in the showroom.

A great example of this is the 1981 Chrysler LeBaron Special – a Chrysler with all the trappings of a low-end Plymouth. To squeeze every last sale out of its lineup, Chrysler fielded a bare bones version of the M-body LeBaron (1980-1981), touting its value and affordable status.

With a venerable (but emissions strangled) 225 cubic inch Slant Six under the hood making a pulse-pounding 85 horsepower, the 3,368 pound sedan could rocket to 60 mph in 18.8 seconds, just slightly less than eternity. A trusty 3-speed Torqueflite automatic rounded out the drivetrain.

Clearly, the Special didn't give up a whole lot in looks compared to its high-end stablemates.

Clearly, the Special didn’t give up a whole lot in looks compared to its high-end stablemates.

Inside, luxurious vinyl bench seats whispered “cop car” or “fleet rental” into the driver’s ear, but the happy motorist was probably too busy enjoying his or her standard power brakes.

Outside the vehicle, the costly vinyl roof and wire wheel hubcaps seen on higher end versions were substituted for bare metal and pie plates.

Yes, this was indeed a base Dodge Diplomat with LeBaron front and rear fascias, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

The M-body LeBaron and its stripper base model didn’t last long, though. After ’81, the name was applied to a new front-wheel-drive, K-car based model, while the rear-drive M-body platform carried the upscale New Yorker model until 1989.