It’s time for another Online Book

A Fun Book with Screeching Tires

This book is for people who wasted much of their youth thinking about cars, saving up to buy cars, working on cars, driving cars, designing cars, dreaming impossible dreams about cars, and watching them slowly pushed to the back of the closet with those other evil testosterone things. The book is also for people who, later in life, wish they had done the catalog of things above. And for the people who don’t understand any of this and therefore need an education about a chunk of American life that has been critical in every sphere, industrial, esthetic, sporting, sexual, musical, architectural, and social. You don’t know about 20th century cars and car people, you don’t know much. May as well laugh while you learn.

An E-Book from the InstaPunk Mausoleum:


This isn't a car blog any more than it's a movie, TV, political, music, literature, art, economic, philosophical, religious, scientific, sports, or personal blog. This is just one core topic that can be the focus for putting related posts together. Usually, the core topic is central. Sometimes it's ancillary or a mere component. This compilation tries to observe a fairly strict chronology because current events and other temporal considerations are embedded in the posts. So try to read it as you would a book. (And it really is book-ish in length, although another ten links from the original TOC are still not found.) But there's lots of humor, pictures, and other hopefully fun stuff sprinkled throughout. Don't feel you need to read it all at once. You can come back. It will be here when you return. I've already told you how to access the Archives. 


1. Car Seats.


2. Study finds... Not.


3. Emergency Recall! (referencing this earlier news story)


4. Dumbest Ad Campaign of 2005.


5. We just can't wait for yesterday to get here!


6. Castor Oil.


7. The Guv's New Ride.


8. Low Gear.


9.If Candidates Were Cars...


10.Drooling for Nano-Cars?


11.American Hymn.




The Best New Hybrid


The Swedish Mystery


I know there are more I haven't found yet. Promise to keep looking and will do updates as necessary.


 A FUNNY LITTLE BONUS: Those who read the The Best New Hybrid piece may have clicked on the link promising “a fuller technical description.” (The link works, as do many other of the hyperlinks inside individual InstaPunk on Cars files.) The text is in Spanish, but don’t give up if you don’t know that tongue. I have a handy-dandy app called OCR With Translation, which boasts it can translate 90 plus languages. I fed it a chunk from this technical blog and here's what It gave me:



duram just ata or next lançamento Um exemplo ... we are falando dele!  And this Bugatti that will be to sell to Europe as of 2003, e, sem dúvidas, or consumer of this car is between What are you talking about, what about you, what's going on, what's up? machines proporcionam, ou mesmo, hair simple prazer to be able to guide 1001 HPs.  São Estrondosos 1001 HPs em a 16-cylinder engine, which is "stuck" in a double-row V8 with an inclination of 90 graus  There are 64 valves in this 8 liter capacity engine, opening and dating over 16 cylinders of such form, to control tamanha combustão.  Tudo isso, pressurized by four turbocharges.  Uma verdadeira orchestra!  So that all this power will be transferred to Rhodes, necessário um câmbio sequential of six marches.  Isto tudo together, face that is impressive chegue machine to overcome at home two 400 km / h.  To go from 0 to 300 km / h, it is precise viper of barely 14 seconds.  This brand divides espaço com or oprimo torque.  To "check" all this power e não decolar, a body with a sophisticated control of ar passante, for manter or car no chão, e ao mesmo tempo, arrefecer seus radiadores This system included aerofolio, which inclina de acordo com a acceleleração o retardação da velocidade.  Depois that Volkswagen passou control Bugatti, houve literally, uma injeção de ânimo no grupo.  I encourage this, that I brought down various limits.  You meticulous studies that resulted not EB 16.4 Veryon, não pouparam expenses, visando semper alcançar or melhor desempenho esportivo no carro.  Therefore, it is expected that preço will be high as soon as performance, porém, ainda hoje, não pode ser nem sequer foreseen. We barely know, that we are going to give you the opportunity to lead a few pouca units that will be produced as of 2003…”


That helped me a lot. Worth every penny I spent for the software, which was free.

First missing article from original TOC located!

Government Motors

Another missing “Cars” piece found:

NYC Taxicabs and Stuff

Of course, it's not at all like this, is it? But that's the point.

JUST BECAUSE I WATCHED THUNDER DOME LAST NIGHT***. I've always thought there were, for want of a better word, distinct "times" in life. When I was running a business and responsible for the performance of other people, I tried to get them through the rough patches by reminding them that there are "heads down times," meaning that the best way through is working as hard as you can without allowing yourself to think about all the terrible things that might happen. 

That's right. Me, Mr. Think about Everything, took the position that there are times when it's best not to think but do, to the very best of your ability. If you let yourself get distracted from the task at hand, you might just make things worse -- obsess about some minor point that could wind up doing in the whole enterprise.

There's a related state that I've always thought of as "New York Taxicab Times, " which are probably more frequent than I, or anyone, would like to believe. Let me explain.

As a lifelong gearhead, I have an instinctive desire to be in control when I'm in a motor vehicle. Even when I'm sitting in the passenger seat, my feet are on the pedals and my hands on the shift knob. I brake, I accelerate, I change gears... I'm the automotive version of the Brit shadow cabinet, although I have different motives. Don't want the driver to perceive my lack of trust. I can arrive at a destination more leg weary and mentally exhausted than the driver is. The exception is when I'm a customer in a New York taxicab.

Whole different story. It's like being in a commercial airliner, except that the hazards are infinitely more numerous and happening just feet away from you. But there's absolutely nothing you can do about any of them. Nothing. I don't know New York City geography (never did, don't care to) and the driver probably doesn't even speak English. So what do I do? I relax. 

Yes, the other cars are too close, the traffic maneuvers are nuts, and there are moments when sudden death seems inches away, but I sit inside a bubble where none of that is real. Worrying and complaining won't help at all. When the crazed bike messenger nearly hurtles through my window in Times Square, I say to myself, "Right. That was interesting." Not a problem. It's just taxicab time. When it ends at my destination, I resume control of my life (another fantasy of mine).

Right now, I'm pretty sure we're living through an odd combination of heads-down time and taxicab time. There's a huge temptation to scream and run around and make a big deal out of various kinds of crap, but it's all just a potentially fatal distraction. In our personal lives, it's definitely heads-down time: keep that job, pay those taxes, hold the wolf at the door at bay for another week, month, year. Don't think about it. Just do it. In our civic and political lives, it's taxicab time. No matter how terrified and sick at heart we are, there's nothing we can do right now that wouldn't just make things worse. The crazed incompetent at the wheel isn't going to listen to us at all. So the seemingly unreal bubble of uncaring is actually the best strategy.

Rest assured, though, and please trust me on this point, when the threat becomes direct and personally malevolent, you will know and react accordingly. 


This time, he sent Obama.


Okay. That's an extreme example. But it's not far off the mark. It's exactly how it feels when the wolf breaks through the door into your kitchen or the taxi driver pulls a gun on you.

That's when you shift into kill or be killed mode. But not before. Going nuts over trivia is a mug's game. And it drains energy you will need for the real fights to come. Think of those times as the province of our better angels.

***[Song was ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero.’] Not true. Actually a perfect metaphor, the movie, the song, in this context. My usual serendicity. Watch it. Tina Turner, Switzerland's newest ex-American citizen, is glorious. 

!!!And Another One!!!

Share: Your 5 Closest Calls.


. I was going to do another post, but then I got to thinking of all the wonder kids we have here. And I'm curious. How close have you come to meeting the Grim Reaper? Not any more, I tell you, but in the past I used to stare into his eyes all the time, from a very early age. Does it matter? Probably not. But all of you who think the only we time we stare death in the face is when we're wearing the uniform, well, maybe not. Embarrassingly for me, a lot of my own close calls, the ones I remember anyway, are, well, more glamorous than not. Forgotten are all the times I drove too hard, fought too hard, etc, and so on. I may have been in more danger in Ithaca, NY, when some dead drunk biker townies wanted to throw a Cornellian out of a window onto the street two floors below. But you don't tend to think of close calls as situations you manage to talk your way out of. So here's my surviving list:

5. Trip to Ship John Light. 

What was I, seventeen? A friend I trusted launched us toward the Delaware Bay lighthouse called Ship John Light in a 12 foot Boston whaler. The water was deep, the currents were treacherous, the boat was small, the distance was long, and I had no idea why we were doing it. Afterwards, my friend told me it was the dumbest thing he had ever done in a long line of dumb things he had done. We could easily have been swept into the bay and out to sea, he said. "We were very lucky." Odd, though. I remember the whole trip. It was fun. We went round the lighthouse and back home. Not even the video above, in its much larger boat, did that.

4. Grand Corniche.


Maybe Ship John didn't scare me as it should have because I'd already done the Grand Corniche. My dad was a WWII fighter pilot. I was 10. Didn't realize he was afraid. He just seemed grim. Nine hours of driving through the Alps on barely two lane roads with gaping holes in the ancient Roman walls on the fall-to-your-death side, while crazy Frenchmen and Italians insisted on passing on blind corners. It looks idyllic in the tourist literature. In reality, when we reached Menton, my Dad couldn't straighten his fingers, He'd been absolutely certain he was going to kill jis wife and two children, hour after hour after hour. No wonder we nearly missed boarding our ship for home. And, oh yeah, I was scared the whole time too. When you look to your right, there's nothing but water, a mile below.

3. XKE flip.


Sometimes close calls happen in an instant. That's this one. Eighteen this time. We went to Somers Point, NJ, in a Jaguar XKE roadster. We enjoyed ourselves and came home. Good night, eh? Not so fast. We got all the way to the quarter-mile long driveway we'd always used as a kind of salt flats when he nodded off. The XKE slewed left and suddenly we were mired in a ploughed field. The state police were on the scene so quickly I still don't know how they managed it. My friend, the driver, somehow beat the breathalyzer, but it wasn't until the next day that the, er, forensics brought us both up short. The tracks where the XKE went off the road were evident. They led into a tilled but unplanted field. Then there were the tracks where it landed. A hundred feet away. On all fours. The goddam car flipped in midair, flying, flying, with no top, just two dumb shitheads inside, and deposited us safely upright in dirt. The bonnet was entirely ripped off. Landed somewhere between takeoff and landing point. Happened so fast we never had any sense of the flip. But we were young and dumb in those days.

2. Leonardo da Vinci


Can't remember if I've ever mentioned this one. Nearly died in a hurricane at sea. Sister ship of the Andrea Doria, which did sink. Not going to blow it out of proportion. No need. It was very very close. I was ten. All the glassware was destroyed. All the passengers were disgustingly seasick. The sick was everywhere. The name of the hurricane was Beulah. Look it up.

1. Easter Sunday, 1972.


The worst. The most frightened I've ever been. I defied the Harvard final club tradition of visiting rooms and polite separation. I made it my business to see the inside of every final club enclave on campus. I would climb any height to do it. Upper windows are rarely locked. In this fashion, I saw the interior of the Fox, the Fly, the Delphic, the Spee, the Owl, and even the Lampoon. Then came the Easter morning when I found myself standing on a fifth floor railing of the Porcellian Club. I had to stand on tiptoe to squirm through the window into what amounted to another locked room. Never saw the interior of the Porcellian. After which I retired from cat burglar work. Never penetrated the AD either. Now that I'm old, I'm just glad I didn't die from being dumb.

Yeah, I've nearly creamed myself a bunch of times in cars and motorcycles over the years, but these are the things that stand out. Hope you understand.


Golden Age Gone


. Funny. I tried so hard to find a free version of the greatest comedy album I ever heard for you. Then I thought, why would I do that? You SHOULD pay for the best comedy album you've ever heard. 

Except there's no sex or profanity or scatology or anything else that has come to be humor in this country in it. Not even breasts.

But it's still so good the Amazon folks are charging for it. What is it? Peter Ustinov's one man Grand Prix race. He does it all. He's the interviewers, the drivers from every nation, all the cars and crashes, and even the crowd response. You know. What once, a long long time ago, was called talent. And funny. The way this guy puts it is exactly what I remember from when I first heard it nearly 50 years ago:


14 of 14 people found the following review helpful

Ustinov treatment for Vintage GP? I must be in Heaven!!, March 6, 2004

By Jundla

Sir Peter Ustinov is one of the greatest performers I know, a breathtaking genius who always leaves me slack jawed with his incredible ability to identify the most essential aspect of something and, off-the-cuff, rip off a cutting, incisive, insightful skit about it that is not only hilarious and intelligent but also utterly unique. Never again would what you saw be repeated, and at no other time would it have happened. Sir Peter is a glorious pleasure and a comedic genius in the performing arts completely without equal.

So when Stirling Moss, asked what CD would be in his car player, answered The Grand Prix of Gibraltar by Peter Ustinov, of course I just had to have it. I learned that it had been reissued, and lo! It was listed on! I was still in India at the time but I placed the order anyway and then counted the days till I could get back to the US and get my hands on it. I knew very little about it and, in keeping with my policy of never reading about a performance before I experience it, I kept myself in the dark about it.

I have experienced it and I want to share it with other people. I might warn you that unless you have an interest in grand prix racing, particularly vintage GP, and unless you are familiar with the times and the personalities of racing of the '50s, this performance may not mean much to you. You need to sit back for an hour and surrender yourself to Ustinov. If you want to do other things alongside or are looking for a 3 minute compressed version, forget it. This needs your attention and your patience. Its enormously entertaining, but I think only for people who love vintage GP racing and Ustinov.

I sit here listening to it trying to write a review and I find myself failing entirely. I always try to make the reader feel something what I felt, but in this case, I fail. I may be able to write about cars, but I cannot write about a performance about Sir Peter. Nothing I say will make you experience this performance vicariously through me.

So I have decided not to write a review for now. I will instead exhort you to buy it. The only sounds heard on the disc are created in the throat of Sir Peter. All of the personalities, nationalities, engines, racing sounds, national anthems that appear on the disc are his voice. The racing teams and personalities of the times, national stereotypes, and just about everything surrounding racing is woven into the satire. And incredibly, it was all unscripted and done in ONE DAY!!

I do not expect most people to understand or appreciate this effort. But if you know who the Commendatore was, if the names of Alfred Neubauer, Stirling Moss, Gordini, Fangio are well know to you, if you have a feeling for their times and efforts, and are eager for a look at all that from Sir Peter Ustinov in his inimitable style, you MUST buy this CD.

Peter Ustinov performing about GP racing? What impossible alignment of stars brought this about? Whatever it was, this disc is one of the most wonderful possessions I have related to my motor mania, a timeless masterpiece that I hope to own and appreciate forever.



Grand Prix of Gibraltar. From the Golden Age, when the cars were not identical anorexically bony things but something like women, curved, distinctive, and absolutely treacherous. And the drivers were completely insane. The good old days.


Buy it or don't. I've done my duty. Told you about it. 

The rest is up to you.