Monday, April 30, 2012


Hey so for a variety of reasons—among them: blogger sucks so bad that I can't be bothered to post here anymore, and also I pretty much live on tumblr already anyway—I've decided to move this whole thing over to If you're already on tumblr then you can follow it there; otherwise just add to your aggregator of choice. See you over there!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Truly Trivial Pursuit: Gay Nineties Edition

The dumb marketing term invented to describe the styling language exemplified by this Mitsubishi Eclipse was:

a. bio-mechanical
b. geo-mechanical
c. retro-maniacal
d. morpho-genetical
e. steampunk

lɐɔıuɐɥɔǝɯ-oǝƃ ˙q :ɹǝʍsuɐ

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Street Beat Fashion Watch: Custom Shades!

Once upon a time, back before those plastic stick-on fender vents were invented, first thing anybody'd do if he was looking to trick out his ride would be to add some kinda custom windshield header, a practice that to my young mind reached its apotheosis when it was coopted by Pontiac for its Turbo Trans Am pace cars of 1980. Welp, if a couple of vehicles sighted over the weekend are any indication, this is one outdated trend that's poised to make a comeback!

This van seems to be suffering an identity crisis, but hey, at least it looks good. And while I'm not sure what precisely is being referenced here, if this Kia pilot's commitment extends to not being on the phone when I encounter him on the interstate, well then, more power to him!

Click for full-size

Monday, July 18, 2011

Shameless: Can You Picture a Pagoda-Roof Looking This Undignified?

Seriously, Mercedes-Benz SL, what happened to you? Back in the day, you bespoke a certain masculine refinement, an understated glamour, a panache not at all frivolous, but underpinned by real substance. You were the car an aging Cary Grant would drive. Today it's easier to picture behind the wheel an aging Fabio.

Perhaps it's just a symptom of our age. It occurs to me that it's been years since the last time I heard the word that once perfectly summed up your character deployed without snark or sarcasm, as if the very concept has become as debased and obsolete as the idea of a hardtop convertible for two cultured grown-ups. That word? Classy.

Click for full-size booty-in-the-air SL action

Saturday, July 16, 2011

White Whale: Unspoiled TT

Remember the O.G. TT? Remember how, when the Mays/Thomas dynamic duo ran "Auto Union/streamliner Benz/bathtub Porsche" through their patented fin de sicle neoretropomo design generator, the only way you could tell whether the resulting four-wheeled SS helmet was coming or going was by the color of the corner lenses? That was kinda cool, right?

Then I guess there were some high-speed accidents or something, possibly due to the fact that when you design a car with pretty much the exact shape of an airfoil it might then behave as a lifting body, and Audi, not wanting to watch its brand reputation go down the crapper again, quickly slapped a spoiler on that back of that heretofore perfectly symmetrical rear end and, just to be safe, recalled every car that'd been sold to date and spoiled them as well.

Thus was born one of carspotting's great holy grails: the unmolested TT. A car common enough that it can easily hide in plain view, and yet so rare that in ten years of dedicating, ridiculously, some part of the vast unused acreage of my brain to perpetual lookout duty, I had not once encountered it. I'd come close, recently, thinking I might've spotted one in the pages of a fellow obsessive's blog, but it was, alas, a mirage, and the box went yet unchecked, even by proxy. Until yesterday.

Meadowbrook Parkway, Long Island, New York, July 15, 2011, approximately ten a.m. Nimbus gray convertible. No spoiler. Got 'im!

Click for grainy Bigfoot-style full-size

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day for Night: Insert Murcielago/Batman
Pun Here

Hollywood and Highland, Hollywood.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

It Stood for Limited

Shoreline, Washington.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

In Plain Sight: Metro Self-Storage

I've never been entirely able to get a handle on Buffalo. In large part it seems about what you'd expect: busted-ass and depressing as hell. But here and there amongst the ruins lie relics that whisper of what could only have been a glorious past, and one frequently stumbles upon things so at odds with their current surroundings that their presence defies all explanation.

Metro Self-Storage is on Main Street, about a mile past the Anchor Bar, where the city's eponymous wings preparation was famously supposed to have been invented. It is, to be blunt about it, not the best part of town. Not the worst, either, not by any means, but just your typical, somewhat blighted, urban post-industrial industrial strip. Lots of decaying signage, chain link, and buildings doing duty for purposes other than which they were intended. Looks like this.

The first thing that catches your eye driving past is the back half of a 1982 Buick Skyhawk, arguably the handsomest of the J-cars (admittedly, that's not unlike calling ________ the noblest of the sexually-transmitted diseases), suspended over the entry. But then in your peripheral vision you might catch a glimpse of what sits just the other side of the glass storefront: flashes of chrome grilles, gills, exhaust, and—WTF, was that a Cord?

It was. And next to it, on one side, a Rolls of 1950s vintage, and on the other, a '40s straight-eight Buick with original-issue plates.

Across the room towards the back, an ex-Little Al stocker and three—and perhaps four—curious Etceterini of indeterminate origin.

Working our way down further, what appears to be a late '70s or perhaps '80s Indy car under a tarp, a pagoda-roof 250SL, a couple newer, covered Ferraris, a C5 Corvette, and oh, hey, a Maserati 3500 GT, and a Merak behind it for good measure.

Mind you, with the exception of the few that are covered with dust cloths, no effort is being made whatsoever to conceal these automobiles. They're sitting right there behind full-length windows—as if in a showroom!—on a cruddy main drag in Buffalo. No sign of the rest of that Skyhawk, however.

Click on the pics for full-size

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Black Steelies in the Hour of Chaos

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Scene Report: Great Britain

It's always interesting as a carspotter getting out of one's native market and seeing the hardware on display in different parts of the world. Some observations based on a couple weeks traveling around the United Kingdom, accompanied by wholly unrelated and random Instagram snaps from the same period:

Last time over here, about nine months ago, I saw my first nuova Cinquecento. One of them. Now they are everywhere. Whatever its fate in the U.S., Fiat has a massive hit on their hands.

The idea of resurrecting the DS nameplate for anything less than a completely revolutionary design strikes me as slightly lame, but regardless, I gotta say the new Citroen DS3 looks pretty great on the road. What comes across as slightly gimmicky in photos actually reads playfully distinctive and contemporary IRL. Big ups for the lovely nonmetallic sky blue paint option, too. Color!

Less original perhaps, the Peugeot RCZ might not be much more than a Vichy TT design-wise, but it turns out that's no bad thing either. Another Frenchie head-turner.

Likewise, while the new Renault Meganes strike me as less interesting than the funky previous generation, they're still reasonably graceful and attractive, and refreshingly free from Angry Car Syndrome.

Speaking of which, those new Sciroccos? Picture a chopped Golf, or a truncated CC, and you've pretty much got the picture. Meh.

Finally, while undeniably (if blandly) handsome, the current crop of indistinguishable Aston Martins are about as rare over here as Camaros stateside, and elicit, in me anyway, about as much excitement. However. Twice this trip the Sprinter in which I was a passenger was overtaken on the motorway by a Rapide, aka the new four-door Aston. Twice I saw its long and lean and low and muscular flanks slink past with the beautiful and lethal authority of a great white shark, and twice I felt my eyes widen and my lower lip tighten under my front teeth to register an involuntary fuuuuuuuck! I didn't see it from any angle other than a slightly elevated rear three-quarter, and like I say, I kinda don't give a shit about Aston Martins otherwise, but god damn if that thing didn't look utterly fantastic and provide me with the biggest automotive charge of my trip.

At least until I saw a woman step out of this Bentley and into a kebab shop, evidently on her way home from a wedding procession during which her quarter-million-dollar ride developed a flat. Is that even possible?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Americans Abroad: Brighton Beach

Click for full size

Monday, April 18, 2011

Boomer Follies, Part Fifty Billion: VW Introduces "Beetle for Nobody"

Start with a car that is essentially a boutique version of an existing model; its sole reason for existing, to offer a cute, appealing alternative to the increasingly masculine, aggressively-styled cars in its class. Take its basic shape, strip it of the whimsy and formal simplicity that made people like it in the first place, and replace it with, well, masculine aggression. Congratulations, Volkswagen: you've just invented the PT Cruiser!

Need further proof that VW's marketers have their fingers on the (ever fainter) pulse of the sexagenarian set? Don't miss VW's "MTV World Stage Event" unveiling, featuring none other than the Black Eyed Peas, aka the band that nobody likes, either.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

2011: The Year Brake Bling Broke

Nowhere does brand awareness play a more savage role in defining social hierarchies than on the suburban playground. When I was growing up, in vapid 1970s southern California, every fourth-grader understood implicitly that coming to school in something other than Vans, a Lightning Bolt shirt, and OP shorts was tantamount to an open admission of subhumanity. Good news then for aspiring fashion police in the wastelands of western Ontario, Canada, where this kiddy cop car was recently sighted sporting a full complement of polished Brembos. Would your child be seen in anything less?

Click on the pics for full size

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

File Under: Schadenfreude

Bowery and Houston, Wednesday morning, three a.m.

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Thursday, March 03, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen: Jason Castriota and the Post-Functional World!

Remember discipline?

For a while, from the late 1960s through the '80s, the notion played a role, at least. I'm talking super/concept cars here. Even the most outrageous, impractical designs adhered to a sort of inner logic. I mean, not to be a total dick about it, but there was an element of intellectual rigor at work there, an insistence on formal purity that kept these cars from being simply exercises in frivolity or vanity.

It's possible, I guess, that this minimalist philosophy represented something of a dead-end street: that by the time Giugiaro rolled out his Lotus Etna, for instance, pictured above, supercar form had been reduced to a degree whence there was simply no further place to go.

Back on earth, the jellybean production cars of the '80s and '90s gave way to the new millennium's slab-sided crossovers, and vehicles grew ever taller and broader to accommodate their occupants' increasing girth and demands of invulnerability. Vast featureless sheetmetal planes cried out for relief. Which brought us where we find ourselves today, awash in a visual cacophony of comically exaggerated wheel surrounds, gratuitous sculptural elements, and, right, "flame surfacing."

It's not surprising that the pendulum has swung back from the form-follows-function restraint of Giugiaro and his contemporaries; the current of surfeit of automotive expressionism finds precedent both in the art deco flourishes of French and Italian coachbuilders of the 1930s and later, in the flamboyant kitsch of 1950s American designers, who, much like their current-day counterparts, seemed less concerned with beauty than with achieving a kind of maximum visual volume.

But something's different this time around, too. I recall reading about the F-117 stealth fighter back when it was initially declassified, about the way its freakishly multifaceted (and un-aerodynamic) radar-reflective surfaces were made possible by fly-by-wire systems capable of compensating for the airframe's inherent instability, and I remember thinking well shit: if computers are fast enough now to keep that thing in the air, how long before airplanes don't have to look at all like airplanes anymore? How long until we have planes that look like clouds, or birds — or toasters, or a hot dog?

Similarly, the technology of automotive design has seemingly rendered obsolete over the course of the last thirty years the purity of form that the move toward aerodynamic efficiency beginning in the early 1980s had made de rigueur. Back in the day, you wanted a sub-.25 drag coefficient, you ended up with something that looked like a pregnant porpoise. Now, though, mix in a little computational fluid dynamics and you can crank out something as overwrought and incoherent as Mr Castriota's latest "aeromotional" nonsense. Or, yes, a Cadillac that looks like a stealth fighter! It's like the shackles that have forever bound form to function have been loosed — we are living in a post-functional world. Cars can look like anything!

For me then it raises a simple question: why don't they look better?

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

In the Details: Saab PhoeniX Concept

As seems prudent with most Castriota creations, I'm gonna reserve judgment on his first outing for Saab until I can get a better handle on it. The old-school airplane logo as CHMSL, however? Fucking brilliant.

Click through to view full-size, via Autoblog

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Spotted: What's Wrong With This Picture?

And please, no smart-ass "it's a Corvette" answers. You don't like a C4? You don't like Gatorbacks, clamshell hoods, and digital dashboards proudly illustrating their motors' 4000-rpm power peak? Well that's your problem, not mine. My problem, one that brings out my inner Monk and drives me absolutely batshit, is something else here. How do people pay this little attention to what they're doing?

Click on the pic for a closer look

Friday, November 19, 2010

Come to Think of It, It Does Look Faintly Like the Bell X-1: 1980 Citroen CX 25 Prestige


Click on the pic to check out the auction

Monday, July 12, 2010

Spotted: The Real Deal

Now that we've all grown accustomed to the sight of two-and-a-half-ton parade-float neo-Challengers, you'd think the visual impact of the original would be diluted somewhat, wouldn't you? Yeah, not so much. If anything, this 'Cuda seems more radical and genuinely exotic in 2010 than it has in its forty-year history. (The rest of us should be so lucky.) Look at that freaking backlight surround, will you? Why did it take a crap re-do to make me appreciate what a truly stunning design this is?

(Note Don Garlits Museum license plate frame, btw. Big Daddy!)

Click on the pics for a closer look

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Scene Report: Victoria, British Columbia

The 1983 Pontiac 2000. Station wagon. In two-tone brown. Good times at Hecklers tonight.

Click on the pics for a closer look