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Friday
Apr182014

Flat-bottom Twirls

By Al Vinikour

I’ve written several pieces on the technological evolution of the lowly steering wheel, mainly how it has become a repository for redundant audio controls and other functions that allow the driver to keep his or her eyes on the road, but still be able to change stations, adjust temperatures in some cases or whathaveyou. However, it wasn’t until a day when I was in Los Angeles driving with my editor when we began to discuss how steering wheels have evolved in size. Never one to badmouth a higher-up (at least in person) I faked sincerity (as I’ve practiced to perfection), and praised him for his wisdom in planting the seeds for a possible feature. This is it, Gang. It doesn’t get much better than this. If you don’t like it then you can blame my editor because it’s not ME that will let my readers down, it’s HIM. But…I digress.

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Friday
Apr042014

Old Smokers

By Al Vinikour

At one time it was fairly common to develop a lung disease from working at the steel mills, a coal mine, smoking heavily, living with smelly people or something as simple as driving down the highway. If anyone has ever seen movies of a cell of B-52s taking off at 20-second intervals — especially early-model D-Series — then they can visualize what the average busy highway looked like in the 1950s and 1960s. The only concern about the environment then was the possibility of crops dying from discarded condoms from so many horn-dog teenagers parked on isolated farm roads and “doing bad”.

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Friday
Mar212014

Dots on the Windshield, and Other Pleasures

By Al Vinikour 

Just like any other kid I was always touching things — if for no other reason than to feel its texture. I still do that (but I refrain from touching things that will get my face slapped). Thus it should come as no surprise that it was a revelation when I first noticed those little black dots prevalent on the windshields of most modern vehicles. I’m surmising the purpose of those things is to somehow be a gap-filler between the driver’s and passenger’s sun visors — directly amid the placement of the inside rearview mirror — and to provide a sealing surface. If that’s the case, then I think some of that is hokum that doesn’t wash with me. I had a 1985 Mustang GT witha sunroof, and it looked like a speckled trout. The dots — flit in automotive jargon —were there to ward off the sun because it didn’t have a sliding sunshade. Did that do the job? Hardly! The only thing missing from my bald head was the word “Converse.”

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Friday
Mar072014

Beep Beep isn’t Just for Road Runners

By Al Vinikour 

Twin horns, right up front where they should be...One of the most important elements of a vehicle — hands down — is the horn. Oh, sure, things like seat belts, disc brakes, stability control and the like save lives, but a horn is a true extension of the driver. Throughout automotive history horns have evolved as much as the vehicles themselves. Early models were attached outside the driver’s side door and operated by squeezing a rubber bulb. Then came the infamous “ooga” horns of the Model T, followed by steering wheel horn rings. There were even horns that were operated by squeezing the steering wheel itself; the famous (or infamous for all those owners stuck without a horn or one that stuck on as the rubber membrane aged) “rim blow” steering wheel. Cleverer yet, some — mostly found on European cars — were activated by pushing in the turn signal arm. But, since lots of miscreants choose not to use their turn signals, they probably thought they’d purchased a vehicle that didn’t come equipped with a horn. Then came the best position for a horn — smack dab in the middle of the wheel. Depending on the situation and the driver’s blood pressure the horn could be activated by slamming a fist onto the horn button. But wait…there’s less

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Friday
Feb212014

Looking Back on Rearview Mirrors

By Al Vinikour

It’s time for another chapter of “I remember…” The subject for this one is rearview mirrors. Not the ones inside your car. I’m talking about the ones outside.

 

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