A war footing…

I hear a lot of calls to “put the nation on a war footing” to battle COVID-19. There’s a lot to unpack in a statement like that. Going on a “war footing” has implications beyond what people seem to think it means.

A few nights ago I heard one of the endless number of network talking heads claim that during World War II, Ford Motor Company was making a new 4-engine bomber every 63 minutes. That statement is absolutely true… but only if you’re looking at a range of dates from 1944 or ’45.

The B-24 Liberators built by Ford would darken the skies over Europe and the Pacific by the end of the war… but when America entered the war in 1941, exactly none of those planes had been built. Ford didn’t start building the plant (Willow Run) to build those bombers until about 1940. The plant wasn’t finished until 1942. In ’42 and ’43 production suffered from a combination of issues ranging from supply shortages, product quality, labor/management disputes, and the sheer learning curve of translating automobile production into building aircraft. What worked for building cars didn’t always translate directly into building airplanes.

Because of these challenges, Ford didn’t meet their legendary “bomber an hour” goal until 1944 – three years after America went to war and four years after they began construction on Willow Run, and only a year before the war ended.

All I’m saying is try to bear reality in mind when you hear someone say “just tell a company to ‘start making’ Product X,” whatever the product happens to be. It took Ford two years to get there even when they had the plant and equipment in place. There’s a lead time from demand signal to production. Companies that build respirators likely aren’t sitting on a lot of spare plant capacity “just in case” a once-in-a-century pandemic breaks out. New plant and new producers can be brought online, but it takes time and a massive infusion of capital… and the faster you want it, the more it’s going to cost. There’s no way around it.

If you’re saying you want the US economy to focus on kitting out the supplies and equipment needed to respond to COVID-19 to the exclusion of almost all other consumer goods, we can do that. We’ve done it before… but putting us collectively on a “war footing” has long lasting consequences and second or third order effects that absolutely no one has even started to consider.

The taming of the American truck…

Note: Over in the “About” tab, I once promised that this wasn’t going to be a place you’d necessarily want to come to hear a discussion about “how big my engine is.” I hope you’ll forgive this one small exception to policy without demanding that I redefine the blog, its purpose statement, or who I am as a writer.

I’ve driven two Fords over the years. The first was a ’68 Torino GT with a 302 cubic inch (4.9L) small block V8 and 210 horses under the hood. The second was a 2006 Mustang GT with a 4.6L V8 and 300 horses. Of course I realize nether of those are trucks, but they do speak to my general taste in engine size and configuration. My current ride is a truck (though not a Ford) and it weighs in at 5.7L and 381 horsepower. Sure, the gas mileage in all three of these V8 wonders was crap, but they all had just a little more “go” to give every time I put my foot to the floor and that made every fuel stop worth the few extra dollars it cost.

Now I see Ford is in the process of neutering the venerable F-150 line, offering a paltry 2.7L V6 for the green-nicks who for some reason want a full sized truck that’s also profoundly underpowered. Ford’s only V8 offering will be their 5.0L, turning 360 horse. It’s a fine engine, but not what you expect in a class of truck that use to sport 6.2L and 411 horses. And certainly not the size engine I’d want under the hood of my truck.

Maybe the days of the throaty, powerful V8 engine are doomed as the world seems happy enough to putter around in underpowered 2.something liter rattle traps. If that’s the case, the Tundra and I are going to be acquainted for a long time to come, because I’ll run it until the floorboards rust through before I think that dropping a baby V6 into a full sized vehicle is a good idea. Fuel efficiency is well and good and smaller cars absolutely have a place in the fleet, but for the sake of all that’s holy can we please not turn all our trucks into Rangers and S-10’s?

Expedition…

It’s a case of now you see it, now you don’t. After five weeks of haranguing the property manager about getting the junk Expedition out of the driveway, I was forced to demonstrate my level of resolve. I guess most people gripe and complain initially, but then accept whatever is happening and quiet down. I’m not wired that way. Never have been. I start off complaining, ratchet up the noise level, and then, when I’ve pretty much exhausted every other option I can think of, come out swinging. Today was pretty much that day. And was really the first major improvement/repair project around here that went exactly by the numbers. I called the towing company, they sent out a truck, and the POS Expedition that had been mocking me by its very presence for the last 32 days was gone before I got back to the house this evening. Getting my belongings delivered felt good. Getting them unboxed felt better. But getting rid of this eyesore is the first time in a month that I feel like I’ve really accomplished something. Plus I know it’ll piss off the property manager to no end since he says he wanted to part it out to recoup someone of the money they lost on the last tenant. I guess putting that thumb in his eye makes it $200 well spent.

Free to a good home…

Today marks the official one month mark since I moved in. That’s enough time to finally have things (mostly) settled and to figure out how livable the house is. All things considered, the place itself isn’t bad, really. There are a few layout issues and plenty of things that I would have done differently if it were my house – like the magenta bathtub and toilet. I mean seriously, how on earth did anyone ever thing that was a good idea? Other than that, the place seems to have good bones and is suffering only from the obvious neglect of the previous tenants and the general laziness of the property manager… Which of course brings us to the crux of the matter: A full month after moving in, there is still a Ford Expedition sitting in the driveway.

If someone drove up with a rollback and “disappeared” this Expedition, I certainly wouldn’t be filing a police report. I’d probably be willing to give them a hand loading it on the truck. It’s got a little body damage and I don’t have keys or anything, but I’d guess that you could make a good profit parting it out. I don’t have the time or energy to do it myself… and the point, of course, is to get it out of my driveway and into someone else’s. Maybe I’ll put a “Free to good home” sign on it before I leave for work in the morning.

Since I think 30 days is more than sufficient for the property manager to take care of this issue (and since the car seems to meet the legal definition of abandoned), I’ll be calling the Motor Vehicle Administration and the local police tomorrow to start the process of formally declaring it abandoned. That takes about 30 days from start to finish, but after that I can file for title and then sell the damned thing myself. I hoped I wouldn’t have to be a douchebag about this, but from here on out that seems to be the way we’re going to have to handle things. That’s probably what I should have done from the beginning. Serves me right for trying to be a nice guy.

No frontrunner…

So, after two years of paying for the registration, maintenance, fuel, and other sundry bills on two vehicles, I’m thinking it’s about time to pull the plug on that. Yeah, it’s been nice having one when the other is down for maintenance, but realistically I can rent a car much more cost efficiently than keeping one on standby just in case. Part of me says I should be looking for something economical and fuel efficient, but the other part (the side that usually wins these arguments) says that I might as well get what I want since it’s going to be something I live with every day for the next 3-4 years.

With that in mind, I drove four vehicles this afternoon: a Jeep Commander, a Toyota Tundra and FJ Cruiser, and a Ford Escape. Yeah, I know, no mileage winners here, but my logic is that because SUV’s are so discounted right now, I would be taking my savings on the purchase price rather than at the pump. Basically on any of these, my payment would come down about $100/month while consuming gasoline at roughly the same rate as either of my current vehicles.

Here’s my quick assessment. The Commander has a huge cabin and keeps the slightly rough “Jeep” feel without the kidney jarring or wind noise of the Wrangler. The Cruiser is a remarkably impressive vehicle. Simplistic interior with clean lines, but I worry that once the novelty wears off I’d just have a rather odd looking vehicle. The Tundra was the come from behind contender. It impressed the hell out of me with its quick pick up from the light and extremely easy handling. The Escape was the least impressive of the lot and felt quite constrictive and more like riding in a raised station wagon than a truck or SUV.

In any case, there is no clear frontrunner and I’ll be doing a lot of research. If any of y’all have any personal experiences, feel free to chime in.

Gimmie Fever…

I’ve got the fever… a disease that only spending $30,000 on treatment can cure.

I want a new car.

I made the mistake of test driving the new Mustang convertible last weekend. It wasn’t my fault. I was going to Best Buy and the dealership was right next door and they had a pretty red number sitting right there out front. I mean, it couldn’t cause any harm just stopping in and kicking the tires, right?

The minute I sat down, I knew I had the bug. A 300 horse V8, enough head room even with the top up, trunk space for golf clubs… and then I took the top down. All I can say is that it is truly a car to be “seen” in. Old people, little kids, guys driving the family minivan, all cast sideways looks. Some are brave enough to actually risk being noticed themselves and actually turn to see things full on.

My salesman had obviously played this game before and egged me to “let it out a little more” in the turns… to see what she could “really do.”

The worst of it is I don’t even want to get rid of the Jeep. This is a pure case of lust… just wanting a taste of a little strange. There’s nothing wrong with that, right?