Fast and Humorous

Over the top. Jumping the shark. There really are no other ways of describing the Fast and Furious movies at this point. If you have seen the latest installment, F9, you know that cars in space (spoiler alert?) is literally possible, so nothing is out of the realm of attempting with this franchise.

As my wife so humorously put it, F9 is really only about one thing. John Cena just wanted a hug. Literally. (Another spoiler?) She had gone into the theater with me having only seen the first three movies. After asking many other friends about the franchise, I have found out that many people have only seen the first three films.

The interesting thing about that is when the third film, Tokyo Drift, came out, I remember it was not well received. It had nothing to do with the other films, it had no reoccurring characters, and was generally the odd ball out. It wasn’t until after the maybe the 5th movie that people started really enjoying the 3rd movie and defending it as part of cannon to the franchise. I think most of that has to do with Han. Anyway, I find it humorous that Tokyo Drift became the jumping off point for so many people, that it became a well liked film (it is one of the best), and six more films came after. If you have only seen the first three films, there is nothing wrong with that. You just might be really scratching your head and asking yourself “what am I watching” if you watch the ninth movie.

F9 does own up to the fact that they know what they are doing is unrealistic. I like that. Without breaking the third wall, the characters describe the fact that they have done things no human should be able to do, survived things no human should survive, with vehicles that shouldn’t be able to what they do, in places that shouldn’t be possible for any of that all to happen. The way I have come to describe them is that if a grown up were to still play with toys, this is what they would do.

They also make sure the main focus is family. I don’t know how well that works for everyone, but it always seems to work for the characters of these movies. Cliche or not, it is what it is.

Either way, I really enjoy these movies. All 9 of them. Even if they are incredibly over the top, cliche, and unrealistic.

Automotive Name Game

Lately the automotive manufacturers seem to think that old names of cars should be revived. Some are putting their old car names on EV’s, some on SUV’s, and some are considering making entire brands out of them. No matter which way it happens to go, an automotive enthusiast is going to have something to say about it. The general public is going to have something to say about it too. Those two opinions might not be aligned.

The most recent, and potentially the most pivotal in terms of future unaffordable super/exotic/hyper cars, is that Lamborghini is reviving the Countach name. The Countach came out in 1974 as a wedge shaped, futuristic, made for speed vehicle. It was incredibly polarizing. By the end of its run in 1990 it grew to be an absolutely iconic, obnoxious, and completely impractical vehicle. But that was the point. Contrary to what most modern supercar owners do today, which is daily drive their quarter of a million dollar or more cars, the 1990 Countach was a loud 12 cylinder, painful cockpit, with brandishing looks that would gobble up miles on weekends in short bursts then be put away for 99.9% of the week, or more.

With styling, performance, and function all vital to understanding of what we know of as a specifically named vehicle, the Countach has a lot to live up to. It makes me wonder why they brought it back? Lamborghini has had no trouble coming up with names for vehicles. In my opinion, there was no need to bring back the Countach name. Ford has already shown how when you murky the water, you cause confusion. The Mustang Mach E and the Bronco Sport are prime examples.

I thought Lamborghini was smarter than that. A poster car of so many is now being brought back to life, but with a modern twist. If this is a production vehicle, which is unclear yet at the time of writing, it will really change the game for what these exclusive manufacturers might do. Granted, a lot of them already still have their legacy name plates or have brought back vehicles similar to them, without the old names. But the EV transformation could easily usher in a new Mercedes 300 SL (probably with slight change to EL), Ferrari F40 (probably to E40), Aston Martin DB5, even a McLaren F1. If you think I’m wrong or crazy, I get it, but I didn’t think the Countach would come back, yet here we are.

Consumers crazed with nostalgia are feeding the manufacturers with ideas that they want old cars. While that is true, we don’t actually want old car names. We want the idea of what old cars with iconic names have become. We want the limited edition, exclusive, fast, loud, and glorious looking vehicles that we grew up fantasizing about as kids. If the companies want to play games to see what works, fine, but to me a name is important. I’ll play. But, they should know, my bar is high.

What I Didn’t Know Makes Me Feel Silly Now

Back on May 2nd 2010, I was enjoying a fantastic, sunny day surrounded by Ferraris. As a junior in college, my friend Josh and I decided to attend one of the most memorable shows we had ever been to, Ferraris on the Vine. It was held at the Williamsburg Winery, which made for a very appropriate, sophisticated setting to take in the mechanical prancing horses. We had an absolute blast and I have many videos from the event on my YouTube page.

As some of you know, I wanted to be an automotive journalist since high school. I had started All Out Octane in 2010 with a blog, YouTube channel, Twitter, and Facebook Page, as well as a website, which was part of my journalism courses in college. Other than that, I really was not on any path to become an actual automotive journalist. I was not taking any actual steps to get into that career. I knew no one in that field, didn’t own a cool car, had no experience in writing for a publication nor any mechanical experience, and well, combine with all of that and a bunch of other factors, being a career automotive journalist has not been my path in life. What you read here and see on my YouTube page is as close to it as I have come.

So here is where things get interesting. Back to the Ferraris on the Vine event, I was not the most educated automotive enthusiast as I am now days. In attendance that day was David E. Davis Jr., the FOUNDER of Automobile Magazine. I had no clue. I was more enthralled by the cars than the people who were there. Which is quite sad as well, because someone pointed out Dan Gurney, whom I walked over to while he was sitting on a golf cart, and chatted with him a bit. I had no idea who he was and I have no idea what we talked about. Thirty three year old me is feeling so silly for not knowing who those, incredibly famous, automotive icons were, and for not trying to glean as much information from them as I could, especially Davis. What I didn’t know, now makes me feel so silly. Cheers to being young and…not so smart.

Will Jaguar become Extinct?

My cousin and I were talking recently about the future of Jaguar and Land Rover. It was days before JLR announced they would be consolidating their lineup and explaining their plan to enter the electrification game. We all know that is where automobiles are heading, but is it sustainable?

The argument for electric vehicles in general can be an entire series of blogs, which I might do in the future. In this example, I want to focus specifically on Jaguar. One of the most shocking statements that I can’t comprehend is that Jaguar will not be introducing any new vehicles until 2025. That is 4 years of no new cars. What that means is they will continue producing the cars currently in their lineup, which is 5 different models, but they will not add another model. I am going to guess that they might not even do any refreshing of their current lineup either. They need to save as much money as possible. There is a huge chip shortage currently, and the pandemic has caused Jaguar to reduce their sales projections from 1 million vehicles sold to half that, with this information, I don’t think that Jaguar will survive. A car manufacturer can’t make money if it doesn’t make cars. It can’t make money if it doesn’t make new cars. It can’t make money if it doesn’t make a lot of cars.

They need to make money. Investing in electric is not cheap. It will require millions of dollars and I don’t think that Jaguar will have that. Only one of their vehicles is fully electric. With a goal to sell all electric vehicles by 2025, and only one currently being electric, with a goal to sell only a half million cars world wide, with only 5 cars in their lineup, that means with simple math, 100,000 fully electric Jaguars will reach the roads each year until 2025. I don’t know their sales numbers by models, so my estimation is a complete generalization. But, the fact remains, a car company can’t sustain itself on 500,000 cars a year and switch to all electric.

It is important to note as well, that I believe that projected 500,000 vehicles sold is combine with Land Rover sales. I am also not sure how all of the math adds up either, because 2020 sales according to the article were only 97,417.

With that perspective, the 500,000 might be the projection for total car sales by both brands until 2025. That is such a small, niche bunch of sales, that I don’t see how a profit can be found. I don’t see how a future can be forged. JLR is already sinking and creating a plan for an electric future only makes them look good on the surface. There is no way they can stay afloat beyond 2025.

I am going to make an educated guess that it would be wise to buy a Jaguar within the next 2 years. They very well could be some of the last Jaguar vehicles ever produced and they could become collectors items. Time will tell.

The Sun is Setting

A Road & Track article was recently released saying that Ford has filed for the name “Skyline” to their trademark list. While Ford did have trim levels with the name Skyline in the past, and there was a concept with the name Skyliner in it, Ford is not the manufacturer most notable for the name.

In the automotive enthusiast world, Nissan is the manufacturer that comes to mind when the name Skyline is said. While the newest Nissan flagship sports car is called the GT-R, it used to carry the name Skyline, but never has in the United States officially. That is because up until the R35, the car was never officially sold here in the States. However, if it had, up until the R35, the cars had the name of Nissan Skyline GT-R. The R35 that was sold in the America did not have the Skyline name, and I’m not really sure if it did anywhere else except Japan, if it even did there either.

While you might be thinking to yourself, gosh, why is Ford encroaching on Nissan territory and how much more could Ford ruin good names? I am going to approach this from a different angle. My beef is with Nissan. Why doesn’t Nissan care enough to keep that name? Nissan has an upcoming new Z car that will launch soon, but goodness gracious, they have a lineup that is long in the tooth and they have for a number of years now, been staying in business by fleet sales. Nissan tends to be the punch line of many jokes. They are not helping themselves by neglecting to keep the Skyline name in their library just in case. It is sad to say, but the sun is setting on the Skyline name and possibly even Nissan itself.

Consistency is Key

For a long time, Chrysler/Stellantis products were considered laughable in both build quality and performance capability. Kia had the same reputation back in the 90’s as well. There was an unproven rumor for a number of years that cars built on Mondays and Fridays would be prone to more errors and problems than a car built midweek. While again, it was unproven, recently Tesla has had some trouble with the build quality of some of their cars, and many of the fixes came quickly, meaning a car built mid month was completely different than a car built at the end of the month.

I wrote a blog a year or so ago about how Dodge could do no wrong. One of the points I made, is that while their Charger and Challenger platforms are over a decade old, they have ironed out all the issues with it and have created a very reliable machine. Something they struggled to do for years. An article on Autoblog listed the best to worst automakers from Consumer Reports. From a very high level view, I want to sum up the top five and the bottom five. These are spoilers and if you want to read more details, you can click hear to go to the Autoblog article, which I believe has the Consumer Reports link in it for even further information.

The top 5 are:
1.) Tesla
2.) Lincoln
3.) Ram
4.) Chrysler
5.) Subaru

My quick analysis of this list is that these are pretty niche auto makers. They only produce a handful of models and what they do have, in some cases, have been around for a long time. They have capitalized on keeping what works and changing only what doesn’t. In some cases, Lincoln specifically, and even Tesla to some extent, they don’t sell a lot of product either. Their volumes compared to some of the bottom makers are only a fraction, meaning they have more time to focus and get it right. Because even with Tesla having as many issues as it does, they are still not pumping out the quantity to make it enough of a market impact. The buyers of theses vehicles are also very different than the bottom bunch as well.

The bottom 5 are:
23.) Mercedes-Benz
24.) Buick
25.) Cadillac
26.) Nissan
27.) Infiniti

The first few things that come to mind of that list are; these are same family vehicles, meaning they have the same parent companies and use the same parts; they are constantly changing up their vehicles and have a vast array of models to choose from; they can be expensive and complex and have a lot of things that can go wrong on them; and they are pumping out a lot of vehicles. Mercedes, Cadillac, Buick, and Infiniti are luxury machines with many technological aids that can fail. That leads to expensive repairs. They are also wildly different in model offerings. While Cadillac, Buick, and Infiniti are somewhat niche, having 22 models collectively offered, Mercedes has 29 different models on their American website alone. Nissan has 17 different models. Mercedes has more models offered than four of the top five manufacturers combined. When you are making that many different cars, at the volume that they are, it begins to paint the picture of why these brands are ending up towards the bottom of the list.

This shows that small, consistent things, done very well, are going to give you an edge over your competitors. Customers want reliable transportation. When a company takes the time to stick to a few models and iron them out over time, the customers will reward that with reviews and returning business. Even if they have issues, like Tesla, they are able to adapt quickly because scale is not at the capacity of the competitors. The fixes can happen almost instantly.

Information like this fascinates me. I’m always excited to look at the market from different perspectives and draw up new and different opinions, commentaries, and conclusions. Facts are facts. So it is fun to discuss the data and then think of ways to make it better. Consistency is the key.

For reference, here are the number of models made by each manufacturer according to their US website.
Tesla 4
Lincoln 6
Ram 14
Chrysler 4
Subaru 8

Mercedes-Benz 29
Buick 6
Cadillac 11
Nissan 17
Infiniti 5

Could it be More Super?

About a decade ago, Toyota had roughly 3 of the exact same vehicle on the road. The Toyota 86, Scion FRS, and the Subaru BRZ. Granted the Subaru was not Toyota, it was a Subaru, but it was only that by badge. All three cars were basically the same. Now, for the new Toyota Supra, Toyota has teamed up with BMW. The BMW Z4 and Toyota Supra are roughly the same car. There are minor interior and exterior differences, as well as a few mechanical differences, but they have more similarities than differences. It is very similar to the products they had on the road ten years ago, and actually, still up until today with the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86. The fact that the 86 is still around is surprising in itself, and that can be a whole other blog subject.

To me, it would have made more sense to get rid of the 86 replace it with the Supra and instead of partner with BMW, do everything in house, based off the Lexus RC. If Nissan went slightly larger with their comeback king, the GT-R, then Toyota can and should too. I have made a graphic of all the size and price differences of all the cars referenced, along with the Lexus LFA, the one time supercar from the brand. A larger, more powerful, dare I say better looking Supra should have been the goal from the start.

I don’t have the IS500 on here, and the FRS is very hard to find anymore. It has the same dimensions as the 86 and BRZ. Click on the chart to see it in full size.

When it comes to power, I know the plan to put a V8 in the new 2022 Lexus IS500 had to have been around when the Supra was conceived. Maybe? Either way, when the Nissan GT-R went from a straight six to a V6, people didn’t complain THAT much. If Toyota planned to put a 5.0 V8 in a Supra, these things would be selling faster than they could be made. None of the new Supra makes any sense to me. There was so much potential and while the car is incredibly popular, it really didn’t meet what I thought could have happened. Granted, I did like it at launch, and I still am a fan. It just doesn’t seem like a Supra in the sense that it doesn’t compete with anything that the original did, or perceived to do. Perception is very important. Potential is also important. The Supra should have been a GT-R competitor, built in house, based off the RC, with a V8 engine. Toyota should have done all that on a budget and gave every 5.0 Ford Mustang owner a run for their money.

The RC looks so good in my opinion. It is the perfect start for a Supra. Plus, it can be all wheel drive. This one was.

Motor Trend and Hot Wheels

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Recently, Hot Wheels and Motor Trend teamed up and created an exclusive pair of diecast cars if you signed up for a new account of Motor Trend On Demand. New account users would receive the Datsun 240Z made famous by the show Road Kill. On the show, the hosts modified the car with a massive turbo charger and exhaust pipe and named it “The Rotsun.” Hot Wheels made that car so subscribers could have both the before and after version of the car. The photo above is the after version. I am still hunting down the before version.

With Hot wheels and Motor Trend collaborating on projects now, and Hot Wheels now experimenting with cars coming already crushed, could we see more cars from Roadkill and other Motor Trend shows? I’m sure all of us what like to see Blasphemi as an official Hot Wheel. But there are so many more that could be done. The Draguar, the Mazdarati, Stubby Bob, General Mayhem and General Maintenance, and those are just from Roadkill. Dirt Every Day has fantastic examples of vehicles as well. Tube Sock and the Alabama Army Truck come to mind.

I’m curious to see how this partnership continues into the future though. Because, the problem with the above mentioned promotion was that the account MUST be a new account. Current subscribers would have had to create an entirely new account in order to take advantage of getting the cars. That to me seemed like a terrible idea. Hot Wheels already has the Red Line Club where members pay a yearly membership fee to have access to cars only available to the RLC. They come at a cost, normally around $30 a car. I don’t know why Motor Trend doesn’t do the same thing? I am a faithful subscriber to Motor Trend On Demand, and WOULD HAVE BOUHGHT the set of cars from Motor Trend if given the option. Merchandise is supposedly a profitable source of income from what I know about business. Hopefully Motor Trend and Hot Wheels have learned from this situation. Hopefully there are more car choices soon and available to all subscribers. And if they could still keep them somewhat exclusive and limited, that actually might be cool too.

Add a little eXtra to the Frontier and…

My rough Photoshop skills of what I think the Xterra would look like based on the Frontier.

Nissan has launched an all new Frontier mid-size pickup truck. It is not a full size pickup like the Titan. There are mixed reactions to the new Frontier in terms of its capabilities and options. People also think that Nissan is to late to the game in the mid-size truck segment. But, overall, the truck on paper appears to be capable. It looks like a truck should as well, in my opinion, so that helps.

Nissan also recently launched a new Pathfinder. Upon seeing it, I started to think about some reports that I read recently that have indicated Nissan dealers are asking corporate to bring back the Xterra. With the popularity of off-roading and many of Nissans competitors resurrecting iconic nameplates with incredible capabilities, Nissan dealerships are saying customers will buy an Xterra if it were on the showroom floors. They also know they need something to compete with the likes of the Ford Bronco Sport, the Toyota 4 Runner, Land Rover Defender, and others.

I am beginning to see how that can come to fruition based on the new Frontier. I am hoping Nissan thought about this ahead of time and planned accordingly to potentially make an Xterra from the Frontier platform. It would simply be the Frontier without a bed and connected to the cab, as I have demonstrated with the above Photoshop render. The only problem is if the Frontier is innovative enough, to use it as a base for an Xterra, and will it live up the expectations of customers? As controversial as it would be, I think that it would. Nissan can’t wait on this if they want to get money from that market.

While we don’t know what the price of the Frontier is yet, Nissan is very extreme in pricing. They are either incredibly affordable, budget cars or they raise your eyebrows in astonishment to what could justify the high price they are asking. If the Frontier comes in at an appealing price, and sells, then I think they will easily green light an Xterra and we might see a new version on the road within 2 years. What do you think?

Why I think E-ZPass is Useless

Back in July 2020, my wife and I finally decided to get an E-ZPass. We do frequent trips where we cross bridges, tunnels, and roads that utilize it and with the world wide condition, we were thinking it would be faster, easier, and cheaper just to get an E-ZPass for all of our future travels.

To make a very long story short, it really did not do what we thought it would. When we pulled up to booth after booth, the device would not register. At one point, we stopped at an E-ZPass station in Delaware, and they said that while they felt bad for me, they could not help me because they can only assist customers with a Delaware issued E-ZPass. Mine was Virginia issued. I was absolutely livid.

Upon returning home, I decided to look into a tip my brother in-law shared with me during our travels. He remembered reading somewhere that certain vehicles, and more specifically, my 2003 Buick Rendezvous has been known to have a windshield that does not work well, or at all, with E-ZPass. I researched into that more and in fact found that to be true. There is a list of vehicles that I found on a document from the E-ZPass website that listed the Buick Rendezvous as a “Special Vehicle.”

There is apparently something in the windshield of a Buick Rendezvous that prevents the E-ZPass transponder from being read by the booths. That is really weird, because I do believe before I owned the Rendezvous, my dad replaced the windshield. I guess even replacement windshields have that same issue?

My biggest beef with all of this is the following. When I walked into the E-ZPass store (I didn’t buy online), WHY DID THEY NOT TELL ME MY CAR WAS ON THE SPECIAL VEHCILES LIST? They knew what vehicle I had because they manually entered it into the computer. The system should have red flagged that immediately. It is very frustrating.

To add insult to injury, the E-ZPass rate for the Cheasapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, which we travel across frequently, is no cheaper than if you were to pay by cash or card at the booth. Yes, they take card. But the rates are all the same. The only advantage to E-ZPass is you don’t have to stop for the length of time to exchange money. Not much of a real time saving if I’m honest. I do find it humorous that on the CBBT website they use the silhouette of a Nissan GT-R as the reference vehicle and they show it can apparently tow a three axle trailer.

Overall, I do like when we use our Ford Focus to go on trips. The E-ZPass makes traveling in that car a breeze. But, 50% is a fail. E-ZPass, you really should let people know.

Thankfully, most of the time the booths just run the plate and charge me through the E-ZPass that way, so I still get the possible discounts, if applicable. Which leads to a whole new point. Why is the device needed at all? Just scan plates and bill. And at that point, E-ZPass is just the middle man. Stupid E-ZPass. Absolutely useless.