Category Archives: Car Culture

Massachusetts Activates National Guard to Combat School Bus Driver Shortage

I’ll bet these fine soldiers never thought they were signing up to drive school buses when they enlisted. But Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has activated 90 Guardsmen to serve in the areas of Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell, and Lynn, with another 160 available for additional communities should the need arise. The Drive and Jalopnik have the details.

Basically, there just aren’t enough drivers to do the job. Many are on the older side of the spectrum, and more vulnerable to COVID-19. Since schools are excellent incubators of illness, quite a few of these drivers have opted to stay home and stay safe.

This wasn’t an issue last year because just about everyone went remote. But this year many school administrations have decided that the pandemic is over, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and resumed normal in-school operations. Many of these schools have since returned to partial or fully remote learning upon the spread of COVID-19 among students and staff, which no one could possibly have seen coming except for doctors and scientists, and who listens to them anymore?

Carolina Squat Banned, Violators Could Lose License

During my drive through the Carolinas, I spotted for the first time the trend of squatted trucks, also known as the Carolina Crouch. They’re raised in the front, lowered in the back, and give the driver terrible visibility as to what’s ahead of them. Headlights shine straight into oncoming traffic. And on top of all that, they’re just ugly.

North Carolina, one of the states from which the trend got its name, has come down hard on this trend. The Drive reports that as of December 1, this will be illegal. Not only can drivers get fined, they can also lose their license for a year if cited three times for this. That’s serious.

Interestingly, the law, as written, specifically addresses raising the front and lowering the back. Wording from the previous law, prohibiting any ride height change of more than six inches, has disappeared. Oversight, or intentional?

Photo credit: WhistlinDiesel

The Subaru Forester Wilderness Is a Factory Overland Rig — Or Is It?

People used to turn their Subarus into wanna-be rally cars. Now, it’s wanna-be overland rigs. Good news! Subaru will now do it for you in the Forester Wilderness. The Drive has a good write-up about it. It’s taller, beefier, and can tow more.

My concern, though, is for the transmission. Subaru CVTs have not proven to be all that reliable. Many people I know have had problems with them. The Wilderness package doubles the Forester’s towing capacity from 1,500 pounds to 3,000 pounds. It does get a transmission cooler, which will help. I foresee it being an item that many Forester owners will retrofit to their own cars, as well as any other models it’s compatible with. Maybe that’ll help cure some of these problems.

We’ll have to wait and see whether the Forester Wilderness is a true overlander, or a fauxverlander.

Paris Sets Draconian Citywide 30 km/h Speed Limit

The early days of motoring, back in the late 19th century, saw the introduction of speed limits. After all, people were operating their new fangled horseless carriages at ludicrous speeds, exceeding 10 mph in some cases!

Obviously things have changed since then — or have they? RFI reports the city of Paris, France, has just set a citywide speed limit of 30 km/h. That’s 19 mph, barely more than some of the speed limits of the 19th century. The goal, then as well as now, was to improve pedestrian safety, as well as cyclists. (Horses are kind of rare in the city these days.) It’s a growing trend across Europe, though, and elsewhere as well. Last week I stayed in Amesbury, Massachusetts, which just set a 25 mph limit across the entire town. By some strange coincidence, I saw numerous speed traps during my travels around town, on roads designed to safely handle speeds greater than 25.

Let’s remember how things used to be in Paris with this whirlwind tour from Rendezvous, where Claude Lelouch might have broken a speed limit or two himself during filming…

Ford Reveals the “Very Gay Raptor”

In response to an internet troll who called the Performance Blue color of the Ranger Raptor “very gay,” Ford has gone over the top and created this work of art that they call, and I quote, the “Very Gay Raptor.” explains that Ford created this particular truck for Christopher Street Day in Cologne, Germany, a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. Between the huge rainbow and the gold sparkles, I have to say it looks fabulous, darling.

This isn’t the first time Ford has build a car specifically for this event, either. The Ka parked next to the Very Gay Raptor is a car they built for the 1998 event.

Speak Softly and Carry a Train Horn

People just don’t look where they’re going. Or sometimes, they do, but they just don’t notice you’re there. Just ask any motorcycle rider. The Mazda Miata is basically a motorcycle with four wheels. One enterprising owner compensated for his car’s small size by installing a train horn. This video shows how the horn and the car’s nimble handling saved him from a crash.

I’ve owned three Miatas myself. All of them have received major horn upgrades, though never quite as serious as this one. The tiny car comes with the most wimpy horn I’ve ever heard on a car. You can barely hear it over the already quiet engine. Loud pipes don’t save lives, but it’s certainly important to be heard when the other driver’s eyes have failed them. That’s where a nice loud horn comes in handy. It’s loud when it needs to be, and quiet any other time.

What you see here is an experience I’ve had many times during my Miata ownership. It’s just a bit more extreme than mine. If I ever get another Miata, I have to start looking for a train horn.

This Crusty Cop Beetle Visited My Elementary School

I was in first grade when this car paid a visit to my elementary school in Acton, Massachusetts. I remember it clearly because my mom had a 1974 VW Super Beetle in Screaming Yellow Zonker (I’m almost positive that’s the factory’s name for the color), and this was a police Beetle, which I thought was the coolest thing ever. My teacher didn’t like me, and falsely accused me of pushing my way through the crowd to get a better look before sending me back to the classroom to miss the rest of the presentation.

Mustie1 goes into the car’s history a bit in this video, but I can shed some light as well. The car traveled around Massachusetts making presentations to young school kids like myself. During a bit of automotive archeology he finds a cassette tape of a school bus safety presentation — the same presentation my first grade teacher kicked me out of. It plays through the PA system. The front of the car resembles a face, complete with the police hat. The hood has a motor to make it open and close to make it look like the car is talking. That’s why the lower part of the trunk area is painted a very non-police pink color, to look like the inside of a mouth. I spent most of this video wondering if this was really the same car that visited my school 40 years ago. This detail confirmed for me that it is.

Mustie1 actually manages to get this long dead car running again in his second video (it’s over an hour long, so “Buckle up, America,” like the bumper sticker he found inside says). To someone like me who grew up with fuel injected cars, it’s amazing to me just how simple the process of getting it running it. It certainly doesn’t run well, but he manages to not only start it, but also drive it around a dirt lot (with practically no brakes, but who needs those?)

It’s amazing what memories can be tied up with a car, especially when I saw far more of it in these videos than I did back in first grade. Particularly thanks to my mean first grade teacher.

Please Don’t Throw Cheese At Cars

We shouldn’t have to say this. Cheese is for eating and enjoying, not for throwing at cars. Jalopnik reports that unfortunately, a growing trend on TikTok shows otherwise.

Why, people? Just why? I can understand doing something like this if it’s genuinely amusing. The classic pie in the face gag is as old as movies themselves. But this, this is just stupid. It’s not even funny.

Now get off my lawn.