Midweek Snippets – Jalopnik FM, Tesla Safety, Petroliciously Pebble and Politics

Here are some of my best reads from the last few days of online automotive reading (and something from the fringe).

Jalopnik good

I don’t know if you’d call this list definitive, but it’s entertaining. Jalopnik compiled a list of the Ten Best Automotive Ads and there are a couple of Swedes amongst them – one each from Volvo and Saab. I’m not sure they picked the right Volvo ad (I prefer the one with the Lamborghini) but the Saab one was a favourite.

Not a real ad

Spotted, photographed and caption-added by my mate Turbin a few days ago.

There's only one JEEP

Jalopnik Bad

Jalopnik’s still on my RSS feed because once or twice a week you still get a story that’s worth reading (see the ads story, above). That’s maybe two read-worthy stories out of the 300-or-so they publish every week. Jalopnik’s entry rate is frenetic nowadays, which would be great if they had useful content. But Jalopnik’s style has regressed in the last 18 months and they’re publishing a heck of a lot of trash now.

I think it was around 1995 that it dawned on me how much I hate commercial FM radio. All those slick, contrived phrases delivered by silky, confected voices. It was evident even back then that they were in a race to the bottom in terms of delivering radio content that appealed to the lowest common denominator; something that’s only got worse with the passage of time and the emergence of the 24-hour media cycle. But the worst bit was the delivery method – slick, contrived humour that sounded slimy and eventually, got annoying.

Jalopnik is the automotive equivalent of commercial FM radio.

This was the most recent noteworthy example, from a post leading up to Pebble Beach:

There will be crashes and auctions. Weird fashion. Weird people. Unicorn cars. And some guy dressed head-to-toe in Ferrari attire even though he just owns a 308. We will love that guy.

“Even though he just owns a 308”

There are brands that I don’t have an interest in ever owning, but I’ve got plenty of respect for those that do. Yes, a guy willing to have his wallet hoovered and dress head-to-toe in Rosso will be eye-catching and maybe even snigger-worthy, but base that on his fashion sense, not because you think he drives a ‘lesser Ferrari’.

Any Ferrari, the 308 included (the 308 especially, if you ask me), is worthy of a car guy’s respect. For most that eventually do it, owning a Ferrari – any Ferrari – is a long-held dream. I don’t know about the situation in the USA (Jalopnik’s home ground) but here in Australia, the commitment one makes when buying even the most affordable Ferrari – which right now is the Mondial – is a massive one.

First, you have to save money like a madman and fork out more than many brand-new midsize cars just to reach that most accessible level of Ferrari ownership. The sheer fact that a 308 or a Mondial can be bought by the committed at a remotely ‘accessible’ price is something to be enjoyed while the situation exists. It’s not something to be sniggered at.

Then you’ve got to maintain it, which is not a simple or cheap affair.

What really irks me is those who sit on the sidelines with their wannabe cheersquads and take the piss out of those who commit their hobby time and hobby resources to really achieving what is for them, a dream. Sure, they’re not conquering cancer or teaching under-privileged kids how to read or anything – how many car guys or girls do? – but they’re pursuing for them what is quite likely the appreciation of a level of creativity, passion and craftsmanship that’s becoming less accessible as time goes on. Cars like these are, for many, a mechanical expression of human automotive passion.

To those who commit to caring for one of these cars, I doff my hat.

And yes, this is a little bit personal. Aside from the fashion sense, I am that guy (I’ll admit I’ve barely got any fashion sense, but enough to avoid ever spending much at a Ferrari store). I’d love to have a Ferrari one day, whether it be a Mondial or a 308/328. And incidentally, the only example of a 308 I’ve ever ridden in was owned and driven by former Saab USA chief Bob Sinclair. He’s a bloke I’d be happy to emulate.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest……

Pebble Beach

Petrolicious has put together a brief but memorable pictorial from Pebble Beach.

They didn’t go onto the manicured lawns and photograph the cars all perfectly parked. They waited outside and photographed the cars doing what they were made to do – they got the cars driving.


Tesla goes 5-star+

I’ve thrown a few bricks at Tesla in the last 18 months or so – pun intended – but credit where credit’s due.

The Tesla Model S just got 5-stars in it’s crash test and if the scale went higher than five stars, there’s a good chance they might have reached higher, too. It’s being touted as quite possibly the best crash-test result ever achieved under the NHTSA regime in the United States.

A Tesla Model S isn’t for everyone, but for those who get one, it’s good to know they’re about as safe as a car can be right now.

Congratulations to Tesla.

Political Spin

And finally, for those who have made it this far……

We’re in election mode in Australia right now. Politicians are everywhere and we’re all sick to death of them. This, however, is a pleasure. And with 214,000 views on Youtube in 24 hours, you’d call it a success, too.

A cameraman for our national broadcaster also happens to be the bass player in a band. He used his Canberra-based job and connections to talk a bunch of our federal politicians in to appearing in his band’s film clip. The song is about the 24-hour nature of the political news cycle that he works in, so the pollies’ appearances were probably as cathartic as they were relevant.

The clip features the current Prime Minister (behind the newspaper) as well as the current opposition leader who’s after his job (spinning the bike wheel). There’s a bunch of other prominent Australian politicians and press reporters, too, one of whom is ironing his underpants.

Can’t imagine Obama, Cameron or Putin doing a clip like this. Well, maybe Putin.

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  1. ” I don’t know about the situation in the USA (Jalopnik’s home ground) but here in Australia, the commitment one makes when buying even the most affordable Ferrari – which right now is the Mondial – is a massive one.”

    No different in the U.S. either. Yes, the cost of some Ferraris is quite reasonable. Several models can be had, in good working order, for USD$20-25k…BUT…and it is a BIG but…the service & parts rates are still extremely high for any Ferrari. Just like everywhere on the planet.

    Here’s qoute from an owner’s forum:

    “308’s in good condition can generally be pretty reliable, but it is a 20+ year old car, so its more of staying on top of replacements and preventative mtns… that being said:

    belts – dealer – $5K, DIY $1500 Belts, valves, water pump etc
    brakes – dealer $1,500k +/- DIY $850 flush fill, new pads, disc’s etc…
    Clutch – dealer $2K, DIY -$800

    electrical.. is the biggest problem area, fuse block, relays, connectors etc… just crop up and have to be tracked down and replaced.

    hose replacement – on going

    A/C – infuriating – can cost thousands and still work like crap.

    So It is imperative to buy a very high quality car, to minimize the mtns, cause it can literally eat you alive… and take all the joy from Ferrari ownership.”


    All that said, I would still LOVE to have a 246 GTS. 🙂


    1. The 246 is exquisite, isn’t it?

      None for sale here but I shudder to think what it’d cost.

      Being realistic, I’d love either a 308 GTS (around $50-$60K here) or a Dino 308GT4, the under-loved 4-seater 308 that can be had for between $40K and $50K. The lowest price Mondial at the moment is $27K but if you want the more desirable 3.2 litre then they start at $40K.

      One day. Maybe.

      1. Ha! Agree with both of you. I had exactly the same thought as I read their blurb and wasn’t surprised that was your take. ‘Only a 308’. Sheesh.

        Ferrari isn’t exactly my thing, either. There are many more vintage cars that I’d spend the $30k on.

      2. “None for sale here but I shudder to think what it’d cost.”

        I bucket load…OUCH!


        And to think that in 1972 I walked into Luigi Chinetti’s dealership in New York City to look at one…and the price was USD$14,400.00. Not far out of may reach at that time…but just enough.

        And also on the list of “big mistakes” was the 1961 M-B 300SL Roadster my mother seriously contemplated purchasing in 1968, that was selling for USD$4,000.00. My mother was seriously into cars…and NICE ones at that.

        She ended up buying a 1968 383 cu.in. Dodge Charger instead. 🙁

        Oh the cars one should have bought. But isn’t hind-sight always 20-20?

  2. Part of the irony here is that 15 years ago, the likes of Jalopnik would have derided the Dino instead of the 308. Now Dino prices have shot through the roof, and 308s are at cheapest Ferrarris.

  3. Go Tesla!! Tesla is the new Saab. They are engineer-centric in their approach to building cars not beancounter centric. They have broken the mold in so many areas. Just like Saab used to do. They designed the car to be fundamentally safe not just score well in a test. They made an extremely fast four door for 7 passengers! with cutting edge tech, all electric, smoking hot looks, and did all this in a hatchback body. They have done precisely what all the “experts” in the field said not to do. They went their own way and they now have people falling over themselves to get one. The Model S is now my dream car but I sure wish they had taken a page out of Saab’s book when designing the interior. I want my waffle vents and crazy comfy seats!

  4. “Go Tesla!! Tesla is the new Saab.”

    That is not necessarily a good thing. They just may have the same fate.


    And don’t be fooled by their Q1 USD$11 million “profit” either. It was an accounting trick used by many companies. In reality, Tesla had an OPERATING LOSS.

    “Tesla was profitable because it earned $68 million from selling Zero-Emission Vehicle credits (which it earns under California state laws governing vehicle emissions) to other automakers, and a further $17 million from selling Greenhouse Gas emission credits.

    It also logged $11 million in warrant liability reversals, along with $7 million in foreign currency adjustments.

    Take away the revenue sources that are a byproduct of Model S sales–both enabled by legislation, as a testy OpEd in the Wall Street Journal points out–and the financial adjustments, and the company lost $91 million on building and selling its cars (along with building and selling powertrains for so-called compliance cars to other automakers as well).”


      1. Deep doo-doo? Your not serious right? Again I will call on you to remember how the media works. The headline of the article you linked to is patently false. NHTSA did not contradict Tesla’s claim to a 5.4 VSS or that it was the best ever tested. They just don’t like it for manufacturers to use certain words or comparisons. The link below is the best written article I have seen thus far dealing with this matter. When you look at the data the results are starkly clear. The Model S is the safest car in the world by far. Go to Youtube and compare the Volvo S60 poll test to the Model S. Both 5 star rated but the difference between the two is shocking. The Model S preserved 63.5 percent of driver residual space vs. 7.8 percent for the Volvo. That is not even in the same ballpark!!!


          1. The NHTSA does not technically ever publicize a rating out that is not a 1,2,3,4,or 5. That is true. However when you understand how they come to the conclusion a car is a 4 or 5 you can draw some logical conclusions. Tesla should have been a little more clear how they came up with what they did but they were not lying when saying it was the safest car NHTSA had ever tested. Essentially Tesla reverse-engineered what NHTSA does to come up with that star rating using publicly available records of the test results given to the other manufacturers. Using that metric they calculated what the “actual” star rating would be without the rounding NHTSA does. So while NHTSA does not release anything but rounded numbers they do start off with a decimal before the rounding happens. In the case of the Model S that would be 5.4 before the NHTSA erases the evidence of the over-achievement.

            If you really want to be mad at someone you should be mad at the NHTSA that does not report more accurately the results of their tests to the public instead opting to dumb it down to 5 stars. That is like playing on an 8 bit video game. You can see an object but not make it out in any real detail. Since the rating is designed to inform the public why not release a more accurate and detailed report for those who would like to get more involved when they already have that info anyway? You know…so we can be informed. What are the actual numbers for chest loads and such? That would be great to know and not terribly difficult since they already have that data compiled.

            Facts that NHTSA has not in any way refuted.

            – Tesla Model S received the lowest VSS(.43) of any car tested since the new rules were enacted.
            -The RRS (Relative Risk Score) of 7% is the lowest on record. This is your likelihood of being injured.

            Tesla Model S is the safest car NHTSA has ever tested. Most likely the safest in the world but not all cars have been tested.

            As to the issue of Tesla’s accounting? Well let’s just say that you shouldn’t believe everything you read. There is a fair amount of disinformation out there. A good deal emanating from people who shorted the stock and are trying to cover their positions by writing defamatory articles. I should also say that a lot of misinformation is not intentional but is due to lazy journalism. The roof crush thing where Musk said the machine broke was not in the NHTSA tests but in validation tests Tesla had done. The journos reported that it broke in the NHTSA testing when Musk never said that.

            So you went and saw a few articles. I have been following them daily for well over a year and Tesla runs an extremely clean ship. I am an investor in Tesla. I will say though that they are grossly overvalued right now. Musk admitted as much.

        1. saabluster,

          The NHTSA publishes rounded ratings because they want to keep things sane.

          Every other 5-star car has a score that is higher than 5. What Tesla implied is that they are “.4” better than anyone else, which is untrue.

          Is this because they lack industry experience, or because they know that the “5.4 star” story will get exposure, and the “oops” story won’t? Tesla’s got a great PR machine, and it’s hard to believe that every last person in their PR department dropped the ball on this one.

          Same thing with the “we broke the machine” story. It’s worded so that casual readers will think that they broke the NHTSA’s machine. Tesla broke their own (rented) machine. They were either using the wrong machine, or they were using the right machine incorrectly (and probably unsafely). Either possibility is a sign of some degree of incompetence, but the spin is completely different. Any fool can break a tool by using it beyond its limit.

          I admire what Tesla is doing from an engineering standpoint. Why do they have to ruin it with misleading, cynical PR?

          1. @saabluster

            ” I am an investor in Tesla.”

            Sort of explains everything you have said, now doesn’t it?

            Keep drinking the Kool-Aid.

    1. I think we all learned a bit from the whole Saab saga as relates to the media didn’t we? The media likes to put a spin on things to create controversy where none should exist. Tesla made a profit and that is a fact. You cannot disregard the revenue that comes in via ZEV credits because those credits are a direct result of Tesla making and selling quality cars that people want. Yes the ZEV credits may pass but they are part of the equation now and money in is money in. Many car companies make money from sources other than their own cars on the lots. Lotus for one is known for making money on engineering services. As long as a company can find a way to run profitably they are successful. Besides Musk has already said they will be profitable on the cars without the ZEV credits by the end of the year.