Posted by: Jerry Garrett | January 16, 2017

January 16, 1942: Did A New Moon Kill Actress Carole Lombard?

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Searchers comb wreckage of TWA Flight 3 (AP archives)

LAS VEGAS

Did pitch-black skies, on the night of a new moon, lead to one of the most notorious aviation disasters in history? The new moon was not mentioned as a factor in the exhaustive investigation and subsequent report on the crash. Was it even considered?

Here are the facts; you be the judge:

At 7:20 p.m. on January 16, 1942, Transcontinental & Western Airlines Flight #3 flew straight into the face of Mount Potosi near Las Vegas at a speed of about 200 m.p.h. The plane, a twin-engine, propeller driven Douglas DC-3, disintegrated on impact, killing all 22 people onboard, including actress Carole Lombard, the wife of film star Clark Gable.

The accident seemed mysterious and prompted an intense investigation into every possible explanation for it. One factor ruled out was the “entirely satisfactory” weather conditions that night. But that conclusion is wrong, I believe, as was the decision to blame the pilot, Capt. Wayne C. Williams.lombardLAT

Let’s look at what happened:

The New York to Los Angeles flight was many hours late, after making unscheduled stops to take on cargo and on troops in transit to the west coast. It made a refueling stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, three hours behind schedule. The plane should have been able to fly nonstop to Los Angeles (Burbank airport, actually) from that point, but headwinds were vicious – so strong, in fact, additional stops had to be scheduled in Winslow, Arizona, and Las Vegas to take on enough fuel to make it. So the struggling flight was falling even further behind.

The flight plan called for landing at an airstrip near Boulder City, Nevada. But the plane arrived in Las Vegas well after sunset (which had been at 4:52 p.m. that night). The Boulder City field had no landing lights, so the plane was rerouted, 18 miles further on, to the lighted strip at McCarran Field.

When the flight resumed at 7:07 p.m., the original flight plan and compass headings were retained, as though the plane was still being routed from Boulder City. A cruising altitude of about 7,500 feet above sea level, leaving the Vegas area from that airport, would have been fine for a 218-degree heading to Burbank. But the plane took off 18 miles farther west, and that was enough of a difference to route the plane directly on a deadly collision course with the summit of 8,500-foot Mount Potosi.

So, why couldn’t the pilot, an experienced flyer, see a massive 8,500-foot mountain, directly in front of him? After all the night was clear and cold, investigators noted, with “ceiling and visibility unlimited”!

The answer is visibility was not “unlimited”. The pilot, in fact, could not see a thing. It was the night of the new moon.

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Mount Potosi’s snow cover on January 16, 2017 (Jerry Garrett)

Often, in January, the heights of Mount Potosi would stand out with brilliant bright new snow (see photo). But not that night in January of 1942; Mount Potosi’s summit had received only a smattering of snow. Vegas Valley weather records show no measurable precipitation fell the whole month of January.

Another consideration: Las Vegas was just a tiny desert watering hole back then, with a population of less than 8,500 (compared to 2 million in the valley today); so there were no “bright lights of the Vegas Strip” to cast a glow that night. There were no bright lights then; and no “Strip”.

The pilot should have been able to utilize navigation beacons in the area to help him make out silhouettes of terrain at night. But, that night, all but one of the five navigation beacons around the Las Vegas area had been turned off. Why? Because of (unfounded) fears of a Japanese attack on the west coast (the Pearl Harbor attack had been only five weeks earlier).

So the pilot, after climbing from the airport runway’s elevation of 1,900 feet to slightly above his prescribed cruising altitude of 7,500 feet (actually he got to about 7,700 feet), leveled off. He thought he was in the clear.

He almost was.

In fact he was just 80 feet short of clearing a low section of ridge, directly in front of him. If he had been able to see it, he might have been able to pull up just enough in time. Instead, he unwittingly flew straight into an unseen vertical rock cliff.

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Clark Gable & Carole Lombard (AP)

Miss Lombard shouldn’t even have been on that plane; she had been scheduled to take the train home from Indiana after a charitable tour raising money for war bonds. But she hopped on the flight instead, in hopes of getting back to her husband sooner.

The official crash report , which brushed off any atmospheric factors, blamed pilot error. But the co-pilot had been the one who filled out the faulty flight plan, and forgot to fix it. Silly bureaucrats shouldn’t have turned off the navigation beacons in a location hundreds of miles beyond the range of any Japanese military aircraft. And, in any event, that flight shouldn’t have been operating at night – especially flying blind on the night of the new moon.

(Editor’s Note: A plaque marks the spot of the plane’s impact nowadays; but the area is so rugged and generally inaccessible many parts of the wreckage, including landing gear and an engine, have never been recovered.)

Jerry Garrett

January 16, 2017

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | December 27, 2016

HELL OR HIGH WATER: Not Filmed In Texas – or Oklahoma

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“Is that Texas over there?”

HOLLYWOOD

The 2016 movie “Hell or High Water” is set principally in Texas, with a couple of quick excursions into Oklahoma.

Actually, not a single shot of the movie was filmed in either Texas, or Oklahoma. It was all done in New Mexico – in many areas adjacent to old U.S. Route 66.

If you thought a lot of the scenery looked like the Texas Panhandle, you weren’t far wrong: Filming locations in two eastern New Mexico counties, and cities such as Clovis and Portales, were within spittin’ distance of the Texas State Line. Indeed, signs are visible for U.S. 70, which crosses the Texas Panhandle. But it runs through both of those cities – where a lot of the movie was shot – before it heads into Texas.

The New Mexico locations included Albuquerque, where the Route 66 Casino doubled as the fictional “Comanche 66 Casino” somewhere in Oklahoma. (It wouldn’t have been too hard to find an actual casino in Oklahoma: there are 124 of them – owned by 30 different tribal entities).

The giveaway here – visually – that this is not the Texas Panhandle, which is as flat as a flapjack, are the Sandia Mountains above Albuquerque; they are almost constantly seen in the background. Other iconic locales are the Alamogordo Valley, Llano Estacato (Luciano Mesa area), Tucumcari, Estancia and empty stretches of Quay County.

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The Llano Estacato, above Alamogordo Valley

Why New Mexico? Answer: Tax credits for filmmakers, which have lured hundreds of productions in recent years – from “Due Date”, to the latest “True Grit”, and the new “Magnificent Seven”. Texas isn’t similarly generous.

Speaking of Jeff Bridges movies (of course he is the Texas Ranger in this one), two of the towns in this movie are named “Archer City” and “Olney” – which were actual Texas towns in the 1971 classic “The Last Picture Show”. Now, that one was filmed in Texas!

Jerry Garrett

December 27, 2016

 

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | December 26, 2016

Monaco Gets A Motor Show: SIAM 2017

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Press conference Dec. 7 for SIAM 2017

MONACO

The current slate of international auto shows – in places like New York, Paris, Stuttgart, Beijing and Geneva – is under financial stress, with a dwindling number of automakers participating, shrinking displays among those who remain, and fewer new models being introduced. But the Principality of Monaco has decided the time is right to start up a new auto show of its own.

The plan, just announced earlier this month, is to jam the new Monaco show into the calendar February 16-19 – right between Detroit’s so-called North American International Auto Show in January and the International Motor Show in Geneva during March.

Organizers say, judging by initial response, the show promises to get off to a rousing start.

“With more than 50 registered brands, prestigious partners, numerous pre-accredited international media and several thousand tickets already sold, the SIAM 2017 is an announced success from its first edition!” a press release December 13 declared.

Whether the Monaco show, rather confusingly known as “SIAM 2017”, will be a success remains to be seen, but it does have the full support of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco, the local government and a significant number of corporate partners. The SIAM acronym is short for the French language equivalent of “Salon International Autos Monaco”.

Here’s a graphic supplied by the organizers of the companies officially involved:

screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-12-33-45-pmAnd here’s a list of the types of things that will be on display:

“World premieres, in particular from premium brands,” press materials declared. “Electric and innovative cars: Tesla, Mercedes, Smart, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Aixam, Bolloré, BeeBee, Burby’s; Hybrid cars: Lexus, Porsche, McLaren, Mitsubishi; Prestigious cars:
Maserati, McLaren, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Rolls Royce, Bentley; Concept cars: to discover at the Show!
“Start-ups: Start up innovative cars discovered at the CES of Las Vegas like Hap2u, Parkmatch, Drivoon, Monspecialisteauto; Companies specialized in mobility: EDF, Michelin, Bolloré, ABB, IFPEN, Sobem Scame; Legendary cars: Formula 1 of Lewis Hamilton, the Lexus Hybrid of the Princely Wedding or a Packard 1922 …”

The organizers also promise “test drives” will be available; I assume that does not include Lewis Hamilton’s Formula 1 car.

Jerry Garrett

December 26, 2016

 

 

 

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | December 24, 2016

What Was That Convertible Ryan Gosling Drove in LA LA LAND?

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Ryan Gosling wheels his convertible in “La La Land” (Warner)

HOLLYWOOD

The character Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) in the movie “La La Land” blasts around Los Angeles in an old, but distinctive red convertible. What kind of car was that?

My guess is it’s a 1982 model year Buick Riviera Convertible. (We can’t quite tell the exact year of the movie car; we have a call in to the movie’s Picture Car Coordinator Geno Hart and will update this post with exact info when he calls back). Riviera convertibles of that era are hard to distinguish, between model years, with only the most subtle differences. The car came out as a 1982 model (in 1981) and continued in production until 1985.

The Riviera convertible was a significant car, for several reasons. Key among those reasons is that Detroit has stopped making convertibles altogether by 1976. Why? They weren’t solidly constructed, and didn’t fare well in new government crash tests (or in owner satisfaction surveys), and as a result didn’t sell well.

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The Buick Riviera Convertible got by on looks alone (GM)

In 1981, Buick figured out how to make a sturdier convertible off its E-Body platform (also used by the Oldsmobile Toronado and Cadillac Eldorado). I was working for AutoWeek magazine then, and I remember we put the car on a cover that year with the caption “Ragtop Revue”. (I can’t find that cover online anywhere at the moment, but I have a copy in storage that I may be able to rummage up; any reader that finds one, send along a pic and I will put it up here and credit the photo).

The Riviera convertible came in two colors: white and Firemist Red, which is the correct color designation of the movie car, with a matching folding vinyl top. They also featured red leather seats, as well as elaborate but fake wood grain dashboards and door panels.

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’82 Riv: Red leather, fake wood (conceptcarz.com)

The earlier model years had a horizontal tuck-and-roll style upholstery pattern – which is the style of the seats in Gosling’s ride; the latter years were sportier with vertical patterns inside smooth bolsters and borders. They also had Delco AM-FM radios! (Although the stereo unit in Gosling’s car, which features toggles instead of push buttons, doesn’t look stock.)

The earlier years had boring metal wheels, and the latter ones could be had with a fancier faux wire wheel hubcap.

The Riv, horrifically, was not powered by a Buick engine; back then, General Motors was in the process of dumbing-down or outright eliminating the engine production capabilities of its various divisions. So Buicks in those years were powered by some of the worst engines General Motors ever made, including a 5.0-liter V8 borrowed from Oldsmobile that made only 140 horsepower. But as bad as that was, it wasn’t as bad as GM’s infamous 5.7-liter V8 diesel, which could only grunt out 105 horsepower. Fortunately, few were ordered that way because of their extreme cost (and few of those that did sell remain on the road, because the engine was such a turd). There was even a woefully inadequate V6.

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1983 Indianapolis 500 Official Pace Car

The Riviera was so gutless, when GM importuned upon the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to promote one as the Official Pace Car of the 1983 Indianapolis 500, Buick had to develop a special turbocharged V8 to make the car powerful enough to be able to stay out in front of all those roaring race cars.

Time has not been kind to the cars. In addition to likely engine failures, the cars suffered from a host of other mechanical failures and shortcomings. Only the gentlest owner managed to keep one on the road. Rust was a terminal problem for any car sold outside the Sun Belt (i.e., California, Arizona, Texas and Florida).

A pristine example of the 1982-85 era Riviera convertibles nowadays probably would sell for less than $10,000, although exceptions worth considerably more than that must surely exist. Gosling’s movie car might be a prime example.

Jerry Garrett

December 23, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | December 23, 2016

LA LA LAND: Where Was The Freeway Dance Scene Filmed?

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HOLLYWOOD

The scene that opens the 2016 movie “La La Land” features an unforgettable song and dance number, “Another Day of Sun”,  that seems to take place on a freeway in Los Angeles.

Was that a real L.A. freeway? Pretty, much, yes.

You can see cars actually driving past on the lanes surrounding the production. Was that also real? Yes, those were real commuters on their way to work, play, or wherever all those people are constantly going on L.A. freeways.

Where was this filmed?

It was a stretch of the car pool lane flyover on the California 110, or Harbor Freeway, at the junction of Interstate 105. This overpass, located technically in South L.A., offers a great vantage point for viewing downtown Los Angeles.

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The piece of roadway features the two carpool lanes exiting the southbound 110 and heading toward the westbound 105 (the lanes the car is traveling in, in the picture above), and the two-lane carpool exit from the eastbound 105, heading toward the northbound 110; this section blends in with other northbound car pool lanes on the 110.

It’s actually a pretty ingenious spot to stage the number because it is fairly easy to close off and isolate from normal L.A. traffic. Even during the business week, it doesn’t have much traffic – unlike almost every other stretch of roadway in Southern California.

The song-and-dance number features more than three dozen principal dancers, hundreds of extras, and more than 60 cars gridlocked on the quarter-mile, four-lane flyover from end to end. (All the cars are parked northbound, even though they are staged in two northbound and two southbound lanes; notice the concrete divider in the middle.)

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Area is just right of the Green Line Station (Google)

The production had to get permission and cooperation from the California Department of Transportation to close off the section – and in particular to leave the critically important regular traffic lanes of the 110 and 105 nearly 100 feet below them open.

It took six months to choreograph; the crew trashed many of their own cars while practicing the number, which required them to dance on roofs, fenders, trunks and hoods. You can see as the segment progresses in the movie’s opening scenes that almost all the cars have pre-existing dents, from the rehearsals.

It’s a rare clear day in L.A. – because it was windy. That made the camera work especially risky because cranes were used to elevate above the crowd. It was also nearly 100 degrees.

The number appears to be one continuous shot, done in pretty much in one take. In fact, it is three shots stitched together; but the longest single shot – which incredibly lasts nearly four minutes – was actually done in one take. Since the movie was shot on a shoestring budget of less than $30 million, most scenes got only one take! (Although it reportedly took 31 takes to get what the director wanted for “City of Stars”.)

Want to drive this stretch of road yourself? Here’s how to do it: The best view would be for a car exiting the 105 eastbound carpool lanes, and transitioning to the northbound 110. That way you’ll be aimed the way the cameras generally were, with downtown La La Land gloriously sprawled out right in front of you.

Jerry Garrett

December 22, 2016

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | November 20, 2016

Richard Petty: “No Way To Compare What I’ve Done”

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Rookie Richard Petty at the 1959 Daytona 500 (DIS archives)

HOMESTEAD, Florida

Richard Petty, NASCAR’s first seven-time national champion, says there is “no way to compare what I’ve done.”

The late Dale Earnhardt Sr. also won seven national titles, before his untimely death in 2001. And modern-era driver Jimmie Johnson aspired to win his seventh title here, in the 2016 season finale.

Petty, now 79, retired in 1992 after a distinguished 200-victory career that began in 1958. His time in NASCAR straddled the sport’s formative early years and what is considered the modern era that began in 1972.

When Petty won his first title, in 1964, NASCAR was a much different sport. A season included many dozens of races and few drivers had the major sponsors and/or direct manufacturer support needed to campaign the whole circuit; in fact, some races conflicted with others. Petty managed to get to 61 races that year; he won nine of them.

In 1967, when Petty won a whopping 27 races – a mark that will no doubt stand forever – in “just” 48 starts, he scored his second title. His championship margin over his closest rival was a ludicrous 6,028 points (out of 42,472 earned). He won a third title in 1971, taking checkered flags 21 times out of 47 starts.

How great was Petty’s dominance during these years? Oldtimers told me a story of Petty once coming back from being seven laps down, to win a race at Nashville. There were many other such examples.

In 1971, with the advent of Winston cigarette sponsorship, NASCAR decided to winnow down its Grand National series (as it was known 1950-1970), to about 30 of its premier races (the number Winston was willing to support with advertising and promotional materials). To qualify for the “Winston Cup” chase, drivers had to commit to running every race. That effectively eliminated the challenge of many of Petty’s toughest competitors, such as David Pearson, the 1966, 1968 and 1969 champion, and brothers Bobby and Davey Allison, because they ran only partial schedules back then.

Petty also won the new-format championship in 1972, 1974 and 1975.

The fields were much different then. At one Darlington race during this period, I remember only two or three cars completing the distance; the fifth place finisher was something like 25 laps down!

Petty would only win one more championship, in 1979, and he did that after having to switch from Chrysler products, which he had driven his nearly whole career, to an Oldsmobile (because debt-ridden Chrysler couldn’t produce a competitive car for him).

Petty might have won more than seven titles, if he had not been caught up in some of the political dramas around Chrysler’s participation in the sport. He missed the entire 1966 season because of a Chrysler boycott of the series after NASCAR banned the mighty Mopar Hemi engine.

Earnhardt’s dominance during the 1980s and 1990s coincided with an increase in the number of competitive teams in the sport. He won one title with as few as four victories during the 29-race campaign (and as many as 11 one year). But Nascar’s glory years, from a competitive standpoint, were just starting to peak when Earnhardt was killed at the 2001 Daytona 500.

That was the year Johnson’s career in NASCAR’s premier series kicked off. And he raced in bulging 42-45 car fields in which most everyone was capable of going the distance. Photo finishes became more common – almost an every-race experience. Consistency was the most important component to championship contention; Matt Kenseth won the 2003 title, despite winning only one race.

Johnson’s 10 victories in 2007, in the midst of an unprecedented run of five consecutive titles stands out as the most in nearly two decades.

So, Petty’s point is well taken. You can’t compare what he accomplished with the records of Earnhardt or Johnson.

Petty’s dominance through much of the 1960s and 1970s was incomparable; but much of it stands out as something akin to the Harlem Globetrotters playing the New Jersey Generals.

Jerry Garrett

November 20, 2016

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | November 20, 2016

Audi Motorsport: Nobody Thought It Would End Like This

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Winning Le Mans a final time, 2014 (Jerry Garrett Photos)

An era ended today for Audi Motorsport.

The company is pulling out of world sports car scene after 17 glory-filled seasons – a run of success that was without precedent.

For the record, Audi won its final event – actually a 1-2 finish for its top Le Mans Prototype teams – at the 6 Hours of Bahrain endurance race Sunday.

“Since 1999, the LMP race cars with the four rings have won 107 of 187 races in America, Europe, Asia, and Australia,” the company said in a valedictory press release. “In the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) since 2012, Audi has stood for bests as well. On 16 occasions, the brand’s sports cars were on pole position, winning 17 of 41 races. 23 fastest race laps complete this tally. No other manufacturer has been more successful in even just one of these categories. In addition, Audi clinched two drivers’ and two manufacturers’ world championship titles.”

At the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, where Audi achieved its most stunning, and likely enduring, successes, the German manufacturer won 13 times in 17 tries.

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There is no official “cause of death” for the program; but it can be fairly said it was done in by at least three factors: 1. Audi lost an internal struggle with Porsche at Volkswagen Group, over who would represent the group in sports car racing. 2. Audi had probably proven all it could in the sport, and really had nowhere to go upwards, except perhaps Formula One. 3. But any such ambitions were snuffed out by an emissions cheating scandal that has gripped VW and Audi, in particular.

And as VW and Audi cut costs to cover fines, buy back millions of illegally polluting vehicles, and fire tens of thousands of employees, the Audi Motorsport budget of more than $250 million annually stood out as an inappropriate excess. (VW’s current chief executive Matthias Müller came from Porsche, and views Porsche’s equally lavish motorsports expenditures with considerably more tolerance.)

It must be noted that Audi’s sports car racing development programs became centered on diesel power. And with the discovery of emissions cheating devices on its diesel vehicles, VW decided to drop diesel, and change course toward an electric car future.

Accordingly, Audi is being thrown a bone by being given permission to shift its racing efforts to the nascent Formula E electric car racing series. That will allow Audi to keep busy its hundreds of racing program employees – many of whom were signed to guaranteed long-term contracts a couple of years ago (contracts as long as ten years, in some cases). Audi also, not long before the diesel cheating scandal broke, had opened an opulent new racing team headquarters in Neuberg, Germany in September 2014.

“Now, we’re going to look ahead,” said Wolfgang Ullrich, the godfather of Audi Motorsport, “giving our all in our new projects, just like we’ve come to be known.”

But even the ever-optimistic Ullrich knows this is the end of an era: “What happened in the WEC,” he sighed, “will not repeat itself.”

Jerry Garrett

November 19, 2016

 

 

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | October 14, 2016

Where THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN Was Filmed And Where It Wasn’t

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Rachel (Emily Blunt) negotiates a creepy tunnel

Where was 2016’s “The Girl On The Train” filmed?

First of all, it wasn’t filmed in the London suburbs, where the book was set. The best-selling The Girl On The Train book’s author, Paula Hawkins, created fictional towns like “Witney” based on her on own personal commute from Putney (just south of the Thames River) to Earl’s Court (on London’s west side). It’s a distance of about three miles.

Although that real-world commute was on London’s “Underground”, that section was actually an above-ground portion. And that was key to the voyeuristic lead character Rachel (Emily Blunt) being able to check out what’s going on in houses along the route, and imagine fantasy lives for the people she sees.

In the movie, the producers decided to switch the action to New York. And, as a result, the filming was done on a stretch of the MetroNorth rail line, which runs along the Hudson River about 20-25 miles north from Manhattan.

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Follow the green line north

Trainspotters can recognize exterior settings in Hastings-On-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Ardsley-On-Hudson and Irvington. Those are four stations along the MetroNorth route, spread out over a section that is also about three miles long. The two key homes shown, however, are on Macy Avenue in White Plains. (White Plains is not on the MetroNorth line, but a few miles east of it on another train route.)

Interiors were mostly shot on sets in Yonkers, where editing was also done.

The creepy tunnel where key scenes are set? That’s the Station Road tunnel in Irvington. A reservoir outside that town was also the site of another disturbing scene.

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Ardsley-On-Hudson, Irvington (iohut.com)

The pretty train station is in Ardsley-on-Hudson, but the filmmakers dolled it up with an ornate portico. The station used to have a portico – although one not so nice – but a dump truck had knocked it down in 2010. The one the filmmakers created was deemed so lovely by the local citizens, they voted to keep it after the filming was done.

Why the change of venue, for a story so closely linked to a daily commute into London? It seems the filmmakers liked the contrast of fictional lives of decadence in the real-life, peaceful-looking commuter neighborhoods of the Hudson River Valley.

Was that reason enough to relocate the story? Is the plot portable? Movie-goers will need to decide that for themselves.

Jerry Garrett

October 9, 2016

 

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | October 13, 2016

2016: Diesel’s Very, Very Bad Year

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Why Paris hates diesels

PARIS

Woes for diesels continue, as I have been chronicling in reports from this year’s Paris Motor Show, where electric cars stole the spotlight.

Today, more bad news for the troubled diesel powerplant: Market share for diesel-engine cars sold in Western Europe is likely to dip below 50 percent for the first time in many years.

In September, the share of diesel-powered cars sold in Western Europe dropped to 47.9 percent of the market, its lowest level in years, according to research from auto analyst LMC Automotive. As recently as November 2012, diesel held a market share of over 57 percent. (Percentage-wise, that’s a drop of about 16 percent.)

The steady decline, which sharply accelerated in August, leads to a projection of diesel sales for the 2016 calendar year below 50 percent of the market. “The first time for many years that diesel share will account for less than one half of all car sales in the region,” LMC concluded.

The market for diesel, the analyst reported, is eroding from the bottom up. Since 2011, the small car “A” and “B” segments combined have lost one-third of its diesel-powered sales. Mid-size sales are also declining, although not at as great a rate, LMC said, although large car and SUV sales are holding somewhat steady.

Another analyst Bertel Schmitt said the overall trend is worrisome: “The diesel take rate is down hard in core EU markets Benelux, Spain, Germany.” Increases were noted only in Denmark and Italy, albeit only slight ones.

Let’s recap briefly: Why is diesel falling out of favor?

– Diesel engine emissions are inherently dirtier than gasoline engine emissions. Diesel fuel leaves a sooty residue after it is burned. Also smells bad. Big “ick” factor.

– “Clean diesel”claims made by automakers for their latest generation of diesel engines are proving to be wildly exaggerated, if not totally false. Volkswagen had to admit its diesels, for instance, were made “clean” only by cheating on emissions tests. “Clean diesel” is about as clean as “clean coal”.

– Dirty air is becoming a plague in Europe, especially in the big cities, like Paris. The CO2 emissions from diesel engines are considered a leading cause of air pollution. Paris has banned diesels registered prior to 1997, as the first step toward all diesels being banned in the city in the next few years. Other big cities are considering following Paris.

– A potential diesel ban, of course, is a big turn-off for anyone considering buying one.

– Pain coming at the pump? Diesel fuel is cheaper in Europe, thanks to subsidies governments have given – in the now discredited belief that diesel’s better fuel economy was an acceptable trade-off for dirtier emissions. Expect those subsidies to be discontinued.

– Diesel engines are usually costly options that add to the sticker price.

Okay, reviewing here: Diesels cost more, cheap diesel fuel is likely going away, diesels are blamed for air pollution, and diesel cars may face bans in the near future – which would crush resale values.

So, if there’s a real possibility you might not be able to sell your used diesel, why would you want to buy one?

(If you still aren’t clear about the answer, read this story again from the top!)

Jerry Garrett

October 13, 2016

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | October 9, 2016

Where Was THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN Filmed?

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Rachel (Emily Blunt) negotiates a creepy tunnel

Where was 2016’s “The Girl On The Train” filmed?

First of all, it wasn’t filmed in the London suburbs, where the book was set. The best-selling The Girl On The Train book’s author, Paula Hawkins, created fictional towns like “Witney” based on her on own personal commute from Putney (just south of the Thames River) to Earl’s Court (on London’s west side). It’s a distance of about three miles.

Although that real-world commute was on London’s “Underground”, that section was actually an above-ground portion. And that was key to the voyeuristic lead character Rachel (Emily Blunt) being able to check out what’s going on in houses along the route, and imagine fantasy lives for the people she sees.

In the movie, the producers decided to switch the action to New York. And, as a result, the filming was done on a stretch of the MetroNorth rail line, which runs along the Hudson River about 20-25 miles north from Manhattan.

mnrmap

Follow the green line north

Trainspotters can recognize exterior settings in Hastings-On-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Ardsley-On-Hudson and Irvington. Those are four stations along the MetroNorth route, spread out over a section that is also about three miles long. The two key homes shown, however, are on Macy Avenue in White Plains. (White Plains is not on the MetroNorth line, but a few miles east of it on another train route.)

Interiors were mostly shot on sets in Yonkers, where editing was also done.

The creepy tunnel where key scenes are set? That’s the Station Road tunnel in Irvington. A reservoir outside that town was also the site of another disturbing scene.

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Ardsley-On-Hudson, Irvington (iohut.com)

The pretty train station is in Ardsley-on-Hudson, but the filmmakers dolled it up with an ornate portico. The station used to have a portico – although one not so nice – but a dump truck had knocked it down in 2010. The one the filmmakers created was deemed so lovely by the local citizens, they voted to keep it after the filming was done.

Why the change of venue, for a story so closely linked to a daily commute into London? It seems the filmmakers liked the contrast of fictional lives of decadence in the real-life, peaceful-looking commuter neighborhoods of the Hudson River Valley.

Was that reason enough to relocate the story? Is the plot portable? Movie-goers will need to decide that for themselves.

Jerry Garrett

October 9, 2016

 

 

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What is under the QX Concept’s hood? (Jerry Garrett Photos)

PARIS

While a new generation of electric cars, some fancy design concepts and shapely new models (cars, not booth babes) captured the spotlight at the 2016 Paris Motor Show, the technological star of the show was to be found at the Infiniti stand.

It was not the muscular-looking QX Sport Inspiration concept on display, but the production version of that vehicle coming in 2018 is likely to be first one to carry that technology. And it’s not the gleaming 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that is on the stand, next to the QX – although you’re getting warmer.

It is the technology that is inside that engine, which Infiniti calls the VC-Turbo. The VC part of its nomenclature refers to Variable Compression – and this is a technology that could revolutionize the auto industry, and make existing types of gasoline-powered engines obsolete.

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2.0-liter VC-Turbo

Without getting too “Inside Baseball” on you here, all internal combustion engines have a fixed compression ratio – a value that represents the ratio of the volume of a cylinder’s combustion chamber from its largest capacity to its smallest capacity.

The most common ratios are in the range of 8:1 to 14:1, although they might go as low as 6:1 or up to 17:1 for Formula 1 cars. Generally speaking the higher the compression ratio, the faster the car it is in; lower skews toward more economical operation.

Heretofore, engine designers have had to choose what kind of performance they wanted from an engine. Then, a design was created around that ratio.

“Every production engine ever built,” Infiniti says, has been stuck with a fixed compression ratio. You pick one compression ratio and stick with it.

That’s why some cars are race cars, and others are grocery-getters.

Until now.

In the VC-Turbo technology, the engine is designed with articulating, multi-link moving parts to facilitate operation at different – variable – compression ratios, depending on throttle demand. In the instance of the Infiniti engine this is a range of 8:1 to 14:1 (and every ratio in between). So this gives the engine management system a choice of the optimal range of operation at all times.

It is sort of the best of all worlds, in terms of engine performance – power when you need it, and economy when you don’t.

This explanation is a huge over-simplification on my part, because it is all really complicated, in engineering terms. Over 300 key patents, and even more lesser ones, have granted over the two decades that it took to develop this engine; final performance and durability testing were carried out in cooperation with the Renault and Red Bull Infiniti F1 teams.

Chief engineer Shinichi Kiga wasn’t even quite sure how to define it when I asked him whether the VC Turbo is an engine, or a technology.

“Both,” he said, after some thought. “Some of both. It is the technology inside this engine.”

The technology is scalable, he added, so it could be built inside other engine architectures. The engine on display here is an inline four-cylinder design, but it could easily be expanded to an inline-six, or eight, or even larger. But then it might get to be an unwieldy size. “Probably not 16,” he added, smiling, thinking of what kind of power an engine like that could generate.

Besides the range of performance, the VC-Turbo technology fits in a smaller engine footprint – much smaller than, say, Infiniti’s venerable 3.5-liter V6, which is about as powerful. Because it is smaller, it also saves weight: The 2.0 turbo here is 25 kilos, or 55 pounds, lighter than the V6.

That’s a ton, in terms of automotive component weight – and those are the types of gains in weight-savings and efficiencies engineers dream of. Many gains are measured in mere ounces.

“The result is an engine that combines the power of a high-performance 2.0-liter turbo
gasoline engine with the torque and efficiency of an advanced diesel powertrain without the equivalent emissions – offering a compelling alternative to similarly powered four-cylinder diesel engine,” according to Infiniti press materials. “The VC-Turbo engine will be comparable to certain six-cylinder gasoline powertrains for performance, while significantly outperforming them in efficiency.”

The little 2.0-liter turbo here produces 268 horsepower and 288 foot-pounds of torque, Mr. Kiga said. That’s power comparable to a V6, but it is “27 percent more efficient” in terms of fuel economy and operation, Mr. Kiga said.

So this is a very big deal. Imagine a gas engine with diesel fuel economy. In this instance, that’s like a 40 m.p.g. gas engine jumping up to a 62 m.p.g. capability.

I once asked Bob Lutz, former co-chairman of General Motors, why GM seemed slow to ditch old fashioned gasoline engine technology, in favor of exciting new ideas like electric motors and battery power. For one, there is a huge “installed base” of gas-engine cars; “tens of millions of them” and they aren’t going to give way to EVs or fuel cell cars overnight, he pointed out, so change will be incremental at best.

“And I’ve seen what is in the development pipeline – way down the road, five, ten, 15 years from now – in gasoline engine technology,” Mr. Lutz said. “And I believe the old internal combustion engine still has a few tricks up its sleeve. Some big improvements – big leaps forward – in efficiency could be ahead. I see a lot of potential – a lot of life left in the old gas burners.”

It would appear variable compression ratio engine technology could be one of those tricks.

Jerry Garrett

October 5, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Jerry Garrett | October 3, 2016

#DearVin From A Once Young, Now Old, Fan

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Vin Scully and his old partner Jerry Doggett

LOS ANGELES

When I was 10, I used to sit alone in a car, in a dark, strange parking lot, listening to Vin Scully.

It was my grandfather’s car, and he was a supermarket executive, who used to have to go to meetings that ran past dinnertime. But he was a fan of the Dodgers, who moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles when I was 10, and when they came west, he loved to go their games. My grandfather used to tell me that if I would wait for him in the car, while he went to his meeting, when he came out, he would take me to the rest of the Dodger game.

We were in Glendale, a few miles away from Dodger Stadium, and we could often get there by the seventh inning. That was enough for both of us. Sometimes we could even get in for free! (He always knew the value of a dollar; he grew up in a family with no car, just a mule.)

There in his car, alone, I would listen to Vin, and his sidekick Jerry Doggett, and their friendly, warm voices would help me not be afraid in the dark.

For the record, I thought Jerry was a good guy, and very underrated. When he was gone, I don’t think Vin wanted to broadcast with anyone else.

When my grandfather would come out, I would update him on where we were in the game. I learned to keep a scorebook (“If you’re keeping score at home,” Vin would say, “that’s a 5-4-3 double play…” or whatever). And regardless of the score, we’d be off for Dodger Stadium. (My dad didn’t give a rip about baseball, or the Dodgers.)

Once, when my grandfather’s meeting ran late, the radio ran the big Buick’s battery dead. My transister radio saved the day, but we had to get AAA to come give us a jump. And, miracle of miracles, when the car fired up, the game was still on! It went into extra innings, so we off to the stadium.

My grandfather would like how Scully would set up these scenarios, innings before they would happen, that if this one guy would get a hit, then that would mean such-and-such guy, hitting .325, would get another turn at bat in the ninth inning, etc. Almost clairvoyantly (is that a word?), those scenarios would often play out, to my grandfather’s endless delight.

Once, when the Dodgers were still playing at the LA Coliseum, when we were sitting behind the net in left field, my uncle caught a home run ball. My uncle died last year; I think he was buried with that ball.

My grandfather died in 1995, and I moved away from L.A. and had no way to hear Dodger games anymore. (Doggett, the unsung sidekick for 32 years, died in 1997.)

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Vin Scully’s final broadcast, October 2, 2016

I moved back to L.A. a few years ago, and I was amazed to find Vin still broadcasting games, albeit alone now.

“I used to listen to the Dodger games,” I told my wife, “with my grandfather…”

Just then, Vin launched into a story about some player at bat: “He used to watch the games with his grandfather…”

I swear this is true.

Jerry Garrett

October 2, 2016

 

 

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