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Get off my lawn.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Cars









I just read an article about a problem with 6th-generation Corvettes. According to the story: When the roof panel on a C6 vette experiences stresses (such as those induced by, say, driving the car) along with heat and humidity, the roof panel can come loose and blow off. GM dealers have supposedly been instructed to spray the underside of the panel with adhesive foam (presumably Elmer's contact cement) and stick it back on. In extreme cases, they're instructed to replace the roof panel altogether.

Note to GM: Nice flagship car you got there. I'll take the convertible, since that appears to be the only model you sell. My dad built a 2,500 sq. ft. house when I was a kid for less than you charge for your plastic car with the exploding roof.

A few months ago, I read something about the GT, the super-cool mid-engined exotic car sold by Ford. Apparently, these cars (which were selling for as much as $250K on EBay) had some suspension-related problems: A-arms were breaking in two, allowing the wheels to fall off the car in cartoon-like fashion. Seems like a problem, since a Ford GT can reach speeds above 200mph.

Also, there was also a problem with the rear main seal in early iterations of the engine: The seal would fail, leaking engine oil out and making a mess of things. The solution recommended by Ford was to use some kind of emergency repair kit available for ~$5 at auto parts stores everywhere.

Note to Ford: Here are some ideas for your next $250K car: A) the wheels should not fly off at speed. B) The engine should not leak oil. C) Failing "B", the fix shouldn't involve chewing gum and spit.

I guess that brings me to Chrysler, the other American car company. Or not... Diamler-Benz now owns Chrysler, so they're really more of a "Germerican" company.

Chrysler's flagship car is the Viper. I haven't heard anything about Viper roofs or wheels popping off at speed, which is reassuring. But: The Viper's exhaust system runs through the door sills on either side of the car, and is known to heat them to the point where the paint will burn off of them when the car warms up. This means that when you enter or exit the car, your bottom, feet, legs, and groin must all pass directly over superheated door sills covered in flaming paint. There's even a warning sign on the sill mentioning things like "serious injury" if you touch it. I hope that sign is fireproof!

Achtung, Chrysler: Mercedes-Benz called. They would like to discuss options for where you might route hot exhaust gases in the future. Perhaps somewhere that the passengers don't find themselves on a regular basis?

Note to Viper owners: Good luck with your cauterized buttocks.

What's this all about? Is this just some kind of user-hostile ethos that's part of fast cars in general? It might be, but I only hear about really flamboyant failures like this when they're related to modern American cars, or Italian cars from the 60s and 70s. Lamborghini Miuras, for example, are known to launch themselves into the air at high speeds and burst into flames while sitting in city traffic. The Miura was built 40-odd years ago, by a company that had only built tractors and air conditioners prior to that time. Plus, the Miura is kind of the car equivalent of Keith Moon. Loud, wild, and self-destructive. I guess it's supposed to be part of its charm or something.

Present day though, I think a company with 80+ years experience building cars should be able to, you know, build cars. Every car has imperfections, but for some reason I expect the failures related to them to be more esoteric, or at least minor. But roofs flying off? Wheels falling off? People being baked alive by body panels? Come on. Roofs and wheels have been a fairly integral part of car designs for years now. I wonder if things like this ever show up in testing, and what gets done about it.

Test Pilot: "Nice car. Looks good, handles well. Slight problem with the roof."
QA Guy: No problem, we'll put out a repair kit that includes 2 kernels of corn, a squirrel, and a Baby Ruth wrapper."

1 Comments:

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