For your Reading File:

Before we jump in to this morning’s notes on superior prepping and living the ideal “strategic life” there are two books you ought to have on your reading list because they are great values.

One is Gaye Levy’s “Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage: A Practical Guide to Storing Food For the Long Term.” It’s a quick read and free this weekend for Kindle readers.  If you have an earlier version of the book, you should be notified of a free update when viewing the book in  your Kindle library (or online) by going to “Content and Devices” in your Amazon account.

Second book moves over into the “spirit Realms.”  Under $2-bucks is “Calling Things That Are Not” which is by far the best book on mastering “creation” as a “co-Creator-in-training” you are likely to find.  Wonder why prayer often fails?  Here’s your answers…

Flash, Quality, or Ubiquity?

Since I read all the comments posted on Urban, I often catch a very subtle shift of where people are “thinking next.”  IoW: Where consumption trends may head in coming years.

The comments section was “alive” this week on the subject of cars.  Commenter Andy get’s all whipped up with a 1,400 HP Mustang hill-climb car called the Hoonicorn.  Then heard from reader Phil, a Porsche 911 driver here in Texas.  I pay close attention to Phil since I’m a recovering 930-widebody pilot myself.

Taken together, these cars are what I’d call “Flash.”

By Friday morning, however, reason showed up. Looking Outside the Box commented on how much more comfortable an old Checker Cab would be.

checker marathon from wikipedia

Checker Marathon

If you’re not into automotive history, Checker Motors – which went bust in 2010 – built something called the Checker Marathon between 1961 and 1982.

As you can see, the Checkers were not going to give Ferrari or Lamborghini a run in the styling department.  But, one ready Pappy Ure almost bought one in the mid 1960’s was they were built to run easily over a million miles.  Same kind of engineering (safety, survival, long life) that goes into Over-the-Road trucks from Kenworth and that ilk.

The mere mention of a Checker speaks reams about utter build quality.  That’s why Checker was hugely successful as a taxi cab maker.  We have to wonder if Uber and Lyft couldn’t learn a little something?  Is there room in today’s disposable world for an energy-optimized smaller version of the Checker?

You see, I hope, why this is our pick as representative of automotive quality.

Fine….but what cars have met the test of ubiquity?  (*Everywhere you look-ness)?

If you flip over to the Wikipedia page here, you will find many data sets to consider.  We tend to view the global best sellers as really ubiquitous:

There were (and remain) incredible vehicles, even today.  I can’t think of anything cooler than driving my old (bought new) 1968 Beetle…sadly sold it decades back.

Worldwide sales figures can be a little misleading.  The Model A for instance, was in a far less densely populated world.  When launched in 1908, the US population was 88.7-million.  That’s a model A for every 5.37 people alive at launch time.

The US population was 129.8 million when the Beetle was launched, so penetration works out to only one Beetle for every six Americans.

What places the VW in our “most ubiquitous” running in that virtually all the US sales began well-after World War Two.  I remember the debate raging in the Ure clan when uncle Joe bought a 1953 (might have been 54) Beetle.  36-horsepower and flip-out turn signal semaphores, the whole clan had been in the war and except for “brother Joe” the rest seemed to think it was “too soon to buy anything German.”

What made sales for Volkswagen was their brilliant US-created – by Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) – “think small” advertising campaign.

All of which gets us to looking at the market and wondering what is America’s present mindset?

Certainly for “flash” the Tubbs and Crocket Miami Vice (or Magnum P.I.) Ferrari’s were totally awesome.  That kind of “flash” seems to be embodied in the plug & play cars from Tesla, at least in the small screamers category.

Quality?  A few cars are coming with 100-thousand mile power train warranties.  But can you find a car built to run a million miles today?  Good luck on that.

And what about ultra-light mini cars?  Well, we about cried to read in the Green Car Report this week that “Daimler’s Smart brand has announced that it’s pulled the plug on the U.S. sales of its only model, the Fortwo, which went all-electric just one model year ago.”

When Elaine and I (eventually) move back into (pseudo) civilization from here in the Outback, I’m thinking it would be fun to have a “collectible old man car.”

On our most recent gambling foray up to Lawton, Oklahoma, there was a Corvette club regional meeting.  And dandy low-slung rides they were.  Except, after 70, I’m less inclined to jump in and start slamming through gears.

Something more sedate?  Maybe an old Rolls or Bentley would be fun.  Except, while they speak of quality,, the reality is a Checker would kick their ass in the million-mile department.

So that has me wondering about buying a recent Smart FourTwo with the gas engine.  Maybe it will zoom into “cult status” along with the 1953 to 1961 Nash Metropolitan, which was in many ways second only to the VW Beetle as a “small-to-micro” car.  Still, at age 70, will I survive far enough into the future for such a “novelty” to make sense?

My friend Gaye has a working compromise in her pampered powder-blue T-Bird (first of the new body style). I’m not sure if even Survival Hubby gets to drive it.

Picking the “right” automobile for prepping is a personal thing.  I’ve been thinking about a Hummer H2 or H3.  Not that they will roll a million miles, but they can off-road a bit.  But, if rock-crawling your way out of a collapsing urban core is your shtick, decent-sized tires and a lift-kit on a Toyota 4-by might be a decent pick.  They tend to last a good while and they are nearly ubiquitous.

Our reader the Ecuador Expat summed up the problem of declining quality this way:  Are you willing to pay the higher cost of even a toaster that will be usable by great grandchildren?

Ah, the larger economic questions scream back to center-stage.  If we go from 5-year toasters to 50-year toasters, then only one-in-10 toaster factories will be needed.  Only one-in-10 toaster-makers, too.  One tenth of the container loads…and you quickly see how crappy (disposable) quality is a dandy business model.

When my buddy the Major was down here last week, we talked about where it all started.  I held up the arrival of the “annual model” to save the failing auto industry.  Authoritatively, Wikipedia nails it:

“Alfred P. Sloan extended the idea of yearly fashion-change from clothing to automobiles in the 1920s. His company, General Motors, was the first to introduce planned obsolescence (in cars) by means of making the production date, and thus the car’s newness or lack of it, visually discernible.”

The Major, however, disagreed, citing the case of Société BIC S.A., commonly referred to simply as BIC and stylized as BiC which in the early 1970’s set the “disposable society” on fire with their “Flick Your BiC” ad campaign:

“Dupont explored the possibilities of marketing a disposable lighter, developing an inexpensive disposable lighter called Cricket, which it introduced in the United States in 1972. Later that year Bic was test marketing a disposable lighter that could provide 3,000 lights before wearing out; Bic introduced this lighter in 1973.”

Who do we blame?  Sloan’s my pick, but the Major picks BiC which was basically founded as a “disposables company” in the aftermath of World War II in France.

Either way, between the effects of compound interest and stripping of planetary resources (and the necessary coming death of constant-growth economic models) we need to get out of the work-addiction and begin making smarter choices throughout life.

If there’s to continue being life, that is.

Write when you get rich,