Prepping: Buy Flash, Ubiquity, or Quality?

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,

George@ure.net

17 thoughts on “Prepping: Buy Flash, Ubiquity, or Quality?”

  1. George,

    Thanks for the Marathon memory. But for all their faults, I still prefer today’s cars and their technology, safety features and lower maintenance. 1960’s car construction was all about protecting the car in a crash, never mind what happened to its occupants.

    73s.

  2. George

    “plug & play cars from Tesla”.

    They should rename the Tesla the Zippo, as in Zippo cigarette lighters.

    They seem to catch fire when they get in accidents. when they have a major accident they seems to lose the front end of the vehicle leaving the passengers exposed any traffic. Damm dangerous design!

    I was under the impression that light bulb makers were the first to introduce planned obsolescence. I wonder who really get the title of being first?

  3. I’ve thought I would like to build a 32 coupe hot rod.

    The area around El Rancho de Chaos in the Ozarks is littered with farms and junk piles. On most old places you can parts for just abut anything imaginable from Model A Fords to later model cars and pick ups. Mom had a 75 Monte Carlo with the original 454 V8 bought new. When it finally went kaput in the late 80’s it was hauled off by our neighbor Stevie where he placed in one of those said Ozark graveyards in the woods. I see it whenever I drive by and lately have had an urge for a project. Something to tun into a old man hot rod if you will. Stopped by couple weeks back to see Stevie and while looking over the car, farther back in the trees I saw something vaguely familiar covered over with brush and vines.

    Closer look it turned out to be a 1951 Hudson Hornet. This one was my grandfathers car. I remember that old beast from my childhood. I remembered it threw the clutch on a trip to the farm when I was little and it was towed off using an old tractor. Those were wet clutches and were a bear to work on I understand. I had heard that Stevie’s dad was the one who hauled it off and had not been able to get parts to fix it so was supposed to been sold it for parts. All these years I never knew it was back in there. Sadly it has sat down on the ground without wheels so it’s about rusted away. Lot of chainsaw work needed to get it out.

    Mom’s Chevy is in the shop waiting for me to start picking at and I was able to get the old Hudson out beside the barn and under a roof. I’ll have to think about that one. It’s in pretty sorry shape.

    • Usedta be a farm on the NW corner of Indiana SR-5 and SR-124?, about 10 miles south of Huntington (40 mi. SW of Ft Wayne.) 300 acres or so, and the farmer had 80 of it planted in 1920s-1950s Hudsons. I’ve no idea if it’s still there, but if not, those 3000 or so Hudsons had to go somewhere…

  4. I got my eyes opened to planned obsolesce in the mid 70s. I was on a flight back to the West Coast and seated next to me was another engineer (his slide rule tie clip was a dead give away). We talked during dinner, and he told me he had a group of five engineers in a development center for Westinghouse. He described their current project, which still had at least a year to complete. At first, I thought it must be some new high tech product (during that period Fairchild Semiconductor was introducing one new integrated MSI chip every week). Then, he described that his group was working to develop a new heating element for their steam iron product line which would reliably fail with six months after the 18 month warranty expired. The present design did not fail until 18 months after the warranty expired. He said that without this ‘Improvement’, Westinghouse would be dropping the entire steam iron product line.

    • LOL! Run the iron through a Variac at 90% and it’ll last 10 years or longer!

      My big gripe today is with LED “bulbs”. The actual LED’s could last a lifetime and a decent driver system could be long lived too. The driver circuitry is potted in the base of the bulb with the actual LED’s in series around the circumference of the base. The inside of the plastic “bulb” has a phosphor to act as an optical capacitor to smooth the 60 or 120 hz spikes(I haven’t checked to see if they utilize the full wave). I have no idea if there’s any actual regulation in the potted electronics since I’ve not dug into that yet. Obviously, there are many serial points of failure in these things, and they reliably fail in a bit over a year of operation. More robust designs could create permanent bulbs at virtually the same cost. Interestingly, the LED’s on all my electronics have never failed at all, even over many years of operation.

  5. I’m beyond 1/3 of a million miles with a Saturn S series and she’s still going strong! Original drive train too, knock on wood! The old Dodge Cummins 12 valve is definitely a million mile engine. The only thing is that the injector pumps tend to leak and need rebuilding. That and a dowel pin that should have been secured better at the factory. Unfortunately, the Dodge truck won’t last nearly as long as the engine.

    One big problem with prepping backup cars is that they need maintenance even if you don’t drive them. They need to be run regularly and the even with Sta-bil or Pri-G, they gum up if left too long. I’ll be working on my relics if I ever have “spare” time.

    Thanks to Gaye and this column! I’ve downloaded the e-book and read the intro already.

  6. Flash and collector’s items cost real time and money, attract unwanted attention, and parts are always a problem. To get control in almost any emergency situation, you slow down and pick your route carefully, you don’t speed up. Go for the new mid-price SUV model with good fuel economy which is known to run 300K miles with routine maintenance and synthetic lubricants. You don’t have to run it that far before you trade, but you can if conditions deteriorate. Shielding on the electrical components is a crap shoot on any year model. OK, maybe there is an an advantage to a carbureted or mechanically injected engine, but don’t expect to go cross-country in a junker. You use the junker to scavenge parts and get emergency supplies when the electronic components are toast. But now I have just switched to the two-vehicle scenario, which may be the most realistic approach.

  7. I loved the Checkers from the time I saw the first ad for a civvy Marathon and Superba (actually before. Young’uns can’t conceive the cavernous enormity of the passenger compartment of the postwar Checker, unless they’ve ridden in one — Imagine a 3-row Suburban, with the second row of seats removed and the roofline raised — not kidding!)

    That said, George, you missed the most ubiquitous of all — the Jeep! Designed by American Bantam, prototyped by a Bantam – Checker J/V, built by Willys and Ford (at the time the 2nd and 3rd largest car companies in the U.S.) and licensed to manufacturers around the world, both during and after the War, the Jeep is the basis of both the Land/Range Rover and the Toyota Land Cruiser families, and the Lada and Mahindra Jeep clones, and is the grandfather of AM-General…

    • Ray the jeep reminds me of a friend has an original army surplus humvee….that thing has to be four tons..real steel..unfortunately it only gets four miles to a gallon of gas. He kept it original and o nly drives it in parades.

      • It’s six tons, unless it still has the add-on armor plating, but it should also get between 7-9mpg — probably needs its diesel tuned-up…

  8. “:how much more comfortable”

    What funny is when I shop for a car. I take another person to run interference. ( they usually tG team you for a sale if you have someone just to run interference you have a fighting chance.)
    We bought a new plug in prius.. beautiful car. They just pulled it off the carrier.. I wanted to go for a ride..my test drive usually goes first time out. I sit in the back seat. I have the salesman drive me all over..the reason most car manufacturers have cut space to make profits. They cut back seat foot space. If I can’t ride in comfort and enjoy the tunes on the radio..then I don’t want it. Its worthless for me. The prius had lots of leg space and a great ride.
    The marathon what a car..in a car fight your going to win..ever seen a Porsche or stingrays that’s been in an accident..they explode in a million pieces. Anyway..
    Just after I bought the prius the salesman took me to see another car they took in trade..
    https://mobile.penskecars.com/for-sale/new-2018-bentley-mulsanne-speed_sedan-edison-nj-8175597.html

    What a gorgeous car and it was 4 years old had 20 thousand miles on it and I could have owned it. Lots of leg room leather and hand buffed wood all the luxuries .. and I could have totally owned it for fifty dollars a month th more on the payments.
    Anyone could have owned it working at a fast food server..it was reminiscent of the size and comfort of the marathon.
    ( who ever owned it paid over 267 thousand for it..I could have owned it for what it cost to put brake shoes on it lol..they wanted to get rid of it fast.) The sad thing is I couldn’t afford to drive it. So I took it out for the test drive..The brake shoes alone was over 6 grand ( who ever owned it rode the brakes bad) and they had to fly in mechanics to change them.

    The tucker..he was way ahead of his time and luxury.. what a car seen one in a car show once.. beautiful.
    My dream is to one day own a marathon..
    For used cars.. I sit the backseat but when I drive it.. I go to my mechanic he gives it a once over..then to a transmission shop.( knew a guy working at a car dealership..for questionable mechanical they will do some pretty crazy things) then to a bodyshop.. ( most places have disclosure clauses but ..those are for the dealership not the consumer. Also I had to earn the hard way that most arbitrary lawyers are under contract with the dealers leaving you in the cold..luckily for me..i was taking care of the father of one of the best and even though he to was retained helped me through my situation. The dealer bought the car that was totalled out twice in one year for fifty bucks sold it as just coming off a lease..they did a rebuild where some regular guy wouldn’t ever know. Take it to a body shop..have trained eyes look it over..

  9. The car I feel the worst over..

    A childhood friend…. bought a shelby cobra hard top..

    https://youtu.be/WlcZlNd3ZTU

    A beautiful car in cherry condition..no backseat… it was his baby..he was so proud of his cobra..
    He got married.. on his car he had real fancy hub caps.. very nice ..
    His brother and I heck we didn’t want to fill his car with popcorn..he would have killed us..the same thing with hanging cans or stuff off of it..write just married on the window..would get you shot..
    So we ran down to the store bought five dollars worth of marbles..in the hub caps they went. We figured heck it will make a lot of racket..perfect just married joke. Instead he jumped in and raced off for their honey moon.. not a sound.. two weeks later.. I see him. He’s driving a brand new cavalier.. were is the cobra… oh we got two hundred miles down the road went to pull In for gas and the rear end went out. They didn’t have parts so they traded him even up..
    That haunts me.. if I ever won the lottery I would buy him a cobra. I have never mentioned the marbles..his brother is a multi millionaire I asked him once..why don’t you just buy him one as a gift.. or doesn’t it bother you that we are the reason he dumped his cobra..
    Well his brother never did. And every once in a while we will visit about the days of long ago on his key chain he has a small cobra as the fob..
    That haunts me.. I should have expected the marbles to spin out..

  10. I TOTALLY LOVE TALKING ABOUT CAR BUYING..
    As a bottom feeder I have to make every dollar count.. every dollar.. so after an employer sent me through the rings over .. ( health insurance..) yup..I will digress here it was the early eighties the price of silver was going through the roof.. I ran a photo lab..the boss was playing the markets then it started to turn..he got caught and started taking money that we had paid in for insurance and left us with just the card..( my guess is he thought what were the odds of how many times does a person actually go in for something major. you never meet your deductible).. the kid climbing trees..fell ruptured his spleen and sent a branch through his body.. the bill almost a half million dollars and I didn’t even make three dollars an hour…. Needless to say I couldn’t buy toilet paper on credit.
    so when I had to buy a car.. I had to pay cash and get the best bang for my money..
    you have three classes of cars.. you have high end.. targeted for the dress for success crowd.. over priced buggies with no other real purpose than to turn someones eye with the hey lookie me.. the average middle of the road car.. and then there is the work car.. something not the best to look at but dependable..
    ( the vehicle I drive cost a hundred dollars..)
    So to get the best bang for your dollar I would visit the tow truck storage facility.. yup.. average wage earner guy goes out on the town gets nailed for a dui.. the tow truck company comes.. they get the fine the tow charge and the daily storage fee.. if they are incarcerated for a couple of days.. they now owe more than they will make in a paycheck..if the car is something that has a high retail value ( blue book) of a few thousand dollars and looks clean.. they will ship them off to auction barns where car dealerships are bidding to get their real money makers.. the low value cars.. the older and those not so pretty or has some damage on them are sold for scrap.. scrap yards will buy them and strip them of the parts ..
    so I would go and look for the average run of the mill work car.. I once could have bought a one year old corvette.. no outside body damage.. for a couple of hundred.. it was beautiful from the end of the lot.. why didn’t they go and get the corvette.. then I seen it.. it was totally destroyed inside.. everything ripped and shredded.. hacked away like you wouldn’t believe it.. I asked the tow truck driver.. thieves did this.. ( usually they just damage the steering column ) NOPE.. the guy driving the corvette had a lot of cocaine in the seat next to him when he was driving.. the police destroyed that car with knives hatchets what ever they had to rip it up..
    How I got my everyday vehicle I am driving now for going on what seven years.. is my grandson was driving my car and a girl texting and driving ran a stop light and t-boned him.. I was in it.. ( still drive-able) on the phone with the insurance company.. pulled into a car dealership lot and was arguing the value of the van I had with the young ladies insurance company.. They totalled out the car and was only valuing it at a hundred dollars scrap..Needless to say I was livid.. the owner of the car dealership.. was listening to our conversation.. ( he use to be my mechanic the one I trusted with everything mechanical for over twenty five years.) said Hey we took in a van from an insurance company.. for a hundred dollars.. nothing has been done with it.. no one has looked at it.. but if you want it.. it is yours for the hundred.. I bought it sight unseen..came back that afternoon to pick it up.. drove it in for an oil change.. come to find out the young lady that owned it was as anal as I am on car maintenance..when the insurance company sent the tow truck to get mine.. well the driver was the same guy that picked up my new van.. he said some guy was test driving a new car and texting and hit her from behind.. she had her three babies in the back seat.. she was livid the guy locked all the doors so she wouldn’t kill him.. LOL
    Anyway tow truck companies.. banks.. a tow truck company gets a lot of good cars.. the banks sign them off because the cost of the tow and storage etc.. isn’t worth what the cars are worth.. in all the years I have gotten cars like that I only got one lemon.. but then I paid twenty five dollars for it to got twenty back for it as scrap metal..Like my van now.. I drove all of them for well over five years.. this one now.. I wouldn’t hesitate to drive it across country.. I won’t it is shooting three hundred thousand miles on the motor.. its an old girl and won’t last forever..
    My pickup same thing got that one as scrap had a new motor put in it.. cheaper than going through the old one..
    for toyota’s.. because of strict environmental standards there.. everyone has to dump a motor at thirty five thousand.. you can buy those motors for a couple of hundred dollars.. did that with an old Honda I loved.. that car is still on the road today with my grand daughters father.. had the school put it in as a winter project..

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