Just for Fun 11

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The CB Slang in the Convoy Song

For those not familiar with Citizen’s Band and its slang, the 1975 song Convoy must seem like a mass of jargon and confusion. Surprisingly, the song by C. W. McCall was a hit not only on the country & western charts, but also a crossover hit on the pop charts.

Before we get to deciphering the song, here’s a brief history of the CB Radio. It is described on Wikipedia as both as “professional mobile radio” and a “land mobile radio system” involving communication over a short wave. In many countries it doesn’t involve a license.

The Federal Communications Commission controls and allocates certain bandwidths for certain uses. This prevents radio stations from broadcasting on the headsets of commercial airline pilots and other potentially nasty confusions. In 1945 the FCC allotted a special band (or section of frequencies) for citizens to have personal communications.

In the days before cell phones this became a way for people to communicate with each other when no land line was available. This brought a lot of efficiency to things like fire lookout stations. But in at the hight of their popularity, in the 1970s, they were the bailiwick of professional drivers. CBs were especially useful to long haul truck drivers who were likely to encounter bad weather conditions or surprise road closures.

These long-haul drivers also began warning each other of speed traps. Which made them a valuable source of information to other drivers crossing remote areas, who wanted to avoid being pulled over for speeding.

CB Slang

Many bandwidths of radio broadcast picked up specific nomenclature specific to their needs. HAM radio operators, who use a similar device and operate in a similar manor, actually need to get a licence to broadcast. Part of the licence requires them to learn Morse Code though their bandwidth is generally spoken word.

CB slang developed at an accelerated pace compared to the regular evolution such devices, due in part to desire to inform on police without being blatantly obvious.

What is a Convoy?

The song concerns some kind of driver rebellion, a convoy, which travels from the West coast to the East coast without a break. Biologists refer to this behaviour as swarming, or schooling. It happens in bird or fish that will react to a predator by acting in a uniform pattern, which tricks the predator into treating the group as a whole instead of as a bunch of individuals.

What is one police car supposed to do when 15 semis barrel past going 10 miles an hour over the speed limit? At best they ticket one of them and let the rest go. There is mention in the song of a strong police presence and having to speed past a toll booth.

One reason a convoy might work is that most states only put so many highway patrol on a given freeway, which means a group of truckers could drag a train of patrol cars to the edge of their jurisdiction where they must quit the chase. Provided they obscured their identifying numbers like registration or licence plates.

Eventually police began using roadblocks and tire puncture devises, and the federal highway commission began to require upgraded identification.

Slang in the Song “Convoy.”

Because it takes in so much of America the song wedges in as many nicknames for US cities as decency allows!

Here is a glossary:

10-4: Affirmative.

10-9: Repeat.

(10 codes were a staple on CB. Currently 10-1 Unreadable to 10-33 Help Officer; but many codes have been retired).

19: The traditional channel for CB, pronounced “1-9”.

20: Location.

Bear: The police. “Heading for bear” here means heading for an area which has a police presence, which since they were speeding probably meant trouble.

Bridge: The bridge referred in the song is the Walt Whitman Bridge across the Delaware. They enter New Jersey but they do not pay the toll.

Catch you on the flip-flop: Catch you next time, whenever that might be.

Chartreuse microbus: A VW microbus, also known as a caravan.

Chi-Town: Chicago.

Chicken Coups: Truck weigh stations. These are checkpoints a driver must legally stop at.

Clover leaf: An interchange of four roads making a four leaf clover pattern.

Convoy: Three of more truck drivers going to the same place when they exceed the speed limit.

Flagtown: Flagstaff, Arizona.

Front door: The head of the convoy. They were the one charged to look for “bears” or police cars.

Kenworth: A Class 8 truck made in Seattle. The one referenced in the song was “pulling logs” or transporting logs.

Pete: Peterbilt, a truck manufacturer.

Pig Pen: The driver of a pig truck, not the most popular of people!

Put the hammer down: Put the pedal the floor, get moving!

Reefer: A refrigeration truck used to haul food.

Rubber Duck: The leader in a convoy.

Shakey Town: Los Angeles, so-called because of the earthquakes.

Sod buster: A tractor, because it digs up sods or patches of grass.

Suicide jockey: A driver of hazardous material, usually explosives.

Swindle cheats: The log book used to log a truck’s progress. They were not seen as reliable hence “swindle cheats”.

Nowadays:

The addition of electronic log books and GPS has eliminated any thought of getting away with most of the traffic offences a convoy was intended to enable, however it’s the cell phone that has done the most to kill CB slang. For better or worse, all things come to an end.

The History of Herbie

At the time of year we gorge ourselves on movies on TV and especially Disney movies.

When it comes to car characters from Disney the most famous is probably Herbie. The majority of the population probably know that he had a 53 on his hood, but what was his registration number? The answer is OFP 357. It is a Californian plate. He also had red, white and blue racing stripes.

He first appeared in the 1968 movie The Love Bug. He was owned by Peter Thorndyke (David Tomlinson) and although briefly owned by Mrs Van Luit it was mainly owned by Jim Douglas (played by Dean Jones). Only then did Herbie acquire his name. The name was coined by Tennessee Steinmetz (played by Buddy Hackett) and he named him after his Uncle Herb, who as a boxer acquired a nose shaped like a VW Beetle.

The car goes to Tennessee’s aunt in Herbie Rides Again Mrs Steinmetz (played by Helen Hayes, also famous for being in One of Our Dinosaurs Are Missing). It appears that Herbie now has the power to bring other Beetles to life. This is the only movie which doesn’t show Herbie as a race car.

For some reason Herbie is racing again in Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo in the Trans-France race, apparently by Jim Douglas again. The car develops a crush on Lancia Montecarlo. These were sports cars made in the 1970s and early ‘80s by Fiat. Because they had a rep of being noisy cars and susceptible to corrosion they didn’t last long. They were however more popular racing cars than the VW Beetle.

In Herbie Goes Bananas Herbie is passed to Pete Stancheck (Stephen W Burns), Jim Douglas’s nephew and is entered into the Brazil Grand Primeo, only it seems to get lost on a cruise ship and befriended by Paco (Joaquin Garay III) and is disguised as a taxi in Mexico. Paco takes to calling Herbie “ocho” which at the end of the movie is explained as “eight,” because 5 +3 = 8.

Although Herbie was used as a driving instructor’s car in the TV show The Love Bug (also featuring Jim Douglas) it is back racing again in the 1997 TV movie, also called The Love Bug. The car is now owned by Hank Cooper. The movie features an evil counterpart to Herbie in Horace, the Hate Bug. Later in the movie Jim Douglas returns and Herbie begins racing again.

In the 2005 film Herbie: Fully Loaded he is bought by Maggie Peyton (Lindsay Lohan) and is modified to a 2002-cc engine car. As well as the normal races he also enters a demolition derby. Again Herbie falls in love, this time with another Beetle.  

As well as the movies and TV series Herbie has also appeared on the Mickey Mouse Club in 1990 and in two video racing games. He has also appeared in extreme stunt shows at Disney theme parks and has even appeared on Disney on Ice and cameoed on The Simpsons. Not bad for a car which is more than 60 years old. No doubt he’s appeared in a movie over the holidays this year. Either way, “the love bug” is a great post for a car blog on Valentines Day.

The Vital Components of the Mini.

By Paul Wimsett, UK Desk

The 1960s was all about miniskirts and the Mini itself. The Mini has a stronger link to the sixties than the Beatles or satire, as the Mini was launched in 1960 itself, the satire boom and the creation of Beatles occurred in 1963.

The Origins of the Mini:

Designed by Sir Alec Issigonis, who although born in Greece inherited British citizenship through his father and like many immigrants, saw himself as more English than the English. Many of the cars he designed, the Austin and the Morris Minor had a distinctive look about them, cars for a small family rather than cars where you could sit people in the back seat and in the trunk. BTW: Kids in the trunk is totally illegal now, but common at the time to make use of all the necessary space in a saloon car. (BTW: a “saloon car” is a sedan.)

The reasoning behind the car was purely practical, there was a fuel shortage after the Second World War and generally only the breadwinner needed to get around. So many households made do with a single, small car.

The Mini Cooper was one of the first designs to be used as part of this first generation. The first car had an 848cc engine, or 34bhp (brake horsepower), the equivalent to about 25Kw; so practically all the power of a modern boiler. Obviously this had to change. A modern Cooper has around 160bhp or the equivalent of 119 Kw, around five times as much.

As well as showing itself as an excellent racing car in the 1960s, it was driven by such diverse personalities as Paul McCartney, Steve McQueen and even rival car maker Enzo Ferrari. It all came down to convenience and the Mini was the ideal car for the time, working on the success of similar small cars.

The Future of the Mini:

The Mini has been an iconic car for a number of decades, but for how much longer can it continue? Ultimately, it all comes down whether it can ride the storm of Brexit in Britain and whether it can continue to offer something from its competition with less money to play with.

Let’s take a Mini Countryman it’s a modern type of car, still a Mini but using the Crossover status. Some are known as Countryman Coopers, some are not.

With a length of 2,670 mm and a width of 4,313 mm (which exclude the mirrors). The standard Cooper has a weight of 3,300 Ib.

A Mini Cooper has a 0-60 rate of 7.3 secs. (The average is about 10-12 seconds). A Porsche Skyrider can do 0-60 in about 2.1, but then not everyone wants to drive a sports car. The acceleration rate is dependent on the power of the engine, so we can assume that the Cooper has a better than average powered engine- not something you might associate with a small car?

In the End:

It should come as no shock that Sir Alec become known as a “Greek God” in British car innovation. It would difficult to write the story of the British car industry without him and Britons hope that Mini manufacture will continue into the future.

A Look at Car Health

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In January, we take a look at how we might change our lifestyle. So why don’t we look at our cars as well? Nowadays you don’t even need a mechanic–you can diagnose the problem itself.

Well, the word “diagnose” is a bit strong. Look at it this way. You see the light on your dash that says something is wrong? You still don’t know what’s wrong. Well you can, if you have a car health monitor.

They’ve had code readers for a long time. Think of it this way. Your car has a number of sensors on critical parts. If you have low oil pressure for example it triggers the engine light. So all these sensors are triggering the same light, but your car knows which one was triggered and if you get a code reader, it will tell you which one.

External Diagnostic Devices

Aside from getting a better description of a problem than just a dash light, the other reason to get some sort of car health monitor is peace of mind at the mechanic. How much more confident would you feel walking you’re your mechanic and saying, I’m pretty sure my alternator is shot,” vs saying, “my car sometimes won’t start.”

You feel the difference? You might not have a clue what an alternator is, but how much faster are you going to get answers to simple questions like, “when could you have this done,” or “what’s it going to run me to fix this?”

With the old method your mechanic grins broadly and says, leave it with me for the day and I’ll call you when I know what’s up. Then he hooks up the same machine you could buy…when he gets around to it…later today.

Another place that has a car health monitor is the auto parts store. Although they have their own health monitoring service it will save you a trip if you purchase one of your own. If your problem doesn’t need to be fixed right now you’ll wait for the weekend, if you have to go to the store to find out what’s wrong, you’ll end up buying the part while you’re there.

Is there a difference between a simple code reader and a diagnostic? Yes! An external diagnostic can read into the code or even double check the reading that are causing the diagnostic. Some are even programmed to check against the way that engine type is meant to operate. It’s a language interpreter of sorts.

OnBoard Diagnostics

This type of monitor is the OnBoard Diagnostics which started in the early 1990s. It could be said that these tools are in the second generation of development, though having said that OBD-II came out as early as 1996.

There are various different types of device, the most common of which is a type of scanner which operates by plugging into your scanner and displaying the car’s info on a little screen. The simplest of these can only show the Check Engine codes, but the more advanced models can give a whole variety of codes for whatever predicament.

If you’re confused about why we’re talking about plugging something in when it’s called an OnBoard Diagnostic it’s because there is a port where you engines computer can attach to an external code reader or diagnostic, and an OBD can just stay plugged into that port, then broadcast wirelessly to your phone or other device.

What all does my ODB monitor?

Things that can always be shown on the scanner are fuel rate, the voltage of the O2 sensor, the voltage level of the battery and the time that your engine has been running, even for something like a loose fuel cap. The idea of the scanner is to show you information beyond the simple flashing lights on the dashboard.

OBD Ports

It has been illegal since 1996 to not include an OBD port in a vehicle, though of course older vehicles will have to rely on the older type of scanner. The port has sixteen pins and it is regular practise for mechanics to use the port in order to work out the fault with the car.

There are various protocols associated with these ports. A protocol is dependent on what type of vehicle it is, for instance is it a Ford or a General Motors vehicle? In 2008 the Controller Area Network was introduced and all vehicles have to use the same protocol.

With a special USB adaptor attached to the port you can read these codes from your laptop, rather than a scanner screen. Most of these tools do work the same way though. Alternatively some of them work via an app on the regular type of tablets and smart phones. Some produce current data (also known as “live data”) so you know that there is a problem as soon as it occurs. The phrase “peace of mind” must surely be mentioned here.

Secret Updates and Prototypes.

Prototype Cars

Now that cars are connected, your automaker will often download updates remotely, but even cars that aren’t on-line often receive a small upgrade during manufacturing that cars the month before didn’t get.

Why would you hide the improvements in a car? Well it’s all to do keeping things from the competition. If things are the development stage it might be that the improvement is not carried into production, in which case it may well be snapped up by the competition.

Take the BMW which has updated headlights and taillights. The only reason that anyone knows about it is that BMW released this information. So BMW didn’t make a big promotion around their new concept lights, they just quietly upgraded their production model and then later in the year they announced that it had been done. This could be because they had many units on show room floors with the old type of light, that wouldn’t sell if people knew the upgraded lights were on their way.

Industrial Espionage

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There is such a thing as industrial espionage, but it tends to be about stealing technological advantages. The kind of corporate espionage that leads to releasing information to the public revolves around safety issues etc.

Prototypes

 

By far the most common type of secret upgrade is the upgrades to the design being considered for future production models. The reason for keeping these prototypes secret may seem obvious. Of course, they don’t want competitors to steal the design, but also car makers also test out ideas that don’t actually go into production. It’s hard to get the public to feel warm about a car if a popular potential feature disappears before the real production design is decided.

Things Automakers do to Hide Upgrades

Sometimes part of a vehicle is obscured, as is the case with this new BMW, when a cloth was placed over the dashboard when the car made early public appearances. It created rumors of a new infotainment system, but it seems the manufacturer isn’t giving that much away.

Car manufacturers have secured test facilities, but they’ve not had much luck keeping prying eyes completely away. So automakers often test early prototypes in these facilities and when a design gets more recognizable, like the 2020 Nissan Centra, then the new prototype is tested in the desert. In countries where this is not possible, anywhere out of the reach of prying eyes.

Back in the day, automakers would go a step further and cover the headlamps and grilles with tape to keep the exact model a little more mysterious. Nowadays they employ a process called “pattern wrapping.”

Pattern Wrapping:

What is pattern wrapping? Well it’s the equivalent of pasting a car up and applying wallpaper to it. There are a myriad of designs, starting with something basic like zigzags or diamonds and moving into something like a paisley pattern and moving into weirder shapes and patterns. You may have seen some pattern-wrapped cars and wondered why someone would want to camouflage their sports sedan. The goal is to make it difficult for a competitor to computer scan the vehicle and make educated guesses at the features being hidden.pattern 1

You might have thought that any pattern could be applied to a car, but this seems to be not the case. The pride in manufacture of a car extends to getting the best pattern to hide it!

Specialist designers are employed to do this task. While the idea of the pattern is through off the specific car its worth mentioning that certain manufacturers like certain artwork. Ford for instance tends to go for something calligraphic, while General Motors prefers a geometric pentagon design. It’s not clear whether these manufacturers like the designers or the design when they do this.

Another reason for keeping a prototype secret is that some prototypes don’t really go into production. The home office may ultimately drop the ensemble while choosing to move some of the elements to existing product lines.

For example, with something like the Cayenne Cabriolet. (A cabriolet is a car with a roof that folds down.) If you are trying to combine a folding top with an SUV, two questions need to be resolved:

  • From a design standpoint, what would it even look like?
  • Would the buying public really want it?

Porsche seem to have some plans in this direction, but as hinted to above it’s a bit difficult to work out and it’s a bad idea to show the public something if plans are going into fruition.