Just for Fun 50

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Garage Care

From the U.K. Desk

Looking after the car is all very well, but consider the garage.

Not all garages are outbuildings, there are also garages which take up the whole of the ground floor with apartments on top, called garage apartments or garage loft apartments. To save you from going outside there’s a special covered walkway; a breezeway, designed for walking between the two structures. Generally speaking, it is unheated.

Garage Doors

Then there’s the main door of the garage. If it’s too loud when opened, it could do with some lubrication. Some doors have rusted up so much you can’t open or close them. Wooden garage doors are prone to becoming warped and then incapable of opening. Or the garage door opener is broken or lost.

One reason for a garage door sticking is that the tracks haven’t been cleaned for some time – a long scrub should fix that. If sticking still occurs, some kind of lubricant is needed.

Garage door repair is best left to professionals. The spring that helps compensate for the door weight can kick out with enough force to break your arm.

How we Hurt Ourselves in a Garage

It’s not exactly the safest place in the world and many things can go wrong. There are so many opportunities for slipping and falling in a garage especially if you leave equipment lying around or leave cables dangling. You should always lock tools up after use.

Many people tend to use the garage as a general outbuilding which might contain such items as rat poison, pesticides and antifreeze. It’s not a good idea to leave these items on the floor nor should they be stored in empty bottles or similar, just keep them in the original container.

Large items such as ladders could even fall onto the car if you’re not careful.


Car ports have been mentioned before, it is simply a shelter which provides open access across one or more walls. The quickness of exiting and entering is a main selling point as there is no need to pull up garage doors. A few elaborate ones have cantilever style roofs which float across the cars. You no longer have the large storage space of a garage. This doesn’t mean they don’t need maintenance. The support columns and the concrete should be inspected for damage and the roof, like all roof, will dry out and begin to leak if not maintained.

Other Uses for a Garage

This is the curious thing about garages: 60% of people don’t even use them to store cars. There is a tendency to store utility equipment in them too, such as washing machines. But it seems a waste to just use it to store these items when you could turn it into a games room or a man cave or whatever you like.

Adding a New Garage

Timber framed garages have an advantage over concrete ones in a conservation zone. They are also quick to assemble with no fuss, which must be the best selling point if you have to any kind of home construction.

Depending on its actual usage – Does it have a spare bed? Does it have a first floor? – the planning permission becomes more complicated. If you are storing a car and it’s all on one floor, no problems. You’ll need to check local codes but expect to have to install a metal post in the concrete if there are utilities or HVAC installed in the garage. Also you’ll need proper ventilation against a build up of carbon monoxide.


Then there are those people who convert a garage to living space may encounter difficulties with load bearing walls and connecting the electricity with the rest of the house. But any self-build or self-conversion may run into difficulty. It gives you a break from thinking about maintaining the car in any case.

Climbing Cars

Can a jeep climb vertically up a cliff, say a sheer surface? A video showed one climbing up a cliff in Utah, though there are some viewers who believed it to be fake.

To perform this trick, you need considerable stunt knowledge. As it was performed in rainy conditions, reportedly this makes the job harder. It needs to be a 4×4 in order to maintain the required grip.

It’s so much easier at a smaller scale, hence the number of remote-control toys performing this type of stunt. When you scale things up you increase the numbers, but the gravity part of the equation doesn’t change.


Mini Cooper

Intuition says that rugged looking vehicles are best for a cross country adventure but aerodynamics are still vital to whichever car you choose to negotiate a mountain road. Weight, size and power all play a part. When it comes to climbing mountains, a sedan is too close to the ground for rocky areas, despite their smallness. Ironically, a compact, like the Mini Cooper, is useful as it is the right size to handle country roads and also an extensive trunk space for any mountain gear. Maybe it’s not going to dig you out of quick sand, but for the average logging road it should perform well.

How about SUVs or crossovers? Yes, they can get you up there but as with any mountain traverse it helps if you have some experience. Remember that driving on rocks and fields is much harder than driving on a road. And many SUV’s are intended to look like a mountain vehicle but suited only for the city.

Here are further cars suitable for a mountain drive – Mahindra Scorpio and Vitara Brezza.

The Mahindra has a brilliant red shade and is built for negotiating the toughest of rocky roads in all but the worst weather.

Suzuki’s Vitara Brezza has a similar scarlet colour and has enough suspension to deal with the bumps in the road as you edge towards the mountain’s peak.

Uphill Racing

Just outside Nice is the beautiful town of La Turbie, site of the first uphill race in the world, also known as speed hill climbing. The sport fell slowly out of favor in France but eventually it was revived in the 1980s. There have also been races in Austria (Gaisberg) and the UK (Harewood) and various locations in the US. There have been races as far afield as Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.

Suzuki’s Vitara Brezza

Some races use racing cars while others use a kit car to race. There are smaller races out there which use everyday cars with some of them undergoing modification. The modification may be a roll cage or a rollover protection system which will protect the driver should the vehicle overturn. Sometimes cars are protected with the ability to prevent a rollover, such as anti-lock brakes and traction control, the kind of safety system you might need when negotiating a hill, but this goes against the spirit of hilltop driving.

The smaller races are in speed-trial format with competitors having two attempts to tackle the hill.

If you wish to explore the early days of hilltop driving, including pictures of the racers themselves you can do worse than browse specialist racing magazines like, Uphill Racers. Even the UK’s Stirling Moss, linked more to Formula One racing, has taken part in the hilltop driving culture. So, hilltop drivers are in good company.

Looking Through Car Websites

The cliché is that a website is a shop window, but we can do more these days. What makes a car website a “good” website? It must have all the usual UXUI functionality we’ve come to expect, and a little bit more. It needs the kind of things you can only do on a car website—like a virtual test drive. Ideally, it should have everything you need in order to make a decision about which car you will end up with.

How does a virtual drive compare to an actual drive?

A bit of science: It seems people behave in a more reckless fashion in the virtual drive according to several studies, including Bella’s study in 2008 which would suggest that most people are more likely to let go in a virtual car than a real one.

In both real and virtual test drives the heart rate goes up as can be seen in Reimer and Melher’s study and both require the same amount of work and precision. You may possibly have thought that a virtual image could be more or less attractive than real life, but no, it needs to be as realistic.

There’s bad news too if you find driving stressful; you will find simulated driving stressful as well. (This was according to Walshe, Lewis, O’Sullivan and Kim’s study in 2017). According to the measured heart rate there was a slight feeling that you are in a vehicle and it’s under your control, even if it is patently obvious that this is not the case.

Apart from having a test drive how should the site be arranged?

Although first impressions count, and people examine the shine of the website before examining the goods it’s important not to be taken in by money spent on the website. Okay, it may be important that the website is optimized to your mobile device for instance, but what is more vital is how these vehicles look and what they are like to drive.


So how to negotiate the car site? Various places online chose to publish the price of their vehicles from the highest to the lowest. They don’t do this because you would find the car on the front page and stop looking. They know you’ll keep searching until you find what you’re looking for…but there’s no reason not to make you walk past what you can’t afford on the way there. But there should be short cuts to cars most commonly bought.

Try seeing which cars are nearest to your zip code, there is little point in considering a car if it would need to be delivered and that incurs extra expense. If it’s used car inventory they should be willing to state the milage. It’s an important element to consider so it should be possible to filter for a range of mileage.

Selecting by brand is helpful if you know exactly which brand you require, but many don’t. Selecting by vehicle type would be better as you can compare brands but it will only show relevant cars.

Selecting by year of production is only that useful if you are sorting through vintage cars or classic cars. Selecting by mileage is a better way to judge the age of a car than the actual age.

It’s a good idea to look for the latest listings – most people ask themselves why are these cars still unsold – but it’s also worth seeing everything a site has to offer.

General Motors Throughout The World

Detroit Renaissance Center

It should come as little shock that the biggest factory in Detroit, based in the Renaissance Center, belongs to General Motors but this isn’t their only plant. How much does it account for in the grand scheme of their manufacturing and just how did GM become such a major player?

Plant Locations:

There are hundreds of factories around the world employing tens of thousands of people. The size of the GM payroll and how widespread it is, could be a reason they’re a major player. Let’s take a closer look at some of these locations.

In the US:

There are more than 100 facilities in cities across the US, including Arlington and Bay City. Of specific note is the Cadillac. These include assembly plants as well as part stamping plants, propulsion component and battery plants. Most, however, are distribution centers. Still, they’re vital parts of the local economies as it gives smaller communities a tie into a global product.

In the internet age it’s hard to grasp how difficult it was for a smaller city to bring in big business with international sales. It took something that required a lot of parts and that sold all over the world in high volume. This could be one reason GM is considered a major player.


The GM Defence Concord Facility makes vehicles especially for the army. They have a factory in North Carolina which was previously used to make Chevrolets. GM has a long tie with defense contracts which could be another reason they’re a major business.


There are several factories in Mexico, including the Equinox and the Trax. Vehicles such as the Saab and the Oldsmobile used to be made in Mexico. They also make pickups and various other trucks.


1907 McLaughlin

The link between GM and Canada has a long vintage; all the way back to 1907 when McLaughlin and Buick were contracted to make Buick cars. After successfully making Buicks for several years McLaughlin sold Buick stock in order to obtain a foothold into GM stock. McLaughlin joined GM Detroit, forging a strong link.

The GM’s main center is called the Canadian Regional Centre and works with many countries around the world. Although you may hear of some factories closing, such as one in 2017 it still makes cars such as the Chevrolet and the Pontiac.


’78 Opala

General Motors do Brasil began in 1925. It did final assembly from various parts imported from the US and was based in the city of San Paolo. The first car produced was an Opala, a type of Chevrolet.

One million Opalas were made in Brazil, and it was even used by the Brazilian police as well as the taxi service. The name comes from Opal, a German subsection of GM. The first version was a 4-door sedan and was available in “Especial” (Special) and “Luxo” (Deluxe).


In Europe the General Motors brand has been less than successful with names such as Opel and Vauxhall not actually capturing the public imagination. People seem to prefer the German cars-those being BMW, Merc and VW. The business was eventually sold to the PSA Group who own such names as Citroen and Peugeot.

This was GM cutting their losses—no real way to hide it – and what a loss. According to official figures the venture eventually lost $39 billion. Only a major player can lose $39 billion and survive.


In China things appear so much better with promising sales on Buicks, Chevrolets and Baojun and Wuling. Don’t recognize those last two? Don’t feel bad they’re clearly not available in your market. There are several other vehicles brands Westerners won’t recognize.

Baojun Advertisement

Wuling originally made very small vans until it joined with GM in 2002 where it began to manufacture small trucks as well.

Baojun was created a few years after Wuling (in 2010) with the goal to create what was known as “farmer’s cars.” It’s first vehicle looked like a cross between a Chevrolet and a Daewoo and the latest vehicle is a MPV – multi-purpose vehicle with seven seats. They have to their name, a number of crossovers, compacts, and electric vehicles. There are so many Baojuns out there that they could have their own article.


If you own a new car in North America, South America or China then the chances are that it’s a General Motors vehicle. The magnitude of the company cannot be easily stated.

Editors Note: Here at the Kicker we’re working with the descendants of legendary Harley Earl to get a story about the early days of GM. His official story can be seen in the documentary, “Fins,” the making of which has tied up our dig into this era of GM (they had the exclusive scoop). But there is more to the story than the film reveals so we’ll be coming to you soon with more on the era of GM’s hay day.

Choosing the Right Large SUV

Some people look for a compact SUV but what about those who are looking for something more substantial? The larger SUV provides an alternative to the 4×4 or MPV. They can be used for camping and helpful for navigating both tricky terrain and difficult weather conditions. They also provide more than sufficient cargo space.

Some Large SUV’s to Consider

The large SUV Tarraco by SEAT for instance has seven seats, the second row of which can be flattened to the floor. Other features include alloy wheels, digital cockpit and a bucket seat. This is a seat which encloses and supports a body more than a regular car seat.

The Kodiaq is also a seven-seater which has several refined models all with luxurious seating. The acceleration in particular is exhilarating.

The Ever Evolving Expedition

Ford Explorer 2021

The Ford Expedition has easy to understand controls for tech with a huge cabin seating 5-8. The horsepower is between 375 and 400 hp and has either two or three rows of seats. The 2018 update included both the fuel system and the cabin (to increase space and add new safety features). The 2020 model added a new breed of trim as well as the driver assist (the proper name being the CoPilot 360).

The next model in 2021 relies on two rows rather than three. It has an extended wheelbase as you might expect from a large SUV. The latch collectors in the second and the third row allow you to connect child seats. It has a six-speaker stereo allowing for improved sound quality.

The Chevrolet Suburban…

Reintroduced for 2021 with a turbodiesel engine, the Suburban gives you collision detection and will brake by itself in an emergency. Whether gas or diesel the engine is enormous, but sadly no electric model yet. There are certain difficulties to driving this model, you have to squeeze down narrow roads. It is good on rough terrain thanks to great suspension.

There were no changes to the Suburban in 2020 but 2019 saw the introduction of a 420 hp engine and automatic transmission with 10 different speeds. It’s a variation of the Chevrolet Tahao essentially, and despite the reinvented interior, it drives more or less the same. The Tahoe may be a better bet as it’s about a foot less in size.

The plastic in the Suburban, referred to as “soft-touch,” is the kind of quality you possibly could expect from an SUV, practical without being luxurious. It also comes with a 10.2 touch screen with extreme clarity of graphics with great definition.

Let’s look at a not so successful model…

…the Nissan Armada eats fuel and is basically a pig to drive, though it still has a passable entertainment system. The seats have this uncomfortable look – not that any car manufacturer purposely makes squirmy seats, but there’s something about the curves of it. Maybe a seat cover will improve it, but even so…

Nissan Armada 2020

It’s hard to find an example of a Volvo in this genre. The 2020 Volvo S90 was more a midsize SUV, but it did include a host of features such as spacious cabin, cruise control and heated front seats. It also has a moonroof – which in case you didn’t know is tinted glass which opens via tilting (if it opens at all) instead of sliding open like a sunroof.

A large SUV has plus points whether you live in the town or the city, it’s a family car which seems to dominate the road. All you need is to find the right engine and the right interior, and you’ve got it made.

Lonely Route 50

When America was younger it took months of trial and tribulation to cross from the coast to coast, but now the Interstate Highway System has shortened it to a few days (or hours if you choose to fly). Between the days of wagon trains, and modern transportation there was a system of roadways that interconnected to wend their way from small town to small town, eventually leading the weary traveler from Atlantic to Pacific or the other way, in a matter of weeks.

Route 66 has gotten the most press by far, with the possible exception of Route 50. In the July 7, 1997 Time Magazine devoted an entire issue to Route 50, or Highway 50, dubbing it the backbone of America. That’s a much nicer name that travelers had previously called it, “the Loneliest Road in America.” The Nevada portion is certainly devoid of the usual roadside attractions one finds on routes like 66. But if you enjoy purple mountains, blue sky and amber fields of grass you have found your dream passage way.

Bighorn Sheep Canyon, Arkansas

History of Route 50

Like most coast-to-coast routes their isn’t just one origin story. Each leg of the journey can be traced to it’s own discovery and when taken a piece at a time it often makes sense why the road was put where it was. Geography, politics and commerce all play their part in why a road exists. But as the individual legs of the journey are formed someone inevitably comes up with the idea of linking them together into one continuous route which increases the popularity of some sections and gives starting purpose to others.

The core of route 50 traces back to Capt. William Bicknell, who pioneered a route to Santa Fe so he could sell goods. Bicknell got rich and his Santa Fe trail became the route taken by the railroads, which later became part of route 50.

Route 50 has had several incarnations since it was first planned in 1925. It was 1926 before one could drive a car the bulk of the way.

Route 50 Now

Considered a major East-West transportation path, Route 50 goes 3,073 miles (4,946 km) from Interstate 80 (I-80) in West Sacramento, California, to Maryland Route 528 (MD 528) in Ocean City, Maryland. Very nearly from sea to shining sea, one of only three major routes to do so.

It actually did reach the pacific until 1972 when several Interstate Highways replaced it to carry traffic between the capital and San Francisco.

In addition to Sacramento, major cities on route 50 include Kansas City, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; and Cincinnati, Ohio… oh, and Washington D.C. However, this road system is nearly completely rural, passing through 12 states and taking across the Rockies in Colorado and the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia. In between it crosses the mighty Mississippi via the Jefferson Barracks Bridge.

An interesting side note is that man of the signs on the route state that it is 3,073 miles long, which it was at one time, but with modern freeway replacements the new distance is slightly less.

Things to See

Attractions along the route are many if you are talking about small Americana places of interest, but the only big natural feature is the Great Salt Lake Desert.

The video below will give you taste for the “Lonely Road” via time laps.