Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Retro Obsession: DMC DeLorean

"We will do anything to keep this company alive."
-John DeLorean

It's inevitable I guess. 25 years gone and we're celebrating a movie that exploded the membrane of American pop culture. Back to the Future was certainly not the first motion picture to drive automotive sales, nor will it be the last, but what is notable is how much acclaim the DMC DeLorean has received despite the epic career flameout that befell its namesake.

This is a beloved piece of machinery. The stainless steel and winged throttle rocket became a cultural icon even before the movie hit Betamax.

Flux capacitor, nose candy, and Huey Lewis aside.

(Pictured below is Pontiac's former golden-boy John DeLorean in marketing stills for the DMC-12. His master stroke at Pontiac was the legendary GTO.)

"After giving Pontiac its new style, DeLorean gradually transformed himself from a button-down conformist to a vain, middle-aged clotheshorse. He lost 60 lbs., began lifting weights and started draping his 6-ft. 4-in. frame in brightly colored shirts, turtlenecks and nipped-at-the-waist suits. He got a facelift (for a while he denied it) and affected longish hair, which he dyed black. He divorced his wife of 15 years, Elizabeth...He dated starlets, and, by now, every move had flair." Via.

"Detroit did not approve of DeLorean's lifestyle, so in 1973 he "fired GM" and set off on his own. The DeLorean myth grew. He was a maverick, a risk taker, and he had bold dreams...but what he really wanted to do was start his own car company and break the hold that Ford, Chrysler and GM had on the American auto industry. The sporty DMC-12, he thought, would do the trick. The sleek stainless-steel sports car with the distinctive gull-wing doors boasted a 130hp Renault engine and could go from zero to 60mph in eight seconds." Via.

"DeLorean needed $175 million to finance his dream. Over one hundred investors, including Johnny Carson and Sammy Davis, Jr., put over $12 million into a partnership for research and development while the British government produced $156 million in grants and loans in return for DeLorean locating the DMC factory in Northern Ireland. DeLorean risked relatively little of his own money -- $700,000 is the best estimate -- but he seemed to have made his dream come true. The Auto Prince lived like royalty in a $7.2 million, 20-room Fifth Avenue duplex, a $3.5 million estate in New Jersey and a $4 million California ranch. He made sure DMC's $25,000-a-month New York offices were located in a skyscraper that towered as high as the nearby GM building. He paid himself nearly half a million dollars a year and his estimated value in 1982 was $28 million. John Z. DeLorean was a real American success story, the poor boy who made good. Or so it appeared." Via.

"Unfortunately, the DMC-12 racked up mediocre sales figures. Entering the market in 1981, it faced stiff competition from Datsun, Mazda and Porsche sports cars. At $26,000, it cost $8,000 more than the Chevrolet Corvette. And of course a recession during 1981-82 didn't help, either. DeLorean expected to sell 12,000 cars a year; in the first six months only 3,000 DMC-12s were purchased. (A pair of 24-karat solid gold cars bearing $85,000 price tags were made for an American Express Christmas catalog; one resides in a glass showcase in the lobby of a Snyder, Texas bank and the other is in a Reno,Nevada car museum.) By February 1982 the DMC factory was in receivership, and in October of that year the British government ordered it shut down. DeLorean needed $17 million in a hurry to save his business. In desperation he entered into a drug-smuggling scheme, and in so doing walked right into a FBI sting operation designed to nab a smuggler named William Hetrick." Via.

"Hetrick was suspected of flying cocaine in from Colombia and moving it through the offices of a company called Morgan Aviation at Mojave Airport, ninety miles out of Los Angeles. He was looking for a bank that would launder his ill-gotten gains. The FBI confidential informant hooked Hetrick up with one agent posing as a bank officer and another who posed as a drug distributor. DeLorean then approached the CI, and was filmed and recorded at meetings in Washington D.C.'s L'Enfant Plaza Hotel as well as L.A.'s Bel Air Sands and the Sheraton Plaza. Hetrick was arrested after exchanging the cocaine for money; DeLorean was was taken into custody the following day when he flew into L.A. from New York. Ironically, he just missed a call from a banker who wanted to offer a legitimate $200 million loan that would have saved DMC, which shut its doors for good owing creditors $180 million. DeLorean's dream had turned to dust -- and left a lot of investors burned." Via.

"Interviewed by Rolling Stone's Aaron Latham in 1983, DeLorean claimed that he was trying to get a loan using stock in a shell company as collateral, and that he tried to back out of the deal after discovering that drugs were involved. At that point, according to DeLorean, the lives of his kids were threatened. Furthermore, the money paid for the drugs brought in by Hetrick was provided by the government. DeLorean suggested that the government was out to destroy him because the Big Three automakers wanted to see his enterprise fail; at other times he surmised that either the British government or the Irish Republican Army had set him up." Via.

"In 1984, DeLorean was acquitted of all charges after a federal judge ruled that the FBI operation had been a clear case of entrapment. He became a born-again Christian and wrote his autobiography. But in April, 1985 Christina divorced him, and that September a federal grand jury indicted him for income tax evasion and mail and wire fraud on evidence that he had bilked DMC investors, siphoning the funds into his private bank account. Though never convicted, DeLorean was ordered to reimburse creditors to the tune of $9 million. In 1995 a jury ordered him to pay the law firm of Morganroth and Morganroth $10.3 million in unpaid legal fees. In 1998 a New York jury ruled that DeLorean's accounting firm owed DMC investors $46 million, plus $65 million in interest." Via.

"It is believed that a total of 8,563 DMC-12s were built. Approximately 6,000 of them still exist today." Via.

Specs for the DMC-12:

Exterior: made of brushed stainless steel intended to be rust-free for 20 years. The undercarriage is glass-reinforced plastic. The vehicle sported counter-balanced gull wing doors.

Interior: leather/vinyl seats and dash, electric windows and mirrors, a 4-speaker stereo system, locking storage compartment behind driver's seat.

Engine: a rear-mounted, light alloy V6, 2.85 liter, single overhead cam, with maximum torque of 208Nm at 2,750 rpm, and a compression ratio of 8:8:1. The DMC-12 was produced from 1981 to 1983.

A stunningly rare marketing film for sales employees - Part 1:

Part 2:

DMC John DeLorean Documentary:

In The Moment

I dig this band the Smith Westerns. You should too.

Girl In Love:

Boys Are Fine:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hidden Washington, DC

Flickr is a demonic time-wasting wormhole totally loaded with cool shit.

Like this photo set that I found while browsing through pictures of old signs (don't ask).

From 1985 to 1988 I wandered the streets of Washington DC photographing the unseen and vanishing moments of the city. These images lay dormant in the archives until I realized that they needed to be brought to life before the persons and spaces are totally lost to entropy and time.

These images depict the hidden parts of Washington DC rarely if ever traversed by tourists. Here are the places and some of the people trapped in their own world while the rich and powerful swirl around in a seemingly separate world a mile away.

It is amazing what you can uncover during a quick afternoon browse.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ton Up

I was bitten by the bike bug a few years back, and man, it's an illness worse than the dengue.*

Unlike a true fever though, the only remedy for this sickness is more spark and horsepower. Fortunately, for obsessives like us there's a new tv show called Cafe Racer TV on HD Theater.

Go ahead and tune in to all the Brylcreem action. Blast the Eddie Cochran and inject yourself into the Brit-rock sub-culture.

*Disclaimer: Don't say I didn't warn you about the bugs...

Cafe Racer TV promo:

Eddie Cochran - Nervous Breakdown:

Eddie Cochran with Wolfman Jack intro - C'mon Everybody:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Art of Rock Photography: Lynn Goldsmith

The Police in Studio.

Just a short little post about three dudes who were once in a highly successful punk rock outfit that went bonkers with fame.

I cannot confirm with complete historical accuracy, but I strongly believe that a certain someone broke his Syncronicity tape through repeated use. He also may still be able to recite lyrically every single song on the album.

Oh, and the photo magic is 100% from the lense of renowned photographer, Lynn Goldsmith.

The Police in Montserrat.

The Police in Times Square. NYC.

The Police. NYC.

Stewart Copeland. NYC.

The Police. NYC.

Sting. London. 1982.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mr. Mojo Risin

No way in hell will this bike ever hit 100mph. It may be an old design, but not even a flux capacitor will get this thing back to 1955. Speedometer and Ammeter. That's as bare as it gets folks.

Ever have one of those long, exhausting, yet satisfying days? That's how I started my weekend.

I received a voicemail a week ago from Scott the mechanic at Velocity Motorcycles notifying me that my Enfield was ready to go home. I was nervous to call him back because I was afraid of the potential damage to my bank account after his month-long prodding around the bike. Turns out that I had no reason to worry because Scott knows his shit.

He was able to minimize the damage and get the Duchess back to rumbling, but from what I'm told it was quite a bit more than I had originally anticipated. The starter switch was fried, sprag gear wasn't catching, oil in the crank had turned to mud, battery was junk, wasn't shifting properly, clutch was loose, etc. Total: $424. Sounds high, but when you consider that the bike only had 234 miles at purchase, was never broken in, and had sat in a living room under a spot lamp for three years...well...that price is a bargain. You read me right. Motorcycle display pieces are the new Thomas Kinkade.

We picked up the U-Haul utility trailer today in Alexandria at 12:30, and arrived at the shop in Richmond around 2pm. I had a chance to tour the shop as we waited, and ended up purchasing a new pair of gloves and a clear face shield for my Fulmer helmet.

But, typical of Murphy's Law (and Royal Enfields), when the bike was rolled outside it wouldn't start; kick, electric, nothing. The service manager called Scott (on his day off) and asked him to roll over. In the meantime we kicked it and boom...backfire. The carb came loose from its housing. Tightened the carb, tried kicking once more and...gorgeous slow idle. I fell in love all over again.

Scott did some more adjusting and then gave me the low down:

1) Starter button was replaced with a Yamaha's, but it is still janky because of the sprag gear; which are notorious on REs for not catching. It's super easy to burn out the starter switch if you're not careful. Recommendation: be nice. play gentle. can be scuffed up further down the road if problem persists.

2) Decompression lever is not seated correctly and does not work properly. Recommendation: bring back in the spring if it starts to drive me nuts. more of a luxury than a need.

3) Scott didn't realize that I had installed the K&N filter but had not rejetted the carb. Too much air is entering the chamber without the proper fuel mixture. This explains the backfires. Recommendation: reinstall the stock airbox until carb is rejetted. i can either learn to do this myself (yes) or bring back to the shop. the K&N sounds like a snake hissing between my legs which is surprisingly awesome.

4) What the "f" is up with my gas cap (see above photo)? With a full tank gas leaks everywhere. Recommendation: i had been given two gas caps at purchase and the wrong one was installed. too big and had a missing rubber gasket ring, but i didn't notice because the tank hasn't been completely full until now. replaced with the stock one and now it works fine.

5) Bike needs a good looking after. Recommendation: ride, Ride, RIDE!

After a long haul home I replaced the K&N with the stock airbox and rode back to my parent's house. The bike puttered out several times. It starts bucking like a Bronco which can be unnerving when you hit 20mph. I realized that the breather tube had come loose from the airbox and fixed it tonight in the garage.

Tomorrow I'm hoping to take it for a longer test ride. Stay tuned for more quirky fun...

The all new 2010 Royal Enfield C5 on the showroom floor. I've read such great things about these bikes.

Another shot of the C5. Take a good look because you'll be seeing it again soon (with sidecar) in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

A nice vintage Triumph waiting outside for service. I don't know the model or year of the bike.

A 1975 Ducati 860GT for sale. $5000.

A 1985 Ducati Cagiva Alazzurra 650. $3,500. Velocity has a nice selection of motor scooters as well if you're a scooter-head.

Her Majesty, the RVA City Rumbler, waiting to be loaded onto the trailer. Check out that hot new state inspection sticker on the left front fork! Blech. I'm still not a fan of the aftermarket seat either. I want the solo saddle with springs instead. Next season my friends.

The 5 1/2 inch headlight that came stock on this bike is truly awful. In the near future I will be replacing it with the more period correct (and safer) 7 inch unit from Classic Motor Works.

Snug as a bug in a rug. The behemoth utility trailer worked out well in the long run.

Happy Trails. Until next time...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cape Cod

Gant Rugger Fall/Winter 2010.

Unbeknownst to me (before now), Gant Rugger has teamed up with the band U.S. Royalty to promote their fall/winter clothing line.

Check out their promotional movie Cape Cod and tell me that it's not a brilliant piece of marketing. Afterall, you can't go wrong with motorcycles, music, and the great outdoors.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fall Swag

Fawlz-a-here, which means that I can finally loot my closets of the old unwanted gear and either hawk it, donate it, or trash it. At the time of this post I will have already unloaded three bags worth of pants, tops, and shoes. Not bad, considering that I have already found a bunch of new stuff to add to my ongoing collection.

I'm personally digging a lot of things over at Hickoree's Hard Goods.

You can chalk this up to, "shit I want for the Fall":

This 1940s-50s Hercules Denim Chore Jacket is pretty sweet. Perfect for just about any outdoor activity.

Including working on a chain gang. Just ask Paul Newman:

I see these 1950s-60s Sears "Mountain Cloth" work pants and think about every working stiff that ever had to pull a pair of these on and trudge to the office. They'd make for a great motorcycle utility pant.

This Stanley & Sons selvedge denim apron is unfortunately sold out on the web. Great for any craftsmen, artist, architect, mechanic, etc.

I'm not a wallet guy anymore but this may change my attitude. Just don't drop it in the woods 'cause it'd be gone forever.

This pimp leather biz card holder satisfies a need in my life. I will own this.

The embossed "dueling pistols" icon on the front is an old military insignia used by the MP division, and is stamped with a WWII-era lead and steel die. I didn't need any additional reasons, but this description makes it that much better.

These Velskoen boots are the precursor to the modern day desert boot. Here's what's neat about them:

Our velskoen are made in the coastal town of Swakopmund, Namibia, at the Herbert Schier factory. A production line of eight Damara gentlemen assembles every shoe by hand, turning out 30 pairs a day.

Herbert Schier vellies are made of vegetable-dyed Kudu leather. The Namibian government mandates the culling of these large native antelope to control the population. Kudu skin yields amazingly durable leather and suede, and because these are taken from wild animals they often show scars or other "imperfections" that domesticated hides don't.

What, you mean to tell me that you wouldn't want this to keep vagrants away from your fort?

I'm a voracious note-taker and a doodler. I will often carry note pads with me from meeting to meeting as a tool to stay on task. These little guys not only look cool, but will also slip into your back pocket. Excellent.

Every scribbler needs a good set of graphite pencils. These are about as worthy as you will find.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Aircraft Carrier Flight Deck Operations: Honoring the LSO's of WWII

LSO Using Signal Flag. Photo: Frank Scherschel/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images. January 01, 1942

As I plow my way through Hugh Ambrose's new book titled The Pacific, I am reminded again just how daunting and exhilerating the US Naval aircraft carrier operations in World War II truly were. I have long been an admirer of military aviators, and at one time would have greatly relished the opportunity to test my own mettle in the cockpit of a roaring jet.

But, WWII was a profoundly different war from the ones that preceded it. Our boys were sent to the front lines using technology and equipment that was largely untested in battle. Hell, the instructors were teaching military principles that had only been in place for a very short time. Carrier aviators must have had serious balls of steel. Dropping a several ton screaming piece of metal onto a rolling carrier deck at a fast clip is pure insanity. Can you even imagine your first time? I've asked many a veteran aviator at air shows how they did it at such a young age, and their response is usually along the lines of, "because we had to". Well damn.

Just as foreign a position were the men assigned to flag duty; the Landing Signal Officers (LSO). These seamen had an even larger responsibility to the fleet. Land the aviators. All of them. And wave them in safely. Here's honoring these forgotten heroes of WWII.

A plane handler signals to the pilot of a Grumman F6F Hellcat to "Lock the tailwheel," aboard the USS Tulagi off the coast of southern France. Photo: Wayne Miller © CORBIS. August 1944.

Activities on USS Lexington, CVA-16, during military action. Plane director brings F6F down flight deck after landing. June 1943.

A U.S. Navy fighter takes off from the deck of an aircraft carrier during the invasion of North Africa. © Horace Bristol/CORBIS. Photo: Horace Bristol. Circa 1942.

Lt. John Clark, USN, LSO gives pilot signal to lift one wing as he brings in plane for landing on USS Lexington in South Pacific. December 1943.

A TBD from Torpedo Eight, T-5, taxiing up the flight deck of CV-8. Circa May 15, 1942. Via.

LSO night ops; or he could be auditioning for Cirque du Soleil.

This fine chap could either be directing several tons of fast moving steel onto a shifting carrier deck, or modeling Ralph Lauren's Fall line.

Lt. in new suit made of chemically treated cloth, on flight deck of USS Charger. September 6, 1944.

Signal flags aboard the USS Hancock. December 20, 1944.

LCDR John C. Waldron, Torpedo Eight's Commanding Officer, and Horace F. Dobbs, CRMP on the flight deck of the USS Hornet in the Coral Sea. Via.

Aircraft carrier signal man. The blurry dude in the forefront looks like a fashion time-traveler.