Thursday, June 24, 2010

Land Shark; flat black 2000 Ford Taurus

flat black 2000 Taurus copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2010

I was meeting my friends Clay and Paul in a hip café near campus on the east side of Milwaukee. How hip? Deep fried balls of shredded turkey meat with mashed potatoes and beer gravy? Comet Café. Farwell Avenue.

As I approached, I sensed the presence of this menacing car.

Go ahead and snicker. I don't blame you. There is probably no more domesticated a car than a 2000 Ford Taurus.

flat black 2000 Taurus with bill post - copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2010

But look into the yellowed, moist, cataract-covered eyes of this beast. Even the self-adhesive Gothic symbols are shredding themselves from its flanks. There’s a roll of toilet paper on the rear package shelf, for God’s sake. This is a nasty car. Nasty.

I was telling Clay and Paul about it as I slid into the booth.


Our waitress, Ariel, smiled cheerily and said “Oh, that’s my car.”

“I got the sweet Wolverine gash when I backed into a fence.”

This incident prompted the paint job, and the blood gushing from the wound is meant to make a statement. “I wanted to enter a demolition derby, so I wanted her to look real mean," Arial told me, clenching her teeth a little bit. (She also confided that she sometimes refers to the Taurus as the “BratMobile”, but that’s not an "official" name. I'm sure she'll come up with something more intimidating.)

"But then I found out that the derbies have all these safety requirements, like a special gas tank, harnesses, and everything. And the suspension is shot. I was afraid I wouldn’t even meet the safety standards for a demolition derby." There's your proof. This car is too dangerous for the demolition derby.

“There was never any doubt about the color. It was always going to be flat black.”

All content copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2010
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Monday, June 21, 2010

Stock cars at Road America

NASCAR was in the my neck of the woods over the weekend, and the opportunity to see the big cars muscle around Road America’s 14 – left and right – corners was not to be missed.

I’ve been to any number of the United States’ premier road racing circuits; Laguna Seca, Mid-Ohio, Michigan, Indianapolis, and Watkins Glen for the U.S.G.P back in the day. Plus a bunch of smaller circuits for SCCA club events. But Road America is by far my favorite race track.

Road America would be a lovely place to spend the afternoon even if there weren’t a race track there. Deep green forests of mature oaks stand at the tops of long lush hills leading down to the track.

To someone from Wisconsin, it’s almost unnatural that there are no Holsteins on the slopes of the valley that holds turn five.

When there’s a race, it’s like county fair time, but instead of prize cows you have these amazing cars.

In this case, it was the NASCAR Nationwide cars that were stampeding around the course, and these animals do have some very wide shoulders. The NASCAR boys are not afraid to lean on the competition when things get tight, and Road America has lots of turns where things got very tight. Too tight in a couple of cases. NASCAR needs to learn that a car off the course doesn’t necessitate a full course yellow flag until - well, until the cows come home.

Unfortunately, I was not at Canada Corner when the three lead cars entered this legendary downhill 90-degree right-hander side-by-side, but that amazing moment has been added to the lore of this track, which goes back to the mid-50’s – the very beginning of sports car racing in the U.S.

I don’t know if you’d call these machines sports cars, but I’m pretty sure the drivers enjoyed their drive in the country about as much as we enjoyed watching them.

All content copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2010

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Crazy ‘bout a Mercury Ford


In tribute to the fallen Mercury, here are some that I have photographed recently.

I had my money
I tell you what I'd do
I would go downtown an’
Buy a Merc'ry or two
I'm crazy 'bout a Merc'ry
Yes, I'm crazy ‘bout a Merc'ry Ford

I’m gonna buy a Merc'ry an’
Cruise up and down the road

Mercury Boogie by K. C. Douglas and Robert Geddins

1941 Mercury rear window


My Dad’s first job with Ford was actually with the L-M division, so I have known more than a few Mercurys. A Turnpike Cruiser - which I remember for its extremely awkward styling – and a Comet Caliente which I remember for being a red convertible with a four-on-the-floor are the only two that stand out.

Mercury’s best years occurred before I was born – on the salt flats, beaches and drag strips of Southern California. But I did get to see Cale Yarborough and David Pearson muscle huge Mercury Cyclones around Michigan International Speedway back when NASCAR stock cars were basically stock cars. And I saw the great Dan Gurney race a Cougar wheel to wheel with Panelli Jones in a Mustang and Mark Donohue in a Camaro in the classic TransAm series.


Sales figures prove that there are not a lot of people who will mourn, or even miss, Mercury. But as long as it was breathing, there was always the possibility that it would get an infusion of support from Ford management. Not-quite-a-Lincoln is obviously not a viable niche, but perhaps it could have become the Scion of Ford. Could the brand survive as the entry gateway to Ford, rather than the exit from it?



Ford says they are now going to focus those Mercury resources on developing Lincoln. Judging from the Mercury products of recent years, that is not a lot.

I’ve got my fingers crossed for Lincoln.

All contents copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2010

My blog on True/Slant

Cartoon Caravan


I came across this second generation Dodge Caravan parked in downtown Sterling, Illinois one morning.

It’s really unfortunate that I didn’t get a chance to meet the owner, because I would love to discuss the iconography behind this art.

Signed over the driver’s side headlight by “tater”, this is much better work than your run-of-the-mill ”Hey, let’s get out some damn brushes and paint the damn minivan!” minivan.




The whole thing has sort of a Peter Max/Yellow Submarine 1960s vibe to it, yet I didn’t see a single peace sign. And there are some edgier elements, like the rats and the voracious-looking shark and T-Rex comparing maws across the rear hatch. Then there’s the boxing condiments. (How do you even tell when a ketchup bottle is bleeding?)


The flying eyeball prominent on the hood has been symbolizing the all-seeing eye of various gods going back millennia, and has a prominent place in “Kar Kulture” due to its frequent use by the legendary pinstripe designer known as Von Dutch.



There’s a Native American “dream catcher” and a Christmas tree perilously close to an old-school Spy-vs.-Spy bomb (fuse lit!)

I welcome your interpretations of any of these elements, I’m sure they’re as good as mine. But I’d love to talk to you, tater. If you see this, drop me a line, man.


All content copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2010