In 1997 Newman commissioned Converse Engineering to shove a Ford 5.0 engine into a brand new Volvo 960 wagon. He then called Letterman and asked if he wanted one.
“Dave, I’m thinking of getting me a Volvo station wagon, and I’m gonna stuff a Ford 302 V8 engine into it. Do you want one?”
Letterman said yes, then Newman called back 2 weeks later:
“Dave, the cars are ready. We got two, on for me, one for you. I’ve got to ask you a question. Do you want a puffer?”
I’m thinking, well, is that like a special inflatable seat? And I said, “Well Paul, are you getting a puffer on yours?”
And Paul says, “Yeah, yeah, I’m getting a puffer on mine. It’s a supercharger. This thing will turn about 400 horsepower, so if you pop the clutch you’re gonna tear up the rear end. I tell ya, from 20 to a hundred you can chew anybody’s ass.”
Letterman seems to regard the car as more of a burden than a pleasure. Throughout the video he complains about it breaking down. He’d prefer to drive his Nissan Leaf.
Pictured above is Swedish deputy Prime Minister Maud Olofsson at yesterdays announcement of the sale of Volvo cars to the Chinese company Geely.
“Regardless of who owns Volvo Cars, its brand will still be Swedish.”
Unlike some Volvophiles, I couldn’t care less who owns the company. People are going to start hooting and hollering about this sale now that the rumors have been confirmed, but does it really matter? The important question is “Does the car suck or not?”
Critics, including Consumer Reports, have complained that the quality of Volvo cars has suffered since Ford purchased it in 1999. Is quality really going to get a whole lot worse now that it’s owned by Geely? Or is that just a xenophobic reaction about the supposed inferiority of Chinese workmanship?
Who defines a corporation’s product anyway? The nation that owns the company? The nation that originated the company? The nation where the cars are built? The nation where the cars are driven? Why is a Toyota that’s built in the US still a Japanese car, while a Volvo or Saab that’s owned by an American or Chinese company is still a Swedish car?
The idea of a nationally branded car is quaint. When Ford bought Volvo the brand ceased to “be Swedish,” whatever that means. It became just another commodity in a global marketplace that gets parts contracted out to companies all over the world but has the imprimatur of a corporate board and an aura constructed by the branding wizards of the marketing department.
We got back yesterday from a long trip to California. It was nice driving around in a new rental car. We drove up to the Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park in our Hertz Mustang convertible. Having the top down was amazing, as the roads wound wind around the mountain, with beautiful views and giant, 3000 year old trees towering overhead. The Ford had a V6, which wasn’t too bad, considering the roads were so twisty that you couldn’t really open up the throttle anyway. But it was low and firm, which was great for the tight turns and switchbacks.
Ford Motor Co. may be joining the ranks of U.S. automakers seeking to shed operations, as a newspaper reported Sunday the industry bellwether is weighing a sale of the slow-selling Volvo brand to BMW AG.
Somehow I don’t see Volvo going to BMW. But I wonder if Ford will sell Volvo.
It’s probably a bad thing to fly a private jet from Detroit to Washington, DC when you’re going to ask Congress to provide you a multi-billion dollar loan to bail you out of a financial crisis. That fact hasn’t stopped Ford’s Alan Mulally, along with the heads of the other automakers, who not only flew to D.C. in the Ford private jet but are, apparently, unwilling to fully cut themselves from the corporate crack that is their private air forces.