Auto industry column struck positive chord with readers

Coda • GREG BEAN

Iget a lot of reader response to this column. Sometimes, I opine about something that rubs some people the wrong way, and I hear about it. Once in a while, though, I write something that strikes a positive chord with readers, and I hear about that, too.

That was the case with last week’s column, in which I wrote that if American automakers really want to save their industry, they should start building nearly exact versions of the cars that made them famous.

I mentioned a lot of cars in that column — the 1964½ Mustang, the 1967 Firebird, GTOs of several vintages, and others — and promised if they’d dust off the plans to those classics and start building them again, we’d buy ’em.

Apparently, a lot of people agree with me, and I’ve heard from a bunch of them in the last few days. Here’s a sampling.

Bill said: “Dear Mr. Bean: I read your articles in the News Transcript on a weekly basis. I just wanted you to know that you hit the nail on the head with your cure for the auto industry. As a former owner of a Mustang, Firebird, and a Corvette in the 60’s and 70’s, I absolutely believe that you are onto something big! I hope that you get the credit that you deserve! Please keep up the good work! Best Regards, Bill.”

Paul said: “Greg: enjoyed your auto editorial. Have you looked at the window stickers lately? U.S. cars are made in Mexico, Canada, and Europe. The 04-06 GTO was made in Australia, and it looked like another import clone.

“The 60s and 70s muscle cars were made in the USA. I object to our tax dollars going to these countries to make cars to ship back here. Remember Ford, GM, Bell Labs and Fort Monmouth in NJ … Regards, Protectionist Paul.”

Greg said: “Greg: Take a look around — you must be living in a vacuum.

“Here’s just one example: http://www.fordvehicles. com/the2010mustang/?searchi d=42644128115804205351754

“Your thought wasn’t original, it was subliminal. (grin). Greg”

That, by the way is a cool website, and a cool car. And it’s close to the classic Mustangs, so maybe my idea wasn’t so off the wall. I also learned that in 2010, Chevy will roll out a Camaro that “honors the 1960s original, and Dodge is building a Challenger that “channels” the classic muscle car, All three, the Mustang, the Camaro and the Challenger, “pay homage” to the classic automobiles, auto writers say.

I think these automakers are on the right track, but I also think we’d like it better if they made cars that were as close to exact versions of the classic cars as possible, and not new cars that “pay homage” to those classics.

The responses to the column weren’t confined to folks who emailed. Les, for example, asked through his proxy why I hadn’t included the Oldsmobile 442. And as I was out at my mailbox, my neighbor pulled up in his beautifully restored 1955 Chevy Bel Air and wanted to know why I had mentioned the 1956 and 1957 models, but not his.

“Don’t you like my car?” he wanted to know.

Well, actually I love his car and covet it. And whenever I know he’s going to be out of town for a few days, I sneak it out of his garage and drive it around (just kidding, Tom).

But I just couldn’t mention every car we love, so here’s the deal. You write me about the

car you think American automakers should start building again, and I’ll put some of your ideas in the paper. Keep it to a few sentences: The car, why it ought to be built again, and a memory of why you love it. Try to send your responses in the next week

or so, and I’ll print the best ones.

• • •

There was a scary story on the front page of the Feb. 25 edition of Greater Media’s publication, the News Transcript.

A woman in Manalapan answered a knock on her door and opened it to what she believed were three flower delivery guys in dark suits. The three, who were also wearing white face paint, weren’t delivering flowers. They forced their way into her home, brandished a handgun and started going through her house.

Because she hadn’t deactivated the burglar alarm, however, it went off and alerted the security company. The would-be thieves hightailed it out of there empty-handed, but as of this writing, they’re still at large.

I guess the lessons here are many. Don’t open your door to anybody you don’t know or don’t expect, even if they’re wearing suits. Just ask them to leave the flowers outside.

Second, it sounds like it’s pretty wise to shell out for a decent alarm system. The lady in Manalapan surely figures it was a good investment. But if you can’t afford an alarm system, you can go for the poor man’s version. I’m not suggesting you actually go out and buy a handgun, but I saw a bumper sticker recently that ought to give reprobates pause. “Don’t worry about the Doberman,” the sticker said, “this house is protected by Smith & Wesson.”

• • •

I wrote a couple of years ago about being vandalized by a possum, but now we’re overrun by another kind of vermin. These bugs are big, and hideous and smelly, and they moved into our house in numbers this winter.

These things are as ugly as a hundred miles of dirt road, and if you pick one up in your fingers or a paper towel, you’re in for a nasty surprise. They don’t have a sulphur stink, but they’ve got a pungent aroma that just flat doesn’t wash off. On the plus side, they’re really slow, so you can usually wing a shoe at them and squash them at a safe distance.

After some research, I learned that these home invading hooligans are brown marmorated stink bugs, and they’ve only been in New Jersey for a few years, having come here from China or Japan. Rutgers University is even asking people to report sightings and send them a few of the bugs for study. If you’ve got these noxious critters, read about them at the university’s website: http://njaes.rutgers.edu/ stinkbug/identify.asp.

Maybe you don’t have these bugs, and my house is the only one in this area they’ve decided to infest. Considering my luck lately, that makes sense.

Do you suppose Rutgers will pay for these things?

Gregory Bean is the former executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at gbean@gmnews.com.