Enlightened Design

I enjoyed “California Dreamin'” (see WAW — Feb. '06, pp.36) very much, especially the designers' justification of the state's light qualities. It's a pity Henry Moore, Jean Arp, Brancussi and Rodin couldn't immigrate to California. Maybe they would have made great sculpture.

The same goes for the 15th century Flemish painters and the poor designers in Detroit who penned the Firebird III, '65 Oldsmobile Toronado, '61 Lincoln and '04 ME 412, or the poor sods in Torino, who designed the '69 Alfa P3, and all the other great designers from that gloomy city, as they would have done better work there.

In the end, it is talent that counts, and so far nothing has come out of California to match the above-mentioned work. An example is the Honda Element, which was designed in California for the youth market. The last I heard, the average age of Element buyers was well over 50.

By the way, no one mentioned “June Gloom” when the California light is as flat as a pancake or the fact summer temperatures are so hot you can't take a clay model outdoors to benefit from the natural light. A fun place to live it may be, however, empirical observations suggest it doesn't ensure great creative design.
Carl L. Olsen
Detroit, MI
Professor Emeritus
College for Creative Studies

If I Were King

I continue to be perplexed by the addition of small displacement engines in the market. These engines may be high- tech, but to get them to perform they must be turbocharged or supercharged. I believe American manufacturers should move away from small engines with forced induction. They are potentially less reliable and a higher risk for maintenance costs. And they don't get great gas mileage.

If I were the king at any of our struggling domestic auto makers, I would make three engine packages, all of them naturally aspirated. I would have a 3.3L in-line 4-cyl., a 5L V-6 and a 6.6L V-8. They would come standard with aluminum blocks and aluminum heads with SOHC valvetrains. As an option, DOHC heads would be available.

Much of the tooling would be the same for each engine package, and they would get great mileage because they would be big enough to keep from laboring, unlike smaller engines. These engines would perform better and would be more reliable.
Bill Hodgin
Lewisburg, OH

Strong Design, Not

While I usually agree with Drew Winter, I simply am not buying his assessment of BMW's recent designs (see WAW — Feb.'06, p.5). I've tried to warm up to the 5-series, but to my eyes, it only succeeds in making the 7-Series seem somewhat attractive.

Toyota's sales are up as well, but that certainly cannot be attributed to Toyota being a design powerhouse. Did the previous generation Camry sell because it was such a beautiful design? BMW's sales are up, but those folks are buying into the dynamics they offer, or, sadly, more often than not, the cachet that accompanies the BMW badging.
Robert Wantin
Newport Beach, CA

Hybrid Numbers Not Hype

I just read Keith Gerlach's letter (see WAW — March '06, p.4), in which he criticizes the article, “Unplugging the Hybrid Hype” (see WAW — Jan.'06, p.32). I would like to show my support for the article.

Mr. Gerlach says hybrids “will be better all of the time” in comparison with conventional powertrains. My recent experiences demonstrate this is not true.

I have been traveling a lot between Ohio and Michigan recently and usually use a company fleet vehicle. I have made the exact same trip on three occasions. The first was in a Toyota Highlander Hybrid. It got 20 mpg (11.7 L/100 km). The second trip was in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo. It got 24 mpg (9.7 L/100 km). The most recent trip was in a Hemi-powered Chrysler 300C. It got 22 mpg (10.6 L/100 km).

These numbers are not hype. These are my real-world experiences.
Raymond Arkwright
Vienna, Ohio

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