MFN Trainer Column
in Vol. 17 - July Issue - Year 2016
I love Cars
Alfa Romeo Stradale 1968
Closing to sixty years of age, driving 60 to 70 thousand kilometers on average per year, one might think differently of the story title. Some guys think of driving as a chore and some of us enjoying it. I prefer driving alone. When my wife is in the car with me, I have mixed feelings towards the above statement.
Because I love cars, I've been visiting the Detroit car show for 27 years in continuation. Conveniently, I live in Windsor, ON in Canada, and it is easy to cross the border to the USA side either by bridge or the Windsor/Detroit tunnel and get to the Cobo Center. Immigrating from Europe and driving small displacement cars, it was an automotive cultural shock attending my first show in 1989. The Red Dodge Viper was shown as a concept car! Back in Europe, I was driving an NSU TT, 1000cc air-cooled rear engine and rear wheel drive car. I wish I had kept that car. My first car in Canada was a straight six, 3.3L, 82 Mustang. My shock was complete. I write all of this so that I can bring memories back, for all of you in the metal finishing industry, regardless of geographical location, who love cars.
Did we think as young guys about shot-peened con rods, or peened torsion bars, gears, springs etc? How about vibratory-finished aluminum engine-head covers or wet blasted engine heads that gives natural beauty to aluminum? At that time it was prideful to show the engine compartment. You recognized carburetors, engine heads, blocks, intake manifolds etc.... So many details finished one way or another. Now, with understanding of all of the finishing processes, you as a professional in surface finishing business, appreciate how cars were finished 30, 40 or 50 years ago.
This year, in visiting the 2016 NAICS show, (which stands for North American International Car Show), alongside with hundreds of thousands of auto enthusiasts and families, we saw it was the most successful show yet. 815,575 visitors with paid tickets made this year best ever in attendance since 2003.
Again, what drew attention to the cars on display was power and surface finish. Car manufacturers learnt from many years ago, that those first 5 seconds you see a car, might be crucial in decision-making to buy a car or not. This is absolutely true in case of my dear wife. The last one she bought was of a "Champagne color" and she exclaimed loudly in front of the sales guy, so he just smiled knowingly that that car was sold! I did point to many things technically or performance wise that were not so good (in my belief), but "Champagne color" won every single time. We drove off the car lot in that Champagne-colored car!
At the show, observing paint, interior, wheels, headlamps, grills, engines and all of the rest of the finished surfaces that catch your eyes, it was obvious that car manufacturers are using all available technologies in surface finishing. Lighting strategically located above and below the cars enhanced the sensation of a finished surface. The smallest details were finished to perfection to give overall impressions. Today, there are so many cars in every segment of car size class that are identical in performance and even in shape. What makes them distinctive is the surface finish of paint, chrome, wheels, interior plastic, aluminum details etc...
Thankfully, there was no Champagne color in sight at the show, and even though I was not accompanied by my wife, I still felt chills remembering that car sales guy.
Guys that were visiting alone were freely moving from Porches to BMWs, from Mustangs to Corvettes and back to Aston Martins, and again from AMG's to Acuras etc... Guys with families were limping around minivans and SUV's. I particularly enjoyed seeing two young kids, 15-16 years of age, dropping their jaws in awe in front of the yellow Ferrari. Did you ever see young kids standing in front of the car, then looking around it for 10 minutes and not saying a single word? Just elbowing each other and showing the direction where to look. Yes, it is all about brutal power in horsepower when you are young, but what drew them was a "look", the finish of the car. Beauty of the surface finish, paint, wheels, engine that they could partially see, brakes etc... whereever you laid your eyes was the beauty of the finish. Some cars are beautiful, and some are not. It is all in the eye of the beholder. But without that surface finish that we as an industry provide, cars will never be beautiful, have incredible horsepower and be able to go from zero to 60 in 3.1 seconds. We have to remind ourselves on a daily basis and pat ourselves on the back if no one is around that shows us, for us - "how good we are".
On the way out, I made a strategic mistake and walked by the Alfa Romeo. On display was a Red 1968 Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale. Picture those two kids above. After 10 minutes, my daughter finally pulled my hand and told me that it was time to go home. We have been going together to car shows for many years. She is now 21, and yes, she loves those cars!
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Author: Branko Cvetkovic