28th February 2009

The Bobby Darin Dream Car (1960 DiDia 150)

I spotted Bobby Darin’s startling 1960 DiDia 150 at The Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, Missouri. It was just one of several surprises in the Earl C. Lindberg Automobile Center (no relation to Charles A. Lindbergh of the Spirit of St. Louis fame). We weren’t sure what to expect, but we were greeted by a very nice couple that owned and were keeping watch over the place. They had every answer ready, and were rightfully proud of their compact but fascinating automotive collection.

I was startled when I saw the Darin car. It took me back to The Simpsons episode where Homer designed a car called … The Homer. Stuck somewhere between a 1950s show car and the Batmobile, here sat something that Elvis and Liberace would have probably ran away from. Brash metallic red paint (originally 30 coats with real ground diamonds for sparkle), tail fins befitting a Boeing 747, and a glass cockpit that no air conditioning system could ever cool, the boldness of the design is totally unique.





The original owner of the car, Bobby Darin (Walden Robert Cassotto), was born in The Bronx on May 14, 1936, and at age eight he heard a doctor tell his mother that he might not live past 16 due to heart damage caused by rheumatic fever. Darin went on to record such hits as “Splish Splash,” “Dream Lover,” and “Mack The Knife,” which won him a Grammy in 1960.

Darin was nominated for an Academy Award in 1963 for his portrayal of a shell-shocked soldier in Captain Newman, M.D. His record company, TM Music/Trio, launched Wayne Newton and others. Darin was with Robert Kennedy in 1968 when he was killed at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Bobby went into seclusion for about a year after that event. In 1972, he had a TV variety show called The Bobby Darin Amusement Company that he hosted until his sudden death in 1973. Darin’s death came after surgery to correct heart problems brought on by blood poisoning. He was 37.

Darin’s car was built by Detroit native and clothing designer Andy DiDia; the car took seven years, from 1953 to 1960, to finish. Two engines are listed as powerplants; I assume the present 427 came later. Originally the car cost $153,647.29 to create; today it’s worth $1.5 million. 

The car rides on a 125-inch wheelbase, about twice the length of the Smart Car’s wheelbase. The car was so long, I had to tilt it in the crop box to try to get it to properly fit in the frame. Maybe the tilt gives the car somewhat of a “Batman“-esque feel, relative to the time period in which Darin drove the car to the Academy Awards. The car was also used in several movies.

The DiDia 150 is hand-fashioned from soft aluminum, has thermostatically controlled air conditioning, hidden headlights, tail lights that swivel as the car turns a corner, glass windows on hinges, and rust-colored seats, each with an ash tray, cigarette lighter, and radio speaker. No word on cup holders.

As best I can tell, the oversize levers on the dash control the heater, defrost, and air conditioning systems. It’s also nice to see the flat-bottomed steering wheel, many years ahead of the time when VW GTIs and others made them almost commonplace.

In 1970, Darin donated the DiDia 150 to the Museum of Transportation. There is a special glass case beside the car with his photo, autograph, and other memorabilia. The car was restored by Manns Auto Body in Festus, Missouri, just previous to display.

The only other car in the Museum that literally made me gasp was their working Chrysler Turbine Car, the only running Turbine Car on public display. Jay Leno has offered to buy the Chrysler, but he hasn’t been able to close the deal. The owners start it every two weeks, but my hints that I’d love to hear the car run fell flat.

Thanks to Amazon.com for the Bobby Darin album cover.

–That Car Guy



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28th February 2009

Toyota Highlander and Chevrolet Avalanche Among 2009 Top Picks from Consumer Reports

Toyota Highlander and Chevrolet Avalanche Among 2009 Top Picks from Consumer Reports

Date posted: 02-27-2009

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YONKERS, N.Y. — The 2009 Toyota Highlander moved ahead of the Hyundai Santa Fe as Consumer Reports issued its top picks for 2009. The 2009 Chevrolet Avalanche dethroned the Chevrolet Silverado as the top choice in the pickup category, the consumer watchdog said.

The 2009 Toyota Prius managed to hold off an ever-expanding field of gas-electric hybrids, retaining its top pick status in the green car category for the sixth straight year. “The Prius’ 44 overall mpg is the best Consumer Reports measured in any five-passenger car,” said Consumer Reports in a statement.

The 2009 Hyundai Elantra SE took home honors in the small sedan category. Best overall vehicle honors went to the 2009 Lexus LS 460. Consumer Reports said the Lexus was its “highest-scoring vehicle.” The 2009 Honda Accord was named the best family sedan, while the 2009 Infiniti G37 was singled out as the best upscale sedan.

The 2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata beat out the competition in the “fun to drive” category, while the 2009 Toyota RAV4 was named best small SUV. In the minivan category, the 2009 Toyota Sienna was praised for its versatility and took home the top prize.

Consumer Reports said each top pick scores at or near the top of its category among more than 300 vehicles tested at its Auto Test Center, as well as having average or better predicted reliability and adequate safety test scores.

Inside Line says: A handy guide from a respected source as you venture out to dealerships this spring. — Anita Lienert, Correspondent

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28th February 2009

Honda Accord Achieves 5-Stars

The all new model of the euro Honda Accord (also known in the United States as the Acura TSX) has been awarded with 5-stars under Euro NCAP’s safety rating scheme. In the previous rating system, the Accord had a 5 star adult occupant, 4 star child occupant and 3 star pedestrian protection scores

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28th February 2009

Poll: Americans Skeptical of More Aid for U.S. Automakers



According to a Gallup poll released yesterday, 72% of Americans think giving GM and Chrysler another $21 billion is a bad idea. The two automakers have already received about $17 billion in government loans.

Breaking opinions down by political views, Democrats favor additional support more than Republicans. Still, the majority of both groups says “no” to more money. Surprisingly, Midwestern folk (where many of the Big Three factories remain) are as down on additional bailouts as are other regions of the country.

The reduced support for more aid may have to do with the idea that the companies won’t survive, even with a handout. Only 51% of Americans believed that all of the Big Three would survive – that’s down 6% from just mid-December – according to Gallup.

This week, Chrysler and GM officials met with President Barack Obama’s newly formed auto task force to discuss whether they will get more money, or if they should declare bankruptcy down the line. Should the task force follow public opinion, Chrysler and GM may be left to their own devices in the near future.

Americans Reject Sequel to Auto Bailout (Gallup)

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28th February 2009

GM Europe workers protest over cuts

General Motors employees in Europe have taken to the streets in protests over proposed job cuts.

GM plans to cut around 26,000 jobs at its facilities in Europe, with a number of factories to be closed.

German employees rallied outside the Opel headquarters, supported by Germany’s vice-Chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who said that ‘this is about more than just Opel. It’s about the future of the car industry in Germany… It’s the backbone of our economy.’

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28th February 2009

Around the tracks…February 27 2009

A weekly wrap of motorsport from around the world.

DEFENDING champion Damien White anchored the team which won the Bathurst 12-hour showroom enduro at the weekend, sharing a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo with former Bathurst 1000 winner Tony Longhurst and car owner Rod Salmon. Another Evo X was second, crewed by Tony Ricciardello, Glyn Crimp and Stuart Kostera.

A seventh straight second place has cost Chad Reed his lead in the World and AMA Supercross championship in the USA. He was runner-up again to James Stewart, this time in Atlanta.

CARRERA Cup front-runner David Wall has bagged one of the early co- driving places for the V8 Supercar enduros this year, joining the expanded Falcon team of Paul Cruickshank. Wall is named in the Wilson Security Racing team for Phillip Island and Bathurst but the Cruickshank has not decided yet if he will share a car with Fabian Coulthard or new boy Michael Patrizi.

SUPERSTOCK racer Stacey McMahon will ride a Yamaha YZF R6 with backing from Insure My Ride for the 2009 season, starting in the World Superbike supporting races at Phillip Island this weekend. McMahon is returning to racing in the Australian Superbike Series after competing on a 125cc grand prix bike in 2006, although she was badly injured while racing in 2007.

MARCOS Ambrose continued the strong start to his first full season in the Sprint Cup with 22nd place in the second race of the 2009 Nascar season. Ambrose qualified 14th in his Toyota Camry and was looking good for a top-20 result until his rear tyres wore badly on the run to the flag and he fell back as Matt Kenseth took a second straight win, this time in California.

AUSTRALIA’s Ryan Briscoe and Will Power has just begun testing for their first season as Penske Racing team mates in the Indy Racing League. Both are expected to be front runners and Briscoe is tipped as a potential champion in a US open-wheel series which gets serious with the first race in Florida in the opening week of April.

- Herald Sun

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