Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fashion On Broadway!

Recently, I was invited to shoot a fashion show at On Broadway by my friend, Lilli Garcia. It's a little out of the usual for my photography, even though I did shoot Fashion Week in Escondido for Studio 158 the last couple of years. It was a fun night, and I met a couple cool new models...

This is one of the models I made connections with, Yulia. She really knows how to work a runway!

Little bit of a booty shake! Seems to have impressed one guy, anyway!

Yulia, again, workin' those abs!

I don't know this girl's name, but she sure knew where the cameras were!

Yulia again, and another photog. I've worked with Eddie at a couple of weddings, he does video.
All in all, a cool evening and event. I'll probably be doing more of them, in the future...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Car GM Shouldn't Have Stopped Building...

One of the things I do is take photos for a car dealership’s website, Paradise Chevrolet Cadillac in Temecula. It’s pretty fun, I get to sample a wide variety of cars. Some of them are pretty mundane, like the Chevy delivery van I shot a couple of months ago, but some of them are pretty hot, like the bright metallic orange ‘Vette from last week.
But one of them really stuck out in my mind a couple of weeks ago, partly because it’s a huge example of what might have been. What might have been, if the American economy hadn’t bottomed out a couple of years ago, what might have been if the American auto companies hadn’t so thoroughly lost sight of what made them great, and, most tearingly, what might have been if the American public hadn’t equally lost faith, justifiably, in those American auto companies, particularly General Motors. That car is pictured below, the late, lamented Pontiac G8. It came in three iterations, the base G8, with a certainly adequate 256hp V6, the GT, in the photos, with a 361hp small block V8 and a late introduction, the 415hp V8 GXP. The latter was compared, favorably, to the previous generation BMW M5 by several frontline auto publications.

It was a funny synchronicity that I was working with both the G8 and a Dodge Charger R/T on the same day, since the two cars were aimed at similar customers. They were even the same color, inside and out, white over black!
Now the Charger has been a huge sales success for Mopar, from the day of its introduction to the present day, selling nearly 100,000 copies each year, until the recession year of 2009, when it still managed to sell 60,000. It’s big, it’s fast, and it looks very much the part of the Great American Muscle Car.
The Pontiac, though, was an entirely different matter. Introduced just as the economic meltdown commenced, coupled with skyrocketing fuel costs, in 2008, it sold just 13,000 units its first year, barely a good month for the Charger, and only 30,000 units total for the two years it was in production. It was a victim not only of a downward spiraling economy matched by upward spiraling gas prices, but also GM’s loss of interest in maintaining the Pontiac brand and the public’s absolute loss of interest in any of GM’s products, other than Cadillac and Corvette. The car also seems to be aimed at a different customer than the Dodge. Built in Australia, it exudes a distinct European vibe, rather than being purely and unmistakably American, like the Dodge. As can be seen in the photos, it’s slightly smaller, looks a little more, ahem, delicate and not nearly as muscular. Its seats are more firm, the seating position is lower and the instrument panel is very evocative of the German brands.

The Pontiac, while very attractive, doesn’t have the muscularity of the Dodge. The flared fenders and side vent/repeater lights are very European in style, as is the front splitter. The only nod to its American brand are the fake hood scoops, harking back to the GTO of the ‘60s. It even has a slight kink in the rear side window, a la BMW.

The split grille and canted headlights evoke BMW in a big way, with the fender flares making it look like an M type from that manufacturer.

The steering wheel is distinctly American, but the seats could come from any mid level German car. They are not particularly supportive, however, but very adjustable.

The engine cover styling could come directly from an Audi S5. As motors go, the 361hp engine is very stout, moving the nearly 4000lb car quite briskly. The engine note, however, isn't that classic V8 rumble, sounding somewhere between a V6 bark and a flat crank Ferrari V8 wail. Not bad, just not what is expected.

The Charger, in contrast, looks much bigger, although it’s only 4 inches longer than the G8, overall.

Far more menacing, from this angle, than the slightly effete Pontiac. Seeing this looming in your rearview would encourage an immediate move to the right…

Very American design for the interior, and considerably lower quality materials than the Pontiac. Seats are very supportive, however, but a little less firm than the G8’s. The Alcantara seat centers help keep the driver’s and passenger’s derrieres firmly situated.

The Dodge's engine room. A very slight Mercedes look to the engine cover, but, overall not as styled as the Pontiac's space. While it gives away some 20 hp to the G8, it still moves in an authoritive manner, and sounds more like a classic American v8, with a deep throated rumble, even at idle.
Overall, although I like the Charger, the Pontiac G8 appeals to me more. Admittedly, I'm rather Eurocentric when it comes to cars, but the G8 seems to me to be put together better than the Dodge, its materials are of a higher quality and its styling, while derivative in its European flair, is a little fresher. It also seems more lightfooted, cornering more precisely with more feedback from the steering. Throttle response seems a bit more brisk, too.
So, given that it's a big car with obvious Euro influences, and never sold nearly as well as its rivals, why do I think it's a car that GM should still build? Well it's this. American tastes are changing, becoming more like those of the rest of the world. Ford, for instance, is realizing that they have marvelous cars being sold in other parts of the world that would sell well here. Americans, since they've become customers of companies that don't sell that classic American car, are more willing to look at cars from American manufacturers that also aren't classically American. The next generation Charger looks to be a bit more sleek than its predecessor, and with the Italian sensibilities of Chrysler's new owners, Fiat, there very well may be a change in the look of the whole line. Lord knows, it couldn't get any worse than it did under German ownership, or the way it was adrift under Cereberus. Sure, the Charger and Chrysler 300 were built under Mercedes guidance, but so were the Caliber and second generation Durango, the latter of which should serve as a case point in merchandise design classes on how to kill a viable brand.
The G8 was well built, well designed and had very good performance. Additionally, with all that performance, it was relatively economical. A comparison of the G8 GT, with its 361hp V8 to the Audi S5, with a 368hp V8, is telling. The Pontiac, selling for about $30,000, had similar accelleration and handling numbers, but got 26mpg highway, compared to barely 20 for the Audi. I think that, given people's increased faith in GM's survival, and increased interest in their products, the G8, or a similar car under another badge, would be a viable product.