Curt's Newsletter

September 2006

© 2006
No part of this newsletter may be reprinted elsewhere including internet websites without written permission from the author

ESP® For All Cars

Mercedes-Benz Safety Innovation Promises To Reduce Accidents Dramatically

WASHINGTON, DC – The Federal government announced today that ESP® stability control, a safety system pioneered by Mercedes-Benz, will be required on all future cars.  In making the announcement, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) cited its analysis showing conclusively that cars equipped with stability control are 35 percent less likely to be involved in a collision.  Additionally, sport utility vehicles with stability control are involved in 67 percent fewer accidents than SUVs without the system.  SUVs usually have a higher center of gravity, and ESP has been found to be especially effective in reducing rollovers.

NHTSA analyzed more than 40,000 collisions over a period of six years, focusing on similar vehicles with and without stability control.  The dramatic results include similar reductions in fatal accidents as well.  ESP-equipped cars had 30 percent fewer fatal crashes, and sport utility vehicles with ESP were 63 percent less likely to be in a deadly collision. 

Now being used by other manufacturers, stability control systems reduce the likelihood of all fatal accidents by 43 percent and fatal single-vehicle crashes by 56 percent, according to another accident study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).  When the IIHS recently updated the results of their 2004 accident study, they found that stability control provides even more life-saving benefits for SUVs. 

Although the safety system provides significant benefits to both cars and SUVs, sport utility vehicles with stability control are reported to have 80 percent fewer rollovers than vehicles without the system.  The study also concluded that the risk of all types of single-vehicle crashes in an SUV was reduced by 49 percent.

The NHTSA and IIHS analysis corroborates a Mercedes-Benz study from 2002 that revealed a 40 percent reduction in “loss of control” accidents after the company made ESP standard equipment on all models.  Studies by other automakers and the University of Iowa found similar results.

After bringing the industry’s first ABS anti-lock brakes and traction control systems to consumers in the 1980s, Mercedes-Benz collaborated with Bosch to invent ESP stability control and introduced it in 1995.  The new safety system made its debut on the 1996 S-Class line, became standard equipment on most Mercedes-Benz models by the 2000 model year and is standard on all Mercedes-Benz models today.

How Does Stability Control Work?

ESP can sense impending loss of control.  The system works in a split second by braking individual wheels and/or reducing excess engine power, something that even the most skilled driver cannot do.  ESP can be compared to having four individual brake pedals, one for each wheel, with a powerful computer to determine which pedal should be applied when and for how long.

The Mercedes-Benz ESP system helps drivers maintain stability, especially on slippery roads, by helping to prevent oversteer (rear-end “fishtailing”) or understeer (front-end “plowing”).  Even the “ESP” abbreviation helps underscore the system’s benefits – it works invisibly, seemingly intuitively, to help keep the car going where the driver points it, under circumstances that might otherwise lead to loss of control and a possible accident without the system. 

Using electronic sensors and lightening-fast computer logic, the system constantly monitors a vehicle’s actual path against its intended path.  If there’s any difference between what the driver is “asking” (primarily through the steering wheel) and what the vehicle is doing, the system works in a split-second by braking individual wheels and/or reducing excess engine power, even before the driver may sense any changes.

GL320Bluetec, ML320 Bluetec, R320 Bluetec, 2008 calendar year marks the introduction of these 50-state legal diesel trucks

BLUETEC For 50 States

Diesel M-, R- And GL-Class SUVs First To Meet Stringent BIN5 Certification

MONTVALE, NJ -- Mercedes-Benz today announced that it intends to offer BLUETEC diesel-powered versions of its popular M-, R- and GL-Class sport-utility vehicles in the United States beginning in CY 2008.  Delivering a perfect balance of power, fuel economy and range, the new BLUETEC SUVs are set to be the world’s first diesel-powered vehicles to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s stringent BIN5 emissions standards for all 50 states.

Developed by Mercedes-Benz, BLUETEC represents the world’s cleanest diesel technology and showcases several state-of-the-art engine and exhaust technologies, allowing the luxury manufacturer to offer their customers powerful SUV’s which are fuel efficient and environmentally responsible at the same time.  BLUETEC technology is especially important in helping to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. Beginning in CY 2008, BLUETEC M-, R- and GL-Class vehicles will showcase AdBlue injection, a process that adds precisely measured quantities of a urea-based solution into the exhaust stream to help reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 80 percent.  

Today’s announcement represents a significant step for the future acceptance of diesel vehicles in the U.S. market, which can contribute to significant fuel savings and a reduction in oil imports.  This fact was confirmed in a study by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2004.  Margo Oge, head of its Office of Transportation and Air Quality, concluded that if only one-third of all light-duty trucks in the U.S. were operated with modern diesel engines, the country would save 1.4 million barrels of oil per day – equal to the amount of oil the U.S. currently imports from Saudi Arabia.

High Performance, Impressive Mileage and Extensive Range

The BLUETEC M-, R- and GL-Class are the latest additions to the Mercedes-Benz line-up of clean diesel vehicles.  Poised to make its showroom debut in October 2006, the Mercedes-Benz E320 BLUETEC luxury sedan offers outstanding driving dynamics, unprecedented efficiency and impressive environmental compatibility.  Its powerful 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel engine combines the powerful torque of a large V8 engine with the low fuel consumption of a four-cylinder compact.  Additionally, the E320 BLUETEC is the only diesel-powered vehicle in the U.S. certified to meet BIN8 emissions standards.

S550 Safety Award

MONTVALE, NJ – The new-generation 2007 Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan, the company’s latest flagship sedan and the successor to a long line of premium luxury vehicles, has won a coveted Automotive Excellence Award from POPULAR MECHANICS magazine, one of the largest and most trusted technology magazines that reaches more than 8.6 million readers each month.  Chosen by the magazine’s experienced team of automotive editors, the new S550 model won their Safety award, one of ten categories that comprise their Automotive Excellence Awards, which recognize exceptional 2007 model-year vehicles.

Don Chaikin, automotive editor, POPULAR MECHANICS, said, “With the changing environment and economy, automotive manufacturers have to provide consumers with innovative, cost-effective and better-performing vehicles in order to stay competitive in today's market.  It's hard to find a model that doesn't have some great new feature, but our automotive team sought the best of the best for our readers and has singled out these ten models as our top-of-the-line picks.”

PRE-SAFE, Distronic Plus and Much More

The new-generation S-Class sedan made its U.S. debut earlier this year with an impressive array of industry-leading safety features.  First, the revolutionary PRE-SAFE® system senses loss of control and automatically takes measures to protect occupants before a possible impact.

The new radar-based Distronic Plus cruise control can maintain a pre-set following distance behind the vehicle ahead and it is networked with other systems so that Brake Assist can be readied and PRE-SAFE measures can be triggered if the closing speed to the next vehicle is too great.  Extensive testing suggests that these features will reduce rear collisions.

Infrared Night View Assist

Another innovative technology that made its debut on the 2007 S-Class is Night View Assist, a new option that can extend the driver’s ability to see ahead to nearly 500 feet.  An industry first, and in contrast to passive systems that rely only on thermal imaging, this active system bathes the road ahead with invisible infra-red light from two projector beams mounted in the headlights.  An infrared camera discreetly mounted in the windshield receives the reflected images and displays them in a high-resolution display in the instrument cluster.

The Industry’s First Rapidly Flashing Brake Lights

The new-generation S600 and S65 AMG models are equipped with adaptive brake lights that can flash rapidly during emergency braking, a feature that’s expected to reduce rear collisions.  Another industry first from Mercedes, the rapidly flashing LED brake lights are triggered primarily by the car’s Brake Assist system (standard on all Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles since 1998), which automatically provides full-power braking assist whenever it senses faster-than-usual brake pedal application.

How the Winners Were Chosen

To determine the winners, POPULAR MECHANICS’ automotive editors drove over 100 of the newest cars, trucks and sport-utility vehicles, amassing well over 100,000 miles in the process.  The team, headed by Chaikin, is comprised of senior automotive editor Mike Allen, Detroit editor Jim Dunne and West Coast editor Ben Stewart, and collectively represents nearly 100 years of automotive editorial experience.

The complete report on the 2007 POPULAR MECHANICS Automotive Excellence Awards winners can be found in the October issue of POPULAR MECHANICS, on newsstands September 12, 2006 and online at:

What to do at the Gas Pump

…while the tank is filling.  Rather than watch the spinning numerals on the pump, walk around and check the tires.  This doesn’t have to require professional level skill to be useful.  Here’s what you’re looking for in this visual check:

1. The tire has air and looks like it’s inflated, not sinking with a slow leak

2. There are no bulges or cuts on the sidewall.

3. There is no checking or cracking in the rubber.

4. The tread is legal.  To check this note the circumferential grooves (that meansthey go around the circumference).  Each one has a series of equally spaced bumps that are 1/16” high.  That’s the legal minimum.  You can run a finger down one groove and feel the bump.  If the height of the bump is comfortably below the height of the rubber on each side of the groove, your tires are legal.  If they’re not, you’re in mortal danger.  Get new tires.

5. The wear pattern looks even.  If the front tires are wearing funny*, you need to take the car to an alignment shop.

*For example a clown face in the tread.

Miscellaneous Ravings

Red Light Cameras

Here are locations of new cameras that will automatically issue a ticket if you are caught running yellow or red lights.  The first 10 camera locations are:

 1 - Richmond at Dunvale
 2 - Bellaire at Wilcrest
 3 - Harwin at Hillcroft
 4 - Milam at Elgin
 5 - Brazos at Elgin
 6 - JFK at Greens
 7 - Bay Area Boulevard at El Camino Real
 8 - Travis at Webster
 9 - Pease at LaBranch
10 - Hillcroft at Richmond

Some thoughts to go with those addresses: statistically, in the US, where red light cameras are installed, you can expect the yellow light to be shorter than engineering specifications call for.  Historically accidents at such intersections decrease between the white lines marking the edges of the intersection itself, but, if you count accidents within 100 ft. of the intersection, accidents increase.  This makes sense.  You stop for the red light even though it means a full panic stop, but the guy behind you talking on his cell phone doesn’t touch his brakes.


I'm sending you a belated best wishes notice on your 25th.  Anniversary with Star Motor Cars. I kind of feel that I was there just at the very beginning. If my memory serves me well, the first car, a190 E, I bought from you late in 1983. That was not for me, that was for my brother Andrés. Then, there were the Saabs for my son and a couple of MB's for my daughter and some other units for my beloved wife. And, yes, there was once a Volvo wagon, a red one, and some other: the Grosser, a 560 SEL and so on, and son on… There was the time I brought to you my favorite nephew for another 560 SEL and then, my partner in business for a 300 E. Those transactions followed a 400 E and a SLK 230 and a E 320 wagon and an SL 500 not that long ago.

I was not buying cars from a store or a brand's name. I was buying cars from you, the person, the most professional car salesman I've ever met. And, believe me, I've been in the business of buying cars for many years now.

Congratulations! God bless! I hope you will be there the next time I'm going outfor my next car…

Fernando Autrique

Another Letter
I don’t know whether I told you, but a year ago we bought a Georgia vehicle emissions testing store which is located about 2 miles from home.  I have had a rash of old 560SL’s in for testing so far this month—mid to late 80’s.  All have passed with flying colors.  Very low HC, CO and NOx numbers when the cats are working like they should—they all had 120-145K on them.  One of the owners, an early 30’s woman, unabashedly said she loves the car more than her husband, and he knows it, too!!

I have to really twist to get in—not much room between the seat back and the steering wheel—very comfy once in, though.  Smallish footwell—driving mocs rather than work boots would be greatly desired.  The outside edge of the leather drivers seat side bolster typically has a worn spot due to everyone scuffing while getting in. Very soft, predictable, linear throttle linkages on every Mercedes that I test—quite a safety factor that I think most drivers don’t appreciate.  Applies across the entire product line from what I can tell—from early 80’s—the oldest thing we test here in GA is an ’82 up to an ’03, which is the newest.

Newish Ford pickups and SUV’s are the worst—hare trigger throttle/tranny combos—will launch into my inspection bay if you are not paying attention—go from no input to a scalded dog lunge.  The worst throttle I have ever successfully tested was on an old Alfa Romeo—simulated acceleration test with the car on a chassis dyno.

Gary Brown

Car rags complain about the “loaded” throttles on American cars/trucks all the time.  The cars lunge.  Instead of a linear throttle, where half way down = 50% throttle, 10% down = 50% throttle.

It makes for some hairy situations that don’t need to be, but the car manufacturers claim that focus groups like it.

Jeff Cooper

May 10, 1920-September 25, 2006

Jeff Cooper died September 25, 2006, peacefully, at his home, cared for by his wife of 65 years, Janelle, and his daughter, Lindy.  It’s almost ironic that Jeff died of old age peacefully.  His life was an adventure.  Jeff is the inventor of the modern technique of the pistol.  I don’t know how many people owe their lives to Jeff’s teachings.  In the 1960s I read one article by him and took two things to heart: use both hands.  Use the sights.  All of this flew in the face of “the way we do things around here.”  But I persisted.  I qualified expert in the .45 caliber pistol at Fort Knox, with such a good score I was accused of cheating and had a Lieutenant Colonel watch me shoot the qualification course.  I went on to be very thankful I had learned how to shoot the .45 and the service rifle when I went into harms way.

A full biography would be bigger than this publication.  Jeff Cooper was a Marine officer, a leader of men who was condemned to spend most of WWII on a battleship, so he never got to do most of the things a Marine officer gets paid for, leading men ground combat.  But he survived unhurt and went on to start the sport of practical shooting, then a school, the American Pistol Institute, which continues today as Gunsite Academy.  I took 3 courses there in the 1980s and came back for a few alumni shoots.  Jeff had quite an effect on me.  He did on a lot of people.  Now most of the instructors of defensive pistolcraft in the world teach techniques he pioneered, and the large caliber, semi-automatic pistol is the weapon of choice for the world’s police forces and military (whenever political decisions don’t override.  The US military is stuck with a small-caliber pistol now for political reasons, but the Special Operations Command and Marines use .45s.)
I’ll miss Jeff’s pithy comments and wry humor.  He was indeed a man among men.  His like shall not pass this way again.

The Journey

We were sent an email with an article entitled, "Ode to Odie," author unknown. Stupidly I reprinted it here. A reader let me know it was "The Journey," by Crystal Ward Kent. It is a copyrighted piece, so I've removed it from here with this link in its place:

The Journey by Crystal Ward Kent

My apologies for the error. I'm glad to find the author and provide proper attribution. It is worth reading.

Pet Blogs

I’ve gotta start turning off the computer at the house when we’re gone.

George S. Patton, Jr.

George S. Patton, Jr

Friday, September 8, 2006

Slept well last night after I finally got the folks to play with me between 10 and midnight.  If they don’t play with me in the daytime they’ve got to play with me at night or I can’t sleep.  The routine goes like this:  We go to bed.  I use Curt’s arm as a puppy chew toy for twenty minutes or so.  That’s usually good for an attempt to get me to use a real puppy toy, which I always ignore.  He had his chance this morning but left me here all alone for I don’t know how long, like all day.  That’s a week in Dog Days!  Then he’ll try giving me another puppy treat.  Of course what I want is a Greenie, but, for some reason, they ration those to one little-bitty one a day, and they won’t give it to me until Curt says, “It’s nine o’clock, time for your Greenie.”  I guess so.  I’ve been growling and whining and jumping up and down for 3-1/2 hours in dog time!

Anyway, after I’ve worn Curt’s arm out, Emerald will try to get on the bed to get her Pounce.  If I see her, I’ll sit where she wants to go.  Either Curt picks her up, or she’ll outflank me.  No problem.  I get about half the Pounce offered.  She drops a lot.

Then Curt’ll turn the light out.  I’ll crawl under the covers and curl up with Mommy.  I’ll wait a while then crawl out from under the covers and start licking Curt’s face.  Eventually he’ll get up and go to the back door with me.  But I’ve learned that if I don’t go to the back door but go to the Puppy Treat Dispenser and growl and jump up and down he’ll give me one and go back to bed.  Then I lick his face some more until he comes back.  Then I’ll go to the back door and play outside until he calls me in.  This gets me another puppy treat, but usually by then Curt just drops a couple of chunks of Arthur’s cat food on the floor for me.

Then I decide whether to keep harassing them or to go to sleep.  If I harass them enough, Mommy will go into the living room and curl up on the couch with me.

Saturday, September 9

Got good training this morning.  Curt’ll make me sit, stay, leave it, and look-at-me a few times, one little bitty training treat per trick.  Then I’ll eat breakfast and get the same from Mommy, or Mommy first, then Curt.

Curt went off again.  Can’t figure out where he goes on Saturday.  Mommy says she’s running errands.  I understand that.  She’ll come home with lots of bags, sometimes puppy treats, even toys.  The best toy was that Mercedes-Benz cap.  Boy, that was delicious.  Took me a couple of weeks to tear it to little pieces, though.

Since Mommy’s home on Saturdays I get to go into the back yard and back inside and back outside, etc. most of the day.  I’m tired when Curt comes home.  I might even be tired enough to sit in his lap.  Normally that’s something I only do in the morning when Mommy leaves first for whatever humans do during the week.

I sleep well on weekends.



Friday, September 8

Woke up at 0200 throwing up.  Must be the Pounce I had at bedtime.  It was more fun when they had carpet.  I wonder why they have this cold tile on all the floors.

When Curt got up I started begging for Pounce immediately.  Curt refilled my supper dish instead.  I don’t like that stuff.  For one thing, it says “Senior.”  I’m no Senior.  I’m only eleven in human years.  I don’t count in cat years.  After all, cats are just humans in little furry suits.

Finally got some Pounce as he was leaving.  Darn.  Dropped 2.  That damn short-haired black dog got it.  What did I do to deserve him?

Threw up after the folks left.  No fun.  They weren’t here to see it.

Slept until Mommy got home.  Demanded Pounce.  She ignored me but gave treats to that damn dog.  Not fair.

When Curt came home he gave me some.  Of course I had to stand on his chest and tap his face to get his attention.  Dropped some.  That damn dog again.

Curt attacked me again for no reason at all!  He’s been doing that a lot.  He uses a couple of torture devices.  One’s called a brush.  That’s not too bad, but the other has to be against the Geneva Pet Convention!  It’s called a comb!  It’s bad enough he combs my back, but he’ll comb my belly and concentrate on areas with mats, and he’ll finish up with my tail.  It’s sheer torture!  I ran away after that, vowing to never get near him again.  Held out until he went to bed.  Jumped on the bed for chin scratching and more Pounce.  Slept at the foot of the bed.  Curt shoved me off when I made throwing up noises, though.  The indignities I put up with here.

Arthur Pendragon

Arthur Pendragon

Friday, September 8

I’m a king.  Kings don’t write blogs.  I have a staff for that.  I’ll just roll on my back and look cute and the Redhead and the chauffeur will take care of it.  Where’s my milk?

Curt Rich         September 2006