The Good Oil: What to do with a used Packard factory

Packard factory. Photo / Supplied
Packard factory. Photo / Supplied

Detroit's derelict Packard plant has become a poster-factory for urban decay, as well as a refuge for the homeless.

Now it's also a target for freelance scrap merchants out to gut the buildings of their steel. The factory was to have been demolished around 1999, but the city failed to get its paperwork in order and missed its chance.

Now, demolition is expected to cost nearly $25 million, exceeding the value of the 14ha site.

Trouble is, it's not even worth pulling the factory down, as the greater Detroit area already has plenty of available bare land ready for redevelopment.

And the poor factory's woes don't end there. The city has now served the building's owner papers notifying him of $750,000 owed in back taxes.

We are the world

Colleen Lachowicz won her contest for a state senate seat in Maine in the United States, despite ridicule from opponents for her admitted devotion to the online game World of Warcraft.


''Certainly,'' said an opponent, ''the fact that she spends so much time on a video game says something about her work ethic and ... immaturity.'' Her WoW character is Santiaga, an Orc (Level 85) assassination rogue with green skin, fangs, a Mohawk and pointy
ears.

Among contestants on this year's Learning Channel series Extreme Cheapskates were a man who reuses dental floss; another who combs butcher's shops for odd animal parts about to be discarded; and a New York woman who is shown demonstrating the non-
essential nature of toilet paper by wiping herself with soap and water.

''I wanted to create a self-portrait that was completely stripped of visual prejudice,'' explained Polish-born artist Martynka Wawrzyniak, who chose the medium of ''smell'' for a gallery showing in New York City. She ''scientifically extracted'' her hair oils, armpit perspiration and tears to protest humans cloaking themselves in deodorant soaps and laundry powders, and blasted visitors with whiffs of it all as they entered the gallery.

A man was arrested in Syracuse, New York, after he returned to the bank he had robbed minutes earlier after discovering the employee had given him less than the $20,000 demanded. Police found him by the front doors, trying to get back in.


Rare and superstar Saabs go under the hammer

A Swedish auction house has been charged with selling some ultra-rare Saabs from the
bankrupted manufacturer's assets.

Included are rare models like the 2012 9-5 SportCombi (pictured), the 2012 9-4X and
even a 9-5 sedan driven by Victor Muller, who bought Saab from GM.

Only a small number of 9-4Xs were sold, and Saab shut down before the 9-5 SportCombi could go on sale. Many of the cars had fewer than 20km on their odometer.

Some still had the protective factory shipping tape covering the interior and exterior.


And now, the stable skateboard

There's hardly a new car on the road without some sort of electronic stability program and now a Canadian entrepreneur has extended the technology to ... electric skateboards.

ZBoard uses weight-sensing pads to control acceleration and braking. Riders lean forward to accelerate and back to slow down and even reverse.

The $1000 ZBoard is powered by a 400-watt motor driven by a lithium iron phosphate battery giving a 16km range and top speed of about 28km/h.

The inventors, who devised the ZBoard as part of a mechanical engineering project, expected to sell 25 in three months, but moved that many in three days.


Dying for a parking space

Auckland's new parking fees structure has had its share of critics, but at least transgressors won't be impaled.

Historians believe the first parking restrictions were imposed around 700BC in Nineveh, the capital of ancient Assyria.

The restrictions, imposed by King Sennacherib, were on the sacred main processional way
through town.

The penalty for parking your chariot on this road? Death followed by impaling outside the
culprit's home.


Fishermen net Porsche Cayenne

Fishermen working from the southern Chinese port city of Beihai got more than they expected or maybe less depending on the point of view when they netted a Porsche
Cayenne SUV.

They sold the seaweed-strewn remains to a local garage for about $700.

Police said they had no idea how the car found its way to the bottom of the ocean. The fishermen reckon it was probably in the water for at least two years.

One theory is that nervous smugglers dumped it when a coastguard ship hove into view.

Beihai is frequently used to smuggle cars and other luxury goods from Hong Kong, Macau, or Vietnam, often just in small boats with a single car on the deck.


Ford adds Territory to Thailand

Thailand is New Zealand and Australia's main source of Japanese-designed utes and now Ford's sending something back. The company shipped 100 Territory SUVs to test the market and half have now sold. Buoyed by the initial take-up, Ford Australia is keen to
ship more Territorys to Thailand next year, reports GoAuto, but will monitor progress to assess long-term promise for the vehicle there.

Number Crunching

96 Issues of Driven in 2012
450 New vehicles introduced or tested
4,800 Photos of cars and driving
850,000 Words about cars

- NZ Herald

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