Tuesday, August 28, 2012



DEAR SERGEANT AL: A few months ago I went out with some friends of mine to a club in Manhattan to return to my car at the end of the night to find the entire block of cars were gone, including my car. After calling the police figuring it was stolen we finally figured out that everyone who parked on the block had their car towed. We took a closer look at the signs to discover that there was a late night parking regulation in effect overnight. Why would the city care if anybody parks a car on a street late at night and is there any way that we can get out of paying the ticket and get our towing fees refunded? –DISCO TOW INFERNO
The NYPD Manhattan Tow Pound at Pier 38 on the West side. Obviously business is booming.
DEAR DISCO TOW INFERNO: Welcome to the world of what is called disco tow enforcement, a phenomena that started in New York City and is taking the rest of the country by storm. This is where I tell people that most of us do not realize the magnitude of our national fiscal crisis and something needs to be done about it. Governments whether it is in Washington right down to the local town hall are broke and they need ways to come up with revenues to pay for government services. One of the solutions is towing people’s cars late at night when visiting nightclubs and other late night venues. For decades since the disco craze started in the late 70's, New York City has been towing late at night out of areas particularly south of 34th Street in Manhattan and mostly on the west side near any club venue. I notice here in Los Angeles along the Hollywood Blvd strip that towing regulations go into effect on some side streets off the boulevard after 8 pm near a lot of nightclubs. I'm sure the same rules apply off the Sunset Blvd strip as well.
A disco tow coming into the pound to be logged and vouchered.
What would be accomplished by towing people’s cars that are visiting a nightclub late at night? Here are four effective reasons why you need to be careful where you park your car late at night when visiting a night club in any given city, especially on the weekends:
Before some of you get offended and plug me out because of this picture, I put this here purposely to make my point: this is police work, and this is not for the faint of heart. This is what we call a quality of life condition: urinating on someone's house if not in a public place. If you were a cop and saw something like this you would have to deal with this, including confronting this man who might be drunk or high and putting your hands all over this suspect. You would have to go through his pockets and touch him, all after he was finished pissing. Think about it.
1. Quality of Life: It may not appear so, but there are people and other businesses that live in the same neighborhood as the club you are visiting who are affected by all that club traffic that have nothing to gain by you being there. Just because there is no lawn or fence in front of a building doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t someone’s home. If you live in the suburbs respect city life as if you lived here yourself. Parked cars bring excess noise and pedestrian traffic pollution from people who are there for only one reason and certainly not to enhance property values. Parked nightclub cars also bring fewer spaces for the residents who need to park their own vehicles in their own neighborhood. Nightclub cars sometime block private garages and driveways. Since there are no rest facilities in the street for exiting club goers to use, the sidewalks, alleys, door steps, foyers, and entrances, and trash cans make excellent places to leave trash, used condoms, and have sex or excrete urine and yes human feces when drunken or drugged club goers have no where else to relieve themselves. Get rid of the cars and you get rid of a big chunk of the problem.
2.   Increased Revenue: Like I stated, governments are broke. What better way to raise at least $300 a pop by first charging at least $200 to get your car back right away, then give you another week or month to come up with an additional $100 or more to pay the ticket on the windshield once you drive away with your car at the tow pound. Don’t forget the interest and late charges you have to pay if you don’t pay on time, and the scofflaw alert on your car if you outright refuse to answer the ticket, creating another reason to tow your car again at ANY time of the day. That’s a win-win for the city that’s charging you. What’s nice about this is that there’s a good chance you’ll do it again because you‘ll be so drunk or drugged going back to your car not to be aware or even care about the parking regulation or even where your car was towed until after you sober up.
3.  Excellent Law Enforcement Tool: A good word of advice to all of my young club going friends: if you go to the police tow pound right after a nightclub, you better come clean, sober, and correct to be the pre-planned designated driver. In fact, if you were drinking or drugging at any part of the night you are better off waiting until later in the morning or afternoon the day after a good rest and sobering up to redeem your car. Most likely if you wait until you’re sober for no more than 24 hours after the violation it will not cost you extra and your car will be safe and sound. If your car was disco towed, you are now paying a premium price to park your car in a safe facility, so you might as well have it work toward your advantage. But be careful you do not leave contraband in the car. Not only will the car be thoroughly searched for inventory since it is coming into police custody, the license plate will be checked to see if the car is valid, up to date, and not stolen. They will also do a license and warrant check on you to see if you are on the up and up when you come in for redemption. If there is contraband in the car (illegal guns or drugs) you will be arrested. If you are drunk, the police may even allow you to leave the pound intoxicated to have you drive right out of the pound into the hands of an awaiting police DUI Task Force to take you away in handcuffs. This is all perfectly legal. I should know. Some of my best collars on weekend DUI overtime were made that way. And don’t even think about sending your mother to pick up your car at the pound. The tow pound isn’t grade school, it’s a police facility and real life. If you are old enough to drive a car then Mommy is probably too old to own your crap. Some of the most seediest drug dealers have tried this cheap and pitiful tactic of actually sending their mothers, YES THEIR MOTHERS, of all people, some of the mommies were clad in a house dress with Queen Elizabeth purses in hand the sweet old ladies they are, some of them were titis and abuelas (Spanish for aunts and grandmothers) barely able to speak English but to somehow have a license, to at one moment be making rice and beans and carnitas in their kitchen to be suddenly at the pound to be turned away and to find their sons’ or nephews' expensive five and six figured rides stuck at the pound for weeks until auction or until their sons’ or nephews' warrants were cleared. If the dealers kept drugs in inventory quantities in the car they kissed the car goodbye forever as it was auctioned off to circumvent jail time. Some of the most beautiful cars can be found at police auction for literally pennies on the dollar. Now you know why. I write the God’s honest truth . . .
4. Deterrence: Disco towing makes a great deterrence against drunk and drugged driving once the car owner sobers up, that is. Once you’ve sobered up at some point in the wake of a tow aftermath, you must realize it was probably better to either take mass transit, a cab, or if a group of you to hire a limo and split the cost for a grand night out on the town to leave the car at home. Hiring a limo actually might be the best option if you are going out with buddies as this way you can get blasted out of your brains and there is no waiting for a cab. If there are any females in your group you have a better chance of getting laid or they will make it home safe and sound with door to door service by a professional sober driver. Just make sure no one throws up inside the limo, please. Besides, if getting laid was the goal of going out, then hiring a limo will make you look real important to be a chick magnet! If you ran out of money because you spent too much on booze or drugs to not be able to afford a hotel room, then you can drop everyone else off and then get laid in back of the limo! HOT! This is as opposed to telling your date you need to get your car out of the tow pound after walking out of a club with you contemplating sex to see how far that will get you lucky in a bed if anywhere near one at all! Boy will she or he be really in the mood after you telling him or her you can't find your car!

So sorry to hear you were a victim of being disco towed DISCO TOW INFERNO, but my sympathy is cut short. In this case I'm not even going to bother to tell you how to beat the ticket like I did with HIJACK YOUR CAR. Very much like HIJACK YOUR CAR you brought your car into Manhattan probably or possibly for no good reason to rightfully have it towed. Therefore you probably deserved to have this adventure of “find the disappearing car” happen to you. I hope you learned your lesson to leave the car at home, especially if it is about going to an event that occurs on the island of Manhattan and you live elsewhere. Happy whenching!

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Friday, August 24, 2012


Some of my favorite cars ever made were “one offs,” cars that either were taken off the assembly line and redesigned to such a uniqueness that not another one was ever built or a car that was built from the ground up and an additional one was never made. Prototypes usually go through this but most of these kinds of cars are usually scrapped or if that unique, are placed in a museum. One-offs and prototypes both share a commonality in that even though not that many exist, they are usually trailblazers either in design cues for what the manufacturers have in store for us in the future if not for their historical contribution. One such car of significance was not just the 1961 Lincoln Continental, but the 1961 Lincoln Continental Presidential Parade Car dubbed as the “SS 100-X.” This was the car that was commissioned into US Secret Service duty during John F. Kennedy’s Administration as the president’s state car, and upon its debut as it became known as “the Kennedy Lincoln.” Unfortunately it also gained notorious fame as the car in which President Kennedy was murdered two years later in 1963.
At the North Portico of the White House, March 1961 as the USSS introduce to the White House Press Corps President Kennedy's new limousine, the 1961 Lincoln Continental Presidential Parade Car, dubbed by the USSS as the "SS 100-X." As much as I know about this car I never could find out why it was called the "100-X."
The 100-X standing by on the north side of the White House in one of its different bubble top glass configurations, as it had more than one type of roof before the assassination.
Just before Robert McNamara walked out the door as Ford’s CEO to become President-elect Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense, and just before Elwood Engel also left as design chief at Ford before heading to Chrysler, both in 1961, McNamara put Engel in charge of designing a car that would turn Ford’s fortunes around after successive years of failure. The Ford Edsel project of 1958 proved to be a disaster, and the late 1950’s Lincolns and Continentals were proving not to be the hotcakes compared to what Cadillac was spinning out just before Harley Earl was winding down his career as design chief over at GM. Looking back at automotive history, do you ever remember a 1959 Lincoln catching anyone’s eye as opposed to a 1959 Cadillac Fleetwood, fins and all? That was the problem facing Ford, and they needed a car that was going to be a trailblazer and a hot seller, so they gambled their money on Engel’s eventual iconic award winning design that initially had its sights on becoming a Ford Thunderbird. But by 1961 the Ford Division felt that the Thunderbird was becoming too big as it already was as it originally was supposed to compete with the Chevrolet Corvette, which by then Ford had given up as the ‘Vette competitor as the Chevy had already surpassed the T-bird to its own iconic status. The new Thunderbird was becoming a “personal sized luxury car,” but Engel’s design with an additional two doors was perhaps a bit too much, so the Ford Division rejected Engel’s flat angular squared-off design as a new Thunderbird. McNamara, the utilitarian he was whether it was about rockets, jets, tanks, or cars (one product for many divisions or service branches), wasn’t having it, so after spending all that money on product development he announced at an executive committee meeting just before he left Ford that somebody was going to manufacture and sell the car no matter what. Lincoln was left holding the bag, and the iconic 1961 Lincoln Continental was born. As a good measure just before he walked out the door at Ford to head for Washington, he called the Wixom assembly plant in Michigan to have a ’61 drop top unit pulled off the assembly line after completion and shipped to Ohio to be cut up, coached, and used as President Kennedy’s new state car. This is where the SS 100-X was born.
A stock 1961 Lincoln Continental.
The 100-X in its early days of service in one of its bubble top configurations.

The 100-X in its steel top confuration. None of these tops were bullet proof before the assassination. In fact they were done away with as per Warren Comission guidelines in lieu of a permanent hardened ballistic steel roof with the largest bullet proof glass panel currently in its present configuration at the Ford Museum. (See further below).
From taking a $7400 top of the line Lincoln convertible, Ford and the Secret Service shipped the car to Cincinnati Ohio to the coaching house of Hess and Eisenhardt who once specialized in creating and modifying automobiles into security vehicles to have the car heavily modified for presidential use, though initially the car wasn’t “hardened” or modified for ballistic protection. The $200,000 car was lengthened two feet longer, further reinforced to prevent convertible undercarriage body flex, and had a myriad of additional grab-handles and steps added for Secret Service agents to use while riding alongside the car. A hand assembled 430 cu. in. 350 horsepower V-8 engine was added. The most unique feature of the car was its assortment of different glass and stainless steel removable tops, all not bullet-proof, but that could be used in all sorts of processions and motorcades under varying weather conditions. The car was given a front grille refresh in 1962. One of the flaws of the design was that since the car was so large and long with all that glass overhead, the car would become a greenhouse in the sun or warm weather with its wimpy stock air-conditioning unit that only blew in the front of the car, suffocating passengers in the back, especially when the glass partition was up for private conversations. President Kennedy and his passengers would often complain about this problem for him to frequently insist when traveling to have the top down, as he did on that warm sunny day on November 22, 1963 in Dallas.
But as the Kennedy Administration chugged along though the early 60’s the SS 100-X became closely associated as Kennedy’s car. It went with him just about everywhere around the world, even to the Berlin Wall where he gave his famous “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” speech. The car was also loaded onto to a transport plane in late November 1963 for his political fence mending trip to meet Texas Democratic Party leaders with him and Vice President LBJ in Dallas and Forth Worth. One of the special features of the car that probably assisted the gunman in killing Kennedy was a hydraulic lift that was fitted into the rear seat of the car that when lifted made the back seat more visible as the car drove by. This combined with the back brace the president wore for his ailing back that gave him a stout posture, made him an easier target for a sniper.
You would think after President Kennedy’s assassination that a blood, brain, and skull-splattered car would be cleaned up, decommissioned, retired, and placed into a museum as an exhibit for the ages. That’s what they did to President Lincoln’s bedroom at Petersen House across the street from Ford’s Theater after he was assassinated at it is now enshrined forever. For some reason, Warren Commission and all, only the bullet riddled windshield of the 100-X made it to the National Archives and the car was unbelievably sent back to Hess and Eisenhardt for what was called “the Quick Fix.”  The car was rebuilt from the ground up and finally given titanium ballistic armored plating. This would be the last car a President of the United States would ever ride with an open roof, as using a state car like the old “Lincoln Sunshine Special” from the Roosevelt Days was finally over. They affixed what was at the time the largest piece of bulletproof glass anywhere in the world into a new steel roof that was permanently attached and hardened against attack. The gas tank was hardened to prevent puncture or explosion. The first run flat tires were added to a presidential car, probably any car anywhere in the world, as the rims were replaced with aluminum to keep the car running in case of a code black (attack on the motorcade) or code red (attack on the president). The president could now never roll down a window to talk to someone to instead use a PA system installed in the car to speak to the crowd with a microphone. Many new features that were added to the "Quick Fix" were progenitors to what is currently on President Obama's state car, a 2009 GMC Topkick heavy duty truck that has been specially modified to look like a 2009 Cadillac sedan, another "one-off" special security vehicle that is another one of my favorites. 
At GM's Hamtramck Plant in Michigan, their special vehicles division is able to convert a 2009 GMC Topkick Heavy Duty Truck (above) and make something special like the next two pictures below, a heavily armored car that looks like a late model Cadillac sedan. GM in fact makes no such car for production like President Obama's limousine, although it does look like a Cadillac.

Thanks to the 100-X many of its security features were inherited into President Obama's limousine, the 2009 Cadillac Presidential State Car, which is actually a heavy duty truck modified to look like a Cadillac. If you carefully look at the size of the tires compared to the Secret Service Agents, you can see that this is a huge car.

LBJ never liked the stock midnight blue the car came with from Wixom, it reminded him too much of JFK's identity to the car and was afraid the car would be dubbed “the JFK Assassination Car,” which is exactly what happened by the press when the car was returned to the White House Garage for service in early 1964. He ordered the car back to Hess and Eisenhardt to have it repainted Earl Scheib style (sans the door jams, trunk and hood wells) the standard funeral black, which remained the official presidential state car color ever since. The car was finally fully repainted after every presidential turn over of administrations to cover dents and dings until the car was decommissioned from Presidential service during the Carter Administration in 1977. Most importantly, the “Quick-Fix” also included a separate air-conditioning unit that was added in the trunk that would cool the back seat passengers. Too little, too late, but timing is everything. How prolific that Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter sat in the same car and seat that President Kennedy did when he was murdered, whether they realized it or not.
The SS 100-X on permanent display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI. The bullet proof glass panel over the rear passengers' heads and slopes down behind the back seat where the president would normally sit seen here (above) was once the largest piece in the world. It was also the heaviest at almost 1000 lbs.
If you notice in the above picture the rusted paint on the door in front of the side view mirror is the Wixom midnight blue that was the original color of the car that was never painted over. There is a growing chorus of history buffs that are calling for the car to be restored back to its original livery of 1961 when the car first entered service during the Kennedy Administration, just as the car looked when JFK was assassinated while sitting in this car.
Notice that after several years of a grille refresh the car stayed in its permanent livery of having a 1962 grille until its retirement in 1977. The Lincoln star crucifix on the hood was also removed as well, probably either as a precaution or from its many re-paintings.
After 50,000 ground and one million air miles of presidential service, the car remains for the ages on exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn as an iconic piece of history not just for its occupants, most notoriously its first one, but also as a showcase representative of what would become the quintessential styling cue of the Lincoln Continental brand, from the angular gait of the body and crucifix star hood ornament, to the spare tire on the outside of the trunk to the suicide doors, and all. As 2011 celebrated the 50th anniversary of the commissioning of the 100-X, this year in 2013 will somberly commemorate the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination while he was riding inside the 100-X. Besides the fact that the 100-X is a security vehicle which I identify with in my line of work in the security business, the Lincoln Continental convertible is one of my favorite cars and the SS 100-X is the best example of that genre of automobiles. As the commercials used to say, Cadillac might be “the standard for the world,” but a Lincoln is “what a luxury car should be,” especially when it comes to a "Kennedy Lincoln."
The "X" on the ground is the exact spot that was the JFK fatal head shot as he was driving by in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, November 22, 1963. One of the tours around Dealey Plaza features a replica of the SS 100-X that you see here that tourists can ride in to recreate the event.

--> EDITORS NOTE: In a previous version of this story I incorrectly stated there were two front grille refreshes done to the car when in fact there was only one. This wouldn't preclude any replacement grilles done when the car was repainted many times. When President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 there was a 1962 grille on the car. The present front grille on the car as displayed in the Ford Museum has a 1962 grille. Please pardon the confusion. Thank you to the Lincoln aficionados out there who caught the tech faux pax; you really know your Lincolns. -AC 9/22/2014

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012


DEAR SERGEANT AL: Can you tell us what’s the difference between no parking, no standing, and no stopping?  NO UNDERSTANDING ZONE.
DEAR NO UNDERSTANDING ZONE: The New York City Department of Transportation has a great guide to go by when it comes to the difference between parking, standing, and stopping. Many cities like New York are developing a ZERO TOLERANCE policy when it comes to parking regulations pertaining to occupied cars where they will come up to you and ticket you right away without waiting for an explanation. Be on the lookout for this kind of tactic particularly in cities and parts of towns where traffic is particularly heavy, and where there are lots of tourist attractions and landmarks, like Washington, DC. For understandable reasons law enforcement agencies like the Capitol Police and the US Parks Police DO NOT want people standing or stopping their cars near any structure or landmark on the National Mall. God forbid they catch you in your car standing on a curb next to things like the Lincoln Memorial. Without hesitation they will ticket you right there and then WITH NO WARNING.

Here is that guide from New York City:

Parking Sign Restrictions

No Stopping
No Standing
No Parking
Is waiting allowed?
Can I stop to load or unload a package, or merchandise at curbside?
Can I stop to drop off or pick up passengers?

Above all else NO UNDERSTANDING ZONE, remember that at a No Stopping zone YOU CANNOT DO ANYTHING INCLUDING STOPPING EXCEPT FOR A TRAFFIC LIGHT. SO when you see a sign stating NO STOPPING drive right on by. I hope this answers your question. Safe driving!

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