The Top 10 Questions of 2008

?Some years stand out in our minds, stamped into our memories by the dramatic events that unfolded during those 365 days. Maybe for you it’s 1929, the year of the momentous stock market crash that kicked off the Great Depression. Or 1969, when Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon. Or 1989

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, when the Berlin Wall finally came tumbling down.
The year 2008 may wind up burning just as brightly in our collective consciousness. We saw the United States elect Barack Obama, the country’s first black president. We witnessed the complete unraveling of the global financial markets

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, and we watched food prices climb so high that eating three meals a day became a luxury that many of us couldn’t afford. It was also the year in which words like “grassoline” seeped into the public lexicon and in which Google continued its bid for general world domination.
At HowStuffWorks, we’re never content to watch history happen. We’re bent on poking around for the reasons behind these big events. So stick with us as we answer the top 10 questions of 2008, and we’ll satisfy our curiosity together.
First up, vaccines and autism.

1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner

Clean, simple, and refreshingly gimmick-free, Ford’s big ones — like the 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner — were among the most pleasing of 1961 cars. They took a while to be fully appreciated, however — even the sun-loving ragtop.

Still part of the top-line Galaxie series, the ’61 Sunliner started at $2849. As in earlier years it had a standard V-8, now a 175-horsepower 292. Options included the veteran 352 with 220 bhp (shown here), plus a new 390 big-block with 300 bhp

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. Ford also sold a few triple two-barrel 390s with 375 or an amazing 401 bhp to leadfoots with big wallets and racing licenses. A dealer-installed four-on-the-floor manual trans-mission was new, too, but most big Fords had either two-speed Fordomatic or three-speed Cruise-O-Matic self-shifters.
Though total Ford sales fell slightly for ’61, the Sunliner virtually repeated its 1960 performance, attracting 44,614 orders

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For more classic convertibles of the 1960s and 1970s, see:
For more information on all kinds of cars, try these:

1930-1936 Rolls-Royce 20/25

The 1930-1936 Rolls-Royce 20/25 was the second-generation “small” Rolls-Royce — the direct replacement for the original “20.” Unlike the Phantom I, there was no Springfield equivalent built in the U.S

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As with all such prewar Rolls-Royces, it was offered only as a rolling chassis for coachbuilt bodywork, so a huge variety of styles still exists

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. Beautifully and carefully crafted, the 20/25 was surprisingly slow, even for the period — about 70 mph tops.
A synchromesh gearbox was added for 1932, and a complete centralized chassis lubrication for 1934. This Rolls-Royce was the British at their best, so no excuse needed to buy one.
Pluses of the 1930-1936 Rolls-Royce 20/25:
Minuses of the 1930-1936 Rolls-Royce 20/25:
Production of the 1930-1936 Rolls-Royce 20/25: 3,827
Specifications of the 1930-1936 Rolls-Royce 20/25: Wheelbase, inches: 129.0 Length, inches: average 180.0 Weight, pounds: approx. 3,800 Price, new: NA

Engines for the 1930-1936 Rolls-Royce 20/25:

* Not officially quoted Want more information about classic cars? See:

1970-1974 Plymouth Barracuda Coupes

These coupes were somewhat more numerous than the short-lived 1970-1971 Barracuda Convertibles, though not much in the case of the later performance-oriented ‘Cudas. All were hardtop models save a fixed-pillar price-leader that was tried to no good sales effect for 1971 only.
Base and sporty ‘Cuda versions were offered throughout, plus luxury Gran Coupe (with formal vinyl-covered roof, a twin to Challenger SE) for 1970-1972. A minor facelift occurred for ’71, after which styling was again lightly modified — then frozen.
Performance declined along with production, though not as much as horsepower numbers might imply, but big-block engines were canceled after ’71 in deference to rising insurance rates and a consequent waning in buyer interest.
Big-blocks command the highest values as collector cars, but most any V-8 example is a fine investment, indicated by asking prices that continue rising with fair speed.
Pluses of the 1970-1974 Plymouth Barracuda Coupes:
Minuses of the 1970-1974 Plymouth Barracuda Coupes:
Production of the 1970-1974 Plymouth Barracuda Coupes:
Specifications of the 1970-1974 Plymouth Barracuda Coupes: Wheelbase, inches: 108.0 Length, inches: 186.7 Weight, pounds: 2,905-3,235 Price, new: $2

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,764-3,252
Engines for the 1970-1974 Plymouth Barracuda Coupes:

Want more information about classic cars? See:

Freesia

Freesia (Freesia hybrida) flowers originally came from South Africa. While the season for this luxury flower is January through June, imported freesias are available all year.
The fragrant, single or double, funnel-shaped flowers grow on wiry stems. The more usual colors are white, cream, and yellow, but freesias also come in orange

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, pink, lavender, and purple. Buy them in full bud when the first flower is open. Avoid stems with empty calyxes.
To condition, cut off the ends of the stems with a sharp knife and keep them in water one-third to halfway up the stem. They will last from one to two weeks if they are kept cool and if the withered flowers are carefully removed. A single stem in a bud vase on a desk is a delightful inspiration.

1969 Chrysler Three Hundred

The creation of the 1969 Chrysler Three Hundred was due to the new “fuselage styled” models, which the Division proudly described in advertising as “Your Next Car.” Years before, Virgil Exner had pioneered the idea of combining the bumper and the grille on his XNR show car, in which the bumper surrounded the radiator opening and lights. But unlike the XNR, the bodylines on the new Chryslers were free of creases

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, wrinkles, tailfins, and asymmetrical humps, making them appear very smooth and sleek. It looked as though 1969 would be a very good year.
Classic Cars Image Gallery
At the corporate level, chairman Lynn Townsend was laboring to maintain the profit picture. On the production line, quality control became an end in itself for the first time in Chrysler history, and judging by road tests of mid-1960s models, it was truly needed. Production had been setting records (1968 was an all-time high at 263,266), but high volume was often achieved by compromising build quality.
The Chrysler 300 (non-letter) line of coupes, sedans, and convertibles had been introduced in 1962 to replace the Windsor, and capitalize on the sporting image of the “letter series” 300s. In market position, the 300 largely filled the gap left by the DeSoto, which breathed its last in 1961: an upmarket car just short of the New Yorker, square in the middle of the Chrysler range.
Since 1965 it had shared the New Yorker’s long, 124-inch wheelbase, but it was carefully positioned about $300-$400 short of the New Yorker’s price. For this

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, the buyer got a big engine (the reliable 440 from 1967), luxurious trim, and clean styling that traced its influence to the letter series. The 300 also featured the most expensive convertible in the volume line, since there had not been a New Yorker convertible since 1961.
Keep reading to learn about the styling and sales of the 1969 Chrysler Three Hundred.

Have automakers tried crossover vehicles in the past?

Crossover sport utility vehicles are among the hottest selling vehicles on the market today, and for good reason. They offer the ride height and roominess of a traditional SUV

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, and often have a better ride quality and superior fuel economy.
They’re called crossovers because they’re usually built on car (or car-like) platforms, not truck platforms — think of them as tall station wagons or hatchbacks. These attributes have proved very popular with buyers. Crossovers accounted for nearly a quarter of all vehicle sales in 2010 [source: Koba].
But while crossovers have become sales leaders fairly recently, the vehicles themselves aren’t an entirely novel idea. There’s no truly strict definition of a crossover, so many early two-wheel and four-wheel-drive wagons and SUVs can fit into that category. (For those who want to get technical, nearly all crossovers use unibody construction, while truck-based SUVs are built with body-on-frame construction.)
Arguably, the first crossover goes back to just after World War II when the company that would become Jeep, Willys-Overland Motors, released a vehicle called the Jeepster. The Jeepster was a two-wheel-drive convertible coupe that was designed to appeal to people who might be turned off by the utilitarian qualities of other Jeep vehicles. The car-like vehicle didn’t sell all that well, and was discontinued after three years [source: American Jeepster Club].
Another Jeep that could be considered a crossover was the tough and popular Jeep Wagoneer, which featured a station-wagon body atop a four-wheel-drive Jeep chassis. That car was made for almost 30 years.
Skipping ahead to the 1980s, we can find a more direct precursor to today’s crossover SUVs in the AMC Eagle. Imagine a typical 80s station wagon with huge tires and big ground clearance and you have the Eagle in a nutshell. But it also boasted all-wheel-drive, which allowed the wagon to go anywhere and handle just about any weather [source: AOL Autos]. However, the time just wasn’t right for those kinds of vehicles — yet.
It was the 1990s that made SUVs truly popular in America, with truck-based sport utilities like the Ford Explorer became big sellers. Car-based vehicles like the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V (both based on compact cars) paved the way for crossovers to become in demand. The Lexus RX300, one of the first luxury crossovers, proved to be a huge success as well.
As time moved forward and gas prices went skyward, the big, truck-based SUVs of the 1990s began to fall out of favor with buyers, many of whom had little use for their supposed off-road abilities but liked their cargo space and ride height. Now, it’s safe to say most SUVs in America are crossovers. Even the brand-new 2011 Ford Explorer, once a traditional SUV mainstay, rides on the same platform as the Ford Taurus sedan.
For more information about crossover SUVs, follow the links on the next page.

The duPont Registry

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For 32 years the duPont Registry has been the go-to magazine for specialty automobiles and a wide assortment of luxury items

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. Tune in to find out why this print magazine remains relevant more than three decades after its first issue.
Topics in this Podcast: classic cars
Print | Citation & Date

The Rolls-Royce Phantom: Part 1

RECENT PODCASTS
Team CarStuff and the Ohio Valley 700 (Part 1)
A Mystery Show: Autonomous Car Hackers
Nuts and Bolts – Team CarStuff
The Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company (Part 2)
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The duPont Registry
The Great Danbury State Fair Boat Races
Is Graham the ideal car crash survivor

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?
The Rise of Food Trucks
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DOWNLOAD EPISODE
SUBSCRIBE: ITUNES | GOOGLE PLAY
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How Steak Works

For the backyard chef and the experienced foodie alike, nothing means luxury like a fine steak, with melt-in-your-mouth tenderness and rich flavor.
Although “steak” can designate the meat of several different animals, in the U.S. it almost invariably means beefsteak. Steak comes in a variety of cuts and grades, and it also offers a surprising range of flavors and textures. Some of these qualities depend on preparation; others depend on how the cow was raised and when it was slaughtered.
Typically to make a steak

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, the meat is butchered in cross-section — the cut is perpendicular to the muscle fibers, or grain [source: Oklahoma State University]. The meat is marbled — that is, it contains a certain amount of fat. In many cases, marbling leads to tenderness and flavor [source: Chu]. There is some debate about the quality of marbling, as well as the relationship between marbling and the diet of the cow [source: Time].
For anyone who used to struggle with the spelling difference between “stake” and “steak,” it should come as a comfort to learn that the words are actually related. “Steak” comes from a root meaning “to roast on a stake” [source: Merriam-Webster]. That’s not the only way to cook a steak any more, but there’s still something a bit primal about a perfect cut of beef. We do tend to associate steak with cowboys and manly men, and indeed, the United States leads the world in beef consumption — just under 70 pounds (31.75 kg) per person, per year [source: Cattle Network]. By contrast, the figure is about 19 pounds (8.7 kg) in Japan — less than one-third as much [source: AsiaKan]!
In this article, we’ll look at the different varieties and cuts of steak on the market today. You’ll also learn some facts and opinions on the all-important topic of cooking steak. But first, let’s head over to the farm, for a look at how cattle-raising methods affect flavor

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