Gaze Upon the Quirkiest Electric Vehicle You’ve Ever Seen - Kanebridge News
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Gaze Upon the Quirkiest Electric Vehicle You’ve Ever Seen

By A.J. BAIME
Mon, Feb 19, 2024 8:50amGrey Clock 3 min

Richard Rieger II, 25, a nurse living in Brandon, Miss., on his electric 1969 Subaru 360, as told to A.J. Baime.

When I was in college, I worked at a place that bought, sold and consigned classic cars. I was a shop mechanic, and a Subaru 360 passed through. I fell in love with it, and, about a year later, one popped up for sale on Facebook. I paid $1,200 for it.

The 360 was the first Subaru imported into the U.S., in 1968. A guy named Malcolm Bricklin imported them. He later started his own car company that failed. [According to Subaru’s website, the 360 sold for $1,297, got 66.3 mpg and was marketed as “cheap and ugly.”] The car did not sell very well. My 360 was not in good shape at all. The motor was disassembled and missing pieces. The cylinders were rusted. The bottom half of the car was mostly rotted out.

At the time, I had just started working as a nurse. Covid was a rough time if you were a hospital worker. I did a lot of ICU work. This car became my Covid project, to get my mind off of work. A lot of it was done when I’d get home, between midnight and 3 a.m. In the summer heat of Mississippi, it’s a good time to work in the garage. It became a “can-I-do-it” project.

I spent about two years just on rust repair. I took the transmission apart. I was able to flush it out and clean it. The brakes were a project. They don’t make parts for this car, so all the parts had to be sourced from different cars and different model years.

For power, I took the electric motor and mounting plate out of a Taylor-Dunn truck. (If you don’t know what this is, you might remember one from the scene in “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” when he is riding this little truck and gets stuck in a hallway.) I used the control box out of an E-Z-GO golf cart. So now the 360 runs on electric power.

The goal was never about making an electric car, specifically. I was just trying to get it going with whatever I had lying around and stuff that people gave me. I had to get two sprockets custom made, by a company here in Jackson, Miss., called Motion Industries.

A lot of people in the Subaru community were helpful, through the 360 Facebook page. These cars are so rare these days, and the parts are so hard to find, people are just happy to see them not end up in the crusher. Especially one as bad off as this car was when I started out.

A lot of people also helped me right in my garage. My dad was an electrical engineer for many years, and he helped with the wiring and other stuff. My grandfather, a neighbour, my uncle all helped, too.

Along the way, we took the 360 to car shows, a lot of them locally around Jackson, and one as far off as Ardmore, Tenn. The first time we took it to a show, it had no brakes and we had to roll it up to the judging station with our feet hanging out the doors to make sure we could stop it. Every show we took it to, it had reached another stage, and some people really enjoyed seeing the progress.

I think the car could be street legal, but right now it’s not. Where I live, a lot of the roads are minimum 55 mph. This car has a top speed of about 30 mph. But I have invested so much time in it, and with the help of my friends and family, it means a lot to all of us.

Nowadays, you see Subarus everywhere. But you won’t see many 360s, and you won’t see any other Subaru like this one.



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BLACKSTONE’S PRIVATE-EQUITY RETURNS TRAIL THE S&P 500
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By Andrew Bary
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The S&P 500 index has been crushing private-equity returns in the past year, and Blackstone ’s second-quarter results illustrate that trend.

As part of its earnings release early Thursday Blackstone said its corporate private-equity returns in the year ending in June were 11.3%. That compares with a 24.5% total return for the S&P 500.

In the prior year ending in June 2023, the S&P 500 topped Blackstone with a 19.4% return against 9.7% for the firm’s corporate private-equity business, which has $145 billion of assets and remains one of its most important areas along with real estate.

Blackstone is the leading alternatives firm with over $1 trillion in assets under management and has the largest market value of any public investment firm at more than $160 billion.

Driven by Nvidia , Microsoft , Apple , Amazon and other big technology stocks, the S&P 500 has handily topped most asset classes in the past several years.

Another sign of more difficult times for private equity came earlier this week from Calpers, the $503 billion California pension fund, when it reported it s preliminary returns for its fiscal year ending in June . Calpers is one of the first major endowments or pension funds to report results for the June fiscal year. undefined The pension fund, a major player in private equity, said its private-equity investments gained 10.9% net of fees—although that figure is lagged one quarter. Calpers’ public-equity investments were up 17.5% in the year ended June—its strongest asset class. Private equity remains a favorite of many pension funds and leading university endowments like those of Harvard and Yale. Their view is that private equity can beat public-market returns over the long term.

But the private-equity business has gotten tougher in recent years due to keen competition for deals, higher interest rates and a less receptive IPO market, which has made exits tougher.

And private-equity portfolios of firms like Blackstone look nothing like the S&P 500, given their investments in small to midsize companies.

Blackstone, for instance, bought a majority stake in Emerson’s climate technologies business last year and more recently purchased Tropical Smoothie, a franchiser of fast-casual cafes. It also holds a stake in Bumble, the publicly traded online dating site, and it’s an investor in actress Reese Witherspoon’s media company, Hello Sunshine. Blackstone’s corporate private-equity business runs $145 billion and has 82 investments, according to the firm’s website.

Blackstone’s private-equity business has strong long-term returns including a gain of over 50% in the year ended in June 2021 when it handily topped the S&P 500 index.

But the S&P 500 index has become difficult to beat more recently and it’s dominated by some of the best companies in the world. It carries less risk than private equity, given the cash-rich balance sheets of its leading companies like Apple , Microsoft and Alphabet .

Private-equity firms, by contrast, often use considerable leverage to boost returns. Investors can get exposure to the S&P 500 through index funds that charge 0.1% or less in annual fees and with immediate liquidity.

A key risk with the S&P 500 is its vulnerability to a selloff in the leading tech firms that now make up over 40% of the index. The recent rotation into smaller companies illustrates that.

Blackstone shares gained 1.1% to $136.31 Thursday in the wake of its earnings news as investors focused on rising investment deployments and positive management comments on the firm’s outlook.

The firm’s nearly $40 billion of inflows and $34 billion of capital deployment during the second quarter marked “the highest level of investment activity in two years,” Chief Executive Officer Stephen Schwarzman said in a statement.

Citi analyst Christopher Allen wrote in a note to clients on Thursday that while Blackstone’s overall performance was mixed, the outlook appears to be improving given fund-raising and deployment trends.

Investors also were heartened by Blackstone President Jon Gray’s comments about a bottoming in commercial real estate and strong capital deployment in that area.

But ultimately, the game for Blackstone and its alternatives peers is about performance—particularly beating low-fee public investments like the S&P 500. That seems to be getting more difficult.