Posts By: Jack Baruth

By on March 16, 2017

Peril Chica checks out a Chevrolet SS, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

Today’s Ask Jack, just like the calls in those old teen horror movies, is coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE.

Hey Jack,

I’m a woman in her 30s with four cars — Chevrolet Tahoe Z71, Ford Fiesta ST, Chevrolet C5 Corvette with 421 rwhp and coilovers, as well as an MX-5 Cup race car. The Fiesta was a great car to get started in this automotive hobby but I’m no longer very excited by its performance on or off the racetrack. So I’m looking for a faster, more interesting, more capable car for those off-the-cuff track days where it’s too much hassle to trailer the Cup car or deal with the Corvette’s voracious appetite for tires and brakes.

I’ve been thinking about one of the last six-speed Chevrolet SS sedans. I can get one pretty easily for $38,000 against a sticker of $48,900. But I’ve also been thinking about a Civic Type R. It looks like they will be priced around $35k. I’d get similar performance, although delivered in a very different fashion. But which one is really faster around a track? Which one is more fun to drive? Less hassle to own? A smarter financial proposition? Also, would you mind getting all your BMX bike stuff off the dining room table? Three weeks ago you said you’d have that done by Sunday. Sincerely … the anonymous reader who wishes to be known as, um, “Peril Chica”.

Well, Peril Chica, I’m glad you asked this question! The answer is … Buy a lightly-used Snakeskin Viper ACR. What? You’re not happy with that answer? Alright. Let’s take a serious look at this, and then let’s get the readers involved.

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By on March 15, 2017

wagons

CJinSD, FRONT AND CENTER! Thank you. Today, you will be recognized for having a very well-polished crystal ball. You were able to see five years into the future with near-perfect accuracy. Time for you to accept your prize, which is a whole bunch of EXPOSURE! Don’t spend it all in one place.

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By on March 14, 2017

Former B-Body Bubble Lot, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

Nearly eight years ago, I sold my Caprice Classic Estate to a collector who claimed to have several dozen “bubble wagons”. Shortly afterwards, I spotted my purple-and-woodgrain Chevy in a storage lot; I called the lot Eclectic Bubbleland. This past weekend I drove by the lot for the first time in a year or two, on the way back from Sunday brunch. To my surprise, all the bubbles were gone. In fact, the place was nearly empty. Only a two-tone quad-lamp Eldorado remained.

Where have all the bubbles gone?

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By on March 10, 2017

Tree at Crash Site of Journalist Michael Hastings, Image: By Lord Jim (flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Three and a half years ago, I expressed some suspicion regarding the death of investigative journalist Michael Hastings. I didn’t have any inside information or unique knowledge on the subject; I just didn’t like the way the aftermath of the crash looked when evaluated in light of the “official” story that was being handed out at the time.

A lot of people thought I might have a point. Another, perhaps larger, lot of people thought I was crazy. Well, there’s now some information available to all of us, thanks to WikiLeaks, that might shed some additional light on the topic.

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By on March 9, 2017

1990 Infiniti Q45 Down On the Junkyard, Image: © Murilee Martin

It was a six-figure mistake that just boiled down to this: Steve wasn’t reading the book correctly. Now we were all going to pay.

I gunned my red-and-black ’86 Ninja 600 up the final hill on the road to the Infiniti dealer where I was the lowest salesman on the proverbial totem pole, briefly touching redline in third then clamping the soggy brakes down hard for the left turn into the back lot. It was a Saturday morning in the spring of 1994, and despite my best Tom-Cruise-in-Top Gun impression on the way there, I was already 10-minutes late for work. Normally this wouldn’t matter much; our sales staff tended to filter in by dribs and drabs between 8:00 a.m. and the sales meeting at 8:30, which rarely started on time anyway.

This Saturday was different. The general manager for our (pathetic little) dealership group was in town, and he’d demanded everybody arrive by 8:00 for an emergency meeting. I was going to be the last man into the basement conference room, which meant that I stood a good chance of going back home that morning without a job. The Ninja squeaked to an uneasy halt and dieseled for a petulant half-second after I killed the ignition. Struggling to get my shirt’s top button closed and my tie pulled up to match, I ran towards the door, hobbling a bit because the sole on my right shoe had worn through to the sock some time in the previous week. In every sense you could think of, I was on the bubble: flat broke, still below the monthly draw after 17 days, starting to develop the panicky tic that betrays the poor fellow who needs your business too much to excite anything but your contempt.

There was a general nervous titter as I burst through the door, breathing hard, and darted towards the only open seat in the room. It was empty because it was directly in front of the general manager. “As I was saying,” he spat, giving me a look that seemed to indicate that today was my last day in the near-luxury sales business, “you’ve all really screwed the pooch here. I’d like to fire every one of you. None of you would make it a week on a real car lot. But since God looks after fools and morons, you’re all getting another chance. And we’re gonna spend some real money to turn all of you losers … into winners.”

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By on March 7, 2017

Dodge Charger Seward Highway

“It should not be denied… that being footloose has always exhilarated us. It is associated in our minds with escape from history and oppression and law and irksome obligations, with absolute freedom, and the road has always led West.” —Wallace Stegner

Got an unusual question via email the other day. It comes from a young man who will be familiar to you but whom we will not explicitly identify. He was once a writer, once an editor, and now a financier, having achieved escape velocity from this ragged, scuttling business into the security and prestige of grown men’s endeavors. There was a time that he worked for me, and a time that I worked for him. It seems difficult to believe that we met eight full years ago.

Anyway, in the course of our various conversations, this Canadian fellow (we’ll call him “Bo”) happened to mention his upcoming travel plans and his need for some companionship along the way, preferably of the short-term, transaction-oriented variety.

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By on March 7, 2017

2001 Nissan Pathfinder, Image: Nissan

Every Friday, I ask you, the TTAC reader, a Question Of The Day. But at the same time, you’re asking us questions. Hundreds of them each and every day. Mostly it’s courtesy of Google Search, but it turns out that there are other minor-scale search engines out there for specialized users, such as DuckDuckGo, Northern Lights, AltaVista, and “Bing.”

After the jump, I’ll be answering some of your most interesting questions and soliciting additional answers from the B&B.

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By on March 3, 2017

Enjoy The Freedom of a Car Postcard, Image: "Free!" (CC BY 2.0) by Payton Chung

“One day in Maryland about four years ago, Carr was teaching his 16-year-old daughter how to drive when two police cars went rocketing by on the interstate, doing 80 in a 55 mph zone without lights on.” From that tiny seed — which, let’s face it, is planted about fifty thousand times a day on American roads — a great tree grew. Soldier and veteran Glen Carr now spends a significant portion of his time photographing illegally-parked police cars. It’s hard to think of a more quintessentially American thing: a man comes back from war and decides to fixate on some injustice, major or minor. It’s a story that in various forms has underpinned everything from Victorian novels to the movie Walking Tall.

What makes Carr’s jihad so engaging and admirable? Perhaps it’s the certain knowledge that he is doomed to fail. At best, he’s gonna get tired of documenting these quotidian injustices. At worst, some cop is going to shoot him dead when Carr pulls out his camera then claim he thought it was a gun. You can’t fight City Hall. Illegal vehicle operation by police officers isn’t going to stop any time soon. It might not stop until every cop car is fully autonomous. Maybe not even then. Does everybody remember the quote from Blade Runner? “If you’re not a cop, you’re little people!”

Meanwhile, for the little people in the UK, things are about to get significantly more strict.

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By on March 1, 2017

s62

Three months ago, I introduced you to my friend Edward, who was agonizing over the potential lease of a new BMW M3. Or a 440i. Or a 430i. It was all up for grabs. I suggested an alternative: the iconic pairing of Accord and Corvette, familiar to TTAC readers from my own garage. Horses for courses, I always say. But Edward was of a different mind. He didn’t want to wait until the weekends or the sunset evenings after work to enjoy himself. A few days ago, he brought his new car by to show off — and what a car it is.

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By on February 24, 2017

2015 Ford Mustang V6 shift paddle

You know how I know that things are getting pretty good in the automotive world? Because we’ve gone from a world where new cars lock their brakes and ignite their gas tanks and delaminate their tires with murderous yet monotonous regularity to a world where people get authentically upset when the fake stitching on their dashboard doesn’t look convincing enough. Our grandparents expected to have to grease their axles every thousand miles and rebuild their engines every 50,000, but we’ve turned into princesses whose posteriors are perfectly primed to detect the mere suggestion of a spherical inconsistency ten mattresses down.

I’m not just talking about the boss man here at TTAC being triggered by a wobbly hood release. I’ve been complaining about the paint and carpet in my Accord for three years now. Prior to that, I recall being very disappointed in the fact that one of my Phaetons only had the stamped-steel parallelogram trunk arms instead of the forged Campagnolo pieces that my other car had. It kept me up at night. I didn’t like opening my trunk in any sort of elevated company.

Of course, we’re not so quick to complain about getting 270 horsepower in the Accord that used to come with 110, or the five LCD screens that replaced plain mechanical gauges, or the vastly better NVH isolation. We want Rolls-Royce interiors and W126 mechanicals at Kia Rio price points. That’s because we now live in a consumer culture where we define ourselves by what we consume, not by what we produce. And it’s also because we’re kind of stupid about how the automotive sausage is made.

The truth of the matter is that all modern automakers skimp. They skimp all over the place, on all sorts of things, and they hope to heaven that you either don’t notice or don’t care. This is true whether we’re talking about the Chevy Sonic or the Bentley Mulsanne. You just have to pick and choose where you’re willing to have the skimping take place. Which reminds me of a great story about the 1996 Taurus …

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By on February 23, 2017

Jiffy Lube in Durham, Image: By Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Last year, I told you that your quick-lube place was probably snitching on you to your insurance company — and to Carfax. Did you make any changes in the way you have your car serviced because of that? I’m thinking that you did not, because you probably have nothing to hide. A surprising number of the commenters on that article were on the side of the insurance companies and Carfax, and their rationale was generally some variant on “I’m not going to commit insurance fraud, nor will I commit odometer fraud, so why should I care if my car’s mileage is in a database somewhere?”

Earlier this week, Scott Adams learned the hard way what you, the TTAC reader, already know about the relationship between small auto business and Big Data. For him, however, the lesson might come at a major cost. Because this time, the data was wrong.

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By on February 22, 2017

It’s been about seven months since I ran out of warranty in my 2014 Accord EX-L V6 6MT. We’re now just a touch over 45,500 miles at the third anniversary of purchase, and I’ll confess I’m starting to get a little itchy about the idea of keeping a new car for this long. Only four […]

By on February 21, 2017

When Mercedes-Benz brought the W201 platform here as the somewhat oddly named 190E 2.3, it was immediately nicknamed the “baby Benz.” The successor to that car, yclept “C-Class” to fit precisely within Daimler-Benz’s new idiot-compatible nomenclature, became known as the “Cheap-Class” at Mercedes-Benz dealerships. The car you see above, piloted by Danger Girl at Sebring […]

By on February 17, 2017

Mitsubishi Eclipse

Five and a half years ago, I took a rented Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder on an impromptu tour of Los Angeles with one of the coolest girls I ever dated. But not even my extreme sentimentality regarding the lady in question and the nights we spent together could make me overlook the nontrivial flaws that utterly spoiled the final-generation descendant of the original Disposable Speed Machine.

It was not a good car, to put it mildly.

Yet if I’d known that the Eclipse name would one day be attached to YAFC (Yet Another Fucking Crossover) I imagine that I would have cherished that poky little droptop just a bit more than I did. This is particularly true considering the fact that the original Eclipse was a genuinely thrilling and important automobile. It was a turbocharged all-wheel-drive sports coupe with big power, wicked handling, a sleek shape, and a sensible price tag — and it hit the dealerships back when most family sedans had 130 horses and beam rear axles. I’d like to respect that, for just a moment. I’d like to remind everybody that the Eclipse was once something special.

Which leads us to today’s question(s):

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By on February 15, 2017

audiad

You might not have heard about it, but Audi ran a rather controversial advertisement during the Super Bowl a couple of weeks ago. If the Lords Of The Four Rings wanted to get people talking, they certainly succeeded, although not all the reaction was positive. Right-wing websites screeched that the ad was a “SJW hugbox” or a “feminist fantasy.” At the same time, the decidedly lefty Twitter hive mind was attempting to crucify Audi for offering a weasel-word response to queries about its own compensation policies for women. One rather suspects that the company did not forecast this kind of bipartisan draw-and-quarter when they were laying out their goals for their $10M Super Bowl spend.

My brief analysis of the ad spot was remarkably popular and it was linked out from all over the Internet. It was also very far from the only think piece generated by Audi’s gorgeous but problematic mini-film. The day after the Super Bowl, you could go anywhere from “Arf-com” to the “Last Psychiatrist” sub-Reddit to find a vigorous discussion on the merits of the ad. You’d be hard-pressed at this point to find someone who didn’t have at least a casual opinion on the subject.

With that said, I can give you a few names of some people who clearly didn’t see Audi’s paean to empowered, independent young women who are worth just as much as their male counterparts in the only scale that has ever mattered — cold, hard cash, naturally. These people, rather surprisingly, appear to work for Audi Atlanta’s promotional team.

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