Posts By: Jonny Lieberman

By on December 15, 2008

As a number of you saw, I drove and review the 2010 Ford Mustang GT. I really liked it. Good car, etc. Naturally, of course, I expected TTAC’s so called “Best and Brightest” to discuss the finer points of my review. After all, Ford has sold nine million Mustangs and I just called the new one the best ever. This after they put me up in a fancy-schmantz hotel and fed me great food and free booze. More scandalously, the new for 2010 Mustang still sports a (gasp) live rear end. And I loved it. Glowing review, etc. But, instead of focusing on the latest pony car from my friends at the Blue Oval, the conversation degenerated into, “My Crown Vic can out tow your Camry.” No, really — that’s what people were talking about. And you know, if that’s what the people want, that’s what we’re going to give ’em. In the blue corner, hailing from Georgetown, Kentucky and weighing in at 3,280 lbs, the sleeper from the far east, the barbiturate to my Viagra, sexless on wheels, Toyota Camry! And in the red corner, a car so great it’s no longer sold to the public (unless you live in Kuwait), featuring both Watt’s linkage and a four-speed automatic, the car that’s older than some of our readers, Ford Crown Vic! Let’s make this a fair fight. And then let’s never speak of either car again.

By on December 13, 2008

It’s easy to have mixed feelings about the 2005-2009 Mustang GT. It’s handsome, for the money you paid you got pretty good V8 power and it was fast enough. Where the (suddenly) last-gen Mustang falls down is the lowest bidder interior, questionable handling and non-track day brakes. “Listen baby I had a great time, but don’t lose any sleep sitting by the phone.” But hey, Ford’s prepped a (kinda) all new steed for 2010 and you can bet Mullally’s golden ‘chute that Mustang engineers have been hard at work addressing the above issues. Well, except for the brakes.

By on December 8, 2008

Sequels are tricky. With few exceptions they are worse than the originals. Empire Strikes Back and Godfather II are the only examples I can think of where the follow up exceeds the original. Rumor has it that Weekend at Bernie’s II is better than the first film, but I couldn’t tell you. And sometimes you have a part deux that misses the point. Like Terminator II. You know the one where the 12-year-old boy tells the ruthless cyborg from the future not to kill anyone. Hey look, as movie T2 is perfectly pleasant (though it does feature George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone”), but it’s nowhere as lean, mean, terrifying or fascinating as the original. I think you know where this is going.

By on November 14, 2008

You ever to try to find a good hamburger? It’s not so easy. Garbage fast food is all around us. And sure; if you want a good steak you just wander into any number of fancy-pants restaurants and pay (through the nose) for a juicy bone-in rib eye. But a juicy burger you actually enjoy eating? Not so much. Switching to an automotive metaphor, all many people want is simple, basic transportation. But like a good burger, have you looked? There’s a whole gaggle of nicotine-stained grifters eager to sell you a Ford Focus. And even more well-coifed grifters are hungry to show you the joys of entry level luxury. But what if you only want a good small car? Friends, let me tell you about the Volvo C30.

By on November 11, 2008

Think you got it rough?  Well, what if you built a sleek, energy efficient 181,000 square foot corporate headquarters for $68m and seven years later you had to lease it to Taco Bell for ten years? More specifically FoMoCo leased their former Premier Automotive Group (PAG) headquarters to Yum Brands, Inc., of Louisville, Ky. Yum was spun off from PepsiCo in 1997 and currently operates over 35,000 Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, A&W and Long John Silver “restaurants.” Annual revenues are more than $10 billion and their stock is trading at $25.87 per share. Meanwhile, Ford sold Aston Martin to some Kuwaiti investors, Jaguar and Land Rover went to Tata (in India) and is moving Volvo to… New Jersey! Meanwhile a share of Ford stock is worth $1.80 — still somehow cheaper than a gallon of gas. Ford still has about 125 employees in Irvine, California (including the guy that gives us Mustangs) and they’re being relocated next door to Ford’s 90,000 square-foot product development center. The sad news for car guys is that ever since Crystal Cove moved away from Newport Beach, it has taken place every Saturday morning in PAG’s parking lot. No word on whether or not Taco Bell will allow the tradition to continue. Man, the car biz is rough.

By on November 11, 2008

Tesla Motors recently closed it’s Michigan research facility and fired about a quarter of its workforce. The Silicon Valley start-up might be totally broke and searching for Uncle Sam’s teat, too. Let me rephrase that– they may not have enough cash to remain viable AND they’re looking for a federal bailout/hand out. As you also know (maybe, if you care), Henrik Fisker is set to build a hybrid luxury automobile called the Karma. [ED: not a hybrid between a Mercedes SL/BMW and an Aston, as previous.]  Tesla hired Fisker to design their WhiteElephant sedan, After the two decided to part company, Tesla sued Fisker for stealing trade secrets (as if). Fisker won the suit via binding arbitration. They savored the judge’s Tesla tongue-lashing, pocketed a nice chunk of cash for their troubles and publicized the Hell out of the outcome. Long story short, Tesla and Fisker hate each others’ start-up guts. And now Fisker’s announced it’s opening a 34,000-square-foot facility in Pontiac Michigan, good for about 200 employees, where Fisker is planning on building it’s gorgeous four-door Karma hybrid. Fisker says it will offer the Karma in the fourth quarter of 2009. Meanwhile Tesla’s still struggling to produce enough Roadsters to fulfil customers’ deposits. That’s gotta hurt.

By on November 10, 2008

The year was 1948 and well, Tucker happened. There are many sides to Preston Tucker’s story. One is essentially what Francis Ford Coppola portrayed in his biopic, Tucker: The Man and his Dream, where a man with a better idea is prevented from fairly competing by the two-headed serpent of Washington and big business. The flip side is that Mr. Tucker was a scam artist that conned would-be stock holders out of $15m by selling them accessories for a product that didn’t exist. He was indicted for fraud, you know. But what really sank Tucker? Ironically, it was the “Tuckermatic” transmission. Most likely because of his racing background, Preston Tucker stuck a helicopter engine in the back of the Tucker Torpedo. Initially air-cooled, the flat-six produced a whopping 372 lb-ft of torque. Enough torque to rip the guts out of most transmissions in 1948. Tucker decided to address the problem with his Tuckermatic, a slushbox that sported only 27 moving parts– 90 less than conventional cog swappers. Only he never bothered to put a reverse gear in the prototype tranny. The press not only had a field day writing about “the car that couldn’t backup.” The Tucker brand lost much of its luster. Sure, he eventually threw a Cord automatic into his Torpedo. But the damage was done. Despite building 51 prototypes, many alleged that P. Tucker either never intended to mass produce the cars or that he was in so deep with on the development end of things he never got around to buying the necessary machines and tools to fire-up an assembly line. Any of this sound, well, shockingly similar to what’s going on at Tesla? While the details are obviously different (Washington and Detroit getting anything accomplished? Ha ha ha ha ha) the large strokes are, well… Promise one transmission, deliver another that prevents the car from achieving its advertised performance potential. Claim that development mules are actually production cars. Collect large amounts of money from investors only to play fast and loose with the books. Tucker and his six co-defendants were eventually cleared of any and all wrong doing, but the damage (and Tucker) was done. How far behind is Tesla?

By on October 31, 2008

I know Farago’s answer, but hear me out. As I mentioned when I reviewed the Bullitt, I’ve driven many Mustangs. And do you want to know the truth? The fact they all have live axles… really doesn’t make any difference. Like, let’s get real here. None. As far as I can tell, the only time you can tell from the driver’s seat the new Mustang is without IRS is when you hit a bump going around a corner. “Dude!” I hear you yelling, “You’re admitting that bumps upset the live axle!” No, not really. I’m simply saying that live axles feel different from IRS. The car doesn’t explode. But what about dangerous? Naw. I mean do you see Mustang FR500Cs killing their drivers any faster than the BMW Z4s, Lotus Exiges, Aston martin V8s or Porsche Caymans it competes with in GT4? Right, you don’t. “But, but, but!” I hear you stammering. “Those ‘Stangs are highly tuned. Regular Mustangs aren’t.” Says who? Here’s what I’m saying after driving an awful lot of Mustangs. Knocking on live axles is just another anti-American car Jeremy Clarksonism. What’s next, knocking the Z06 because it sports traverse leaf springs? Oh wait– he did that, didn’t he? What say you?

By on October 31, 2008

Oh noes! According to an unnamed source referred to by Valleywag as “the Tesla insider,” the Silicon Valley electric car maker only has $9m in the bank. And that’s it. Well OK– there’s a bit more. This “insider” (Gawker just loves insiders) is a friend of blogger Owen Thomas and a “longtime employee” (define “longtime” for Tesla.) Problem? They’ve taken “multiple tens of millions” from depositors. And (apparently) spent it. And the “insider” is saying Tesla may just keep the remaining cash and not deliver any more Roadsters. I’ve been standing on the sidelines of this particular Death Watch series (strangely and flatteringly, Valleywag tagged their story “Deathwatch”) because a dear friend of mine works at Tesla. Did I say “works?” I meant worked, as in he got “broomed” the other week when Tesla made with the massive layoffs. Bad move on my part, as it looks like Tesla and friendship just don’t mix. Don’t trust me? Trust the insider, “I actually talked a close friend of mine into putting down $60k for a Tesla Roadster. I cannot conscientiously be a bystander anymore and allow my company to deceive the public and defraud our dear customers. Our customers and the general public are the reason Tesla is so loved. The fact that they are being lied to is just wrong.” Oops! And agreed. Lying is wrong.

By on October 28, 2008

One of the best hands in No Limit Texas Hold-em: pocket kings. Cowboys. It’s a real monster. However, it’s quite vulnerable to middling hands such as Ace-Six offsuit. So the thing to do is to raise– and raise big. That way, you charge your opponents to see a flop. However, if you raise big every time you have a good starting hand, your tactic will become quite obvious to everyone seated at your table. They’ll just fold because a large raise from you means aces or kings. Not a very profitable habit, long term. How to combat this? Variance. While two kings are vulnerable, they aren’t that vulnerable. Maybe 20 percent of the time you want to just check your monster and limp in. Here’s the problem: how do you know when 20 percent of the time is? Solution: a watch with a sweeping second hand. Huh? Jump.

(Read More…)

By on October 27, 2008

As you may (maybe) know, SEMA is right around the corner. As in next week (whoever scheduled it for November 4 needs their head examined). And what is SEMA you may be asking? Well, no one even remembers what “SEMA” stands for, but the show has come to represent all that’s wonderful and/or dreadful in the simply humongous after market, er, market. More than too many four-door cars with scissor doors, too. And SEMA is big. No, bigger than big. It’s quite gigantic and most of the major OEMs (from Dodge to Hyundai to Daimler) will have radically customized cars on display next to radically customized bikini models. And this fact got me thinking — who is doing all this customizing? Admittedly, my last WRX may have had a mod or two (or ten). But I was a much younger man back then. And not getting press cars all the time. My new WRX? Bone stock save for some fancy pants tires. Might I mod it? Dunno. As I age, I worry about reliability. And more boost sounds… expensive, in the long run. But dear readers, what about you?

Crazy gallery of modded Russian cars!

By on October 24, 2008

Earlier, Farago was repeating on the report that GM may (maybe) delay or cancel the new Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac CTS Coupe. Never mind the fact that “LaCrosse” means to masturbate in French Canada. Dear Leader ends the post with, “and who the Hell would buy a CTS coupe anyway?” When i read the query, it seemed odd. I like the CTS, as it possesses the best face of any American car since Cord went out of business. How to make it better? Well, you can either drop in a 556 hp supercharged V8, or cut off some of the doors. Oh, you can add another door, too (Caddywagon!). Yeah, so, an insanely good looking Caddy with two doors– who the hell wouldn’t buy it? And then I checked the comments and everyone agreed with me. To quote gamper, “CTS coupe = flippin beautiful.” Hear hear (here)! Right?

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