As it struggles to find its way through bankruptcy, Chrysler Corp. has announced its most recent cut back. The automaker is eliminating turn signals from its vehicles. In a written statement, a Chrysler spokesperson said that with turn signal usage falling below 10 percent, slicing the cost from each car (estimated at $22) would save the Fiat division over $44 million a production year (based on sales of over two million cars in 2007). “Our studies of vehicle equipment usage found that sixty-five percent of drivers were unaware that their cars actually had a turn signal device,” the press release revealed. “Of the thirty-five percent that were aware of the devices, only half even knew how to use them.” To counter safety advocates’ criticism of the equipment deletion, and bolster its case for a NHTSA waiver, Chrysler released the results of a driver survey.
Posts By: Michael Posner
The 1960s was the golden age for convertibles: Lotus Elans, MG Midgets, Austin Healey Sprites, Triumph TR6s, Chevy Corvettes and others. By the mid-70s, market forces, safety regulations and horrific build quality conspired to kill the open seat convertible. Ten years later, when large convertibles started to make a comeback. In 1989, Mazda’s California design team issued forth an Elan-evoking drop-top– without the leaky oil and the wonky electrics. In the next ten years, Mazda sold nearly 500k Miatas. To celebrate the model’s tenth anniversary, Mazda created a special Anniversary Edition (10AM) model based on the then-new second generation car (codenamed NB).
The full-page ad copy shouted, “I will boost your horsepower & torque.” Whoa! With claims like that, I felt personally challenged to test the Shark Injector. It’s an OBD-II connector that overwrites a part of the BMWs DME (BMW speak for electronic control unit or ECU) with its own internal Conforti software to deliver claimed results. So I installed the Shark Injector on a BMW 325i, one of the many six-cylinder BMWs supported by the Shark (includes all sixes in the 3, 5 and Z series BMWs through 2005, plus the M3 and X5 3.0). Or should I say I set about installing the Shark injector…
When my esteemed editor suggested I review the RallyCam, I envisioned a simple one camera with a small recording device. Instead. the edgecameras.com people sent me their RallyCam 3000, a three-camera system with a sophisticated control unit integrated with a multi-use video recording device. The devices came packed tightly in their container. I was quickly overwhelmed by cables, clamps, remotes and plastic bags. The numerous instruction sheets were not very helpful. But TTAC’s Best and Brightest are persistent bastards, as are their legally-trained representatives. So away we go…
Ten years ago, my local electric company invited me to participate in a two-week test of the then-new General Motors EV-1 electric car. After some detailed vetting, including a ten page questionnaire and a long focus group (with the de rigueur one-way mirror), I was selected to receive an electric-powered GM two-seater. For those of you who wonder who killed the electric car, it was me.
Given half a chance, most car guys would spend big bucks pimping their wheels. Needless to say, their better half ain’t buying it. So neither are they. While aerodynamic addenda and wikkid wheels are [ultimately] a less costly ego enhancement than regular spa treatments, all car mods tend to appear fairly low on the list of financial priorities known as the family budget. But guys, it’s time to go to the mat. Literally.
If you’re a pistonhead, you have people. You know, Nick the mechanic or Joe the dyno. I got a tire guy: Ernie Bello. Bello tires is a performance car hangout, with all the right equipment for mondo mods and a lounge, decorated with a map of the Nürburgring, stocked with car mags, ice cream and kick-ass Cuban coffee. When my sports car needed new tires I clicked on Tire Rack for price and advice. I then went to Ernie. Hey Ernie! Whaddayathinkin here?
Inexpensive products that promise significant improvements to your car’s performance are almost always fool’s gold. This is especially true for engine additives (*cough* STP *cough*). However, there’s one company with a sterling reputation for delivering on its promises: Redline Synthetic. Since 1979, the Benicia, California company has been selling coolants, fuel additives and lubricants to the automotive, motorcycle, marine and industrial markets. As part of their range, Redline offer a product called WaterWetter®. They claim their potion can reduce car coolant temperatures by as much as 30ºF. That’s hot! I mean, not.
I learned to drive in Philly in the winter. Although we were always warned to watch out for the dreaded black ice, the roads where I lived were plowed, salted and gently hilled. So there was little winter drama. The only slip sliding away in my ‘hood: Paul Simon’s doleful tune and the snow-covered mall parking lot where we went for late-night donuts. Flash forward to the winter of ‘07: a family vacation to the mountains of North Carolina in our rear drive Cadillac SRX. Before embarking, I glimpsed a warning on our cabin rental website: “four wheel-drive is a must.” Ch-ch-chains. Chains for fools. Or not.
Looking at last year’s Black Friday ads made it clear that a portable GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) satellite navigation device was the season’s most popular loss leader. Even department stores like Macys were offering a GPS device on the cheap. This strategy continues; last week our local Walgreen’s had a Nextar GPS device at the front counter for under $200, right there next to mints and quit smoking gum. I wanted to see if a cheap GPS unit could compete with the big boys. So I contacted Nextar, and they provided us with a Snap3.
I know it's not PC to say so, but I hate a lot of things. For example, I hate people walking around with those stupid cell phone earpieces looking like Lt. Uhura from Star Trek. They wear them like some sort of fashion jewelry, even when they're not asking John to phone Sally to tell Jorge he needs to phone Mary. For my sake, they should put their headsets away when not in use. Meanwhile, to find out what these people see in these devices and whether they have any practical use, I tested the suddenly very cheap Motorola HS820, a small Bluetooth, wireless headset.
Like most middle aged men, I had a car crisis. So, after convincing my wife that an Imola Red BMW M Roadster isn’t “chick magnet red,” I bought my dream car. Of course, the dream is never the reality. I rarely drove the M. Summers were too wet and hot (real men don’t drive a convertible with the top up and the a/c on). Fall was too wet. Ah, winter in Florida! It’s the best ‘vert weather but… I just got a new daily driver. So Emily became a garage queen. And died.
Go into any parts store and you’ll see rows of products that claim to clean wheels. Just spray and rinse! After buying, spraying and rinsing, you end-up with half clean wheels that beg you to take out the scrub brush and clean them the old fashioned way. And here’s the really horrible bit: OCD pistonheads keep after the cleanliness is next to godliness spray ‘n wash wheel cleaning Holy Grail until their garages are littered– OK, carefully arranged with half empty bottles of wheel cleaner. So, is there a genuine no-brush wheel cleaning solution?
Say the name Hartge or Alpina to a BMW fan and you’ll get instant nods of understanding and respect. While Dinan doesn’t get the pistonhead props afforded these German uber-tuners, they’re rightfully considered America’s foremost BMW tuner. Steve Dinan’s mob has been modifying BMW cars since 1979. His Morgan Hill California-based company offers upgrades for Bimmer engines, suspensions, brakes and wheels. Like the Germans, Dinan also sells “Signature Vehicles” and creates special Factory Works programs. We concern ourselves here with an ECU upgrade and a cold air intake.
Three pedals for two feet. A wheel and a shift knob for two hands– that are supposed to be on the helm at all times. The manual transmission doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, does it? Never mind. For its increasingly marginalized adherents, the manual transmission makes driving a pleasure. Unfortunately, carmakers are deleting the manual option from many U.S.-spec cars. As you’d expect from “ultimate driving machine” fabricators, BMW offers a manual in all of its vehicles save the 7-Series, including the once SMG-only M5s and M6s. These manual-equipped Bimmers sport ZF-sourced six-speed transmissions crowned by a leather shift knob.