Posts By: Mike Solowiow

By on January 27, 2009

My hypermiling techniques failed; my overall average dipped to 43mpg over the leg from Gallup, New Mexico into Las Vegas, Nevada. However, despite my overall drop in economy, fate conspired against me (I’m a victim of coicomstance! Nyaaaaaaaaa). Strong head winds, snow, traffic, fast food, blown tires and deer; they all conspired against my pursuit of incredible fuel economy. Despite today’s trials, the dirty Jetta TDI Eco-Racer caused quite a stir as it limped into the valet lane at the Bellagio Hotel, more likely due to the strangeness of a magnet laden Volkswagen rather than outright coolness.
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By on January 26, 2009

When the aircraft touched down in Oklahoma after a 36 hour journey from Abu Dhabi, my entire unit clapped in elation. We couldn’t stop smiling as we deplaned the plane, and my Commander shook my hand and say, “Welcome back, thanks for all you did, and don’t do anything stupid on your vacation.” So what better to do to celebrate my return to the greatest nation on the Earth, than create a race!

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By on January 22, 2009

Our illustrious Editor-in-Chief predicts the death of the manual transmission. The “stick-shift is toast,” Farago says, in his own special way. I disagree. If you want to go fast, get a paddle shift automated manual, a la Nissan GT-R. Time and again, the little levers have proven to be the fastest way to get around a track. Want easy breezy beautiful Orange County commuting? Get a traditional automatic. But if you want to maximize the man machine interface, nothing beats a manual. Three pedals can enliven the most leaden of automobiles. To wit: the Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport.

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By on January 12, 2009

Seven days and I’ll be back in the United States, having bid my farewell to the Middle East (but knowing I will return). As the countdown commences, I eagerly anticipate driving something without a Toyota badge on it, and possibly buying something interesting with all the money I have saved eating government food (and some sand). These past many months I have pored over eBay, Autotrader, and (German used car site, check it out, forbidden gems!). After looking at the multitudes of steel out there, I wondered something… what could I get that would have oodles of character, the shades of a future classic, and not cost too much. So I present, Seven Future Classics for the Depressed Economy:

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By on January 9, 2009

60 Minutes nearly killed Audi in North America. After “Unintended Acceleration in the Audi 5000” aired in 1986, Audi sales dropped from 74k sales a year in 1986 to less than 12k by 1991. Sales remained constant until 1996, when Audi debuted a car that would finally tackle the BMW 3-series and the Mercedes C-Class […]

By on December 16, 2008

I stood there with a look on my face as if I had been bitch-slapped by a Charlie’s Angel. What was this glorious ode to a time when spandex was the cutting edge of fashion and posters of Xanadu were still on theatre walls? I couldn’t get over the swoopy Mustang II knock-off lines, the flared nostril quad headlights, and the paint; the glorious, sparkling gold paint that arced through the black body, complete with matching gold rims. I had stumbled upon something most people have forgotten, a 1977 Buick Nighthawk, a special edition Skyhawk, parked beside Route 66, begging for someone to take her home.

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By on December 15, 2008

Who really debuted the first ever mini-van? The title remains hotly contested, between Renault’s Espace, and ChryCo’s Caravan/Voyager twins (not to mention the VW Microbus). But to North Americans and Europeans, that’s a moot point; both were first in their respective markets. The 1984 off-spring of Lee Iacocca came from Chrysler’s S-Platform, a stretched version of the K-Car chassis. (Yes, the very chassis that saved the Pentastar brand with its first-ever federal bailout.) By rejecting the normal rear wheel-drive layout of the time, the Voyager came off as a modern marvel. It boasted a transverse-front wheel-drive layout, flexible seating, good fuel economy, a smooth ride and car-like handling– something that took the other two Detroiters several years to figure out.

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By on December 14, 2008

Next time you’re driving, look around. Provided you’re one of TTAC’s North American readers, chances are you’ll see at least one third-gen Accord humming along happily– despite its tatty cosmetic condition. The late ’80’s Accords showcased perhaps the finest demonstration of Japanese manufacturing capability; Honda crafted a sedan rivaling the legendary Toyota Hilux’s affinity for destruction-resistance.

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By on December 13, 2008

According to Dubai’s Radio One, the credit crunch has dealt a serious blow to the venerated extravaganza of excess known as the Abu Dhabi Motor Show. Several major manufacturers have pulled out of the venue due to start on the seventeenth of this month, citing diminishing returns for the capital invested in the displays. BMW, Porsche (which just pulled out of the Canadian show as well) and the VW Group (most notably Audi and Skoda) all cut bait. Who’d a thunk it? The Cayennes, X5s and Q7s blasting down Dubai’s dusty but extremely smooth highways almost outnumber Nissan Tiidas and Toyota Corollas. General Motors, on the other hand, has upped their square footage to dominate the Exhibition Hall in downtown Abu Dhabi. They’ve also setup a test drive program (as long as you have a driver’s license, are 21 and don’t look dubious). GM offers easy financing: “0-new car in 60 Minutes.” As many of the potential customers of the various GM models in the UAE are ex-patriots, or imported slave labor with limited UAE credit, this prearranged financing should prove very successful. Manufacturers  certain to display their wares: Lamborghini, Bentley, Rolls Royce, Ferrari, Aston Martin and Shelby, with the fastest production car in the world, the Ultimate Aero.

By on December 5, 2008

Dubai gas prices might reach parity with Oklahoma City prices in the near future, as the Emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi contemplate raising their standard prices from 6.2dhs per Imperial Gallon (or $1.38 per US Gallon). The rising gas prices only hint at the start of problems from plummeting oil prices in the UAE as ADNOC (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company) and ENOC (Emirates National Oil Company) have started to prohibit cars bearing plates from other Emirates from using their filling stations, as they are the cheapest areas in the UAE. Residents of Sharjah have created the greatest outcry thus far as they complain they are all citizens of the UAE, not one particular emirate, and should have equal filling opportunities no matter where they are. Other victims of the oil crash: the massive building sprees Dubai and Abu Dhabi went on trying to create a tourist destination paradise from a gravel parking lot covered in sand dunes.

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By on November 28, 2008

What the heck’s an Innova? While the Toyota website and Wikipedia give no hint to what the word actually means, I suspect it was supposed to evoke the feeling of being innovative, exciting, something new and vogue. Well, so was the Oldsmobile Achieva. And just like the Achieva, no amount of marketing and media shots of active couples rampaging around the country side will convince me the Toyota Innova is anything more than a marketing focus group’s bastard child. Then I found out that the platform and mechanical bits are donated from Toyota’s legendary Hilux pickup truck. Now we might be on to something.

By on November 27, 2008

Mercedes-Benz sold more diesel fired sedans than petrol in North America to the tune of 4 to 1. While the 300D turbo models put out a decent power curve, and proved the more popular car in power obsessed America, the 64bhp 240D models found their place as the “entry-level” Merc for the masses. Crank windows, M-B Tex interior, and even a passenger side mirror as an option, the 240D was built for mass transit Europa instead of plush luxury Americana. However, the requisite Merc-ness still pervaded the car from the real wood trim, to the solid thunk when closing the doors (that’s still there, 30 years later). In 1981, a Mercedes, no matter what price level was still a Mercedes, anything less would be unimaginable. (Read More…)

By on November 14, 2008

I signaled to the engine room to increase power as I hefted the helm over to full starboard to clear the iceberg curb. Just like the ill-fated Titanic, I failed; however, unlike the ill-fated luxury liner, my interstate bound ship of dreams shrugged off the concrete obstacle with only a slight disturbance of the ever present floating waft. Never had I piloted a vehicle so large and vast feeling as my Avocado Green Metallic 1967 Imperial, made by Chrysler. At 224in long, and over 5600lbs of pure American uni-bodied steel, puts the similar sized Hummer H2 to shame in its ability to show of its largess. At least the Hummer has a modicum of efficient design, not so the Imperial, one of the shining examples of the de facto “Detroit Schoolhouse of Design.”

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By on October 10, 2008

After hearing all the stories, legends, and Top Gear specials on the fabled Toyota Hilux, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. While I was in Afghanistan, I heard that a Hilux dragged itself and four American soldiers over forty miles to safety while only able to drive its front wheels when its rear drive shaft was blown off. Another ran for over 100 miles with no oil and a leaking head gasket after being shot by an AK-47 in the mountainous highlands. Talk about a letdown. Driving the Hilux sucks.

By on September 18, 2008

GM leased the IROC-Z name for the Camaro from the International Race of Champions starting in 1985 thru 1990. To befit this racing pedigree, the Camaro came equipped with the special 305 TPI 5.0L V8 engine coupled with a four-speed automatic fun sponge, as the regular 5-speed manual proved incapable of handling the 215bhp the motor burbled out. The fun didn’t stop there however; the upgrades continued in the form of revised springs, a lowered ride height, Tune Port fuel injection, and a body kit complete with 80’s awesome stickers to remind the SVO Mustang who was boss. The Camaro didn’t need no stinking double wing, a lip spoiler would do just fine.

All these efforts resulted in an incredibly wheel spin happy, hard riding, shaky contraption built to thrill from stoplight to stoplight. Toss the overboosted helm into a turn, and you’ll realize how advanced even the most basic of suspensions are in the 21st century, as the IROC-Z followed the mantra of “harder is better” to an absolute fault. However, the tuned bits from the Corvette helped out where it’s really important: smoky powerslides. Sure the Mustang might possess a bit more technical sophistication, but the Camaro always outran it. The sheer grunt of the engine and the indestructible nature of the 700-R4 tranny made for an easily tuned, reliable drivetrain; shame about the rest of the build quality.

The interior of the Camaro reflected more muscle car than the Mustang, with sport gauges complete with an interesting double-needle speedo showing mph on oneside, kph on the other (in orange). The sporty looks continued on the outside to culminate in one of the meanest looking “folded paper” designs of the 1980’s. White Trash no, future classic, yes.

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