Category: Bark’s Bites

By on November 25, 2015


“Rolls-Royce sold 4,000 cars last year.”

Carlos, a handsome, Cuban gentleman sitting across from me wanted to make sure that I understood this fact. He said it so intensely that I never even thought to question his number (which was accurate). “Four thousand. That’s it. Do you know how many of them were sold to people on my street?”

I shook my head.

“Six.” He leaned back in his chair for dramatic effect, puffing on a cigar that had been handcrafted by one of Castro’s own private cigar maker’s proteges. “Six. That’s why I have to have the latest one. That’s why I have my friend, Manuel, looking for a very specific car for me.”

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By on November 13, 2015


If you happen to live somewhere in the United States where radio waves can be transmitted and/or received, you’ve no doubt heard of the “Friends and Neighbors” sale that is going on Now At Your Local Ford Dealer. It sounds like a pretty good deal, doesn’t it? Employee pricing for everybody!

Not so fast, my friends.

Like nearly everybody on God’s Green Earth, I qualify for X Plan pricing at Ford. It’s how I effortlessly purchased/leased my Flex and my Fiesta ST. X Plan is Ford’s code for supplier pricing, and it’s typically about four-percent higher than invoice. It also limits the documentation fees that dealers can charge, which can be insane in some states.

Can better deals be negotiated? Certainly. However, for a low-stress car buying experience, it’s hard to beat. You simply walk into a dealership, they print off the X Plan price, you give them your certificate, and you walk out half an hour later with a new set of keys.

Ford also has pricing for actual employees and their immediate families, called A Plan, which is a little bit better than X Plan but it follows essentially the same guidelines. All that’s required is proof of employment and a PIN code you generate from Ford’s employee site.

So wouldn’t you think that “an inside deal for everyone” would be A Plan, or at least X Plan? You’d be somewhat right, but you’d be mostly wrong. Here’s why.

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By on November 4, 2015


As I travel this great nation of ours on a weekly basis, I am often asked the same question by people I meet. Whether it’s a stranger in an adjoining seats on a planes, a fellow patron dining solo at a restaurant, or even a new colleague whom I haven’t met, they all ask me the same thing:

“So, where do you call home?”

When I reply that I reside squarely in the middle of the Bluegrass in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, I can tell immediately if my interrogator has ever been there simply by the way that he responds. If he has never visited our great state, he’ll likely crack some sort of joke about missing teeth or southern diphthongs. But, if he has, he’ll nearly always reply, “Oh, it’s so gorgeous there. You must love it.”

To which I reply: “Yes. Yes, I do.”

However, even relatively frequent visitors to my home state — or even perhaps you, the frequent visitor to TTAC — are often unaware of the severity of the winters in Kentucky. I live only eighty miles south of Cincinnati, Ohio. We get nearly exactly the same weather as our bordering neighbors to the north, only instead of the the snow that Buckeyes tend to get, we regularly get sheets of ice on our roads. As you can imagine, this can make driving a 444 horsepower, rear-wheel-drive pony car a bit treacherous.

And, as such, as I pulled out my iPad to make my rather oppressive payment on my Boss 302 Mustang, I wondered to myself: How often do I actually drive this thing? Do I drive it enough to keep paying such a large sum to own it? And how much will I really be driving it over the next four wintry months?

The answers to my questions led me to an ultimate answer that I didn’t expect, and I certainly didn’t like.

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By on November 3, 2015

2016 Nissan 370Z at St-Eustache (Micra Cup)

Bark and I, either by fate or consequence, were presented with very similar automotive options lately. While his choice was made on the Emerald Aisle, mine was made over the phone before a planned trip to watch the final round of the Nissan Micra Cup in Quebec.

And while he was less than impressed with the 370Z  — and, on the surface, I can’t disagree — his view extended to the rest of the Nissan lineup.

From an enthusiast’s perch, Bark may not be able to see the forest for the trees.

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By on October 30, 2015


When I arrived at the Emerald Aisle at LAX on Wednesday, I had a slight moment of excitement when I saw a low-mileage Nissan 370Z coupe resting comfortably in the far corner of the Executive area. You see, I very nearly bought a Z back in 2005, and the car has always held a special interest for me. Back then, the Mazda RX-8 and the Nissan 350Z held quite a grip on the young American car culture—the Z was the official ride of Drift King in The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift (a fine and underrated film, in the opinion of your author). I tried to talk my father into buying a 350Z convertible a couple of years later, and I nearly succeeded, too, until his wife got a look at it and declared it to be “impractical.”

So I sauntered over as casually as possible, so as not to alert my fellow National customers to the presence of the Z on the lot, and quickly threw my bags in the back. “Aha,” I thought. “I won the Rental Car Lottery today!”

Then I started to drive it.

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By on September 30, 2015


In light of the great Yogi Berra’s recent passing, I felt it appropriate to use one of his more famous “Yogisms” for the title of today’s editorial. It’s about a time when a great institution was accused of cheating and lying to all of its customers. It’s about a time when numbers were inflated beyond rational belief, yet everyone, including industry experts and reporters, blatantly looked the other way. It’s about a time when our government decided to get involved and start calling people to testify on Capitol Hill.

I’m referring, of course, to the Steroid Era in baseball. Oh, you thought I meant #Dieselgate? Well, you wouldn’t be wrong. Here’s how the two situations are remarkably similar, and how it’s amazing that either was ever discovered.
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By on September 16, 2015


Earlier in the day on Tuesday, as I drove my brilliant little Ford Fiesta ST on Route 15 through the rolling hills of Kentucky on my way to Kingsport, Tennessee, I was wondering what the topic of my Wednesday column would be.

Thankfully, later in the evening, Kingsport’s Finest solved that issue for me.

In the interest of full transparency, the drive from my home in Central Kentucky to Kingsport should take about four hours, according to MyFordTouch Navigation. I did it in about 3:15, including a stop for a large, unsweetened tea and an apple pie at a McDonald’s along the way. The Fiesta is just too fun for interstate driving, so rather than the I-75 route I could have chosen, I took the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway until I reached Route 15, which took me to US 23 into Virginia and then into Tennessee for the final few miles. Obviously, I didn’t adhere to the posted speed limits for the vast majority of the drive.

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By on August 27, 2015


“Just passed this on Michigan Avenue outside of Dearborn. Manufacturer plate.”

The above picture of a GT350R in the wild and the accompanying text found their way across the LTE network to my phone last Thursday. My good friend — let’s call him Acd — and I have a habit of supporting each other’s addictions. In the therapy world, they call such people “enablers.”

In the car junkie world, we call them “kindred souls,” and I’m fortunate to have more than a few of them in my life.

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By on August 26, 2015

boss parking grass

On the rare occasion that my schedule gives me the flexibility to do so, I am always thrilled to pick my son up from school. It’s such a treat to see the little ones with their faces pressed against the glass of the exit doors, bursting with the excitement of the end of the school day, counting down the seconds until their teachers finally open up the proverbial floodgates and unleash them into the waiting arms of their parents.

My son is usually among the first to bound out of the building, and when he sees that I’m the one who has the happy job of retrieving him for the day, his eyes always light up just a little bit more. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with his love for dear old Dad.

And if I, for just one second, happen to think that he might be particularly excited to see me, he always puts an immediate pin in my balloon with the following question:

“Did you bring the Mustang today?”

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By on August 21, 2015


It doesn’t take long in any conversation in which I am a participant for some car-related topic to arise. It could be about hobbies, or jobs, or interests — I’m probably going to mention cars in some way, shape, or form if you ask me about any of the above.

Where the conversations go from there, however, can be nearly anywhere, based on the type of guy who’s asking. And I think that’s kind of cool.

Once they find out I’m into cars, men tend to want to know the following four things, and nearly always in this order (or something close to it):

  1. What kind of car do you have?
  2. Have you done any modifications to it?
  3. How fast have you driven it?
  4. Have you ever taken it out on a track?

The reactions that they have to my answers puts them into one of these categories:

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  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Bark M., United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Doug DeMuro, United States
  • Steven Lang, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, United States
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States