Category: Enthusiasm

By on March 6, 2017

1989 Dodge Shelby Dakota, Image: Chrysler

Since Dodge started producing trucks way back in 1921, it has never held the crown of the best-selling pickup truck in America. Not once. Not even when Dodge was the top brand in America.

It seems from the get-go Dodge has played third-fiddle in Ford versus General Motors pickup truck wars. But being third child meant that Dodge often struggled to be recognized in the market when compared to its more famous competitors.

For enthusiasts, that has always been a good thing.

It meant Dodge always had to be different. Dodge always had to be innovative, or more enthusiastic, or just plain shout more than anyone else. The result of all that was Dodge brought us some very trick trucks along the way that were cutting-edge, that defined a market, or were just plain cool.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at 40 years of pre-Y2K Dodge truck highlights (even when they haven’t been so successful).

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By on February 16, 2017

1993 Honda Crossroad, Image: Honda

The Japanese market is notorious for being closed to the outside world. It has forced successful U.S. companies to abandon the country, as Ford did recently, and propped-up sales of niche producer Porsche to outstrip sales of corporate giant General Motors. At first glance, it would seem Japanese buyers just don’t want cars built by companies outside the Land of the Rising Sun.

On this side of the Pacific, imports are so popular that domestic manufacturers attempted to make them their own multiple times. We’ve had Opels called Pontiacs and Buicks, Mitsubishis masquerading as Dodges, Toyotas and Suzukis selling as Geos, and Isuzus branded as Chevrolets.

But has it ever gone the other way? Have Japanese brands ever tried to appropriate the automotive culture of other countries to move the metal?

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By on February 9, 2017

Citroen Traction Avant 11C, Image: Citroen

The Volkswagen Golf GTi may be what many consider the definitive “hot hatch,” and most enthusiasts credit it with popularizing the idea of a functional yet fun-to-drive and economical daily driver. From its roots have sprung countless pocket-sized performance variants, right up to today’s current Focus RS.

But the Volkswagen Golf was far from the world’s first hatchback. It wasn’t even close.

So where did the idea of a hinged-rear body panel begin? More than 40 years prior to the launch of the GTi, another innovative car introduced the world to the idea of the hatchback, among a few other new features. Are you surprised that it was French, after our Matra article last month?

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By on February 3, 2017

1960 BMW 700, Image: BMW

Following in the footsteps of last week’s Karmann Ghia article, it seemed natural to take a look at two other lesser-known German alternatives to Volkswagen’s Type 1 Beetle and the ‘Beetle-in-a-suit’ Karmann Ghia.

Like the Karmann Ghia, both were attempts to capitalize on a new and expanding market for automobiles in Germany during the postwar economic boom times. That meant that the models had to incorporate existing technology, yet also appeal to a crowd increasingly interested in performance and style. However, both had to be at least somewhat economical and practical as family cars.

The result was a series of interesting and mostly forgotten air-cooled, rear-engine, rear-drive sedans, coupes and convertibles from both BMW and NSU.

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By on January 27, 2017

1961 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Type 34, Image: Volkswagen

The Karmann Ghia is familiar to most automotive enthusiasts as a styling exercise intended to turn the Volkswagen Beetle into a slinky “sportscar” using pedestrian internals. The resulting Type 1 Ghia debuted way back in 1955 and added some (more) Porsche styling to the family sedan. Assembled by Karmann in Osnabrück, Germany, with styling from Carrozzeria Ghia in Turin, Italy, the curvy two-door offered little performance, but much style, compared to its stablemates.

However, the Type 1 Karmann Ghia wasn’t the only car to bear that German-Italian nameplate.

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By on January 13, 2017

1974 Simca-Matra Bagheera, Image: Matra Sports

The French have always had a penchant for doing things a little differently. Take Matra, for example.

The Matra R530 is a medium range air-to-air missile normally fitted to the Dassault Mirage fighter jet.

The Matra M530, on the other hand, is a mid-engine sports car. Of course, that was no coincidence, as the first real Matra sports car was named after the missile built by the same company’s weapon division.

Yet the company’s abnormal conventions didn’t end at naming a mid-engine sports car after an infrared homing missile, making Matra one of the more interesting — albeit obscure — footnotes in French automotive history. The company went from producing front-line weaponry to winning the Formula One title in five years, won Le Mans three times on the trot, and produced some of the first minivans. Yet, at the height of their power, they hung up their automotive jacket and today they produce….bicycles? Read More >

By on January 5, 2017

1998 Subaru Impreza WRC; Image: Prodrive

The name Prodrive isn’t one you’ll stumble across every day, and sounds a bit like a company that might offer teen driving courses. However, it’s one of the world’s most successful race car shops, and bests many individual manufacturer efforts.

How successful?

How does six World Rally Championships, four Le Mans wins, five World Endurance Championships, and four British Touring Car Championships victories sound for a start?

But while “race on Sunday, sell on Monday” is the parable that motivates many marques in motorsport, Prodrive sells no road cars.

How does a small, generally unheard of firm compete against the likes of Porsche, Honda, and Ford? Simple — those companies hire Prodrive to run their race programs. Read More >

By on December 29, 2016

1995 Ford Transit Supervan 3, Image: Ford

There comes a dreaded moment in many automobile enthusiasts’ lives when the reality of having a family and the need for practicality outweighs all other considerations.

Enter that dreaded “V” word.

Getting a van — especially a minivan — is for many the automotive equivalent of getting neutered. You’ve given up, capitulated. Your desires to apex corners and outrace sports cars are now parked firmly in the third-row tier of importance, and haulin’ ass has been replaced by just hauling asses.

But getting a people-hauler doesn’t have to be all bad. In fact, there are quite a few vans people claim are “good to drive.” While I’ll take their word on such things for the time being and soldier on with my wagon addiction, let’s take a look at some more inspired options for heavy-duty hauling that made the prospect of a van actually seem quite cool.

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By on December 16, 2016

1966 Sunbeam Tiger, Image: Rootes Group

Americans and Europeans had similarly themed but opposite problems after World War II.

Americans had big, rumbling V8s in big, heavy cars that were decidedly un-sporty.

Europeans had small, lightweight sportscars without the power to back up the looks.

The solution was simple: combine them. The slinky Euro shapes were stuffed full with giant American engines in many guises — and the results spoke for themselves. The AC Cobra captured hearts of enthusiasts and race victories alike around the globe.

The Cobra was neither the first nor the last of these conglomerates that took V8s from Chrysler, Ford and General Motors and popped them into all sorts of coupes, grand tourers, sedans and convertibles.

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By on December 8, 2016

1995 Lotec C1000, Image: eBay

Countless hours of development, design and construction. Exacting details wrought in boardboardrooms and wind tunnels. Exotic materials, experimental engine designs, hand crafted bodies. The goal?

Simple. Make the fastest car in the world.

But even if a designer or firm achieves that goal, they don’t necessarily have a winner on their hands. Even when the facts and figures support one supercar design over another, intangibles often decide which one will be a success.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some superlative automobiles over a few decades and see how fate played out.
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By on December 1, 2016

1971 Lamborghini LP500 Prototype, Image: Bertone

Though it may seem hard to believe, we’re only a month away from celebrating the 50th anniversary of the start of the Wedge Era in automotive designs.

To those of us who still think of the Countach as a sharp enough design to be considered cutting edge, this is a sad reality. Yet the prototype of what would become the 1980s poster child was first shown in a hard-to-conceptualize 1971.

The influence of the angle extended far beyond the Countach in the 1980s. It also started before the scissored doors opened on the stand in Geneva in 1971 and was seen in many more marques than just those wearing the Raging Bull. Even more impressive than its age is the reach of these designs, some of which are still being refined today. So, let’s take a look at some of the interesting and influential doorstop shapes and where they later found a home.

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By on November 25, 2016

1979 Mercedes-Benz 450SLC 5.0 (C107), Image: Daimler

In 1978, Mercedes-Benz made the decision to expand its efforts in rally competition. But its choice of platform to enter into the World Rally Championship was, to say the least, unique.

At the time, the WRC was dominated by small sedans like the Fiat 131 Abarth and Ford Escort RS1800 — cars that finished first and second in the championship that year. Mercedes-Benz took a decidedly different route, as it had no small sporty sedan.

What it did have was a large, heavy and expensive personal luxury coupe in the C107 SLC. While the choice would seem unnatural, under the direction of Erich Waxenberger the premier 450SLC was prepared and developed over the next few seasons into a rally winner. Read More >

By on November 23, 2016

Porsche 911 Soundbar, Image: Porsche Design

If one of your DIY car enthusiast friends built a home or office audio system from the muffler and exhaust pipes of their favorite car as both an acoustic and visual part, you’d probably think it was a clever idea — something like using an engine block for the base of a glass coffee table, only more practical.

What, then, to think of the $3,500 Porsche Design 911 Soundbar Bluetooth loudspeaker that incorporates an actual titanium rear silencer and twin chromed exhaust tips from a Porsche 911 GT3 in its subwoofer?

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By on November 14, 2016

1990 Opel Lotus Omega, Image: Lotus Cars

While in recent months TTAC has reported on the declining popularity of the four door, there are still a plethora of fast sedans in the marketplace.

In fact, the performance extracted from them was unfathomable even a generation ago. How did we end up at a 500-horsepower Audi, a 640-horsepower Cadillac and 707-horse Dodge? What were once numbers reserved for otherworldly exotics now are found in a pedestrian nameplate.

But this is no new trend, for while the current power war we’re experiencing has generated outlandish performance numbers for a mere average Joe, the recipe of sticking the most punch possible into a sedan for the masses goes back a long way.

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By on November 8, 2016

Ford GT Welcome Guide, Image: Ford Motor Company

This isn’t the first time you’ve seen the Ford GT Welcome Guide on the Internet, but this is the first time you’ve read color commentary from a renowned journalist autoblogger connected to a GT purchase via his brother’s future acquisition. Read More >

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