The Truth About Cars » Editorials http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 01 Aug 2014 20:56:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Editorials http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/editorials/ Horseshoe Nails, The Rhythm of History, and General Motors http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/horseshoe-nails-rhythm-history-general-motors/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/horseshoe-nails-rhythm-history-general-motors/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 16:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=877682 Decades after the events in question, Marina Oswald claimed that on the night of Thursday, November 21, 1963, her husband Lee Harvey Oswald suggested that they end their estrangement by having make-up sex (although I believe that term was unknown in 1963). She claimed that while she was resigned to having sexual relations with Lee […]

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Decades after the events in question, Marina Oswald claimed that on the night of Thursday, November 21, 1963, her husband Lee Harvey Oswald suggested that they end their estrangement by having make-up sex (although I believe that term was unknown in 1963).

She claimed that while she was resigned to having sexual relations with Lee again, she wanted him to stew in his own juices one more day by making him wait for the weekend. However, she didn’t dangle a promise (or even a possibility) in front of him.

Marina claimed to be morally certain that this sexual rejection was what pushed “lone nut” Lee Harvey Oswald over the edge and made him impulsively bring his WWII-era Italian military rifle to work with him the next morning. Oswald’s life being a total mess (and finding no comfort on the home front), he decided to go out in a blaze of Marxist-Leninist glory.

That’s Marina’s story, and she’s sticking with it.

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If you can accept the possibility that there was no conspiracy (and so, JFK’s death was a cosmic or Kafkaesque joke), Marina’s story has the ring of near-truth to it. (However, political operative and Nixon confidante Roger Stone’s recent book makes a compelling case that Richard Nixon—rightly or wrongly—believed that LBJ had orchestrated JFK’s death.)

With Slavic fatalism, Marina told a researcher, “It all came down to the turn of a card.”

“The turn of a card”—another way to express the reasoning behind what is often called the “Horseshoe Nail” theory of history. That’s the idea that seemingly trivial or limited decisions trigger a cascade of unforeseeable events that in some cases lead to major consequences. “For the want of a horseshoe nail, the kingdom was lost.”

In 1959, General Motors’ bean-counting, cynical, and hubristic corporate culture set in motion a truly remarkable series of horseshoe-nail event cascades. Due to mission creep on one hand and cost cutting on the other (replacing aluminum with steel), the load on the Corvair’s swing-axle rear suspension turned out to be 140 pounds more than anticipated and designed for. That extra load tipped the car’s weight distribution to 38% front/62% rear, guaranteeing dangerously unpredictable handling.
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Chevrolet’s engineers and even some managers such as John Z. Delorean (who was a competent engineer with several patents to his name, some of which he had earned while trying to rescue Packard) knew that the Corvair would have beastly handling. They recommended a $5 anti-sway bar that would transfer force from one front wheel to the other, lowering rear wheel slip angles and the tendency to break loose that made the car spin and at times roll over.

(When Ford finally obtained a Corvair to test, Ford test driver and future Le Mans winner Carroll Shelby got the Corvair to roll over at a speed under 30 miles an hour. Shelby and his Ford colleagues had a good laugh. The Falcon might have been the result of unimaginative engineering, but it did not roll over easily.)

Rather than spend $5 per car on a front anti-sway bar, GM decided to specify (but to not publicize) a major imbalance in recommended tire pressures. Reportedly, rear tire pressure was to be 30 psi while the front pressure was recommended to be 18 psi, in an effort to make the front tires “grippier.” However, if the kid at the gas station helpfully filled your tires to 30 psi all around, the Corvair would handle in a truly evil manner.
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Here’s the “Horseshoe Nail’s Big Consequence”: One can easily argue that GM’s decision not to spend $5 per Corvair on a foolproof engineering fix of handling they knew to be dangerous, directly led to George W. Bush’s being elected President in 2000.

In 1959, a bookish young lawyer named Ralph Nader wrote a magazine article about the automobile industry’s disregard of safety. A publisher recommended that Nader turn his article into a book. Nader’s book, published in 1965, focused its first chapter on the Corvair. Thus, the “consumer movement” was born, and Nader became a household name.

Nader was the Green Party’s candidate for President in 2000, and he was on the Florida ballot. Nader received 97,421 votes in Florida, whereas Bush’s official margin of victory was fewer than 600 votes. Had Nader not been on the Florida ballot, Al Gore surely would have won Florida and the Presidency (which still rankles many Democrats).

Nader was on the Florida ballot in large part because he was famous and well regarded for having exposed GM’s fecklessness. Had GM decided in 1959 to sacrifice $5 in profits rather than sacrifice human lives (and keep in mind that several Corvair fatalities were family members of Chevrolet dealers), today Ralph Nader might be an obscure lawyer, Al Gore a former President, and George Bush a gentleman rancher who paints pictures.

Mark Twain observed that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.
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From the Corvair’s troubled handling in 1959 to today’s troubles with ignition lock cylinders, GM’s corporate culture does not seem to have learned much. One might say, that’s the nature of the beast: “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

The only law that never gets broken is the law of unintended consequences. And GM has a genius for setting in motion horseshoe-nail event cascades.

So, my friends: How do you think “Corvair 2.0” will eventually play out?

(Personally, I’d love to see GM convicted of Bankruptcy fraud and its Chapter 11 discharge unwound, but a voice from under the bed says, “Forget it, John—It’s Chinatown.”)

Record producer John Marks is a columnist for Stereophile magazine.

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Generation Why: JD Power Says Gen Y Now Buying More Cars Than Gen X http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/generation-jd-power-says-gen-y-now-buying-cars-gen-x/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/generation-jd-power-says-gen-y-now-buying-cars-gen-x/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 13:09:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=877369 Generation Y has just edged out Generation X in the new car market. A study by J.D. Power shows that, year-to-date, Gen Y buyers (defined as being born in 1977-1994) are buying 26 percent of new vehicles, versus Gen X (1965-1976), which bought 24 percent of new vehicles in the same period. While Gen X’s […]

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Generation Y has just edged out Generation X in the new car market. A study by J.D. Power shows that, year-to-date, Gen Y buyers (defined as being born in 1977-1994) are buying 26 percent of new vehicles, versus Gen X (1965-1976), which bought 24 percent of new vehicles in the same period.

While Gen X’s share of new vehicle purchases has stayed flat from 2013, Gen Y’s share has increased by 3 percent. Boomers (born from 1946-1964) still make up the biggest demographic, at 38 percent of new car sales, but that’s down 2 percent from 2013.

Compact cars are said to be the most popular Gen Y segment, making up 20 percent of their purchases. That’s compared to compact SUVs for Gen X, which makes up 15 percent of their own car selections.

For all the talk of how the Millenial generation is turning its back on cars, it appears that things aren’t quite panning out that way. Rising incomes, changing priorities and growing families mean that the car will become something that is both more attainable and increasingly necessary to meet their needs. Quite a change from the “kids hate cars” rhetoric of the past few years. But we’ve known for a while that money, not ideology, has been what’s stopped young people from owning cars.

 

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Junkyard Find: 1986 Nissan Maxima Station Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/junkyard-find-1986-nissan-maxima-station-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/junkyard-find-1986-nissan-maxima-station-wagon/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 13:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=877490 One thing I love about early-to-mid-1980s Nissans is the combination of futuristic technology with endearing Japanese-to-English translations. We’ve seen a few Maximas in this series, including this rear-wheel-drive ’82 Datsun Maxima and this puzzling “Brake Fluid EVERYWHERE” ’86 Maxima. On a recent trip to California, I found this rare Maxima station wagon at an Oakland […]

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04 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOne thing I love about early-to-mid-1980s Nissans is the combination of futuristic technology with endearing Japanese-to-English translations. We’ve seen a few Maximas in this series, including this rear-wheel-drive ’82 Datsun Maxima and this puzzling “Brake Fluid EVERYWHERE” ’86 Maxima. On a recent trip to California, I found this rare Maxima station wagon at an Oakland self-serve yard.
03 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis was just a few years before the Infiniti brand hit these shores, and the Maxima (like the Toyota Cressida) was seeming less luxurious compared to the competition as the decade of the 1980s wore on.
12 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI found an excellent addition to my collection of heartfelt notes to tow-truck drivers in this car.
10 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe paint is faded, but the interior isn’t so bad.

A powerful rebuttal to the notion of compromise.

As always, the US got the most boring commercials for Japanese cars.

WHOOOOOOSH! Super Sonic Suspension!

01 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1986 Nissan Maxima Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Deconstructing GM’s Ignition Compensation Protocol http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/deconstructing-gms-ignition-compensation-protocol/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/deconstructing-gms-ignition-compensation-protocol/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 12:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876409 Please welcome Jim Yu to TTAC. Jim is an attorney, a contributor to Hooniverse and the author of the highly recommended “Tamerlane’s Thoughts“. Jim is also the owner of a manual wagon. In the face of GM’s ignition debacle, the General hired noted mass torts expert Kenneth Feinberg to set up and execute a compensation scheme for injury […]

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Please welcome Jim Yu to TTAC. Jim is an attorney, a contributor to Hooniverse and the author of the highly recommended “Tamerlane’s Thoughts“. Jim is also the owner of a manual wagon.

In the face of GM’s ignition debacle, the General hired noted mass torts expert Kenneth Feinberg to set up and execute a compensation scheme for injury victims and families who have lost loved ones. So, is it fair?

First, a little bit of background on Feinberg. I do not know him personally, but I took a semester-long course with him in the late ‘90s. He is extremely sharp and engaging. Moreover, his compassion for victims is always tempered by his calculated pragmatism. 

In virtually every case we studied in class, a company is responsible for injuring hundreds, if not thousands, of people. And in every instance, the same issues arise:

Solvency: A company will declare bankruptcy or simply go under if it compensates every victim the “full” value of their claim, given the sheer number of victims. 

Expediency: Large disasters also tend to clog the courts and drag on for years through expensive and unpredictable litigation and appeals. As the old legal maxim goes, justice delayed is justice denied.

Burden of Proof: Finally, it is unfair to victims who were injured by a bad actor when they cannot muster the requisite burden of proving fault and causation in court, whether it’s because of lost or destroyed evidence or because the victim does not have the financial resources to hire the experts to build up their case.

Given these challenges and the competing interests of the parties, Feinberg customizes compensation protocols in a manner that is as fair as possible. Given his experience and credibility, Feinberg is often the go-to guy for gigantic, catastrophic, disasters. He set up and managed the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund and the BP Oil Spill Fund– no easy tasks. 

Now, let’s look at the GM compensation scheme:

Administrator Independence: GM hired Feinberg and gave him free reign on compensating victims. This is a net positive for GM, from a public relations perspective, as it gives the impression that GM accepts responsibility and is giving Feinberg a blank check. But keep in mind that GM hired him, is compensating him, and he wants to be hired again in the future by other companies in GM’s position. I have every confidence that Feinberg will be fair and do his best, but GM is also confident that Feinberg is not going to go rogue and write six- to eight-figure checks to every Tom, Dick, and Harry who makes a claim.

Who Is Covered: Media coverage gives the impression that the fund will compensate anyone who has been physically injured by the defect. Not so. First, compensation is not available if an airbag or seatbelt pretensioner deployed during the crash sequence.

After jumping over the first hurdle, the injured are divided into three categories. There is the fatality category, a no brainer. There is the catastrophic injury category (quadriplegia, amputation, severe brain injury, burns). Then, there is the third, more subjective, moderate injury category. Feinberg and his staff will have some leeway with respect to this last category, which will probably constitute the vast majority of the claims. It will be interesting to see how much these claims are compensated.

Driver Negligence: The protocol states that in determining whether the defect directly caused the claimant’s injuries, the claimant’s contributory negligence, if any, will not be taken into account. This is definitely a net positive for claimants, as evidence of impaired driving, speeding, or unsafe driving will not come into the picture.

Fatality Compensation: As a baseline, for each fatality, $1,000,000 will be awarded and $300,000 will be awarded to the widow(er) and each surviving dependent. More money on top of the above figures can be awarded based on the victim’s earnings history and age. This scheme on its face penalizes stay-at-home moms, children, and the disabled, as they often do not have incomes. For the victims’ families, the silver lining is that compensation will come within 90 to 180 days, rather than years. Furthermore, there is certainty and finality to the compensation. A family that chooses to go to court instead may receive millions more down the road, but could also easily lose and receive nothing. 

Injury Compensation: There are many variables in determining the compensation amount for the injured. If a seriously injured person is relatively young and needs a long term life-care plan, compensation will be in the millions. For the moderately injured, compensation is based strictly on how many days they were hospitalized. For those who were not hospitalized, $20,000 may be the limit.

Documentation: The types of documentation required, such as medical records and wage history, are fairly standard in personal injury claims and are not particularly onerous.

The biggest advantage in terms of proof is that GM is already admitting fault. The victim simply has to prove eligibility and damages.

“Due Process”: Serious injury victims and families who have lost loved ones are entitled to a face-to-face meeting with the administrator before the compensation is awarded. But the protocol is silent on what takes place at the meeting and whether the administrator even has to take into account any information provided at the meeting.

Is this process fair? It depends on whom you ask. The scheme helps victims by getting them compensation relatively quickly. There is value in certainty and finality. But by accepting the scheme and foregoing litigation, the victim waives their right to a potentially larger jury award.

*Disclaimer: All of the above, of course, is simply a mental exercise, written by a car enthusiast for fellow car enthusiasts. This is most definitely NOT legal advice.

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What’s Next At TTAC http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/whats-next-at-ttac/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/whats-next-at-ttac/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 04:33:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876314 People often talk about particular events being seared into their minds: Pearl Harbor, JFK’s assassination, 9/11…I remember the first time I ever read an article by Jack Baruth. It was 2009, and I was sitting in the living room of my parents’ house, on summer break from college, working a menial job as a receiver […]

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People often talk about particular events being seared into their minds: Pearl Harbor, JFK’s assassination, 9/11…I remember the first time I ever read an article by Jack Baruth.

It was 2009, and I was sitting in the living room of my parents’ house, on summer break from college, working a menial job as a receiver on a loading dock. I had the day off, somehow, I found myself on Speed:Sport:Life, reading Avoidable Contact #19: Rich Corinthian Swaybars. No writer had ever been able to weave so many different threads, concurrently drawing out each part into a cohesive narrative that explained the sociology of the automobile, in the most elegant prose I had seen in any automotive publication. My life was never the same again.

In the days that followed, I managed to get in touch with Jack, finally meeting him at the 2010 edition of the Detroit Auto Show. I failed to heed his advice about making this my full time job, and before I was even studying for my finals, I had a full-time auto journalism gig lined up. By the time I joined TTAC in January of 2012, Jack had become a trusted friend and mentor, someone who has been able to help me hone my voice and professional decorum as well as helping me navigate the challenges that come with learning to be an adult and a mensch in my personal life as well. Jack has shown me how to respond to criticism with magnanimity and how to remain principled and ethical in an environment that frequently tests both.

Of all the lessons Jack taught me, none has been stressed more than his words to me on the first day of our rescue mission: “your responsibility is to the readers.”

I’m cognizant of the responsibility being placed upon me.  I have never so much as spoken to Robert Farago, but I intend to keep alive his legacy, by reporting The TRUTH About Cars, no matter what it may cost us in financial resources or “access”, the great stick that the auto makers use to keep journalists “on-message”.

Meanwhile, I will strive to keep learning as much as I can about the design, engineering, manufacturing, wholesale and retail sides of the business, building on the lessons taught to me by Ed, Bertel and Jack. I will be bringing in some new faces, like Prof Mike Smitka, Timothy Cain and other former and current industry authorities, to help our coverage of the automotive world, but nobody is being shown the door. We will return to our roots as a site focused on the auto industry, but we will not turn our back on the Junkyard Finds, Piston Slaps, Vellum Venoms, crapcan racing and everything else that has made TTAC what it is.

It is a privilege to have your readership, day in, day out.  I will continue, as Cormac McCarthy put it, to “carry the fire”. It still burns white hot within me. I hope you can all see it.

 

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Generation Why: A Sub-$30k Car “Wouldn’t Be A Lexus” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/generation-sub-30k-car-wouldnt-lexus/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/generation-sub-30k-car-wouldnt-lexus/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 14:45:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=877265 Mercedes and Audi all have a sub-$30,000 entry in their American model ranges. BMW’s cheapest model is just a few hundred dollars above that price point. Infiniti will likely have their own model in that space. So why not Lexus? Speaking to Automotive News, Lexus boss Mark Templin said “We could go down and build a […]

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Mercedes and Audi all have a sub-$30,000 entry in their American model ranges. BMW’s cheapest model is just a few hundred dollars above that price point. Infiniti will likely have their own model in that space. So why not Lexus?

Speaking to Automotive News, Lexus boss Mark Templin said

“We could go down and build a car under $30,000, but it would be decontented, and you’d be cutting corners. It wouldn’t be a Lexus…To be honest with you, you can’t build a Lexus with the quality, the durability, the reliability, the craftsmanship, the content that we put in a Lexus and sell it profitably under $30,000. You just can’t do it.”

Templin’s comments are about as clear a swipe at the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA as one can get. While CLA sales have been big for Benz (as much as 11 percent of the brand’s total, by AN‘s count), reviews have been mixed.

Mercedes-Benz, like other European luxury brands, face an additional dilemma beyond the usual matters of scale, volume and profitability requirements associated with those issues. In many mature markets, their buyers are getting older, while a new generation of buyers is both moving away from cars, and arguably less able to afford a new luxury car. Products like the CLA and A3 offer an affordable entry-point into the brand, while also appealing to the aesthetic, environmental and economic tastes of the Millennial generation. Lexus doesn’t necessarily have this problem in the same way that the Germans do, but they also don’t have much of a presence in Europe either.

What Lexus is doing, as AN pointed out, is attempting to stake out the “high ground” by keeping the price floor above $30,000 (the entry-level CT hybrid starts at about $32,000), which will ostensibly further entrench their “luxury” position. But Lexus, for all its success, has never achieved true global success as a luxury brand, which is something that only the Germans have managed to earn. And as we all know, it’s easier to reach downmarket than try and move up. The A-Class was a hit for Mercedes, but Volkswagen didn’t fare well with the Phaeton. And Audi is just finally turning the corner after a decades long climb to Tier 1.

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Classic Review: 1986 Pontiac Fiero GT V6 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/classic-review-1986-pontiac-fiero-gt-v6/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/classic-review-1986-pontiac-fiero-gt-v6/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:07:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876441 The Pontiac Fiero is one of those cars that is forever showing up on lists. A simple on-line search finds that it’s one of the 100 worst cars ever built, one of the ten cars that should be avoided by tall people, one of the worst ever Indy 500 Pace Cars and, because of its […]

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The Pontiac Fiero is one of those cars that is forever showing up on lists. A simple on-line search finds that it’s one of the 100 worst cars ever built, one of the ten cars that should be avoided by tall people, one of the worst ever Indy 500 Pace Cars and, because of its poor sales, one of the 10 greatest automotive financial disasters of all time. Other lists, however, rate the little two-seater as one of the best sports cars of the 1980s, call it one of the ten unexpectedly best cars for tall people and even rank it as one of the best choices for future collectability. Oddly enough, the Pontiac Fiero also appeared on my own personal list of potential purchases a few months ago and, despite the fact that I ended up choosing one of its contemporaries, when I recently found a wonderful, low-mileage example at KC Classic Autos in near-by Kansas city, I knew I must see it.

The history of the Pontic Fiero is an open book. Originally conceived as a two seat, mid-engine sports car with an advanced, all-new suspension and a powerful V6 engine, the Fiero was castrated prior to its birth by GM’s bean counters who worried that the proposed car might end up stealing sales numbers from the Corvette. As a result, the new car was toned down. The powerful V6 was replaced with GM’s 2.5 liter “Iron Duke” four-cylinder, a slow-revving long-stroke iron block engine intended for economy cars, and the advanced suspension was dropped in favor of a parts bin approach that used existing bits and pieces from economy cars like the Citation and Chevette. The result was rather lackluster and the media received it with mixed reactions. Motor Trend gave the Fiero a decent review in 1984 but other magazines felt that, as an aggressively styled mid-engine car, it needed to have more performance. Whatever the case, the public loved what they saw and bought almost 187,000 units in 1984.

For 1985 Pontiac addressed the critics’ need for more power by adding an optional 140 HP V6 to the line-up but sales dropped to around 74,000. In 1986, the – in my opinion – much better looking fastback Fiero GT was added beginning mid-year and sales climbed to almost 84,000 units. 1987 brought general improvements and more power to the four cylinder model but sales were definitely trending downward and only 45,851 cars left the showroom that year. In 1988, Pontiac introduced a more sophisticated suspension, based on the original design the bean counters had initially kept out of the car, and this model year is said to be the most desirable among collectors. But alas, only 26,402 were sold before Pontiac discontinued the model and today they are a might thin on the ground. All totaled, 370,168 Fieros of all types were sold over the course of five years.

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Like so many GM products before it, the Fiero is one of those cars that was killed just about the time its full potential was being realized. Initially the cars suffered from quality issues and design problems. The 1984 model year also experienced a number of well publicized fires and despite the fact that, according to Wikipedia, only 148 reports were made to the NHTSA detailing just six injuries, the Fiero, much like the Ford Pinto, has an enduring reputation for combustability. The truth is that within a couple years of the Fiero’s introduction, the car was well sorted and the 1986 model I was able to ride in is a great example of just how far the design had come.

I appeared unannounced at KC Classic Autos late in the afternoon and, after paying my $1 entrance fee to the “museum” and introducing myself, was given the run of the place. I have had the opportunity to visit a few classic car dealers over the years and this one stacks up rather well with a clean facility and plenty of interesting cars on hand that I could get up close and personal with. After spending far too much time looking at a stunning 1969 Nova SS and several other classic American muscle cars, I finally decided to ask if I could get a ride in the 1986 Fiero they had parked close to the front door. I had two reasons for choosing this particular car, first I hope to be invited back to ride in and report on more of the classic machines that were further back in the showroom and second, because I wanted to compare my little Shelby to the much better preserved Pontiac.

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I’ve already spent some time talking about my Dodge in other articles but it’s important to do so again so I can do a little comparing and contrasting. At 31 years old, the Shelby is a well presented little car that recently had a great deal of work done to it. Despite its lumpy idle and its slightly rich smelling exhaust, it runs like a top and moves out just fine when I get on the gas. Thanks to the work that has been done, on the outside it looks almost new, but the inside is another story and the car’s threadbare interior shows almost every one of its three decades plus one year of existence.

I’ll write more on it in detail in an upcoming article, but suffice to say that my little Dodge really is an old car. It buzzes, it rattles and it has strange smells, but at a time when this Pontiac was sitting safe and secure in a temperature controlled garage, the Shelby was out living its life, running errands, hauling kids and generally being enjoyed by its owner. Every scar, every tear and every rattle inside the car has a story that goes with it and although as a second owner I can never really know what happened, I can respect the fact that this car was a valued member of someone else’s family for many years. It has, I think, a real sense of having been used, enjoyed and loved.

At 28 years old, the 1986 Pontiac Fiero GT I saw yesterday is still very much a new car. With right around 20,500 miles on the clock, it still looks new inside. The carpets are unworn and the seats are still firm and flawless. The internal plastics have been unaffected by the sun and the gauge faces were are still as bright and clear as the day the car came off the line. The two-seater started instantly at the first turn of a key and burbled happily as it rolled out of the show room. It was simply stunning in the light of the afternoon sun.

Like I would do with any new car I am reviewing, I spent a lot of time circling the Fiero and looking for flaws. Although it’s used, I had no complaints about anything I saw. Panel gaps were good, the interior pieces fit together well. Of course the switchgear is clearly 1980s GM but it still looked modern and good in the car. Overall, I found it to be a pleasant, clean little Pontiac and I was eager for a chance to ride in it.

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Why this car would appear on a list of vehicles that should be avoided by tall people is a mystery to me. In the mid ‘80s, I am sure this low slung, high belted design would have felt like sitting in an old fashioned bath tub, but compared to modern muscle cars I found the Fiero roomy, easy to see out of and I had no problems getting my sizeable corn-fed All American ass into and out of the passenger seat. Although my driver, KC Classic’s president, Kim Eldred, took it a little easy on the first leg of our drive I thought the car picked up and ran along the city streets without problems. Unlike my Shelby, there were zero rattles or strange smells and it is simply so clean that my mind cannot comprehend the fact that this is an “old” car.

As we made our turn-around on an empty back street, Kim jumped on the gas and I got a chance to see just a little of what the V6 could do. Hampered by an automatic transmission, initial acceleration was sluggish in first gear but second gear, however, was downright surprising. As it made the shift, I felt myself pushed back into the seat with enough force to put a lasting smile on my face and, although the car was not blindingly fast, it was pleasantly snappy. Overall, it was a good ride.

In the weeks since my Shelby arrived I have had to take a good long look in the mirror. I remember the 1980s with some fondness, and in my mind’s eye the colors remain neon bright, the tunes fun and happy and the cars as solid, modern machines. The idea that they, like the man who looks back at me from across the bathroom sink, have gone soft over the years and are not capable of the things that they once did so easily makes me wonder if they ever could. Were the ‘80s, I ask myself, really the way I remember them or were they simply an illusion of youth? This Pontiac, so well preserved, has put those doubts to rest. The 1980s really were good times and I know now without a doubt that the cars, even one with such a mixed reputation as the Pontiac Fiero, really were capable of the things I remember.

If my purchase of the Shelby Charger was an attempt to regain a piece of my youth by marrying the prom queen that eluded me back in 1984 now that she is now the divorced grandmother of three, this Pontiac is a true piece of history recently removed suspended animation and put on sale for the relatively reasonable price of $12,900. All it needs now is a new owner to use it, enjoy it and to love it. You perhaps?

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My thanks to KC Classic Auto for allowing me to wander around their show room and for their willingness to take me out in one of their cars for this review.

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Junkyard Find: 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1981-mercury-grand-marquis/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1981-mercury-grand-marquis/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=875617 Here’s another Junkyard Find that deserves the Sajeev’s Bitter Tears label. It qualifies for the Brown Car Appreciation Society, it’s an early Panther, and it’s a top-trim-level Grand Marquis (owners of which looked down their noses at lowly Marquis Brougham owners). Let’s explore this exquisite example of Late Malaise Era crypto-luxury, shall we? These cars […]

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09 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHere’s another Junkyard Find that deserves the Sajeev’s Bitter Tears label. It qualifies for the Brown Car Appreciation Society, it’s an early Panther, and it’s a top-trim-level Grand Marquis (owners of which looked down their noses at lowly Marquis Brougham owners). Let’s explore this exquisite example of Late Malaise Era crypto-luxury, shall we?
13 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese cars were the same under the skin as the LTD and Continental, and they weren’t bad drivers (by the standards of the time).
07 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOpera lights! Trivia question: what was the last year for factory-installed opera lights on an American car? I’m guessing this feature made it well into the 21st century.
06 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one’s a little rough, though it’s a completely rust-free California car.
17 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSo much trim. So much vinyl.
14 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou see a lot of police-organization and AAA-related stickers on these cars, which is not surprising given the elderly demographic that preferred them.
03 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSteering-wheel cruise-control buttons showed a lot of faith in Ford’s ability to make a clockspring and/or sliding electrical contacts work.
10 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFord (and Chrysler) loved these fake vents in the early 1980s. Why?

Created by science!

01 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Thank You And Goodbye (Sort Of) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/theres-no-pill-for-contextual-dysfunction/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/theres-no-pill-for-contextual-dysfunction/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=455824 Tomorrow will be my last day as the Editor-In-Chief pro tem of The Truth About Cars. This was always meant to be a temporary situation, despite what some of the B&B thought. Given some of the differences in opinion I have recently had with TTAC’s owners, this is a good time for us to call […]

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Tomorrow will be my last day as the Editor-In-Chief pro tem of The Truth About Cars. This was always meant to be a temporary situation, despite what some of the B&B thought. Given some of the differences in opinion I have recently had with TTAC’s owners, this is a good time for us to call it quits. I will not be replaced; the site will be managed by the leadership team at VerticalScope in Toronto and Derek will continue in his capacity as Managing Editor. There will be other changes, detailed below.

I made some promises to you, the readers, and I’d like to discuss whether or not those promises have been kept. But the tl;dr crowd can best understand the situation like this: TTAC is basically Fleetwood Mac.

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The original Fleetwood Mac was founded by Peter Green, who was a one-of-a-kind talent. Kind of like Robert Farago, our august founder. Like him or hate him, there is only one Robert Farago and when he brought me on at TTAC I was humbled and thrilled all at once.

When Peter Green left the Mac due to a variety of issues, the band hoped that Danny Kirwan would be able to fill Green’s shoes. The problem was that Danny sounded kind of like a copy of Peter Green, only younger and with less experience, and he couldn’t come up with the original ideas that Peter Green generated seemingly without effort. You can say that Ed Niedermeyer was like Danny Kirwan. From a distance, his writing kind of looked like Robert’s, but it wasn’t quite the same thing. Which is not to say that Ed wasn’t occasionally bang-on correct about things, because he was.

Desperately seeking someone to lead the band, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie hired a fellow named Bob Welch, who took the band in a completely different direction. Some of the music was pretty good, some of it was terrible, almost none of it was memorable. The Welch era is more notable for the lawsuits and the personnel conflicts and the “fake Mac” tour and a bunch of other things that were fundamentally tangential to the business of making great tunes. You could say that Bertel was kind of the Bob Welch of TTAC. Sometimes he’d come up with a really great post but most of the time he was busy stirring controversy and pushing an agenda.

All true Fleetwood Mac fans know what happened next: they hired Lindsey Buckingham, who brought Stevie Nicks along with him. That’s how the Mac went from a great blues band to a lousy one to a bad pop band to a great one. Lindsey wasn’t interested in playing the blues and he wasn’t interested in the detritus of the music business. He just wanted to write, and play, the hits.

During my time at TTAC I’ve tried to be Lindsey Buckingham. Much of what made TTAC great — the Deathwatch, the bailout hysteria, the seek-and-destroy reviews of otherwise unremarkable cars — wasn’t relevant or topical any more, so I let it go. Instead, I focused on bringing the readers into the picture, expanding our range of coverage, and updating the site so it had a fighting chance against the Leviathans of the auto-blogging world.
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Last July, I made some promises to the readers. How’d I do?

I promised a TTAC Homecoming. We unbanned everybody and in general it worked. We’ve banned five users in twelve months by my count and at least two of them were directly related to the site’s previous management. No dunce hats, no Top Troll stupidity. I trusted you and you all came through.

I said we’d have Accountability and Civility, and I believe that goal was mostly met. No dildo pictures, no shibari rope bondage, no creepy Asian-girl fetish material. Every once in a while things got openly political. Sometimes it was my fault. However, during my tenure we expanded the writer base to include contributors from every political and personal walk of life. My greatest failure as TTAC’s editor, I think, was that I was unable to prevent one of those contributors, Alex Dykes, from parting ways with us. I apologize for that wholeheartedly. You can find him on my blog, jackbaruth.com, if you want to.

We tried to Refocus on the B&B and Open The Conversation. In the past year, reader submissions and reader-ride reviews are through the ceiling. Thank you for that. I believe that the private discussions I had with wayward commenters were mostly successful as well.

I promised you The Truth and only you can determine how well I delivered.

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After some discussion with Derek and the site management, I’ve agreed to stay on until the end of the year as a contributor. You won’t see me on these pages nearly as often. If you want to read work by me and Bark M., I’d encourage you to check out Road&Track, both online and print. My blog, JackBaruth.com, tracks my major contributions and has a bunch of stupid guitar pictures. Many of the contributors whom I’ve worked with on this site will stay with me until the end of the year and some may stay beyond that.

Last but not least, I’ll be releasing a book, tentatively titled Avoidable Contact: A Jack Baruth Reader, in October. Like The Itchy And Scratchy Movie, it will have at least 30% new content.

And now is the time where I say something personal. So check it out, right? I’ve tried every approach to living. I’ve tried, tried it all. I haven’t tried every thing, but I’ve tried every approach. Sometimes you don’t have to try every thing to get the approach the same.

I tried it all, I bought a bunch of stuff and went: “eh, I don’t like that”, I kinda came in and out of that a couple of times. I thought I would shut myself off, I thought maybe that’s cool. Maybe that’s what you have to do to be a genius, is you have to be mad. So if you get “mad” before the word “genius”, then maybe you can make genius appear, right?

That doesn’t work either. And I’m in a good place, I’ve paced myself pretty well. I’m forty-two, I’ve seen some cool stuff. I made a lot of stuff happen for myself. I made a lot of stuff happen for myself, right. That’s a really cool sentence when you’re in your thirties. “I made it happen for myself.”

But all that means is that I’ve just somehow or another found another way to synthesize automotive expertise or synthesize hooning. But you can’t get that. And what I’m saying is that I’ve messed with all the approaches, except for one and it’s gonna sound really corny but that’s just love. That’s just love.

I’ve done everything in my life that I’ve wanted to do except just give and feel love for my living. And I don’t mean like, Roman-candle-firework-Hollywood-hot-pink-love. I mean like: I-got-your-back love.

I don’t need to hear “I love you.” You guys love me, I love you. We got that down. But some of the people who will tell you they love you, are the same people will be the last to just have your back.

So, I’m gonna experiment with this love thing. Giving love, feeling love. I know it sounds really corny but it’s the last thing I got to check out, before I check out.

Take me to the solo! So long, and thanks for all the fish!

heashot

Photo credits: Michelle Baruth, Bobby Ang, Drama McHourglass aka Xtina Rivera, Rachel Gibbs

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Junkyard Find: 1959 DeSoto http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1959-desoto/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1959-desoto/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=875545 I haven’t been to the Brain-Melting Colorado Junkyard (where I bought my 1941 Plymouth sedan) for a while, but I’ve still got quite a few photographs of the thousands of old American cars that live there. We’ve seen this ’62 Cadillac, this ’52 Kaiser, this ’49 Kaiser, this ’51 Nash, this ’51 Frazer, this mystery […]

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02 - 1959 DeSoto Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI haven’t been to the Brain-Melting Colorado Junkyard (where I bought my 1941 Plymouth sedan) for a while, but I’ve still got quite a few photographs of the thousands of old American cars that live there. We’ve seen this ’62 Cadillac, this ’52 Kaiser, this ’49 Kaiser, this ’51 Nash, this ’51 Frazer, this mystery custom, this ’48 Pontiac hearse, and a few more, and today we’ll admire an example of DeSoto‘s final years.
03 - 1959 DeSoto Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Swedes who come to the Brain-Melting Junkyard every year and fill shipping containers with old American cars and parts may have grabbed this car by now, since they love big finned American sedans in Scandinavia.
06 - 1959 DeSoto Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s pretty rusty, but most of the trim and glass look good.
05 - 1959 DeSoto Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMost of the cars were saved from The Crusher by the yard’s owner, who spent decades hanging around the gates of Denver’s scrappers, offering a few bucks more than the going rate for anything interesting. Better that this one get shipped to Europe than head back to the steel jaws.

01 - 1959 DeSoto Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1959 DeSoto Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1959 DeSoto Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1959 DeSoto Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1959 DeSoto Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1959 DeSoto Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1959 DeSoto Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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2015 Ford F-150 Order Guide Released http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/2015-ford-f-150-order-guide-released/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/2015-ford-f-150-order-guide-released/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 20:50:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=875473 Courtesy of Jalopnik comes the Ford F-150 order guide for the all-aluminum 2015 model.   It looks like Ford has simplified a lot of the trim levels and packages, with the STX and FX4 disappearing (though you can still order nearly identical configurations). I’ll defer to the pickup experts among the B&B for a thorough […]

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Courtesy of Jalopnik comes the Ford F-150 order guide for the all-aluminum 2015 model.

 

It looks like Ford has simplified a lot of the trim levels and packages, with the STX and FX4 disappearing (though you can still order nearly identical configurations).

I’ll defer to the pickup experts among the B&B for a thorough analysis. From my skimming, it appears that there is an SSV package for police and other heavy duty use, and only on XL models with the 3.5L Ecoboost or 5.0L V8. The V8 is also the standard engine on the King Ranch and Platinum trim levels.

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Hacking traffic lights for fun and profit! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/hacking-traffic-lights-for-fun-and-profit/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/hacking-traffic-lights-for-fun-and-profit/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 17:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=875361 In a few weeks, at WOOT (the USENIX Workshop on Offensive Technologies — an academic conference where security researchers demonstrate broken stuff), a team from the University of Michigan will be presenting a lovely paper, Green Lights Forever: Analyzing the Security of Traffic Infrastructure. It’s a short and fun read. In summary, it’s common for […]

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In a few weeks, at WOOT (the USENIX Workshop on Offensive Technologies — an academic conference where security researchers demonstrate broken stuff), a team from the University of Michigan will be presenting a lovely paper, Green Lights Forever: Analyzing the Security of Traffic Infrastructure. It’s a short and fun read. In summary, it’s common for traffic light controllers to speak to each other over a 5.8GHz wireless channel (much like WiFi, but a dedicated frequency) with no cryptography, default usernames and passwords, and well-known and exploitable bugs. Oh boy. And what can we do with that?

We want our traffic lights to coordinate with one another. This streamlines the flow of traffic. If an attacker can mess with that coordination in an arbitrary fashion, then they can for example ensure they always have green lights. They can ensure others don’t. The opportunities for mayhem may seemingly allow your imagination to wander to the low point of Bruce Willis’s career: Live Free or Die Hard, wherein cyber-baddies redirected traffic in a vain attempt to squish our action hero. In reality, probably not. One of the curious things about the computer design for traffic light controllers is that there are really two computers stacked one atop the other. The “MMU” computer has a bunch of basic rules it has to enforce (e.g., minimum duration of yellow lights) and if the fancy controller tries to create panic at the disco, the MMU says “umm, no” and goes into flashing red, requiring somebody to manually come out and reset it. Which is to say, an attacker who wants to do more than a little tweaking here and there is likely to just dump all the lights into blinking-red mode and just piss everybody off.

So… I’m sure you’ve got questions. Let me see if I can anticipate them and act like I know what I’m talking about:

How hard is it to pull this off? Surprisingly easy. About the only thing that’s non-trivial is getting hold of the proper radio hardware, and that’s a pretty low bar.

How hard is it to fix this? Harder than you’d think. These radios do support WPA2 (the same crypto standard used to protect WiFi networks), and cities could deploy it. They’d inevitably end up using the same key material everywhere, but that’s certainly better than doing everything in the clear. More importantly, these signal lights were never really engineered to be easy to apply software updates, unlike your smartphone or something that happily updates itself in the background. This means that latent bugs can be more easily found and exploited, simply by rummaging around in the list of bugs fixed in newer versions of the system.

Come on, nobody’s going to really do this. Sure, you go ahead and believe that, but wouldn’t you like to know that somebody can’t just arbitrarily screw with traffic? I can think of all sorts of nefarious reasons why an attacker might be financially incentivized to create carefully chosen local traffic jams.

This kind of information is too dangerous to be out in public! Whoa there. Just because it’s new to you doesn’t mean it’s new to the nefarious sorts. Sometimes, a little bit of public pressure is a very good thing to push vendors to fix their products and push customers to adopt the fixes. (There’s also an analogy here to the argument that gun control only limits the good guys’ guns. That particular argument is generally stronger when we’re talking about cyber weapons versus the traditional kinetic variety.)

Gosh, what would happen if future traffic light controllers didn’t have the MMU contraption? Arguably the MMU saved their bacon. Otherwise, the U. Michigan team would have been able to do much nastier things. Also, if we ever get autonomous intersections (great work from UT Austin, by the way), where self-driving robo-cars are negotiating their paths well in advance, getting rid of traditional stop lights altogether, then the security vulnerabilities would be a much, much more serious concern. Just watch the video below and cringe a bit.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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Review: 2015 Chevrolet Malibu Eco LS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2015-chevrolet-malibu-eco-ls/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2015-chevrolet-malibu-eco-ls/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 15:45:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=875249 Exterior photography by Rachel Gibbs What did the American people get for the fifty billion dollars they spent and the eleven billion they lost on the General Motors bailout? Well, they got stability, they got the retention of perhaps a million jobs, they avoided what might have been a last straw in what a posterity […]

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Exterior photography by Rachel Gibbs

What did the American people get for the fifty billion dollars they spent and the eleven billion they lost on the General Motors bailout? Well, they got stability, they got the retention of perhaps a million jobs, they avoided what might have been a last straw in what a posterity unblinded by the contemporaneous media’s Obama-as-messiah drumbeat will recognize as the greatest depression since the Great one, and they got the C7 Corvette.

All good things, if you ask me.

But they also got garbage like this.

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I thought the original Malibu was pretty okay. Its replacement, I felt, was worse, but I held out the possibility that a round of 2014-model-year changes might improve the situation somewhat. It has to be said that General Motors did a good job of getting its tame mouthpieces to spread the word about the “new” Eco drivetrain being just as efficient as the old-for-2013 edition despite the fact that it loses eAssist in favor of a simple stop-start system. For that reason I thought that perhaps the 2014 Malibu wouldn’t be a disaster.

Well, here’s the good news up front, for what it’s worth: I couldn’t get the 2013 Malibu LTZ four-cylinder to exceed 27mpg average. The 2015 Malibu Eco LS that I drove from Columbus to Evansville, IN and back did this:

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over this distance:

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That’s approximately what I saw in a 2014 Accord EX-L CVT. It’s not a surprise that General Motors, a company which has focused on the raw numbers when measuring competitiveness to a sometimes embarrassing extent, (cf.: the ads for the Pontiac 6000 where they compared it with the BMW 533i) has managed to come within striking distance of Honda’s four-cylinder fuel economy. It’s also not a surprise that the experience of operating the Malibu powertrain is, subjectively speaking, monstrously unpleasant in contrast to the Accord setup.

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On the move, the Malibu is spectacularly gutless, digging deep into the transmission with a herk and a jerk for the mildest grades. The Accord four is a rocketship compared to this. I’m not going to say it’s dangerously slow because it isn’t. However, we’ve come to take a certain amount of, shall we say, adjustability via the throttle in a modern car. As in: “If this merge is dicey I can jam the throttle and just get in front of this truck.” In the Malibu, you won’t have that adjustability. You’d better plan ahead. Not like you would in a 240D, but like you would in a three-liter Taurus from 1995. If your current car is an old four-cylinder Malibu, you’re unlikely to have any complaints. If it’s a four-cylinder Camry of recent vintage, you’re going to be unpleasantly surprised.

Everyone else will be unpleasantly surprised by the unbelievably cack-handed stop-start. Whatever nonsense you thought about stop-start when you first heard about in reference to the Insight or Prius or AMG E63 wagon or whatever — it isn’t reliable, it takes a bit of time to start, it’s noisy, it sounds like you’re wearing the car out — is actually true in the case of the Malibu Eco.

Most of the time, coming to a halt in the ‘Bu will cause the engine to fall dead and the tach needle to fall to “auto stop”. So far so good and other than a discernible drop in the efficacy of the A/C there’s not much about which you could complain. Release the brakes and the engine immediately spins up and delivers power, and off you go.

No, wait.

That’s how it works in other cars.

In the Malibu it goes WHIRRRRRRRRRRRREEEEEEAAARRRRRRRRGH and the engine reluctantly coughs into life like a freakin’ 1982 Citation Iron Duke and the car briefly shudders with the violence of it and THEN the car moves forward. It’s easily the least confidence-inspiring powertrain I’ve experienced in a post-Millennium automobile. In what should be perfect weather for this sort of system — eighty degrees and sunny — I had genuine concerns that the Malibu just wouldn’t come back to life at a given stop. Performing left turns across traffic and whatnot were made frightening, so I developed the “Malibu Pokey”:

You put your right foot in
You take your right foot out
It makes the stop-start start up
and run the engine
That’s what it’s all about!

As satisfying as the Malibu Pokey was while driving around downtown Louisville, I resigned myself to the fact that I couldn’t do it very often because it wouldn’t let the Chevrolet post its best possible fuel economy. Left turns became exciting again.

The removal of the eAssist from the Malibu Eco was supposed to give us the trunk back, but if that’s the case I’d hate to see what it was like before. This has to be the smallest trunk in a mid-sized car by some amount; it’s significantly less useful than the cargo area in my Accord Coupe and the Altima I drove immediately after this Malibu shamed it in that regard. A normal-sized guitar hard case fits very awkwardly in this Malibu, to the point that I gave up and started putting everything in the back seat. I was willing to accept the old Malibu’s restricted storage room because I dug the minimalist aesthetic of the whole car, but this thing is to its predecessor like a ’77 Colonnade Monte Carlo is to a ’68 Chevelle, styling-wise. GM Design pulled out all the Malaise stops on this indifferently flame-surfaced disaster and the result is an odd combination of a Silverado, a Camaro, and a Pinewood Derby car. It literally couldn’t have any more front end on it, likely because GM wanted it to share “design DNA” with the trucks, and therefore it tapers to the back like one of those nightmare lantern-jaw fish of the unfathomable deep.

Things don’t improve once you get inside, particularly at night, where the trademark “GM Aqua LCD” color is extended to some, ahem, mood lighting. The General’s managed to do something unprecedented in human history: they’ve managed to make a color feel cheap. After well over two decades of indifferently-backlit aqua-esque instrument panels in cars that committed sins from subterranean resale value all the way to attempted-murder-via-ignition-switch-was-the-case-that-they-gave-me, the use of this color should require a “trigger warning” on the door jamb.

The seats are uncomfortable, the steering’s dead, the brakes are touchy, and everything you touch in this LS variant has the mark of cost-cutting Cain all over it.

In other words, this heavily-revised Malibu is significantly less pleasant to operate than an old Cruze. I cannot imagine than anybody would test-drive this and Ye Olde Daewoo Laecetti back-to-back and pick this. I cannot imagine that anybody would test-drive this and an Altima, Camry, or Accord back-to-back and pick this. I have no idea why anybody would buy this car. As tested, it’s $23,165. For that money you can get any number of decent cars, including a Cruze 2LT. If you can wait a few months, you can get the revised Cruze, even. Or you could take advantage of whatever incentives can be had now and you can buy a Cruze LTZ. There is no way in which a Cruze LTZ is not preferable to this Malibu.

That’s disappointing as hell because the Cruze is a Daewoo, excuse me, GM Korea, and the Malibu is a product of the home team and it’s a half-decade newer. We should be able to do better. We can do better. Go try out a C7 Corvette. It’s brilliant in ways I can’t describe without sounding like Dan Neil desperately firing the third spasm of the day into his battered thesaurus. Go check out a Cadillac ATS. The interior’s cramped and sucky but they’ve completely cracked the handling code. Take a look at a current Tahoe; it’s the finest, fastest, most spacious station wagon in history.

It isn’t that GM can’t make good product. It’s that sometimes they don’t try. So in the case of the Malibu, you shouldn’t bother.
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Toyota FCV To Get “Mirai” Moniker, Hefty Rebates In Japan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/toyota-fcv-to-get-mirai-moniker-hefty-rebates-in-japan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/toyota-fcv-to-get-mirai-moniker-hefty-rebates-in-japan/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 15:40:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=875241 Toyota’s upcoming fuel-cell vehicle will reportedly get the name “Mirai” when it launches in 2015, along with a hefty rebate program in its home market of Japan. Bloomberg reports that the Mirai name has been trademarked in the United States, but the actual name won’t be revealed until closer to its 2015 on sale date. […]

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Toyota’s upcoming fuel-cell vehicle will reportedly get the name “Mirai” when it launches in 2015, along with a hefty rebate program in its home market of Japan.

Bloomberg reports that the Mirai name has been trademarked in the United States, but the actual name won’t be revealed until closer to its 2015 on sale date. The word Mirai is said to mean “future” in Japanese.

Just-Auto is reporting that Japan’s government could offer rebates as high as 2 million yen (about $20,000 at current exchange rates), bringing the Toyota FCV’s pricetag down from 7 million yen ($70,000) to about 50,000 yen ($50,000). The government is also piloting an infrastructure project to bring 100 hydrogen fuel stations to the country by March 31, 2015, in an effort to help spur demand.

Plans are afoot to use the first hydrogen cars as taxis and other service vehicles, as a means of creating broader acceptance and reducing petroleum usage.

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2015 Cadillac ATS-L Is “Coming With Length” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/2015-cadillac-ats-l-is-coming-with-length/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/2015-cadillac-ats-l-is-coming-with-length/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 14:18:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=875137 Our most recent review of the Cadillac ATS determined that Cadillac had finally made a sports sedan worthy of besting the F30 BMW 3-Series. But the ATS was also docked points for providing E36 3-Series-esque rear passenger space. Cadillac’s Chinese division appears to have remedied the problem, with a rather unfortunate English marketing slogan. For […]

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Our most recent review of the Cadillac ATS determined that Cadillac had finally made a sports sedan worthy of besting the F30 BMW 3-Series. But the ATS was also docked points for providing E36 3-Series-esque rear passenger space. Cadillac’s Chinese division appears to have remedied the problem, with a rather unfortunate English marketing slogan.

For the Cadillac ATS-L’s launch, Cadillac has decided to go with the rather unfortunate slogan “I’m Coming With Length”. We’ll leave it at that.

The ATS-L really is packing more size. With an additional 3 inches of wheelbase, .79 inches of width and a .25 inch lower ride height, the ATS-L is the car that we should have gotten all along. From the photos, it doesn’t look like the car’s proportions were compromised either. Powertrains are the same as well, but only the 2.0T and 3.6L engines are available.

We now return to your regularly scheduled, less juvenile programming.

 

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Michigan State Police Say Most Speed Limits are Too Low http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/michigan-state-police-say-most-speed-limits-are-too-low/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/michigan-state-police-say-most-speed-limits-are-too-low/#comments Sun, 27 Jul 2014 14:03:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873681   In his capacity as the former head of the MSP’s  Traffic Services Section it was Lt. Gary Megge’s job to eliminate speed traps set up by local municipalities. A few years ago Megge told the Detroit News, “I’ve spent eight years in traffic services, and I was a crash reconstructionist for five years before that, so I’ve seen […]

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Michigan State Police photo

 

In his capacity as the former head of the MSP’s  Traffic Services Section it was Lt. Gary Megge’s job to eliminate speed traps set up by local municipalities. A few years ago Megge told the Detroit News, “I’ve spent eight years in traffic services, and I was a crash reconstructionist for five years before that, so I’ve seen my share of fatal wrecks, and I can tell you: Deaths are not caused by speeding. They’re caused by drinking, drugs and inattentiveness. The old adage that speed kills just isn’t realistic. The safest speed is the speed that is correct for that roadway at a given time. A lot of speed limits are set artificially low.”

The state police were one of the groups who backed, against the lobbying of municipalities, a change in Michigan law that required speed limits to be set based on actual traffic data and engineering studies. That law, Public Act 85 proposed to set limits based on what is known as the 85th percentile rule, a widely used measure that sets speed limits at how fast 85% of drivers travel safely. “It just doesn’t seem right to me that we would enforce a law where 90-98 percent of the people are in violation of it,” Lieutenant Megge told the DetNews in 2008. “It’s not the way we should do business in this country.”

After that law was passed, cities, towns and villages, through the Michigan Municipal League, pointed out that the law didn’t specifically require traffic studies and lobbied against revisions to Public Act 85 that would force them to due such studies. At the time, Megge agreed with them, to a point. “There is nothing in the code that specifically requires a municipality to conduct traffic studies,” said Megge, “but enforcement of any law must match the criteria of the law,” technically making invalid those tickets issued on roads whose speed limits were not compliant with P.A. 85. The cities opposed using such studies because they almost invariably call for higher speed limits, potentially reducing revenue from speeding tickets. The revisions eventually passed in 2010.

Since then, Lt. Megge’s job has been overseeing such compliance. Over his career he’s had a hand in the raising of over 400 speed limits across Michigan (though in a small number of cases the studies resulted in lower speed limits). By now there’s more than a decade’s worth of data from those raised speed limits and Megge insists that higher speed limits don’t mean that people drive significantly faster. They drive just as fast as they always did before, and just as safely. They just do so without risking points on their drivers’ licenses. The lieutenant says, “Over the years, I’ve done many follow up studies after we raise or lower a speed limit. Almost every time, the 85th percentile speed doesn’t change, or if it does, it’s by about 2 or 3 mph.”

In addition to the fact that they don’t really do anything to promote traffic safety, Lt. Megge says that unreasonably low speed limits actually make roads less safe by diverting resources away from the kind of law enforcement that has measurable effect. Megge recommends, instead of zealous speed enforcement against drivers who are effectively safe, focusing on drunk drivers, red light runners, drivers and passengers who don’t buckle up, and, an important point, enforcing realistic speed limits against the small minority of drivers who unreasonably and excessively speed.

Alex Mayyasi, at pricenomics.com, has an extensive look at how speeds limits have been and are being set, including an interview with Lt. Megge. As the good Prof. Reynolds says, read the whole thing, then come back here and share your views.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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GM’s First Concept Car and the Influential Result: 1936 Cadillac V16 Aerodynamic Coupe by Fleetwood http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/gms-first-concept-car-and-the-influential-result-1936-cadillac-v16-aerodynamic-coupe-by-fleetwood/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/gms-first-concept-car-and-the-influential-result-1936-cadillac-v16-aerodynamic-coupe-by-fleetwood/#comments Sun, 27 Jul 2014 11:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872994 This car at first may look to you a lot like any other 1930s coupe, but it was one of the most influential cars of the era, impacting both the way that cars were styled and promoted. You see, in addition to setting the pattern for the way that General Motors’ cars (and their competitors’ cars as […]

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Full gallery here

This car at first may look to you a lot like any other 1930s coupe, but it was one of the most influential cars of the era, impacting both the way that cars were styled and promoted. You see, in addition to setting the pattern for the way that General Motors’ cars (and their competitors’ cars as well) looked in the immediate prewar period, the 1936 Cadillac Aerodynamic Coupe was GM’s first production car that was based on what we now call a concept car. Back then, though, they were more likely to call those concepts “show cars”, and not only was the Aerodynamic Coupe GM’s first production car derived from a show car, that show car was the giant automaker’s first attempt at creating a one-off vehicle just for promotional purposes. It also represented the solidification of Harley Earl and his styling team’s important role in General Motors’ hierarchy and not so incidentally it helped Cadillac replace Packard as America’s preeminent luxury automaker.

The fact that there was an economic depression going on didn’t stop American car companies from participating in the 1933 Century of Progress world’s fair exposition in Chicago. Ford’s pavilion featured a chandelier made of three full-size Ford cars suspended from the ceiling. Studebaker constructed a mammoth, 80 foot long wooden model of their Land Cruiser automobile. Chevrolet built and operated an actual assembly plant on the fair grounds where you could watch cars being assembled and even take delivery of a new Chevy at the fair.

A number of automakers prepared special cars for the exposition, particularly the luxury marques. Packard created the “Car of the Dome”, sometimes called “the most famous Packard”, a modified Dietrich style sedan. Pierce Arrow showed their radically styled Siver Arrow. Ford displayed an aerodynamic rear-engined prototype designed by John Tjaarda of the Briggs company called the Briggs Dream Car that was the original concept behind the 1936 Lincoln Zephyr, and Duesenberg created a Rollston bodied supercharged Model SJ Arlington Torpedo sedan designed by Gordon Buehrig and nicknamed “Twenty Grand”. That car’s named derived from it’s $20,000 price, the equivalent of over $350,000 today.

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Clay modelers working on the Cadillac Aerodynamic Coupe show car for the 1933 Century of Progress world’s fair in Chicago.

With that kind of competition, GM’s newly formed Art and Colour Section took their task seriously. Previewing the fastback rooflines of the 1940s the Cadillac coupe show car had a very long 154 inch wheelbase and a sloping tail. The long and smooth lines were supposed to convey the impression of power and speed. Those lines were accentuated by the sloping rear end and by tapered horizontal accents on the sides of the hood and fenders. Unlike most cars of the day that carried exposed spare tires mounted either on the back of the car or as “side mounts” where the front fenders flowed into the running boards, the Aerodynamic Coupe stashed the spare in the trunk. Actually, that “trunk” inside the bodywork was rather advanced in an era when many luxury cars still had steamer trunks on a rack behind the car to store luggage. Even the exhaust pipes were styled, an innovation that lasts till today, and the exhaust system was tuned to give the car’s V16 engine an appropriate tone.

That V16 engine, in production since 1930 and the first production V16 used for a passenger car, was possibly the first car engine that was styled for aesthetic reasons. The motor received finishes in enamel paint, porcelain, polished aluminum and chrome. Valve covers were polished and detailed. Wiring was hidden away and special attention was paid to how and where the accessories were mounted. The V16 looked so good that Cadillac would apply the same styling to its V8 and V12 engines.

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Cadillac Aerodynamic Coupe show car

A “winged goddess” Cadillac hood ornament topped things off and even that received special attention, with a polished finish on its front, while surfaces visible to the driver were dulled, so as not to create glare. Per the coachbuilding terms of the day, the interior was done in”plain style”, about as plain as British “public schools” are public. A dark dashboard is brightened with two slanted strips of chrome, continuing the V motifs that abound on the car. Windows had walnut trim and the various knobs and handles were plated in a satin gold finish. The sun visors were shaped like abstract leaves, made of fine cloth and mounted with screws that had heads of imitation pearl. Instead of metal handles, the doors were closed with rope pulls mounted below the armrests. As would be expected, the deeply cushioned and broad seats were very comfortable.

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While the V16 engine didn’t survive past 1940, features of the Aerodynamic Coupe would find their way into production cars for decades, including the all-steel “turret top” roof, a recessed and lighted license plate housing, the fuel filler hidden in the taillight housing (a feature perhaps most famous for its use in the iconic 1957 Chevrolet sedan) and the use of chrome window surrounds and beltline trim to accentuate the coupe’s lines. The Aerodynamic Coupe itself would make it to production in 1936 more or less unchanged from the concept car.

In the following video, Steve Pasteiner, who runs the AAT prototype shop and who was a long time designer at GM, discusses Harley Earl and the influence of the Cadillac Aerodynamic Coupe. I apologize for the video’s audio quality, for some reason it recorded at a low level and I had to boost the gain in editing, resulting in some distortion. It’s still a worthwhile listen for Pasteiner’s insider’s look.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The resulting product was an automobile that looked much more modern to 1930s consumers when compared to the conventional automobiles of the day. Remember, automotive styling was in its infancy in those days and many manufacturers in the 1920s and even later paid virtually no attention to making their cars distinctive. Retired GM designer Dave Holls explained what set the Aerodynamic Coupe apart from its contemporaries, helping to position Cadillac at the top of the American luxury car market:

“Cadillacs were much later than 1933 in form. . . . It was fine styling — if you hold your hand over the front end and look at the car from there back, you begin to see a fair resemblance to the Cord Beverly. . . . This was a time when Cadillac began to make bold, yet careful steps toward change, while Packard hung tenaciously onto its long heritage, making only limited changes. A lot of people went along with them at the time, but the practice established a position, and they were stuck with it, later on with disastrous results.”

This particular 1936 Cadillac Aerodynamic Coupe was not just on display at the 2014 Eyes On Design show, it was featured on the poster for this year’s event. It’s owned by Bill and Barbara Parfet, who are well known among classic car collectors. Mr. Parfet has been president of the foundation that supports the great Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, a bit north of Kalamazoo. The ’36 is one of just 52 V16 Cadillacs made for the 1936 model year, each of them pretty much hand built by Cadillac’s Fleetwood body division. While that number of cars may not seem very significant, that year was the first time Cadillac surpassed Packard in annual sales to become the best-selling U.S. luxury marque, a position it still holds, though its leadership in the overall U.S. luxury segment has, in modern times, been eclipsed by foreign competitors, particularly brands from Germany.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Junkyard Find: 1988 Ford Escort GT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1988-ford-escort-gt-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1988-ford-escort-gt-2/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 13:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872602 Most of the Escort GTs you see these days are the Mazda-based cars that came out starting in the 1991 model year. The first-gen North American Escort, loosely based on its European counterpart, was built from 1981 through 1990, and examples are becoming very rare in wrecking yards. We saw this first-half-of-1988 Escort GT last […]

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04 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMost of the Escort GTs you see these days are the Mazda-based cars that came out starting in the 1991 model year. The first-gen North American Escort, loosely based on its European counterpart, was built from 1981 through 1990, and examples are becoming very rare in wrecking yards. We saw this first-half-of-1988 Escort GT last month, and now I’ve found this “1988.5″ model in a Southern California yard.
02 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou could get a 5.0 “HO” V8 in the Mustang and Continental Mark VII, and so Ford just had to label the 1.9 CVH engine as an HO as well. 110 horsepower out of this engine, which was two more than the ’88 Honda Civic Si had.
09 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI am experiencing an 80s flashback, looking at these tape graphics. Makes me want to loot an S&L.
10 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNot much left of the interior. This might have been an interior-parts donor for a nicer GT.
14 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe rear wing, which did a fine job of trapping a couple of decades’ worth of dirt, won’t be going to The Crusher with the rest of the car.

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Exclusive: General Motors Working On Sonic EV With 200-Mile Range http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/exclusive-general-motors-working-on-sonic-ev-with-200-mile-range/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/exclusive-general-motors-working-on-sonic-ev-with-200-mile-range/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:26:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872874 The upcoming pure electric vehicle being discussed in the wake of the Opel Ampera’s demise will also be sold in the United States, in the form of a Chevrolet Sonic. The Sonic-based EV will reportedly have a 200 mile range, which will presumably come from the new battery that LG Chem (battery supplier for the Volt) […]

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The upcoming pure electric vehicle being discussed in the wake of the Opel Ampera’s demise will also be sold in the United States, in the form of a Chevrolet Sonic.

The Sonic-based EV will reportedly have a 200 mile range, which will presumably come from the new battery that LG Chem (battery supplier for the Volt) is working on right now. That will arrive in 2016, which suggests that the Sonic EV won’t be introduced until at least that date.

The Sonic EV will also be built in Michigan, which will allow GM to gain regulatory credits for selling a pure EV that is also made in America. The Chevrolet Spark EV, which is built in Korea, is not eligible, and has a range of just 82 miles.

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Junkyard Find: 1979 Lincoln Continental Town Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1979-lincoln-continental-town-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1979-lincoln-continental-town-car/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 13:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872386 Malaise Era Lincolns are common sightings in high-turnover pull-yer-part wrecking yards these days, since there’s not much interest in preserving these cars. We saw an extremely clean 1976 Town Car in California a few months back (it’s still on the yard, and very few parts have been pulled since I photographed it), and now I’ve […]

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19 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMalaise Era Lincolns are common sightings in high-turnover pull-yer-part wrecking yards these days, since there’s not much interest in preserving these cars. We saw an extremely clean 1976 Town Car in California a few months back (it’s still on the yard, and very few parts have been pulled since I photographed it), and now I’ve found this rougher (but not at all rusty) ’79 at another San Francisco Bay Area self-serve yard.
14 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinEven it its distressed state, the luxury is still evident.
16 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSomebody grabbed the 400, for reasons that probably made sense at the time.
24 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOpera lights? Opera lights.
05 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Park-To-Reverse fiasco resulted in Ford recalling 23 million vehicles in 1980 and adding these warning stickers.
15 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSuper-cushy burgundy leather seats, of course.
09 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin85 mph speedometer.
07 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe ornamental trip-counter reset knob is a nice touch.
01 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI have never found one of these Cartier “digital” clocks in working order, but my car-clock collection needs one. I decided to risk $5.99 on this one… and it works! People win the lottery, and 1970s Detroit car clocks sometimes work.

01 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Rental Review: Cadillac ATS 2.0T AWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/rental-review-cadillac-ats-2-0t-awd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/rental-review-cadillac-ats-2-0t-awd/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:58:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=869546 11 years ago, Cadillac told us that they were “The Standard of the World”, in a blast of Zeppelin-backed TV spots and aggressively geometric styling. The 2003 CTS wasn’t even the standard for North American luxury cars, but hey, it took Audi another 30 years to even come close to making that claim. Cadillac seems […]

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11 years ago, Cadillac told us that they were “The Standard of the World”, in a blast of Zeppelin-backed TV spots and aggressively geometric styling. The 2003 CTS wasn’t even the standard for North American luxury cars, but hey, it took Audi another 30 years to even come close to making that claim. Cadillac seems to be moving at a much quicker pace.

Despite Cadillac’s confidence in their excellence, they are reticent to lend any press vehicles to TTAC. The timing of a recent trip required a one day rental, and the local Avis counter advertised a special on the “Cadillac CTS” for just $80 a day with unlimited mileage. It turns out that Avis does indeed rent out the CTS, but our particularly branch did not. Instead, we were assigned a silver ATS4 (all-wheel drive) with the 2.0T engine and 6-speed automatic. Remember kids, if it seems to good to be true…

It would be incorrect to say that I was disappointed, but I had hoped for the CTS precisely because a) the relentless hype had me curious about its overall competence b) we are lacking in reviews of the car and c) every ATS I have driven thus far has been a letdown. Around the time of its launch, I briefly sampled a rear-drive 3.6L with all of the bells and whistles, and found it underwhelming. A second drive, in a 2.0T with the 6-speed manual, did nothing to dispel my skepticism. The 6-speed manual was unequivocally one of the worst gearboxes I’ve ever sampled, and the engine’s NVH characteristics were shockingly coarse for a luxury sedan. I could not, for the life of me, understand the praise being heaped upon this car.

After a solid day’s drive, I have a better picture in my head of why the ATS is so highly regarded. Part of it comes down to the fact that the team of engineers, product planners, designers and marketers have managed to great a truly worthy sports sedan. The other half of that equation is that the competition has miraculously managed to recede in overall competence to the point where the ATS is the class leader by default.

The ATS can reasonably lay claim to “The Standard of the World” title by virtue of its 2.0T engine, which is, well, the new standard of the world for virtually every mid-size car that would normally have used a V6 engine, thanks to a combination of regulations and economies of scale. The 2.0T in the ATS isn’t particularly charming or refined, but it does bring 272 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque at just 1700 rpm. Like most of these new turbo four-bangers, the torque builds down low and stays fairly robust throughout the rev range that you’d use in any realistic situation, including spirited back road driving.

Acceleration, passing on two-lane roads and any other task that relies on forward thrust is accomplished with minimal fuss, and it’s hard to see why anyone would bother with the V6 when the power on tap here is so usable in everyday situations. The 6-speed automatic transmission is the superior choice versus the manual, but it doesn’t feel terribly responsive or sophisticated. However, this gearbox will likely be replaced by either the 8L90 GM 8-speed automatic, or the Aisin 8-speed from the Cadillac CTS, so dwelling on its shortcomings is a bit of a moot point.

The most compelling part of the ATS is the chassis, which stands out as a credit to GM’s engineering team. It’s hard to think of a car that is able to so expertly balance ride and handling, delivering a smooth, composed ride no matter what the road surface, while also delivering on the “sport” part of the equation. Befitting its rental car specs, our ATS had a smaller wheel and tire combo than what I normally see on the road, and that may have contributed to the ATS being a bit more sedate. But through twisty stretches of road, the ATS still delivered in a big way, with flat cornering, eager turn-in and communicative, if not particularly weighty steering.

A spirited drive makes it plain why the ATS was met with such a chorus of approval when it debuted. GM has finally made a proper sports sedan that is better to drive than the current BMW 3-Series. Part of this has to do with the fact that current F30 has lost its way in such a severe manner that the ATS assumes this mantle by default: I have not driven the Lexus IS350, our EIC’s favorite sports sedan, and I know that an E90 328i is superior in every way, but right now, the ATS is without a doubt the best handling luxury sports sedan on the market.

Unfortunately, it has two glaring flaws.

  1. The back seat is tiny. Cadillac stole a lot of good things from the BMW playbook. One of them seems to be the size of the E36′s rear seat area. My two passengers, at 5’8″ and 6’2″, were initially enthusiastic about my rental car selection. By the end of it, they were cursing the Caddy.
  2. CUE is unequivocally the worst infotainment system on the planet. By comparison, the early renditions of MyFord Touch look like something running iOS. The haptic controls never quite worked the way they were meant to and even the slightest bump or pothole in the road can send your finger veering off to the tab or menu item that you didn’t intend to touch, leaving you to navigate through a confusing menu system that only leads to distracted driving.

With more time, a more thorough evaluation of the ATS, but for now, I can only determine that somewhere within the bowels of the RenCen, there are a talented group of engineers that are capable of making something that truly is “The Standard of the World”. Their electronics division is another matter…

 

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Junkyard Find: 1982 Volkswagen Scirocco http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1982-volkswagen-scirocco/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1982-volkswagen-scirocco/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=871498 These days, most of the older water-cooled VWs you see in American pull-yer-part wrecking yards are Golf Cabrios and the occasional ancient Malaisewagen. I see a second-gen Scirocco every now and then (the first-gens have long since disappeared from the junkyard ecosystem), and today’s Junkyard Find caught my attention with its distinctively early-80s paint color. […]

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07 - 1982 Volkswagen Scirocco Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese days, most of the older water-cooled VWs you see in American pull-yer-part wrecking yards are Golf Cabrios and the occasional ancient Malaisewagen. I see a second-gen Scirocco every now and then (the first-gens have long since disappeared from the junkyard ecosystem), and today’s Junkyard Find caught my attention with its distinctively early-80s paint color.
12 - 1982 Volkswagen Scirocco Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Robert ArmstrongWhen I see a Scirocco of this era, I always think of it as the car that genius cartoonist Robert Armstrong gave his lovable-dirtbag Mickey Rat character when The Man brainwashed him into becoming a solid citizen; a very yuppie machine in its time.
10 - 1982 Volkswagen Scirocco Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMechanically speaking, the Scirocco didn’t differ much from the Golf. 74 horsepower in 1982 for US-market Sciroccos (which were more fun to drive than that figure suggests).
01 - 1982 Volkswagen Scirocco Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese cars aren’t worth much in rough condition, so once one falls into the hands of a city tow-yard or an insurance auction, the junkyard is the likeliest next stop.

01 - 1982 Volkswagen Scirocco Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1982 Volkswagen Scirocco Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1982 Volkswagen Scirocco Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1982 Volkswagen Scirocco Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1982 Volkswagen Scirocco Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1982 Volkswagen Scirocco Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1982 Volkswagen Scirocco Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1982 Volkswagen Scirocco Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1982 Volkswagen Scirocco Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1982 Volkswagen Scirocco Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1982 Volkswagen Scirocco Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Galhotra Takes The Reins As Lincoln’s New President http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/galhotra-takes-the-reins-as-lincolns-new-president/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/galhotra-takes-the-reins-as-lincolns-new-president/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 12:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=871938 As one of his first major moves since becoming CEO, Ford’s Mark Fields named vice president of engineering Kumar Galhotra as president of Lincoln, effective September 1. Automotive News reports Galhotra, who will report directly to the new CEO, will be the premium brand’s first president since Al Giombetti left the post in 2007. The […]

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As one of his first major moves since becoming CEO, Ford’s Mark Fields named vice president of engineering Kumar Galhotra as president of Lincoln, effective September 1.

Automotive News reports Galhotra, who will report directly to the new CEO, will be the premium brand’s first president since Al Giombetti left the post in 2007. The move will also reduce executive vice president of global sales, service and marketing Jim Farley’s role with Lincoln, which will be focused on marketing the brand once Galhotra takes over.

The new president — an engineer and product executive who has worked with Lincoln, Ford and Mazda in the past — will bring his marketing experience to the table as Lincoln prepares to launch in China later in 2014; he headed Ford’s Asia Pacific division from 2009 to 2013, and helped bring about the new Ranger pickup to market.

Speaking of the division, engineering director Jim Holland will move from there to replace Galhotra as Ford’s vice president of engineering, reporting to global product development chief Raj Nair.

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Track Analysis: Challenger V6 Track Pack, HEMI Scat Pack, SRT Hellcat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/track-analysis-challenger-v6-track-pack-hemi-scat-pack-srt-hellcat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/track-analysis-challenger-v6-track-pack-hemi-scat-pack-srt-hellcat/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 19:45:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=871714 Getting decent conclusions from very limited data is the sort of thing of which Nobel Prizes are made. What you’re about to read won’t be Nobel-worthy; however, I believe it will help you understand how fast the Hellcat and how it compares to both the other Challengers and the external competition. I got a total […]

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Getting decent conclusions from very limited data is the sort of thing of which Nobel Prizes are made. What you’re about to read won’t be Nobel-worthy; however, I believe it will help you understand how fast the Hellcat and how it compares to both the other Challengers and the external competition.

I got a total of six flying laps at PIR, a place to which I’d never been, in three different cars. I had traffic in my face for all but two of those laps, and I had no truly clear laps in the Hellcat. But let’s start with the basics. I drove these three cars in this order:

Challenger R/T 6.4L Scat Pack 6MT: lap time of 1:38.9 with a top speed of 122mph on the back straight.
Challenger V6 Super Track Pack 8AT: lap time of 1:38.3 with a top speed of 112.5mph on the back straight.
Challenger SRT Hellcat 6MT: lap time of 1:33.7 with a top speed of 136mph on the back straight.

So let’s start by eliminating some of the variables. The only clean lap I got in the Scat Pack was my first-ever lap of PIR. There’s no way I was going to turn a brilliant lap time first time out. Analysis shows I was 6mph slower going into the turn before the long straight than I was in the average of the other cars. My line in the V6 which I drove afterwards was better. After looking at the data and assuming that the Scat Pack can turn about as well as the V6, I’ve guesstimated a 1:36 at 127mph for the Scat Pack.

How did other people do: This video shows SRT’s Vehicle Dynamics Engineer Marco Diniz de Oliveira running a 1:33.0 with the same spec car that I drove. Compared to my videotaped 1:33.7 lap you can see that he didn’t have to lift for a frightened journo like I did on the front straight, and he also didn’t goatfuck the chicane the way I did. (My excuse: I was so annoyed at being balked that I held throttle too long.) I’m reasonably confident that I got about as much out of the Hellcat as I was going to in two laps. Given ten more laps, I think a 1:31.5 was well within reach. Keeping pinned on the straight is worth half a second, doing the chicane right is worth a second and a half, and I could have shortened the braking zone in back.

Another journalist whom I won’t name was kind enough to let me “run data” with them in the V6 Challenger that I drove. He turned a 1:58.3 with a top speed of 105.5mph on the back straight. That two-minute-ish lap time is approximately representative of what most people were doing out there and it’s why I kept running into traffic.

So those are the caveats. Now let’s look at some stats.

First off, acceleration. The corner before the back straight shows the Hellcat with a low speed of 43.5mph against 41.7mph for the V6. That’s the extra tire you get with the Hellcat which is only partially canceled out by the weight of the engine. As we pass the access road on the back straight, the V6 has accelerated to 87mph and the ScatPack to a corrected 93mph. How fast is the Hellcat going? Survey says: 102mph. That is brutal acceleration. More impressively, the gap widens as speeds increase. Supercharged cars often feel breathless at the top of the rev range because they are optimized to push air at low speeds and unlike turbo-supercharged (to use the old phrase) cars there’s no compound effect as the exhaust gases push the turbo faster. As an example, when I drove the GT500 at VIR I found myself dueling a Porsche GT2 on the back straight. The Shelby had legs on the GT500 in the first half of VIR’s long stretch but the GT2 picked up as speeds increased and it wasn’t all due to frontal area.

Now for braking. A similar push of the brake pedal produced a .78g retarding force in the V6, a .86g one in the four-piston Brembo Scat Pack, and .98g in the Hellcat. These numbers have to be understood in context, not as absolutes, because of the way my phone was mounted in the car and the general issues with Android accelerometers. Only the V6 ever felt underbraked in these short lap situations; it doesn’t have enough thermal capacity as supplied for two hard laps. The others were fine, with the Hellcat having a considerable edge in feel and response. My experience with the Z/28 at Thermal Club for last month’s Road&Track showed me that it’s possible to put enough brake on a ponycar, but you have to be willing to spend a LOT of money on it. As expensive as the Brembo system on the Hellcat must be, it ain’t carbon ceramic and when you’re slowing two tons down from a considerable velocity it’s worth getting the right material for the job.

v6lap

This is the V6 lap.

hellcatlap

This is the Hellcat lap.

Cornering isn’t exactly an open and shut case, which is why the V6 might be a satisfying track car if you could upgrade the brakes a bit via pads and fluid. Data for all three cars shows that they are capable of about the same max cornering g and speed, with a slight edge going to the Hellcat in pretty much all the corners. What the data can’t show you is that the Hellcat feels like it’s from a different class with regards to body roll control and suspension dynamics. Given enough time on a racetrack, you’d feel comfortable pushing the Hellcat harder in quick transitions and in long high-g turns. There’s a superiority of feedback that is no doubt due to better tires and higher-quality suspension. With that said, however, this is primarily a laws-of-physics thing. Big heavy cars are never eager to change direction. Unsurprisingly, the V6 is best in transitions and the Scat Pack has the lowest cornering speeds.

As I stated earlier today, you really do get your money’s worth with the Hellcat’s engine and brake upgrades. It’s also a solid handler for its size and class. Let’s do some subjective rankings as far as track-fitness goes, based on things I’ve driven recently:

Viper ACR (previous gen)
Viper TA (current gen)
Mercedes AMG SLS Black Series
C7 Corvette Z51
C6 Corvette Z06
C6 Corvette Z51
Camaro Z/28
Boss 302-LS
Boss 302
Jack’s raggedy old 2004 Boxster S with 48,000 miles
GT500 (not counting the brakes)
Hellcat
The old SRT8 392
Camaro SS
Mustang 5.0 Track Pack
Challenger R/T 6.4L Scat Pack
Mustang V6 Track Pack
Challenger V6 Track Pack
Challenger R/T 5.7 Track Pack

The higher you go up that list, the more comfortable the car feels on track, but at a cost.

I wish I’d had time to drive the standard SRT8, which has 485hp now and offers the big brakes as an option. I believe that car would feel most “balanced” since you wouldn’t be arriving at corners as quickly and therefore the brakes would hold up even better and it would be easier to select the absolutely perfect corner speed — but I’d choose to spend my own money on the Hellcat, plain and simple. There are no downsides. You can pretty much instantly turn it into an SRT8 6.4L just by laying off the throttle a bit on the long straights.

At this point I normally like to talk about what the cars do when they are “out of shape” on track. The truth is that with this little time on an unfamiliar course I didn’t spend too much effort getting the Challengers past their envelope of tire grip. I can say that the Hellcat and Scat Pack can be reliably turned on the throttle and that no Challenger has ever had bad habits on track with regards to overly quick responses in extreme handling situations. If you’re good to the Challenger, it will be good to you. If you’re bad to it, you will still have plenty of time to get things right.

Ponycars are about compromise. They’re about what you’re willing to give up in order to have the admittedly minimal but occasionally mandatory backseat. With the Hellcat, the answer is simple: you’re giving up Mustang-style direction changes but gaining more power at each trim and spec level than the not-so-small Ford can offer. It would be frankly absurd to buy a Hellcat if you primarily planned on using it at the track. But for the low percentage of owners who will try it there, their experience will be positive — even if their tire bills won’t.

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Review: 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT “Hellcat” 6MT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2015-dodge-challenger-srt-hellcat-6mt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2015-dodge-challenger-srt-hellcat-6mt/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 12:21:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=870522 To some degree, it’s about the number, right? Seven hundred and seven. The Dodge people certainly made the point again and again about how the Hellcat stacks up to everything from the Z06 to the Murcielago. Mine’s bigger than yours. And that other number — 10.9 seconds with drag radials and 11.2 without. That actually […]

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To some degree, it’s about the number, right? Seven hundred and seven. The Dodge people certainly made the point again and again about how the Hellcat stacks up to everything from the Z06 to the Murcielago. Mine’s bigger than yours. And that other number — 10.9 seconds with drag radials and 11.2 without. That actually isn’t such a big deal; there are people out there who have put stock C6 Z06es with draggies into the tens. Still, they closed the freaking road course after just ninety minutes so the journalists could line up and try their hand at quarter-miles. I didn’t bother to do that. Nor did I get any street time in the Hellcat. What I got was this: four laps, none of them unimpeded. When you come back in the afternoon, I’ll tell you what my TrackMaster data showed about the Hellcat vis-a-vis the 6.4L. But for now let’s talk about what the Hellcat is and what it does.

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine

Here’s how you make a Hellcat: Start with the 2015 Challenger and it’s improved interior. Add Hellcat-specific visual cues, most of them related to increasing the amount of air coming through the nose. Then drop the bore size a bit, redo the motor with “91 percent new” engineering and parts, and supercharge the hell out of the cat.

Here’s the press release, there’s no sense in rewriting it:

The 2,380cc/rev blower features integral charge coolers and an integrated electronic bypass valve to
regulate boost pressure to a maximum of 80 kPa (11.6 psi). Its twin-screw rotors are specially coated
with:

• a proprietary formula of polyimide and other resins
• nanometer-sized, wear-resistant particles
• solid lubricants, such as PTFE (Teflon)

The coating accommodates tighter tolerances between the rotors. This reduces internal air leakage and
helps deliver improved compressor performance and higher efficiencies. The coating not only can
withstand the temperatures generated by compression, it provides a superior corrosion resistance.
The new supercharged V-8, sealed for life with premium synthetic oil, boasts a drive ratio of 2.36:1 and
a maximum speed of 14,600 rpm. The drive system’s one-way clutch de-coupler improves refinement,
while allowing for precisely the kind of auditory feedback SRT customers find alluring.
The supercharger gulps air through an Air Catcher inlet port, which replaces the driver’s-side inboard
marker light and connects to a patented twin-inlet, eight-liter air box. The blower further benefits from a
92-mm throttle body – the largest ever used in a Chrysler Group vehicle.
The fuel system keeps pace with an in-tank pump that accommodates variable pressures, half-inch fuel
lines and eight injectors each capable of delivering a flow rate of 600cc/min – enough to drain the fuel
tank in approximately 13 minutes at full power.

The transmissions were re-engineered; the eight-speed automatic has bigger clutches and more gear surface throughout, allowing it to bang out 120-millisecond shifts that, on the drag strip, sound close to dual-clutch. The Tremec TR6060 has a bigger clutch, a relatively light flywheel, and stronger gears. I believe, although I cannot say for sure, that this transmission, like the Hellcat’s HEMI, is made in Mexico.

To stop the car, there’s a 15.4-inch rotor Brembo brake package with 20×9.5 inch wheels. It would appear that there are now three Brembo brake packages on these cars: the four-piston setup on the Scat Pack 6.4L with Super Track Pack, the six-piston SRT8 14.2-inch package, and this high-power six-piston setup which is optional on the SRT8 and standard on the Hellcat.

Other fun features: an available flat-black hood, a removable lower grille for track use, (“Seven screws,” we were told, “it will take owners five minutes”) deliberately plain “SRT” badging, and a track key/valet key setup that also features a user-selectable “valet PIN” to limit the car to 4000rpm. A sunroof is optional, as are a couple of different color-coordinated seat packages.

It’s good value for money; the Scat Pack with a few options runs $46k so this Hellcat at $59,995 feels like a screaming bargain. And you’re almost certain to get your money back when you go to sell, assuming you don’t take too much of a beating at the hands of your dealer.

Okay. It’s late at night and you want to know how it drives. I’ll put video up later on today, but the short version is this: It is to the GT500 as the old SRT8 was to the Boss 302. The clutch is low effort, as is the shifting. The thrust is plainly massive but there’s enough tire under it to make it controllable on a racetrack. It’s very quick, but it doesn’t feel noticeably quicker than a GT500. There’s a certain viciousness you get with a ZR1 or GT500 that is blunted by the Chally’s weight here. Big motor, pushing a big car, and as a result things feel under control. It never occurred to me not to give it full throttle in a straight line on an eighty-degree Portland day. Change this to a Kentucky backroad with accumulated oil and grit, and drop the temperature to fifty, and we’ll talk about it again.

All the Challenger SRT8 virtues survive intact to the Hellcat. It really is just an SRT8 plus power. That’s what you really need to know about it. It’s not compromised or changed in any significant manner. It’s just faster, and unlike the naturally aspirated 6.4L it’s hellaciously strong everywhere, not just when the tach sweeps past four. At 1200rpm it has as much torque as the old SRT8 did at peak. So yeah — fast, effortlessly so, like a literbike.

But it also feels long-legged through the gears in a way that the GT500 doesn’t. My impression, which I’d need to check through a bunch of a documentation to confirm, is that it’s geared longer than the Shelby or the Boss or the Z/28. There’s more room to run in each gear, which given the fact that the Ford 5.4L revs higher than this 6.2L means that it’s geared higher.

On the track, the brakes and tires proved sufficient to the task, as I’ll explain later today with numbers. Unlike the Shelby, it’s far from underbraked, for a ponycar. Don’t expect Corvette-level braking performance here. There ain’t a disc brake big enough for that unless it’s on a triple-seven Boeing. This is a big car with good solid damping and big brakes, but it’s not a Corvette.

Neither is it a Z/28, not that you expected it. The Z/28 has better brakes and a lot more tire compound and it’s a bit smaller. I wouldn’t expect the Hellcat to see the nose of a Z/28 on a track, unless you’re on Road America and it’s the first lap.

I realize it’s a disappointment to say that the Hellcat is merely a faster SRT8, but that’s a hell of an accomplishment. Power like this has never been this accessible and the fact that it’s delivered in this big, comfy package is a technical knockout. You literally give up nothing by taking the high-power option, except perhaps your home equity. The Hellcat has no drawbacks except fuel economy and price. It is fully, thoroughly, completely recommended to anyone who wants a faster Challenger. Drivers who want the on-track aplomb of a Mustang or Camaro need not apply.

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 (left) and Dodge Challenger SRT  w 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat (left) and Dod 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat (left) and Dod 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 Sepia Laguna leather 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - Ruby 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - Sepia The all-new Driver Information Display screen in the Challenger The all-new Driver Information Display screen in the Challenger 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - Sepia 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - Black 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - Black 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - Sepia 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 - Black Laguna leather with option 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 - Black Laguna leather 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - black 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - black 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 - black suede leather with optiona 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 - black suede leather 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 - Alcantara Ruby Red suede leather 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - Peak 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - 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8.4 i 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - 8.4 i 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - 8.4 i 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - 8.4 i 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - 8.4 i 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - 8.4 i 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - 8.4 i 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - 8.4 i 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - 8.4 i 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - 8.4 i 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - 8.4 i 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - 8.4 i 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - 8.4 i 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - 8.4 i 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - 8.4 i 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - 8.4 i 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - 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