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. Wed, 02 Sep 2015 18:04:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 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 » Editorials http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/editorials/ An Unexpected Lesson: Making the Long Trip Home http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/an-unexpected-lesson-making-the-long-trip-home/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/an-unexpected-lesson-making-the-long-trip-home/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 14:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1158466 In addition to advice about the long-term benefits of wearing sunscreen, the world’s most famous commencement address included this bit of wisdom: “The real troubles in your life are apt to be the things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.” And so it […]

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shelby side

In addition to advice about the long-term benefits of wearing sunscreen, the world’s most famous commencement address included this bit of wisdom: “The real troubles in your life are apt to be the things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.” And so it was, true to the author of that essay’s own meandering experience, that I found myself on a sunny, if not entirely idle, afternoon this past June tossing a small rucksack into the back of my well-worn Shelby Charger setting out for Seattle, some 1800 miles away.

That my mother was ill was a fact I had long known. Just how serious the situation truly was, however, took everyone by surprise. One day the doctors were telling my brothers and sisters that our mother had as much as a year left to live and then, almost the next day, were coming back to say that she might have just a few weeks. By the time the news reached me in Leavenworth, the prognosis had been shortened to just days. After an hour or two of hand wringing, I decided I should probably go.

I can say now that the right thing to do would have been to fly, but there were several factors that played into my decision to drive. The first was that I really didn’t believe the news. I had spoken to my mother the previous week and she had sounded healthy and happy, so this sudden turn for the worse didn’t really register with me at the time. She had been sick and then better several times and this was, I reasoned, just another low point that she would claw her way back from. She had done it before and she would, I thought, do it again.

Also, my time in Leavenworth was coming to an end. Graduation was just a week away and, the best year of our life completed, our household goods were set to be packed and shipped almost immediately thereafter. I had a thousand things on my mind — orders, passports, reservations, airline tickets, the kids, the dog, and, added in there somewhere, the disposal of my Shelby Charger. This last thing, surprisingly, was proving to be quite irksome.

Selling the Shelby should have been a snap. It looked great, ran good, and had a raft of new-old-stock replacement parts to go along with it. Someone somewhere, I reasoned, should want it. Originally, I had worried about selling it too quickly. I still needed a second vehicle for our final days in Kansas and so, overconfident that the buyers would beat down my door, I hung too high a price on it. Ultimately, I think now, that helped drive them away.

Shelby front

Looking back, I can see that a Shelby Charger isn’t the kind of car the general public is usually interested in. Most people who buy a car like this, a “near classic” I call them, have to be a model-specific enthusiast; someone who wants a specific car in good but not totally pristine condition, at a good price. These people, it turns out, are in short supply, so after weeks of running fruitless advertisements,I decided to send the car to my brother’s house where he could use it as he saw fit and where it would be when I ventured back to the Seattle area on whatever odd errand would eventually carry me there.

I was considering shipping the car and had already obtained several quotes when the news of my mother’s situation interrupted my planning process. Still not entirely convinced that she really was in her last days, driving the Shelby out to Seattle would help solve two problems at one time. The added benefit would be that I wouldn’t need to rent a car while I was there and, once mom got better, I could just fly home. It was a perfect solution.

With this in mind, I carefully packed the car with the many replacement parts that had been included when I purchased it, packed a small bag for what was sure to be a quick trip, and said goodbye to my wife and kids. It was about 3 p.m. when I put the little car on the road to the interstate and, although I had originally questioned the decision to go, now that I was on my way it felt right. After a stop for gas in Platte City, MO, I caught northbound Interstate 29 and gradually wicked the speed up to just under the limit. Although I had owned the car for several months, this was the first time I had taken it out for more than a short blast. As I rolled through St. Joseph, the town where my mom was born and raised, I was surprised at how smooth the car was running.

Way back in 1983 when the little Shelby had rolled off the production line, the speed limit was just 55 miles per hour and it seemed logical to me that the car had been geared to run most efficiently at right around that speed. To my happy surprise, however, the car wanted to run at 65. Although that was still slower than most of the posted speed limits in the many states that lay west of the Mississippi, it seemed a good pace. I could, of course, have pushed the car harder, but after noticing that the temperature gauge was hanging just below the red zone, I decided not to push my luck.

Nor was handling an issue. The Shelby felt at home on the superslab and tracked smoothly along at speed. The little car might be old, I thought, but it was definitely in its element on the open road.

I passed into Nebraska in the late afternoon and switched over to I-80 in Omaha just after the evening rush hour had cleared. As I ran westward, a line of severe storms plunged the countryside into an early, ominous dusk and soon I was observing lightning with an ever increasing frequency off to my right. At around 8 p.m. the storms that had been staying just slightly north of the Interstate finally worked their way south and began to dump buckets of rain onto the road. The little Shelby’s windshield wipers beat furiously on their high-speed setting, but no matter how hard they worked the driving rain made clearing the windshield impossible and I found it difficult to see. Blinded, I moved the car to the right side of the interstate, found the fog line, and switched on my emergency flashers as I straddled that glorious line at a bare 30 miles per hour like a slot car on a track. At one point, the steady drum of raindrops turned into the pinging of high-speed hail and, for the first time that day, I began to wonder just what the hell I had gotten myself into. As I approached the town of Grand Island, I decided enough was enough and pulled off the road for the night. Although that sort of weather may seem normal to some people, I felt lucky to just be alive.

By 5 a.m. the next morning, the skies had cleared and the raging torrent that had been the road the night before was once again dry. I spent a few minutes looking over the little car before I started on my way and was relieved to find out that the only damage the hail had caused had been to my nerves. After topping off the oil and filling up with gas I put the car back on the interstate determined to reach Salt Lake City in just one Jump.

It turns out that it is almost 800 miles from Grand Island, Nebraska to Salt Lake City, Utah. Google Maps tells me that it should take somewhere around 11 hours and, in order to make it, I had to push the little car relentlessly. Although I was confined to the slow lane almost the entire way, I made decent time as the sun rose behind me and about the time it got into my eyes I had noted that the countryside turned from verdant farmland into the drier, more varied terrain of the high plains. Sometime in the early afternoon , I entered Wyoming and, a few hours after, crossed the continental divide. From there, I reminded myself that it was, technically, all down-hill and I found myself relieved to be, once again, on “my own side of the continent.”

Shelby interior

All through the long, hot day, the car beat steadily along at just over 65 miles per hour and, despite their age, the Shelby’s overstuffed, velour seats proved to be surprisingly comfortable. Once again the needle on the temperature gauge climbed and remained dangerously close to the redline and I worried as, from time to time, the slight odor of blistering hot motor oil wafted through the cabin. Still, as car after car screamed by in the fast lane, the little Charger continued to hum merrily along, looking good and, I’m sure, providing a fun momentary distraction to the bored passengers of those faster, if only slightly more comfortable, cars as they flashed by.

I had another run-in with a huge thunderstorm that again left me driving blind and questioning the wisdom of my journey and by 5 p.m. had reached the town of Rock Springs, Wyoming. By now I had been in the driver’s seat long enough to be tired and cranky and, as the day had progressed, left me spending considerable time thinking about my mother’s condition. Now, as I found myself stopped in the back-up for what had obviously been a terrible one-car accident, thoughts of life and death were hitting close to home. My mood was thoroughly dark when I finally rolled past the nearly unrecognizable hulk of what had once been a Jeep Liberty and got back up to speed.

I still had a long way to go and, to make matters worse, the Shelby struggled as I worked my way upward through the gears. The engine seemed to be fine. I had shut the car down during the long wait and it had cooled off nicely, but the clutch was having a real issue as its normally high engagement point had dropped to the final inch of its travel. Getting it to disengage as I ran up through the gears was a problem and, as I worked my way further west, I considered the possible mechanical issues. The car had a non-hydraulic clutch, I knew, and it seemed most likely that an lock-nut or adjustment screw had vibrated loose during the day-long drone. It wouldn’t be especially difficult to fix, I thought, but despite the fact that I had a car full of replacement parts not having any tools would be a problem. I was pondering my options when I passed a billboard for a place called “Little America” and noticed that they had a mechanic on duty 24 hours a day. Problem solved, I thought.

As the desert oasis known as Little America hove into view I worked the car down through the gears with as little grinding as possible and exited the highway. I limped over to a service area only to find that it was intended for semi-trucks, not cars, but by now the situation was obviously so bad that I could go no further. I shut it down right there and went inside.

It took some convincing to get one of the mechanics to come and look at my car, but to his credit, when he finally did, he spotted the issue right away. The plastic housing on the clutch cable was broken and the entire part needed to be replaced. Parts I had in abundance, so I unloaded the back of the car looking for what I needed but came up empty handed. I sat there pondering my luck, if it had been almost anything else I would have been fine, but for whatever reason it had turned out that the one part I needed was the one I didn’t have.

Of course I tried to cobble something together, to make some temporary modification that would make it work in order to get back on the road, but after an hour of rolling around under the car on the still-hot asphalt I realized my journey was at an end. Even if I could get the car back on the road, I thought, there was still a 150 miles of desolate western Wyoming terrain to cross and at least one major mountain pass to clear before I pulled into Salt Lake. Having a breakdown out there in the dark could be fatal and I had already had enough thoughts about death and dying for one day. Enough was enough. Defeated, I called my sister in Salt Lake and she agreed to come and get me.

With the help of a good Samaritan, I pushed the Shelby to the corner of the parking lot and wondered how much of it would remain there in the time it would take to arrange to get someone to come and get it. I couldn’t stay, I had to go on, and so it was likely I wouldn’t see the car again soon, if at all. Physically exhausted and emotionally drained, I walked past the gas pumps to the store to get a drink and, as I did so, noticed an almost empty car hauler at one of the pumps. “Are you heading to Salt Lake” I asked.
“No,” the man told me, “I’m going to Kansas City.”

I paused for a second and then asked, “How much would cost to have you take my broken down car to Leavenworth?”

The man thought for a moment and answered, “$500?” We struck the deal on a handshake and within the hour the Shelby was on the truck, headed back the way it came. Problem solved. I was exhausted and repaired to the snack bar where, it turned out, the food was pretty good and I had time to decompress.

Shlby on carrier

It took a couple of hours for my sister and her husband to arrive and we returned to Salt Lake that night. As we cleared the pass and dropped down into the deep canyons that Interstate 80 followed into the city, I realized there was no way I could have made it with the car locked into 5th gear. Safe and relieved, I slept that night at my sister’s house, the steering wheel of the Shelby still buzzing in my fingertips as I drifted off to sleep.

The next day, my sister and I flew to Seattle and on Sunday afternoon, just about the time we probably would have arrived, my mother passed away. Although she was not entirely lucid during the few hours we had with her, I know that she knew my sister and I were there. If we hadn’t arrived when we did ,we would have missed it or needlessly prolonged her suffering while she strained to wait for us.

A few days later I flew back to Leavenworth where a classmate met me at the airport. After stopping at the local auto parts store to pick up the part I had ordered on-line prior to departing to Seattle, my friend took me home where I found the little Shelby waiting in my driveway exactly as I had left it and exactly where the car hauler had assured me he would put it.

The next morning, I used the new part to fix the car in about 10 minutes without any tools and then took it for a short test drive. Out on my favorite road the little car shrugged off the days of hard travel and buzzed along as happily as ever. Life, I realized, goes on.

As I worked the car up and down through the gears, noting the flawless action of the clutch pedal beneath my left foot, I pondered the mysteries of the universe and how I have, over the past few years, questioned the faith in which I was raised. God is in everything and every man, people told me; God has a plan but I wasn’t so sure any more. My mother believed but, having fought the good fight every day without reward and having only advanced myself in life through interminable struggles, I had my own doubts. But, after breaking down in a little car filled with every replacement part but the one I needed, and as a result taking the flight to see my mom that one last time when she was really there in the hours before cancer finally took her, I wonder now if maybe I haven’t been wrong.

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No Fixed Abode: Denali Ain’t Just A Mountain In Alaska http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/no-fixed-abode-denali-aint-just-mountain-alaska/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/no-fixed-abode-denali-aint-just-mountain-alaska/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 13:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1158354 As those of you with access to the Internet will know, President Obama recently discovered the executive superpower to rename mountains. As a consequence, Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America and the tallest mountain in the world when the measurement is taken from the surrounding ground, is now known by the name given […]

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yukon

As those of you with access to the Internet will know, President Obama recently discovered the executive superpower to rename mountains. As a consequence, Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America and the tallest mountain in the world when the measurement is taken from the surrounding ground, is now known by the name given to it by the Athabascans: Denali.

In a prepared statement, Mr. Obama said, “With this action, I am fulfilling two of my most cherished dreams. First, I’m living the progressive dream of presiding over the surrender of a national monument to a native group. Secondly, I’m honoring my childhood memories of Mount Kenya, which rose in splendid African majesty over the place of my birth and early years.”

Just kidding, of course. Mr. Obama is as American as Dave Matthews or Steve Nash and to suggest otherwise is to lend strength to the right-wing racist slander of people like Linda Starr and Philip Berg. But enough of that twaddle. If you’re like me, your initial reaction to the news was simple: What does this mean for General Motors?


Face it: When you hear “Denali”, you think “GMC”.

The only people who don’t are certain native-born Alaskans and people who knew what a “piton” was before Krakauer published Into Thin Air. GMC has spent millions of dollars and sold hundreds of thousands of vehicles to make sure that you associate the word with a Remington-shaver grille and not a national park. If you don’t realize just how critical the Denali sub-brand is to GM’s fortunes, let me bring you up to speed.

“GMC’s Denali line represents about 23 percent of all GMC sales but is nearly 60 percent of Yukon and Yukon XL full-size SUV sales and 44 percent of Sierra HD sales.” Think about that. The plain-Jane Yukon is actually rarer than the Denali nowadays, which is a staggering fact once you consider the seventeen-thousand-dollar premium for that chrome cheese grater up front. Much of that seventeen grand is profit, and every penny is needed to balance out the continuing and inexcusably tragic implosion of GM’s passenger-car line.

Just as important, the demographics of the Denali line are beyond reproach. Buyers of the Yukon models are eight years younger than Escalade owners (46 v 54) and nearly as wealthy ($188k household income v. $200k) despite that age gap. If you read between the lines of PR comments about Denali owners, you’ll also hear a lot of socioeconomic clues about race and class. GM wrings its hands about the “athletes and rappers” image of the Escalade — “Cadillac says they wouldn’t mind retaining them, but aren’t going out of their way to attract them.” I assure you that any time a company says it “wouldn’t mind retaining” a few customers for a $90,000 product, that what they really mean is “we wish to God that we could prevent those people from driving them in public.”

The positioning of the Yukon Denali as the vehicle of choice for old money, horse-farm types, and “quietly confident” self-made business owners, compared to the old-people-and-rappers Escalade, combined with the never-ending tailspin of Cadillacs that don’t have a twelve-square-foot grille mounted at the height of the average American woman’s thorax, means that the Yukon Denali XL is, effectively, the flagship of General Motors. It’s the American S-Class, complete with a Cheap-class variant (the Acadia Denali) for the people who want the look of the premium product without the functionality or price. As such, the name is slightly less likely to disappear from GM order books than the names “Corvette” or “Silverado” no matter how politicized it becomes in the near future. If Donald Trump is re-elected and he changes the name of the mountain back, it might even cause a few progressives to shed their LX470s and Range Rovers in favor of the big GMC refrigerator, strictly as a statement of intent. “Yes, I drive a Denali, not a McKinley, thank you very much.”

Truth is, you can learn a lot about America from the place names given to GM cars in any particular era. Think of the Chevrolet Malibu: it appeared in 1964, just in time for the nation to fall in love with California. The Monte Carlo? 1970, a time when more Americans were focusing outward and looking to Europe for ideas about cars and fashion. The Pontiac Bonneville? Straight outta the power-crazed, post-war Fifties. The Cadillac Calais? An attempt to give the base ‘Lac some Continental glamour. The Celebrity Eurosport? Let’s just forget about that one.

But the choice of “Denali” twenty years ago to adorn an upscale GMC truck was one of GM’s marketing master strokes. It was the perfect name, on the perfect product, at the perfect time. At the time, the country’s upper middle class was entering a period of bizarre self-exaltation-via-self-abnegation. Bling was out: conspicuous non-consumption was in. The farmhouses of upstate New York were stripped of their rough-sawn furnishings as Manhattan housewives battled tooth and nail to make their kitchens “rustic”. David Brooks nailed it in 1998:

It is perfectly acceptable to spend lots on money on anything that is “professional quality”… You must practice one-downmanship… you will proudly dine on a two-hundred-year-old pine table that was once used for slaughtering chickens… Eventually, every object in your house will look as it had once been owned by someone much poorer than you.

The Denali, therefore, was acceptable, even desirable, “one-downmanship” from the S-Class or Siebener in your neighbors’ garages. It was “professional grade”, and it could easily be used for an expedition that your ninety-hour work-week at Goldman Sachs or Intel would never permit. Once the truly wealthy bought in to the Denali ideal, the upper middle class dutifully lined up behind them. What it means when suburban attorneys shoulder a $1700-per-month car payment they can ill afford, all in the service of pretending to be Boston Brahmin in their slummin’ truck, is an exercise I leave up to the reader.

Thus it happens that this most American of vehicles is named after a mountain in a park in a state that wasn’t even a state until after the Korean War. Nobody goes there, although it’s possible to be short-roped up the thing the same way the socialites are dragged up the side of Everest. I have no idea what the terrain around Denali looks like and neither do you. What matters is that it represents something beyond civilization:

But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before.

That’s what Denali is: the territory ahead that we will never reach. Instead, we’ll stay at the office for another evening of forcible civilization and Starbucks. It’s all the better for being essentially useless and inhospitable, because that helps it remain just an idea and not a place you’d use your NetJets share to visit on a long weekend.

And that’s what America has become in 2015. You live in offices and put the names of things you’ll never understand on the side of trucks you don’t need, can’t afford, and can’t even change the oil on yourself. Our president is so helpless in the face of the economy and the multinationals and the media that he resorts to apologizing to people he’s never harmed in hopes that someone will grant him absolution for crimes he didn’t commit. The daughters of your friends drive Jeeps to party schools and the daughters of the people who grow your food drive MRAPs over landmines. There are no jobs left and the ones that are available are all at Amazon, and that’s a hellhole. Every day you’re beaten over the head about your responsibility for the inevitable climate change but when you fly anywhere it’s in the middle seat of a Southwest 737, not the teak-appointed cabin of a G-Five. You don’t believe you can change anything and if you thought you could you’d be afraid to try.

No wonder, then, that the mountain is being renamed. We don’t deserve a Mount McKinley. McKinley was a winner. He protected American jobs and saved the economy and won a war and picked up Hawaii while he was at it. And when he died, the man he agreed to take as vice-president did a pretty decent job, too. We couldn’t use a guy like that nowadays; wouldn’t know what to do with him. So it’s perfectly reasonable to change Mount McKinley back to Mount Denali. Maybe Rainier will change back to Tacoma before you know it. That’s been in the works since 1921 or so, and it makes more sense. And it would free the name of Rainier to find its natural home: on the side of upscale Enclaves. Enclave Rainier. You know it makes sense. What better way to celebrate a class of vehicles, and of owners, that never looks up from the quotidian to the mountain, or, indeed, anything at all?

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Junkyard Find: 1951 Ford 2-Door Sedan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/junkyard-find-1951-ford-2-door-sedan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/junkyard-find-1951-ford-2-door-sedan/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 12:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1156074 We’ve been seeing a lot of 21st century Junkyard Finds lately, so today we’ll change up and go to one of the older cars I’ve seen in a self-service yard lately. This ’51 Ford showed up at a Colorado yard last month. It has the look of a long-abandoned project: interior gutted, bodywork, etc. You’d […]

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14 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

We’ve been seeing a lot of 21st century Junkyard Finds lately, so today we’ll change up and go to one of the older cars I’ve seen in a self-service yard lately. This ’51 Ford showed up at a Colorado yard last month.
02 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

It has the look of a long-abandoned project: interior gutted, bodywork, etc. You’d think that a non-rusty two-door shoebox Ford would be worth enough to keep it safe from the clutches of the wrecking yard, but such was not the case here.

15 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Someone put some work into the body and paint and then forgot about the car, but it’s impossible to say whether that happened in 1968 (with indoor storage since) or 2008 (with outdoor storage).

07 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

You could get the ’51 Ford with the famous flathead V8 or the 254-cubic-inch flathead straight-six engine. This car has the six.

49FordComesToLife-23

A Denver friend owns this ’49 sedan project, so he was all over the junkyard ’51 within hours of learning of its existence, grabbing bits and pieces for low prices. When you have an elderly project vehicle and one like it shows up at U-Wrench-It, you drop everything and pull what you can!

 

This generation of Ford was the first true postwar design from the Detroit Big Three, and the first Ford to be mostly free of the late Henry’s erratic leadership and limitations as an engineer. Other than the Type 1 Volkswagen Beetle, few cars you’d find in this sort of junkyard will have this level of historical significance.

00 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 02 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 04 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 05 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 06 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 07 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 09 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 10 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 11 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 12 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 14 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 15 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 16 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 17 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

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What If Jeep’s Mid-size Pickup Was a Ram Instead? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/jeeps-mid-size-pickup-ram-instead/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/jeeps-mid-size-pickup-ram-instead/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 17:16:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1157666 Like an NFL expansion team in Los Angeles, music in the hallways during passing periods, “welfare queens” and the full-time McRib, Jeep’s mid-sized Wrangler-based pickup might be the only thing we ever talk about. Guess which one may happen now? According to Automotive News, the Wrangler-based pickup may make an appearance in 2018-ish, after the […]

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Jeep Wrangler Eliminator

Like an NFL expansion team in Los Angeles, music in the hallways during passing periods, “welfare queens” and the full-time McRib, Jeep’s mid-sized Wrangler-based pickup might be the only thing we ever talk about. Guess which one may happen now?

According to Automotive News, the Wrangler-based pickup may make an appearance in 2018-ish, after the iconic Jeep platform gets is overdue overhaul, moves to an 8-speed automatic (maybe diesel, too) and incorporates more aluminum into its structure.

The General Motors twins prove there’s room in the segment for something not called a Tacoma or Frontier, so a mid-size makes sense — but a seven-slot grille up front may not.

According to the 2014 long-range plan for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ram doesn’t have a mid-size on its radar until beyond 2018, at least, to replace its defunct Dakota. And Ram doesn’t have what it needs right now to make it happen — officially, at least.

“The formula hasn’t changed. The (North American) customer expects four elements in a compact or midsize pickup truck: the right size, right capability, right fuel efficiency and right price. We have yet to find a way to build a truck that meets all four of those criteria,” a Ram spokesman told us.

(Fiat will have a new mid-size pickup in 2016, but we’re more likely to get Elvis back from the dead than that car.)

The minute you start talking about a Wrangler-based pickup, Grandad’s fishing truck comes to mind; an upright-grille, standard cab and probably two-tone red and white paint with flannel-colored interiors. In other words: nothing like what mid-size pickups need to be today to satisfy fuel economy standards and expectations.

Ram has more flexibility with its design language to sculpt a body that makes more sense than a Jeep pickup ever would. Ram is also the caretaker of FCA’s trucks last I checked.

And in the words of Jack Baruth, “You really don’t want a Jeep pickup, you pansy.”

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Fields Are Fertile For Now, But Marchionne Has a Long View http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/fields-fertile-now-marchionne-long-view/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/fields-fertile-now-marchionne-long-view/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 15:09:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1157570 Farmers are the ultimate craftsman when it comes to small-scale production. The level of management needed to stay competitive and above the high water line is, simply put, astounding. Consolidation in certain areas of agriculture has lead to factory farming, the widespread adoption of automation and genetically modified seeds that keep seed producers competitive. Private […]

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Farmers are the ultimate craftsman when it comes to small-scale production. The level of management needed to stay competitive and above the high water line is, simply put, astounding. Consolidation in certain areas of agriculture has lead to factory farming, the widespread adoption of automation and genetically modified seeds that keep seed producers competitive. Private farmers are constantly at war with the market and their own budgets.

The agriculture industry has wholly transformed itself over the last 100 years. The automotive industry, which has only really existed for that same period of time, has seen similar levels of change. We are now building more cars, trucks, SUVs, crossovers, trikes and quadracycles than ever before, just like we are growing more food than we’ve ever seen in human history.

But, there’s one major stumbling block ahead — and Sergio Marchionne sees it.

Marchionne, at this point in his tenure as CEO of one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world, is a farmer with a cliff-side plot of land. He’s also the only farmer in his town with a massive debt bill to pay and no cash on hand to clear the ledger.

The reality of farming is, at the point of sale, the vast majority of consumers couldn’t care less where their produce is grown. On a macro level, produce buyers will purchase strawberries in the middle of winter, even if they are grown in Mexico. Locally, during in-season months, as long as those strawberries are juicy and ripe, produce buyers don’t check the label to figure out where they were grown. Sure, there are those who buy organic, gluten-free options at the grocery store — and they are a statistically significant in their numbers to deserve a whole aisle devoted to their tastes — but the rest of us are completely apathetic.

The same goes for cars.

Car enthusiasts — us folks who write, comment, drive, wrench on, wash and generally love our cars — are one percent of the overall consumer market. The other 99 percent of people are totally agnostic to the efforts of automotive research, engineering, manufacturing and branding, with a few exceptions for those who want to “Buy American!” or some other loyalties of varying degrees. Enthusiasts do buy a very specific type of product, and automakers are more than willing to provide those products to the degree they are demanded on the market, but we still only get a single aisle in a vast dealer lot.

Corn enthusiasts, if there is such a thing, might see the agriculture industry thusly:

“The General Farms corn stays fresh much, much longer than the new American-Italian corn from Marchionne Farms,” a connoisseur of corn might say.

“But, the Marchionne Farms’ Hellcat Corn tastes better,” an equally loyal corn enthusiast might rebuff.

The other 99 percent of corn buyers are, well, not talking about corn. They don’t care where it comes from. They don’t care who made it. They look at the corn in the produce aisles, figure out the best deal for their needs, and buy the corn that makes the most sense — a combination of number of ears of corn and how much it costs. All the while, corn enthusiasts are trying to push their corn consuming friends one way or another. Sometimes they succeed in their suggestions, but not enough to make a real market impact. (See: SKYACTIV Corn.)

Standing at the cliff’s edge of his farm, Marchionne — with a hefty bank note on his mind — has an epiphany: Why am I spending all this money growing different corn than my neighbor? The components of corn — the cob, kernels and the way it’s packaged — are essentially the same. How you dress it up and sell it, that’s the only real difference!

But, it isn’t the sameness of corn — or automobiles — that’s the real issue here.

In probably a distant future, we aren’t going to need corn. We will plug some instructions into a machine, a whirring sound will emanate, and a meal will be replicated for consumption. You won’t need to own the food replicator. Instead, you will pay a fee to use it that’s magnitudes less than the current cost of food. The farm as we know it will be a thing of the past.

Automakers are staring down the barrel of a similar fate.

Google and automakers themselves are developing fully autonomous vehicles to be used by the masses. Their solutions are similar to the food replicator of the future: plug in a destination, a whirring sound will emanate and you’ll arrive at your destination. You won’t need to own the autonomous car of the future. Instead, you will pay a fee to use it that’s magnitudes less than the current cost of personal transportation. The car as we know it will be a thing of the past.

The autonomous car is the ocean lapping against the cliff’s edge, slowly — but with increased intensity — swallowing Marchionne’s farm.

Now, please, don’t get me wrong. I am in no way saying that the things we love — cars as we know them today — will be gone next year or even in the next 20 years. There might be a few companies still catering to the enthusiast, offering cars as artisanal luxury good for those of us who enjoy the speed and knowledge needed to pilot just such a machine. But the days of the automobile as a privately owned consumer necessity are numbered. Those who enjoy the act of driving will be the gasoline-fed hipsters of tom0rrow.

Marchionne, I assume, knows this. The day his farm is needed is coming to an end. But not today. Today there’s corn to grow and money to be made, and he’s looking at his neighbor at General Farms that grows the same crop.

Farmer Barra, let’s grind some corn together, shall we?

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Mergers Don’t Make Better Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/aotd-mergers-dont-make-better-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/aotd-mergers-dont-make-better-cars/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 14:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1157218 Mergers don’t excite me. I’m not excited about the prospect of walking in to my neighborhood Jeep/Chevy/Buick/Dodge/GMC superstore and thumbing through the soul-less car stocks like a weekend trip to Costco. Bark makes a good business case that Mazda and Subaru could help each other in worldwide sales, and brings up some interesting short-term mashups: rotary engines […]

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FCA US LLC HQ WTFBBQ

Mergers don’t excite me.

I’m not excited about the prospect of walking in to my neighborhood Jeep/Chevy/Buick/Dodge/GMC superstore and thumbing through the soul-less car stocks like a weekend trip to Costco.

Bark makes a good business case that Mazda and Subaru could help each other in worldwide sales, and brings up some interesting short-term mashups: rotary engines with all-wheel drive, a boxer in a Miata, et al. All those things sound fun like monster trucks and cans of Pabst on a Friday night.

But in reality, despite repeated calls from automakers that consolidation will mean the car business can stay “in business,” mergers don’t make better products — but they try to make shareholders happy, if they can even do that (see: Suzuki-Volkswagen, page 231 of your textbook). Shared R&D is often synonymous with “badge engineering” (Cimarron) and when it’s not, well, just look at Saab.

If history has taught us anything, mergers simply leave car people left out in the cold. 

After Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ CEO Sergio Marchionne said this weekend that he’d press for consolidation — whether GM liked it or not — it got me thinking about how it would impact consumers.

In our theoretical world of a GM-Fiat merger on Sept. 1, 2015, there’d be signatures; on Sept. 1, 2020, there’d be cars. And by the looks of most automotive mergers in the past, they wouldn’t be all that good.

History is littered with failed automotive marriages (Ford and its polygamous relationship with European luxury brands, GM and Saab … and Suzuki … and Subaru … and …) with successful partnerships being the exception — not the rule. For every Renault-Nissans, there are three DaimlerChryslers.

If GM and Fiat were to elope tomorrow in all likelihood the platforms would stay where they are for a while — maybe an engine swap here and there — and the marquee stuff would live on. GM would still sell the Corvette, Jeep would still sell the Wrangler. (And the Viper would probably die to death, again.)

But at risk would be unremarkable mass-market cars built to appease a bottom line for a merger that started off with a profit to make. Sergio said the marriage could produce $30 billion a year in EBITDA, and you’d figure they’d be out for every dime. Remember: If GM killed Pontiac once, why not do it again with Dodge?

There’s also the risk of massive recalls on a scale we’ve never seen before. If you put a shared part, designed and built to a budget, on 15 million cars we’d be wise to buy stock in Advil — NHTSA will need all of it.

Perhaps for everyday consumers the differences would be hardly noticeable. The post-merger cars could blend together in a way they already have been blending for the last five years, and normal consumers couldn’t — and wouldn’t — care less.

But for car people, any merger means fewer products on the road and the cars foisted upon us would march closer to a joyless appliance, like our refrigerators.

And I can’t stand cars that are cold.

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Bucky Fuller’s Dymaxion Car – Invention Ahead of Its Time or Death Trap? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/bucky-fullers-dymaxion-car-invention-ahead-time-death-trap/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/bucky-fullers-dymaxion-car-invention-ahead-time-death-trap/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 14:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1156546 To be completely honest, I’ve never really understood all the adulation showered upon Buckminster Fuller. Yes, I know he was a visionary who popularized (but did not invent) the geodesic dome, which has some practical applications, but a lot of his innovations seem to me to be just a bit crackpotish. With the exception of […]

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To be completely honest, I’ve never really understood all the adulation showered upon Buckminster Fuller. Yes, I know he was a visionary who popularized (but did not invent) the geodesic dome, which has some practical applications, but a lot of his innovations seem to me to be just a bit crackpotish. With the exception of the aforementioned domes, few of his other projects were fully practical. Take his Dymaxion car for example.

Fuller, in fact, didn’t like to call it a car since he saw it as the first stage in developing a vehicle that could both fly like an airplane and taxi on the ground like an automobile. He originally envisioned it to have inflatable wings. However, like many other of Fuller’s concepts, those wings were strictly conceptual and required improvements in materials science and manufacturing before they could be effected. The same was true of the “jet stilts” Fuller proposed as propulsion units; the development of real jet engines wouldn’t take place for at least another decade.

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Fuller had no formal training as an engineer, which may explain the Dymaxion’s unusual layout and chassis. It’s a three wheeler in a reverse trike configuration, with the front wheels driven by a flathead Ford V8 engine mounted midship, behind the passenger compartment and in front of the rear wheel. The front wheels are just for propelling the car, they do not steer. The single rear wheel is responsible for steering the car. It has up to 90 degrees of lock so the Dymaxion could pivot on its own axis, making parking easy. For reasons unclear to me, Fuller decided to use two separate frames, one to support the body and the other to support the rear-mounted drivetrain, hinging the two frames with a pivot near the front wheels. While the rear wheel was suspended, according to the sources I found, the front wheels were fixed.

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Fuller had his drinking buddy, sculptor Isamu Noguchi, design the Dymaxion’s teardrop shape. Aerodynamics — then called streamlining — was in its infancy, but in modern wind tunnel testing the Dymaxion car has been shown to have an optimum low drag shape. The body was fabricated with aluminum skin mounted on an ash wood frame, with a large removable canvas roof.

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A total of three Dymaxion cars were completed. The initial plan was to sell them commercially and the first Dymaxion car was put on display at the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago. Unfortunately, a politician trying to get a closer look at the Dymaxion as it approached the fair grounds, managed to hit it with his own car, overturning the prototype and killing its driver. Chicago politics being what it was, the politician fled the scene and his involvement was left out of the news stories, resulting in the Dymaxion car unfairly getting the reputation as a death trap. Investors abandoned the project and the company Fuller started to produce the Dymaxion car folded.

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While the reputation was not earned, it appears that the Dymaxion car still wasn’t exactly the easiest thing to drive. It was very difficult to drive in a cross wind, and its aircraft shape created lift at speed, causing the rear wheel to lose ground contact and making it impossible to steer the vehicle. Overheating was also a problem. Though there was a rooftop snorkel intended to draw in cool air, the heat in the engine compartment created positive pressure, reversing the air flow. Fuller knew of the shortcomings and stated that the Dymaxion “was an invention that could not be made available to the general public without considerable improvements.” He also only allowed trained drivers to pilot the prototypes.

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Only one of the three prototypes has survived and, until a recent restoration, it was not in operating condition. Jeff Lane of the Lane Motor Museum commissioned the fabrication of an accurate replica of the first prototype, which Lane felt was the purest expression of Fuller’s vision. Most of the work was done in the Czech Republic, with the eight year build being completed last year. To celebrate, Lane drove the replica from the museum’s home in Nashville to the concours held on Amelia Island in Florida. It took three days. “It was OK,” Mr. Lane told the Wall Street Journal. “You have to look ahead and watch the grade of the road.” Crosswinds are also a problem, with the vehicle wanting to steer into the wind.

You also have to pay attention to how the road is crowned. Both Dan Neil of the WSJ, and Autoweek, when Lane gave them access to the Dymaxion, report that driving it is a white knuckle experience. The single rear wheel wants to go downhill away from the crown of the road, making the car pivot, requiring corrective input from the driver. Because that back wheel is also suspended by what amounts to a huge swing arm, the corrections can induce oscillations, which Neil compared to the wobbling of a grocery cart’s bad caster. Autoweek said that driving the Dymaxion was “terrifying”, the scariest thing they’d ever driven.

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One can only imagine what it was like to drive as designed. Though the replica is accurate, hydraulic systems replaced cable actuated brakes and steering on the original and the steering, which Fuller designed to take an interminable 35 turns to go lock to lock, has been quickened to just six turns, making the needed constant corrections a bit easier.

I spoke with Lane when he was displaying the Dymaxion car as a featured special vehicle at the 2015 Concours of America at St. John’s. Interestingly, when I asked him how it drove, his remarks echoed those of oddball car collector Myron Vernis’ description of how the Davis Divan (another three wheeler, though with a traditional trike layout) drove: kind of scary.

Photos by the author. You can see the full gallery of photos here.

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: 2007 Kia Sedona, Wisconsin Hippie Fingerpaint-n-Stickers Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/junkyard-find-2007-kia-sedona-wisconsin-hippie-fingerpaint-n-stickers-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/junkyard-find-2007-kia-sedona-wisconsin-hippie-fingerpaint-n-stickers-edition/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 12:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1155121 I had the opportunity to visit a Green Bay wrecking yard earlier this month. Most of the inventory was made up of the 10-to-15-year-old GM and Chrysler midsize sedans you’d expect in the Upper Midwest, but I also found this eight-year-old Kia Sedona that had been converted into a Wisconsin Culture Wars Fighting Vehicle (prior […]

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11 - 2007 Kia Sedona in junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

I had the opportunity to visit a Green Bay wrecking yard earlier this month. Most of the inventory was made up of the 10-to-15-year-old GM and Chrysler midsize sedans you’d expect in the Upper Midwest, but I also found this eight-year-old Kia Sedona that had been converted into a Wisconsin Culture Wars Fighting Vehicle (prior to getting wrecked and scrapped before its tenth birthday).
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New-ish minivans tend to hold their value well enough to be worth fixing when crashed, but not when they’ve been covered with ineradicable layers of paint and bumper stickers.

08 - 2007 Kia Sedona in junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Wisconsin has had a high-temperature political landscape going back to the 19th century, producing politicians such as Senator Joseph McCarthy and “Fighting Bob” La Follette. Right now, Governor Scott Walker is working to finish the job that the Kohlers and the Taft-Hartley Act started, destroying organized labor and its allies once and for all and bringing about either Morning In America (if you’re a Buick-driving resident of the suburbs) or a fascist theocracy (if you’re an import-driving urban-dweller).

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In most junkyards, I see about ten junkyard vehicles covered in right-wing stickers for every one with a lot of lefty stickers (here in Colorado, vape-juice stickers outnumber both), but fingerpainting a vehicle remains a weapon of the progressive left only.

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Still, I think the revolution would be better served by a Porsche Ultra High-speed Urban Reconnaissance Unit than a Sedona.

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Marchionne: “To Be Perfectly Honest, We’ve All Fucked with the UAW, Right? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/marchionne-to-be-perfectly-honest-weve-all-fucked-with-the-uaw-right/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/marchionne-to-be-perfectly-honest-weve-all-fucked-with-the-uaw-right/#comments Sat, 29 Aug 2015 15:15:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1155986 Sergio Marchionne seems to be taking a different tactic in this year’s UAW negotiations. Instead of threatening to take product out of North America and send it to China, the head of FCA is playing to the hearts and minds of the union membership, even going so far as to admit all automakers have screwed workers […]

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Sergio Marchionne seems to be taking a different tactic in this year’s UAW negotiations. Instead of threatening to take product out of North America and send it to China, the head of FCA is playing to the hearts and minds of the union membership, even going so far as to admit all automakers have screwed workers in the past.

“To be perfectly honest, we’ve all fucked with the UAW, right? We were threatened by them, so we took all the pickup trucks that we sell — and 90 percent of those pickup trucks are sold in this country, right — we took it away, and then we delocalized them” Marchionne told Automotive News’ Larry P. Vellequette.

Marchionne believes he and UAW President Dennis Williams “share a view about the fact that, in some fashion, to the extent that we are successful in creating wealth out of these car companies, real wealth, then we should be able to distribute that,” he said.

Bringing Mexican pickup production back to the United States would be a massive win for the UAW. Since March 2014, Ram has sold fewer than 30,000 pickups only once (January 2015).

Ram pickups are built at FCA’s Warren Assembly Plant in Michigan and Saltillo Truck Assembly.

“What a wonderful idea, distributing cash when you have it,” Marchionne said.

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Trackday Diaries: Eyes Up, Mr. Outlaw http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/trackday-diaries-eyes-mr-outlaw/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/trackday-diaries-eyes-mr-outlaw/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 17:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1155017 You really can’t ask for a more pleasant, harmless example of schadenfreude than the recent, and well-publicized, decision by “outlaw” Porsche painter/sticker-applier/Vimeo-movie-star/used-clothing-retailer Magnus Walker to crash into his own car hauler. Nobody was hurt beyond his own sore back and no one besides Mr. Walker himself had any monetary loss from the incident. Heck, with […]

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You really can’t ask for a more pleasant, harmless example of schadenfreude than the recent, and well-publicized, decision by “outlaw” Porsche painter/sticker-applier/Vimeo-movie-star/used-clothing-retailer Magnus Walker to crash into his own car hauler. Nobody was hurt beyond his own sore back and no one besides Mr. Walker himself had any monetary loss from the incident. Heck, with the extra publicity it might be a net gain for the dreadlocked whiteboy from the United Kingdom.

Which leaves us, the viewers, absolutely free to laugh and/or gloat about the whole thing. But if we want to take a minute to be thoughtful about it, there’s a more important lesson to be learned, and it’s not “OMG THE 911 IS DANGEROUS EVEN FOR THE MOST TRAINED RACING SUPERSTAR”.


There’s nothing I love more than Monday-morning-quarterbacking crashes, whether they are mine or someone else’s. If you disagree, and you’d like to watch a video where I nearly get my check cashed to feel better about it, here you go. You’re welcome. Yes, I was in pain for weeks afterwards.

I’ve watched this urban-out-of-control video a few times now. In the aftermath of the incident, when there were just photographs and no video available, there were a few theories coming from the momma’s-basement crowd, all of which can be disproven now:

  • SOME JERK PARKED A TRAILER WHERE IT SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN, THUS ENDANGERING THE URBAN OUTLAW! Well, no: he knew the trailer was there. It was his trailer, reportedly.
  • HE WAS SWERVING TO AVOID SOME JERK IN A PAGODA SL! WHAT A HERO! Well, this is technically true, except for the minor detail of the Mercedes being in its own lane. In fact, had the Pagoda driver not had his eyes up, he would have been hit. It was his quick reaction to brake and move over that saved things from being worse than they were.
  • THE TEMPERATURE SUDDENLY DROPPED MAKING HIS SLICK TIRES DEADLY! Doesn’t appear to be the case. He knew the weather, the road, and the conditions.
  • THE 911 CAN KILL THE MOST EXPERIENCED DRIVERS! As we’ll discuss, this could have happened in a rental Mustang.

So that’s what didn’t happen. What did happen? Well, the video shows Magnus taking the most classic early-apex mistake approach possible to the corner. Were he a novice trackday student, this would be excusable. But he represents himself as being an experienced instructor and racer, albeit with the Porsche Owners Club which isn’t exactly real racing as actual racers understand it. So I’m thinking that he made a deliberate choice to enter the corner early. The only problem with this theory is that his entrance to the previous corner, which is also in the video, is total garbage and if one of my Green-group driving students did that we’d have a chat about it at lunch. But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say he knew what he was doing.

I believe that the reason he entered the corner early was so he could unbalance the car and slide it on exit. This is the usual technique favored by drifters and everyone who has ever been asked to “slide for the camera”. He probably touched the brakes a bit then applied throttle to slide out. And that’s what happened.

So far, all was going well and good. But there was traffic in the oncoming lane. How he didn’t know that would be the case utterly escapes me. Maybe he told a friend to hold traffic — but that’s not the kind of thing on which you can rely. Most importantly, he should have been able to see what was happening before he got around the corner. It was completely flat.

To me, it looks like he came off the throttle too early when he saw the Pagoda and promptly started an oscillation that, after he panicked and stepped on the brake, resulted in a neat half-gainer into his own car hauler, which thankfully wasn’t lowering the ramp at the level of his neck. This has very little to do with it being an OMG AIRCOOLED OUTLAW 911 ON SLICKS YO. I see novice students make the same mistake in everything from Miatas to Mustangs. If anything, the rear engine probably saved his bacon a bit by getting the car rotating a bit faster away from the lady in the passenger seat, whose legal claim for pain and suffering would then be even stronger than it is now had they struck on his side.

So, dear readers, how could we fix this, given a time machine? Any of the following would do it:

  • Not driving like a total moron on public roads in the first place. This advice is easy to give but hard to take. If you love cars and you love driving fast, it’s hard to be too sanctimonious about this. Your humble author made a very similar mistake to Mr. Walker when he was sixteen, hitting a parked car with my “powersliding” 200SX.
  • Controlling the scene better. You’re filming for television, so block the road with another car and be certain you have open space. Chris Harris, Matt Farah, and the other video superstars understand this.
  • Plan your stunt. In order for Mr. Walker to be successful in doing his stunt for the camera, he’d have needed to be assured of a clear left lane ahead. I don’t know why he thought he would be able to slide the car and stop it in that space. No person with any experience would use that short of a run for a car-motion shot.
  • Take a practice run, without the reporter. That would have shown him how foolish the idea was and he’d just be fixing his own equipment now instead of talking to his insurance company’s liability guy.

But this next one is the most important, and it’s something that we all need to do, all the time:

LOOK UP. At all times. In every situation. Keep your eyes up to infinity focus and look ahead on the road. If you do that, you will almost never be surprised. Even if there is a car in your lane that you did not expect, looking ahead will let you save your own bacon like Mr. Pagoda SL instead of running into the other car at full military power and going to the hospital.

Had Magnus been looking up like a race driver, instead of looking at the apex like a fashion-clothing expert, he would have seen that the oncoming lane was full. He could have gone full-stop on the brakes, skipped the turn, and probably done nothing other than rip off his custom outlaw airdam. And he would have had to make some sheepish explanations to everyone. But he’d have had the satisfaction of looking ahead, seeing the incident, and avoiding it.

Very few of us have fuck-you-Los-Angeles money and an endless supply of aircooled cars to wreck. So when we’re on the street, we need to be even more careful than Mr. Walker. And remember what Gil Scott-Heron said:

No matter how far wrong you’ve gone
You can always turn around
.

Believe me, I know that lesson better than Mr. Walker, or almost anyone else, does.

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Stout Scarab Returns to Detroit Historical Museum http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/stout-scarab-returns-detroit-historical-museum/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/stout-scarab-returns-detroit-historical-museum/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 16:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1154145 During the city of Detroit’s recent municipal bankruptcy, the billion-dollar-plus-valued art collection of the city-owned Detroit Institute of Arts became an issue due of the possibility the art might have to be sold off to pay the city’s debts. Less generally well known, but probably of greater interest to car enthusiasts, is another collection ultimately owned […]

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During the city of Detroit’s recent municipal bankruptcy, the billion-dollar-plus-valued art collection of the city-owned Detroit Institute of Arts became an issue due of the possibility the art might have to be sold off to pay the city’s debts. Less generally well known, but probably of greater interest to car enthusiasts, is another collection ultimately owned by the city — the six dozen or so vehicles that are owned by the Detroit Historical Museum. One reason why that collection isn’t better known is that most of its more famous cars are usually on loan, displayed at other museums.

Not only are most of the DHM’s cars historically significant, their provenance is unmatched, gifted to the museum by automobile manufacturers and important automotive personages. For example, the museum owns the two Dodge brothers’ personal Dodge Brothers cars, donated by their widows. The Chrysler Turbine car on display at the Gilmore museum near Kalamazoo was given to the Detroit museum by the Chrysler Corporation.

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All of the cars are unique, but surely one of the more interesting vehicles in the collection is their Stout Scarab.

We’ve discussed the Scarab before, along with William Bushnell Stout’s contributions to aviation. Stout was the man behind Henry Ford’s Trimotor airplane, a major factor in the establishment of a viable commercial passenger and freight aviation industry.

Using aircraft construction techniques, Stout designed an automobile whose design many say was ahead of its time and predated the minivan. Unfortunately for Stout, the Scarab’s price, the equivalent of about $90,000 today, was also ahead of its time — the car was built the middle of the Great Depression — and Stout never got near the 100 cars a year production rate he pitched to investors. It’s thought that Stout assembled as many as nine Scarabs from 1934 to 1939; five are known to survive today. As you might imagine, with so few cars built over a period of years, no two are identical. One of the surviving cars was a prototype Scarab with a fiberglass monocoque that Stout made after World War II and it’s quite possibly the first car made from that composite. Since they were hard to sell, many of the Scarabs ended up in the hands of his investors. Such is the case with the Scarab owned by the Detroit Historical Museum. It donated to the institution by the family of chewing gum magnate and owner of the Chicago Cubs, Phillip K. Wrigley, who was also a board member of Stout’s company.

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Unlike the beautifully restored Scarab we’ve previously featured at TTAC, the Wrigley Scarab is in original condition as used by the Wrigley family at their summer home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The odometer shows about 10,000 miles, so the Wrigleys must have liked it, especially when you consider its limited purpose and the fact that the Wrigleys likely had their choice of luxury cars to drive while on vacation. By the mid 1950s, though, it was an old car and no doubt the family wanted something more modern. They must have known how special it was because, in 1956, the Wrigleys gave it to the Detroit museum. The car currently carries Arizona license plates from 1940, but so far I haven’t found any sources that indicate if the car was ever registered or driven there. It’s possible that they were added for display purposes sometime in the past 60 years.

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As mentioned, much of the Detroit Historical Museum’s collection of historic automobiles is usually on loan to other institutions. Though there is a section of the museum devoted to the automotive history of the Motor City, including an installation of the actual body drop section of Cadillac’s former Clark Street assembly plant, the museum’s building on Woodward Avenue in the city’s cultural center has limited space for permanent display of cars. Besides the Cadillacs in various degrees of completion in the body drop display, the museum has a replica of Ransom Olds’ workshop with a curved dash Oldsmobile, along with a replica of William King Brady’s 1896 automobile (the first made and driven in Detroit, fabricated to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Brady’s historic drive).

 

In the background is the 1946 replica of Charles Brady King's 1896 automobile, Detroit's first car, which predated Henry Ford's Quadricycle by a few months.

In the background is the 1946 replica of Charles Brady King’s 1896 automobile, Detroit’s first car, which predated Henry Ford’s Quadricycle by a few months.

Perhaps spurred by less than accurate news reports saying that most of the museum’s cars were in storage bubbles in a warehouse at Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne, which is affiliated with the Historical Museum, the DHM now has a showcase for an individual car selected from their collection, with cars rotated yearly. For the past year, the display has housed a classic era Packard Six, but now it’s been replaced by the Wrigleys’ Stout Scarab, previously on exhibit for 12 years at a museum in Maine. It will go on public display starting on Saturday, August 29th. In addition to the actual Scarab, the museum is also displaying a couple of concept models of the Scarab along with a proposed “batwing” airplane model, all donated to the museum by William Stout himself. There is no admission charge to the museum or its displays.

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To move the Packard out and the Scarab in, as well as update some of the other exhibits, the Detroit Historical Museum was closed this week, but museum curator Bob Sadler graciously gave TTAC access for these photographs so we could run this post in advance of the display’s opening this weekend.

Photos by the author. You can see the full photo gallery here.

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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Tracking Stolen Police Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/tracking-stolen-police-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/tracking-stolen-police-cars/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 15:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1154337 An alert from one of the local news stations popped up on my screen last week asking readers to be on the lookout for a stolen unmarked police cruiser. My first instinct was to warn family and friends that an impersonator was out on the loose. Once I got the word out, I started analyzing the […]

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policedash

An alert from one of the local news stations popped up on my screen last week asking readers to be on the lookout for a stolen unmarked police cruiser. My first instinct was to warn family and friends that an impersonator was out on the loose. Once I got the word out, I started analyzing the situation and thinking about vehicle tracking. I wondered why the local police department did not equip their cruisers with some sort of GPS tracking device which could have allowed them to locate the vehicle quickly without putting the public at risk. I have some experience with GPS tracking in a couple of different fields and decided to do some research on patrol car GPS devices.

My first experience with vehicle tracking devices came when I started installing them for local dealers that sold vehicles under risky loan terms. These devices are relatively simple and amount to the equivalent of a basic cell phone with a GPS chip that can be hard wired to a car battery. They can be installed as a passive device that monitors the car but can also be wired to interrupt a starter so that a vehicle can be disabled. Many dealers use these to track vehicles if they need to repossess them and many times they will set a geo-fence to make sure the car is not able to go across the border and disappear forever. The devices range in price but can usually be purchased for $50-150 for the device and come with a $5-10 monthly monitoring charge.

While the GPS monitoring devices used by car dealers are inexpensive, they do not provide many benefits when it comes to managing a company owned fleet of vehicles. There are devices on the market that will provide fleet tracking and management — my current position in the trucking industry has given me exposure to a few of them. The large truck devices I work with currently are provided by Omnitracs and cost around $2,000 for the equipment and come with a monthly charge of $20-40 depending on the services selected. These devices provide GPS tracking and management of trucks in the fleet along with a wide array of other trucking related software and services. They also provide fault monitoring and diagnostics as they are hooked directly to the ECM inside the truck. The main benefit of the GPS portion of the equipment is that the trucks can easily be tracked to allow route planning and customer updates. In the case of loss prevention, the trucks can be tracked if they are stolen or abandoned by drivers.

The Omnitracs devices and similar systems are much more expensive than the first example but they do offer an array of advanced features. There are alternatives on the market such as the Delphi Connect devices from Verizon Wireless that are used in pickup trucks and other support vehicles in trucking. These devices can be purchased for about $100 for the basic version or $200 for the LTE Mobile Hotspot version. Monthly charges are very affordable at only $5 per device in addition to a standard Verizon Wireless plan and provide live GPS tracking along with historical GPS data through the Delphi portal. They also provide a view of the current vehicle status with items like odometer and fuel level. Lastly, they can be set to monitor faults; if the driver sees the check engine light pop up, the maintenance team can be notified. These devices are very beneficial in keeping track of the vehicles along with the secondary benefit of discerning issues remotely without having to send a road tech to the scene.

We have established that the technology is out there and there are a number of ways it can benefit a police department. In the example above, it would allow the police to quickly recover the vehicle and arrest the thief without putting the public in danger of an impersonator that may be running around. A similar case recently occurred in Sacramento, where a thief stole an unmarked police car and actually dragged one of the officers when he tried to stop him. Using GPS, the dispatchers were able to locate the vehicle quickly and arrest the perpetrator. Another benefit to the trackers comes in the form of efficiency. Many departments use radios to reach out to available officers and ask them to go to a possible crime scene, but this can be improved if the dispatch team is able to view the location of the patrol cars and immediately find and assign the closest car. Officer safety is also a large benefit of the trackers as dispatch can locate an officer that may be incapacitated and send someone out to assist them in cases when they are not able to radio back to ask for help. Many of the smaller benefits like engine diagnostics could also be put in use to streamline operations.

Since the devices are available and inexpensive, what is preventing the police departments from adopting them?

Police officers cite privacy as one of the main concerns. During negotiations for tracking devices in Boston in 2013, many of the officers showed concern for being watched by their superiors along with the potential for the devices to be hacked by criminals. Officials from the Boston Police stated their system would run on a private network which should prevent hacking over the internet. This should prevent most criminals from seeing the data. However, recent hacks of similar devices show that some of their concerns may have a foundation. Officers and their unions are also concerned about scrutiny for taking breaks or driving over the speed limit, but officials argue that the benefits of knowing exactly where a car is located in the event of an emergency are greater than small inconveniences that the officers may experience.

Cost is another big factor when it comes to police departments as many are limited on what they can purchase and some would rather spend the money on additional personnel. The Delphi system demonstrated above is very cheap to run but may not offer all of the features needed for a police department. Looking at systems that are designed for police departments, like the one proposed in Ozark, Missouri, we find that the systems designed for patrol cars have an initial cost of $180 per car and a recurring yearly software cost of about $300 per car. While a fleet of 40 patrol cars like the one mentioned in the article may have a first year cost approaching an additional patrol car, the efficiency introduced by trackers could mitigate the need for one, alongside all of the other mentioned benefits. Some departments may balk at a $480 first year cost per patrol car, but many of them are spending upwards of $5,000 per car to install launchers than can shoot trackers at fleeing cars. While some may decry the use of these launchers citing civil liberty concerns, I believe they can be very beneficial in preventing dangerous high speed chases. In the same vein, I believe that if the police GPS trackers are tested to be reasonably secure they should be installed and will make our communities safer in cases where a patrol vehicle may be stolen.

[Photo Credit: Highway Patrol Images/Flickr/CC BY 2.0]

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China 2015: Cars of Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang Province http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/china-2015-cars-mudanjiang-heilongjiang-province/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/china-2015-cars-mudanjiang-heilongjiang-province/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 12:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1152985 After Yanji in the Korean Autonomous Prefecture, we are now headed north to cross over to Mudanjiang in the Heilongjiang province, home to just under 1 million inhabitants. Mudanjiang does have an airport, but it doesn’t have direct flights to either Yanji or Harbin, so it’s bus riding all the way for me to join […]

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1. Suzuki Lingyang taxi Mudanjiang

After Yanji in the Korean Autonomous Prefecture, we are now headed north to cross over to Mudanjiang in the Heilongjiang province, home to just under 1 million inhabitants.

Mudanjiang does have an airport, but it doesn’t have direct flights to either Yanji or Harbin, so it’s bus riding all the way for me to join these 3 cities and a good opportunity to check out the car landscape in the hilly Chinese countryside.

China map with Mudanjiang

2. Hyundai ix25 Mudanjiang

The Hyundai ix25 is already one of the best-selling models in Mudanjiang.

In actual fact, it’s a pretty bare landscape as there are not many private motorised vehicles in the area, let alone new ones. Of note are a handful of Chery QQ3 sedans, the Suzuki Lingyang, Chery Cowin 2 and the ubiquitous Chana and Hafei minivans. Definitely a huge potential for growth here.

Fun: tri-wheelers seem to be the taxi of choice in Dongjing halfway between Yanji and Mudanjiang (see below).

 

22. Tri-wheelers Dongjing

Tri-wheeler taxis in Dongjing

The Russian influence is logically getting stronger and stronger as we get further north and away from Beijing. Relaxed and modern Mudanjiang reminds me a lot of Moscow in the way the streets are laid out: massive 2 x 4 lanes with large parking spaces on each side, not much vegetation and near-skyscraper housing sprouting up. It could be depressing, but strangely, staying in Mudanjiang ended up being an exhilarating experience. I really felt like I was setting foot where almost no other Westerner had before. I haven’t spotted any since I left Shanghai. Smiles everywhere, an obsession with making sure my seat-belt was buckled up either in the bus or in taxis (unheard of in China), and people in the street watching my every move — stunned, amused and curious, but not wary at all.

 

3. Haval H2 Mudanjiang

Haval H2

The first obvious sight when arriving in Mudanjiang is the cheap taxis, like in many other Chinese cities still coming to grips with private car ownership. And cheap they are: you’d be hard pressed paying more than 10 yuan ($1.60 USD) for any ride around town, whether you’re on your own or you bring your entire family. As a Mudanjiang local, it would surely make you think twice before sinking your hard-earned cash in a new car, even a Chana micro pickup truck worth around 30,000 yuan ($4,700 USD). This is the context in which domestic carmakers evolve in China: competing with taxis that cost nothing. Taxis in Mudanjiang are a unique mix of Suzuki Lingyang (a 1989 Suzuki Swift sedan still on sale in China as pictured atop this report), FAW V5, Kia Rio and Hyundai Elantra in order of popularity.

 

4. ZX Auto Grand Tiger FAW V5 taxi Mudanjiang

ZX Auto Grand Tiger and FAW V5 taxi in Mudanjiang

So what do the friendly people of Mudanjiang drive? Here the car landscape is also unique, and once again distinctly different from the one in Yanji or even Changchun. If the Chinese car ratio is roughly the same (1/3) it is achieved mainly by older models. I would expect Chinese carmakers to hold a very small market share in 2015, not more than 15-20 percent. Even though Mudanjiang is roughly twice the size of Yanji, the park is older and includes more microvans (10-15 percent of the traffic) and pickups (8 percent) with a large variety of brands, including the ZX Auto Grand Tiger, becoming a lot more popular, as well as Huanghai, Gonow and old Great Wall Steeds. This seems to indicate the Mudanjiang market is a little less developed/wealthy than Yanji.

 

5. Great Wall Steed VW Jetta Mudanjiang

Great Wall Steed and VW Jetta

Another observation confirming this status, although it is counter-intuitive, is the much higher proportion of larger, foreign SUVs: Lexus LX, Toyota Prado, Highlander, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe and the first Lincoln MKX and Navigator of this trip. On the contrary, domestic SUVs apart from the FAW Besturn X80 and a few ChangAn CS35 are almost absent whereas their foreign counterparts like the Hyundai ix25, Honda Vezel/XR-V (all 3 already frequent), Kia KX3 (the first in this trip) and Buick Encore are being snapped up en masse.

6. Huanghai Great Wall Wingle Mudanjiang

Huanghai and Great Wall pickups

Why is this an indication that Mudanjiang has a less mature car market? In less developed markets, luxury options tend to weigh more as only the wealthiest customers can afford a new car. They then choose a more luxurious option to establish their status than they would at equal wealth in a more developed environment. The less-to-do drivers haven’t bought into the Chinese SUV craze just yet, remaining in a ‘sedan’ mentality for now. It’s only a question of taste because small Chinese SUVs and affordable foreign small and compact sedans are priced similarly as you’ll see below.

7. Hyundai Verna Mudanjiang

Hyundai Verna and Honda Crider

In this context, the new cars that stand out in the Mudanjiang landscape, apart from the Hyundai ix25 that could seriously pretend to an overall Top 10 ranking, are the previous generations of nameplates still on sale in China, namely the Toyota Corolla EX and Hyundai Elantra Yuedong, and foreign affordable models like the Hyundai Verna, Toyota Vios and Nissan Tiida. To give you some perspective, the Hyundai ix25 starts at 119,000 yuan ($18,600 USD) and Buick Encore at 149,900 ($23,400 USD), while the Toyota Vios starts at 69,800 yuan ($10,900 USD), Hyundai Verna at 73,900 ($11,500 USD) and the Corolla EX at 90,800 ($14,200 USD).

 

8. Toyota Corolla EX Mudanjiang

Toyota Corolla EX

At these prices, buyers would be able to afford a JAC Refine S3 (65,800 yuan or $10,300 USD), Zotye T600 (79,800 or $12,450 USD) or Haima S5 (89,800 or $14,000 USD) — yet they don’t. The only domestic SUV to be successful to-date in Mudanjiang is the FAW Besturn X80 which starts at 119,800 yuan ($18,700 USD), the same price as a Hyundai ix25 — and a different category of buyers altogether. So to summarise: wealthy buyers buy SUVs, poorer buyers buy sedans. In this aspect, the Mudanjiang market is late compared to where China is nationally (the whole market is upsizing to SUVs), and is closer in purchase patterns to Russia — which makes sense given Russia is less than 60 miles away.

21. Mudanjiang street scene 3

9. Mudanjiang street scene 4

Volkswagen is at its weakest in any Chinese city I have visited so far, and the only explanations I could find for this observation are a less dense dealership network and prices out of reach for most buyers. Saying instead that Mudanjiang car buyers completely disregard Volkswagen to opt for fellow Asian carmakers at similar prices wouldn’t make much sense as it would make this city the only one so far in China to develop this taste. Price does seem to be the issue.

 

10. Kia KX3 Buick Encore Mudanjiang

Kia KX3 and Buick Encore

Let’s end on a last surprise: the national best-seller, the Wuling Hongguang, is proving very discreet in Mudanjiang. I only saw a handful of them, and the first Beijing Auto Weiwang M20 of this trip – one of its clones. Once again I will advance the explanation that Mudanjiang may be a few years late adopting national trends. Small shop owners haven’t yet upsized from their microvan to the Hongguang and its equivalents.

The next stop in this exploration of North-Eastern China is the capital of the Heilongjiang province: Harbin. Stay tuned…

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia and runs a website dedicated to car sales, trends and analysis called BestSellingCarsBlog.

 

11. Mudanjiang street scene 5

Mudanjiang street scene

12. ZX Auto C3 Urban Ark Mudanjiang

ZX Auto C3 Urban Ark

13. Hafei Minivan Mudanjiang

Hafei Minivan

14. Hyundai Elantra Yuedong Suzuki Lingyang Mudanjiang

Hyundai Elantra Yuedong and Suzuki Lingyang taxi

15. Mudanjiang street scene 1

Mudanjiang street scene

16. Toyota Corolla Mudanjiang

Toyota Corolla

17. Nissan Sylphy Mudanjiang

Nissan Sylphy

18. Mudanjiang street scene 2

Mudanjiang street scene

19. Great Wall Haval H6 Mudanjiang

Great Wall Haval H6

20. Liebao Mudanjiang

Liebao SUV

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QOTD: What’s the Best All-Around Car? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-whats-the-best-all-around-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-whats-the-best-all-around-car/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 11:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1154841 When you talk to car enthusiasts, it’s clear that they spend a lot of energy trying to figure out the best car for every possible situation. It’s only in a group of car enthusiasts, for instance, that you’ll hear the term “daily driver.” For normal people, they just have a “car,” and maybe a “second […]

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2015 Subaru Outback

When you talk to car enthusiasts, it’s clear that they spend a lot of energy trying to figure out the best car for every possible situation.

It’s only in a group of car enthusiasts, for instance, that you’ll hear the term “daily driver.” For normal people, they just have a “car,” and maybe a “second car” for their “wife.” But car enthusiasts separate their daily driver from their other car, or maybe their other cars, because each vehicle in a car enthusiast’s garage has a different purpose.

There’s a track car — a car only owned by enthusiasts dedicated solely to track use. And there might be a truck and a trailer to pull this track car. So now you have the daily driver, the track car, the truck, and the trailer.

Or maybe you have a winter beater. A car you use during the winter to keep the bad weather, road salt, potholes, and debris away from your pride and joy. This winter beater is usually an old Subaru, or a truck, or something you wouldn’t be caught dead driving in normal circumstances. But alas, it’s another car that fills another purpose.

Some car enthusiasts have a commuter car; a car that sucks miles, that keeps their fun car away from the daily grind; a car that they can use for fuel economy and hauling kids while keeping their “fun car” safe for weekend use. I know a guy who once had an E60 BMW M5 in the garage and a Toyota Prius as a commuter car.

And it goes, on and on and on. Some people have an off-roader. A truck for hauling. A classic they keep in the garage. A drag racer. Car enthusiasts like cars, so they have a lot of them. It only makes sense.

But what if you could only have one?

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m asking the question: what’s the best all-around car if you had to have only one single car? What if you couldn’t have the track car, and the winter beater, and the commuter cars, and the off-roader? What if you had to stop and choose only one specific vehicle that does it all?

bmw-x5-m-2014-la-auto-show-04

For me, this question is impossibly hard to answer. Your mind immediately goes to high-performance SUVs like the BMW X5 M or the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8, because they combine sports car performance with SUV practicality. But in doing so, they kind of lose the best aspects of both: the X5 M and Grand Cherokee SRT8 have such thin performance tires that they’re hardly capable off-roaders. And they’re so bulky and heavy that they don’t really go around corners. They’re good all-rounders, but not great ones; better in theory than in reality.

So then you start thinking of practical sports cars, like the Porsche 911 or the BMW 6 Series. But these things aren’t really family cars: both have back seats that could barely be comfortable for a notecard. And by offering back seats at all, they kind of compromise the true “sports car” nature of the sports car that’s honed so effectively by cars like the Mazda MX-5 Miata and the Honda S2000.

So what’s the answer?

Volvo V60 Polestar, model year 2016

I nominate the Volvo V60 T6, which seems to combine good things about every possible type of vehicle. Under the hood, there’s a 3.0-liter turbocharged 6-cylinder engine that makes 325 horsepower. Performance, check. It’s also a wagon, or at least a long hatchback, so there’s some room in back for both people and luggage. Interior space, check. And there’s standard all-wheel drive in the T6 model, along with an insane amount of typical Volvo safety features. All-weather capability, check. Safety, check.

But of course, there are many fine answers to this question, and I’m sure that not all of them will be the Ford Crown Victoria. So I say to you, what exactly do you think is the best all-around car?

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Bark’s Bites: We All Need a Bad Influence or Two in Our Lives http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/barks-bites-need-bad-influence-two-lives/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/barks-bites-need-bad-influence-two-lives/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 14:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1153729 “Just passed this on Michigan Avenue outside of Dearborn. Manufacturer plate.” The above picture of a GT350R in the wild and the accompanying text found their way across the LTE network to my phone last Thursday. My good friend — let’s call him Acd — and I have a habit of supporting each other’s addictions. […]

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GT3502

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

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

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

Let’s be real with each other for a moment here, shall we? We might all be Car Guys, but to the rest of the world, we’re simply “idiots.”

I already have a perfectly good, much-fast-for-the-real-world Mustang, and yet every time I see a picture of a GT350R I start doing math in my head to see how I might possibly be able to swing one. Although I’m what some might call upper middle-class, I’m not so well off that the sticker price of a GT350, avec ou sans R, is an insignificant sum. The financially responsible thing would undoubtedly be to hold on to my Boss 302 and “let somebody else take the depreciation hit” on a 2016 GT350 — as if these things are going to appreciably depreciate any time soon.

In a culture that simultaneously encourages outlandish consumerism and then shames anybody who actually engages in it, one often finds himself wrapped in a paradox that I have previously called the “Nobody Needs That” societal ideal. On the rare occasions that I feel this pang of guilt, I thank the Lord above that I have stupid, reckless, and immature friends like WW to inspire me to do stupid, reckless, and immature things. Otherwise, I might occasionally do something intelligent with my money, like, oh, I don’t know, save some of it.

My friend Acd knows this. Therefore, he’ll do things like send me pictures of EFFING AMAZING LOOKING GT350Rs IN THE WILD. My other friend, David, does things like send me pictures of all the cars he can buy with his truckload of cash that his employer simply dumps in front of his apartment every other Thursday. We egg each other on. We encourage irrational buying behavior. We celebrate it when we do something completely stupid like lease a completely superfluous car. I’m just as excited to see the first shots of any of my friends’ new whips on Facebook as am to see all of those completely unique and original shots of their kids’ First Day of Fourth Grade (guilty, by the way).

And it’s not just new cars that my Car Guy friends and I encourage each other to over-consume. We geek out over new exhausts that serves no other purpose than turning a V8 up to Eleven. We high-five over 140 treadwear tires that might not last an entire summer. We celebrate the finding of a pristine NA Miata with a mere 200,000 miles on the engine for less than two grand. I think I received more comments about my 1996 Subaru Legacy Wagon (RIP) than I did about anything I’ve ever bought, because a certain segment of my Car Guy friends thought that it was awesome I found a running Subaru for less than the cost of a set of winter tires.

We nudge each other. We implore each other. We justify the insane for each other. We rationalize the need for new cars, new parts, new trips to new racetracks — anything that helps us feed the fire for each other. And thanks to the power of the Internet, we are normally thousands of miles away from each other when we do it. That doesn’t weaken the connection, though. If anything, it thrills me to be in Miami, sending pictures of exotic cars in Epic Hotel’s roundabout to my few friends that actually afford them in Atlanta.

It’s classic Relationship Builder behavior. A bunch of guys from different walks of life, from all over the country, encouraging each other to wring one last dollar out of our wallets to pursue our passions. Without our dearly departed editor, Derek (he’s not dead, you know, he just isn’t here), I probably would have never pulled the trigger on leasing my Fiesta ST. Without my brother on the phone, calming me down after I screamed at a New Car Manager, I wouldn’t have a School Bus Yellow monster in my garage.

And without my dear friend, Acd, I wouldn’t be looking at GT350 build sheets as I type this. Without all of these morons in my contact list, egging me on to pursue my passion with more vigor than any normal father of two has the right to do, I’d have a lot more money, no question.

But I’d also have a lot less Life.

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Don’t Do Me Like That, Honda! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/dont-like-honda/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/dont-like-honda/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 13:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1153737 If my personal relationship with Honda had a Facebook status, that status would be the one so beloved of mistresses, side pieces, and FWBs — namely, “It’s Complicated”. A decade ago, I took a gig reverse-engineering a piece of production-line equipment for them. I had never owned a Honda automobile at the time and I’d […]

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accordcoupe1

If my personal relationship with Honda had a Facebook status, that status would be the one so beloved of mistresses, side pieces, and FWBs — namely, “It’s Complicated”. A decade ago, I took a gig reverse-engineering a piece of production-line equipment for them. I had never owned a Honda automobile at the time and I’d long since sold my first CB550. The car I drove to work at Honda was a black Volkswagen Phaeton.

Fast-forward to 2015. It’s been some time since I took the King’s shilling, so to speak, and the balance of payments between me and Ohio’s finest automaker is very far in my personal favor. But as I write this, I am the owner of four Hondas. And I’d buy another one, if they’d just quit screwing with me about the details.


Long-time TTAC readers know about my Accord V6 6MT Coupe. You’ve heard about its stout-hearted engine and its rounded-off front tires and its paper-thin OEM floormats. And if you’ve been on the site for a while, you might know about Kellee, the CB550 that I bought in 2012 and put back on the road in 2015 with help from my friend Josh.

But I’m also the owner of two more Hondas: a VFR800 25th Anniversary and, as of about forty-five days ago, a new CB1100 “standard”. As a result of that and my decision to sell my 944 at the beginning of the year, the scoreboard in my garage that used to read “Porsche 3: Honda 1″ now reads “Porsche 2: Honda 4″. I’d like to tell you all about the CB1100, from the 527-mile ride that I took on it the day I bought it, to the way it flat fucking leaps from a low-rev roll, to what it is like to have a beautiful woman on it sitting behind you with her arms around you and her eyes closed in blissful repose — but this is The Truth About Cars, not The Romantic Discussion Of Unfaired Motorcyles And Pretty Girls And Riding Around Downtown Columbus With No Helmet While Pretending To Be David Lee Roth At 1:34 In The “Panama” Video, so we’ll save that for another time.

Let’s talk, instead, about my Accord. I’m reliably informed by this very website that “non-sporty coupes” are on the way out. I’m also pretty sure that this is the last generation of Accord that will offer a V6. It’s certainly the last generation of Accord that will offer the combination of a manual transmission and that bad-ass J35Y2 straight out of Anna, Ohio where you can smell the metal in the air when you get off the freeway and the Subway is basically the local fine-dining restaurant and the nineteen-year-olds come out in the afternoon with smudges on their perfect cheekbones, laughing in the sun and engaged in their private conversations while you lean against your Phaeton in a white shirt with someone else’s name sewn above the pocket.

For that reason, I’ve considered selling my 2014 Accord, which is about to reach the 24,000-mile mark, and buying the 2016 Accord to replace it. Objectively this makes no sense; the 2016 Accord differs from the 2014 Accord in visual particulars and an upgrade to the in-car electronics. But you have to look at it like this: If there are no more Accord V-6 coupes, ever again, then it’s best to have the newest and freshest one possible. Buying a new Accord means that I will be able to drive this kind of car two years or 24,000 miles longer before giving up and setting my future fifty-something self into whatever bullshit bug-eyed, phone-booth-esque, CVT-shifted, turbo-three-cylinder crossover turns out to be the final and solitary result of the current automotive market’s quantum possibility collapse.

I have at least eighteen months to make this decision, since I figure that the 2017 model year will be identical to the 2016 and Honda’s unlikely to can the six-speed halfway through 2016. At worst they’ll pare-down the lineup in 2017 to make room for the inevitable Accord SE and I’ll scramble for a remaining 2016 model. But which model would that be? And therein lies the annoyance.

Believe me, I truly appreciate Honda’s steadfast commitment to making the manual transmission available. It’s why I’m driving an Accord instead of a Camry XSE V6. But the manual V6 coupe is the stepchild of the line. In 2014, it was available in just three colors, two of which (“Modern Steel” and Black) are not colors so much as they are the absence, or totality, of color. In 2015, Honda threw a really nice white pearl with an ivory interior into the mix, too late for me to make that choice.

The company has also failed to make its top-of-the-line “Touring” model available as a coupe here in the United States. (Elsewhere, there are apparently four-cylinder and six-cylinder Touring Coupes). That means that if you want LED headlamps in your Accord you have to get a sedan. For 2016, however, there’s a Touring Coupe for the United States. It has LED headlamps. Woo hoo! And nineteen-inch wheels. That’s probably an ugh!, given what heavier wheels do to light-footed cars like the current Accord.

When I heard that there was going to be a Touring-trim V6 coupe, I figured that was pretty much the tipping point for swapping my car out. I didn’t have an invite to the press event, so I had to wait until the information on trim and equipment became common knowledge. This morning, Honda emailed me an invitation to look at the 2016 Accord configurator. Sure enough, there’s a Touring coupe. It’s available in seven colors, including the fascinating-looking Opal Blue Pearl. And…

…it’s automatic-only. If I want a manual, I’m stuck with the same model (EX-L V6) that I have currently. And, unless I want to drive a bright-blue Accord coupe, which I don’t, I’m stuck with the same choices of red, black, and grey from 2014. At least the price didn’t go up too much and the i-MID display is multi-color now.

You know, I keep thinking that at some point, someone at Honda is going to get it. They’re going to realize that the high-end V-6 Accords are basically the Yukon Denalis to the Acura TLX’s Escalade, attracting a more favorable demographic of wealthier, more settled and brand-loyal customers than the pimped-out version across the street. And when they realize that, they’re going to do something like offer a fully-loaded V6 manual coupe, and a fully-loaded V6 manual sedan, and they are going to capture the business of people who would otherwise drop $60,000 on a loaded-up S5 or 335i coupe. Don’t laugh; there are a lot of Accords next to BMWs in the garages of the midwest.

On the other hand, maybe I should be grateful for Honda’s less-than-perfect marketing. If their marketing team were as efficient as, say, Porsche’s, then I’d be able to get any color I wanted for my Accord. But I’d probably be stuck with an automatic no matter what color I got, the same way buyers of the current 911 Turbo and 911 GT3 are assumed to be incapable of using a clutch. And I’d still be stuck with a manual day/night mirror unless I wanted to pay $1,195 for a Porsche Doppel-Mirror-System option package that made it impossible to have another option that would be similarly overpriced but also desirable, like Carbon Fiber Temperature Display Surround Variant Three. And at some point, I’d probably have to take my Accord in for an engine replacement, instead of the transmission replacement that the slush-shifted V6 Hondas used to get.

Maybe Honda will throw another color in the hopper for 2017. If you’re listening, oh sacred marketing people of Torrance, where the sun always shines and no manufacturing takes place, then perhaps you’ll hear my plea. How about… lime green?

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Let’s Break Down The Ford Ranger and Bronco Rumors, Shall We? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/lets-break-ford-ranger-bronco-rumors-shall/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/lets-break-ford-ranger-bronco-rumors-shall/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 19:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1153297 News today that the Ford Ranger pickup and Bronco utility could return to the United States and Canada is being met by very enthusiastic ears, including yours truly. According to multiple outlets, the two vehicles could be built at Ford’s Wayne, Michigan plant, the same plant that will lose Focus and C-MAX production to Mexico in 2018. […]

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everestfront

News today that the Ford Ranger pickup and Bronco utility could return to the United States and Canada is being met by very enthusiastic ears, including yours truly.

According to multiple outlets, the two vehicles could be built at Ford’s Wayne, Michigan plant, the same plant that will lose Focus and C-MAX production to Mexico in 2018.

But, is everything as it seems? Let’s dive into the Ford product portfolio and try to make some sense of it.

First, the Ranger rumor: The global Ranger — dubbed T6, which just received a refresh for 2015 and will likely be due for a redesign for MY2019 — will make a return to the United States and Canada.

There has been some recent Ranger activity around Ford facilities in Michigan. However, the larger evidence at play to support the rumor is growing interest in smaller trucks.

Tacoma sales are up even though the next-generation truck hasn’t really started selling yet. The GM twins — Canyon and Colorado — are flying off lots as quickly as the General can build them. Why there’s an increased interest in the mid-size pickup segment is unclear; it could be that full-size pickups have just grown too big for a decent segment of the truck-buying public, that people again see mid-size trucks as alternatives to the seemingly dead, truck-based SUV segment (see: Xterra), or increased competition and marketing is making mid-size trucks more visible to consumers.

The fact the Wayne, Michigan facility needs product is another strong support for the rumor. The previous plant to build the Ranger has been shut down, so it can’t go there.

I have professed some “Charger Love” as of late and would never consider a full-size pickup. However, a mid-size offering would certainly fit my own lifestyle, as I’m sure it would for many others.

The second and more involved rumor: The Everest will come stateside with the Bronco moniker.

This rumor requires some finessing of the Ford lineup, which means we must examine the Explorer and Taurus.

It’s no secret that the Ford Explorer and Taurus gain a significant number of their sales from police departments.

Year-to-date, nearly 20 percent — 5,929 to be exact — of the Taurus’ 29,967 total sales are of the Police Interceptor variety. The other 80 percent of Taurus sales aren’t just retail; those sales are split between retail and other fleets. While a breakdown isn’t available, it does mean less than 24,038 Tauruses were sold retail year-to-date. (For comparison, FCA has sold 28,889 units of the Chrysler 300 to retail and fleet.)

The Explorer has become far more popular with police departments than the Taurus. Year-to-date, Ford has sold 14,920 Explorers to police departments, but it makes up a smaller percentage of the Explorer’s 145,785 total sales — just over 10 percent. Currently, the Explorer is the 6th most popular SUV in America behind the Nissan Rogue and ahead of the Jeep Cherokee.

The Taurus, as TTAC has reported in the past, is not long for this world … at least the American world. The sedan is likely to continue on in China, but is expected to be cancelled here. Other D4 platform mates — Lincoln MKS, Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT — have also been rumored for the guillotine. That means if Ford wanted to keep the Explorer in its current form, it would likely be the only vehicle riding on a platform currently shared between five different models. Goodbye, economies of scale.

So, let’s assume that even though Explorer sales are doing fine, it’s not going to stick around either, leaving a significant hole in the Ford lineup above the Edge and below the Expedition. That hole is very similar to another one found within the Lincoln lineup between the MKX and Navigator.

Enter Everest — or, as you might be calling it in the future, the Ford Bronco (or possibly Explorer) and Lincoln Aviator.

The Everest is based on the Ranger, so the “Bronco”/Explorer and Aviator would both be a body-on-frame, rear-wheel drive SUVs. Instead of a Wrangler competitor, this would be a Grand Cherokee/Durango competitor. If you were hoping for a droptop Bronco, you’re out of luck here, folks.

“By 2020, we expect to expand the segments that we participate in by adding two new nameplates to the Lincoln brand,” said Stéphane Cesareo, spokesman for Lincoln, when we inquired on the Lincoln Aviator rumor, and the Everest would fit the bill for a premium, rear-wheel drive SUV for the Lincoln brand in addition to the return of Continental. There’s your two “new” nameplates.

This possible plan leaves Ford without a full-size sedan to sell to police departments and lacking a livery car for the Lincoln brand. However, that new Lincoln Continental could do livery duty, and a Ford-badged Continental derivative could fill the spot left by Taurus.

Whether this all comes to fruition, we’re not sure. However, as far as speculated plans are concerned, this seems like the only option for Ford (and Lincoln) going forward if the “Bronco” is anything but a rumor.

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The Modern Automobile Is Killing Chivalry http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/modern-automobile-killing-chivalry/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/modern-automobile-killing-chivalry/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 16:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1152969 On April 1, 2014, I met my girlfriend Jennifer for the first time. We sipped on our coffee and tea late into the night at a local coffee joint while sharing stories and generally just trying to figure each other out. But, after a while, my legs grew restless, my rear had gone numb on […]

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2015 Nissan Micra S (1 of 10)

On April 1, 2014, I met my girlfriend Jennifer for the first time. We sipped on our coffee and tea late into the night at a local coffee joint while sharing stories and generally just trying to figure each other out. But, after a while, my legs grew restless, my rear had gone numb on the provided polypropylene seat, and I was long done with my coffee.

“Want to go for a drive?” I asked.

“Sure,” she replied.

I have no problem telling people that Jennifer and I met on Jack’s pick-up app of choice, Tinder. Jenn and I chatted back and forth for a couple of days before finally meeting. Thankfully, being an automotive journalist, I was prepared. On this particular week in April, I was driving a near-as-makes-no-difference $100,000 Audi A7 with as many options as the public relations budget could bear.

As we walked out of the coffee shop — let’s call it Jim Dortons — I reached into my pocket, pulled out the keys and unlocked the Audi’s doors.

I went to the driver’s side, she to the passenger’s side, and we both slipped into the German executive liftback.

“Wow, this is nice,” she exclaimed with the mild surprise I’ve come to love.

We explored the snow-covered streets of the city I now call home. Now and then, I let the rear of the A7 slide ever so slightly so I could prove my driving chops to my future Miss.


Earlier this year, and more than a year after Jennifer and I met each other on that dark wintery night in a coffee shop, Nissan loaned me a Micra S — base model spec with nary an option. It is, by far, one of the most basic examples of personal transportation money can buy in a First World country.

The Miss and I tend to both enjoy a burger here and there, so we headed to a local fast food joint after both putting in 10+ hours of work for the day.

We sat, traded the day’s stories (Warning to TTAC writers: She knows everything about you), and enjoyed our grill-fired deliciousness on a balmy summer evening. Nothing could be better in this moment.

When it was time to go, we walked out of the fast food joint — let’s call it Gag & Spew — I reached into my pocket, and …

… I walked to the passenger side of the car to unlock the door.

This is the first time you’ve ever physically unlocked a door for Jenn, I said to myself as the epiphany hit me like a fully loaded Amtrak train.

Not only that, I followed the unlocking action by opening the door for her.

She stood there, looked at me for mere seconds — but those seconds felt like an eternity — with a face usually reserved for times when she sees a fluffy, fresh out of the wrapper puppy (eyes that say “Awwweeee!” without the mouth needing to do so), gave me a kiss and jumped in the car. I closed the door for her.

While we can have a massive conversation about gender equality or traditional gender roles, the fact remains: until this moment, I had never unlocked nor held a car door open for Jenn. Not once. Not ever. And it all comes down to power door locks and, well, me never thinking to do it.

The same logic can probably be applied to climate control systems. Not so long ago, if your significant other was getting a little warm over on the passenger side, she might have said, “I am getting a little warm.”

“No problem, I can take care of that, dear,” you’d reply, adjust the single-zone temperature control so both of you would be comfortable — or you might even take one for the team and bear being uncomfortable yourself so she’d be content — and she would likely be appreciative of your efforts, however small it may be.

Nowadays, your reply might be, “You have your own temperature control knob, dear. You can set it to whatever you want!” Feminists might call that empowerment. I call it a missed opportunity.

All these modern features — remote power locks, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote automatic starters (the end of “Don’t worry dear. I can go out and start the car for you.”), roadside assistance (the end of “Yes, dear, I can drive out and help you change that tire.”), and numerous others — are all aimed at making the car more convenient, but also fly in the face of car guys being a chivalrous sort. Even bench seats are limited to pickups these days, unless you want to pick up an Impala Classic through a friendly fleet manager.

While Jenn and I did end our coffee date all those months ago with a kiss, I wonder: If I had held the door open for her, would I have received that kiss before our drive? And would our drive have turned out to be a much different experience?

Maybe, maybe.

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Bark’s Bites: All Kids Love Fast Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/barks-bites-kids-love-fast-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/barks-bites-kids-love-fast-cars/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 14:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1152809 On the rare occasion that my schedule gives me the flexibility to do so, I am always thrilled to pick my son up from school. It’s such a treat to see the little ones with their faces pressed against the glass of the exit doors, bursting with the excitement of the end of the school […]

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boss parking grass

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

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

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

“Did you bring the Mustang today?”

As a parent of young children, I find that much of my responsibility in life is to eliminate as much of the disappointment from their lives as possible. Unfortunately, the older that they get, the more challenging that becomes; there are already disappointments from which I have no power to shield them. So when I have the power to make them happy, even in the smallest of ways, I try my best to do it.

I have long since learned answering the boy’s question with, “No, I brought the Fiesta,” brings a swift and severe look of disappointment to my little guy’s face. Therefore, even though it’s a hassle to put the car seat in and out of my Boss 302, and even though I have to contort myself into poses that would make Tony Horton proud of me on “Yoga X” day just to buckle my son into his seat, the look on his face is all worth it.

But one might expect the son of an automotive enthusiast to also have a passion for cars, so there’s nothing terribly unusual about that. No, what has always struck me is the way every single child in that building responds to a pony car that wears a paint scheme normally reserved for a vehicle that’s much more common in a school parking lot.

When the Boss is on the scene, my son makes sure to call out a hearty “Bye!” to all of his friends, just so they can see him getting into the car. The reactions I’ve heard from them are not only universal, they’re priceless:

“Wow! That car is awesome!”

“Hey, Mom — can we get one of those?”

“Aww, man. Your dad’s car is faster than my dad’s car.”

One particularly sunny afternoon, I parked next to a shiny, candy apple red Prius with temporary tags. The owner, a rather peppy-looking grandmother, was excited to show her grandson her new car when she picked him up. He took one look at the Prius, looked at my 302 sitting adjacent to it, and treated us all to a dose of that glorious honesty that all children of preschool age possess in spades:

“Nana, can you take it back and get one of those instead?

And it’s not just a Boy Thing, either. Now that my daughter has begun preschool, she’s made her preference for her afterschool chariot known as well.

“Just don’t go super fast on the way home, Dad,” she reminds me. “I kinda like going fast, but I kinda don’t.”

Seeing the purely visceral response that all of these ten-and-under boys and girls have to a car that sometimes seems like it was visually designed to impress ten-and-under boys and girls makes me wonder: At what age does society request — nay, require — us to take a more common sense approach to cars?

After all, it’s not like the other parents couldn’t afford a Mustang. In the sea of Tahoe LTZs and Explorer Limiteds, one could make the argument that the Boss 302 places right about in the middle of the parking lot’s economic strata. There’s one other somewhat older dad who picks his young son up in his gorgeous green Boxster, but the rest of the vehicles are nondescript variations of the same silver, white, or black CUV.

On some level, there’s a practicality that exists in a CUV that simply isn’t found in my Mustang. Yet I still manage to pick up two children, place them safely in car seats, put their backpacks in the trunk, and head home. One dad approached me and asked me if there was enough room in my car for kids and all their stuff. I replied that I wouldn’t necessarily want to drive to Disney World in it, but that it worked just fine as a daily commuter.

“Good,” he replied. “I really want one of those Shelbys.” Then he grinned and walked back to his Traverse. That was over a year ago. He still has the Traverse.

My guess is that he just couldn’t sell the idea to his wife — or, more likely, that he just couldn’t sell the idea to himself. Back when I had my G8, I remember feeling almost sad for a coworker who had his young son strapped in the back of a New Edge Mustang — like maybe he couldn’t afford a proper family car. Society has us all convinced that we need to make safe, easily defensible choices when it comes to our cars. Just as I’m entirely certain that every kid in that parking lot loves the Mustang, I’m entirely certain that nearly every parent judges me for putting my kids in it. Society tells us that we need a crossover for our family lives, and as the owner of one, I’m not entirely convinced society is wrong.

But you know what? I’m not entirely convinced that society is right, either. Because along with that judgment comes a piquant hint of envy. Maybe it’s a longing look from a guy who traded in his Camaro on a Grand Caravan. Maybe it’s a smile from a woman whose boyfriend used to take her out in a convertible V6 ‘Stang back in high school — or maybe she had one of her own. But, at some point, almost every right-thinking adult took that lust for a fast, loud, brash car and shoved it squarely into the deepest recesses of his brain. So, after a momentary lapse of reason, the envy goes back to that limbic part of the brain, and the cerebral part goes back to justifying the smart, sensible choice of buying a Ford Edge.

Well, I’m here to tell you that sometimes your cerebral part of your brain betrays you. Sometimes it’s okay to go back to being that nine-year-old boy who wants his car to go fast. Maybe you don’t have to go Full Mustang. Maybe you can get a slightly bigger engine in your Camry or Accord. Maybe you can look at a Charger instead. Maybe your CUV can have a Hellcat engine.

Let your inner nine-year-old out. Then, when your nine-year-old child hugs you just a little tighter for bringing his favorite car to pick him up, you’ll both be reminded why you loved cars so much in the first place.

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If You Drive A Smart Today, You Can Drive An Exotic Later http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/drive-smart-today-can-drive-exotic-later/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/drive-smart-today-can-drive-exotic-later/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 13:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1152137 Two weeks ago, I wrote about the slings and arrows of car2go membership. A few members of the B&B took issue with my claim that car2go was the cheapest way to operate an automobile. One of them decided to do the math. And did he ever. If you have a modern version of Microsoft Excel […]

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g33

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the slings and arrows of car2go membership. A few members of the B&B took issue with my claim that car2go was the cheapest way to operate an automobile. One of them decided to do the math.

And did he ever.

If you have a modern version of Microsoft Excel you can download his spreadsheet at this link. It doesn’t work perfectly in OpenOffice, but other than “Free Software” nutjobs such as myself I doubt anybody uses OpenOffice, so that’s totally fine.

“Being in finance allows me to separate hype from speculation (most of the time),” he notes, and since he’s one of our readers who hails from outside the United States, about sixteen hours by air outside in this case, I’ll give him a pass on the idea that “being in finance” and “speculation” are anything but joined at the hip. The spreadsheet allows you to plug in various values for leasing vs. buying vs. car2go. What I like about it is that it allows you tweak nearly every parameter instead of limiting you to fixed assumptions about pricing or residuals.

Having fussed with the spreadsheet for an hour or so, I can tell you that it is very difficult to make the numbers come out in favor of leasing or owning unless you really get funny with your assumptions or you plan for some very long trips behind the wheel of a Smart. But even TTAC readers who have no intention of ever getting behind the wheel of a shared automobile will enjoy the lease vs. buy calculations.

Some of us, however, require a little more out of our lives than the quiet satisfaction of knowing that one has thoroughly crunched the numbers and reduced one’s transportation expenses to a minimum, all the better to save a million dollars or so in today’s Bernankified fiat currency for an extra thirty days’ worth of life in a nightmarish assisted-living facility at the dementia-ridden end of one’s mortal coil. So our anonymous-by-request B&Ber has thoughtfully added a corner to the spreadsheet that allows one to plan a splurge with one’s savings. It includes a flight to California and an exotic-car rental. There’s even space for some expenses at the Chateau Marmont, where your humble author took a BMW i8 a few months ago and where it is possible, given the right combination of car, cash, and confidence, to engage in unprotected sex with someone who had a minor role in an episode of a made-for-cable sitcom. If that is not an incentive to save a bit on your daily grind, I don’t know what is!

I’d encourage you to download the spreadsheet and try your own calculations. Let us know how it goes. As for me — well, I compared car2go with leasing an Aventador or buying a Viper ACR, and I can state with conviction that the car-share service is definitely the lowest-cost option.

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Junkyard Find: 2000 Volvo S80 T6 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/junkyard-find-2000-volvo-s80-t6/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/junkyard-find-2000-volvo-s80-t6/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 11:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1152257 I promised more 21st-century Junkyard Finds recently, so here’s a high-end Volvo with turbo boost rivaled only by its turbocharged depreciation levels. Yes, it’s the Volvo S80, complete with twin-turbo 286hp tranverse-mount straight-six. Looks like an insurance-auction car, and it was a runner. Except for the banged-up hood (which may have been the result of […]

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18 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin

I promised more 21st-century Junkyard Finds recently, so here’s a high-end Volvo with turbo boost rivaled only by its turbocharged depreciation levels. Yes, it’s the Volvo S80, complete with twin-turbo 286hp tranverse-mount straight-six.
17 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin

Looks like an insurance-auction car, and it was a runner.

03 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin

Except for the banged-up hood (which may have been the result of junkyard employees prying it open after the inside release failed), the body and interior look to be in nice shape.

13 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin

I’ve heard possible urban legends stating that this engine — yes, it’s possible to get six cylinders sideways in an engine compartment — will bolt up to the bellhousing in a manual-transmission Volvo 760, which opens the door to all sorts of fun with 240 swaps. The crazy Swedes building a 500-horse Volvo 142 drift car have a couple of these engines stashed in the shop for future projects.

15 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin

I’m not sure what’s going on with the steel mesh over the grille.

My goodness!

It was a futuristic-looking car, 15 or so years ago.

00 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 01 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 02 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 03 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 04 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 05 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 06 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 08 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 09 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 10 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 13 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 15 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 17 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 18 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 19 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 20 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 21 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 22 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin

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QOTD: What Are You Supposed to Drive Making Minimum Wage? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-supposed-drive-making-minimum-wage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-supposed-drive-making-minimum-wage/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 11:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1151873 After two years at a grocery store making $4.25, I got my first raise as a member of the U.S. workforce: I could eat all the nearly expired yogurt in the dairy I could ever want. Unfortunately, yogurt doesn’t buy a car. And after two years of checking, stocking, bagging and mopping, I had a […]

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09 - 1998 Toyota Corolla Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

After two years at a grocery store making $4.25, I got my first raise as a member of the U.S. workforce: I could eat all the nearly expired yogurt in the dairy I could ever want.

Unfortunately, yogurt doesn’t buy a car. And after two years of checking, stocking, bagging and mopping, I had a pair of turntables and records to show for my hard work.

Fortunately, I was in high school and could “work” off my car loan with grades. But for 3.3 million Americans who make the minimum wage — or less — there may not be such a deal.

And at $7.25 an hour, or $15,080 a year, your car-buying options are fairly limited.

I know what bootstrap Republicans will say: “Take the bus!” But remember, west of the Mississippi River, public transportation is often a time-consuming and inconvenient process. And if you’re making minimum wage, chances are you need more than one job, which means lost time commuting is lost money that’s sorely needed.

Geezers may scoff: “In my day, I worked for a dollar an hour and was thankful for the opportunity!” That’s true. In 1967, the minimum wage was $1 an hour, but a new Camaro also cost $2,466 MSRP — which meant your buck an hour could buy you a Camaro after one year of hard work. Try that today with your $15,080 and the 2016 Camaro starting at more than $26,000.

Budget buyers would say: “Craigslist is full of $500 Corollas! Buy one of those!” But remember that a bad asset is another word for a liability. Cars today are infinitely more complicated for home mechanics, and more expensive to fix at a shop. There’s nothing worse than a money pit, or worse, walking away from something you can’t recoup later. Even the average price for a used car is out-of-reach, the Detroit News reported that an average used car transaction is $18,800.

So what say you B&B? What’s a working man supposed to buy if minimum wage can’t even pay attention?

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In Which An Editor Goes Car Shopping http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/editor-goes-car-shopping/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/editor-goes-car-shopping/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 18:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1151457 At virtually every other automotive outlet for whom I’ve worked, the communication between writer and reader has been a one-way street. I give advice. The reader listens. Whether the reader acts on that advice is completely unknown. Also, the reader never gives advice to the writer. Thankfully, TTAC is different and the Best & Brightest […]

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At virtually every other automotive outlet for whom I’ve worked, the communication between writer and reader has been a one-way street. I give advice. The reader listens. Whether the reader acts on that advice is completely unknown. Also, the reader never gives advice to the writer.

Thankfully, TTAC is different and the Best & Brightest will drop a nugget of information in the comments that I can use not only in my professional life, but in my personal life as well.

And it’s on this advice that I drove 2 1/2 hours to Moncton to drive a 2015 Dodge Charger R/T Road and Track.

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 12.08.08 PM

Thanks to BunkerMan’s information, I sent an email to Moncton Chrysler Jeep Dodge to make sure the car was in stock. It was. Within 30 minutes, my girlfriend and I planned a day trip to Moncton.

I know I can be long winded, so I am going to keep the rest of this short. Here were my impressions of the car and new-car shopping in general.

The Charger R/T sounds incredible, but the Road and Track package takes away a number of characteristics from the Charger SXT Rallye V6 AWD that made me fall in love with the LX-platformed four door.

  • The R/T Road and Track comes with 20 inch wheels as standard with minimal tire sidewall, hampering comfort.
  • “Sport Suspension” appears on the order sheet.
  • The plush seats are gone, replaced with sport buckets that mimic school bus benches in their comfortability. This is exacerbated by the fact I couldn’t get the power-adjustable seat low enough.
  • There’s not much more in the power department over the V-6, though there isn’t a massive jump in price either.

That said, there is a Scat Pack nearby now, but I’m fairly certain based on my test drive of the R/T Road and Track that the more performance-oriented model won’t be for me either. It looks like I’ll need to find a normal R/T before making any decisions.

Besides the car itself, the dealership itself turned me off from the whole car shopping experience. I don’t mean the salesman. Paul was a stellar guy and far from pushy. He knew I wouldn’t be buying that day but still catered to my needs. The dealership was holding a “sale weekend”, complete with plexiglass cash grab booth and a showroom floor — devoid of cars — covered in “free” household appliances.

I thought we were beyond this kind of sales gimmickry, but it looks like I was wrong.

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2015 Ford Mustang GT Review – No Longer A One-Trick Pony (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-ford-mustang-gt-review-no-longer-one-trick-pony-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-ford-mustang-gt-review-no-longer-one-trick-pony-video/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 16:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1149057 2015 Ford Mustang GT Premium 5.0-liter, DOHC V-8, CVVT (435 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm; 400 lbs-ft @ 4,240 rpm) 6-speed Getrag MT82 manual 15 city/25 highway/19 combined (EPA Rating, MPG) 18.2 mpg (Observed, MPG) Tested Options: GT Premium Trim, Ruby Red Paint, 401A Package, Performance Package, Adaptive Cruise Control, Navigation, Recaro Seats Base Price: $30,875* As Tested: $45,470* * All prices include $900 destination charge. Ford’s Mustang is […]

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2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-010

2015 Ford Mustang GT Premium

5.0-liter, DOHC V-8, CVVT (435 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm; 400 lbs-ft @ 4,240 rpm)

6-speed Getrag MT82 manual

15 city/25 highway/19 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

18.2 mpg (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: GT Premium Trim, Ruby Red Paint, 401A Package, Performance Package, Adaptive Cruise Control, Navigation, Recaro Seats

Base Price:
$30,875*
As Tested:

$45,470*

* All prices include $900 destination charge.

Ford’s Mustang is as American as the hot dog and KFC Double Down, but for 2015 it received an internationally-focused makeover. Since 1964, the Mustang has been the place to find a large V8, a manual transmission and a solid rear axle. That solid axle has been a point of contention for foreign auto journalists who frequently compared the Ford’s handling to a pickup truck, and decried the GT as a one-trick pony: the car that was excellent in a straight line at a drag strip — and that was about it. That’s a problem when Ford’s new mission is greater harmony in their lineup worldwide.

While 2015 retains the large V8 engine, manual transmission and rear wheel drive we’ve all come to know and love, it brings the first completely independent suspension to every Mustang in over 50 years. Also big news for 2015 is the resurrection of a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, something we haven’t seen since the Fox body Mustang of the early 1990s. In a nod to our friends in Old Blighty, a factory-made right hand drive model is also in the works. All of these changes are because this Mustang is suddenly thrust into a much bigger pool of competitors.

Can Ford teach this pony some new tricks to compensate?


Exterior
The first thing you’ll notice about the new Mustang is the Aston Martin meets Fusion meets Mustang styling. The sheetmetal looks more elegant and more intentional than before. While the 2014 looked cartoonish from some angles, the 6th generation ‘Stang doesn’t seem to have a bad angle to be found. It’s clear Ford not only spent more time styling their new 2-door, but is also spending more on stamping the metal as we have more curves and angles providing visual interest. The front quarter panel for instance rises up, then curves back down to meet the hood panel, giving the front of the Mustang something of a “proto-fin.” We’re hyped that 2016 will bring back turn signals integrated into the hood vents (visible to the driver) in certain trims.

2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-014

All Mustang models now come standard with HID headlamps, a nice touch in a segment that generally lacks modern lighting. Out back, the sequential turn signals are now made from LED strips inside large vertical plastic housings with deep recesses between the lamp modules. The look is striking, but proved more effort to clean than I had considered.

The sleek profile belies the sixth generation’s shrinkage of about two inches versus the out outgoing model. The loss in length helps the Mustang slightly in international markets where the Ford is considered a large two-door. In terms of comparisons, the Mustang is nearly a foot longer than the BMW M235i we recently reviewed, about the same size as a 435i, and a foot shorter than a Dodge Challenger. The main reason for the long body, of course, is the massive engine bay designed to longitudinally accommodate large engines.

There was a great deal of speculation about Ford’s right-sizing program. Would a weight reduction be part of the package? The answer is no, the Mustang has actually gained a little weight in this generation. Contrary to the earlier rampant “weightgate” speculation, curb weight is up just 20 to 80 pounds, depending on how you compare a 2014 trim to a 2015 trim.

2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-004

Interior
The one area that didn’t receive as much attention is the interior. The style is fresh and instantly recognizable as a Mustang, but we only get an incremental improvement in the feel of the parts. There are still plenty of hard plastics lower in the interior including the center console and areas where your knee and leg are likely to rest. (Remember that the Mustang starts under $24,000.) The new steering wheel is loaded with buttons, but thankfully I found the layout intuitive. Lovers of thick-rimmed steering wheels will be disappointed to find that the tiller is no thicker than the Ford Edge we recently tested.

When looking at the Mustang parked next to a BMW 2-Series, you might assume the Ford would be larger inside. You would be wrong. The Mustang and the 2016 Camaro have about the same amount of front and rear seat legroom as the baby Bimmer, with the Mustang actually being slightly smaller inside. This mainly has to do with the position of the engine in the Mustang and the size of the engine bay which makes the nose longer to give it a proportion similar to a British sports coupé. Meanwhile, BMW pushes the engine a little further back making the overall packaging more compact. On the upside, the Mustang has more footwell room making it more comfortable for folks with larger feet.

2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-011

Our tester had the nearly $1,600 optional Recaro seat package. If you track your car regularly, and need the aggressive bolstering, and are about my size or smaller, get them. Everyone else should avoid them entirely. The standard seats are softer and more comfortable, they offer more lumbar support and the Premium trim of the Mustang would normally get memory-linked power seats, adjustable lumbar support as well as heating and ventilation. All of those features are given up for the Recago logo, and it’s just not a good trade. A quick spin in a dealer provided GT without the Recaro seats, but with the Performance Package, confirmed that the firmer suspension is also easier to live with if you get the base seats. The difference is more pronounced when you consider the Mustang comes with very comfortable seats in every other version, beating the current Camaro and Challenger easily, and are actually quite competitive with the standard seats in the 2-Series, 4-Series and Lexus RC.

Hop in the back and you are reminded the Mustang is best described as a “2+2 coupé” where the last digit is a little smaller than the first. While not as tight as a Jaguar XK, the back seat should be reserved for small children or your legless friends. With the driver’s seat adjusted comfortably for my 6-foot frame, there was a 3-inch gap between my seat back and the rear seat bottom cushion. (I prefer an upright position when driving a manual.) Convertible shoppers will be pleased to know that rear headroom actually increases if you chose the rag top. At 13.5 cubic feet, the Mustang’s trunk is also similar in size to the BMW 2-Series, but Ford thankfully uses hidden hinges to make the most out of the trunk. You should know that the optional ShakerPro speaker package consumes just over a cubic foot of space.

2015 Mustang My Ford Touch

Infotainment
Our pony car had Ford’s optional MyFord Touch infotainment system. This software is due to be replaced in 2016 by Ford’s completely redesigned SYNC3 system. MFT is one of the most maligned infotainment systems on the market, but it is also one of the most fully featured. Even in 2015, there are still mainline brands that don’t offer voice command of your USB-connected music library. At this point, Ford has addressed most of the major issues that plagued MFT, except for the speed. Interacting with the touchscreen requires patience as screen changes are considerably slower than the Hyundai, Chrysler and GM alternatives. SYNC includes an integrated telematics system that emails vehicle health reports, allows you to call a concierge, request emergency assistance and knows when your airbags have gone off. On the downside, this system is dependant on a paired Bluetooth phone to actually make the calls — so if you’ve forgotten your phone and you get in an accident, the car can’t dial for help.

Our tester included the optional navigation software and the up-level ShakerPro branded speaker system. The 12-speaker system uses a trunk mounted subwoofer, a dash-mounted center channel speaker and a 550-watt 9-channel amp. The system is certainly tuned with a significant bass punch, but overall it is still well balanced. It had no problems rocking my Vanilla Ice album all the way to A1A Beachfront Avenue.

2015 Forg Mustang GT Engine-003

Drivetrain
The big engine news for 2015 isn’t that the 3.7-liter V-6 lost a few ponies, or even that Vanilla’s five-point-oh is still available; it’s that we have the first four-cylinder Mustang in quite some time. To make room for the new EcoBoost mill, Ford de-tuned the V6 slightly to 300 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 280 lb-ft of twist at 4,000. That means that unlike the Camaro, the four-cylinder is an upgrade, not the base engine. Checking the EcoBoost box gives you 310 horsepower at a lower 5,500 rpm and a whopping 320 lb-ft at a low 3,000 rpm. But I’m here to talk about what separates this American from the European and Asian options. Five. Point. Oh. Revving up to 7,000 rpm and featuring twin independent variable valve timing, the Coyote V-8’s only modern omission is direct-injection. Power comes in at 435 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 400 lb-ft at 4,250 rpm. (The recently announced 5.2-liter V-8 Shelby is a perfect example of naturally aspirated engine designs vs turbo engine design. The 2016 Shelby GT350 will bump power by 91 horsepower but torque by only 29 lb-ft. Compared to the twin-turbo German V8s, the horsepower is similar but torque is notably lower.)

Unusual in 2015, even in performance cars, is your choice of manual or automatic transmissions on all models (in 2016, the Shelby will be manual only) and your choice doesn’t interfere with the options packages. That means you can get the GT and EcoBoost Mustangs with radar cruise control, all the goodies and still get the 6-speed stick. (There have been some complaints about the Getrag MT82 manual transmission but I didn’t experience an unusual shift feel during my week. Be sure to let us know if you’ve had a problem with yours in the comment section below. There has been quite a bit of forum buzz regarding “clunks and thunks”.) Also a little unusual these days is the option of multiple rear axle ratios. For those that are unfamiliar, axle ratios are the final “link” in the chain for your drivetrain. The transmission’s 3.65:1 first gear ratio is multiplied by the rear axle you chose — 3.31, 3.55 or 3.73 — to get the effective total ratio of 12:1, 12.9:1, or 13.6:1. (All three ratios are available in the EcoBoost model but just the 3.55 and 3.73 are offered in the GT). That has a big impact on acceleration and fuel economy since the 6th gear ratios have the same variance. The available axle ratios are why fuel economy has dropped in the V-6’s EPA test, as Ford is no longer offering the 2.73:1 rear axle in the V-6 like they did in 2014. This means the base V-6 in 2015 is much peppier, but the MPGs drop two steps. This is where the EcoBoost model steps in with 31 or 32 mpg combined (depending on the transmission) despite giving you more power, more torque and a more aggressive rear axle ratio than the base 2014 V-6. On the downside, power and economy figures for the 5.0 and 2.3 are based on premium unleaded.

2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-001

Drive
Over twenty years ago, I was learning to drive on my neighbor’s 1988 2.3-liter four-cylinder Mustang LX with a shot clutch. My how times have changed. Back then 300 horsepower was a pipe dream, the GT’s 6.3 second 0-60 time was rad to the max and a 32 mpg Mustang was as likely as a blue unicorn. Even ten years ago, the thought that the Mustang would be serious competition to the imports was wishful thinking, but the sixth-generation pony offers 300 horses standard, the mid-range model gets over 30 mpg on the highway, and every version is faster to 60 than it was in 1988. Combined with a more refined and capable suspension, this is that unicorn.

The 2014 Mustang’s rear end got upset on broken pavement and felt heavy in the corners. The 2015 feels composed and significantly lighter in comparison, despite actually being heavier. The GT still feels slightly front heavy in the corners, no surprise with a large V8 under the hood, but the EcoBoost model feels much better balanced. Thanks to the gearing and tire selection, all versions are tail happy when prodded. Next year brings us a new Camaro with a Cadillac ATS-derived chassis and suspension, something that bodes very well for the bowtie brand as well. However, this is 2015 and the current Camaro is a notch behind the outgoing Mustang. Absolute handling is obviously a factor of your tire choice, and ours was equipped with the optional Pirelli PZero summer rubber in a staggered 255/40R19 front, 275/40R19 rear setup. In an interesting twist, the suspension is quite firm but there’s more body roll than you’d expect.

2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-007

If you’re a traditionalist, fear not. The Mustang, especially our GT tester, is still about well-priced straight-line performance. The V-6 will sprint to 60 in 5.8 seconds, the turbo will do it in 5.6, and our GT in a swift 4.6 seconds with launch control enabled and the 6-speed manual. A nice touch: Unlike many cars out there with launch control, Ford keeps it crazy simple. Once enabled in the LCD between the speedo and tach. it stays on. Period. That means you don’t have to worry about fiddling with menus; you just floor it, release the clutch and let the nannies do their thing. The car retains the setting even through ignition cycles. You can improve things further by double-tapping the traction control button and enabling sport mode which allows a little more action in the rear. (Note: Ford says that both systems should be used on the track only. Sure…) Of course, you’ve probably also heard about Ford’s nifty line lock feature that allows perfect burnouts every time without wearing your rear brake pads.

The GT’s 7,000 rpm redline means that the ‘Stang sings like a high-revving European sports coupé more than a Camaro or Challenger. Since all the ponies come to a trot at 6,500 rpm, you’ll spend a great deal of time at those lofty heights. The good news is thanks to the throttle mapping and general character of the 2015, it revs easily, happily and sounds great while doing it.

2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-009

Thanks to electric power steering, the Mustang’s wheel is as numb as most of the competition, although BMW and Nissan manage to transmit more road feel in the M235i and 370Z. Skipping the Performance Package makes the GT more driveable on a daily basis in terms of suspension tuning, and in that form the body roll seems well-balanced with the spring firmness. The downside of skipping the pack is the reduced grip. If I were shopping in this segment I’d probably skip the package and use the cash to swap in some sticky rubber. If you do get the package, I suggest some stiffer sway bars.

Ford set the base price for 2015 low — very low. At $23,800, the Mustang undercuts the Camaro and Genesis Coupé by $3,000 and the 370Z by nearly $6,000. That means that for the price of the base 2.0-liter, 275-horsepower 2016 Camaro, or the Genesis Coupé V-6, you could get a 2.3-liter EcoBoost ‘Stang with an option or two. A base Z will cost you more than a well-equipped V-6 Ford or only about $2,500 less than a Mustang GT. At $32,850, the BMW 228i is a whopping $7,550 more than the more powerful EcoBoost model, and the M235i is $11,850 more than a Mustang GT. Why all this focus on the M235i? Because the Mustang actually reminded me a great deal of the small BMW. The Mustang finally feels light and nimble, and at the same time the M235i feels far more substantial than small BMWs of the past. While the BMW does feel more refined, the delta has never been smaller. With previous generations, one could have argued that the BMW’s greater refinement was worth $10,000. With this generation, I wouldn’t pay more than $1,000 for the extra feel in the BMW. That’s a problem because in order for the M235i to be as fast as our $45,470 tester, you would need to add the 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, both of which would make it less fun. Better in the rain, but less fun. The added hardware also makes the M235i xDrive tip the scales at 3,695 pounds, just 10 pounds lighter than the Ford, and still considerably more expensive. Although the BMW’s suspension is better sorted and more settled, if you shod them with identical tires, the Mustang will be right on the 2-Series’ bumper.

Is the Mustang perfect? No. I wish the interior was a little more comfortable and the automatic transmission needs a few more gears in order to match the competition. Hyundai, BMW, GM and Chrysler have gone 8-speed and even Nissan is one cog higher at 7 in the 370Z. That means there is still a toll to be paid for selecting the automatic, while the competition’s slushboxes promise improved fuel economy and improved acceleration. Still, the Ford holds true to what the Mustang has always promised: performance at a reasonable price. The big news is that those reasonable prices come with surprisingly few compromises and it’s entirely possible to consider the Mustang as a value alternative to a German coupé. Comparing a Pony Car to a compact German coupé used to be ridiculous, but this pony is a blue unicorn that’s learned a few tricks.

Ford provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.0 Seconds

0-60: 4.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13 Seconds @ 112 MPH

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Viper Pit on Woodward – It Always Has to Be Snakes http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/viper-pit-woodward-always-snakes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/viper-pit-woodward-always-snakes/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 14:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1148121 I have a friend and colleague, for the purposes of this post we’ll name him Jack, that races cars and has an active social life with attractive women. It’s not likely that he’d be jealous of a decrepit grandfather like me, but indeed his envy was as green as his old Audi S5 when I […]

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I have a friend and colleague, for the purposes of this post we’ll name him Jack, that races cars and has an active social life with attractive women. It’s not likely that he’d be jealous of a decrepit grandfather like me, but indeed his envy was as green as his old Audi S5 when I recently got to tour the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant where FCA assembles the Viper.

That’s because Jack is an unabashed and unashamed fanboy of Dodge’s handbuilt V10 powered American supercar.

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Jack’s also about the most loyal person I know who doesn’t share some chromosomes with me (and more loyal than even some of my relatives), so if I can do him an act of kindness — or better yet, find an angle with which I can needle him — I will. After all, isn’t mockery and humiliation what friends are for? All of my friends make fun of me. Oh, yours don’t? Never mind.

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Anyhow, in conjunction with Chrysler’s extensive Woodward Dream Cruise activities (which included thrill rides and drag racing out at the old Pontiac Silverdome), Fiat Chrysler hosted a Motor City Viper Owners Club meet at their corporate display in the shopping center parking lot at 13 Mile Road and Woodward — pretty much ground zero for the Dream Cruise. I was already in the neighborhood to check out Roger Penske’s Indy 500 pace car parade and by the time that was over there were some Vipers heading down Woodward. I figured I’d check out the Viper meet and hopefully get some material for a post here at TTAC and maybe even something with which I could gibe my friend.

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Jack’s rather opinionated. Maybe you remember this post that passionately expresses how he’d own the previous Z06 version of the Vette but never a Corvette with an automatic transmission (or convertible top) because, to him, the slushbox Vettes say “soft old man”.

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As I watched the MCVO members show up, park their cars where directed, and dismount their reptilian steeds, two things about Vipers occurred to me. The first was that it is apparently de rigueur that if you own a Viper, you must get vanity plates. The other is that it looked like the average Viper owner fit the stereotype of older, bald, tanned, gold-chain-bedecked Corvette owners better than Corvette owners themselves. I think I saw maybe two owners who looked to have a prayer of being younger than Baruth’s 43. More than a few were older than me and I remember John Kennedy getting elected.

The guy on the left was about the youngest Viper owner there, and even he has a touch of grey.

The guy on the left was about the youngest Viper guy there (he was representing a Viper tuner), and even he has a touch of grey.

I even joked about the Corvette stereotype to one Viper driver and he agreed. “Well, at least you don’t have the gold chain,” I pointed out. That’s when he laughingly reached into the neck of his shirt to show me that he came complete with 14K.

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It was pretty hot that day and I was getting some shade under an umbrella where they were taking applications for credit cards. As a gift for possibly dinging your credit rating, they were giving out metal Viper and Hellcat wall plaques. “Wait,” I thought to myself, “I know someone who really likes Vipers.”

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I have more than 60 egg crates filled with automotive press kits and swag I’ve accumulated over the past 15 years, so it’s not like I really needed the wall hanging. I sent Jack a text message.

“You want this Viper wall hanging?”

“Of course I do. That’s badass”

“These Viper owners fit the Vette stereotype better than Vette owners. Seriously, driving a Viper would peg you as one of the “olds” quicker than a Corvette rag top.”

“Yeah, but I don’t care.”

Got to admire a man who will put aside his passions so he can stick to his convictions.

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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