The Truth About Cars » Editorials http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 29 May 2015 12:00:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 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/ Junkyard Find: 1981 Chevrolet Citation, Rock Salt Sandblasting Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/junkyard-find-1981-chevrolet-citation-rock-salt-sandblasting-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/junkyard-find-1981-chevrolet-citation-rock-salt-sandblasting-edition/#comments Fri, 29 May 2015 12:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1074762 This is the third week in Themed Junkyard Find Week Madness. We started with 21st Century Junkyard Find Week, then had Volkswagen Junkyard Find Week, and now we’ve staggered right into Rusty Junkyard Find Week. Next week, I might return to ordinary jumbled-up Junkyard Finds, or I might subject you to an entire month of […]

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Incredibly Rusty Chevrolet Citation - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

This is the third week in Themed Junkyard Find Week Madness. We started with 21st Century Junkyard Find Week, then had Volkswagen Junkyard Find Week, and now we’ve staggered right into Rusty Junkyard Find Week. Next week, I might return to ordinary jumbled-up Junkyard Finds, or I might subject you to an entire month of Chrysler LH Junkyard Finds.

For now, though, let’s finish up our third Themed Junkyard Find Week with a case of genuinely puzzling rust.
Incredibly Rusty Chevrolet Citation Detail 1 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Unlike most of the interesting cars I shoot in junkyards, this ’81 Chevy Citation is represented here by just a single photograph. I was visiting the yard just before closing time, to grab a Dodge D100 pickup fuel gauge for my get-it-done-today A100 instrument-cluster rebuild project, walked past this Citation, and shot a single cellphone photo.

Incredibly Rusty Chevrolet Citation Detail 2 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

So, we’ll look at details from that single photo, like conspiracy theorists studying a single frame of the Zapruder Film. This car had some rust all over, but the vertical surfaces of the right side of the body had terrifying and weirdly localized rust. How? Why? There’s no evidence of a fire burning off a patch of paint, so perhaps the car spent several years lying on its right side in the manure pond of a western Kansas pig farm?

Let’s time-travel back to 1979, when “the first Chevy of the 80s” hadn’t yet hit the streets in large numbers and existed mostly in the minds of Americans who were hoping that the gloom of the previous decade would be washed away by a car that showed that the days of bad Chevrolets were over.


Well, long-term-wise, that didn’t work out so well, with the Citation merely ushering in a decade of brand-damaging disasters and puzzling attempts to compete with German luxury marques. Today, we laugh at the Citation, though there was a time when they were as commonplace as are Malibus today.

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Junkyard Find: 1984 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, Spray-Foam Rust-Repair Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/junkyard-find-1984-toyota-corolla-hatchback-spray-foam-rust-repair-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/junkyard-find-1984-toyota-corolla-hatchback-spray-foam-rust-repair-edition/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 13:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1074322 Let’s follow up 21st Century Junkyard Find Week and Volkswagen Junkyard Find Week with Rusty Junkyard Find week, shall we? On Tuesday, we saw this ’83 Toyota pickup with not-so-effective fiberglass-and-Bondo cover-up-the-rust-and-hope-it-goes-away repairs, and today we’ll be looking at a thoroughly used-up Corolla with similar squeeze-another-few-months-out-of-this-heap repairs done by someone who knew he or she […]

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14 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee MartinLet’s follow up 21st Century Junkyard Find Week and Volkswagen Junkyard Find Week with Rusty Junkyard Find week, shall we? On Tuesday, we saw this ’83 Toyota pickup with not-so-effective fiberglass-and-Bondo cover-up-the-rust-and-hope-it-goes-away repairs, and today we’ll be looking at a thoroughly used-up Corolla with similar squeeze-another-few-months-out-of-this-heap repairs done by someone who knew he or she would be the vehicle’s last owner.
43 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAmericans didn’t much like the look of the AE82 Corolla hatchback, although we bought a fair number of its NUMMI-built Chevy Nova siblings.
51 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee MartinDoes this rust mean that important structural components are likely to fail soon? You bet!
32 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSo close to that magical 300,000-mile mark, but another 38,868 miles in this hooptie would have been pretty miserable.
36 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee MartinEven if the structure held together, there is no quantity or type of air freshener that could cover the stench of the fast-food-detritus-and-bodily-fluids-caked interior of this car.
13 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee MartinPlus it’s a real hassle to have a hatchback with a nonfunctional hatch.
09 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee MartinCrab Spirits is sure to find inspiration about this Corolla’s previous owner via the large number of stickers on the back glass. For example, he or she was a fan of Propaganda E-Liquid.
10 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis retailer of smoking accessories also gets a shout-out on the Corolla’s rear glass.
47 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou could get a diesel version of this car, but few did. Wikipedia editors believe that the 4A-LC engine was sold only in Australia, Switzerland, and Sweden, but you’ll see plenty of these two-digit-horsepower cockroaches in US-market Corollas.

US-market ads for Corollas and their kin seldom employed the word “sexy.”

San Franciscans— hundreds of them, lining the streets— doubted that the ’84 Corolla sedan could do anything.

John Davidson pitched a special New Zealand version of this car.

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Vellum Venom Vignette: Styling the Shark Jump? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/vellum-venom-vignette-buffalo-butts-saggy-schnozzes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/vellum-venom-vignette-buffalo-butts-saggy-schnozzes/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 12:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1075194 Bob writes: Hi Sajeev. I’m annoyed by styling that makes the trim height look wrong. Most cars today look like the front is sagging or the rear is too high. The stylists even slant side creases and trim strips down toward the front (Man, I hate that. – SM) to create this look even though a close look […]

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Capture

Bob writes:

Hi Sajeev. I’m annoyed by styling that makes the trim height look wrong. Most cars today look like the front is sagging or the rear is too high. The stylists even slant side creases and trim strips down toward the front (Man, I hate that. – SM) to create this look even though a close look at the rocker panel shows that the car is level.

Why are they doing it? Does the public really like it?

Sajeev answers:

The delicate balance of physical + visual trim height adjustment is standard practice, proving itself over decades for both aerodynamic and stylistic enhancement. The problem? Jumping the shark.

Confused fender? (photo courtesy: speedhunters.com)

But uber radical trim height adjustment must be awesome, because people love the new super-slashy-buffalo-butted Corvette. Even if it gives me violent diarrhea faster than poorly cooked, low-grade beef.

FWIW, the Corvette’s hyper-slashed profile makes sense if the front wheels were 16″ tall. Because that slash, starting subtle and (too) low in the fender and going up to a critical element of the quarter panel, is a mouth writing checks that the body can’t cash.

IMG_4904

Here are two insurance vans inspecting my leaky roof, clearly showing the sadness of over-styled side profiles. (They weren’t parked close enough for a side shot with my phone, sorry.) It’s clear that Chevrolet Nissan over-styled their vanlet while the older Ford retains the logical, rational, and wholly boring contouring of another era.

So, remember: “side styling that looks faster” is a necessary ingredient to car styling. While my professors at CCS demanded rocker panels perfectly parallel to the ground, adding anything (short of a sine wave) along the side profile was fair game, because creativity shouldn’t be hindered by stamped sheets of metal (or plastic). As long as the rockers do not appear pre-bent (that’s less than reassuring to shoppers) from an accident, it’s all good.

Even if we hate the look, others will love it. Or they won’t care enough to stop a new vehicle purchase to replace their clunker!

And opinions are like assholes, hence why this asshole takes forever to justify/publish his Vellum Venom critiques: first complain, then show specific problems and offer “better” alternatives. Half-ass the assholery and prepare to face even more wrath than an end of semester critique at CCS. And I ain’t going through that again.

Thank you for reading.

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QOTD: What Wagon Version of a Non-Wagon Car Would You Actually Buy? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-what-wagon-version-of-a-non-wagon-car-would-you-actually-buy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-what-wagon-version-of-a-non-wagon-car-would-you-actually-buy/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 11:34:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1076658 This, my friends, is the Golf SportWagen TDI (Sportwagon in Canada) currently taking residence in my driveway this week. It’s a brilliant little car, even if it isn’t manual, brown, or all-wheel drive. Even though it’s wonderfully good – the DSG is sharp and smooth, the ride is firm yet svelte, and the torque, oh the […]

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Golf SportWagen

This, my friends, is the Golf SportWagen TDI (Sportwagon in Canada) currently taking residence in my driveway this week. It’s a brilliant little car, even if it isn’t manual, brown, or all-wheel drive.

Even though it’s wonderfully good – the DSG is sharp and smooth, the ride is firm yet svelte, and the torque, oh the torque! – I still wouldn’t buy one.

This past week, I’ve been inundated with different versions of a similar question: are there any modern vehicles I’d actually buy? This is opening up Pandora’s Box and finding a can of worms inside.

Proving the Pandora’s Box part of the above metaphor, automotive journalists are weird degenerates and we desire cars that are truly horrible. Case in point: the Crown Victoria. Sajeev’s unending love for one of Ford’s worst creations, powered by the modular 4.6L V8, is proof of his masochistic ways. Also, he lives in Houston, further cementing his devotion to being eternally uncomfortable, whether it be on sitting on a bench seat or sweating in 95 percent humidity. Or both, assuming the Vic’s air conditioning is on the fritz.

The can of worms part is simple. As an automotive journalist, saying you would buy a particular car, truck, or SUV is akin to endorsement. There are literally tons of vehicles I would buy for myself but would never suggest to others. Much like Sajeev’s “beaten spouse” acceptance of the Panther platform in its many guises, I love one of Ford’s other forgotten heroes: the Bronco. Oh, do I love the Bronco. Not even the cool old Broncos upon which ICON does its magic. I (again) want a plastic-adorned Bronco of the ’90s emblazoned with XLT or Eddie Bauer on the side.

However, I won’t tell anyone else to buy a Bronco. They’re thirsty, problem prone, and completely impractical. A two-door SUV with a removable roof (held down with tamper-proof Torx bolts, no less) powered by, not one, but two V8 engines spitting out very similar horsepower figures? Yup, that’s for me. Give me that, please.

That said, if there existed a long-roof version of some of today’s sedan or hatchback offerings, I’d probably switch my tune.

Impreza? They used to do a wagon. And I would buy it, too. With real money. The hatchback? Not a chance.

Focus? You can get it in Europe. Yet, bringing it to North America would put it in competition with the Escape.

Impala? Oh god. This used to exist in the ’60s and whenever I see one I get that feeling. The nostalgia might push me over the edge.

So, B&B, what wagon version of a normal car would you buy with real non-Internet-commenter money?

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Italy Falling Out Of Love With Mopeds, Scooters Due To Changing Trends http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/italy-falling-out-of-love-with-mopeds-scooters-due-to-changing-trends/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/italy-falling-out-of-love-with-mopeds-scooters-due-to-changing-trends/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 19:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1076282 Like France falling out of love with diesels, Italy is falling out of love with mopeds and scooters due to changing trends. Data published by the National Association of Motorcycle, Bicycle and Accessories — ANCMA — shows moped sales crashing 97 percent, falling from the peak of 600,000 in 1980, to 26,727 units in 2014, […]

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Vespa In Ravenna, Italy Circa August 2011

Like France falling out of love with diesels, Italy is falling out of love with mopeds and scooters due to changing trends.

Data published by the National Association of Motorcycle, Bicycle and Accessories — ANCMA — shows moped sales crashing 97 percent, falling from the peak of 600,000 in 1980, to 26,727 units in 2014, Al Jazeera English writes. Sales of 125cc scooters aren’t doing so well, either, slowly declining from 173,343 units sold in 1955, to 37,388 in 2014.

The causes for the decline? According to ANCMA’s motorcycle chief Claudio Deviti, “the younger generation is just not as interested in mopeds as it used to be,” with technology the key reason. Deviti says the smartphone has taken the place of the moped in fostering friendships among young consumers.

Another factor is Italy’s ongoing economic downturn, weakening spending power as maintenance costs for mopeds rise. In the moped’s heyday, all one needed was the money buy such a vehicle. Over 50 years later, the average cost with licensing, stamp duty, and insurance comes to $2,250, $1,350 without. Cosenza, Italy moped mechanic Attilio Brisci explains:

Today mopeds are simply too expensive for the great majority of Italian households. People have two choices: renounce the use of the moped, or simply go without insurance at the risk of getting caught. I would say the average of those who do these is 50–50, with percentages getting higher the more one goes farther south.

[Source: Luca Sartoni/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0]

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Hammer Time: Halt and Catch Fire Jeep Cherokee http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/this-jeep-cherokee-is-a-show-car-that-wont-halt-and-catch-fire/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/this-jeep-cherokee-is-a-show-car-that-wont-halt-and-catch-fire/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 18:25:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1076370 “Extras with cars! This way!” A 20-something assistant to someone else’s assistant guides us to where the next shoot will take place. “You! You! And You! We need you for wardrobe!” Me? This can’t be good. My wife and I were already dressed in early 80’s clothes for the upcoming scene since they emailed us […]

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Jeep Cherokee

“Extras with cars! This way!”

A 20-something assistant to someone else’s assistant guides us to where the next shoot will take place.

“You! You! And You! We need you for wardrobe!”

Me? This can’t be good.

My wife and I were already dressed in early 80’s clothes for the upcoming scene since they emailed us the specifics on the night before the shoot.

Our outfits, pretty much a combination of earthly browns and worn out beige, weren’t too hard to find. Any thrift store will do. Here in the Deliverance country that is North Georgia, nobody pays any mind to what you wear, so long as you’re wearing something.

Unfortunately, for Hollywood standards, we’re both old now. She’s forty, and I’m forty-two. Or to put it another way, we’re both really 42 and climbing too damn fast.

Hollywood doesn’t want us. But they do want our Jeep.

Jeep Cherokee

You see this Jeep Cherokee? It’s apparently the Hollywood version of Michael Caine before he became famous. It’s old enough to play in a variety of movies without ever seeming out of place or out of fashion.

’80s, ’90s, or Y2K era, this Jeep even fits the modern day world of 2015. Even though it’s old enough to buy itself a six-pack and light up an unfiitered Camel at the back of my used car lot, it’s young enough to be appealing to those who enjoy all things that are truly American.

AMC and Chrysler made this Jeep forever and, bless em’, the look hit the bullseye of bullseyes – especially when it comes to show business.

Jack Horner on Jurassic Park 3 set

There are two things that make this Jeep such a workaholic when it comes to it’s booking as an extra car.

The first is the color. Forest green is pretty much the perfect color for blending a vehicle into the background of any given scene. Dark greens may be as unfashionable as MC Hammer pants when it comes to today’s new car market. But in movie scenes, forest green offers the right blend in the background without being too bright.

Red, white, black, and zonker yellow tend to be big rolling no-no nadirs when it comes to using cars for a given scene in the movie world. The director wants the actors and plot to take over, not a 40 year old van that looks like a rolling Cheech and Chong pinata. So it’s the blues, the dark greens, and the grays that usually win out.

94ba94e08bcd1db95b18790bc7e8fb55

The other big plus for this Cherokee is class. What movie studios want wherever they can find them is cars and trucks that were owned by middle-class Americans.

There must be 27 silver diesel Benzes within a 25 mile radius of every movie shoot. Nobody wants ’em anymore. Lincolns and Cadillacs? There are probably more of them running now than 10 years ago when old-school American bling wasn’t yet retro.

Movie studios aren’t looking for these high-end cars on a regular basis. What they do want are Cherokees, old Camrys, pre-sporty Maximas and Malaise era cars that were designed in the unholy automotive era that covered most of the ’70s and ’80s.

Cars more square than Lawrence Welk – the blander the better. That’s what sells in the movie world if you decide to become an extra who furnishes an extra car.

1980 Chrysler LeBaron

The pay for doing essentially nothing with an old car except parking it is surprisingly strong. $100 per day for the car. Sixty-eight dollars for eight hours, plus time and a half for overtime – just enough to make my wife a habitual extra with a thick reading book for the endless hours of waiting.

My wife was also in the movie business for years before settling down for full-time motherhood. Sadly enough, this ‘job’ represents the best combination of good pay and low stress in her entire show business career. The work is more steady as well.

Halt and Catch Fire

We’re now in the third season of Halt & Catch Fire, a popular show on AMC (the channel, not the defunct automaker) where I furnish old cars on a regular basis. Try to imagine the tech world back in the early ’80s, plots that are designed with intelligent souls in mind, and toss in some sci-fi special effects into the mix. It’s a perfect fit for hopelessly geeky folks like me and my wife.

“Hey Susan! Go ahead and park the Jeep over there.”

She does as told, walks back in the shade, and reads her thick book. For a mom with two pubescent kids, this is heaven.

For me, it’s a matter of making money and buying her happiness while selfishly finding a bit of my own. As many of you know, I have a love for old cars that just won’t quit. It may be the late models that pay my bills, but it’s the modern day classics, like the Jeep, that regularly capture my heart.

Jeep Cherokee

A lot of my writing work beyond TTAC now revolves around the idea of helping folks figure out older used cars. That career path has reached a mainstream audience but, in my soul, I’m still that strange guy who finds a deep sense of joy in reviving old beaters. What better way to do that than to cater to an industry that has the means to make that hobby worthwhile. A paid mini-vacation for my wife? I’ll take it!

Show business is now my side business thanks to Hollywood getting cheap and spreading out across the USA. These days, once I finish buying cars at the dealer auctions in the early afternoons, I like to take a break from what used to be a 16 hour work-day and hang out with my wife at a shoot. Sometimes, if it’s at a movie set like this one, we sit for a while underneath a shady tree, look at all the young people using their walkie-talkies, and watch them move props, cameras, and movie equipment for hours on end. We remember being just like them in our own tough jobs. Trying to get ‘established’, whatever the hell that meant, and just how chaotic and difficult our lives seemed to be.

In truth we really weren’t doing much of anything useful except moving things around, big and small, and following the orders of others. We live out our careers where everything is, “Hurry up… and wait!” Just like a movie set, but with people and papers instead of props.

It’s all chaos in slow motion. You solve a crisis that is hopefully suitable for a G-rated sitcom and then, if you’re really smart, you remember to have a shitload of fun before the next unwelcome episode takes place.

When you get older, you also realize careers don’t really matter. Not usually in this life at least. What does matter is that we nourish our souls in the things that bring us true joy and enough unique misery to open our eyes a bit. Kids. Spouses. Friends. Old cars. Whatever makes our boat float as we drift along this long journey.

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Junkyard Find: 1983 Toyota Pickup, Adobe Rust Repair Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/junkyard-find-1983-toyota-pickup-adobe-rust-repair-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/junkyard-find-1983-toyota-pickup-adobe-rust-repair-edition/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 11:15:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1073818 Toyotas of the 1970s and 1980s were quite reliable for the era, if you’re just talking about running gear. If you lived in a rust-prone area, though (say, a block from the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco), Toyotas were eaten by the Iron Oxide Monster in a hurry. Here in Denver, where the snow usually […]

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08 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Toyotas of the 1970s and 1980s were quite reliable for the era, if you’re just talking about running gear. If you lived in a rust-prone area, though (say, a block from the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco), Toyotas were eaten by the Iron Oxide Monster in a hurry. Here in Denver, where the snow usually doesn’t stick around long enough to warrant the application of road salt and the single-digit humidity dries out pockets of moisture trapped behind body panels before they can cause much harm, you don’t see too many rust horror-shows in junkyards. However, being conveniently located to both the western edge of the Rust Belt and the salty-road mountains means that I do see some interesting approaches to the Rotting Toyota Problem. Here’s a camper-shell-equipped Missouri Hilux (sold as, simply, the “Toyota Truck” in the United States) with some fiberglass-and-body-filler bodywork that may have bought it another year or two on the road.
19 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Actually, the shell came from Missouri; there’s no telling where the truck came from (though the shell appears to have been on the truck since it was new-ish).

05 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Not even 200,000 miles on the clock.

06 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Bondo over rust solves the problem in about the same way that painting over termite damage fixes your house.

21 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

I keep hearing that 20R heads are worth plenty to the guys who want to swap them onto their 22R off-road trucks and get higher compression, but I never see them removed at junkyards. Urban legend?

11 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Mechanically speaking, this truck probably had a lot of life left in it, but watching shards of your vehicle tumbling behind you in the rear-view mirror while listening to the howl of wind through all the rust holes… well, it gets old.


There are parts of the world, however, where Hilux owners don’t worry about how rusty their trucks might be.


The Australians have always had better Hilux ads than North Americans.


See what I mean?

10 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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New Geely Mirrors Your iPhone Screen Sideways For Guaranteed Neck Injuries http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/new-geely-mirrors-your-iphone-screen-sideways-for-guaranteed-neck-injuries/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/new-geely-mirrors-your-iphone-screen-sideways-for-guaranteed-neck-injuries/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 17:32:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1075138 Chinese Geely is offering up smartphone integration in the most Chinese way possible…by just copying the screen, no matter what the screen orientation. Personal injury lawyers: your Chinese golden egg has arrived thanks to tweaked necks as drivers try to swipe up and down on Tinder. According to CarNewsChina, this is the new Geely Englon Haijing SC7 […]

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Chinese Geely is offering up smartphone integration in the most Chinese way possible…by just copying the screen, no matter what the screen orientation. Personal injury lawyers: your Chinese golden egg has arrived thanks to tweaked necks as drivers try to swipe up and down on Tinder.

According to CarNewsChina, this is the new Geely Englon Haijing SC7 and it features either the worst Photoshop ever for press photos or the worst smartphone integration on the planet. Or both. Even the home button on the pictured iPhone is on the wrong end.

[Source: CarNewsChina]

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Mazda USA Isn’t Importing The New 2: Here’s Why http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/mazda-usa-isnt-importing-new-2-heres/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/mazda-usa-isnt-importing-new-2-heres/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 13:51:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1075034   Although the car’s been certified for sale in the United States, Mazda won’t be bringing the new 2 to American consumers. That doesn’t mean the possibility isn’t there for the future, according to Automotive News, nor does it mean the 2 won’t appear in the United States in another form. Despite significant improvements, the […]

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2016 Mazda 2

“It’ll always be there if we need it.” – Robert Davis, Senior VP Of Mazda U.S. Operations, on Mazda2.

Although the car’s been certified for sale in the United States, Mazda won’t be bringing the new 2 to American consumers. That doesn’t mean the possibility isn’t there for the future, according to Automotive News, nor does it mean the 2 won’t appear in the United States in another form.

Despite significant improvements, the fourth-generation 2 – formerly known as the Demio and a successor to the first 2 sold in the U.S. – would likely have fared little better than its predecessor.

Mazda began selling the 2 in the U.S. in 2010, at a time when consumers were mad about saving money, not just in terms of payment but also in terms of fuel. Auto consumers are now far more willing to fork over more of their hard-earned cash, even if it means extending the term of their loan.

As a result, subcompact car volume has taken a hit. Through the first four months of 2015, sales of the departing 2 and its better-selling rivals from Nissan, Hyundai, Honda, Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota, and Kia are down 4%. In fact, April was the first month this year in which subcompact sales increased on a year-over-year basis.

2010 Mazda2

Even before the recent downturn in subcompact car sales and the discontinuation of the America’s first Mazda 2, the subcompact Mazda was not among the leaders in its category. On the contrary, the opposite was true.

Since July 2010, over 58 months, Mazda has sold just 61,909 copies of the 2 in the United States. Nissan can sell that many Versas over the span of just six months.

Mazda2 sales peaked in the model’s second full year of 2012 at just 19,315 units. Yet even in 2012, the 2 ranked last in its category. Even non-traditional small cars like the Fiat 500 and late-to-the-party cars like the Dodge Dart (which only competed in the second-half of 2012) outsold the 2 in its best-ever U.S. sales year. Moreover, Mazda was able to sell six times as many copies of the 3 in 2012 as the 2.

Now, with the CX-3 junior crossover arriving to help the compact 3 bolster Mazda’s volume, the simple cost of marketing the 2, a car which has passed U.S. regulatory hurdles, is deemed to be greater than the potential profit earned from actually selling the car.

If it’s difficult for a large automaker to create sufficient margins on high-volume subcompact cars, it’s obviously going to be far more challenging for a small automaker like Mazda to create sufficient profit of a low-volume car like the 2. While it’s true that consumers would be quick to look at the new 2 differently (there’s no 4-speed automatic, there’ll be a greater feature array including head-up display, fuel economy is said to be 20% better) it’s clear that Mazda believes what’s past is prologue. The first bound-for-America 2 flopped. The experiment didn’t pay off. Let’s not do it again.

2016 Mazda 2 fueleconomy.gov

Meanwhile, for consumers who want a Mazda 2, they’ll still be able to buy one. It won’t be a hatchback, and it won’t wear a Mazda badge. But the upcoming Scion iA is, in essence, a 2016 Mazda 2. From fueleconomy.gov, we can assume that the iA will achieve the same fuel economy as the 2 was said to achieve, since the government website is still showing that the 2 will be made available.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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Will the GenX Nano Erase Tata’s ‘Cheapest Car’ Stigma? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/will-genx-nano-erase-tatas-cheapest-car-stigma/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/will-genx-nano-erase-tatas-cheapest-car-stigma/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 13:26:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1071194 It’s not often a car company, or any group of people for the matter, will admit mistakes – particularly billion dollar mistakes. That’s why the launch of the all-new Tata GenX Nano is refreshing. Based on former CEO Ratan Tata’s dream of moving Indians who transport their entire families on scooters and motorcycles into safer […]

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It’s not often a car company, or any group of people for the matter, will admit mistakes – particularly billion dollar mistakes. That’s why the launch of the all-new Tata GenX Nano is refreshing. Based on former CEO Ratan Tata’s dream of moving Indians who transport their entire families on scooters and motorcycles into safer – albeit, basic – four wheeled automobiles, the very fact the original 2009 Nano was the least expensive car on sale anywhere in the world proved to be an albatross around the Nano’s tiny neck. Even Indians aspiring to the middle class of a developing country, it turns out, aspire to be seen in something other than the cheapest car in the world. They’d rather buy a used Maruti Suzuki Alto 800, the hatchback that more or less defines India’s entry level car segment. In recognition of that reality, the new GenX Nano will now be positioned as an entry level hatchback to more directly compete with the Alto 800, Hyundai Eon and the newly announced Renault Kwid.

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While some saw the Nano as India’s Model T, prompting comparisons of Ratan Tata to Henry Ford, the historical reality is while Henry Ford had a great idea in making cars for the average consumer, not just the wealthy, the Model T was far from the cheapest car on the market when it was introduced. While it’s true that productivity and cost improvements allowed Ford to eventually drop the price of the T to less than $300, that was in 1924. When the Model T was introduced in 1908 (as a 1909 model) it cost $850. By comparison, a Brush Runabout cost less than $500 in 1908. Henry Ford didn’t face the stigma of selling the cheapest car in the world when he launched the Model T.

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In a 2013 interview, while claiming it was never his personal goal, Ratan Tata admitted it was a mistake for his company to market the Nano on price.

“It became termed as a cheapest car by the public and, I am sorry to say, by ourselves, not by me, but the company when it was marketing it. I think that is unfortunate,” Tata told CNBC.

Around the same time, which would have been while the GenX Nano was being developed, brand positioning guru Jack Trout publicly suggested that Tata kill the Nano. But, in launching the GenX Nano, Tata Motors Senior Vice President for passenger vehicle product and chief Nano engineer Girish Wagh said, “Never did we have discussion about killing the brand.” Wagh admitted the company erred in not recognizing the “societal status” needs of those upgrading from a two-wheeler to an actual automobile and that the launch of the GenX Nano meant creating a “perception change” for both the Nano and for Tata as a maker of passenger cars. Wagh told the Economic Times, while they haven’t yet discussed killing the Nano, the relaunch is indeed a “make or break” effort for Tata’s sub-brand.

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When the original Tata Nano was launched, the “cheapest car in the world” was big news globally, even though it was designed primarily for the domestic Indian market. The Nano’s existence persuaded some very big automakers to reexamine their plans concerning low cost passenger cars and their strategies about export hubs and the developing world.

 

Bajaj Re60

Bajaj Re60. Image: Bajaj

In the Indian market a number of companies started developing low cost cars, with Maruti introducing the Alto 800, the latest version of the Suzuki Alto with a smaller, older engine. Scooter and three-wheeler maker Bajaj, working with Renault-Nissan, introduced their first four wheel vehicle, the RE60, a low cost, low speed car for the commercial autorickshaw market. The French-Japanese automotive alliance revived the Datsun brand with the $5,000+ Go for the Indian market. The Go hasn’t exactly gone as well as Mr. Ghosn had hoped, so Renault itself just introduced the $4,700 Kwid to India. The GenX Nano will be priced from $3,150 to  $4,550.

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For all that news and influence, Nano sales have been disappointing for Tata. Tata has sold only as many Nanos in six years, about 250,000 units, as they had hoped to sell in the first two years of Nano production. Currently, the factory in Sanand, Gujarat is operating at just 15 percent capacity and sales this year are down 20 percent from last.

 

Original Tata Nano instrument panel

Original Tata Nano instrument panel. Wikimedia commons photo

Tata acknowledges they misjudged just how aspirational Indian consumers are at even the lowest entry level of car ownership and they are now relaunching the Nano for the third time. It’s really more than a relaunch, though. The Nano has been substantially rengineered and equipped with features to reposition it as a city car, an entry level hatchback, hopefully removing the stigma of being the cheapest car in the world. That’s a stigma the corporate owners of one of the world’s storied luxury automobile brands, Jaguar, can’t really afford to have.

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After collecting consumer impressions from over 1,000 Nano owners and half again as many of owners of other entry level Indian cars, Tata is hoping that a safer, all-new design and features like an automated transmission and Bluetooth connectivity (not earlier available at the price point) will allow it to more directly compete with other small hatches like the Chevrolet Beat, Hyundai Eon, and the Maruti Alto 800. The Eon and Alto 800 each sell about ten times as many units per month as the outgoing Nano. Even the highest priced GenX Nano will still undercut comparable Maruti Altos by 50,000 rupees, or about $800 at current exchange rates.

 

Renault Kwid

Carlos Ghosn introducing the new $4,700 Renault Kwid. Round trip Business Class airfare on Air France for Paris-Mumbai starts at $2,500. Kinda puts global business into perspective. Renault photo.

There is talk, not denied by Tata, of a bigger 1.0-liter engine to be offered a year down the road in addition to the 660 cc twin that currently powers the Nano, along with a possible diesel option. Right now, the GenX Nano has about half of the power to weight ratio of the Alto 800, which has, as the name indicates, a 796 cc engine. Because the engine is relatively loaded down, the GenX Nano is projected to get slightly worse fuel economy than the Alto 800, about 21 km per liter of petrol vs 22.7.

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The Tata Nano began as Ratan Tata’s dream of getting Indians who sometimes transport entire families on motorcycles and scooters into an unquestionably safer, enclosed, four-wheeled vehicle. It then became what, I think, was a rather impressive feat of engineering to a price point, removing all but the essential. That price point was “one lakh” or 100,000 rupees, the equivalent of about $2,000 US when the Nano was launched in 2009. The project had setbacks from the beginning, with farmers and politicians protesting the original factory location, delaying production. And because we’re in the internet age, fires in a small number of early production Nanos went viral around the world, harming the car’s image. Then Ratan Tata’s dream ran into the fact the families riding on motorcycles had aspirations greater than owning the world’s cheapest car. Indians would apparently rather drive a used example of a more expensive car.

 

Original Tata Nano

Original Tata Nano. Wikimedia commons photo

The first relaunch stressed the value of the Nano by emphasizing low monthly payments, but that only reinforced the image of the Nano as a cheap car. A second relaunch of the slightly more upscale Nano Twist models ran into the fact that, by then, competitors in India had products like the Beat and Alto 800 on the market.

 

Tata Nano Twist

Tata Nano Twist

This time, Tata has abandoned the cheapest car in the world scheme and decided to make a better Nano. As mentioned, much of the design and engineering of the original Nano was about taking things out, like using three lug nuts instead of at least four. By comparison, the GenX Nano’s development was more about putting things in than taking things out.

 

Maruti Alto 800

Maruti Alto 800

Tata says with the use of more high strength steel, crush zones, and side intrusion beams, the Nano’s body is much stronger and safer. It now also has a functional hatch with up to 110 liters of cargo space in the trunk. The original Nano was a four door, not a hatchback. Though the engine has been more or less unchanged, it’s been recalibrated for better urban fuel economy based on Tata engineers’ real-world observations of driving in major Indian markets. Mechanically, the biggest change is the availability of an automated manual transmission. While Tata is no longer marketing the Nano as the cheapest car in the world, the launch publicity did mention that the GenX Nano will be the “most affordable” car with an automated manual transmission.

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In addition to the structural and drivetrain changes, the GenX Nano has a new instrument panel, a stronger air conditioner (something very important with India’s climate), power steering, modern connectivity, and better NVH performance. While the overall silhouette hasn’t changed, the GenX Nano has a new face and rear end, with new bumpers, lamps and a honeycomb grille. The changes are intended to appeal to young, aspirational Indians, particularly women who will like the “Easy Shift” automated manual. Women take a targeted role in the GenX Nano’s marketing and dealers report 20 percent of those who have already booked a GenX Nano – which is already on sale with deliveries scheduled in about two months – are females.

Click here to view the embedded video.

When the original Nano was introduced in 2009, I saw more than a couple of online comments from consumers in North America wondering why a car that cheap couldn’t be sold on this continent. As it turns out, a car that cheap can’t be sold in great numbers on the Indian sub-continent, let alone in North America, where something as relatively advanced and luxurious when compared to the Nano, like the Mitsubishi Mirage, struggles in the market. In time, the Nano project may turn out to be a success. But, whatever success it will have will now be based on its virtues as an automobile compared to competing products, not by being the cheapest car anywhere on the planet.

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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Greetings From Belle Isle: Crashed Camaros and Brakeless Bimmers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/greetings-belle-isle-crashed-camaros-brakeless-bimmers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/greetings-belle-isle-crashed-camaros-brakeless-bimmers/#comments Sat, 23 May 2015 15:06:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1073698 Chances are if you have an Internet connection and even a passing interest in automobiles, you’ve heard about the “Jalopnik Camaro crash.” If not, here’s a quick catch-up: Patrick George, who covers a variety of topics for Gawker’s cars-and-planes-and-wow-just-wow blog, managed to understeer his way out of a lead-follow pace lap at Detroit’s Belle Isle […]

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Chances are if you have an Internet connection and even a passing interest in automobiles, you’ve heard about the “Jalopnik Camaro crash.” If not, here’s a quick catch-up: Patrick George, who covers a variety of topics for Gawker’s cars-and-planes-and-wow-just-wow blog, managed to understeer his way out of a lead-follow pace lap at Detroit’s Belle Isle Grand Prix course and into a wall. Damage to the car was relatively minor. He was then removed from the event by GM security, in marked contrast to the kid-glove treatment given About.com writer and part-time The Onion-wannabe Aaron Gold after Mr. Gold managed to put a Camaro ZL1 in the tire wall at VIR for no reason whatsoever.

The veritable blizzard of publicity for both Jalopnik and GM in the week that followed has caused some of the more jaded observers of the autojourno game to wonder if perhaps the whole thing isn’t a masterstroke of guerilla marketing. I have to admit I had my own doubts as to the authenticity of the incident, doubts that have not been completely erased by discussions with Patrick and other members of the Jalop staff.

After watching the video a few times, however, I’ve come to believe that it’s probably genuine. I’ve also come to believe that many of Patrick’s harshest critics on YouTube and elsewhere might have found themselves “in the wall” given the same set of circumstances. So if you want to know what Patrick did wrong, why the incident unfolded as it did, and how it relates to an off-track incident I witnessed myself the day before Patrick’s crash, then click the jump and I’ll explain it all!

If you haven’t already watched the Jalopnik video, please do so now – and also, please watch the video above featuring a BMW driver who just can’t seem to remember to use his brakes. The second video was taken by the Performance Data Recorder (PDR) in a 2015 Corvette Z51 I was driving around Summit Point’s Shenandoah circuit last Saturday. In many ways, it’s the same incident seen two different ways. In both cases, the driver fails to slow down enough and then exits the track surface at an angle. The primary differences between Patrick’s video and mine are the Belle Isle circuit is surrounded by walls, and the M3 is going much faster.

What I’d like to suggest is that the cause for both incidents was the same. That cause was what I like to call the “out of bandwidth problem”. This is not to be confused with Iain Banks’ Outside Context Problem. Rather, it’s a product of the way the human mind works.

I frequently tell my driving students they can really only learn one thing per instructional session. They can also really only focus on one problem in any given session. To show you why, I’ll give you an exercise you can do at home, slightly modified from an exercise given to me by Ross Bentley in a driver-coaching class and also demonstrated in his book, Inner Speed Secrets.

Sitting at your desk, take your right hand and place it on your left knee briefly before removing it. At the same time, raise your left leg off the chair a few inches to meet your hand. Then do the same thing with your left hand and your right knee. Then return to the right hand and left knee. Try to do that in rhythm for a moment. Got it? Now, while continuing your alternating hand-and-knee motion, start counting backwards from 100 while you do it. Still good?

Now try counting backwards from 100 in increments of seven.

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I’ve never had a student who could do it on the first try without some problem. Usually, they say, “100… uh… 93… uh… um…” After they struggle for a few minutes, I show them I can do it effortlessly. I’m not the most graceful or elegant individual, so this is confusing. I then explain I’ve memorized the numbers. 100 – 93 – 86 – 79 – 72 – 65. I’m not doing the math in real time, I’m reciting a memorized series of numbers I already know.

The brain is very good at doing several things at once, as long as all those things are familiar to it. That’s why older drivers aren’t as likely to crash while texting or eating or operating the infotainment system. They have more experience with the primary task (driving) and therefore they have plenty of processing power for secondary tasks.

By contrast, how often have you been on the phone with someone who is driving somewhere and is lost? What does that conversation sound like? There are usually a lot of pauses as the person tries to compute new directions or evaluate their surroundings. “So, I was… uh… talking to Bob, and… uh… he said that the numbers look good but… uh, hold on, I just want to see if this is my turn.” Talking to someone during their daily commute is very different. We all know our daily commute very well, often to the point that we don’t quite remember how we got to the end of it. It’s all handled by subconscious routines.

Those of you who have been on a racetrack before probably remember just how confusing your first time was. There was so much to look at, so many new rules, and so many cars that seemed to appear out of nowhere behind you. To make things worse, your car didn’t behave the way you expected it to, because it was being operated at a much higher speed. This is why I make my novices stay in fourth gear for their first few sessions, and why I “take the mirror away” by adjusting all mirrors so that I, not the student, watch for traffic. Doing so reduces the number of things on which the student has to focus, and allows him to have more success doing the limited number of tasks remaining. When he can remember the layout of the track, and when he has learned the basics of looking around him in this new environment, I’ll let him start shifting before corners, and I’ll let him use his own mirrors – but not until he’s mastered those other tasks.

Sensory Overload

Human beings have a limited ability to process new information and perform new tasks in real time. It’s a bandwidth problem. You can only focus on a certain amount of sensory data. If a small part of that data is unfamiliar – say, a new car on a well-known track – you can deal with that new data. If you have more than that – a new car, on a new track, with traffic around you – then you have a problem. No matter how experienced you are. You still have a problem. Even Formula One drivers often experience difficulty performing at their best at a new track and developing new features of a car at the same time.

In the case of the BMW who went off-track ahead of me, it turns out that he was “driving his mirrors”. He’d been holding me up for nearly an entire lap and I’d been flashing my headlights at him. Instead of letting me by, his ego got involved – That’s some bearded hick in a Corvette! – and he decided to try to stay ahead of me and win the trackday. Therefore, his entire attention going into that hairpin turn was focused behind him, on me. How close was I? Was I going to try a pass? Was I going to tailgate him? He was so busy watching me that his mind had no bandwidth left. Therefore, faced with the necessity of slowing down for the corner, his mind chose the more familiar program – let’s call it Street Braking – instead of the unfamiliar program of Track Braking. In his effort to watch me, he underbraked and drove off the track into the dirt.

Had he been a more experienced driver, with some racing time under his belt, he would have been better able to multi-task between the challenges of operating the car at its limit and watching my position. But although he was a “black group” advanced driver, he still did not have a lot of experience running nose-to-tail at over 100 mph, so he ran out of processing power and had an incident. This sort of thing is monotonously common at open-lapping days, by the way.

What about Patrick? He’s an experienced track rat by media standards, with dozens of lapping days and events to his credit. But listen to his voice as he talks to the camera. Do you hear the bandwidth shortage? In the “uh” and the pauses? What’s going on? It’s as simple as this: he was trying to do all of the following:

  • Operate an unfamiliar car
  • On an unfamiliar course
  • While evaluating that car in the context of its predecessor
  • And describing it to the camera

That’s too much to ask out of nearly anyone. I’ve done it myself, and it’s mentally exhausting. To make things worse, our expectations for in-car videos are set by the scripted, high-budget Top Gear episodes where the actors recite a couple of well-rehearsed lines to their cameramen, interspersed with footage of professional drivers. So Patrick is under pressure to make a one-take video sound as polished and insightful as a million-dollar television episode.

No wonder he can’t focus on the proper line, or he fails to listen to what the car is trying to tell him about available grip. Those two tasks require bandwidth he doesn’t have. By the time the incident starts, he’s already mentally maxed-out.

The YouTube commenters on this particular video like to focus on the fact that Patrick has his arms crossed. That’s the one thing that he does right on his way to the wall. His consistent hand positioning is the sign of a driver who has received some training at least. But let’s analyze the final moments of the crash for a second. He could have avoided the incident by doing one of two things:

  • Reducing steering input and braking input, allowing the car to steer out of the situation
  • Unwinding the wheel to straight and engaging ABS at full strength.

Either would have been okay. The proximate cause of the accident is that Patrick reacted to a loss of steering traction by winding on more steering – first to the limits of his crossed arms, then further by shuffling – while also braking. This overloaded the front wheels. A more experienced driver would have reduced steering and brake pressure and searched for grip. That’s the process that a race driver goes through in every turn: trail-braking until the maximum cornering grip is achieved. When my students make Patrick’s mistake, I reach over and unwind their steering until the car grips and we make it through the turn correctly.

But Patrick had no instructor – he had a cameraman and an assignment to discuss the vehicle with that cameraman. That was the ultimate cause of the incident: bandwidth overload. Too many tasks. In a conversation with me, Patrick readily identified that as the problem, with no prompting from me. I doubt he’ll do it again.

And in the long run, it was harmless. Nobody was hurt. The car that received damage would have been crushed eventually anyway. There was plenty of publicity to go around and everybody will make money as a result. So if a car crash hurts nobody and benefits everyone involved, is it really a car crash? Process that for a moment, why don’t you?

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Nissan IDx is Super-Dead, But Parts May Live On in FWD Platform http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/nissan-idx-is-super-dead-but-parts-may-live-on-in-fwd-platform/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/nissan-idx-is-super-dead-but-parts-may-live-on-in-fwd-platform/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 13:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1072786 Nobody at Nissan is talking about IDx. That’s what we learned from Pierre Loing, Vice President of Product Planning for Nissan North America. But, there’s a chance certain styling elements could make their way to other products, or possibly even a front-wheel drive performance option below 370Z. While at the 2016 Nissan Maxima media preview […]

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Nissan IDx Freeflow Concept

Nobody at Nissan is talking about IDx.

That’s what we learned from Pierre Loing, Vice President of Product Planning for Nissan North America. But, there’s a chance certain styling elements could make their way to other products, or possibly even a front-wheel drive performance option below 370Z.

While at the 2016 Nissan Maxima media preview in Nashville, Tennessee, we had a chance to prod Loing on what could be the future of IDx considering its overwhelmingly positive reception in Tokyo and Detroit.

Nissan IDx Freeflow / IDx NISMO

“IDX is an interesting project; a show car that received good reception. But, to go from concept to production, the reality always kicks in,” Loing said about the future of IDx as we saw it revealed in Tokyo.

The reality is auto manufacturers are finding it difficult – or impossible – to build a small, rear-wheel drive performance vehicle and make money. Either a current platform, like that of the 370Z, needs to be shrunk down, or a whole new platform needs to be engineered to serve one niche vehicle.

2016 Nissan 370Z NISMO

Unfortunately, at least for Nissan, the 370Z platform isn’t an option.

“Small, sporty cars are very attractive for consumers but not in huge numbers. To do them properly – in our case – you can’t rely on an existing rear-wheel drive platform, because its dimensions are for a much larger powertrain. So, for us, it would mean developing a different rear-wheel drive platform and then we are bumping into the same obstacles every other automaker has: the volumes of a small, sporty car are not enough to justify the investment,” said Loing.

With the current Z doing quite well, at least in the eyes of Nissan as top-dollar NISMO models make up nearly 20 percent of units sold, going down-market is going against the market. Also, based on Loing’s remarks about size, it doesn’t look like we will be getting a smaller Z car next time around.

But, since it was the IDx’s design garnering the most attention, could it transfer to something else?

“It wouldn’t be the same design because, of course, the proportions are based on a rear-wheel drive platform,” Loing explained. “But that kind of retro 510 inspired design was very well received in Japan and in the U.S. (when Nissan debuted in Tokyo and Detroit), and to some extent in Europe as well. So, yeah, that could be an option – among other ones, it could be an option.

“I think we may still have some room (to add a retro-inspired car). We have a wide lineup.”

And with the new Maxima pumping out 300 horsepower to the front wheels alone, a FWD performance compact is possible.

Renault Megane RS 275

“If you look at the Alliance, Renault has some extremely strong front-wheel drive cars that are very sporty; Megane RenaultSport, for example, holds the front-wheel drive record on the Nurburgring. So, yes, it is possible within the limitations of front-wheel drive today.”

But, is that something Nissan is considering? Loing held his cards close to his vest.

“You will have to come back in a few years to see if it has materialized or not. *laughs* But, we do show cars to test reactions all the time, so those reactions are included in the debate on future global products. Sometimes they will be the deciding factor to go one way or another. Sometimes they won’t.”

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Junkyard Find: 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/junkyard-find-2006-mitsubishi-eclipse/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/junkyard-find-2006-mitsubishi-eclipse/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 13:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1071202 We’re following up a week of Volkswagen Junkyard Finds with 21st Century Junkyard Finds (don’t worry, we’ll go back to Junkyard Finds arranged in whatever random order strikes my fancy soon enough). On the heels of yesterday’s ’02 JuggaLambo, here’s a not-even-a-decade-old fourth-gen Mitsubishi Eclipse that showed up at a Denver yard last week. You […]

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10 - 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

We’re following up a week of Volkswagen Junkyard Finds with 21st Century Junkyard Finds (don’t worry, we’ll go back to Junkyard Finds arranged in whatever random order strikes my fancy soon enough). On the heels of yesterday’s ’02 JuggaLambo, here’s a not-even-a-decade-old fourth-gen Mitsubishi Eclipse that showed up at a Denver yard last week.
17 - 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

You don’t see many cars this new in self-service wrecking yards (unless you’re living in the five-year period following the debut of an excruciatingly bad car), and the ones you do see tend to have been involved in fires, strip-and-dump thefts, or high-speed wrecks. This Mitsu falls in the latter group.

06 - 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

The final owner of this car appears to have been a fan of Drunk Pedobear.

15 - 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Many stickers adorned this Eclipse. That’s what made it so fast.

08 - 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Did the speedometer stick at 60 mph at the moment that Mitsubishi steel hit the concrete?

18 - 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

This one has the 162-horse 2.4 with variable valve timing.


This ad is for the previous generation of Eclipse, but it tells us a lot about the car’s target demographic. Are you in?


The ’06 was driven to thrill.

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QOTD: Which Manufacturer Has Most Lost Its Way? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-which-manufacturer-has-most-lost-its-way/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-which-manufacturer-has-most-lost-its-way/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 11:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1071938 If someone mentions the name Buick, a certain image is conjured: comfortable, plush, American motoring just on the blue-collar side of luxury. Buicks used to be the working man’s Cadillac, an association doctors leveraged when making house calls. After all, showing up in a Cadillac would really show the patient how much you were about to […]

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2015 Buick Encore

If someone mentions the name Buick, a certain image is conjured: comfortable, plush, American motoring just on the blue-collar side of luxury. Buicks used to be the working man’s Cadillac, an association doctors leveraged when making house calls. After all, showing up in a Cadillac would really show the patient how much you were about to screw them upon leaving the bill on the nightstand.

But, in more recent times, Buick has become more of a Chevrolet+. Taut suspensions, journo brown interiors and lukewarm engine choices. Oh, and there’s the Encore, a cute ute powered by one of the roughest, smallest engines you can buy in North America. What gives?

Before people start thinking I’m on a General Motors focused tirade, there are a number of other marques out there as well that have seemingly “lost their way.”

Honda, for instance, used to be a technical powerhouse of gung-ho engineers turning efficiency into fun. Instead, we are given the CR-Z to chew on for years instead of a properly fun hatchback to act as the spiritual successor to the CRX.

Suzuki was another company that lost its appeal with customers as they chased larger and larger models. Sure, the Grand Vitara wasn’t a bad truck and the driving dynamics embodied by the Kizashi were fairly spot on. But, when the Samurai and Sidekick died, Suzuki abandoned the segment they were best known for: rough, tumble, pure off-roaders that were dead simple to own and operate.

Which manufacturer do you think has most lost its way?

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It’s Time To End The Non-Sporty Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/its-time-to-end-the-non-sporty-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/its-time-to-end-the-non-sporty-coupe/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 12:12:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1071410 Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to bring an end to an automotive segment that simply needs to die: the non-sporty coupe. For those of you who aren’t sure what I mean when I say “non sporty coupe,” allow me to describe the two types of coupes that currently exist today. One is the sporty coupe. […]

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2015 Honda Civic

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to bring an end to an automotive segment that simply needs to die: the non-sporty coupe.

For those of you who aren’t sure what I mean when I say “non sporty coupe,” allow me to describe the two types of coupes that currently exist today. One is the sporty coupe. This is a car with sleek styling, and a cool interior, and a lot of power, and some modicum of performance suspension, or performance brakes, or something performancey, like a faux carbon fiber door panel.

Examples of the sporty coupe include the Porsche 911, the Ford Mustang, the Subaru BRZ, and – if you ask the Germans – the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe, though the rest of us just consider that to be an overpriced sedan.

And then you have the other type of coupe. The non-sporty coupe. This is a car that was a sedan, until some auto industry geniuses got ahold of it and decided they could create an entirely new segment by just throwing on a new, two-door body and marketing it as “sporty.” Examples include the Honda Civic, the Honda Accord, and, well, that’s about it.

2015 Honda Accord EX-L V-6 Coupe

There’s a reason those are the only options: because everyone else has gotten out of this segment. For years, we had the Toyota Camry coupe, later called the Camry Solara. It’s gone. The Chevy Monte Carlo. It’s gone. The Chevy Cobalt coupe, the Chevy Cavalier Coupe, the Ford Tempo coupe, the Ford Focus coupe (look it up!), the Dodge Avenger, the Chrysler Sebring coupe. Gone, gone, gone, gone, gone. All gone. The Nissan Altima Coupe. Gone. All because this segment is a massive dud; the automotive equivalent of Kevin Costner’s Waterworld.

So why is Honda still in it?

My theory is Honda has abandoned every other sporty car they’ve ever had – from the NSX and the S2000 on down to the CR-Z – so they feel like they have to offer some piece of “performance” somewhere in their lineup. So they offer the Civic in sedan and coupe varieties, even though virtually everyone else has realized the actual place to be, when it comes to compact cars, is sedans and hatchbacks.

Interestingly, it seems like Honda still doesn’t have the hatchback memo. At this year’s New York Auto Show, Honda displayed a bright green Civic intended to preview what’s to come for the compact car’s next generation. So what body style did it use? The highly popular sedan model, which accounts for more than 80 percent of all sales? A hatchback to let us know they’re finally going to take on the Ford Focus, the Mazda3, the Kia Soul, and the Volkswagen Golf?

No: they showed off a Civic Coupe, suggesting they plan to continue the non-sporty coupe even after everyone else has jumped ship.

It’s the same situation with the Accord. Every time there’s an Accord redesign, I expect Honda to finally announce that they’re doing away with the Accord Coupe. And every time there’s an Accord redesign, Honda instead surprises me and brings it back for another round.

The question I have for people who buy these cars is: WHY?????

If you really examine the Civic Coupe and the Accord Coupe, what you’ll find is that both models are really just less practical versions of the sedans. Neither one is a sports car. Neither one offers especially sleek styling. In fact, if you ask me, the Civic Coupe is actually a bit ungainly in its current form, in the sense that it appears, at any moment, that it may be blown over by a strong gust of wind.

So basically, the “non sporty coupe” is just a sedan with less practicality. Same Accord styling. Same Accord engines. Same Accord equipment, and platform, and suspension, and brakes. The only difference: in the regular Accord, you can get out of the back seat without making the front passenger get up and exit the vehicle first.

I’ve talked to a few people who own these vehicles, and I’ve come to learn they actually believe these are sports cars. “Well,” they say. “I couldn’t afford a 370Z. So I decided to get an Accord Coupe.” As if the two are equals. This would be like saying that you couldn’t afford a place overlooking Central Park, so you instead decided to get a studio apartment in downtown Newark.

So I guess the simple truth here is that Honda is going to continue to make these things as long as people keep buying them. But as the market shrinks, and as people realize they’d really rather have a sedan, and as the tens of buyers disaffected by the cancellation of the Chevy Cobalt coupe move on to something else, I hope Honda wises up and gives us hatchbacks instead. Because the days of the non-sporty coupe are coming to an end.

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Junkyard Find: 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP “JuggaLambo” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/junkyard-find-2002-pontiac-grand-prix-gtp-juggalambo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/junkyard-find-2002-pontiac-grand-prix-gtp-juggalambo/#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 13:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1070418 We had Volkswagen Junkyard Finds all last week, and this week we’re going to have 21st Century Junkyard Finds. To start things off, how about a genuine, numbers-matching, 240-supercharged-horses-havin’ sixth-gen Pontiac Grand Prix? Eric Rood, who lives in Illinois and understands the local culture, dubbed this car the JuggaLambo, because Juggalos— who tend to be […]

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03 - 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

We had Volkswagen Junkyard Finds all last week, and this week we’re going to have 21st Century Junkyard Finds. To start things off, how about a genuine, numbers-matching, 240-supercharged-horses-havin’ sixth-gen Pontiac Grand Prix?
02 - 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Eric Rood, who lives in Illinois and understands the local culture, dubbed this car the JuggaLambo, because Juggalos— who tend to be a Midwestern phenomenon— seem to love GM cars of the 1990s and 2000s (even those who are cast out of the Juggalo community drive 1990s Pontiacs), and thus the Grand Prix GTP is the pinnacle of this category of cars.
12 - 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

The Eaton blowers found on GM 3800s of this era are always easy to find at cheap self-serve junkyards, and the current street price for them is about 50 bucks. You can even put two of them on a Chevy 454 in a Murilee Martin-themed Rambler Marlin (yes, the blowers exploded).

15 - 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

These cars are not particularly uncommon in wrecking yards these days, so I assume you can find runners for low, low, low prices.


This ad is for the following generation of Grand Prix GTP, but the ’02 was just as good for blind drivers.

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Trackday Diaries: Civics Lesson http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/trackday-diaries-civics-lesson/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/trackday-diaries-civics-lesson/#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 12:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1070562 Trust me on this: You will start your trackday career because you love cars, but if you are any good at it you will end up hating cars. Allow me to explain. I took my first lap around a racetrack (Mosport, back in 2001) because I wanted to eventually race wheel-to-wheel and I knew I’d […]

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civic1

Trust me on this: You will start your trackday career because you love cars, but if you are any good at it you will end up hating cars.

Allow me to explain.


I took my first lap around a racetrack (Mosport, back in 2001) because I wanted to eventually race wheel-to-wheel and I knew I’d have the greatest chance of success if I followed a defined path of individual coaching and patient but consistent escalation of speed and and risk. I wanted to race wheel-to-wheel because I’d had a series of injuries that had effectively murdered any chance I had of racing BMX competitively into my thirties. In that respect, I was unlike the vast majority of the people I’ve met at the over two hundred open-lapping days I’ve attended since then. Every once in a while I will get a student who is focused on a future in club racing and/or LeMons-style enduros, but most of my guys (and girls) don’t want to have anything to do with racing.

The typical “track rat” is, first and foremost, a car enthusiast, not a would-be racer. He’s there because he wants to drive his car as fast as possible. Very few of them drive an entirely stock vehicle; whether it’s swaybars, a turbo kit, or an engine swap, there’s usually something going on with their cars. But even the stock ones are fast. Lots of five-liter Mustangs, boosted Volkswagens, cambered-out Z-cars. They’re knowledgeable about the history of their preferred marques and nameplates. They can speak at length about everything from options codes to the differences between various manufacturing locations. They own a lot of T-shirts from Blipshift and various car clubs and tuner shops.

17-Racing_Vans_In_24_Hours_of_LeMons

By and large, they’re nice people, and most of them will enjoy their time on-track, but it’s important for me to remember that their goals are fundamentally different from the goals I had when I started – and the goals I have today. For me, the car was, and is, secondary to the purpose of racing. If auto racing didn’t exist, I’d be racing something else. I’ve been racing something for three-quarters of my life. I continue to attend open-lapping days and coach students because it makes me a better driver and therefore a better racer. The more seat time I have, the better I get. Even seat time as a passenger helps; it makes me think about how to get around a track better.

My students, on the other hand, primarily want to enjoy their cars in an environment without speed limits or oncoming traffic or SUVs. They want to take endless GoPro videos and bench race at lunch and maybe experience a moment where the car is sliding around on its tires a little bit. If they were transported back in time and found themselves in a situation where the only trackday opportunity involved forty-eight-horsepower MG TCs around a narrow track like the old Waterford Hills at an average speed below that of their commute, they wouldn’t bother to leave the house. Most of them would rather drive a Z06 Corvette at four-tenths the limit than run a Daihatsu Charade around just as fast as Lewis Hamilton could do it.

This fundamental disconnect between me and them causes friction more often that it does not. I ask them to go home and read a Ross Bentley book; they go home and buy a new ECU that promises ten more horsepower. I suggest they watch track videos and learn reference points; they log onto their favorite car forums and argue about option packages. When I ask them to attend additional weekends to get faster, they stay at home and do entire seasons of iRacing or, G-d forbid, Grand Theft Auto.

In short, they treat being the owners of performance cars the way I treat being a guitar player. I’d rather work extra hours to buy a new (insert name of exotic wood instrument here) than stay at home and practice the modes and scales. I’d rather visit vintage musical-equipment stores and argue about “Murphy aging” than memorize jazz standards in Nashville-number notation. Most of all, I’d rather shop for guitars than fix the ones I already have.

Whenever I start to become frustrated with my students, I just remind myself how my guitar teacher(s) must feel, and it really helps me put things in perspective. They love cars more than they love driving; I love my Paul Reed Smiths more than I love creaking through a twelve-bar-blues with one of them.

This past weekend, however, I was lucky enough to have two of my favorite students return for the Trackdaze season opener at Summit Point Shenandoah. My novice student was Benny Blanco, now resembling a Platoon-era Willem Dafoe due to a program of exercise and nutrition, cheerfully reporting a complete brake-system service on his Boxster in preparation for the event. My intermediate student was a TTAC reader and occasional contributor who had swapped out his rental car for his own high-mileage 2008 Civic EX 5-speed, fortified with Akebono pads and rotors. We met at the hotel Friday night and discussed goals a bit. I was pleased to see that they’d both been devoting some time to the theory of performance driving over the winter, although neither had driven on-track since last October.

While there were three car-into-wall incidents before lunchtime on Saturday, none of them involved my guys. They were both fast and smooth, if a bit rusty from the time off. By Sunday morning, they were both very quick, and by Sunday afternoon neither one of them required much input from me other than the occasional reminder to stay off the throttle in the midcorner. It was a true pleasure to see how well they both did and how much improvement they were able to demonstrate over the course of four hours on-track.

Here’s the funny thing; although both of them were among the best students I’ve ever had, they spent much of the weekend letting faster traffic by. Time after time, my student in the Civic would get through three or four corners in a row in a manner that wouldn’t disgrace a good mid-pack club racer, only to have to put his hand out for a far less talented driver behind the wheel of a turbo VW or V8-powered roadster. In the “green group”, Benny strung together four kick-ass laps, gapping the new-gen WRX behind him at each corner exit, only to have the blue Subaru eventually pull out and pass him on the main straight from ten car lengths back.

I knew going into the weekend that our 2008 Civic would be painfully slow, even if it could be coaxed into some oddly heroic slip angles in my hands, with the help of the emergency brake. (See above.) But I wasn’t prepared for just how slow a 1997 Boxster is nowadays. True, Porsche never claimed it was terribly quick, and buying an entry-level model from Zuffenhausen has never been a recipe for massive horsepower, but when a VW Beetle (with a VR6) can drop you like you’re towing a trailer, it really opens your eyes as to the progress in modern automobiles.

When Sunday drew to a close, I stood with my students and we watched people load perfectly street-legal Corvettes and Mustangs onto trailers pulled by Denalis and F-250s. “I got pretty sick of waving people by,” my Civic driver noted with resignation in his voice.

“Buy a new C7. Or a C7 Z06.” But what I wanted to say was this: I’d rather be the kind of truly skilled, talented, and dedicated trackday driver who can get the most out of a Civic than any mere owner of a high-performance automobile. And there are those of us who can watch someone go around a racetrack, even at a distance, and pick out the very few drivers among those owners. A true driver shines at a trackday like a polished nugget of gold in a field of anthracite. There are few satisfactions in the world like the one you have knowing that you extracted what Michael Schumacher used to call “today’s maximum” from an automobile.

Even if that car is a Civic, trundling down Shenandoah’s back straight at eighty-nine miles per hour.

For a true driver, a car is just a tool. And to operate that tool perfectly, only to be forced to yield again and again to people whose lap times come from the showroom instead of the woodshed…

It’s enough to make you hate cars, really.

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2016 Chevrolet Camaro – Same Recipe, New Ingredients http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2016-chevrolet-camaro-same-recipe-new-ingredients/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2016-chevrolet-camaro-same-recipe-new-ingredients/#comments Sun, 17 May 2015 20:22:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1069698 “From every angle, you’ll never mistake this for anything but a Camaro,” said Tom Peters, design director for the sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro. That’s probably because it hasn’t changed that much, at least visually. Yet, under the skin, the new Camaro drops some 200 lbs thanks to its new Alpha platform bones and gains a new […]

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The 2016 Chevrolet Camaro was introduced May 16, 2015, at a special event in Detroit. The all-new muscle car is approximately 200 pounds lighter than the current model and offers more powerful V-6 and V-8 engines.

“From every angle, you’ll never mistake this for anything but a Camaro,” said Tom Peters, design director for the sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro. That’s probably because it hasn’t changed that much, at least visually. Yet, under the skin, the new Camaro drops some 200 lbs thanks to its new Alpha platform bones and gains a new base engine – a 2.0L turbocharged Ecotec four-pot.

2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS

The new Camaro introduces a turbocharged 2.0L Ecotec powerplant for the first time, bringing with it more horsepower and the same torque figure as the same engine in the Malibu. That puts the new base model Camaro at 275 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of twist. GM says 90 percent of those torques will be available between 2,100 rpm and 3,000 rpm, making the sixth-generation Camaro good for a 60 mph sprint in under 6 seconds while still returning 30 mpg by their own estimates.

Note that I said “base model” above. Unlike Mustang, the Camaro will offer up their four banger as the economy option instead of a premium lightweight option like in Ford’s pony car.

An all-new 3.6L V6 will join the piston party as well with 335 hp and 284 lb-ft of torque. The most notable addition to the now mid-range engine offering is cylinder deactivation. The system will shut down two cylinders effectively turning the V6 into a V4. While the V6 does offer up more output versus its predecessor (323 hp, 278 lb-ft) and claims best-in-class power, it should also return better fuel economy.

A new-to-Camaro 6.2L LT1 V8 will be the headliner, boasting 455 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque, just 5 lb-ft down from on the Corvette.

All engines will be mated to either a six-speed manual transmission (SS models receive Active Rev Match for downshifts) or all-new Hydra-Matic eight-speed automatic (8L45 in LT, 8L90 in SS) with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, further enhancing fuel economy and performance. Also, unless there’s a change to the preliminary output figures, it seems GM won’t be penalizing customers by slashing engine output for those who choose the automatic transmission in SS models.

Unfortunately, the new platform is so sound dead, all Camaros will have their engine note pumped in one way or another. All four-cylinder models will have active noise cancellation. If you opt for the Bose audio system, you’ll receive the aforementioned faux engine noise delivered by speaker. Thankfully, it can be disabled at the whim of the driver. V6 and V8 models will offer up “enhanced” sound through mechanical means by pumping analog audio into the passenger compartment. A dual-mode exhaust will also bypass the mufflers under hard acceleration for better performance and “better” sound.

2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS

Underpinned by the same Alpha platform as the Cadillac ATS and CTS, the new Camaro does shed some unneeded weight, but its dimensions shrink only slightly. Think of the new model as a nip-tuck job over the last generation.

GM claims the Camaro, depending on the model, will lose “200 lbs or more” mass – meaning no matter what the trim, we should expect at least a 200 lb weight reduction. We will see about that when official curb weights are published. The skeptic in me thinks this will not be the case.

The brakes bringing everything to a stop are about the same size in LT (I4/V6) models as the previous generation, but SS models see their brake disc diameters shrink from 14/14.4 inches (front/rear) to 13.6/13.3 inches (front/rear).

With a new platform also comes new suspension setups. Up front are new multi-link MacPherson strut solutions while the rear sees a new five-link independent suspension GM says reduces “squat” during hard launches. Also for the first time, the Camaro SS will be available with Magnetic Ride Control, a much welcomed enhancement over the crashy previous-gen SS suspension.

Another first for Camaro will be an assortment of driving modes, including Snow/Ice, Tour, Sport and Track settings. The latter setting is only available on SS models. The following table provided by GM outlines the different settings in each mode.

DRIVER MODE SELECTOR SETTINGS
Snow/Ice Tour Sport Track
(SS only)
Electronic throttle progression SNOW/ICE NORMAL NORMAL TRACK
Automatic trans.
shift map
NORMAL NORMAL SPORT TRACK
Automatic trans. Performance Algorithm Shift N/A N/A AVAIL. AVAIL.
Engine sound management
(if equipped with dual-mode exhaust)
STEALTH TOUR SPORT TRACK
Electric power steering calibration TOUR TOUR SPORT TRACK
StabiliTrak – Competitive Driving and Launch Control N/A N/A AVAIL. AVAIL.
Magnetic Ride Control
calibration (if equipped)
TOUR TOUR SPORT TRACK
Ambient lighting
(if equipped)
ICE BLUE BLUE RED ORANGE

An all-new, driver-focused interior in the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro features performance-optimized ergonomics, including new seats, a new, flat-bottom steering wheel and a new center console designed for easier manual-transmission shifting.

One thing needing as much attention as the “My 600-lb Life” levels of bloat was the incredibly cramped, cheap interior. Judging from the photos, the quality of materials has gone up, but issues still remain.

Those not fans of the dual-pod gauges will be pleasantly surprised. While the dual-pod hood remains, the remainder of the pods are gone. Instead, the Camaro is now available with an optional 8-inch screen in the instrument panel. In addition tonavigation and infotainment details, the screen will also provide a location for new digital performance gauges, taking them away from their previous location in front of the shifter where they were virtually useless. And, as before, another 8-inch screen will sit mid-dash.

Another improvement – and this one is quite ingenious – is a redesign of certain HVAC controls, turning them into rings around the low mounted air vents. This gives driver and passenger an easy way to make adjustments through a physical control while still saving space like the touchscreen controls used by other manufacturers.

However, there are two downsides to the new Camaro cabin. One – you won’t be doing any emergency brake induced drifting in the new-gen car thanks to its electronic parking brake. The other, and more crucial issue, is GM seems not to have done anything about visibility. With a fairly high beltline and even taller rear deck, the new Camaro continues its trend of being the worst pony car for rearward visibility.

All in all, the new Camaro has conformed to the new normal by being a more economical, lighter weight and nimbler offering. However, its execution is still decidedly traditional, providing an American coupe shape that prioritizes style over functionality.

The 2016 Camaro will be bolted together in Lansing, Michigan and goes on sale later this year.

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Brotherly Love… For Crosleys http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/brotherly-love-crosleys/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/brotherly-love-crosleys/#comments Sun, 17 May 2015 16:10:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1057386 In 1957, Ronnie Kaczmar was 15 years old and, like most teenage boys living in Dearborn, Michigan in the 1950s, Ronnie and his younger brother Jim loved cars. Unlike most of the boys in Dearborn, though, Ronnie Kaczmar wasn’t into flathead Ford hot rods. No, he was into hot shots, as in the Crosley Hot […]

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In 1957, Ronnie Kaczmar was 15 years old and, like most teenage boys living in Dearborn, Michigan in the 1950s, Ronnie and his younger brother Jim loved cars. Unlike most of the boys in Dearborn, though, Ronnie Kaczmar wasn’t into flathead Ford hot rods. No, he was into hot shots, as in the Crosley Hot Shot and other Crosley automobiles.

 

Ronnie Kaczmar and his first Crosley in 1957

Ronnie Kaczmar and his first Crosley in 1957

In 1957, Ron Kaczmar bought his first Crosley – a 1948 station wagon – and based on the date on a photo with his brother, he soon acquired a Crosley convertible sedan that same year. His love for the tiny but technologically advanced American cars made by radio pioneer Powel Crosley lasted the rest of his life and made his family name synonymous with Crosley enthusiasm. The family still owns that ’48 Crosley wagon. Ron’s brother, Jim, bought his own Crosley, also a wagon, in 1963. While it’s clear Jim Kaczmar loves the little cars, it’s even clearer that he loved his big brother.


Start the YouTube video player. Click on the settings icon in the menu bar to select 2D or your choice of stereo 3D formats

In time, Ronnie Kaczmar became the go-to guy for Crosley information, history and parts. It’s impossible to research the brand without coming across his name sooner or later. Eventually, he started a small business selling Crosley parts and the occasional restored Crosley. While the marque may not be as known as more popular brands, it has an active community of collectors and enthusiasts, with over 1,000 people in the Crosley Auto Club. Just about everyone loves cute little cars, so there’s ongoing interest in Crosleys.

 

Ron Kaczmar and his father Walter drove this 1951 Crosley Super station wagon to all 48 contiguous United States.

Ron Kaczmar and his father Walter drove this 1951 Crosley Super station wagon to all 48 contiguous United States and it has the window decals to prove it. I believe that’s real wood veneer.

You’ll see them at car shows and at auctions, but you’re not likely to see a Crosley in one of Murilee Martin’s Junkyard Finds like you would the slightly less oddball Nash Metropolitan. While the Metropolitan is a cute little car and it had its own novelty song, the Crosley has a better story, starting with the personality of Powel Crosley and his various enterprises.

 

Ronnie (L) and Jimmy (R) with a Crosley convertible.

Ronnie (L) and Jimmy (R) with a Crosley convertible.

Prescient about the value of small, lightweight cars when Detroit was busy going longer, wider and embracing road hugging weight, Crosley’s cars were true pioneers achieving a number of notable automotive firsts. They made the Farm O Road, Crosley’s take on the jeep concept, and the COBRA engine made up of steel stampings copper brazed together. There’s plenty of history to add interest to the Crosley story. Besides, as small as the Metropolitan is, it’s still about 30% heavier than the truly tiny Crosley station wagon, making the little Nashes worth more at the crusher.


The water pump was run off of a power take off shaft on the back of the generator, which was about half the size of the engine itself.

The brothers weren’t the only family members to appreciate the brand. By 1968, Ronnie and his father Walter had driven Ronnie’s blue and white ’51 Crosley Super station wagon to almost all of the 48 contiguous United States.

 

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The Crosley wagon on a trip to Florida in 1968

In 1992, Ronnie took a 6,000 mile trip with a lady friend from Dearborn to Long Beach and back, via Seattle, to complete the list. The car also took trips to Florida with Kaczmar and his parents. As of last fall, the wagon had 38,300 original miles on the clock.

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Ronnie Kaczmar passed away a few years ago, but his brother Jim continues to operate Kaczmar Crosley. If you’re interested in a properly done Crosley, he’s the person to see. Jim also continues to show his brother’s collection of Crosleys.


The grille spinner/propeller was a Crosley factory accessory.

Jim Kaczmar’s enthusiasm for Crosley cars has probably only been exceeded by that of his brother, but in talking to him at Ypsilanti’s Orphan Car Show, it became obvious to me that, while he clearly has affection for the cars of Powel Crosley, he continues his involvement in the hobby more as a tribute to his brother than to the Crosley brand. At the Orphan Car Show last September, there was a for sale sign on the family’s wagon, listed at $9,800. Checking at Hemmings.com, that looks to be about $3,000 over market, but I don’t think you’ll find a Crosley with better provenance, or a better story.

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I can relate to Jim Kaczmar. My interest in cars was spurred by my own big brother, Jeff, whose ’63 Mini Cooper and ’66 Lotus Cortina forever turned me on to unusual little cars that make going around corners fun. Jeff’s even influenced the stories that I write here at TTAC, providing me with a lead on the history of airbags from when he worked for Eaton, along with my continuing coverage of the Elio Motors startup. One reason why I’m interested in Elio is that they’re trying to make a reverse trike.

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Years ago, when Jeffrey and I were kids designing a go-kart we were building using a scavenged two-stroke lawnmower engine (he designed the frame, I did the steering and brakes), we realized we couldn’t afford all the wheels, tires, bearings, etc to make a live axle in the back. Instead, we opted for a mid-engined reverse trike with a single rear wheel. What we didn’t know was reverse trikes need a forward weight bias to keep both front wheels on the ground when cornering. Elio’s trike is front wheel drive with the motor up front. Unlike the go-kart Jeff and I made, the Elio doesn’t lift the inside tire a foot off of the ground on a hard turn. But I still think of my brother whenever I write about Elio.

Photography by Ronnie Schreiber. For more photos of the vehicle in this post, please go to Cars In Depth.

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: 1972 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/junkyard-find-1972-volkswagen-karmann-ghia/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/junkyard-find-1972-volkswagen-karmann-ghia/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 13:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1065402 After seeing this 1986 Volkswagen Quantum GL5 on Tuesday and this 1980 Volkswagen Dasher four-door hatchback on Thursday, it’s only fitting that we should wrap up this week’s Junkyard Finds with yet another old VW: a seldom-seen-in-self-serve-yards 1972 Karmann Ghia. Air-cooled VW Beetles show up in these high-inventory-turnover yards all the time, because 979 trillion […]

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After seeing this 1986 Volkswagen Quantum GL5 on Tuesday and this 1980 Volkswagen Dasher four-door hatchback on Thursday, it’s only fitting that we should wrap up this week’s Junkyard Finds with yet another old VW: a seldom-seen-in-self-serve-yards 1972 Karmann Ghia.
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Air-cooled VW Beetles show up in these high-inventory-turnover yards all the time, because 979 trillion of them were built and they tend to linger under tarps in yards for decades before finally getting junked, and I don’t bother photographing them (except for this ’73 Super Beetle). It’s not that I hate Beetles (I’ve owned a few), but I don’t think they’re of sufficient interest to shoot in the junkyard. A Squareback or Transporter, maybe, and a screaming green Karmann Ghia will make me take out the camera most of the time.
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This one is just about completely picked clean, which seems a shame because the body is so non-rusty by Volkswagen standards (i.e., there are some areas with no rust). I shot this car in Denver, which isn’t a very rusty place, but air-cooled VWs manage to rust in places like Albuquerque and the Atacama Desert.

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In stock form, the Karmann Ghia was slow even by the standards of its time; such underpowered sports cars as the MGB and Fiat 124 Sport Spider took on a distinct reddish color from the point of view of a Karmann Ghia driver, due to Doppler redshift effects, as they pulled away in a drag race.

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Look, a Beetle in the very next row!


Volkswagen’s marketers didn’t try to hide their sports car’s somewhat limited power (60 horses in 1972) in their TV commercials.


The lack of a back seat was also presented as a plus.


Elsewhere in the world, however, the car’s alleged performance got more prominence in TV ads.

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Cherokee, Sweetheart http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/cherokee-sweetheart/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/cherokee-sweetheart/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 15:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1067874 “When I see a Range Rover on the street, my blood boils, because we should be able to do a thing like that,” quoth the great Sergio, “And we will.” Say what you like about the leadership Chrysler has had since the days of the AMC/Renault Alliance, but with this comment about the need for […]

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“When I see a Range Rover on the street, my blood boils, because we should be able to do a thing like that,” quoth the great Sergio, “And we will.” Say what you like about the leadership Chrysler has had since the days of the AMC/Renault Alliance, but with this comment about the need for a grander Cherokee, if you will, the maximum leader of FCA has shown that he understands the Jeep brand, and its role in America, less than any of his predecessors.


Bloomberg reported on Sergio’s comments at the opening of a Maserati dealership in Toronto last week. At first blush, the man from La Marchionne has a point. There’s a lot of profit to be had in Range Rovers, particularly nowadays. Hard not to look at that money and feel envious. Was it just yesterday that Range Rovers were priced closer to the Mercedes E-Class than the S-Class? And was it just yesterday that you could lease one for $599/month over thirty-six months with a grand out of pocket? Really, tell me it was just yesterday that the Range Rovers for sale in the local showroom came in just one variant, and that variant had been effectively the same vehicle for twenty years.

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No longer. Today’s Range Rover is a thoroughly developed luxury vehicle that bears only a vague resemblance to the country-estate runabouts of the distant English past. The nameplate that once carried noble-born English hounds to the hunt now takes Instagram “models” from the Dubai airport to the penthouses of the sheikhs. If any traditional landed gentry remains in Scotland, France, or the Black Forest, they aren’t buying new SVAutobiography LWB pimp-wagons. The current buyer base for full-sized Range Rovers is all new money, all the time, and unlike their predecessors they don’t pinch pennies or prefer vinyl seats. They have plenty of money.

What they lack, perhaps, is class. As with Aston Martin, Range Rover is in the business of selling some sort of fake Britishness to non-Brits. Those people associate Britishness with class, with social presence, with savoir faire. The people who buy these trucks expect them to convey a certain image, and they want that image to improve theirs. Look at it this way: When Lord Foppington of Stoke-On-Stoke took delivery of a two-door Rangie in ’78, he didn’t expect that people would be impressed by the vehicle. He expected people to be impressed by him. He expected that the prestige of the Range Rover would be lifted by his ownership and operation of one, not the other way around. The Land Rover advertisements of the Eighties and Nineties featured royal and ducal seals to take advantage of those associations. The Queen of England is still the Queen whether or not she gets out of a Range Rover or a Land Rover Series II or a Mini. When people who are not the Queen of England buy a Range Rover, it’s often done with the expectation that the vehicle will speak on their behalf in social situations.

Is there, or was there ever, an American equivalent to Land Rover’s “100-inch wagon”, a nondescript working-class vehicle operated by the upper crust? I think that for many years, the fully-loaded Ford or Chevrolet station wagon filled that role. The 1970 Chevy Kingswood was probably the American counterpart to the 1970 Rangie. It was a family vehicle for affluent families whose social position was utterly secure and therefore in no need of the middle-class status boost that would come from having, say, that new-fangled Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser, essentially a Ninety-Eight with a rear door.

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When the station wagon disappeared, the Suburban and full-sized Wagoneer (later Grand Wagoneer) assumed that role, trolling slowly around Martha’s Vineyard and the Outer Banks, dirty and dented and full of picnic baskets. These were vehicles that could belong to that family with the home on the beach or the families of the plumbers and electricians who fixed those homes. They were truly classless, and as a result they were kind of classy because they didn’t attempt to send any particular Veblen message.

In the years that followed, the Wagoneer (later Grand Wagoneer) went out of production, and the Suburban became both oversized and overtly menacing in appearance. The Escalade and Yukon Denali appeared in the marketplace, both of them aimed at people who wanted to spend more money on a Suburban, and the sheer number of these monster trucks on the American road significantly diminished the appeal to the smart set of a full-sized SUV. Suburbans of all badges were much cooler when every soccer mom in Joliet, Illinois didn’t have one, dontcha know.

So what vehicle has assumed the title of America’s Classy Yet Classless Chariot? You know the answer without even thinking hard. It’s the Grand Cherokee. Not only is it a great SUV, it’s arguably the finest American car on sale today. Competent in all aspects, available as a vinyl-seat workhorse or a chrome-lined Overland or a racetrack-munching SRT-8, the Grand Cherokee has something for everyone. At the low end, it doesn’t cost much more than a six-cylinder Camry, while at the high end it rips twelve-second quarter-miles and features exotic interior appointments. While it’s generally obvious where each model sits in the overall hierarchy of Cherokee-dom, there’s nothing obviously poverty-stricken about the Laredo and there’s none of the “Autobiography” crassness to the Overland.

Few vehicles on sale today are as satisfying as the Grand Cherokee, and few of those can point to what is basically an unblemished record of being a good value and a decent ownership proposition since the Nineties. You can find them at Moab and in a country-club parking lot, on the beach at Venice and on the manicured lawns north of New York City. Owning a Grand Cherokee says almost nothing about you. You could be wealthy, or you could be someone in a small house with a decent-ish job. You could be single, or a parent, or a retiree. The appeal of this particular Jeep has virtually no boundaries.

Critical to the Grand Cherokee’s market positioning is the fact that it sits atop the Jeep hierarchy, even though you can spend less on a Laredo 4×2 than you’d pay for a loaded Cherokee or Wrangler. The reason the short-lived Commander was short-lived was twofold: it was a terrible vehicle to operate, and it was tough for people to understand that it was “better” than the GC. Everybody knows that you can spend a fair amount of money on an Overland, but everybody also knows that the prices of the Overland don’t reach into Range Rover ridiculousness. So buying an Overland is acceptable to wealthy Americans who follow the Protestant ethic because it has no superior in the lineup yet it doesn’t bespeak nouveau extravagance.

Adding a “Range Rover” to the Jeep range would alienate the customers for high-end Grand Cherokees, many of whom would be loath to purchase something that, like the RR Autobiography, is described as “very expensive” by its own manufacturers but at the same time would not want to be seen in a vehicle that was “junior” to it in the lineup. It would court the fickle tastes of Russian oligarchs and Arab oil money at the expense of Jeep’s loyal and dependable American customer base. But most of all, it would be an unforgivable slight against the very idea of Jeep.

“Jeep” is a contraction of “General Purpose”, or “GP”. The Jeep idea is that of a vehicle that earns its keep, that is valued for its capabilities, that shares the same work ethic as its customers. To take that name and plaster it on some despicable Lexus LX470 competitor would be a travesty. Such a vehicle wouldn’t be a GP. It would be an SP: a vehicle with the single purpose of demonstrating its owner’s wealth. We should leave stupidity like that to the Indians who own Range Rover, not the Italians who own Jeep. Classless, satisfying, tasteful, capable; the current Grand Cherokee is all of these things. Shouldn’t that be enough?

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You Don’t Need a Mill’ to Run a Mille: The Joy of Budget Classic Car Rallying http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/dont-need-mill-run-mille-joy-budget-classic-car-rallying/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/dont-need-mill-run-mille-joy-budget-classic-car-rallying/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 14:13:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1068202 Today, the Mille Miglia begins – indeed, as you read this, it’s probably already done so. The entry list is available online, a roll-call of million-dollar coach-built rolling-artwork. And also stuff like a Borgward Isabella, which should make Jalopnik’s Jason Torchinsky giddy, as he’s covering the event thanks to Jaguar. Bucket list stuff, surely, but […]

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Today, the Mille Miglia begins – indeed, as you read this, it’s probably already done so. The entry list is available online, a roll-call of million-dollar coach-built rolling-artwork. And also stuff like a Borgward Isabella, which should make Jalopnik’s Jason Torchinsky giddy, as he’s covering the event thanks to Jaguar.

Bucket list stuff, surely, but far beyond the reach of us ordinary morlocks. The shimmering golden fleece of the Adriatic, the reflected glow of Brescian honor and the echoing footsteps of heroes: heady stuff indeed, but a little outside my personal pocketbook. There is, however, an alternative.

Thus, I find myself in a 1967 MGB with an auxiliary fuel pump duct-taped to its air-cleaner, firing so much fuel into the rearmost carburetor you have to keep the revs above 4000 rpm lest the fuel overwhelm the float, go spurting out the side, hiss, and evaporate alarmingly close to the exhaust manifold. The din is deafening. The brakes are Neville Chamberlain levels of ineffective. Traffic is building and we’re up to our oxsters in LED-swathed crossovers driven by inattentive morons, in a car with all the safety equipment of a penny-farthing.

In short, I’m having the time of my life.

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If you have a vehicle older than 1979, and the wherewithal to scrape together $500 Canadian loonies, you can have a proper adventure. There will likely not be caviar, but there will be a great deal of blathering about carburetors. This is the sixth year of the Spring Thaw, an event run by Classic Car Adventures in BC, and I’ve signed up my father and I as a birthday present for the old man. Prior to this trip, the MGB has gone no further than fifty miles in a single outing in three decades – hence the duct-taped fuel-pump, but more on that later.

Think of the difference between Cars and Coffee and Pebble Beach. The latter is amazing, theatrical, replete with straw boaters, pin-stripes, and decades of tradition. The former is just a bunch of folks who are too busy earning their living to spend all day standing around in a field talking about cars. You show up, jaw for an hour, then go cut the lawn. It’s automotive enthusiasm without the marbled Kobe beef.

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So is this. A three-day tour covering 800 miles or so (Dad and I in the MGB will be past 900 miles, thanks to a start up the Fraser Valley), we will be part of a train of eighty classics and oddballs. If you’ve scanned the royalty on the Mille, check out this collection of uncommoners.

There is a sprinkling of Mini Coopers. There is a Luftwaffe of air-cooled 911s. There are a few old Volvos, a Datsun 510, and a Renault Gordini. There is a Lister D-Type replica, and the Giulietta Sprint Special that sat at the Alfa Romeo booth at the 1957 Geneva Motor Show, and two guys dressed like extras from Deadliest Catch in a open-topped Mini Moke, and a Traction Avant, and a 1950 Ford F-series pickup, and a 1935 Bentley, and a Plymouth business coupe, and a Peugeot 504, and a Triumph TR8, and a whatisgoingonhereIfeellikeI’mtakingcrazypills.

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Varied? Oh yes: everything here has wheels and the similarities end there. When we assemble in the tiny town of Hope to get our driver’s briefing and our route maps, there’s a guy in a denim Utilikilt revving the nuts off an two-stroke Saab 9-6. We park behind an MGA and across from a Morgan Plus-4 and go stand in the rain to pick up our stuff.

Everything has the air of a family barbeque. Some people are rolling their eyes at others. Some are greeting old friends. Some are chuckling at inside jokes, and some are exchanging embraces like they haven’t seen each other in years. Which might well be the case.

When I pick up our name tags, there’s a red dot on each. “How many of you are new to the Thaw?” organizer Dave Hord asks the crowd. A forest of hands goes up. “I know it can be intimidating,” he says, “So veterans, it’s your job to speak to at least three newbies with the red dot on their badge.”

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Hord and his pal Warwick Patterson came up with this cut-rate touring company while hurtling across the desert in a semi-demi-quasi-legal VW Beetle speed rally. CCA currently runs five such events annually and is expanding into the US in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado. For your entry fee, you get two dinners, two overnight hotels, an expert mechanical sweep car, and entry into a clubhouse of nutters.

I love these people. They’re all lunatics in the best way possible.

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Beyond Hope, we run into sheeting rain, construction delays, and eventually snow. If you have not seen two balaclava-clad pilots driving a quarter-million-dollar open-cockpit D-Type replica in the snow, you haven’t lived. And then there are the deepsea-fishermen-lookin’ loons in the Mini Moke. And the pre-war Bentley. And the 1930s Roller.

Cresting the pass at Manning Park, we descend into moderately warmer climes, only to be attacked by a hailstorm that piles on ice faster than the MGB’s lackadaisical wipers can shift it. Behind us, a pair of brothers in an original no-rollbar 1969 Lotus Seven S3 hunch down and ignore the pings.

At lunch, we’re quizzed by a local: “Doin’ the rally, are you?” Luck is wished. We need it. A few miles onward, Lucas, Prince of Darkness unfurls his cape and horns. The MGB dies at speed.

Two guys in an Alfa Romeo Giulietta pull up to see if we’re okay. This is the equivalent of a leper asking if you’ve twisted your ankle: rescued from breakdown by an Alfathe shame of it!

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The MGB decides its wildcat strike is over – for now – and we continue on to our overnight stop with only three more breakdowns. For a British car, this practically qualifies for honorary Toyota status.

Dinner is a humble affair, interesting for two reasons. Firstly, the word goes out that we’re having intermittent issues, and we’re instantly besieged by people who want to help. Two of them will accurately diagnose the problem, as it turns out.

The second interesting thing is the conversation at the table, where strangers express their unrequited love for Lancias and the like. Upon learning that I write about cars for a living, a suspicious gaze is cast my way. “Why are you guys always talking about technology?” I’m asked. I point out that last year I sought out and road-tested a base-engined Hyundai Pony. This smooths things over somewhat.

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In the morning, we head out into more rain, more intermittent issues, and the best piece of road I’ve driven outside the Burren in Mayo County, Ireland. It’s a wonderful piece of tarmac, as wriggly and looping as if you’d asked Salvador Dali for an autograph while he had the hiccups. Dad loves it, and goes foot-down when the curves straighten out. The MGB develops emphysema again.

Instantly, we are besieged by Minis. One is driven by Rob Fram, a gent who repairs million-dollar pre-war Alfa Romeos for a living. He diagnoses the problem, and we wait for a replacement pump – for about five minutes. Keinan Chapman, driver of the Peugeot 504, has a pump set up with alligator clips for a battery, so it’s a quick cut-and-swap and we’re on the road again. The Minis all roar off, I flick through the route guide and get us set on the longer loop.

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That evening, after a long side excursion to the drifting rain storms and lonely landscape of the empire of grass, we pull into an underground parkade with a sense of elation. The mystery issue is no longer a mystery, and with the aux pump plumbed in, we’re going to make it. Maybe. Probably. Say a few rosaries to Our Blessed Lady of Acceleration.

The garage is a fug of unburned hydrocarbons, but we all stand around in the unhealthy atomosphere, toasting our long day on the road and reminiscing over roadside repairs. I’ve got a lukewarm can of Old Specked Hen in my hand, there’s Budweiser and craft-brew in equal measure, the Volvo P1800 crew are sipping Merlot, and the young Asian woman in the ’37 RR 25/30 has two tumblers and a bottle of 12-year-old Glenlivet tucked under her arm.

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We laugh, we reminisce, we recap. People keep asking me if we’ve figured out what the problem is; there are a dozen conversations going on about the semi-Biblical weather. Quite frankly, glitz and glamour and the sparkling Mediterranean can get stuffed; in a stinky underground parkade in Kamloops, real bonds are being made, real friendships renewed.

In the morning, we all assemble in the sunshine, dial up the carbs and run West and South. It’s a special route, this; the old road down from Lillooet where I lived in the early days of grade school. When it was gravel, I was a passenger in a bouncy, jouncy Land Rover Series III; now it’s five-year old tarmac, fresh and smooth and wriggly as an earthworm after a thunderstorm. Behind us, an XK150 drophead falls behind in the turns and then catches up on the straights; in front, the scarab-shaped shell of a Porsche 356 coupe scuttles along with an air-cooled blat.

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We’ve a long way to go yet, not just the finishing line in Whistler, but hours beyond it in heavy traffic, fuel spurting out the carbs, and a clean finish anything but a guarantee. But just as Moss and Jenks did, so many years ago, we keep our foot in, fire extinguisher at the ready, but thankfully unneeded.

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Henry’s Model T brought transportation to the masses; the Camaro, the Mustang, and the MG democratized speed. We’re currently living in a golden age of horsepower, but apart from the insanity of the air-cooled 911 market, the past is also more accessible than it’s ever been. Want to buy a forever car? They aren’t making them any more, but a classic is easier to find than ever.

And if you do find something special, get out and drive it. Run your own Mille, write your own legend, have your own adventures. It’ll cost you less than a ticket to Vegas, and you’ll cherish the memories rather than struggle to remember them.

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Rush’s Red Barchetta was based on a 1982 Road & Track article written about just this car, a “fifteen year old MG”: that’d make the Barchetta a 1967 MGB just like Dad’s. For a time, we outran the gleaming alloy air-cars, tasted the metallic sting of mechanical failure, felt the warmth of camaraderie, and savoured the joy of having completed something extraordinary.

And when the winter rains come in around Christmas, and the fire crackles in the hearth, and both my children are asleep, and the time for talking is at an end, my father and I will sit there in the oak-panelled living room and think about doing something stupid and slightly dangerous and pointless again. We’ll both see the snow-capped peaks off to the East, the winding ribbon of the Duffy Lake road, smell the fuel leaking out, and hear the sewing machine hum of the engine.

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The Mille exists to let you bathe in history, experience the echoes of an event the world will never see again. Write your own history; drive your own road; go your own mille.

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Junkyard Find: 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Four-Door Hatchback http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/junkyard-find-1980-volkswagen-dasher-four-door-hatchback/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/junkyard-find-1980-volkswagen-dasher-four-door-hatchback/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 13:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1065138 With the 1986 Quantum GL5 Junkyard Find we had a couple of days ago, we might as well make this a VW junkyard week. With that in mind, I present this icky-looking Volkswagen Dasher today. I shot this car in Northern California a few months ago, and it showed all the hallmarks of a car […]

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00 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin

With the 1986 Quantum GL5 Junkyard Find we had a couple of days ago, we might as well make this a VW junkyard week. With that in mind, I present this icky-looking Volkswagen Dasher today.
04 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin

I shot this car in Northern California a few months ago, and it showed all the hallmarks of a car stored outdoors for decades: low miles, paint burned off upper surfaces, moss and lichens growing on the shaded areas. Look, not even 100,000 miles on the clock!

11 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin

This one was a luxurious model with sunroof and air conditioning a diesel injection pump.

01 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin

The 1980 four-door hatch version of the Dasher listed at $8,190, which was $2,300 more than the Rabbit four-door hatch. Meanwhile, the far more luxurious and powerful (keep in mind that 1980’s standards for luxury and power differ from the ones we might apply today) Datsun 810 wagon (soon to be rebadged as the Maxima) listed at $8,129. Not that Dasher and 810 shoppers were the same people, but these comparisons are fun to make.

03 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin

Yes, I bought the MotoMeter clock… and it works!

The car of choice for Kentucky Colonels.

00 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Once Someone Buys a Car, You Have to Be Nice About It http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/once-someone-buys-a-car-you-have-to-be-nice-about-it/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/once-someone-buys-a-car-you-have-to-be-nice-about-it/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 11:06:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1068010 Allow me to set the stage. A friend of mine is looking for compact crossovers, so I recommend to her all the good ones. Mazda CX-5. Ford Escape. New Nissan Rogue. Even the CR-V and the RAV4, if she really can’t find anything she likes. So she goes, and she searches, and she looks, and […]

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2015 Mitsubishi Outlander GT front

Allow me to set the stage. A friend of mine is looking for compact crossovers, so I recommend to her all the good ones. Mazda CX-5. Ford Escape. New Nissan Rogue. Even the CR-V and the RAV4, if she really can’t find anything she likes. So she goes, and she searches, and she looks, and she comes back days later with a new car. Do you know what she bought?

A Mitsubishi Outlander.

A Mitsubishi. Freakin’. Outlander.

Part of me wanted to scream at her. The other part of me wanted to get in the car, drive it back to the local Mitsubishi dealer, and offer them five grand cash to take it back, knowing that’s probably half of the depreciation it had already endured, simply as a result of the three diamonds on the grille.

But I didn’t do either of those things.

You know what I did? I told her she made an excellent choice, and the Outlander is a wonderful car, and I’m sure she will be very happy with it.

And this brings me to the point of today’s column, which is: once someone has already purchased a car, you can’t really do anything besides be nice about it.

To help explain what I mean, let’s take a step back from my situation and analyze it a little further. At first, this person came to me, a self-described automotive expert in the sense that I have jumper cables in my trunk, asking for an automotive recommendation. “What car should I buy?” she said. And I recommended several options; a few good choices that I think we all could agree are the stars of the compact crossover segment.

Then she went out searching for a new car, armed with my suggestions. And she test drove, and shopped, and looked, and drove, and shopped more, and haggled, and looked more, and drove more. And then she decided to ignore my suggestions and get the Outlander.

This can only mean one thing: she must REALLY like the Outlander.

The fact that she’s driving the Outlander also means that the money’s already spent. She’s already made her choice, she’s signed the papers, the car has been delivered, and there’s no give-backsies. This game of “what car should I get?” is over, and once again the shoppers listened to the salesman over the enthusiast.

And since that the money is spent, and the deal is done, and she’s driving the car, you might as well be nice. Because otherwise you’re just going to piss off your friend. Now that the purchase has happened, you just have to be nice, be courteous, and step back and watch the ownership experience of someone with a brand-new Mitsubishi. You should also limit yourself to one monthly I told you so.

It’s not the same situation if the car shopper is a car enthusiast, of course. In that case, you should make fun of his or her choice, mercilessly, regardless of what he purchased, for the rest of time. He could come home with a Miura, and you’d still want to say something like: What? Couldn’t afford a Lusso?

But for the average person, we as car enthusiasts have a duty to make sure our friends and loved ones purchase the right vehicle. And if they don’t, we as car enthusiasts have a duty to understand when someone’s mind is made up, and to bow out and be polite. Because there’s nothing worse than someone spoiling the purchase of your brand-new Mitsubishi Outlander by bringing up pesky things like J.D. Power scores. And NADA surveys. And reliability rankings. And resale value charts. And customer satisfaction scores. And Consumer Reports reviews.

No, no. You want your friends to feel satisfied, and happy, and enjoy every moment with their new car, until they step into a different new car and say: “Wait, you have a touchscreen infotainment system? Why do I only have pixels?”

Maybe next time they’ll listen to the car expert.

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If You Were Starting Up a Car Company, Would You Put Your Factory in Hawaii? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/starting-car-company-put-factory-hawaii/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/starting-car-company-put-factory-hawaii/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 13:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1065330 Though I don’t watch broadcast or cable television much anymore, I like the idea of the ABC’s Shark Tank. Actually, when I still had cable, I watched the original Canadian version of the show, Dragon’s Den, since Windsor, Ontario’s CBC affiliate station is generally part of Detroit area cable bundling. As a tinkerer, inventor and small […]

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AIRPod-car.jpg.662x0_q70_crop-scale

Though I don’t watch broadcast or cable television much anymore, I like the idea of the ABC’s Shark Tank. Actually, when I still had cable, I watched the original Canadian version of the show, Dragon’s Den, since Windsor, Ontario’s CBC affiliate station is generally part of Detroit area cable bundling. As a tinkerer, inventor and small business owner, the idea of a show premised on pitching your business idea to possible angels is appealing to me. However, while all of the “sharks” undoubtedly have been more successful entrepreneurs than I have been, sometimes they make investments that just don’t make sense to me.

On last Friday’s show, one of the potential investors, Robert Herjavec, pledged $5 million in funding to a startup named Zero Pollution Motors to start building cars propelled by compressed air. ZPM says that they will start building the cars in Hawaii sometime later this year.


This video is only available to those in the U.S.

The project is apparently a joint venture involving Zero Pollution Motors, Motor Development International (a French company headquartered in Luxembourg that’s been working on a compressed air car for two decades), and India’s Tata Motors, which has a licensing deal with MDI. Singer Pat Boone appears to be an investor in ZPM. From the video it looks like they will be producing some form of MDI’s AirPod vehicle, which looks like a cross between GM’s Segway-on-steroids EN-V city pods, an Isetta microcar with its front opening door, and a DeltaWing racer. At first, because of the narrow front end, I thought it was a Reliant Robin type three wheeler – not the most stable configuration – but it actually does have two very small front wheels, though I’m not convinced how stable it will be when doing an emergency swerve. That, though, isn’t my main concern about the enterprise.

To begin with, I’m a bit put off by the reportage saying the cars are powered by compressed air. The compressed air is just storing energy, it’s not a fuel. The cars are powered by whatever is generating the electricity needed to run the compressors that fill the AirPod’s tanks. If you don’t have a compressor at home, ZPM says that you could fill up the tanks using the coin-operated air compressors you find at many filling stations. It would take about five minutes to fill up and cost you about $2.00 in quarters. The vehicles are claimed to have a range of up to 80 miles with a top speed of 50 mph. Presumably their competition would be so-called Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, BEVs with a top speed of less than 45 mph, suitable for downtown areas and gated communities. The 617 lb vehicles will have a price of $10,000.

TTAC readers who have been following my coverage of Elio Motors know I’m attracted to the romance of starting up a new car company, so I don’t want to rain on ZPM’s parade. I’m also not a compressed air skeptic. The AirPod might be a practical city vehicle. I am, however, skeptical of Zero Pollution Motors.

Putting aside the terrible semantics of saying the cars are powered by compressed air, I’m baffled that a serious investor would fund a manufacturing startup in one of the most expensive places in the world to make anything: Hawaii.

That island state will be the first of ZPM’s proposed “turnkey micro production factories” building the pods to sell directly to customers. ZPM claims their distributed manufacturing schema represents a “drastic decrease in costs and logistic problems associated with the conventional assembly process” that would not just be cleaner than conventional assembly plants, it would have a “significant beneficial impact” on the environment.

Hawaii was chosen as a test location because of Honolulu’s congested traffic and lack of gasoline refineries. Gasoline is relatively expensive in Hawaii because it has to be brought in by tanker. However, gasoline isn’t the only thing that’s expensive in Hawaii because of it’s location in the middle of the Pacific. Everything needs to be imported to Hawaii, not just gasoline. Hawaii could be the most expensive state in the union in which to start up a manufacturing concern. That’s probably why Hawaii ranks 50th in terms of states’ dependency on manufacturing. ZPM would have to ship all of their tooling there just to start up. As far as I know, there are no automotive suppliers in Hawaii, so everything needed to build the vehicles, down to nuts and bolts, would have to be brought in by boat. It would probably be cheaper, even with Manhattan real estate prices, to build ZPM’s air car in New York City – and the market there for city cars is undoubtedly a tad larger than Honolulu.

The auto industry is a very big crap shoot. To make your number usually requires investments in the 10 figure range. It’s estimated big car companies spend at least a billion dollars to develop a new model. With that perspective, Herjavec (who is a bit of a car guy, going gentleman racing, and owning LaFerrari VIN 01) isn’t risking much with his five mil, but my guess is it will be a long while before automobiles powered by any source make up a greater part of Hawaii’s GDP than the cannabis grown there.

Photo: MDI

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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