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. Sun, 29 Mar 2015 18:57:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Editorials http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/editorials/ Whatizit? Shoulda Known Myron Vernis Had Something to do With It http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/whatizit-shoulda-known-myron-vernis-something/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/whatizit-shoulda-known-myron-vernis-something/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 16:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1028081 But of course! While researching this post I discovered that a previous owner of its subject is actually someone that I know, Myron Vernis. I featured his Mazda Cosmo and Toyota Sports 800 in a post on last year’s Eyes On Design show. Myron owns what has to be the world’s finest collection of oddball cars so […]

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Full gallery here

Full gallery here

But of course! While researching this post I discovered that a previous owner of its subject is actually someone that I know, Myron Vernis. I featured his Mazda Cosmo and Toyota Sports 800 in a post on last year’s Eyes On Design show. Myron owns what has to be the world’s finest collection of oddball cars so the fact that this literally unique vehicle ended up in his hands came as no surprise.

The research that ended up  with a phone call from Vernis started with a post by Jason Torchinsky over at Jalopnik, the second in a series of articles asking readers to identify relatively obscure motor vehicles simply from a photo of the drivetrain. Like many of Torch’s ideas, it’s clever and I’m not saying that just because we tend to write about similar topics. Well, maybe a little, but he’s one of the writers over there whose stuff I try not to miss.

A lot of manufacturer’s engines have ended up in smaller companies’ products so there is some challenge to the game. So far his two photographic riddles have involved the 1951 Tempo Matador commercial van and the Zamboni ice resurfacing machine. Both of those vehicles happen to be powered by air-cooled VW Beetle engines.

That reminded me of another unusual car with an air-cooled flat four, one that I’d personally photographed at the Orphan Car Show in Ypsilanti a few years back. At first I was just going to email Torchinsky a photo to suggest that he’d really stump his audience with it, since this is a one of of a kind car. Then I thought to myself, why should I give Jason content for free when I can get paid for it here not entertain some of own readers here at TTAC instead of helping another site’s traffic?

So what do you think it is? The answer is after the next break.

Photo courtesy of Myron Vernis. Photo credit: Wolfgang Blaube

Photo courtesy of Myron Vernis. Photo credit: Wolfgang Blaube

It’s a Gregory, a one-off project of Ben F. Gregory, an American pioneer in front wheel drive automobiles and the creator of the Vietnam War era M-422 Mighty Mite four wheel drive mini-truck. Small and of light weight so it could be transported and dropped by aircraft, 5,000 of the aluminum intensive M-422s were made by American Motors for the U.S. Marines. Ben seems to have been a bit of a character as well.

Benjamin F. Gregory was born in Missouri in 1890 and lived most of his life in the Kansas City area where he operated one of America’s first commercial air services along with a flight training school. He took his first flight in 1913 but didn’t really gain an interest in aviation for a few years.

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After his discharge from the Army following World War One, he began a lifelong interest in automotive design, particularly front wheel drive. Per Griff Borgeson’s The Golden Age of the American Racing Car, between 1918 and 1922 Gregory assembled ten or so front-wheel-drive automobiles, approximately contemporaneously with the development of the Citroen Traction Avant in Europe and a year or so before the first of racing pioneer Harry Miller’s FWD race cars. Apparently Gregory paid for those experimental front drive cars by barnstorming a track racer powered by a Hispano-Suiza airplane engine.

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Ben Gregory and his eponymous sports car

Attending an American Legion air show in 1920 got him interested in flying again, not as a just as a hobby, but as a business. By 1921 he was flying a three seater plane, offering passengers a seven minute flight for $5. That was a lot of money in the 1920s but then flying was a very novel experience then. He flew more than a half million passengers,  using the slogan, “Fly With Ben”.

In 1930, Gregory upgraded to the first of what would be five Ford trimotors, with a top speed of 90 mph and capable of carrying 13 passengers. I don’t know if the “mile high club” existed back then, but Gregory did perform marriage ceremonies, as captain of the ship, for at least 90 couples while aloft. Ever the promoter, Gregory mounted $15,000 worth of lights and smoke machines to do nighttime meteorite imitations, and nicknamed the plane “The Ship From Mars”.

He had a bit of luck, too, surviving seven plane crashes, including three of his Trimotors. He was too old to be a military pilot during World War II, but he contributed to the war effort flying commercially until a serious crash put him out of commercial aviation. He continued to fly as a hobby, though.

Returning to his passion for automobiles and inspired by the wartime jeep, Gregory, in 1946, started work on what became the M422 Mighty Mite, a lighter, smaller version of the same concept. He incorporated MARCO, the Mid-America Research Corporation and hired a number of the engineers who worked for Bantam designing the original jeep. MARCO debuted the MM100 in 1950. It had an aluminum body, sat on a tiney 64.5 inch wheelbase and it was powered by a 52 hp, 1.5 liter flat four made by Porsche. It had a novel suspension, independent all around, using swing arms and cantilevered quarter elliptical springs at each corner. Both front and rear ends had differentials with aluminum cases as well as inboard brakes.

Helicopters came into their own during the Korean War and the Marine Corps was interested in a jeep-like vehicle that was light enough to be airlifted into battle by the rotary wing aircraft. The USMC was impressed with how well the MM100 performed in their tests and they wanted to go forward with the project, but only if the Porsche engine was replaced with something sourced in America. In 1954, Gregory turned turn the fledgling American Motors, which was working on it’s own air-cooled V4. AMC started building what was called the M422 in 1960. However, the production run was short, some say less than 4,000 and no more than 5,000 were built. What happened is that in the ten years between concept and production, helicopters got stronger and could carry a standard jeep.

In the mid 1950s, Gregory devoted himself to building a front wheel drive sports roadster with a tube space frame and a hand formed aluminum body. Road & Track tested it in 1956. Though at first glance you might think that’s air-cooled flat four is from a VW, but if you look closely it’s actually a Porsche engine, capable of 70 horsepower, roughly double the power output of a Vee Dub motor of that time. I’m guessing that the Porsche motor was left over from the MM100 project. That engine sits in front of the front axle, facing in the opposite direction that it would have been in a bathtub Porsche. A transaxle sits behind the engine and drives the front wheels. R&T reported that the 1,925 lb roadster could approach 100 mph. The steering geometry featured center point steering with a vertical pivot. Rzeppa constant velocity joints at the wheel end of the equal length drive axles were housed inside oversized wheel bearings.

Full gallery here

Myron Vernis at the wheel of the Gregory. Full gallery here

Initial plans were to build and sell 20 of the roadsters at a price of $5,000, a considerable sum of money in the mid 1950s. To compare, a 1956 Corvette had a MSRP of $3,120. It’s not clear if the high price was a factor but Gregory never put his car into production. He did, however, drive it regularly for the rest of his life, putting over 300,000 miles on it. After he died in 1974, his widow gave the sports car to his friend John Burnham of Colorado, who raced it and then sold it. When Bob Chinnery saw that the Gregory was part of a collection that was being liquidated he knew that he had to buy it. A former drag racer, he had a small collection of motorcycles and race cars. He knew about the car because Bob Gregory once approached him at his race shop, pointed to Chinnery’s Jaguar XK120 and asked him if he wanted a ride in a “real sports car”. They ended up becoming good friends.

Chinnery planned to restore the car, still in almost completely original condition, but passed away before that could be done. Myron Vernis bought the car from Chinnery’s estate. He told me that it drove well, and had no torque steer because of the equal length half shafts, but that it did steer a little oddly because of the center pivot steering.

When I photographed the car at the 2011 Orphan Car Show in Ypsilanti, Michigan, it was in Vernis’ collection, but he’s since sold it to the Lane Museum, which says something about the Myron’s taste and eye as a collector.

Speaking of his collection, I suppose that the next car scheduled to join it could be described as mainstream. When I told him I’m in the middle of writing a review of Dodge’s Scat Pack Challenger, Vernis replied, “Oh, I ordered a Hellcat Charger,” rather matter of factly. Well, not quite so matter of factly. I could hear him grin over the phone. Myron has a sly grin that gives me the impression that he knows how it all works. “I wanted the Charger because it has four doors,” he explained. What could be more mainstream than a four door Dodge?

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: 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1989-buick-lesabre-estate-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1989-buick-lesabre-estate-wagon/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 13:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029577 The traditional full-size Detroit station wagon was in trouble by the end of the 1980s, thanks to the rise of the minivan. Increasingly car-like SUVs would kick the other leg out from under big rear-drive wagon sales during the 1990s, and so this great big GM B-platform wagon is one of the last of its […]

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02 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe traditional full-size Detroit station wagon was in trouble by the end of the 1980s, thanks to the rise of the minivan. Increasingly car-like SUVs would kick the other leg out from under big rear-drive wagon sales during the 1990s, and so this great big GM B-platform wagon is one of the last of its type. Look, it’s even a woodie!
04 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Buick Estate name goes way back in GM history. The version we’re looking at in this Northern California wrecking yard is from the final generation of the Estate Wagon, built on the downsized B platform for the 1977 through 1990 model years (after that, you could get a Roadmaster Estate).
09 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe “wood” on this car isn’t particularly convincing.
11 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe cassette deck came with auto-reverse, still a futuristic technology in the eyes of Buick customers in 1989.
14 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe non-wagon LeSabre had gone to the front-drive H-body platform by this time, which must have been a bit confusing for Buick shoppers.

02 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Three Trillion Miles To Freedom http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/three-trillion-miles-freedom/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/three-trillion-miles-freedom/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 18:20:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029377 If you’ve read much of the automotive press or the mainstream media in the past twenty-four hours, you’ve no doubt heard the latest news: Americans drove more miles in January than they’ve driven in any single month since 1970, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Put aside for the fact that the “Federal Highway Association” […]

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If you’ve read much of the automotive press or the mainstream media in the past twenty-four hours, you’ve no doubt heard the latest news: Americans drove more miles in January than they’ve driven in any single month since 1970, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Put aside for the fact that the “Federal Highway Association” shouldn’t be able to quote that number with even a modicum of statistical confidence, and indeed they have no real way to know how many miles are driven in this country. Nor should they be able to do so.

More fascinating than the factoid or the ostensible reasons behind it are the various spins put on it across the blogosphere. Autoblog notes that “nearly half of drivers are fifty years old or above”. Bloomberg turns it into a piece on the economy, touting the recovery while tactfully failing to mention the fact that a record-setting number of people in their prime earning years have given up on even looking for work. The Financial Post reprinted Bloomberg’s story verbatim but focused on the idea that “three is a magic number for the economy.”

Perhaps the most thoughtful analysis on the news, however, was performed by Matt Hardigree at Jalopnik. It’s a pleasure to read and Matt marshals his arguments in careful order towards an obvious conclusion. As fate would have it, however, I find myself forced to hoist the opposing standard.


You can check Matt’s piece out at the obvious place but I’ll summarize the relevant arguments here.

I know we’re an automotive site, but… more miles driven isn’t a good thing for most people.

First, the reason why we have so much cheap oil is largely a decision by OPEC (read: Saudi Arabia) to drive the prices down long enough to discourage U.S. domestic production of oil. Why do they want to do that? Because they want us dependent on them for a long, long time and have so much money they can take a three-year hit.

Second, even if that wasn’t the case, it’s not like the roads are filling up with vintage BRE Datsuns, it’s just commuters in beigemobiles and SUVs. Commuter Culture is antithetical to car culture.

People who would rather not drive to work shouldn’t have to drive to work. We should aim to build a society where there’s a reasonable alternative to driving for people who don’t want to drive. I love driving, I love cars, I love that by living in a city I don’t have to drive to work, I love that I can go drinking and not worry about having to get in a car.

This isn’t good news. Peak Car isn’t happening today, but it should happen.

This all seems eminently reasonable and I found myself nodding along in agreement as I read. Of course, let’s get the beigemobiles and SUVs off the road so I can unleash the barbaric yawp of my air-cooled 911 at an indicated 173mph along an empty freeway. I’d personally love to go drinking and not have to worry about getting in a car. Let’s make reasonable commuting options available for everyone, just like they are in New York, the place where I was born before moving to the sticks and where all the hipsters moved to escape their hick-ass realities and origins.

The problem with this line of thinking is that even I, an authentic Baron of Sealand (it’s true!), can’t quite muster the elitism necessary to make it my authentic and true belief. What Matt thinks of as “Car Culture”, and what I think of as “Car Culture”, is a minor outcropping on a remote peninsula of the American automotive experience. It’s a place where you’re expected to know what a “BRE Datsun” is. It’s a place where all automotive purchase decisions should terminate at either a used Miata or an E36 M3. It’s a place where you see a Corvette in the distance and you need to wait until you can ascertain body configuration, powertrain, and modifications before you can form a true opinion of the fellow driving it. It’s a place where people spend more money racing a Ford Focus than they’d have paid to lease a Murcielago or put a down payment on a multi-family rental dwelling. (Raises hand, sheepishly, thinking about the year 2007.) It’s not the place where most automobile owners live.

But that doesn’t mean that the vast majority of automobile owners live in a bad place, or that they don’t get as much out of car ownership as we do. Quite the contrary. Most of us are like Matt in that we might be willing to take the subway to work every day if we could drive a McLaren around Monticello on the weekends. I don’t particularly enjoying sitting in traffic every morning and every afternoon. Nor do I look forward to parking on the parkway every Labor Day or Memorial Day weekend.

For the average American, however, a car is just a way to get from Point A to Point B, as they desire. That last part is important. A car represents choice. I don’t go to the grocery store or my son’s school or Indianapolis on a schedule set by the government or a public/private partnership or a too-big-to-fail transportation provider. I go when I want to go, stay exactly as long as I want to stay. I don’t run for a train or miss a subway. If I need to transport an item with me, or if I need to bring something back, I’m not limited by my ability to carry that item, and I’m not limited by my ability to protect that item from theft or damage on public transportation.

I’m safe in my car. Maybe not safe from a crash, but reasonably safe from being assaulted or raped — and remember, not everybody in the world shares my height, size, and unpleasant disposition. I can leave an item in my car and have a good chance of returning to find it there. If I need to travel through an area that is unsafe, a car beats walking by a long shot. I can transport my child in my car. I can transport the elderly in my car.

The privately owned automobile, like the privately owned computer or the privately owned firearm, is a great equalizer. It offers the man or woman in the street a small taste of the freedom and capability that the rich take for granted and will never surrender even as their mouthpieces in the media eagerly advocate the capitulation of the public to the common good. It means that I don’t need to be a perfectly healthy and fit twenty-five-year-old man who bench-presses more than my weight to safely conduct my public life. It means that I have options and choices, that I am not seeking permission from a schedule or a committee.

Unlike virtually all of today’s New-York-centric autowriters, I lived in a pre-Giuliani city where crime and violence ran wild. In those days, nobody talked about the freedom of public transportation, because there wasn’t any. Women understood that you didn’t ride the subway at night, that you didn’t walk alone at night. My mother was a captain in the Army and she always traveled with a 215-pound Hispanic master sergeant for protection. Twice the poor guy had to literally shield her with his own body from random gunfire in the streets. Everybody had a mugging story and most people had more than one. The buses were a good place to be fingered or pickpocketed, depending on the valuables you had on your person. You continually heard about “shut-ins” dying: people who no longer had the strength and vitality to run the gauntlet of public transportation and therefore just locked themselves in their rabbit warrens waiting for the end. If you carried a child, you were a target, even if you were the size of Lou Ferrigno.

The fact that twenty years of sustained “police brutality” has turned Times Square into Disney World in no way suggests that such will be the case twenty years from now, particularly if citizens demand that the police start treating hardened criminals with loving tender care. Nor is it the case elsewhere. Are you interested in taking public transportation in Chicago? Baltimore? Do you want to trust your life to crumbling transportation infrastructures? It’s bad enough that we have to drive our cars over the nation’s failing bridge network. In a world where public transportation is the default choice for everyone, we’re all on crumbling bridges, all the time.

Like it or not, there is no future for public transportation across this country as long as it refuses to evolve past the outmoded subway-and-train-and-bus model. That delights urban planners whose opinion of humanity is fundamentally herd/socialist and works fine for the one-third or so of Americans who voluntarily confine themselves in major metropolises but it is anathema to those of us who want to live our lives by something other than the chime of a subway bell. What’s going to be required is transportation that is energy-efficient but responsive to individual needs. After all, this is still a nation that contains many individuals.

When Mr. Obama derisively spoke of Americans who “cling to guns or religion”, he tactfully failed to mention the fact that more Americans continue to cling to cars than to either of the former items — and we are clinging much harder to cars than nearly anybody in the Western Hemisphere clings to any religion. You won’t get us out of our cars without offering a reasonable alternative. That alternative might not be gasoline-powered, it might not be Camry-shaped, but it had better offer us the power to shape our own destinies. Literally. ‘Cause if it doesn’t, three trillion miles in privately-owned, petroleum-powered cars won’t be a peak. It will be just a step.

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Editorial: Here’s A Four Letter Word For CAFE: “WFIO” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/editorial-heres-four-letter-word-cafe-wfio/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/editorial-heres-four-letter-word-cafe-wfio/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 14:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1028369 In Silicon Valley tech parlance, the acronym “WFIO” stands for “We’re F***ed, It’s Over“. When it comes to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy requirements imposed by the Obama administration in 2012, it’s increasingly looking like that scenario is playing out, as the “nudge” meant to get consumers into more fuel efficient cars has given way […]

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Who mugged Toyota? Picture courtesy cafepress.com

In Silicon Valley tech parlance, the acronym “WFIO” stands for “We’re F***ed, It’s Over“. When it comes to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy requirements imposed by the Obama administration in 2012, it’s increasingly looking like that scenario is playing out, as the “nudge” meant to get consumers into more fuel efficient cars has given way to increased purchasing of trucks and SUVs.

On the one hand, CAFE standards have led to some truly astounding innovation. Without it, we’d have never seen a 700 horsepower muscle car capable of hitting low 20 mpg figures on the highway.

But that doesn’t outweigh the rest of CAFE’s negative points. In theory, CAFE is ostensibly a series of regulations design to raise the fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the United States. In practice, it is a farce. Vehicles like pickup trucks, which are most in need of increased fuel efficiency, are either exempted outright, or subject to lax standards. On the other hand, small passenger cars, which already tend to be efficient, must meet extremely stringent targets that is expected to make them significantly expensive in coming years, further diminishing their affordability for consumers and their profitability for auto makers.

Some observers suggest that this is intentional: Detroit auto makers make literally all of their money on large trucks and SUVs, while import manufacturers do so with smaller passenger cars. The current setup favors the home team while hamstringing the import brands. There are other incentives that are equally perverse, like allowing small cars to be re-classified as “light trucks” to help shore up the auto maker’s fleet average (their main target), as well as endless loopholes, credits and other instruments that allow car companies to game the system – and in Tesla’s case, keep themselves afloat while they struggle to remain profitable. The rise in turbocharged engines is also directly attributable to CAFE. These engines essentially “teach to the test”, performing well on fuel economy tests but providing abysmal real world mileage.

Even much of the auto world’s current styling trends are driven by CAFE. It’s no coincidence that every sedan on the market has adopted the “reverse teardrop” shape. It’s the most shape most amenable to enhanced fuel economy, and helps compensate for the high, blunt front ends that are required to meet crash safety standards.

It’s not hard to make the case for CAFE being, at best a poorly crafted bit of big government legislation and at worst an outright scam. There have been rumblings about a review in later years, especially if a GOP administration occupies the White House in 2016. But it’s looking like the marketplace may do the heavy lifting.

Low gas prices and a nascent economic recovery (as well as rather lax auto lending practices among many auto makers) has led to a boom in new vehicle sales. Pickup trucks and SUVs have been leading the way, in a marked reversal from the 2008-2012 period where sales of gas guzzlers trailed off and consumers demanded smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles. To their credit, auto makers responded with unconventional speed, providing a host of compact cars capable of previously unheard of levels of fuel efficiency at competitive prices.

Unfortunately, they haven’t always been met with such a warm reception. The highly acclaimed Ford Fiesta was brought out in response to the economic crisis of 2008, when oil shot up to $147 a barrel. But sales have consistently disappointed and the car has been a money-loser for Ford, even though it’s built in Mexico. The next generation will be imported from Thailand in a bid to make the car less of a hit to Ford’s bottom line.

On the other hand, Ford’s F-Series, GM’s four pickup trucks and the new lineup of Ram trucks have all been enjoying strong sales. Pickups, CUVs and SUVs are replacing mid-size sedans as the American family hauler of choice. At the same time, hybrid vehicles, electric vehicles and diesel engines are marginal players in the automotive market, thanks to their relative expensive, lack of economic payback and a significant move downward in gas prices. It all adds up to a massive, consumer driven middle finger to the entire CAFE regime.

Publicly, the people behind CAFE are on board. One Department of Transportation official promised to incorporate the current state of the market in the scheduled CAFE review that is currently underway. The same official said that the target is “not solid ground”. But despite the consumer friendly words, CAFE has consistently shown a bias towards top down, technocratic solutions that are designed with the legislator and the auto maker in mind.

If the bureaucrats behind CAFE are having a “WFIO” moment, then we ought to help, erm, nudge them towards a good decision for all of us. We don’t need to scrap CAFE – after all, we wouldn’t have the SRT Hellcat without it – but we do need a radical rethink of the way we measure fuel economy standards, both in terms of individual vehicle tests and a fleet average. Like the often-proposed simplified tax code, there should be a minimum amount of loopholes and credits, and an enhanced emphasis on transparency.

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Junkyard Find: 1983 Mitsubishi Cordia http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1983-mitsubishi-cordia-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1983-mitsubishi-cordia-2/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 13:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1028673 The Mitsubishi Cordia was one of the first Mitsubishi-badged cars to be sold in the United States (prior to that, US-market Mitsubishis were Chrysler captive imports). They didn’t sell in huge quantities, and we don’t remember the Cordia as well as the Starion or even the Mighty Max, but I still see the occasional example […]

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08 - 1983 Mitsubishi Cordia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Mitsubishi Cordia was one of the first Mitsubishi-badged cars to be sold in the United States (prior to that, US-market Mitsubishis were Chrysler captive imports). They didn’t sell in huge quantities, and we don’t remember the Cordia as well as the Starion or even the Mighty Max, but I still see the occasional example in California wrecking yards. There was this ’83 Cordia Turbo (from which I obtained the amazing digital instrument cluster), this ’84 Cordia, and this ’87 Cordia Turbo, and here’s this well-worn ’83.
03 - 1983 Mitsubishi Cordia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThat’s a lot of miles for an early-80s Mitsubishi. Actually, even (non-diesel) Mercedes-Benzes were hard-pressed to get to 200k back then.
04 - 1983 Mitsubishi Cordia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car has been used up.

You can’t talk about the Cordia without showing this maddening Australian-market ad.

This Japanese-market one is a puzzler.

Then there’s this list of “Cars whooped by my Cordia.”

01 - 1983 Mitsubishi Cordia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1983 Mitsubishi Cordia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1983 Mitsubishi Cordia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1983 Mitsubishi Cordia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1983 Mitsubishi Cordia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1983 Mitsubishi Cordia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1983 Mitsubishi Cordia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1983 Mitsubishi Cordia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1983 Mitsubishi Cordia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1983 Mitsubishi Cordia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1983 Mitsubishi Cordia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1983 Mitsubishi Cordia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1983 Mitsubishi Cordia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1983 Mitsubishi Cordia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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The Last Emperor: 1983 Chrysler Imperial http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/last-emperor-1983-chrysler-imperial/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/last-emperor-1983-chrysler-imperial/#comments Sun, 22 Mar 2015 14:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1026785 It was the late 1970s. Following the oil crisis in the wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, Japanese automakers were able to go from having a foothold on the west coast to being major players in the domestic American market. In 1976, Honda introduced the first generation Accord, a revolutionary package that combined outstanding […]

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Full gallery here

Full gallery here

It was the late 1970s. Following the oil crisis in the wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, Japanese automakers were able to go from having a foothold on the west coast to being major players in the domestic American market. In 1976, Honda introduced the first generation Accord, a revolutionary package that combined outstanding fuel economy, front wheel drive, reliability, practicality, sprightly performance and a standard equipment list that included a stereo and air conditioning. At the time, Chrysler was headed by Lee Iacocca and in a changing automotive world, for some reason Iacocca decided that what Chrysler needed was a large personal luxury car. Burton Bouwkamp, who was director of body engineering for Chrysler at the time, recalled his boss barking “Where the hell is our Cadillac/Lincoln entry?” The result was the 1981-83 Chrysler Imperial, the last V8 powered Imperial to be produced.

The decision was made to use the company’s B-body platform, originally developed for the Plymouth Belvedere and Dodge Coronet. That what was formerly an intermediate sized mass market middle class car was turned into a luxury car indicates the kind of wrenching upheavals the auto industry went through in the 1970s. By then the B-body had morphed into the Chrysler Cordoba (itself originally planned as a Plymouth) and Dodge Mirada. A design by Steven N. Bollinger from 1977 for a Chrysler with a formal grille and bustle back rear end named the La Scala was pulled down from the shelf and that became the 1981 Imperial. Bustle backed personal luxury cars were big in Detroit in the mid to late 1970s, with Cadillac and Lincoln both offering cars with that styling feature.

Though it was based on the Cordoba, the Imperial was not a case of badge engineering, having unique sheet metal and it’s own interior and instrument panel, an early Detroit experiment with electronic dashboards. Heavier gauge steel was used for some panels and the Imperial got more sound proofing than the Cordoba. Another use of electronics was the fact that the 318 cubic inch V8 powering the Imperial had Chrysler’s first modern electronic fuel injection system (the company experimented with fuel injection back in the 1950s, making it available as an option). Each Imperial, when assembled, also underwent a rigid post-production inspection and quality control check that included a five and a half mile test drive. Other QC checks done on every Imperial also included  a high pressure leak test, electronics check, underbody bolt torque inspection, hot engine testing and front end alignment. The Imperial also came with Chrysler’s best warranty, bumper to bumper for 30,000 miles or two years. They were warrantied against rust for three years. Those short terms seem quaint today when low cost Korean cars come with 100,000 mile warranties but consumers had lower expectations then.

Each imperial also came with a Mark Cross gift set including an umbrella, leather bound folder, a gold and leather key fob and a spare uncut ignition key made with Cartier crystal. A power moonroof was the only option, though customers could choose from wire spoke hubcaps or cast aluminum wheels, and between a cassette player, 8-track unit, or a CB radio. Standard equipment included thermostatic climate control, a built in garage door opener, electrically heated and adjusted rear view mirrors, the aforementioned electronic instrument cluster, power trunk release, 500 amp battery, rear window defroster, leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-beam map/dome lights, cruise control, power windows and locks, the extra sound insulation, and a 30-watt stereo.

The electronic dash was Chrysler’s own, designed in their Hunstville, Alabama plant that dated to Chrysler’s participation in the U.S. space program. While the display used some fluorescent tubes, the indicators for washer fluid, oil pressure, engine temperature, door ajar, alternator and brake problems were normal incandescent light bulbs, so the system also included a test for bad bulbs.

digidash_chryslerlebaron81

The 1991-93 Imperial also featured an early example of a range indicator and microprocessors controlled displays for speed, time, distance, fuel level and transmission gear. Moving past mere buzzers as warnings, the Imperial featured a spectrum of chimes, beeps and tones to remind drivers about seat belts, or headlights and ignition keys left on.

At a MSRP of $20,988, it was the most expensive production car offered by an American automaker in 1981. However, even at that price, it was a money loser. Some say that each Imperial sold ended up costing Chrysler $10,000 in warranty costs. As was the case with a lot of 1980s vintage electronics, the fuel injection system was not reliable. Complaints and lawsuits followed. Eventually Chrysler supplied dealers with a carburetor kit to replace the EFI. One complainant was apparently Iacocca’s buddy Frank Sinatra, for whom a signature model of the Imperial was made. The way the story goes, Sinatra was driving, perhaps to Vegas, in the car and high voltage transmission lines running next to the highway started to interfere with the fuel injection system. Just 278 of the Frank Sinatra Edition Imperials were made, reflective of the regular model’s lack of success, with less than 13,000 sold over the three years it was offered.

Our colleague Murilee Martin spotted one of the FS Imperials at a San Francisco area junkyard not long ago. While it still had its Glacier Blue paint (to match Ol’ Blue Eyes’ blue eyes), platinum colored carpet, sky blue upholstery, Frank Sinatra emblems, and a custom console for holding the 10 Frank Sinatra audio cassettes that came with the car, the cassettes and their bespoke leather carrying case were gone.

1981ImperialAd04

In time, Iacocca would disclaim that the last real Imperial was his idea, having hired in at Chrysler in 1979, only 18 months before the model’s introduction. He said the car was former CEO John Riccardo’s idea. Iacocca, though, midwifed the Imperial and linked his and his buddy Frank Sinatra’s reputations to the car. J.P. Cavanaugh over at Curbside Classics thinks the embarrassing failure of the last RWD Imperial is the reason why Iacocca and Chrysler spent much of the next two decades churning out low risk variants of the K-car, including the 1990-93 Imperial. They even made a stretch limo on the K platform.

The 1983 Chrysler Imperial pictured here was photographed at the 2014 Sloan Museum Auto Fair in Flint, Michigan. The owner wasn’t near the car so I couldn’t check on it’s originality, but based on the dealer stickers that are still on the rear valence, my guess is that it’s a pristine survivor, not a restoration. It’s a great looking car (well, for the era) that didn’t give up anything to Cadillac and Lincoln in the looks department, even if its iffy electronics make it a poster child for the malaise era.

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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CODE BROWN! Range Anxiety and The 24 Hours of LeMons http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/code-brown-range-anxiety-24-hours-lemons/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/code-brown-range-anxiety-24-hours-lemons/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 11:53:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1025417   One item that came up often on TTAC’s request for feedback on Code Brown’s review concerned its range.  And while range anxiety is real for some, the P85D sports a 200+ mile range (253 according to Tesla’s website) which met my needs in a large metropolitan area. But when I hit the road for The 24 […]

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Or No Go?

One item that came up often on TTAC’s request for feedback on Code Brown’s review concerned its range.  And while range anxiety is real for some, the P85D sports a 200+ mile range (253 according to Tesla’s website) which met my needs in a large metropolitan area.

But when I hit the road for The 24 Hours of LeMons, range anxiety was real.  

Let’s look at range anxiety logically: plan the trip and decide if Code Brown is the right vehicle.

  • Determine the charge before leaving: possibly irrelevant as there was a (not-free) charging station (photo above) next to my office, if I couldn’t make it to the first Supercharger in Huntsville for a top off…so to speak.
  • Find Tesla Superchargers: two on I-45 between Houston and Dallas, even though I hate fruitcake more than waiting 30-60 minutes to charge my late night ride for the trip to Decatur, TX.
    • I reached that Supercharger at 10 pm, two hours after the attached bakery closes. But there is a 24-hr Whataburger nearby!
  • Find local charging stations: Eagles Canyon Raceway (ECR) lacks 220V charging/RV hookup, ditto my hotel in Decatur. Even if I could get 110V charging, that’s slow enough to limit my work at LeMons (i.e. be late, not run errands, etc.) Since Decatur is 15 miles from the track with no public vehicle charging stations, this looks bad.
  • Plan for Weather: the heater is a serious battery drain and coldweatheris guaranteed. Especially if I used Code Brown as a Judgemobile to hunt cheaty racers in the paddock.

Or forget about this and hop in a gas-powered vehicle. You will fill it up at least once (5-10 minutes max), saving much time and effort.

While Code Brown’s brilliant traction control system manipulating all four wheels woulda maybe come in handy (even with wide all season tires) this was a bad idea. Turns out, everything in and around ECR was frozen solid.

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A fine day for racin’…

There was 6-7″ of snow on Friday, which stopped all but a few cars from testing the track the day before the race. A few 4x4s enjoyed the free track time.

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Ditto this super, uber, cheaty turbo DSM.  Mitsubishis tend to go explodey in endurance races, but this Eclipse now had a fighting chance.

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Photo Courtesy: Murileemartin.com

Because of my not perfect health, I was ridiculously layered under my judicial robe. Getting dressed was exhausting, considering my evening run to WalMart in Decatur for proper work boots after my sneakers turned to cold and wet mush.

This was neither the time nor the place to deal with range anxiety and/or a trip to the nearest supercharger in Denton.

256-71 - QZnZjZE

Photo Courtesy: Murileemartin.com

It woulda been fun to drive Code Brown on ECR’s tight and complex track…maybe if I borrowed stole power from a racer’s generator/RV…

Not a bad idea, as I was changing the lineup for this race.

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Photo Courtesy: Murileemartin.com

This super cheaty Mustang burned race fuel with a fantastic lopey cam: clearly an American Iron racer sneaking into LeMons.  This was a solid Class C (slowest) contender in the snow. Probably.

Granted, they’d self-destruct (i.e. tortoise-vs-hare driving) to the point they’d never have a snowball’s chance in hell…it’s still a Class A car.

 

196-10 - IKT26Ar

Photo Courtesy: Murileemartin.com

And this slow but surprisingly consistent Honda CVCC could be a Class A car given current conditions. Very tempting!

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Photo Courtesy: Murileemartin.com

Such lemony cheating skills! The zip-tie snow chains made this early 60s Dodge Dart with Chrysler LH wheels appear worthy of what Mother Nature was dishin’ out.

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Photo Courtesy: Murileemartin.com

Judging in these conditions was mind altering. Sadly the weather never improved enough to race. As the snow turned to slush, we took a few cars on the track to warm up the surface, more photos here. Wishful thinking: while the roads in and around Decatur were good, everything near ECR remained unplowed.

Many racers (relaxing in many RVs around the paddock) wanted a go, but seemed happy with the final decision.We tried, but it wasn’t in the cards.

FWIW, the LeMons crew used a rental V6 Dodge Charger, a late-model Fusion Hybrid, a new Jeep Cherokee and my Ranger (with 100+ lbs of ballast) as transportation. They all performed flawlessly, thanks to restrained drivers and sharp witted active handling nannies.  So do I regret not taking on the challenge of driving Code Brown to ECR?

Yes, but with a full-time job with regular office hours, a weak body recovering from Stevens-Johnson (less time recharging batteries, more time recharging the body) driving a Tesla in these conditions was foolish or perhaps dangerous. It remains a city car for me, unless I was visiting Dallas. No worries there.

There’s not enough infrastructure in parts of the flyover states for everyone to have everything. And with that, be ready for the rest of Code Brown’s review in the coming weeks.

Thanks for reading, have a lovely weekend.

 

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Junkyard Find: 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1973-mercedes-benz-280c-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1973-mercedes-benz-280c-2/#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2015 13:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1023561 There’s a lot of talk going around about how every restorable example of the Mercedes-Benz W114 coupe is worth plenty these days. Five grand? Ten grand? The junkyard tells me that the real-world prices for these cars in non-perfect condition is still quite low, because I see them regularly. Here’s a solid, fairly complete ’73 […]

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15 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere’s a lot of talk going around about how every restorable example of the Mercedes-Benz W114 coupe is worth plenty these days. Five grand? Ten grand? The junkyard tells me that the real-world prices for these cars in non-perfect condition is still quite low, because I see them regularly. Here’s a solid, fairly complete ’73 without a speck of rust that I saw in a Northern California junkyard a few weeks ago, and this car comes on the heels of this ’71 250C, this ’73 280CE, this ’74 280C, and a bunch of W114 sedans that I haven’t even bothered to photograph. I’m sure that the cost to restore one of these things is just breathtaking, which is why those in the know rarely take on such projects.
12 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIn their time, these cars made just about every conceivable competitor look like a shoddily-built, frivolous rattletrap, built for idiots who didn’t understand the value of a Deutsche Mark.
04 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHow’s this for dignified air-conditioning controls?
10 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car listed at $11,530 new, which was about 61 grand in 2015 bucks. Meanwhile, the much bigger, cushier, more powerful 1973 Lincoln Mark IV cost just $8,694 (just for fun, how about a brand-new Citroën SM— about the least sensible car you could buy in 1973, yet also the most beautiful— for $13,350?), while the Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado— with five hundred cubic inches under the hood, no less— could be purchased for $7,360.

01 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Bark’s Bites: Subaru, We Hardly Knew Ye http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/barks-bites-subaru-hardly-knew-ye/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/barks-bites-subaru-hardly-knew-ye/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 14:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1024529 Those of you who regularly read Bark’s Bites (Hi, Mom!) may remember my tale of acquiring a friend’s 1996 Subaru Legacy Wagon. I posted that article on August 29th, 2014. On March 9th, 2015, the SuBaruth, as it came to be known, died. Here is her story. Over the course of seven months, I put nearly […]

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Those of you who regularly read Bark’s Bites (Hi, Mom!) may remember my tale of acquiring a friend’s 1996 Subaru Legacy Wagon. I posted that article on August 29th, 2014.

On March 9th, 2015, the SuBaruth, as it came to be known, died.

Here is her story.

Over the course of seven months, I put nearly seven thousand miles on her.  She occasionally refused to start, but most days, she turned over with a bit of a struggle and let me pilot her wherever I wanted to go. She took trips as far away as Myrtle Beach, SC, about a nine hour drive from my Old Kentucky Home, with nary a complaint. Sure, she made a few weird noises every now and then, but everything worked pretty well.

Until it didn’t.

I took her on a drive to Fort Wayne, Indiana, a few weeks ago. She was performing her regular duties without complaint, making a 480-mile roundtrip without dissent, when we encountered a patch of black ice at about sixty miles per hour. All of a sudden, we were sideways on Interstate 69, sliding without much hope of stopping. Against all natural instincts, I stayed off of the brakes and countersteered slightly, feathering the accelerator and silently praying. Miraculously, she caught grip and I was able to right her again. Over the next mile of highway, I saw no fewer than a dozen cars in the ditch. Our little slide probably lasted five seconds at the most, but it felt like an eternity. I patted her on the dashboard and told her, “Thanks, SuBaruth. I think you just saved our lives.”

That night, however, on the trip back, she started making a mechanical grinding sound. It was coming from the driver’s side front wheel. The car started pulling fairly hard to the right, as well. I pulled off at the next exit, got out of the car in the pouring rain, and did a visual inspection of the car. Everything looked to be okay—the tires were fine, the tie rods seemed to be straight from what I could tell—so I got back in the car and cautiously continued on. For some reason, the sound stopped and the car started tracking normally again. Weird. Then again, this is the magical self-fixing Subaru.

After I got home, I parked her in the driveway for a few days until my trip to the airport the following Monday. When I drove her out of that same driveway, I immediately knew that something was wrong. The grinding sound was much, much worse, and it increased greatly under acceleration. I had made it about a mile when I decided to turn around and go home.

Unfortunately, the last left turn onto my street proved to be too much for the old girl. With a loud bang that was all too familiar from my days of autocrossing S2000s, the car just stopped. I got out and looked at the front left wheel—the tire had blown, but I was pretty sure that wasn’t all that was wrong. I called my insurance company and had them tow it to my local garage. Since the SuBaruth is car number four in the fleet, I called them up and told them that there was no urgency in repairing it.

I received the autopsy call yesterday morning. I felt bad for the lady on the phone—she was clearly under the impression that the little wagon was my only means of transportation, and she was calling with horrific news. First of all, the timing belt was bad—they couldn’t even get the car to start. Secondly, as I feared, the axle had broken. But it hadn’t just broken; it had snapped with such amazing force that it had sent a seven-inch piece of itself spinning into the left front rim, ripping a tremendous hole in it in the process which is what caused the tire to blow. It had also damaged the right front wheel. Both tie rods were destroyed, too. Total repair estimate: at least $1200, including labor.

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See that massive black hole? Yeah, that’s my front left rim. In the words of the garage tech, “I have NEVER, EVER, seen that before.”

I weighed my options carefully. I could:

  1. Junk the car and be done with it.
  2. Pay the garage more than twice what I had originally paid for the car, and still have a nineteen-year old Subaru that was likely to have some other things break in the near future.
  3. Do what all TTAC commenters would have done, which is break out my impressive array of tools, put the car up on the lift in my garage, and spend thirty minutes repairing all of the issues myself.

Guess which one I did?

Number one, obviously.

The garage offered to junk it for me, saving me the hassle of draining all of the fluids, etc. I probably could have sold it as a parts car for a couple of hundred bucks, but time is money and all that. I  donated the car to the garage as a favor for doing all of the diagnostic work for me—hopefully they’ll be able to get some money out of it. I went to the garage and retrieved my personal items from the car (including three dollars in change, a saxophone stand, a folder of CDs, and a yoga mat) and said goodbye to the old girl. Maybe she’ll be featured in one of Murilee’s junkyard finds in the near future. I hope CrabSpirits is able to spin an eloquent yarn about her. She deserves one.

So, what would I have done differently, if given the chance to do it all over again?

  • I would have done a more thorough mechanical review of the car upon purchase. I had the garage look at it when it wouldn’t start regularly that first week, but in hindsight I would have asked them to put it up on the lift and give it a once over. I’m not sure if that would have prevented this axle issue, but it might have.
  • I would have driven it directly to the garage rather than taking it home. Assuming that they would have just had to fix the axle and the timing issue, that might have only been a $500 repair.
  • That’s about it.

Was buying the Subaru a good financial decision after all was said and done? Let’s see:

  • The car cost me $600
  • The total registration property taxes on it were $86
  • It cost me $38 a month to insure it
  • I drove it about 7,000 miles and averaged 26 MPG on 87 octane fuel. At $2.20 a gallon, that’s about $593 in fuel costs.

What if I had put those seven thousand winter miles on the Boss 302 instead?

  • KBB Very Good value on a Boss with 30,000 miles is $35,969. Changing that value to 37,000 miles makes it worth $35,002
  • The Boss averages about 18 MPG combined on 93 octane fuel. Those 7,000 miles would have cost me about $972 in premium fuel, assuming $2.50 a gallon.
  • I wouldn’t have had any additional insurance costs
  • However, I would have needed to buy winter rims and tires for the Boss. The cheapest winter wheel/tire combo available at Tire Rack is $1,528 plus shipping. Divide that by four, assuming that the wheels and tires would last about four seasons (or that I would sell the car in four years or less) and it comes up to $382.

In total, the Subaru cost me $1,545 to operate for seven months. However, operating the Boss over the same time period would have cost me $2,321. That’s a savings of $776. I call that a win. Repairing the Subaru at a cost of $1200 would have meant that I would have needed to operate the Subaru for another year with no additional repair costs just to come out even, which seems unlikely. Now that I have the Fiesta ST, as well, it’s doubtful that I would have driven it as much as I did. It’s more likely that I’ll just throw a set of snows on the Fiesta next winter and avoid the additional insurance, maintenance, and acquisition cost of another beater.

Because, after all of this, my number one takeaway is that I’m really not cut out for the Beater Life. I don’t want to have to spend time fixing (or, in my case learning how to fix) cars. I don’t really enjoy driving old cars. I loved the Subaru, but she would have been better off in the hands of somebody who would have taken better care of her, in all honesty. A little bit of preemptive care and she’d likely still be on the road today.

All in all, a valuable lesson about who I am and what I expect out of a car. Your mileage may and likely will vary. God speed, SuBaruth.

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Junkyard Find: 1972 Plymouth Duster http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1972-plymouth-duster/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1972-plymouth-duster/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 13:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1022833 Compared to the stodgy-and-sensible Valiant on which it was based, the Plymouth Duster was pretty sporty and sold well to coupe shoppers who wanted a cheap car that could handle indifferent maintenance and bad road conditions (the Zaporozhets not being available in the United States). These things were amazingly reliable for the era, when not […]

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14 - 1972 Plymouth Duster Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinCompared to the stodgy-and-sensible Valiant on which it was based, the Plymouth Duster was pretty sporty and sold well to coupe shoppers who wanted a cheap car that could handle indifferent maintenance and bad road conditions (the Zaporozhets not being available in the United States). These things were amazingly reliable for the era, when not so many cars made it to 100,000 miles, but most were discarded like empty pull-tab Burgie cans during the 1980s. The Duster survivors today tend to be lovingly restored trailer queens. That makes the 1970-76 Duster a rare Junkyard Find, so I broke out the camera immediately when I saw this ’72 in a Northern California wrecking yard.
13 - 1972 Plymouth Duster Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYes, you could still buy a Detroit car with four-wheel drum brakes as late as 1972. If you don’t like it, buddy, you can just move to Sweden!
07 - 1972 Plymouth Duster Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou don’t see many Slant-6 Chrysler A-bodies with air conditioning.
18 - 1972 Plymouth Duster Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI considered buying the A/C control panel, figuring that it’s probably worth something. Then I came to my senses.
05 - 1972 Plymouth Duster Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinUnlike rolling stones, cars that sit outdoors in the shade in Northern California tend to gather moss.
17 - 1972 Plymouth Duster Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBack when it used to rain during the winter in this region, outdoor-stored cars would rust in areas in which water pooled.

For $73.95 more than the Chevy Vega, you could get the Duster with 15 more horsepower and whitewall tires!

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Capsule Review: 2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-volkswagen-golf-sportwagen/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-volkswagen-golf-sportwagen/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 12:45:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1020681 At the launch event for the Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen in Austin, Texas, a chat with one gentleman from Volkswagen AG turns to a discussion of old Saab rally cars and his affinity for Swedish cars. The future of Saab seems up in the air, but in his mind, Volvo’s is more clear-cut. “These next few […]

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At the launch event for the Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen in Austin, Texas, a chat with one gentleman from Volkswagen AG turns to a discussion of old Saab rally cars and his affinity for Swedish cars. The future of Saab seems up in the air, but in his mind, Volvo’s is more clear-cut. “These next few months will be crucial,” he says, as talk turns to the launch of the XC90, “this is their last chance to turn things around.”

By the end of the event, I’m convinced that VW has built a better Volvo than Volvo itself.

Last year, Volvo re-introduced the station wagon to American consumers on account of popular demand from the Volvo faithful. Apparently, the longer, larger and infinitely more practical XC70 isn’t a true station wagon thanks to a slightly higher ride height and a bit of cladding. Talk about the narcissism of small differences.

What we got was the V60, which is a fine car to drive, but a poor station wagon, when examined in the context of what a Volvo station wagon traditionally is; practical, with plenty of room for people and cargo, prioritizing utility over beauty. Again, the XC70 is a better wagon, but the Puritancial enthusiasts among us refuse to accept it as a wagon. The V60 is the inverse of that formula. As much as I liked driving it, it is simply too impractical and too expensive to recommend to most people.

The best solution now comes from Volkswagen, which offers something that fills the role of a traditional station wagon while costing literally half as much as a V60. The Golf Sportwagen takes the MQB platform of the Golf, GTI and Golf R and stretches it out a bit to create a proper wagon profile. The end result is a vehicle that keeps its car-like profile, while offering more cargo space than a Mazda CX-5 or Jeep Cherokee (30.6 cubic feet with the seats up, 66.5 with the seats down). Like every other MQB car I’ve sampled, there’s plenty of space in the back for passengers too. Certainly more than the V60, not to mention the Cherokee, which is unfortunately lacking in room for anyone over 6 feet tall.

On the road, the Golf Sportwagen has the minimum amount of engagement required to keep a keen driver engaged. As Jack said, the basic Golf is a remarkably composed car for something with a giant hole in the body structure. Extrapolate that to the wagon, which has a bigger hole in it, and you get an idea of what you’re dealing with here. There’s more body roll than one would like to experience in corners, and the steering is a bit light on both weight and feel, but having driven two examples with different wheel and tire packages, I suspect that good rubber would help remedy some of these issues. On the whole, it still sits on the right side of “fun to drive”.

The new 1.8T engine isn’t bad, but the diesel is a true gem. Like any diesel, it falls off towards the upper end of the rev range, but the low-end torque more than makes up for it. It’s also remarkably smooth for a compression-ignition engine, and only when you’re outside can you hear the signature “clackclackclack” that lets you know it’s an oil-burner. But that’s a small price to pay given the numbers: 150 horsepower, 236 lb-ft of torque and 31/43 mpg city highway (42 mpg if you opt for the DSG). For me, the diesel is the obvious choice. I like the low-end torque and the refined feel, but the TSI engine has a fair bit more oomph up to (170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft) and respectable fuel economy numbers(25/35 mpg with the automatic) and the TDI may not make economic sense for many drivers. Caveat emptor and all that.

The interior materials and quality appear to be head and shoulders above the competition. As my drive partner, Jalopnik’s Patrick George, said “getting into a Focus after a Golf is a lesson in abject disappointment.” I think it’s even better than the new A3, which really does look like a cut rate Audi. My main gripe is the antiquated looking infotainment system and the lack of a USB port. Both of those will be fixed for model year 2016, when Apple CarPlay and Android support will be added, as well as somewhere to plug your devices in. The overall styling of the car isn’t going to incite sexual arousal in any human being, but it looks elegant in a restrained sort of way, like a pretty girl does when wearing head to toe Ann Taylor. It will age well, if nothing else.

My ideal Sportwagen would have the 2.0T out of the GTI, but for now, I find myself desiring a TDI Sportwagen with a 6-speed. It is the ultimate in cerebral compromise. A base TSI wagon starts at $21,395, while a TDI wagon starts at around $26,000. Loaded examples of both gasoline and diesel Sportwagens just avoid the $30k mark. you’ll have to wait until 2016 to get an all-wheel drive Golf. Volvo will sell you an AWD wagon right now, and it will have a much more powerful engine. Even so, the Sportwagen’s sticker price is nearly half that of the V60, but it in no way is it half the car.

The Sportwagen could conceivably do everything you would ever want in a passenger car, and never find yourself wanting for more. Ok, maybe something with more sex appeal, but like I said, it is the ultimate car to appeal to your head. If it’s the heart you’re after, you may want to look at something entirely different than a station wagon. Then again, if VW wanted to put their 2.0L turbo engines under the hood, the case for buying a V60 would evaporate, since a T6 Volvo wouldn’t be any faster than a GTI powered Sportwagen.

When Patrick asked the same gentleman who he thought VW competed with in the United States, he suggested Subaru (pronounced Soo-BAH-roo) and Honda. Volvo was not mentioned. But if the upcoming Tiguan and Passat (which will both be built on MQB) are this good, Volvo may have some competition for the XC60 and S60 as well.

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Junkyard Find: 1989 Nissan Pulsar NX http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1989-nissan-pulsar-nx/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1989-nissan-pulsar-nx/#comments Tue, 17 Mar 2015 13:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1022657 The Nissan Pulsar NX was a weird little two-seater sold in the US market for the 1983 through 1990 model years. Now, the coolest thing about the Pulsar NX was the Sportbak wagon-conversion option, available on the second-gen version, but I have yet to see a Sportbak in a junkyard. So far in this series, […]

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04 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinThe Nissan Pulsar NX was a weird little two-seater sold in the US market for the 1983 through 1990 model years. Now, the coolest thing about the Pulsar NX was the Sportbak wagon-conversion option, available on the second-gen version, but I have yet to see a Sportbak in a junkyard. So far in this series, I’ve photographed this ’83, this ’87, and now today’s ’89.
15 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinThis being a California car, it’s not a bit rusty. Maybe it wouldn’t pass the smog test, maybe it broke something costing more than a few hundred bucks to fix, maybe it picked up too many San Francisco parking tickets, or maybe it just plain wore out.
09 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinOver 200,000 miles.


Someone please explain: why is 1980s nostalgia big these days?

01 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 02 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 03 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 04 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 05 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 06 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 07 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 08 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 09 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 10 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 11 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 12 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 13 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 14 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 15 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 16 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin

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Boycotting Every Race On the 2015 Formula One Calendar http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/boycotting-every-race-2015-formula-one-calendar/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/boycotting-every-race-2015-formula-one-calendar/#comments Mon, 16 Mar 2015 22:26:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1018042 Disclosure: I love Formula One. At least a dozen times every year, I inadvertently wake up my wife and dog at 4:30 in the morning (Pacific time) as I yelp wildly in the living room and watch the live race feed. As a left-of-center F1 fan, three issues gnaw at me. One, the sport is perceived […]

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Disclosure: I love Formula One. At least a dozen times every year, I inadvertently wake up my wife and dog at 4:30 in the morning (Pacific time) as I yelp wildly in the living room and watch the live race feed.

As a left-of-center F1 fan, three issues gnaw at me. One, the sport is perceived as elitist. One Percenters(tm) own the teams, pack the hospitality suites at races, and park their mega-yachts next to race tracks. Two, a lot of fuel is used to fly the cars, the equipment, and crews all over the world, from Singapore to Austin.

But what really irks me is the politics. Emerging economies, oftentimes with authoritarian regimes, pay tens of millions to have the privilege to host a race. And F1, as a business, has no problem taking the money.

Sometimes, the host country’s government is so brutal, a boycott is called. But do boycotts work? What is their purpose? Their goal? Where do you draw the line? How do you compare a violent regime that oppresses its small population with a large democracy that has violated the privacy rights of millions?

I have put together a list of all the 2015 venues and come up with reasons (some legitimate, some tongue-in-cheek) to boycott their races. Let us know in the comments whether you think boycotting is an empty gesture or a collective (and effective) statement against a universal wrong. And finally, is not boycotting a political statement as well?

Red Zone:

China

  • Gross gross polluter.
  • Oppression of Uyghur minority in Xinjiang.
  • Lack of press freedom.

Bahrain

Russia

  • Lack of LGBT rights.
  • Ukraine.
  • Assassination of political opponents and journalists.
  • Kuril Islands (if you are a Japanese nationalist with a long memory).

Yellow Zone:

Malaysia

  • Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim serving 5-year prison term…for sodomy. That’s one way of snuffing out dissent.

United States

  • Use of drones for extrajudicial killings in Yemen and Pakistan.
  • NSA eavesdropping.
  • Guantanamo.

Mexico

  • Narco-violence everywhere.
  • Corruption everywhere.

Green Zone:

Australia

  • Asylum policy (directing boat people to Nauru and Papua New Guinea).
  • Draconian Bathurst racetrack policy, limiting each visitor to 24 cans of regular beer or 36 cans of light beer per day.
  • Daring to boot Bart Simpson, a minor.

Spain

  • Spanish Inquisition.

Monaco

  • It’s a monarchy.

Canada

  • Justin Bieber.

Austria

  • I can’t find anything wrong with Austria.

Great Britain

Germany

  • The Greeks don’t seem to like Germans.
  • BMW’s insanely and needlessly complicated current model line-up.

Hungary

  • Pro-Russian government.

Belgium

Italy

  • Less-than-robust care of African boat people.

Singapore

Japan

  • Has not properly apologized to China and Korea for World War II (if you are Chinese or Korean).

Brazil

  • Rampant, uncontrolled gold mining along Brazil-French Guiana-Suriname borders.

Abu Dhabi/United Arab Emirates

As for me, I have boycotted the Bahrain and Russian Grand Prix. Once, I accidentally watched the Bahrain Grand Prix. I atoned myself by making a donation to Human Rights Watch.

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Heritage Cuts Both Ways http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/heritage-cuts-ways/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/heritage-cuts-ways/#comments Sun, 15 Mar 2015 13:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1015466 An old friend ran the Aragon Ballroom back in the days when it was Chicago’s version of Bill Graham’s Fillmores. He told me that contemporary rock bands that didn’t know any better would insist on being higher on the bill than Sha-Na-Na. After all, Sha-Na-Na was an oldies act, with gold lame suits and greaser […]

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Gallery links below

Gallery links below

An old friend ran the Aragon Ballroom back in the days when it was Chicago’s version of Bill Graham’s Fillmores. He told me that contemporary rock bands that didn’t know any better would insist on being higher on the bill than Sha-Na-Na. After all, Sha-Na-Na was an oldies act, with gold lame suits and greaser shtick. Sha-Na-Na, however, were great entertainers and they would kill the audience. Bowser would come to the edge of the stage, spit something out about “f’in hippies” and by the end of the set the hippies would be dancing in the aisles. The musicians who insisted on higher billing would afterwards insist on never following Sha-Na-Na again. Sometimes, though, following a great act can inspire greatness too, as when Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones reluctantly followed James Brown on the TAMI Show. Performing music or introducing new cars, you don’t want to be upstaged and if you do happen to follow your inspirations, you had better be inspired.

Car companies like to bask in the reflected glory of previous accomplishments of their firms, even if those accomplishments might have been a generation, or a century, ago. That explains why automakers will bring out historical examples of their nameplates to auto shows. At the Detroit show, the new Alfa Romeo 4C Spyder at its official world introduction shared the stage with two prewar Alfa racers and a Tipo 33 Stradale. Also at the NAIAS, Honda had their first car to win in Formula One, their RA272, which won the Mexican Grand Prix in 1965 with R. Ginther at the wheel. A month later, at the Chicago auto show, the wall behind the Toyota display had archival photos of historic vehicles from the company and on the show floor there was a 2000GT. The Stradale, F1 Honda and 2000GT are great examples of what their makers have done in the past, but the problem with bringing them out for an auto show is that people may benchmark what you currently sell against them, if not literally, than certainly emotionally. Also, they can overshadow and distract from the new products that are being revealed.

While the Alfa Romeo 4C seems to charm most who drive it, the Type 33 Stradale is one of the great Alfas. The Stradale has a sensual shape that was one of the major contributors to its era’s automotive aesthetic sensibilities and it’s considered by many to be one of the most beautiful cars ever. Not a few think it’s the most beautiful car ever made. It’s also one of the rarer cars around. A quick check says that only 18 of the roadgoing Stradales were made, each by hand and only 10 are known to still exist.

Not only did FCA and their folks running Alfa in North America risk overshadowing their new product with the Stradale, they compounded the problem by hiring a distractingly beautiful Italian-American model to stand near the 4C coupe and the new Spyder. At both the Detroit and Chicago shows, when I was at the Alfa booth I noticed that photographers were taking photos of her and the Stradale more than of the new Alfa Romeos.

beautifulitalians_l_r

Soichiro Honda was a racer by heart and when it was still generally regarded as the maker of 50-90cc motorbikes, the Honda company raced and succeeded at the highest level of automotive motorsports, demonstrating to themselves an to anyone who bothered noticing that Honda was an engineering force to be reckoned with. 2015 is the 50th anniversary of that racing success, which explains why Honda had the F1 car on display.

Dario Franchitti, who drove Honda powered Indycars before his retirement had the opportunity to drive the RA272 at the Motegi circuit in Japan. He says that the transversely mounted 48 valve 1.5 liter V12 “probably has the best sound of any car I’ve even driven, or heard.”

Click here to view the embedded video.

That F1 car up on the Honda stand may have been too distracting. Even though I spent time in the Honda display taking more than a dozen photos of the Ginther race car (and as you can see in the photos, I wasn’t the only one shooting the F1 car) I can’t tell you, offhand, exactly what vehicles Honda introduced at the Detroit show (it was the FCV fuel cell car).

At the Chicago Auto Show, Toyota’s press conference was mostly about special editions of the Avalon, Camry and Corolla, said to be influenced by Toyota’s sportier S trim lines. Our editors here have discussed how a post on the Camry will get substantially more traffic and comments than one on a desired-by-enthusiasts performance car. Also, my friend Mr. Baruth has pointed out that a properly equipped Camry can scoot pretty good on the road and on the track. Those things may be so, but you’ll have to excuse me if I believe that all of your reading this post who aren’t currently in the market for an Avalon, Camry or Corolla or one of their competitors would walk right past those special editions to get a look at the 2000GT. Again, you can see in the photos that there were photographers, whose job it was to take photos of new products, hanging around the heritage car, not the new reveals.

The headline says that heritage cuts both ways, so I suppose I should give an example of heritage done right at an auto show. One of the unqualified hits of the Detroit show was the new Ford GT. At the 2015 NAIAS in Detroit, the Ford stand was laid out so that before you saw that new GT on it’s turntable, you walked past examples of Ford’s and the GT’s heritage, a 2005 Ford GT and the car that inspired both that and the new GT, a roadgoing 1965 version of the LeMans winning Ford GT40.

When you talk about automotive rock stars, the GT40 is right up there. In the long run it’s even a more important and better known car than the Alfa Stradale, certainly among North American car enthusiasts, so I suppose that Ford was taking a greater risk of overshadowing their new car than Alfa was. However, people poured right past the GT40 and the new GT’s 2005 older brother as they thronged around Ford’s new sail-paneled supercar at the NAIAS. A month later, the new GT was one of the hits of the Chicago Auto Show, a relatively rare occurrence for a car that already had debuted elsewhere. I guess I could say that means that the new Ford GT is indeed inspired.

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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Editorial: You’re The Reason Auto Makers Don’t Offer Manual Transmissions http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/quote-of-the-day-car-makers-dont-offer-manual-transmission/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/quote-of-the-day-car-makers-dont-offer-manual-transmission/#comments Fri, 13 Mar 2015 15:01:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1021473 One of the essential questions that many automotive writers fail to examine is “what is the nature of an automaker”? All too often, they lose sight of the fact that OEMs are in the business of selling cars, not manufacturing widgets for people who like cars. This kind of mindset is what leads to the […]

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One of the essential questions that many automotive writers fail to examine is “what is the nature of an automaker”? All too often, they lose sight of the fact that OEMs are in the business of selling cars, not manufacturing widgets for people who like cars.

This kind of mindset is what leads to the exchange outlined in Automobile Magazine, where one writer discusses the lack of a manual transmission in the 2016 Audi R8.

“You have to look at lap times,” he said at the 2015 Geneva auto show, adding that the take rate for manual transmission-equipped Audi R8s, at least in Europe, was almost nil. When pressed on the issue, Hollerweger remained firm. There is simply is no way for a stick-shift to match the performance of the R8’s dual-clutch transmission and few buyers wanted one, so Hollerweger believes there’s no point in offering a manual on the new car.

Of course, we’d beg to differ and we were a bit taken aback by his assertion that a manual-equipped car is not the more engaging experience for the driver.”

Emphasis added by yours truly. But that assertion alone highlights what is either a total lack of understanding regarding the auto industry, or willful blindness. The R8 is a halo car for Audi, and you can bet that they spent lots of time and money doing market research, analyzing sales data and talking to current and prospective customers about what they want in a car.

A manual is not something they want. It is what you want, and what I want, but the people signing the $200,000 checks have little to no interest in the purity and tactile supremacy of a clutch pedal and a gated manual shifter. Therefore, Audi has decided not to offer one, sparing them tens of millions in costs, regulatory headaches, fewer combinations that complicate the assembly process and three-pedal versions that sit on dealer lots collecting dust. It’s not a difficult decision to understand, but our ego is designed to protect us from thinking that we are somehow less important to Audi than the (very wealthy) customers who are supporting the brand by actually purchasing their products.

And yet, this writer begs to differ. On what grounds? Because it’s cool? Because it’s a shame to see the manual die out? Because you think they should. Sorry, but in the world of ROI and P&L statements (which make a car company stay in business), those reasons are less than worthless. If you don’t live and die by that line of thinking, then you’re Lotus, barely existing despite doing everything right in the eyes of the enthusiast.

The entitlement that comes with thinking that a particular car or variant thereof should simply exist for the sake of it is something I can’t wrap my head around. Whether a car that you’ll never ever buy has two pedals or three, a stick shift or paddles has literally zero impact on your daily life. There’s a good chance that you will never even see a 2016 Audi R8 on the road, depending on what part of the country you live in. And yet every time a new car is released without a manual, we have people rending their garments over this matter.

There is literally only one way to ensure the continued existence of the manual transmission. You have to buy new cars with manual transmissions. Car companies, like people, respond to incentives. Increased sales of manual transmissions in new vehicles (not used) is an incentive for them to offer more. Whining about their demise is not. We are not entitled to anything in this world, let alone an unpopular, costly (for the car maker) option that by all rights should have disappeared long ago.

So why not reward the people who are still doing God’s work and offering you three pedals and a real stick shift (and I really do mean that, because all of the product planners I know do their best to make the case to management for offering a manual, even if it means sticking their neck out)? Bark did. Jack did. I did. Do your part. Vote with your wallet. Here’s a list of cars that offer one, and there is still a manual option to fit every conceivable need. If everyone that complained about a lack of manuals actually bought a new car with a manual, we’d be like Europe. If you have no intention of buying a new car with a manual transmission, then you have lost your right to complain.

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Junkyard Find: 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport Sedan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1989-chevrolet-celebrity-eurosport-sedan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1989-chevrolet-celebrity-eurosport-sedan/#comments Thu, 12 Mar 2015 13:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1020529 Since we had a 1989 General Motors Junkyard Find yesterday, let’s look at another 1989 GM car today. The Chevrolet Celebrity, sold for the 1982 through 1990 model years, was one of those cars that disappeared from our memories without much of a trace. The Celebrity wasn’t as spectacularly bad as the Chevy Citation and […]

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16 - 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSince we had a 1989 General Motors Junkyard Find yesterday, let’s look at another 1989 GM car today. The Chevrolet Celebrity, sold for the 1982 through 1990 model years, was one of those cars that disappeared from our memories without much of a trace. The Celebrity wasn’t as spectacularly bad as the Chevy Citation and its corporate siblings, but nobody loved it (except for these guys) and most examples were fed into the cold steel jaws of The Crusher before the 1990s were over. Here’s an example from the sedan’s final year of production.
01 - 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Eurosport package got you black window trim and an allegedly stiffer suspension. My parents— loyal buy-American Midwesterners who wanted to stick with Detroit cars— bought an ’85 Celebrity Eurosport new, and that car was the last Detroit machine they’d ever purchase. Coming on the heels of a particularly miserable Ford Granada, the unreliable, unpleasant-to-drive Celebrity forced them into the waiting arms of Honda and Toyota, where they have remained ever since. Repeat this process with a tens of millions of Americans like my parents during the 1970s and 1980s and it’s easy to see how GM’s image ended up in such a deep sinkhole for so long.
09 - 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin85 mph speedometers were no longer required in 1989, but some cars kept them.


For people who have grown up… without growing old.


Successful businessman “J.B.” knows that the ’89 Celebrity is actually a display of wealth, power, and good taste.

01 - 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Aircooled Cars, Hot Prices, The Mild Breeze Of Censorship http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/aircooled-cars-hot-prices-mild-breeze-censorship/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/aircooled-cars-hot-prices-mild-breeze-censorship/#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2015 17:58:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1020321 It seems like yesterday But it was long ago RS America in the dealership’s lights Covered with dust and it had nowhere to go And it sat there for a year Till they sold it at a loss Slow like a Boxster headlights just like a frog And all the service had been skipped and […]

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It seems like yesterday
But it was long ago
RS America in the dealership’s lights
Covered with dust and it had nowhere to go
And it sat there for a year
Till they sold it at a loss
Slow like a Boxster headlights just like a frog
And all the service had been skipped and no one gave a toss

And I remember how cheap they used to be
And I thought that it never would end
I remember how they bought and sold for pennies
Wish I’d had a crystal ball and bought one then

In the past decade, Porsche buyers have voted with their wallets on the merits of post-1999 water-cooled 911s — and the vote has been “guilty”, and the sentence has been “death”. The result has been a dramatic re-valuation of every air-cooled 911 ever built, from short-wheelbase early cars to the most despicable 964 Carrera 4 Cabriolet. I’ve written before about the insane price curve of the 993 Turbo, and I’ve allowed myself a quiet smile of satisfaction at having had the good sense to buy a 993 thirteen years ago when they were cheap while simultaneously self-flagellating over having not bought two of them.

Had I been really smart, however, I’d have bought the other car I was considering back then — the 964 “RS America”. Introduced as a cut-price $54,900 model for the American market, the RS America was nothing more than a plain Carrera 2 with a half-ass aero kit and a list of standard equipment that, were it placed on the Monroney of a Yugo, would have caused Malcolm Bricklin to send that particular vehicle back to Yugoslavia for an upgrade. They were showroom poison, often sitting in dealer inventory long after the arrival of the 1995 993 Carrera which utterly humiliated the RS America in every measure from quarter-mile time to the presence of air conditioning.

At some point in the past five years, however, the desire of every 55-year-old middle manager in North America to own an “RS Porsh” sent the values of these sleds skyrocketing. Cars with stories and more than 50,000 miles on them are selling for close to a hundred grand. This, I hasten to remind you, is an automobile that cannot keep up with a Scion FR-S down most fast roads and might cash your check just for trying. For some time now I’ve watched the prices go up and have wondered where the top of the bubble might be.

Well, if the aircooled Porsche market is, in fact, a bubble, here’s your subprime McMansion. The nice people at Bring A Trailer featured this “scruffy” 215,000-mile example today. Let’s run over the highlights:

* 215,000 miles
* optional A/C that “does not blow super cold”.
* “Some” invoices, none for motor work. You’ll just have to take the seller’s word for it
* 40% tread remaining on the rear tires
* $80,000, no tire-kickers

Imagine driving a car for twenty-one years, ten thousand miles a year, and selling it for more than you paid. Well, in 964-land that still means monthly maintenance outlays that would probably lease you a new Miata every three years. But still. Do you really want to live in a world where this car fetches this kind of money?

For fifty grand you can get a very solid 993, probably in better shape than my son’s track rat. You’d be a fool to buy this car.

Unless, of course, it’s worth more money next year. And it might be.

As if the pricing and condition of the car didn’t raise enough eyebrows, there are multiple allegations on the discussion forum on “BaT” that the site administration is editing comments on the $80k pricetag, particularly unfavorable ones. As a few posters have noted:

Wow, what a lucky guy…drive the crap out of a Porsche for many years, use the whole thing up, then win the lottery at the end?? I hate the BAT is helping drive up the market like this…

My main problem with BAT now is it used to feel like they were on “our” side with surfacing interesting cars and great buys, but now with the auction format and little attention paid to non-auction listings, they are clearly on “their” side…

BAT wiped out a ton of comments on this one…are we in China, is this autoblog Tiananmen??!!

BaT, just a suggestion – if you don’t want comments about price, don’t present a vehicle where price is going to be an obvious talking point.

Clearly, this rising tide of Porsche prices is lifting a lot of boats, not all of them obvious. Now’s a good time to sell, and maybe even a good time to buy — but it appears that the best time of all is had by the people who can earn money on the transaction, or discussion thereof.

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Junkyard Find: 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1989-cadillac-eldorado-biarritz/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1989-cadillac-eldorado-biarritz/#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2015 13:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1019865 The Eldorado got downsized for the 1986 model year, as part of GM’s doomed 1980s efforts to beat Mercedes-Benz and BMW (which included such interesting-but-deeply-flawed money-losers-with-vaguely-European-sounding-names as the Cadillac Allanté, Buick Reatta, and Olds Troféo), and of course you could get this car with the tufted-button upholstery and padded roof that made it a Biarritz. […]

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14 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Eldorado got downsized for the 1986 model year, as part of GM’s doomed 1980s efforts to beat Mercedes-Benz and BMW (which included such interesting-but-deeply-flawed money-losers-with-vaguely-European-sounding-names as the Cadillac Allanté, Buick Reatta, and Olds Troféo), and of course you could get this car with the tufted-button upholstery and padded roof that made it a Biarritz. Not many of these cars were sold in 1989, so today’s Junkyard Find is another one of those rare-but-not-so-valuable ones.
24 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe price of a base ’89 Eldorado Biarritz with leather seats was $30,240, which comes to about 57 grand in 2015 dollars. A BMW 525i listed at $37,000 and the Mercedes-Benz 280E was $39,200, so any car shopper who felt the Eldorado Biarritz measured up to those two machines was getting a good deal with the Cadillac (though the ’89 Acura Legend LS coupe was a mere $28,377).
05 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSans-serif fonts make cars look more European, right? Right?
18 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWe can make fun of these cars now, but the ride on these cushy seats was very comfy.
11 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 4.5 liter version of the HT4100 V8 wasn’t quite as sophisticated as the luxury-car powerplants coming from across the oceans in 1989, but at least it wasn’t a Buick V6.

“Its driver-oriented engineering brings the road alive!”

01 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 26 - 1989 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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The Numbers Behind The Nissan Xterra’s Demise http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/nissan-xterra-dead-numbers-behind-nissan-offroaders-demise/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/nissan-xterra-dead-numbers-behind-nissan-offroaders-demise/#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2015 12:21:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1020241 2015 will be the Nissan Xterra’s final model year. The final nails in the coffin were hammered in by an increasingly popular crossover market, total domination on the off-road category by the Jeep Wranglers, and Nissan’s inability to affordably recreate the Xterra with modern regulatory concerns in mind. This doesn’t mean Nissan isn’t competing in […]

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2001 Nissan Xterra2015 will be the Nissan Xterra’s final model year. The final nails in the coffin were hammered in by an increasingly popular crossover market, total domination on the off-road category by the Jeep Wranglers, and Nissan’s inability to affordably recreate the Xterra with modern regulatory concerns in mind.

This doesn’t mean Nissan isn’t competing in the SUV market any more, but most of the automaker’s remaining SUVs are true crossovers. Nissan USA sold 376,388 Rogues, Pathfinders, Muranos, Jukes, and Titan-based Armadas in 2014.

Xterra volume, meanwhile, tumbled 77% over the course of a decade, falling by 55,942 units to 16,505 U.S. sales in 2005.

Although the nameplate had mostly levelled off over the last four years, that levelling off involved just 69,714 sales over a four-year period between 2011 and 2014, fewer than than the total number of sales achieved by the Xterra in 2005.

Nissan Xterra sales chartBut the Xterra was initially popular, both in the automotive press and in the North American market. Not that it’s a sure sign of future success, but Motor Trend twice named the Xterra its Sport Utility Of The Year. Sales in the model’s first full year, 2000, climbed to 88,578 units. As recently as 2005, the last time Nissan sold more than 70,000 in a calendar year, it was America’s 23rd-best-selling utility vehicle.

It fell to 61st in 2014 – behind the Mazda CX-9 and Range Rover Sport but ahead of the Porsche Cayenne and Toyota FJ Cruiser – and ranks 67th through the first two months of 2015, behind Nissan’s own Armada but ahead of the Audi Q3.

2014 Nissan XterraTo say that there’s no demand for this type of vehicle is to deny the success of the Jeep Wrangler. But the Wrangler isn’t just any other off-road capable SUV. Iconic styling, a pair of bodystyles, an aggressive base price, and a convertible bodystyle recently helped the Wrangler fend off a challenger from the planet’s largest automaker: the FJ Cruiser from Toyota.

In 2014, a record-setting year for the Wrangler, 175,328 were sold in America. That was surely a sign of sufficient brightness to assure Nissan that drumming up the volume required to support a necessary new model would prove too difficult.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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How Would You React If He Showed Up to Take Your Daughter Out Wearing This? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/react-showed-take-daughter-wearing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/react-showed-take-daughter-wearing/#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2015 10:31:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1017346 While I was running around the front part of Cobo Hall trying to get photos of likely competitors for the Detroit Autorama’s famed Ridler Award for the best new custom car in America, a young couple walked past me. They both looked to be about 20 years old. While I don’t know what she drives, […]

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While I was running around the front part of Cobo Hall trying to get photos of likely competitors for the Detroit Autorama’s famed Ridler Award for the best new custom car in America, a young couple walked past me. They both looked to be about 20 years old. While I don’t know what she drives, it was pretty obvious from the screenprinted hoodie he was wearing that he drives some kind of Powerstroke diesel powered Ford pickup truck.

While Ford logos at the Autorama are hardly remarkable, the slogan on the back of the sweatshirt read, “Every time she rides, I give her the Powerstroke.” Now I like risque humor as much, or even more, than the next guy or gal and I have to admit that while “ride” is a bit cliched, “Powerstroke” is a pretty decent indecent pun. I can recite many of Lenny Bruce’s routines verbatim from memory, so it’s not that I’m easily offended by humor with a sexual bent, but I reacted almost viscerally to the young man’s sweatshirt. Maybe it’s because of the incident this week with former major league pitcher Curt Schilling having to deal with vile and despicable Twitter comments about his teenage daughter. I’ve been in a similar situation with one of my children. Maybe it’s just that I’m getting old and yearn for when there was just a little more propriety in public. Whatever the reason, I couldn’t help but wonder what her parents would say if he wore that hoodie while picking her up for a date. I think I’d feel a little like a father in the early 1960s seeing her date pull up in a Nash or Rambler.

Rambler-seats

I think the gentleman, and I use the word broadly, bought his shirt off of the Etsy site, where I found the photo above, but I can choose to where I decide to link to and posting the image is as far as I’m going today to contribute to our era’s public crudity. If you want one to match your own Powerstroke Ford, or female companion, you’ll just have to search like I did for the photo.

Obviously, the young lady was cool with her male companion describing their sex life to the general public, so maybe it’s none of my business, but that’s a little like saying that a possibly offensive bumper sticker or a billboard is none of your business. If you are going to literally wear your sentiments on your sleeve (or back), be prepared to get a comment or two. As I happened to come across the pair again, I tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “And what are you going to do when she wants more displacement?”

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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Editorial: The Ultimate Driving Machine Is Now A Crossover – But Not For Long http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/editorial-ultimate-driving-machine-now-crossover-not-long/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/editorial-ultimate-driving-machine-now-crossover-not-long/#comments Tue, 10 Mar 2015 14:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1003866 There’s been a lot of hand-wringing about the introduction of the BMW 2-Series Active Tourer, and its larger minivan sibling, the Gran Tourer. I was in the midst of preparing an editorial on the introduction of the Gran Tourer, a front-wheel drive minivan based on the Mini-derived UKL platform, when I saw news that the […]

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There’s been a lot of hand-wringing about the introduction of the BMW 2-Series Active Tourer, and its larger minivan sibling, the Gran Tourer. I was in the midst of preparing an editorial on the introduction of the Gran Tourer, a front-wheel drive minivan based on the Mini-derived UKL platform, when I saw news that the X1, my current favorite BMW, is going to be based on UKL as well. Apparently, it will also look “more like an X car.” When the current X1 dies, it will mark the end of an era for BMW.

The genesis for this editorial was initially rooted in my difficulties with writing a review for the 228i that I just drove at a launch event for that car, and the all-new X6M. Both cars provided a glimpse into the future of the BMW brand – and the future direction of my current favorite BMW, the X1.

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The base 2-Series is supposed to embody the best of what BMW has to offer, but it falls far short of that promise. In the interest of disclosure, the 2-Series I drove was a 228i cabriolet, with an 8-speed automatic. Not the most sporting variant available, but it did have the M Sport package, and the 1-Series droptops I’ve driven haven’t been terribly different from their hardtop siblings.

Unless the 2-Series Coupe is some kind of head and shoulders improvement above and beyond the coupe, I’m dumbfounded as to how the 228i could have garnered so much praise. It’s not particularly fast, despite the normally proficient N20 4-cylinder and 8-speed automatic. In “Comfort” mode, the slippery feeling reminds one of a Toyota Camry, while the ride remains on the extreme wrong side of “firm”. In “Sport” mode, the performance is only marginally improved, while the ride turns truly punishing. Even on the relatively smooth roads around Austin, Texas, the ride quality was comparable to a three-quarter ton truck with blown shocks. Maybe it’s the run-flat tires, or the “sport” chassis tuning or the characteristically hard BMW ride. Either way, it’s not particularly fun or thrilling. It’s a definite step back from the 1-Series, which was at least a reasonably fun car to drive, even if it had its detractors.

In my opinion, the best small BMW, the one that most embodies the “Ultimate Driving Machine” ethos is actually…wait for it…the X1. If you told me that 6 month ago, I wouldn’t have believed you. In fact, I didn’t, and it caused a major fight between myself and my then-girlfriend.

After taking a job transfer to Indianapolis, she decided to sell  her 2009 Acura RDX. When she told me the X1 was high on her list, I hit the roof, thanks to a combination of relationship stress and endless enthusiast mockery of the baby Bimmer CUV. I thought it was a silly vehicle sold only to badge snobs and the terminally self-conscious. I didn’t believe her when she said she liked how “sporty” it felt. Although I suggested more sensible alternatives, she ended up with the white X1 shown above.

On my first visit to see her in Indy, we ended up taking the X1 down to Nashville for my birthday weekend, and to break the new car in. As usual, the driving fell to me, and I had to eat a family-size portion of crow. The X1 was quick, comfortable, quiet, got great fuel economy and actually felt like a BMW, thanks to the hydraulic steering and the sharp, nimble responses – two qualities that are notably absent from the 2-Series. The tall tires and long travel suspension gave the kind of ride I was used to from my father’s old E39 530i; just a little firm, not punishing but not squishy or coddling.

It held all of our gear as well as a 6-foot tall picture that she found at an antique shop. My one complaint is that there’s no manual option. But the 8-speed ZF auto is so good that I can’t ever say I actually wished for a manual option – and the number of buyers lusting after a stick X1 can be counted on one hand. Even with two pedals, it is currently the only BMW that evokes memories of my old E30 ice racer, my father’s E39 530i, the brilliant E46 330i Sport that Jack owned or any number of past models that we consider classics.

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But BMW is a publicly traded company. Its sole obligation is to deliver value to its shareholders, rather than operate as a charity to produce widgets for car enthusiasts. The way to do this is to build X Cars, like the X6M you see here. Even though it has no real purpose than to advertise just how much money you paid for something with no real utility, this kind of fashion statement is very much en vogue not just in America, but the all important emerging markets where this kind of car can be exported from its South Carolina factory and sold at many multiples of its American MSRP. Then again, I’m told that the X1 is one of BMW’s most profitable products. On the retail side, it makes more money for dealers than a 7-Series.

What can we expect from the next X1? Well, it won’t have the X6M’s blinding pace or surprising dynamic poise – nor will it have the old school charm that makes it such a diamond in the rough in the context of BMW’s throroughly sanitized current lineup. Instead, it will probably be a bit like a smaller, front-drive X4, but with the bones of a Mini Countryman. I can’t say that sounds entirely compelling but hey, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been wrong about a BMW crossover…

 

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Bark’s Bites: Vanity of Vanities http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/barks-bites-vanity-vanities/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/barks-bites-vanity-vanities/#comments Tue, 10 Mar 2015 14:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1018962 “ICE KOLD” One of the baddest men I ever knew, if not THE baddest, ran that license plate on an array of European luxury sleds in the early 2000s. He was a real-life manifestation of Marcellus Wallace, a larger-than-life being whose business was dependent upon the recovery of the same type of thugs he used […]

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“ICE KOLD”

One of the baddest men I ever knew, if not THE baddest, ran that license plate on an array of European luxury sleds in the early 2000s. He was a real-life manifestation of Marcellus Wallace, a larger-than-life being whose business was dependent upon the recovery of the same type of thugs he used to take off the streets of Cleveland as a less-than-squeaky-clean cop. His three-car garage was an ever-rotating gallery of high-powered rides that rarely exceeded the speed limit—because speeding wouldn’t have been ICE KOLD.  Better to be smooth and slow-moving but with an omnipresent, rumbling threat of power, much like the man who was behind the wheel.

For Uncle Ron, as we called him, simply having something like a debadged, murdered-out, triple black Audi Q7 that rolled on 22s wasn’t enough of a statement. Every ride needed the perfect vanity license plate. Forget the badging that the OEM put on the vehicle—the personality of both the whips and the man were too big for that. No, he used the palette of seven letter provided by the State of Ohio to make sure that everybody in town knew that the BIG DAWG was behind the wheel of that NAZTY Q7.

Me? I had always wanted to get some sort of vanity plate for my cars growing up, but as they were legally titled to my pops, that wasn’t gonna happen. He used to tease me that “JAZZMAN” was available for my Infiniti G20 that I drove in college—I was mortified at the thought. What would my teachers, most of whom had been professional musicians for over forty years, think of a nineteen-year old brat driving around campus with “JAZZMAN” on his brand-new (sorta) luxury car?

It wasn’t until I bought my first new car under my own name, when I was about 23, that I thought that I might get one. I spend countless hours coming up with seven letter combinations for my 2001 Santa Fe V6 AWD. It may not have been a NAZTY Q7, but it was the nicest SUV I could afford at the time. It had chrome door handles, black leather interior, and a sunroof—in other words, every option Hyundai could throw on it. Finally, after a particularly successful gig in Monterey Bay, I came up with one that I felt I had earned the right to put on my car:

 “BLUE SAX”

 I remember it well. I felt pretty cool rolling up to my weekend gigs in it. It let my colleagues at my day gig know I wasn’t just another retail manager—I was a musician. My wife, who was a classical musician, absolutely hated it. Whereas blues and jazz musicians tend to be somewhat full of machismo, classical musicians are often more reserved. When I would pick her up from grad school, her musician friends would announce, “Hey! The Blue Sax is here!” I endured the friendly ribbing with a smile, but she did not.

When it came time for the Santa Fe to go away (or, in Hyundai-speak, when the 100,000 mile powertrain warranty is about to expire), I decided that wanted to go sporty for my next ride. Enter the 2004 Mazda RX-8 touring model with Aero kit, resplendent in Sunlight Silver. BLUE SAX just didn’t seem right anymore. I needed something to fit the sleek, cool identity of the rotary-powered machine.

Again, I spent hours on the Ohio BMV website, checking various seven-letter combinations. I originally thought I wanted something that played on a Silver Surfer theme, in tribute to the under-appreciated Marvel comic. Unfortunately, SLVR SRFR didn’t fit, and none of the variants I could think of seemed good enough. Scratch that.

How about something that played on the RX-8 name? Or maybe the Zoom-Zoom mantra? After a few aborted attempts, I came up with one that (I thought) was brilliant:

 “RX N EFCT”

 

It worked on so many levels…well, it did once I had the chance to explain it to people. See, it was an RX-8, so it was like I was saying that my RX-8 was “in effect.” For you Non-Gen Xers, we used to say something was “in full effect” when we meant it was cool. That was meaning number one.

Meaning number two? Much deeper.  Taken phonetically, RX N EFCT could also mean Wreckx-N-Effect. In 1992, the rap group Wreckx-N-Effect had a hit song entitled “Rump Shaker.” The chorus of that song?

All I wanna do is zooma, zoom zoom zoom

And a poom-poom just shake ya rump

(Rump shaker)

It was a freaking Zoom-Zoom Easter Egg! Pure genius, right?

Well, as is the case with any good joke, if you have to explain it, it doesn’t work. Nobody got it. My first sign should have been when I had to spend five minutes explaining it to the girl at the BMV (which irks me—why can you name a person anything you want, but some ill-tempered government worker has to approve your license plate?). I spent a good part of the next four years explaining it to people. One night, however, the nebulous nature of the meaning of my vanity plate worked in my favor.

I had left work late one wintry Cincinnati evening, and a thick layer of snow had covered the ground quite quickly. The powder was much too much for my poor Dunlop all-season tires to handle, and my RX-8 was quickly reduced to nothing more than a snow-spitting device on the side of Kenwood Road. Car after car passed me by as I sat there, helpless. A man walked out from his house with a shovel—only to offer to dig me out if I paid him fifty bucks. My roadside assistance was two hours away from being able to help.

All of a sudden, a car slowed to a halt behind me and turned on its hazards. A kind-looking man stepped out of the vehicle and approached my door.

“Need a hand?” he offered.

“Would you mind just seeing if you can push me out?” I asked.

“Not at all!” He got behind my bumper and shoved with all his might. The little Renesis spun the back wheels, covering the poor man with slush and snow as he pushed. Finally, I grabbed some traction and shot out onto the plowed section of the road.

I jumped out of the car and ran back to thank him profusely.

“Anytime!” he said cheerfully. “Always glad to help a fellow pharmacist in need!”

Pharmacist? Huh? Oh. RX. Right.

“See you at the convention!” I shouted as he retreated to the safety of his car.

When the RX-8 was replaced by my 2009 Pontiac G8 GT, I immediately planned to order a plate that indicated the G8’s capabilities in comparison to the car it had been benchmarked against. Sure enough, “I8URM5″ was available (yes, I know an M5 of that generation would have “8en” my G8 alive). However, I kinda felt that I had outgrown the vanity plate. The G8 was a grown-up sort of car. Maybe it was time to just be a grown-up and take whatever plate the Commonwealth of Kentucky assigned me. And when the G8 was replaced by the Boss…I mean, isn’t a Boss 302 enough of a statement on its own? What could you out on it that wasn’t already said by the “BOSS 302″ in all caps on both sides?

But just when I thought my vanity plate days were over, along came my little Fiesta. Let’s be honest—it’s somewhat of a toy car. Why not have some fun with it?

And so I found myself typing various six-letter combos into the Kentucky BMV website (unfortunately, Kentucky only allows six letters) the other night when it hit me. There’s one plate I’m sure nobody else has—or would even want. I typed it in, and of course, it was available.

Turns out that, in Kentucky, the price of vanity is twenty-five bucks. When I went to the title agency this morning to order it, I was wondering how I would explain this one. However, I guess  37-year-old me doesn’t seem as subversive as 26-year-old me did. The agent typed it in and took my money with nary a word of dissent.

It’s just as well. I’d hate to have to explain “BARK M” to anybody.

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Junkyard Find: 1967 Oldsmobile Delta 88 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1967-oldsmobile-delta-88/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1967-oldsmobile-delta-88/#comments Tue, 10 Mar 2015 13:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1019242 Even though Oldsmobile has been gone for more than a decade— doomed in the marketplace, no doubt, by the focus-group-dismaying first three letters in its name— we still celebrate the marque in music to this day. You don’t see many 1965-70 Olds 88s, on the street or otherwise, these days, so this non-cancerous Colorado ’67 […]

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07 - 1967 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinEven though Oldsmobile has been gone for more than a decade— doomed in the marketplace, no doubt, by the focus-group-dismaying first three letters in its name— we still celebrate the marque in music to this day. You don’t see many 1965-70 Olds 88s, on the street or otherwise, these days, so this non-cancerous Colorado ’67 four-door hardtop is a good junkyard find.
09 - 1967 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI wasn’t sure what kind of 88 I was seeing at first— the junkyard lists it as a Delta, but I am often reminded that junkyards get that stuff wrong all the time. However, you can just make out the shadow of “Delta 88″ emblems on the rear quarters.
01 - 1967 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI was hoping that we had a genuine Delmont 88 here, because a ’67 Delmont 88 was the car driven by Edward Kennedy in the infamous Chappaquiddick Incident of 1969. Ted Kennedy likely would have had a real shot at the Presidency in 1972 and (even more so) in 1976, if not for the notoriety that stuck to him after incident, and so the ’67 Olds 88 has some historical significance.
Edward Kennedy's 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88It appears that Kennedy’s Delmont was the less sporty four-door sedan.
03 - 1967 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFrom what I understand, red valve covers on an Oldsmobile V8 engine of this era indicate that we’re looking at the potent 425-cubic-inch engine here. This would be a fun engine to rescue and drop into an X-body Olds Omega.
11 - 1967 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI’m betting that someone will grab these taillights and put them on eBay.

“The Toronado Look!”

01 - 1967 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1967 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1967 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1967 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1967 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1967 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1967 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1967 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1967 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1967 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1967 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1967 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Ur-Turn: Tesla Haters Gotta Hate http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/ur-turn-tesla-haters-gotta-hate/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/ur-turn-tesla-haters-gotta-hate/#comments Mon, 09 Mar 2015 18:56:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1018642 You’d think that, after all these years, I’d have a tougher skin for people who say stupid things on the Internet. And I’m pretty good about that, but now that I own a Tesla, it strangely gets under my skin when people write ill-informed drivel about the car. Here at TTAC, we’re all about well-informed […]

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Obligatory XKCD

You’d think that, after all these years, I’d have a tougher skin for people who say stupid things on the Internet. And I’m pretty good about that, but now that I own a Tesla, it strangely gets under my skin when people write ill-informed drivel about the car. Here at TTAC, we’re all about well-informed drivel. It’s a subtle distinction, but we’re proud of it. Anyway, here’s a bit of unfortunately typical writing, found on a random Internet chat board (not TTAC, because the B&B would never stoop to this). All grammar and spelling have been left untouched.

Tesla interior is junk far away from luxury. BMW 335i has better interior design, and 550i in whole different league. Road noise, cheap panels, flimsy speaker grille, seat comfort, ceiling height, sound quality (premium sound!!) all materials that tesla uses belong to 20$K Honda. So rest of money goes into battery price.

Let’s break this down, shall we?

tesla-IMG_20150301_114354Interior is junk far away from luxury. BMW and Tesla both use lots of leather, including on the dashboard and doors. They both have options for nice wood inlays. BMW has optional brushed aluminum inlays. Tesla has optional carbon fiber inlays. Newer Teslas have optional sport seats that are very much in the same ballpark as typical BMW seats. About the only interior feature I’ll give to BMW is its optional “active ventilated seats”, offered on some higher-end models. Here in Texas, that’s a real feature, although Tesla does let you start the climate control remotely using their phone app. I used this on a recent Girl Scouts camping trip, wherein the temperatures dropped below freezing at night. It was great to hop into a car with a pre-heated cabin.

Interior design. Perhaps the original poster was unhappy with Tesla’s overuse of skeuomorphism (i.e., fake brushed metal, beveled edges, and bubbly buttons in the computer displays)? It’s hard to say. I come at design from a utilitarian perspective. Does the car let me do what I want to do, quickly and accurately? Common things should be fast with at most a quick glance. Uncommon things should be possible without training. After several months with the Tesla, I’d say they’re achieving this objective. The steering wheel buttons really do have most common things covered, such as changing the fan speed or skipping tracks, and the massive touchscreen makes it possible to dig in and tweak settings without going mad. BMW’s iDrive, no matter how many times they revise it, is still an embarrassment.

Road noise. There are several sources of noise in a typical car at speed: wind, tires, suspension, drivetrain, and screaming children. Electric drivetrains are insanely quiet, whereas BMW creates artificial drivetrain noise through the stereo system because … reasons. Wind and tire noise are largely the same between Tesla and any fancy German luxury sedan. I’ll modestly complain about suspension noise on the Tesla, though it’s not what you’d think. Like all good luxury cars, the Tesla’s suspension does its best to shave off the sharp insults from driving over crappy roads. What’s seemingly unique about the Tesla is what happens, even on the smoothest of perfect roads, when you hit a small bump, maybe a single pebble in the road. You get a muffled thud, basically a low frequency beat like you’d expect from a typical hip-hop album. This appears to be related, in part, to the “frunk” acting as a resonant chamber and in part to the large battery pack under the floor acting as a giant drum. Loading up the frunk with random luggage or boxes seems to help a lot. Since noticing this noise in my Tesla, I’ve paid close attention to other cars in which I’ll be riding, and the “thuds” tend to be less low-frequency boomy and have more high-frequency harmonics. I suspect this is because other cars have more irregular shapes to their floor (e.g., transmission tunnels). All that said, when you turn on the stereo, even at modest volume, you’ll never notice any of this. Pro-tip: you can hush the little ones by shouting “watch this” and slamming the go pedal. Buys you a few seconds of quiet.

tesla-IMG_20150111_123705Cheap panels and flimsy speaker grilles. They’re pretty much the same as you’d get anywhere. There are far fewer squeaks and rattles in my Tesla than in any other car I’ve ever owned. It’s clear that Tesla really sweated the details on NVH. And keep in mind, my car is 1.5 years old and has been a daily driver the whole time. It’s holding together quite well.

Sound quality? (premium sound!!) As I wrote in my Tesla vs. Jaguar comparison, the optional high-end Tesla sound system is seriously good stuff. The one time I heard the base sound system, however, I was unimpressed. If you’re going to buy a Tesla, pony up for the upgrade. My only real complaint is with the default Internet audio provider, Slacker. I’d much prefer some combination of Pandora and Google Music, but the only way to get those in a Tesla is through your phone’s Bluetooth.

Seat comfort / ceiling height. I’m 5’11” and I fit just fine; my car doesn’t have the panoramic glass ceiling, which adds even more headroom. The Tesla is a very large car, with plenty of room for grown adults in the back seat. The absence of a transmission tunnel is a huge win for your middle-seat passengers if you’re packing them in. In terms of comfort, I haven’t done any serious roadtripping yet in my Tesla, but the seat feels an awful lot like the standard you expect from luxury German cars: stiff but supportive.

Materials that tesla uses belong to 20$K Honda. The Model S is an aluminum car, putting it in the same league as an Audi A8. Aluminum is showing up all over the place, these days, including the new Ford F150. Aluminum is preferred for the strength you can get for a given amount of mass. The problem with aluminum is that it’s very, very expensive if you get into a collision. As an example, Motor Trend’s long-term Audi A8 had a $11,000 mishap with a road bollard. It’s just as bad for Tesla. Supposedly, the forthcoming “Model 3” will use steel. If you drive as poorly as this fellow constructs sentences, you’ll be wishing your Tesla used more steel, like a $20k Honda.

So rest of money goes into battery price. Indeed, Tesla is working on this “gigafactory” monster in the Nevada desert, to improve the worldwide capacity for lithium-ion cells, reducing their price, and affording legions of future gonzo Hunter S. Thompson wannabes the opportunity to tie together Nevada’s brothels, battery manufacturing, and gambling industries. And indeed, the battery system is where most of the complexity of the car lies, so it makes sense for them to invest in improvements. My Tesla leaves a puddle of water in my garage from its air conditioner running, hours after I get home, because it really, really wants to cool down the battery pack. Now if it could only cool down the hot heads on the Internet.

tesla-IMG_20150309_074051

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A Comprehensive Look At What TTAC Readers Drive, In Three Charts http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/comprehensive-look-ttac-readers-drive-three-charts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/comprehensive-look-ttac-readers-drive-three-charts/#comments Mon, 09 Mar 2015 14:23:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1018226 In December, we conducted an informal survey of what TTAC readers are driving via a Question of the Day format. I’m happy to say that the results of that questionnaire are finally available, and we have our best look yet at what kind of cars TTAC readers are driving. With the help of a B&B member who […]

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2015 Honda Accord coupe and sedan

In December, we conducted an informal survey of what TTAC readers are driving via a Question of the Day format. I’m happy to say that the results of that questionnaire are finally available, and we have our best look yet at what kind of cars TTAC readers are driving.

With the help of a B&B member who wishes to remain anonymous, the responses were compiled into an Excel spreadsheet and analyzed. Our own chart master Tim Cain drew up a couple graphs to better represent the pertinent data points in this exercise.

ttacmostpopularcarsAccording to our data, the Honda Accord is the most popular car among TTAC readers is the Honda Accord. This is probably the least surprising data point in the whole set. The Accord is consistently recognized by everyone from the buff books to consumer oriented publications as the best blend of driving dynamics, reliability, value and practicality, and all of these are attributes that TTAC readers seem to value greatly.

Other stalwarts like the Ford Mustang, Mazda MX-5 and Ford Ranger also ranked fairly high. What surprised me was the Toyota Corolla, the supposed paragon of appliance-like motoring, coming in at #6. Not a single Panther made the top 20 list. A mere 19 respondents admitted to owning Panther platform cars, which would rank them, in aggregate, just behind the Golf and ahead of the Cherokee. Of those, 8 were Town Cars, representing the single most popular Panther nameplate. Of the editors with recent new vehicles, Jack owns an Accord, Bark has a Mustang and I have a Mazda3, all of which rank in the top half.

Volkswagen, which has a nearly satanic reputation among the commenters for poor reliability, is evidently a fan favorite, with the Jetta ranking fourth, the GTI tied for ninth and the Golf coming in at #17. Volkswagen had three vehicles in the top 20, ahead of Honda, Nissan, Toyota and Mazda, and the Beetle and Passat came in tied for 20th place with the Mazda Protege and Jeep Wrangler.

popularbrandsSpeaking of Volkswagen, the German conglomerate ranks as the third most popular auto maker. Ford is number one with a bullet, followed by Honda. Mazda is also exceptionally popular relative to their position in the overall marketplace, and while no individual BMW model ranked in our top 20, as a whole they merited seventh place.

marketshare

To me, this is the most interesting chart. TTAC’s breakdown shares some distinct similarities with the United States automotive market, and also some major differences. Yes, Ford and GM dominate, but Volkswagen could only dream of 11.2 percent market share in America. Honda is also much, much stronger than Toyota on planet TTAC, which has Mazda (!!) nipping at its heels. Hyundai-Kia, a global juggernaut, is bested by tiny Subaru. But one thing that stays constant – a handful of auto makers duke it out for the spoils, with everyone else left waiting for table scraps.

 

 

 

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