The Truth About Cars » Editorials http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 31 Oct 2014 19:42:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 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/ Editorial: By Royal Decree http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/editorial-royal-decree/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/editorial-royal-decree/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 17:26:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938985 Buried in a Reuters article on Hyundai’s new Prius-fighter was talk of Hyundai’s new Aslan sedan. The Aslan is intended to take on the growing sales of imported sedans in South Korea, namely the VW Passat, BMW 3-Series and Audi A4. Based on a front-drive architecture, the Aslan seems to occupy a slot between the […]

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Buried in a Reuters article on Hyundai’s new Prius-fighter was talk of Hyundai’s new Aslan sedan. The Aslan is intended to take on the growing sales of imported sedans in South Korea, namely the VW Passat, BMW 3-Series and Audi A4. Based on a front-drive architecture, the Aslan seems to occupy a slot between the Sonata and the Grandeur (aka our Azera) – which made it all the more surprising when Reuters reported that “The automaker is also looking at introducing the Aslan in China, the United States and Middle Eastern countries.”

A sort of large, sort of premium sedan makes sense for China and the Middle East. These vehicles tend to thrive in markets where lots of passenger space, “premium styling” and a comfort-focused driving experience are prized by consumers.

But the United States? Sales of the new Sonata haven’t had the same impact as the previous generation. The mid-size sedan market is on a downward trend, and the outlook for large sedans is dismal. Between the Sonata and the Azera, Hyundai has the large sedan space sewn up, and Hyundai product planners would be the first to tell you that the Aslan would be a redundant offering. So why the talk of exports?

Simple. Sometimes, certain vehicles are sent to certain markets by “royal decree”. See also: Phaeton, Volkswagen. Products are cooked up at the “mothership” and sent to certain markets, even if they may not be wholly appropriate for sale there. The regional arm is tasked with the sales and marketing of said product, even if it doesn’t make sense (yet another large-ish sedan) or wholly inappropriate for the brand (think about the Kia K900).

 

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Coast to Coast 2014: Driving Old Route 66 (Part 1) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/coast-coast-2014-driving-old-route-66-part-1/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/coast-coast-2014-driving-old-route-66-part-1/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 14:42:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938873 Albert on the Route 66 in Tucumcari New Mexico.  Check out all my Coast to Coast Reports here This is it! After stopping in Oklahoma City, we are now on one of my most anticipated stretches of road in this entire trip: the Old Route 66, or the Mother Road as it is fondly called. Even […]

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1. Ram 1500 Albert Route 66Albert on the Route 66 in Tucumcari New Mexico. 

Check out all my Coast to Coast Reports here

This is it! After stopping in Oklahoma City, we are now on one of my most anticipated stretches of road in this entire trip: the Old Route 66, or the Mother Road as it is fondly called. Even though I didn’t have enough time to drive Route 66 in its entire length from Chicago to Los Angeles, I still managed to hop on it for a good 1/3 of its length, all the way from Oklahoma City OK to Gallup NM, driving alongside Interstate 40 which ended up replacing it and visiting places such as Clinton OK, Texola OK, Shamrock TX, Amarillo TX, Tucumcari NM and Albuquerque NM. We will hop back onto Route 66 later in this Coast to Coast trip in California. A thorough visit of this part of Route 66 full of photographs as well as my impressions on the vehicle landscape in this region of the United States are below…

Route 66 mapThe stretch of Route 66 we are following

This part of Route 66, arguably the most ‘historic’ as this is where it all started, sweeps through 3 states: Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. Although New Mexico car sales data will be covered in more detail in my next Report, it is worth noting that looking at the Top 5 best-sellers in each of these states, a passenger car only appears once: the Toyota Camry at #4 in Texas. Indeed the entire Top 5 in both Oklahoma and New Mexico are monopolised by full-size pickup trucks, the first two states displaying this since the start of my Coast to Coast trip.

Ford F150 F250 Route 66Ford F150 and F250 Super Duty in Sayre OK

Best-selling light vehicles in Oklahoma – 2013:

Pos Model 2013
1 Chevrolet Silverado 13,994
2 Ford F-150 11,517
3 Ram Pickup 9,762
4 Ford F-250 Super Duty 4,932
5 GMC Sierra 4,712

Source: JATO

Ford F250 x 2 Route 662 x Ford F-250 Super Duty in Elk City OK

Chevrolet Silverado Route 66 1A Chevrolet Silverado in our mirror near Elk City OK

Best-selling light vehicles in Texas – 2013:

Pos Model 2013
1 Ford F-150 96,663
2 Chevrolet Silverado 78,047
3 Ram Pickup 67,378
4 Toyota Camry 36,953
5 Ford F-250 Super Duty 33,305

Source: JATO

Ram 2500 Route 66Ram 2500 in Elk City OK

Ford F250 Shamrock 2Ford F-250 Super Duty in Shamrock TX

Best-selling light vehicles in New Mexico – 2013:

Pos Model 2013
1 Ford F-150 4,757
2 Chevrolet Silverado 3,601
3 Ram Pickup 3,368
4 GMC Sierra 2,214
5 Ford F-250 Super Duty 1,837

Source: JATO

Matt Route 66You know you’re in full-size pickup heartland when the squeegees are also full-size.

If the Ford F-150 dominates in Texas and New Mexico, the Chevrolet Silverado, #2 in both states, takes the lead in Oklahoma, kicking the F-150 to #2 there. The Ram Pickup, my very own Albert, remains very stable in third position of all states explored here while the Ford F-250 Super Duty manages the very impressive feat of ranking inside the Top 5 in all of these states as well, peaking at #4 in Oklahoma. The GMC Sierra appears twice: at #4 in New Mexico (its best state ranking so far in this trip) and #5 in Oklahoma, and finally as I mentioned above the Toyota Camry makes a lonely appearance at #4 in Texas.

Dodge Pickup Route 66Vintage Dodge Pickup near Foss OK

That is for official stats, but what does real life observation tell us? Having the opportunity to slow down and take the secondary road that the remnants of Route 66 have become enables us to take in the sleepiness of most towns we crossed. This is the heartland of pickup country, 2 or 3 pickup trucks of various ages parked in front of each house and no sedan in sight isn’t rare. The 2-door white ‘tradesman’ Ford F150 rules here, the F250 Super Duty is even over performing on its Top 5 ranking in the parts of the states we crossed, I would put it on the podium and even potentially in first place in Elk City OK. Even though we were in Texas for part of the journey, the locally-produced Toyota Tundra is much less frequent on this stretch of land as is the Nissan Altima, reversing a trend we have seen since Tennessee and as we approached the Mexican border.

7. Chevrolet Impala Route 66Chevrolet Impala rental in Elk City OK

Being a particularly touristic part of Route 66, the ratio of rental cars is on a steep rising curve, with the favourites being the Chevrolet Suburban, Tahoe and Impala. This isn’t any different to what I have seen on American roads since my departure from New York City.

Now that we have cleared the vehicle landscape in this part of the country, let’s get straight into Route 66 highlights, starting with a bit of history on this legendary stretch of road, courtesy of the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton OK, a very authentic, thorough and friendly-manned little museum way more interesting than its larger, commercial and fake-looking counterpart a few miles further down the Route in Elk City OK.

Route 66 ca. 1920Road conditions on Rock Island railroad crossing OK ca. 1920 (Picture courtesy ODOT)

The beginning

The numerical designation 66 wasn’t assigned to the Chicago-to-Los Angeles route before 1926, but the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum traces the history of the first paved road system in Oklahoma, the foundation of what would become U.S. Route 66. $1 million was allocated in 1917 for the construction of the Oklahoma state road system, with the first paving laid in 1918 on a stretch that would later be Route 66. From the outset, public road planners intended U.S. 66 to connect the main streets of rural and urban communities along its course for the most practical of reasons: most small towns had no prior access to a major national thoroughfare.

IMG_9968Paving an Oklahoma section of what would become Route 66, ca. 1920

Paving and traffic growth

U.S. 66 was first signed into law in 1927 as one of the original U.S. Highways. Much of the early highway was gravel or graded dirt. Due to the efforts of the U.S. Highway 66 Association established by Tulsa businessman Cyrus Avery, Route 66 became the first U.S. highway to be completely paved in 1938. Traffic grew because of the geography through which it passed: much of the highway was essentially flat and made it a popular truck route. In the aftermath of the Great Depression of 1929, a large part of unemployed workers found their salute in the construction and paving of Route 66, and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s saw many farming families, mainly from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, and Texas, heading west on the Route 66 course for agricultural jobs in California.

AAA service station Route 66 1930AAA Route 66 service station in St James MO ca. 1930

Being the first truly long distance highway in the U.S., Route 66 encouraged the development of more than a few iconic highway habits that are still at play today…

The filling station

One of them is the filling station: on a road that stretched for over 2000 miles, gas stations became a necessity. Before the establishment of dedicated gasoline stations, fuel was purchased at liveries, repair shops or general stores. The drivers poured gas into buckets and then funnelled it into their gas tanks. By the 1920s, with the growing popularity of the automobile, filling stations became the lifeline of Route 66. One could not travel along Route 66 without stopping at a filling station approximately every 70 miles because cars had smaller gas tanks then. Between 1920 and 1930 the number of gas stations in the U.S. increased from 15,000 to 124,000. They evolved from the simplest concept, a house or shack with one or two service pumps in front to a more elaborate model with service bays and tired outlets, selling a particular brand of gasoline.

First Parking meter Oklahoma City 1935The first parking meters in the world were installed in Oklahoma City on 16 July 1935 (above).

The parking meter

With the increase of traffic generated by Route 66, businesses began to develop along Main Street and the need for parking became an issue. In order to control parking and to encourage turnover of users, a method of device had to be created to curb the problem. Two professors of engineering from Oklahoma State University devised the parking meter as a viable solution to the increasing need for Main Street parking control. The first of their meters was installed in Oklahoma City on 16 July 1935 as part of a 175-meter experiment. They proved very successful and were soon implemented all over town. The rest is, well… history. Because it was relatively easy to abuse a parking meter system, many town established patrolling meter person which became a hot topic along Route 66.

Truck Route 66 1940Capital Steel & Foundation truck in a no passing zone of Route 66 east of Oklahoma City ca. 1940

Commerce

One of the earliest arguments for new and better roads such as Route 66 was commerce, and it did not take long for truckers to take advantage of new opportunities. With the inability of the railroad system to handle the growing volume of traffic during World War II, over-the-road trucking traffic increased. Paved roads opened small towns and rural consumers to efficient and low-cost truck delivery. Of the 25.000 trucks registered in Oklahoma in 1926, most used the paved highways and competed directly with the railroads. Responding to complaints from railroad companies the state legislature passed a regulatory law in 1929 that set truck rates and routes.

Oklahoma buses 1940

Bus travel

The bus industry, born in the early 1920s, boomed during the 1930s and 1940s. Bus lines had to get permits from the State Corporation to operate over fixed routes. Bus stops were located at gas stations, hotels, grocery stores and restaurants. The bus driver stopped if a flag was hanging outside, the flag later replaced by a light. Bus traffic increased dramatically during World War II and peaked after the war. In 1944, Oklahoma was served by 31 bus companies, with the heaviest traffic located along Route 66. Several towns on the Mother Road, such as Oklahoma City and Tulsa, had as many as eight different bus companies serving their area.

Burma-Shave advertising Route 66Iconic Burma-Shave advertising signs on Route 66

Snow Cap Drive-In Route 66Snow Cap Drive-In in Seligman AZ

Blue Swallow Motel 1939The Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari NM was created in 1939

Oklahoma Roadside Park Route 66Route 66 sign for Roadside park in Oklahoma

Motels

Route 66 was affected by the expanding economy and middle-class vacationers. This led to several changes – the most dramatic was the expansion of the variety of overnight accommodations. In the 1920s, local merchants had set aside campsites near downtown business districts to keep potential customers nearby. Entrepreneurs quickly developed additional camp areas with services, on the edges of towns. Campsite cabins were soon equipped with cots, chairs, and camp stoves, costing from 50c to 74c per night. By 1926, most cabins included a bed, table, benches and water pitcher. Check out my review of the best motel chains in the U.S. as part of this Coast to Coast series here.

Route 66 sign

The end

The beginning of the end for Route 66 came in 1956 with the signing of the Interstate Highway Act by President Dwight Eisenhower who was influenced by his appreciation of the German Autobahn network as a necessary component of a national defense system. Super highways, with divided lanes, limited access and no Stop signs were first built along Route 66 in California and Illinois. In 1976, when the states of California, Illinois and Missouri removed the old 66 shields from the road, the Mother Road ceased to exist as a continuous stretch of highway. In 1984, Arizona also saw its final stretch of highway decommissioned with the completion of Interstate 40 just north of Williams, Arizona. The U.S. Route 66 officially ceased to exist in 1985, with no single interstate route designated to replace it. Within many cities, the route became a “business loop” for the interstate. Some sections became state roads, local roads, private drives, or were abandoned completely.

Today, it requires careful planning to follow Route 66 on the part I travelled along, with many ‘jogs’ across Interstate 40 required, and a mile-by-mile map sometimes necessary. Next I will go into the detail of the most interesting stops along Route 66 from Oklahoma City OK to Gallup NM, including:

1. Texola OK

2. U-Drop Inn and Tower station in Shamrock TX

3. Magnolia gas station in Shamrock TX

4. Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo TX

5. Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari NM

6. Main street in Tucumcari NM

7. Albuquerque NM

8. Gallup NM

… so stay tuned for Part 2 of this Route 66 section of my US Coast to Coast 2014 Photo Report!

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia and runs a car sales statistics website and consultancy: BestSellingCars which just celebrated its 4th anniversary.

The Full Photo Report continues below.

Cyrus AveryCyrus Avery, the Father of Route 66

Top of the World Route 66 HotelTop of the World Hotel in Continental Divide NM

WPA Route 66Work Projects Administration sign, ca.1935 

Parking meter Route 66bParking meters in Omaha NE, 1938 

Lee Way Motor FreightLee Way Motor Freight truck 

Ford F150 Route 66 2Ford F-150 in Sayre OK

Ram Pickup x 3 Route 663 x Ram Pickup in Elk City OK

Chevrolet Tahoe Route 66Chevrolet Tahoe rental in Elk City OK

Ford F250 Shamrock 1Ford F-250 Super Duty in Shamrock TX

Chevrolet Silverado Route 66 2 Chevrolet Silverado in Elk City OK

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Junkyard Find: 1985 Mercury Grand Marquis LS Colony Park Station Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1985-mercury-grand-marquis-ls-colony-park-woodie-station-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1985-mercury-grand-marquis-ls-colony-park-woodie-station-wagon/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 13:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938577 The popularity of the full-size station wagon went into steep decline during the course of the 1980s, thanks to competition from minivans and less truck-ish SUVs, and there wasn’t a particularly compelling reason to get a Mercury wagon instead of its near-identical, cheaper Ford sibling, so the 1979-1991 Mercury Grand Marquis Colony Park wagon was […]

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13 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin
The popularity of the full-size station wagon went into steep decline during the course of the 1980s, thanks to competition from minivans and less truck-ish SUVs, and there wasn’t a particularly compelling reason to get a Mercury wagon instead of its near-identical, cheaper Ford sibling, so the 1979-1991 Mercury Grand Marquis Colony Park wagon was uncommon then and near-extinct now. I do see some Ford LTD Country Squires in wrecking yards nowadays— this ’86 woodie and this ’87 woodie, for example— but this Colony Park is the first I’ve seen in at least a decade.
01 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis generation of Colony Park wasn’t quite as majestic as its 1950s and 1960s predecessors, but it also got about twice as many miles per gallon as those barges.
11 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe good old familiar 302-cubic-inch Windsor V8, still fitted with a carburetor in 1985, powered this wagon.
25 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOpera lights!
17 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis fender trim has a very maze-like shape.
08 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAre there little speakers in the steering wheel, or are those holes merely decorative?
10 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Colorado sun has not been kind to these leather seats.

The Grand Marquis kicked some Buick and Oldsmobile butt, to hear Mercury tell it.

01 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Dispatches Do Brasil: FCA Finds Its Feet http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dispatches-brasil-fca-finds-feet/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dispatches-brasil-fca-finds-feet/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 16:39:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938489 It’s pretty amazing how the world spins and moves forward yet people refuse to budge. Fiat consistently scores in or near the top of Euro reliability rankings, besting most if not all of the mainstream Euro makers as well as other competitors from other continents who, somehow, are given a pass in this area. It […]

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Fiat-500X-2-550x364

It’s pretty amazing how the world spins and moves forward yet people refuse to budge. Fiat consistently scores in or near the top of Euro reliability rankings, besting most if not all of the mainstream Euro makers as well as other competitors from other continents who, somehow, are given a pass in this area. It does likewise in South America. In terms of “fix-ability” it is among the most appreciated, being its corporate policy to share information with mechanics quite openly about its cars’ needs and selling every small bit as a separate part so that people need only change what needs changing, saving its customers money .

I go to the factory in Betim, Brazil, every so often and the place is always filled with Japanese consultants on the factory floor, not just in conference rooms and secluded offices, teaching and implementing more and more quality control techniques. Brazilian engineers I know personally go north and tell me of all the changes they are seeing at Chrysler Group, with leaner, more exact engineering being implemented, inefficiencies controlled, paint shops and water handling completely overhauled.

The place is a brute, the second largest in capacity in the world, being beaten only by a Russian AvtoVAZ unit. Receiving investments of almost 6 billion reais in improvements, it’s being expanded from a capacity of 800,000 cars a year to 950,000. While the expansion and renovation is happening, it will pump out over 700 thousand cars this year in a bewildering, complex environment. A total of 16 different models are produced there, from passenger cars to light commercial vehicles. The closest factory in terms of complexity in Brazil is a GM unit in São Caetano do Sul making a total of 5 models.

It is also a research and development facility, with the capacity to design cars from the ground up. When I go to that specific place, I see future Fiat products, engines and systems, Chryslers of all stripes and also competitors’ cars being stripped down and rebuilt.  The R&D facility received a portion of that investment money and is putting it to good use. Suppliers are often there, trying to fulfill Fiat’s ever-increasing demands on quality, all the while complaining that it’s impossible within the given budgets.

I also recognize the problems. Some of them are cultural others structural. I know the pressure is there to push the product out when sales are high, leading people to overlook some things they know should be addressed before sticking the quality control stickers on. It is not an easy place to work in if you are a supplier as Fiat is a notorious penny-pincher and will and does sit on suppliers demanding more from them at ever lower prices.

There also seems to be a problem with follow through and repetition. Italian and Brazilian culture mesh well in this regard. Improvisation does and can happen and I have seen condemned bits and pieces being stripped from cars while the same parts are taken from half-built cars. It is easy to see the havoc created upstream in the production, while at the same time the possibility for errors is ripe. Some of the initially condemned pieces are sometimes reworked, deemed good, and installed in other cars.

Brazilian workers and engineers are also notorious for not adhering strictly to a given procedure. While a Japanese worker has the reputation of repeating the same procedure for 40 years without question, workers and professionals in Brazil will often improvise, turning step 2 and 4 into just one, or doing what was supposed to be step 6 before step 5 and so on.

Meanwhile, in North America, perhaps surprisingly, Italian and American culture and business practices have also congealed nicely and even Wall Street likes what it sees. There are no rampant manifestations of dissatisfaction and major suits have had their fears of German-style merger of (un)equals allayed, being that American voices are heard and American butts are promoted and given positions of power. Further down in the corporate hierarchy, at the engineering levels, experiences and information are freely shared among engineers of all nationalities. The Italians hear the Americans and vice-versa and the result are cars improved by cross-pollination.

Southern Europe is slowly coming back, at a time Fiat’s plans are slowly bearing fruition. Key to its future, there are now Jeep products, like the Renegade and Cherokee, not to mention the 500X, confirming the event horizon of our own Derek Kreindler (henceforth nominated auto industry sage extraordinaire) and the “final” victory of the CUV over other car shapes as they seem to give people what they want. The Panda and 500 continue raising the flag in northern Europe for those who wish to go against the norm and don’t conform to the notion of German engineering superiority and overbearing market presence. In light of all of this, FCA head honcho Sergio Marchionne may be confirmed as the savviest auto exec in the business.

Alfa Romeo remains a work in progress, while Maserati sales show that FCA can still credibly build and sell a luxury car. With the upcoming Alfa and Maserati CUVs, Italian vehicles will grace in higher numbers exclusive country clubs the world over.

In the US, Fiat will remain a niche player with the 500 satisfying non-conformists, while the 500X could prove more adapted to local conditions. Fiats will also continue donning RAM horns and underlying and motivating Dodge and Chrysler cars and Jeep CUVs. FCA, in spite of the naysayers and doom-and-gloom merchants, keeps growing in the US. Chrysler Group has passed Toyota becoming the third largest OEM in that important and expanding market.

It is so easy to laugh and point at FCA products and buyers. It is also intellectually easy to step on them while they are down, ignoring all the evidence to the opposite. Taken in scope, the improvements and ongoing investments point only in one direction: Up.

Improving on already good reliability, working closely with the aftermarket to keep mechanics informed and up-to-date of the sometimes different engineering seen in their cars, keeping fingers crossed that nothing bombastic happens, FCA could be on its way to an event horizon of its own, selling cars on their merits and not just pricing, becoming a full-line maker capable of attracting and poaching customers from other makes, providing shareholders with nice returns, and creating wealth and employment the world over.

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The Streets Of R-Ado http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/streets-r-ado/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/streets-r-ado/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 18:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=936762 I felt like a spy within my own company. It was a hot summer day in 2003 and I was at the DaimlerChrysler proving grounds in Laredo, Texas to attend a focus group on the upcoming 2006 Mercedes-Benz R-Class minivan/crossover/sport touring wagon. My dozen or so fellow attendees were all wealthy owners of high-end Mercedes-Benz cars. I was here because the […]

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2006 R500 Courtesy cimg.carsforsale.com

I felt like a spy within my own company. It was a hot summer day in 2003 and I was at the DaimlerChrysler proving grounds in Laredo, Texas to attend a focus group on the upcoming 2006 Mercedes-Benz R-Class minivan/crossover/sport touring wagon. My dozen or so fellow attendees were all wealthy owners of high-end Mercedes-Benz cars. I was here because the Mercedes-Benz USA focus group invite filter did not recognize my net worth nor the fact that I worked for Mercedes-Benz Financial Services. And I was not about to tell anyone that…

The Laredo facility included an assortment of handling, hill-climb and torture tracks, all on the infield of an imposing high-banked 5-mile circle track. The first impression of the scene was intoxicating to a car nut: Hey, there’s a Dodge Magnum, looks just like the spy photos! There goes the next generation S-Class! We were shown the upcoming GL-Class and the next-generation M-Class SUVs. Those vehicles, as well as the future S-class circling the track, were lightly masked but easily recognizable while the “sport touring wagon” was heavily, almost comically, disguised.  It looked like a giant black shoe box with a sloping hood.

My group of five folks and an engineer jumped into the future R-Class. The interior was well-crafted and amazingly roomy: I could stretch my legs out in the third row. Our moderator led us through the various obstacle courses around the grounds, switching drivers along the way. Finally we headed for the 5-mile circle. It was “Clockwise Day” which seemed strange to someone used to driving counterclockwise on oval tracks.  Our leader cranked it up to an indicated 150 mph and took one hand off the wheel to demonstrate the wagon’s stability. We were duly impressed.

We then each proceeded to take two laps each behind the wheel and several of us hit the magic 150 mph barrier. We were quietly cruising with six people aboard and blasting past Plymouth Neons on the inside lane doing endurance testing.  The original R500 with the 302 hp V-8 had a governed top speed of 135 mph. The Benz engineers would not answer questions about this drivetrain. In retrospect, I think it must have been the 503 hp V-8 from the planned R63 AMG under the hood.

We always said the R-Class would make a great hearse...

We always said that the R-Class would make a great hearse…

Years later I think: Were we really doing 150 mph with six passengers in a prototype with a drag coefficient of Melissa McCarthy?  Was the speedometer clocked? Or is driving on a banked, circular track as safe and easy as driving in a straight line? Regardless, I highly doubt there are many car companies who would allow a bunch of yahoos to drive their mock-up models at high speeds on their secret proving grounds. That day in Laredo was one of the highlights of my time in the car business.

Two years later when I first saw a production R-Class, I was shocked: it looked awful, a combo of awkward lines. I thought about Laredo. Were they hiding the R’s styling from us because previous groups had given it a thumbs down? Or was Germany so proud of the edgy styling that they did not want it leaked?  By disguising its looks, letting us behind the scenes to drive flat-out at their proving grounds, and not talking price or specs, were they guaranteeing that we each would  vote an enthusiastic “yes” when asked if we would consider buying one, which we did?

I was pleased to see one suggestion from our focus group about the poor location of the third-row shoulder belt hanger had been addressed.

 

It appears the Daimler is now selling their Laredo test track. Note the 2-mile oval track within the 5-mile highbank circle.

Daimler is now selling their Laredo test track. Note the 2-mile oval track inside the 5-mile circle track

The R-Class was released in the summer of 2005 to the sounds of crickets on the showroom floors. Press reactions were mixed, (“It’s big and it’s ugly, but inside it you can live like a king,” said the Sunday Times.) Within 30 days of the launch, Benz had to add dealer incentives to counter consumer resistance to the base MSRP of $48,000 for the R350 and $55,500 for the R500. A constellation of factors led to the R-class being a rare failure for Daimler: high pricing, murky marketing and product positioning, mediocre gas mileage, the recession and most of all due to its undeniable ugliness.

Sales of the R-Class in the US peaked at 18,168 units in 2006, far short of the corporate objective of 50,000 sales per year. Less than 3,000 were sold each year between 2009 and 2011 before the car was discontinued in North America in 2012. The R-Class continues to be assembled in Mercedes’ Alabama factory for sale in overseas markets. (US dealers toured the plant recently and upon seeing the R line, several joked, “Oh noooo, it’s back!”)

I had an R-Class company car in 2009 and it rode as well as I remembered, every bit an S-Class on the highway. Even better was the fact it was the CDI diesel variant with its gobs of torque and great gas mileage, a truly underappreciated engine.

I still think the R stands for Repulsive but if I could find one of those eighty 2007 R63 AMGs brought into this country…

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Coast to Coast 2014: Oklahoma – last stop before Route 66 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/coast-coast-2014-oklahoma-last-stop-route-66/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/coast-coast-2014-oklahoma-last-stop-route-66/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 15:52:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=937738 In Oklahoma, the Chevrolet Silverado hits its highest state ranking so far in this trip… * You can check out all Coast to Coast 2014 reports here! * After driving from New Orleans, Louisiana through Texas via Houston, Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth, we now enter the Great Plains in the Oklahoma state to reach Oklahoma City. This is our […]

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Chevrolet Silverado Oklahoma September 2014In Oklahoma, the Chevrolet Silverado hits its highest state ranking so far in this trip…

You can check out all Coast to Coast 2014 reports here! *

After driving from New Orleans, Louisiana through Texas via Houston, Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth, we now enter the Great Plains in the Oklahoma state to reach Oklahoma City. This is our last stretch of the trip before we roll onto legendary Route 66… If Texas was the kingdom of pickup trucks, their proportion in the overall traffic is actually even higher in Oklahoma, with sales statistics to prove it – along with a surprise state sales leader… These, my Oklahoma impressions and a review of my Ram 1500 ecoDiesel (“Albert”) interior ergonomics below.

Ford F250 Oklahoma CityThe Ford F250 Super Duty ranks 4th in Oklahoma.

First let’s start with a bit of trivia about the Oklahoma state, one of the country’s fastest growing thanks to natural gas, oil and agriculture among other things. It gets its name from the Choctaw phrase “okla humma”, meaning “red people” and used to describe Native American people. 39 Native American tribes are located here and more than 25 Native American languages are spoken in Oklahoma, second only to California. Oklahoma was originally used to label a project to create an all-Indian state that failed, along with a later similar attempt named Sequoyah.

Ram 3500 LonghornRam 3500 Longhorn Pickup

Oklahoma has the second-highest number of Native Americans of any state (around 330.000), and at 8.6% of the population compared to just 2.4% in 1950, Oklahoma ranks third highest in the country below only New Mexico at 9.4% (6.2% in 1950) and South Dakota at 8.8% (3.6% in 1950). It is also one of only 7 states where the share of Native Americans in the population is above 1.5%, along with Montana (6.3%), North Dakota (5.4%), Arizona (4.6%) and Wyoming (2.4%). Oklahoma is nicknamed the Sooner State, in reference to the non-Native settlers (“sooners”) who staked their claims on the choicest pieces of land prior to the official opening date, and the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889, which opened the door for white settlement in America’s Indian Territory.

Albert Ram 1500 ecoDiesel Stockards CityAlbert in Stockyards City, Oklahoma

Oklahoma state map. Picture courtesy of Smart-Traveler.InfoOklahoma state. I drove North on the I35 to OKC then West on the I40 towards Amarillo.

Oklahoma is home to 3.8 million “Okies” including almost 600,000 in its capital Oklahoma City, and its second largest city, Tulsa, was considered the Oil Capital of the World for most of the 20th century. Last bits of trivia: 1. Cimarron County in Oklahoma’s panhandle is the only county in the United States that touches four other states: New Mexico, Texas, Colorado and Kansas. 2. An Oklahoman business man, Cyrus Avery, began the campaign to create U.S. Route 66 using the stretch of road from Amarillo, Texas to Tulsa, Oklahoma. But this is another story that I will cover in my next Report…

Dodge Challenger OklahomaDodge Challenger in front of the Oklahoma City Symbolic Memorial for the 1995 bombing.

As I mentioned at the start of this article, the proportion of pickup trucks in the overall traffic is even higher than in Texas, even though the latter is considered the kingdom of pickup trucks. This is due to the relative rurality of the state, with Oklahoma City and Tulsa being pretty much the only sizeable urban centres. This observation translates into official sales statistics in a very striking way: the Top 5 best-selling light vehicles in Oklahoma over the Full Year 2013 are all pickup trucks, making it the first state to achieve this feat so far in my trip. But wait there are more surprises…

Ford F250 Oklahoma City 3Old and new… in Oklahoma City

Best-selling new light vehicles in Oklahoma – Full Year 2013:

Pos Model 2013
1 Chevrolet Silverado 13,994
2 Ford F-150 11,517
3 Ram Pickup 9,762
4 Ford F-250 Super Duty 4,932
5 GMC Sierra 4,712

Source: JATO

Albert Stockyards CityAlbert in Stockyards City, Oklahoma

Also for the first time in this Coast to Coast trip so far, the Chevrolet Silverado outsells the Ford F-150 to claim the Oklahoma crown, and not by a tiny margin: almost 1,500 units separate it from Ford’s best-seller… The Ram Pickup rounds up the podium, and after making its first appearance of the trip in any Top 5 in Texas, the Ford F-250 Super Duty is up one notch to a fantastic 4th place in Oklahoma thanks to just under 5,000 sales in 2013. The GMC Sierra makes a comeback into the Top 5 (it ranked 4th in Louisiana) thanks to 4,700 sales.

Nissan Altima Honda Accord Toyota Camry OklahomaNissan Altima, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry: rare passenger cars in Oklahoma.

Note prior data from other sources (including MSN Autos) claim the Nissan Altima is the best-seller in Oklahoma. I will interpret this as being the best-selling passenger car, continuing a trend we have seen in Tennessee and Mississippi, because the clear dominance of pickup trucks excludes all possibility the Altima could threaten any of the pickups mentioned above in the overall Oklahoma sales charts.

Ford F150 Stockyards City3 x Ford F150 in Stockyards City

A must see in Oklahoma City is the National Memorial for the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building, America’s worst incident of domestic terrorism. The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial rests between two twin Gates of Time, framing the moment of destruction (9:02 am on April 19, 1995). The East Gate has graved into it 9:01 and represents the innocence of the city before the attack. The West Gate has 9:03 in it, the moment Oklahoma City was changed forever. The Memorial has 168 empty chair sculptures for each of the people killed in the attack, including 19 small ones for the children. A beautiful, moving and humbling experience. There is a real feel in this place that the event will mark the city for the rest of its existence. This, combined with the fact that this National Memorial is widely considered as the single location in Oklahoma most worthy of a visit (and I agree), was a bit of a wake up call for me. After having visited the National September 11 Memorial in New York City and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, this was the time I truly took stock of the horror that terrorism has inflicted on America.

Ram 1500 ecoDiesel Albert gearboxAlbert’s gearbox knob in all its glory

Now that we are well into this Coast to Coast trip at over 3000 miles since our starting point in New York City, it is time for me to update you on my ride Albert, my valiant Ram 1500 ecoDiesel, and today I’ll go into its day-to-day controls ergonomics. Hundreds of routine commands and adjustments all through the trip so far are a fast-track way of testing how natural and intuitive Albert is to drive. Firstly my overall impression, and if you have read my coverage of the last Beijingand Paris Auto Shows you will now I am very picky as far as interiors are concerned: Albert does not know the word flimsiness. All instruments inside are and feel sturdy and robust, day after day, thousand miles after thousand miles. Albert is tough and made for work.

I have said this before and I will say it again, I love the gearbox transformed into a simple dashboard knob, freeing leg space for a potential third person in the front row. Once you train your brain to not use that knob to adjust air con – located just next to it, all is good and well in the best of worlds.

Ram 1500 ecoDiesel dashboardAlbert’s centre dashboard console. Simple and functional (click on image to enlarge)

Overall, the dashboard of this Ram 1500 ecoDiesel Tradesman is simple but functional, with no superfluous buttons. Is a navigation system superfluous? When you use this truck to and from work yes, but on a Coast to Coast trip no. Oh well, my iPhone and the Google Maps app are now best mates, and the centre dashboard console screen is content just telling me what song I’m listening to. The three cup holders accommodate every size of Starbucks coffee or watered down McDonalds to-go Coke thanks to flexible rubber padding, and the USB port hidden inside the large container in-between the two front seats enables to both play all the music on my iPhone and keep the latter hidden from view.

Ram 1500 ecoDiesel control barAlbert’s left and sole steering wheel control bar

A few tidbits are a little less intuitive on this Ram 1500 ecoDiesel, starting from the controls on the steering wheel. Keep in mind this is the base model so all controls have been kept to their most pragmatic selves, however I would have liked to avoid fiddling with the radio commands right in the middle of the dashboard every time I wanted to adjust volume or skip to the next song, in the process looking away from the road for a little too long for my liking. There is no right control bar next to the steering wheel, only a left one that controls wipers, on-off headlights and (very feeble) high beams.

Ram 1500 ecoDiesel steering wheel RAlbert’s steering wheel commands (right)

Ram 1500 ecoDiesel steering wheel LAlbert’s steering wheel commands (left)

The steering wheel controls are for (right) cruise control and gears and (left) onboard computer navigation to access things like fuel economy or change the speed measures from mph to km/h. The navigation buttons pictured above somehow required me to always check I was using the correct arrow, forcing me to successively look at the road, the commands, the computer screen, the commands, the screen and back to the road. An arrangement in a cross would remove that need. Also, a simple right control bar just under my right hand on the wheel letting me adjust volume and ‘next’ or ‘prev’ song would be a welcome improvement.

Ram 1500 ecoDiesel coin dispenserAlbert’s oh so quaint coin dispenser

I’ll finish on a favourite of mine: the coin dispenser located inside the central container next to the USB port, keeping Albert in touch with its Tradesman label, roots and target market. I haven’t used it much while driving as all tolls can be paid with bills or card, more as a way to keep my change in eyesight, helping me making sure I spend it all before leaving the country!

The next Report will be dedicated to the Old Route 66, so stay tuned!

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia and runs a car sales statistics website and consultancy: BestSellingCars

Thanks to David Curry for all the pictures in this report

Ram 1500 ecoDiesel lights commandAlbert’s headlights commands

Ram 1500 ecoDiesel L front doorAlbert’s electric windows and mirrors commands, located on the left front door.

Stockyards City sceneStockyards City street scene 

Ram 3500 Longhorn2Ram 3500 Longhorn Pickup

 

Cadillac 2 1997 Cadillac DeVille in Oklahoma City

Nissan Altima OklahomaNissan Altima, 1993 Ford F-Series and Lincoln Navigator in Oklahoma City

Ford F150 Oklahoma 2Ford F150 in Stockyards City, Oklahoma

Toyota FJ Cruiser Ford Fusion OklahomaToyota FJ Cruiser and Ford Fusion in Oklahoma City

Cadillac 11997 Cadillac DeVille

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Junkyard Find: 1994 Isuzu Amigo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1994-isuzu-amigo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1994-isuzu-amigo/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 13:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=937594 Remember the Isuzu Amigo? A descendant of the platform that gave us the Chevy Luv pickup, the Amigo was the cuddly three-door version of the much more popular Isuzu Rodeo. Rodeos are still fairly easy to find here in Colorado, but the Amigo is another story. Here’s a last-year-of sales ’94 I found in a […]

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09 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinRemember the Isuzu Amigo? A descendant of the platform that gave us the Chevy Luv pickup, the Amigo was the cuddly three-door version of the much more popular Isuzu Rodeo. Rodeos are still fairly easy to find here in Colorado, but the Amigo is another story. Here’s a last-year-of sales ’94 I found in a Denver self-service yard a few weeks ago.
03 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis spare has been used up real good!
05 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis vehicle shows all the signs of having been beaten to death by wastoid snowboarders, a common fate for small all-wheel-drive machinery in these parts.
06 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin2.6 liters of screaming Isuzu power.
08 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNote the shiny paint and outside rear-view mirror held on by duct tape, indicators that this truck went downhill fast once it got into the hands of its final owners.


Like most members of the Isuzu/Vauxhall/Opel Co-Prosperity Sphere, the first-generation Opel MU was available with a bewildering variety of marques and badges. This truck could be purchased as a Chevrolet, a Holden, a Vauxhall, or a Honda, as well as numerous flavors of Isuzu. Here’s a German ad for the ’94 Opel Frontera.

01 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Editorial: The Game Changer That Never Was http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/editorial-game-changer-never/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/editorial-game-changer-never/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 16:21:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=937138 Canada is in an uproar of another “game changer” from the Blue Oval, but it’s got nothing to do with enthusiasm over Ford sedans. For months, news of new investment at Ford’s two engine plants in Windsor, Ontario has been making the rounds. The supposed story was that Windsor would get a new family of […]

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Canada is in an uproar of another “game changer” from the Blue Oval, but it’s got nothing to do with enthusiasm over Ford sedans.

For months, news of new investment at Ford’s two engine plants in Windsor, Ontario has been making the rounds. The supposed story was that Windsor would get a new family of small, fuel-efficient engines, and possibly even hybrid powertrains. The (wishful) thinking was that the profitable assembly of these powertrains might lead to small car production in Canada.

This past week, it emerged that Windsor would not get the new engine family, which would apparently have led to the creation of 1,000 direct jobs and as many as as 9,000 indirect jobs. Both Ford of Canada and the Ontario and Canadian federal governments could not agree on how large of a subsidy would have to be given out to bring the engine assembly to Ontario.

In the aftermath, new details are emerging. For starters, the investment was slated to go to Mexico (where small cars like the Fiesta are built), and Unifor, Canada’s auto worker union, tried to “steal the program”. Unifor’s Jerry Dias noted that the engines are destined for assembly plants in Mexico and there was a “heavy ask” from Ford in terms of subsidies.

This makes perfect sense: small cars are notoriously unprofitable, and building their powertrains in a high-cost jurisdiction makes little sense. Ford is rumored to be moving production of the Fiesta to Thailand, since Mexican assembly isn’t leading to a profitable North American-spec Fiesta. The idea of Canadian production of the Fiesta, or another small car, is a bit of a pipe dream.

On the other hand, all is not lost for Canadian manufacturing. Ford recently committed to building the next-generation Edge at their Oakville Assembly Complex, which means an additional 1,000 jobs. And the Windsor plants are currently building large V8 engines for Ford’s popular pickup trucks. Some outlets have suggested that the left-leaning Ontario government was interested in the smaller engines, since it sees fuel efficient small cars as the way of the future. But the sales data and consumer appetite for big pickups on both sides of the 49th Parallel suggest that Windsor’s current product portfolio – the 5.0L Coyote V8 and other larger engines – is the right one for current market conditions.

 

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A Gathering of the Automotive Tribes. The Last Car Show of the Season. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/gathering-automotive-tribes-last-car-show-season/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/gathering-automotive-tribes-last-car-show-season/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 16:02:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=927425 In my day job I happen to do work for a number of car and motorcycle clubs. Some of the officers have become friends and they know about my side gig writing about cars and car culture. Last year, in the early spring, my buddy Tony, who’s the prez of the Motor City Camaro and Firebird […]

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Full gallery here

In my day job I happen to do work for a number of car and motorcycle clubs. Some of the officers have become friends and they know about my side gig writing about cars and car culture. Last year, in the early spring, my buddy Tony, who’s the prez of the Motor City Camaro and Firebird Car Club, told me that the first car show of the year was being held at a Kmart parking lot near Eight Mile and Telegraph. It ended up being a worthwhile visit. There were some interesting cars and I even got a TTAC post about donks and low riders out of it. When Tony recently told me about the last car show of the year, being held in another shopping center parking lot, also near Eight Mile Road, this one by Van Dyke, I figured that he hasn’t steered me wrong yet, so I drove over to the east side of town.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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

However, when I got there, at the supposed appointed time, it was just an empty parking lot.  I thought I might be in the wrong place, but then I saw a line of late model Chevy Impalas driving across the lot. Now one or two Chevy Impalas is nothing to notice, a couple of nondescript automotive appliances (though they could be had with 300+ hp), but a line of ten 9th generation Chevy Impalas in a row is a car club. Which it was, the Impala Boyz (along with a few Impala girlz too).

These Impala girls came out to support the Impala Boyz car club. Full gallery here.

These Impala girls came out to support the Impala Boyz car club. Full gallery here.

Apparently, this was to be the final gathering of the tribes, an assortment of model specific car clubs showing up to represent. There were a lot of hugs, handshakes, fist bumps and maybe even a beer or two poured out in memory of department members. There were Impalas, Dodge Chargers, a big contingent of Pontiac Grand Prixs, representing a few clubs but most from the Grand Prix Family,  a couple of local Corvette clubs, and arriving almost as late as my friends in their Camaros was a parade of panthers, the local chapter of the CVB, the national Crown Vic Boys club,  in a variety of Grand Marquises, Town Cars and Crown Vics in both civilian and P71 police interceptor trim.

The Crown Vic Boys show up with their panthers en masse. Full gallery here.

The Crown Vic Boys show up with their panthers en masse. Full gallery here.

What I liked about this show, unlike just about every other car show I’ve attended this year, is that these were virtually all daily drivers. Just because someone may not be able to afford a special weekend car doesn’t mean that they don’t love their ride just as much as someone with one or more pampered special use automobiles. It was a run what you brung event and while most of the cars were in nice shape, there were some that showed the scars of being a daily driver in Detroit. Just because it’s got some dents and rust or a missing bumper doesn’t mean that you don’t love it and want to hang out with others who share that love.

I’d categorize the show as semi-official. While it had the cooperation of the shopping center, there wasn’t any judging or official competitions for trophies. There were some burnouts over to the side and some folks were hooning around the periphery.  As a matter of fact, that activity was in the backstory of a little vignette I witnessed. I was talking to someone in the Camaro club, mentioning how I think the integrated spoiler on the back deck of the 4th generation Camaro is a masterful piece of design when a Dodge Neon SRT4 parked right in the middle of the Camaros.

Full gallery here

A bit of a non-conformist, the only Neon in the show. Full gallery here

When the owner of the Neon got out of his car, the Camaro club members started giving him a hard time about parking there, telling him he should park down the row, near the end of the aisle. He explained rather articulately, emphasizing  his comments with words that began with the sixth and fourteenth letters of the English alphabet, that he didn’t want to risk getting his car or his person injured by the people who were hot-rodding.

I immediately took a liking to the chap as a fellow noncomformist. Like me, he wasn’t there with a club and while there were other Dodges at the event, it was the only Neon.

Whatever differences people had, a good time seemed to be had by all, apparently contrary to what some had predicted. A couple of weeks after the show, while leaving my credit union, I thought the lettering on the back window of a Dodge Charger in the parking lot looked familiar. The owner was standing next to his car, talking with someone in an adjacent parking spot. “Were you at a car show at 8 Mile and Van Dyke?” I asked him. “Yeah. They said we couldn’t do it in the D, that there’d be fights and trouble, but we proved them wrong.” The closest thing to trouble that I saw was the jawing between the Neon ACR guy and the members of the Camaro club and that was a mostly friendly display of male faux aggression.

I go to lots of car shows. It’s a job, but someone has to do it. Seriously, though, I get to attend a lot of top shelf events. The Concours of America is right up there with Pebble Beach and Amelia Island, and the Detroit Autorama is arguably the most prestigious  custom car show in the world. I think it’s a safe guess to say that none of the cars at the Concours or in the front part of Cobo Hall where the Autorama organizers put the best cars at their show are daily drivers. Most of the cars on display at those events are rarely driven objects of cost-no-object builds or restorations. It’s also a safe guess to say that the folks who enter the Concours or the Autorama don’t love their trailer queens any more than the folks at an impromptu shopping center parking lot car show love their daily drivers.

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: Accord A Canary In the Coal Mine For Europe’s Large Car Segment http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/editorial-accord-canary-coal-mine-europes-large-car-segment/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/editorial-accord-canary-coal-mine-europes-large-car-segment/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 16:17:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=936642 Acura’s decision to consolidate both the TL and TSX into a single replacement, did more than just deprive North American consumers of a Made In Japan, manual-equipped Acura sedan. It also helped spell the end of the European Honda Accord. The “narrow body” Accord, sold in Europe, Australia and other world markets formed the basis […]

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Acura’s decision to consolidate both the TL and TSX into a single replacement, did more than just deprive North American consumers of a Made In Japan, manual-equipped Acura sedan. It also helped spell the end of the European Honda Accord.

The “narrow body” Accord, sold in Europe, Australia and other world markets formed the basis for our TSX. But Honda has decided to cease production of their “large” (by world standards) sedan starting early next year.

In Canada and the United States, the Accord is a strong player in the mid-size sedan market. But in the rest of the world, it’s a bit player at best. In a region where cars like the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Fiesta regularly top the sales charts, the Accord was fighting for relative scraps. And its competition, like the Ford Mondeo, Opel/Vauxhall Insignia and Volkswagen Passat practically have the segment locked down in the all important corporate fleet arena, where most of these large cars are purchased, due to the tax savings generated by a company car, rather than buying one for personal use.

Honda won’t be replacing the Accord with another version, but given the way things are going for Europe’s car market, that may not be a bad thing. Crossovers are eating into everything from sedans to compact hatchbacks to station wagons. Better to devote resources to marketing the CR-V and the upcoming HR-V than a minor player in a shrinking segment.

 

 

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Ask Jack: Prius Inter Pares http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ask-jack-prius-inter-pares/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ask-jack-prius-inter-pares/#comments Sat, 25 Oct 2014 13:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935810 It’s another underwater lease question! Never learned to swim! But I think this one will be even easier to answer. my wife has a 2013 toyota prius persona with the nice 17 inch wheels. she has a 3 year lease. we are 16 months in and she already has over 23,000 miles out of the […]

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It’s another underwater lease question! Never learned to swim! But I think this one will be even easier to answer.

my wife has a 2013 toyota prius persona with the nice 17 inch wheels. she has a 3 year lease. we are 16 months in and she already has over 23,000 miles out of the alloted 36 k miles on the lease. After 36k it is .025 cents per mile. The car is 22,000 to buy out right now. Around 15k to buy when the lease is done. she likes the car. it gets above average epa- unlike ford, hyundai. even in the winter of minnesota she usually got mid 40’s which is still better than anything else on the road with the exception of the volt & tesla. anyways, what should we do with it? should we attempt to get out of the lease? there is probably a 1500 penalty of negative equity. my manager of the toyota dealer says stick with the prius as the mileage she drives will pay for the extra money we have to pay for the mileage being over 36k. would love your thoughts. does it make sense to try and get her into a traditional car- i.e. a 2015 honda accord sport?

This gives me a chance to rant for a moment about lease mileage. Buy it up front. It’s always cheaper that way. Yes, it’s possible that you won’t need it, but if your life is unlikely to change in a lower-mileage direction, it always pays to buy the mileage at the beginning of the lease rather than the end.

Twenty-five cents a mile is, frankly, rapacious. No way this is a Toyota Motor Credit lease, right? Which brings me to another lease rant: Unless you’re wealthy enough to cover a wide variety of bizarre charges, never lease with anybody but the manufacturer captive finance company. It’s simple, really: The manufacturers view your lease return as a chance to get you into another one of their cars. The banks view lease returns as a profit center. Time and again during my time at dealerships I saw banks crucify lessors for “damage” that wouldn’t have rated a second look on a captive return.

The best leases are the Ford two-year Red Carpet leases; the worst are the five-year open-enders from third-tier banks. That’s how D-listers in Hollywood lease their Lamborghinis. It’s also, quite memorably, how my father leased a 733i about thirty years ago. He did it for the tax advantages, which have long since disappeared, but the money he paid to walk away in the third year of that contract was enough to make him bleed from the eye like Mads Mikkelsen in Casino Royale.

Back to our Prius-driving friend. Let’s do some back-of-envelope stuff. 23,000 miles after 16 months is equal to about 52,000 miles by lease-end, for a rather stout overage charge of about $3,900. That’s real money.

Will the admittedly stellar fuel economy of the Prius pay for that? Let’s keep that envelope out and doodle some more. The next 29,000 miles could be done in the Prius, which returns 45mpg, for a total of $2300 or so. Trading in for one of my favorite cars, a Dodge Viper TA, would drop that mileage to about 15mpg (in my Viper experience), for a total of $6700. So the dealer has a point — as long as my reader wants a Viper. And who doesn’t?

But let’s say he chooses an Accord Sport with CVT, a car I would expect to return about 32mpg in similar usage. Now the fuel bill is down to $3200. That’s only a $900 savings against a lease overage of $3900. So the dealer’s lying, or his calculator is broken.

So keeping it to the end isn’t necessarily a money-saver. But what are the alternatives? Is the negative equity in the car really just $1500? I doubt the car would bring any more than $19k at auction. So the negative equity is closer to three grand. But here’s the interesting part: a Prius with 55,000 miles on it that is two years older can still fetch sixteen grand. It’s possible, therefore, that our reader might find himself with a bit of positive equity a couple of years down the line.

Notice a trend here? As with our last questioner, this fellow and his wife have a car the resale market for which is not mileage-sensitive. Were he lucky/unfortunate enough to be driving a Maserati or even an Audi, he’d find it difficult to shuck off his 55,000-mile three-year-old car for anything like the lease-end value.

So the question becomes: Pay a known amount now, that known amount being the cost to trade in, or gamble on the Prius retaining its value for twenty more months? I know where I’d place my bet: on the girl with the shirt.*

* Man, nothing like heavy alcohol consumption and a couple of car crashes to age you. I look like this guy’s father now!

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Chart Of The Day: 8 Years A Slave http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/chart-day-8-years-slave/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/chart-day-8-years-slave/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 17:28:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935786 Today’s Chart comes from J.D. Power, showing the growth of long term loans in the Canadian car market. While 96 month loans are just starting to hit American consumers, the 8 year loan terms have been present in the Great White North for some time. A friend was recently looking at a modestly equipped Big […]

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Today’s Chart comes from J.D. Power, showing the growth of long term loans in the Canadian car market. While 96 month loans are just starting to hit American consumers, the 8 year loan terms have been present in the Great White North for some time. A friend was recently looking at a modestly equipped Big Three Pickup, which would be used for work. The truck, with an MSRP of $35,000 CAD (plus 13 percent sales tax), was offered at 96 months for 3.99%. That would have added up to $6,000 in interest payments over the loan term.

Faced with less disposable income and higher vehicle costs, the discourse in the Canadian market has gradually shifted to one where bi-weekly and even weekly payments have become the advertised norm, with 72, 84 and 96 month loans appearing as a fixture of the new and used vehicle marketplace. While the Honda Civic is still Canada’s best-selling passenger car (advertised at $39 per week), and Canadians opt for more modest choices overall, credit rating agencies are already sounding the alarm over the rapid expansion of auto loans to unworthy consumers, driven largely by Canada’s banking sector.

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On Tesla, Michigan And Factory Stores http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/on-tesla-michigan-factory-stores/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/on-tesla-michigan-factory-stores/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 15:06:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935530 Bloomberg’s op-ed “Detroit Fights Innovation — Again” is not about the Detroit Three of GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler [merger consummated Oct 12th] or even manufacturers, but about Michigan and (indirectly) automotive dealers. It makes the very tenuous claim that a ruling blocking Tesla from running company stores (which is in fact in line with […]

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Bloomberg’s op-ed “Detroit Fights Innovation — Again” is not about the Detroit Three of GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler [merger consummated Oct 12th] or even manufacturers, but about Michigan and (indirectly) automotive dealers. It makes the very tenuous claim that a ruling blocking Tesla from running company stores (which is in fact in line with existing state law) is tacit protectionism that represents a step backward. Indeed, the article implies that the restriction is ultimately aimed at preventing a Chinese invasion. In fact the policy is misguided because history shows that there’s no need to fear factory stores, at least as long as they’re not set up by a car company so as to undermine their own existing dealers.

First, there’s the red herring: China. The editors – there’s no by-line, though David Shipley is listed at the bottom – ignore that GM and VW are the biggest players in China, and that purely domestic firms are in a tailspin (Warren Buffett has thrown away a pile of money on BYD [比亚迪汽车]). The camel’s nose is well inside the tent: all of China’s major players are multinationals who already have dealerships spread across all 50 states. Indeed, two firms, Honda and Volvo, are already exporting from China. And the policy is to protect the Detroit Three? Don’t the editors realize that last month they held but 46% of the US market?

Second, the important point: multiple automotive firms in multiple countries across multiple decades have tried and failed with factory stores. If you read carefully, you’ll even find Elon Musk talking about defects with Tesla’s distribution model. A modern dealership is comprised of six interlinked businesses: new vehicle sales, used vehicle sales, used car wholesaling (trade-ins), finance & insurance [including warranties], repair services, and parts sales, both retail and wholesale. (Some add a seventh to the mix, body shops, which in practice are a very different business from service & repairs.) So a manager must handle trade-ins, push used car sales and otherwise place a priority on things other than selling new cars in order to make a profit. On top of that, dealers are in a constant battle over what sort of physical “store” is needed, how much and what kind of advertising is necessary, and many other decisions important from a financial or strategic perspective. All this requires an ability to say “no” to the factory. No company has ever granted the manager of a factory store that level of discretion.Note 1

More important for potential new entrants, independent dealers provide billions in financing to a car company, because they hold inventory. The real estate is theirs as well, again not a trivial investment. Any potential new entrant that needs a large distribution footprint — that is, any company outside of the supercar niche — can’t afford to ignore that. If Elon Musk wasn’t so good at bilkingmilking investors, he would need that money, too.

So the Bloomberg editors are accurate that Michigan — which is far from being in the vanguard on this issue — should not concern itself with Tesla’s retail strategy. They are however accurate for the wrong reasons: factory stores have been a bloodbath for all who have tried, and will remain so. In practice, independent dealers are critical to a car company’s long-run financial viability. Contrary to the editorial, it’s not incumbent car companies that should be concerned, or existing dealers. It’s Tesla shareholders and bondholders who should worry.Note 2


  1. The factory rep who has actually sold a car to a real customer is the rarest of creatures. To my knowledge there are none with the experience of running an independent dealership. Then there are incentives. A factory rep is not offered compensation commensurate with what the principal of a (successful) independent dealership can earn. Instead they work for a salary, and their career depends on saying yes to their boss. So both corporate incentives and practical knowledge stand in the way.
  2. In the past week Toyota sold some of its 2.4% stake while Daimler sold all of its 3.9% stake.

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Junkyard Find: 1982 Datsun 280C aka Nissan Cedric http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1982-datsun-280c-aka-nissan-cedric/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1982-datsun-280c-aka-nissan-cedric/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935210 During my trip to Sweden a few months ago, I watched a Volvo 244 triumph at a Folkrace, saw some great restored Detroit iron, and— of course— went to the junkyard. In fact, I went to one of the best junkyards I’ve ever seen: Bloms Bilskrot, located near the northern town of Söråker. We’ve taken […]

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01 - 1982 Nissan Cedric Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinDuring my trip to Sweden a few months ago, I watched a Volvo 244 triumph at a Folkrace, saw some great restored Detroit iron, and— of course— went to the junkyard. In fact, I went to one of the best junkyards I’ve ever seen: Bloms Bilskrot, located near the northern town of Söråker. We’ve taken a detailed look at this 1966 Toyota Crown wagon, this 1963 Ford Taunus 17M, this California-customized 1969 Ford Econoline van, this 1964 Simca 1000, and now it’s the turn of a not-sold-in-North-America fifth-generation Nissan Cedric.
04 - 1982 Nissan Cedric Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one is pretty mossy, but still has some useful parts.
03 - 1982 Nissan Cedric Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 280C version came with the same L28 as the 280ZX, but it could also be had with a diesel version known as the LD28.
05 - 1982 Nissan Cedric Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSince there’s a glow-plug indicator light on the dash, this car should be an oil-burner.
06 - 1982 Nissan Cedric Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe European version appears to have been given English-language dash controls.

 


The next generation of this car came with a V6 and the endorsement of Jack Nicklaus. Wait, wasn’t he supposed to stay loyal to the Isuzu Statesman Deville?

01 - 1982 Nissan Cedric Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1982 Nissan Cedric Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1982 Nissan Cedric Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1982 Nissan Cedric Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1982 Nissan Cedric Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1982 Nissan Cedric Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Junkyard Find: 1983 AMC Eagle SX/4 Sport http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1983-amc-eagle-sx4-sport/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1983-amc-eagle-sx4-sport/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 13:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934978 Ahh, the AMC Eagle! So much car-industry history wrapped up in the Eagle, which was a highly innovative machine made during the very last gasps of American Motors (and continuing as a Chrysler product, briefly, before Chrysler killed the Eagle and kept the name for its new marque, which was then slapped on a rebadged […]

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15 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAhh, the AMC Eagle! So much car-industry history wrapped up in the Eagle, which was a highly innovative machine made during the very last gasps of American Motors (and continuing as a Chrysler product, briefly, before Chrysler killed the Eagle and kept the name for its new marque, which was then slapped on a rebadged and modified Renault 25). Since I live in Colorado, I see Eagles on the street all the time— there are several daily-driver Eagles living within a few blocks of me— and I see them in the local wrecking yards. So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’79 wagon, this ’80 coupe, this GM Iron Duke-powered ’81 SX/4, this ’82 hatchback, this ’84 wagon, this ’84 wagon, and this ’85 wagon. The AMC Spirit-based SX/4 is much less common than the larger AMC Concord-based Eagles, so today’s find (in Denver, of course) is quite interesting.
10 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI don’t see any SX/4 badging on this car, but I’m fairly certain that any Spirit Liftback was sold as an SX/4. AMC experts, please fill us in on the details of Late Malaise Era AMC branding/badging.
05 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one seems to have just about every possible option, including the optional center gauge cluster with clock and vacuum meter.
02 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAutomatic transmission, sporty steering wheel, air conditioning— this car is loaded!
14 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI found an old German 1-mark coin from the pre-Euro era on this car’s floor.
22 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe good old reliable AMC six, which Chrysler kept making into the current century.
18 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese cars aren’t tremendously valuable, so it is not shocking to see this rust-free example about to be crushed.

Yes, the SX/4 was pitched as a sports car.

Two-wheeling in style or four-wheeling in the wild!

01 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Junkyard Find: 1990 Toyota Cressida http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1990-toyota-cressida/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1990-toyota-cressida/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934274 The Toyota Cressida was very reliable (partly because first owners tended to be the types who did regular maintenance) and held its value well, so it took until about a decade ago for them to start showing up in cheap self-service wrecking yards in large quantities. We’ve seen this ’80, this ’82 this ’84, this […]

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13 - 1990 Toyota Cressida Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Toyota Cressida was very reliable (partly because first owners tended to be the types who did regular maintenance) and held its value well, so it took until about a decade ago for them to start showing up in cheap self-service wrecking yards in large quantities. We’ve seen this ’80, this ’82 this ’84, this ’86 wagon, this ’87, this ’89, and this ’92 in this series so far (plus some bonus Michael Bay Edition Tokyo Taxis, courtesy of Crabspirits), and these proto-Lexus big Toyotas just keep rolling into America’s wrecking yards. Here’s a 160,819 refrigerator-white ’90 that showed up in a San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard without a speck of rust.

05 - 1990 Toyota Cressida Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMechanically speaking, this car was a close cousin of the Supra, and it had the same 190-horse 7M-GE straight-six under the hood.

11 - 1990 Toyota Cressida Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinRear-wheel-drive, of course.

01 - 1990 Toyota Cressida Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior is pretty well used up, which doomed this car to the junkyard when it got some parking tickets and/or a mechanical problem that cost more than $150 to fix.


Here’s a very long promotional video for this car. It’s worth skipping forward a few minutes to the part where the potential Cressida driver encounters a “STEEP GRADE NEXT 1,000 MILES” road sign.


In Australia, it was pronounced “Cress-SEE-duh” and was all about quietness on primitive dirt roads.


In the motherland, this car was known as the Mark II, and it got triumphant music in its ads and an optional supercharger under the hood.

01 - 1990 Toyota Cressida Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1990 Toyota Cressida Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1990 Toyota Cressida Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1990 Toyota Cressida Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1990 Toyota Cressida Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1990 Toyota Cressida Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1990 Toyota Cressida Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1990 Toyota Cressida Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1990 Toyota Cressida Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1990 Toyota Cressida Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1990 Toyota Cressida Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1990 Toyota Cressida Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Bark’s Bites: Fear, Trust, and Character Are All Revealed By the Glen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/barks-bites-fear-trust-character-revealed-glen/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/barks-bites-fear-trust-character-revealed-glen/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 16:05:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933882 The writer has an obligation to put the reader in his shoes, to vividly describe his reality in a way that is descriptive enough to allow the reader to vicariously share his experiences. It is likely, dear reader, that I shall fail you today in my attempt to share my experience from this past weekend, […]

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The writer has an obligation to put the reader in his shoes, to vividly describe his reality in a way that is descriptive enough to allow the reader to vicariously share his experiences. It is likely, dear reader, that I shall fail you today in my attempt to share my experience from this past weekend, but let me attempt by starting with this:

Watkins Glen is perilously wondrous.

If the top of the Pyramid of Speed is represented by wheel-to-wheel racing, then racing at the Glen represents the final brick at the summit, cemented by years and years of tireless labor. This is no country club track, with acres of runoff space. If you make a mistake at Watkins Glen, you will hit something, and you will hit it with remarkable velocity.

We started the first of two seven and a half hour American Endurance Racing contests with thirty-three cars. Fewer than twenty would finish the second such contest on Sunday. Unfortunately, our entry was not one of the survivors—a spinning and sliding E30 collected us in the boot in our twenty-sixth lap, sending TTAC’s tame racing driver into the Armco barrier at speeds severe enough to crumple our fender and irreparably damage our suspension. The blue paint that now adorns Matt Johnston’s remarkable FC RX-7 is worn as badge of honor, a tattoo that has been inked onto many of the world’s most daring chariots.

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Although I was extremely disappointed that we were taken out of Sunday’s race only an hour or so into it, somewhere in a deep recess of my heart, I was relieved. Why? Because it meant that I wouldn’t have to face the beast that is the Glen for a second day.

The Glen is a relic of older times. No SAFER barriers exist, just steel walls that bear the marks of racers who were unable to escape its clutches. The climbing esses out of Turn Two require courage above and beyond that which most men outside of a combat zone will ever have to display. Each of the over thirty times I ascended them, I said a silent prayer to myself and firmly planted the accelerator to the floor. The lateral G force was tremendous, forcing me to brace myself against the fortuitous cage of the Mazda. Our Yokohamas never failed me here, but they couldn’t quite handle the rain later in the day with Jack at the helm, sending the car backwards off track at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour in the rain directly and miraculously into the safety vehicle area.

Others would not be so lucky. Full-course caution was the rule, not the exception, as I saw several cars that were unable to walk the finest of lines between speed and danger tumble off the asphalt. The other RX-7 that entered the field on Saturday plunged nose first into the tire wall off on Turn Six. An E30 was on its side, its roof crushed against the Armco. Another BMW only completed one lap before it smashed backward against the barrier. Each car the Glen defeated served as a reminder that no mistakes would be tolerated.

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Thank God that my mistake was. The consistently wet and cold conditions we faced all weekend caused some condensation to form on the pedals. Heading up the hill into Turn Nine, my foot slipped off the brake, and tapped the accelerator, launching me up and over the hill into what I knew would be a certain high impact incident. In that moment, I pictured the nose of the Mazda exploding all around me, the shower of plastic and metal creating a sort of snow angel around the silhouette of the car. How hard was I going to hit? How much would it hurt? Would the HANS device do its job, or would my family be attending a service in my honor on Monday?

The hit never came. Serendipity was my mistress, as I had made my mistake in the only turn on track where I could have done so and gotten away with it. The Sprint Cup cars don’t run the boot, and as such there is a runoff area in Six where the Cup cars have a straightaway. I collected the car, made a u-turn, and re-entered the racing line. I lost about four seconds that lap, but they were easily the longest four seconds of my life.

Time and time again, I would enter turns at mind-boggling speed right next to fellow ascenders of the Pyramid. Time and time again, the mutual trust and respect we showed each other as colleagues allowed us to exit unscathed. One such instance occurred in Turn One as the green flag waved following yet another full course caution. I had timed the restart well and had considerable momentum on the cars directly ahead of me. In a split second, I had a decision to make—would I stay in line and ensure a safe exit of the turn, or would I dive bomb into the corner and execute a pass? I chose the latter, taking an inside line and braking one, two, three counts later than every fiber in my being wanted to. I cranked hard to the right and put the power down, letting the low-end torque of the mighty GM V6 slide me out of the corner in front of my peers. That pass gained me three positions on track, a position I would maintain until I entered the pits.

Why do I use the words “colleagues” and “peers” to describe my competitors? Because that’s what they were at the Glen. Yes, I was trying to beat them, but I also knew that I wanted them to survive the race, and that they felt them same way about me. Seven and a half hours is a long time to battle the Glen and come out whole. Nobody wants to see flashing lights on track. Grievously, we did, and on more than one occasion. Sometimes they were of the yellow variety. Much too often, they were of the red variety.

If this post seems somewhat stream of consciousness, forgive me. The pure emotion I have as I sit in the Elmira/Corning airport, writing this on a Monday morning, is nearly overwhelming. To have raced on the same track as my heroes—not just driven, but raced—and to have come away unharmed is a powerful feeling.

All wheel-to-wheel racing is special. All tracks have their own charm. But when I went to trackdecals.com and ordered my Watkins Glen International sticker from the safety of my hotel room last night, I felt something different. I felt pride. I felt awe. I felt humility. Thank you, Watkins Glen. I’ll be back next year to test my personal mettle again.

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Coast to Coast 2014: Everything Is Bigger In Texas http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/coast-coast-2014-everything-bigger-texas/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/coast-coast-2014-everything-bigger-texas/#comments Sat, 18 Oct 2014 15:56:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933322 Ram 2500 Long Horn in Fort Worth – Texas You can check out all the Coast to Coast reports as they are published here The Coast to Coast reports are back, and after New Orleans we now land in Texas, literally the land of pickups trucks. This time Albert, my Ram 1500 ecoDiesel feeling now […]

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1. Ram 2500 Long Horn Fort WorthRam 2500 Long Horn in Fort Worth – Texas

You can check out all the Coast to Coast reports as they are published here

The Coast to Coast reports are back, and after New Orleans we now land in Texas, literally the land of pickups trucks. This time Albert, my Ram 1500 ecoDiesel feeling now absolutely at home, took me to Houston, Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth before heading North to Oklahoma City. Texas makes it look like the rest of America I have visited so far wasn’t really trying. It may sound cliché, but everything is bigger in Texas. My impressions as well as official sales data courtesy of JATO are below.

New York Oklahoma CityUSA Coast to Coast trip so far. Map courtesy of Google Maps.

First a bit of trivia about Texas, one of the most symbolic States of the United States. The name Texas is derived from the word “tejas” which means “friends” or “allies” in Caddo language. This term was used by the Spanish themselves when they controlled the area to describe both the region and the Caddo people, a confederacy of several Southeastern Native American tribes who inhabited what is now East Texas, Northern Louisiana, southern Arkansas and Oklahoma. Today the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma is a single federally recognised tribe.

2. GMC Sierra DallasGMC Sierra in Dallas, Texas

At 26.4 million inhabitants, Texas is the second most populous State in the U.S. after California, and would feature at #47 worldwide if it was an independent country at exactly the same figure as Afghanistan and in between such nations as Saudi Arabia (30.8 million) and Australia (23.6 million). It is the second largest State after Alaska at 268.600 sq miles (or 696.241 km2), larger than France. Main cities are Houston (2.2 million inhabitants) and San Antonio (1.4 million) with the largest metropolitan area being the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex at 6.4 million souls and its capital being Austin at 885,400 inhabitants.

3. Toyota Tundra DallasToyota Tundra in Dallas, Texas

Texas has had a tumultuous history, being successively ruled by various nations: Spain, France then Mexico until 1836 when Texas became an independent Republic, before joining the U.S. as the 28th state in 1845. Texas is also called the Lone Star State, and its flag features a single star, a reference to its former status of a independent republic and as a reminder of the state’s struggle for independence from Mexico. Now. Trivia is out of the way, let’s get down to business.

4. Albert Texas State lineAlbert posing next to the Louisiana/Texas State line

And first things first, a few reports ago I said “I still am yet to spot a true American lunatic driving frankly dangerously, and I have found American highways one of the most relaxing and predictable driving experiences of my life.” That was in South Carolina. Well. I am now eating my words as everything changes the minute you cross the Texas State line. Lunatic drivers are more frequent than non-, unpredictable lane changes are the norm and speed limits are a long lost memory. To my advantage, pickup trucks rule the highways and ‘standard’ cars have no issues getting out of the way as soon as I get too close, not wanting to break my cruise control. So far so good.

5. Ford F150 Dallas 3Ford F150 in Dallas, Texas. Albert looks tiny next to it!

I started this article by saying Texas made me feel like the rest of America I had seen so far wasn’t really trying. Example: the huge highways around Houston. The I10 that circles the city at times becomes a 7 lane-highway. I simply had not seen such a thing at any time before and especially not in Los Angeles where I’ve been a few times (anyone care to correct this?), however this may be linked to the scarceness of public transport in Houston. Most interestingly, far from being an over-zealously built and unnecessarily grandiose undertaking, the 7 lanes were put to good use on a Saturday night at 9pm, each one filled with a regular flow of cars driving at speed limit or more. Impressive.

Bigger highways, but also bigger car dealerships. I drove past the largest dealership I’ve seen so far on the trip on the I10 a few miles West of Houston: Don McGill Toyota of Houston. Their website lists an inventory of 1.500 cars on site. Although I didn’t drive past it, It’s also worth noting the Fred Haase Toyota World dealership on the I45 North of Houston: the #1 Tundra dealer in the world and #1 volume dealer in Texas overall, with 2.860 vehicles on inventory right now. While huge, these are however not the largest dealerships in the country: the crown goes to Longo Toyota near Pasadena in California which is simply the largest car dealership in the world. No less. 15.000 vehicles sold a year, 50 acres, 500 employees, 30 languages and dialects spoken and complete with Subway restaurant and Starbucks café on site… It’s a different planet. But we digress…

6. Pickups DallasPickup trucks and motels. Now we truly are in America.

Texas is the kingdom of pickup trucks. Proof: according to Polk, pickup sales in the state were 3 times that of the #2 pickup market (California), and Texas accounts for 1 in 6 full-sized pickups sold nationally, whereas it holds only 8% of the national population. Even more impressive: the Houston metro area alone would rank #5 among pickup markets if it were a separate state. Dallas would be #7, as more pickups are sold just in the Dallas and Houston areas combined than in any other U.S. state, including No. 2 California. And more: even excluding both Dallas and Houston, Texas would still be the No. 1 pick-up state in the country!

6b Pickups Fort WorthPassenger cars are becoming rarer and rarer. In Fort Worth, Texas.

As a result, pickup truck manufacturers obviously pay particular attention to the Texan market, and most have special editions named in reference to this state: Ram has the LongHorn, Ford has the F-Series Texas Edition, Chevrolet has the Silverado… Texas Edition also while Toyota has the Tundra 1794 Edition named for the ranch, founded in 1794, upon which the truck’s assembly plant is located in San Antonio. At the State Fair of Texas in Dallas late last month, Toyota also unveiled a Tundra Bass Pro-Shop Offroad Edition available only to customers in the Gulf states region. Interestingly, only Toyota manufactures its full-size pickup truck locally in Texas and has recently relocated its headquarters from California to the Lone Star state. Last year at the launch of the new generations Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra, Automotive News noted that General Motors was piping as much as half of their initial national supply of 2014 pickups to Texas… Partly helped by their good health here, national sales of full-size pickup trucks hit 2 million units in 2013 and for the first time since 2007.

11. Ford F250 Fort WorthFord F250 in Fort Worth, Texas. The Ford F250 is the #5 best-seller in Texas.

But what are the best-selling vehicles in Texas overall?

Pos Model FY2013
1 Ford F-150 96,663
2 Chevrolet Silverado 78,047
3 Ram Pickup 67,378
4 Toyota Camry 36,953
5 Ford F-250 33,305

Source: JATO

Ford and Chevrolet take advantage of their extensive rural dealer network to take the top two spots with the F-150 just below 100,000 units, by far its best state score in the country, and the Silverado at almost 80,000. Seeing 3 or 4 current generation F-150 in a row is not uncommon on Texan highways. The Ram Pickup rounds up the podium at 67,000 and surprisingly, unlike Louisiana, the Top 4 is not 100% composed of pickup trucks with the Toyota Camry managing to point its much smaller bonnet in 4th position – albeit with just a little more than half the sales of the Ram. Tellingly, the Ford F-250 Super Duty makes its very first appearance in any State’s Top 5 so far thanks to a mammoth 33,305 sales in Texas. Interestingly, Toyota doesn’t place the Tundra inside the Top 5.

7. Chevrolet Impala DallasChevrolet Impala in Dallas, Texas

Thorough observation of the traffic on Texan highways also reveals the following: there are more Ford Edge and Cadillac XTS here than anywhere before during this trip, the new generation Chrysler 200 and Chevrolet Impala are back on the roads for the first time since Memphis, and the Toyota Tundra is strong but even though it is produced locally, it was more frequent in Northern Virginia or Western Louisiana. Austin struck me as a hipster chic town with more Lexus, Infiniti, Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf, less pickup trucks and the strongest heritage of previous generation Toyota Corolla so far in the trip. The Nissan Altima and Honda Accord should top the sales charts there.

10. Chrysler 200 Dallas with Kennedy detailsChrysler 200 in Dallas, Texas

The Ford F150 clearly dominates the Dallas vehicle landscape, potentially holding up to 10% market share there and way above the Chevrolet Silverado, more so than Texas-wide. The base version with plastic bumpers (playing in the same sandpit as my Ram “Albert” 1500 Tradesman) is the Hero of the state. A truckload of them all through Texas and in Dallas in particular, pun intended. There were almost no F250 and F350 in town, only outside on working sites (makes sense) and the new generation Chrysler 200 was stronger again in Dallas. As whole, both the Nissan Armada and Titan are a notch stronger in Texas than they are in the rest of the states I visited so far.

Highlights of the trip in the Lone Star state were the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas (see above), another very thorough museum this time about JFK’s assassination, and Fort Worth, which you might say is touristic yet oh so reassuringly and symbolically Texan. I bought a cowboy hat and belt. I had to. When in Texas… Meanwhile Albert, my valiant Ram 1500 Tradesman truck with ecoDiesel, has now crossed the 3,000 miles milestone in this trip, standing at 3,144 miles (5,069 km) by the time I arrived in Dallas. Fuel economy now stands at 26.4 mpg, still above the 24 average advertised by Ram for city/highway. Very happy with that one.

Next stop: Oklahoma City.

 8. Chevrolet CK Series Fort WorthChevrolet CK Series in Fort Worth, Texas

Ford F150 DallasFord Mustang and F150 in Dallas, Texas

9. Chevrolet Silverado Fort WorthChevrolet Silverado in Fort Worth, Texas

12. Dodge Durango Fort WorthDodge Durango in Fort Worth, Texas

Fort Worth street scene 1Fort Worth street scene

Hyundai Elantra GT DallasHyundai Elantra GT in Dallas, Texas

Nissan Altima TexasNissan Altima near Austin, Texas

Ram 2500 Fort WorthRam Pickup in Fort Worth, Texas

Toyota Camry Fort Worth 2Toyota Camry in Fort Worth, Texas

Ford Explorer Fort Worth 2Ford Explorer in Fort Worth, Texas

Fort Worth ColiseumFort Worth Coliseum

Toyota Tundra Fort WorthToyota Tundra in Fort Worth, Texas

Ford F150 Dallas 2Ford F150 in Dallas, Texas

Toyota Corolla DallasToyota Corolla in Dallas, Texas

Ford F250 Fort Worth 2Ford F250 in Fort Worth, Texas

Fort Worth street scene 2Fort Worth street scene

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Ownership Review: Porsche 911 GT3 (997 Vintage) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ownership-review-porsche-911-gt3-997-1-vintage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ownership-review-porsche-911-gt3-997-1-vintage/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 16:18:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=928346 The last time my friend Derek allowed me to write for TTAC, I narrated a brief test drive of a Porsche 911 GT3 from the 996 generation, a a car that provided an intense and immersive driving experience, but that presented a heinous proposition as a sole car / daily driver, even for a young, […]

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Screen shot 2014-10-10 at 1.22.23 AM

The last time my friend Derek allowed me to write for TTAC, I narrated a brief test drive of a Porsche 911 GT3 from the 996 generation, a a car that provided an intense and immersive driving experience, but that presented a heinous proposition as a sole car / daily driver, even for a young, single owner with a short commute in a sunny clime.  Ostensibly, I had driven the car because I was considering replacing my old 911 with something more livable / less cantankerous / more rapid / etc.  While that particular edition of the GT3 proved a poor match for my needs, I still resolved to join the 21st century by upgrading to a more modern car.

Springtime of 2014 represented a good opportunity to start shopping for a new conveyance, with several enticing and new or recently updated offerings both on the horizon and within my price range.  I considered several options – even several non-Porsches! – including the Alfa Romeo 4C, the all-new F8X family of the BMW M3/4, the C7 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51, and the 981 Porsche Cayman GTS.  Those are all new cars, with full factory warranties.  I’d learned my lesson owning an old German sports car with no factory repair safety net.

As I window shopped for new cars I also perused the Autotrader website and came across an intriguing advertisement for a 997 GT3.  Since the car was introduced, I had intensely desired Porsche’s GT3 from the 997 family, and if Halicki’s Gone in 60 Seconds cult classic were improbably re-made to fit my biography, my “Eleanor” would be a 997 GT3.  Unfortunately, the GT3 that was introduced when I was in high school violated the one sacrosanct rule of this entire exercise – the car was old and out of warranty.  It also featured some frighteningly expensive components (new PCCB brake rotors would cost almost as much as I paid for the 993!).

However.  The car was local.  I knew the seller.  The price was below market.  The car was nicely optioned (blinged-out PCCB brakes, full leather, Xenon lights) and well-maintained, with a clean PPI, perfect DME over-rev report, and only 14,000 miles from new.

I called the owner and bought it over the phone for the full asking price, 100% sight unseen, in less than five minutes.  I broke all of the rules.  I did it for two reasons:  1 – I desired the GT3 moreso than any of the other options, and would have chosen a GT3 over any of them if finances were of no concern. 2 – The attractive entry price, coupled with the dynamics of the GT3 market mean that I’m unlikely to suffer any meaningful depreciation.  In fact, I’ve been using the car as my primary vehicle / daily driver now for six months and plan to continue doing so for another year or two before selling it for about what I paid, perhaps a bit more.

So what’s it like?

Driving Experience:

Engine:

The defining feature of every GT3 from the 996 and 997 generations – up to and including the 4.0 RS zenith of the series – is the race-derived engine that Porsche nerds refer to as the “Mezger” engine, so named for Porsche’s visionary engineer, Hans Mezger, who designed the very first 911 engine, and whose very last project for Porsche was the development of the turbocharged lump that powered the 911 GT1 prototype that triumphed at Le Mans in 1998.  That pedigreed block forms the basis for the production car engine, and in 997.1 GT3 guise it displaces 3.6 liters (100mm bore, 76.4mm stroke), producing 415 bhp and 300 lb-ft of torque.  Performance is produced courtesy of high revs (8,400 RPM redline) and high compression (12.0:1); peak power output comes at 7,600 RPM, with peak torque entering at a lofty 5,500 RPM.  While power delivery is, uh, peaky, the engine is sufficiently tractable and civilized at low RPMs.  I’ve enhanced the car with a bypass exhaust from NorCal Porsche tuner Sharkwerks (mine is serial number 639 – it’s rather popular among the small community of GT3 devotees) and forced the exhaust valves to remain open all the time in order to drop 20 pounds from the rear, create an exceedingly antisocial racket and, most importantly, paint a big grin on my face every time I drive the car.

Click here to view the embedded video.

I cannot overstate the engine’s central role in my enjoyment of the car; it is raw, emotive, immediately responsive, and a key driver of value:  With rare exception, all Porsches ever made with a Mezger engine are appreciating or holding value, whereas those without an engine connected to Hans are depreciating.  Furthermore, the factory still uses the admittedly outdated warhorse engine in its 911-based race cars.  I’ve gone so far as to reference the engine’s provenance with an obnoxious vanity plate:

Screen shot 2014-10-10 at 2.06.32 AM

Drivetrain:

The marvelous engine mates to a close ratio 6-speed manual that features shockingly short throws and a stiff clutch.  When cold or just trundling around town it can be balky and reluctant to engage properly, but the heavy control efforts begin to make sense when driving spiritedly, the intended use for which the entire car is optimized.  Perfectly rev-matched downshifts are a satisfying delight, although the plastic components in the stock lever and linkage feel slightly insubstantial – one of the GT3’s few letdowns as a tool for Freude am Fahren, to borrow a phrase from Porsche’s countrymen in Bavaria.  A dual mass flywheel mates to the aforementioned weighty clutch, whereas the RennSport brethren of the “base” GT3 received the single mass lightweight flywheel.  I have a factory lightweight flywheel in my 993, and I’d love to have the same part in the GT3, but I’d rather have the circa $5,000 associated cost in my pocket.

Suspension and Ride:

The 997 GT3 represented an all-over softening of the preceding generation’s rough edges, coupled with nicer styling – both inside and out – and a bit more grunt. The biggest changes occurred in the car’s suspension, as evidenced in the 997 version’s ride and handling balance. As the first generation of the GT3 to receive PASM – Porsche Adaptive Suspension Management – the contemporary marketing materials and reviews harped on the new, allegedly comfort-oriented suspension setup. The GT3’s PASM setup has two modes, one intended for street usage and the other, harder setting intended for track work. In reality, the “softer” setting is still rather stiff and has a tendency to porpoise over surface imperfections at a variety of speeds while road driving. The stiffer setting has only one legitimate use: illustrating to complaining passengers that the softer setting should be appreciated. The stiffer PASM setting doesn’t bother me in terms of ride quality per se, but it does irk me that that the front tires spend less time in touch with the road than they ought to over anything but perfect pavement. For example, let’s say you perform a panic stop on slightly undulating tarmc – the front wheels will skip over the bumps in the pavement as ABS pulsates away; it’s rather disconcerting. I’ve ridden in and driven all generations of the GT3 sold in North America, and the progressive leap in compliance over time is the most impressive enhancement in my observation. The facelifted 997.2 GT3 brought along mild, evolutionary PASM revisions, whereas the all-new 991 GT3 rides like a Cadillac in comparison to its forebears.

IMG_2684

Handling and Steering:

Despite my niggling complaints regarding suboptimal PASM tuning, I am an avowed fan of the car’s handling and steering feel. Although other cars doubtless offer more outright grip or fractionally higher slalom average speeds, the GT3 dutifully produces the expected objective figures while providing a fulsome stream of involving feedback to the driver. Perhaps you’re driving on a familiar two-lane road when you encounter a mild sheen of rain on the road; you’ll feel it. Perhaps you’re approaching “the limit” around a sweeper and wonder whether you have a bit more grip in reserve; you’ll feel it through the steering wheel and your posterior, and you’ll know. After driving the car for awhile – I’ve put 3,500 miles on mine in 6 months – I’ve gotten used to the chassis’s talents, but time spent driving other cars, including my older 911, brings things into sharp relief once more.

IMG_3026

Brakes:

As mentioned, my car came equipped with the optional PCCB – Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes – setup. Whoever specced my car way back when elected to splurge $8,840 for this option; for that rather immodest sum, they received the following: Massive brake discs (15.0″ front, 13.8″ rear) replete with eye-catching yellow calipers, a circa 40 lb. reduction in unsprung weight, fade-free braking performance, and alleged dust-free operation (untrue). Now, on the other side of the ledger, a few reasons to reconsider PCCBs: Replacing the rotors with OEM parts will run you well over $20,000 (they’re a lifetime part in terms of wear, but, say, running into the gravel trap beyond Road Atlanta’s turn 10A could result in scratching the rotors, necessitating replacement); pads aren’t cheap either (I have a replacement coming soon, it’ll be four figures), and you have to replace them at about 50% life if you’d like to protect your ceramic rotors. Other mitigating factors: PCCBs offer absolutely no advantage versus the standard “Big Red” brakes in terms of stopping distance or pedal feel, and they sometimes squeal around town.

That said, the brakes work impressively, whether you’re executing a full panic stop as an impromptu Heimlich maneuver to help your choking neighbor or wiping off a quick 50 MPH on a back road cruise. Despite the considerable expense, I wouldn’t consider buying another GT3 without ceramics.

Summary Performance Specs:

For the benefit of internet bench racers, I’ve borrowed some performance numbers from the pros in Ann Arbor.

Acceleration:  0-60 in 4.0 seconds; quarter mile in 12.4 seconds at 116 MPH

Roadholding: 0.99g

Braking: 70-0 in 149 feet

Ownership Experience:

Now for the practical considerations and downsides of GT3 ownership.

IMG_5560

Ground Clearance:

The front ground clearance for the car is a scant 3.8 inches.  Not only is the car rather low, but the front overhang is substantial.  Imagine you’re driving around with Jay Leno’s chin skimming along the ground in front of you, under a Damoclean multi-thousand dollar penalty if you hit a speed bump at anything above walking pace!  Exciting.  At first this was the most intimidating aspect of driving the car, as pulling into any parking lot involved an exciting game of wondering “Will I or won’t I scrape the front of my new toy?!?”  I’m already on my second front splitter (mercifully a sacrificial plastic piece that only costs a few hundred dollars), but I’ve learned to proceed with caution and take wide approach and departure angles whenever possible.  My car does not have the nose lift feature that Porsche offered on later GT3s, but I can now live without it, successfully navigating parking decks and gas stations with relative ease.

Fuel Economy and Range:

Speaking of gas stations…  The car makes numerous sacrifices at the altar of motorsports chic, but the small capacity fuel tank – just over 10 gallons – and laughable economy conspire to send me to my local Chevron (premium fuel only, of course) every 130 miles or so.  I can occasionally eke out a bit more range on highway hauls, but my average plummets when I go on pleasure drives on back roads, where I’ve burned a tank in less than 100 miles on several occasions.

IMG_3407

 

Interior:

Despite an MSRP well above $120,000, the GT3’s interior is decidedly no-frills.   The important aspects are executed with aplomb: terrific driving position and ergonomics, touch points swathed in purposeful, tactile Alcantara (ie, synthetic suede) and excellent visibility despite the surfboard / ping pong table out back.  The remainder of the interior, however, leaves a bit to be desired, at least for sybarites seeking sumptuous solace; the seats adjust manually, there is no navigation system, and the puny stereo – featuring only a single disc CD changer, people who own smartphones or MP3 players are out of luck! – is comprehensively overpowered by tire, wind, and engine noise, as the GT3  eschews essentially all sound deadening to pare back mass.  Moreover, the entire car is screwed together so tightly and rides so stiffly that any foreign object in the interior, even a single penny in the console cubby, will induce a maddening vibration / rattle.  As if that weren’t enough, the car makes its own vibrations due to harmonics at about 90 MPH, and they’re sufficiently acute that the view out the rear view mirror is distorted.

Insurance:

Although the car is seven years old now, it’s still fairly valuable and fairly high performance.  I’m 25 and possess a clean driving record (thank you Michael Valentine!), but insurance is still somewhat expensive.  I pay just under $500 per month to insure both the GT3 and 993 through a quality carrier (read: not an insurer that advertises on television).

Summary:

My GT3 is gloriously excessive, embarrassingly wasteful, astonishingly impractical, and supremely indulgent, a pur sang racer diverted from the race track to a relatively quiet, domesticated life at the eleventh hour.

Yet I endure these first world hardships with a smile, because I adore its uncompromising singularity of ideal and purpose.

IMG_2684 IMG_3407 IMG_3026 IMG_5560

David Walton grew up in the North Georgia mountains before moving to Virginia to study Economics, Classics, and Natural Light at Washington and Lee University. Post-graduation, he returned to his home state to work in the financial services industry in Atlanta.  A lifelong automotive enthusiast, particular interests include (old) Porsches and sports car racing.

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Junkyard Find: 1993 Ford Taurus SHO http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1993-ford-taurus-sho/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1993-ford-taurus-sho/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 13:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=931626 While the Ford Taurus has been the most numerous vehicle in American self-service wrecking yards for at least 15 years, most of the time they are the background against which the more interesting cars stand out. Only the SHO version seems worthy of inclusion in this series, and until today we’ve seen just just this […]

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13 - 1993 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinWhile the Ford Taurus has been the most numerous vehicle in American self-service wrecking yards for at least 15 years, most of the time they are the background against which the more interesting cars stand out. Only the SHO version seems worthy of inclusion in this series, and until today we’ve seen just just this ’96 Taurus SHO with V8. These cars have been very affordable for quite some time, but there remains enough of an enthusiast base to keep most of the survivors on the road. Here’s one that I spotted in the San Francisco Bay Area back in August.
LTXS10-NickShots-336We see quite a few Taurus SHOs in 24 Hours of LeMons racing (in fact, Sajeev Mehta reviewed one for us a while back), and they’re both very quick and very fragile. Transmissions, engines, brakes, suspension— you name it, the Taurus SHO can break it in spectacular fashion.
09 - 1993 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinThe heart of the first- and second-gen Taurus SHO is the frantic Yamaha-designed V6 engine. This one was good for 220 horsepower, which sure doesn’t seem like much these days.
04 - 1993 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinThis one even has the manual transmission.
18 - 1993 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin20 years from now, when the few remaining ’93 SHOs are worth big currency units, someone will find this post and marvel at the idea of a rust-free California car like this going to The Crusher. Reminds me of the very solid ’70 Buick GS I saw in the Oakland U-Pull, circa 1983.

Another reason why the Taurus is the best selling car in America, again.

01 - 1993 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 02 - 1993 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 03 - 1993 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 04 - 1993 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 05 - 1993 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 06 - 1993 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 07 - 1993 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 08 - 1993 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 09 - 1993 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 10 - 1993 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 11 - 1993 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 12 - 1993 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 13 - 1993 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 14 - 1993 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 15 - 1993 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 16 - 1993 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 17 - 1993 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 18 - 1993 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin

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How The Honda Passport Got Its Name http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/honda-passport-got-name/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/honda-passport-got-name/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 16:17:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=931842 It ceased being fun working at American Honda around the summer of 1993. Most of our senior managers in the sales division had recently been fired. In May, the New York Times published the first story about our executives soliciting bribes from dealers. The Justice Department was snooping around our US headquarters in Torrance, CA. […]

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Passport Rodeo courtesy popularmechanics.com

It ceased being fun working at American Honda around the summer of 1993. Most of our senior managers in the sales division had recently been fired. In May, the New York Times published the first story about our executives soliciting bribes from dealers. The Justice Department was snooping around our US headquarters in Torrance, CA. The year before, our geniuses in Japan had dropped the ground-breaking CRX two-seater and stuck us with the dull del Sol. Over at Acura, our Honda Division castoffs were busy trying to figure out why the tepid 5-cylinder Vigor was not selling.

We were still stuck in the Civic-Accord-Prelude-del Sol mode. “We will never build trucks,” our execs had often proudly proclaimed.  Now we found ourselves caught flat-footed as we followed the success of the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota 4Runner SUVs. We needed a sport-ute yesterday, and it would take us a minimum of four years to develop one. We did what any self-respecting, high quality, loved-by-its-customers car company would do in this situation.

We called Isuzu.

We made arrangements with Isuzu to sell their Rodeo SUV in America in exchange for Isuzu rebadging some of our small cars in Japan. “Hello, Burger King? This is Lawry’s Steakhouse. We want to put our name on one of your sandwiches and sell it as our own,” said one of my co-workers in Honda’s advertising department. That may have been a little harsh, but there was a genuine lack of enthusiasm internally for the General Motors-powered Rodeo that we had code-named the “Hodeo.”

We had no time to hire a consultant to make up a moniker, as we had done with the brand name “Acura.” Instead we dug into the Honda motorcycle/ATV parts bin to come up with three potential model names already licensed to us.

This was not the first time we had used a tag from our two-wheel division: before it was an Acura, the Integra was a V-Twin sport bike built in the early 1980s (and the name was resurrected in 2007 and continues today as a scooter.) The cycle division had some really cool names. Heck, if Honda ever built a V-8 version of today’s Ridgeline pickup they could call it the Honda 305 Scrambler.

So armed with the names Elsinore, Odyssey and Passport, we headed off to test the SUV and the proposed names in a consumer focus group. We had a Honda-badged Rodeo and a half-dozen competing SUVs lined up in a warehouse in Culver City. The attendees were primarily SUV-owning men, as we were concerned that we were becoming a bit too much of a chick car company. My boss, Dave the National Advertising Manager, and I watched from behind a one-way mirror but were under a time crunch: thanks to NBC, we had great seats to Game 2 of the Stanley Cup featuring the LA Kings and Wayne Gretzky taking on the Montreal Canadiens, with faceoff being 45 minutes away at the nearby Forum.

The original Honda Passport

The original Honda Passport

The group first reinforced our internal concerns when asked their first impressions about our new SUV, (“It looks like that Suzuki or Isuzu.” “It IS that Isuzu.” “Why would Honda sell an Isuzu?” “It won’t have the same quality.”) Undaunted, the moderator from our advertising agency proceeded to ask the attendees what images the proposed names conjured up.

We started with Elsinore. The Elsinore was a 1970s Honda dirt bike named after Lake Elsinore, an area known for a legendary off-road motorcycle race. Movie star and motorcycle racer Steve McQueen rode an Elsinore. What could be a more rugged and manly name for the Hodeo?

Rugged and manly attendee Bob, a Chevy Suburban owner, asked, “Why would you name a truck after the castle in “Hamlet?”  Amazingly, others agreed with him. Elsinore was out.

Next up was Odyssey, a name used for a 1970s/1980s Honda dune buggy. The attendees were confused. (“So this means you can travel long distances in an Isuzu?”) I think Bob mentioned Homer. Odyssey was out but would be used on Honda’s first minivan the following year.

The name Passport was used in the 1980s on a variation of the venerable Honda Super Cub motorbike. The group liked it far better than the other two names. That was enough for Dave and me: we decided that our first-ever SUV would be called the Honda Passport. We excused ourselves and headed to the Forum. The naming process took less than ten minutes.

The Passport ended up selling pretty well initially thanks to our strong brand image and the usual hilarious commercials produced by the legendary Larry Postaer, creative director at our advertising agency. The Passport would be dropped in 2002 and eventually be replaced by the Honda-built Pilot, named after another Honda off-road ATV.

The Honda/Isuzu alliance made a semi-believer out me that a strong car company could successfully work with a weaker automaker on product sharing and development. Of course I later joined Mercedes-Benz a few months before they bought Chrysler and would learn otherwise…

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Junkyard Find: 1979 Plymouth Champ, with Twin-Stick! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1979-plymouth-champ-twin-stick/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1979-plymouth-champ-twin-stick/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 13:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=931106 The tales of the many flavors of rebadged Chrysler Europe and Mitsubishi products sold as Plymouths and Dodges remain perennially fascinating for me, what with all the Chryslerized Simcas and Hillmans and so forth, and one example of this breed that appears to have disappeared from the face of the earth is the Plymouth Champ. […]

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19 - 1979 Plymouth Champ Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe tales of the many flavors of rebadged Chrysler Europe and Mitsubishi products sold as Plymouths and Dodges remain perennially fascinating for me, what with all the Chryslerized Simcas and Hillmans and so forth, and one example of this breed that appears to have disappeared from the face of the earth is the Plymouth Champ. The Champ was a fourth-generation Mitsubishi Mirage, a gas-sipping front-driver that received Colt nameplates for the Dodge side of the showroom floor, and I found one a few days ago at a Denver-area self-service yard.
20 - 1979 Plymouth Champ Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Champ name existed for just the 1979 through 1982 model years, after which Chrysler must have decided that marketing confusion could be reduced and money saved on emblem production by selling both Plymouth- and Dodge-badged Colts.
12 - 1979 Plymouth Champ Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one is a particularly ghastly shade of Malaise Green, which is set off nicely by the tape stripes.
05 - 1979 Plymouth Champ Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car features the super-cool Twin-Stick aka Super Shift transmission, which had a high-low range selector that multiplied the four forward gears into eight gears. Essentially, it was an overdrive box built into the transaxle. In practice, just about nobody drove the Twin-Stick by going through all eight gear ranges in sequence— mostly, you just left it in one range or the other and drove it like a regular four-speed.
06 - 1979 Plymouth Champ Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBut still, the Twin-Stick was cool.
13 - 1979 Plymouth Champ Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis is the “big-block” 1.6 liter 4G32 Saturn engine, which made a mighty 80 horsepower.
07 - 1979 Plymouth Champ Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI was very tempted to buy this POWER/ECONOMY indicator light for my collection of weird Japanese instrument-panel parts, but did not do so.
24 - 1979 Plymouth Champ Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt looks to be an original Colorado car.
01 - 1979 Plymouth Champ Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinCars don’t tend to rust much here in the dry High Plains climate, but Japanese cars of the 1970s could find a way to rust in a vacuum.
04 - 1979 Plymouth Champ Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s worn out, but essentially complete. How many Champs are left in the wild?

Chuck Woolery says the ’79 Champ is the Southern California mileage champ.

Another little mileage car from Japan, right?


Just don’t crash your Champ!

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

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Ask Jack: And None Of The Miles Are Free http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ask-jack-none-miles-free/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ask-jack-none-miles-free/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 13:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=931074 Welcome to our new feature, Ask Jack! I’ll be answering your questions on pretty much any topic that has a vague relationship to cars. Send me your questions and make sure you let us know if you want to be identified! Our very first question comes from a fellow who wants to know what he […]

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2014-Camry-SE

Welcome to our new feature, Ask Jack! I’ll be answering your questions on pretty much any topic that has a vague relationship to cars. Send me your questions and make sure you let us know if you want to be identified!

Our very first question comes from a fellow who wants to know what he should do about lease mileage on his Camry. As fate would have it, I was a Red Carpet Leasing Professional(tm) in another life and I am ready to help!

“Mathew” writes that

I read TTAC every day and am one of those who dream of buying the latest Corvette. Back to reality! I just leased a 2014 Toyota Camry in late June 2014. I am looking for some creative ideas to minimize the cost of this car.

Note: Minimizing cost to me equals the lowest cost per mile; not a $500 beater. I’ve done the fly across the country and drive a $500 beater home stunt so I know how to play that game. I’m too old to play that anymore. If you are wondering I’m an ’81 baby.

Previously I owned (outright) a 2003 Trailblazer with 175k miles. It ran like a top even though I drove it like a POS. Just prior to driving to Seattle an oil change was made. No leaks were had with my car. When I selling it (after leasing a Camry) a gentleman who was looking at it found it was out of oil. I told him I was going to put oil in it and hope for the best. He made a cash offer right there and I took it! I didn’t even have to put oil in it!

At that time I bought this car I was in the middle of moving to Seattle from SLC. I was in no mood to find a used car much less pay for one. Four months later I have burned through half of the 24k miles allotted in my two year lease. The first person to lecture me on leasing a new car only to drive without regard to mileage can go buy my old Trailblazer from that gentleman and tell me how that goes. Here’s the kicker –the overage charge is $0.15 per mile. The lease comes out to about $0.20 per mile (payments + down payment + taxes). So those with some sense of math understanding can see the more I drive it the less (per mile) it costs me to drive this particular car. And like some of you I am still working on getting a second or third or fourth car sitting in the driveway to the home I don’t have yet.

Finally, here is my question:

Would it cost me less to:

(a) Drive it at my current rate until the lease is over and pay the overage costs?

(b) Drive it at my current rate and sell it privately when the lease is over and pay the difference between the buyout ($15,000) and market value?

Alright, this takes me back — way back to 1994, when I leased a new Ford Contour to a friend on a two year/90,000-mile program. He was paying $475 a month to drive a Contour and all his friends laughed at him! But when he walked away from an 87,000-mile car free and clear after two years, he had the last laugh.

You’d be surprised how often lease mileage is cheaper than buy mileage — and even when it’s not cheaper, it’s absolutely predictable. The exceptions to that rule occur when you’re in possession of something that doesn’t become worthless with mileage the way my friend’s Contour did.

Let’s start by figuring out how much you’re going to drive. You say you’ve done 12k in four months, which is 36k a year, which is 72k total, right? 24k of those will be covered in the lease, which leaves you with 48,000 miles at .015 which is… drum roll… $7,200. Another way to look at it is that your payment for the next 20 months just went up by $350 a month or so.

The alternative would be to pay the buyout of $15,000 then sell the car. So let’s take a look at what a two-year-old Camry with 72,000 miles is worth in a private sale, shall we? A quick check of AutoTrader shows 72,000-mile Camrys that are between three and four years old (I couldn’t find any two-year-old ones) selling for between $12,000 and $16,000. The Black Book Retail Calculator thinks a 2012 Camry with 72,000 miles is worth $13,150.

It looks like pricing your car at $13,000 or so in a private sale would ensure a pretty quick turn. Which means that your actual cost will be your state sales tax at your buyout price of $15,000 — let’s say a grand — plus $2,000 worth of depreciation. Which means that you’re looking at a $3000 hit overall. That’s $150 a month, and more importantly it’s about eight cents a mile.

Even if you could sell out of your Camry for what you owe right now, I think you would have a hard time finding a car that was as reliable, safe, and comfortable as a nearly-new Camry for eight cents a mile. The only potentially cheaper scenario would be if you could make your Camry just disappear then buy a decade-old Civic with 100,000 miles on it for $7000 and sell it with 148,000 miles on it for $5000. But will your maintenance costs be as low? Probably not.

The good news is that you don’t have to make the choice now in any event. You can start trying to sell your car as long as 90 days out. If your lease company is feeling exceptionally helpful, they may agree to transfer the title DIRECTLY to the new owner, saving you sales tax. In most states that should be perfectly legal.

The good news in all of this is that you have a Camry — a car that has a devoted high-mileage buyer base. Had you chosen a Malibu, or a Sonata, or a Maserati, you’d be hurtin’ for certain. But I think you’re probably good to go. Just make sure you clean the thing up pretty well. And don’t forget to tell people, “They’re all HIGHWAY miles!”

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Junkyard Find: 1981 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia Camper Type P22 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1981-volkswagen-vanagon-westfalia-camper-type-p22/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1981-volkswagen-vanagon-westfalia-camper-type-p22/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 13:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=930666 This being Colorado, I see quite a few Volkswagen Vanagons on the street and in local wrecking yards. Mostly I ignore them for this series, because their local popularity means examples that show up at a Denver self-service yard get stripped immediately and aren’t very interesting photographic subjects. So far, we’ve seen just this exquisitely […]

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12 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis being Colorado, I see quite a few Volkswagen Vanagons on the street and in local wrecking yards. Mostly I ignore them for this series, because their local popularity means examples that show up at a Denver self-service yard get stripped immediately and aren’t very interesting photographic subjects. So far, we’ve seen just this exquisitely stereotype-reinforcing Steal Your Face Edition ’83, and that’s it prior to today’s find. An ordinary Vanagon with most of the parts gone, I’m not shooting it. A Vanagon Syncro (which I believe to be the most unwise money-pit available on four wheels or a Westfalia Camper, on the other hand, I’m always willing to photograph those rare birds. Here’s a squalid ’81 Westy that I found at a Denver yard last week.
17-Racing_Vans_In_24_Hours_of_LeMonsBy the way, it turns out that a VR6-swapped Vanagon Westfalia can get around Sears Point pretty quickly.
05 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one is a P22, which (from what I can tell from skimming fanatical Vanagon websites) was the lightweight “day camper” version.
07 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe pop-up roof tent is long gone, of course.
14 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt appears that this van got de-camperized quite a while before it took the final ride to the junkyard.
03 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinPatina!
06 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNot a whole lot left here, and I must assume that the stuff that made it a Westfalia lives on in other Vanagons (or was burned as biohazardous waste, take your pick).

01 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1981 Volkswagen Transporter Westfalia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Give That Man Starting His Lada Niva A Big Hand http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/give-man-starting-lada-niva-big-hand/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/give-man-starting-lada-niva-big-hand/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 15:35:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=927522 Click on the settings icon in the menu bar to select 2D or your choice of stereo 3D formats Last year in a post about Ypsilanti’s Orphan Car Show I had noticed that some of the 1960s vintage Citroens still had access holes so that, if needed, the cars could be started with a hand crank. […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.


Click on the settings icon in the menu bar to select 2D or your choice of stereo 3D formats

Last year in a post about Ypsilanti’s Orphan Car Show I had noticed that some of the 1960s vintage Citroens still had access holes so that, if needed, the cars could be started with a hand crank. I asked our readers what the last model car was sold with a hand crank and the immediate answer was “Lada”. As if to prove a point, at this year’s OCS, parked just outside the show entrance was a fairly late model Lada Niva in great shape, with a hand crank inserted through holes in the bumper and front fascia. There is a Niva that is in the show just about every year but that one’s about in the condition you’d expect from an Eastern Bloc 4X4 based on Fiat mechanicals subsequently exposed to Canadian winters and North American road salt. Except for the CHMSL that appeared to have come loose from its moorings, the blue Niva looks like it could almost be part of a Lada CPO program (to our Russian readers, does Lada have a CPO program in their home market).

It wasn’t officially part of the show as it hadn’t been preregistered, but when the show organizers spotted the Niva, they asked the owner if he would park it so that attendees would be able to enjoy it. The OCS is held every fall here in Michigan, about the same time that yellow jackets are most active and I got to the Lada just after one of the aggressive hornets had stung the owner’s young son and got trapped in his clothing. Unlike bees, hornets can sting more than once and in addition to being in some pain from the sting, the boy was freaking out just a bit. While dad tried to chill out his son, I managed to crush the stinging insect between two folds of the boy’s shirt.

I guess that established some rapport between me and dad, so while I was taking my usual sequence of photos of cars at car shows, I asked him if he’d ever hand started it and if he would mind trying to crank it later when I was ready to leave so I could get some video. Just coincidentally, this is the second video of a car being hand cranked that I’ve posted here this fall, since the Canadian Model T Assembly Team that performed at Greenfield Village’s Old Car Festival also started up their car by hand, once assembled.

When the time came, it took him a few cranks and a little bit of fiddling with the choke, but he got it running. It wasn’t what I’d say an easy task but it looked to me that the Lada was easier to hand start than the Model T.  Of course, the Model T’s 2.5 liter inline four engine had at least 50% more displacement than the Lada’s 1.6 liters. After he started it, though, I was able to offer the owner some important safety information. The Canadian Model T wasn’t the first that I’ve seen hand cranked, so I was familiar with the special grip to hold the crank back in the days before Charles Kettering liberated women and saved many men from injuries by inventing a practical electric self-starter for gasoline powered automobiles.

Hand-cranking a car was dangerous enough that some people suffered fatal head injuries from the crank kicking back because of a backfire. While those kinds of head injuries were relatively rare, hand injuries were common, most often being broken thumbs. Early motorists learned to use a special grip to hold the crank, cupping the crank in their hand while keeping their thumbs on the safe, palm side of the crank, to protect their prehensile digits.

modelthandcrankgrip

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 you think that 3D is a plot to get you to buy yet another new television set, 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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