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, 24 Oct 2014 17:28:55 +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/ 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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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.

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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).

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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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Henry Ford Paid His Workers $5 a Day So They Wouldn’t Quit, Not So They Could Afford Model Ts http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/henry-ford-paid-workers-5-day-wouldnt-quit-afford-model-ts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/henry-ford-paid-workers-5-day-wouldnt-quit-afford-model-ts/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 15:35:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=926097 Over at Bloomberg View, Megan McArdle, in a post titled “Employees Are Not Your Customers” happens to use one of the more enduring myths of automotive history to prove her point. That myth is that Henry Ford started paying his famous $5 a day wage in 1914 so his employees could afford to buy Model […]

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HFM&GV

Over at Bloomberg View, Megan McArdle, in a post titled “Employees Are Not Your Customers” happens to use one of the more enduring myths of automotive history to prove her point. That myth is that Henry Ford started paying his famous $5 a day wage in 1914 so his employees could afford to buy Model Ts. She was using the story as an example to make a specific point so Ms. McArdle doesn’t tell her readers the real reason why Henry started paying a more livable wage. That gives us an excuse to learn some history.

McArdle elucidates:

The other day, I noted in passing that it is arithmetically impossible, except in some bizarre situation with little bearing on the real world, to make money by paying your employees more and thus enabling them to afford your products.

Someone asked me to show my work. So let’s run a simple model based on Henry Ford’s legendary $5-a-day wage, introduced in 1914, which more than doubled the $2.25 workers were being paid.

That’s about $700 a year, almost enough to buy a Ford car (the Model T debuted at $825). Now let’s assume, unrealistically, that the workers devoted their extra wages to buying nothing but Model Ts; as soon as they bought the first one, they started saving for the next.

Is Ford making money on this transaction? No. At best, it could break even: It pays $700 a year in wages, gets $700 back in the form of car sales. But that assumes that it doesn’t cost anything except labor to make the cars. Unfortunately, automobiles are not conjured out of the ether by sheer force of will; they require things such as steel, rubber and copper wire. Those things have to be purchased. Once you factor in the cost of inputs, Ford is losing money on every unit.

But can the company make it up in volume, as the old economist’s joke goes? Perhaps by adding the workers to its customer base, Ford can get greater production volume and generate economies of scale. But Ford sold 300,000 units in 1914; its 14,000 employees are unlikely to have provided the extra juice it needed to drive mass efficiencies.

So if Henry didn’t pay his employees more money so they could afford his automobiles, why did he pay them $5/day? Well, the answer to that question involves another one of those automotive legends.

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That particular myth is that Ford invented the assembly line or, more in a more modest version, he was the first to use an assembly line to build cars.  Henry understood the value of publicity and very early on he started to put together a public relations effort that went far beyond simple advertising. Ford’s publicity machinery cranked out the image of the mechanical and business genius from Dearborn, the farm boy who made it big. I’d be surprised if Ford’s propaganda team didn’t originate the notion that Henry Ford invented the assembly line. In fact, though, Ransom E. Olds was building cars with an assembly line process a decade before Ford moved from the station assembly process to assembly lines. When Ford built the big Highland Park plant in 1910, it used station and sequential assembly processes until 1913.

That’s not to say that Henry Ford wasn’t a manufacturing innovator. Ford’s great contribution to mass production was reducing assembly to the simplest tasks, something a minimally trained person could do. It’s well known that Ford changed the automobile industry from producing luxury cars and toys for the wealthy to making mass market transportation devices. Those luxury cars were often hand-built by skilled craftsmen. In addition to changing what cars were, Henry Ford also changed who made cars, from skilled fabricators and artisans to semi-skilled industrial workers.

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Thousands of job seekers descended upon the Highland Park Ford plant after Henry Ford announced his $5/day wage.

Going to an assembly line process with simplified tasks allowed Ford to massively ramp up production. Production went from 94,662 in 1912 to 224,783 to 1913, the first year of the assembly line. Ford and his lieutenants first use of an assembly line was for putting together the innovative magneto that was a critical component of the Model T. By the time they initiated final assembly on a line, almost the entire Highland Park plant was using that process for subassemblies. That way they worked out the kinks in the process.

Ford’s assembly lines  along with Ford’s embrace of Taylorism (also known as Scientific Management) which included things like timing employees with stopwatches, plus the fact that Henry’s factories, modern as they were in their day, were noisy and dangerous (at the Rouge complex, started in 1916, there was an office tasked with placing employees into jobs who had hitherto been somehow disabled on the job), made working for Ford in 1913 a miserable existence. In 1913, Ford had to employ over 40,000 new hires just to keep 13,000 workers on the job. Even with only minimal training needed, that kind of employee turnover will kill a business model based on productivity, as Henry’s Model T plan was. In order to reduce his employee turnover rate, Ford made the logical decision: pay them more and they won’t quit. It worked.

It’s true, however, that Ford’s increased wages (paid as a bonus, not available to all employees and subject to having their lives spied upon by Henry’s “Social Department”) did ultimately increase the market for inexpensive automobiles. Overnight, the wage floor for automaking in Detroit, already the center of the industry, doubled. In short time $5/day was a standard wage. Still, Megan Mcardle’s point must be stressed, paying your employees enough money to afford your products is no business model. At best it’s transferring money from one pocket to the other while incurring some costs that likely will not offset profits on those sales. While many car companies do offer employee discounts today , those are only possible because of profitable retail and fleet sales.

While Henry Ford may be unfairly credited with inventing the assembly line, he usually doesn’t get any credit for an innovation of his that has made the lives of working men and women much more pleasant, the weekend. Having the weekend off from work is conventionally attributed to organized labor. The labor movement has given workers a lot of things, but not the weekend. That, too, was Henry Ford’s innovation. Originally, Ford employees worked a six day work week, with 9 hour days. That was reduced to five and a half days, with a half day on Saturday. I don’t know if it was Henry’s idea or not, but he finally figured out the math. His business model, as mentioned, was productivity. There are 24 hours in a day and running two 9 hour shifts meant that his factories were sitting idle for 6 hours a day, 2/3rds of a full shift. By going to an eight hour workday and a five day standard work week, Ford was able to run his factories with three shifts, 24 hours a day. Eliminating the half shift on Saturdays meant that, with overtime, FoMoCo plants could run 24/7/365 if he wanted.

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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Vellum Venom Vignette: 2015 Camry Regression Analysis (Part II) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/vellum-venom-vignette-2015-camry-regression-analysis-part-ii/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/vellum-venom-vignette-2015-camry-regression-analysis-part-ii/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 13:19:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=929970   I was wrong about the 2015 Camry: it’s a handsome family sedan. But not for us, for the Russians.    This.  This is how you mildly refresh an existing model. Yes, Toyota made a uniquely ugly 2015 Camry for us Yankees.  They styled to the lowest common denominator (i.e. every frickin’ cliche in a modern designer’s toolkit) while the “Global” 2015 […]

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I was wrong about the 2015 Camry: it’s a handsome family sedan. But not for us, for the Russians.   

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This. 

This is how you mildly refresh an existing model.

Yes, Toyota made a uniquely ugly 2015 Camry for us Yankees.  They styled to the lowest common denominator (i.e. every frickin’ cliche in a modern designer’s toolkit) while the “Global” 2015 Camry has an upmarket presense.  It apes the price point where Less is More, the place where Audi survives and thrives.

Sure, the Global 2015 Camry is no Audi. But it’s an object of desire relative to our imminent future of seeing the US-spec model on every highway, clogging our pores with mindless amounts of DLO FAIL for no good reason. Even the fascias are quite fetching, forgoing our Camry’s fake-Audi-Lexus schnoz.

Peep this video:

Click here to view the embedded video.

Now compare to what we get:

Click here to view the embedded video.

Is the grass greener on the other side? Off to you, Best and Brightest.

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Model T Production Began 106 Years Ago This Month http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/model-t-production-began-116-years-ago-month/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/model-t-production-began-116-years-ago-month/#comments Sun, 12 Oct 2014 15:35:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=926113 Sorry for missing an important automotive anniversary, but ’tis the season for those of the Mosaic persuasion. On October 1, 1908,  at least according to some sources*, the first production Model T was assembled at the Ford Piquette Avenue factory, Henry Ford’s second plant for his third, finally successful, automobile company. There are lots of myths about […]

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Full gallery here.

Sorry for missing an important automotive anniversary, but ’tis the season for those of the Mosaic persuasion. On October 1, 1908,  at least according to some sources*, the first production Model T was assembled at the Ford Piquette Avenue factory, Henry Ford’s second plant for his third, finally successful, automobile company. There are lots of myths about Henry Ford. Some of them are actually true, but many are the stuff of legend. For example, people think that the Model T made Henry Ford a wealthy man. Henry was a very wealthy man before he started making the Model T. He was one of the leading automobile producers in the world and he was the leading automaker in Detroit. Ford Motor Company was a success almost from the outset and when Henry hit on the idea of a simple, inexpensive car that folks who weren’t affluent could afford with the Model N and then the Model S, the Model T’s immediate precursors, he was selling thousands of cars a year.

The Ford mansion in Detroit’s Boston-Edison district, and the one up the street built by Ford’s lawyer and investor, Horace Rackham, were constructed in 1907, the year before the Model T was introduced. Henry was a successful man. That success gave him the freedom to develop the ultimate simple and inexpensive car, the Model T. Henry, though, was a big idea man who loved engines and power (in all of its meanings) but he was not the most technically proficient person.

Assembly-Piquette

Oliver Berthel, who designed Ford’s first two racers, the Sweepstakes and 999 cars that predate the Ford Motor Company, and also likely designed the nearly identical first Cadillac automobile and Ford Motor Company’s first car, the 1903 Model A, had first met Ford when the latter was teaching courses on the automobile. Berthel described Ford as an average teacher with similar mechanical skills. He had made himself into the chief operating engineer of the Edison Illuminating company of Detroit, but he had no formal engineering training. Ford’s 1896 Quadricycle was highly dependent on the work of Detroit’s first motorist, Charles Brady King.

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Ford Model N. Full gallery here.

While Henry Ford was no mechanical genius, he had a small number of very good ideas and, more importantly, he was indomitable. I believe that if Ford had genius, that genius was in his ability to identify and hire genuine mechanical and business geniuses with an even rarer talent, the ability to get a megalomaniac to agree with you. Ford surrounded himself with men like Farkas, Galamb, Sorensen, Martin, Wills, and Couzens and it could be argued that they were just as important to the success of the Ford Motor Company as Henry Ford was.

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Ford Model S, the immediate precursor to the Model T. Full gallery here.

Besides being a megalomaniac, Ford quite possibly was dyslexic. When he later sued the Chicago Tribune for libel, he was embarrassed by the jury’s $0.06 judgment in his favor, but even more so, he was humiliated as publisher Robert McCormick’s lawyer showed that not only was he not familiar with many things that had been published in his name, he could barely read. He’s also recorded as favoring wooden models to blueprints. Dyslexic or mostly illiterate, you take your pick. As Farkas, Galamb and Wills developed the Model T in the Piquette plant’s secret “experimental room” at the back of the factory’s third floor, Henry would sit in his rocking chair and his workers would bring him the models for his approval. It was “Spider” Huff, Ford’s riding mechanic in his early racing days, who developed the Model T’s innovative magneto (and likely also invented the porcelain spark plug insulator while developing one of Ford’s racers) and it was C. Harold Wills who introduced Ford to vanadium steel, one of the key ingredients to the success of the T.

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The Experimental Room where Ford and his associates developed the Model T. Full gallery here.

On the Model T’s birthday, I visited its birthplace, the Piquette Avenue plant that is now a museum in progress, to see what changes have taken place since my last visit. The director, Nancy Darga, graciously gave me permission to take the accompanying photos (some are from previous visits since they were setting up for an event hosted by a non-profit – the facility is available for rental so if you’re looking for a way cool venue for a wedding, benefit, or corporate event, I recommend it). Even more graciously Ms. Darga gave me access to Henry Ford’s now reconstructed corner office, which has been furnished to replicate how it looked in a historical photograph taken for the Ford Times publication just before the Model T’s introduction. The desk in the office is a reproduction made by the grandson of Peter Martin, who was Ford’s production manager.

THF101432-Henry-Ford-in-his-office-at-Piquette-ca

Unlike just about everyone mentioned above, Peter Martin stayed with Ford Motor Company for his entire career. Henry had few lifelong business associates. Even James Couzens, without whose business acumen and management skills Ford Motor Company would likely have not succeeded in the early days eventually got fed up with being spied upon and resigned, later serving as Detroit mayor and U.S. Senator. Offhand, Charlie Sorenson, Peter Martin, Harry Bennett and Ford’s son Edsel are the only people that I can think of that spent their entire careers in Ford’s employ. Gene Farkas hired in and quit twice before staying on for more than a decade and even he eventually got tired of working for Henry.

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Henry Ford’s restored office at the Piquette Ave plant. Full gallery here.

His employees may have tired of working for him, but Henry Ford is undoubtedly one of the more fascinating personalities in automotive history and it’s hard to get tired of writing about him, his enterprise and his associates. A piece of work for sure, he changed the world. We’d be driving automobiles today whether or not Henry Ford came along, he was just one of many pioneers, but I think the automotive world and the world in general would be a different place without him.

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In the background is a reproduction of the rocking chair where Henry Ford would sit in the experimental room and approve wooden models of proposed Model T components. In the foreground is sculptor and master clay modeler Giuliano Zuccato, who carved the first clay model of the Ford Mustang, and who was shooting a documentary the day I visited the museum.

*The Piquette Ave museum has the date of the first Model T being assembled as Sept. 27, 1908.

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 conspiracy 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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Trackday Diaries: Benny Blanco from the Box. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/trackday-diaries-benny-blanco-box/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/trackday-diaries-benny-blanco-box/#comments Sun, 12 Oct 2014 13:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=929482 “Well, I’m glad we got off-track without anything terrible happening,” I sighed, with no small amount of relief. “You did a good job of controlling the situation. A lot of people really panic when their brakes go away at ninety-five miles per hour or so. If the pedal comes back up you can probably nurse […]

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“Well, I’m glad we got off-track without anything terrible happening,” I sighed, with no small amount of relief. “You did a good job of controlling the situation. A lot of people really panic when their brakes go away at ninety-five miles per hour or so. If the pedal comes back up you can probably nurse it home, as long as you’re careful. How far do you have to go?”

“Well, I live in New York,” he replied, “but if you’re okay with trying another session, I sure am.”

Oh.

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I spent last weekend coaching a pair of students around Summit Point’s Shenandoah course. One of the students was a friend and fellow racer who made his wheel-to-wheel debut at a VIR ChumpCar race earlier this year; we’d scheduled both of our lives and a fair amount of travel around making this weekend happen. Since I usually have room for two students, however, I agreed to take a random assignment from the pool of novices who would be in the “Green” group.

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My student had a name, but I immediately decided to forget the name and call him Benny Blanco, after John Leguziamo’s character in Carlito’s Way. He was a tough-looking kid, not physically large but alert-eyed and forthright in the manner of the generationally successful. Twenty-six years old. His car was, without a doubt, the worst modern watercooled Porsche I’ve ever seen. An early 1998 Boxster in the de rigeur silver-and-black combo, it didn’t appear to have a single option. It did, however, have over one hundred and ten thousand miles on the Casio-style digital odometer. I was gobsmacked. It had always been an article of personal faith with me that Porsche hadn’t equipped those M96-engined shitboxes with six-digit odometers, for the same reason I never bothered to buy more than three hundred pounds’ worth of iron for my weight bench.

“My mother had it since new,” Benny explained. “I got a 944 Turbo but it isn’t running right now.” The Boxster had what they call “patina” in the antique-furniture world. There was no panel on the car that had escaped scratching and denting. There was visible rust everywhere, which for a galvanized Porsche takes some real doing. Every surface inside the car was worn shiny and the driver’s seat was full of holes. At some point, perhaps for years, Benny’s mother had left it under a pile of some rotting leaves.

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“I had it gone through and fixed up a bit, got some decent brake pads for it,” Benny assured me. Okay, so he wasn’t an idiot. I decided to put him to the usual test. When I start with students who have never been on a racetrack before, and those students are driving manual transmissions, and those students appear to have even the slightest amount of ambition or seriousness to them, I make them leave the car in fourth gear for the entire session. My instructor, Brian, did that to me when I started some thirteen years ago, and it’s a bit of misery I pass along to my pogues today.

There are a few sound reasons for it. The first one is that virtually none of my students can heel-and-toe worth a damn so when they downshift it tends to massively upset the car. In a mid-engined car without the PSM option, like this Boxster, that could be a problem. The second reason is that novice drivers tend to let their hands linger on the shifter between shifts and this leads to a lot of one-handed driving. That’s bad, too. The third, and most important, reason is that when you are stuck in fourth gear for the entire track, particularly at a tight place like Shenandoah, you are naturally forced to drive as smoothly and correctly as possible just to keep the car moving at something beyond a lawnmower’s pace.

I can accurately predict the amount of success my students will have by measuring their response to the fourth-gear edict. About half of them get physically upset, shuffling around in their seat and waving their hands as they moan “BUT EVERYONE WILL PASS ME!” Those people, I force to drive in fourth gear for two sessions. Then I let them start shifting so they can keep pace with the rest of the Green group and I look out for their safety and I offer them a standard program of instruction and I am not surprised when they drop out after a few weekends.

Another quarter of the students accept it but their ego preys on them and eventually they ask to be “soloed” or assigned to another instructor so they can start shifting by the end of their first day on-track. Those guys end up being the ones who drive in the “Blue” or “Yellow” groups for years, bringing heavily modified cars to the track that somehow can’t seem to stay ahead of Camrys and Miatas and whatnot. The entire hobby depends on those guys; there aren’t enough actual “shoes” in any given area to keep non-competitive open-lapping day rosters full.

Last and definitely not least are the guys who say, “Whatever you tell me to do,” and then work on their fundamentals with the car groaning and bucking away in fourth gear. A year from the day they start, they’re in Black Group running people down. Four years after that, they’re sitting right seat themselves, when they aren’t busy club racing. When Benny Blanco from the Box(ster) said, “Sure, man, whatever you say,” I knew we would get somewhere.

And we did. Benny had big eyes, by which I mean that he looked around and saw what he needed to see. He learned how to unwind his steering and pursue the Quality Exit. Whenever he failed to do so, usually by applying throttle in the midcorner, I said, “Shopping cart!” to remind him that too much throttle just pushes the nose wide, like pushing a shopping cart harder when you’re turning it. When I did that, he usually fixed the problem the next time around.

In the third session, we were making good time and I was pleased with his progress so I returned the use of third gear to him. He used it judiciously and he was catching a few other students when the engine started sputtering down the back straight near the brake zone and Benny told me, in a very level tone, “My foot is on the floor over here.”

“Okay, pump the brakes up and hold them when you have pressure,” I said, in that kind of cool-ass Denzel-Washington-in-Flight tone I save for occasions like this where the student might live to tell people how Denzel-ish I was right before I was decapitated. Benny pumped the brakes and got the Boxster to slow down enough to huck it through the final hairpin before pit lane.

In the paddock we searched in vain to figure out what had happened. The brake pedal had come back up and the shuddering had stopped. That was when he told me he lived in New York City. Two hundred and eighty miles away. After some discussion, we agreed that he’d run the car to a service shop in Virginia immediately to see if it could be fixed before Sunday morning. Although Benny was willing to head back out onto the track for our last session, I suggested that time would be better spent getting the car fixed.

As I watched the Boxster blue-smoke its way up and over the bridge out of the paddock, I figured that was the last I’d see of Benny. But I was wrong. He returned the next morning with a tale of woe; the local German-car specialist couldn’t figure out the problem and couldn’t duplicate it. “But I still want to go out,” he said. So it was time for me to make a decision.

The organization for which I was coaching fully supports any decision made by their instructors. Were I to declare Benny’s weekend over, they’d support it. Were I to decline to ride right seat in the car, they’d look for someone else to do so. The safest and sanest thing to do would be to send the man home with the suggestion that he get that raggedly old Porker fixed proper-like. Normally, that’s what I do in these situations and Benny wouldn’t have been the first student I sent home for a mechanical, not by a long shot.

But. This kid had potential. In just three sessions, he’d already demonstrated all the right things: the right attitude, the right reflexes, the right eyes. If I sent him home, he might come back, or he might not. But if I kept riding with him, we could do what we could to prepare for any mechanicals while continuing to work on his skills. There was some risk, and I knew that if I got killed doing this there wouldn’t be any comfort for my son in knowing that his dad was trying to help some guy from New York get the most out of his weekend.

I sat Benny down and we set out the rules. We wouldn’t follow other cars or allow ourselves to get close to anyone’s bumper. We’d go back to fourth gear only, under the working theory that using third had stressed something. And we’d take a checkpoint on brake pressure every turn. We went back out.

At the twenty-four minute mark, the brake pedal went to the floor. Benny handled it with aplomb and we brought the Porsche in, no problems.

In the second session, the brake pedal went to the floor at the twenty-one minute mark.

But the progress we were making! Good exits, less shopping-cart dramatics, less throttle-pinching, better lines, more awareness. This kid was already ready for the Blue group with under three hours of track time under his belt. One more session, right? What could it hurt? This time, we agreed that we’d keep it to sixteen minutes.

At the fourteen-minute mark, the brake pedal went to the floor right before pit exit. “You want to go out for the fourth?” Benny asked. I’ll give him this: he was totally unfazed by the idea.

“Listen,” I said, “I can teach you everything you need to be successful at this. Everything but courage. Well, you’ve got that. And we have a long time to get you where you need to be with the rest. But I think your car’s had enough. So let’s wrap it up.” And again, Benny accepted it the same way he accepted fourth gear.

“Alright, I’ll just hang out and drive the skidpad.” We shook hands and exchanged contact information. When I headed over the bridge myself, with a seven-hour drive ahead of me and brake pressure problems of my own, Benny was circling the pad in his ratty old Boxster, the tail hanging out, over and over again, coming to a spun-out halt then gamely heading in the other direction.

I know Benny’s real name, but I’m going to keep it to myself. Because when it appears on a club race entry list in five years, I want to be able to make a few cash bets with people in the paddock on how he’s going to do. There’s a reason I keep coaching new drivers, and it isn’t because I want discount track time. It’s because I believe some people were born to win races. You just need to show them where to go; they’ll take themselves the rest of the way.

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Junkyard Find: Electric-Powered 1988 Ford Ranger Custom http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-electric-powered-1988-ford-ranger-custom/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-electric-powered-1988-ford-ranger-custom/#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 13:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=926825 I’ve just driven a couple of modern electric cars, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the Tesla Model S, and they’re real cars. Actually, the i-MiEV is a perfectly serviceable short-distance commuter and the Model S is the best street car I’ve ever driven, but I was ready to hate both of them a lot, because all […]

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15 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinI’ve just driven a couple of modern electric cars, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the Tesla Model S, and they’re real cars. Actually, the i-MiEV is a perfectly serviceable short-distance commuter and the Model S is the best street car I’ve ever driven, but I was ready to hate both of them a lot, because all my previous experience with EVs had involved growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s and hearing a lot of eat-yer-vegetables talk from earnest green types about how electric cars are good for you, when in fact those cars sucked stringwart-covered pangolin nodules. Then, of course, there are all the flake-O electric conversions from the 1980-2000 era that I’ve seen, a fair number of which appear in self-service wrecking yards as long-abandoned EV conversions are towed out of back yards and driveways. In this series, we’ve seen this EVolve Electrics 1995 Geo Metro and this 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Electric Sport, and there have been others too stripped to be worth photographing. Today we’re going to look at a California-based Ford Ranger that still has just about all its electric running gear.
14 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinSome EVs like this were put together for driving around in warehouses, others were built by government agencies trying to showcase green technologies, and still more were built by backyard electric-car fanatics. Ford even built their own electric Rangers later on.
04 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinSince the battery box (or what I am assuming is the battery box) is so small, my guess is that this truck was made for short-distance indoor use. Running parts inside hangars at nearby Oakland Airport?
Note: Crab Spirits did some research and found this truck on the North Bay Electric Automobile Association website for us. It turns out to be a veteran of the 2004 North Bay Eco-Fest, i.e., it was admired by a lot of earnest Marin County green types, all of whom probably abandoned their 20-mile-range EVs the moment they could buy a Leaf.
17 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinI thought about buying these gauges for eBay reselling later, but it didn’t seem worth the hassle.
09 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinThe motor was still there when I visited this yard about a month ago, but the value of the copper inside it means that this is one part that will not go to The Crusher.
06 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinGreat big Bycan battery charger under the hood.
16 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinI doubt that the sight of this truck had Chevron execs trembling.
19 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinI didn’t check underneath to see if the original automatic transmission was still installed. The shifter might have been just used to control forward and reverse.

01 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 02 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 03 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 04 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 05 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 06 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 07 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 08 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 09 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 10 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 11 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 12 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 13 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 14 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 15 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 16 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 17 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 18 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 19 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 20 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 21 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin

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Coast to Coast 2014: New Orleans, Louisiana http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/coast-coast-2014-new-orleans-louisiana/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/coast-coast-2014-new-orleans-louisiana/#comments Thu, 09 Oct 2014 14:49:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=927818 The Hero in Town: the Kia Soul You can follow all US Coast to Coast Reports here We have arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana, also called NOLA or, more affectionately, The Big Easy. A very different experience than all other American cities I crossed so far, especially given the fact I was there on a […]

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1. Kia Rio NOLAThe Hero in Town: the Kia Soul

You can follow all US Coast to Coast Reports here

We have arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana, also called NOLA or, more affectionately, The Big Easy. A very different experience than all other American cities I crossed so far, especially given the fact I was there on a Friday night… Bourbon Street with all its performers, singers, live music, good vibes, cheap (so cheap!) alcohol and deliciously spicy jambalaya is an experience I had not thought possible in the US and one I don’t think I will see again in this trip. Of course, NOLA has its own very particular vehicle landscape, slightly different from Louisiana – as is often the case for big cities compared to the rest of the State they are located in. The Top 5 ranking and full landscape description/photo report is below.

2. Dodge Challenger NOLADodge Challenger in New Orleans LA

Best-selling cars in Louisiana – source: JATO.com

Pos Model FY2013
1 Ford F-150 16,614
2 Chevrolet Silverado 13,359
3 Ram Pickup 9,502
4 GMC Sierra 7,741
5 Toyota Camry 6,719

3. Ford F150 NOLA 2Ford F150 in New Orleans LA

Looking at the best-selling models in Louisiana we are faced with a barrage of pickup trucks. After monopolising the Top 2 in Mississippi they do two more here and trust the Top 4 rankings. The Ford F-150 leads the way with 16.614 sales, ahead of the Chevy Silverado at 13.359. Up until now, nothing special I hear you say. The Ram Pickup (my very own Albert) rounds up the podium with just above 9.500 units and that’s new news, even though it managed to reach that ranking nationally a couple of times, but the most impressive jump is definitely the GMC Sierra in 4th place here with 7.741 sales vs. Nb. 20 nationally. The only passenger car to find its way into the Top 5 is, logically, the Toyota Camry.

12. Mercedes GLK NOLAMercedes GLK

Now onto NOLA.

Below the ubiquitous Ford F-150, the main striking element in NOLA is the impressive performance of premium German brands. Based on the areas I visited (Downtown, French Quarter, Lower Garden District, Treme-Lafitte and Whitney), I’ll go as far as saying that they hold an even higher market share in NOLA than they do in New York City. Local favourites include the new generation Mercedes ML Class, Mercedes GLK and BMW 3 Series, absolutely at every street corner especially in the French Quarter, but many other models make a remarkable reappearance here like the Mini or Smart Fortwo. In fact I had not seen that many tiny cars in a very long time.

4. Albert NOLAAlbert getting a little posh in New Orleans LA

In contrast with Louisiana as a whole, the most popular passenger car in New Orleans is the Nissan Altima, in line with my observations in Tennessee and Mississippi. The Honda Accord is not far behind though, judging by the high frequency of new generations in town. Also strong: the Toyota Tacoma at its highest so far in the trip (possibly just below the Altima and Accord), Honda Civic, Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Explorer, Hyundai Accent and Toyota RAV4. Less popular than their national rankings: the Toyota Corolla and Ford Fusion.

Toyota Sienna NOLAToyota Sienna

Almost all taxis in New Orleans are either Dodge Grand Caravan or Nissan Quest, and there is one model that has frankly surged in popularity compared to all other areas I have visited so far: the new generation Kia Soul and I will make it my Hero in Town for New Orleans. Strangely this popularity seems to have been triggered by the new generation as I hardly saw any first gen Soul in town. Brand-wise, Nissan is particularly successful here with the Versa, Sentra, Pathfinder and Maxima all over-performing on their national ranking.

5. Nissan Juke Versa NOLANissan Juke and Versa in New Orleans LA

26. Nissan Murano Convertible NOLANissan Murano Convertible

Arguably the eccentric capital of the United States, New Orleans had to display a few oddities, and it did: the only two Nissan Murano convertible I saw in the entire trip were parked a few blocks away from each other in the French Quarter, and it looks like the Honda CR-Z may have once cracked the Top 20 in town given how many I spotted in such a small area.

6. Nissan Cube NOLANissan Cube in New Orleans LA

Having said all of the above, the New Orleans sales charts should actually be relatively conservative, at least at the top: Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado and Ram Pickup, conforming to the State podium. This changes when we leave New Orleans towards Texas: the Silverado becomes extremely frequent with a constant flow of 2013 models on the highway. It should even pass the Ford F150 to lead sales charts in this part of the state, while the Toyota Tundra experiences a sudden surge of popularity the closer we get to the Texan border.

7. Toyota Tundra NOLA 2Toyota Tundra in New Orleans LA

Chris Solomon, Manager at AllStar Toyota Baton Rouge LA, confirms this observation: “The new generation Tundra is our second best-seller below the Camry but above the Corolla. Doing particularly well for us is the 1794 Edition with specific 20-inch wheels (named for the ranch, founded in 1794, upon which the truck’s assembly plant is located in San Antonio, Texas). It has attracted buyers in the 25-40 years old range, especially trading in a Ford F-Series pick-up. We are still below Chevrolet in pickup sales as they have a more affordable offer, but it’s a true possibility that we beat Ford in the Baton Rouge area.”

 

13. Ford F250 NOLAFord F250

Building on my Charleston observation, overall one in 3 new F-Series is a F250/350, this ratio shooting up to 50% after Lafayette. Other striking observations in this part of Louisiana include a new gen Hyundai Santa Fe much more popular than both the old generation and all other States before now.

9. Ford F150 NOLA 31992 Ford F150 in New Orleans LA

Shane Smith, General Sales Manager at Allstar Hyundai Baton Rouge agrees the Santa Fe is a conquest model for the brand: “Our best-sellers are the Sonata, Elantra then Santa Fe, and we can count on high loyalty from our customers who come back to the brand time after time. As far as the Santa Fe is concerned though, on top of repeat business we are also seeing trade ins typically from the Toyota Highlander, GMC Terrain and Toyota Camry. The Santa Fe has the best warranty #1 rated safety its category and that has helped us a lot in our sales. It’s the perfect upgrade from a sedan for families that need a bit more room.

19. Chevrolet vintage NOLA1982 Chevrolet S10

Shane Smith also commented on the exceptional pent-up demand in the market at the moment. “We are dealing with the oldest fleet of cars overall out there in a long time, and our sales are at their best since before the financial crisis. People have waited a long time to renew their cars and now is the time. For example we also handle Volvo and just yesterday we had someone trade in a Toyota Prius with 250,000 miles. It’s not that unusual at the moment to see that type of trade-in.”

23. Chevrolet Suburban NOLAChevrolet Suburban

The Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Yukon XL was seen in very high numbers again, understandable as this a much more touristy State than Mississippi and Tennessee I crossed beforehand, and 90% of Suburbans and co. that I have been spotting are rentals, with the French apparently being the most avid admirers.

10. Ford Thunderbird NOLAFord Thunderbird

Finally, a note on petrol prices. I later read in the press that this was a big deal but at the time I didn’t know it would stop there: for the first time since I left New York, the price of regular petrol has now plunged below $3, to $2.95 exactly in Lafayette. Not that it affects my budget as Albert drinks diesel and its price has not plunged in concert with regular petrol, staying at $3.66 cash and $3,71 credit in that very same 76 service station. Still no credit/cash price difference for petrol.

8. Ford Explorer NOLAFord Explorer

14. Kia Cerato NOLAKia Forte

15. Jeep Compass NOLAJeep Compass

16. Dodge Ram NOLADodge Ram

17. Toyota 4Runner NOLAToyota 4Runner

18. Nissan Titan NOLANissan Titan

20. GMC Sierra NOLAGMC Sierra

21. Cadillac SRX NOLACadillac SRX

22. Ford F150 NOLAFord F150

24. Hyundai Genesis NOLAHyundai Genesis

25. Toyota Tundra NOLAToyota Tundra

27. Saturn Vue NOLASaturn Vue

28. Ford Mustang NOLAFord Mustang

29. Chevrolet Avalanche NOLAChevrolet Avalanche

30. Fiat 500 NOLAFiat 500

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Junkyard Find: 1985 Mazda GLC Hatchback http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1985-mazda-glc-hatchback/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1985-mazda-glc-hatchback/#comments Wed, 08 Oct 2014 13:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=927193 When the Mazda Familia first came to North America, it had rear-wheel-drive, its chassis was very similar to that of an RX-7, and it was called the GLC, for “great little car.” By 1981, the GLC had switched to front-wheel-drive, and later in the decade it became known as the 323. In this series, we’ve […]

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07 - 1985 Mazda GLC Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhen the Mazda Familia first came to North America, it had rear-wheel-drive, its chassis was very similar to that of an RX-7, and it was called the GLC, for “great little car.” By 1981, the GLC had switched to front-wheel-drive, and later in the decade it became known as the 323. In this series, we’ve seen this ’80 hatch, this ultra-rare ’81 sedan, this ’83 sedan, this ’84 hatchback, and now today’s interestingly decorated ’84. We’ve also seen what’s probably the most original GLC in the country, courtesy of Mazda HQ in California.
13 - 1985 Mazda GLC Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe hood is painted with a big star and there are “turbo turtles” on the sides. If this is a popular-culture reference, it’s one I’ve missed.
05 - 1985 Mazda GLC Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 1.5 liter E5 engine was standard equipment in the ’85 GLC.
01 - 1985 Mazda GLC Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAll in all, a fairly generic mid-80s econo-hatch.

The sedan version was pitched as a high-performance economy car.

In Japan, M. Takanaka did the music for Familia ads.

01 - 1985 Mazda GLC Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1985 Mazda GLC Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1985 Mazda GLC Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1985 Mazda GLC Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1985 Mazda GLC Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1985 Mazda GLC Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1985 Mazda GLC Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1985 Mazda GLC Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1985 Mazda GLC Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1985 Mazda GLC Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1985 Mazda GLC Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1985 Mazda GLC Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1985 Mazda GLC Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Junkyard Find: 1964 Simca 1000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1964-simca-1000/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1964-simca-1000/#comments Tue, 07 Oct 2014 13:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=927065 During my recent trip to Sweden, I took in a Folkrace, saw many old American cars on the street, visited a farm full of restored classic Chryslers, and, of course, went to the junkyard. We’ve seen this 1966 Toyota Crown station wagon and this 1963 Ford Taunus 17M at Bloms Bilskrot in Söråker, and now […]

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01 - 1964 Simca 1000 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinDuring my recent trip to Sweden, I took in a Folkrace, saw many old American cars on the street, visited a farm full of restored classic Chryslers, and, of course, went to the junkyard. We’ve seen this 1966 Toyota Crown station wagon and this 1963 Ford Taunus 17M at Bloms Bilskrot in Söråker, and now here’s a very rusty example of a car that was popular in Europe but never made much of an impression in North America: the Simca 1000.
LNV11-Simca-10We have a single Simca racing in the 24 Hours of LeMons, but it’s a front-drive Simca 1100 (which was badged as a 1204 in the United States). I hope to see a Vedette racing in the series someday.
06 - 1964 Simca 1000 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWas the last owner of this car named Greta Swedin?
02 - 1964 Simca 1000 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe top-down rust, no doubt caused by decades of birch-forest leaf mulch building up on the car, is pretty scary.
05 - 1964 Simca 1000 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinStill, some pieces for a Swedish Simca restorer remain (if there are any Simca restorers in Sweden, that is).
04 - 1964 Simca 1000 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 1000 has a rear engine with water cooling.

The 1000 has a respectable racing heritage in Europe, so perhaps some of the parts on this one may go into a rally car.
Room for the relatives!

01 - 1964 Simca 1000 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1964 Simca 1000 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1964 Simca 1000 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1964 Simca 1000 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1964 Simca 1000 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1964 Simca 1000 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1964 Simca 1000 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1964 Simca 1000 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Housekeeping: On Clickbait, Wish Fulfillment And The Ford GT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/housekeeping-clickbait-wish-fulfillment-ford-gt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/housekeeping-clickbait-wish-fulfillment-ford-gt/#comments Mon, 06 Oct 2014 17:26:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=926689 None of you could ever accuse me of having a particularly thick skin, but there is one accusation that does get to me. Cries of “clickbait” are often doled out in these pages. They seem to occur when somebody disagrees with the conclusions reached in the article, or when too much negative light is shed on […]

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2005_Ford_GT

None of you could ever accuse me of having a particularly thick skin, but there is one accusation that does get to me. Cries of “clickbait” are often doled out in these pages. They seem to occur when somebody disagrees with the conclusions reached in the article, or when too much negative light is shed on the reader’s pet brand. Cognitive lapses aside, these accusations get under my skin for a couple of reasons

  1. TTAC has never been under a mandate to increase our click count, and as long as I am at the helm, it will not be. Unlike other competitors, who tie everything from their editorial schedule to the compensation of their writers to “clicks”, we are allowed to sacrifice quantity in favor of quality and editorial independence. This means that in exchange for our freedom, we don’t get certain things, like unfettered press car access, or the budget to hire a copy editor. But our owners at VerticalScope have consistently understood and respected our need to liberate this site from the shackles of tyranny: in this case, click-based reporting, compensation structures etc. It comes at a significant cost, in terms of budget and salaries, but the end result is a website that can bring you The Truth About Cars, rather than baseless rumors, photos of celebrity genitalia and other unseemly editorial topics designed to juice our stats.
  2. In terms of ROI, a 1000 word essay on the topic of automobiles is hardly the stuff that clickbait is made of. Slide shows, listicles and the like are far better instruments to cheaply generate clicks, and they’ve never appeared on this site. Not agreeing with a point of view does not equal clickbait.

That’s not to say that all clickbait appears in the form of a Buzzfeed-esque “YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT THESE 25 ADORABLE BABY DIESEL WAGONS DID NEXT” piece of “content”. Sometimes, you get it in the blind repetition of totally baseless rumors that are, at best, wish-fulfillment for poorly trained, poorly paid bloggers and at worst, inaccurate information posted out of a reckless disregard for the realities of what it takes to bring a new vehicle to market.

On October 1st, Road & Track published a piece titled “All signs point to new Ford GT and 2016 return to Le Mans”. The piece was authored by respected motorsports figure Marshall Pruett, though it was largely filled with speculation and conjecture, though R&T, felt that Pruett’s sources and Pruett’s own track record were sufficient to run with the story. That alone lends a measure of credibility to the story, though as we’ll see, it was contradicted by our own sources.

In the piece, Pruett asserts that the Ford GT supercar will be revived in 2016, to coincide with Ford’s 50 year anniversary of its racing efforts at Le Mans. How does Pruett know this?

Recent meetings between GTE constructors on 2016 rules, as witnessed at Circuit of The Americas, have included a representative affiliated with Ford, and based on additional feedback, a launch of the Ford GT 24 Hours of Le Mans project would coincide with the introduction of the successor to the Ford GT, which ceased production in 2007. 

Based on additional feedback? What exactly does that mean? Pruett then asks Jamie Allison, the head of Ford Racing, whether plans are afoot for a revived GT. Allison’s response is about as close to an outright denial as one can get

“Our focus right now is, obviously, finishing the season on a high note at Petit Le Mans,” he said.  “Our focus is also working with our partners.  I do look forward into a future of some of the classes in the sport, including the P2 we just talked about.  We really have our near-term lenses on our participating in the sport and that’s really the scope that we are focused on.

“Anything beyond that would be strictly endeavoring into… just propagating something that is not within the scope of what we focus on. In our realm and in the world of sports-car racing, [we’re] really focused on our EcoBoost-powered DP and focusing on the season here as it comes to an exciting end at Petit Le Mans.”

It all adds up to pretty flimsy evidence that a new GT is in the works. Pruett makes a giant leap of his own, stating “Here’s the thing, Allison could have just said, “No.”  But he didn’t,” and then speculating on which high-end race shop could prepare the car, and suggesting a 2015 Detroit Auto Show debut.

Rather than follow the lead of a million other outlets and blindly regurgitate the story, we chose to wait to see if anyone could confirm the story. Here at TTAC, we have the luxury of being able to take time and talk to people who are in a position to give us a straight answer. And according to our numerous sources inside the Blue Oval and its suppliers, this story is worth less than Zimbabwean currency.

Despite its mythical status and strong secondary market values, the original Ford GT was considered a failure. It sold poorly, cost a ton of money to bring to market and was quickly axed.

Anyone with a basic understanding of how new vehicle programs work would know that even if there were budget, personnel, R&D resources and production capacity available, a 2015 introduction and a 2016 launch for a brand new sports car that shares virtually no common components with an existing vehicle is a laughably short timeline, bordering on fantasy. Our Ford sources, mired with the task of reviving Lincoln, supporting a struggling European unit and launching the most important vehicle in their portfolio, to be a flight of fancy from the enthusiast community. Another publication suggested that perhaps a super secret skunkworks team is hard at work on the car, but even this is little more than the stuff of car guy fantasy. Such teams do exist in certain capacities, but every new vehicle program, from the lowliest crossover to the most game-changing halo supercar has its own new vehicle program that is visible to the relevant employees who are responsible for tracking and reporting on the progress of these programs to top executives. Our sources are the people involved in these functions, and they were able to confirm that this program does not exist anywhere within Ford (stay tuned this week when we leak all of those juicy product details).

Here’s where things get out of control. R&T and Pruett did the original reporting, the vetting of sources and exercised judgment on running the story. Even if the info doesn’t pan out, that’s still the proper process for maintaining journalistic integrity.

What’s truly insidious is the fact that countless outlets outlets blindly regurgitated the item without making even the slightest attempt to verify its accuracy – or even worse, slyly admit that it was basically nonsense, but still run with it anyways. This is the most subtle and most insidious form of clickbait – publishing articles that are known to be false, out of negligence or a desire to deceive all in the name of boosting traffic stats. And it’s the kind that you’ll never, ever see on these pages. R&T has the kind of processes that are missing from the more unscrupulous players. They think there is something to the rumors and feel confident in reporting them, to the point that they will stand behind what they report. The other guys are happy to publish something they wouldn’t stand behind, and they are doing it with a wink and a nod. If the rumors don’t pan out, they’ll never be held accountable for reporting on it, and they know it.

All we get for it is less revenue, a need to go outside official channels for vehicle reviews, none of the traditional perks that the auto media is accustomed to and a select group of commenters eager to accuse this site of the very tactics that is deliberately eschews. We must be insane.

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Dispatches do Brasil: Tell Me Who You Walk With And I’ll Tell You Who You Are http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dispatches-brasil-tell-walk-ill-tell/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dispatches-brasil-tell-walk-ill-tell/#comments Fri, 03 Oct 2014 15:09:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=925793 Though Christianity is a huge minority in South Korea, it would seem Hyundai has not learned to heed to that biblical injunction. Its long-time partner in Brazil, the CAOA group, has just been fined to the tune of 1 billion reais for non-payment of taxes and fiscal fraud. Hyundai’s position in Brazil has always been […]

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Though Christianity is a huge minority in South Korea, it would seem Hyundai has not learned to heed to that biblical injunction. Its long-time partner in Brazil, the CAOA group, has just been fined to the tune of 1 billion reais for non-payment of taxes and fiscal fraud.

Hyundai’s position in Brazil has always been complicated. Back in the 90s, in a bid to bring car makers into Brazil, the federal government extended tax credits and credit lines rather freely and Asia Motors, a mainly light commercial vehicle maker, was one of those contemplated to build a factory in this country. Asia Motors pocketed all it could.

 

When the region hit the economic skids, Kia (who had a stake in Asia Motors), picked it up on the cheap. In accordance with Brazilian law, Kia was now responsible for the credit lines and the factory. Nevertheless, Kia stopped all pretenses of factory construction, since they too, were in trouble. Soon, in South Korea Hyundai was ordered by its government to take over Kia. In Brazil, the lawsuit against Kia continued normally, being that Kia was replaced by Hyundai in the defendant’s chair.

Hyundai tried as much as it could to avoid responsibility, alleging reasons alien to Brazilian law. The main gist of their defense is that they were not responsible for those credits, as Kia was the beneficiary. Kia alleged much the same, claiming that Asia Motors was the responsible one. As Asia Motors no longer exists, Brazilian tax authorities continued their persecution of Hyundai until earlier this year when a settlement was reached.

When the Brazilian market opened up for international business in the 90s, Hyundai was slow to jump into the bandwagon. As the vagaries of Brazilian fiscal policies on automotive imports ebbed and flowed with rises and decreases of importation taxes, Hyundai lost its appetite to compete in Brazil. Enter CAOA. Owned by an aggressive Brazilian entrepreneur whose initials make up the group’s name, CAOA has always been involved in one way or the other in the automotive retail business.

At one point for instance, the CAOA group comprised the largest group of Ford dealerships in Brazil. Since its beginning in São Paulo, CAOA group dealerships were infamous for their high pressure sales tactics and, oftentimes misleading propaganda and promises. Soon, the CAOA group was successful enough that it was able to take Brazilian Ford models and offer up their own unique spin-offs such as a BMW-“inspired” Ford Veronas and the transformation of F-100 into proto-SUVs which in spite of all their crudeness, spoke to dreams of grandeur and affluence among 80s to 90s Brazilian consumers.

As was, CAOA faced a rush of lawsuits demanding reparations for broken promises and faulty upkeep and durability of CAOA “built” vehicles as did Ford as it had, under Brazilian law, solidarity responsibility for CAOA group failings. Eventually it got embarrassing enough, with judgments being professed not only in law courts, but also in the court of public opinion, that Ford broke off relations to the CAOA group, happily paying the necessary breach of contract fines.

Stripped of their Ford connections and looking to score, CAOA approached Hyundai. One fulfilled the other. Flush with cash and aggressive by its very nature, CAOA saw no difference (and acted no differently) in pushing traditional, Ford products, and Hyundai’s wares, which were regarded poorly at the time. The Koreans, in their turn, saw an opportunity in striking a deal with the Brazilian group. They would be able to continue peddling their cars, while maintaining in the courts that they were hardly a Brazilian operation and had no responsibility on the original Asia tax imbroglio.

As time passed Hyundai cars improved, sales naturally increased, and CAOA continued with their usual tactics and made Hyundai even more successful. Responsible for all Hyundai sales in Brazil, CAOA even took over Hyundai marketing functions and managed its website. It eventually opened a factory in Brazil assembling CKD Hyundai cars.

All was good until inevitably CAOA ran into trouble. Not only did they run into ridicule for their over the top propaganda (the mostest, bestest cars in the globe, nay the galaxy, nay the universe, ever!), but people started finding actual problems between Hyundai-CAOA claims and factual reality. How many horses did the Veloster engine actually corral? According to Hyundai-CAOA close to 150, while independent sites and blogs were finding 110-ish. So much so, that the Veloster, whose name is the vary expression of speed, became mocked and is forever called here the Lentoster (or Slowster, in English). Economy figures were high according to CAOA, more modest as measured by other parties. Even simple things like storage bins in cars became a matter of contention. Hyundai-CAOA would claim some crazy number like, for example 38, while sites and even magazines, would count less than 20. When questioned on these and other issues, Hyundai would say they were not responsible for CAOA numbers and would eventually release their own, less attractive numbers.

In the last decade, reaching an agreement with the Brazilian government, and taking advantage of the existence of never-ending government-sponsored automotive market incentive programs, Hyundai opened a factory in Brazil, under their own name, and produced the HB20 hatch and sedan. It showed signs of divorcing itself from CAOA, such as taking over HB20 production, sales and marketing and even its own website. Click on the hyundai.com.br website, then click on the HB20 and you’ll be treated to a wealth of information and navigation. Click on any other Hyundai model, and a message jumps onto the screen informing that you will now be transferred to a Hyundai CAOA Maker website. Hyundai credentialed other groups and dealers, linked to them, to sell the HB20, but yet Hyundai-CAOA still sells, exclusively, other Hyundai vehicles.

The CAOA fine is definite. The group was fined because it failed to pay taxes and kept for itself proceeds from an increase in government taxation while it contested that increase in courts and didn’t pass on to consumers the benefit of the suspension it obtained in courts. Tax authorities are demanding those extra proceeds, plus fines for non-payment. Some legal scholars here say that CAOA may even sue Hyundai to help them pay the fines. How long Hyundai chooses to keep links to this group in order to gain momentarily from a few extra sales gained by CAOA’s notorious appetite remains to be seen. Many Brazilian consumers will continue to forego having a Hyundai car as long as these nebulous relations remain intact.  How long will more sales compensate for the ongoing tarnishing of it brand name? Only Hyundai has the answer.

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Coast to Coast 2014 – Crossing Mississippi And Reviewing America’s Motels http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/coast-coast-2014-crossing-mississippi-reviewing-americas-motels/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/coast-coast-2014-crossing-mississippi-reviewing-americas-motels/#comments Fri, 03 Oct 2014 13:57:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=925745 You can check out all the Coast to Coast 2014 updates as they get published here. We are now leaving Memphis TN to drive South to New Orleans, Louisiana, crossing Mississippi via Jackson. For those of you unfamiliar with this often underrated State, Mississippi is home of the blues and the birthplace of Elvis Presley (check out […]

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Econolodge

You can check out all the Coast to Coast 2014 updates as they get published here.

We are now leaving Memphis TN to drive South to New Orleans, Louisiana, crossing Mississippi via Jackson. For those of you unfamiliar with this often underrated State, Mississippi is home of the blues and the birthplace of Elvis Presley (check out Elvis’ cars here if you haven’t already). We are now entering the next level of pickup domination, more in line with the national sales charts: based on official FY2013 data supplied by JATO, the Ford F150 is the most popular vehicle in Mississippi followed by the Chevrolet Silverado. Full Mississippi stats and my exclusive review of America’s budget motels below the jump. Make sure you read till the end as it gets more ‘authentic’…

New York New OrleansUS Coast to Coast trip so far. Picture courtesy of Google Maps

Driving to the tune of the Walk the Line soundtrack, the increased frequency of pickup trucks is clearly visible even on highways where they had been rarer up until now. Specifically in Mississippi I noticed a trend towards commercial F150 crew cab models (with black bumpers), a very healthy amount of F250 while the Ram pickup – like the 1500 (Albert) I’m driving, now pops up on the road at levels not seen since the start of this trip. I also spotted shiny new Toyota Tundras for the first time in a while.

Nissan Altima MississippiNissan Altima in Winona MS

Top sellers in Mississippi – Full Year 2013:

Make Model FY2013
FORD F-150 7,466
CHEVROLET SILVERADO 5,540
NISSAN ALTIMA 5,145
TOYOTA CAMRY 4,061
HONDA ACCORD 3,140

Source: JATO Dynamics

Logically as it is manufactured here in Canton, Mississippi, the second Nissan assembly plant in the USA established in 2003, the Nissan Altima is the best-selling passenger car in the State with 5,145 sales over the Full year 2013. That’s a comfortable 27% above the national king the Toyota Camry and 64% above the Honda Accord. So there is no photo finish, Mississippi customers know full well which company has been providing much needed jobs here for over a decade and they have rewarded Nissan accordingly.

Chevrolet Malibu MississippiChevrolet Malibu

Stepping out of official stats into observations on the highway, I have elected the Chevrolet Malibu as the hero of the day. This is a car I had hardly spotted since I landed in the US despite repeatedly ranking among the country’s 20 most popular vehicles for the past 7 years. Before today that is. A constant flow of current gen Malibu is travelling along Mississippi highways.

Ford TaurusFord Taurus

In the continuation from my observations in Tennessee, the GMC Acadia can be seen very frequently in Mississippi, as well as the Buick Enclave and Ford Taurus – the latter at levels unseen until now but given the age of the current generation this frequency could still be the result of a surge in sales a few years ago. On the other hand, I didn’t notice any particular hike in popularity for the Toyota Corolla, manufactured in Blue Springs, Mississippi. It would appear that Mississippi consumers are yet to catch up to the fact that this vehicle is manufactured ‘at home’ and reposition their buying patterns accordingly, as this has only been the case for the past 3 years when Toyota switched Corolla production from California to Mississippi.

Albert MississippiAlbert in Winona MS

Now that we’ve cleared the car landscape in Mississippi, let’s get onto my exclusive review of America’s budget motels. Indeed, I did not want to tamper too much with the authenticity of my USA Coast to Coast trip and decided to test out the oh-so-American concept of budget motels, perfect for this type of voyage. So if you thought I was sleeping in 5 star hotels all through this trip, you were wrong! Very wrong. My basic necessities are a bed, shower and wifi connection to keep in touch with the elusive outside world. The latter point unfortunately meant most ‘original’ motels (read: that do not belong to a nationwide chain) were out, even though I did step out of motel chains for a few nights with varying degrees of success.

Note this review of the Top 5 best motel chains in America is based on all motels I stayed in during this trip up all the way to Los Angeles, not just to New Orleans, as there is a little bit of delay between the real time and publication time. Note also that I received no gifts or money from any motel/hotel during the trip. First things first, hats off to the US highway signage system. In a trip like this where 95% of distances are eaten up fast thanks to the highway network, knowing which accommodation options you have at the next exit saves huge amounts of time and energy, and thus enable the traveller to see more interesting things. In the US, there are signs before each exit that indicate all  food, lodging and gas options closeby. I don’t remember having seen this with such precision and regularity anywhere else in the world, and it makes for a very simplified, streamlined and more efficient choice process.

Econolodge

1. Econo Lodge

Number of motel nights: 1

The best value-for-money motel chain I have stayed at during this trip is Econo Lodge, at $49.99 in Savannah GA. It is a little symbolic that Econo Lodge comes first in this ranking as it created a new business category – the discount business hotel – in 1969 when it was established as Econo-Travel in Norfolk, Virginia. So technically not a motel chain if you want to be picky. There are 830 Econo Lodges open in the USA today, often located near highways. Econo-Lodge provided me with the quintessential American motel experience I was looking for during this trip: a long, stretched one storey building with one parking spot in front of each room, a warm check-in welcome at reception, a reassuringly uncooperative key card, free wifi, a comfortable bed and a free breakfast – a rarity at this price point. At the time it was the cheapest motel I got to stay in and also the best, no mean feat. Econo Lodges tend to be more concentrated towards the East Coast of the country, so they became rarer as soon as I left Savannah GA, I checked a few additional ones online along the trip, didn’t stay because I didn’t happen to stop in the area but they all seemed to align price-wise which gives this chain bonus points.

Motel 6

2. Motel 6

Number of motel nights: 4

Owned by the Accor Group up until 2012, Motel 6 is the most frequent motel chain I kept spotted along US highways during my trip – makes sense given it has over 1,100 locations nation-wide. Created as the very first budget motel chain in 1962 and responsible for the first (shock, horror!) non-smoking motel room, it was called Motel 6 simply because all single nightly rooms cost $6 at launch. Motel 6 gave me the best value-for-money night of the entire trip at $39.99 in Dallas TX. There the welcome was warm, the key card was uncooperative, the room was modern and the receptionist was worried when I checked out after just one night: ‘You didn’t like it?’  That same receptionist was the only one in the entire trip to actually ask me where I was headed next. Simple and obviously rehearsed but a nice touch. In the Motel 6 Hollywood CA, I got to stay in one of the redesigned rooms and I have to admit it didn’t feel like being in a motel any more, more like a boutique hotel. Is that all? Surely after all these positives Motel 6 should come first.

Not so, and the main reason is inconsistency between locations, potentially due to the fact that franchised Motel 6 do not have the same strict guidelines as the ones directly owned and operated. My night in Washington DC cost $89.99 with only a similar level of comfort and almost as warm a welcome as the $39.99 one in Dallas TX. And the two other locations I stayed at broke two of my sacred rules about motel-travelling. Hollywood, CA charged an extra $12 for your car! Isn’t the whole point of staying in a motel the fact that you can park your car close-by at no additional cost? That Motel 6 resembled in no way to a motel anyway. Whittier CA was appropriately gritty but charged $2.50 extra for wifi access and this was per device, something reception omitted to mention. I was so tired I couldn’t get myself to walk back to reception to add a device given I already did the trip to get a working key card. So I ended up spending an hour frantically switching from my phone to my laptop and having to log in again each time. Not ideal.

La Quinta

3. La Quinta

Number of motel nights: 3

Technically not a motel but an ‘inn’, I used La Quinta as a motel and therefore it qualifies in my review. Because I say so. Tellingly, I blanked out La Quinta for half of the trip thinking it would be out of my budget given the decidedly non-budget looking venues I could spot from the highway, until friends in Dallas recommended it as a valid option. This limited service mid-priced hotel chain was originally founded in San Antonio TX in 1968 and now has its headquarters in Dallas TX, operating around 1.000 locations across the country. It was on average more expensive than the rest of the motels I stayed in, but not the most expensive of the trip. Known for its pet-friendliness (not that I cared), to me the biggest advantage of La Quinta is its consistency across various locations, something other motel chains seem to be struggling with.

Ok comfort level, faultiness wifi and working key card (at last!): Amarillo TX ($79.99), Gallup NM ($99.99) and Las Vegas NV ($144.99) were all level and without any bad surprise. If La Quinta loses points for its dearer prices, it gains many for its spontaneity. Rather, the spontaneity of the Gen Y receptionist at Amarillo TX who will remain one of the more colourful characters of this trip: “But whyyyyyyyyy are you staying in Amarillo there is nothing heeeeeeeere!” A breath of fresh air among the generally circumspect yet polite welcome I received in most other places. “A song about Amarillo? Nah. Never heard of it. But I’m from Vegas, so…” You just made me feel 20 years older than I already am…

Albert Days Inn NashvilleAlbert in Days Inn Nashville TN

4. Days Inn

Number of motel nights: 1

Another very frequent motel chain along my route, Days Inn however loses a couple of spots due, again, to large variations in price and quality over my trip which disqualifies it as a reliable option. It still ranks inside my Top 5 because it did save my life (ok, night) in Franklin TN (a Nashville suburb) when I arrived a little bit before 2am all excited to have crossed the 30 mpg milestone with Albert my Ram 1500 ecoDiesel pickup truck, but rather exhausted from my 9 hour trek from Savannah GA. At $59.99 a night, this particular Days Inn at this particular time of the night after this particular trip looked like the best hotel in my entire life. Indeed, top notch quality, wifi and amenities did not disappoint. But there was a second storey (not a true motel!) and I went on to inquire at a few other Days Inn further along the way: double the price or more, and double the dodgy factor. Must get better.

5. Sentry Inn Gretna, LA

Number of motel nights: 1

I also reached this motel at ungodly hours of the night on arrival from Memphis TN. This was potentially the closest to dodgy I got to on this trip, in a questionable neighbourhood of New Orleans across the bridge and with such feeble wifi that it was required to get out of the room, jump in my truck, move the car a few metres and connect to the reception signal. But. It also was the closest to a true American motel I got to stay in and not a formatted chain. People did live there permanently: there were flower pots on the next room’s window. The air was heavy, the room smelled of humidity, the air-con was roaring, my truck was by far the shiniest in the parking lot and the painting on the outside walls was a distant memory. There was a sign next to the door warning to double lock yourselves at night for your own security. Except there was no more inside lock. I was basically waiting for the Samuel Jackson character in the Quentin Tarantino movie Pulp Fiction to burst into my room pointing a gun at my head. To top it off, a plump receptionist wearing fluorescent, diamond-adorned pink nails longer than her hand, sultrily checked me out with an avalanche of ‘baby’, ‘honey’ and  ‘luv’. I’m still blushing. Ok this should have been #1.

Next stop: New Orleans LA

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No Fixed Abode: They got this one right, except they didn’t. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/fixed-abode-got-one-right-except-didnt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/fixed-abode-got-one-right-except-didnt/#comments Fri, 03 Oct 2014 13:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=922977 If you want to be recognized for your brilliance, it’s best to do something that is less than completely brilliant. The reason for this is simple: Ideas that are very good but less than truly brilliant are generally well-received by the critics and the public. I can give you a million examples, from the Dyson […]

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f150

If you want to be recognized for your brilliance, it’s best to do something that is less than completely brilliant. The reason for this is simple: Ideas that are very good but less than truly brilliant are generally well-received by the critics and the public. I can give you a million examples, from the Dyson vacuum to any novel by Maragret Atwood to the album The Lumineers, by The Lumineers. All that is required to be lauded as brilliant is to create or perform something that wouldn’t naturally occur to the dimmest member of your audience, and you are good to go.

Should you be so bold as to do something that is actually brilliant, however, you will only suffer one of two fates. You may be ignored, in the manner of post-1850 Melville or pre-Volkswagen-commercial Nick Drake. Worse yet, you may succeed beyond your wildest imagination, at which point it will be the firm opinion of everyone around you that you had only done the natural, nay, the obvious thing. Your work will be taken from you by the critics and given to your surroundings, or your time, or your generation. Historians will suggest that anyone could have done it, given your circumstances. A simultaneous discoverer will be discovered. Your success will be dismissed as having been certain from the beginning.

It’s a tough gig, doing something brilliant. Look at the people who designed the second-generation Prius. But it’s even tougher when you bet the proverbial farm on the results. As Ford did, eighteen long years ago around this time.

In hindsight, the success of the 1997 Ford F-150 was utterly and completely assured. In 1998, the slope-nosed pickup sold over 828,000 units, marking the highest single-model sales total in over two decades. The SuperCrew and Expedition SUV spawned by the F-150 platform were in short supply for years afterwards. It seems hard to believe now, but there was a time that even the Lincoln Navigator was a hot property, even if the Blackwood stainless-steel-box pickup never found an audience.

With the tenth-generation F-Series, Ford put a choke-hold on the American truck market that it has yet to even consider relaxing. The success of the design was so complete that it effectively marginalized its competitors. The Dodge Ram became a curiosity for Mopar people and wannabe truckers, and the Chevrolet 1500 was turned overnight into a hick truck, a willful throwback for the future-phobic, the uneducated, or combinations of both. Neither competitor has managed to break out of those unwanted market positions in the nearly two decades since.

As with all brilliant products, the 1997 F-150 seems like such an obvious move now. The advent of CAFE had murdered the full-sized car but fuel prices had dropped from their Malaise Era highs, leaving an entire country looking for a vehicle with American proportions, modern conveniences, and a little dash of adventure. Pickups had long been the sign of the Country Mouse but suburban America was becoming very interested in adopting some cowboy cool of their own. There was also a huge base of small-pickup owners who were looking to trade up into something that offered more space and capability at a reasonable additional cost.

The problem was that the available pickups of 1995 were absolutely miserable conveyances for anyone with a drop of civilized blood in their veins. Your humble author was a Ford salesman in 1995 and I drove a dark green straight-six regular cab F-150 XL as a demo. I loved that truck like a brother but it was little changed from the F-100 of the Seventies. The cab was cramped front-to-rear, the dashboard was simultaneously ugly and dysfunctional, and the wind noise at freeway speeds drowned out the best of the miserable optional radios. The straight-six was pleasant to drive if you weren’t in a hurry but it could drain the twin gas tanks like there was a hole in the fuel line. Compared to, say, a 1996 Camry or Taurus, it was an embarrassment. Clearly there was room for improvement.

Yet that embarrassment was the best-selling vehicle in the country, and it was nearly single-handedly responsible for keeping Ford’s bottom line in the black. We didn’t discount the 1995 F-150 heavily, and we didn’t need to. As mediocre as it was, it was still much better than the Chevy of the era and the numbers reflected this. The entry-level Chevrolet half-ton was badged “W/T”. for Work Truck, but the first time my father saw one in traffic he inquired of me, from behind the wheel of his steel-grey XJ6, “W/T? That’s for White Trash, right?” He wasn’t far off. The upscale cousins of the W/T were mouse-fur-infested rolling whorehouses with dorky-looking Delco radios and crookedly-applied badging. The F-150 Eddie Bauer which it was my occasional privilege to stock and sell was, by contrast, a study in tasteful fabric and restrained decor. When a customer didn’t like my price on an XLT SuperCab five-liter and threatened to “check out the Chevy place down the street,” my response was always an arrogant little chuckle.

“Make sure you ask about the W/T,” I’d say. “Let me show you out, we have some customers standing out there on the lot who can afford an XLT and I’d like to avail myself of their company.”

Ford didn’t really need a major change in the F-150 to keep leadership in the market, but the brilliant people behind the ’97 knew that they weren’t just competing with other trucks. They were going to be competing with cars very shortly. So the ride and handling target for the F-150 was the Crown Vic Police Interceptor, which in 1997 was still a fresh-face six-window aero superstar. It was a target that they easily met, at least in the two-wheel-drive regular-cab models. The equipment and trim availability was modeled on the Explorer, which was just starting to set sales records of its own. Pricing was robust, considerably more expensive than the outgoing truck, and our lissome dealer rep informed us with a smile on her Heather-Locklear-like face that the first few months of builds would be loaded XLTs and Lariats only.

I attended the dealer event for the trucks and was blown away. The ’97 was such an advance in every way, shape, and form. From the driver’s seat you couldn’t really see the hood on the things, just like on a Taurus. It was roomy and comfortable and had high-quality seating. Amazingly, there was a third door on the SuperCab. When the engineer giving the presentation opened that door, there was an actual spontaneous cheer from the assembled sales staff.

What else? Auto-engaging 4WD, like the Explorer. Lightweight forged aluminum wheels, a first in the segment. Problem was they looked like steel wheels, so only the cognoscenti bought ‘em — as did all of my customers who ordered a truck. I insisted on it. The two-wheel-drive trucks sat lower than the ’96, while the four-wheel-drives sat higher. Just the way Toyota did it. I approved. The trim segments were easy to distinguish at a distance, which helped me sell Lariats. The bed was bigger, tougher, easier to access. On the freeway, it was quiet like a Taurus. The new base motor, a variant of the long-serving Taurus V-6, was much stronger than the outgoing 300 straight-six, even if you had to rev it a bit. The modular 4.6 sounded good and, of course, we didn’t know that the spark plugs were all going to take their threads with them when you pulled ‘em. It was a great, great, great product.

Yet Ford was afraid. They knew they were dragging their rural customers into the late twentieth century against their will. So, for most of 1996, we sold the old truck alongside the new. It was available in a limited number of trims and colors. Or at least I think it was. I don’t remember, because we sold maybe three of them all year. Nobody wanted the old one. Not even the toothless farm folk whose mustachioed wives produced rolls of sweaty twenties from their circus-tent-sized bras in the F&I office. You’d have some guy come into the showroom, and you could smell the barn on him before you saw him, and he’d be looking like he’d probably started the cycle of abuse that eventually produced the villains from Deliverance.

“Sir,” I would chirp, “welcome to Bob Keim Ford, the leader in customer satisfaction.”

“Boy, you gonna show me a truck.”

“Yes, sir. Now, if you’ll come with me, for this year Ford has taken the unprecedented step of offering two distinct experiences in what remains the world’s favorite half-ton —”

“Boy, I don’t want to see that old piece of shit. I want a 1997 Lariat SuperCab with the 4.6 and auto locking hubs, with the Medium Willow Green contrast rocker panels.”

“Sir, I’d be delighted to take your deposit today for delivery of such a vehicle in the near future, insofar as we’re out of them.” I didn’t stay in the Ford business long enough to see demand catch up to supply, which it eventually did. Then the SuperCrew came out and the whole thing started again. Meanwhile, Ford had demonstrated its peerless understanding of the truck market by introducing the SuperDuty, which answered the one question that hung in the air over the F-150 — didn’t it look a bit delicate to be towing a four-horse trailer? — and caught the competition absolutely flat-footed.

The 1997 F-150 was probably the most important vehicle introduction from an American vehicle manufacturer in the thirty years surrounding its debut. What I want you to understand what that it could have all gone wrong. The idea of an aerodynamic pickup truck was radical as hell. It was so radical that Ford’s been backing away from it ever since, making the F-150 more and more butch and SuperDuty-esque. I’m still amazed at just how popular it was. It really didn’t look much like a manly American pick-em-up.

There was just one little problem, and you can see it here. Ford might have used the Crown Vic as the target for ride and handling, but the reference vehicle for crash safety must have been the Model T, or possibly a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. I can’t say today whether the F-150’s dismal performance in that regard was a cynical response to our government’s reluctance to regulate light-vehicle safety, or simply a side-effect of the revolutionary packaging. Regardless, it cannot be denied that the 1997 F-150 was not a great vehicle in which to hit something. The IIHS noted that

In the report, the redesigned 2004 Ford F-150 saw driver deaths per million registered vehicle years drop from 118 to 58, or 51%, versus 2001-2003 model year F-150 pickups, if the driver was in a 4×4. Driver death rates dropped even further if the accident involved a 2004 F-150 4×2, from 119 to 40, a 66% improvement. This was the lowest fatality rate of any pickup. It’s also substantially under the average car and truck death rate of 79 during the same period, and beats overall vehicle death rate declines of 30% since the mid-1990s.

So Ford eventually fixed the situation in the next model, but it was too late to help a lot of people. And that’s what makes it impossible for me to truly enjoy the success story of the 1997 F-150. Yes, it was gorgeous and wonderful and revolutionary. No, I don’t think it was safe and no, I don’t think Ford tried as hard to make it safe as they could have done. I think the 2004 F-150 is aesthetically timid and unpleasant compared to the ’97 but you won’t catch me letting my son ride in the old one.

Today, the tenth-generation truck is still a common sight on American roads. The 1998 F-150 in the header shot belongs to my partner in MelodyBurner Guitars, Chris O’Dee; it’s a plain XL V-6 with very few options that happen to include my favorite lightweight wheels. It’s just turned 240,000 miles and we don’t expect it to die any time soon. Millions of these Fords were built and there are probably still a million of them out there. We don’t think anymore about what a gamble they represent, or the role they played in the American truck renaissance that even now refuses to come to a proper end. We look past them, by them, through them. They’re part of the landscape. We pay them the compliment we reserve for the most brilliant of designs — we ignore them.

In 2015, Ford is gambling again. This time, it’s structural, not aesthetic. If they succeed, Chevrolet and RAM will follow in their own timid fashions, as they always do. We take it for granted now that the Blue Oval sets the pace in the truck market. We take it for granted that Ford always builds the most advanced, the most interesting, the most tasteful, the most desired full-size trucks on the roads. Yet it was not always thus. It’s a tradition that started in 1996, with that brilliant idea. I’m proud to have been there at the beginning, proud to have sold them. I just wish that the trucks I sold could have been safer.

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Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Coast to Coast 2014 – The cars of Elvis Presley http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/best-selling-cars-around-globe-coast-coast-2014-cars-elvis-presley/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/best-selling-cars-around-globe-coast-coast-2014-cars-elvis-presley/#comments Wed, 01 Oct 2014 18:20:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=922769 Elvis with his legendary pink 1955 Cadillac Series 60 Fleetwood You can check out all the Coast to Coast 2014 updates as they get published here. Today we stay in Memphis as in my opinion the one attraction really worth seeing in town is Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley. I wasn’t expecting much, but was […]

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Elvis pink CadillacElvis with his legendary pink 1955 Cadillac Series 60 Fleetwood

You can check out all the Coast to Coast 2014 updates as they get published here.

Today we stay in Memphis as in my opinion the one attraction really worth seeing in town is Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley. I wasn’t expecting much, but was pleasantly surprised with the tour’s thoroughness, the extravagant decoration and endless flow of music sales records detailed on the self-guided iPad tour. My never-ending thirst for stats was quenched here, and that says a lot! It was also an opportunity to go beyond the singer’s most commonly played hits and discover gems like ‘She’s not you’, ‘Good luck charm’, ‘The Girl of my best friend‘ or ‘Return to sender‘. Most significantly (and relevantly), there is also a car museum displaying a collection of cars Elvis owned. I have ranked the most stylish Elvis cars here along with detailed background info about each model. Yes this is absolutely and unashamedly subjective. The full ranking is below the jump.

1. 1973 Stutz Blackhawk1. Stutz Blackhawk (1973)

Not only is this in my view the coolest-looking car Elvis ever owned, there is also a fascinating story attached to it. The Stutz Motor Company is an American luxury car company from Indianapolis, Indiana that produced America’s first sports car from 1911 to 1935. The Stutz brand was ressucitated in 1968 (to survive until 1995) by New York banker James O’Donnell, who hired retired Chrysler stylist Virgil Exner to design the new Blackhawk. A first Stutz Blackhawk had been produced between 1929 and 1930, but this second generation, manufactured between 1971 and 1987, bears absolutely no resemblance to it.

Mouth-watering design features include a massive and aggressive grille, freestanding headlamps and a spare tire protruding through the trunklid. It’s like one car rebelled against all design conventions and revived them all at once. Now onto some technical specs. To try and keep in line with the brand’s exclusive origins, the body, designed by Ghia, was custom built in Italy, shipped to the US and fitted on a powerful but all-in-all arguably relatively common GM platform and engine. The Blackhawk used Pontiac Grand Prix running gear, Pontiac’s 7.5 L V8 engine, and a GM TH400 3-speed automatic transmission. The Blackhawk’s engine was tuned to produce 425 hp (317 kW) and 420 ft·lbf (570 N·m), enabling the 5000 lb (2300 kg) Blackhawk to accelerate to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 8.4 seconds with a 130 mph (210 km/h) top speed. All this for decidedly paltry (but ok for the times and the car’s weight/engine size) 8 mpg. That’s 30 L/100 km for you readers outside the USA. Ford, Chevrolet and Cadillac engines were also used at some stage. Another piece of trivia: the 18 to 22 hand-rubbed lacquer paint coats required to finish up the car took six weeks to apply, adding up to a total production time for each vehicle of over 1500 man-hours.

Stutz Blackhawk 19721972 Stutz Blackhawk

But wait there’s more prestige inside: the interior included 24-carat gold plated trim and bird’s eye maple or burled walnut and redwood, Connolly leather seats and dash, instrument markings in both English and Italian, fine wool or mink carpeting and headlining, a cigar lighter, and a liquor cabinet in the back. Other special features included automatic headlamp control with twilight sensor, cornering lamps, bilevel automatic airconditioning, Superlift air adjustable shockabsorbers, Safe-T-Track limited slip differential, an electric sunroof, cruise control, central locking, a burglar alarm, non-functional exhaust side pipes, and a high-end Lear Jet AM/FM 8-track quadraphonic sound system. The first models had special 17-inch Firestone LXX run-flat tires and rims fitted, although these were taken off the market when it was found they were unsafe.

Commercially, the Blackhawk remained a very exclusive car all through its 17 year-long career: only 500 to 600 units were produced in total. It debuted in January 1970 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, priced from US$22,500 to US$75,000, that’s US$120,000 to $400,000 in today’s dollars… And this is where things take a truly fascinating turn: Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra competed to purchase the very first Blackhawk to be put on sale! Talk about exclusive and prestigious… This was the second Blackhawk prototype, as built by Carrozzeria Padane (the first one, built by Ghia, was driven by James O’Donnell himself). The legend goes that Sinatra was offered the second prototype on the condition that the distributor could show the car at the L.A. auto show and get PR photos with Sinatra upon delivery. Sinatra declined, but Presley accepted and got the car, which he purchased for US$26,500 on October 9, 1970. In January 1971, Presley even had a mobile telephone installed inside it for US$1,467.50!

In July 1971, one of Presley’s hired drivers destroyed the car, which was restored with non-original parts after Presley’s death. Elvis bought at least three more Blackhawks and leased one other. The black 1973 pictured above and exposed in Graceland was his favorite Blackhawk, which he purchased at the end of the lease. Its interior features custom-ordered red leather seats. Elvis was driving this car when he drove through the gates of Graceland for the last time on August 16, 1977.

2. 1975 Ferrari Dino2. Ferrari Dino 308 GT4 (1975) 

Elvis purchased this Dino 308 GT4 secondhand in October 1976 for US$20,583. Interestingly, the “Dino” brand was created by Ferrari to market  more affordable sports cars aimed at competing with the Porsche 911 as Enzo Ferrari feared the Ferrari brand would be watered down with cheaper cars. The “Dino” marque was reserved for mid-engined, rear-drive sports cars and used for models with engines with fewer than 12 cylinders. So this was not typically the type of vehicle you’d expect the biggest star on the planet to purchase at the time, let alone secondhand. The Ferrari name remained reserved for its premium V-12 and flat 12 models until 1976, when “Dino” was retired in favour of full Ferrari branding. Thus Elvis’ car does have a “Dino” badge, and no Ferrari one, even though by the time he purchased the car the “Dino” brand had already disappeared, making this model an instant collector.

But why “Dino”? This was simply the nickname of Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari’s late son and heir Alfredo “Dino” Ferrari, who was credited with the design of the V6 engine used by the marque to justify the branding, however it was found later on that Alfredo Ferrari did not have any role in that design – awkward. At the time, setting a production car with a mid-engine layout was very avant-garde, although common in car racing. A mid-engined layout placed more of the car’s weight over the driven wheels, and although it enabled great design in the shape of a streamlined nose, it led to almost no passenger space and very abrupt handling, thought better reserved to professional sports drivers. For this reason Ferrari did not trust his customers would be able to ‘tame’ this type of layout and originally refused to produced one – with the consequence being that Lamborghini was the first to shoot with its mid-engined Miura in 1966.

The original mid-engined “Dino” (206/246) saw the light of day only because Ferrari rationalised that the low-power V6 engine would not be powerful enough to make handling unsafe even for relatively inexperienced drivers. The original 308 GT4 was designed by Bertone and produced from 1973 to 1980. It was Ferrari’s first V8 production car. It had a 90-degree, dual-overhead-camshaft, 2927 cc motor with 4 Weber carburetors which produced 250 hp (186 kW) and the V-8 block and heads were made of an aluminum alloy. The compression ratio was 8.8:1. However the American version that Elvis purchased had a timing change and an air-pump and produced a more modest 230 hp (172 kW). The GT4 weighed 2535 pounds. The 308 GT4 was Dino-branded until May 1976, when it got the Ferrari badge on the hood, wheels, and the steering wheel.

3. 1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II4. 1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II 23. Lincoln Continental Mark II (1956)

After being used between 1939 and 1948, the Continental name was revived in 1955 but as a separate marque, produced by a separate division of Ford Motor Company, with its only model being the Continental Mark II. The plans for this revival were grand and Ford made it very clear that this Continental was NOT a Lincoln. Ahem, right. Another one of these interesting strategy decisions. An attempt at hyper luxury by Ford, the 1956 Continental Mark II was among the most expensive cars in the world when launched, with a price equivalent to one of a Rolls-Royce at $10,000 when a regular Ford could be bought for less than $2000 and a Cadillac for $4000. Ford believed that its price point would elevate the car’s status among those who could afford the very best. True, but it stayed there and never really bled onto the Lincoln or Ford brand images. Plus, despite its astronomical price tag, Ford lost money on each one sold (2,996 in total including two prototype convertibles), the same way Cadillac did with its Continental-fighting four-door Eldorado Brougham.

The thing that Ford did manage to do with the Continental Mark II is create a myth: it reported tales of dealers turning potential buyers away because deemed not to be the right kind of people to own one, its sticker price was delusional and made the Continental only affordable by an over-prestigious clientele: Elvis part of that cohort along with Frank Sinatra (again), the Shah of Iran, Nelson Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger. Warner Brothers Studios even gave Elizabeth Taylor a custom-built 1956 Mark II, which was painted to match her eye colour. Elvis arrived in Miami in August 1956 driving his new Lincoln that had been decorated in lipstick graffiti by fans He traded that car and purchased this Continental Mark II with the proceeds from his tour. He used this car often, even taking it to New Orleans in 1958 for the filming of his movie ‘King Creole’. A bit of trivia to finish on: while on later models it was purely for decoration, the original Mark II did in fact carry its spare tire under the trunk lid’s stamped-in tire cover.

5. 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood4. Cadillac Fleetwood Series 60 (1955)

Elvis’ Pink Cadillac is arguably one of the most iconic cars in the history of the United States. A lesser known fact is that it is also one of the few that Elvis kept from his rise to stardom: he actually purchased his original Pink Cadillac (there were two) before any of his songs became popular. Ha. Bet you didn’t know that one. The story goes like this: in early 1955 Elvis bought his first pink Cadillac, a 1954 Fleetwood Series 60, but this car was destroyed in a roadside fire in June of that year. Exactly one month later on July 5, 1955, Elvis purchased a new Cadillac Fleetwood Series 60, but in blue with a black roof. Having mentioned a Pink Cadillac in the song Baby, Let’s Play House, the first Elvis song to break onto a national chart (it went up to #5 on the Billboard Country Singles chart in July 1955), Elvis had the car repainted pink that year and by March 1956 the roof was painted white. Elvis gave this car to his mother Gladys as a gift, even though she never had a driver’s license.

Like a haute couture designer, Elvis launched the pink car colour fashion with the Pink Cadillac. At the time, Ford Motor Company was the only manufacturer to offer pink as a standard colour. This changed quickly as Elvis’ Pink Cadillac became iconic. Individual owners took it upon themselves to paint their cars various shades of pink, then progressively most manufacturers aligned themselves and offered pink as standard colour as well. Another interesting element is that although the original car was a 1955 four-door sedan, the more replicated version in popular culture is a pink 1959 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible, which have been sold as miniature replicas by the millions.

Let’s backtrack a bit and ask where the Fleetwood name comes from? The link with Cadillac goes back to 1925 when the manufacturer purchased the Fleetwood Metal Body Company in 1925. As such the Fleetwood Body Company began as a small community of coach-building craftsmen founded by Henry Fleetwood, near Lancaster in England in the 17th century. Its 300 year coach-building experience gave the Fleetwood Body Company a high reputation in automobile circles worldwide by the 1920s. Coachwork was built by Fleetwood for a variety of luxury makes through 1924, but were reserved exclusively for Cadillac once bought by them in 1925. From 1927 through 1934 all Cadillac series offered Fleetwood bodies as an option, but after that time Cadillac became more picky and offered Fleetwood bodies only its higher-end models. The Fleetwood script and crest would not appear on the exterior of any Cadillac until the 1947 model year when it appeared on the rear deck lid of the Sixty Special, the one purchased by Elvis in its 1955 iteration.

7. 1977 Cadillac Seville5. Cadillac Seville (1977)

This was the last Cadillac Elvis bought and he was driving it himself the day prior to his death. In the mid-seventies, European luxury imports such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW were more and more popular in the US prompting Cadillac to reshuffle its range completely. The American manufacturer launched the Seville in 1975 as, interestingly, both the smallest and most expensive model in the lineup, turning their marketing and pricing strategies upside down. It was a big risk. Add to this the fact that the Seville was also designed to win back young American car buyers that were distancing themselves more and more from homegrown brands and especially Cadillac, and you come to an almost unsolvable problem as young American car buyers arguably find themselves at the more affordable end of luxury.

The Seville’s angular design would set the tone for GM styling for the next decade, and by extension of an American car design symbolic to that time and now rare on US roads. It was the first Cadillac to be engineered (shock, horror!) based on components previously used in a Chevrolet model: it is a heavily upgraded version of the rear-wheel drive X-body platform that underpinned the Chevrolet Nova. Official design specs detail a  “wide chrome grille flanked by quadruple rectangular headlamps with narrow parking and signal lamps just below filled the header panel, while small wrap-around rectangular tail lamps placed at the outermost corners of the rear gave the appearance of a lower, leaner, and wider car.” It is assumed that the wrap-around taillights might have come from a design sketch of a rejected Coupe DeVille concept.

1977 Cadillac Seville. Picture courtesy of autodrive.info1977 Cadillac Seville

Other interesting official specs about this Cadillac Seville: it was almost 1,000 pounds (450 kg) lighter than the full-sized Deville, more expensive than every other Cadillac model (except the Series 75 Fleetwood factory limousines) at US$12,479, it was basically a commercial flop (43,772 1976 MY vehicles produced and 45,060 1977 MY) even though it spawned several imitators including as the Lincoln Versailles and Chrysler LeBaron/Fifth Avenue, and the first 2,000 units produced were identical in equipment and colour (Georgian silver) to make sure the quality of the initial production run would be optimal, which it was.

Arguably this Seville’s most interesting spec is its fuel economy, unheard of for a Cadillac at the time. The engine was an Oldsmobile-sourced 350 cu in (5.7 L) V8, fitted with Bendix/Bosch electronically controlled fuel injection, giving it a gas mileage of 17 MPG city and 23 MPG highway while the larger Deville and Fleetwood were still getting single digit gas mileage! A diesel 350 cu in (5.7 L) LF9 V8 was added in 1978, the first diesel engine offered in passenger vehicles in America. Final piece of trivia: the Seville was also manufactured in Iran under the brand name Cadillac Iran from 1978 to 1987 by Pars Khodro, which was known as “Iran General Motors” before the Islamic Revolution. A total of 2,653 Cadillacs were made in Iran during this period. This made Iran the only country assembling Cadillacs outside the U.S. until 1997 when the Opel Omega-based Cadillac Catera started being built in Germany for the U.S. market.

6. Albert Graceland6. Albert (2014).

Ha. I’m sure Elvis would have loved to drive him.

8. 1962 Lincoln Continental9. 1962 Lincoln Continental detail 110. 1962 Lincoln Continental detail 27. Lincoln Continental (1962)

Elvis purchased this 1962 Lincoln Continental in Vegas and got it customised to his specifications: white with a gold alligator top. The Continental was completely redesigned in 1961 by Elwood Engel into what was originally intended to be the 1961 Ford Thunderbird. It replaced the Lincoln Capri and Premiere, consolidating Lincoln into a single product line again, as it was the case when the Continental Mark II launched back in 1955 (see above). This car’s most iconic feature is its front-opening rear “suicide doors”, which would later on become the best-known feature of 1960s Lincolns. At the time the Continental was surprisingly small: so much smaller than its predecessor in fact, that an advertising campaign featured a woman parallel parking a sedan for a magazine spread – that would be a questionable let alone sexist move nowadays but hey.

Despite this the car was not lighter than its predecessor at 4,927 lb (2,235 kg) for the sedan and 5,215 lb (2,365 kg) for the convertible, an interesting case of a convertible weighing more than its sedan variant despite the lack of solid roof. This was the first car manufactured in the U.S. to be sold with a 24,000 mi (39,000 km) or 2-year bumper-to-bumper warranty, and also the first postwar four-door convertible from a major U.S. carmaker. As a result the new Continental was still heavier than all Cadillac moles for example, somehow earning it its reputation as “the finest mass-produced domestic automobile of its time .” It was a sales success, with 25,160 sold during the first year of production. This generation of Continental is favoured by collectors and has appeared in many motion pictures such as GoldfingerThe MatrixLast Action HeroKaliforniaSpider-Man 2 and in the opening sequence of the television series Entourage.

11. 1966 1960 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud8. and 9. Rolls Royce Silver Cloud (1960 and 1966)

The Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud nameplate was introduced in 1955 as a replacement for the Silver Dawn before being superseded itself in 1966 by the Silver Shadow. During its entire production time it was the core model of the Rolls-Royce range. The two Rolls-Royce exposed in Elvis’ Graceland museum are two different generations of Silver Cloud: a 1960 II and a 1966 III. The Silver Cloud II was launched in 1959 when it gained a 6.2 L V8 engine, boosting the weight to 2.11 tonnes but improving performance in the meantime and raising the top speed to 114 mpg (183 km/h). Fuel consumption was 11 mpg or 22L/100 km, not that atrocious in fact, power steering was standard and electrically operated windows were available as an option. Elvis purchased this 1960 Silver Cloud II, his first Rolls Royce, at Coventry Motors located on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, California. He used it in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Memphis.

He purchased a second Silver Cloud in 1966. The Silver Cloud III originally debuted in 1963. Official specs are as follows. External dimensions were slightly tweaked, the interior remodelled, the weight reduced by a little over 100 kg (220 lb) and improvements made to the engine which included fitting 2-inch (51 mm) SU carburettors in place of the 1¾ inch units used on the Series II Silver Cloud. The compression ratio was increased to 9:1, reflecting the higher octane levels of premium fuel in major markets, although the option of a lower 8:1 compression ratio was still offered in markets where non-availability of higher octane fuels might be an issue. Rolls-Royce, as was the ‘tradition’ at the time, refused to disclose overall engine power output, but indicated that there had been an improvement of “perhaps 7%”. Interestingly vague for arguably the most prestigious car manufacturer in the world. Increased power and weight reduction boosted speed and performance slightly. The engine now included a nitride hardened crankshaft to reflect the extra power being generated and in response to reports of broken crankshafts in the earlier V8 Silver Clouds. The transmission was a GM Hydramatic which Rolls-Royce used under licence. There. That’s all for the specs but I thought it’d be worthwhile to dream a little and visualise what luxury sounded like back in the sixties.

12. 1960 Willys Jeep10. Willys Jeep DJ 3A Surrey (1960)

Considered the iconic World War II Jeep, the Willys MB U.S. Army Jeep was manufactured from 1941 to 1945, later evolving into the “CJ” civilian Jeep, and then updated to the “DJ” version. The DJ-3A was introduced in 1955, using the body style of the older CJ-3A, but coming with either a column shift or floor shift three-speed Borg-Warner T-96 manual transmission. In early 1959, Willys introduced the DJ-3A ‘Jeep Gala’ to export markets interested in a flexible, open vehicle but without the need for four wheel-drive. What made it cool was that it was finished in pink, green, or blue and trimmed with matching white striped fabric, as well as with fringe on its top…

Instant cult status in Hawaii, Mexico, and Caribbean islands and as a result obligatory mainland USA version, the ‘Jeep Surrey’, launched in fall of 1959. The primary target market were resort hotels and vacation centres for the staff’s short trips, but it was also used as a low-cost rental vehicle for guests. The Willys Surrey Jeep pictured above was purchased by Elvis on July 12, 1960 for US$1,981. It was mainly used by Graceland’s guards and would often be seen driving around Graceland. This would mean that Elvis purchased it before it featured in the 1961 motion picture ‘Blue Hawaii’ – another interesting piece of trivia. Could it be the one actually featured in the movie? My searches for this info have come back null, so if you know about this please let it known!

This concludes our stop in Memphis, in the next update we will be crossing Mississippi on our way to New Orleans. Stay tuned!

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

13. Cadillac Elvis Automobile Museum GracelandThe entrance to the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum in Graceland.

14. Ford E450 Graceland 5Shuttles to Graceland are shining-new Ford E450

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Junkyard Find: 1968 Saab 96 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1968-saab-96/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1968-saab-96/#comments Wed, 01 Oct 2014 13:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=922105 I see plenty of Saab 900s in self-service wrecking yards these days, but Saabs older than that have all but disappeared from the U-Wrench-It ecosystem. I did see a truly ancient Saab 92 at a yard over the summer, but that was in the heart of Saab’s homeland. So, it came as a big surprise […]

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12 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinI see plenty of Saab 900s in self-service wrecking yards these days, but Saabs older than that have all but disappeared from the U-Wrench-It ecosystem. I did see a truly ancient Saab 92 at a yard over the summer, but that was in the heart of Saab’s homeland. So, it came as a big surprise to spot this Saab 96 three weeks ago in the San Francisco Bay Area.
06 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinYes, Rust Belt residents, this California car isn’t rusty at all.
16 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinThis car has the four-stroke Ford Taunus V4 engine instead of the two-stroke three-banger used in earlier 96s.
01 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinThe interior has been stripped pretty thoroughly, but a few pieces remain.
05 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinMy racer grandfather had one of these cars, which he ice-raced in Minnesota and Wisconsin in the 1970s. Rust killed it, of course.
10 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinI have informed the Freewheelin’ Pikers Saab 96-racing 24 Hours of LeMons team about this car, and I hope they have sent their Bay Area-based minions to grab parts off this car before The Crusher eats it.

The Swedish car with aircraft quality!

Here’s another version.

01 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 02 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 03 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 04 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 05 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 06 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 07 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 08 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 09 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 10 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 11 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 12 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 13 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 14 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 15 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 16 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 17 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin

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