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. Sat, 04 Jul 2015 15:51:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Editorials http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/editorials/ Julie Hamp No. 10 in PR Week’s “Power List”, No. 1 in Badly Timed Awards http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ex-top-toyota-pr-rep-no-10-pr-list-no-1-badly-timed-awards/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ex-top-toyota-pr-rep-no-10-pr-list-no-1-badly-timed-awards/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 15:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1107009 Resigned Toyota PR chief Julie Hamp was named to PR Week’s “Power List” two weeks after being busted for allegedly importing illegal prescription painkillers into Japan last month. Hamp allegedly received 57 pills of Oxycodone in a box labeled “necklaces” at Narita Airport in Tokyo. The list, which ranks her No. 10, was released the same day Hamp resigned her position […]

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Julie Hamp Not In BlackResigned Toyota PR chief Julie Hamp was named to PR Week’s “Power List” two weeks after being busted for allegedly importing illegal prescription painkillers into Japan last month. Hamp allegedly received 57 pills of Oxycodone in a box labeled “necklaces” at Narita Airport in Tokyo.

The list, which ranks her No. 10, was released the same day Hamp resigned her position and included an editor’s note at the top explaining the awkward timing.

The author of Hamp’s listing, Senior Vice President of Global Communications for General Motors Tony Cervone, noted Hamp’s ascendance as a woman in a field typically dominated by men:

“Julie understands the need for consistency, but allows it to be expressed naturally and authentically, with special sensitivity to cultural nuances. She understands discipline, but doesn’t drive bureaucracy. In short, Julie provides a great balance. And she fully deserves to be “the first” in so many ways.”

Hamp is reportedly in jail awaiting charges in Japan. According to the Wall Street Journal, her trial in Japan could last anywhere from six months to a year, if it even goes that far.

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Junkyard Find: 1992 BMW 750iL http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/junkyard-find-1992-bmw-750il/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/junkyard-find-1992-bmw-750il/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 11:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1106737 When you spend as much time in fast-turnover self-service wrecking yards as I do, you get this lesson over and over: Nothing depreciates like high-end German luxury cars. Once the interior gets a little rough, or the cutting-edge elaborate electrical system gets a bit confused, or the next generation of engine makes an additional 50 […]

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10 - 1992 BMW 750iL Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

When you spend as much time in fast-turnover self-service wrecking yards as I do, you get this lesson over and over: Nothing depreciates like high-end German luxury cars. Once the interior gets a little rough, or the cutting-edge elaborate electrical system gets a bit confused, or the next generation of engine makes an additional 50 horses… well, your big A8 or 7-series or S-class passes through a sequence of increasingly budget-challenged owners, and then there’s another $700 repair needed, and here comes the tow-truck to take it to U-Wrench-It. Mostly I don’t pay much attention to these cars, because the yards are paved with German luxury, but the numbers of discarded V12 E32s peaked about 5 years ago and they’re getting harder to find now. Here’s one that I saw yesterday in a Denver-area yard.
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Because you can get running V12 BMWs for scrap value or less, 24 Hours of LeMons racers have run a few of them. Here’s Speedycop’s 1963 Ford Thunderbird with a 750iL engine (equipped with an extremely janky ammo-can-plenum carburetor conversion).

15 - 1992 BMW 750iL Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

How much did this car cost in 1992? Well, the answer is just about as depressing as looking up horsepower figures for Malaise Era Detroit cars: $76,500 MSRP, and a lot more with all the options a proper 7-series owner must have. That’s about $130,000 in inflation-adjusted 2015 bucks.

06 - 1992 BMW 750iL Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

V12s are inherently cool. All of us need to start rescuing these engines and swapping them into Edsels and New Yorkers. This one made 296 horsepower, which is 28 more than the 3.5-liter V6 in the ’15 Camry.

14 - 1992 BMW 750iL Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Yessir, that’s a built-in analog car-phone transceiver in the trunk.

27 men in Munich began a project that became a quest that became a car.

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In Which Our Author Narrowly Missed a Trip to Jail http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/author-narrowly-missed-trip-jail/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/author-narrowly-missed-trip-jail/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 13:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1104377 Or, as I call it, Virginia is stupid… Last month I spent a fantastic weekend at Pittsburg International Race Complex working my part time gig coaching in supercars. PittsRace is a great facility, lots of runoff, wonderful employees and a pretty great go-kart track. If you swing by, tell Mikey that Mental sends his best. My […]

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Or, as I call it, Virginia is stupid…

Last month I spent a fantastic weekend at Pittsburg International Race Complex working my part time gig coaching in supercars. PittsRace is a great facility, lots of runoff, wonderful employees and a pretty great go-kart track. If you swing by, tell Mikey that Mental sends his best.

My drive home was dictated by WAZE to route me through roughly 90 miles of the Commonwealth of Virginia. I emerged on the VA side of the East River Mountain tunnel and allowed the weight of my SUV to pull me down the hill.

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Yes, I was speeding. I usually am. I learned to drive in Atlanta, and I live here now. We drive fast, as do most metropolitan areas. 15 over will not earn you a second glance in the ATL, unless you have Alabama plates and it’s college football season.

My speed had crept up to around 85. That’s when I spotted the white Ford Taurus Police Special. I was busted. On the rare occasions this happens, I do not feign innocence, I pull over and avoid a prolonged dance. Usually I am stopped before they have exerted effort. I pull far over, turn off the engine, my sunglasses come off, my hands stay in view and I make eye contact in the mirror as they approach.

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The good sergeant informed me I was clocked at 84 in a 70. I acknowledged my egregious ways and dutifully handed over my required documents. When he returned to my vehicle, he let me know that I would only be cited for 80. I credit my retired military plates and polite demeanor for this grace on the trooper’s part. He also informed me this would reduce the charge from reckless driving to simple speeding.

Reckless driving? For 14 over? Even in my home state of Georgia 85 only gets you branded a “Super Speeder.” That adds $200 on top of the actual ticket in a clear fundraising measure.

After I told this tale, my friends informed me of how lucky I was the trooper had mercy. I didn’t realize that reckless driving in Virgina is a jail-worthy offence. They linked me to this gem I missed last year in the midst of my retirement.

For years I have argued that speed enforcement stopped being about safety and became revenue generation during the double nickel era. But jail time is not revenue generation. Jail time equates to an expense. Mr. George paid $400 in fines and court costs and the state paid out over $300 to imprison him. Maybe the lawmakers are just that militant in Virginia – after all, radar detectors are illegal there despite an almost 30-year-old Supreme Court ruling that says different. Maybe Virginia is willing to commit their tax revenues to ensure safer roads. My research shows Virginia more or less in the middle of safest states with regards to motor vehicle accidents. So I was puzzled.

Then I returned from another trip. Waiting in my mail were letters from 5 separate attorneys’ willing to represent me, even if I had already paid the fine. Two more showed up this week. They had gotten my citation from the public records. The first one I opened offered to represent me for only $99 and guaranteed a price match if I found a cheaper lawyer. $99 for a $125 fine. Even Mr. George hired an attorney, so in addition to the $400, he had to pay that bill as well.

There it is. So the good, hardworking law enforcement officers in Virginia have now been reduced from toll collectors for Virginia’s municipalities to rainmakers for their law firms.

In the future, I will be avoiding aiding to the cause of both, as well as avoiding the entirety of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

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Bark’s Bites: The FiST Is a Rollover Risk, and Some People Don’t Want You to Know http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/barks-bites-fist-rollover-risk-people-dont-want-know/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/barks-bites-fist-rollover-risk-people-dont-want-know/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 12:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1105169 The year was 2008. I was working the course at the SCCA Toledo Pro Solo during the Ladies’ class runs. For those of you who don’t know what a Pro Solo is like, I’ll try to explain quickly. It’s a mirrored autocross course with two competitors, one on each side. Instead of being waved onto […]

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The year was 2008. I was working the course at the SCCA Toledo Pro Solo during the Ladies’ class runs. For those of you who don’t know what a Pro Solo is like, I’ll try to explain quickly. It’s a mirrored autocross course with two competitors, one on each side. Instead of being waved onto the course by a flagger, like in a regular autocross, there’s a drag tree that starts the drivers. It’s the closest thing to “racing” that you’ll find at an autocross.

As I watched one particular pairing of cars leave the line, I noticed that one of the cars, a Mini Cooper S, was getting up on two wheels in the first 3-cone slalom. As the car rocked back and forth from the left two wheels to the right and then back to the left, the front left wheel bent and caught the cement, tripping the car and causing it to flip forward. It bounced off of its roof, and ended up landing on its wheels, facing back toward the starting line.

It was the ultimate case of jamais vu. I had been autocrossing for about three years, and I had watched hundreds of runs, but I had never seen a car flip before. That sort of thing just isn’t supposed to happen in autocross – it’s supposed to be a totally safe way to participate in motorsports. I froze where I stood for several seconds before I snapped back to reality and ran as quickly as I could across the airfield to the car where the young lady who was driving had exited and fallen to her knees, screaming and keening like a banshee.

My brother had been working the other side of the course, and he and I were the first people to arrive at the car. We were also the only two people to really see what had actually happened. It was a clear case of equipment failure – the wheel had bent under extreme load. However, the wheels had been sold by the Tire Rack, and their on-site representatives were quick to denounce the incident as “driver error.” People were screaming in each other’s faces. It was an ugly, ugly incident.

It was equally ugly on the autocross forums. Amazingly, people who were hundreds of miles away from the incident all of a sudden became experts on physics and driving dynamics. For whatever reason, people just didn’t want to admit that the combination of a high-grip, concrete surface, R-compound tires, and a vehicle with a high center of gravity was a recipe for disaster.

Well, it’s happened again, and this time it’s happened with a car that nobody, least of all me, wants to admit may be flawed. But I’ll be the first to say it to a mass audience: the Ford Fiesta ST may not be safe to autocross, and you deserve to know.

Three-wheeling the FiST isn't hard to do

The SCCA already banned the non-ST version of the Fiesta from street class autocross due to its high center of gravity back in January, citing it as a rollover risk. The ST meets the SCCA’s CoG guidelines, which are basically just a mathematical formula. But when I got my Fiesta ST, I received a few warnings from autocross friends of mine, all very hush-hush, Facebook Messenger types of warnings: “Be careful autocrossing that car. Those things are easy to get up on two wheels. And I’ve heard of people rolling them, too.” Nobody ever gave me any specifics, just that they had “heard” of incidents with them. A Google or Bing search for “Fiesta ST rollover” produces no results.

But that hasn’t kept the video at the top of this post from making the rounds of the autocross community. Eric Simmons, well-known as a serial car buyer, posted this video from an autocross at Hersheypark on November 9th, 2014, and it immediately become the subject of several forum threads. As you can see at about the :22 mark in the video, Simmons gets his Fiesta ST up on two wheels in a tight right hand turn, causing him to miss the next gate. The video, while somewhat terrifying, isn’t exactly news in the autocross community at this point.

The news that a Fiesta ST was rolled over the weekend, however, is. Word is that an autocrosser at a Texas autocross site rolled his ST in a fairly standard ninety-degree turn at relatively high speeds. A few friends of mine posted about the event on Facebook, some of them specifically to warn me because they knew that I have autocrossed mine before and plan to do it again in the future.

All of them were contacted and asked to take down their posts, either by their local SCCA regions or by the non-SCCA sanctioning club where the event took place. The obvious question is: Why?

Are they protecting the driver who rolled it? Possibly. It’s not unheard of for an autocrosser to have a contact-related incident during an event, load his damaged car onto the trailer, dump it in a ditch somewhere, and call his insurance company.

Are they protecting the SCCA and other autocrossing organizations? Eh, maybe. If too much press gets out about an isolated incident such as this one, then it could cause regions to lose their dearly needed autocrossing sites. The SCCA goes to great lengths to make sure that people know that autocross isn’t a “race” (despite the constant whining of its membership) because what parking lot owner would be dumb enough to have people racing cars on his property? The insurance risk is already fairly high for these sites, and nervous sponsors and site owners might just decide it’s not worth the risk if they were to hear about somebody rolling a freaking Ford Fiesta.

Are they trying to protect the Ford Fiesta ST’s reputation? We might be getting closer to the mark. The FiST has proven to be a very popular autocrosser nationwide. It’s taken the top spot in H Street class at nearly every national event in 2015 and has made up eighty to ninety percent of the field. It’s cheap, you can get inexpensive wheel/tire combos, it’s easy to modify, and it’s hella fun to drive. If word gets out that the FiST is a high rollover risk, then a fairly significant number of people might drop out of autocrossing, at least until they can replace the FiST with something else. The SCCA can’t afford that.

The problem seems to begin when you start messing with things that affect the grip level of the ST. In Simmons’ case, he only changed two things about the car, but they were significant: a stickier tire and a smaller wheel diameter, both of which change the behavior of the car in ways that can’t be perfectly replicated at Dearborn’s testing grounds. There’s talk that the smaller diameter of the FiST’s front sway bar (it’s actually smaller than the regular Fiesta’s) might be the culprit – any serious national-level autocrosser will replace it nearly immediately.

As you can see in the photo above, I have gotten my FiST up on two and three wheels several times, but I’m not a rookie, either. Rumor has it that the Texas incident occurred in a 40 mph sharp turn with a novice driver who had replaced his stock Bridgestone tires with the new RE71R, a tire that pulls more lateral Gs than the racing tires of yore. The car got unsettled in a corner, but instead of sliding laterally, like it normally would on the OEM tires, the tires gripped and the narrow sway bar couldn’t handle it, so the car started acting less like a car and more like a bicycle. As a novice driver, he likely got freaked out and dialed in more steering, which caused the roll.

Honestly, I’m not too worried about it for myself. I’m not a “fast hands” type of autocrosser, so I typically don’t unsettle my car that much. But, I do think that these sorts of incidents should be discussed and shared, not shoved into a closet. If the FiST is Unsafe At Any Speed (copyright Ralph Nader), how will those who think that the reputation of the “sport” and the clubs should take precedence over the safety of particpants feel the next time a FiST ends up wrong side up? There’s no legal obligation to share information, but shouldn’t there be a moral one?

I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t autocross your Fiesta ST, but I am going to tell you that there’s a risk, and that you should be aware of it. The rest is up to you.

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TTAC Open Forum: Let’s Talk about the Elephant in the Room (and Everything Else) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ttac-open-forum-lets-talk-about-the-elephant-in-the-room-and-everything-else/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ttac-open-forum-lets-talk-about-the-elephant-in-the-room-and-everything-else/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 21:15:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1105009 On average, TTAC runs 12 stories a day consisting of features, reviews and news. On average, virtually none of those are about TTAC. Let’s change that. It’s not goodbye As most of our loyal readers have noticed, Cameron has left the news position. However, this is not the end of Cameron’s tenure at TTAC. In her […]

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On average, TTAC runs 12 stories a day consisting of features, reviews and news. On average, virtually none of those are about TTAC.

Let’s change that.

It’s not goodbye
As most of our loyal readers have noticed, Cameron has left the news position. However, this is not the end of Cameron’s tenure at TTAC.

In her heartfelt letter to our readers yesterday, Cameron outlined the main stumbling block with having her take the reins in the news editor position: her lack of a driver’s license.

“But, how does a driver’s license have anything to do with news?” you may ask. It’s simple, really. The news editor is now also responsible for reviews and we may send that person on a trip here and there. Being able to drive is essential to the new role.

Cameron will be back, hopefully sooner rather than later, as she details getting her license as an adult. After this, hopefully she will become a regular fixture at TTAC once again, but that’s more so in her hands than mine.

If there’s one thing I can say about Cameron, though, it’s that she is probably the hardest working writer … scratch that … hardest working person I’ve ever met. Period. I’ve never seen anyone churn out the sheer volume of copy she does while still keeping the quality of said copy as high as virtually everyone else who writes for TTAC.

And truth be told, I completely stopped editing her pieces after a while. Instead, I would just enjoy them like you all did – as news and a break from the daily grind of work.

Say hello to newsbot v2.43.1 Aaron Cole
Denver, Colorado resident Aaron Cole will be taking the reins of the freshly assembled Ikea news desk.

Aaron brings with him 12 years of journalism experience with 5 of those in the automotive world. His responsibilities will include news, op-eds and reviews. He will also help me not make a fool out of myself by editing my pieces before the B&B rip them apart. While I’m on the road, Aaron will act as managing editor.

Please say hello to Aaron. I promise he’s not a robot.

TTAC is growing and we need to keep it that way
Things are looking up for TTAC. Over the last month or so, TTAC readership has increased. If TTAC were an automaker, we would publish a release today about all the gains, breaking it down by article type and opening up our production numbers for interpretation. Instead, I will tell you one very simple, small bit of information that will explain the decisions made above.

Regurgitated news is dead.

TTAC and others crank out copy based on press releases from automakers and other companies involved in the industry. The majority of us automotive journalists start our careers this way as stringers. We do it cheaply too, so as to get a byline and point to it as proof of prior work. Think of it as a character-building exercise.

Unfortunately, it’s this content that also rarely resonates with readers. Only one out of 20 or 30 news pieces garners the same attention as an average feature piece. As a response to that, TTAC will be digging deeper going forward.

Our goal will be to provide a perspective in every story that isn’t offered anywhere else. Unless it’s a breaking news item of significant importance or a piece of information that would be dangerous if omitted, we won’t cover it unless there’s a story to be told. The days of simply copying information from a press release or deriving a story from another article solely so we have another headline will eventually come to an end. They will be replaced by long(er)-form news features.

Obviously, this isn’t a change that’s going to happen overnight. Sit tight, relax, and continue to enjoy the TTAC you know tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.

Now it’s your turn
The mic is now all yours. Please feel free to sound off in the comments. Aaron and I will attempt to reply to each and every one. Also, don’t limit yourselves to the topics above. Everything is on the table today.

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With Nürburgring Records Dead, Automakers Begin Pikes Peak Chest-Thumping http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/with-nurburgring-records-dead-automakers-begin-pikes-peak-chest-thumping/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/with-nurburgring-records-dead-automakers-begin-pikes-peak-chest-thumping/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 15:15:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1104737 At the conclusion of this year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Mercedes-Benz issued a release claiming a new record: the Mercedes-Benz C250d 4MATIC was the fastest production diesel to ever make it from base camp to summit. Driven by Uwe Nittel, the compression-ignition, tri-star sedan navigated the mountain’s 156 corners in 11 minutes 22 seconds. Since the manufacturer-favorite Nürburgring […]

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C 250 d 4MATIC sets record at Pikes Peak

At the conclusion of this year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Mercedes-Benz issued a release claiming a new record: the Mercedes-Benz C250d 4MATIC was the fastest production diesel to ever make it from base camp to summit. Driven by Uwe Nittel, the compression-ignition, tri-star sedan navigated the mountain’s 156 corners in 11 minutes 22 seconds.

Since the manufacturer-favorite Nürburgring has imposed speed restrictions at certain high speed sections and outright banned hot lap record attempts, a new battleground is needed.

Will that frontline be in Colorado?

Like the public toll road in Germany, Pikes Peak is a public road every other weekend out of the year. However, unlike the ‘Ring, there is a speed limit and – when pushing to find the elusive 11/10ths – an increased chance of death.

This year saw loss of life with motorcycle rider Carl Sorensen and last year was marred by the death of another two-wheeled racer, Bobby Goodin. In all, including Sorensen and Goodin, six racers have succumbed to injuries as a result of crashes at the PPIHC – four of those in the last 15 years as speeds have skyrocketed and the road has transformed from gravel thoroughfare to mountain-scarring ribbon of tarmac thanks to a lawsuit by the Sierra Club.

It’s against this backdrop of danger manufacturers of two- and four-wheeled machines now find renewed interest in Pikes Peak. Recently, it was the only American thing to catch the interest of Peugeot. Piloted by 9-time world rally champion Sébastien Loeb, the French brand brought their Peugeot 208 T16 race car to Pikes Peak in an effort to take the overall course record.

They succeeded.

But, it isn’t these Unlimited Class specials that will be of interest in the future at PPIHC.

The road, now completely paved, can offer conditions much more applicable to daily road car use. For their part, Mercedes-Benz has attempted to capitalize by sending a car to Colorado that fills a very small niche – diesel-powered cars – favorable to their successful record-claiming endeavor.

Other alternative drivetrains are showing up in Colorado, as well. With output decreasing for internal combustion engines as the air gets thinner, electric vehicles can show their worth as they torque their way to the top.

Conventional engines still have a future in the automotive market. However, with a shorter distance to climb and a variety of corners to navigate, Pikes Peak may become home to many new auditory delights, even if it’s interspersed with corporate chest-thumping.

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2014 Toyota Tundra CrewMax Platinum 4X4 Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2014-toyota-tundra-crewmax-platinum-4x4-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2014-toyota-tundra-crewmax-platinum-4x4-review/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 13:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=862057 It’s been said that with the last Crown Victoria produced, the death of Ford’s Panther platform represented the extinction of the species, American sedanus body-on-framus, the last of the dinosaurs. Keeping in a biological frame of mind, it seems to me that the BOF American sedan didn’t go extinct, but transformed. Its trunk developed into an […]

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It’s been said that with the last Crown Victoria produced, the death of Ford’s Panther platform represented the extinction of the species, American sedanus body-on-framus, the last of the dinosaurs. Keeping in a biological frame of mind, it seems to me that the BOF American sedan didn’t go extinct, but transformed. Its trunk developed into an open cargo bed and those varieties with high ground clearance seem to have been particularly adaptive.

That’s the closest analogy I can come up with to describe how the 2014 Toyota Tundra CrewMax Plantinum drives – it reminds me of the big American cars that were on the road when I got my driver’s license back in the early 1970s, and it should. It has body-on-frame construction, double A arm suspension up front, a live axle on leaf springs in the back, seats as flat as a sofa, and a powerful V8 engine up front, just like those old land yachts of yore. Oh, and it’s big.

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Actually, that comparison somewhat disrespects the Tundra that I drove for a week. Even with the ground clearance of a pickup and the added height of a 4X4 spec’d vehicle, the Tundra handles better than any large American sedan did back in the day. I’m not saying that you should take it autocrossing, just that it goes where you point it in traffic.

Since I was driving a 4X4 pickup essentially unloaded, the fact that the ride wasn’t as smooth as my dad’s 1974 Mercury Marquis Brougham should be expected. Unloaded pickups can tend to have a bit of the bouncy bouncies. Still, it was comfortable and all that suspension travel came in handy driving on Michigan’s terrible roads. You know that you’re going over a bump, but there’s so much there to absorb it that, while you’re aware of the craters, all the crashing is happening so far away and it’s so well dampened to not even be an annoyance.

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The V8 up front is a 5.7 liter engine derived from the UR family quad cam V8 first introduced in the 2006 Lexus LS460. Contrary to some urban legends, no, Toyota didn’t buy up the tooling for the old small block Chevy. The 381 horsepower motor is smooth and powerful, never lacking enough gumption to move into a spot in traffic as long as that spot was large enough.

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To be honest, it took me a day or so of driving the Tundra to get used to its bulk. Because of the vagaries of press fleet scheduling, I went from one of the smallest passenger vehicles sold in North America, a Fiat Abarth, to one of the largest. How large is it? It’s barely able to fit in either a standard shopping center or urban metered parking space; I had about 6 inches to spare at each end in each case. One reason for that is it’s a true four door truck. The back seat is as spacious as anything you’d find in the biggest Lincolns or Cadillacs of the 1960s. There is enough space for three adults with ample leg room, perhaps even more room than in a long wheelbase flagship sedan like a Jaguar XJL or comparable Chinese market Audi A8. Just as one could say the American sedan has grown a trunk and ground clearance, one could say that American pickups have grown back seats. Look around you in traffic. You won’t see many simple two door pickups. Everything is either a club cab or a crew cab.

Speaking of crews, the idea that this Tundra is going to be any kind of actual work truck is dispelled by a glance at the sticker. This is a $50,000 truck and the only way that I can see it showing up on a construction site is if it’s the daily driver of the guy or gal who owns the construction or drilling company, and they ain’t gonna haul around some greasy roughnecks on the nicely quilted leather upholstery.

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Concerning hauling, Toyota has heavily promoted the Tundra’s 10,000 lb. towing capacity. I believe that the owners of such blinged out Tundras will be hauling cargo, but it won’t be burly workers, room for them though there may be. No, a truck like this will use its 401 lb-ft of torque and five tons worth of towing capacity to haul things more valuable than a $50,000 pickup. One horse, let alone an entire horse trailer full of them, can exceed the Tundra’s value, as can a boat. The rest of the time the Tundra CrewMax Platinum will be used as a sedan, and that’s pretty much how I tested it. I had nothing to tow and, at 14.7 mpg over the week, I wasn’t going to drive it almost 200 miles round trip to The Mounds off-road park and back just to try out the 4X4 system.

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Actually, I did get to try that out while trying to avoid a small town parade. Cutting through a parking lot I noticed what I thought was an unfinished apartment building with a driveway leading away from where the traffic was barred, so I put it in four wheel drive and took it over a curb and some vegetation, only to find out that it was an abandoned construction site and that the driveway was fenced in. Still, I got a chance to try out the 4X4, which worked fine. As it’s indeed a 4×4, not an AWD system, it’s for low speed use (and it does have a low range, too) so on pavement you’ll feel the scrubbing.

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On their way to the lake, or the equestrian center, the people who buy a Plantinum trimmed Tundra will have a very comfortable experience. As you’d expect from the price, the truck had all of the latest tech toys except, oddly, no smart key, so there was no keyless entry or push-button starting. The steering wheel does swing up out of the way, the seat goes back when you’re ready to exit and, when you do leave the truck, you’ll be happy for the quite functional running boards. It’s a long way up there. That explains why the front and rear passengers have pillar mounted handles to grab for easier entry. Interestingly, Toyota must figure the driver will use the steering wheel to hoist themselves up to the commanding steering position because there’s no grab handle on that side of the cabin.

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Even though you are sitting very high up, with outstanding visibility, it’s a good thing the Tundra has a parking assist system. While it won’t park the truck for you (and fie on anyone who thinks they deserve a driver’s license if they can’t parallel park), it will warn you when you’re getting close to things as ephemeral as vegetation. That particularly comes in handy because you don’t have a prayer of seeing where the offside front fender really ends. One of those camera-based, bird’s-eye views that Audi gives you would have been nice to have.

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The large touch screen based infotainment system worked as well as Chrysler’s highly praised U-Connect system. My Samsung Android phone worked seamlessly and reliably in both phone and audio modes with the Toyota solution. Navigation was easy to use and never screwed up, and there are enough actual knobs for the things you want to change right now. The climate control system worked flawlessly in summer heat. I particularly like the way the “eyeball” vents on the dash can be aimed wherever you want.

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I like taking 3D photos of historical sites around Detroit but one of my rules (along with avoiding taking photos of ’69 Camaros, ’57 Chevys, and perfectly restored Isetta microcars at car shows) has been to refuse to take any photos of the decrepit Packard plant on the city’s east side. I don’t do ruin porn and if I did, I’d be more creative than shooting that abandoned factory or the empty Michigan Central train station, another favorite of lazy photographers and editors. However, while I had the Tundra, it happened to be the anniversary of the end of Packard production in 1956. Some see the Packard plant as emblematic of the decline of the domestic auto industry and few vehicles represent the strength of Japanese automakers – Japan Inc. taking on Detroit Corp., if you will – than the Toyota Tundra. That’s why I decided to use the well-known overpass where unfinished Packards traveled from one section of the plant to another as a backdrop to my photos for this review.

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The historical reality, of course, is that Japanese and other foreign automakers had nothing to do with Packard’s demise.

Toyota’s first dealership in the U.S. opened up in October of 1957, more than a year after the last true Packards were made in the summer of 1956. To be more precise, while the last true Packards were made in 1956, the brand name and some hideous sheetmetal were slapped on some already funny looking Studebakers following the merger of those two companies.

Toyota and other Japanese brands didn’t really get a foothold in the American market until the late 1960s. Making mostly small cars that got good gas mileage, the Japanese car companies in the U.S. market benefited from the oil crises attending the 1973 Yom Kippur war and the 1979 seizure of American diplomats in Iran. It didn’t hurt that they used some smart engineering, packaging and marketing as with the first generation Honda Accord. As the U.S. automakers seemed to go from making the standards of the automotive world to making unreliable crap in the 1980s, Toyota, Honda and Nissan became preferred brands. Then Toyota dominated everyone with their “fat engineering” Corollas and Camrys in the early 1990s.

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Buoyed by the success of the Camry and Corolla with consumers in the 1990s and flush with cash, by the start of the 21st century, Toyota decided to go after the last remaining bastion of market segment dominance for the domestic car companies: full size pickup trucks.

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Sure, the original Tundra was sort of a 7/8ths scale American pickup, but in 2003, when Toyota announced at the Chicago Auto Show that it was going racing in NASCAR’s truck series, it was clear that Toyota was serious about selling trucks to Americans. Then, in 2006, also at Chicago, Toyota finally introduced a genuinely full sized Tundra that competed on equal footing with GM, Ford and Dodge/Ram. To do so, the Japanese automaker made as American a truck as they could. The Tundra was engineered at Toyota’s billion dollar plus R&D center in Ann Arbor, just west of Detroit, with styling input from Toyota’s Calty facility in California. While the engine was designed in Japan, the block and heads are cast in the U.S. and, like the rest of the truck, it’s assembled here as well. The Tundra is put together at a facility in Texas built with an even larger investment than the design center in A Squared. Not coincidentally, Texas is America’s biggest pickup truck market.

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When they introduced the truly fullsize Tundra about a decade ago, Toyota executives were under no illusions that they were going to get “Ford guys” or “Chevy guys” out of their trucks. Brand loyalty is about as strong as it gets with pickup truck buyers. However, at the time, Toyota made a point of how about 6% of the pickup market does shift from model year to model year based on whoever most recently introduced a redesigned truck. Those buyers tend to be businesses making dollars and cents decisions on fleets and they aren’t swayed by brand loyalty. Toyota was aiming for those buyers, hoping to expand from there. That expansion may be on the horizon. A quick check at goodcarbadcar.net shows that the Tundra’s market share for 2014 was at 5.7%, within hailing distance of that 6% baseline.

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

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Junkyard Find: 1979 Ford Ranchero http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/junkyard-find-1979-ford-ranchero/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/junkyard-find-1979-ford-ranchero/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 11:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1103057 Ah, the Malaise Era! Engines making one horsepower per three cubic inches. Broughams, Landaus, and molded-in fake stitching on petroleum-distillate Simu-Vinyl™ upholstery. And, of course, a pseudo-pickup based on the Ford Thunderbird platform. 1977-79 Rancheros still show up in California wrecking yards now and then, and that’s where I saw this green-on-green-on-green-on-some-more-green ’79 last fall. […]

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08 - 1979 Ford Ranchero Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Ah, the Malaise Era! Engines making one horsepower per three cubic inches. Broughams, Landaus, and molded-in fake stitching on petroleum-distillate Simu-Vinyl™ upholstery. And, of course, a pseudo-pickup based on the Ford Thunderbird platform. 1977-79 Rancheros still show up in California wrecking yards now and then, and that’s where I saw this green-on-green-on-green-on-some-more-green ’79 last fall.
02 - 1979 Ford Ranchero Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

It’s hard to imagine a greener interior. We’ve seen this phenomenon before.

06 - 1979 Ford Ranchero Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin351-cubic-inch V8 making 19 horsepower, or something like that. I don’t feel like looking up the exact number, because it will make me sad.
00 - 1979 Ford Ranchero Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Still, this face has a certain appeal. I know it’s wrong, but I could see driving one of these every day (I blame Mr. Mehta for this sickness).

00 - 1979 Ford Ranchero Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1979 Ford Ranchero Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1979 Ford Ranchero Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1979 Ford Ranchero Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1979 Ford Ranchero Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1979 Ford Ranchero Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1979 Ford Ranchero Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1979 Ford Ranchero Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1979 Ford Ranchero Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1979 Ford Ranchero Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1979 Ford Ranchero Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1979 Ford Ranchero Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1979 Ford Ranchero Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1979 Ford Ranchero Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1979 Ford Ranchero Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1979 Ford Ranchero Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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How to Best Sell Your Car on eBay from a Former Bring-A-Trailer Deal Spotter http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/best-sell-car-ebay-former-bring-trailer-deal-spotter/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/best-sell-car-ebay-former-bring-trailer-deal-spotter/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 15:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1102537 As I’ve mentioned before, I spent about four years as a “deal spotter” for Bring A Trailer. Much of that work consisted of browsing eBay, Craigslist, and various marque-specific forums looking for interesting deals on classics. Of course, I have a day job as well, so I try and minimize the time I actually spend […]

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As I’ve mentioned before, I spent about four years as a “deal spotter” for Bring A Trailer. Much of that work consisted of browsing eBay, Craigslist, and various marque-specific forums looking for interesting deals on classics. Of course, I have a day job as well, so I try and minimize the time I actually spend looking at cars while simultaneously looking like I’m actually working. The eBay app for my Android helps in this matter, so I can work on my side job while indisposed.

So, I spend nearly an hour or two every day trying to quickly assess every car by the lead photo before moving on. I can quickly spot deals or find those auctions that won’t sell. It’s like automotive Tinder – swipe left for the rotted F-body, swipe right for the longhood 911.

(I did have to reference Wikipedia on Tinder, by the way. I’m a happily married man.)

Since my friends know I have this ample shopping experience, they all assume I know the best ways to sell a car on eBay.Funny thing, though: I’ve never actually sold any cars there. After all, I’m a writer, and as such, I’m not paid enough to actually afford any car I want. Those who can afford to buy, do. Those who can’t, write about it.

I have a good friend who’s a real estate photographer – and, incidentally, the least-douchey BMW fanboy I’ve ever met. The key to marketing anything online is putting your product in the absolute best light possible. In realtor’s parlance, it’s called “staging.” He ensures each room is properly lit, is clean, with absolutely no clutter. The images he produces are astounding, and they sell houses.

Car sellers on eBay need to consider staging as well. No, you don’t need a trunkload of Nikon glass like my friend, but most people have a decent camera in their pants right now.

Take Good Photos
You get at least twelve photos with a basic for-sale auction. Another $2 doubles it. Make that $2 back by going for a Tall rather than the Venti tomorrow; it will be worth it. Shoot each quarter panel, a profile, front, and rear. Front seats, rear seats, VIN plate, odometer and trunk all need to be shown, too. If you omit something, buyers will think you’re hiding something. This car, for example, is shown well, with two dozen pics from all angles, even the undercarriage:

Hemi

If there are flaws in your car, take detailed pics of those flaws so the buyer can judge for themselves. Maybe the cracked front valence isn’t a big deal to you, but it could be to someone looking for a clean car.

Post Those Photos
Next, you need to know how to get those photos off of your camera and onto eBay. Last spring, I happened across an auction for a vintage Chevy truck. Not typically something that would catch my eye, but for the lead photo. The seller had taken pics with his iPhone, and then took a photo (not a screenshot, a photo) of his iPhone to show the truck. Memorable, yes. It got me to click. It got me to make fun of him on Facebook. But that’s no way to capture good detail of a vintage car.

Of course, once you get the pics on your computer, they need to be properly oriented:

Sideways Fairlane

Though it is theoretically possible in your particular part of the world there could be an unusual sideways pull of gravity that causes bias-ply tires to grip sheer cliffs like a rock climber, most buyers and shipping companies will not be appropriately equipped for these loads.

Look At The Background
Also, consider the fella at the top of the page.

Willys

The background is cluttered, distracting from the vehicle for sale. Also, the inclusion of human or canine subjects in the photo inevitably leads to stupid questions from buyers: “Is the dog included?”

Minimize Misogyny
On that note, please: lose the scantily-clad women from our photos. Clearly, those people shopping eBay know how to “get online” as we used to say when our modem tones made it clear to all around that we were doing so. One could make the parallel assumption that most of those who happen to be horny while car shopping would be best served by opening a second tab on their browser of choice and typing words like “The Chive” or “Pornhub” into said browser. An orange-peel coated Eleanor clone draped with a similarly-orange-peeling forty-something in a too-small bikini is just sad, and does nothing to sell the car in question.

Bikini

Oh, yeah: objectifying women is bad too. Funny thing, though, the bikini-model is almost exclusively posed with American iron. You never see a woman posed atop a Miata. Hmm.

Write Well
Please, use reasonably proper English when writing the description of your car. NO CAPS LOCK. Write complete sentences and include all of the appropriate details about the car in question. Space those sentences out into paragraphs – no one will read a wall of text. And, for God’s sake, the name of your car is typically printed somewhere on the car. Go to your car, write down the spelling of the model name, and type it into your auction listing.

I’d have to say there are nearly as many Cameros for sale on eBay at any given time as there are Camaros. However, the Camero is not listed in Hagerty’s Classic Car Valuation Tool, and won’t be rolling across any stages in Arizona next January.

Avoid Clichés Like The Plague
Mariska HargitayPlease stop using the term “unmolested” when referring to a clean, stock vehicle. What you do in the privacy of your own garage is your business and Sergeant Olivia Benson won’t be inspecting for enlarged tailpipes. Just stop using that word.

I often see dealers using eBay to shill their stock. That’s fine, I suppose, though some of the stock language they use isn’t appropriate for every car. Don’t make the mistake of copy/pasting their ad copy. A couple years ago, I was looking at a 1947 MG TC on eBay. The dealer’s boilerplate read:

“The factory warranty has expired, and we can’t get it extended.”

No kidding. In fact, the MG factory in Abingdon has expired. I’d imagine the new Chinese owners of the MG marque would chuckle a bit at a warranty claim for a car designed before Mao was in power.

Stop calling your car “one of a kind.” Technically, I know it’s true, as there shouldn’t be any other car out there with the exact VIN as yours. That doesn’t make it a special snowflake.

Unless your car is a truly limited edition, like one of 750 Shelby CSXes made in 1987, let’s end the trend of “one of only 17 Q94 packages in white-over-black built the week of July 9th on the second shift, so it wasn’t driven off the Hamtramck line by the magnificently flatulent Steve G.” Again, it’s not special. Stop it.

Target the Right Market
If you are selling a car with any sort of enthusiast value, consider cross-posting (with permission) to the appropriate forums. Don’t spam every forum out there, though. Get involved with the forum well prior to posting your car for sale, else you come off as a untrustworthy, opportunistic troll. If the forum has rules against posting eBay links, follow the rules.

Remember, there are enthusiasts and forums out there for just about everything. I’ve been a lurking member of boards dedicated to Honda Odysseys, Chrysler minivans, and Nissan SUVs. Mostly, I joined in an attempt to glean cheap repair tips, as these places can be quite useful. But don’t upset the fanatics. They will turn on you.

eBay can be a minefield. There are fraudulent buyers and sellers everywhere, so it pays to do your homework. But there are few outlets with the national and international reach that eBay has. Follow these guidelines, and you should get the most for your ride.

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No Fixed Abode: Walljobbed. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/no-fixed-abode-walljobbed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/no-fixed-abode-walljobbed/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 14:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1102601 I grew up in the back of two-door family cars ranging from a ’67 Camaro to an ’83 Civic 1500 “S”. It never seemed like a hardship to me. Nor does it seem like a hardship to have my six-year-old son in the back of my Accord Coupe. He knows how to let himself in […]

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I grew up in the back of two-door family cars ranging from a ’67 Camaro to an ’83 Civic 1500 “S”. It never seemed like a hardship to me. Nor does it seem like a hardship to have my six-year-old son in the back of my Accord Coupe. He knows how to let himself in and out of the back seat. It’s no different from having a four-door sedan and letting him out of the back door. Ninety-nine percent of the time I don’t even think about it.

The other one percent of the time is when I clean the interior of the car. It takes the strength of Hercules and the flexibility of a Cirque du Soleil headliner to get the explosion of fast food, Legos, school paperwork, and miscellaneous unidentifiable items out of the cave behind the front seats. And then I have to condition the leather, you see, which would work better if my arms were between six and eighteen inches longer. So having done all that this past Sunday, I figured I’d do my other least favorite job: brake dust removal. I was already in a bit of a bad mood, crouching next to my Griot’s Garage bucket and shaking out my favorite horse-hair wheel brush, when I saw it.

Oh, hell no.


It was just a two-inch scratch on the rim of the rear wheel, from parallel parking downtown. Most people wouldn’t think twice about it. But I just about lost my mind, because:

a) I don’t scratch wheels. In more than fifteen years of owning cars with low-profile alloy wheels, I’d only scraped one wheel prior to Sunday.
b) That wheel also being one of the wheels on my Accord. I’d scraped it a few months ago on a curb. But two weeks ago I had the tires rotated as part of a 22,500-mile service, which meant that this was a second scrape, likely from the same thing.

The idea that I’d scraped two wheels in under a month was enough to make me consider tearing up my license and riding a bicycle downtown from now on. I was still in a foul mood as I put some Armor All on the front tires, which were torn up from a couple of trackdays.

Wait.

I’d just had the tires rotated front to rear. By rights, the worn shoulders should have been on the back now. But they were still up front. And a quick check of the other three wheels revealed that none of them were scraped. That was good news because it meant that my lifetime wheel damage count was stuck at one. But it meant that I’d been walljobbed.

Car and Driver’s brilliant and innovative technical editor, Patrick Bedard, wrote a column entitled “The Wall Job” back in the magazine’s glory days. A “wall job”, if you haven’t already figured it out, is when a shop takes a car in for service, parks it against the wall for a few days, then returns it to the customer along with a bill for work that the customer cannot readily verify. The various consumer-protection laws that require  the customer be given the option of getting the “old parts” back are meant to address the wall-jobbing problem. I don’t know how effective they are. To begin with, most people can’t tell the difference between a control module for a Rolls-Royce Ghost and a distributor cap for a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, and they aren’t interested in getting a bag full of mystery junk with their credit-card receipt.

Furthermore, much of modern automotive service leaves no parts behind. The five hours of diagnosis with a Bosch “Hammer” tool that your dealer supposedly put in before figuring out why your 964 Carrera stalls at lights? The road testing that was necessary to figure out that mystery vibration? How do you know how much of it was done, if any?

The first thing I did when I realized I’d been wall-jobbed on my tire rotation was to pop the hood on the Accord and look carefully at the oil. Oil changes are famous walljob candidates, but in this case the dealer had done right: the oil was clear and clean. The filter, too, looked new. So that much, as least, was correct. On the other hand, I had serious doubts that the “multi-point visual inspection” required by Honda, and paid for by me, had been performed.

I looked at the receipt and saw that I’d paid $19.95 plus tax for the rotation. That’s something I can do myself, but it takes me a bit of time and annoyance to do it. Twenty bucks to save a dirty half hour of my time is a deal with which I can live. But twenty bucks for nothing? The hell with that.

This morning I called the dealership. My service advisor was brusque at first. “Why do you think your tires haven’t been rotated?” I explained. She seemed doubtful. “What do you want me to do?”

“I want my twenty bucks back.”

“Are you willing to bring the car by so we can look at it?”

“Absolutely.”

“Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the tires have been rotated.”

“Not in this case.” And then I discussed the nature of my part-time job as an automotive writer and how I could earn twenty dollars back by mentioning the name of the dealer in an article.

“We’ll call you back.” Which they did, an hour later. Good news! My entire seventy-eight dollar service had been refunded. And they’d be happy to rotate my tires for free. I told them I’d handle it myself, and that I was satisfied with the deal. In truth, I wasn’t. Not really. From now until the time my car is out of warranty, I’ll be verifying everything they claim to have done myself. I could change dealers, but what’s the point? The new dealer could be just as bad, or worse. Better to deal with these people. Maybe they’ll be more likely to do the work now.

I’ve written time and time again about how far more of the car business revolves around dealers than most people realize. Everything from product mix to warranty terms is a product of interactions with dealers. They are enshrined by state laws that the dealer associations purchase at considerable expense. They are the true customers of the manufacturers. And when their interests conflict with yours, they will nearly always win the battle.

After hanging up the phone, I asked myself if this incident would keep me from buying another Honda. The truthful answer is: probably not. I don’t like Honda dealers in general, and I’ve yet to see one that treats the customer with the consideration and truthfulness that I’ve experienced as an owner of BMWs, Audis, Mercedes-Benzes, and even Land Rovers, but that’s what you get for shopping in the discount aisle. Wal-Mart doesn’t treat its customers the way that Nordstrom does, and Honda dealers don’t treat their customers the way that Audi dealers do. Moreover, Honda can’t do much to change the state of affairs any more than a husband in a thirty-year marriage can dictate terms to his wife, and for pretty much the same reasons.

If the manufacturers had any real power on the ground of customer/dealer interactions, they’d make damned sure dealers didn’t endanger their next thirty-three-thousand dollar transaction to make a quick twenty bucks on a walljob tire rotation. But dealers don’t look at it that way. They see the chance to make a few hundred, or even a few thousand dollars, every day. That adds up in a hurry, and it makes a lot more difference to the bottom line than another “mini-deal” to some jerk who has the invoice price and the incentives printed out in a manila folder and doesn’t want to pay a penny of net profit on his next car.

So from now on, I’ll treat my dealer like Reagan treated Gorbachev. Trust, but verify. And if the day ever comes that my opinion or my vote might possibly matter to anyone as regards the possibility of manufacturer-owned stores in Ohio, I’ll be right there in the ballot box. But really, what chance is there of that? What chance do mere voters have against people who make twenty dollars a shot all day, every day, for precisely nothing? How do you out-vote someone who uses your own money to buy votes? Didn’t there used to be a political party that promised to rebalance the scale in the favor of the consumer? What about the Supreme Court? I hear they’ve been doing a lot for individual liberties lately – but when it comes to dealer franchise protection, they sided with the multi-millionaire “little guys”, not the customer.

I guess you really can put a price on change. That price is $19.95.

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Is Jeep Carrying The Rest of FCA? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/is-jeep-carrying-the-rest-of-fca/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/is-jeep-carrying-the-rest-of-fca/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 19:41:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1102393 Jeep is looking at global growth upwards of 20 percent this year to 1.2 million units and that’s before the brand truly ramps up in China. Could it be possible Jeep’s success is hiding what ails other brands at the newly-formed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles? Jeep is on track to record a best ever year in 2015 […]

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2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT

Jeep is looking at global growth upwards of 20 percent this year to 1.2 million units and that’s before the brand truly ramps up in China.

Could it be possible Jeep’s success is hiding what ails other brands at the newly-formed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles?

Jeep is on track to record a best ever year in 2015 in terms of unit sales with many of the brand’s models returning higher profit margins than those at other marques under the FCA umbrella. However, there are still problems reports The Detroit Bureau, like the struggles with where to build Jeep’s next generation Wrangler.

“It’s a very important and very sensitive decision,” stated Michael Manley, president of the Jeep brand.

The utility-lifestyle brand is also running at or near capacity at their plants, just keeping up with demand, all the while being leveraged in order to prop up other brands financially. Money once meant to redesign the Grand Cherokee has been earmarked for Alfa Romeo. This seems to be true for other models at Jeep as well. On top of it all, Sergio Marchionne wants a Range Rover rivaling Jeep to conquest even greater transaction prices. If such a model existed, FCA could use even more cash to fuel development of new and redesigned models at other brands, but it seems Marchionne might be counting his chickens before they hatch as he drives Wrangler-loads of cash to Italy before such a Range Rover-ish model can come to fruition.

At some point, FCA’s Jeep gravy train is going to come to a halt, and dumping money into brands that look to only stroke the ego of FCA executives – instead of just dumping the brands themselves – will result in what Marchionne has been saying is the cardinal sin of the automotive industry: wasted capital.

Maybe the best way to save money, Mr. Marchionne, is the reduce the number of brands emblazoned on those dealer signs.

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The Warren Buffet Way To Buy And Sell Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/warren-buffet-way-buy-sell-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/warren-buffet-way-buy-sell-cars/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 13:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1097681 The august founder of TTAC, Robert Farago, asked me to shop around for a Lexus IS F nearly seven years ago. Those were bad old days. The “Fall of 2008″ was a brutal, hopeless, and downright dire time in the American retail car market. Nobody was buying $50,000+ sports cars like this Lexus, and the few […]

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The august founder of TTAC, Robert Farago, asked me to shop around for a Lexus IS F nearly seven years ago.

Those were bad old days. The “Fall of 2008″ was a brutal, hopeless, and downright dire time in the American retail car market. Nobody was buying $50,000+ sports cars like this Lexus, and the few that could afford to were too busy watching their stock values sink like stones and their home values dive straight into the ass end of a 20 year time warp.

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My hometown of Powder Springs, Georgia and nearly every other American city and small town were getting neutron bombed by man-made financial WMDs known as CDOs – collateralized debt obligations. Where people had once occupied new homes and burgeoning small businesses, now all that was left in much of America were empty buildings and unfathomable levels of debt.

The American people, yet again, had been scammed by an elite that relied on passing the fraudulent buck to whomever was willing to hold the empty bag. The Wall Street margin calls of the 1920s had transformed into the main street liar loans of the 2000s. But this time, millions of businesses throughout the world would feel the unforeseen effects of these complex financial implosions. Credit soon became scarce even for the well-connected, and the American economy would become a borderline bankrupt marketplace.

What did Robert do? The same exact thing Warren Buffet did at that time. He went shopping!

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High-end niche models like the Lexus IS F were especially tough to sell. Back then, I couldn’t quite figure out why Robert wanted this car when the Audi RS4, Cadillac CTS-V and BMW M3 were considered to be the better choices by the brunt of the automotive press. I had recently driven the RS4 thanks to a friend from Texas who picked up a brand new one that was languishing at an Audi dealership in North Georgia. I negotiated that deal on his behalf and, as a surprise thank you, I also wound up with my very first experience with a brand new high-end sports car.

I may need to wait about 7 more years before I get to relive that experience – but I definitely want to do it again. The question most of us have is when does it make the most sense to buy on the right side of the automotive bell curve?

There is always a sweet spot where you can enjoy the fruits of an automaker’s labor and not have to pay the ridiculous price premiums usually attached to such a ride. On conventional cars here in the south, the depreciation curve tends to plateau around the nine to eleven year mark. The more popular cars hit it right around years 12 thru 15. Keep in mind I rarely get to see the tin-worm that is rust out here, so those of you who have to deal with 50 shades of brown may find that these points hit a few years newer for you.

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Then there is the “buy low / sell high” method which for the keepers among us can also be termed “buy low / sell nigh.”

There are the usual suspects, such as buying SUVs and trucks if gas prices are high or gas sippers when the gas prices are low, but gas really doesn’t have an enduring impact on the deal simply because it fluctuates all the time.

What does have an impact are three things:

  1. Asymmetric information
  2. The seller
  3. The car’s condition

Asymmetric information simply means you know something about that particular vehicle that the seller does not. How to fix a repair issue. The rarity of a particular trim. Sometimes, such as the auctions I attend, you may find out that the car in question has a lot of expensive modifications, or that a pricey repair has already been performed. Auto auctions are a rolling paradise for these things, but Craigslist and Autotrader can also offer a few eyebrow raising surprises.

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The seller and the car’s condition always go hand in hand. As we all know, you’re not buying a used car so much as you’re buying the prior owner’s driving style and maintenance habits. A walking turd of a car owner often drives in a rolling turd of a car. Great cars are usually owned by folks who understand that machines need to be tuned and maintained – and garaged if at all possible.

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I have enjoyed some beautiful rides over the years that hit all of these sweet spots: the right time to buy, the right seller, and – most importantly – knowing a little important something beforehand that made all the difference. Toyota Celica All-Tracs, Ford Mustang Police Interceptors, and several Mazda RX-8s have been in and out of my hands simply because I was able to find the right ingredients for the car buying recipe. The 2005 Mazda RX-8 cost me all of $2,300 last year because it had a flooding issue that was easy to figure out. I had a blast with it for three months and sold it for $4,500.

How about you? Have you ever been able to buy the right car with the right history at the right time?

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Blame Giulia For Jeep Grand Cherokee Redesign Delay http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/blame-giulia-for-jeep-grand-cherokee-redesign-delay/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/blame-giulia-for-jeep-grand-cherokee-redesign-delay/#comments Sat, 27 Jun 2015 14:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1101073 The next iteration of the Jeep Grand Cherokee has been delayed to 2018 or 2019 and, according to reports from The Detroit Bureau, it’s all Giulia’s fault. Speaking with reporters at Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Ground during the annual Chrysler Model Preview event, Jeep head honcho Mike Manley stated the brand’s top model won’t be seeing a new […]

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2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-004

The next iteration of the Jeep Grand Cherokee has been delayed to 2018 or 2019 and, according to reports from The Detroit Bureauit’s all Giulia’s fault.

Speaking with reporters at Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Ground during the annual Chrysler Model Preview event, Jeep head honcho Mike Manley stated the brand’s top model won’t be seeing a new generation for the next three to four years, but that FCA’s merger rumor mill had nothing to do with the delay.

Reports from the other side of the pond may show the real reason for the delay: Alfa Romeo. Supposedly, the money needed to redesign the Grand Cherokee in the near term has been earmarked for the premium Italian marque which needs $5 billion over the next 10 years.

Manley also reiterated, “There will be only one vehicle” when it comes to the Jeep Compass and Patriot, though Jeep has not made a final decision on which will get the axe.

 

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Junkyard Find: 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/junkyard-find-1993-chevrolet-lumina-euro/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/junkyard-find-1993-chevrolet-lumina-euro/#comments Fri, 26 Jun 2015 14:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1098393 By the 1980s, Japanese carmakers had established themselves as making the most reliable vehicles in the minds of plenty of American car shoppers. Meanwhile, the Europeans had conquered much of the sporty/sophisticated market by that time. General Motors responded by stamping out millions of plastic badges with the magical letters “E-U-R-O” molded in (as well […]

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02- 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

By the 1980s, Japanese carmakers had established themselves as making the most reliable vehicles in the minds of plenty of American car shoppers. Meanwhile, the Europeans had conquered much of the sporty/sophisticated market by that time. General Motors responded by stamping out millions of plastic badges with the magical letters “E-U-R-O” molded in (as well as by doing stuff like putting pushrod front-drive V8s in bodies flown over from Italy). You could get a Chevy Celebrity Eurosport, and— a few years later— a Chevy Lumina Euro. I’ve been overlooking these cars in junkyards for many years, but now I realize that they have a certain historical significance. Here’s one I spotted in Denver.
10- 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

You’d think that the Lumina Euro would have come standard with big brakes, stiff suspension, manual transmission, maybe some cool-looking fog lights. Nope. This one has a 140-horse pushrod V6, column-shift automatic, and a not-quite-Audi-grade faux-velour-covered front split-bench seat.

08- 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

If it’s a 20-year-old W-body, it’s rolling on at least one space-saver spare tire. That’s the law.

07- 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

These weren’t particularly bad cars and several cubic miles of them were sold, but the EURO badging thing is just embarrassing. Instead, they should have offered the Lumina North America, with stereo optimized for Lynyrd Skynyrd and factory-installed Cherry Bomb mufflers.


There are two kinds of cars: the cars you love to drive… and the cars you need to drive.

07- 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02- 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03- 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04- 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05- 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06- 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08- 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09- 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10- 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12- 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14- 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15- 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16- 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17- 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19- 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20- 1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Bark’s Bites: The (Imaginary) National Automakers Association Draft, Part One http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/barks-bites-imaginary-national-automakers-association-draft-part-one/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/barks-bites-imaginary-national-automakers-association-draft-part-one/#comments Fri, 26 Jun 2015 12:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1100193 Warning: What you are about to read is NOT REAL. It is the product of the warped mind of your friendly neighborhood editorialist, Bark M., who wonders: What if automakers had to “draft” new products, just like the NBA does?  Talking Head #1: Greetings, and welcome to Detroit, the host city for the 2015 National Automakers […]

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Warning: What you are about to read is NOT REAL. It is the product of the warped mind of your friendly neighborhood editorialist, Bark M., who wonders: What if automakers had to “draft” new products, just like the NBA does? 

Talking Head #1: Greetings, and welcome to Detroit, the host city for the 2015 National Automakers Association Draft! Tonight, we’ll see the future of automakers unfold, as they get the chance to select a new model for their existing lineup.

Talking Head #2: That’s right, and the excitement has been building ever since the end of last model year. Some big questions will be answered this evening: What will Subaru do with their pick? Will Ford finally have a full-sized sedan worth talking about? And will FCA’s Sergio Marchionne finally find a trade partner for their spot in the draft?

TH1: Word has it that Sergio has been burning up the phone lines trying to find somebody to help him move out of the first round, but my sources say that he hasn’t had any takers so far. As you know, though, there’s invariably a surprise or two on NAA Draft Night!

TH2: That there is! As always, the automakers will be drafting in reverse order of current U.S. market share. That means that first up on the clock is a fan favorite, Mazda.

TH1: Well, Mazda has a good, quality lineup, full of young star players, but for some reason they’ve had a hard time breaking through in America. Will this be the pick that finally gets them over the hump and positions them as a real player in the U.S. market?

TH2: We’re about to find out, as it looks like we are getting this 2015 NAA Draft underway! Here comes the commissioner to the podium with the card. Let’s listen.

Commissioner: With the first pick in the 2015 NAA draft, Mazda selects… a New CX-9, from Hiroshima, Japan!

TH1: Well, we can’t be too surprised with this one, can we?

TH2: No, not at all. The CX-9 has been getting long in the tooth and Mazda needed something new and fresh to be competitive in this segment. The Mazda fans have got to be happy with this selection.

TH1: Indeed, they are. While some fans here were hoping for a new Mazda 2 to be brought to the U.S., it’s hard to ignore that Mazda is missing out on a key segment with the current CX-9. Great pick.

TH2: All right, that was a solid, if not necessary climactic beginning to our evening. Next up is one of the more glamorous names in our industry: Mercedes-Benz. What have you been hearing about Mercedes?

TH1: It’s hard to know exactly which direction Mercedes might go in here. Their fans are still a little confused about the recent shakeup of their lineup – there are a lot of familiar faces with new names. Plus, they’ve had a few recent refreshes of their biggest sellers – the C Class is selling better than ever, and they’ve already signed a new E-Class for 2016.

TH2: We’ll know soon enough – here’s the commish!

Commissioner: With the second pick in the 2015 NAA draft, Mercedes-Benz selects…the W246 B Class, from Stuttgart, Germany!

TH1: I think it’s safe to say that we’ve had our first surprise of the evening!

TH2: No question. The B Class has been a solid performer in both the EU and in Japan since it launched back in 2011, but I’ve gotta say, I’m surprised that they’re trying it in America. However, with the growth that MINI is seeing in America this year, perhaps Mercedes thinks there’s an opportunity for a luxury entry into the subcompact market.

TH1: It’s all part of the excitement that we’ve come to expect from the NAA Draft! Next on the clock with the third pick is another German automaker, BMW.

TH2: BMW has sort of lost their…

TH1: Whoa, whoa, whoa, I have to blow the whistle on you there, partner. I’m sure you weren’t about to say that they’ve “lost their way,” like every other talking head hack, were you?

TH1: Um, no. Not at all. I was about to say that they’ve lost their…okay, fine. You got me.

TH2: Considering that BMW is up about 7 percent in sales year over year, I think they’re doing just fine. But there is one segment where they’ve lost some market share, and that’s the small luxury SUV segment.

TH1: Let’s see if they address that tonight. Over to you, Commissioner!

Commissioner: With the third pick in the 2015 NAA draft, BMW selects…a new X3, from Spartanburg, South Carolina!

TH1: That’s the obvious choice here, isn’t it?

TH2: Certainly is. The X4…well, I mean, what the heck is the X4, anyway? It’s not selling in any great numbers, and the X3 has been down big time as of late. A new model seems to be just what Herr Doctor ordered.

TH1: Subaru is next up on the clock, partner. There’s been a lot of discussion lately about Subaru’s recent success in the American market, but how will that impact their draft pick tonight?

TH2: That’s a great question. They’re missing a lot of the key segments for American market success in their lineup – mid-sized SUV, subcompact – and the Impreza is sold in numbers that don’t impress anybody. But can they take on more capacity right now?

TH1: Let’s see what they decide to do. Here’s the commissioner with the pick.

Commissioner: Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a trade. Subaru has traded their pick to Toyota, along with all remaining BRZs on dealer lots, for cash considerations and a car to be named later. With the fourth pick in the 2015 NAA draft, Toyota selects…an Avalon replacement, from Georgetown, Kentucky!

TH2: Not a huge surprise here, is it?

TH1: No, not particularly. I think Subaru did the right thing – they’re already at maximum capacity at most of their plants, and adding more models would just make it even worse. Also, killing the BRZ makes a ton of sense. They barely sell, and they are occupying floorplan space that could be used for other, more profitable models.

TH2: And Toyota needed a new full-sized sedan. The whole segment is dying quickly, yes, but maybe Toyota sees that as an opportunity to seize some market share from their aging competitors. Perhaps they can use the platform to update the Lexus ES, too.

TH1: This evening is moving along quickly, as we move to the fifth pick, which belongs to Volkswagen Auto Group. VW and Audi have a few holes to fill in their American lineup, to say the least.

TH2: Truer words were never spoken, my friend. The Jetta, the Passat, the A4…all of them are aging and relatively unpopular in their segments. The lights are flickering a bit at VW stores. Can tonight’s pick help keep them on?

TH1: The pick is in, so let’s turn things over to the commissioner.

Commissioner: With the fifth pick in the NAA draft, Volkswagen Auto Group selects…a Jetta with actual content, from Wolfsburg, Germany!

TH2: I think they didn’t really have much of a choice here. The Jetta is losing market share faster than any other compact car – they had to get competitive.

TH1: I don’t know…the Passat isn’t doing any better, and that’s a bigger segment, overall.

TH2: Yes, but the Jetta name still means something in America. The Jetta is the top-selling VW model of all time. I think VW knows that they’re climbing an uphill battle in the mid-sized segment with the Passat – maybe they figure it’s better to fight a battle that they actually have a shot at winning. And they’ve proven that they can make an excellent small car with the Golf and its performance derivatives.

TH1: Good point. VW fans have to be pleased with this pick.

TH2: Well, we’ve got Hyundai/Kia up next. Is there a faster rising team in the league than these guys?

TH1: I don’t think so, my friend. While the current Sonata hasn’t been everything that they hoped it would be, they’ve got some real hits on their hands with their crossover lineup. And the new Sedona is doing quite well, too. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t trouble spots.

TH2: You’re absolutely right. The Rio is falling well behind the competition in the Subcompact category, and even the Soul isn’t selling like it once was. What inside scoop do you have about H&K’s next move?

TH1: I don’t think there’s any question that they’d like to have a real, legitimate sporting car in their lineup. But can they justify it?

TH2: Well, the pick is in, so let’s go to the commissioner.

Commissioner: With the sixth pick in the NAA draft, Hyundai/Kia selects…an all-new, 5.0 liter Hyundai Genesis Coupe, from Seoul, South Korea!

TH1&2 (simultaneously): WHOOOOOOA!

TH1: That’s a big swing.

TH2: Is it ever! The Genesis Coupe has been tired for a while. Not only are they revamping it, they’re shoving in the big V8 from the sedan. Do you like it?

TH1: I love it! They’ve already got, in my opinion, the best RWD sedan for the money on the market. Now, they’re taking aim at the Mustang and Camaro. It’s bold, it’s brash – great pick!

TH2: Don’t go anywhere, folks! When we come back from commercial (tomorrow –Bark), we’ll find out what the big boys from Nissan, Honda, Toyota, FCA, Ford, and GM have in store for us.

All right, have at it, B&B – what would you have “drafted” for these manufacturers?

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Piston Slap: Focusing on Steelies, Unsprung Weight? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/piston-slap-steelies-unsprung-weight-bull-breeding/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/piston-slap-steelies-unsprung-weight-bull-breeding/#comments Thu, 25 Jun 2015 11:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1096721   Mark writes: Sajeev, I just ordered a new Focus ST, pretty much the only way to get the zero-option set up I wanted. Can’t wait for it to arrive. The car’s not here yet, but the questions are. This time, a wheel & tire question for your consideration. While we don’t get a massive […]

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(photo courtesy: islandsjake @ www.focusst.org)

Mark writes:

Sajeev,

I just ordered a new Focus ST, pretty much the only way to get the zero-option set up I wanted. Can’t wait for it to arrive. The car’s not here yet, but the questions are. This time, a wheel & tire question for your consideration.

While we don’t get a massive amount of snow here in Southern Illinois, we do get some. I’ve learned the hard way that relatively wide, low profile summer tires and all-seasons are bad news in the winter. I’m ready to go the winter tire route, so I wanted to get your thoughts on wheel choices for winter tires in a minus-1 size.

The cheapskate in me thinks steelies look good in a retro/purposeful way (and better than most cheesy aftermarket alloys) and they are a whole bunch cheaper than aftermarket alloys. But then I saw how steelies are on the order of 10 lbs per wheel heavier. Do you think the extra weight would make much difference in ride and handling? I’m not exactly hypersensitive, but I can tell when a set of tires are crap or when a car’s suspension tuning is all out of whack.

What’s your take, or Sanjeev’s thinking, for that matter: Is unsprung weight much of a factor in a street-driven car’s ride and handling?

Sajeev answers:

Both Sajeev and Sanjeev are disappointed with you!

A REAL cheapskate embraces Ford’s recent history via 16″ alloy Thunder/Cougar/Conti/Mark VIII/Fusion/Windstar/Sable or Taurus wheels of the same bolt pattern. I betcha the FWD Ford’s offset is good enough to just bolt right on, too.

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Bull Breeding Stock (photo courtesy: Brake_L8 @ www.focusst.org)

Oh yeah, that’s just perfect. I’m sleeping like a stone tonight, knowing that the wholesome Taurus Oedipus Wrecking goodness – that really spun my crank in TTAC’s early days – fits on Ford’s latest Hot Hatch.

But if you wanna sell yourself short, likely spending more for a set of newer steelies, the Internet is cool with that. And what of the steelies’ extra unsprung weight?

Take it from the guy that added a ton (from the stock 15×7 “turbine” to aftermarket faux-Cobra 17×8.5″) to losing 40-50lbs (15×7″ steelies to forged Alcoa 15×7“), you get used to the difference.  It’s subtle, much like comparing the same dish made in different restaurants. The lightweight Fox instantly felt big body AMG Benz-esque over expansion joints and sweepers with slower, “smoother” inertia transfer from a standstill. The Ranger did the opposite: sluggish with unresponsive steering to…uh, somewhat less sluggish and kinda jittery steering feedback sometimes? 

This conversation parallels the whole dancing about architecture thing: irrelevant regarding winter tires in nasty weather.

If you are driving hard enough feel a significant “this restaurant added mangoes to my hamburger!” difference, you’re probably defeating the purpose of driving conservatively in bad weather. Or you are on a racetrack, not enjoying coffee on your morning commute.

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Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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OFFICIAL: 2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio Revealed, Detailed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/official-2016-alfa-romeo-giulia-quadrifoglio-revealed-detailed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/official-2016-alfa-romeo-giulia-quadrifoglio-revealed-detailed/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 16:59:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1099449 Today, at the Alfa Romeo Museum near Milan, was the first day for a completely new design language from the fabled Italian automaker. The Alfa Romeo Giulia will also mark the return of the brand to North America for those of us needing a bit more practically than what’s offered by the 4C. Best of all, the Quadrifoglio […]

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Today, at the Alfa Romeo Museum near Milan, was the first day for a completely new design language from the fabled Italian automaker. The Alfa Romeo Giulia will also mark the return of the brand to North America for those of us needing a bit more practically than what’s offered by the 4C.

Best of all, the Quadrifoglio will be available right out of the gate with 510 horsepower from its Maserati-derived six-cylinder engine.

The new Giulia, which borrows its name from the original model built between 1961 and 1978, is Alfa Romeo’s first foray in mainstream segments in North America since leaving the continent at the end of 1995. From the release, it looks like the Italian brand will make quite a noisy and stylish return.

Alfa says Giulia’s metal skin is shaped around the “technical architecture” of the car. Short overhangs are down to the engine and other mechanical parts being mounted between the front and rear axles. Simplicity of the form, they say, is paramount, including details such as the renewed Alfa Romeo emblem and trefoil nose.

Under the hood, the all-aluminum six-cylinder will rocket Giulia to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds while still returning acceptable fuel economy thanks to cylinder deactivation. Also, due to its light weight, Giulia Quadrifoglio will sport 50/50 weight distribution, though other engines are yet to be specified. Displacement for the 510 hp mill was also unspecified, though the company says it will “make that genuinely Alfa Romeo sound.”

Keeping everything grippy is a double-wishbone suspension setup for the front. The rear will rely on a multilink solution to get power to the ground. That’s not to say this is a rear-wheel drive only affair, as Alfa Romeo states there will also be an all-wheel drive option, though with what engines and transmissions remains uncertain.

Like many other newer performance vehicles, Torque Vectoring will help Giulia navigate corners with ease while a unique active splitter up front gives the first two donuts some additional grip. A new version of Alfa DNA with multiple driving modes – Dynamic, Natural, Advanced Efficient, and Racing – will also be available.

There is no official on sale date.

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Lucky Cruisers Weekend: How Czech US Car Fans Party http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/lucky-cruisers-weekend-czech-us-car-fans-party/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/lucky-cruisers-weekend-czech-us-car-fans-party/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 13:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1089577 Imagine a campground in the heart of Czech Republic – a place normally populated by a few families on a cheap holiday with their diesel Škoda, a tent or a caravan, and a beer. And now imagine it’s chock-full of American cars. Hundreds of them. And of all kinds. From rough traditional hot rods to […]

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Imagine a campground in the heart of Czech Republic – a place normally populated by a few families on a cheap holiday with their diesel Škoda, a tent or a caravan, and a beer. And now imagine it’s chock-full of American cars. Hundreds of them. And of all kinds. From rough traditional hot rods to gleaming ’50s fin-tailed landyachts and shiny ’60s muscle cars. From Mustangs and Camaros of all generations to Jeeps and trucks. Boxy sedans from ’70s and ’80s. Modern Challengers and Voyagers. And even some PT Cruisers or Calibers, which get laughed at. Occasional there’s a $500 Buick Century from ’80s, which doesn’t get laughed at.

It may sound like some weird dream, but it’s the actual reality of an event called Lucky Cruisers Weekend. I’m there to enjoy the atmosphere and spirit, to bring the experience to you, my dear readers. I’m not driving my Chrysler LHS, because I managed to find a fool who gave me some money for it. I’m also not driving my diesel Alfa Romeo 164, because it would get turned into a trash can.

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I’m doing this one in style. My bottom is pampered by rich, white Corinthian leather. My eyes switch between checking the green digits of the instrument cluster and looking over the long, maroon hood with a Pentastar made of Cartier crystal and, weren’t it for the fact that no one uses the citizen radio in the Czech Republic of the 21st Century, I would be tempted to try and do my impression of Burt Reyonlds into the dash mounted CB. I’m sure Frank Sinatra would approve, even though I’m listening to Rádio Country (the only thing I’m able to get a good tune of), which is terrible even if you like country.

At this point, I’m pretty sure you either know exactly what I’m driving (in which case I tip my imaginary hat to you), or I managed to totally confuse you with the previous paragraph. The latter is more likely, because I’m driving a 1982 Chrysler Imperial. It was Chrysler’s last V8, RWD, personal luxury coupe. It borrowed the platform, venerable-but-slow 318 engine and Corinthian leather from the Cordoba, then added trippy design – similar to the bustleback Seville and that Fox-bodied Continental TTAC’s own Sajeev Mehta so lovingly restores – and finished it with lots of wacky electronics like digital instruments or dash-mounted CB. It was conceived by the genuis of Lee Iaccocca and promoted by his good friend, the Ol’ Blue Eyes. However, unlike the decidedly unsexy K-car, it just didn’t work on the market, which makes it much more interesting now.

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At this point, it’s probably clear that I’m not going to cover this event as an outsider trying to make sense of things as was the case with GTI Treffen at Wörthersee a few weeks ago. American cars have been my main hobby for almost half of my life. It’s been a decade since a bought my first American car and started to be a regular at the US car meets. Picking up the Imperial at my friend Petr’s place, I once again felt the combination of joy, sadness and maybe even a little jealousy. The fancy barn full of interesting old metal (some his, some of other friends) makes me grateful to be able to experience it, but it also brings memories of all the cars I had to sell a few years ago.

Bit this is no time for nostalgia. It’s Friday afternoon and there’s going to be a party.

Even miles away from the place, it’s clear that something strange is going on. You can see American cars in Czech traffic occasionally, but seeing a 1970s Eldorado here, late ’60s Olds 4-4-2 there and a classic Mustang in the opposite direction is not your typical Friday afternoon.

IMG_7251Coming to the venue on Friday is advisable for two reasons. First, the Friday night is a much better party than Saturday when everyone is hungover. And second, the “civilians” don’t come on Friday, which means there is no traffic jams around the camping grounds and no need to risk some pedestrian’s bottom damaging your precious hood ornament.

Even so, there’s a lot of cars already – I’m arriving as number 140 or so, and before the sun sets, we’re at 200. A decade ago, when I started frequenting these events, a US car meet with two hundred cars in attendance would be fairly huge, probably the second biggest in the season. Today, there are more meets and more cars at each of them.

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Since it’s Friday and the campground isn’t totally choked with cars yet, it’s time to do what the “Cruisers” part of the LCWs name is about. The unique part of this meet is the fact that it’s encouraged not to leave your car parked all weekend, but actually drive it around the venue. The paths form something of two figures of eight intertwined and there are cars slowly driving around constantly. Friends greeting friends from the car windows, people hitching rides in friends’ rides or even in cars of people they just met, an eclectic mix that’s typical for European US car meets. Those who are not “cruising” are gathering around hamburger stands, beer stands or making their own barbecue. Some others are going for a swim in a small lake.

For the most part, it still feels a lot like the old US car meets a decade ago where there were only a few dozen people who mostly knew each other. The spirit still remains, though with a lot more people and a lot more cars – since importing US cars (and especially classics) became much easier in the 2000s and Czechs became richer, the old cars started flowing in. A decade ago, anything from the ’60s was unique and revered. Now, ’60s and early ’70s classics outnumber the beaters from ’80s and the numbers of modern muscle and modern trucks are starting to be really significant.

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But what keeps together such a diverse group, driving everything from a pristine ’59 Cadillac or ’30s antique to a modded ’05 Mustang or a ’01 Town Car? If there’s any common theme besides the fact that we all love American cars, it’s probably the style of the 1950s. In the last few years, most US car meets in the country started following the rockabilly/pin-up/vintage ’50s style that’s so popular in Germany and Scandinavia. It used to be  if you went to a US car event, you either ignored any “style” (which most people still do) or you had to have a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, cowboy shirt and generally look like the ’80s German idea of a Texan. Now, while you still see these kind of outfits, there’s more of a “hotrodder/rockabilly” style permeating the scene amongst the gents. For girls, it’s pin-up. Even girls who are not into it in the “normal life” often dress up. There’s a pin-up contest and, of course, rockabilly bands playing live on the stage.

The cars cruise around well into the night, but more and more drivers switch the steering wheel for a beer and the whole thing starts to become more and more of a party. I retire from driving quite early and the rest of my evening is nothing to be discussed about on a family-friendly site like this. Let’s just say I wake up shortly before noon the next day not feeling very well and minus one pair of glasses.

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Waking up in a really hot tent (it’s one of the first true summer days here) and to the sound of countless V8s is really quite a unique experience. A hamburger, coffee and a swim cures the worst from the night before and the main day of the event begins. There’s no cruising for me today. First, I feel I really shouldn’t get anywhere near a steering wheel for at least a few more hours. Second, while the campground seemed nearly full with 200 cars yesterday, we’re now over 500 and I’m blocked from going anywhere anyway.

The Saturday tends to be more of family-friendly fun for spectators at Lucky Cruisers Weekend. Hundreds – or even thousands – of “civilans“ come to look at American cars, buy stuff, listen to the music and eat burgers. In a typical year, this means the place is jam packed with people and even loses lots of its charm for actual US car owners, who can’t really socialize with one another in the huge crowd. This year, though, the bad luck for organizers was good luck for the rest of us. On the same weekend, there was a huge airshow in my nearby hometown of Pardubice and lots of people apparently preferred to see the P-38, B-25, Hurricane and some other WWII warbirds fly.

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Even so, the Saturday is probably quite similar to any big car meet in America or elsewhere in the world. People sit around, drink beer and cook barbecue, stand around food stands, walk around cars, look at them, take a pictures and ask their owners silly questions. Plus, of course, this being in Czech Republic in the beginning of summer, lot of gazing is spent on girls. Which is, by the way, another sign of how the times are changing – a decade ago, there weren’t many pretty girls at US car events in Czech Republic. There were old, fat guys everywhere and all the girls were with young guys at “tuning parties“ reliving their Fast & Furious fantasies. As the tuning events dwindled, the US events soared in popularity. It’s hard to say whether it’s just a question of fashion or if it’s got something to do with maturity, either of individuals or the car culture as a whole. With the simultaneous rise in popularity of trackday events, JDM meetings, classic car show and other interesting stuff, I’m starting to suspect it’s the latter.

The Saturday program continues with prizes for best cars of show – which I’m not really interested in and just a sight of 52 cups makes me feel really glad about turning down a place in the jury – and a car auction. Just one car is on sale – a 1977 Chrysler New Yorker, belonging to the same friend who loaned me the Imperial. It is, though, the first time such an auction is being held here and people seem to be really interested. I guess it’s not the last time.

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Shortly after the auction, I leave to attend other duties at my local pub. The Saturday evening is usually uneventful and Sunday, with all the hungover people and cars leaving home, is even a bit depressing. When I’m driving through the gate, I have no idea that my expectation of “uneventful evening” couldn’t be further from truth.

Have you wondered how cruising around the campground in old, cool and valuable cars gets together with the presence of a few hundred people who are mostly drunk? Well, apparently not so well.

Not long after my departure, a young pin-up girl manages to shove a borrowed ’70 Charger into a custom Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a ’71 Thunderbird that belongs to one of the organizers, and a ticket stand (thankfully empty by the time). No one’s hurt and the cars are repairable, as is the bike, but it is likely this means the beginning of a slow end to the two-faceted car event. The days when you could have a party for hardcore US car lovers and a huge family-friendly event with hundreds of cars in one place are probably gone. The scene is growing and the big events will probably become much more policed and much less wild than they were. The party life will probably move to smaller, more specific events where people still know each other and are able to stop anyone trying to do anything stupid.

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On one hand, it’s necessary and inevitable. On the other, I will probably miss the quaint, crazy Czech US car meets when they’re finally gone.

@VojtaDobes is motoring journalist from Czech Republic who previously worked for local editions of Autocar and TopGear magazines. Today, he runs his own website, www.Autickar.cz. After a failed adventure with importing classic American cars to Europe, he is utterly broke, so he drives an Alfa 164 Diesel he got for free. His previous cars included a 1988 Caprice in NYC Taxi livery, a hot-rodded Opel Diplomat, two Dodge Coronets, a Simca, a Fiat 600 and Austin Maestro. He has never owned a diesel, manual wagon.

Photography: Radek “Caddy” Beneš

The Cadillac on the left is powered by 6.5 TD engine from Chevy van and came to the meet from Sweden. Classic Firebird and half-japanese Dodge Boxy Caprice was the typical car at US meets decade ago A 73-74 Charger. With "01" on the side :( Classic Cherokee is one of the most popular US cars in CZ Some people picnic in style Totally restored '67 Mustang and its proud owner To some people, Edsels are cool Strange whitewall tires Two different ways to treat a classic Mopars in early 60s were crazy A perfect example of '60 Polara Every meet needs a '59 Caddy Craziest fin of all time Edsel, once again Mid-50s Caddy Fullsize convertibles, like this Pontiac, are very popular A nicely preserved early 70s Buick Conversion vans are quite popular in Europe Freshly restored '71 Monte Carlo There's lot of modern metal as well And cars need a good polishing 2nd gen F-bodies have a great following in Europe ... and some of them take on the 70s look A typical American classic in CZ. A Mercury road yacht. Mid-50s cars are still rare, but the numbers are growing.  A 55? Caddy. Freshly restored '69 Road Runner (clone) A beautiful '70 Charger This is one of the last pictures of the car before crash A slightly "hotrodded" '89 Caprice STW Pin up and a '70 Deville Another pin-up, and a '60 Dodge Polara The Polara was one of the coolest cars of the meet Girls liked the Polara This '70 Fury belongs to same guy as the Imperial I drove Crazy detailing on '60 Polara 4th gen F-bodies are popular as well ... and once again the "batmobile" Polara Strangely for a Mopar of this era, the steering wheel is round ... but the fins are crazy ... and the face is unique Full convertible experience with an old F-body Four-door Electra. Cars like these are prime material for importers KITT No, it doesn't talk A big rig came as well '59 was truly a crazy year '59 LeSabre '73 Eldorado Furry dices are popular even here '70s Eldorado and '70s Ranchero The typical layout of the 65-66 Oldsmobile dash Photography is to new-school Another '59 Work in progress... Burgers and American cars go well together Landbarges, a muscle car and a lot of Mustang in the background You can even find C1 Corvettes in CZ Late-model Mustang. Common, not very popular. IMG_7357 Pin-up dance Rockabilly A '57 or '58 Buick convertible another shot of the 73 Eldorado A wonderful '66 Pontiac. The owner also has '65, '67 and '68. Another one of the beautiful Monte Carlo This car was in auction Even a 4-door Buick in brown can be a coveted classic here A nice early 70s Pontiac Once again the diesel Caddy from Sweden '66 Impala, one of the prettiest cars of the meet A Buick, cruising Eldsel was popular Edsel at the center stage Pontiac Bonneville cruising Boss Hogg came to town Poor student's Lincoln Continental Lincoln is a great party vehicle Professional cars are popular as well If you have money, you can bring a house Cadillacs are among the most popular brands ... easy to see why an Astro, a Tahoe and a classic Cadillac. typically eclectic Inside a living room Lebarons are quite common, as they were imported officially Who needs a 1 ton truck to tow a truck? Another New Edge Mustang Modern Camaros come to meets, too These belong to a pair of brothers. All with 302, I think Sajeev will approve Freshly finished. Still overheats. Cruisin' in a diesel The photographer's car This '69 Eldorado was a birthday gift Once again, a sedan in beautiful shape '60 Polara, belongs to owner of US car magazine Once again the Polara Myself in Imperial Cheesy hood ornamets are a must! Beginners V8 sedan! If you don't have money, a turbo four will have to do A '71 Thunderbird and a '66 Bonneville Thunderbird's dash A typically varied group Before leaving, we met up at my hometown An Imperial and a conversion van Big Chryslers from different decades A cool '79 Lebaron with a 318

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How Do You Feel About The General Lee’s Confederate Flag? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/feel-general-lees-confederate-flag/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/feel-general-lees-confederate-flag/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 12:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1098065 Sometimes events in the real world overshadow our little automotive corner of the universe. If you look over some previous posts and comments, you’ll see that I’ve recently been writing about television cars and already planning to cover the “General Lee” 1969 Dodge Charger from the Dukes of Hazzard TV series, so please do not accuse […]

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Sometimes events in the real world overshadow our little automotive corner of the universe. If you look over some previous posts and comments, you’ll see that I’ve recently been writing about television cars and already planning to cover the “General Lee” 1969 Dodge Charger from the Dukes of Hazzard TV series, so please do not accuse us of trying to exploit a controversy in pursuit of clicks. As it happens, I interviewed the owner of the authentic General Lee illustrating this post just last week.

Due to the horrific church shooting in Charleston, though, the Confederate battle flag, which was painted on the roof of the Chargers used in that television show, has become a national controversy, in no small part because of its display on the ground of the state capital in South Carolina. Since it would be impossible for me to discuss the General Lee in the current atmosphere without addressing the flag issue, I’m going to depart from my usual history and provenance based approach.

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Normally I’d go into the history of the car, how the producers decided on that model, the number of vehicles that were used in filming, modifications made, how many survived, where they are, interesting stories about the specific car and its owner, etc. Indeed, the General Lee has an interesting story, what with the hundreds of Chargers consumed in the show’s production and the wild stunt drives that destroyed them. The owner of this particular car is a huge MOPAR fan and he also has some great stories. He’s a nice guy, a serious and knowledgeable car enthusiast, so he’d make a nice angle to a post on the General Lee.

Though over 300 different Chargers were used in shooting the show, less than two dozen survived the jumps and other stunts. This particular car had a slightly easier life in that it was the “hero car” used for scenes with the actors starring in the series.

However, I have absolutely no intention of putting the owner in the crosshairs of social justice warriors on Twitter, so that’s all we’re going to say about this particular General Lee. Instead we’re going to discuss the flag on the General Lee’s roof.

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Regarding the flag itself, I’m not particularly fond of displaying the flags of those who took up arms against the United States of America. I think public displays, in this country, of the rising sun of imperial Japan, or the swastika emblazoned banner of Germany’s National Socialists, are inappropriate, but then we’ve fought a couple of wars against Great Britain and nobody objects to the Union Jack. The history of the flag of the Army of Northern Virginia is, as they say, complicated.

That was the flag that Robert E. Lee, an opponent of slavery and secession, and a reluctant commander, fought under. It has been argued that allowing the post Civil War South to embrace the battle flag as a symbol of honorable warriors serving their country was an important factor in the needed postwar reconciliation. It’s also been argued that it was not embraced as a symbol of racism until it was used as a banner of opposition to the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. It was, however, used as a symbol of racial segregation.

It should be noted that the flag first flew over the South Carolina capitol only as late as 1961 (when Democrat Fritz Hollings, who later served in the U.S. Senate for four decades, was governor). Using my best Google-fu, while I’ve been able to find images of the Ku Klux Klan marching with the Confederate battle flag along with the Stars & Stripes in the 1960s and later, earlier photos only show the KKK wrapping themselves, figuratively, in the American flag. The meaning of the battle flag has changed over time.

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Coincidentally, I was in Charleston last year for a Toyota ride & drive event. It turns out that while checking out the new Highlander, I drove past the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church where the killings took place. It’s on Calhoun Ave., on the block next to the green space where stands a statue to John Calhoun on a pedestal that’s at least 50 feet tall. Driving past that statue I thought that it must be weird for a black man or woman to walk or drive by it. I can respect Robert E. Lee, but John Calhoun held some very objectionable ideas his entire life.

When black Americans see the Confederate battle flag, it’s easy to understand how they can see it today as a symbol of racism, even if it didn’t necessarily mean that in the distant past. Even if it doesn’t mean that to many of those who continue to revere it today. It was, however, a part of history and while perhaps, to avoid causing pain, it should not be part of official state displays, one shouldn’t erase history. I know all about the positive use of the swastika in cultures around the world, but even when seen in those contexts, it can still provoke a visceral response because of what the Nazis did with it. I know it’s part of Native American and Asian Indian heritage, but don’t be naive when people cringe if you use it on a t-shirt.

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Walmart has announced they’ll be removing Confederate battle flag themed merchandise from their inventories. Apparently eBay has joined them. It will be interesting to see what happens to General Lee models and toys. At the time of this writing, there are hundreds of diecast and plastic General Lees for sale on eBay. In 2013, Warner Bros., the studio that produced Dukes of Hazzard, denied a report that they were going to make licensees remove the flag from General Lee replicas. Right now, at the Toys R Us, site you can still buy 1:25 and 1:16 plastic scale models of the General Lee and it appears that they both come complete with the “stars and bars” on the roof, though it looks like MPC (actually Round 2, which owns the ERTL, AMT and MPC brands) has sold both models in packaging that doesn’t show the flag on the front of the box.

Late on Tuesday, Vulture.com reported that the consumer licensing division of Warner Bros. decided to stop licensing any Dukes of Hazzard merchandise featuring the Confederate battle flag. The company said in an email, “Warner Bros. Consumer Products has one licensee producing die-cast replicas and vehicle model kits featuring the General Lee with the confederate flag on its roof — as it was seen in the TV series. We have elected to cease the licensing of these product categories.” That one licensee is Round 2. Though Vulture did not publish the full text of the email, they believe that it means Warner will no longer license any toy cars or model kits of the General Lee, with or without the flag on the roof.

If you own a model of the General Lee, Warner Brothers effectively just made it more collectible. Well, that is, if you can find a place to sell it.

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How do you feel when you see the General Lee? Would you invite one to a car show you were organizing? Would you ban one from a car show your were organizing? Would you keep one in your collection of plastic and diecast model TV and movie cars?

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

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Junkyard Find: 1976 Dodge Colt http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/junkyard-find-1976-dodge-colt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/junkyard-find-1976-dodge-colt/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 11:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1096361 We’ve seen plenty of front–wheel–drive Colts in this series, but (prior to today) the only example of the rear-wheel drive Dodge-badged Mitsubishi Colt Galant we’d seen was this lichen-covered ’72 wagon. On a recent trip to California, I spotted this coastal-rusty example of tape-striped Malaise Mitsubishi glory. Obviously, this car sat outdoors and neglected for […]

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23- 1976 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

We’ve seen plenty of frontwheeldrive Colts in this series, but (prior to today) the only example of the rear-wheel drive Dodge-badged Mitsubishi Colt Galant we’d seen was this lichen-covered ’72 wagon. On a recent trip to California, I spotted this coastal-rusty example of tape-striped Malaise Mitsubishi glory.
17- 1976 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Obviously, this car sat outdoors and neglected for decades.

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The severity of the top-down rust indicates that it lived near the ocean, or maybe under a leaky tarp in a shaded Bay Area yard.

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Someone took the cylinder head off and said “To hell with it.”

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Still, you can always find something useful on a car like this. The instrument cluster would be useful for a Colt restorer.

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Ah, Malaise.


Hemi engine!


This appears to be the same car, down to the blue tape stripes. Look, adjustable steering column!

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CPO To Go: 2014 Lexus IS F http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/cpo-go-2014-lexus-f/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/cpo-go-2014-lexus-f/#comments Tue, 23 Jun 2015 13:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1093425 I usually have more fun with $5,000 cars than with $55,000 cars. It’s not because I’m cheap. Well, let me rephrase that. I love investing in a quality vehicle, but in the world that is wholesale auctions, I rarely get to see them. You can find nearly anything at the auctions that has been traded-in, repossessed […]

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I usually have more fun with $5,000 cars than with $55,000 cars.

It’s not because I’m cheap. Well, let me rephrase that. I love investing in a quality vehicle, but in the world that is wholesale auctions, I rarely get to see them. You can find nearly anything at the auctions that has been traded-in, repossessed or not picked up at the end of it’s lease. What you can’t find are the keepers.

Toyota imported only a bit over 5,000 of these IS F sports sedans from 2008 thru 2014. The number brought to auction so far in 2015? 35. Annualized, that’s less than a 1.5% turnover rate in a business where anywhere from 20% to 60% of late model vehicles will revisit ‘wholesale heaven’ before getting shucked back into a retail dealership.

After a week and change behind the wheel of this 2014 Lexus IS F, I finally figured out why you see so few of these vehicles at the auctions. It’s the one missing ingredient that nearly every enthusiast publication glosses over when they review any high-end sports car.

The real world ownership experience.

is3Not the arduous race tracks specifically designed to distinguish the better from the best in mere tenths of a second. Not those drop-dead gorgeous long and winding roads that make you contemplate the existence of God and the beauty of all creation.

I was able to find joy with the IS F in the everyday banality of middle-aged life. Impromptu burger runs, long stop lights, even in the worst of rush hours. There was always either a burbling exhaust note or a 13-speaker stereo system that made the IS F experience rare, valuable, and difficult to imitate.

Then again, this attitude towards the IS F really has an awful lot to do with where I live. I spend most of my driving time in the outskirts of a major metropolitan area. The ex-urbs. The test tracks that highlight the 0 to 60 4.2 second time for this 416 horsepower screamer regularly slammed straight into the brutal brick walls of reality that are artificially low speed limits, frequent stops, and excessive police enforcement.

is5In my real world of traveling from auction to auction, I need an exterior that blends in so that I can get what amounts to a short-term thrill between stop lights, stop signs and traffic that just seems to stop without any rhyme or reason.

Except for the wheels, which has a bit of a dulled out boy-racer vibe to them, the exterior of the Lexus IS F is a rolling representation of Clark Kent. It is the Captain Anonymous of four-wheeled superheroes in a sports car universe where the loud and proud high rollers have become all too easily recognized.

Other than the wheels, which I would replace with a more Q-ship styled quartet, there is nothing else that stands out aesthetically with this super-fast sports sedan compared with other less powerful, and less expensive alternatives.

Enthusiasts may be able to pick out the small chorus of ‘F’ badges along with a few unique exterior touches from the wider fenders to the imperceptibly larger rear spoiler. Yet, in the end, the IS F chooses a conservative route that makes it less popular for the flashy and attention seeking owner, and far more useful for stealth seekers like me who are trying to avoid the revenuing schemes and speed traps of local police departments.

YouTube chronicles this unfortunate neverending battle between an enthusiast’s love, and the desire of the legalized theft cartels to revenue out the nicest rides whenever possible.

Corvettes? Dead! In the world of speed enforcement, these cars should come with a “Kick me!” sign.

Black M3? Halt! (Credit to the nice cop.)

Mercedes C63? Damn those 1%’ers! Speed trap cities and towns consider a Mercedes to be their proverbial ten pound fish in the easy money barrel.

is8

A little compact Lexus? In ultra-white? (yes, that is the color description!)

Just feel free to hide your 5.0-liter 416 horsepower V8 and blend in with the sea of traffic until the sharks swim away for better prey. In the real world of driving, the IS F – less those wheels – can be driven as the ultimate Q-Ship.

is11The inside of this Lexus tells a very different story.

The contrast between the suit and tie exterior and this loud and proud interior is probably the biggest dichotomy in high end sports sedans. For those not wanting to relive the trombone case red hues of yesteryear, Lexus also offers a dark suit gray and a bright white leather seating package that is closer to mainstream tastes.

See all those controls on the steering wheel? I wish every competitor would just copy this layout and call it a day. The current IS, with nearly twice as many buttons and fidgits falls far below the real-world ease that is this simple five-by-five design.

As a circa 2008 car with minimal updates the IS F, suffers from two incurable era specific maladies from that time period. The excessive use of interior design cues that originated 10 years ago, and this scratch happy material called aluminized composite accents. Enthusiasts know it as fake carbon fiber while middle-aged men like me who are still stuck in the 1990s scratch their heads and say, “What’s wrong with using some nice thick wood instead?”

is13Ahhh, that’s much better. No gimmicky crap. No little icons or infotainment driven cartoon style graphics. Just a simple layout. Everything neat and quick to read. Truth be told, that prominent tachometer combined with the digital speedo is a great combination. Still, the IS F instrument cluster offers as much useful information about the powertrain’s activities as a 25-year-old Toyota Celica All-Trac. If you are looking for a video game style display with trivial feedback about every little nuance of the driving experience, look elsewhere.

The Lexus IS F dashboard carries over Toyota’s love for the big simple buttons and knobs over rotating dialers and plasticized joysticks of the competition. It took less than a day to get used to the flow of the layout.

There are also several other unique take-it-or-leave-it touches to this interior such as…

is15

This shift gate along with the single cupholder. A definitive post-Y2K design element.

is16

What is this strange contraption? I thought this would house the USB connection and maybe an adapter or two. Ash trays are gradually becoming the CD players of the modern day and the cassette players of ten years years ago. By the way, Lexus was also the last brand to get rid of the old cassette players.

is17

Interesting… on a slow news day I’m sure we can debate the right place for these plug-in connections.

is18

The rear seat room is about on par with a Civic. Small, but amazingly comfortable if you’re 5’8″ or less.

is19

The kids never complained, even after two several hour jaunts. As for seat comfort? These seats depend highly on your height and your girth. This 5-foot-8, 170 pound guy was perfectly happy; as were my smaller wife and kids. Bigger people should take extra care to feel out the seats in any car of this ilk.

is20

As for the driving experience, it’s pretty much bipolar. When you are light on the throttle it’s as easy to drive as any Camry except for the fact that your handling is precise to a surprisingly minute degree. When you hammer it, even a little bit, the IS F is so incomprehensibly fast and fun that you feel like you’re driving a car that can easily handle the racetrack and the twisted road – but not necessarily the beaten one. You better make sure that the open road in your neck of the woods is sports car friendly because the suspension can get brutal if you live in pothole central. It was a pleasure to drive in the one-lane rural smooth roads of Deliverance country, but an unforgiving misery to navigate through the steel plates and bottomless road pits in the city of Atlanta.

TTAC ended up reviewing the car multiple times way back when it was new and fresh. Michael Karesh, Robert Farago, and Jack Baruth all reviewed the IS F back in its new car heyday, and, other than the Scion FR-S, I’m having a hard time finding any other vehicle that was so broadly reviewed and admired as this one. This is one of the few sports sedans left that doesn’t take the driver and completely destroy their line of vision under an ergonomic catastrophe of thick A-pillars, small windows, and side mirrors the size of a football.

You see nearly everything, and the driving experience is in the thick of the fun quotient. All for a real world cost of around $55,000.

is21

Did I say $55,000? Yep! The average wholesale price for a 2014 Lexus IS F at the auctions with about 7,000 miles on it is in the $52,000 range. Throw in the seller fee, transport, and maybe a minimal bit of reconditioning and you’re looking at around a $53,000 wholesale price, and a meeting of the minds at around $55,000. If you want to get a certified pre-owned version, plan on paying around $700 more for it.

That nice little condo in West Palm Beach that you planned on using for your retirement can now be all yours in the form of four wheels and a driver seat that may be easier to sleep in than most hotel beds. About halfway through the week, I thought about driving off to some remote part of north Georgia and sleeping in the thing. Then again, I’m also the type of guy who buys a $100 SUV sight unseen. Your financial risk tolerance and desire for daily weirdness may be far different than mine.

Speaking of cost, do you want to engage in basic DIY maintenance on the IS F? Don’t. Or at least if you do, and rarely do any work yourself, just relegate yourself to raising the hood between oil changes and looking at all the pointless plastic that keeps you away from all the dirty icky engine parts.

is24Every maintenance item seemed to have either a seal or a plastic cover tormenting your inner grease monkey.

At least the battery is on top and easy to get to. On the flip side, Lexus calls their automatic transmission fluid a lifetime fluid. The word “lifetime” for any fluid, from any automaker, should always be replaced with the phrase “warranty period”. Lifetime fluids don’t exist if you happen to be one of those types who keeps their new cars past 120,000 miles. My advice for the long-term keepers among you is to keep abreast of the Lexus enthusiast forums that you can find here, here and here.

A late model IS F will cost you about as much as a well-equipped 2014 Avalon and a prior-gen 2014 Miata… combined. Is this 2014 model worth that much?

Let me put it to you this way: in the real world of car buying and long-term car ownership, the Lexus IS F offers all of the pleasures of a high performance sports sedan with very few of the vices.

That’s the good news. Now having said that, this car is only a good fit for a very small group of enthusiasts.

Do you prefer conservative styling? Do you need room for a small family? Do you live in an area where potholes don’t exist and police enforcement hasn’t quite yet fallen off the cuckoo’s nest? If the answer to these questions is yes, and if your desire for an ultra-fast sports sedan burns into the very core of your being, then the IS F may very well be worth your time.

Just take one piece of advice should you ever decide to trade all that money in for those keys. Do invest in a radar detector. The IS F is made with speed in mind. And get a good lawyer who knows how to get out of speeding tickets. If you buy a car with this much performance, you will probably need to put that lawyer on a retainer.

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New Or Used? The $25,000 Question http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/new-used-25000-question/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/new-used-25000-question/#comments Mon, 22 Jun 2015 15:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=860633 Michael writes: This August, we will have a 23-year-old German au pair coming to live with us. She will be taking care of our three boys – ages 6, 4, and 1. I am looking for transportation for said au pair that fulfills the following criteria: accommodates 2 boosters and 1 car seat– i.e. older […]

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2012 Toyota Sienna

Michael writes:

This August, we will have a 23-year-old German au pair coming to live with us. She will be taking care of our three boys – ages 6, 4, and 1. I am looking for transportation for said au pair that fulfills the following criteria:

  1. accommodates 2 boosters and 1 car seat– i.e. older boys need to be able to access the seat belt buckles with the car seat in place (presumably in the middle?)
  2. reliable and low maintenance
  3. safe
  4. good in snow and ice (we live in Cleveland); preferably AWD
  5. under $25,000

My wife drives a 2013 AWD Toyota Sienna. It fulfills all the criteria but number 5.

My first thought was a used Volvo wagon, but a quick internet search revealed a very limited selection under $25k with less than 150k miles on the odometer. Used minivans are similar… not a great selection, and those under $25k are generally high-mileage specimens.

Currently, I’m thinking along the lines of a used Grand Cherokee, but I’ve never owned or driven one. I just know that there are a buttload of them on on the road and in used car lots.

My other thoughts: Escape/CRV/RAV4/CX5/Cherokee, but might be too small in the back. Forester, also might be too small, and seems overpriced right now.

I’m not a car guy and I’ve never bought a used car… so please, any words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated. And yes, having been a loyal TTAC reader, I realize that the car I’m looking for is a used rear-wheel drive sport wagon with a set of snow tires, but no. We both work 40+ hours a week (hence, au pair) and barely find time to get oil changes. (I know, I know. I don’t change my own oil… THE HORROR!)

Steve says:

You are dead to me. But really, even us emerging middle-aged enthusiasts let others change the oil every now and then.

As for your next issue, none of the crossovers you mentioned can easily seat three children across. Even the old school Volvos that offered real space aplenty back in the ’90s could never accommodate three super-sized child seats and/or boosters of the modern day. Today’s side impact technologies put an even tighter squeeze on middle-row seating. So long story short, since you have the Sienna, I would keep that and get your wife a third car.

If you absolutely must have all-wheel-drive and a new vehicle, my top pick would be a Kia Sorento. You are going to be $2,000 to $3,000 over on the $25,000 budget before tag, tax, title, and the inflated doc fee. But the Sorento has received outstanding reviews, and you should be able to make it a keeper for a long time given the third row.

Another good option would be a front-wheel drive vehicle that comfortably handles three adults and three children with proper restraints which also offers a solid safety record. If you chose this path, investing in a good set of snow tires would make a far greater difference in inclement weather than all-wheel drive. I happen to love the Ford C-Max. A small army of owners prefer the Chrysler minivans, and I’m inclined to think that the extra space for the full-sized minivan would come in handy for your family.

A Chrysler minivan will likely be a great fit if your au pair is comfortable driving something that big. I would encourage you to rent out both of these vehicles and see whether your au pair is comfortable with them on the road if, and only if, your wife is resistant towards offering her the Sienna.

All the best!

You can reach Steve Lang directly at carselect@gmail.com

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Top Gear’s Three Musketeers Set To Return With New Series http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/top-gears-three-musketeers-set-to-return-with-new-series/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/top-gears-three-musketeers-set-to-return-with-new-series/#comments Sat, 20 Jun 2015 16:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1095953 While “Top Gear” moves forward with new host Chris Evans at the helm, Clarkson, Hammond and May are closer to introducing a new show of their own. Jeremy Clarkson confirmed the news to The Sunday Times, the details of which are still unknown beyond speculation the new show featuring Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May […]

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Hammond Clarkson May

While “Top Gear” moves forward with new host Chris Evans at the helm, Clarkson, Hammond and May are closer to introducing a new show of their own.

Jeremy Clarkson confirmed the news to The Sunday Times, the details of which are still unknown beyond speculation the new show featuring Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May will be on Netflix. Said details are projected to come in the next few weeks, with the first episode to debut before “Top Gear” returns after next March.

Meanwhile, May will host a two-episode series called “Building Cars Live” on BBC Two. The 90-minute episodes will be broadcast live from BMW’s MINI factory in Oxford, England, where he and co-presenters Kate Humble and Ant Anstead will follow the process of building a car from raw materials. The series will also air before “Top Gear” returns.

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Reputation, Status Keys To Judicial Fate For Toyota’s Julie Hamp http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/reputation-status-keys-to-judicial-fate-for-toyotas-julie-hamp/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/reputation-status-keys-to-judicial-fate-for-toyotas-julie-hamp/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2015 16:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1095921 Yesterday, TTAC reported on the arrest in Japan of Toyota Chief Communications Officer Julie Hamp on drug smuggling charges. We have new information on what awaits Hamp now. Through our anonymous source, Hamp’s alleged receipt of 57 Oxycodone pills — marked in a parcel dubbed “necklaces” — in the mail at Tokyo’s Narita Airport is […]

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Julie HampYesterday, TTAC reported on the arrest in Japan of Toyota Chief Communications Officer Julie Hamp on drug smuggling charges. We have new information on what awaits Hamp now.

Through our anonymous source, Hamp’s alleged receipt of 57 Oxycodone pills — marked in a parcel dubbed “necklaces” — in the mail at Tokyo’s Narita Airport is a fairly common practice, where U.S. citizens in Japan take over housing from another foreigner, then use the previous occupant’s name to ship whatever drugs they desire. Japanese authorities routinely intercept the packages, which are then delivered as usual prior to a raid hours later.

The idea for allowing the delivery to go through as planned is if the package was delivered in error, the current occupant would either return it to the post office, or bring it to the nearest police station if thought to be suspicious. In most cases, the raid finds the package is already opened, and the drugs partially consumed.

Our source adds Hamp has a few things going for her as she navigates through Japan’s judicial system, including social status, reputation, and Toyota itself. The process of investigation, trial and verdict would take around 80 days to complete, with Hamp leaving the country almost immediately following a guilty plea, or upon serving 18 months in prison if she pleads innocent and is found guilty; there are no plea bargains under said system.

Speaking of Toyota, president Akio Toyoda apologized for the arrest during a press conference on the matter, Reuters reports:

To me, executives and staff who are my direct reports are like my children. It’s the responsibility of a parent to protect his children and, if a child causes problems, it’s also a parent’s responsibility to apologize.

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Junkyard Find: 1993 Nissan NX1600 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/junkyard-find-1993-nissan-nx1600/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/junkyard-find-1993-nissan-nx1600/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2015 13:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1093465 The Nissan NX was never much of a big seller in the United States, and only the first-cousin-of-the-Sentra-SE-R NX2000 gets any attention from potential diamond-in-the-rough rescuers today. That means that you won’t see many of these cars in the wrecking yards, so I decided to photograph this purple-duct-tape-customized example in a Denver yard a couple […]

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10- 1993 Nissan NX1600 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

The Nissan NX was never much of a big seller in the United States, and only the first-cousin-of-the-Sentra-SE-R NX2000 gets any attention from potential diamond-in-the-rough rescuers today. That means that you won’t see many of these cars in the wrecking yards, so I decided to photograph this purple-duct-tape-customized example in a Denver yard a couple months back.
08- 1993 Nissan NX1600 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

The GA16DE DOHC engine in this car made 110 horses with variable valve timing, which wasn’t exactly big power. It did manage to get 33 mpg on the highway.

19- 1993 Nissan NX1600 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Digital dash!

04- 1993 Nissan NX1600 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

The Black Ice Little Tree is the second-most-popular flavor of Car-Freshner product found in American junkyards; New Car Scent is #1. Note the purple-tape-wrapped steering wheel.

18- 1993 Nissan NX1600 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Purple tape may be found in many places in this automobile, in fact.

13- 1993 Nissan NX1600 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Rollin’ on Arizonians!


It was sold in Europe as the 100NX.


In Thailand, women were indifferent to NX-driving men.


Australians became werewolves behind the wheel of an NX.


In the NX’s homeland, it was pitched as a cute car made of rubber and sold to “kids at heart.”


And, of course, the American-market NX ads were boring and focused on cheapness. Only $6 a day to drive this car!

11- 1993 Nissan NX1600 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04- 1993 Nissan NX1600 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05- 1993 Nissan NX1600 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06- 1993 Nissan NX1600 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08- 1993 Nissan NX1600 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10- 1993 Nissan NX1600 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12- 1993 Nissan NX1600 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13- 1993 Nissan NX1600 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14- 1993 Nissan NX1600 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15- 1993 Nissan NX1600 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17- 1993 Nissan NX1600 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18- 1993 Nissan NX1600 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19- 1993 Nissan NX1600 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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