Category: History

By on February 22, 2016

1925 Bugatti Type 22 Brescia Roadster Lake Maggiore Mullin Museum front 3/4 beauty shot flash © 2016 Ronnie Schreiber/The Truth About Cars

Every car has a story. In the case of this 1925 Bugatti Type 22 Brescia Roadster, it has two. Both are good stories. One, however, is the stuff of legend, and the other closer to historical truth. Read More >

By on February 19, 2016

Toyota Soarer Celica

I had another opportunity to visit United States Fleet Activities Yokosuka last week and, naturally, I brought along my camera for another visit to the “Lemon Lot.”

While my last visit noted the many people haulers for sale and focused on a pair of cheerful Toyota Fun Cargoes, this time, my attention was drawn to sportier fare. Read More >

By on January 26, 2016

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Before U.S. importer Max Hoffman convinced Mercedes-Benz there was a market for the now famous gull-winged grand tourer, the 300SL badge was earlier applied to the company’s first postwar factory racecar, the W194 that was victorious at LeMans in 1952.

Sixty years later, at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Mercedes-Benz introduced their latest iteration of the SL concept: the SL 550. To commemorate the occasion, and the original SL’s 60th birthday, Daimler restored the oldest existing 1952 300SL — chassis #002 — and brought it to Detroit with its newest descendant. Unfortunately for the hundreds of photographers who tried to seize what was likely their only opportunity to capture such a rare and historic car, stagehands quickly surrounded the car with stanchions and rope almost as soon as the 300SL #002 came to a halt on the stage. Read More >

By on December 28, 2015
The first Ford electric car, 1914

The first Ford electric car, 1914

Ford Motor Company recently announced that it will be investing more than $4.5 billion over the next five years into its electric vehicle program and that it will have 13 electric vehicles on sale by 2020. The announcement follows the Ford company’s original investment in EV technology and the first Ford electric cars by 102 years.

Hopefully, the current spending will yield more fruitful results than did Henry Ford’s original look into EVs more than a century ago. Read More >

By on December 22, 2015

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Our friend Mr. Baruth is on a bit of a motorcycle kick lately and, while he’s not quite ready to cruise the interstate highways on a Honda Gold Wing, he recently described the Wing as “one of those brilliant products that both defines a market segment and then comes to utterly dominate it.”

The same could be said for another two-wheeler, though one that couldn’t be more different from the Gold Wing. I’m talking about the Vespa scooter: Introduced in war torn Europe in 1946 and used as basic transportation by Italians rebuilding their country, the Vespa scooter became a bit of a fashion statement by the 1960s (and an essential accessory for the Mod craze in England). It’s been adopted by the developing world as basic transport in the decades since then, and is once again becoming a fashion statement in the 21st century. Virtually every motor scooter made in the last 70 years has followed the Vespa’s template.

This post, however, isn’t about a Vespa scooter. It’s about a Vespa car. Read More >

By on December 17, 2015

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The email had all the stopping power of a fart at an office Christmas party.

“TEAM JAPSPEED DRIFT TEAM TO RETURN TO AUTOSPORT INTERNATIONAL”

“Were they returning from 1943?” I wondered. How could any team be named “Jap” anything in 2015?

As it turns out, there are a lot of automotive-related companies and events with the prefix Jap. JapFest, JapAuto, JapSpeed. JustJap. Uh, huh.

I mean, “Jap” is still a bad word, right?

Read More >

By on December 4, 2015

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We’re currently going through a period where conventional sedans and sports cars are losing favor with consumers relative to higher-riding SUVs and crossovers. That’s true from entry level brands to the top shelf. Ultra luxury and exotic car companies have noticed the kind of success that Porsche has had with the Cayenne and just about all the high end companies — with the exception of McLaren and Ferrari — are working on some kind of utility vehicles.

Lamborghini showed the Urus concept in 2012 and earlier this year said they’d be doubling the capacity at their Sant’Agata, Italy factory to put a SUV into production, starting in 2017. Bentley, like Lamborghini a part of the Volkswagen group, is coming out with the dubiously styled Bentayga, whose platform will be shared by the Lambo SUV and new generations of the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne.

The Urus, or whatever Lamborghini decides to call it, however, won’t be the first SUV to wear the Lamborghini brand. Read More >

By on December 1, 2015

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On Nov. 29, 1995, having lost Congress to the Republicans in the 1994 midterm elections, President Bill Clinton reluctantly signed a transportation bill that repealed the National Maximum Speed Limit of 55 miles per hour. The NMSL was made law in 1973, during the Nixon administration, in response to the oil embargo and energy crisis that followed in the wake of the Yom Kippur War. While it didn’t precisely mandate a national 55 mph limit, the law allowed the federal government to withhold highway funds from states that didn’t lower expressway speed limits to 55, the so-called “double nickel.”

It just so happened that the next day was the 30th anniversary of the publication of Ralph Nader’s highly influential book about car safety, “Unsafe At Any Speed.” Read More >

By on December 1, 2015

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In Part One, we saw how Ab Jenkins started his speed record career in a Studebaker, then moving to Pierce-Arrow. His greatest success, though, would be at the wheel of a Duesenberg.

Because its name is German, a lot of people are mistaken in thinking that Duesenbergs — as other magnificent classic-era cars like Hispano-Suizas — came from the European continent. Fred and Augie Duesenberg though, were from the heartland of America, based in Indiana, with a factory in Indianapolis. While the name Duesenberg is most often associated with the great Model J, before E.L. Cord bought their company and tasked the brothers with building the best automobile in the world, Duesenberg made its name in racing. In fact, nearly half of all competitors in the 1931 Indy 500 qualified with either a Duesenberg chassis or engine — or both. Read More >

By on November 30, 2015

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GMC just announced an Ultimate trim level for the Sierra pickup truck. That follows Ford’s success with Platinum-level F-150s that can cost up to $80,000. It seems that nowadays you can’t charge too much money for an American pickup or make it so luxurious that it won’t find an eager market.

It’s tempting to say that wasn’t the case in the early Noughts as a means to explain the failure of the Lincoln Blackwood. In production for barely a year, the Blackwood was the automotive equivalent of a TV sitcom getting cancelled after just the first episode. Ford hoped to sell 10,000 Blackwoods a year, but managed to move only 3,356 for its entire production run. Read More >

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