Category: Editorials

By on September 4, 2014

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“A little learning”, wrote the crippled poet from his infamous grotto, “is a dangerous thing.” Here’s an example. What effect does the choice of a manual transmission have on resale value? If, like me, you’ve bought and sold cars for more than twenty-five years now, your snap response will be “Manual transmissions sell for more.”

This being 2014, however, some kid with access to secondhand Manheim auction reports will strain his mousing finger with a detailed correction of that assertion, complete with dozens of copy-and-pasted sale records. You cannot argue with his data — it’s right there in black and white. Manual transmission cars are worth less. But you know he’s wrong somehow, because you’ve been in the trenches and you’ve worked deals yourself.

Maybe the problem isn’t with you, or the kid’s data. Maybe it’s a case of simply not understanding what that data means.
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By on September 4, 2014

09 - 1988 Merkur XR4Ti Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Merkur XR4Ti (turbo-Pinto-engined Ford Sierra XR4i to you European types) wasn’t selling so well by the 1988 model year, but enough were built that I was able to find this example in a Northern California wrecking yard. In fact, this is just the second XR4Ti in this series, after this ’89 from two years back. Read More >

By on September 4, 2014

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Mazda’s newest MX-5 appeared live at an event in California, and although Mazda was stingy with details, we managed to get a few.

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By on September 4, 2014

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Mike Alexander, the surviving member of Detroit’s preeminent custom car builders, the Alexander Brothers, passed away in July at the age of 80. Mike and his brother Larry made some of the most famous and influential customs of the 1960s and because of a new toy called Hot Wheels and a Beach Boys song & album the “A Bros” ultimately affected American culture and how the world sees us. They were as important to the world of hot rods as Elvis, Little Richard and Chuck Berry were to rock and roll. I had the great privilege of interviewing Mike Alexander last year as part of a project I’m working on about the Dodge Deora show car, and then meet him in person at the 2013 Eyes On Design show, where I was in the right place at the right time to witness Ford GT designer Camilo Pardo hand Mike a blue ribbon for the Deora, which was on display as part of a group of Alexander Brothers’ cars at that show. Mechanical and fabricating geniuses, Mike and Larry were perhaps the most technically adept of all the builders during custom cars’ golden era. Read More >

By on September 3, 2014

09 - 1988 Mercury Tracer Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHere’s a rare one! We’re familiar with the 1990s Mercury Tracer that was a Mercury-badged Ford Escort (which was itself a Ford-badged Mazda), but the 1987-89 Tracer was a rebadged and left-hand-drive Ford Laser, a crypto-snazzy Australian version of the Mazda 323. They sold in very small quantities in the United States, and so it took me a moment to identify this example that I spotted last week in a Denver self-service wrecking yard. As an excellent example of “rare ≠ valuable,” it seemed worthy of this series. Read More >

By on September 3, 2014

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No alloy wheels. No automatic transmission. No fancy infotainment system. From the perspective of the Ford Fiesta 1.0L Ecoboost really doesn’t have a lot going for it – at least that’s what Kamil Kaluski thought when he tested a 4-door sedan earlier this summer. The three-cylinder Fiesta is certainly an odd duck. That’s part of its charm.

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By on September 2, 2014

2015 Subaru OutbackOf all the things that struck me during my week with the 2015 Subaru Outback at the end of August, it was the realization that this nameplate has been around for two decades which shocked me most.

Is this because I’m getting old, that when I think something occurred recently, I find out it actually happened 20 years ago? Subaru first showed North Americans a Legacy Outback at the New York Auto Show in 1994. In other words, there are people who have been driving for four years who never knew a world without the Subaru Outback.

Yet during this long period in which the Outback, and Subaru as a whole, became increasingly successful, there have never been any properly direct Outback rivals, at least none that have made real hay off the Outback’s format. And yes, by the Outback’s format, I really mean the AMC Eagle’s format. Read More >

By on September 2, 2014

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From the Twitter account of Bob Flavin comes this map of Europe, overlayed with each country’s best-selling auto brand.

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By on September 1, 2014

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Reader Request: discuss the Lincoln Mark VIII, preferably the second generation’s modest restyle. He likely didn’t care for my reply, as it follows my disapproval of the Original Testarossa versus that rolling abortion that disrespectfully ended Ferrari’s most iconic series.

Then I parked beside a 2000 Mercury Sable on a fine Houston evening.

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By on August 31, 2014

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The car-based small pickup market was launched in Brazil by Fiat during the 1980s. Taking a 147 as its base, the Italians cut out the back seats, added a bed, beefed up the suspension and called it good. The market deemed it so, and soon, there was a whole new segment gracing Brazil’s roads, with Fiat’s Strada dominating the segment. Since that time, nearly every challenger has been vanquished by the Strada’s unquestionable longevity – except for Volkswagen’s Saveiro.

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