Category: Editorials

By on June 24, 2015

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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. Read More >

By on June 24, 2015

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. Read More >

By on June 23, 2015

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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.

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By on June 22, 2015

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:

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By on June 20, 2015

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.

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By on June 19, 2015

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.

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By on June 19, 2015

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. Read More >

By on June 18, 2015

Impala vs Marquis

Smoke and mirrors – but sometimes also steel. In the odd world of movies and television, things are not always what they seem: the fake blower on the Mad Max Pursuit Special, the digital tire smoke from the Merc’ 6.9 in Ronin.

It’s always a bit disappointing when you meet a hero car to learn that, behind the polish, it’s all hat and no cattle. But not with these two beasts. These are the real deal: guts, dents, motor, and chrome. One’s a modern hearthrob, the other’s a lantern-jawed archetype that even today outshines its modern co-stars.

One Ford product, one vehicle cranked out by the General. Black paint, V8 rumble, and more character than the small screen can contain. Here are their stories.
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By on June 18, 2015

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About twenty years ago, I made a decision that had the potential to severely limit my earning potential, increased my chances of becoming an alcoholic, and statistically ensured that I would die much, much younger than most people.

That’s right, I decided to major in Jazz Saxophone Performance. Yes, you can do that. No, I wouldn’t recommend it. Luckily, a combination of factors led to my ceasing to pursue music as a career a long time ago, but not before I spent nearly four years working behind the counter of a musical instrument store in the Brass and Woodwind department as a part-time college job. We sold three levels of most instruments – Student, Intermediate, and Professional. Guess who we sold the most “Professional” instruments to? Professionals? Uh, no. A professional-level saxophone retails for more than $4,000 in most cases. For your average professional musician, that’s like, a year’s worth of ramen noodles and Crown Royal.

Nope, we sold them to the upper-middle class parents of high schoolers. They’d come in with their kids, who had been given a recommended name brand and model by their private lesson teacher, and I’d send the kids into a practice room with three or four different examples of professional-level instruments to try. They normally sounded equally horrible on all of them, but they always came out of the room proclaiming the clear superiority of the one that their teacher had recommended, or, lacking a recommendation, the one that had the coolest looking engraving or lacquer. They possessed neither the talent or the ear to discern any difference between the professional horns and the student one that they came in with. Buying a more expensive instrument was not going to make them one iota better as a musician.

But, considering that I stood to make about $200 in commission if they bought one of them, I congratulated them on an excellent choice, cheerfully swiped the parents’ credit card, and sent them all on their merry way. Hey, those pizzas I ordered to my dorm room weren’t gonna pay for themselves.

This is exactly what the modern day car review is like. Allow me to explain.

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By on June 17, 2015

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Automakers are not well known for their expertise in embedded security with vulnerabilities surfacing for many models. Nick Bilton of the New York Times decided to investigate a wireless key vulnerability after his Prius was broken into with a mystery black box. The investigation sounded somewhat promising at first, but quickly deflated, ending at a point where he told us to put our car keys in the freezer.

The story originally unfolded on Twitter as Bilton posted about the break-in and quickly followed up he’d figured out a $100 broadcasting device allowed teenagers to break into his car so easily.

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