Category: Capsule Reviews

By on November 16, 2010

You could look at the accident one of two ways. The first way to look at it was that the backhoe was at fault. It backed out halfway across the northbound exit ramp to Bethel Road from Ohio SR-315, forcing my brother to take too rapid of an avoidance maneuver, spin his pristine Porsche 944, and hit a streetlight, causing said streetlight to fall into the freeway traffic.

The second way to look at it — and, in fairness, I must note that this view was the one espoused by the Columbus Police — was that my brother, Mark, had been traveling at perhaps one hundred miles per hour (“More like one twenty,” he sniffed to me in the aftermath) and that therefore the backhoe operator could have had no reasonable expectation that the red Porsche+Audi would arrive well before he could move back off the road.

Either way, it was time for the punishment car.

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By on November 10, 2010

Why did we have an eleven-year-old, scratch-and-dent, no-maintenance-records, twelve-cylinder Jaguar on our lot? Blame our naive sales manager, who always paid top dollar for trades. In his haste to revolutionize the way people bought and sold luxury cars in Dublin, Ohio, “Steve” tended to ignore the established car-sales playbook. At the time, I thought he was bold; I now realize he was stupid.

It’s famously said that the SCCA road-racing rulebook is “written in blood”. Every rule in the book is a lesson learned from a tragic occurrence. By the same token, every rule in the car-sales biz is written, not in blood, but in red ink. There’s one rule in particular that is written in so much ink that it’s bled through the page, and that is: Don’t take used cars to customer homes for test drives. If you look closely, you will see an asterisk to that rule, added by me, and at the bottom of the metaphorical page, I’ve written: * this goes double for Jags.

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By on November 1, 2010

No story should ever start, as this one does, with “my First Rover Metro.” The implication that there are more Metros to come is all too obvious, and could probably be best categorized as a “cry for help.” In any case, my first Rover Metro was a teal 1995 1.1L Kensington edition, purchased for £60 from a friend in Bishop-Stortford. The Kensington edition meant I got shards of carpet over the door panels, and the kind of pizzazz that only an engineer from Coventry would be able to come up with. The Metro lasted only 19 hours in my hands before a brake failure led to its demise into the back of a yellow Hyundai. My second Rover Metro was a 1997 Tahiti Blue 1.1L Ascot edition*, which meant I got full wheel covers and blue piping in the velour. This only accelerated my descent into the world of English motoring, where I found joy and fulfillment in the death rattle of a Rover K-series engine.

*astute readers will recall that both vehicles are technically Rover 100’s, but are always remembered in pop culture as the Metro.

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By on October 23, 2010

Dad! Would you come and check out a car I might want to buy?

Sure Will; what is it?

A Deawoo Leganza.

Oh, Um, Ah, Hm; you’re sure that you might want to buy that?

Yeah; it’s got leather, sunroof, and a great sound system.

What’s wrong with it?

The electric window switches are wackky. I don’t care.

Are you sure that’s all?

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By on October 20, 2010

I’m no attorney, but I’ve read articles posted anonymously on the Internet by people who claim to be attorneys, and therefore I feel confident that my extensive research regarding the statute of limitations for insurance fraud in certain Midwestern states is correct. It’s time to tell a story of minitrucks and maxipayments, of bumbling crime and hilariously apt punishment…

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By on October 19, 2010

Count on Rodney to ruin a fine romance. “I just thought you should know,” he said as I opened up the lockbox to find the keys for our only four-cylinder, five-speed Probe, “that I screwed your up.”

“You screwed me up?” It wouldn’t be the first time; he’d recently driven a new Taurus headfirst into our “JBL: The Sound Of Ford” display while trying to manuever it out of the showroom, approximately four hours before I was scheduled to deliver it to its new owner.

“No, I screwed your up. The girl sitting at your desk. With the hairy forearms.” Come to think of it, her forearms did have a fair amount of remarkably dark hair on them. “She still thinks my name is Cleveland Washington or something like that. We hit it off right in the club bathroom, like I am known to do.” And yes, indeed, Rodney was rather infamous for anonymous tile-surrounded sex. There were five waitresses who worked the late shift at our local Waffle House. Rodney had violated two of them on the women’s sink over the past year and was working a third with all the patience of a champion bass fisherman. “You know what it means when a girl has hairy forearms.”

“I really don’t.” So he told me. Well, I should have realized that.

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By on October 17, 2010

TTAC tested the street version of this car a few years ago: check it out for a classic example of mid-RF-era TTAC reviews, complete with withering attention to interior-quality issues and not-so-gentle comments regarding the unwillingness of the average automaker to purchase a Ford.

At the time, the Focus sold for about fifteen grand. That was for the street car. How much does a racing Focus cost? The answer: One dollar. The answer is also $2500. And $6000. And $25,000. Confused yet?

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By on October 7, 2010

More than a few of you had a simple question (or statement) regarding my Infiniti G20 Capsule Review, namely,

“Why didn’t you check the mileage of the dealer trade?”

The answer is simple: I wasn’t even permitted to call other dealerships, much less arrange trades. At that particular shop, salespeople weren’t even permitted to see the final numbers at deals. We were intended to be “product specialists”, not wheeler-dealers.

In fact, our rather idealistic general manager believed in specifically hiring people with no experience in the industry. His boss, the dealer group manager, had deep roots in the buy-here-pay-here biz. The conflict between these two philosophies occasionally led to trouble…

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By on October 6, 2010


I should have known from the breathless senior in long shorts and fancy jewelry: “AC Propulsion is over there. They won the X-Prize!” I should have known from the Long Curly Hair Middle-Aged Dad with Toddler and Pregnant Hippie Wife. I should have known from the fact that this first day of the national “Drive Electric Tour Sponsored by Nissan Leaf” was in Santa Monica. But I didn’t, and so
color moi tres surpris when the little Leaf driving demo was actually the biggest part of the 2010 Alt Car Expo. Petrolheads beware.

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By on October 5, 2010

Whenever somebody asked me what I did for a living during the summer of 1994, I would tell them “I sell Infinitis”. That was a lie. My actual job was to lease the Infiniti J30 at $399/month to second-tier suburban wanna-bes and a wide variety of credit criminals. That was what paid for our owner’s impressive coke habit, and that was what earned me as much as three thousand dollars per month.

In the interest of strict factual accuracy, I should point out that we did, nominally, sell two other models. The 1994 Q45 was an overpriced brick with a Park Avenue-style facelift. Over the course of six months, we sold two of them, one to a former salesman who was simply in the habit of driving that particular car as a demo, and one to somebody who owned a 1990 example and was only vaguely horrified at the “updates” performed that year. Looking back, I think he used to snort coke with the dealership’s owner. It would explain a lot.

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By on October 4, 2010

Since we both live in Houston, and I have aspirations of writing more material for TTAC in my copious lack of free time, it only made sense that Sajeev Mehta and I should eventually get together and hang out, so that’s exactly what we did at Ford’s come-kick-our-tires event for the new F150 trucks, including their new EcoBoost (turbocharged) V6 truck engine. Since I’m the epitome of not-a-truck-guy, I thought I’d toss in some random thoughts from somebody coming to this experience completely unprepared for what I was getting myself into.

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By on September 7, 2010

Stumping TTAC’s Best And Brightest is never an easy task, even with a relatively obscure picture clue. But if ever there was a car to do it, it’s the BMW M Coupe. Hell, three weeks ago, I had forgotten it existed… and now I own one.

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By on August 11, 2010

Schadenfreude recently brought the elder Niedermeyer out of his summer semi-retirement, and for the most part, it’s a consistent inspiration for much of our content here at TTAC. But as natural and healthy as it is to laugh and learn from the mistakes of others, for some reason I’m just not feeling it today. Blame it, if you must, on a certain mellowness that settles in over the glorious course of an Oregon Summer. One Robert Farago always said that hate must come from a place of love, so in the interests of getting TTAC back in lean, mean fighting form, I’m going to indulge in the worst kind of of auto-writing love-fest: I’m going to tell you about how much I love my car. Except that it’s not a car, and it’s not actually mine…

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By on July 11, 2010

Monkey see, monkey do. After Sajeev’s outstanding 300SL review I felt compelled to write on the vintage Benzo tip, yo. This car isn’t restored to anything like the condition of Mr. Mehta’s tester, but then again, I’d have felt bad going two-off during public-road driving in a half-million-dollar car…

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By on July 5, 2010

It may not have been the best of cars, but it also was certainly not the worst of cars. While working my college job at Ford Credit, I arranged for my mother to purchase a brand-new, five-speed 1993 Topaz GS coupe for the modest sum of $8995 after all discounts and rebates. Over the next eleven years, she put 97,000 miles on the car. Her Ford “ESP” warranty covered the very few repairs it required up to the 60,000-mile mark, and it required nothing after that besides a set of tires and the occasional oil change.

It was a good, solid car, always starting in the winter, holding up to Mom’s indifferent attitude regarding carwashes (once a season) and interior cleanings (once a year) and surviving three different low-speed impacts with little cosmetic damage. Fuel mileage was reliably in the high twenties and it went to its next owner without so much as a single spot of rust.

Still, if one had to make a case against “the car that killed Mercury”, the Topaz would be, if not on trial, at least standing in the lineup of potential perps. Here’s why.

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