The Truth About Cars » Collectible or Consumable? The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 20:45:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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 (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Collectible or Consumable? Time’s Running Out On The (W12) 3l Camino Auction Sat, 26 Apr 2014 16:00:18 +0000 3004

Admit it: you want this car.


The Internet’s been awfully excited about this rather improbable auction for a functional W123 300TD El Camino, and with just two days left to, bidding’s cleared ten grand.

This, mind you, for a car with a broken hydraulic system and broken A/C.

And the reserve still hasn’t been hit.

It will be interesting to see the final price, because this is the sort of thing that everybody says they want… right until one appears. This would be a hell of a utility vehicle for some urban DINKs or an older farmer who liked driving into town. The only question would be: how often will it break? And if you actually spend twenty grand buying the thing (or more), how much more will it cost to make it work right? Jack’s Rule Of Auction Cars: all the easy stuff is fixed when it’s listed.


It’s still a hell of an automobile, however… and it would be nice to see it pacing the field at a LeMons race.

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Petersen Museum Responds To LA Times: “Absolutely Incorrect”, “Big Misrepresentation” – Museum Will Not Refocus To Bikes and French Cars Fri, 19 Jul 2013 20:44:28 +0000 petersenlogo

Yesterday, we ran a News Blog post relating the LA Times report that the Petersen Museum was selling off 1/3rd of its collection to focus on motorcycles and French cars from the Art Deco period. Now, the museum has responded with vigorous denials, saying that the newspaper was wrong about what is really planned for the facility. Following our publication of that post, the Petersen’s PR rep reached out to TTAC, offering to share information that they say is more accurate. She called the LA Times story “a pretty big misrepresentation” and supplied us with prepared talking points (below) on the vehicle sales, the museum renovations and a response to the LAT article. In an interview with Jalopnik’s Jason Torchinsky, museum director Terry Karges said that the Times’ headline,  “Petersen Automotive Museum Takes A Major Detour” was “absolutely incorrect.” Karges, who is in the motorcycle business and used to race bikes, denied that his own personal interest in motorbikes, or museum Chairman Peter Mullin’s interest in French classics will affect the collection at the Petersen.

Well curated collections change over time.  That point is raised whenever there’s talk of selling off a major collection like in Detroit, where the city’s municipal bankruptcy has prompted calls to sell off artwork in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts or the significant cars that were donated to the Detroit Historical Museum. Every museum has items in storage that may never be displayed. As one Petersen board member put it, “Never changing turns us into an accumulation rather than a collection.”

Karges told Jalopnik that the money raised by the sale isn’t just going to acquire different cars. The building, originally an Orbach’s department store, was not designed to be a car museum. Major renovations will remove some interior walls and reposition others. The museum’s complete interior will be renovated with more interactive exhibits. This means that if you want to see the collection, you might want to do so before the construction starts as no announcement was made if the public is going to have access to the collection during renovations.

Karges described some of the improvements, “… we’re working with some ex-Disney creatives and we’re talking about opportunities of what we can do to immerse people in, say, the experience of racing. Art museums have things on the walls, but you sit in a car and you feel a car. A car is like wearing your personality.”

According to the people who run the museum, there will be a greater emphasis on education, in partnership with Pasadena’s ArtCenter college of design. The collection will still be diverse and look at car culture from a variety of perspectives, with a continued focus on hot rod culture of Southern California. The will also continue to have one of the most comprehensive collection of alternative fuel vehicles of any car museum in North America.

The museum’s management says that the ultimate goal is for the Petersen Museum to be one of the best art and design museums in the world, art and design in the medium of things automotive, not just a great car collection (and not just focused on motorcycles and French cars).

Petersen Museum official statement below:

The Los Angeles Times ran an article on July 16, 2013, titled “Petersen Automotive Museum Makes Major Detour.” We believe that this article was a direct misrepresentation of our intentions for the museum, leading readers, automotive enthusiasts and car collectors to believe that we are not only abandoning Robert E. Petersen’s vision for the museum, but turning our back on showcasing Southern California car culture. To be clear, there has never been any intent to detour from our mission statement as laid out by Mr. Petersen, nor any intention to focus the museum solely on French cars and motorcycles as depicted in the story. It is also important to note that those quoted in the article were a previous intern from many years ago and a former director (not credible sources). Please note the following key points:

Long Term Board Members:

  • This is not a new board taking over the museum. Peter Mullin, the current Chairman of the board has previously served as Chairman, Bruce Meyer the Co-Vice Chairman served as Chairman of the board for ten years and David Sydorick, Co-Vice Chairman has been on the board since the museum’s inception in 1994. These three men were not only personal friends of Robert E. Petersen, they helped lay out the original mission for the museum.

Expanding our Mission:

  • The Petersen is expanding on the our mission to showcase not only Southern California car culture, but also global car culture and the effect the automobile has had on car culture worldwide. Southern California car culture will not be abandoned—nor will Robert E. Petersen’s original vision.

Culling our Collection:

  • The collection has reached over 400 pieces—not only are we unable to showcase all of the vehicles, but maintaining and keeping that many cars in running order is virtually impossible. We are culling the collection for the first time in nearly 20 years, selling cars that can easily be replaced for specific exhibits or vehicles that were donated which were never intended to be or counted a part of the collection or placed on exhibit.

Not a French Car or Motorcycle Museum:

  • To accomplish our expanding mission, in addition to culling the collection, we will also be restoring vehicles in the collection and are in search of new additions –specifically those that are important Los Angeles historical cars. Will we own and exhibit hot rods? Yes. French cars? Yes. Motorcycles? Yes. Pre-wars cars, modern supercars, vintage exotics, trucks, alternative fuel powered vehicles…? Yes, yes yes… you get the point. Same as we ever have, but more and better.

Careful Selection:

  • Everyone has a favorite car, everyone has an opinion on what the most significant car is—we can’t run a museum that way. Our skilled curatorial team has determined what cars should go, what cars should stay, and what cars we hope to acquire moving forward. Attached is a list of cars currently in the collection. As you can see, none of our “crown jewels” are leaving, again, we’re simply culling the collection. To quote a board member, “Never changing turns us into an accumulation rather than a collection.”

Transforming our Museum:

  • Our plans do include transforming the museum—improving it from the inside out. The building was built as a department store, not a museum, and has not been updated in twenty years.
  • More information to come at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, August 18th unveil.


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Residual Value Miracle Aston Martin To Fetch Millions Tue, 30 Apr 2013 12:57:58 +0000

A car bought in 1956 for $15,000 is expected to sell for between $1.5 million and $2 million when it goes on auction in November.  It is expected to be the star of Sotheby’s first significant auction of collector cars in more than a decade, where some 35 prewar French cars, postwar American and European sports cars, as well as American and European classics will vie for the attention and wallets of affluent car nuts.

The 1956 Aston Martin is one of 15 with the so-called Supersonic bodies created by Ghia, and it is the only completed on an Aston Martin chassis, the Wall Street Journal says. The car was bought by Richard Cox Cowell, heir to an oil fortune, and turned into a present to Cowell’s young bride, the 19 year old blond Gail Whitney, a New York society debutante and member of the Vanderbilt clan.

The marriage was on the rocks a year later. After the divorce in in 1959, the car changed hands among “a who’s who of serious car collectors, including the current seller, Louisville collector James Patterson,” says the Journal. Its recent restoration alone is worth between $300,000 and $400,000, the Journal was told.

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Never Mind The DB7, Here’s The Railton Tue, 22 Jan 2013 13:00:16 +0000

Psst! Hey, you! Yes, you! The guy with the gold Bentley-By-Breitling-Celebrating-Bentley-Brand-Breitlings diamond-studded watch! With your arm around two Estonian working girls! I know you’re about to step into a fresh new Aston Vanquish, but perhaps Sir would be interested in something authentically English and genuinely bespoke? An individual creation from a man whose contribution to the automotive design scene is beyond question, a man who designed the car to which your current matte-finished whip is about to pay homage? Surely you’re interested, right? And here’s the good news: it’s far too expensive!

Sir William Towns designed a few extremely important Aston Martins, including the original, no-Daniel-Craig-involvement DBS, the stunning Lagonda sedan, and the stunningly techno-vicious Bulldog. Having moved on to industrial design in his fifties, he remained interested in opportunities to design cars. Therefore, when he found some money in the form of LPG drilling impresario John Ranson, he returned to the field with a concept for a uniquely British luxury “drophead”.

The name of the brand, Railton, was a “reboot” designed to honor English automotive pioneer Reid Railton. Mr. Railton’s career spanned nearly forty years and peaked with the postwar Railton Mobil Special which eventually broke the 400mph barrier. He put his name on a variety of production cars but apparently limited his activites after World War II to the land-speed-record cars. His death in 1977 apparently freed Towns to use the name, along with the Fairmile and Claremont model named.

If you hadn’t figure it out already, seeing the interior shot should clinch it for you: the Railton was a rebodied Jaguar XJ-S. By 1991, the year of the Railton’s debut, the XJ-S was already a sixteen-year-old car riding on a twenty-four-year-old platform, but the resurgent Egan-era Jaguar had done a lot to make it livable, enjoyable, and somewhat reliable. One prototype was built of both the Fairmile and Claremont. The Claremont is the one you see here, and Towns retained possession of it until his death. The Fairmile, which was displayed at a variety of auto shows, was the same car without the wheel spats. Construction was handled by Park Street Metal, which also built the Jaguar XJ220 in series production. The bodywork was hand-beaten from aluminum panels, just the way you’d expect.

The intended price for the Claremont was 105,000 pounds, which would be roughly equivalent to $280,000 today. Let’s call it $279,999. Heavy bread for a Jag, and about four times what the donor car cost.

Performance Car, which became EVO later on in life, tested the blue Railton Claremont in company with three “tuner” XJ-S variants and were utterly scathing about its eight-plus-second 0-60 time and ocean-liner handling. They much preferred the big-bore Lister XJ-S with its 911-Turbo-rivaling performance, of course. The Railton made no sense to them. The project did not continue past the production of the first two cars, probably for lack of dealer interest.

Towns’ death in 1993 eventually sent the Claremont to the auction block in 2002, where it fetched an undisclosed amount that was surely far short of its original cost to create. To the modern eye, the car looks sleek, restrained, and unabashedly upscale. At the time, however, the buyers for cars in this price range wanted something that was either supercar fast or not easily identified as a Jaguar XJ-S in a new suit. Lister sold plenty of pumped-up Jags but Railton couldn’t sell a single classed-up one.

As usual, there’s a slightly ironic postscript to this story. The ancient XJ-S didn’t find a new career under the hand-beaten panels of a Railton Claremont, but it did find redemption as the basis for the 1994 Aston Martin DB7. That particular Jag-in-drag saved the Aston brand and ensured that it survived long enough to become a trinket for Kuwaiti investors with a fetish for pumped-up homages to the Towns-penned DBS. The XJ-S also served to underpin the first-generation XK8 which was a tremendous success as well and did quite a bit to restore the dimmed luster of the Jaguar brand in the United States. Surely there’s a bit of Railton in the XK8′s over-long overhangs, a little touch of William in the night?

It would be nice to think that perhaps the name could see a third age, a venture-capital revival to produce a hand-beaten aluminum drophead for the oil-rich Moscovites and Saudis who stand so prominently in the roster of the newly wealthy, but such a vehicle would have to compete with all the faux-British luxury iron already on the market. Why buy a Railton when the Phantom Drophead has such star quality? It’s a shame. Still, for the genuine enthusiast, it’s still possible to get most of the Railton experience for a fraction of the cost: just try a solid-condition XJ-S HE. British motoring at its best, or perhaps its worst, but truly British for all that.

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How To Build A Lexus LFA Supercar – In Seven Not So Easy Steps Tue, 06 Dec 2011 16:54:30 +0000

Would you like to know how to build one of the world’s fastest (top speed 202 mph) and most agile (Nordschleife time 7:14.64) supercars? If you want to have a look at how the Lexus LFA is built, then you need to buy one. As part of the ownership experience, you become access to the “LFA Works” at the Motomachi plant in Toyota City, and you can witness how your car is made. At upwards of $375,000 MSRP for the car, this will probably also be one of the world’s most expensive factory tours. Fiscally responsible as we are, brings you a miniature Motomachi. Let the tour begin …

Carbon fiber reinforced plastics body manufacturing (braiding)

In the great Japanese tradition of making dioramas (three-dimensional miniature models, often enclosed in a glass showcase,)

Carbon fiber reinforced plastics body manufacturing (Resin transfer molding)

Lexus employees built the seven stages of the LFA production as museum quality miniature scenes.

Carbon fiber reinforced plastics body manufacturing (Autoclave)

At Motomachi, the Lexus LFA is built by master craftsmen (takumi) at just one unit per day.

Carbon fiber reinforced plastics body manufacturing (inspection)

Assembled using aerospace techniques for maximum strength and minimum weight, the car makes extensive use of advanced materials.


Currently, the dioramas are at the Tokyo Motor Show, behind the disrobed LFA.

Vehicle assembly

After the show, the dioramas will be displayed at the Toyota Tech Center, at the Toyota Kaikan Museum, at the Lexus Takanawa Show Room, etc.

Vehicle inspection

After a long tour, the dioramas will find a permanent home at the Toyota Automobile Museum. There, they will be close to the circular loom, a landmark invention by Toyoda, back from 1906, long before cars were built.

100 years later, the braiding machine for the carbon fiber reinforced plastics body manufacturing reminds us of the invention that helped finance the start of Toyota in 1936.

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Collectible or Consumable?: 1995 Lincoln Town Car Sat, 13 Aug 2011 16:23:36 +0000

Twenty years from now I’ll still be looking at cars. They may become faster than today’s sports cars and more luxurious than a Mercedes S-Class. But many of us enthusiasts will find something missing within all their awesomeness

That’s because great cars are not about perfection. They are about character. With that in mind, I found a pristine 1995 Lincoln Town Car the other day. With good miles, pristine leather, and a driving experience as Americana as a 1965 Mustang, it may someday become a collectible worth keeping. But then again…

Consumable: These things are as common as wigs and pill popping in today’s retirement communities. The 4.6 Liter engine was used in almost every rear wheel drive car Ford built from 1993 to 2011. Millions of vehicles were given the same powertrain ad nauseum.and with that comes a startling array of authentic alternatives.

Are any of them better or more ‘authentic’ than my Clinton era Town Car? Do they represent ‘the ‘good old days’ in better ways than the interminable time warp that only comes from a car marketed to those tired but no so poor masses who yearned for luxury above all else?

Collectible: No. Not in my estimation. The Thunderbird was an overweight flop. Crown Vics only have their cop cars and special editions offering true cache. The Mark VIII may have greater power and twice the technology than a Town Car. But it is also a buggy little bastard with an interior that is a testament to low grade plastics and petrochemicals.

To me the 1995 Lincoln Town Car is the Rolls-Royce of body-on-frame Fords. The dashboard was finally given a contemporary look (for it’s time) that also offered enough computerized frippery to be considered quaint in the decades to come. Much in the same way as 1960’s radios and dashboards are considered de rigueur in today’s car world.

The Total Package: But the ultimate complement to these Town Cars are their bodies. Rectangular and squared to the power of presence. There is no mistaking a Town Car for anything else on the road. Beyond the design dynamics, there are also precious vehicles of that time which will offer you the same level of  quietness, detachment and float. Few of which were worth a flip.

Cadillac Devilles of the mid-90’s were rolling billboards attached to ticking Northstar time bombs.Auroras had bugs and defects that were so thoroughly vested within it, that few offered their owners any long term bliss. Other Oldsmobiles were boring and bland. The Chrysler LHS had an Iacoccas worth of cheap plastics on the inside.

As for Buick? The sedan was nothing special. But I will give kudos to the wagons. Many of which may become to Ultra-Orthodox Jews what horse and buggys are to the Amish.

I think many of the classic car collectors of 2025 and beyond will love a 1995 Lincoln Town Car. What says you? Am I riding shotgun on today’s automotive prognostications?  Or am I stuck in the Town Car’s cavernous trunk hoping that the exhaust fumes don’t overtake my delusional state of judgment? Time will tell. But what says you?

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