The Truth About Cars » News Blog http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 04 Aug 2015 15:00:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 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 editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » News Blog http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/news-blog/ Hantz Woodlands – A Tree Grows (Actually It’s More Like 20,000) In Detroit http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/tree-grows-actually-like-20000-detroit-hantz-woodlands/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/tree-grows-actually-like-20000-detroit-hantz-woodlands/#comments Tue, 04 Aug 2015 14:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1131833 This story isn’t about cars, it’s about Detroit. One of the nice things about writing for this site is the freedom we have to explore topics not specifically about automobiles. Of course, the simple truth is anything significant that affects the city of Detroit will, sooner or later, have an impact on the auto industry. Over […]

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This story isn’t about cars, it’s about Detroit. One of the nice things about writing for this site is the freedom we have to explore topics not specifically about automobiles.

Of course, the simple truth is anything significant that affects the city of Detroit will, sooner or later, have an impact on the auto industry. Over on the east side, not that far from the infamous ruins of the Packard plant, the city is literally being regrown from the roots up.

The idea is to keep those houses...

The idea is to keep those occupied and maintained houses…

John Hantz has made a lot of money selling financial services, first with American Express and then with his own Hantz Group. He grew up in Romeo, Michigan, which is close enough to Detroit to have a Ford engine plant, but far enough that you can accurately describe it as rural. Despite his small town upbringing, Hantz fell in love with the Motor City. Mortgages are part of his business, so it’s not surprising that he personally bought and restored eight houses in Detroit’s still elegant Indian Village where he makes his home in one of them.

... from turning into decrepit hulks by improving the neighborhood's quality of life.

… from turning into decrepit hulks by improving the neighborhood’s quality of life.

Speaking of real estate, that’s arguably the city of Detroit’s biggest burden. Detroit is a big city and I don’t just mean the metro region is a major market. The city is physically large at 128 square miles. Our readers can fact check me, but I’m pretty sure that Detroit encompasses more real estate than the cities of Boston and Houston.

Hantz buys lots from the city and tears down abandoned houses.

Hantz buys lots from the city and tears down abandoned houses.

Then there’s the local culture that was represented authentically in the Gran Torino movie. Detroiter’s like having their own homes. Walt Kowalski treasured his own house, with its own postage-stamp-sized lawn off of which he’d tell kids to get. Detroit and the region have very high single family residence rates.

They clear the properties and improve the sidewalks where needed.

They clear the properties and improve the sidewalks where needed.

In 1960, Detroit had a population very close to two million people. Today, it’s about 750,000. Take a city with lots of single family homes and reduce its population by two thirds and you’re going to have a lot of empty homes. Rental properties go unrented. Landlords stop doing maintenance. Squatters and scrappers descend. Lawns overgrow. Fires get set, jeopardizing remaining homes that are occupied. Property taxes don’t get paid, resulting in the city foreclosing. Those foreclosed lots don’t generate any taxes, but the folks who remain still need police and other city services that cost more than the tax revenue in those neighborhoods.

Grass is planted and mowed every two weeks. You can see the difference between two lots, one owned by Hantz.

Grass is planted and mowed every two weeks. You can see the difference between two lots, one owned by Hantz, one not.

Up to 30 percent of the city’s real estate has been abandoned. The massive number of vacant lots in the city makes real estate almost worthless. While the city’s housing stock has been degraded, so have its trees been devastated by an alien species: the Dutch elm beetle. Before Dutch elm disease killed most of them, stately elm trees provided vase shaped canopies over most of the city’s residential streets.

Then they plant hardwood saplings.

Then they plant hardwood saplings.

Though the riot that killed 43 people and burned down scores of businesses in 1967 is generally attributed with driving whites from the city, the migration of people out of Detroit started long before that and probably had more to do with FHA and VA loans, the baby boom, another bedroom and a larger backyard than with urban unrest, crime or race. Half a million Detroiters had moved to the suburbs before 1960 — though at the time the city’s population remained stable, buoyed by southerners coming north for factory jobs.

Ploni Almoni, President of Hantz Farms, is a hands on manager. That's him with the weed wacker, cleaning up around the saplings.

Mike Score, President of Hantz Farms, is a hands on manager. That’s him with the weed wacker, cleaning up around the saplings.

John Hantz’s company has its headquarters in one of those suburbs. I want to say that it’s in Southfield but it might be on the edge of Farmington Hills. You can see the Hantz Group building off of I-696 as you drive into the metro region.

Hantz was commuting between his suburban office and home in the city, sitting at a traffic light in Detroit, surveying the blight: vacant and overgrown lots, broken glass and refuse, houses in various stages of collapse, or worse, burned out hulks. He wondered if all that land could be put to productive use.

Many of the remaining homes evidence pride of ownership and are well kept.

Many of the remaining homes evidence pride of ownership and are well kept.

Michigan was once almost all forest and the forest will reclaim if not held at bay. You can find photos of trees growing on the rooftops of empty office buildings in Detroit and growing up through the wreckage of ruined homes.

I don’t know if those volunteer trees gave Hantz the idea, but he decided to start Hantz Farms. It’s what some call the world’s largest experiment in urban agriculture, on Detroit’s east side near Van Dyke, about a mile up Mack Ave from the location of Ford Motor Company’s first factory. Hantz started buying up hundreds of vacant lots and putting them back on the property tax rolls. Detroit had already been the location of a number of small scale urban farming attempts, a few lots here and there, but Hantz was planning on trying to make something like an actual farm.

In 2013, Hantz Farms came to an agreement with Gov. Rick Snyder to buy 1,300 city owned lots for $500,000. What had been stalled for years by the city bureaucracy was resolved while the state managed the city’s affairs as it went through municipal bankruptcy. Some, including then newly elected Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, saw it as a land grab by a rich businessman.

Most of the trees being planted are saplings, maybe three feet tall. To give residents an idea of what the woodlands will look like 10 years from now, a few lots have been planted with more mature trees.

Most of the trees being planted are saplings, maybe three feet tall. To give residents an idea of what the woodlands will look like 10 years from now, a few lots have been planted with more mature trees.

Now that Hantz Farms has cleared 1,800 lots, including some 200 lots they don’t own, removed more than 50 blighted structures, and demonstrated that they are capable of regularly maintaining their properties, Mayor Duggan has come around to supporting the project. The finalization of the purchase agreement with the state was contingent on Hantz Farms satisfying those criteria. The company had two years to complete the task and it was accomplished to the city’s satisfaction in just 13 months.

The original plan was to raise crop plants, specifically high density fruit orchards and hoop greenhouses for growing tomatoes. That ran into objections from local residents, worried about attracting scavengers, both human and animal. While it’s been exaggerated, Detroit does indeed have a feral dog problem.

City bureaucrats weren’t the only obstacle. Hantz ran through a gantlet of various activists including environmentalists. Concerns over contaminated soils was another factor in abandoning the idea of using the land to grow food. At first, hardwood trees were going to be planted only where there were concerns about chemicals in the soil. Now Hantz Farms has developed into Hantz Woodlands with trees being the only thing planted.

They own 180 acres of land, some of it is contiguous while some are isolated lots. They’re paying to tear down the decrepit houses on the properties and clearing the land. They plant grass once the lots are cleared. All properties are mowed every two weeks and they’ve now started to plant their trees. All 180 acres are scheduled to be cleared by the end of this year. Eventually, what look like lawns is replaced with mulched rows of three foot tall saplings of ash, birch and maple.

A Hantz lot awaits planting.

A Hantz lot waits for its trees next to one recently planted.

So far, about 20,000 saplings have been planted with 25 acres now growing trees.

The difference between the Hantz properties and much of the area is stark. If you see shoulder high weeds or a wrecked house, it’s likely not one of their properties. It’s not a utopia, but it likely already improving quality of life in the area. Would you rather have your kid walk to school past an abandoned home or vacant lot where predators can hide, or past neatly planted rows of young trees?

Mike Score is the president of Hantz Farms and is literally a hands-on manager. When I visited the site recently, I found him with a weed wacker in his hands, cleaning up around the individual trees on one of their lots. Across the street, a crew was re-paving a sidewalk at Hantz expense. While driveways and other pieces of concrete on their lots have been removed, they’re leaving the sidewalks in place and fixing them where necessary. None of their properties are fenced in.

One goal of the project is to improve the quality of life for the people who still live in the neighborhood and to stabilize living conditions so there aren’t yet more burned out hulks. While some of the surviving homes are a little bit frayed around the edges, many of the remaining homes have the appearance of being very well kept.

While I was talking to Score, a woman living down the street called out to him, asking him about some brush on the perimeter of a Hantz lot adjacent to her home. Score clearly already had what appeared to be an affectionate relationship with the woman and he explained how the brush clearing was on the schedule. I asked her about the project and she couldn’t say enough nice things. “I wouldn’t be able to stay here if it wasn’t for them.”

John Hantz envisioned Hantz Farms as a business, saying that Detroit doesn’t need another non-profit organization of do-gooders with grandiose plans that get nothing done. If they’re not selling crops, though, how will they turn a profit?

During the controversies over the planning and startup of Hantz Farms, Hantz Financial discovered that a big chunk of their new business was driven by publicity from the project. Based on those results, they’re selling corporate sponsorships to companies, like Detroit-based Carhartt apparel, who gain credibility for environmental and social consciousness. Planting trees — or, more accurately, sponsoring the planting of trees — is a great way to get people involved in an enterprise. Just ask the Jewish National Fund.

Down the road, Hantz Woodlands has the option of becoming a commercial tree farm. Mike Score explained to me as long as their trees keep growing they’ll increase in value. The 10 year old trees that they planted in a few lots to show what the saplings that make up a majority of their plantings will look like a decade hence are worth a lot more than those saplings. As the trees grow and mature, they’ll have to be thinned out. The trees that will be removed can be replanted elsewhere on their property or they’ll have the option of selling them. As of now they buy their trees but in time they could start a tree nursery to grow their own saplings.

The project still has its critics. Hantz Woodlands does its plantings with volunteers as a way of getting people in the community involved in rebuilding Detroit. Detroit’s Metro Times — one of those weekly newspapers that subsidize left-wing political and cultural articles with revenue from things like escort ads — took exception to John Hantz, one of the city’s richest residents, asking for people to volunteer to help what he hopes will be a profit making business. None of the volunteers seem to object.

Class warriors, special interests and bureaucrats aside, it’s hard not to feel good about the project. We’ll keep you informed of developments.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Piston Slap: 6L80E…eeeeeek? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-6l80e-eeeeeek/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-6l80e-eeeeeek/#comments Tue, 04 Aug 2015 11:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1132041   Nathaniel writes: Sajeev, Long time listener, first-time caller. I’m responding to your plea for new Piston Slap questions. I purchased a gently-used 2008 GMC Yukon Denali AWD a couple of months ago. Other than its appetite for fuel, the only negative is that it has 141,000 miles. I believe the previous owner changed the […]

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gearshift

Leather is better. (photo courtesy: image.automotive.com)

Nathaniel writes:

Sajeev,

Long time listener, first-time caller. I’m responding to your plea for new Piston Slap questions. I purchased a gently-used 2008 GMC Yukon Denali AWD a couple of months ago. Other than its appetite for fuel, the only negative is that it has 141,000 miles. I believe the previous owner changed the transmission fluid at 100,000 miles (Carfax shows that the transfer case fluid was changed at this point, and I can’t imagine doing that and not doing the transmission). The fluid was relatively clean but I changed out several quarts via the dipstick tube using a fluid extractor after I purchased the vehicle, replacing them with the specified Dexron-VI. I believe the fluid level is correct but it’s difficult to read.

On a recent road trip, the 6-speed automatic (6L80E) transmission stumbled during the 2-3 shift while driving through the mountains and went into a failsafe mode. The check engine light came on. I pulled over, turned the ignition off and on again, and the truck operated normally. The CEL remained on for the next several ignition cycles. When I called OnStar to obtain the fault code, they could not retrieve it because the CEL was no longer on.

I was able to reproduce the problem by giving the truck wide open throttle. The 1-2 shift occurred normally. The 2-3 shift was delayed (the engine revved higher than the normal shift point of about 5,500 rpm), it eventually shifted into 3rd, and stayed there. The CEL lit up and the truck slowed down to about 40 mph, but it eventually allowed me to speed up, staying in 3rd the entire time. I pulled over, turned the ignition off and on again, and again it was back to normal. I called OnStar again, and they pulled codes P0700 (a generic code indicating a transmission problem) and P2714 (clutch pressure control solenoid stuck off). The CEL disappeared after a few ignition cycles.

A few TSBs, #PIP4304A and #PIP4184B, and 09-07-30-004A, appear to be on point. I’m not that familiar with how automatic transmissions work, but the TSBs appear to involve disassembly of the transmission and the possible replacement of valves, control modules, etc., which sounds fairly involved. I have not noticed a delay in the engagement of forward gears after putting it in drive, which I think is mentioned in one or more of the TSBs.

There appear to be no other mechanical problems with the truck. I see the options as follows:

  1. Do nothing for now, try to avoid full throttle upshifts, see whether the problem gets worse (how much danger is there in doing this?);
  2. Bring it to the selling (GM) dealer, beg for mercy on the cost of any repairs since they only sold me the car a couple of months ago (on the theory that any assistance they might provide is less and less likely as time goes by); or
  3. Take to an independent transmission shop. (Does anyone actually do repairs anymore or do they try to swap in a remanufactured transmission?)

Any advice?

Thanks,

Nathaniel

Sajeev answers:

Fantastic assessment, especially the two hyperlinks. Kinda sad, however: the 6L80E is quite an impressive gearbox most of the time, like the robust GM 4-speeds before it. However, if your vehicle is (one of?) the first GM trucks using this gearbox, perhaps teething problems are par for the course.

Since you did the work for me, I’ll be brief:

  1. Not a bad idea, because this problem will likely take a long time to get bad enough to warrant removal/rebuild.
  2. A better idea: talk to your salesperson and ask for a referral to the service manager. Granted its a 6-7 year old vehicle with well over 100,000 miles, but there could be some goodwill in your purchase. Maybe a steep discount, hopefully a free diagnosis of PIP4184B (as per your Corvetteforum.com thread) with their fancy pants Tech 2 diagnostic gizmo.
  3. Consider this after 1 and 2 run their course. Also consider something like a Jasper reman gearbox shipped to the mechanic of your choice; whatever works best in your part of the country.

I’d start with #2. If the dealership deems the fix within their tolerance for goodwill repairs, that’ll be great! If not, stick with #1 until the gearbox’s bad behavior is unbearable: save your repair/diagnosis for a bigger problem. Adding a new valve body to a gearbox that might have 140,000 hard, clutch-wearing miles of towing by the previous owner isn’t my idea of money well spent. You never know!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Alfa Romeo’s Future Crossover is Getting its Final Touches http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/alfa-romeos-future-crossover-getting-final-touches/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/alfa-romeos-future-crossover-getting-final-touches/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 22:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1132817 Alfa Romeo is finishing its first crossover and will bring the car to market in mid to late 2016 in Europe and the United States, Automotive News Europe is reporting. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne confirmed the model in his call last week about the automaker’s second-quarter earnings. The BMW X3 and Audi Q5-sized Alfa […]

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2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider

Alfa Romeo is finishing its first crossover and will bring the car to market in mid to late 2016 in Europe and the United States, Automotive News Europe is reporting.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne confirmed the model in his call last week about the automaker’s second-quarter earnings. The BMW X3 and Audi Q5-sized Alfa hasn’t been publicly named, but will be based off of Alfa Romeo’s coming Giulia.

The car would launch in Europe around September 2016 with a U.S. launch three months later, Marchionne said.

The midsize crossover would complement Alfa Romeo’s Giulia and would be the third car launched in the U.S. after the Giulia and 4C.

“Alfa’s plan is progressing as we told you it will go,” Marchionne said, according to Automotive News Europe.

It’s unclear what engine the crossover would get, or whether it would receive the hilariously boosted 510-horsepower, Maserati-developed V-6 from the super-performance variant of the Giulia.

The crossover will likely be assembled at Alfa Romeo’s Cassino plant, which also produces the Giulia and Giulietta. Despite a U.S. launch, it appears that FCA only has one North American-assembled car coming out next year, the redesigned Chrysler Town and Country.

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FCA Dealers Can’t Sell Used Cars Without Recall Repairs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/fca-dealers-cant-sell-used-cars-without-recall-repairs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/fca-dealers-cant-sell-used-cars-without-recall-repairs/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 21:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1132529 Fiat Chrysler Automobile dealers won’t be able to sell cars without recall repair work or they risk losing their incentive money under a new agreement with the federal government, Automotive News is reporting. The agreement was part of the sweeping package penalties imposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, including up to $105 million […]

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Fiat Chrysler Automobile dealers won’t be able to sell cars without recall repair work or they risk losing their incentive money under a new agreement with the federal government, Automotive News is reporting.

The agreement was part of the sweeping package penalties imposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, including up to $105 million in fines. According to the consent agreement by the federal bureau and FCA, the company already asks dealers to complete recall work, but the new mandate would reinforce that existing policy.

In the United States, it’s illegal for a dealer to sell a new car without recall repair work, but no such law exists for used cars. A recent proposal in Congress to force used car dealers to complete open recall repair work was met with opposition.

Congress may approve a measure requiring car rental companies to comply with open recalls before it sends its cars out on to the roads.

According to a used car industry spokesman, the difficulty in getting all used car dealers to comply with recall repair work is resources and the dealers’ abilities to close the work orders with NHTSA. Only dealerships affiliated with manufacturers can perform open recall work and close those cars out with the federal safety bureau.

Carmax, for instance, provides a detailed report of recalls for its cars and encourages new buyers to register with the manufacturer to be notified of recalls. A recent report suggested that there may be up to 36 million cars on U.S. roads that haven’t complied with recalls.

It’s unclear from the consent order if the recall repair work applies only to FCA used cars sold on FCA lots, or if it would require all cars sold at FCA dealers to comply with manufacturer recalls.

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NHTSA Investigating Harman Kardon for Hacking Vulnerabilities http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/nhtsa-investigating-harman-kardon-hacking-vulnerabilities/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/nhtsa-investigating-harman-kardon-hacking-vulnerabilities/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 20:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1132601 Fresh from the recent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles infotainment-hacking flap, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced last week that it would look further into supplier Harman Kardon for possible vulnerabilities in other cars, the Associated Press reports (via Autoblog). Harman Kardon produces radios for automakers such as BMW, Subaru, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, in addition to FCA. […]

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Harman Kardon Speaker

Fresh from the recent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles infotainment-hacking flap, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced last week that it would look further into supplier Harman Kardon for possible vulnerabilities in other cars, the Associated Press reports (via Autoblog).

Harman Kardon produces radios for automakers such as BMW, Subaru, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, in addition to FCA.

Last month, FCA recalled 1.4 million cars after a vulnerability in its system was detailed by Wired, which allowed hackers to control critical functions in a Jeep Cherokee, including throttle, brakes and steering.

The automaker said the recall would fix a loophole in the 8.4-inch Uconnect systems that permitted the intrusion by hackers.

Last week, Wired detailed another hack that could reportedly open doors on an OnStar-equipped car made by General Motors and start its engine. GM said it patched that vulnerability without recalling its cars.

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Arrested for DUI, Woman’s Probation Becomes Nightmare http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/arrested-dui-womans-probation-becomes-nightmare/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/arrested-dui-womans-probation-becomes-nightmare/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 19:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1132673 Over the weekend, the New York Times detailed the story of a black woman in Baltimore who, 18 months after being arrested for driving with a blood-alcohol level of .09, has endured more than a year of unusually stiff penalties and harsh treatment. The story highlights the tale of 40-year-old Donyelle Hall who had a clean […]

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Prison Jail

Over the weekend, the New York Times detailed the story of a black woman in Baltimore who, 18 months after being arrested for driving with a blood-alcohol level of .09, has endured more than a year of unusually stiff penalties and harsh treatment.

The story highlights the tale of 40-year-old Donyelle Hall who had a clean criminal record before her arrest on Christmas Day 2013 for drunken driving. After her arrest, the woman was forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars in attorney and court costs, spend more than a month in jail and lost her job. Monthly probation costs for the woman were $385 a month alone.

The story outlines some of the inconsistencies among DUI enforcement from state-to-state — and even judge-to-judge. According to research by WalletHub, DUI laws can vary dramatically between states from a mandatory 10-day jail sentence and 90-day license suspension in Arizona to no mandatory jail time and no license suspension in South Dakota. A 2010 West Virginia case found that officers could issue a DUI and suspend a person’s license even if authorities couldn’t specifically prove that the person was driving.

According to Hall, officers wrongly said she and her husband resisted the officer’s commands and that she closed her eyes during her field sobriety test. When she was taken to jail, the Hall failed to provide a sufficient breathalyzer sample three times because of the 5-foot-tall woman’s lung capacity before she failed the fourth test.

Her .09 observed blood-alcohol level was over the .07 threshold in Maryland, but the story notes that for a woman of her weight and size, the difference between .06 and .09 would have been one glass of wine in a four-hour period.

In addition to highlighting inequities and shortcomings in the American probation system, the story also addresses how discretionary sentencing can vary from judge to judge. Hall said she had to appear in court five times to explain why she was forced to move “around the corner” after her apartment was infested with mice. Initially the judge denied her request to move, and eventually Hall didn’t move anyway.

According to NHTSA, drivers with blood-alcohol levels between .08 and .10 are 11 times more likely to crash than drivers with no alcohol in their bodies.

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German Automakers Buy Mapmaker, Maybe for Robot Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/german-automakers-buy-mapmaker-maybe-robot-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/german-automakers-buy-mapmaker-maybe-robot-cars/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 18:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1132577 Audi, BMW and Daimler have joined forces to buy map-making company Here from phone-maker Nokia for an undisclosed amount, the automakers announced Monday. The purchase of the company, which provides cloud-based maps and location services to more than 200 countries, could help the automakers develop further technology for autonomous cars that use the crowd-sourced maps instead of unreliable […]

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Old Map

Audi, BMW and Daimler have joined forces to buy map-making company Here from phone-maker Nokia for an undisclosed amount, the automakers announced Monday.

The purchase of the company, which provides cloud-based maps and location services to more than 200 countries, could help the automakers develop further technology for autonomous cars that use the crowd-sourced maps instead of unreliable and outdated humans to steer.

In a statement announcing the purchase, the automakers said the company would be jointly held by all three automakers and would operate independently from the consortium. Pending approval, the sale would become final early next year.

The automakers hinted that the mapmaking company and the cars could work together by relaying traffic or road conditions from each car to a centralized server that could redistribute the information to other cars. So-called “swarm technology” would help other drivers avoid accidents or icy roads.

”HERE will be able to offer users a continuously improving product, bringing highly automated driving and location based services a step further. As the volume of anonymized data from the vehicles increases, services will become more convenient, more connected and further tailored to the users’ individual requirements,” the automakers said in the statement.

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For $58 You May Pass the IIHS Small-overlap Crash http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/58-may-pass-iihs-small-overlap-crash/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/58-may-pass-iihs-small-overlap-crash/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 17:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1132489 Metal bars welded to the Ford F-150 Super Crew in front and behind its front wheels that helped it pass the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s notoriously difficult small-overlap crash cost roughly $58, Automotive News is reporting. It was revealed last week that the low-cost part was left off of regular- and extended-cab models, prompting the […]

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2015 F-150 Crash Test

Metal bars welded to the Ford F-150 Super Crew in front and behind its front wheels that helped it pass the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s notoriously difficult small-overlap crash cost roughly $58, Automotive News is reporting.

It was revealed last week that the low-cost part was left off of regular- and extended-cab models, prompting the insurance organization to retest the F-150 models and revise their ratings much lower than the original test.

According to Automotive News, Ford stopped short of saying that it would include the low-cost parts on the regular- and extended-cab versions of the truck, but said it would install “countermeasures” to improve crash performance. The regular and extended cab comprise about 5 and 25 percent of overall F-150 sales respectively.

Ram has said it would include the bars, which engineers have dubbed “wheel blockers,” in its pickups this year going forward.

overlap-overheadThe effectiveness of the relatively inexpensive part underscores the auto industry’s evolution to the small-overlap crash, which has been incredibly difficult for automakers since it was introduced three years ago. In 2012, only 3 out of 11 midsize luxury or near-luxury cars received “good” or “acceptable” ratings on the crash. In 2015, many of those ratings had improved to “good,” but when optional crash avoidance systems were installed on the car. For instance, the front crash mitigation package on the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which scored a “good” rating when equipped with that option, costs $2,800.

Safety officials at the IIHS said they would begin testing the top two bestselling models of pickup trucks to avoid truckmakers testing only their most-popular models and applying the rating to the rest of its lineup without having the same equipment.

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This Is Why Nissan Isn’t Bringing The Micra To America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/nissan-isnt-bringing-micra-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/nissan-isnt-bringing-micra-america/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 14:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1131529 Nissan began selling the Micra in the northern part of North America at the end of April 2014. The Micra was properly available by summer, and over the last twelve months — through the end of June 2015 — 11,832 Micras were sold in Canada. Could the Micra make it in America? Can we do anything other […]

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TTAC Nissan Micra Versa sales chart

Nissan began selling the Micra in the northern part of North America at the end of April 2014. The Micra was properly available by summer, and over the last twelve months — through the end of June 2015 — 11,832 Micras were sold in Canada.

Could the Micra make it in America? Can we do anything other than report evidence which supports Nissan USA’s decision to leave the Micra to their neighbors in the north and south?

There are a number of factors which cause the two auto markets north of the Rio Grande to appear similar at first glance. In the U.S. and Canada, the Ford F-Series is the perennial best seller. Windsor, Ontario-built minivans are the dominant players on both sides of the Detroit River. SUVs and crossovers are consistently generating more and more sales in both countries as the car sector loses market share in both countries.

Meanwhile, there are other factors which distinguish the two markets. In Nissan’s case, there may be no factor more obvious than the Micra and its position as an important member of Nissan’s car lineup. The Micra is Canada’s third-best-selling Nissan, ahead of everything except the top-selling Rogue and second-ranked Sentra.

2015 Nissan Micra S (4 of 10)

Based on the last twelve months, the Micra’s impact on the overall Versa lineup is undeniable. Granted, over the first half of 2015, the duo is up 8 percent, year-over-year, but the 40 percent decline in sales of the Versa — the more expensive car — equals 3,222 fewer units for that nameplate.

The results visible in the above chart represent the carrying over of a few Canadian assumptions to the U.S. ledger. Presently, the Versa is America’s top-selling sub-compact by a wide margin. And even if Versa sales in the U.S. had fallen 40.4 percent in the first half of 2015, as they have in Canada, it still would be. But its share of the market, in a segment where sales of its rivals are slipping only slightly, would plummet.

And for what, 5,000 monthly Micra sales? (That figure approximates the Mitsubishi Mirage’s monthly average U.S. volume, multiplied by 2.25.) Yes, Nissan’s overall small car total would increase, but as in Canada, it wouldn’t increase by as large a margin as Nissan would like. Blame cannibalization.

2015 Nissan Micra

Moreover, to create that increase for the sake of pleasing dealers who want another entry-level product with a bring-in-the-buyers, bargain-basement price tag; for the sake of stirring up free media over, perhaps, an $8,888 MSRP; and for the sake of engaging a group of youth buyers who may stay with the brand, Nissan would need to absorb the cost of marketing a new product, go through the rigmarole of certifying a new product and beat the Mirage at its own game. OK, maybe that last part wouldn’t be that hard.

So, why would Nissan USA avoid bringing the Micra to market? Because even with a slight increase in total volume, it simply may not be worth their while.

We’re using simple means of projection, yet it must be so. Only if Nissan USA released Micra pricing and information regarding any adjustments they’d be making to Versa bodystyles and/or trim lines would it be possible to know precisely what the Micra’s impact on the Versa would be. Yet, if the U.S. market resembles the Canadian market in any way, if the Micra fared surprisingly well in the U.S. as it has in Canada, and if doing so meant eating into a large chunk of Versa sales, we expect that first half volume in 2015 for the pair would only have risen by 10 percent.

Remember, a large part of the Versa’s appeal is its value quotient. If the Micra steals the affordability limelight, the Versa inevitably loses a chunk of buyers. These projections take into account a Versa decline identical to the one we’ve seen this year in Canada with a Micra, which roundly outperforms its Mitsubishi equivalent. There are inevitably other factors that would arise to throw off these projections, but if Nissan USA is looking at the northerly numbers, you can see why they wouldn’t want to bother with the Micra.

Unlike Canada, where the Koreans continue their domination of the subcompact market, Nissan already controls the U.S. subcompact category. Why mess with a good thing?

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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Campbell Points Fingers At Kett, Manley, Marchionne in Defense http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/campbell-points-fingers-at-kett-manley-marchionne-in-defense/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/campbell-points-fingers-at-kett-manley-marchionne-in-defense/#comments Sun, 02 Aug 2015 16:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1131633 The court case against former FCA Australia executive Clyde Campbell is turning into a veritable who’s-who of decision makers at the company, reports The Age. Campbell, who is charged with misappropriation of $30 million AUD of company funds, claims he had verbal permission from recently departed FCA executive John Kett, current company hotshot Mike Manley, and […]

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1438207098198

The court case against former FCA Australia executive Clyde Campbell is turning into a veritable who’s-who of decision makers at the company, reports The Age.

Campbell, who is charged with misappropriation of $30 million AUD of company funds, claims he had verbal permission from recently departed FCA executive John Kett, current company hotshot Mike Manley, and head of FCA Sergio Marchionne.

Campbell’s statement of defense comprises of many claims about instructions received by him from executives further up the chain of command.

One item of contention has to do with dealerships owned by formerly disgraced Mercedes executive Ernst Lieb and business partner David Piva. Campbell authorized payments from FCA to the pair to buy dealerships in Australia in order to increase FCA sales in Australia to 20,000 units per year by any means necessary.

From The Age:

Mr Campbell claims he authorised that expenditure on the instructions of Mr Manley, who “implied by a direction to increase FCA’s dealerships to 100 by June 2012″ that such deals were needed.

According to Mr Campbell, at a management meeting in Shanghai in 2012, Mr Manley told him FCA needed to match the sales volume of Kia and Volkswagen in Australia.

Mr Campbell claims he replied that Kia and Volkswagen had more dealerships and FCA was trying to expand its dealership network. 

According to the court documents, Mr Manley replied with words to the effect: “I’m sick of this excuse. Get 100 dealerships by June next year or you’re out of a job. I don’t care how you do it, I don’t care how much it costs, just get it done. All your marketing is being wasted if you do not have a dealer network to deliver on it”.

Campbell also claims he received “implicit instructions” from Sergio Marchionne and former executive John Kett.

It should be mentioned many of the claims made by Campbell lack supporting evidence.

Other deals as part of the case include the purchase of a plane painted in Alfa Romeo livery (pictured) and a $400,000 Chris Craft yacht.

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Porsche Boxster, Cayman Four-Pot Turbo Details Released http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/porsche-boxster-cayman-four-pot-turbo-details-released/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/porsche-boxster-cayman-four-pot-turbo-details-released/#comments Sun, 02 Aug 2015 15:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1131617 According to CAR (via AutoGuide), the next round of Porsche Boxsters and Caymans will have turbocharged, four-cylinder powerplants ranging from 240 to 370 bhp. Porsche could also position a base model Cayman below the Boxster depending on region. The British outlet says the Cayman and Boxster will become four-cylinder-only affairs, except for top-end specials such […]

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2014-Porsche-Cayman-S. Photo courtesy Porsche.

According to CAR (via AutoGuide), the next round of Porsche Boxsters and Caymans will have turbocharged, four-cylinder powerplants ranging from 240 to 370 bhp. Porsche could also position a base model Cayman below the Boxster depending on region.

The British outlet says the Cayman and Boxster will become four-cylinder-only affairs, except for top-end specials such as the GT4.

The new engines will make do with a single fixed-vane turbocharger and measure in from 2 to 2.5 liters in displacement. The base model Boxster and Cayman will produce 240 bhp from its 2-liter turbo. S models will get a 60 bhp bump to 300 bhp from ita 2.5-liter four. GTS models crank up the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine another 70 bhp to 370 bhp.

The 370 bhp, 2.5-liter engine in the GTS will be the most powerful four cylinder money can buy, though not necessarily the most power dense (Mercedes will still wear that crown).

CAR says a base model Cayman could also be priced below the Boxster in order to “increase awareness and boost sales”.

We will likely see the next-generation Boxster and Cayman at 2015 IAA Frankfurt for release in early 2016.

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Spyker Emerges from Bankruptcy Charged with Enthusiasm http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/spyker-emerges-from-bankruptcy-charged-with-enthusiasm/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/spyker-emerges-from-bankruptcy-charged-with-enthusiasm/#comments Sat, 01 Aug 2015 18:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1131465 Spyker — the former Saab owner, F1 contender, and builder of aircraft-inspired supercars — has emerged from moratorium and plans to merge with Portland, Oregon electric aircraft manufacturer Volta Volare, said the company in a release on Thursday. As part of Spyker’s future plans, electrification seems to be the common theme, whether it be for […]

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Spyker C12 Zagato (courtesy zcars.com.au)

Spyker — the former Saab owner, F1 contender, and builder of aircraft-inspired supercars — has emerged from moratorium and plans to merge with Portland, Oregon electric aircraft manufacturer Volta Volare, said the company in a release on Thursday.

As part of Spyker’s future plans, electrification seems to be the common theme, whether it be for airplanes or automobiles. Now silver-tongued Skyper CEO, Victor Muller, only needs to find an electric train company to complete the set for a modern movie remake.

In a statement posted on the Spyker website, Muller stated:

After winning a long legal battle with just one creditor, we have now finally succeeded in exiting moratorium and we are back in business as a healthy, debt free enterprise. In the coming weeks we will finalize the agreements with investors which were held up for over two month by the protracted litigation. But true to our logo “nulla tenaci invia est via” (for the tenacious no road is impassable) we have persevered and we can now move on and pursue our ambitious goals including the merger with Portland, Oregon based electric aircraft manufacturer Volta Volare.

In summary, Spyker is back with a vengeance and we look forward to a bright future for the company I founded 15 years ago and which is now set to build sensationally elegant and classy (electric) motorcars and electric planes for decades to come.

Spyker’s new partner, Volta Volare, has one aircraft — the GT4 — that was announced in 2012 with test flights to start that spring. However, we have been unable to verify if any test flights ever took place.

While the news seems rosy at first, I doubt this is the last we will hear of Spyker’s woes.

 

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TrueCar Involved In “Deceptive Business Practices” Says Lawsuit http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/truecar-involved-in-deceptive-business-practices-says-lawsuit/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/truecar-involved-in-deceptive-business-practices-says-lawsuit/#comments Sat, 01 Aug 2015 17:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1131417 A lawsuit brought forward by a group of 100 auto dealerships are alleging car-buying service TrueCar of “deceptive business practices”, reports Automotive News. The lawsuit claims TrueCar’s advertising, which proclaims transparency in vehicle transaction prices for customers, does not disclose the $299 and $399 dollar fees that are paid by dealers for new and used car […]

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truecarprice

A lawsuit brought forward by a group of 100 auto dealerships are alleging car-buying service TrueCar of “deceptive business practices”, reports Automotive News.

The lawsuit claims TrueCar’s advertising, which proclaims transparency in vehicle transaction prices for customers, does not disclose the $299 and $399 dollar fees that are paid by dealers for new and used car sales brokered by TrueCar.

The meaning of “transparency” for TrueCar has been brought to question at TTAC before, as has TrueCar’s use of personal data collected on buyers by participating dealers who must provide said data to TrueCar as a condition of receiving high-quality leads. This data access was reported to be the main reason for a split between TrueCar and dealer group AutoNation.

The group of dealers who’ve launched this latest lawsuit say failure to disclose the fees violates California law as those fees are typically bundled into the final transaction price of the vehicle and passed on to the customer.

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Automotive News Late, Wrong On Cadillac XTS De-Livery News http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/automotive-news-late-wrong-on-cadillac-xts-news-de-livery/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/automotive-news-late-wrong-on-cadillac-xts-news-de-livery/#comments Sat, 01 Aug 2015 16:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1131385 Automotive News reported earlier this month the death of the Cadillac XTS — expected to happen when the new, range-topping CT6 arrived at dealers — has been stayed until 2018 or 2019 thanks to the livery market and sales in China, sourcing “three people familiar with General Motors’ plans.” Sorry, Mike Colias, but you are about 3-and-a-half […]

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2015 Cadillac XTS Vsport front

Automotive News reported earlier this month the death of the Cadillac XTS — expected to happen when the new, range-topping CT6 arrived at dealers — has been stayed until 2018 or 2019 thanks to the livery market and sales in China, sourcing “three people familiar with General Motors’ plans.”

Sorry, Mike Colias, but you are about 3-and-a-half months too late and have the narrative all wrong.

The CT6 is the first model in Cadillac’s lineup to sport the brand’s new nomenclature and will also trigger similar changes to other models; the next Cadillac to be renamed will be the Cadillac SRX when the XT5 is introduced later this year.

At the media preview of the CT6, a model widely rumored to be the death knell for the front-wheel drive XTS, I was able to ask Cadillac head honcho Johan de Nysschen exactly what the new CT6 meant for the similarly sized, large, front-wheel-drive sedan.

“Ultimately, a car like XTS when it reaches the end of its lifecycle, will not be replaced,” de Nysschen said of the XTS at the CT6 preview event.

Speaking of the livery market specifically, de Nysschen continued, “We will not have a car that will lend itself to these kind of modifications and we will probably withdrawal from those markets.”

This narrative makes the most sense as Cadillac looks to position itself as a more premium offering against the likes of BMW and Audi. Offering up a model from the Cadillac range for stretch limousine and funeral service would only contribute to prolonging the brand’s image of building vehicles for the Florida snowbird set.

While Automotive News is reporting Cadillac will “XTend” life of its XTS into 2018 or 2019, the fact of the matter is 2019 is the planned end-of-life for the large sedan anyway — and when it dies, Cadillac’s livery business will likely die along with it.

Automotive News does highlight one worry, however, and that’s where the Cadillac XTS will be built after 2016. Currently, the large sedan is built in Oshawa, Ontario, and we all know how secure that facility’s future is these days.

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Don’t Buy a 2015 Buick Regal http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/dont-buy-a-2015-buick-regal/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/dont-buy-a-2015-buick-regal/#comments Sat, 01 Aug 2015 15:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1131353 If you are looking for a new midsize car to add to your driveway and the Buick Regal is on your shortlist, you might want to wait a few months. According to a dealer communique sent out by Buick head Duncan Aldred, the Regal will receive a massive price cut for 2016. Even the top-trim […]

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2015BuickRegalGS-6

If you are looking for a new midsize car to add to your driveway and the Buick Regal is on your shortlist, you might want to wait a few months.

According to a dealer communique sent out by Buick head Duncan Aldred, the Regal will receive a massive price cut for 2016. Even the top-trim Regal GS will have its price slashed to make it more competitive as an older offering in a crowded segment.

The letter, sent yesterday, outlines the changes to the Regal as it struggles toward the end of its lifecycle.

The Regal is being simplified and attractively priced to appeal to a broader share of midsize intenders. The 2016 Regal will be available in four trims, with the popular 1SL, 1SP and 1SX all priced dramatically lower than the 2015 trims — with no change in content. Ultimately, we’re giving our customers greater value without sacrificing the features they want.

You’ll find more details in the attached 2016MY Buick Regal Product and Pricing Guide, but a few highlights of the new pricing structure include:

  • Starting price for 2016 Regal GS is $34,990; more than $3,300 lower than the 2015 model
  • 2016 Regal 1SP is priced below the 2015 Regal 1SN (which has been eliminated)
  • 2016 Regal 1SL is now priced below the Nissan Altima SL — yet offers more standard horsepower (+75 hp), more torque (+100 lb-ft) and standard 18-inch wheels

Regal trims will be realigned, eliminating the “Premium I” (1SN) trim and decreasing the “Premium II” (1SP) trim’s price below that of 1SN. GM states there will be no change in equipment. Base price for the Regal will remain unchanged at $27,065 before destination. The biggest cut is to the GS FWD model at $3,320, bringing its price down to $34,065.

In the midsize sedan segment, the Regal only bests the Volkswagen CC and defunct Dodge Avenger in terms of year-to-date sales, having dropped 23.7 percent. June saw sales drop 12.3 percent versus the same month last year.

So, don’t buy a 2015 Buick Regal — unless it’s the base model or a lightly used example traded in by its original owner after less than a year on the road.

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Who Wants To Forge Their Car’s History? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/wants-forge-cars-history/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/wants-forge-cars-history/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 21:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1130625 Hat tip to reader Alexander who sent us a link to a comprehensive 1991 BMW 325ic’s service history offered up on eBay because someone just probably wants them for the “novelty.” The items reportedly include purchase paperwork and dealer maintenance records for an Alpine White, automatic convertible built around April 1991. Paperwork from Hawaii, Washington and California is […]

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Phony service history

Hat tip to reader Alexander who sent us a link to a comprehensive 1991 BMW 325ic’s service history offered up on eBay because someone just probably wants them for the “novelty.”

The items reportedly include purchase paperwork and dealer maintenance records for an Alpine White, automatic convertible built around April 1991. Paperwork from Hawaii, Washington and California is included in the mildly suspicious auction lot listed with a Washington location.

“I want to frame those oil change receipts and hang them on my walls,” said nobody browsing this eBay listing.

We called attorneys general for New York, Washington and Colorado to see if misrepresenting your car’s service history was explicitly illegal and haven’t heard back. We also reached out to the Department of Justice and Department of Transportation to hear their takes.

It’s possible that phony service records wouldn’t be against the law in the same way as rolling back an odometer, but opinions seem to vary.

(Surely, if you pick up some junker BMW 325ic with a pristine service history and the whole thing blows up in your face, there’s gotta be a rule for that, right?)

Speaking with a few attorneys, we heard it could be easily proven fraudulent to pass these records off as legitimate paperwork for a car in which they don’t belong in a common law sense, but likely only if the service records were presented as belonging to that specific car.

Rick Wynkoop, a Colorado-based attorney, said selling the documents online isn’t against the law, but passing them off as belonging to a car that they don’t probably is. Wynkoop suggested something more sinister afoot — perhaps some VIN smudging — but phony service records was new to him.

“I can’t imagine there’s enough juice there to squeeze,” he said regarding a seller’s ability to use the paperwork in a private transaction.

Either way, it’s very definitely slimy.

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Whoa, Don’t Get Amped About Your Free Model X Just Yet http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/whoa-dont-get-amped-free-model-x-yet/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/whoa-dont-get-amped-free-model-x-yet/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 20:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1130529 Yesterday, we reported that in a sales call, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk announced a referral program that could, possibly, maybe net one free Model X for someone who referred 10 new buyers. The qualifications for getting the free car: Refer 10 buyers by Oct. 31 and be the first in your “region” to do so. […]

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Tesla Model S Center Stage

Yesterday, we reported that in a sales call, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk announced a referral program that could, possibly, maybe net one free Model X for someone who referred 10 new buyers.

The qualifications for getting the free car: Refer 10 buyers by Oct. 31 and be the first in your “region” to do so.

Turns out “region” doesn’t mean what we think it does.

According to a Tesla spokesman, “region” in this case means “country.” As in, apparently, one (1) Model X will be awarded to a single (1) person in the U.S. for referring 10 new Model S buyers.

In case you’re wondering, the U.S. is a larger market for Tesla than the next nine countries combined.

So if you live in Switzerland, it may be a good deal to get your friends to buy a Tesla and score your own for free. If you live in Dallas, however, you should probably line up your friends at the “dealership” today.

Lesson: Elon Musk is really, really good at marketing.

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Canada, Ontario Governments Kick in Millions for Toyota Plant Upgrades http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/canada-kicks-millions-toyota-plant-upgrades/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/canada-kicks-millions-toyota-plant-upgrades/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 19:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1130465 Federal and provincial governments in Canada have offered more than $100 million (USD $77 million) for improvements to the Cambridge and Woodstock plants, CTV news is reporting. The incentives are part of a $421 million (USD $323 million) investment that will be used for light metal stamping in Woodstock, which makes the RAV4, and plant improvements […]

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2013 Toyota RAV4

Federal and provincial governments in Canada have offered more than $100 million (USD $77 million) for improvements to the Cambridge and Woodstock plants, CTV news is reporting.

The incentives are part of a $421 million (USD $323 million) investment that will be used for light metal stamping in Woodstock, which makes the RAV4, and plant improvements in Cambridge, which produces the soon-to-be-gone Toyota Corolla and Lexus RX vehicles. Toyota has said it will move the Corolla to Mexico, but hasn’t announced what would replace it at the Cambridge plant.

The Canadian government tipped in $34 million in 2013 for improvements to the Cambridge plant to produce the RX 450h.

Toyota’s announcement may be welcome news for Ontario’s car-building complex. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne recently told media in Toronto that building cars in Canada is becoming more expensive, and former Oshawa mayor John Gray calling for a GM boycott if the automaker doesn’t replace the Camaro when production ends in November.

Both Volvo and Land Rover have opted to build plants in Southern U.S. states that could potentially offer more in incentives than Canada’s most populous province, which is heaping more public debt on itself through public infrastructure projects.

The announcement could also signal a better working relationship between the governments and automakers. FCA may be looking for incentives as it prepares to make a $1 billion decision on its Brampton plant, which produces the Dodge Challenger, Charger and Chrysler 300.

Marchionne asked federal and provincial governments in 2014 for incentives to retool the company’s Windsor plant that produces minivans. After a contentious public debate over the size of the financial package requested, FCA decided to go it alone. The future of the Brampton plant, which will also require funding to finance retooling for the next-generation rear-wheel drive sedans, is uncertain.

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Volvo Bringing New V40, S60L to United States http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volvo-bringing-new-v40-s60l-united-states/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volvo-bringing-new-v40-s60l-united-states/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 18:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1130217 Volvo will bring its smaller, compact-sized V40 wagon, its related crossover and long-wheelbase, Chinese-built S60 sedan to America, Autoblog is reporting. The newest generation of the Volkswagen Golf-sized V40 wagon is being built with the U.S. in mind, Volvo senior vice president Alan Visser told media in the Netherlands. The earliest it could reach the United […]

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Volvo V40 R-Design - model year 2016

Volvo will bring its smaller, compact-sized V40 wagon, its related crossover and long-wheelbase, Chinese-built S60 sedan to America, Autoblog is reporting.

The newest generation of the Volkswagen Golf-sized V40 wagon is being built with the U.S. in mind, Volvo senior vice president Alan Visser told media in the Netherlands. The earliest it could reach the United States would be 2017.

Visser also said the XC40, a compact crossover based on the V40 Cross Country, would make its way to the States shortly after the V40.

It’s unclear what engine would power the V40 in North America. Worldwide, the V40 is powered by a inline, four-cylinder diesel- or gasoline-powered engine. Visser told De Telegraph that the V40 would also be available as a hybrid.

The company also said that it would make available its long-wheelbase version of the S60. The Chinese-built S60L would go on sale later this year in North America and Russia, according to Reuters.

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Lexus Will Plant 2-liter Turbo Four Into RC Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/lexus-will-plant-turbo-four-rc-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/lexus-will-plant-turbo-four-rc-coupe/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 17:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1130145 Lexus will take the turbocharged four cylinder from the NX 200t and plant it in its RC coupe, the automaker announced today. The RC 200t, which will make 245 metric horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, has only been announced officially for sale in Europe — for now. It joins the RX 200t, NX 200t and IS […]

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Lexus RC 200t

Lexus will take the turbocharged four cylinder from the NX 200t and plant it in its RC coupe, the automaker announced today.

The RC 200t, which will make 245 metric horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, has only been announced officially for sale in Europe — for now. It joins the RX 200t, NX 200t and IS 200t in the Lexus lineup as the fourth model to sport the engine on the Old Continent.

Parent-company Toyota has quickly adopted the turbo four as its preferred replacement for its aging V-6 in other cars, including the Camry.

The turbocharged RC may arrive in the United States at some point, but Lexus is tight-lipped about that possibility.

In Europe, the turbocharged, direct-injected engine will only drive the rear wheels and will be exclusively paired to its 8-speed automatic transmission. According to the automaker, it’ll propel the coupe up to 62 mph in 7.5 seconds, while managing roughly 33 mpg in average fuel consumption.

The model will join the recently announced hybrid RC 300h, which isn’t offered in the States either.

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Piston Slap: The Fallacy of Aftermarket Performance? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-fallacy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-fallacy/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 16:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1125361   Evan writes: Hi Sajeev! How do people get your name wrong when it is in your email address? But that wasn’t why I was calling. My question: are aftermarket parts for brand spanking new cars sensible? For instance, I’m picking up an Audi SQ5 and there are these ‘x-brace’ things and mount inserts. Why would Audi […]

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034-505-2016-animation

(animation courtesy: store.034motorsport.com)

Evan writes:

Hi Sajeev!

How do people get your name wrong when it is in your email address? But that wasn’t why I was calling. My question: are aftermarket parts for brand spanking new cars sensible?

For instance, I’m picking up an Audi SQ5 and there are these ‘x-brace’ things and mount inserts. Why would Audi not have engineered it well enough in the first place? Money savings? They didn’t think whatever attribute x-braces add was ‘for’ the SQ5 demographic?

Or are companies selling mount inserts and eXtra bracing to people with $60k sport-crossoverUVs selling snake oil?

Thanks for the insight!

Sajeev answers:

You can’t make generalizations — except about the horrible people calling me Sanjeev even though my name’s been plastered all over TTAC since March 2006…but I digress.

Vehicles are designed to a certain expectation of performance, ride quality, cost constraints, and acceptance to a wide variety of consumer preferences. Aftermarket performance modifications can do better than factory stuff.

But some are worse than other aftermarket alternatives, especially against those of a creative and grassroots racer nature. Sadly, many (either by themselves or in a package) only make a difference to the owner’s perception of vehicle performance and some parts are worse than what came from the factory (i.e. oversized throttle bodies on a naturally-aspirated motor). Take it from the guy that loves tweaking RWD Fords: every scenario above is true.

It’s like walking through a metaphorical minefield: keen research, trusted advisers with years of hands-on experience, and hours of internet forum digging are mandatory to sort fact from fiction.

So, shut up and tell us, what’s the scoop on these SQ5 bits? Well, I’ve never driven said vehicle…

However, I rather like those billet aluminum bushing inserts, even though billet and anodized finishes are often overpriced flash. Yes, many forms of motorsport require such fancypants materials, but that doesn’t apply to the SQ5. Flash doesn’t sell me; tangible improvements in performance does. To wit, these babies likely improve performance out of the hole, especially with an aftermarket computer tune bumping up performance, reducing torque management and perking up throttle response.

Yet I wonder if there’s a universal fit, solid (rubber or invasive polyurethane) bushing you can buy from a catalog (or from another VAG product) — which might be like, waaay cheaper, son.

And since a new Audi is far from the flexi-flyer chassis of my beloved Fox Ford products, I question the value of any chassis improvement on a higher dollar luxury car, much less a billet aluminum one. Does it stiffen the chassis and improve feel enough to matter? Maybe it helps NVH control. Perhaps handling is more confident with other modifications. Odds are, though, it won’t make the SQ5 any quicker on a track.

Consider, if you will, improving the factory part: adding metal (perhaps triangular sheetmetal between the weak points?) welded it up by someone familiar with roll cages. Perhaps that aftermarket part is a good template. That’s more labor and it won’t be billet aluminum pretty…but, right or wrong, it’s the other side of this coin.

Don’t forget one other important fact: modifications are worth pennies on the dollar in the vehicle resale department. Many will lower the value as stock vehicles are preferred at trade-in time. The SQ5’s bits add curb appeal for buyers motivated to get on their hands and knees to see them, which amounts to precisely nobody in the used car market.

Don’t get me wrong, I love modifying cars with cool aftermarket bits, but it boils down to two words: buyer beware

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Crapwagon Outtake: 1987 Buick Regal Turbo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/crapwagon-outtake/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/crapwagon-outtake/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 15:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1128617 I never thought much of Buicks as a kid. When it came to daily drivers, dad was an Oldsmobile man. See a very young Chris below, detailing dad’s Cutty sedan. Buicks were old-man cars. My grandpa drove Buicks. Underfunded Indy 500 drivers drove and exploded Buicks. One day, I recall someone light up a set […]

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I never thought much of Buicks as a kid. When it came to daily drivers, dad was an Oldsmobile man. See a very young Chris below, detailing dad’s Cutty sedan. Buicks were old-man cars. My grandpa drove Buicks. Underfunded Indy 500 drivers drove and exploded Buicks.
One day, I recall someone light up a set of BFG Radials with a black Buick Grand National (remember, kids, street racing is bad), and my opinions changed. All of a sudden, Buick was bringing back the muscle car!

This time, rather than big blocks and massive carbs, Buick was generating performance with a page from the import playbook: turbocharging. That same G-body architecture found in dad’s Olds was home to some of the most advanced powertrain engineering to come out of Detroit. It’s even been said that GM underrated the power found in the later Turbo Buicks so as not to encroach on the mighty Corvette.

Grand Nationals and GNXs have been bringing big money lately. The ’87, for example, can fetch close to six figures according to Hagerty’s valuation guide. So I went in search of a boosted Buick that wasn’t so dear.

This ’87 Turbo Regal (ignore the dealer’s “Grand National” title) for $13,000 seems much more reasonably priced. The medium grey was a popular color and looks especially menacing with the blacked-out trim. Since it’s not nearly as sought after as the limited-edition cars, yet has nearly the same performance, one could modify the car for even better performance without destroying a precious collector car. The options the original buyer chose are a bit odd, though. Power mirrors but manual windows? The shift knob seems to have gone missing as well, but this looks quite clean otherwise.

I walked through my nearby Buick lot on Sunday morning, eyeballing the new Regal. The GS looks especially attractive, with polished 19-inch rims that certainly scream performance, but the classics keep calling me and I really don’t know how I’d choose between the two.

Your humble author as a toddler. This car probably has 22s now.

Your humble author as a toddler. This car probably has 22s now.

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“I Really Do Think This Is Going To Be The DUI Of The Future” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/really-think-going-dui-future/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/really-think-going-dui-future/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 13:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1129641 I am utterly convinced that our descendants will look on the aggressive prosecution of “distracted driving” the way hipster kids today look at the “Reefer Madness” scare of the Thirties. As police departments across the nation weigh the relative rates at which smartphone owners and career drunk drivers pay their court fines in a timely […]

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distracted

I am utterly convinced that our descendants will look on the aggressive prosecution of “distracted driving” the way hipster kids today look at the “Reefer Madness” scare of the Thirties. As police departments across the nation weigh the relative rates at which smartphone owners and career drunk drivers pay their court fines in a timely fashion (hint: it’s heavily weighed in favor of the former category), the shrill call to take additional action against people holding phones for any reason including navigation will reach a fever pitch not seen among American law enforcement since an idiot named Jack Anderson told them the Glock 17 could sneak through a metal detector. A claim, by the way, that Rachel Maddow repeated a few years ago, presumably because Maddow is either a deliberate liar or an unknowing dupe.

American drivers with more than a few days’ experience will note that the police tend to choose their speedtrap locations not by the risk that speeding in a given location poses to public safety but rather by ease of access and proximity to well-heeled drivers who are likely to quickly pay their tickets. In my hometown of Columbus, for example, speed enforcement on Route 315, which runs from the wealthy suburbs to the downtown offices, is constant and vigilant. Speed enforcement on Route 71, which runs parallel through the city but has exits leading to the ghetto and the truck stops instead of the ‘burbs, is nonexistent with the exception of the short stretch that connects the outerbelt to the upscale mall. As a consequence, Route 315 is an orderly low-speed commuter parade every day and Route 71 looks like a scene from Mad Max: Fury Road.

This cash-directed approach to safety has reached a new nadir, however, with a distracted-driving program that targets drivers who are incapable of doing any harm whatsoever.

In Marietta, Georgia, the police are posing as construction workers, which allows them to walk up to drivers who are stuck in stalled construction-zone traffic and issue them tickets for distracted driving. Never mind that no actual driving is taking place, unless you call sitting in a car with your foot on the brake for ten minutes at a time “driving”, in which case you’re going to just love “driving” in Chicago. The sheer ridiculousness of claiming that the public is endangered by cars that are not moving wouldn’t disgrace any council of the pigs in Animal Farm.

“Anytime you’re in the road, in the roadway, you’re in gear and in control of the roadway. Even reading it falls under the code section as well,” one officer told a driver.

The tickets are $150 and one point on your license. Police say texting and driving is a growing problem that needs to stop.

“I really think this is the DUI of the future. Impairment is still a problem, but this distracted driving is killing as many people as drunk drivers,” [Marietta officer Nick] Serkedakis said.

Let me correct that last sentence:

“I really think this is the DUI of the future. Impairment is still a problem, but this distracted driving is killing as many people as drunk drivers,” [Marietta officer Nick] Serkedakis LIED.

I hope you caught the word LIED in my correction. Because it’s a lie. Even the Huffington Post, which typically gives the mostly illusory problem of “distracted driving” a big slurpy blowjob every time the subject comes up, has to admit the actual facts.

In 2012, 3,328 Americans died in crashes involving a distracted driver, while 10,322 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes.

Let me edit that sentence for truth:

In 2012, 3,328 Americans died in crashes that could have possibly involved a theoretically distracted driver according to whatever cop took time to look in the car, while 10,322 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes that are always verified by blood testing for purposes of legal prosecution.

Let me offer a sentence of similar veracity for you:

According to Jack Baruth, a noted collector of “Sengir Vampire” Magic : The Gathering cards, there are probably at least five million women in the Midwest who can have an orgasm just by touching a Sengir Vampire card in the presence of a handsome, bearded man. On the other hand, there are sixteen ounces in a pound.

I’m not saying that it’s a great idea to go rocking down the road while sending selfies to your “boo” or playing Plants vs. Zombies or even reading Wikipedia, but to even think about equating texting-and-driving with drunk driving is to exaggerate the former for profit while endangering lives by de-prioritizing enforcement of the latter. Every cop who is playing fake construction worker looking for easy marks in stopped cars is one fewer cop out there catching actual criminals doing actual dangerous things. If, as Office Nick says, texting-while-driving enforcement is “The DUI Of The Future”, then take my advice: don’t let your children leave the house after the bars close, because the DUI Of The Present will kill them stone dead.

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Is It Real Baby Seal? Tucker #52 Gets First Public Showing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/real-baby-seal-tucker-52-gets-first-public-showing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/real-baby-seal-tucker-52-gets-first-public-showing/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 12:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1128177 Some automotive production figures are etched in cast iron, if you will. There are only six Bugatti Royales and likewise only a half dozen real Shelby Daytona Coupes. Read any history of the Tucker car written in the last three decades and you’ll find that there have been 51 Tuckers, of which 47 have survived in […]

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IMG_0453

Some automotive production figures are etched in cast iron, if you will. There are only six Bugatti Royales and likewise only a half dozen real Shelby Daytona Coupes. Read any history of the Tucker car written in the last three decades and you’ll find that there have been 51 Tuckers, of which 47 have survived in one form or another. Now not all of those 51 were assembled by Preston Tucker’s company. History says 37 production Tuckers were completed, more or less, before the company was shut down with 13  cars left unfinished on the assembly line.

Shortly after the Tucker firm closed, a dozen of those cars were completed, with a final car being assembled from remaining parts many years later. Add the “Tin Goose” prototype and you get 51. Now that a well-known pile of Tucker parts has finally been assembled into a completed car, it will be interesting to see if historians and Tucker enthusiasts change that number to 52.

I’m not talking about the controversial Tucker convertible. That will always have a question mark over its head because of lacunae in its provenance. In contrast, the parts that went into making Tucker #1052 are well documented and for decades Tucker fans have hoped that someone might put them together.

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In 1950, Ezra Schlipf bought many of the Tucker factory’s assets at its bankruptcy auction. He later sold, to a collector named Stan Gilliland, most of the components needed to assemble an entire car. Gilliland was co-founder of the Tucker Automobile Club of America. Chassis #1052 is well documented as being used by the Tucker factory to test a proposed automatic transmission that they hoped would replace the preselector transmission in the production cars. Tucker #1018 hit a tree broadside in 1948, totaling the car but leaving the entire front end undamaged. That front clip ended up with chassis #1052. The body parts also included new-old-stock bumpers, front doors, cowl, hood, quarter panels and a rear decklid. A Tucker engine and transmission, plus lots of small parts, completed the lot.

Gilliland, though, never got around to putting things together and sold the lot at auction to noted Detroit area collector Dick Kughn in 2002. Kughn subsequently sold the yet-to-be Tucker to Wayne Lensing, who wanted to make an exhibit depicting the Tucker factory’s assembly line.

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Tucker enthusiasts are an interesting lot and to say they are passionate and opinionated is an understatement. With so few cars available, they collect just about everything associated with the Tucker company, the Tucker car or with Preston Tucker. Two different car museums in Michigan alone have Tucker archives and artifacts.

Bumpers and body parts aren’t the only NOS Tucker parts that have surfaced. You can’t start production of a car without having at least as many engines on hand as cars you are planning on building. In fact, Tucker bought an entire company — Air Cooled Engines, the corporate heir to the Franklin air-cooled car company (there is a Franklin logo on Tucker engines) — just so he could reliably source engines in the still-production-controlled postwar era. The flat-six engines, originally used in helicopters, were reengineered to be water cooled, and Tucker ordered 98 powerplants. As a result, Tucker crate (or rather pallet) engines do surface from time to time.

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John Schuler of Aurora, Indiana, is a Tucker enthusiast and he had been trying to buy a Tucker for years.

“I have been fascinated with buying a Tucker since I was a kid,” he told Old Car Weekly. “I saw their ads in the newspaper and they were neat. I wish I had gotten involved in the Tucker earlier. I would have had a car years ago.”

He’d hear of private sales after they were transacted and he got outbid at auctions. Tuckers typically sell for about $1.1 million plus or minus 10 percent. Eventually, he did acquire a Tucker motor that had been swapped out for a replacement. He knew about the components that Lensing owned, but — like many vintage car owners with persistent “someday I’ll restore it, not for sale” dreams — for a long time Lensing wouldn’t part with the parts. Eventually, though, Schuler prevailed.

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In 2010, the project was begun with Tucker expert Martyn Donaldson cataloging what was in the lot. Since it had been used as a test mule, #1052 was a rolling chassis, complete with suspension and firewall, though lacking a drivetrain. In the lot there were many hard-to-find parts, including items like door handles, the speedometer, and windshield wiper motors.

While some small parts needed to be fabricated, the only major sheetmetal parts not included were the rear doors, the Tucker’s fastback roof, and the floor pan.

Once everything was inventoried, the partially assembled car and the rest of the parts were shipped to Classic and Exotic Service, a highly respected restoration shop run by Brian Joseph in Troy, Michigan. Borrowing the Gilmore Car Museum’s Tucker #1047 to use as a template, Joseph fabricated the remaining body parts. Schuler had Gilliland rebuild a Tucker Y-1 transmission and, where necessary, other previously used parts were restored and installed.

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Preston Tucker, as alluded to above, hoped to sell the Tucker car with a novel automatic transmission that used two variable-vane torque converters, one mounted at each end of a transverse engine’s crankshaft. Not only would that eliminate the need for a differential and individual gears, the vanes could swing past center, providing reverse.

Not able to develop that drivetrain in time, Tucker switched to the Y-1, based on the Cord front-wheel drive transmission.

Joseph’s shop finished the car in maroon to match the Tin Goose prototype.

“The reason for painting it that color is the singer Sofie Tucker, who was [known as] the last of the Red Hot Mommas,” Schuler said. “So my wife thought we should call our car ‘Sofie’ because she will be the last of the red hot Tuckers.”

You can see photos of the restoration while it was in progress at Old Car Weekly.

It’s possible that some Tucker fanatics may not accept Schuler’s #52 as authentic, but he’s being completely transparent about the car, whose history is now very well documented. Whether or not it’s embraced by the Tucker community, it’s likely to be the last Tucker built from original parts. Unless some unknown trove of NOS Tucker parts surfaces, there just aren’t enough surviving original components known to exist for such a project to be possible.

The completed Tucker #1052 had its first public showing at the 2015 Concours of America at St. John’s. From the way it turned heads as it drove onto the show field — even if a few Tucker diehards don’t think it’s real, and Schuler has received some criticism — I don’t think very many people will do anything other than admire number 52. At least part of the establishment Tucker enthusiast community seems to have embraced the project, perhaps because of Gilliland’s involvement or because of how well documented the provenance is, unlike with the Tucker convertible.

Jay Follis runs the Tucker Historical Collection and Library at the Gilmore Car Museum, which, as indicated above, owns Tucker #47. He’s also a former president of the Tucker Automobile Club of America and he’s all for the project.

“I think it’s pretty great that somebody is taking the effort 65 years after the fact.”

I suppose the ultimate measure of its acceptance will be how much it sells for when Schuler or his family decide to part with it. A Duesenberg enthusiast explained to me that there are three kinds of Duesenbergs. There are the numbers matching (or with documented, period replaced components) chassis and engine combinations that still carry their original bodywork. Those sell for millions of dollars and have investment potential. Next there are original chassis with period or modern rebodies. Some of those may have reproduction components like superchargers. Those are worth about a million, plus or minus, and might keep up with inflation. Then there are the “bitsa” Duesenbergs. They may have authentic Duesenberg engines and chassis, but they are modern assemblages. Those are worth in the mid-six figures. Cars to be driven, when you drive them, and people will notice; but they won’t win any ribbons at high end car shows, and they don’t have much upside as investments, though they are welcome at Duesenberg club events.

The Duesenberg brothers and E.L. Cord made hundreds of Model Js, but Preston Tucker and his associates only managed to make a bit more than three dozen cars before the factory shut down. Tucker enthusiasts necessarily have to be less choosy than Duesenberg fans. Few of the 47 — now 48 — surviving cars are completely original in terms of being all-Tucker, let alone factory original. Many have been modified to keep them driving. While some have quibbled over #51 built in the 1980s, that’s the number I usually see mentioned in today’s sources. Serial numbers 1038 thruogh 1050 were all finished after the fact from vehicles whose assembly were started at the Tucker factory. Since #1052’s chassis was indeed assembled and in fact driven at the factory, I don’t think that #1052 should be treated any differently than they are.

By the way, if you want to ride in Tucker style without having to worry about degrading a million dollar artifact, respected hot rod fabricator Rob Ida, whose family owned a Tucker dealership, has made four examples of what he calls the Tucker 48. It’s a dimensionally accurate Tucker body on a modern mid-engine chassis (proving the point I’ve often made about the original rear engined Tucker being a technological dead end). Unfortunately, like the original Tucker’s current status, you can’t order one new from the factory. Rob builds them as a labor of love when the spirit moves him and originally planned to limit them to 51 examples. I suppose now he’ll have to make that 52.

Photos by the author. The full gallery can be seen here.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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QOTD: What’s the Stupidest Automotive Feature? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-whats-the-stupidest-automotive-feature/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-whats-the-stupidest-automotive-feature/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 10:43:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1129913 I think it’s time to discuss something that we should’ve brought up a long time ago: the stupidest automotive feature. Oh, sure, we’ve discussed the worst automotive feature, and the best automotive feature, and the automotive feature you wish you had, like spiked tires that could cut through ice and offending road users. But what […]

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2004 Chrysler Crossfire Rear Retractable Spoiler

I think it’s time to discuss something that we should’ve brought up a long time ago: the stupidest automotive feature.

Oh, sure, we’ve discussed the worst automotive feature, and the best automotive feature, and the automotive feature you wish you had, like spiked tires that could cut through ice and offending road users.

But what about the stupidest feature?

I ask this because I think there are a lot of unnecessary automotive features out there in today’s world; items that have no basis or bearing for real life use, or customer desire, brought to us by automakers who are hellbent on coming out with a vehicle that offers the highest possible level of gadgets and equipment so they can use the phrase “BEST IN CLASS” over and over in their ads.

Interestingly, however, I don’t believe the stupidest feature is one of these newfangled ideas that seems to exist for the sheer sake of existing. I believe the stupidest feature is actually an oldie. And it is: a retractable spoiler.

For those of you who don’t know what a retractable spoiler is, allow me to explain. You’re cruising along in your Porsche, or your Bugatti Veyron, or your Volkswagen Corrado, and you hit a certain speed, which is usually something inexplicable like 47 miles per hour or 87 kilometers per hour. And then the spoiler shoots out for no apparent reason other than to alert drivers on the road that you’re in a sporty car.

I’ve never really understood the purpose of this retractable spoiler. Ninety-nine percent of the time, when you see it sticking out on a Porsche 911, the driver is just cruising down the interstate. That’s because the spoiler is designed to deploy based on speed, not driving style, apparently in some bizarre effort to keep your car on the road should you begin to experience the effects of a massive windstorm.

The funny thing is these spoilers are never adequately sized to actually do anything. They’re just there to be spoilers, so you can tell your friends you have a cool spoiler that extends out at speed as if you’re in a race car, when in reality the spoiler is the size of a license plate and it wouldn’t have any effect on any vehicle larger than a Hot Wheels.

So why does this spoiler exist? I really do think it’s for bragging rights. But that’s not the worst part.

2010 Porsche Panamera Turbo Adaptive Motion Rear Spoiler

Oh, no. The worst part is that the retractable spoiler in most modern Porsche models actually can be extended at the push of a button. I want you to consider this. If you decide you need a spoiler on the back of your car, Porsche actually lets you push a button in order to extend it and get you ready for all that serious track use.

Except, of course, this isn’t how anyone uses the spoiler. The only people who actually push that spoiler extender button are the same type of people who drive around wealthy shopping areas looking around to ensure people are looking at them. These are the worst people in the world. The spoiler button is not a spoiler button. It is an asshole button.

So what people do, when they push the asshole button, is they cruise around — not on the race track, or even a drag strip — but just around town, driving like normal, making sure everyone sees how cool their car is because they have a spoiler. Nothing makes a Panamera V6 look cooler, they think, than if you extend the rear spoiler.

But surely, the retractable spoiler is not the single stupidest feature in the world. There are a wide range of stupid features, and I’m sure I can count on you to inform everyone of your personal favorites. However, I must warn you: it’s going to be hard to top the asshole button.

The post QOTD: What’s the Stupidest Automotive Feature? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

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