The Truth About Cars » Heritage The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:00:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Heritage GM Seeks Aid From NASA, Issues New Ignition-Related Recall Fri, 11 Apr 2014 09:00:47 +0000 gm-headquarters-logo-opt

Autoblog reports 2.19 million of the same vehicles under the current General Motors ignition recall are under a new ignition-related recall, as well. The new recall warns of a problem where the key can be removed without the switch moved to the “off” position. According to GM, the automaker is aware of “several hundred” complaints and at least one roll-away accident resulting in injury, and is instructing affected consumers to place their vehicles in park or, in manuals, engage the emergency brake before removing the key from the ignition until repairs are made.

Regarding the original recall, The Detroit News reports has called upon NASA’s Engineering & Safety Center to review whether or not the 2.6 million affected Chevrolets, Pontiacs and Saturns are safe to drive with just the ignition key in position. The agency, which has performed similar reviews in the past, will look over the work performed by the automaker in the latter’s effort to make the affected vehicles safe to drive, as well as review its overall approach to safety concerns.

On the financial front, Automotive News says GM will take a $1.3 billion charge in Q1 2014 for the original recall, 40 percent greater than the $750 million charge originally estimated at the end of last month. The charge — which includes repair costs and loaners for affected owners — comes on the heels of a $400 million charge tied to currency challenges in Venezuela, the total sum of which threatens to knock out most if not all of the automaker’s Q1 2014 earnings set to be announced toward of end of this month.

Meanwhile, The Detroit News reports Michael Carpenter, the CEO of former GM financial arm Ally Financial, says his company will complete its exit from government ownership by Election Day of this year:

The U.S. Treasury is quite happy today. My own view is they will definitely be out before the election and we are close to having Treasury and U.S. government ownership in the rearview mirror.

By the end of trading Thursday, Ally’s IPO netted taxpayers $17.7 billion with a profit of $500 million on the $17.2 billion bailout of the consumer finance company, while the Treasury currently holds 17 percent of its remaining shares after selling 95 million for $25 per share at the opening bell; share price fell 4.4 percent to $23.50 at the closing bell.

In lawsuit news, Automotive News reports GM settled with the families of two Saturn Ion drivers who lost their lives in 2004 when their respective cars’ airbags failed to deploy. The two fatalities were identified by the publication as the earliest of 13 linked to the out-of-spec ignition switch at the root of the current recall crisis. In addition, while one case was settled out-of-court in September of 2007, the second case drew its settlement terms after the automaker filed for bankruptcy in June of 2009, placing the plaintiffs and their lawyer with other unsecured creditors.

The Detroit News reports Cadillac and Buick are at the top of their respective lists for dealer service satisfaction as determined by the J.D. Power & Associates U.S. Customer Service Index Study. Cadillac’s dominance over the luxury brand category comes as former No. 1 Lexus — who held the top spot for five consecutive years — falls to third behind Audi, while Buick leads Volkswagen, GMC, Mini and Chevrolet in the mass-market brand category.

Finally, Autoblog reports the last of eight Corvettes swallowed by the sinkhole that formed inside the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky. back in February has been recovered. The 2001 Corvette Mallett Hammer Z06 will need extensive work performed to bring it back to its original state, but not before it joins its brethren in a new exhibit entitled “Great 8″ beginning next week. The exhibit will last until the museum’s 20th anniversary in late August, at which point GM will begin restoration work on the eight Corvettes.

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2016 Camaro Receives New Architecture, Maintains Retro Looks Wed, 12 Mar 2014 18:16:08 +0000 2014 Chevrolet Camaro

Due in 2015 as a 2016 model, the next-generation Chevrolet Camaro will be based upon the same architecture underpinning the Cadillac CTS and ATS while maintaining its overall retro looks.

Edmunds reports the pony car’s styling will only undergo an evolutionary change in a manner similar to the 2015 Ford Mustang, according to a source familiar with the matter, with the revolutionary change occurring under the skin via the car’s new Alpha platform.

Though Chevrolet remains mum on the upcoming car, brand spokesman Mike Albano said the next Camaro “will have expressive design and will evoke the passion the previous-generation Camaros have done.”

The new Camaro will move from Oshawa, Ontario to Lansing, Mich., where the CTS and ATS are assembled, and will make its global debut during the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.

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Manley: Renegade Will Appeal To U.S. Customers Despite Italian Roots Fri, 07 Mar 2014 20:30:39 +0000 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk

According to Jeep boss Mike Manley, the Italian-built Renegade will appeal to the off-road brand’s United States customer base despite its Italian roots, especially in Trailhawk form.

Automotive News Europe reports the main concern regarding the Renegade is its off-road capability, which Manley believes will be resolved once the trail-rated Trailhawk arrives in showrooms in 2015 along with the rest of the Renegade family. He also noted the design language expressed by the entry-level Jeep, as well as its footprint, echo that of the CJ family:

The Renegade’s footprint is similar to one of the CJs. It’s much more Wrangler. We’re very pleased, and I think it will work well in the United States.

Though Manley remained silent on the subject of sales figures for the Renegade and platform sibling Fiat 500X, supplier sources expect a total of 280,000 units annually between the two, with Jeep moving 150,000 units and Fiat accounting for 130,000. Price of admission will be announced by Jeep in Q4 2014 for the U.S., Q2 2014 for the European market.

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Fiat, Abarth Likely To Receive Mazda-Based Roadster Over Alfa Tue, 04 Mar 2014 19:19:50 +0000 2011_Mazda_MX-5_PRHT_--_04-28-2011

Long rumored to wear the Alfa Romeo badge, the next-generation Mazda MX-5 may instead don a Fiat or Abarth necklace in 2015 if Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne has the last word.

Automotive News reports sources close to the project stated product planners from Mazda and Fiat met recently to discuss a roadster based upon the MX-5. Fiat’s planners are looking for a way to maintain the supply partnership deal with the Japanese automaker, lest the break-up leave Fiat in the red through 2016, when they hope to return to the black in their native Europe.

As for why, Marchionne has proclaimed that no Alfa will be made outside of Italy so long as he is CEO, a statement reinforced as recently as the 2014 Detroit Auto Show; Marchionne plans to head FCA until 2017 at the earliest.

The so-called heir to the throne abdicated by the Fiat Duetto Spider made famous by the film “The Graduate,” the Italo-Japanese roadster may find a home with Fiat or Abarth, too underpowered be paired with Ferrari or Maserati, while Lancia retreats into its home market as a one-model brand by the end of 2014.

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PSA-Donfeng Deal Injects New Capital, Extended Life Into Peugeot Wed, 19 Feb 2014 06:23:50 +0000 2011 Peugeot China 508 With Couple

The 3 billion euro ($4.1 billion USD) three-way deal between PSA Peugeot Citroen, Dongfeng and the French government, signed this week, is set to inject new capital and a much needed life extension for Peugeot, though at the expense of the Peugeot family ceding control after two centuries.

Reuters reports Dongfeng and the French government will each pay 800 million euros ($1.10 billion) for a 14 percent stake in the new alliance while existing shareholders will receive warrants entitling them to purchase new stock at 7.50 euro, ultimately adding 1 billion euros to the memorandum of understanding signed by the three parties. In return, the Peugeot family’s 25.4 percent stake and 38 percent of voting rights in their namesake company will be brought to parity with their new partners, ceding control after over 200 years of business while surviving the end of guarantees totaling 7 billion euros next year.

Aside from the new infusion of capital, the MOU calls for Peugeot and Dongfeng to sell 1.5 million units annually beginning in 2020, jointly establish an R&D center in Dongfeng’s home market, and consider a new sales wing focused specifically upon Southeast Asia. The third point in the MOU would allow Peugeot to fare better than it does currently, having only sold 6,500 units last year in its largest regional market, Malaysia.

As for Peugeot’s home market and the European market as a whole, analysts warn the MOU doesn’t address how Peugeot will address the ongoing problems the automaker has undergone over the past several years. Though some suggested freezing investments and selling more plants to save itself, French industry minister Arnaud Montebourg stated no further closures were “on the agenda.”

The deal will be formally signed in late March around the time of China’s president Xi Jinping visit to Paris.

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Datsun Go Production Launched In India Thu, 06 Feb 2014 15:35:54 +0000 Datsun redi-GO Concept

Just in time for the 2014 Delhi Motor Show — where the above Datsun Redi-Go concept made its debut this weekRenault-Nissan launches production of the revived brand’s Go subcompact at their plant in Chennai, India.

Datsun returns from a three-decade absence on the global stage with a market debut in the Indian market featuring the five-door, four-passenger vehicle, set to go on sale in late February 2014. The Go will be sold at Nissan dealerships at first until a separate Datsun network is established. The price of admission will be less than $9,300.

Two more Datsun models are in the offing in the next two years, while the brand will soon expand to Indonesia, South Africa and Russia by the end of this year. Datsun is expected to move 300,000 units annually by 2016.

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MINI Seeks Partner For Smaller MINI Wed, 04 Dec 2013 15:47:48 +0000 front_licht_ 005

Though MINI’s lineup hasn’t (literally) lived up to its name since its reboot by parent BMW, product boss Pat McKenna would like to see the Rocketman — a MINI that truly is mini — appear in showrooms all over the world.

For that scenario to play out, though, the Rocketman needs a flight partner.

The main issue is one of platform; while the newest MINI hardtop rides on the same platform that will make its way into BMW’s smallest offerings, it’s impossible to scale it down to the size of the Rocketman, and BMW doesn’t want to invest the money in an all-new front-drive architecture of that size, especially if its just for one model. Therefore, BMW is looking for a Toyota-Subaru arrangement where two companies would split the development costs.

Alas, McKenna still hasn’t found what he’s looking for in a suitable partner chassis, due to MINI’s focus on driving performance. That said, he does see potential in the Rocketman in markets near and (especially) far, and would love to sell the fun-size coupe in showrooms all over the world should the right partnership were to be forged.

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Lincoln to Consider “Legacy” Names Due to Chinese Influence Fri, 29 Nov 2013 16:04:37 +0000 2014 Lincoln MKS

Remember when Lincoln had cars with names such as Mark, Continental, Zephyr, Town Car and Versailles? Alas, unless you want to own a body-on-frame SUV from the newly renamed Lincoln Motor Company, your choices begin with MK, and end with a letter that somehow corresponds to the model in question.

Should Ford’s VP of Global Marketing Jim Farley have his way, however — and you happen to also be a resident of China — the next Lincoln to be sold may have a real name upon its backside once more.

Why? The Blue Oval plans to reintroduce Lincoln to the Chinese market, who still remembers when many a government official and president turned up in a Continental; this may also explain in part why the lead car in the funeral for North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il was a Lincoln, if not how it got there in the first place.

Farley believes the concept of non-alphanumeric nomenclatures is worth revisiting, though no current model will receive a proper name for the foreseeable future. Until then, Lincoln’s customer base will continue to need to remember which MK is the right MK for them, unless they want a Navigator, of course.

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Los Angeles 2013: MINI Unveils 2014 Cooper, Cooper S Thu, 21 Nov 2013 05:12:56 +0000 2014 MINI Cooper S 01

MINI’s new Cooper and Cooper S aren’t so mini anymore — which is wonderful for the backseat occupants in your life, for starters — but the BMW brand had done its best to maintain the spirit. Under the bonnets are either a three-pot pushing 134 horses out the front gate with 162 lb-ft of torque or, for the S, an extra cylinder helping to produce 189 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, with either engine paired to a six-speed manual or automatic.

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The Ghosts Of The Studebaker Proving Grounds Mon, 18 Nov 2013 19:17:31 +0000 DCFC0069.JPG

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the November 22, 1963 assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Shortly thereafter, the city of South Bend, Indiana suffered another tragedy: the announcement of the closing of the American factories of the 111-year old Studebaker Automobile Company on December 9, 1963. Over 7,000 local workers engaged in building the company’s Avanti and Lark models would lose their jobs – it was not the most joyous of holiday seasons in South Bend.

We will leave the story of Studebaker’s demise to other sources, like this fine article over at Ate Up With Motor. I traveled to Indiana recently to cover the Studebaker National Museum but discovered that fellow South Bend native Jim Grey had just written an excellent series about the collection for our friends at Curbside Classic. Undeterred, I decided to follow the story of one fascinating car on display and discovered some nutty tales from the company’s old test track, the Studebaker Proving Grounds.

The World’s Largest Natural Advertising Sign?

Stude PG 1963 courtesy

The facility was built in 1926 at a cost of over one million dollars and is located on 840 acres of oak and maple trees on the old Lincoln Highway west of town. Studebaker claimed it was the first ever closed automobile testing grounds. The layout features an 3-mile oval and the usual test track assortment of twisty roads, bumpy roads, hill climbs and skidpads. The complex is now owned by automotive supplier Bosch and is still in use today.

The grounds are famous for a half-mile long grove of 8000 pine trees planted in 1938 that when viewed from the air spell out the word, “STUDEBAKER.” The National Registry of Historic Places has recognized the woods as one of the world’s largest “living advertising signs.” Damaged by an ice storm in 2004, plans are underway to restore the grove to its former glory. A glance at Google Maps reveals that the word is still easily readable today.

The World’s Largest Car?

Big Studebaker courtesy Big 1931 Studebaker Courtesy

In 1931, the company constructed a huge wooden replica of a Studebaker President Four Seasons Roadster as a prop for a short film entitled Wild Flowers, which may be viewed here. The fake car was over 40 feet long, stood 14 feet high, weighed over 5 1/2 tons and had a body constructed of white pine. The corporation parked the behemoth outside the gates of the proving grounds where it became quite a tourist attraction.

In 1936, a combination of damage to the car caused by harsh Michiana winters and the fact that its styling was outdated compared to newer Studes led the corporation to decide to burn the curiosity piece to the ground.

The Studebaker Graveyard

For years, rumors circulated about a collection of engineering and styling prototype cars and trucks dumped deep in the woods of the proving grounds. In 1969, members of the local Studebaker owner’s club were not only able to confirm the vehicles’ existence but amazingly were also granted permission to be the first outsiders to view the cars. After hacking their way through acres of brush and dodging rattlesnakes the group came to a clearing holding 45 rusting shells built from 1939 to 1955. With nary an engine or drivetrain among them, the deteriorating survivors included cars, trucks and military vehicles.

At least two cars have been known to have been removed from the forest. One was a Raymond Loewy-designed 1947 Champion Deluxe Station Wagon featuring a wood body. The wagon was rescued from the woods in 1980 and donated to the Studebaker National Museum, who performed a wonderful restoration. I thought it was the coolest car in their collection – the one and only factory-built Studebaker “Woody.”

Studebaker Museum 2013 029

Another escapee is a Hawk with a hole in its top big enough for a panorama-like sunroof. It is currently owned by a Studebaker enthusiast but little appears to have been done to the vehicle over the years other than the addition of wheels and tires.

Stude PGrounds Survivor Courtesy

For a recent look at the boneyard, check out this video from 2009.

During this week’s bell-to-bell Kennedy coverage by the media, remember the Avanti!

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Skyline Sedan to Wear Infiniti Badge, Not Much Else Wed, 13 Nov 2013 14:22:38 +0000 Infiniti Q50 - Skyline

While Nissan plans to resurrect Datsun to battle Toyota’s scions in North America, the automaker is bringing Infiniti back home to Japan by delicately mounting its badge just so upon the grill of what will be the Skyline sedan. Just the badge, though.

Not only will the new Skyline — based off the Q50 — not be dubbed an Infiniti, it also won’t be dubbed a Nissan, instead going by the full name of Skyline, by Nissan Motor Co. The new identity is an attempt to tie the new Skyline back into the Japanese imperial family, whose Emperor Akihito lent his then-title to Prince Motor Co. in 1952; the first Skyline debuted three years later.

With this strategy, Nissan is entering into a (very) soft launch of the Infiniti brand in its native Japan by doing more to separate the two lines; as a further example, Infiniti’s headquarters were recently relocated to Hong Kong, with their C-suite focused solely upon the luxury brand.

Expectations for the Skyline include 200 sedans sold to local customers per month, increasing to 500 sales/month a year after its launch. Nissan will also price the Skyline accordingly to match their German competitors in BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

Should the experiment prove fruitful, Infiniti could make its debut in Japan sooner than later to aid in the capture of 10 percent of the global premium car market by 2020 as part of CEO Carlos Ghosn’s Power 88 plan.

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Toyota’s Retro FJ Cruiser to Become History in 2014 Thu, 07 Nov 2013 15:00:45 +0000 2014_Toyota_FJ_Ult_002

With every mountain climbed, every river crossed, and every supermarket parking lot conquered since its showroom debut in 2006, the Toyota FJ Cruiser prepares to retire to the countryside in 2014.

The retromodern SUV — based upon the bones of the venerable Land Cruiser and the looks of the FJ40 — took one final bow at the 2013 SEMA Show with the introduction of the 2014 Trail Teams Ultimate Edition. The edition will comprise of 2,500 unites painted in a hue called Heritage Blue, offer a TRD off-road suspension ready to take on the Baja 500 paired with knobby BF Goodrich tires and a TRD heavy-duty skid plate, a roof rack to hold all of your precious cargo, and an assortment of high-tech systems to keep you from landing upon your roof on the trail.

The Trail Teams Ultimate Edition will enter showrooms in February of 2014 (final year FJs are in showrooms now), with production of the FJ drawing to a close before the beginning of the 2015 model year with 200,000 examples sold in the eight model years it has been with the world.

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GM Seeks “Contemporary Wagon” For Americans Thu, 07 Nov 2013 14:30:43 +0000 Chevy Cruze Wagon

Unless you pay a visit to Mr. Lang’s lot on the right day or really love Volkswagen, the only wagons available for Americans today are mostly Teutonic, and all come with a high price tag. According to GM North American President Mark Reuss, that’s a problem, and one he’d like to fix pronto.

Aside from filling holes in markets GM doesn’t have anything for as of yet — including compact vans like the Ford Transit Connect, or a Panamera-fighter for the Buick lineup — Reuss wants to give consumers “a contemporary wagon for mainstream America” that is more affordable than anything on the lots of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, or even Cadillac. He also promises, for what it’s worth, that the wagon won’t have faux-wood paneling as an option. Sorry, hipsters.

One easy candidate would be to bring over the Cruze Wagon from Europe; Reuss already has eyes on a five-door hatchback version of the compact when the second generation rolls off the ramp, but why stop there? Sometimes not even a hatch is enough for some tasks, and since there are no small pickups or utes around anymore (in the United States, anyway), a business case could be made in federalizing the Cruze Wagon for sale on our shores.

Of course, if a Cruze meets the criteria for “a contemporary wagon for mainstream America,” then what does that say about the Teutonic tourers or the art and science behind Cadillac’s CTS? Are they too Lady Gaga for the masses?

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One German Automaker to Become Lord of the ‘Ring, But Who? Tue, 05 Nov 2013 14:14:28 +0000 Nurburgring_lap

Nissan. Cadillac. Chevrolet. All brag about being the Lord of the ‘Ring, upsetting the German automakers to no end. Yet, one of them may still have the last laugh through the act of saving the Nürburgring from certain doom.

Back in 2012, the famed testing ground-cum-circuit entered into bankruptcy proceedings after the previous owners blew $500 million on a roller coaster to nowhere and a dead mall, then failed to turn any sort of profit to keep the track itself from going belly-up. Since then, the German government has entertained offers from various bidders with at least $161 million — the asking price for complete ownership of the historic landmark — to spare.

The latest word on the street is that either Volkswagen, Daimler or BMW may be the one to claim the ‘Ring as their precious jewel; Volkswagen’s Porsche already owns the Nardo testing facility in Italy. Another contender is ADAC, who has a long history with the track going back to 1927, when the track first opened.

Whomever does end up owning the circuit, they will have to promise to keep the track open to the public and (if purchased by one of the aforementioned automakers) competing automakers, and to maintain the infrastructure throughout the 13 miles that make up the Nürburgring.

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The Beat Resurrected: Meet the Honda S660 Thu, 24 Oct 2013 12:00:41 +0000 Honda S660 01

Honda’s rear-driven products built for two tend to be motorcycles, scooters and ATVs for the most part, but every now and again the company will unveil a roadster whose name begins with an S, and ends with the number of cubic centimeters the engine provides.

Such a car is set to return soon to the showroom floor, and will make its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show in November: The Honda S660.

The word on the street is the S660 will be powered by a 660 cc turbocharged engine placed just behind the driver and passenger, with all of its 67 ponies going to the rear wheels. Unlike some of Honda’s current and future offerings that are or will be powered by a combination of internal combustion and electric motivation, the new roadster is strictly gasoline-only.

The featherweight roadster, has its roots in the company’s EV-STER electric-only concept from the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show with regard to styling, penned by designer Ryo Sugiura. That said, don’t try to tell him his roadster is the second coming of the late Soichiro Honda’s last gift to the world, the Beat:

Some people might think this will be the remodeled version of the Beat. But it is not. This is totally brand new.

The S660 is one part of a potential three-pronged attack by Honda in the sports car segment. With it and the NSX forming the outer forks, the automaker plans to forge the center fork through the introduction a mid-engined Toyabaru hunter with a price point to match the GT86/BRZ/FRS when it makes its debut. In the meantime, the U.S. domestic market may not need to wait 25 years for the S660 to come over; Honda plans to sell the roadster in export markets with a 1000cc engine and minor changes with regards to safety regulations. S1000, anyone?

The S660 will make its production debut in Japan for the 2015 model year, in time for the automaker’s return to Formula One.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Petersen Museum official statement below:

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

Long Term Board Members:

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

Expanding our Mission:

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

Culling our Collection:

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

Not a French Car or Motorcycle Museum:

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

Careful Selection:

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

Transforming our Museum:

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


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BMW Re-Releases 73 Year Old Gearbox Wed, 17 Apr 2013 15:27:42 +0000

As the owner of a geriatric, but otherwise well maintained car, you know that getting parts can be a bitch. Depending on company policy, ex-factory supply of parts can cease after 12, or, if you are the lucky customer of a more dedicated maker, 15 years after the end of regular production.  BMW now goes against that trend and offers parts for a car that went out of style 73 years ago.

Manufactured between 1936 and 1940, the BMW 328 ranked as a dream sports car in its days and remained a dream for most. With a total run of just 464 units, it was a rarity even during its production years. A substantial number is still around today. Most suffered from the unavailability of the original Hurth gearbox, which led to the use of synchro gearboxes from other manufacturers and the committing of a cardinal sin amongst collectors: A departure from the true original.

73 years after production of the 328 stopped,  BMW Classic and supplier ZF Friedrichshafen AG laid up a small production run of 55 gearboxes. According to BMW Classic spokesman Stefan Behr, the units are not remanufactured, but new: “What’s special – apart from the technical complexity – is the fact that the parts are approved by FIVA and FIA. Cars with the unit may start in races sanctioned by these bodies,” Behr said.

Through optimized materials and a reinforced bearing for the second gear, the “new-old” gearbox is even better than the original, but it complies faithfully with the factory status in the later production period of the BMW 328. The first prototypes of the new-old gearbox already demonstrated their reliability in the 2012 Mille Miglia, the world’s best-known classic car race.

The gearbox joins a growing catalog of some 40,000 parts maintained by BMW Classic as replacements for the many BMW collector’s items out there. Other makers pay homage to heritage in glossy brochures and glitzy museums, BMW actually keeps history alive.

BMW does not only have an open ear for the needs of owners of their historic cars, it also is receptive to questions of TTAC’s commentariat. Asked a few times what the gearbox would cost, and countering the rumor spread by Cjmadura that its $50,000 , Herr Behr revealed that the price of the gearbox is “19,748.33 EUR, in Germany, including VAT.”  That would translate to $25,755.34, or only half of what Cjmadura figured.

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Dealing With Loss: My Father’s Oldsmobile Tue, 26 Mar 2013 18:19:03 +0000

My wife with the Oldsmobile at Storm Lake, WA

Nobody likes to think about the passing of a parent. When it happens it leaves you with a lot of different feelings, sadness, emptiness, loneliness and even, if your parent has been effected by a long illness or a prolonged decline, an unexpected sense of relief and completion. The grieving process is different for everyone, the legal process isn’t. Within a few days of your parent’s passing, the division of assets, property and cherished mementos begins to grind relentlessly forward. If your family gets along well, who gets what is generally handled gracefully and your relationships are actually strengthened by the process. So it was with my family and, since I was the only “car guy” among my brothers and sisters, it was a foregone conclusion that I would get my father’s Oldsmobile.

Despite George Orwell’s dire prediction, 1984 was a pretty good year. Sure the economy was tough, but America felt like it was on the rebound and the music was generally good. It was the year I graduated from high school and it was also the year my father purchased a brand new Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. It was a lovely little car in a stately gray color with good-looking Oldsmobile Rallye wheels shod with white wall tires. My father was a working class guy, a telephone man, and he understood what made a car reliable over the long haul. More stuff meant more opportunities for a car to break, so he passed over the optional V8 and chose a car with the Buick V6. He also skipped the landau top, leather seats, power windows and all the other upscale options. Still, the car never felt like it was missing anything, it was simply beautiful.

Over the next decade the Oldsmobile saw a lot of light duty. It made a few cross-country trips but spent most of its time under a cover in the garage waiting for Sunday morning trips to church. By the time cancer finally overtook my father in the early 90s, the little Olds had just 60K miles. My mom, who had never been a driver, let the car sit for months until she finally worked up the courage to take a driving course. Once she got her license, the Olds went back on the road, but even so my mom stayed close to home and over the next few years the car continued to see limited use.

Upon my return from Japan in 2001, I purchased a well-worn 200SX Turbo. Later, when I got a job on the other side of the country, my mother stepped up and offered me the Oldsmobile. I was thrilled to get it. The car still turned a lot of heads and it drove out well too. It was the perfect car to take across country and in March of 2002 I took it to Washington DC, but when I was sent overseas in July of that year I faced a hard choice. I really didn’t make sense to hang on to the car, but at the same time it was a tangible link to my father. It just seemed wrong to sell, so I stored it instead.

My Son Harley and me with my father’s oldsmobile

In July of 2004, I returned to the United States and my wife and I took the car back across the country. It was a great trip. We came up to Niagara Falls then drove across to Michigan where we boarded the SS Badger for a trip across the lake. A couple of days later we spent the night in Wall South Dakota, a place I always stop at on my cross-country journeys, and then headed to see Mt. Rushmore. Then it was on to Yellowstone where we had reservations at the Old Faithful Inn and finally, after a couple of days in the park, we headed home to Seattle. Three weeks after that, the car was back in storage and I was on my way to Japan.

After two years in Japan I made another lengthy trip home and I decided that I should finally go ahead and get rid of the Olds. It was a hard decision but the long periods of storage were not good for the old car, I knew. When my two years old son in tow, we went up to the storage unit, prepped the car and brought it home. We had a nice month with the old car and took a lot of pictures. It was important to get a lot of photos with the car and my son Harley, who is named after my father. At the end of the trip, rather than return it to storage, I passed the car on to my twenty-something nephew who was just starting a family of his own.

I suppose I should have known that the car would be more of a burden to him than it was an asset. He did use it to carry around his wife and baby for a while, but when he hit a period of extended unemployment, he decided to sell it. I was, and still am disappointed. Over the years I had spent thousands of dollars in storage and maintenance fees on the old car and all that was gone in an instant. My father, however, would have approved. He was, after all, a pragmatist and no piece of property, no matter how many good memories were associated with it, would have stood between him and supporting his family.

Owing the car for as long as I did was like a final gift from my father. Letting it go was hard, but with it also came a sense of relief and completion. As it turns out, too, the money that my nephew got for it went to purchase a set of tools required to start a new job – as a telephone man just like his grandpa. Maybe that’s the happy ending I needed.

Thomas M Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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My Role In The Extinction Of The American Muscle Car Wed, 20 Feb 2013 12:02:09 +0000  

1969 Chevelle SS


A few weeks a go I had the opportunity to watch part of the Barrett Jackson auction. I found myself captivated by the colorful commentary that went along with each sale. Every car had a story and the commentators spent a great deal of time telling us about them. They also discussed the cars’ performance, available options and recited the original production numbers, contrasted by telling us exactly how many of those cars survive today. It turns out that many of the cars I regularly used to see back in the 1970s are extremely rare today. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, however, after all, I had a hand in making them go away.

By the time the 1980s got into full swing, around 1983, people were good and tired of the 1970s. The ‘70s had been pretty rough on the average American. We had our pride hurt when Saigon fell, we lost faith in our political institutions thanks to Watergate and we were embarrassed when our embassy was stormed by a bunch of kids in Iran. To make matters worse, we had gone way overboard on cheesy variety shows, bell bottoms and the cocaine and now we had one hell of a hangover. It was, we collectively decided, better if we just put the past behind us.

In 1983 I was a junior in high school and, with the economy still in a shambles, jobs in small-town America for kids my age were few and far between. Fortunately, my mom and dad weren’t stingy and I had enough money in my pocket to play Defender at the 7-11 and to put gas in my 6 cylinder Nova, but I aspired to bigger things. I wanted to build a fast car. It was my search for a job and my attempt to access to cheap parts that led me to form a friendship with the local hot-rodder.

Already married with three kids, Tim Harris was only about a decade older than me. He was the kind of guy who lived and breathed cars; the kind of guy who forever smelled of old crankcase oil and Dexron II. As a neighbor, he drove down your property values. His yard was filled with half stripped cars, disembodied engine and racks of body parts. Naturally, I thought he was the coolest guy around.

Easy Prey

The owner of several Chevrolet Vegas in his younger years, Tim had begun collecting parts to keep his own cars running but soon found that people were willing to pay a handsome premium for the parts they needed to keep their own cars going as well. Before long, Tim had an established business, buying up and parting out Chevrolets all over the county and, luckily for me, his business had grown to the point that he needed someone to help him. Since I was willing to work for a pittance, and bought most of my parts from him anyway, I got the job.

Tim had me do all sorts of work around the his house. I hauled wood, dug ditches, ran barbed wire and helped dismantle the cars he brought home. He worked me hard, but sometimes I got to ride along as Tim went to pick up one junker or another and, as we drove, he taught me the tricks of his trade. Like most money making ventures, the underlying idea was simple, the execution was not.

The process began in the driver’s seat and we drove about ceaselessly scouring the area for possible purchases. A potential buy was always a car that was sitting. Signs of a sitting car included a layer of dirt, pine needles or leaves on top and a patch of longish grass or other debris underneath. Flat tires were almost always good for us while an open hood or ongoing body work were usually not. With the economy in a protracted slump and high gas prices at the pump, that part was easy.

It took real skill, however, to know what you were actually looking at. I have, it turns out, a photographic memory and I soon developed an encyclopedic knowledge of the cars of the 60s and 70s. I knew their shapes, options, trim levels, possible power trains, even more esoteric things like whether or not they might be hiding disc brakes under their hubcaps. I could look at a car from the seat of the van and instantly report what it was. Tim would do the other important part, the mental math that told him just how much profit our find might actually bring. If a car was worth it, we knocked on the door of the house.

This system worked surprisingly well. Tim was a cash buyer and a great many people were swayed by the sight of his money. Together we purchased some of the great cars of the era.

One that should have been allowed to escape.

At one house, Tim scored a 1968 Chevy II with a 250 HP 327, a Muncie 4 speed and a positraction rear end for $300. It had been sitting for a while, but together Tim and I compression started the engine by rolling it down a small hill. The old car fired up and ran strong. I laid a great deal of rubber at every stop on the way home. Naturally, I was in love and wanted to save the baby blue car, but Tim would have none if it. In less than a month every part of value was sold and Tim and I hauled the stripped carcass to the recyclers in order to make room for the next victim.

So it went with dozens of cars and Novas, Camaros, Chevelles, Impalas and dozens upon dozens of late 60s Chevy trucks were sacrificed one piece at a time to the great god of commerce. Like a 19th century whaling operation, we stalked our prey, made the kill and then hauled the beast ashore where we stripped away every usable bit one piece at a time before taking the final remains to a place where they were rendered down into smelter fodder. There was one exception.

One that did get away.

The 1965 Impala SS 396 was truly a thing of beauty. Canary yellow with a black vinyl top, we found her on four flat tires and with a surprising amount of moss on the cement slab beneath her. I could see the cold calculation in Tim’s eyes as we walked around the dignified old girl, big block engine, SS wheel covers, disc brakes, all the trim pieces in good condition, flawless interior. This car was ripe for the picking. Tim ended up paying just $500 to an elderly lady who confessed she just wanted to be rid of it.

Once the title was in hand, we spent a few minutes getting the car prepped for the trip home. I pumped up the tires with a small compressor, checked the oil and water, and then we started the old big block using jumper cables. It ran rough at first but soon settled down and when we were ready, Tim let me go ahead while he followed in the van.

The old car was nice inside and the big engine ran well. The transmission shifted smoothly, and not for the first time I noticed what a really fine car it was. It did seem to wander around a bit out on the road and it had a fair amount of play in its steering, but old Impalas, especially big block cars, had a tendency to wear out suspension bushings. It was a minor problem, and I made the trip home without incident.

After parking the car, I got out and gave it a good serious look. I was still there when Tim pulled up a minute later. “This is a nice car.” I said.

“Yeah,” answered Tim, “A really nice car.”

“You think maybe someone would just buy the whole thing?” I asked.

“I could get more from parts than I could the whole thing.” Tim replied.

“It wouldn’t be right though.” I said.

‘I know.” Said Tim, “I know.”

The next week Tim put an ad in the paper and an elderly gentleman made the trip out to where we lived in the country to buy the car. Tim got $900 for it and seemed happy enough as the old car rolled down the driveway and away into the afternoon. But as it faded into the distance, he turned on me, “I could have made more money if I hadn’t listened to you.” he said accusingly.

“Somebody has to be your conscience.” I answered.

His expression lightened and he smiled. “I know.” said Tim heading for his van. “Come on, let’s go find something else we can make money on.” I paused a moment, then laughed and went with him, always ready to drive home another piece of history.

Teddy Roosevelt refusing to kill a captive bear.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Faux Past: Duesenberg Murphy Roadster Replica by AAT – The World’s Most Elegant Econoline Van Sun, 18 Nov 2012 09:04:26 +0000

I stumbled upon this car at the Packard Proving Grounds‘ fall open house.

Of late I’ve been enamored of classic dual cowl phaetons. Forget Lamborghinis, if you want to make a statement, a dual cowl phaeton from the late 1920s or early 1930s is the definition of arriving in style. While getting some photos of a burgundy red Packard phaeton, I noticed that the classic behind the Packard was a Duesenberg, or rather it had a Duesenberg hood ornament. It turns out that it’s a one-off replica of a Duesenberg built for a man who owns a real Duesey.

There are forgeries and then there are fakes. Owners of fine art paintings, oriental rugs and collectible precious jewelry will sometimes have replicas created for display purposes while the originals sit safely in a vault built to the satisfaction of insurance underwriters. Part of me asks what’s the point of owning something if you can’t enjoy it, but then do you really want your friends to be walking on a 17th century Isfahan? There’s a point somewhere where an item’s value as an artifact exceeds it utilitarian purpose, so the prudent thing would be to archive and protect it. Even art has a utilitarian, decorative function, and if it’s decoration we’re after, a well executed copy can be just as decorative as an original painting.

Errett Lobban Cord was responsible for many of the greatest American cars of the prewar era. Under his control, Auburn, Duesenberg and the eponymously named Cord brand produced cars that were technologically advanced for their day, in some cases revolutionary, with style and design that continue to enchant car lovers and design aficionados alike.

Fred and Augie Duesenberg were self-taught engineers who were making engines with overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder almost a century ago. The earned their reputation in racing, eventually winning the Indianapolis 500 three times and the 1921 French Grand Prix. As skilled as they were at making great cars, they were not great businessmen, and their company struggled. After taking control of Auburn, E.L. Cord bought the Duesenberg company in 1926 and tasked Fred Duesenberg with building the best car in the world. It was to be big, fast and expensive. After more than two years, Fred produced not just the finest American car made then, but a car that is arguably the finest car ever made in America, the Duesenberg Model J.

The Model J had a straight eight engine, assembled by Lycoming, another one of Mr. Cord’s companies, with two overhead cams operating four valves per cylinder. The 420 cubic inch engine was claimed by Duesenberg to put out 265 horsepower, an impressive figure in the late 1920s. At a time when few cars were capable of reaching 100 miles per hour, Duesenberg claimed that the Model J could do 94 in second gear and had a top speed of 119 mph. It was the fastest American car in its day. To stop the car from those speeds, the Model J had four wheel oversized drum brakes, hydraulically operated. From 1930 on, the brakes were vacuum power assisted. That may not sound impressive but they were the Brembos of their day – remember, Ford and Chevrolet sold cars with mechanically operated brakes well into the 1930s.

Equipped with a supercharger designed by August Duesenberg, the SJ models had 320 HP. The SJ had a 0-60 time of 8 seconds, zero to a hundred in 17, with a top speed of 135 mph or more.

The Model J was a big car, with a standard wheelbase of 142.5 inches. Frame rails were made of 1/4 inch thick steel and were 8.5 inches deep. Considering how big it was, though, it wasn’t as heavy as you’d think. With a body the Model J weighed a bit over two and a half tons. Weight was saved through extensive use of aluminum. Alloy components included dash, steering column, differential and flywheel housings, timing-chain cover, water pump, intake manifold, brake shoes, and the gas tank. Worthy of a car with the Model J’s racing heritage, it was fully instrumented: 150 mph speedometer, ammeter, coolant temperature and oil pressure gauges, a tachometer, brake pressure gauge, altimeter/barometer, and, the Trackmate of its day, a split second stop watch. The Model J also featured the Bijur automatic chassis lubrication system to which Frank added a warning light to remind drivers when to add lubricant. There were even warning lights for changing engine oil and topping off the battery water, predating Honda’s service indicators by half a century.

AAT PhotoFrom a sow’s ear

Talented designer Alan Leamy Jr., whose other notable works included the Cord L-29 and the Chrysler Imperial, gave the Model J a majestic front end. Customers could pick from a catalog of factory bodies, or take delivery of a rolling chassis to be sent to a coachbuilder like Murphy.

All that came at a price. A rolling chassis was $8,500 ($9,500 after 1930). Supercharged Model Js were $1,000 more. Factory body styles started at $2,500. The least expensive coachbuilt Model J could run $13,000, more typical Model Js cost about $17,000 and a few as much as $25,000. By comparison, a new Ford Model A Tudor was $500.

Introduced to great acclaim at auto salons in the US and Europe in 1928 and 1929, the initial projection was to sell 500 Model Js a year. The stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression made those projections unrealistic and only 481 Model Js were produced in eight years. Today, it’s not unusual for a Duesenberg Model J to fetch more than a million dollars on the auction block. They are the creme de la creme of American classic cars.

A real Duesenberg Model J engine (in a sort of real Duesenberg)

As great a car as the Model J is, as advanced at it was in 1929, that was 83 years ago. Vacuum boosted hydraulically operated oversized drum brakes may have been state of the art in 1929 but would you want to try to stop a 5200 lb car from 135 mph with them today? Also, though we may make fun of trailer queens, would you risk driving an irreplaceable million dollar car in traffic? Winning a blue ribbon at a top shelf concours may be worthwhile but how much fun can you have driving a car from a trailer to a show field and back to the parking lot?

So an unnamed Duesenberg owner who wants to be able to drive in Duesenberg style without risking damaging his own real Duesenberg commissioned Steve Pasteiner’s Advanced Automotive Technologies to build an accurate replica of a Duesenberg Model J Murphy convertible coupe. AAT is one of the companies that builds prototype and concept cars for the major automakers. Car companies are not set up to make one-off cars so most of that work is jobbed out to companies like Metalcrafters and AAT. You may remember the Buick Blackhawk concept built for Buick’s centennial. That was built by AAT. When GM was melting down financially prior to its bankruptcy and bailout, the Blackhawk was one of the cars from its Heritage collection that GM sold at Barrett-Jackson’s January 2009 auction. It sold for $475,000 (plus a 10% fee for the B-J folks), the highest price GM got for any of the cars it sold.

The Ford V-10 Tritron engine is not as pretty as the Duesenberg straight eight Model J, but it’s rated at 362 HP vs the Model J’s 265. The slick routing of the steering shaft with its universal and Heim joints should give you a clue about the first rate build quality.

The Packard Proving Grounds show was the replica’s first public showing after a four year build. The Model Js bodied by Murphy of Pasadena, California are held in particularly high regard by Duesenberg collectors. Unlike East Coast body builders who used heavier and more ornate designs, Murphy bodies reflected California tastes. Sporty looking but elegant cars with simple and trim lines including Murphy’s trademark narrow “clear vision” A pillars. Perhaps Murphy’s Duesenbergs are successful designs because that trim and elegant design ethos manages to keep the massive cars from looking truly gargantuan. Cars from that era in general are tall, the components and body sat on top of the frame, but Auburns and Duesenbergs are just plain big. If you look at the people in the photographs, you’ll see that the cowl of the car is about as high as a man’s chest.

Now normally, replicas aren’t my cup o’ plastic tea. A few things, though, made me take a second look at this one. To begin with, as soon as I asked Steve if it was a Duesenberg he readily said that it was a replica. Also, there are no Duesenberg logos anywhere on it. As one of AAT’s employee’s said to me, “it’s not a Duesenberg”. It does have a Duesenberg hood ornament, a reproduction made by Don Sommer’s American Arrow. The body is mostly fiberglass reinforced plastic, though the hood, running boards and door frames are steel. That body is dimensionally accurate. It may use GFRP but this is no kit car. When I first saw it, I thought it was real. In case you’re hoping for AAT to build one for you, it’s a true one off, Pasteiner vociferously shook his head no when I asked if they’d build another.

To replicate the most patrician of American automobiles, Pasteiner, who started AAT after a career as a designer for GM in the 1960s and 1970s, used the most workmanlike of vehicles imaginable, literally. The donor car was actually a truck, a brand new 2007 Ford E-350 work van with a V-10 Triton engine. The van’s body was removed, the frame was narrowed, the engine was moved back considerably behind the front axle line (the replica Duesey would qualify as a “front mid engine” layout by a foot or more), and a custom frame was fabricated for the back half of the car. The frame members look just as massive as those used by Duesenberg. Unlike the Duesenberg’s ox-cart rear suspension, the replica uses a modern four-link setup plus a Panhard bar to control the solid axle in the back.

In the back, four trailing links, a Panhard rod, coilovers and big disk brakes are an improvement over the original Duesenberg’s leaf springs, drum brakes, and lever action shock absorbers.

The front suspension is one reason why the Ford Econoline was picked as a donor. The customer wanted something that looked like a real Duesenberg but drove more like a modern vehicle. Trick rear suspensions are one thing, nobody can see the rear suspension, but in a classic car, the front suspension is usually right out in the open for all to see. The original Duesenbergs were advanced for their day but their day was still a bit early for independent front suspensions. The Model J had a front beam axle on elliptical leaf springs. Not many modern vehicles have front suspensions that could pass for something from the classic era. Ford does, though, continue to use their famed Twin I-Beam Front Suspension in their F-350 and E-350 trucks. Works like a truck, drives like a car, as the old ads say. It’s not an ideal independent front suspension, tires wear more unevenly than with A arms, but it’s a lot more controlled ride than a beam axle, and out at the exposed working ends of the I beams they still look like a solid front axle.

Click here to view the embedded video.

So using an E-350 was a clever way to solve a few problems. You can see from the original tape layout that Pasteiner did on the side of the van before removing the body, the dimensions work out. It also gives you an idea of just how large the Model J is. Note how the seating position in the replica is not that much lower than that of the E-350 truck. The Duesenberg Model J engine was powerful and torquey. For a replica you’d want an engine that has some grunt. The V-10 Triton may not be as pretty as the shiny green and chrome DOHC straight eight in the real Model J, but the Ford truck motor puts out 362 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque. That’s more power than a supercharged Model J put out and the replica body weighs less than an original Murphy, so the replica is likely to be faster than the original. However, if the patron who commissioned the replica has a need for eveb more speed, or just wants to have a supercharger like the SJ Duesenbergs, Vortech sells a blower kit for the Ford V10. Besides being faster, the replica has a much more sophisticated suspension than the original, so the ride is better and the handling is much better.  While the twin I beam front suspension pulls off a vintage look, one concession to classic style was not made. Large disc brakes at all four corners replace the drums of the original. Coilover shock units and a power steering rack out of a Dodge Ram truck complete the front end.

Ford’s “Twin I-Beam Front Suspension”, coilovers, and a Dodge Ram rack & pinion give AAT’s Duesenberg replica modern handling and ride characteristics while retaining the look of the original’s solid front axle.

Some vintage parts were used. The headlamps and fog lamps are off of a period Hupmobile. The taillights are retro-futuristic, with a vintage STOP diecut that lights up, but the actual lights are LEDs. One side of the hood has mesh, the other has four flexible stainless steel exhaust pipes that drop through the fender into a polished collector. Those exhaust parts are props, the V-10′s original cast headers are still being used. The wheels are very art deco looking discs, but they are modern two piece units of custom machined and polished aluminum. They’re actually a bit larger than the original Duesenberg’s. Pasteiner, as a retired designer, has an affinity for larger than standard wheels. They’re also wider. The Model J put that 320 horsepower to the road through 19X5 inch wheels shod with bias ply tires. The replica sports 20X6.50 inch wheels mounted with modern radials from Coker that look like vintage tires.

On the inside is a lot of red leather. The dashboard is machine turned aluminum, turned on machines right at AAT. Though the replica uses the same 5/6 speed TorqShift automatic transmission that came with the E-350, to keep the vintage look, there’s a dummy clutch pedal and the gear selector looks like a normal three-speed manual shift lever. The electric window switches are activated by traditional window cranks. Though Murphy Duesenbergs had conventional doors, they were custom made cars with personalized features so in the spirit of a custom coachbuilt car, the replica has suicide doors. A removable fiberglass hardtop was also fabricated though the car is destined for a life in southern California and it will likely be driven as an open car. Should it get hot in LA, the car comes with something that no real Model J ever had, air conditioning. Fit and finish is show car quality. The doors close with a solid thunk. It didn’t look out of place sitting parked next to a concours quality restored Packard. You can see photos of the build in progress at AAT’s website.

The net result is a car that looks like a classic Duesenberg but drives like a modern vehicle. Steve’s been around classic cars for a while, he’s been a judge at top level concours, and he says that it drives better than a real Duesenberg. The car will be shipped to California next week, unless they can figure out a way to delay shipment so they can drive it some more. It has more power, it’s lighter and it handles and stops better than a vintage Duesenberg ever could. Also, because of the reduced weight, the new rear suspension and the change in the engine’s location, it undoubtedly drives better than the E-350 upon which the replica is based. It certainly has more style than the donor.

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 dig deeper 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

IMG_0279 IMG_0268 IMG_0271 IMG_0272 IMG_0273 IMG_0274 IMG_0275 IMG_0276 IMG_0276a IMG_0277 IMG_0278 AAT Photo dueseyfrontend duesey4link dueseyengine duesenbergsj-img_0626a Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 22
The Gas Station – Ripe For The Museum? Tue, 23 Oct 2012 13:55:56 +0000

For the first time, I am worried that gasoline is at the end of its life cycle. Gas pumps already have landed in the museum.

From a 1930s pump used to fuel Benito Mussolini’s private fleet of cars to a pump used for cigarette lighter refills; the Museo Fisogni in Milan is the most complete collection about the service station (as per the Guinness World Record 2001). Gas pumps even have their own genre in the world of collectibles. They are called “petroliana,” says the Wall Street Journal.

The Museo Fisogni , owned by Guido Fisogni, is in a warehouse near Milan (Italy), but it is  looking for a new home. Next time you are in Italy, drop by. The only thing the museum does not have is gas for your car.

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Name That Car: BMW What??? Mon, 17 Sep 2012 13:00:05 +0000

Air conditioning, Automatic, Leather Seats, and what passes as true luxury for those Northern types who are used to keeping an old European car.  A rear defroster! This age old beauty will be sold this week at a nearby auction in Atlanta.

Name it. Year, make, model, prior owner, their phone number… anything that would help me buy it when I’m bidding against 80+ dealers.  I need all the help I can get.

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Fake In China: An F150 By Another Name Tue, 31 Jan 2012 13:58:51 +0000 Remember when Ford dragged Ferrari into the U.S. district court in Detroit, after Ferrari had the nerve to call their new Formula One racer the “F150”? Ford feared massive dilution of their F-150 truck mark and sued. Ferrari relented. Let’s see what Ford will do about this overdose of trademark and design patent infringement:

This is the new JAC 43R pickup truck. It looks “more than a little bit like the good old American Ford F150,” Carnewschina says.  Even the logo is a blue oval. The headlights look like a 3rd shift job from a producer of OEM Ford headlights. The semblance is so canny (or uncanny?) that even the Chinese interwebs are abuzz about the intellectual property infringement. You can rest assured that they have seen it all. The F150 lookalike is not even out yet, it exists only in spy photo form, and already causes a dust-up . The 43R will likely debut at the Beijing Auto Show in April, Carnewschina reckons. Ford will be there.

The F150 is not officially on sale in China, but there will be colossal likelihood of egregious confusion once the Chinese truck gets to Africa and South America. JAC and other makers of Chinese cheap pickups do brisk business there, filling the voids left by the now expensive offerings of GM, Chrysler and, yes, Ford.


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Return Of Sakura And Fuji: The Dogged Datsuns Run Again Tue, 27 Dec 2011 17:10:10 +0000

Remember Sakura and Fuji, the two tiny Datsun 210s that went to “The World’s Cruelest Rally” and came home with a trophy? This story has a sequel.

In 1958, two Datsuns, named “Fujii” and “Sakura”  entered  the Mobilgas Trial, 10,000 miles all around Australia. Surprisingly, “Fuji” won its class title. “Sakura” finished fourth.

Half a century later, the cars were found in a warehouse in Japan.  A team of Nissan  volunteers set out to restore the cars. The restoration took place at the Nissan Technical Center in Atsugi, 28 miles southwest of Tokyo.

With the resources of Nissan’s engineering center, the restoration should go smoothly, you think? The team ran into the same problems any restorer has to contend with: Parts.

No car company stocks parts for cars made half a century ago.  Help came with James Haupt, usually based at Nissan Technical Center North America. He found some critical parts, for instance a very old ’50s British car speedometer that had been used in the original Datsuns.

“Sakura” was the easier job. “Fuji” had suffered significant wear and tear and was in bad shape. Finally, Fuji was like nw. Well, not quite: The dent in the front fender that came courtesy of a tree that was in the way during the 1958 race, was also faithfully restored.

Finally, in December, the cars were in running condition again. They were shown to 30,000 fans that cam to the annual Nismo Festival at Fuji Speedway. Half a century later, the cars that made Datsun famous and a country proud, were on  a racetrack again. This time, it was smooth and nicely paved, unlike the 10,000 miles of dust and dirt all around Australia.

Sakura. Picture courtesy Nissan Newsroom Fuji's dented fender was preserved. Picture courtesy Nissan Newsroom Fuji gets fuel. Picture courtesy Nissan Newsroom Fuji (front) and Sakura at the NISMO Festival. Picture courtesy Nissan Newsroom Fuj  and Sakura just before the start of their parade lap during the NISMO Festival. Picture courtesy Nissan Newsroom Fuji restoration. Picture courtesy Nissan Newsroom Sakura and Fuji at the NISMO Festival. Picture courtesy Nissan Newsroom Will it start? Picture courtesy Nissan Newsroom


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

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

Carbon fiber reinforced plastics body manufacturing (braiding)

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

Carbon fiber reinforced plastics body manufacturing (Resin transfer molding)

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

Carbon fiber reinforced plastics body manufacturing (Autoclave)

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

Carbon fiber reinforced plastics body manufacturing (inspection)

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


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

Vehicle assembly

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

Vehicle inspection

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

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

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