The Truth About Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 01 Sep 2014 17:02:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 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 is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Dodge Dart 9-Speed Automatic Delayed Until 2016 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/dode-dart-9-speed-automatic-delayed-2016/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/dode-dart-9-speed-automatic-delayed-2016/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 16:25:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=904425 Since the launch of the Dodge Dart, the 9-speed automatic has been touted as a crucial component of that vehicle’s competitive advantage, offering unparalleled refinement, fuel economy advantages and a performance boost to the 2.4L 4-cylinder, and the less inspiring 2.0L mill. There’s just one problem: it’s vaporware. The Dart was supposed to be first […]

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Since the launch of the Dodge Dart, the 9-speed automatic has been touted as a crucial component of that vehicle’s competitive advantage, offering unparalleled refinement, fuel economy advantages and a performance boost to the 2.4L 4-cylinder, and the less inspiring 2.0L mill. There’s just one problem: it’s vaporware.

The Dart was supposed to be first in line to get the 9-speed automatic, but a string of constant delays has meant that the automotive press has largely forgotten about it. When asked about its timing., Chrysler PR reps offer only vague but honest answers, professing not to know about its arrival.

Automotive News is reporting that the 9-speed will arrive in 2016, in time for a refresh of Dodge’s slow-selling compact sedan. While this makes sense from a marketing perspective, the 9-speed has unquestionably been delayed far longer than it should have been, given the frequent bragging about the 9-speeds advantages.

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Volvo Readying Chinese Made S60L For North America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/volvo-readying-chinese-made-s60l-north-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/volvo-readying-chinese-made-s60l-north-america/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 15:41:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=904393 Canada may have already received its first mass-produced Chinese car in the form of the outgoing Honda Fit. Now, it’s America’s turn. According to Automotive News, Volvo will introduced the Chinese-made S60L, a long-wheelbase version of the S60, sometime in 2015. The S60L will replace the slow-selling S80. The main change will be a 3.2 inch […]

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Canada may have already received its first mass-produced Chinese car in the form of the outgoing Honda Fit. Now, it’s America’s turn.

According to Automotive News, Volvo will introduced the Chinese-made S60L, a long-wheelbase version of the S60, sometime in 2015. The S60L will replace the slow-selling S80. The main change will be a 3.2 inch extension to the S60′s wheelbase. Like the S80, the car will be similarly low volume, though it will function as a gauge of the overall quality and level of acceptance that consumers will have for Chinese cars.

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Vellum Venom Vignette: My Brother’s Keeper http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/vellum-venom-vignette-brothers-keeper/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/vellum-venom-vignette-brothers-keeper/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 12:41:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=904169 Reader Request: discuss the Lincoln Mark VIII, preferably the second generation’s modest restyle. He likely didn’t care for my reply, as it follows my disapproval of the Original Testarossa versus that rolling abortion that disrespectfully ended Ferrari’s most iconic series. Then I parked beside a 2000 Mercury Sable on a fine Houston evening. Allow me […]

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Reader Request: discuss the Lincoln Mark VIII, preferably the second generation’s modest restyle. He likely didn’t care for my reply, as it follows my disapproval of the Original Testarossa versus that rolling abortion that disrespectfully ended Ferrari’s most iconic series.

Then I parked beside a 2000 Mercury Sable on a fine Houston evening.

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Allow me to explain with Lincoln-Mercury fanboi facts. The 1993 Lincoln Mark VIII was an avant-garde reinstatement of Lee Iaococca’s “Thunderbird designed by a guy named Vinnie” : blending delicious proportions of the 1989 Thunderbird, sculptural elements of the 1993 Ford Probe and the once-mandatory Continental DNA of the once-relevant Lincoln Brand.

The 1996 Sable, avoiding the ovoid pitfall of its Taurus sister ship, went four door Mark VIII: right down to the elegant roof and slender tail lights!

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Both the redesigned Mark VIII (1997) and the redesigned Sable (2000) took the original idea and milquetoasted it hopes of regaining lost sales. Neither worked, literally.

So let’s go back to the parking lot.

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These brothers couldn’t be more different, even if they are the same. How did the original coke-bottle remain appealing (if you like American luxury coupes) while its younger brother got married, had a family and multiple failed careers after 1999?

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When these two brothers meet their maker, bodies reincarnated into crap we buy at WalMart, their souls will uncomfortably meet in heaven. Those two kids lived unique lives, but they know there’s no escaping the genetic connection. Blood is always thicker than water.

And the Cain and Abel reference? That’s more for the bloodbath between the Testarossa and the 512M. That’s gonna get ugly: 512M ugly.

Thanks for reading, I hope you have a lovely week.

 

 

 

 

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Capsule Review: 2014 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2014-chevrolet-traverse-lt-awd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2014-chevrolet-traverse-lt-awd/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 12:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=902794 My, haven’t you matured. You’re a few years removed from realizing that a society’s population must grow if it is to thrive over the long haul. Yet instead of traditional government tactics like recruiting doctors from the other side of the Atlantic and engineers from the other side of the Pacific, you made the hilarious […]

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2014 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWDMy, haven’t you matured.

You’re a few years removed from realizing that a society’s population must grow if it is to thrive over the long haul. Yet instead of traditional government tactics like recruiting doctors from the other side of the Atlantic and engineers from the other side of the Pacific, you made the hilarious decision to utilize an in-house solution.

You’ve expanded the population all right. By way of the womb.

Child number one brought with him a surprising amount of stuff. Child number two takes up a lot of space, as well. But it’s the third and fourth kids that suddenly made the first bungalow and the first CR-V seem so very small.

Odds are, you’re not about to buy a minivan.

In July, Americans registered 46,519 new minivans. The Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, and Dodge Durango combined for 53,467 sales. (Another 12,649 sales were generated by premium three-row crossovers from Acura, BMW, Infiniti, and Audi.)

And then there are the very popular Lambda platform crossovers from General Motors. Of the three, the Chevrolet Traverse stands out as the most likely minivan comparison tool because of its lower base price: $31,870 for an LS front-wheel-drive Traverse, $34,745 to add all-wheel-drive, $40,565 for an AWD Traverse 2LT with rear seat entertainment.

2014 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD profileOn paper, none of the three three-row crossovers which sell more often than the Traverse in the United States encourage as favourable a comparison with the ultimate family vehicle, the minivan. The Traverse offers greater available cargo space behind the third row, second row, and first row than the Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, and Honda Pilot.

Not much wonder. The Traverse is 6.6 inches longer than the Explorer, 12.6 inches longer than the Highlander, and 12.3 inches longer than the Pilot. It’s longer than the Dodge Grand Caravan, as well, and comes within three-tenths of an inch of stretching as far as the Chevrolet Tahoe from bumper to bumper.

Traverses can also tow in quite a truck-like fashion, with a maximum rating of 5200 pounds, slightly more than the Explorer and Highlander; 700 pounds more than the Pilot.

The Traverse is more.

But as we know, less is actually sometimes more, and bigger is not always better.

2014 Chevrolet Traverse LT rearThe third row in the Traverse that GM Canada sent our way in August is more challenging to access than the third row in the Nissan Pathfinder, in part because of the Traverse’s flimsy second row levers. It’s roomy enough back there for typical third row occupants, but the seats themselves are torturous little items, hard and flat afterthoughts in what should be a contemporary minivan alternative.

Second row passengers are granted more space and comfort. Our test Traverse didn’t have the expansive glass roof, however, so one glance up reveals a fuzzy headliner. (One look around also reveals great deal of unfortunate grey-beige.)

For the driver and front passenger, there’s no arguing with the comfort level in highway cruise mode. This is a huge cabin with very adjustable seats. But almost all of the controls felt as though they were mounted too low, particularly in comparison to the very intelligent design of the latest Toyota Highlander’s cabin, where the screen is mounted high, a shelf holds items you want to easily grab hold of, and a massive centre bin swallows the lunch order for a family of eight.

GM’s MyLink is still slow, a trait which was admittedly exacerbated by the fact that during the Traverse’s stay, I also spent time with a Tesla Model S’s fast-acting touchscreen.

It’s not that there are any great complaints regarding the Traverse’s on-road behaviour. The ride quality could be slightly firmer, just enough to remove a hint of float. There’s something to be said for the way a modern near-5000-pound high-rider can handle. If 3000-pound sedans had made these kinds of advances over the last 15 years we’d be in awe. Even the brakes offer real bite, and the 281-horsepower 3.6L/6-speed automatic combo never struggles to adequately motivate the Traverse. More low-down torque would be appreciated, as thoroughly wringing out the V6 to locate that adequate motivation feels somewhat out of character for this not-a-minivan.

2014 Chevrolet Traverse LT AWD interiorIn fact, the most significant dynamic issue isn’t found under the hood or near the wheels, it’s in the cabin. The steering wheel is pencil-thin, as if GM is saying, “You were never going to have fun piloting this behemoth, so we’ve made sure the steering wheel reminds you of the least sporting Oldsmobile you’ve ever driven.”

So the Traverse is vast, it doesn’t need to be expensive, and it remains surprisingly composed in motion. It nevertheless feels like a product designed as a Saturn Outlook for an introduction in late 2006. That was a while ago.

There’s a cheapness to the often-touched interior parts that’s out of keeping with the huge cabin quality increases we’ve seen over the last seven years. That roughness around the edges – from the gravelly second row seat operation to the crude operation of the driver’s armrest and a sliding panel in the centre console – would disappoint in a vehicle of any price.

Even with the 2013 redesign, the Traverse looks like a bloated second-generation Hyundai Santa Fe, which wasn’t ugly, but isn’t exactly current.

Although the fuel economy our Traverse achieved during a mostly low-speed week on the highway easily beat its EPA ratings, the all-wheel-drive Traverse is rated at 16 mpg in the city. The Pathfinder is rated at 19; the Highlander and stretched Santa Fe at 18. Consuming between 12% and 19% more fuel in city driving isn’t a way of winning friends, nor will it positively influence buyers.

The Traverse is undeniably showing signs of age. That it remains relatively competitive is perhaps a symbol of some level of inherent goodness. It may also relate to the idea that, for many family car buyers, bigger is simply better. Though you may frequently have doubts about how accurately that maxim applies to the size of your own family.

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Capsule Review: 2015 VW Saveiro CD Highline (Double Cab – Brazilian Market) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/capsule-review-2015-vw-saveiro-cd-highline-double-cab-brazilian-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/capsule-review-2015-vw-saveiro-cd-highline-double-cab-brazilian-market/#comments Sun, 31 Aug 2014 17:36:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=904225 The car-based small pickup market was launched in Brazil by Fiat during the 1980s. Taking a 147 as its base, the Italians cut out the back seats, added a bed, beefed up the suspension and called it good. The market deemed it so, and soon, there was a whole new segment gracing Brazil’s roads, with […]

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The car-based small pickup market was launched in Brazil by Fiat during the 1980s. Taking a 147 as its base, the Italians cut out the back seats, added a bed, beefed up the suspension and called it good. The market deemed it so, and soon, there was a whole new segment gracing Brazil’s roads, with Fiat’s Strada dominating the segment. Since that time, nearly every challenger has been vanquished by the Strada’s unquestionable longevity – except for Volkswagen’s Saveiro.

According to VW do Brasil, the Saveiro is now the market leader in single and extended cab configurations. It has sold roughly 40,000 units up until the middle of the year while Fiat sold roughly twice that. Volkswagen says half of Strada sales were of the double cab line. So finally VW reacted and launched its own double cab (the Strada’s arrived in 2009).  Its take on this style of small pick up is different from Fiat’s. As of 10 months ago, the Strada now comes with three doors, which of course (in theory) helps entry. The Volkswagen offers just two. Getting in the car and reclining the seat, I wiggle my 6 foot, 220 lb  frame into the back seat.

Nice surprise. While the Strada seats just four, the Saveiro does it for five. There are three headrests and three point seat belts only for those who sit off to the sides. The middle passenger, besides fighting for space, has to make do with a lap belt. Space is larger than in the Strada, though I wouldn’t want to be there with two friends for more than short jaunts. The rear side windows open by popping out, while the back window is fixed. There are two cupholders and even an auxiliary jack and a compartment under the seats. Some thought was indeed put into it.

Getting into the front and sitting in the driver’s seat, the whole ambience is very typically Volkswagen. That means a sober, almost boring layout, hard but well assembled plastics, monotone decorations and lots of unmarked plastic covers where commands for optional equipment would be. All in all it is an ambience I don’t especially admire or find pleasure in being, while I can appreciate why others do. The seat is placed a little low, and the dashboard quite high leading to that sunken feeling that many nowadays equate with safety. What’s safer than driving a tank, right? As such, it’s good the Saveiro CD comes with parking sensors. That way you won’t smash the bed into anything.

Speaking of the bed, it has been reduced to 1.1 m in length and capacity is now 580L. The spare has been placed under the bed. Just to compare, the Strada has a volume 100L greater and can carry 50 more kilos (650 to the Saveiro’s 600). Though short, it is longer than the Strada’s and offers 10 tie-down points, a number its rival can’t touch.

The Saveiro Double Cab offers two engines. Both are 1.6L. One however has 8v while the other 16. The 16v is new and corrals 110 or 120 ponies (depending of fuel chosen, the first figure for Brazilian gasoline, the second for Brazilian ethanol) while the simpler mill makes do with 101 or 104 horsepower. While this output is relatively low, the multi-valve engine pulls well and vibrates less than the old one. Pulling power is steady and its capacity to rev higher makes it more comfortable to drive at high speeds on the highway. Top speed is 179 km/h, almost 10 more than the 8 valve unit. It has been on the market for a while now, and so far has not shown the same propensity of the old unit of going kaput at very low mileage. Keeping fingers crossed, one can hope Volkswagen do Brasil has finally figured out what kind of oil is needed to lubricate its 1.6 L motors.

Finally, and exclusively for its segment, the new engine also makes do without an auxiliary start up tank. In low temperatures, cars running on ethanol can have trouble firing. To avoid this, most cars here come with an extra tank you must fill with gasoline to aid firing. The new engine dispenses with this, aiding comfort and safety as there is no need for the extra tank, usually placed in the engine bay.

The Saveiro Highline comes with the 1.6 16v. I chose to drive it as I’m well acquainted with the 8v unit. It really helps the experience and makes the car that more enjoyable. Faster than ever, the little pickup has always been a handful to drive at high speeds with an empty bed. So much so that cars like these are known as caminito al cielo (road to heaven) in some South American markets. This time around VW has endowed the picape with stability control but only on the top-level Cross trim. Lower trim level buyers will have to be wary and drive with special care trying to make it around bends. While very sure-footed and planted in a straight line, the driver must not forget he is in a pickup and not a car. The bed will try to find the front of the car if the driver abuses it.

All double cab Saveiros come with disc brakes all around. Stopping power is of course enhanced, and emergency braking is done without drama. It helps that the Saveiro offers EBD throughout the Double Cab line. It’s very interesting how Brazilian cars are getting more equipped. Besides the mandatory airbags and ABS, the pickup comes with a hill holder function and special programming that allows VW to claim an off road traction launcher (depending on trim level). The Germans also claim their ABS and EBD have special programming offering better braking in muddy conditions. All of this was not present in the car I drove. For now, these are reserved for the pseudo-adventure Cross trim line.

The steering is precise as in most VW cars. In the city it’s not the lightest out there, but on the highway it beefs up nicely. Being a hydraulic unit, it offers more feedback than electric setups. The car comes with a manual 5-speed gearbox that remains among the best in Brazil. Its short and precise throws are better than the competitions and it can shift fast and true. Better yet, this time around the thumping noises of its engagement have been largely avoided.

I enjoyed this little truck. Pressure is now on Fiat to improve its Strada. Volkwagen pricing is in line with Fiat’s, but always offers just a bit more content. The drive is certainly modern and the use of an interdependent axle with longitudinal arms and springs in the back make it a less jumpy vehicle than the Strada. While the engine in the VW is smaller than the Strada’s 1.8, 16v, 132hp unit, it makes the car almost as fast and more economic, plus smoother than Fiat’s. Pulling power is aided by the hill holder function while the Strada has more torque. The Saveiro is now on par with the Strada and it will be interesting to be seen whether it will fulfill Volkswagen do Brasil’s prediction of taking over first place from the Strada. Though that will be a tough, uphill battle, the Saveiro now has what it takes.

 

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Sunday Story: “100MPG Carburetor” by Jack Baruth http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/sunday-story-100mpg-carburetor-jack-baruth/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/sunday-story-100mpg-carburetor-jack-baruth/#comments Sun, 31 Aug 2014 13:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=904137 Strictly speaking, there was no reason for Ashley to attend old Frank Jacobsen’s retirement party. She’d been part of the department for all of five months and she’d spent most of the time doing the other engineers’ paperwork. It was true what they told her in school: To be a female engineer, particularly in Detroit, […]

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Strictly speaking, there was no reason for Ashley to attend old Frank Jacobsen’s retirement party. She’d been part of the department for all of five months and she’d spent most of the time doing the other engineers’ paperwork. It was true what they told her in school: To be a female engineer, particularly in Detroit, you need to be twice as good as the men. Over and over she found mistakes that were childishly stupid; over and over they patted her on the head, praised her in an email, and gave the next important assignment to some charmless nerd.

Frank had been the exception. More than once he’d called her over to his desk, eschewing the usual Sametime or chat bullshit that the young guys liked to do in place of actual work, and asked her for what he called her “professional opinion.”

“Now, Miss McCormick, I was wondering if you would examine this set of drawings and render your professional opinion.” And when she pointed out a way to re-radius something for materials savings or change the spacing for the comfort of a future mechanic, Frank would make the change and then credit her in the next meeting. He was an okay guy, Frank was. And given the way things were going in this business, when was the next chance she’d have to see someone actually retire?

With that in mind, it wasn’t that tough of a decision to pay a sitter and head to the old Radisson where they were actually doing the thing. Problem was, the first sitter bailed on her and the second one needed to take a bus so by the time she got there they’d already handed Frank a certificate and everybody had already said what they came to say and the room was sad, alcohol-smelling and seedy in its recessionary disrepair. The strivers and shovers from the department were gone and everybody left was older than the small-block Chevy, leaning back in the threadbare stackable chairs, age spots on their faces and trembling hands clutching the red party cups.

“Well, if it isn’t Miss McCormick, the beauty queen of this once-great department!” That was Frank, and he rose on unsteady legs and clutched her in an embrace that smelled distinctly of her long-dead father. “Without you, it was not a party. Now sit down with us and we will tell you a couple of stories about what it meant to be the best God-dammed car company on the globe! Everyone! Raise a glass!” A few cups were halfheartedly lifted. So this was how it was going to be. Ashley texted the sitter, poured one finger of Maker’s Mark into a cup, and sat down with what she was hoping was non-obvious resignation.

Four hours later, it was just her, Frank, and the second-oldest guy in the department, Alvin Banks. She was still mostly sober but the men were slurring their speech and starting to demonstrate a decidedly non-retired interest in her V-neck top.

“She’s gorgeous, Banks, you have to admit it,” Frank laughed, leering without shame and tossing back yet another shot. “Women engineers. Why couldn’t we have thought of that in 1972? We thought of everything else. Young lady,” he growled, pointing a grubby finger at her decolletage by way of hugely creepy emphasis, “we invented so much shit they had to lock some of it up. Banks here knows what I’m talking about, right, Banks?”

“We ain’t gonna talk about that one, Frank.” Alvin seemed very sober all of a sudden.

“Yes we are, Banks. This is my last day as an employee of this corporation and I want someone to know what I did.” Alvin put a hand on Frank’s arm but the old man shook it off, angrily. “I’m telling her and you can’t stop me. Probably,” Frank said with emphasis, “you don’t really want to.”

“I got three more years to put in, Frank, you know that.”

“Well then, shove off and let me talk to my date, you old bastard.” Alvin gave Ashley the what can I do? shrug before standing up and striding towards the door.

“I got to piss anyway.”

“Piss off, you mean. Now, young lady, listen here.” He put his hand on Ashley’s bare arm and she shuddered for just a moment but Frank didn’t seem to notice or care. “Forty years ago I was the smartest man here and everybody knew it. What I wanted, I got. And what I wanted was an instrumented tank in which I could produce a near vacuum and I wanted enough fucking mainframe time to plot a thousand NORAD scenarios and I got all of it, do you understand? Because I had an idea.”

“Frank, I know you’re smart, you—”

“I’m not done, God damn it. I saw what the Japs were doing with their CVCC and I had some ideas beyond that. I came up with a system that used high negative pressure to produce extraordinarily lean combustion ratios. After a month, I had a box the size of a washing machine that did what I wanted. After four months, the box was the size of a shoebox. And on the bench, using a long-stroke V-6 I cobbled together, it returned a projected eighty-five miles per gallon in conditions modeled on what became the ’77 mid-sizer. Do you understand me?” Ashley’s mouth was hanging open and she finally remembered to shut it before opening it again to speak.

“The 100MPG carburetor. It’s —”

“Real, Ashley. It’s real. But what every whack job and book-depository conspiracy moron didn’t realize was this. Yes, the company killed it and reassigned me. But not because of any grand scheme to fuck the public. It was a matter of practicality. My device required that the size of the vac chamber be precisely controlled at all times, within a hundredth of a cubic centimeter. I handled this by running all the calculations over the course of forty-five days on the mainframe and then using a series of mechanically adjusted stops that I built, like a ticker tape. And the precision needed for the adjustable chamber was only achievable at the time through careful and individual construction. It was only useful for driving conditions that would be known to the split second months ahead of time. They took my research and warned me not to talk about it again because your average man on the street, or average politician in Washington, would be too stupid to realize that you can’t predict throttle applications one second into the future, much less months ahead. But now…” Ashley couldn’t help but interrupt him.

“Now, it can be done in realtime, and we can use CAD to make every chamber just like the others.” Frank smiled and suddenly he didn’t seem very drunk either.

“Good girl. Tomorrow, when you go to work, I want you to take this key —” and just like that, it was in her hand, hot from being hidden in his — “and open the lower right-hand drawer. You’ll find two manila folders with everything you need to know. Ashley, everybody who knew about this is dead or gone. I don’t require credit, I don’t require money, and I don’t even want a night with that fabulous body of yours, I’m an engineer by trade and I know when the materials are insufficient to the application. I want you to show those young punks what real engineering looks like, alright?” Then he stood, turned from her, and walked away without another word.

For ten minutes, maybe longer, Ashley sat alone in the conference room, holding the key, the hot rush of thoughts in her head too much to hold back. She had no doubt that Frank was serious, that he was right. The problem was figuring out how to reproduce the work and own the solution entirely on her own. She didn’t rate anything beyond a PC and an Ethernet jack at work. But she still had room on her credit card. She could buy a multi-core desktop, install SolidWorks, do as much as she could, claim that she had a “feeling” about it, and then have someone else do the flow calc. Or she could… Christ, she could patent it herself. She didn’t need to show it to anyone at work. She could go directly to an OEM or supplier. She could make millions. Tens of millions. Her whole life would change tomorrow.

No, it would change tonight. She couldn’t wait until tomorrow and her badge would get her in the building tonight and she wanted those documents in her hand. She’d call in sick tomorrow and spend the day scanning everything and getting it into the cloud, just in case.

One more text to the sitter as she ran to the parking lot. Twenty frantic minutes on the road, tapping out a nameless rhythm on the wheel of the old compact car she’d bought while she was still in school, then running to the door, badging in, running upstairs, key in hand unlocks not that drawer but the one below it and —

Two manila folders, hoary and fragile with age, loaded with drawings, bills of materials, hundreds of pages in Frank’s block writing and blue-mimeogaphed papers from a Selectric II. She took it all, ran back to the car, placed it in the passenger seat, started up, and headed for home.

Coming off the freeway, she hit a big pothole that didn’t show in the old headlights and there was sudden silence as the ignition switch twisted in its broken housing and shut off. The road went dark ahead and she stepped on the brake pedal with both feet and screamed but when her windshield hit the back of the Wal-Mart truck she was still doing a solid forty-five and although the fire didn’t start for another two seconds or so her head was already sitting in the back seat by then. The tank caught and burned steady, cooking the back of the trailer, sending a hundred thousand charred bits of paper into the night sky in a perfect vortex, ephermeral fireflies in a twisting column of smoke, burning embers consuming and disappearing, until nothing was left.

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Bill Mitchell’s Swan Song: The Phantom http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/bill-mitchells-swan-song-phantom/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/bill-mitchells-swan-song-phantom/#comments Sun, 31 Aug 2014 13:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=897690 Since it was the last design of consequence that General Motors design chief Bill Mitchell oversaw, Wayne Kady’s 1980 Cadillac Seville is thought by some to be the ultimate expression of Mitchell’s design philosophy. No doubt Mitchell was a fan of what he called the “London look”, and the ’80 Seville had that in spades: a classic […]

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Since it was the last design of consequence that General Motors design chief Bill Mitchell oversaw, Wayne Kady’s 1980 Cadillac Seville is thought by some to be the ultimate expression of Mitchell’s design philosophy. No doubt Mitchell was a fan of what he called the “London look”, and the ’80 Seville had that in spades: a classic vertical grille, a bustle shaped rear end, a raked C pillar and a long hood. When accused of borrowing the bustle-back from a contemporary Lincoln, Mitchell reportedly got indignant and said that he stole it from Rolls-Royce, not the cross-town competition in Dearborn. However, while Mitchell went to bat for the controversial Seville design over the objections of Cadillac management, the Seville was not the ultimate expression of his personal taste.

That ultimate expression can instead be seen in a car that never made it to production and in fact was treated a bit like a step-child by GM brass. While the Seville’s razor sharp edges are justifiably associated with Mitchell, something that distinguished GM cars in the 1960s from what Michael Lamm calls Harley Earl’s “Rubenesque” ethos of the mid to late 1950s, the fact is that Mitchell loved the sweeping and elegant look of cars from the late 1930s. The first two cars that he oversaw at GM were the 1938 Cadillac Sixty Special and the 1941 Cadillac. Neither of those cars has a single creased edge.

1980 Cadillac Seville

1980 Cadillac Seville

His favorite cars were the custom Silver Arrow Buick Rivieras that he had personalized for his own use, and while there are some of Mitchell’s sharp edges on the Rivieras, particularly the first generation car, in profile the Rivs, most noticeably the boat-tailed versions, evoke the sweeping lines of cars from decades earlier.

Mitchell’s ultimate statement as a car designer would be the 1977 Phantom, a large, fastback two-seat coupe built atop a Pontiac Grand Prix chassis. Though the Phantom has some sharp edges, its proportions, flowing lines and exposed wheel wells  go back to the era of those Cadillacs that Mitchell designed in the late 1930s. Though some have speculated that the Phantom ended up in Mitchell’s possession as some sort of severance payment upon his retirement, while GM designers were indeed known to use one-off concept and show cars as their personal drivers, the Phantom never had a drivetrain. It still exists, but perhaps in line with its history the Phantom is almost hidden away in the corner of a museum.

This 1967 rendering by Wayne Kady of a hypothetical V16 powered Cadillac prefigures both the 1980 Seville and Bill Mitchell's Phantom of 1977.

This 1967 rendering by Wayne Kady of a hypothetical V16 powered Cadillac prefigures both the 1980 Seville and Bill Mitchell’s Phantom of 1977.

By 1977, Mitchell was a bit of an anachronism, a man with a Mad Men mentality in an era while Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinam were raising women’s consciousness, someone who could order a half dozen hookers for lunch and send out an underling to the bank to get the Benjamins to pay them. GM’s design and engineering teams had just created what would be their last masterpieces for decades, the downsized 1977 fullsize sedans, the first American cars designed from scratch to deal with more expensive gasoline, the result of the 1973 oil crisis. The new Chevy Impala, for example, was 700 lbs lighter, smaller in every exterior dimension, yet had more interior room and more cargo capacity than the land yachts it replaced. Those cars would be GM’s high point for years, as they were almost immediately followed by the disastrous X-cars, the Chevy Citation and it’s badge engineered siblings.

Bill Mitchell was not a man for downsizing. Not a small man himself, for his last personal design Mitchell opted for something that was not smaller, lighter nor more space efficient. It was his idea of a modern classic and his hope for the direction that GM design would take after his retirement. However, by 1977, Mitchell had been with the company for four decades and many of his contemporaries (and advocates) were long gone.

A styling show was planned for the GM board at the proving grounds and Mitchell had the Phantom shipped out to Milford on the sly, hoping to surprise the board of directors as well as some of the GM executives like Howard Kehrl, executive vice president in charge of the product planning and technical staffs. Kehrl wasn’t as well known and certainly not as flamboyant as Mitchell, but the engineer had risen up through the ranks and by the late 1970s, with many of Mitchell’s allies retired, Kehrl held more power in the corporation. Having been on the receiving end of Mitchell’s legendary foul mouth, Kehrl was in no mood for one of Mitchell’s power plays. He spotted the Phantom being prepared for display and ordered it off the grounds immediately. Lo, how the mighty are fallen. Mitchell reportedly fumed, but the lion was roaring in winter. Later that year Mitchell retired from GM and opened up his own design studio in suburban Detroit. He died in 1988.

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By 1977, times had changed. In a 1979 interview he told Corvette historian Michael B. Antonick, “You know,  years ago when you went into an auto styling department, you found sweeps…racks of them. Now they design [cars] with a T-square and a triangle.”

Even the designers who had risen through GM’s design studios under Mitchell to positions of power themselves realized that times had passed the designer by. Jerry Hirschberg, who later would head Nissan design, is quoted by Michael Lamm as saying, “”As the years passed, Mitchell’s rather narrow biases and hardening vision limited GM styling. He was fighting old battles and withdrawing increasingly from a world that was being redefined by consumerism, Naderism and an emerging consciousness of the environment.”

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George Moon, a senior interior designer at GM reflected on Mitchell at the end of his career: “Bill Mitchell ruled over GM Design Staff during its most creative, most exciting years in corporate history. No matter his mood, his manner, his style—he gave the place a verve and an excitement it never had before or since. He brought out the best creative energies from all of us, and he oversaw the design of the greatest diversity of cars ever produced.

“Bill couldn’t have survived in today’s arena: too many rules, too many handcuffs, committees and bosses. Nor could today’s corporation tolerate Mitchell’s flamboyance, impertinences, ego and lifestyle. He was his own man, flawed and gifted, crude and creative. You had to love him or hate him, but no one in America could ignore him.”

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Mitchell seemed to have understood that times had passed him by. Even his internal code name for the Phantom, “Madame X” evoked a bygone era. Concerning the Phantom he later said, “Realizing that with the energy crisis and other considerations, the glamour car would not be around for long. I wanted to leave a memory at General Motors of the kind of cars I love”.

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Start the video and click on the settings icon to select 2D or 3D formats

Though his power had ebbed, Mitchell was still a legend at General Motors. Perhaps out of consideration for Mitchell’s indelible role in GM history, unlike many concepts the Phantom wasn’t destroyed, and while it’s not in a place of honor in GM’s Heritage Center, the company’s private car museum, the automaker has either donated or loaned it to Flint’s Sloan Museum where you can see it in their Buick Gallery.

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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Corvette Museum Will Fill Sinkhole http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/corvette-museum-will-fill-sinkhole/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/corvette-museum-will-fill-sinkhole/#comments Sun, 31 Aug 2014 00:09:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=904106 After much discussion regarding the merits of repairing the sinkhole that struck the Corvette Museum in February, and keeping in mind the seventy-percent boost in foot traffic afterwards, the facility has announced that it will be repairing the sinkhole, and restoring three of the eight cars damaged in the event, this November. The NCM announced […]

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After much discussion regarding the merits of repairing the sinkhole that struck the Corvette Museum in February, and keeping in mind the seventy-percent boost in foot traffic afterwards, the facility has announced that it will be repairing the sinkhole, and restoring three of the eight cars damaged in the event, this November.

The NCM announced on its blog that the sinkhole will be filled-in after a November “Vets and Vettes” event.

Keeping even a portion of the sinkhole would require 35 foot retaining walls to be built inside of the sinkhole, additional micro piling, visible steel beams running through the hole, and soil nailing. All of these additional structural features are to ensure the safety of the sinkhole and prevent cracking and breaking of the sides in the future, which could result in stability issues, but take away from the natural look of the original sinkhole. The board also considered future maintenance issues that could arise if the hole was kept and the possibility that the hole wouldn’t look like a naturally occurring sinkhole any longer.

General Motors will be contributing approximately $250,000 to the repair of the sinkhole and the restoration of three Corvettes. The Blue Devil ZR1 prototype and the 1992 “millionth” Corvette will be restored by GM Heritage, while the NCM will restore the ’62 Corvette using GM funding. The other five will be left as-is in a special display.

Now’s the time to get to the NCM and see these cars — I know I’m going to.

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VW’s Karmann Ghia Was a 5/8ths Scale Chrysler http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/vws-karmann-ghia-58ths-scale-chrysler/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/vws-karmann-ghia-58ths-scale-chrysler/#comments Sat, 30 Aug 2014 15:37:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=903513 With a German-Italian name like Karmann Ghia it may surprise you that the little coupe/roadster built on the Volkwagen Type I (aka Beetle) chassis had its origins not on the continent but rather a few thousand miles west of Europe, in Detroit, of all places. By the early 1950s, the postwar Volkswagen company was getting […]

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1968 VW Karmann Ghia. Full gallery here.

1968 VW Karmann Ghia. Full gallery here.

With a German-Italian name like Karmann Ghia it may surprise you that the little coupe/roadster built on the Volkwagen Type I (aka Beetle) chassis had its origins not on the continent but rather a few thousand miles west of Europe, in Detroit, of all places. By the early 1950s, the postwar Volkswagen company was getting on its feet and had expanded their lineup to include the Ben Pons inspired Type II aka Transporter aka Bus and a cabriolet version of the Beetle, built by the German coachbuilder Karmann. That company’s director, Dr. Wilhelm Karmann, had tried to increase his business with VW but management in Wolfsburg was less than receptive to his suggestions for variants of the Beetle. Karmann turned to Ghia to see if a collaboration would be more successful. Corrozzeria Ghia’s Mario Boano and Luigi Segre had already done some consulting for VW, though the company was about as accepting of their ideas as it was with Karmann’s.

1970 VW Karman Ghia cabriolet. Full gallery here.

1970 VW Karman Ghia cabriolet. Full gallery here.

Not much earlier, Boano’s son, Gian Paolo, had bought a VW Type I in Paris and drove it back to Italy. In Turin, Ghia’s workers removed the Beetle’s sedan body and over the next five months they handcrafted a handsome coupe that looked much more sporting than the Beetle (in reality, the Karmann Ghia was slower than the Beetle, all that fine coachbuilding meant that the coupe weighed about 200 lbs more than the Type I sedan). In November of 1953, the prototype of what would become the Karmann Ghia was examined at the Karmann works in Osnabruck by top VW managers including managing director Heinz Nordhoff, the man generally credited with building the modern VW company out of the ruins of war. Nordhoff and his team liked what they saw.

By 1953, Ghia had a well established relationship with Chrysler and their head of advanced styling, Virgil Exner Sr. That relationship was started when C.B. Thomas, the head of Chrysler’s export unit, set up a competition in 1950 between Pinin Farina’s styling house and Ghia to build their respective takes on a future Plymouth sedan. Pinin Farina pretty much built the car as designed, but Ghia added their own sense of style.  Chrysler executives were impressed with the quality of the workmanship and Ghia’s added styling touches. Even more impressive was the fact that Ghia’s price of $10,000/car was a fraction of what it would have cost to have the car fabricated in Detroit, either by UAW labor in-house or by independent fabricators. Italy was still rebuilding after World War II and labor was cheap there. Ghia would go on to build a series of well known and well received show and concept cars for Chrysler in the 1950s and into the 1960s.

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1970 Karmann Ghia coupe. Full gallery here.

The Chrysler-Ghia concepts can be roughly divided into two groups, the first five cars that were mainly designed in Highland Park at Chrysler headquarters and the later cars that had more Ghia influence. The early “Exner Ghia” cars were the K-310, the C-200 convertible, and the fastback SS (for Styling Special), which Thomas liked so much that he ordered another one for himself in notchback form that is known as the Thomas Special. Chrysler’s French distributor may have liked it even more than Thomas and commissioned Ghia to build up to 400 similar cars called the the GS-1 (some sources say fewer than a dozen were actually built). Ghia also liked Exner’s Special because they licensed the design and built 36 Chrysler Specials, one of which is in the collection of the Walter P. Chrysler Museum.

Chrysler Special

Chrysler Special. Full gallery here.

Exner’s vision was getting clarified. The DeSoto Adventurer continued Exner’s themes though Ghia is said to have reshaped the fender lines. He borrowed the long hood, short rear deck, close-coupled coupe layout from the classic European grand tourers, and, contrary to the trends in Detroit in the ’50s, he used chrome trim sparingly. The European influence on Exner would become recursive through the next car Ghia built for him.

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Chrysler D’Elegance. Photos courtesy of RM Auctions.

The Chrysler D’Elegance of 1953 summed up the design philosophy of Exner in those days. A sleek car, it has a beautifully shaped greenhouse with delicate A pillars and graceful C pillars. A character line sweeps back across the D’Elegance’s lower flank from just behind the front wheel arch, eventually rising into the fender bulge over the rear tire. It may have been influenced by European touring cars but the D’Elegance was still unmistakably American, with bright red metallic paint, gun-sight taillights and trick show car features. The rear deck had one of Exner’s signature styling touches, the profile of the spare tire embossed in the metal, Ex’s distinctive and graceful interpretation of the “continental kit”.

1957 Mercury

1957 Mercury

If your familiarity with the continental kit is mainly due to the 1956 Ford Thunderbird, that was a particularly nice application of the concept. Many of the other cars with that modification, whether factory or aftermarket, ended up extending the rear bumper out to make room for the spare and its case. The results were awkward and inelegant, albeit popular. Exner’s idea to move the spare tire cover up onto the trunk lid allowed him to keep both the look of a spare tire carrier and the lines of the car. In the case of the D’Elegance it was a functional spare cover, which lifted up to allow the spare tire to be lowered to the ground with a hydraulic mechanism.

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The D’Elegance had a Hemi in it, the original 331 cubic inch FirePower Hemi V8 with 180 hp. It also featured power windows and power steering, two luxury features in those days. The D’Elegance also featured power brakes, the Ausco-Lambert self-energizing disc brake system that had been offered on the top of the line Town & Country Chrysler and the Crown Imperial.

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By the time the D’Elegance was fabricated, Exner and the Ghia stylists had an established working relationship that eventually had ideas going back and forth across the Atlantic. Clay models in 3/8ths scale would be shipped to Turin, where Ghia stylists like Giovanni Savonuzzi would scale up the rendering, often adding their own touches. The response to the D’Elegance when it hit the auto show circuit, debuting at the 1952 Paris auto salon, was so positive that Chrysler executives told Ghia to tool up for a short production run of 40 cars. However, the Korean War was going on and before it was completed the order was cut to 25 D’Elegances. That left Ghia with some unused capacity and its stylists with time on their hands. That’s when Boano and Segre made the little VW coupe to Savonuzzi’s designs.

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1972 VW Karmann Ghia coupe. Full gallery here.

Not only did cutting short the D’Elegance project give Ghia the opportunity to develop what became the Karmann Ghia, the D’Elegance donated its styling to the little VW sports car.

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Virgil Exner Jr., an accomplished car designer in his own right, visited Ghia’s shop in Turin at his father’s behest in 1955, the year the Karmann Ghia went on sale. Though some automotive historians on the eastern side of the Atlantic Ocean think that Ghia’s stylists were just applying the same theme to different cars, not directly copying Exner’s work, both Exners, per et fil, thought otherwise. Exner Jr. is quoted in Chrysler Concept Cars 1940-1970 (Fetherston & Thacker, Car Tech Books) as saying that the Karmann Ghia “was a direct, intentional swipe off the Chrysler D’Elegance. Givanni Savonuzzi was the engineer and designer who downsized the D’Elegance and made the Karmann Ghia out of it. Nobody minded it. It was wonderful.”  Exner Jr. would later work as a design consultant for Ghia, where he had a role in Karmann Ghia history.

1972 VW Karmann Ghia cabriolet. Full gallery here.

1972 VW Karmann Ghia cabriolet. Full gallery here.

In 1961, Volkswagen introduced the Type 34 Karmann Ghia, based on the Type 3 with the “pancake” engine. With a design headed by Ghia engineer Sergio Sartorelli, the shape of the Type 34 has nothing to do with the Chrysler D’Elegance or Virgil Exner (well, maybe a little bit as you’ll see later). If you ask me, it may have been influenced by the Chevrolet Corvair and an obscure AMC concept drawing by designer George Lawson called the CUDA. The Type 34 was known as “Der Große Karmann” [the Big Karmann] in Germany, the “Razor Edge Ghia” in the United Kingdom, and the “European Ghia” in the United States. It was expensive, twice the cost of the Beetle, it sold less than 10% of the numbers of the original Karmann Ghia, and it went out of production in 1969, outlasted by the original as well. Type 34s are very rare in the U.S. Interestingly, one of the cars that Virgil Exner Jr. worked on while at Ghia was the Type 34.

1972 VW Karmann Ghia cabriolet. Full gallery here.

1972 VW Karmann Ghia cabriolet. Full gallery here.

The Type 34 may have had nothing to do with the D’Elegance, but similarities between the Chrysler show car and the original Karmann Ghia, particularly in profile, are hard to ignore. The shape of the greenhouse and C pillars and the character line along the lower body sweeping up into the rear fender bulge are just about identical, though the front end treatments are different. The air-cooled, rear-engine Karmann Ghia didn’t need the D’Elegance’s large radiator grille. Also, Savonuzzi got rid of Exner’s inset headlights (whose own influence can be seen on the modern Chrysler 300 cars – the “Bentley” grille on current Chryslers can also be traced back to the early Exner-Ghia cars), moving them to the front of the fenders.  I personally prefer Savonuzzi’s front end to Exner’s. It’s a cleaner look, even if it reminds me a little of some Studebakers.

Type 34 Karmann Ghia. Full gallery here.

Type 34 Karmann Ghia. Full gallery here.

Producing Ghia’s coupe meant just adding a new “top hat” to the Beetle’s platform chassis (platform as in a flat surface, not platform in the modern sense of a car’s hard points), giving the company a new, sporty model with few engineering resources needed to develop it. Nordhoff embraced the idea and as Dr. Karmann had hoped VW gave his company the production contract. The Karmann Ghia would be in production from 1955 to 1974. Perhaps one reason why it stayed in production so long was because of one of those family squabbles that periodically flare up between Volkswagen and Porsche.

Type 34 Karmann Ghia. Full gallery here.

Type 34 Karmann Ghia. Full gallery here.

In the 1960s, though they were separate companies, per Wikipedia, VW and Porsche had an agreement where the sports car maker was responsible for much of the technical development of Volkswagen cars. Under the direction of Ferdinand Piech, Porsche started developing a mid-engine car with a Targa roof. The original plan was to sell 4 cylinder models as VWs and 6 cylinder models as Porsches, replacing the Karmann Ghia at VW and the entry level 4 cylinder 911 marketed as the 912. Porsche decided that it would hurt its brand in America if a car with the same body was sold as a VW so the car was called the Porsche 914 here and the Volkwagen-Porsche 914 in Europe. Soon after the prototype was presented Heinz Nordhoff died and his successor, Kurt Lotz didn’t have the ties to the Porsche family that Nordhoff had. Upset that Porsche wouldn’t share in tooling costs Lotz ended the development agreement with Porsche. VW was still obligated to build the 914, but by then costs made it an impractical replacement for the Karmann Ghia. The Type 34 had never sold more than 5,000 units in a year so when that was discontinued the original Karmann Ghia stayed in production, produced the same way it had been since 1955.

Porsche 914. Full gallery here.

Assembled and mechanically complete Type I chassis were shipped from the main VW factory at Wolfsburn to Osnabruck. Workers at the Karmann works made and painted the bodies, mounted them to the chassis, and completed assembly, installing the interior and trimming out the cars. Finished Karmann Ghias were then shipped back to Wolfsburg for distribution and export.

VW do Brasil's Type 1600 TC, by Giugiaro

VW do Brasil’s Type 1600 TC, by Giugiaro

Quite a few of those exports made it to the United States. Virgil Exner Sr. is reported to have been “delighted” every time he saw a Karmann Ghia on the road. That’s understandable if you think about the fact that car designers rather like it when a design of theirs makes it to production. While there were short production runs of some of the Exner-Ghia cars, their numbers were nothing like the 445,238 Karmann Ghias that were built by Karmann, plus about 42,000 Type 34 cars. Another 23,402 Karmann Ghias were assembled by VW do Brasil, along with the Type 1600 TC (or Touring Coupe), attributed to Giorgetto Giugiaro.

The Karmann Ghias (and Porsche 914) pictured here were photographed at the 2014 Vintage Volkswagen Show in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

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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Chart Of The Day: Will The CR-V Eventually Be Honda’s Accord? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/chart-day-will-cr-v-eventually-hondas-accord/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/chart-day-will-cr-v-eventually-hondas-accord/#comments Sat, 30 Aug 2014 13:15:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=893858 In a manner of speaking, this chart is nothing more than anecdotal evidence. But it’s also evidence that’s been collected nationwide over the span of  a decade from one of America’s largest auto sellers. Proof that America is gradually moving away from traditional passenger cars to “crossovers” is better seen in a glance of the […]

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Accord CR-V sales chartIn a manner of speaking, this chart is nothing more than anecdotal evidence. But it’s also evidence that’s been collected nationwide over the span of  a decade from one of America’s largest auto sellers.

Proof that America is gradually moving away from traditional passenger cars to “crossovers” is better seen in a glance of the complete numbers for all vehicles. But the CR-V/Accord relationship is a useful one for telling a story.

As recently as 2006, American Honda sold more than two Accords for every CR-V. The CR-V’s reign as America’s favourite utility vehicle, suspended only briefly in 2011, began in 2007, a year in which Honda sold 1.8 Accords per CR-V. Fast forward to the first seven months of 2014 and Honda sells 1.2 copies of the Accord, America’s second-best-selling car, for every CR-V.

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Volkswagen Shows Off CLA Competitor In Chengdu http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/volkswagen-shows-cla-competitor-chengdu/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/volkswagen-shows-cla-competitor-chengdu/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 16:50:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=903378 Volkswagen’s latest MQB-based vehicle is another challenge to Mercedes-Benz – the last time they threw down the gauntlet against Daimler, we ended up with the Phaeton. This should fare a bit better. Dubbed the “Lamando”, the vehicle in question is based on the MK7 Golf and its MQB chassis, and uses both the 1.4L and 2.0L […]

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Volkswagen’s latest MQB-based vehicle is another challenge to Mercedes-Benz – the last time they threw down the gauntlet against Daimler, we ended up with the Phaeton. This should fare a bit better.

Dubbed the “Lamando”, the vehicle in question is based on the MK7 Golf and its MQB chassis, and uses both the 1.4L and 2.0L TSI 4-cylinder engines, along with a 7-speed DSG gearbox. The Lamando will be built in China, for the Chinese market only, with a starting price of about $29,000. This puts it in direct competition with the Mercedes-Benz CLA.

Live shots of the car can be seen here.  Sales of the Americanized Jetta have slumped recently, despite a strong (but price-driven) introduction. A car like this would do a lot to add some pizzazz to Volkswagen’s compact sedan, and given its MQB bones, it could likely be built in Mexico easily. How about it, VW?

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A Sober Second Look At Self-Driving Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/sober-second-look-self-driving-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/sober-second-look-self-driving-cars/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 15:45:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=903346 While TTAC‘s Mike Smitka published an essay urging readers to reign in their expectations regarding autonomous cars, a new report by MIT’s Technology Review pours even more cold water on the utopian fantasies of those waiting for the day when humans are no longer in control of the automobile. While the full text is available at MIT, the […]

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While TTAC‘s Mike Smitka published an essay urging readers to reign in their expectations regarding autonomous cars, a new report by MIT’s Technology Review pours even more cold water on the utopian fantasies of those waiting for the day when humans are no longer in control of the automobile.

While the full text is available at MIT, the American Enterprise Institute summarized the obstacles faced by autonomous cars in a series of handy bullet points

  • The self-driving car can’t drive itself in 99% of the country.
  • It knows almost nothing about parking, and can’t be taken out in snow or heavy rain.
  • If a new stoplight appeared overnight, the car wouldn’t know to obey it.
  • Google’s cars can detect and respond to stop signs that aren’t on its map, but at an unmapped intersection stop sign the car wouldn’t know what to do after it had stopped, and would probably remain stationary until a human driver intervened.
  • The car hasn’t yet tackled big, open parking lots or multilevel garages.
  • The car’s video cameras detect the color of a traffic light, and they’re still working to prevent them from being blinded when the sun is directly behind a light.
  • Pedestrians are detected just as moving, column-shaped blurs of pixels—meaning that the car wouldn’t be able to spot a police officer at the side of the road frantically waving for traffic to stop.
  • The car’s sensors can’t tell if a road obstacle is a rock or a crumpled piece of paper, so the car will try to drive around either. The car also can’t detect potholes or spot an uncovered manhole if it isn’t coned off.

Given all of the breathless hype regarding the technology, and Google’s introduction of their own prototype, sans pedals and steering wheel, it helps to have a contrarian viewpoint to dampen some of the exuberant enthusiasm professed by many who are better versed in the tech side of things, without understanding the unique subtleties of the auto world.

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Another Bad Sign For Oshawa As GM Moves Chevrolet Equinox To Mexico http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/another-bad-sign-oshawa-gm-moves-chevrolet-equinox-mexico/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/another-bad-sign-oshawa-gm-moves-chevrolet-equinox-mexico/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 14:38:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=903322 News that GM will be sending some production of the Chevrolet Equinox to their Ramos Arizpe, Mexico plant passed without much fanfare – GM’s PR machine was much more interested in touting the move of the Cadillac SRX to Spring Hill, Tennessee. While the Equinox’s move to Mexico will backfill capacity at that plant, it […]

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1024px-2011_Chevrolet_Equinox_LTZ_--_03-09-2011

News that GM will be sending some production of the Chevrolet Equinox to their Ramos Arizpe, Mexico plant passed without much fanfare – GM’s PR machine was much more interested in touting the move of the Cadillac SRX to Spring Hill, Tennessee. While the Equinox’s move to Mexico will backfill capacity at that plant, it spells another blow for the future of GM’s Oshawa, Ontario plant.

The Equinox (and its GMC Terrain twin) is primarily built at GM’s CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontario. Currently overflow production is handled by Oshawa and Spring Hill. For the next generation, Ingersoll and Ramos Arizpe were in direct competition for the new crossovers, with Ingersoll eventually winning out.

The Theta crossovers (as the Equinox and Terrain are known internally) have been a big success for GM, necessitating the overflow production at two sites. But with the move to Mexico, it’s merely another bad sign for Oshawa, which has had a succession of product moving away from the plant, and absolutely nothing in the way of investment announcements or product commitments.

At this rate, Oshawa’s closing in 2016 (when GM’s bailout-related obligations to the Canadian government expire) is almost a certainty.

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Bark’s Bites: The Joys of Owning a Six Hundred Dollar Subaru http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/barks-bites-joys-owning-six-hundred-dollar-subaru/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/barks-bites-joys-owning-six-hundred-dollar-subaru/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 13:52:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=903058 “I have a couple older Subaru wagons (96-97) for sale in Morehead. Message me if you are interested.” Interested? Was I ever! As I stated in one of my more recent contributions to TTAC, I have been driving my Boss 302 as my daily driver ever since I bought it (with a brief interruption from […]

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“I have a couple older Subaru wagons (96-97) for sale in Morehead. Message me if you are interested.”

Interested? Was I ever!

As I stated in one of my more recent contributions to TTAC, I have been driving my Boss 302 as my daily driver ever since I bought it (with a brief interruption from a 1995 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency Elite that had more electrical glitches than one might have thought possible). Well, with winter approaching yet again, and my right rear wheel still showing the ill effects of my last attempt to drive the Boss in about a quarter inch of snow, I thought it might make sense to investigate when a friend of mine made the post seen above on Facebook back on June 27th.

Fearing I might already be too late, I started the following message chain (the names have been redacted to protect the quilty):

27/06/2014 16:46

Bark M.

Interested in the subies! What are the details?

.

27/06/2014 16:58

G. T.

Okay one is an outback 1997 with 262366 miles and is in fair to good condition KBB is @$1800 The other is a legacy L with 163654 miles it has two set of wheels and tires. It does need a catalytic converter and some minor electrical. KBB on that one is fair condition is $684. I am open for offers especially for the pair. They are old gals but have been great cars.

.

27/06/2014 17:01

Bark M.

Does the legacy run?

.

27/06/2014 17:01

G. T.

Yes it is also a manual and is quite fun to drive.

.

27/06/2014 17:02

Bark M.

Any head gasket issues with either (and I promise that’s my last question)?

.

27/06/2014 17:03

G. T.

Yes the outback had that problem and it was replaced. That is an issue with these engines.

.

27/06/2014 17:03

Bark M.

That’s why I asked

.

27/06/2014 17:04

G. T.

There were no xmas presents for the kids that year

.

27/06/2014 17:05

Bark M.

Hahaha I bet not. Do you think the legacy could run from Winchester to the Lexington airport and back reliably (I lied apparently about the questions)

.

27/06/2014 17:05

G. T.

Yes it could

.

27/06/2014 17:06

Bark M.

I will take it for six hundred then if you’re cool with that price.
.

07/06/2014 17:06

G. T.

sold

And just like that, I owned a 1996 Subaru Legacy L Wagon, AND it was a manual! Imagine my surprise when he rolled into my driveway to make the exchange and I discovered that it was AWD! My good pal had done his KBB valuation based on the car being FWD, which meant that he had undervalued it by about $600. Well, perhaps he had been a tad generous in estimating the vehicle condition as “Fair,” too. The interior was covered in dog fur, especially the cargo area. The front passenger floorboard looked as though a soda had been spilled on it in 2003 or so and had never been cleaned up. The smell of dog was pervasive, too. Nevertheless, I was more than happy to press the cash into his hand before he changed his mind, although due to it being Sunday, we had to wait until the following day to actually change the title into my name.

The next day, I met him at the UPS Store where we had the title notarized. I swiftly took it to my local title agency, where it took a mere two trips and 45 minutes to get the title switched into my name (turned out that they needed the old plates). After paying a whopping $36 in property tax, I was officially the owner of My First Subaru.

Thrilled to death with my purchase, I drove it happily to the grocery store to make use of the spacious cargo area. After loading up the back with a week’s worth of groceries for the fam, I got behind the wheel, turned the crank…and nothing. Tried again. Nothing. The starter appeared to be working fine, and the battery wasn’t dead, but the damned thing just wouldn’t go. Oh, well. Good thing I had already added it to my insurance policy and had enthusiastically said “YES” when asked if I wanted Roadside Assistance. After a quick call home and a rescue trip by the rest of the family, I transferred the contents of the cargo area to my Flex and was ready to leave the Subaru to sit in the parking lot of the grocery store and be towed off to the local garage. I thought I might try it one more time, though, since it had been sitting for a while.

Boom, started right up, no problem, but there was a horrible whining noise that sounded like a belt problem of some type. Now what to do? The tow truck was already on the way. I decided to let them tow it to the garage anyway and allow the mechanics there to give it a once over (especially since I had bought it sight unseen and had no discernible mechanical ability).

They kept it for about a week. They couldn’t duplicate the issue. Every day I called and asked, and every day they told me the same thing. No problems with the car—it starts right up every time. No belt noise. Weird, right?

Well, I decided that I should go get it. Sure enough, it started right up. I drove over to the local library to take the kids to pick out some new books. Had a wonderful time at the library, picked out about 20 books each. Went to the Subie to drive home…no dice. ARRGH. Waited about 15 minutes. Tried again. Started right up. Oh, well. Home we go.

Ever since then, it has been dead reliable. I have driven it as far away as Charlotte (about seven hours) with no issues whatsoever. The radio works, the AC works, the power windows work (well, the switch did snap off in my hand, but it still works), the windshield wipers work, the CLA works…it’s been perfect. The shifter is exciting, because there’s no relationship between the actual gears that makes any sense at all. The shift lever will move several inches in any direction when in gear, and often just falls down and to the left, so there’s no real way to know what gear the car is actually in without doing some RPM and MPH calculations. Fifth gear is impossible to find—I have a 50/50 shot of putting it in third, instead.

I have tried vacuuming it with three different vacuums (Dyson, Shop-Vac, and Car Wash Hose), but the dog hair appears to be here to stay. However, the good news is that I have found nearly a dollar in change in the various crevices of the interior, so my net purchase price is getting closer to $599 every time I drive it. Also, it has a “LADY VIKINGS SOCCER” sticker on the rear driver’s side window that probably has a street value of about $5.

The best thing about the car, though, was pointed out to me by my good friend, Ryan, when he rode in it for the first time. “Man, I miss being in old cars,” he opined as I struggled to find third gear. “My car is a 2012, which is great, but it has no character, no personality. This thing has character.”

There’s no question about that. I fall in love with it a little more every time I pick it over the 444 HP beast nestled safely in the garage behind it. The little Subaru sits outside, parked in the grass next to my driveway, with nary a complaint. It goes when I call upon it. It sits inconspicously in the airport parking lot. It gladly takes my luggage in its vast interior and welcomes me home cheerfully with a slight whine of a yet-to-be-determined belt when I start it up. It’s like a previously neglected golden retriever—it just wants me to love it.

And I do.

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Junkyard Find: 1971 BMW 1602 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/junkyard-find-1971-bmw-1602/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/junkyard-find-1971-bmw-1602/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 13:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=902930 Flawless examples of the BMW New Class are worth plenty, but ratty project cars are another story; the flow of 1602s and 2002s into self-service wrecking yards continues unabated. So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’73, this ’73, this ’74, and now today’s find, a no-rust California 1602. Now, before you Rust Belt […]

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12 - 1971 BMW 2002 Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinFlawless examples of the BMW New Class are worth plenty, but ratty project cars are another story; the flow of 1602s and 2002s into self-service wrecking yards continues unabated. So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’73, this ’73, this ’74, and now today’s find, a no-rust California 1602. Now, before you Rust Belt BMW fanatics start emailing me about this car, be aware that I shot these photos last October, which means that this car got crushed, shredded, and melted down at least six months ago.
09 - 1971 BMW 2002 Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s rough, and there’s probably hidden rust due to leaky weatherstripping and long, rainy California winters, but this car wouldn’t have been a terribly difficult restoration project. However, it would have cost $12,000 to make this into a $7,000 car, hence the junkyard trip.
14 - 1971 BMW 2002 Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinHere’s a 2000 San Francisco residential parking permit, without which your car will be ticketed, towed, auctioned off, and (probably) crushed in the most ruthless parking environment I’ve ever experienced. This Area S permit worked in parts of the Mission District, Noe Valley, and the Castro, all areas in which my ’65 Impala spent a lot of time.
02 - 1971 BMW 2002 Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior had been picked over pretty well at the time I photographed this car, and I’ll wager that the instrument cluster didn’t go to The Crusher.
04 - 1971 BMW 2002 Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinI had one of these cool-looking hazard-light switches in my ’58 Beetle, way back in my earliest junkyard-crawling days.

02 - 1971 BMW 2002 Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1971 BMW 2002 Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1971 BMW 2002 Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1971 BMW 2002 Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1971 BMW 2002 Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1971 BMW 2002 Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1971 BMW 2002 Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1971 BMW 2002 Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1971 BMW 2002 Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1971 BMW 2002 Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1971 BMW 2002 Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1971 BMW 2002 Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1971 BMW 2002 Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Russian Government Moves Ahead With Revived Cash For Clunkers Program http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/russian-government-moves-ahead-revived-cash-clunkers-program/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/russian-government-moves-ahead-revived-cash-clunkers-program/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 13:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=903274 A few days ago, we reported the Russian government was considering bringing back its cash for clunkers program to help spur domestic auto sales in the face of Western sanctions. The government as since decided to go forward with the scheme. Reuters reports the Kremlin will pledge P10 billion ($273 million USD) for the program, […]

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Lada Coupe

A few days ago, we reported the Russian government was considering bringing back its cash for clunkers program to help spur domestic auto sales in the face of Western sanctions. The government as since decided to go forward with the scheme.

Reuters reports the Kremlin will pledge P10 billion ($273 million USD) for the program, which is expected to subsidize over 170,000 new vehicles at a minimum discount of P40,000 ($1,086) for scrapping a passenger car, and P350,000 ($9,506) on up for commercial vehicles. Additional discounts from P40,000 to P300,000 ($1,086 – $8,148) will be made to consumers who trade-in vehicles six years of age or older.

The new program begins September 1, and will run through to the end of the year. A decision to revive the program in 2015 will be made no earlier than the middle of September of that year, according to Industry Minister Denis Manturov, and will be based on market conditions at that point in time.

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The Honda Insight Is Dead: Here’s Why http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/honda-insight-dead-heres/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/honda-insight-dead-heres/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 12:32:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=900858 More than two years after American Honda last produced meaningful sales volume with its first Insight, a second Insight arrived to tackle the Toyota Prius head-on. Only it didn’t, because it couldn’t. The Insight’s death was reported here at the end of last month. There was no accompanying shock, surprise or horror. Though it has […]

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2012 Honda Insight greyMore than two years after American Honda last produced meaningful sales volume with its first Insight, a second Insight arrived to tackle the Toyota Prius head-on.

Only it didn’t, because it couldn’t.

The Insight’s death was reported here at the end of last month. There was no accompanying shock, surprise or horror.

Though it has competed with a much lower base MSRP than the core Prius model, the Insight is a 42 mpg car fighting against the hybrid, a 50 mpg Prius.

Those are the numbers that mattered most to potential customers, not cargo capacity or horsepower or airbags. (The Prius, incidentally, has more cargo capacity behind the rear seats and with seats folded, more horsepower, and more airbags.)

Think of this way. The Prius was akin to the establishment candidate for the ruling party, a guy who’d led the country for years, a policy wonk with a certain charm. In comes Insight, somebody who was once known as a revolutionary politician but disappeared for a few years before returning with fewer baby kisses, less foreign affairs awareness, and no real plan for reducing the deficit.

In 2008, the Toyota Prius was America’s tenth-best-selling car. In 2009, the Insight arrived to take on this hugely popular car but brought with it significant on-paper disadvantages.

The results were as anticipated. Honda sold 20,572 Insights in 2009; Toyota sold 139,682 Prii. Prius sales rose slightly to 140,928 in 2010; Insight volume rose to 20,962 units. Insight volume plunged 26% to 15,549 in 2011; Prius volume fell 9% to 128,064. Prius volume then jumped 15% to 147,507 units in 2012 while Insight sales plunged again, falling 62% to just 5846. Insight sales fell again, 18%, to just 4802 units in 2013. Prius sales slid slightly, just 2%, to 145,172 in 2013.

Through the first seven months of 2014, Insight sales have fallen 6% to 2624 units. Prius sales have fallen 18% to 75,903 as we approach its turn into a fourth-generation iteration.

There won’t be an immediate, overlapping replacement for the Insight. It’s not that Honda needed to sell the Insight at Prius-like levels for the model to succeed. Honda doesn’t sell as many Accords as Toyota does Camrys, and there’s no one implying that the Accord ought to be killed off.

Yet during the time period in which the Insight has steadily waned, Toyota has expanded the Prius lineup. There’s a plug-in variant of the regular Prius that has sold 10,671 copies this year, quadruple the volume Honda has done with the Insight. Toyota USA has also sold 101,715 Prius C hatchbacks since February 2012 and 101,276 copies of the Prius V wagon since the fourth quarter of 2011.

Toyota is trading off the Prius’s name brand to generate genuinely high U.S. sales. There was equity in the Insight name, but by introducing an underwhelming half-measure in 2009, Honda may have extinguished that equity along with the car itself.

The Insight, of course, isn’t the company’s only hybrid. Honda has reported 8250 U.S. sales of the Accord Hybrid through the first seven months of 2014, 221 Accord Plug-Ins, 2904 Civic Hybrids, 263 Fit EVs, 306 Acura ILX Hybrids, and 2355 CR-Zs.

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California ZEV Democratization Initiative Passes State Assembly http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/california-zev-democratization-initiative-passes-state-assembly/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/california-zev-democratization-initiative-passes-state-assembly/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 12:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=903226 Remember when we reported on an initiative to bring ZEV credits and incentives to low-income residents in California? The initiative is two steps away from becoming law. Autoblog Green reports California State Bill 1275 — otherwise known as the Charge Ahead California Initiative — passed the California Assembly 46 to 23 Wednesday, and is expected […]

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Remember when we reported on an initiative to bring ZEV credits and incentives to low-income residents in California? The initiative is two steps away from becoming law.

Autoblog Green reports California State Bill 1275 — otherwise known as the Charge Ahead California Initiative — passed the California Assembly 46 to 23 Wednesday, and is expected to pass through the state’s senate shortly before signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown.

The initiative, sponsored by State Senator Kevin de León of Los Angeles, amends the focus of the state’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project toward middle- and low-income residents by implementing an income cap on ZEV credits. Further, a minimum of $2,500 would be given said residents exchanging an older vehicle for a ZEV such as the Tesla Model S or the upcoming Toyota Mirai, with an additional $1,500 for the act of retirement itself.

The ultimate goals of the initiative are to reduce credits over the long-term as clean technology becomes widespread, while also boosting the population of ZEVs to 1 million by 2023.

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Qi: New Spare Parts For Fisker Karma Owners Coming Soon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/qi-new-spare-parts-fisker-karma-owners-coming-soon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/qi-new-spare-parts-fisker-karma-owners-coming-soon/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 11:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=903210 If you’re Justin Bieber, Carlos Santana or Bob Lutz — and even if you’re not — you’ll be happy to know that your Fisker Karma will be more fixable in the event of a fender-bender or two, all thanks to parent company Wanxiang. Green Car Reports says Wanxiang America’s Fisker Coordinator Linyun Frank Qi dropped […]

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If you’re Justin Bieber, Carlos Santana or Bob Lutz — and even if you’re not — you’ll be happy to know that your Fisker Karma will be more fixable in the event of a fender-bender or two, all thanks to parent company Wanxiang.

Green Car Reports says Wanxiang America’s Fisker Coordinator Linyun Frank Qi dropped a note with the Fisker Owners Club, informing them that his company, still in the rebuilding stage, was “settling and still negotiating with over 300 suppliers” involved in the Karma’s construction to regain access to every part made for the premium PHEV.

As for when and how customers will receive the new parts, along with the service needed to put everything back together, no timeline was mentioned. Wanxiang purchased Fisker in a bankruptcy auction February 2014 for $149 million, promising to restart production of the Karma as soon as possible.

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Volvo Restructuring To Three Families, Configurations By 2019 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/volvo-restructuring-three-families-configurations-2019/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/volvo-restructuring-three-families-configurations-2019/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 10:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=903194 By 2019, the face of Volvo will change as the Sino-Swedish automaker begins restructuring its offerings, with the new XC90 leading the way. Autoblog reports Volvo will align its lineup portfolio around three families (40, 60, 90) and three designations/configurations (S sedan, V wagon, XC crossover). In turn, the 40 family will share a platform […]

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By 2019, the face of Volvo will change as the Sino-Swedish automaker begins restructuring its offerings, with the new XC90 leading the way.

Autoblog reports Volvo will align its lineup portfolio around three families (40, 60, 90) and three designations/configurations (S sedan, V wagon, XC crossover). In turn, the 40 family will share a platform with parent company Geely’s offerings, while the 60 and 90 families will use Volvo’s SPA modular platform.

Additionally, the V40/V60/V90 wagons will have a Cross Country variant, matching up with Audi’s and Subaru’s offroad formula for their respective non-rugged base offerings. Meanwhile, R-Design and Polestar will apply their magic performance touches to a few of the new vehicles, going up against similar efforts from BMW, Mercedes and Audi.

All of the above are expected to come online within the next four years, but no coupes or convertibles are in the plans, citing a lack of a case for either at this time. Volvo will instead focus on boosting its volume, with a goal of 800,000 units for 2014 alone.

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Exclusive Capsule Review: Elio Motors P4 Prototype http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/exclusive-capsule-review-elio-motors-p4-prototype/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/exclusive-capsule-review-elio-motors-p4-prototype/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=900778 Click on the settings icon to watch in 2D or your choice of 3D formats. It seems that most of the media coverage of automotive startup Elio Motors and their proposed $6,800, 84 mpg reverse trike can be sorted into two groups: general media outlets that have taken a bit of a credulous gee whiz […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.


Click on the settings icon to watch in 2D or your choice of 3D formats.

It seems that most of the media coverage of automotive startup Elio Motors and their proposed $6,800, 84 mpg reverse trike can be sorted into two groups: general media outlets that have taken a bit of a credulous gee whiz attitude, and automotive folks who have cast a more skeptical eye on the enterprise. I’m as skeptical and as cynical as the next guy but unlike many in the automotive community I actually think that Paul Elio and his team have a decent chance of at least getting their vehicle to production. Also unlike most of the critics, I’ve actually taken the time to talk with members of Elio managment along with one of their major backers and I’ve spent time with their prototypes. Perhaps because I’ve tried to give the project an even break the people at Elio have been pretty forthcoming with me and now they’ve let TTAC be the first automotive publication to have an extended and unsupervised test drive of their latest prototype. They figuratively tossed me the keys and literally said, “bring it back when you’re done.” That takes some confidence.

Click here to view the embedded video.

I was free to drive it as long as I wanted and I ended up spending more time with the Elio prototype than I would have with a car at a typical media ride & drive. There were some restrictions, however. When I asked about speeds, I was told to try and keep it under 45 mph, avoid some of Michigan’s deeper crevices and potholes in our roads, and to make sure that I could always see the cycle fenders over the front tires, so I wouldn’t run into curbs. Other than that, I could drive it as I saw fit. I first headed to a nearby industrial park to shoot video of the trike coming and going. The cul de sacs also made nice impromptu skid pads to check cornering grip. Then I cruised up a 45 mph county road to see how I felt driving the Elio in traffic. Finally I ducked into a residential subdivision whose winding roads let me check how tossable the trike was.

As with the previous prototypes, the latest Elio, P4, is powered by a Suzuki G10 carburetted three cylinder engine out of a Geo Metro. The Metro’s automatic transmission is also used. The production Elio will use a proprietary 0.9 liter triple, designed by IAV, that will put out the same 55 horsepower that the Suzuki engine had when it left the factory more than 90,000 miles ago. Those were likely not easy miles because the engine was tired. Still it motivated the trike just fine for a commuter car. While the power ratings of the prototype’s engine and Elio’s production motor are equal, I was told that Elio’s triple will have significantly more torque than the G10. Elio’s engine will also weigh less than the Suzuki powerplant in the prototype, which should help lighten up the steering at low speeds.

The Elio engine has an aluminum cylinder block and head and is an undersquare design with a stroke longer than the cylinder bore. Induction is via multi-port sequential fuel injection, a bit of a surprise at a time when many engine manufacturers are embracing direct injection. Elio Motors has spent a good deal of their marketing emphasizing the car’s $6,800 price. Using proven, if not cutting edge, technologies is one way of keeping costs down. Another way of keeping costs down, at least for consumers, is the use of conventional 5W-20 motor oil with standard 3,000 mile change intervals. No synthetic oil required and no premium high octane fuel either. To reduce maintenance costs and increase durability, the single overhead cam engine will have a metal timing chain running that camshaft, not a rubber belt.

As it stands today, they’re aiming at 55 horsepower but the final power rating will be contingent on that 84 mpg (highway) target. In the current configuration they can increase power by about 10% if needed.

A number of companies use the Woodward Dream Cruise to gauge consumer reaction to concept and production cars and this year was no exception, with journalists and celebrities running Hellcat Challengers up and down the famous cruising boulevard. Elio has been drumming up interest in their three-wheeler by taking it on an extended road tour, displaying it at events with large crowds. With a million or so people walking up and down Woodward as they watch the movable automotive feast go by, it’s not surprising that Elio brought their road tour to the WDC, though their car has one less wheel and about 652 horsepower less than the Hellcat. Of course, Elio is going after a different market segment.

The publicity seems to be working. At the Dream Cruise display there was a constant stream of people checking it out, seeing if they could fit. I convinced a rather large man to climb into the back seat and once he got back there he fit just fine. Another girthy guy needed no convincing to try both tandem positions. He’d driven the 100 miles or so from Toledo just to see if the car fit him before putting down his reservation money. He was very happy with what he saw. With about 29,000 reservations in at this point, Jerome Vassallo, Elio’s vice president of retail operations, told me that a growing number of people who show up at their road show stops are already familiar with the trike or even have put down money to reserve one.

Vassallo also updated me on Elio’s retail plans. Since they will be selling directly from factory owned stores in about 60 major U.S. markets, they understand that they may be subject to the same obstacles that Tesla’s factory outlets have faced due to state franchise laws and opposition by dealer groups. They’re hoping, however, to  use the trike’s legal status as a motorcycle to piggyback on the exemptions given to factory owned Harley Davidson and Suzuki dealerships.

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Mockup of Elio’s three cylinder engine, designed by IAV. Full gallery here.

Like I said, the PR seems to be getting the word around. While we were shooting video in an industrial park near lunch time, a couple of people walked over to ask us about it and mentioned Elio by name.

What’s it like to drive? Pretty much like any other small front wheel drive car. At first you feel like you’re driving a cross between a small airplane and an open wheel track car, but fairly soon you start to feel like you’re just driving another car. Well, till you again notice people craning their necks and checking what you’re driving in their mirrors. From the outside it looks like nothing else on the road but from the inside it looks very automotive. Yes the fuselage is narrow, but the cockpit is fairly roomy for one person, and there’s even more hip room for the rear passenger than for the driver. I’m not a skinny guy but I had plenty of room.

The car itself is skinny, you can hold both hands out both side windows at the same time, but the cockpit has a Goldilocks feel to it. If the car was wider, visibility to the rear might be an issue since there is no rear window, just a hatch for putting in groceries or a bag of golf clubs. There’s no rear view mirror mounted on the windshield, unneeded because it would just give you a view of your own face. The small side mirrors, which will likely be significantly enlarged on the production version, gave me an adequate view of traffic behind me.

As I said, it handles pretty much like you’d expect a small FWD vehicle to drive. If they didn’t know it had three wheels, most drivers probably couldn’t tell from the driver’s seat. I tried to hang the rear wheel out and get the trike to drift like a Morgan 3 Wheeler can but between the tired Suzuki 3 cyl and the fairly decent contact patch (much fatter tires than on the Morgan 3 wheeler) the back end stayed firmly in place. It understeers, but with a bit more power you might be able to get the vehicle to rotate quicker. Since the Elio trike has a classic double wishbone front suspension with coilover shock/spring units (and a trick pull rod to get the dampers out of the air flow) it can probably be adjusted for more aggressive handling. When cornering hard I didn’t notice much body roll – don’t worry about the inherent instability of three wheelers and their tendency to lift the inner wheel in a turn. Not gonna happen here. To begin with, reverse trikes are more stable than three-wheelers with one wheel in front, and as long as weight is sufficiently biased to the front tires, both of them should stay on the ground.

Steering wasn’t as quick and there was less feel than I expected from manual steering in a 1,200 lb vehicle. I was told that the production trike will have a different steering rack than the prototype. To help with the steering effort, the steering wheel is relatively large. That gives you more leverage over the  non-power-assisted steering. I understand the need for keeping weight down but I’m not sure how many Americans will go for the non-power steering.  Unless the weight penalty would keep the trike from the 84 mpg goal, I’d go with a smaller steering wheel, a quicker rack & pinion ratio and some kind of power assist. It’s not so hard to steer that you can’t almost palm the wheel when parking, but it takes much more effort at low speeds than most drivers are used to. Once going, though, the steering lightens up and I was able to place the Elio trike precisely on the road. I never felt like there was a shortage of grip. The ride wasn’t plush but it wasn’t uncomfortably firm either, again, about what you’d expect in a small car. Suspension movements seemed well controlled.

Mr. Elio told me that there were three basic design objectives: a 0-60 time of 10 seconds, 84 miles per gallon on the highway, and a top speed of at least 100 mph. I’d be interested to feel how the Elio trike handles at speeds higher than 45 mph.

I’ve said that if the Elio trike does go on sale, it could be embraced by car enthusiasts as a poor man’s Morgan 3 Wheeler, which starts at around $45K. If they meet their price point the Elio will also be about a third of the price of the new Polaris Slingshot reverse trike. With a 2.4 liter GM Ecotec engine, and extreme styling, the Slingshot is more explicitly targeted at the go-fast crowd. Having driven the prototype Elio trike I can now say that it does have enthusiast potential, even if it isn’t quite sporting right now. Once they’re up and running, more powerful versions of the Elio are likely. The engine has been designed by IAV with a turbocharger in mind. Paul Elio told me that Comau, which is providing the machinery and automation for the assembly lines at the Shreveport plant, has left a spot on the line empty for the time being so that a turbo installation station can be added later.

It’s indeed a prototype. Some parts are handmade and show signs of wear from not fitting perfectly. The hinges on the cargo hatch interfered with the rubber weatherstripping. At first I thought the A/C controls, by Vintage Air, were dummies, but under the hood there were A/C components so I fiddled with the knobs and eventually got some tepid air to blow through the two eyeball vents on the dashboard. The prototype had one of Continental VDO’s Flexible Smartphone Docking Stations mounted on the dashboard. That’s how Elio is going to offer in-car infotainment. Below the FSDS is a USB port and a 12 volt power tap. There’s also a 12 volt receptacle in the back for the passenger’s use. That passenger will feel less claustrophobic than in the previous prototype as the profile of the rear side windows has been modified.

You can’t judge build quality or possible durability from a prototype. There were a few rattles and clunks, but in general it didn’t feel flimsy.  Still, other than the drivetrain and steering rack, the prototype is close to how they want the production vehicle to be so an extended test drive will yield usable data.

Company founder Paul Elio says that he first dreamed of starting a car company when he was eight years old.

Company founder Paul Elio says that he first dreamed of starting a car company when he was eight years old.

Paul Elio said that production will start in the second half of 2015. With Job One only a year or so out, the design has got to be close to being finalized as tooling and supplier contracts have to be in place by then. Elio said that he expects production will start in Q3 or Q5 of 2015. When I asked him if there was anything that would keep them from going into production, Elio told me, “Funding”. When I later asked him to clarify he said that it was a matter of getting their investors to participate in another round of funding. He stressed how they were happy with their existing investors, who themselves are happy about the reservations. Nearly half of the projected 60,000 first year units are already theoretically spoken for. Elio also said that at this time they aren’t looking for more investors.

Click here to view the embedded video.

As for progress, Elio told me that castings for the first Elio engine have been delivered. It will take four to eight weeks for them to be machined and then a few more weeks for assembly. Assuming that all goes well, they will then build about 30 complete validation cars. Five will be used for crashworthiness and other destructive testing, the other 25 will undergo road testing and will also be used as press demonstrators.

They’re aiming for a 0-60 mph time of around 10 seconds. I didn’t use a stopwatch, but based on the fact that the rather tired (90,000 miles +) Suzuki triple was originally rated right around the 55 hp that Elio’s proprietary IAV designed 0.9 liter engine is supposed to put out, from the prototype’s performance I’d say that they should meet their target. While it’s not fast, I didn’t feel unsafe in traffic.

Concerning safety, since three-wheelers are considered motorcycles as far as federal law is concerned, the Elio trike won’t have to meet the automotive part of the FMVSS, so Elio will likely not submit it for NHTSA crash testing. Paul Elio said that they likely will have the trike privately tested instead and then make the results public. While the Elio will feature air bags and has Barenyi style crush zones front and back, I suspect that most of what protection passengers will receive will come from the fact that the main structure of the vehicle is essentially a full roll cage.

That brings me to a topic that when I brought it up, Jerome Vassallo laughed heartily. If, as Jack Baruth reported after driving Alex Roy’s Morgan, the Brit trike has almost magical powers to attract women, the Elio trike might be a big more like a guarantor of celibacy for young men who drive it. While I was able to talk a fat man into the back seat, I’m not so sure many young women would climb back there and ride tandem with a date, talking to the back of his head. It may be legally a motorcycle and the prototype may have a Suzuki engine but it’s from being a sexy Hayabusa.

Speaking of women, I’d be interested to see some of the results of Elio’s market research and how women perceive the little three wheeled car. One reason why SUVs and now CUVs have been popular with female consumers is the high driving position and the perceived feeling of safety driving a substantial vehicle. At the Dream Cruise showing, while I was there a number of women stopped to look at the car and ask the baseball jersey wearing Elio reps questions, but I did overhear one woman expressing concerns about the Elio’s safety in a crash. Perhaps I’m wrong about the celibacy thing since none of the women seemed repelled by the trike. Their questions were practical, not about styling. Maybe they think it’s is kind of cute. To my eyes it looks more modern than dorky, more Lotus Seven than Aptera.

Elio’s confidence in the car was well placed. I’m not damning it with faint praise when I say that it’s a real automobile, albeit of the three wheeled variety. The prototype may drive like a regular car but building four prototypes is a far piece from churning out 60,000 cars. Between now and the third quarter of 2015 a lot of things could happen but I’m optimistic. It takes a lot of confidence to just hand someone the keys to a prototype, particularly when that someone is associated with a publication known for steely eyed skepticism. When I first became aware of Elio and their trike though I understood why those who said it was vaporware said so, my own initial reaction was, “it’s not rocket science, they could very well succeed.” Now that I’ve driven their latest prototype I’m even more convinced about their chances for success.

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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New Union Goes Up Against UAW For Chattanooga VW Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/new-union-goes-uaw-chattanooga-vw-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/new-union-goes-uaw-chattanooga-vw-plant/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=902153 In response to the United Auto Workers establishing a union local in Chattanooga, Tenn., anti-UAW Volkswagen employees have begun the process of forming their own union. Reuters reports Mike Burton, who helped in the effort to defeat the UAW’s attempt to unionize the VW plant in Chattanooga earlier this year, is leading the charge for […]

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In response to the United Auto Workers establishing a union local in Chattanooga, Tenn., anti-UAW Volkswagen employees have begun the process of forming their own union.

Reuters reports Mike Burton, who helped in the effort to defeat the UAW’s attempt to unionize the VW plant in Chattanooga earlier this year, is leading the charge for what he says will be the first local of the American Council of Employees. He claims that since the UAW lost in February, VW has strengthened its ties to the union, and wants ACE to become the alternative to Local 42, the local established by ACE’s opponents last month.

Meanwhile, UAW secretary-treasurer Gary Casteel believes Burton’s counterattack doesn’t have much of a chance because of the consensus between his union and the automaker, proclaiming Local 42 has “substantially more than 700 members” from the 1,500 hourly employees who work the floor in Chattanooga. He added that it would be up to VW to recognize ACE.

Though VW has said nothing regarding ACE thus far, it has repeatedly supported the establishment of a works council at its sole U.S. factory.

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No Fixed Abode: The dark side of unintended consequences. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/fixed-abode-dark-side-unintended-consequences/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/fixed-abode-dark-side-unintended-consequences/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=901889 To some very large degree, the automotive world as we know it today was fashioned by two major advances. The first was the implementation of effective and reliable engine control computers, which handle everything from emissions compliance to knock control silently and competently. We take it for granted now that cars start immediately, run perfectly […]

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To some very large degree, the automotive world as we know it today was fashioned by two major advances. The first was the implementation of effective and reliable engine control computers, which handle everything from emissions compliance to knock control silently and competently. We take it for granted now that cars start immediately, run perfectly from sea level to the top of Mount Evans, never smoke, stumble, or ping, and return real-world fuel mileage that is often triple that of their Seventies predecessors.

The second advance started around 1992 and it’s known as the “silica miracle”. Replacing some percentage of the carbon black in automotive tires with silica dramatically increases grip and tire life while reducing rolling resistance significantly. The Prius wouldn’t be nearly as amazing without low-rolling-resistance tires, and those tires couldn’t happen without silica. But it’s not just the eco-Mouseketeers who are benefiting from it. Today’s performance tires are so much better than their 1990-and-before predecessors it’s difficult for younger enthusiasts to truly understand the gap in capabilities. It was once taken for granted that performance cars like the Acura NSX or Porsche 911 ate their tires every five thousand miles and handled like they were on greased roller skates the minute the road became shiny with rain. Without silica tires, the enduro series like the 24 Hours of Lemons, ChumpCar, and AER would still have tire changes every two hours.

In fact, today’s automotive tires are so good, it’s possible to use them in ways that were never intended.

They call themselves “Darksiders” but a better word for them might be heretics. They mostly ride the big eight-hundred-pound touring bikes, the six-cylinder Gold Wings and cross-continental Beemers, and they put hundreds of thousands of miles beneath their saddles as they ride “Iron Butts” and swallow states one after another. Many of them have experienced blowouts and major problems from their touring motorcycle tires, particularly when two plus-sized people and a lot of gear are pushing the total load up to the three-quarter-ton mark. All of them are sick and tired, pun intended, of replacing rubber that costs $400 a set on what seems like a seasonal basis.

The Darksiders weren’t the first people to put automotive tires on a motorcycle. That’s been done again and again, most amusingly by the “Big Dog” choppers that had 250mm-width Goodyears on the back wheel. But they were the first people to do it because they expected, and in many cases received, tangible benefits from doing so. One Darksider puts it like so:

If you ride two up, you’ll find that the available moto tire load capacity can easily be exceeded even while remaining within the GVWR. 60-65% rear bias loading isn’t unusual with a passenger and luggage. If you add up the numbers you’ll see what I mean.

I blame this and the resulting heat on my moto tire (MT) failures. The CTs have a much higher load rating and run (in my own experience) about 40% cooler than the moto tires in similar conditions.

So for me, the safety provided by a more capable tire (cooler running/higher load capacity) and the additional safety of Run Flat (RF) capability are the two clear advantages of running a RF CT on a GL1800.

Other advantages are the smoothing/softer ride which is significantly appreciated by my wife. I have noticed marginally improved mileage but not significantly enough to make it an advantage. The biggest improvement on wear is that my CTs are replaced when the tread wears out versus when the tire deforms after failure like with the MT.

With many GoldWing tires lasting just 10,000 miles compared to the 30,000 or more from automotive tires that cost half as much to begin with, plus some additional fuel mileage, the economics of it make obvious sense. Wet-weather traction is also greatly improved, according to the reports of many Darksiders. I want to focus on that for a moment because I think it’s important, and, um, it also explains why you can’t buy any Motorola PowerPC computers or rotary-engined cars anymore.

Hee hee.

You see, while those of us who fancy ourselves scientists or engineers like to believe in the romance of the “aha” moment and the entirely new idea, the dirty truth of it is that the steady progress made by dedicated effort in a field is usually more important, and more effective, than any single inspiration. Take the rotary engine. It’s a hell of an idea and it has a lot to recommend it. The problem was that only one manufacturer kept developing it after the initial excitement faded, and that manufacturer — Mazda, obvi — couldn’t hope to match the sheer volume of engineering prowess being thrown at the piston engine over the same period of time. Thus the piston-engine tortoise catches the rotary hare.

Same goes for the PowerPC chip, which smoked the pins off the x86 architecture when it arrived but couldn’t be sold in enough volume to justify the kind of development that x86 received. In the end, the compromised and thoroughly annoying x86 architecture beat no fewer than three other major processor designs, including Intel’s own Itanium clean-sheet design. The reason was simple: it sold in such numbers, and was so profitable, that there was more money available to improve it by degrees.

Now back to car tires. The market for automotive tires that are effective in the rain is an order of magnitude greater than the market for touring motorcycle tires that are effective in the rain. Don’t be fooled by the large motorcycle markets in other countries; what they consider to be a “motorcycle” has nothing to do with a Gold Wing. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent developing, testing, and perfecting the wet-weather automotive tire. The touring motorcycle tire, on the other hand, is like the Renesis engine in the RX-8; it has some good ideas, but it can’t hold its own against a fully developed, high-volume competitor.

It stands to reason, therefore, that a car tire would of course be better in the rain than a bike tire. Particularly when used in applications where the weight load is basically automotive; a GoldWing with heavy passengers weighs as much as a 1976 Civic and has a performance envelope that is considerably greater.

Naturally, not everyone is thrilled about this Darkside business and compelling arguments against it have been made. But some of these arguments fail to take into account the development gap between car and bike tires. Sure, the cornering loads are way different on a bike tire than a car tire — but what if a car tire is just so much better that it has enough reserve performance in that situation anyway? Remember when Grassroots Motorsports ran a Honda Odyssey against an E-Type around an autocross and the van won? That is the power of continuous development.

The war between the Darkside and the, um, Light Side is getting more heated. Some group rides are excluding Darksiders. Police are ticketing them. Harsh words are being exchanged and the size of various genitalia is being questioned on all sides. This will get worse before it gets better. At some point, one of the tire OEMs is going to “certify” a car tire for bike use, raise the price twenty percent, and clean up. Depend on it.

For those of you who don’t give a damn about motorcycle tires — well, you’re not reading, are you? But if you are, here’s the payoff to the car guys. Like it or not, much of the development money and effort in this business is now being thrown at things we find repugnant. SUVs. CUVs. Three-cylinder turbos, CVTs, DSGs, sliding-caliper brakes, tall wagons, battery packs, who knows what. Many of our cherished technologies and designs will fall by the wayside. The only consolation is that things will get better and there will be room for romance, excitement, enthusiasm in there somewhere.

In the end, though, the money and the market will determine what the cars of the future look like. We’ll just have to hope that we can misuse them to our own disreputable ends. You know what I’m saying, right? In the finish, we will all wind up on the dark side.

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Junkyard Find: 1971 Mercedes-Benz 250C http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/junkyard-find-1971-mercedes-benz-250c/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/junkyard-find-1971-mercedes-benz-250c/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=901313 Mercedes-Benz W114s lasted forever and held their value pretty well, which means that plenty of them still show up in self-service yards nearly 15 years into the 21st century (though most of the time I skip photographing the sedans). So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’73 280CE, this ’73 220, this ’73 280CE, […]

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09 - 1971 Mercedes-Benz 250C Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMercedes-Benz W114s lasted forever and held their value pretty well, which means that plenty of them still show up in self-service yards nearly 15 years into the 21st century (though most of the time I skip photographing the sedans). So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’73 280CE, this ’73 220, this ’73 280CE, and this ’74 280C, and now I’ve found this coupe in Denver.
12 - 1971 Mercedes-Benz 250C Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe sun has not been kind to this car’s vinyl roof.
04 - 1971 Mercedes-Benz 250C Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior has been picked over deeply, to the extent that this may have been a parts car that was scrapped after all the useful stuff was gone.
06 - 1971 Mercedes-Benz 250C Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNo shortage of these engines in wrecking yards, so it’s unlikely that this one will be rescued from The Crusher’s jaws.
01 - 1971 Mercedes-Benz 250C Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFor some reason, 95% of 1960s and 1970s Mercedes-Benz cars in self-service wrecking yards have the model-number emblems removed. Are they worth big money, or just favored garage decorations?

01 - 1971 Mercedes-Benz 250C Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1971 Mercedes-Benz 250C Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1971 Mercedes-Benz 250C Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1971 Mercedes-Benz 250C Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1971 Mercedes-Benz 250C Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1971 Mercedes-Benz 250C Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1971 Mercedes-Benz 250C Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1971 Mercedes-Benz 250C Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1971 Mercedes-Benz 250C Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1971 Mercedes-Benz 250C Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1971 Mercedes-Benz 250C Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1971 Mercedes-Benz 250C Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1971 Mercedes-Benz 250C Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1971 Mercedes-Benz 250C Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Toyota Re-Pops The Series 70 Land Cruiser! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/toyota-re-pops-series-70-land-cruiser/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/toyota-re-pops-series-70-land-cruiser/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 12:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=901945 It’s been a while since TTAC crackled and buzzed with the latest Toyota news all the time — but this morning, we’re changing that! Toyota is producing the 1990s-era Series 70 Land Cruiser in two body styles as a year-long, Japanese-market love letter to its most ardent fans. The pricing is bargain basement — about […]

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It’s been a while since TTAC crackled and buzzed with the latest Toyota news all the time — but this morning, we’re changing that!

Toyota is producing the 1990s-era Series 70 Land Cruiser in two body styles as a year-long, Japanese-market love letter to its most ardent fans. The pricing is bargain basement — about thirty-four grand for either style — and the drivetrain pairs a 228-horse four-liter V6 with a five-speed manual transmission and part-time 4WD. Locking diffs are optional, as is a winch.

What a lovely, desirable, heirloom-quality vehicle. Can’t get it here, though — “here” being “anywhere but Japan”, to misquote Mona Simpson. And the original Series 70 Cruisers can still be found in the United States, although condition may vary (you can buy them as commercial vehicles in Australia as well). This rebuilding thing is brilliant, though. Now if only they’d do the final Cressida, the first LS400, the ’94 Supra Twin Turbo, the 2000GT…

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