The Truth About Cars » 1999 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 20:01:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » 1999 Tow Rig Capsule Review: 1999 GMT800 Silverado 2500 3/4 Ton Wed, 04 Jun 2014 13:00:41 +0000 10150805_10152175963728579_5737863623707006165_n
The last time I looked at my 1969 Chevrolet CST/10, it was a pile of disappointment. After reviving it and replacing a freeze plug, it proceeded to pop three more freeze plugs during warm up. Time was beginning to run out, my dad’s house had gone up to market and quickly sold. The truck was a long way away from driving out of Houston, and I needed to get it out of town. Time and money were a factor, I didn’t have time to spend money running a truck and trailer to Houston, just for the CST/10. Thankfully, three things lined up: A truck, a trailer, and a reason to drive to Houston. The truck is a customer’s, who loans the truck out in return for a few favors on the truck’s maintenance. The trailer came from my friend’s rally shop, which I moonlight at. And the Lone Star Region Porsche Club had invited me to partake in their refreshed autocross program at Houston Police Academy just before the closing deadline on my father’s house. Win-win, right? I packed the suitcase, tools and dog, hemorrhaged a gas pump to fill the truck, and blasted to Houston.

The biggest tool for this expedition was a venerable 1999 GMT800 Silverado 2500. A tried-and-true work truck, with no options other than power locks. Extended cab, with an eight foot bed – this is one of the longer wheelbase configurations, superceeded only by the four door “quad cab” with the eight foot bed.

The drivetrain is a gas 6.0L V8, the early all-cast iron version. Later 6.0′s and “LSx” truck engines moved to iron block and aluminum heads. The all-iron build of the early ones is a bit more stout against abuse. 300 hp and a flat 360 ft lb of torque work well at sea-level, providing excellent passing power and low end torque. To this day, it’s one of the friendliest gas engines in towing with its flat torque curve and excellent midrange power for highway use, and returns excellent fuel economy for a gas engine. I find the Ford 5.4 Modular and Dodge 5.7 Hemi from the GMT800 era were never quite as comfortable under load.

The transmission is a 4L80E, essentially a modernized overdrive version of the Turbo-400, the racetrack and workhorse hero for GM since the late 60′s. It also features a Tow/Haul mode, which changes the transmission mapping to ensure an easier day for the transmission and driver. Primarily, it holds third gear longer during climbs, and waits to lock the torque converter during hill climbs allowing the torque converter to torque multiply, allowing the 6.0L gasoline V8 to work harder under load. Four speed automatics seem archaic, but the gearing is well matched to for the 6.0.

Despite the air conditioning needing a recharge after a compressor replacement, the weather was pleasant enough for windows-down driving. In the GMT800′s, extended cabs do well with the rear vent windows open, which smoothly pull hot air out of the cab, negating the buffeting and noise with fully open windows. Cruise control was set at 70 mph, and three hours later, I arrived in my dad’s driveway.

trucks That weekend happened to be an impromptu Chevy truck convention. The charcoal short-cab/short-bed is my godfather’s, serving duty in Houston with my dad during his move. It’s a plane Jane Silverado 1500 half ton, with a 4.3L V6 and a 5-speed NV2500. The NV2500′s gearing allows the 4.3 to work well in its torque band, and even makes for a great short-distance tow rig with its compact dimensions and small turning radius. These positive attributes in the city detract from its appeal on longer drives. It simply doesn’t have the wheel base and weight for highway towing in adverse conditions. That said, it has towed 7 cars for me in the past six months.

Around town with the trailer unhitched, the Silverado 2500 rides well. The chassis soaks up irregular roads, never bucking and kicking -the rough and overly-stiff ride often associated with 3/4 and 1-tons is nowhere to be found. Think of something that rides like a firm Cadillac: It has the big-body teutonic feel with firm, well-controlled suspension movement. Brakes are excellent, with a firm and progressive bite from the hydraulically assisted power brakes — unique to the Silverado 2500 and 3500, as the regular Silverado 1500 uses traditional vacuum assist. This provides stronger brake boosting, and constant boost under heavy load where engine vacuum is low. The steering is well weighted, and with a direct but soft feel when centered. It’s never twitchy or sensitive, but does translate minor adjustments accurately. Sway bars thicker than Goldberg’s neck ensure that the Silverado 2500 feels well planted on the road.

And here’s the real trick of the GMT800 pickups: Supreme visibility. With a low belt line, and shorter overall height than most modern pickups, the GMT800s are very easy to drive in tight situations. Even when hitched to our 24 foot deck trailer, vehicle placement is a breeze. Interior ergonomics have always been great, for me. Everything is in excellent reach of the driver, and there’s ample storage. It’s basic GM plastics, but this 290,000 mile Silverado 2500 managed to stay pretty quiet inside. The gauge cluster is comprehensive and very easy to read. Real oil pressure, water temperature, voltage, and transmission temperature gauges flank the speedometer and tachometer. Dummy gauges, like “Cool” to “Hot” gauges you commonly see, are useless to me. They are often highly inaccurate, and wild swings in readings are not accurately counted by them, at times. With a comprehensive set of numbered gauges, a driver can spot a problem before it becomes detrimental. While mostly sharing the same cluster with the Silverado 1500 1/2 ton, the additional transmission temperature gauge for the Sivlerado 2500 and 3500 models is very much welcomed.


But where these ingredients truly shine is on the highway with a load. Sunday, after the LSRPCA autocross, my dad and I packed up the CST/10 with boxes of spare parts, and loaded it onto the trailer.

The CST/10 weighs just under 5,000 pounds, and the trailer is about 2,400 pounds. Properly loaded, the chassis is largely unaffected by the weight. There’s more heave in the suspension over large movements, but the truck is rarely jarred by trailer movement. Braking stability is excellent “panic” stops proved stable, dead-straight, and with aggressive and effective ABS action. Everything is well-managed in poor weather, high winds and wet roads do not easily upset the Silverado 2500.


The drive out of Houston was smooth. Thankfully, over the weekend my father and I recharged the A/C system. Life was much better after that, happily trucking along with the windows sealed tight. I took a 20 mile jog  to Cypress to visit my mother’s place, and stayed the night with a fresh start on Monday. This ended up being a good choice, as 15 miles outside of Cypress my trailer lost a wheel bearing – the hub cap had fallen off somewhere along the way. With no grease, the outer bearing fell apart, dumping the outer race and rollers on Highway 290, and quickly began to overheat. I caught it early after glancing at the mirrors to find plums of smoke coming out of the fender, and pulled aside.

Thankfully, I was only 2 miles past Hempstead, a podunk farming town off the main highway. And with an extra dose of luck, I managed to break down in front of a custom golf cart shop, which managed to have tons of space to drop trailer and backtrack to Hempstead. My dog, Quesa, happily wondered around the gravel parking lot, taking in every smell possible. Hempsted is still the old south, in the “yes sir, yes ma’am” tradition. It’s a place where you can leave a truck running while inside a parts store, to keep your dog cool, and not have to worry about anyone tampering with it.


10313830_10152176743973579_8805478268548247443_nBack on the highway, the Silverado 2500 is a smooth towing missile. With the cruise set at 70, we hummed down to San Marcos, where the truck would stay at a friend’s rally shop. A sleeping dog is a good sign of a smooth drive. Even with 20 mph crosswinds, the Silverado 2500 maintained a steady heading at all times. The overall fuel mileage for the entire trip, about 75% highway and 25% city, was 16.2 mpg, roughly $120. Not terrible.


Though late, I rolled into San Marcos around sunset, and quickly unloaded the CST/10. Back to back, you can see the strong styling elements of the CST10 in the GMT800 Silverado.

The price for one of these? Just a few grand, near me, anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 for a fantastic and livable budget tow rig. Excellent road manners, ease of service under the hood, and low running costs — these old GMT800 trucks are one of the best used-truck buys out there. With only a minor compromise in ride softness compared to the Silverado 1500, the additional hardware is worth the 2500 nameplate and both are valued near the same. Truly the last of the modest fullsize pickups.

]]> 71
Piston Slap: Denso’d into Needless Markup? Mon, 19 Dec 2011 19:00:10 +0000

TTAC commentator/writer David Holzman writes:


My ’99 Accord 5speed with 200k on the clock needs a new gas tank. The fuel pump is inside the gas tank. Should I get a new fuel pump with that gas tank? Changing the tank will cost about $600; including a fuel pump will add $300. I’m planning to keep this car another year and a half to two years, at which point it will have about 230k.

(I will replace it with whatever version of the Toyota FT86 reaches our shores provided the car does well repair-wise in its first year, and provided I like it as much as Bertel’s review suggested I would.)

PS: can you get this one up ASAP? I need to get the tank before I go on a road trip Dec. 24.

Sajeev Answers:

$300 for a fuel pump?  Please check the prices on and verify your shop isn’t marking up their parts costs.

That said, I don’t know if the pump needs to be replaced, there’s a good chance it will last 2 years. Even if it fails, you don’t need to drop the tank to install a new one. Tough call.  A fuel pump should be more like $100-150 and labor should be nearly nothing considering the tank is dropped.

David replies:


I suspect the $300 was for an OEM fuel pump. On Rockauto, they start at around $30, and a number of them are 100 and change. I guess one thing that makes me nervous is the thought of switching from my original to a non-OEM. I mean, it wouldn’t completely surprise me if the original went for a few more years and a non-OEM quit after a few years.

Sajeev Concludes:

I suspect that $300 was for the complete fuel pump assembly.  Wait no, I never suspect that. As a tireless cynic when it comes to random mechanics giving quotes to my readers, I always go for the worst.  That said, Rockauto sells the Denso fuel pump (OE part) for $118.00…and Denso stuff ain’t no joke, this is what you need.

Would a nameless, faceless shop charge over 200% markup for the same part you can buy online?  Perhaps. It wouldn’t be the first time, son! Wrap up: there’s no wrong answer, replace or no.  The only problem is the cost of said part.

Send your queries to . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

]]> 37
Capsule Review: 1999 BMW Z3 M Coupe Tue, 07 Sep 2010 19:10:27 +0000

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

The M Coupe’s ability to evade memory is simultaneously totally understandable and wholly mystifying. On the surface, it’s a completely distinctive model: the only true shooting brake-style sportscar to be built in my lifetime. It also generated a fair amount of controversy when it debuted. I can vividly recall seeing pictures of the weird be-hatched Z3 in my father’s Auto Motor und Sport, and thinking why on earth did BMW let a Z3 mate with a Civic hatchback? Then I saw one on the road, and was struck by how bizarrely good-looking it was. Before I ever got behind the wheel of one, I had already enjoyed a complex emotional relationship with the model, hating it, loving it, and ultimately respecting the balls it took to put it into production.

So how did I forget about it? Perhaps because the M3 has loomed so large in the minds of all automotive enthusiasts for so long. Possibly because it was only produced for four short years. More likely though is the fact that it got lost in my dislike for its sister model, the Z3 convertible. Having seen the Z3 appear in the Bond film Goldeneye, I instantly loved it. But in an inversion of my relationship to the Z3 Coupe, I quickly came to loath the Roadster. The appeal of its styling wore off extremely rapidly, and left behind only a stinging distaste for the car’s image. Middle-age Bond wannabes, Cougars (though the term had not yet been coined) and hairdressers dominated my perception of Z3 drivers.

Then, several weeks ago, I was on an evening walk with my significant other, when I caught sight of a long, low, shoe-like shape peeking out from under a carport. Even with a textile cover, the shape was unmistakable. Having wallowed in the shame of being an auto writer with no car of my own, my partner and I had been discussing several possible options for an editorial chariot, to which I tentatively added the Z3 Coupe. Being a young lady of extremely refined taste, I fully expected her to dismiss the Coupe on the grounds of its looks. When she expressed her enthusiasm for the model, I knew it was the one for me. Just weeks later, I tracked down a ’99 M Coupe with 89k miles, and didn’t think twice about plunking down my entire savings on it.

For the 1999 and 2000 model year, M Coupes came with BMW’s S52 3.2 liter inline six with “only” 240 HP and 236 ft-lbs of torque, and as a result cars from these two years are relatively affordable. Emphasis on relatively. The 2001-2002 models, which boast BMW’s 315 HP S54 engine can easily cost upwards of $40k. This is explained by the other reason M Coupes tend not to stick in the automotive memory banks: BMW only built a tiny number of the cars. Just over 2,000 US-market S52 models were built, while a mere 690 North American M Coupes were made with the more powerful S54. The former BMW-dealer broker who sold me my M Coupe off his tiny showroom in South East Portland said that when the model first debuted, he wished they had made fewer.

Luckily they didn’t, because the S52 M Coupe is a rare, distinctive, and some might say even exotic car, that can be had for the price of a new  mass-market midsize sedan. And though buying an 11 year-old BMW with nearly 90k miles and no warranty is a bit like playing Russian Roulette, the S52 engine has a far better reliability record than its more powerful, but more-stressed S54 cousin. Besides, you aren’t really an enthusiast until you’ve spent you car’s purchase price on maintenance, right?

In any case, the M Coupe in question feels extremely well taken-care-of. Slide and fold yourself into the low-slung driver’s seat, and the rich smell of real leather fills the nostrils. Though the frameless doors judder slightly when closed, the only real indication of heavy use anywhere is the well-loved steering wheel, worn down with the exertion of eleven years of spirited driving. Interior styling is refreshingly old-school, with a delicate dash, and a big chrome-ringed clock, Volt-meter and oil temperature gauge. The firm seats grab your sides with Germanic strength, and reinforce the message sent by the tiny audio head unit and general lack of toys, buttons, knobs and switches: this car was made to be driven.

Well then: with a twist of the old-fashioned key, the 3.2 liter engine fires to life with a sonorous whoofle. The short-throw shifter demands a firm hand, as it slots heavily into gear with only a hint of vagueness and some satisfying crunch. At low speeds, the heavy shifter is matched by equally heavy steering, giving the car an old-school, analogue feel. As you gaze down the softly-bulging hood, you realize that old-school-ness is truly the defining characteristic of this car. It demands strong arms, strong hands, and the willingness to grab it by the nape of the neck and forcefully extract its true potential.

Luckily, the creamy series-six engine subscribes to a kinder, gentler class of the old school. And why not? This is, after all, a BMW. Smooth and eminently tractable at low speeds, the S52 has allowed this car’s clutch to age with grace, and it allows the driver to focus on wrestling with the wheel at parking lot speeds. On the go, it’s a bit boomy at low speeds, but it revs with remarkable strength, its noise sharpening into a fierce, raspy howl. Unlike so many modern engines, which appear to have been tuned for a maximum number at one discrete point on the rev counter, the S52 is shockingly elastic, making good power across the range, and never feeling like it’s only building up to the real fun.

And with only five gears on offer, it’s a good thing the smooth-spinning engine has such long legs. In cut-and-parry driving, the close ratios and satisfying shifts make the manual box a fine partner. At “Autobahn speeds,” however,  there’s far less to work with. The M Coupe will doddle along at 50 MPH in fifth gear, and triple-digit speeds are just a flex of the right foot away, but as the engine screams towards the rev limiter, it’s clear that Mr M won’t be setting any top-speed records. Don’t get it wrong: I like driving over 130 MPH as much as the next lunatic, but in the real world that’s about all you ever get a chance at anyway.

Besides, there’s plenty of fun to be had in that speed envelope. Lean into the M Coupe’s heavy tiller, and it corners sharp and flat, with loads of feedback from the front end. The grip is better than you might think (although it’s as ggod as the ride suggests), but the real fun starts when you overcome it with healthy applications of throttle. I haven’t owned the M Coupe long enough to come close to fully exploring its throttle-steering potential, but it should come as no surprise that the rear of this car is exceptionally steerable. And thanks to its “mere” 240 HP, pushing the limit of rear-end grip takes real subtlety rather than simple pedal mashing. And speaking of pedal mashing, it’s far easier to explore the M’s handling knowing that insistently strong (if somewhat numb) brakes are but a quick mash away.

In short, the 240 HP M Coupe is a minor automotive miracle: the extremely rare, stunningly unique, immensely capable, and (yes) supremely practical sports coupe. That controversial rear hatch may not be long enough to fit your shotguns (the traditional payload of the shooting brake), but it beats the alternatives hollow. Overnight bags for two? Check. A crate of apples from the fruit stand on the side of your favorite driving road? Grab a couple. But the most significant attribute of the hatch is that it exists at all. It made a preening, twee roadster into a purposeful yet practical coupe. Most of all, it grants the M Coupe the power to be forgotten and rediscovered. And what more can an enthusiast ask for?

DSC_0010 Never saw it coming, did you? DSC_0007 DSC_0017 DSC_0001 DSC_0011 DSC_0003 DSC_0008 DSC_0002 DSC_0005 DSC_0006 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail DSC_0016 ]]> 69