The Truth About Cars » 300M http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 15:46:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 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 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 » 300M http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Final Fight Of The 300 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/final-fight-of-the-300/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/final-fight-of-the-300/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 16:56:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=787817 300m2

At the big blue water tower, Interstate 90, known locally as the New York State Thruway, sweeps in from the east and turns sharply southward to skirt the city of Buffalo. The main interstate is joined there by I-290, one of the loop roads that comes in from the north, and although the roads are both heavily traveled, the intersection is not especially well thought out. The 290, three lanes wide, makes a clean split, the leftmost lane joining the eastbound lanes of the 90 while the rightmost lane heads up and over an overpass before joining the westbound lanes. The middle lane offers drivers the opportunity to turn either way but most people opt to take the west bound exit and, because the right most lane is eventually forced to merge into the left lane prior to actually joining the 90, most people tend to hang in the middle lane prior to the split and, during rush hour, traffic tends to slow. Naturally, wherever cars slow, dickheads want to use the open lane to pass and then merge at the last moment.

Headed south in the early morning hours, traffic was moving along fairly well and I, in my 300M, was in line with dozens of other cars in the center lane when the big blue water tower and the 290/90 split hove into view. As usual, traffic began to slow, but there were no brake lights. Gradually, our speed dropped from the posted limit to around 40 miles and hour and I, along with everyone else in-line, stayed to the right as the center lane divided, a bare car length between me and the driver ahead. Given the distance, my attention was focused up the road rather than my mirrors so I was shocked when, out of the corner of my eye, I detected something that simply should not have been there, a car on my left.

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Spree Magazine

I hadn’t seen him approach, but there was only one way the light blue Nissan Cube could have shown up there. He had run up the left most lane faster than those of us in line and then, instead of staying left and heading east towards Rochester, he had gone straight-on across the center lane split and was now on the left shoulder and moving a good ten mph faster than the rest of us. In a millisecond he swept past, narrowly missing the side of my prized old Chrysler and then, hard on the brakes, stuffed his little econo-box into the small space between my car and the one I had been following.

Generally, I’m not prone to road rage, but in the moments that followed I saw red. Instead of jumping on the brakes and opening the space between us I stayed right in position bare inches from the offending car’s back bumper. The road moved up and over a small bridge and, on the other side, headed down to the 90 where it became the rightmost lane. At that point, most of the fast cars will generally shift left and scoot away while those of us headed downtown will shift onto the exit for Route 33. To my surprise, instead of moving left and making his getaway, the Cube turned right and since I just happened to be headed the same way I did so too. We ran down the off ramp just inches apart and, as we joined the highway headed downtown, I bumped the big Chrysler into “autostick” mode.

Nissan Cube

As we hit the merge I bumped the 300 down a gear and mashed the gas. The engine spun up and the sound that came out of the back was glorious. I drove the car into the left lane fully expecting to outgun the little Cube and to give him a taste of his own medicine as he attempted to merge but, alas, he wasn’t there. As the Chrysler surged forward, so too did the little economy car and, foot by foot as both of us stayed hard on the gas, the Cube slipped smoothly away.

Looking back on it, I didn’t act very smart that day. Had the Cube caused an accident I might have been justified in being upset but once he had managed to stuff his car into the gap I should have backed off and let him go. Still, I learned something about how quickly technology has advanced and how smaller cars with better performing engines are more than a match for older, larger “performance” (if that’s the right word for a 300M) sedans. The best thing is, of course, that no one had to be hurt to learn that lesson.

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

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Rolling History Or Rolling Junk Pile: Which Would You Own? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/rolling-history-or-rolling-junk-pile-which-would-you-own/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/rolling-history-or-rolling-junk-pile-which-would-you-own/#comments Tue, 28 Jan 2014 16:51:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=726058 Photo courtesy of golden2husky

Photo courtesy of golden2husky

Last week, I wrote a short article about my impending relocation to Kansas and asked for your input on my plan to purchase some kind of an old car to play around with while I am there. I got a huge response and, thanks to so many people’s thoughtful responses, I’m already considering cars I might otherwise have passed right over. Since the move is still some months away, the article was intended to help launch my search and I was having fun reading everyone’s replies and cross checking the various suggestions on Craigslist when, about 235 comments in, I got an interesting offer…

One of TTAC’s most consistent commenters, golden2husky, wrote and asked: “How about a near flawless 1995 Probe GT 5 speed, 71K, spent its life in a heated garage and never saw salt? A Corvette will be taking its place and it needs a loving home….and in Leavenworth KS, the discreet Melissa Etheridge window sticker will be a bonus!”

I won’t lie, the second generation Probe GT was already high on the list of possibilities. They seem to regularly appear on the Kansas City Craigslist at good prices and I’ve always thought they were good looking little cars that have aged really well over the past two decades. They have a sleek, modern design that makes them look surprisingly up-to-date and, although they may not be as powerful as most of the cars being built today, the 164 horsepower that wikipedia says the V6 made is more than adequate for my purposes. With a five speed stick under your right hand, a car like that can be a lot of fun and this one sounded like a peach. Naturally, I responded right away.

The pictures I received backed up golden2husky’s claims of a low mileage, garage kept one owner car and it was clear to me that the little Probe had been affectionately cared for since the day it was purchased. It was a stunning, ruby-red jewel of a car with a grey leather interior and, although he wanted a little more than I had stated I wanted to pay, his price was not outrageous for such a fine car. I was tempted, but in the end I had to decline. The reason, however, has nothing to do with the car and everything with my state of mind.

300m

Over the past decade or so I have owned two older cars that may have been as nice as golden2husky‘s Probe, my father’s 1984 Cutlass Supreme and my 2002 300M Special. In both of those cases I started out with the full intention of driving the car every day and, for a while, I did. It’s a lot of fun owning and driving an older car in great shape. People notice it. They see it parked on its own at the back of the supermarket parking lot. They ask about it when they see you pumping gas and sometimes they even chase you down with offers to buy it. Your heart swells with pride and you begin to think you have something really special, something that needs to be protected and preserved.

Soon, you buy into the notion and find yourself driving your “classic” car less and less. Every day becomes once-in-a-while and then, when the car enters the garage and you get it snugly secured under its cover, once-in-a-while becomes the occasional sunny day. Driving and tinkering goes by the wayside and you fall into an endless pattern of washing, waxing and self admiration. You feel good that you own such a wonderful car, but gradually it dawns on you that no one ever asks about it anymore, they don’t see it anywhere in the supermarket parking lot and it isn’t on the road enough to cause anyone to chase you down, either. The same impetus to protect and preserve your car has left it locked away in the garage, like a fairytale princess in a tower and you, the formerly happy owner, have become the dragon that protects it from all who could possible do it harm.

In my case, because I couldn’t find it within myself to turn my “classics” back into daily drivers, I ended up walking away. In the case of the Olds, I gave it to my nephew who used it for a while and then wisely sold it before he became trapped in the same untenable situation I had been, and in the case of the 300 sold it to a local man here in Buffalo who, for at least the time being I am sure, uses it on a regular basis. As I looked at the photos of Golden2husky’s Probe I realized where purchasing it would lead and, after a long hard look in the mirror, knew I had to take a pass. I just don’t have the self control it takes to use such a fine car every day but if you do, you know where to find it. For me, so long as I want to have any real fun at all, there can be only junkers.

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

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The Tipping Point http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/the-tipping-point/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/the-tipping-point/#comments Fri, 17 May 2013 15:34:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=488089 300m1

Years ago, I was paid to help a neighbor clean out his garage. It was an old, ramshackle building with a dirt floor and over the years it had been filled with an amazing amount of crap. At the very back, under a canvas tarp, I found a long neglected late 60s Honda CB750 in fairly rough condition. When I asked about it, my neighbor told me how, as a younger man, he had purchased the bike new and travelled the highways and byways of the American West for many years before finally coming home a settling down to start a family. To him, it was an icon of his youth and a time of freedom. To my young eyes, however, it was just a neglected old bike covered in dirt and cobwebs, found forgotten, alone and unloved and condemned to spend its remaining years as a lifeless touchstone of another time. It struck me as a particularly sad end to a life of service and I decided then that no vehicle of mine would ever languish its remaining life away in a barn or under a cover.

It was the arrival of my third child that sparked my family’s need for a bigger vehicle. Up to that point we had been fine with my Chrysler and the Pontiac Torrent I had purchased for my wife after our return from Japan. Both cars had a pair of car seats in the back for our two older kids, but neither proved to be wide enough to add a the necessary third seat. It was obvious we needed a minivan and I soon began a long search that netted us the Ford Freestar that I have written about on these pages before. With my wife firmly ensconced in her new mommy mobile, the low mileage Torrent that had previously been hers became my daily driver and the Chrysler slipped to the side of the drive where it sat snug and secure under its cover as the Buffalo winter swept towards us.

300M

The following year, whenever the weather looked nice, I rolled the Chrysler out of its spot from time to time for various work-related jaunts around Western New York. I took it to work on the nicest days and at other time used it for those few, infrequent errands that didn’t involve carting a kid around. It was nice to have and I used it a few times while our van went to the shop but for the most part, it simply sat and waited. That autumn, as inspection time rolled around, I found that I had put a grand total of four thousand miles on the clock. Somewhere in the back of my mind, a long unused synapse fired and a memory of a rusty, sad-looking motorcycle flashed into my consciousness. I pushed the vision back into its place and, with another winter on the horizon, slipped the Chrysler back into its place at the side of the drive way and secured its cover.

The memory continued to work at me, however, and the site of the car hunkered down under its cover and covered in autumn leaves, then snow and finally the yellow pollen of a new spring, gnawed at me. A few weeks ago, I took the car out, prepped it for the summer and doted on it as usual but the seed that had been planted last fall had grown large enough that events had crossed the tipping point. I made a last work related road trip three weeks ago and upon my return posted an ad to Craigslist.

I asked too much money but, regardless, someone responded quickly. Our first conversation went well and the interested party, a man named John, seemed like a good guy, Even better he had spent much of his life in Arizona, where I had purchased the car after my return from Japan in 2010, and he knew the dealership in question. What sealed the deal was when he and his wife arrived to check out my car and I saw he was driving his own less-than-Special Chrysler 300M.

There was tire kicking, a look under the hood, a test drive and a conversation but surprisingly little haggling. John and I are men of a similar type, I learned, and he knew exactly what he was buying. Maybe it was more expensive than every other 300M in Western New York, but it was truly unique and, like me, John was smitten as soon as he slipped behind the wheel. He thought about it overnight and, after working out the finances, came back on Wednesday evening with his cashier’s check. We swapped another story or two as we wrapped up the paperwork and then he opened the door, sunk down into the seat and started the engine. The car burbled at idle as he adjusted the seat, the mirrors and took a moment to survey his purchase. He slipped the car into gear, pulled the parking brake and then, slowly, majestically, the 300M slipped slowly down the drive, onto the street and out of my life forever.

The logical side of me knows that machines are things to be used up and discarded. If a person is especially devoted to regular service and maintenance they can stretch the lifespan of a given vehicle well beyond the norm. If they have the necessary mechanical skill, or the money to access those who do, they can keep a machine running indefinitely. But if a person lacks the time or interest to do the maintenance, make the repairs or even drive a vehicle then there can be only one, ultimate result. If, as I have often posited in my articles, cars really do have souls, the deserve better than to be held prisoner of a man’s past. They deserve a chance to live out their lives in the sun, with the wind streaming over them, the road rushing towards them and the miles falling away behind. Godspeed.

300m2

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

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Long Distance Run Around – Buying My 300M Sight Unseen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/long-distance-run-around-buying-my-300m-sight-unseen/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/long-distance-run-around-buying-my-300m-sight-unseen/#comments Thu, 28 Mar 2013 13:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=482521

The salesman must have thought I was nuts. I could hear the incredulous tone in his voice, “Some guy calling from Okinawa wants to buy a used car that we put on Craigslist? When does he want to come and look at it? He doesn’t? How’s he going to pick it up? He isn’t?” Fortunately for the both of us, money talks.

By the spring of 2010 I had spent six straight years in Japan and I was worn out. Although I wasn’t exactly eager to return to the United States, whether I wanted to believe it or not, it really was time for a change of scenery and the closer my departure came, the more comfortable I became with the idea. A return to the United States meant a lot of good things, I realized. My wife would get to experience life in the land of the free and my kids would get to hear someone other than their dad speak English for a change. It would also be a return to live football games on TV, real bologna sandwiches and, best of all, I might even get the chance to own a cool car again.

As soon as the thought entered my mind, I knew what I wanted, a great American sedan. I spent a lot of time hemming and hawing about the various ones on the market but, when the time came for me to put my money where my mouth was, reality reasserted itself and took control of the situation. As an auto enthusiast, I’d like to say that I refused to settle, but the truth is a couple of my dream cars went out the window, foremost among them the Pontiac Bonneville GXP I had long dreamed about. Then an old memory tickled the back of my skull, what about the 300M?

From the days of the Eagle Vision, I have been a sucker for the LHS cars. Now, of course, I know that some of them have transmission issues, but from the day photos of the Eagle Vision hit the magazine stand those cars have featured large in my own personal vision of the future. Each iteration of the design, the New Yorker, the LHS and eventually the 300M represented another step towards a better, brighter tomorrow. So the 300M really didn’t have 300 horsepower? It looked so good to me that it didn’t matter.

With my departure from Japan just a month away, there was no time to be lost. After reading as many old road tests as I could, I set down a list of requirements so thorough it resembled the build sheet for a brand new car. I chose the 300M Special, a slightly sporty variant of the already good-looking 300M that featured a few more horsepower, fake carbon fiber interior trim, special body work, lower stance and special wheels. I decided too that I wanted the white/grey two-tone interior, a sun roof and all the other options. Finally, I decided that it had to have less than 70K miles and be in perfect condition.

Thanks to the internet, I had a whole world of 300Ms at my finger tips. Thanks to my list of demands, I had very few choices. I found a nice black one in Salt Lake City that looked like it met the criteria, but it was sold when I called. A gorgeous blue one in Sandusky Ohio was long gone, too. Eventually, thanks to a Craigslist search aggregator, I found a dark grey 300M in Tucson, AZ. This time when I called it was still there.
The salesman was shocked, but when I told him I was a cash buyer he jumped at the chance to sell a car. He sent me dozens of pictures and promised me, under threat of a major beat down, that the car was in great condition. From half a world away I held my breath, took the plunge and bought the car sight unseen. Then I had to get it up to Seattle.

Fortunately, I am from a big family and my older sister Connie needed a vacation. For the price of a one-way ticket to Tucson and a few dollars pocket money I was able to solve that problem. I watched her progress via Facebook as she picked-up the car and then headed across the high deserts of the American Southwest, then Northward through California, with a stop to visit the wine country, Oregon and finally Washington state. When I arrived at the airport two weeks later, Connie was there to meet me and the big Chrysler was waiting for me in the airport garage. It was a thrill to step right off an airplane and slide right behind the wheel.

The car was and still is immaculate. I used it to travel from my home north of Seattle across the country to my new assignment in Buffalo. Later I used it for a trip to New Hampshire and another trip to Washington DC. It has, thanks to the birth of my third child and the subsequent purchase of a mini-van for my wife, slipped from daily driver status but considering the winter road conditions here in Buffalo, that isn’t a bad thing. Even now it sits hunkered down safe and snug under its cover and a layer of early spring snow in my driveway. I may have had to move heaven and Earth to get it, but it was worth coming home for.

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

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