The Truth About Cars » Buffalo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Apr 2014 13:24:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 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 » Buffalo 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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Buffalo’s Pierce Arrow Museum Will Hit The Mark With Expanded Facility http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/buffalos-pierce-arrow-museum-will-hit-the-mark-with-expanded-facility/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/buffalos-pierce-arrow-museum-will-hit-the-mark-with-expanded-facility/#comments Fri, 19 Jul 2013 14:49:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=495800 Photo courtesy of http://www.pierce-arrow.com

Photo courtesy of www.pierce-arrow.com

Like so many other cities in the American North East, Buffalo’s days as a great manufacturing center appear to be over. With a few notable exceptions, industry has moved on and the result has been closed factories and hard times. Buffalo must change if it hopes to survive and, like so many other cities these days, it is working to redefine itself. That doesn’t mean that it will forget its roots, however, and well it shouldn’t. It is, after all, the town that gave birth to the legendary Pierce-Arrow and thanks to one local collector it even has a museum to celebrate that fact. Now that museum is set to be more impressive than ever.

At the turn of the last century, Buffalo was poised to take advantage of its position as the Eastern most city on the Great Lakes. Steamships brought the wealth of middle America to the city’s wharves and industry thrived here. One of the more successful operations was that of George N. Pierce and as far back as the 1870s his company had been turning those raw materials into household goods. When the bicycle craze hit, the Pierce company also began to manufacture those and by 1901 had built their first automobile as well. It was a modest one cylinder machine but it was a beginning and just 8 years later the company had risen to such prominence that President William Howard Taft ordered two of their Pierce-Arrows for official duty at the White House.

Photo courtesy of: www.pierce-arrow.com

Photo courtesy of: www.pierce-arrow.com

Throughout the first three decades of the 20th Century, the Pierce-Arrow was essentially an American Rolls Royce. These fine, distinguished automobiles served American Presidents from Taft to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the diplomats and dignitaries of foreign countries, including the Shah of Persia, as well as the Tycoons and sports stars of the day. John D. Rockefeller owned a Pierce Arrow and so did Babe Ruth. Wherever the rich and famous needed to go, they were carried there by the Pierce-Arrow.

Times changed at the end of the 1920s, however, and with the sales of luxury cars way down the company was in trouble. It was purchased by Studebaker and under the control of that famous South Bend Indiana brand, Pierce-Arrow managed to soldier on for a few more lean years. When Studebaker went bankrupt in 1933 Pierce-Arrow was sold into receivership and to make end meet the company continued to produce much less extravagant vehicles, a line of gas stoves, ice chests and travel trailers, but as the effects of the Great Depression lingered the company finally faltered and went bankrupt in 1938.

Photo courtesy of: www.pierce-arrow.com

Photo courtesy of: www.pierce-arrow.com

Despite the company’s ignoble ending, the Pierce-Arrow has an enduring reputation of excellence and exclusivity and Buffalo celebrates its connection to this storied brand with its own museum. Located close to the waterfront in downtown Buffalo at 263 Michigan Avenue, the Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum is open between 11AM and 4 PM Thursdays through Sundays. Adult admission is $10, $8 for seniors and $5 for children ages 6 to 17 years old. The facility is also available for banquets and special events and I noticed a nice, fully stocked bar that was, unfortunately, not open at the time of my visit.

Photo courtesy of www.pierce-arrow.com

Photo courtesy of www.pierce-arrow.com

The collection itself was not as large as I would have imagined it, but the cars that were there were all very fine examples. It came as a surprise to me that not everything in the museum was a Pierce-Arrow, there were many brands represented and the collection included some cars built as late as the mid 1960s. The bulk of the collection on display currently, however, is pre World War II. The museum is also in the process of an ongoing construction project that will make it two and a half times as large as it is now. The centerpiece for this new part of the facility is a life size version of a gasoline station designed by architect Frank Lloyd-Wright in 1927. Our tour guide took us into the sealed portion of the museum to show us the progress on this ongoing project and I must say it was quite amazing. Because Frank Lloyd-Wright and the gasoline company he contracted with had a dispute about the amount of royalties he wished to be paid on every copy of the station, the project was shelved and never actually constructed, but had it been it is certain that it would be a national land mark today. Other parts of this additional space will house more autos, bicycles and other displays related to the Pierce-Arrow Company.

Photo courtesy of: www.pierce-arrow.com

Photo courtesy of: www.pierce-arrow.com

The new facility is indeed an impressive sight and when the work is completed the museum will truly be a show piece that should attract many tourists to this beleaguered city, but as the work is not complete I came away from the museum a little disappointed. To be sure, the vehicles on display were all very fine but I had hoped that the museum would have more cars and memorabilia on display now. Another problem, as I see it, is the fact that the collection is not very cohesive and does not really tell a story as one walks through it. It wasn’t until well after the fact, when I came home and began looking at the museum’s website to put the final touches on this article, that I truly understood that the reason for this hodgepodge of material was because the museum honors other cars with a Buffalo connection as well. I missed that originally because of the focus on Pierce-Arrow and think I would have had an easier time understanding why there seemed to be so many unrelated displays if it was spelled out a little more clearly. Hopefully, these issues will be reconciled when the addition is completed.

As I said at the top of the article, Buffalo is working hard to recreate itself and the Pierce-Arrow Museum is a real step in the right direction. Without a doubt, the sneak peak at the new facility I was given tells me that this will soon be a national caliber museum. To be sure, it will never match the size and scale of some of the other, better endowed auto museums in the United States and abroad, but it doesn’t need to. It has a strictly defined mission, to honor the Pierce-Arrow and the city that gave birth to the brand. In that, I think it does a good job and is worth a visit. I look forward to the grand opening of the expanded facility and know that the museum will soon be one of the crown jewels of a resurgent Buffalo. Come and check it out.

Click here to view the embedded video.



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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Dreamweaver – Living The Dream With His Feet Planted Firmly In The Real World http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/dreamweaver-living-the-dream-with-his-feet-planted-firmly-in-the-real-world/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/dreamweaver-living-the-dream-with-his-feet-planted-firmly-in-the-real-world/#comments Wed, 03 Apr 2013 14:02:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=483064

I’m not a reporter. I don’t even pretend to be one. What I do is tell stories and sometimes, if I am fortunate, they resonate with people. So when guy name Joe here in Buffalo contacted me and offered me a ride in his 1995 Lotus Esprit I was torn. Naturally, I wanted a ride, who wouldn’t? Still, I had to tell him up-front that I didn’t know if that a ride would generate a story good enough for the illustrious readership here at TTAC. Luckily for me, he invited me over anyhow and I got my ride, but in the end it turns out I was right. A ride, no matter how exhilarating, really wasn’t enough for me to create an entire story. That’s fortunate though, because Joe’s story about his almost lifelong connection to this one specific car is better than anything I could have invented.

To an ordinary guy like myself, the Lotus Esprit is one of those legendary cars that only live in posters on the walls of kids’ bedrooms. It is a low wedge of a car built for speed and handling and the car I found waiting for me in the driveway next to Joe’s house looked painfully out-of-place in the working class Buffalo neighborhood. The fact that it occupied a space next to a Renault Alliance, Motor Trend’s Car of the Year back in 1983, blew my mind, but the truth is that both cars are perfectly representative of the amazing person that their owner is. The Lotus is what Joe aspired to when he was a child and the Renault is where he comes from. The fact that he has both says something good about the man.

The car was low and difficult for me to clamber into, but once inside it felt surprisingly roomy and comfortable. The engine behind me hummed with pure energy as Joe put the car out onto the main road near his house, the pop off valve hissing impressively every time he switched gears. “This is one of those cars that gets a bad rep,” said Joe, “I don’t think that reputation is deserved though. A lot of guys take them out, flog them before they get fully warmed up, don’t rev match when they downshift and they generally beat on them. It’s a hand-built car, after all, I mean back in 1995 they only built 46 of them. TThese things need a little more TLC than your average sports car, but they are damn good cars” We continued up the rutted street, Joe using the car’s superior handling to dodge manhole covers and, as we drove, Joe’s amazing story trickled out.

When he was a kid, Joe was fascinated with the Esprit. He studied the specs in the magazines, read about them in books, admired them in film and photo and decided that one day he would own one. So intense was his desire that as a 14 year old riding with his mother, when he saw one on the road he forced her to turn around and chase after it. “I believe in the code of exotic car ownership, “Joe told me as he grabbed third gear, “One of the rules is that when kids come up and ask about your car that you encourage their interest. I know exactly what that means.“ The owner, it turned out was of a similar opinion and he encouraged the boy’s interest. The two soon became friends.

Eventually the cost of speeding tickets and insurance became too much and Joe’s friend sold the Lotus. Joe mourned the loss of the car, but continued his friendship. Flash forward almost a decade when Joe, a recent college graduate, decided to make his lifelong dream of Esprit ownership come true. “I got on-line and looked at dozens of ads for used cars.” He told me, “I knew exactly what I wanted, a 95 Esprit S4 like my friend’s and it took a long time to find one. On the very last page of the classifieds I finally found the perfect one. It was in Texas but I knew right away that this was the car. There was only one made in this color combination, it was my friend’s – the same Esprit I first saw when I was 14.” Joe contacted his friend and flew him out to Texas to check out the car. It turned out his suspicions were right. “I sent a check and had my friend drive it back to Buffalo. I have had it ever since and I’ll never sell it.”

As we headed home we passed an old steel mill, now shuttered and dark. “My dad worked In that building for 38 years.” Joe said over the growl of the super car’s engine. “Buffalo is changing and those changes have taken a lot of jobs with them. This town has been on a downward spiral for a lot of years but I think we’re past the worst of it, though.” He said hopefully, “The industry is gone but the people have always been what made this town special. They still do, Buffalo is the city of good neighbors, you know?”

Back at home the Lotus slipped into its spot next to its polar opposite, the battered Renault. “I always wanted this,” said Joe from the seat of the Lotus, “But I grew up in that.” He said waving to the small car. “My dad was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago and I got that so we have something to work on together when he gets better. I had to spend a lot of time finding one like he had, but I finally got it. I think we’re going to have a good time with it.”

The childhood dreams that most of us have fade away over the years as we grow into adulthood so it’s nice to know that sometimes people make those dreams a reality. It’s nicer still, to know someone who lives those dreams but remains firmly grounded. Joe knows who he is, where he is from and what is really important in life. It was my honor to meet him and to tell some of his story. That’s all I can do, I hope it resonates.

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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