The Truth About Cars » Commentary 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 » Commentary Tales of Vehicular Mayhem – The Land Cruiser Tue, 26 Nov 2013 06:06:03 +0000 Ah. Muffy's perfect SUV

Ah. Muffy’s perfect SUV

Toyota is one of the largest manufacturers of cars in the world. It’s not a surprise, especially if you have travelled out of the US. They are everywhere. I have only owned three Toyotas; a coma-inducing silver Camry DX, and two MKII Supras.

Despite my lack of ownership, I have spent a sizeable portion of my career abusing Toyotas. Maybe it is latent Nissan loyalty surfacing as abuse, Dad was a Datsun salesman before I was born and continued in one form or another until I graduated from High School. To Toyota’s credit, they have taken it all without complaint.

A notable case was an innocent preppy green and gold Land Cruiser. An aircraft electrical malfunction resulted in an unscheduled stop in Boise Idaho and gave us a week to kill. A ladies NCAA tourney had snatched up all the econoboxes, so the unsuspecting agency offered up the keys to a new 2003 Toyota Land Cruiser. I grabbed them, signed the contract and was out of there faster than a Taylor Swift romance.

Opposite the runway of Boise Airport is McGowan Field, a multi-branch National Guard Center. Just across the road from McGowan Field, was a tank driving course.


My crew mate Randy and I established a goal of coating the roof of the Landcruiser with mud. While that seems simple, the rooster tails required for this take a lot of effort to generate, and it has to be done sideways. Luckily it had recently rained and the black soil responded well to throttle.

For the next hour the Landcruiser tolerated powerslides, Rockfords, doughnuts and even a little air time. We only got stuck once…ok, three times but managed to free the barge with minimum fuss. Inside, my partner in crime and I laughed manically in complete luxury. The heated leather seats were wide and comfortable, but offered no lateral support. The stereo was excellent, and it was eerily quiet, save for our cackling. After a time, our sides hurt from laughing and the course offered no further challenges. We opened the windows and sat on the door sills to see if we met our goal. The roof was covered, mission accomplished.

We plodded the now soil-colored SUV from the proving grounds and onto West McGowen Rd. As we proceeded back to the base entrance, two Chevy Luminas in USAF Security Forces livery emerged from the base, lights flashing and in a hurry. They passed us, nosedived and executed a “you are soooo busted” 180 in unison. We pulled over.

As the Technical Sergeant approached, I could actually hear his Lieutenant screaming over the radio on his belt. It seemed the “El Tee” wanted us to be locked in a room, so he could throw away the room. The Tech Sergeant was much more accommodating and clearly impressed with the level of filth we had caked onto the mall-rated SUV.

“Where were you coming from sir?” As if he didn’t know, he had been dispatched because of us.

I pointed to the field.

“You can’t drive there, that’s government property. That’s trespassing.” I mentioned there were no signs, warnings or fences of any nature to indicate such restrictions, and that I was in fact, a government employee.

“Why were you out there doing that?” He inquired.

“It’s a rental.” I replied. He smiled.

That answer with a genuine lack of attitude seemed to satisfy him. Over the radio he assured his LT that we had been dealt with in a most stern manner. The paperwork reflected that he had, but it was an administrative slap on the wrist. He also pointed to a ridgeline in the distance and said if I really wanted to go off-roading, that’s where the real trails were. As he handed me the ticket, he was grinning. He added a “Now drive carefully sir.”

The owner of that car wash should have put his child through a semester of DeVry with the quarters I spent cleaning the Land Cruiser. Save for the windows that required some additional attention (we had put them down while covered in grime), it was all done via hose to avoid scratching the finish with the brush. It took twice as long take it off as it had to put it there, but the SUV was returned in pristine condition.

Which is better than the Chrysler Intrepid in Atlanta a few years later…but that is another story.

W. Christian Mental Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. That Philosophy degree of his landed him on the infamous AWACS, the Frisbee of freedom. As a result he has driven a lot of  rented cars, if you bought this one, rest assured the abuse was nothing beyond the mechanical limits of the vehicle.

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Tales of Vehicular Mayhem – The Ninja Sun, 24 Nov 2013 14:00:56 +0000 lifted from and their 250 Ninja picture forum

lifted from and their 250 Ninja picture thread

The old saying goes; to be older and wiser, you must first be young and stupid. This is the story of my life. I’m older, but still waiting to be wiser.

While everyone has a story of the dumbest thing they have done, I have a book. Hopefully the point of this and other tales I share here, will not only be to entertain, but on a certain level, make you feel better about stupid things you have done.

This is a tale of 20 year-old W. Christian Ward stationed at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi two weeks after basic training. Behavior during technical training is slightly less regimented. Freedoms were granted in a phased system. Characteristically, I broke all of them. Travel was limited to a radius of 30 miles, so naturally the first weekend I was allowed off base, I went to Atlanta to get my 250 Ninja.

A challenge of my youth is a lack of foresight. I knew was it was spring, I was near a beach and I wanted my motorcycle. Saturday I hopped a plane, Sunday I packed some civilian clothes, strapped the bags to the bike and left early in the afternoon. I had afforded eight hours for the 400 mile ride over mostly interstate, curfew was 10 PM.

I should have checked the weather, especially springtime in the south.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Hide from the hurricane? Sure. Tornadoes..meh

10 miles outside of Atlanta, the rain started. I thought it would stop, but I had painted myself into a corner; a dark, stormy, tornado-spawning corner. I knew I was in real trouble when the semi-trucks started pulling over. I distinctly remember the sight of my front tire in 6 inches of water while I limped along in 1st gear. Within the hour I was soaked to my undies. On an overpass outside of Montgomery, a gust of wind moved my bike from the right lane to the left. Around 5:30, my water resistant Timex stopped working.

Side-bar, a 1989 Ninja 250R holds about 4.5 gallons and has a range of around 220 miles without 20 mph head wind. This trip should take at most, two gas stops. With that information, imagine being surrounded by the sound of pouring water, moisture all around you. Add a constant buzzing between your legs and being bumped on a tiny bike with overloaded suspension. Not enough yet? It was cold. Yeah, I made a lot of stops.

Around 7:30, it let up. I’m guessing about the time, my watch was still kaput. I leaned into the throttle to cover some distance. When I hit the outskirts of Mobile it finally stopped raining. West of the city, my watch recovered, it was 9:05. I had to be in Biloxi by 10:00 or my shenanigans would come to light, and my fledgling military career would be kneecapped before it started. It was just over 60 miles.

I-10 on the gulf  is characterized by tall bridges to accommodate shipping. The top expanses are metal one-inch squares of re-enforced jagged grate. They offer no traction and they were still wet. This would have been wonderful information to have before I passed that Greyhound bus close to the state line. Approaching the peak of the bridge, I was on the bike hard. The rear tire hit the grate under load and immediately stepped out. I over-corrected and entered a “tank slapper.”

I would love to tell you my skill, ability and cat-like reflexes saved me, but that would make me a liar.

No, I stared straight into the abyss and the Grim Reaper had pity; I was simply too stupid to perish right then.

I stopped at the Mississippi Welcome Center until the urge to vomit subsided.

The Ninja parked in front of my squadron at 10:05. I tried to get off the bike, but couldn’t walk. I had been shivering for hours and my legs had cramped on the tank. I hobbled across the courtyard to the Charge of Quarters, signed in and begged her not to report me. Perhaps it was my plea, my bloodshot eyes, or the puddle forming under me (after the bridge, probably mostly rainwater); but she permitted me to slip in unreported.

Those grates are now filled with asphalt, but I avoid them like the plague. I now dress properly for a ride, and have a gear fetish. Eventually I would learn to pad my travel times and check the weather. I am a dedicated rider and don’t mind getting wet, but my equipment is better.

I also know when to drive.

Oh yeah, I had a car, but chose my bike. I got the car later…but that is another story.

W. Christian Mental Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is a graduate of Panoz Racing School, loves cartoons and once exceeded the speed of sound. Married to the most patient woman in the world; he has three dogs, five motorcycles and still rides every chance he gets.

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Who Cares About The Phoenix Auto Show? Sun, 27 Nov 2011 17:17:01 +0000

No one cares, at least not among the automotive press, as to what happens at the  (Phoenix) “Arizona International Auto Show” held every year over Thanksgiving weekend. There are no world or US product launches, no concept cars on display, and only a few attractive booth babes. Just a bunch of production (or almost ready to launch) vehicles for the masses to touch, feel and some even to drive (on the road) or experience (like Jeeps on an indoor obstacle course) sprinkled with a few exotics (roped off of course) to ogle over.

But TTAC cares. Why? Because the world of automotive retailing depends on the masses to buy cars, lots of them. The folks who go to smaller market car shows don’t go to see the whimsical fancies of vehicle designers (cause there aren’t any), they go to check out real cars that they might buy. Watching and listening to these attendees can tell those of us that care where the winds of favor will blow. What’s hot and what’s not.

Here’s my take. Toyota and Honda are mostly last decade’s news. The public blew past their booths, barely giving the new Camry a glance, and ignoring the already disparaged Civic. The Prius V – meh – just a larger Prius. And Scion’s new IQ? There’s no chance of this vehicle gaining sales traction except in dense urban environments where parking is a premium or for ZipCar users. It’s just too small, not “cute” enough for high school cheerleaders, and not macho enough for…meat eaters. Both of these Japanese brands have resorted to dumbing down their product so far that they’ve become messes of mediocrity. Functional perhaps but competitors are passing them by…and so are shoppers.

Nissan is a bit more interesting than its two Japanese rivals, but that’s not saying much. At least there were some folks looking at the Murano Cabriolet, admiring its soft palette color clearly reaching for the heart strings of the ladies. But it’s expensive, lacks any utility whatsoever, and seems almost as a desperate attempt to revive sales of its base platform. The other mainstream cars – Versa, Sentra, and the aging Altima – had few showgoers touching or feeling them. Maybe the public is getting bored with Japanese cars? I am.

On the domestic front, things look better but the skies are still cloudy. Jeep brought their indoor adventure ride to prove the ruggedness of the Grand Cherokee and the Wrangler. It’s impressive to watch these machines, loaded with attendees, tackle obstacles that would destroy ordinary sedans. The public loves it and Jeep, Marchionne’s savior brand for Chrysler Group LLC, is bringing home the bacon. How much can the Wrangler really cost to build? And the development costs of the GC got wiped out in the bankruptcy. On the other hand, the Fiat 500 is now definitely considered as a “chick” car thanks to J Lo’s advertising. It might be cute but didn’t seem to be generating the buzz it needs among the crowd.

GM’s main sales driver is Chevrolet. People still get excited about the Corvette, the Camaro found a nerve with the politically incorrect, and its trucks pay for all of it. But the new Sonic – believe it or not – is truly competitive as a B-segment offering. It’s fairly substantial feeling – the doors close with a solid thunk, the interior is one of the best in the segment, and when the turbo 1.4l becomes available, it will become a darling of the community college crowd. Buick on the other hand is nice but….soft. The new Verano will be a sales flop. A tarted up Cruze that’s too small for most old folks…oh wait, that’s not Buick’s target market any more. How could I forget that the Regal is going after Acura buyers now…really? Was Acura even at the show?? Did anyone notice?

Ford. Someone needs to tell Ford to stop messing around with the consumer electronics interface and get back to some basics. I drove the Fusion Hybrid and it’s lacking (more on this later). I know a new Fusion is due next year and it can’t come too soon. The switchgear in this car is awful – plastic parts from years gone by. The driveline made funny noises – a couple weird clunks here and there and engine noise penetrated the cabin. I hated it. I then switched out and drove an Ecoboost 2.0L Edge. Surprisingly, it seemed to be adequately powered for a blown four, quiet on the inside, and fairly plush although the MyFordTouch is completely baffling. But then I saw something astounding. The driver’s door edge trim (where the door skin overlaps the door frame) was poorly finished. Creases were obvious and there was some pocketing that had started to rust – on a brand new car! I checked the other doors – same thing. And opening and closing the doors – light and tinny. The door handle mechanisms felt like they would break off in my hand. Alan – if you’re listening – you’ve got some work to do on the basics.

The star of the show – wait – it’s Kia. Yes, Kia. In particular, the new Optima. Get inside one. Check out the interior, the switchgear, the roominess, and finally the price tag. Amazing. And that’s not the only car in the lineup that’s impressive – the public flocked to the display checking out the merchandise. I can see why. I experienced the Optima Hybrid at the test drive center before entering the show. I was a back seat passenger – but couldn’t tell it was a hybrid. Smooth and quiet unlike the Ford Fusion Hybrid I drove later that day. I also drove a loaded Optima Turbo. Heated and cooled seats in a $31,000 ride! The car was powerful, smooth, and better than any Japanese car now offered in this segment. No wonder Kia can’t make them fast enough.

So there it is…the future is being led by the Koreans. The domestics are in second. And the Japanese are trailing by a mile. The world is changing fast. Who would have guessed?

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