By on January 26, 2016

20160124_175208 (Custom)

Who has two thumbs and loves the ’79 Eldorado? This guy. I’ve spent more time writing about it than I’ve spent writing about Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Maseratis … combined. What made the ’79 Eldorado great? Everything. It was styled with a crispness and strength of purpose never again seen on a Cadillac. It had a solid drivetrain as standard, although the optional engines and the later HT4100 tended to misbehave. The packaging was superb inside and out: trim yet spacious, small enough to be hassle-free in a parking lot but big enough to be recognizably Cadillac.

Most importantly, it was the last great coupe from a company that had a reputation for building brilliant luxury two-doors. (The CTS-V Coupe had pace but possessed neither space nor grace.) As a statement of personal wealth, taste, and maturity, no automobile truly satisfies like a full-sized luxury coo-pay. The man behind the wheel of an S-Class sedan or Cadillac XTS always risks being mistaken for a chauffeur, while the driver of a luxury SUV always risks being correctly identified as an imbecile. No, in order to convey the correct image to everyone from valets to unattached society ladies, it’s critical to drive a coupe.

Which leads me to this BMW 640i Convertible, rented by me this past weekend for the purpose of escaping Winter Catastrophe Jonas and relaxing in central Florida … but why am I talking about Eldorados in a review of what is intended to be a German sports coupe? And am I likely to quote Marcus Aurelius after the jump, seemingly to no purpose? You probably know the answer to both of these questions, dear reader.

(Read More…)

By on January 13, 2016

2016 Audi TT Roadster Exterior-002

Most luxury roadsters are related to a practical, rear-wheel-drive sports sedan, but Audi prefers to march to a different drummer.

Since its inception in 1998, the Audi TT has been based not on the A4, but on the Volkswagen Golf. The original TT was the product of Audi’s best and brightest and it not only blew minds at its debut for its design, it was a hoot to drive as well.

The second generation of the TT on the other hand, failed to impress. It’s not that it was a bad car, it just didn’t excite me like the first generation did. The handling was good, but BMW’s Z4 and Mercedes’ SLK were more fun. The exterior was bolder and meaner than the original, but the interior was too “VW Golf” for the price tag. Every time I sat in one I would say to myself, “Something is missing.”

As luck would have it, Audi’s engineers were also searching for that “something.” And they found it.

(Read More…)

By on January 11, 2016

00 - 1991 Dodge Shadow in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

The Dodge Shadow was one of many, many versions of the Chrysler-saving K Platform, and it sold in fairly large quantities before being replaced by the Neon. As recently as five years ago, Shadows and their Plymouth Sundance siblings were among the most numerous Chryslers in American wrecking yards, but massive numbers of Sebrings have replaced them nowadays. I ignore most of these cars when I see them, but I can’t resist photographing examples with excessively 1990s tape stripes and decals or super-stripper no-option packages.

Today we’ll be looking at a car that puts turbocharging, overwrought 1990s tape graphics, a convertible top, and fire damage all in one K-car package. (Read More…)

By on December 23, 2015

18 - 1992 Mercury Capri in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Imagine it’s 1992 and you’re shopping for a sporty convertible: Do you get an Australian-built front-wheel-drive Mazda based on the 323 … or do you get a Miata?

Exactly. (Read More…)

By on December 14, 2015

2016 Mazda MX 5 Miata Exterior Front

If there is one constant in the automotive world, it is that every redesigned vehicle gets bigger, more powerful, heavier and more complex. Bucking that trend is Mazda’s latest MX-5, one of the smallest and lightest cars sold in the United States.

Since the launch of the Miata in 1989, Mazda’s tiny roadster has been a beacon of light to those who prefer a “pure” driving experience. The MX-5’s core mission of being an affordable, lightweight, two-seat convertible has hardly changed. More impressive: The 2016 MX-5 is about the same size as the original Miata, and the new roadster is only 182 pounds heavier despite producing 50-percent more power and being 30-percent more fuel efficient. The price tag has also been kept in check. The 2016 model still costs about the same as a mid-sized sedan.

Making the MX-5 even more special is that it stands alone in America. Sure, Alfa is now selling their sexy and expensive 4C here, BMW still has a Z4 roadster, and Scion and Subaru are selling their two-door coupé — but none of these are like the MX-5 and that’s a good thing for Mazda.

(Read More…)

By on November 30, 2015

00 - 1979 MG MGB in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

MGBs continue to show up in self-service wrecking yards, with another rubber-bumper Malaise Era example today. In my junkyard expeditions prior to today, I’ve photographed this ’67, this ’71, this ’75, this ’77, this ’77, this ’79, and this ’79 with a Toyota 20R swap, and now we’ve got today’s Denver ’79.

(Read More…)

By on November 20, 2015

IMG955505

I come to bury the old Camaro, not to praise it.

In the past few years, I’ve had a chance to drive a variety of the more powerful and competent fifth-gens on and off track, including the mighty Z/28. None of them ever struck me as being more interesting or enjoyable than their Mustang or even Challenger equivalents. At best, the old Camaro was a lousy car that could really do the business on a racetrack. At worst… well, it’s what you see here.

(Read More…)

By on October 29, 2015

MX5 Speedster Spyder

Mazda will show two different concepts of its lightweight convertible next month at the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas.

(Read More…)

By on October 17, 2015

Volkswagen Golf R Cabriolet

Volkswagen will bring the next-generatrion Golf Cabrio to the U.S., the first time since 2002, Car and Driver reported.

The next-generation convertible will be based on the Mark VII Golf and arrive sometime in 2017, according to the report. The Golf Cabrio fill the gap left by the Eos when that ends production — eventually.

The Golf Cabrio has been on sale in other markets, but has been absent from the U.S. lineup for more than a decade. The Golf Cabrio can be equipped with four different gasoline engines and two different diesel options worldwide, although the diesel option probably won’t be making an appearance.

(Read More…)

By on September 21, 2015

2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Exterior-019

2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider

1.75-liter DOHC I-4, direct injection, turbocharged, CVVT (237 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 258 lbs-ft @ 2,200-4,250 rpm)

6-speed “Alfa TCT” dual-clutch automatic

24 city/34 highway/28 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

28.1 (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Rosso Alfa Red paint, Fascia Stone Protector, HID Headlamps, Carbon Fibre Trim Kit, Convenience Package, Racing Exhaust, Red Calipers, 18/19 Inch Staggered Wheels, Leather Package,

Base Price:
$65,495*
As Tested:

$72,295*

* Prices include $1,595 destination charge.

Up ’til now, if you wanted an Italian, mid-engined, street-legal track roadster made out of exotic materials, you needed to be a one-percenter to afford one. But all that is changing with the relaunch of the “other Italian brand,” Alfa Romeo. For the price of a single black-market organ “donation” you can get your hands on the new 2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider. Unlike Alfa’s last car sold in America — the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione — the 4C Spider is pronounceable, will be available in quantity, and is ostensibly attainable at $53,900 for the coupé and $63,900 for the rag top that we got our hands on.

Like the hardtop 4C, this exotic isn’t an enormous bruiser that’s as wide as Kansas, and it doesn’t have a V12. Instead Alfa opted for a small four-cylinder turbocharged engine and a serious dedication to lightweight construction. In some ways you might call this the Italian Lotus. Until we see the 2017 Alfa Romeo Guilia, FCA’s 3-Series fighter, the 4C and 4C Spider are spearheading the brand’s American reboot.

Is that good or bad?

(Read More…)

By on September 8, 2015

Rolls Royce Dawn

Rolls-Royce took the cover off its new Dawn convertible (see what we did there?) Tuesday in an online reveal ahead of its debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show.

The car, which is powered by a 6.6-liter V-12 that produces 563 horsepower and 575 pound-feet of torque married to a ZF 8-speed transmission, is Rolls-Royce’s answer to what we’ve all been asking: How can I be even more noticeable in my Roller?

Here’s your answer: A 22-second folding “silent ballet” droptop with open-pore wood tonneau, hand-stitched leather everywhere, 16 speakers and self-closing doors.

(Read More…)

By on August 12, 2015

honda-s660-26-1

Honda may bring its small, two-seater S660 to the United States, Edmunds is reporting.

The car, which is much smaller than Mazda’s MX-5 Miata and categorized in Japan in the “kei” class, is powered there by a small, 660cc turbocharged three-cylinder.

In case you’re not picking up what I’m putting down: the S660 would be fantastically tiny on American roads.

(Read More…)

By on August 10, 2015

2014 BMW 4 Series Convertible 03

Finally, BMW got my letter that the folding hardtop in its 4 Series convertible didn’t leave enough room for my tour bag and comically gigantic TaylorMade R15s, so they’re ditching the whole thing, German site Bimmertoday is reporting (via Road and Track and Automobile).

The convertible hard top can weigh roughly 500 pounds, Automobile reports. Cutting back to a soft top could shed some of that weight and spare space in the the trunk.

(Read More…)

By on July 23, 2015

I think the time has come to wave goodbye to one of the auto industry’s most fickle segments: the small luxury convertible. Once formerly strong and full of life, the segment now consists of a bunch of cars that leave people asking: Do they still make that?

(Read More…)

By on July 16, 2015

2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (1 of 11)

I pull up next to a previous-generation Mustang — its 5-liter V8 rumbling as it sits at a stop light — and look over to the driver. There is no acknowledgement from him that I exist. Not a nod, glance, nor a typical, Mustang-owner two-finger wave.

That’s not surprising though — he probably couldn’t hear me.

The 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline four is but a whimper next to the eight cylinders of Detroit aluminum. I give the boosted four banger a slight tip of accelerator. Still nothing from the owner of the “five-point-oh.”

(Read More…)

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