I, as Rakoff would put it, am not a handsome man, though my mother would disagree. If I were to be cast in a James Bond movie, I would probably play the villain. Past lovers have often commented on my intelligence, my charm and my high earning potential as an automotive journalist, but rarely if ever on my physical appearance. I’m at peace with this, for I have discovered that the one automobile that can “increase sexual arousal, particularly in women” is not the Mercedes-Benz 380SL convertible, as P.J. O’Rourke would contend, but a Jaguar convertible.
Can you remember when sports cars were a staple of design studios? When these wee-beasties were vellum fodder like today’s CUVs? Me neither. But Europe once made these in spades, and–much like today’s utility vehicle craze–Japan regularly followed suit. Let’s examine that rich history with a deep cut into Nissan’s “Fairlady” series. (Read More…)
I think my colleagues would agree that we, as automotive journalists, do not devote enough attention to the burgeoning convertible SUV segment. This is partially my fault. I stood idly by when the segment doubled in size with the 2011 arrival of the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. And again, I’ve hardly batted an eyelash at reports of yet another entrant: the Range Rover Evoque convertible.
With this in mind, I’ve decided to provide a highly useful convertible SUV buyers guide, which you can use later, once the inevitable craze hits, to determine which model is right for you. Here it is:
As a former Metro owner— about ten years ago, I found a low-mile ’96 Metro with four-cylinder and automatic for a scrap-value price and couldn’t say no to the deal— I’ve always sort of liked Suzuki’s little no-lux gas miserwagen. It takes a special Metro for me to include it in this series, however; we’ve seen this ’90 Metro El Camino, this electric-powered ’95 Metro, and this ’91 Suzuki Swift so far, plus this bonus Honda CBR1000-powered LeMons race-winning Metro, and now I’ve found one of the very rare Metro convertibles at a California self-service wrecking yard. (Read More…)
When I was a kid, I knew there to be two universal automotive truths. Number one was that the Lamborghini Countach was really cool. I, like all kids, had a Lamborghini Countach poster on my bedroom wall, which I’m convinced was part of a cunning decades-long Lamborghini marketing scheme: first, hook them when they’re seven. Then, thirty years later, come out with a model that’s actually drivable. And now that buyers are getting older, confuse them with special editions.
The other universal truth was that if you wanted a convertible, you were going to the Chrysler dealer to buy a LeBaron.
Redesigning retro is a herculean task. You need to change the vehicle enough to be worth the effort, meanwhile maintaining an iconic retro theme. If you don’t change enough, shoppers won’t see a reason to trade in their old flashback for the new time capsule. Change it too much and you’re left with a caricature. The task is so daunting that few even attempt it. (Just look at the one-hit-wonders: PT Cruiser, HHR, SSR and Thunderbird.) VW on the other hand is different. After all they continued to build and sell the same Beetle with minor tweaks for 65 years straight. If anyone can tweak retro and convince people they need it, it’s VW. Sure enough, 2012 was the best Beetle sales year since 1973. As a chaser to VW’s revived retro-mojo, the Beetle is now offered sans-top and VW tossed us the keys to a brown-on-brown model for a week so we could get our 70s on. Can you dig it?
Ever try and play a round of golf as a Miata driver? From first hand experience, I can tell you it doesn’t work well. If you are lucky at manipulating large objects and have nothing else in the trunk, your golf bag might fit. God help you if you are giving a friend a lift to the course. One golf bag will go in the passenger footwell, the other will likely have to sit on the folded soft top, with the passenger’s arm holding the golf bag. Ask me how I know.
When I lived in California, I’d see R107s in self-service junkyards all the time; since moving to Denver a couple of years back, I see them only occasionally. There was this ’78 450SLC last summer and that was about it. Last week, though I found this screaming yellow Malaise Era kokainwagen. (Read More…)
A 2012 VW Jetta TDI Wagon.
It comes with the usual six speed stick that you would find among thousands of other Jetta wagons all over the world.
It has the ‘arrest me red’ color that always comes across as neon pink whenever you photograph it in the sun.
But there are at least two mysterious facets of this urea indulgent uber-wagon. A rare and unusual frame damage announcement in the run list, and only 815 original miles.
Are you planning a vacation to Portugal, Spain, Italy or a similarly depressed Eurozone country in the next year or so, you’ll have another choice for topless motoring on your way to the topless beaches.