By on April 15, 2016

2016 Ford Mustang V6 Convertible, Image: © 2016 Bark M./The Truth About Cars

Ever since I left the city, you, you, you
You and me we just don’t get along
You make me feel like I did you wrong
Going places where you don’t belong

—Drake, “Hotline Bling”

Biloxi, Mississippi is a place where dreams go to die. Sad imitations of Vegas casinos line the coast half-filled with retirees giving away their fixed income, one pull of the lever at a time. Nobody ever wants to be there. You go to Biloxi if you can’t afford to go to Vegas, or if you can’t make time to get down the coast to Tampa Bay. Biloxi was punched directly in the gut by Hurricane Katrina, but nobody ever talks about Biloxi the way they talk about New Orleans. If Biloxi recovered, nobody noticed.

So it was appropriate that when I arrived at the Gulfport/Biloxi airport rental counter, nobody could seem to find my reservation. In my six years of renting a different car every week, that has never happened. Maybe I should have taken it as a sign to just go home, but I didn’t. After I found my reservation number on my app, the frazzled woman behind the counter apologized profusely for the delay, and whispered to me, “I’m going to give you something really nice to make up for the inconvenience.

Oh, no.

(Read More…)

By on April 15, 2016

00 - 1998 BMW Z3 in California Junkyard - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

One of the interesting things about frequenting high-inventory-turnover wrecking yards is that you get a sense of when a vehicle’s value has reached a certain “not worth fixing when it breaks” threshold.

There will be no examples of this type of car in such yards, and then suddenly I’ll see a half-dozen in the space of a few months; the Mazda Miata was such a car, being extremely rare until about 2008, at which point you could count on finding a couple at most California U-Wrench-It-type yards. The BMW Z3 appears to have reached that point about now, with this one showing up in a Northern California yard that I visited last week. (Read More…)

By on April 8, 2016

chase

Two suspects in a non-violent Los Angeles burglary decided yesterday that if you’re being watched on TVs everywhere, you should at least entertain your audience.

The two men, who were pursued by police and watched from the air, drove their rental Ford Mustang convertible through rainy afternoon traffic and past excited crowds in what the L.A. Times has called “The most L.A. chase ever.”

(Read More…)

By on March 22, 2016

2017 Fiat 124 Spider Elaborazione Abarth

After teasing Americans from a distance at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this month, a production version of a meaner Fiat 124 Spider has been unveiled by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in advance of its New York premiere.

The 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Elaborazione Abarth is a mouthful to pronounce, but the Old World name should help add some metaphysical distance between this massaged roadster and its Mazda MX-5 Miata underpinnings. (Read More…)

By on March 15, 2016

2016 Mazda MX 5 Miata Exterior

Mazda is teasing a new model reveal for next week’s New York Auto Show, and it could be a MX-5 Miata with more shade.

The invitation to the model’s world premiere later this month asks participants to help Mazda “blow the lid off.” Hmm, let’s think about that one for a minute …

The previous generation MX-5 Miata was available in power retractable hardtop form, but that option died in 2015 when the fourth-generation launched in soft-top guise only. (Read More…)

By on February 10, 2016

sc4302

From reader “Joey X” comes a tale of what it’s like to own what he calls “The most hated sports coupe ever.” —JB

Worst car in the history of the world. You try selling a car on Craigslist after getting that sobriquet slapped across its hood by Top Gear. The seller of my 2002 SC430 had the old girl listed for almost a year before I came by and snatched her for $10,000 in funny money Canadian dollars (roughly $7,200 US at the moment). She had 129,000 miles (not kilometers!) on her at this point and an iffy history containing no fewer than three previous owners.

It’s been a year since I got her — and I wouldn’t give her up for the world.

(Read More…)

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…)

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