The Truth About Cars » Dodge http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Apr 2014 13:00:22 +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 » Dodge http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Junkyard Find: 1963 Dodge Dart http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/junkyard-find-1963-dodge-dart/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/junkyard-find-1963-dodge-dart/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 13:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=796762 04 - 1963 Dodge Dart Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFor the entire time I’ve been on this planet, Chrysler A-bodies have been a constant presence in American wrecking yards, and they’re still quite easy to find today, 33 years after the last Valiant Charger rolled off the assembly line in Australia. I don’t photograph every Dart and Valiant that I see in junkyards, but this series has included this ’61 Valiant, this ’64 Valiant wagon, this ’67 Valiant, this ’66 Dart, this ’68 Valiant Signet, this ’73 Valiant, this ’75 Duster, and this ’75 Dart, and today we’ll admire a non-rusty California Dart two-door that I saw back in December.
07 - 1963 Dodge Dart Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe last official year of CONELRAD was 1963, and here we can see the official CONELRAD frequencies of 640 and 1240 kHz marked on this Dart’s fancy factory radio. How much was the optional AM radio in your new ’63 Dart? $169, which comes to $1,296 in inflation-adjusted dollars. Not only that, but you’d be hearing pretty much nothing but terrible hit singles and ugly news stories on that shockingly expensive staticblaster, back in ’63. Think about that the next time you’re enjoying your $300 Bluetooth-enabled aftermarket car stereo.
02 - 1963 Dodge Dart Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car has the look of one that sat exposed to the elements for a decade or two. The biohazardous trunk contents include some icky-looking time-capsule stuff.
19 - 1963 Dodge Dart Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe car was running as recently as 1987, when a student commuted in it to the stoniest junior college in California.
14 - 1963 Dodge Dart Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIf the car had a hood (or at least an air cleaner) during its long-term abandonment, the engine innards might have stayed dry enough to remain unseized. Not that anyone is going to bother with rescuing a tired 170.
05 - 1963 Dodge Dart Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBeing a two-door gave this car a slight chance of being saved by an auction buyer and restored, but the late-60s Darts tend to be more highly prized. Some of its parts should live on in other A-bodies, though.

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Piston Slap: The Buy or Rent Pitfall? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/piston-slap-the-buy-or-rent-pitfall/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/piston-slap-the-buy-or-rent-pitfall/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 12:44:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=778729 pitfall2

Henry writes:

Sajeev,

My wife and I are planning on taking a large 20 day vacation this summer where we plan on driving aver 5000 miles with our three older children. My wife drives a 2008 Ford Taurus X, which we love, but does not have enough space for a family of five for such a long journey. We were originally going to rent a minivan from the local enterprise, but a two week rental will set us back $1,300 with tax.

Ouch.

Recently I noticed that there are some good deals to be had on fourth generation Chrysler minivans. My wife and I bought two of these vans new, a 2001 and a 2005, and we loved both vans. This has me thinking, why not just buy a loaded up low mileage van for around $3,000-$4,000, use it for the summer/trip, and then sell it after we are done. Any advice?

Sajeev answers:

If you have the cash flow/time to buy-then-sell AND assuming you can do a bit of repair with your own hands, then yes, you should absolutely do this! This will be cheaper than renting (obviously) and maybe even flying to your destination. Plus, road trips are all about the journey.  That said, let’s make sure you are safe and not stranded on the journey.

A list of items you must check on your short list of minivans you want to buy, then sell:

  • Tires, tires, tires. Road trips are hard on old tires, so new-ish tires are almost mandatory. And not just tread depth wise, also age wise. Don’t forget the spare, either!
  • Service records: buy the van with the most comprehensive service history. Even if it’s Barney purple and has stains/rips inside, that’s the safest bet.
  • Fresh fluids, good rubber hoses/wipers/belts/vacuum lines, fresh brakes and all the stuff we preach in this column on a regular basis.
  • Clear headlights with new bulbs, as you will drive at night and want to actually see where the hell you’re going.

There are other granular bits to discuss (strength of transaxle if subjected to neglected ATF) but that’s hard to armchair in terms of being a relevant concern to your short-term ownership.   I would buy the van with the most records, the best tires/brakes you can find and hope you can add value in your ownership (via repairs and detailing) so you can actually make money on your vacation!

Best of luck with that.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

 

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Junkyard Find: 1994 Dodge Shadow ES http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/junkyard-find-1994-dodge-shadow-es/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/junkyard-find-1994-dodge-shadow-es/#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2014 13:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=769394 09 - 1994 Dodge Shadow ES Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSo many Chrysler P bodies in American wrecking yards today, so many that Shadows and Sundances generally make up a good quarter of your typical self-serve wrecking yard’s Chrysler section. You still see some of these cars on the street these days, though hit-bottom-years-ago resale values mean that a running Chrysler P is becoming semi-rare sight. I think the low-buck Shadow America and Sundance America are interesting enough to photograph, as is the Sundance Duster, but most of the time I just tune out the Ps when I see them during junkyard expeditions. The Shadow ES, with its goofy 80s-hangover tape graphics, manages to attract my attention, so let’s admire the exquisitely of-its-timeness of this ’94 that I spotted in Denver a couple months ago.
10 - 1994 Dodge Shadow ES Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese cars were pretty cheap, and they weren’t slow (by mid-90s standards).
08 - 1994 Dodge Shadow ES Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThat is, they weren’t slow when equipped with the Mitsubishi 6G72 V6, as this car is. Though, as we’ve seen, this engine doesn’t guarantee reliability.
05 - 1994 Dodge Shadow ES Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe early 90s are notable for having introduced the world to fake wood trim that was much more realistic than the Tormented Souls In Hell Simu-Wood™ of the 1970s and 1980s. Look, 20 years old and not faded or cracked!
04 - 1994 Dodge Shadow ES Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere oughta be a law.
14 - 1994 Dodge Shadow ES Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe snow is obscuring the mean-looking hood bulge with V6 emblems, but it’s there.
07 - 1994 Dodge Shadow ES Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWith manual transmission, this sort of car wouldn’t be a bad first car for a teenager interested in making a cheap machine to take to test-n-tune night. Grab the turbo hardware off a wrecked Stealth, experience the joys of Xtreem Torque Steer®.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Dodge Durango http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/capsule-review-2014-dodge-durango/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/capsule-review-2014-dodge-durango/#comments Fri, 07 Mar 2014 14:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=749777 2014 Dodge Duranto_0014

It’s a shame about the 2014 Dodge Durango. Every car eventually gets wound down, but the Durango will be going out in its prime. If the way a vehicle drives is a high priority for you, it’s hard not to adore the Durango’s comportment. More tragic, the Durango has been the quiet way to get Grand Cherokee goodness with some bonus wheelbase and space for exceptionally-aggressive Dodge pricing. That’s going to be over soon.

If the Durango is so good, and Chrysler even bothered to update it this year, why is it going away? The answer: Because it’s a Dodge.

But the Durango won’t be gone for long.

2014 Dodge Duranto_0001

Soon, the vehicle we know as the Dodge Durango will go back from whence it came. It’s being re-absorbed into the Jeep line, which has aggressive volume targets and can command higher prices. Back in the mid-aughties, Jeep tried a three-row range topper. The Commander did not do well, but it’s where this generation of Durango came from. The story is brought to you by the letters W, X and K, but here’s the short version: When Jeep cleaned up the Grand Cherokee for the 2011 model year, the Dodge Durango took over as the three-row version of that WK2 architecture.

At one time, the Durango was booking nearly 200,000 sales per year for Dodge, but that’s ancient history. Those hot numbers happened back when the Durango was the latest masterstroke from Bob Lutz. Most recently, the Durango has been racking up the critical affection while actual sales seem asbestos-lined, with no heat going on. Despite the Durango’s roots, it’s a lot harder to demand premium pricing without the power of deep Jeep love. Dodge has to be a lot more aggressive about putting cash on the hood to move iron. If you want to feel smarter than the average bear, act now to get the best deal on what’s probably the best vehicle in this segment.

2014 Dodge Duranto_0005

You’re giving up a few things for the sake of the deal, chief among them is brand cachet. That might not be important to you, but it matters for resale. While the Grand Cherokee enjoys strong resale and sniffs of approval from the other twit parents at soccer practice, the Durango’s residual value drops farther, faster. Also, the Durango isn’t as space-efficient as other three-row family crossovers, and it can feel a little more trucky than the car-based competition. Fuel economy is also a challenge, though the new 8-speed automatic takes smaller sips.

Still, the positives of the Durango outweigh the negatives. There’s huge rear seat legroom, extra cargo space, a human-sized third row and composed highway ride thanks to the significantly longer wheelbase. Inside, there’s good materials, luxury touches like laminated side glass, universally-praised UConnect infotainment, now with an 8.8” screen and deeper functionality, and surprising quiet. I drove a V6 Durango dressed up like an R/T, but lacking the Hemi. I also had some time with a full-boat Durango Citadel that topped out over $52,000, but I spent the most time with this mid-$30,000s Durango with AWD, V6, 8-speed automatic with spiffy rotary shifter and utility-focused cloth upholstery. Unlike most models facing their sunset, the Durango is to-the-minute current in its level of competitiveness. You can be sure that when this vehicle is wearing Jeep emblems it will have a thicker bottom line and thinner incentives.

2014 Dodge Duranto_0028

It’s counter-intuitive, but the fact that Jeep is pulling a Godfather 3 on the three-row is an acknowledgement of its fundamental goodness. Coming back into the fold will give Jeep a comprehensive model range from Patriot/Compass, through to Cherokee, Grand Cherokee, and on up. In spite of the looming change, because the Durango and Grand Cherokee are built together, it’s less expensive to give the outgoing model the same mechanical changes as the Jeep. Variations on the assembly line cost money. What the spec sheets can’t tell you is how well all the facts and features come together out on the road. Despite the unitized construction, the attitude of the Durango is more SUV than mall-trawler crossover. You feel it in the ride, which carries the feeling of weighty authority as it smothers bad pavement into submission. You’re up higher in the Durango, and while it’s smooth and quiet, she’s a big girl that’s clearly got some Ram in her family. There’s more rugged resistance than carlike compliance, but the structure is solid and the machinery feels refined.

Saddled with 4,700 lbs, the Pentastar engine does a lot better than you’d expect a 290 hp, 3.6 liter V6 could manage. That’s partly due to the new 8-speed transmission, but there are times where it feels like it shoulda had a V8. Of course, you can get one of the best V8s on the market, the 360 hp 5.7 liter Hemi. The V8’s fat torque is still blunted by the big-time curb weight, but it does enable quicker getaways and significant bump in towing capability to 7400 lbs. The table stakes for the Hemi are higher, with fuel economy taking a significant hit, even with MDS cylinder deactivation.

2014 Dodge Duranto_0018

The fuel economy numbers to pay attention to for the Durango are the city and combined EPA ratings. Family crossovers often do a lot of in-town driving, and that kind of use with a Hemi Durango Citadel had me staring at 14.5 MPG. The red Durango in the photos, a Pentastar-powered all-wheel driver with the 8-speed automatic returned a 19.5 MPG average with a heavy emphasis on secondary roads. That’s pretty good, though lots of stop and go will drive it down further. Either way, the claim of 25 MPG highway seems like fantasy.

Another issue is visibility. The mirrors are large and forward visibility is good, plus the elevated ride height doesn’t hurt. But the back window is small and far away. It wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that the constrained view to the rear has sunk more than one potential sale during the test drive. At 8.1”, ground clearance for the Durango is higher than in other competitors like the GM Lambda triplets (7.1”), the Nissan Pathfinder (6.5) or Ford Explorer (7.6”), so it’s not as easy to get in and out of as those vehicles, and you’ll also be perfecting your clean-and-jerk to load stuff in the back of the Durango versus the lower lift-over heights of the competition.

2014 Dodge Duranto_0012

With all these gotchas, it might sound like the Durango isn’t as good as those Crossovers that came from cars. The opposite is true. The ride is supple with disciplined control, and the whole vehicle feels solid. On smooth roads or the surface-of-the-moon byways that seem to cover 90 percent of the nation, the Durango chassis is always graceful. The steering, an electro-hydraulic rack and pinion, is precise and confident with good weighting but not a whole lot of feel.

The Durango is well screwed together, and it feels as good as the Grand Cherokee from behind the wheel. The Durangos which came before are really the issue here. The original sold really well, a bit of parts-bin genius, but it looked tougher than it proved to be. The second-generation Durango is best left out of this conversation, unless you’re trolling CraigsList for a bargain on a loaded-up truck-based SUV that looks Chinese. That leaves this one as the last, and best Durango. Hold on to your wallets, it’s gonna make one hell of a Jeep. 2014 Dodge Duranto_0001 2014 Dodge Duranto_0002 2014 Dodge Duranto_0003 2014 Dodge Duranto_0004 2014 Dodge Duranto_0005 2014 Dodge Duranto_0006 2014 Dodge Duranto_0007 2014 Dodge Duranto_0008 2014 Dodge Duranto_0009 2014 Dodge Duranto_0010 2014 Dodge Duranto_0011 2014 Dodge Duranto_0012 2014 Dodge Duranto_0013 2014 Dodge Duranto_0014 2014 Dodge Duranto_0015 2014 Dodge Duranto_0016 2014 Dodge Duranto_0017 2014 Dodge Duranto_0018 2014 Dodge Duranto_0019 2014 Dodge Duranto_0020 2014 Dodge Duranto_0021 2014 Dodge Duranto_0022 2014 Dodge Duranto_0023 2014 Dodge Duranto_0024 2014 Dodge Duranto_0025 2014 Dodge Duranto_0026 2014 Dodge Duranto_0027 2014 Dodge Duranto_0028

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Poor Sales Of Dodge Dart Prompt Plant Layoffs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/poor-sales-of-dodge-dart-prompt-plant-layoffs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/poor-sales-of-dodge-dart-prompt-plant-layoffs/#comments Wed, 05 Mar 2014 16:02:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=765097 450x221xdart-450x221.png.pagespeed.ic.ly_3Q05If7

Poor sales of the Dodge Dart have led to temporary layoffs at the auto maker’s Belvidere, Illinois plant, where the Dart is produced. Despite Chrysler sales being up 11 percent last month, sales of the Dart were down 37 percent.

Speaking to the Daily Herald, Autopacific’s Dave Sullivan noted that

“What’s going on now with the Dart is that when buyers go into a Dodge showroom they are getting such great incentives on the Dodge Avenger that buyers are choosing the larger car. It’s going to be several months before the Avenger is sold out, then we’ll get a better sense where the interest is in the Dart.”

Current incentives on the Avenger mean that it’s possible to get a mid-level Avenger for roughly the same price as a Dart. Although the difference may be $1,000-$2,000 in MSRP, it means virtually nothing in the realm of monthly payments that most car shoppers operate in.

As of February 1, Chrysler had a 220 day supply of Avengers and a 129 day supply of Darts. Both figures are abnormally large for the industry, but they only serve to highlight the problem outlined by Sullivan. Incentives on the Avenger will rise, as Chrysler tries to clear out the remaining stock, meaning the Dart could languish on the lots. Year-to-date, the Avenger is even outselling the Dart by about 3,000 units.

Prior to the Dart’s launch, Sergio Marchionne sat for an interview with 60 Minutes, where he proudly showed off the Dart for the cameras and said “If you’re a serious car maker and you can’t make it into this segment, you’re doomed.” At the time, it might have seemed like harmless bluster. Right now, those words look a bit ominous – even if the Dart itself isn’t such a bad product.

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Junkyard Find: 1986 Dodge Aries K http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/junkyard-find-1986-dodge-aries-k/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/junkyard-find-1986-dodge-aries-k/#comments Wed, 05 Mar 2014 14:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=764217 15 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThe quantities of true Chrysler K-Cars in high-turnover self-service wrecking yards have been declining a bit in recent years, though I still see enough of them that I choose only the most interesting to photograph for this series. So far we’ve seen this “Hemi 2.6″ ’81 Dodge Aries wagon, this ’83 Dodge Aries sedan, this ’85 Dodge 600 Turbo, and this ’88 Dodge Aries wagon, and today I’m adding a gold Aries sedan that has special significance for me.
18 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinYou see, this is the car that provided the hood for the “Lee Iacocca, Comintern Agent” mural that went on the Plymouth Reliant wagon judged to be the Worst Car In 24 Hours of LeMons History.
20131122_121205This hood now lives somewhere in California, having been removed from the Reliant by Iacocca zealots.
12 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car was in pretty good shape for a 28-year-old sedan that depreciated to scrap value by about age 10: no rust, interior not bad.
05 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinLots of options, including air conditioning and AM/FM radio.
04 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinQuality engineered.
Don’t forget to visit the Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™!

18 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Piston Slap: Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/piston-slap-out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/piston-slap-out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire/#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 13:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=752393

Marshall writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Here’s the situation: I own an 08 Dodge Caravan, 117000KM’s (Canada), bought used at 94000KM’s or so. It’s been good to us…but I have this feeling in my stomach that doom is pending on this van. I keep it well maintained, do my own work on it when I can. I am noticing more and more rust spots (underbody) and oil seepages under the hood (oil levels are good). It’s a base SE, no power doors or lift gate. Last time I did some brake work a bolt broke due to corrosion.

We have 2 kids and love the space of the stow and go’s and such. However, I’m no fool, this van is a liability in my mind. Am I overreacting?

Want to sell and buy a similar vintage Honda CR-V.

Sajeev answers:

Of course you are overreacting, this ain’t no Mazda!

There’s a chance that your average 6-year-old CR-V has less rust than your van.  Or perhaps what you see is a fact of life in places where there’s more salt on the roads than butter in Paula Deen’s kitchen.

Will a similar vintage Honda have less rust?  Maybe.  But, more importantly, will that less-rusty body last long enough to justify this effort?

More to the point, the CR-V’s resale is stronger than any base model Mopar Van: you’re gonna get hosed on this deal.  Are you gonna find a comparable CR-V for less than $1000 over than your van’s market value? Possibly, but vehicles this age all have problems (leaks you mentioned are commonplace) unless the last owner did a ridiculous amount of preventative maintenance, with reams of paperwork as proof.

That said, bolts on any older vehicle get far nastier with winter salt/rust on them.  Now IF you didn’t soak the bolts in penetrating oil and carefully break them free with a TON of patience and a dash of manhandling, well, you are partially to blame. That’s not hate: that’s me remembering the times I snapped bolts, kicking myself for overlooking the obvious.

So anyway…stick with the problems you know and drive the wheels off the Caravan. Literally.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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TTAC Salutes The Dodge Avenger http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/ttac-salutes-the-dodge-avenger/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/ttac-salutes-the-dodge-avenger/#comments Fri, 21 Feb 2014 12:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=750657 1900030_583142295111246_993317318_n

The Dodge Avenger was a contentious topic on TTAC. For some, it made the Dart redundant, offering the cheapest 283 horsepower money could buy. For others, it was a dreadful pile of crap, fit for sub-prime buyers, rental fleets and not much else.

Last month, we reported that the Avenger would die, to help prevent cannibalizing Dart sales and to align with Chrysler’s strategy of having one mid-size sedan per brand. On February 14th, the last Avenger rolled off the line at Sterling Heights. TTAC’s consensus on the Avenger is mixed. Nonetheless, we salute it. Where else can you get Pentastar power at poverty prices?

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Junkyard Find: 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/junkyard-find-1981-dodge-aries-station-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/junkyard-find-1981-dodge-aries-station-wagon/#comments Fri, 07 Feb 2014 14:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=735681 22 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Chrysler K platform spun off many K-based descendents, but genuine, pure Ks have been fairly rare in this series. We’ve seen this ’83 Dodge Aries sedan, this ’85 Dodge 600 Turbo, and this ’88 Dodge Aries wagon so far, though I’ve passed over many dozens more. Still, when I see a first-year Aries wagon in this weird chalky gray-green color and it has a “Hemi 2.6″ engine, I break out the camera!
13 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese cars depreciated just as fast as all the other Detroit front-drivers of the 1980s, which means that only relatively trouble-free ones managed to survive 33 years on the street. One expensive problem after about 1989, good-bye!
12 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Hemi 2.6 was really the good old Mitsubishi Astron 4G54 engine, which made 114 not-so-bad-for-1981 horses. Sadly, Chrysler never used any Simca-derived engines in the K family.
07 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis wagon has plenty of options, including air conditioning and futuristic digital chronometer.
05 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAs the street price of a battered Aries-K approached scrap-value levels, the socioeconomic status of the average K-car owner also dropped.
03 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinStill, you can see hints of former luxury in the much-used faded-mint-green vinyl interior.

As you can see here, the ’81 K-cars were sold on price, period.

02 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Review: 2014 Dodge Durango Limited V8 (with Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-dodge-durango-limited-v8-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-dodge-durango-limited-v8-with-video/#comments Thu, 16 Jan 2014 15:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=695921 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-002

Car shopping used to be so simple: you could buy a truck or a car. Then came the wagon, minivan, sport utility and the latest craze: the crossover. There’s just one problem with the crossover for me however: it’s not a crossover. With a name like that you’d assume that a modern crossover blended the lines between a truck/SUV with a car/minivan. The reality of course is that the modern three-row crossover is just a front-driving minivan that doesn’t handle as well or haul as much stuff. In this sea of transverse minivans in SUV clothing lies just one mass-market vehicle that I can honestly call a three-row crossover: the Dodge Durango. Instead of a car that’s been turned into an AWD minivan with a longer hood, the Dodge uses drivetrains out of the RAM 1500 combined with a car-like unibody. While rumors swirled that the Durango would be canceled in favor of a 7-seat Jeep, Dodge was working a substantial makeover for 2014.

Click here to view the embedded video.

So what is the Durango? Is it an SUV? Is it a crossover? In my mind, both. If a Grand Cherokee can be a unibody SUV and not a crossover, the Durango must be an SUV. But if a crossover is a hybrid between a car and a truck, then the Durango is one as well. While the first and second generation Durangos were body-on-frame SUVs based on the Dakota pickup, this Durango is a three-row Grand Cherokee, which is a two-row Jeep version of the three-row Mercedes ML which is quasi related to the Mercedes E-Class, which is quasi related to the Chrysler 300. Lost yet?

Exterior

2014 brings few changes to the outside of the Durango. The design first released in 2011 still looks fresh to my eye but that could be because I don’t see many on the road. Up front we get a tweaked corporate grille and new lamps while out back we get “race track” inspired light pipes circling the rump. Aside from a lowered right height on certain models and new wheels, little has changed for the Durango’s slab-sided profile, which I think is one of the Dodge’s best features. No, I’m not talking about the plain-Jane acres of sheet metal, I’m talking about RWD proportions. Bucking the trend, this three-row sports a long (and tall) hood, blunt nose, short front overhang and high belt-line.

To create the Durango from the Grand Cherokee, Chrysler stretched the Jeep’s wheelbase by 5-inches to 119.8 inches and added three inches to the body. The result is four-inches longer than an Explorer but two inches shorter than the Traverse, Acadia and Enclave triplets. Thanks to the Durango’s short front overhand, the Dodge has the longest wheelbase by a long way, beating even the full-size Chevy Tahoe. Speaking of the body-on-frame competition, the Durango may have been a size too small in the past, but this generation is just 8/10ths of an inch shorter than that Tahoe.

DG014_043DU

Interior

Body-on-frame SUVs have a practicality problem when it comes to space efficiency. Because the frame sits between the body and the road, they tend to be taller than unibody crossovers despite having less interior volume. Like the rest of the crossover crowd, this allows the Durango to have a spacious interior with a comparatively low entry height. 2014 brings a raft of much-needed interior updates to the cabin including a new soft touch dashboard, Chrysler’s latest corporate steering wheel with shift paddles, revised climate controls, Chrysler’s latest uConnect 2 infotainment system and a standard 7-inch LCD instrument cluster. Like the other Chrysler products with this LCD, the screen is flanked by a traditional tachometer, fuel and temperature gauge. Oddly enough, the standard infotainment screen is a smallish (in comparison) 5-inches.

Front seat comfort proves excellent in the Durango which was something of a relief, as the last few Chrysler products I have driven had form and oddly shaped seat bottom cushions that make me feel as if I was “sitting on and not in the seat.” As with all three-row vehicles, the accommodations get less comfortable as you move toward the back. By default all Durango trims are 7-passenger vehicles with a three-across second row. For $895 Dodge will delete the middle seat and insert a pair of more comfortable captain’s chairs and a center console with cup holders and a storage compartment. The third row is a strictly two-person affair and, like most crossovers, is best left to children and your mother in law. Those who do find themselves in “the way back” will be comforted by above average headroom and soft touch plastic arm rests. With large exterior proportions you’d expect a big cargo hold like in the cavernous Traverse, alas the RWD layout that makes the Durango so unique renders the interior less practical. With more of the body used up for “hood,” we get just 17 cubes of space behind the third row. That’s three less than an Explorer, seven less than GM’s Lambda triplets and about the same as a Honda Pilot. On the bright side this is more than you will find in a Highlander or Sorento and shockingly enough, more than in the Tahoe as well.

DG014_030DU

Infotainment

uConnect 2 is the first major update to Chrysler’s 8.4-inch touchscreen system that launched in 2011 and the first version of this system the Durango has ever had. Based on a QNX UNIX operating system, the system features well polished graphics, snappy screen changes and a large, bright display. For the second edition of uConnect, Chrysler smoothed out the few rough edges in the first generation of this system and added a boat-load of trendy tech features you may or may not care about. In addition to improved voice commands for USB/iDevice control, uConnect 2 offers smartphone integration allowing you to stream audio from Pandora, iHeart Radio or Slacker Radio. You can have text messages read to you and dictate replies (if your phone supports it) and search for restaurants and businesses via Yelp. In addition to all the smartphone-tied features, uConnect 2 integrates a CDMA modem on the Sprint network into the unit for over-the-air software updates and access to the new “App Store” where you will be able to buy apps for your car. Since there’s a cell modem onboard, uConnect can be configured to act as a WiFi hot spot for your tablets and game devices as well. Keep in mind speeds are 3G, not Sprint’s WiMAX or LTE network.

Completing the information assault is SiriusXM’s assortment of satellite data services which include traffic, movie times, sports scores, fuel prices and weather reports. As with uConnect data services, there’s a fee associated after the first few months so keep that in mind. 2014 also brings uConnect Access which is Chrysler’s answer to GM’s OnStar providing 911 assistance, crash notification and vehicle health reports. Garmin’s navigation software is still available as a $500 add-on (standard on Summit) and it still looks like someone cut a hole in the screen and stuck a hand-held Garmin unit in the dash. The interface is easy to use but notably less snazzy than the rest of the system’s graphics. If the bevy of USB ports has you confused, you can rock your Cat Stevens CD by paying $190 for a single-slot disc player jammed into the center armrest.

2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine-001Drivetrain

Dodge shoppers will find two of the Grand Cherokee’s four engines under the hood. First up we have a 290HP/260lb-ft 3.6L V6 (295HP in certain trims) standard in all trims except the R/T. R/T models get a standard 360HP/390lb-ft 5.7L HEMI V8 which can be added to the other trims for $2,795. 2014 brings a beefed up cooling system and a number of minor tweaks in the name of fuel economy. Sadly Chrysler has decided to keep the V6 EcoDiesel engine and 6.4L SRT V8 Grand Cherokee only options, so if you hoped to sip diesel or burn rubber in your three row crossover, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Both engines are mated to a ZF-designed 8-speed automatic. V6 models use the low torque variety made by Chrysler while V8 models use a heavy-duty 8HP70 made in a ZF factory. If you’re up to date on Euro inbreeding, you know this is the same transmission used by BMW, Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover and Rolls Royce. To say this is a step up from the vilified Mercedes 5-speed or the Chrysler 6 speed (the 65RFE featured some of the strangest ratio spacing ever) is putting it mildly. Fuel economy jumps 9% in the V6, 10% in the V8. No small feat in a 4,835lb SUV (as tested). All Durangos start out as rear wheel drive vehicles but you can add a two-speed four-wheel-drive system for $2,400. Although Dodge bills this as AWD, it is the same transfer case that Jeep calls 4×4 in Selec-Trac II equipped Grand Cherokees. Thanks to the heavy-duty drivetrain towing rings in at 6,200lbs for the V6 and 7,400lbs for the V8. Like the Jeeps the Durango has moved to more car-like 5-lug wheels which should widen after-market selection.

2014 Dodge Durango Exterior

Drive

The engineers took the refresh opportunity to tweak the Durango toward the sportier side of the segment with stiffer springs and beefier sway bars. While far from a night-and-day transformation, the difference is noticeable and appreciated out on the roads. While never harsh, it is obvious the Durango is tuned towards the firm side of this segment. Thanks to the long wheelbase the Durango feels well composed on the highway or on broken pavement.

With a nearly 50/50 weight balance, wide 265-width tires, and a lower center of gravity than a “traditional SUV”, the Durango is easily the handling and road feeling champion. That’s not to say the Durango is some sort of sports car in disguise, but when you compare a well balanced 360 horsepower rear wheel drive elephant to a slightly lighter but much less balanced front driving elephant on skinny rubber, it’s easy to see which is more exciting. Thanks to the Mercedes roots there’s even a whiff of feedback in the steering, more than you can say for the average crossover. Despite the long wheelbase and wide tires, the Durango still cuts a fairly respectable 37-foot turning circle.

Those statement may have you scratching your head if you recall what I said about Jeep on which the Durango is based, I must admit I scratched my head as well. Although the Dodge and the Jeep share suspension design elements and a limited number of components, the tuning is quite different. The Grand Cherokee Summit rides 3.1-inchs higher and was equipped with the off-road oriented air suspension.

2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-005

When it comes to performance, the new 8-speed automatic makes a night and day difference shaving a whopping 1.4 seconds off the 0-60 time versus the last V8 Durango we tested. The reason is all in the gear ratios. While the 545RFE and 65RFE transmissions suffered from some truly odd ratios, the ZF unit’s ratios are more evenly spread and dig deeper in the low gears. The result is a 6.0 second sprint to highway speeds which finally nips on the tails of the Explorer Sport which we’re told will do the same in 5.9-6.0 (TTAC hasn’t tested one yet). This proves what extra gears can do for you because the Explorer is 200lbs lighter and has a far more advantageous torque curve thanks to the twin turbos.

You can also thank the ZF transmission for the Durango’s robust towing numbers. V6 models are now rated for 6,200lbs while the V8 can haul up to 7,400lbs when properly equipped. That’s nearly 50% more than you can tow in any of the crossover competition and just 1,000 lbs shy of the average full-size body-on-frame hauler.

The transmission is also responsible for a whopping 20% increase in fuel economy. The last V8 Durango I tested eked out a combined 14.8 MPG over a week while the 2014 managed 18.0 MPG. While 18 MPG isn’t impressive in wider terms, it is 1/2 an MPG better than GM’s Lambda crossovers or the Ford Explorer on my commute cycle. The V6 yields improved fuel economy at the expense of thrust, but you should know that although the acceleration provided by the V6 is competitive with the V6 three-row competition, the 20 MPG average falls short of the new Highlander, Pathfinder and the rest of the FWD eco-minded competition.

After a week with the Durango I was no closer to answering the biggest question car buffs have: is this Dodge a crossover or an SUV? One thing is sure however, the Durango is likely the most fun you can have with 6 of your friends for under $50,000.

 

Chrysler provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.4

0-60: 6.0

1/4 Mile: 14.6 Seconds @ 96 MPH

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 69dB @ 50 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 18 MPG over 811 miles

 

2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-014 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-013 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-009 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-004 2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine-002 2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine-001 2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-003 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-002 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-001 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-005 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-006 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-007 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-008 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-012 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-011 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-010 DG014_058DU DG014_057DU DG014_051DU DG014_043DU DG014_030DU ]]>
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Dodge Avenger Dies So Dart, 200 Can Thrive http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/dodge-avenger-dies-so-dart-200-can-thrive/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/dodge-avenger-dies-so-dart-200-can-thrive/#comments Wed, 15 Jan 2014 18:55:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=700625 IMG_1026-450x337

The launch of the Chrysler 200 means Chrysler has to make some decisions about its future; and the most likely course of action for them is to kill off the Dodge Avenger, right away.

Sources tell TTAC that the Avenger will die rather soon. Expect sales to wrap up before the end of 2014. There will be no replacement, nor will the Avenger be transitioned to fleet-only duty, like the W-Body Chevrolet Impala – meaning our EIC pro tem will be out of luck at the rental counter.

Even though the Avenger’s R&D has long been paid for, its mere existence continues to cause headaches for Chrysler. Prevailing wisdom holds that the larger, cheaper and vastly more powerful Avenger has been cannibalizing sales of the Dart. Chrysler has previously stated that only one mid-size sedan will live on in its future product plans, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

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Piston Slap: Fanning the Dakota’s Flames? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/piston-slap-fanning-the-dakotas-flames/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/piston-slap-fanning-the-dakotas-flames/#comments Mon, 23 Dec 2013 13:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=686522

TTAC commentator Ian Anderson writes:

Hi Sajeev, I have something here for you and my fellow B&B to ponder over,

Back in May I bought a rust-free 1999 Dodge Dakota Sport (Extended cab, 3.9L Magnum V6, 5speed AX-15 manual, 2WD, 3.21 8.25″ open axle) for $2000 from a guy in South Philly. I bought it so I could take my rusty 1992 Dakota off of the road so my dad and I could fix all of the rust on it. Well now the ’92 is on the road (and growing more rust) and the ’99 is sitting on the street with a supposed ticking time bomb in the trans tunnel. When I bought the truck I was told by the previous owner’s mechanic that the throwout bearing was going out and would need replaced soon. Lo and behold, the next day while beating around in it I had to call AAA when I could no longer shift it (and when the clutch suddenly didn’t do anything, made stopping interesting). $600 later I had a whole new clutch kit and was on my way.

Now fast forward four months, myself and the Miss (not Mrs.) are coming back from dinner in the middle of August when it suddenly stalls while shifting gears to make a turn- shifting into third from fourth specifically. I chalk it up as my error and keep going until it does it three more times five miles down the road, then being accompanied by a soft BANG and me wrestling it to the side of the road. We made it home by driving in second gear with the flashers on. Now it will behave itself most of the time, but every so often going uphill it will become hard to shift, stall or get stuck in third, which makes it interesting trying to get the little 3.9 to motivate 4000 pounds with a line of traffic behind you. My mechanic ripped it back apart to check the clutch out, everything was fine. He’s stumped and telling me to drive it local until it blows, my dad says the transmission is shot, and the forums are all over the place with it saying it’s the trans, the clutch or that I can’t drive stick (the 30K I put on my ’92, including learning manual, beg to differ).

Now the question- What do I do with the truck? I love driving it since it handles great, has good brakes and will leave most “Ricer/tuner” cars in the dust even with the aforementioned 175HP 3.9 hauling 4000 pounds. But on that subject, I do have a stronger, newer, 500mile NV-3500 transmission in the shed from the same era Dakota that I snatched up for a bargain, and I’ve been thinking the truck could use a few more ponies under the hood. Do I:

  • Get a junkyard (with a warranty) trans or a rebuilt unit and just have it throw in
  • Use the later, heavier-duty trans I have with either the stock V6…OR…
  • With a V8 swap. Low mileage 5.2L Magnum V8s are plentiful in my area. Thankfully Chrysler made it a bolt-in job since it was a factory option.
  • Slap myself for the last two options
  • Throw it on Craigslist to get what I can for it and move on

I’m sure you and some of the B&B have been in the “Okay it’s broke, do I fix it to stock or upgrade” boat before and have some insight into this, especially you with half of your stable being occupied by older Detroit iron.

Thanks again Sajeev and the B&B!

Sajeev answers:

If you are considering slapping yourself for options 2 and 3, maybe you don’t like this truck as much as you should.  Or could, as significant power train upgrades on a depreciated truck like this won’t net you much $$$ value.  You’re a fool with plenty of spare time and excess cash to even consider a V8/Tranny swap.

But obviously, the power train swap is the correct answer. Like, obviously!

You have a spare truck (’92 Dakota) to use.  You have the “good” transmission for a truck where it will supposedly drop right in. And yes, Magnum V8s are dirt cheap, unlike those fantastic LSX-FTW beasties that would be nice, but far more complicated.  This is a no brainer, son!  Get a used motor (as much as possible, like accessory brackets, emissions stuff, etc), get a heater for your garage, clean/re-gasket it and start swappin’!

It’s either that, or dump it on Craigslist with the upgraded transmission in the bed to sweeten the deal. But then you’ll be bored out of your mind, doing the swap is totally worth it. And nobody wants that!

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Junkyard Find: 1976 Dodge Tradesman Van http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/junkyard-find-1976-dodge-tradesman-van/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/junkyard-find-1976-dodge-tradesman-van/#comments Fri, 20 Dec 2013 14:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=684786 11 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Dodge Tradesman cargo van of the 1970s was quite popular among customizers back in the days of 20% annual inflation and talk-box guitar solos, as we saw with this ’72 Tradesman Junkyard Find last year. In the very same San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard, here’s a Slant-6 Tradesman that doesn’t quite qualify as a custom van— not with just tinted glass and aftermarket wheels— but is still a nice time capsule.
05 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinChrysler kept the same basic design for its truck HVAC controls for nearly 20 years; my 1966 Dodge A100 has nearly identical cable-operated controls.
03 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinSlant-6 engine, 3-on-the-tree. Not very quick, but about as reliable as you could get in the 1970s.
17 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinYou don’t see many of these vans with the single rear door option.
08 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinJust a plain steel box with the base engine, but it kept going for nearly 40 years.

01 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Junkyard Find: 1988 Dodge Raider http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/junkyard-find-1988-dodge-raider/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/junkyard-find-1988-dodge-raider/#comments Tue, 17 Dec 2013 14:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=682026 18 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSo, out of the entire series of Junkyard Finds, which goes back three years and includes more than 600 posts, which vehicle has attracted the most readers? Strangely, it’s this 1987 Dodge Raider, which I shot in a Denver yard about a year ago. Why? Perhaps fans of the rebadged Mitsubishi Pajero are especially obsessed devoted, to a degree that the rest of us (I’m sure Raider/Montero/Pajero fans have a derisive nickname for us) will never understand. Anyway, here is exactly the second Raider I’ve seen in a wrecking yard since the start of this series; I found this little gold devil during my visit to the San Francisco Bay Area last week.
02 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinJust 136,000 miles on the clock, but I’m sure they were manly miles.
09 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI don’t recall ever seeing Ram emblems on a Raider before. Could these have been lifted from a Dodge Ram 50 aka Mitsubishi Mighty Max?
08 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMarques in the Chrysler family got pretty hard to follow by the late 1980s, what with all the DNA from AMC, Renault, Mitsubishi, Simca, and assorted second cousins of those badges coursing through the company’s veins at this point. The Raider makes for some good automotive trivia questions, though not quite as weird as questions related to early 1970s captive imports or the greatest Brazilian Chrysler of all time.
01 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI don’t recall hearing about the lawsuits that must have led to these warning labels. Anybody know this story?
14 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe coolest truck in the Napa High School parking lot!

01 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1988 Dodge Raider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Junkyard Find: 1978 Dodge Ramcharger http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/junkyard-find-1978-dodge-ramcharger/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/junkyard-find-1978-dodge-ramcharger/#comments Wed, 04 Dec 2013 14:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=670298 15 - 1978 Dodge Ramcharger Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinEven though Denver wrecking yards are always full of old trucks, the Dodge Ramcharger isn’t quite as common as its GM, Ford, and Jeep rivals. In fact, this Royal SE ’83 Ramcharger is the only example we’ve seen in this series, prior to today’s find. This tan Dodge is every bit as Malaise-y as the yellow ’76 Wagoneer we saw last month, so let’s look at these photos and imagine what it was like driving a 9 MPG truck during a period of high inflation and steep gas prices.
03 - 1978 Dodge Ramcharger Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinTan with brown and orange stripes. I think the library— wait, I mean “media center”— in my junior high school was done up in very similar colors, back in 1979.
12 - 1978 Dodge Ramcharger Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinYou don’t want to know what kind of horsepower the 318 (or 360) made in 1978. The torque was enough, let’s leave it at that.
05 - 1978 Dodge Ramcharger Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinAt least it has a real transmission.
13 - 1978 Dodge Ramcharger Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinYou don’t see many of these engine-coolant heaters these days.
10 - 1978 Dodge Ramcharger Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s a bit rusty, but probably still had some life left.

An all-around family car!

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Vellum Venom: 2013 Dodge Charger SRT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/vellum-venom-2013-dodge-charger-srt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/vellum-venom-2013-dodge-charger-srt/#comments Mon, 02 Dec 2013 13:26:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=662346

@willstpierre tweets:

@SajeevMehta Art history teacher talked about using vellum today. Nobody else knew what it was #bringbackvellumvenom

 

 

1

While Ford and GM pissed away decades of heritage for horribly demure (yet disturbingly plump) full size sedans built on a namby pamby FWD globalized chassis, Chrysler took the hard points of the Mercedes-Benz W211 sedan to make America’s one and only four portal bad motherfu*ker.

Get used to this face, because it’s today’s American Bad Ass Sedan.

2

Pardon me while I remain infatuated with the SRT’s perfect use of subtle bends to make a seriously muscular nose. The phrase “power dome hood” has been around for decades, but this fascia earns that title many times over.


4

The hood and fenders meet logically, elegantly against the slender headlights. While the bulldog grille accentuates the nose’s massive flatness, the Charger SRT asserts itself like no other machine in its class.

5

This design feature (assuming it’s radar cruise control) is far from invisible on the Charger’s facade, but at least the horn-shaped bezel complements the lower bumper’s curvature.
6

The wave at the bottom of the bumper bends harmoniously with the fog light surround and the grille’s teethy edge. The high spot over the foglight needs a belt sander, but this is a super hormonal family sedan by design. And it still looks the part without being cartoonishly overstyled like a C7 Corvette.

7

Dodge’s signature grille looks great: the original Viper started it and kudos to Chrysler for not blowing it with a switch to something less recognizable. The four pointed grille takes on a new dimension with the honeycomb treatment inside the “star”, proving this design stands the test of time by never remaining stagnant.

If only the other American brands (except Cadillac) could make a grille design and stick with it. Too bad about that.

8

Brand honesty is a great thing, but a tall and flat truck-y nose is not.  This design would be amazing on the sleek beak of an old school Plymouth Fury. No matter, the face is suitably modern muscle car angry.  And the staggered headlight sizing is the icing on the cake.

8_1

There’s an oh-so-subtle straightening of the wheel well arch as it meets the aggressive flaring of the front bumper. Man, now THAT is trick.

9

While unstoppable on a slender ’70 Fury, the Charger SRT’s gaping maw needs the shadows of black paint to compensate for this much real estate. But still, look at the power dome hood’s hustle and flow as it sweeps to the windshield!  The number of shadows on the hood (like the hard bend at the center of the hood, and the matching bends at the ends of the fenders) shows great attention to detail on the modern muscle car theme.

9_1

So many fast, long and flowing lines.  And none fight with each other! Note the negative area needed for the hood scoop:  there’s plenty of space to make a name for itself (i.e. unique shapes) on the Charger’s vellum.

9_2Another bonus: the hood scoop’s honeycomb is wide open: no solid blocks of cheapness here.

9_3Could this be a late 4th Generation Camaro? No matter, this gives the Charger SRT even more street cred, since the Camaro is now a plump tribute to the first generation of Chevy’s Pony Car.

10There’s a reason why that nose is painted black: it’s huuuuuge. The added contrast might remove visual bulk, but the middle band (the part below the grille, above the valence) needs body color paint instead.

11Six point four liters of REPRESENT: no greenwashed pretensions like Ford’s Ecoboost V6 (formerly and rightly called TwinPower), no excuses given. It’s just another American bad ass, right?

12With our last installment in mind, the Charger’s elegant side cove comes correct. While far cooler if the cove started on the fender (like a C5 Vette) it’s still a nice touch considering the height and visual heft of today’s sedans.

12_1Clean integration of the wiper arm and cowl cover. Nice.
13

The American Bad Ass has no DLO FAIL.

NONE, SON.

Such a perfect meeting of A-pillar, fender and front door! And to everyone else: how frickin’ hard is this to make?  No excuses, just do it!

14

Even the panel gaps are close enough to perfect. This is how you craft a sedan!

15_1The black Charger nearby highlighted the door cove’s flowing lines as it reaches the C-pillar. Sure, like all new cars, it’d be nice to section 1-3 inches of door sheet metal to lower the body and visually lengthen it…perhaps one day we will get that design aesthetic back.

16

Like the A-pillar, the B-pillar is sleek and clean.  The black trim always helps integrate the glass into the rest of the body: necessary when your greenhouse is sleek, fast and a bit on the skinny side.

17Not so great at the C-pillar: the greenhouse ends in a BMW-style Hofmeister Kink, but the door’s cut line refuses to play ball.  Instead of continuing the natural curve, it bends backward before repeating the kink’s curvature. Quite static and sad for a muscle car, actually.

18But there’s nothing but love for the black-chrome SRT rimz with Brembo stoppers. #wheelporn

19

Apparently the SRT brand has some curb (rash) appeal.  Literally.

19_1Gas filler door bisects the quarter panel with elegance and symmetry.  Nice.

19_2Aside from the usual complaints about sky-high belt lines, huge flat buffalo butts and the need for dubs to fill the gap…well, the Charger still has a nice profile.  I’d lose that spoiler in a heartbeat: it accentuates the buffalo butt.

20The door cut line and that Hofmeister kink look fine from here, even if they are too slow or static. The tapered C-pillar works well with the obligatory muscle car fastback roof line, but it’s a shame the lower half (i.e. the quarter panel) lacks tapering (inwards) to match.This touch helps tremendously in reducing automotive buffalo butt.

21Still, this sedan is a looker. The flat door handles look great, and there’s no DLO FAIL. The flat edge at the rear window gives a little muscle, keeping it from looking flabby.  Just a little more tumblehome at the B-pillar is all that’s needed for maximum style.

22 The C-pillar extends above the plane of the rear window.  Perhaps it’s a hat tip to the earlier Chargers, and perhaps it does a fantastic job keeping this area from being too flat and boring.

23But from this angle, the black plastic finish panel needs to go.  Painted metal would look much cooler.  Or just make the whole thing flush with the rear glass.

24Naaaah.  The effect is that of an American Bad Ass. Close enough to perfection for a mass-produced machine.

25An elegant backside, provided one never steps back to notice the height and bulk.

26A buffalo butt for sure, but the strong vertical cut line at the end of the tail light assembly isn’t without its charms. Too bad this Charger is so tall yet short on overhangs: more style from its 1960s forefather could complete the look.
26_1That hard vertical cut line ends rather abruptly at the base of the bumper’s sweeping bend.  A rounded edge is better than a 90-degree ending in this case.

28I don’t believe an American Bad Ass needs ‘dem fancy ‘furrin diffusers on its bumper. Because this is a bit much.

30

Especially considering the super clean and recognizable-from-a-mile-away tail lights.  The LED perimeter is a bit of old-school Detroit, from an era when beancounters had no say when a design studio demanded a feature, an era when insurance companies and beancounters didn’t dictate a vehicle’s design (expensive to replace full width lights)…so add the modest brand badging (aside from the dealership tattoo on top of the trunk) and the Charger SRT embodies many of the traits we love in American sedans.

In a modern tall+boxy package, sadly.  With a warranty, gladly.

Thanks for reading, I hope you have a lovely week.

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Hammer Time: The TI-QI Top Ten http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/hammer-time-the-ti-qi-top-ten/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/hammer-time-the-ti-qi-top-ten/#comments Sat, 23 Nov 2013 03:17:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=661418 impala2

At what point are you willing to accept a low-ball offer for your old beater?

Is it when the tranny blows out? Or does it eventually come through the scourge of rust, and the constant breaking of electric doo-dads that no longer work all through your doo-dah-day?

Some folks simply get bored of their ride. While others just try to drive their cars until their bodies become the rolling representation of swiss cheese.

Everyone has a reason to curb a car. Thanks to the efforts of Nick Lariviere (<— Click the link!), and the cooperation of an automotive conglomerate with more money than some state governments, I now have 257,020 purely anecdotal examples of this type of personal decision making.

I now need to figure out one simple thing.

What does all this data tell me?

impala

Well, for one thing, I’ve figured out that a lot of this information reaffirms my past prejudices about what tends to be worth buying at the whoelsale auctions, and what vehicles should be avoided at all costs.

So what to buy used then? OK. Here are the top ten most reliable used vehicles according to the TI-QI Index.

 

1. Lexus LX Series

Lexus LX

Quality Index Rating:  8.09

Sample Size: 230

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See how that little yellow hump peaks at right around 200,000 miles?

These vehicles are the automotive version of granite. They are heavy as hell, don’t age, and will most assuredly squash off whatever vehicular bugs and cockroaches are on the road should the Zombie Apocalypse ever take place.

 

2. Toyota Land Cruiser

Quality Index Rating:  7.42

Sample Size: 183

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The Land Cruiser would be the Toyota of Lexuses if  Lexus had a Toyota that wasn’t already a Lexus. See what I mean? Not really? Neither do I.

Just look at that nice big yellow wave of space after the two intersection points and forget I ever wrote that.

 

3. Ford E250

Quality Index Rating:  6.37

Sample Size: 109

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The van of choice for locksmiths, utility workers, parts haulers and a highway beacon for young ambulance chasers who can’t afford their daytime TV commercials just yet.

I have a theory that when Comcast and AT&T are forced into the bankruptcies they rightly deserve, these vehicles will follow them into extinction.

Every one of them drinks gas like an old Lincoln, and there is already a massive glut of these vans in the used car marketplace.

You can’t kill em’. But like minivans, the buyer base is shrinking.

 

4. Lexus LS

Quality Index Rating:  5.99

Sample Size: 561

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Okay, the orange hump represents all the vehicles traded in before the Lexus on average.

The yellow bulge after the intersection point represents all the LS models that are kept for the longer haul. Note the substantial difference in the 250k to 300k zone.

Green means great. Yellow means good. Red means Suzuki.

 

5. Dodge Sprinter

Quality Index Rating:  5.94

Sample Size: 43

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Okay, 43 vehicles don’t exactly offer a big slice full of data. What matters here is the name. Dodge.

Dodge, as in thankfully nowhere near a typical Dodge. It’s a Mercedes that was once sold as a Freightliner and is now just a turbodiesel Benz in drag.

 

6. Toyota 4Runner

Quality Index Rating:  5.8

Sample Size: 1626

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Another Toyota SUV that consumes gas with aplomb. These things are less economical than a Town Car, and almost as good looking, but that doesn’t matter in the end.

If the LX and Land Cruiser are the king of SUV’s on an international scale, then the 4Runner is Gollum equipped with a jedi sword, an UZI and a chainsaw.

 

7. Toyota Avalon

Quality Index Rating:  5.15

Sample Size: 1125

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You see a trend here? That’s right! The first five vehicles are all built on truck and SUV platforms, and the other two can cause numbness of the extremities.

What helps the Avalon is that the first two generations were insanely over-engineered, and most mature folks like to drive their ride with a tap instead of a stomp.

 

8. Lexus GX

Quality Index Rating:  4.93

Sample Size: 251

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What the hell is a GX? Lexus needs to stop using acronyms and start using names such as, “Endurante” and “Hedgehog”.

On second thought, maybe GX is perfectly fine.

 

9. Ford Excursion

Quality Index Rating:  4.9

Sample Size: 279

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The Ford Canyonero really isn’t an SUV. It’s the future of family housing after the US government decides that free enterprise is too expensive.

 

10. Saturn LS1

Quality Index Rating:  4.88

Sample Size: 57

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Who? What? Huh?

Well, I have this theory… GM designed these Saturns to run on meth.

At least it seems to attract that type of customer base in my neck of the woods. I have one of these that’s now on it’s third run through with the local meth clientele.

The first customer had a wife and kid on meth. The second was a user of meth, and the third is a distributor of meth.

When I first got it, my wife liked the color and wanted to keep it. But it never ran quite right for her. It needed meth.

As soon as I fixed the fuel pump and retailed it, no problems. It has gone through three addicts so far and has taken more abuse than the local public defender. Still runs fine.

Why? It must be the meth. I can think of no other reason why it’s in the top ten.

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Did Ron Burgundy Really Help Move Durangos? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/did-ron-burgundy-really-help-move-durangos/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/did-ron-burgundy-really-help-move-durangos/#comments Fri, 08 Nov 2013 15:56:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=645810 Durango-side-550x412

There’s nothing the internet loves more than some good clickbait, and the hype surrounding Dodge’s ads featuring Ron Burgundy, star of the Anchorman movies, and the Durango CUV, are perfect fodder for this type of content. Web publications like Mashable, along with numerous auto blogs, have run articles cliaming that the Anchorman-themed ads have caused Durango sales to “skyrocket”. But as Tim Cain shows us, correlation does not necessarily equal causation. Durango sales have been on the rise for some time now. But never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

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Dodge Revives “Shaker” Hood, Scat Pack Club to Help Celebrate Centennial http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/dodge-revives-shaker-hood-scat-pack-club-to-help-celebrate-centennial/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/dodge-revives-shaker-hood-scat-pack-club-to-help-celebrate-centennial/#comments Thu, 07 Nov 2013 10:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=643537 New Mopar ’14 Challenger model revealed: only 100 serialized c

To help celebrate the 100th anniversary of when Horace and John Dodge started selling automobiles in November 1914 under their own brand name after years of supplying Henry Ford with components and rolling chassis, Dodge is going to bring back a feature from its storied past, albeit from a period more recent than when Horace and John walked the floor of Dodge Main. The Chrysler Group’s brand used the occasion of this year’s SEMA show to announce that it will be making 1,000 special edition Challenger R/Ts with “shaker” hoods, as used in Mopar products during the golden age of muscle cars in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It’s called a shaker hood because an engine mounted air intake protrudes through an opening in the hood and shakes from the torque as the engine rocks on its mounts. The limited run of cars will also come with an electronically operated exhaust dump, to allow a more free flowing, and louder, exhaust.

As in the late 1960s, this shaker hood equipped Challenger comes with a Hemi, in this case the 5.7 liter version of the V8. Prices start at $37,990, including delivery, a $2,500 premium for the special hood.

New Mopar ’14 Challenger model revealed: only 100 serialized c

In addition to the Challengers with the shaker hoods, Dodge is resurrecting the Scat Pack Club. No, it has nothing to do with excreta, it was the name of a company sponsored enthusiast group associated with performance equipment sold from 1968 to 1971. The new Scat Pack will include performance kits, available in stages, for the Challenger, Charger and Dart that incorporate custom ECUs, cold air intakes, performance exhaust systems, suspension upgrades and other accessories that can be user or dealer installed. In the muscle car era you had to buy the go-fast gear to get the now quite collectible bumblebee Scat Pack decal. This time around you still have to buy the parts to get the graphic, only this time it’s a badge with the stage number indicated, not just a sticker.

2014 Dodge Challenger R/T with Scat Package 3

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Family Jewels: What Dribbled Down To You? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/family-jewels-what-dribbled-down-to-you/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/family-jewels-what-dribbled-down-to-you/#comments Sat, 02 Nov 2013 15:08:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=640409 Photo Courtesy of Cardomain.com

Photo Courtesy of Cardomain.com

Today, my wacky morning DJ, right after he said democracy was a joke and called me “dude,” hit us with this fun fact: 39% of young people choose the same brand of car their parents drove. I’m not sure if that is impressive as the previous day’s fact, that 20 million pounds of candy corn are sold annually in the United States, but it made me think about my father’s preference in vehicles and whether or not I had followed suit. Despite the fact that my old man had pretty good taste in cars, the answer, oddly enough, is “no.”

Like the late, great Jean Sheppard once wrote about his own father, my father was an Oldsmobile man. Of course today Oldsmobile is as dead as the Huppmobile and unless I want to reach back into history and buy one on the used market, I’m never going to own the same brand of car my dad did. I have owned a few other GM cars over the years, a GMC Jimmy, my current Pontiac Torrent, a Geo Metro and a few well used Novas I found dead in people’s yards but, truth be told, I am not GM guy. I, for whatever reason, am a Mopar guy.

I’m not really sure why I settled on a Dodge Shadow back in early 1988. My buddy Rick had an old Dodge Charger for a while, but other than that I really had no experience with the brand and looking back there were some really great cars on the market for similar money. I could have had a Toyota Corolla Twin-Cam, a Honda CRX like my friend John bought, Nissan had two or three little coupes on the market including the Turbo 200SX and Chevrolet offered both the Baretta and the Z24 Cavalier as direct competitors to the little Dodge Turbos. For whatever reason, I passed them all by and went to my local Dodge shop.

Which would you choose?

Which would you choose?

My experience with the Dodge wasn’t entirely trouble free, but considering the amount of abuse I dished out the little car held up remarkably well. As a result I have always thought of myself as a “Dodge guy” and always shop their products when I am looking to purchase a new vehicle. The 300M I owned and my recent purchase of our new Town & Country have their roots in my positive, early experiences with the brand and I think that more Chrysler products will eventually follow.

But will my kids be Chrysler fans? Given all the recent mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures, I‘m not sure it really matters. Eventually, they’ll have a chance to take the controls and decide whatever they like on their own, and my only hope is that they feel the same passion for cars and driving that I do. If they get that, then I’ll consider my job as one well done.

Let me ask though, how much does you parents’ brand loyalty or ownership experience play into your own brand affinity? Are you loyal to a single brand at all? A single country’s product? I’d like to hear about it.

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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Junkyard Find: 1985 Dodge 600 Turbo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/junkyard-find-1985-dodge-600-turbo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/junkyard-find-1985-dodge-600-turbo/#comments Thu, 31 Oct 2013 13:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=637713 19 - 1985 Dodge 400 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOnce Chrysler’s K platform proved successful, the E (for “extended”) version of the K soon followed. First was the 400, which was then upgraded to the 600 for the 1983 model year. You don’t see many 600s these days, though you might see the occasional Hongqi CA750F version on the streets of Beijing. Here’s a once-luxurious brown 600 I spotted in a Denver wrecking yard.
11 - 1985 Dodge 400 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis thing is covered with crystal pentastars.
13 - 1985 Dodge 400 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou like brown cordo-velour and pleather for your interior? Good!
03 - 1985 Dodge 400 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinA vinyl landau top was still a relevant feature on crypto-luxury coupes in the mid-1980s.
04 - 1985 Dodge 400 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one hasn’t held up too well under the Colorado sun.
09 - 1985 Dodge 400 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBecause 1985 was the future, you got the Chrysler “Message Center” in your 600.
17 - 1985 Dodge 400 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAnd, of course, turbocharging.


Even by the standards of early Post-Malaise Era America, it’s hard to imagine that the Dodge 600 convertible was the object of many yearning dreams.


Cheaper than a Buick!

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Review: 2013 & 2014 RAM 3500 Diesel (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/review-2013-2014-ram-3500-diesel-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/review-2013-2014-ram-3500-diesel-with-video/#comments Tue, 08 Oct 2013 12:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=532417 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Nothing is more American than the pickup truck. If the stars and stripes thing ever gets old, they will probably get replaced by a RAM / GM / Ford montage.  The other thing that’s quintessentially American is an arms race. No, I’m not talking military hardware, I’m talking about the eternal RAM vs Chevy/GMC vs Ford tuck wars. Who has the best frame? Who has the best engine? Who can haul the most? Be prepared to draw your weapons and click past the jump. Chrysler sent me a 2013 RAM 3500 for a week and then invited me to taste test the refreshed 2014 model for a day.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

What can we say about the exterior? It’s pickup truck shaped. Aside from that revelation, the RAM can be had with three different cabs and two different bed sizes. Regardless of the options you choose, the RAM “big rig” styling that rocked the pickup world in 1994 is still with us although it’s been softened slightly. 2013 brings new headlamps and more chrome but keeps the seriously large grille which is raked slightly forward. Fear not, there is ample room to install a set of horns on the front.

2013 RAM 3500 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesInterior

I was initially a little perturbed, I had asked for a Tradesman trim of the RAM 3500 because I have a thing for the stripper commercial vehicles. Instead I ended up with a top-of-the-line Laramie Long Horn Edition in the driveway. If I’m honest the interior is a little over the top in my book, but I’m much more of a minimalist when it comes to interior design. Regardless of how you feel about the bedazzled instrument cluster, the RAM exudes quality. I’ll say that again, the RAM exudes quality. How exactly Chrysler went from crafting the cheapest feeling interiors to some of the best on the market is anyone’s guess but the result are stunning and boil down to one decision: stitched leather.

I breezed by my local RAM dealer to checkout the Tradesman, and the difference is marked. The Tradesman has an attractive interior design, but the Long Horn takes it up several notches with an injection molded dash that features real stitching, real wood trim that isn’t heavily lacquered and genuine cow hide on the doors and seat backs. The front seats are large and supportive in all versions of the RAM but don’t offer much lateral bolstering.

Rear seat comfort has been a new focus for pickup trucks owing to their increased use as family haulers and daily drivers. The RAM’s rear seats are higher off the ground than in the Ford pickups which I found more comfortable, but those with short legs may complain. Although the seats in the back don’t recline and they are slightly more upright than any other vehicle type, they proved comfortable for an hour trip. Instead of folding down, the seat bottom cushions flip up revealing storage compartments and, in our Longhorn Edition, a subwoofer. In addition to the swanky interior trappings, the RAM 3500′s cabin is almost luxury sedan quiet at 71 db at 50 MPH.

2013 RAM 3500 Interior, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

uConnect 2 is the first major update to Chrysler’s 8.4-inch touchscreen system that launched in 2011 and the first version found in the RAM 1500. Based on a QNX Unix operating system, the system features well polished graphics, snappy screen changes and a large, bright display. In addition to extensive voice commands for USB/iDevice control, uConnect 2 offers smartphone integration allowing you to stream audio from Pandora, iHeart Radio or Slacker Radio. You can have text messages read to you and dictate replies (if your phone supports it) and search for restaurants and businesses via Yelp. In addition to all the smartphone-tied features, uConnect 2 integrates a CDMA modem on the Sprint network into the unit for over-the-air software updates and access to the new “App Store” where you will be able to buy apps for your car. Since there’s a cell modem on-board, uConnect can be configured to act as a WiFi hot spot for your tablets and game devices as well.

Completing the information assault is SiriusXM’s assortment of satellite data services which include traffic, movie times, sports scores, fuel prices and weather reports. As with uConnect data services, there’s a fee associated after the first few months so keep that in mind. 2014 also brings uConnect Access which is Chrysler’s answer to GM’s OnStar providing 911 assistance, crash notification and vehicle health reports. Garmin’s navigation software is still available as a $500 add-on and it still looks like someone cut a hole in the screen and stuck a hand-held Garmin unit in the dash. The interface is easy to use but notably less snazzy than the rest of the system’s graphics. If this bevy of techo-wizardry hasn’t convinced you that Ram is now in the 21st century, consider this: our tester didn’t have a CD player. If the bevy of USB ports has you confused, you can rock your John Denver CD by paying $395 for a single-slot disc player jammed into the center armrest.

2013 RAM 3500 6.7L Cummins-001

Drivetrain

The standard engine for both 2013 and 2014 is Chrysler’s ubiquitous 5.7L “Hemi”  V8 tuned to 383 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. Unlike the refreshed 1500, the 2500 and 3500 don’t get the Chrysler/ZF 8-speed automatic instead relying on the Chrysler 66RFE 6-speed to put the power to the ground.

Our tester had the optional 6.7L Cummins turbo Diesel engine we at TTAC have come to know and love. The 6-cylinder oil burner comes in three flavors depending on the transmission you select. The 6-speed manual (a class exclusive) gets the lowest tune at 360 ponies and 660 lb-ft. Checking the box for the Chrysler 68RFE 6-speed transmission bumps power to 370 HP and torque to 800 lb-ft. If that’s not enough a new Aisin AS69RC 6-speed automatic can be selected which gets you 385 HP and a whopping 850 lb-ft. The new Aisin transmission is capable of handling a PTO, should you need it.

2014 brings a new truck version of Chrysler’s SRT 6.4L V8. RAM was quick to say the engine isn’t just an SRT transplant and a high percentage of parts are unique. The “big gas” as RAM is calling it is good for 410HP and 429 lb-ft which may not sound like a huge increase over the 5.7 but looking at the torque curve the larger engine has considerably more grunt. The 6.4 is an alternative to the expensive Cummins for most applications and it can be paired with the 66RFE automatic or the Aisin 6-speed if you need a PTO.

If you’re buying a 4×4 pickup and fuel economy is a factor, the 2014 RAM models include a front axle disconnect system. By essentially decoupling the front right wheel and front left wheel from one another, parasitic losses inside the front differential are greatly reduced. This is similar to the rear axle disconnect system employed on the new Jeep Cherokee.

2013 RAM 3500 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Payload and Trailering

Thanks to the revised drivetrain and that new Aisin 6-speed automatic, the RAM reaches new (and insane) heights in towing with a 30,000lb tow rating when properly equipped. This isn’t just a slight increase in towing ability, this is a whopping 6,800 more than GM’s 2014 trucks and 8,800 more than Ford’s F-350. True to RAM’s commercial heart, the maximum tow rating can be had in all trim levels of the 3500, including the stripper Tradesman. All you have to do is select the Cummins and Aisin combo and be willing to spend $38,895.

What’s it like to tow that kind of weight? I wish I knew. It’s illegal in California (and many states) to tow more than a 10,000lb trailer without a class C license so I hooked up my 7,500lb trailer at home with the 2014 and RAM provided a 9,999lb trailer with the 2014 model for testing. Shoppers should know that the 66RFE and 68RFE transmissions are related to the 65RFE that I have frequently complained about. However, the reason for my complaint had to do with the 65RFE’s gear ratio spread, this is not a problem in the 66RFE or 68RFE as they use a different set of ratios. Even so, the Aisin transmission is the transmission of choice for towing and hauling as it has a notably lower first and second gear and is capable of torque converter lockup in first. As you would expect, 7,500 lbs of trailer is no match for 850 lb-ft of torque and the Cummins felt like it wasn’t even trying as I climbed up a 2,200ft mountain pass.

2013 RAM 3500 Interior, 4WD controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesIf you’re the kind of guy who does serious towing or hauls heavy payloads, forget the 2013 RAM and tell your Ford and GM friends to join you at the RAM dealer for the 2014 3500 with a rear air suspension. This is not the same system used on the RAM 1500 which is a four-corner height adjustable  system, the 2500 and 3500 are rear load leveling only. 2500 trucks get a new 5-link coil suspension standard with available air suspension while the 3500 gets a beefier multi-plate leaf spring standard and optionally a single leaf with a set of air bags. Aside from being totally cool, leveling suspensions improve ride as well as suspension dynamics by keeping the suspension in the middle of its travel so that jounce and rebound (check?) are optimized. The air suspension also allows the maximum payload to creep up to 7,320 lbs in the 3500 for 2014 and the truck will perform better while under load.

In addition to the new rear air suspension, 2500 models get an entirely new frame and a new front suspension setup based on the 3500′s multi-link front suspension. I was worried this would decrease the 2500′s ride quality but impressively the opposite was true.
2013 RAM 3500 Interior-020

Drive

The 5.7L V8 isn’t a bad engine by any stretch, but the RAM isn’t a light weight hauler. Our Cummins model rang in at 6,799lbs ad the V8 isn’t that much lighter. Put a few thousand pounds of concrete in the bed and you’re in for a slow slog up the hill. If you can’t bring yourself to pay for the diesel, my suggestion is to drive the RAM 1500, 2500 and 3500 back to back and seriously ask yourself what your towing and hauling needs are. The 1500 isn’t just 1,800lbs lighter, it has that new 8-speed automatic which makes towing a breeze. If however you’re a serious hauler, then nothing but the 6.7L turbo diesel will do.

As much as I love manuals, and as happy I am that the Cummins can still be mated to one, the automatic is the transmission you want. Not only does it make trailering easier, you get 140 lb-ft more twist for your $500 as well. Anyone serious about towing (and anyone with a class C license) will want to step up to that Aisin transmission. Aside from getting an extra 50 lb-ft, you get higher torque rated internals, more evenly spaced gear ratios and a lower first gear.

If you notice, I haven’t spoken to the way the RAM drives yet. That’s because driving manners are secondary to the mission in a heavy-duty pickup truck. Even so 2013 brings a notable improvement to the RAM and opting for the air suspension in 2014 takes things up to the next notch. If you’re upgrading from a half-ton truck, keep in mind that 2500 and 3500 trucks will have a rougher ride in general thanks to the heavy-duty suspension components.

2013 RAM 3500 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

RAM was the first to market with an exhaust brake in 3/4 and 1 ton trucks and they continue to lead with one of the best on the market. This system shouldn’t be confused with the “Jake Brakes” found in Cummins’ big-rig engines, the system Cummins employs here is sometimes called a “potato brake” because it operates by closing the vanes of the variable geometry turbo charger to increase back pressure and thereby increasing engine braking. This type of engine brake is rate in horsepower for some reason and the 6.7L diesel now brakes to the tune of 225 ponies which has a big impact on brake pad life if you tow in mountainous terrain.

When it comes to pickup trucks, especially heavy-duty trucks, shoppers are extremely brand conscious and extremely brand loyal. Think about it, how many people do you know that rotate around pickup brands with every purchase? As a result it would be easy to say the RAM 3500 is a great truck for RAM loyalists and the other trucks are all lovely too. However, the 2014 RAM might be the first truck since 1994 to sway hearts and minds. Not only does the RAM deliver the best interior and infotainment system in the segment, but it also delivers 30,000lbs of bragging rights, a stellar Cummins engine and a rear air suspension that is nothing short of revolutionary for the heavy-duty pickup market. If you’re looking at an F-350 or eagerly waiting that new Silverado 3500, swallow your pride and give the RAM a test drive. You’ll thank me later.

Chrysler provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of diesel for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.39 Seconds

0-60: 8.72 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.76 Seconds at 85.7 MPH

Sound Level: 71 db @ 50 MPH

2013 RAM 3500 Interior, 4WD controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-021 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-013 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-004 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior-006 2013 RAM 3500 6.7L Cummins 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior-005 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 RAM 3500 Interior, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 RAM 3500 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-012 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-011 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-020 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-019 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-010 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-001 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior-003 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior-002 2013 RAM 3500 Interior 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-018 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-009 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior-001 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-008 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-017 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-016 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-007 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior-009 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 RAM 3500 6.7L Cummins-002 2013 RAM 3500 6.7L Cummins-001 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior-007 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior-008 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-006 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-005 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-014 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-015 ]]>
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Review: 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/review-2014-ram-promaster-cargo-van-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/review-2014-ram-promaster-cargo-van-with-video/#comments Tue, 01 Oct 2013 16:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=524961 2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I have driven more cars than I can count this year but strangely enough, none of them excited me as much as the Fiat Ducato we had in July. Why? Well, my snazzy new retaining wall that arrived pallet-by-pallet in the Ducato certainly helped, but the real reason is: the Ducato serves as the basis for the 2014 RAM ProMaster. Yes, I know I have an odd place in my heart for commercial cargo haulers, but hear me out. The ProMaster quite simply the biggest thing to happen in the commercial world in my lifetime. The only thing that could have surpassed the intrigue of a front-wheel-drive cargo hauler would be a front-wheel-drive BMW M5. I know Europeans have had these things for a while, but let’s revel in the American novelty as we click past the jump.

Click here to view the embedded video.

First things first. The ProMaster isn’t a Ducato with a RAM stuck on the front. Instead, Fiat and Chrysler decided to do their most interesting joint venture project thus far: refresh/re-design the Ducato with the North American market in mind. Why bother? Because major changes needed to be made to meet US legislation so the team took the opportunity to tweak just about everything. If you’re a Ducato fan, keep reading because I suspect that many of the American market changes will trickle back to the EU over time.

Exterior

With cargo haulers, it’s important that form follow function. The “box-on-wheels” is eminently practical. Because of this not much has changed externally from the Euro version and shoppers still have three body choices: a cargo van with or without windows, a chassis cab or a cutaway. Up front we still have the utilitarian dark grey bumper covers in a three-piece arrangement. The logic is that if you’re in a minor scuff-up, you can replace just the portion of the bumper you need to instead of the whole thing. Since they are all the same color regardless of the color of the van, parts costs are kept low and you can afford to have one or two in inventory.

Breaking from American tradition, the rear bumper is thin and shallow. While this makes me wonder what kind of body damage happens when the van gets hit in the rear, it makes forklift loading easier and keeps the van’s dimensions down. When it comes to dimensions, the ProMaster breaks from the mold. Rather than having an identical bodies in 1500, 2500 and 3500 versions, RAM’s ”levels” dictate  which of the four bodies, three wheelbases and two roof heights you get. The 1500 is the only version available with a low roof in two different lengths. The 2500 and 3500 are high roof only and all that really changes is the wheelbase and body length. The shortest ProMaster is 29 inches shorter (body length) than a GM standard van while the longest is 26 inches longer than GM’s largest van. Regardless of body, you get 16-inch wheels wrapped in 225/75R16 rubber. The small tires and wheels are a result of the Euro roots and the contrast between the small wheels and enormous body make the ProMaster look a little like a pregnant roller skate.

2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Cargo Hauling

The slab sides mean we get a large square rear opening almost as large as the van’s cross-section. This is significant change from GM and Ford’s existing vans where the rear portal is notably smaller than the cargo area. At 62 inches wide and 60 inches tall, the rear opening in the low-roof ProMaster is 5-inches wider and 13-inches taller than a GM/Ford van. Similar to Mercedes’ Sprinter, the ProMaster’s side doors swing 260 degrees and latch nearly parallel to the side of the van. The ProMaster’s sliding door rolls on an external stainless track for easy maintenance and thanks to the 49-inch wide, 60-inch tall (low roof) opening it reveals, you can insert one pallet in the side and one in the rear, something you can’t do in an E-Series or Savana. You can add a driver’s side sliding door for a reasonable $575 or $650 with glass, but if you prefer the side “barn doors” in your cargo hauler, look elsewhere. The RAM is sliding only.

Once you get beyond the unorthodox looks, you begin to realize how enormous the ProMaster is. At 283 cubic feet, smallest ProMaster (1500 short wheelbase) swallows one cubic foot less than GM’s biggest factory van. Need more? RAM’s positively ginormous ProMaster 3500 will haul 530 cubes, nearly twice the capacity of GM and Ford’s largest factory option. In fact when you look at the numbers, the ProMaster 3500 extended body extended wheelbase will schlep more than the average 12-foot box truck and nearly as much as the elusive 14-foot box truck.

A unique offering (so far) in the ProMaster is the factory installation of a steel bulkhead between the cargo and passenger compartment. GM and Ford offer a few dealer installed options but the total cost is higher than the ProMaster’s reasonable $495 for the partition with a window (about a hundred bucks less if you don’t want to look behind you.) Adding the partition not only improves safety but because of the factory fit and seal, it reduces cabin noise and improves air-conditioning performance. (An important consideration when you operate a black fleet in Phoenix.) 2014 Ram ProMaster 3.6 liter chassis with Pentastar V-6

Construction & Payload

Cargo volume without payload capacity is useless, and this is where the ProMaster’s Euro roots become obvious. The RAM doesn’t follow the American convention when it comes to payload scales. Not only can the 1500 haul as many widgets as an extended Ford or GM van, the payload capacity is just 111 lower than GM’s sturdiest cargo hauler and a full ton more than a Ford or GM 1500 series van. Scaling up to the 3500, payload increases to 5,290lbs. That is nearly 900lbs more than the highest payload Ford or GM. As a result it is more realistic to compare the base ProMaster to the GM 2500 series extended vans in terms of capability. Logically the ProMaster is also priced in this fashion starting about the same as that 2500 extended van.

How can a front wheel drive unibody cargo van haul that much stuff? Easy. It’s not really a unibody. Unibody haters can put down their pitchforks, the ProMaster is a hybrid, which explains how they can slice those enormous doors into the side of the van without it collapsing like a house of cards. Essentially bonded to the vehicle’s floor, is a heavy-duty rail system that stretches from bumper to bumper. For the US market this frame has been beefed up for higher payloads and rougher roads. You can see the FWD benefit in the picture above: by using a FWD drivetrain, the load floor doesn’t have to sit on-top of the transmission, driveshaft or differential allowing it to hug the ground. At 21 inches the ProMaster’s load floor is 7-inches lower than the closest competitor and even the forthcoming Ford T-Series won’t improve on this much because of the RWD layout.

2014 RAM ProMaster Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

American cargo vans have never been known for modernity, creature comforts or leg room. The ProMaster, like the Nissan NV breaks the mold but the two vans do it in different ways. The Nissan puts the engine under a long hood while the ProMaster’s mill is transverse mounted freeing up leg room. The difference is night and day and my right leg remained un-cooked even after a 2 hour drive.  The first thing you’ll notice about the interior is how utilitarian it is. Easy to clean plastics span the interior (read: hard plastic), there’s a clip board integrated into the dash and instead of carpet you get a hard plastic floor with some textured grips. The second thing you’ll notice is how high off the ground you are. The passenger floor is 6-7 inches higher than the cargo load floor because everything that the ProMaster needs to move is located in front of or beneath the passenger compartment. This has two benefits, it allows the load floor to be lower to the ground and it also makes chassis cab and cut-away up-fitting easier. There are two access panels in the floor, one allows access to the battery (it’s the large one you can see in the picture above) and the other allows access to the fuel sending unit. Anyone who has a fleet of GM vans will tell you that replacing a fuel pump is a royal pain because you have to drain and drop the tank to get to it. In the ProMaster you just pop the cover off and have at it.

Chrysler decided to upgrade the headrests to a car-like fabric design instead of the rubbery Euro versions but the rest of the seat design is the same. This means we have a spring-loaded driver’s seat that adjusts for height, tilt, recline and fore/aft. Sadly the steering wheel is not as adjustable as it telescopes but does not tilt. In an interesting twist, the three-across seating option has made it across the pond for a very reasonable $225. This isn’t a bench seat, it’s a two-person seat that replaces the single passenger seat so the driver retains the more comfortable throne. While I think the Nissan NV’s thickly padded seats are the most comfortable commercial seats ever designed, the ProMaster takes an easy second place. If you want a splash of luxury, you can heat the seats for $170 a pop, adjustable lumbar support for $50, and a leather wrapped tiller for $145. If you hate your employees, vinyl seats can be had for $100.

 

2014 RAM ProMaster Interior, uConnect 5, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

In Europe the Ducato doesn’t get much techno-love, but we Americans are a different lot so we get Chrysler’s 5-inch uConnect system as an option. While not radical by itself, the fact that there is the option of a well-integrated touchscreen navigation and entertainment system available in a commercial cargo van is practically earth shattering. The closest this segment comes is the Nissan NV which can be had with the Nissan Versa’s “Low Cost Navigation System” for $795, but only on certain models. The ProMaster on the other hand is very ”ala carte” allowing you to add just the $395 touchscreen system with a CD player, XM radio, iPod/USB integration and voice commands, or option all the way up to the navigation software for an additional $395.

The 5-inch uConnect system is the result of the Fiat/Chrysler/Microsoft relationship and while the software looks like the larger uConnect 8.4 system, it’s entirely different under the hood. Sadly the system isn’t as responsive ad uConnect 6.5 or 8.4 but it gets the job done better than most systems. Voice commands are logical and the system had no troubles with my music library commands. Sound quality was nothing to write home about, it is a commercial vehicle after all, but it won’t bring you to tears either. In preparation for any impending legislation, the ProMaster can be equipped with a backup cam for $230 and parking sensors for $250.

 

 

 

2014 Ram ProMaster 3.6 liter Pentastar V-6

Drivetrain

The looks, front wheel drive layout and hybrid unibody aren’t the only things that set this van apart. The engines ans transmissions are unique to cargo vans as well. First off, there is no V8. Things start out with Chrysler’s 3.6L V6 engine in every body style. Yes, even that enormous 3500 with 5,291lb in the back and a 5,100lb trailer attached. Sending the 280 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque to the ground is a Chrysler 68TE six-speed automatic transaxle. This compact slushbox is the same transmission found in the Chrysler minivans except they swap in a much lower final gear ratio for ProMaster duty along with seriously upgraded cooling hardware.

For $4,000 you can toss in an Iveco/Fiat 3.0L four-cylinder turbo diesel. Before you laugh, this is the same engine found in certain medium duty Mitsubishi Fuso trucks, so it’s a solid heavy-duty contender. The oil burner cranks out 180 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, about the same amount of torque you get from GM’s 4.8L V8. This engine is mated to Fiat’s M40 transmission which is a 6-speed robotized manual transmission. Chrysler tell us that they have heavily revised the shift logic and control systems for the American market and as a result this will be a late availability option hitting around January of 2014. If you recall my review of the Ducato, my biggest complaint about the diesel drivetrain was the time it took to complete a 1-2 shift. Chrysler promises this has been corrected and they have also altered the torque pattern for American tastes.

The diesel has a few advantages over the gasoline V6. Oil change intervals stretch out to 18,000 miles, low-end torque is improved, first gear is lower (19:1 including final drive) to help you get off the line with heavy loads and the fuel economy is excellent (based on our Ducato experiences). Oddly enough, that M40 transmission is also a selling point. Because it doesn’t have a torque converter the fluid change intervals are lengthy and the cooling demands are reduced. Fiat tells us the single plate clutch kit for the Ducato is about $150 in Europe and I expect the parts to be about the same price on our shores. How easy is it to replace? That’s the wild card as I haven’t seen a repair manual yet.

2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

Thanks to the new low final drive, the RAM is surprisingly quick off the line. The V6 model we tested scooted to 6o in 9.05 seconds, notably faster than the diesel Ducato we tested before. We didn’t get the opportunity to load the ProMaster as fully as the Ducato, but I expect the diesel to be the better hauler when full thanks to the better torque numbers.

Although not normally a consideration with a cargo van, the ProMaster delivers the most civilized ride in this segment. It’s also the easiest to parallel park thanks to an incredibly small 36.3-foot turning diameter in the short wheelbase model, smaller than many mid-size sedans. Even the long wheelbase, long body ProMaster 3500 impresses at 46.8. I know that sounds enormous, but in perspective, a long wheelbase Express needs a whopping 54.6 feet to do the same while carrying 50% less stuff. That’s the difference between accomplishing a U-turn or being the dude blocking all lanes of traffic while sea-sawing a multi-point turn.

Chrysler spent a decent amount of time lauding the Brembo front brakes which they claim gives the ProMaster the best fade resistance in the segment. Admittedly that’s a low bar to jump, but our informal tests around Malibu seemed to bear the claim out. One thing to note however is that with only 225 width rubber making contact with the ground, stopping times are no better than the competition.

2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior-008

Will the ProMaster be a success? I think it’s too early to tell. Fleet buyers are notoriously loyal to specific models because they have so much invested in uniformity. This alone accounts for the Ford E-Series sales leadership, despite being the thirstiest, oldest, and least desirable cargo van going. The largest unknown in the mix is: how reliable will the ProMaster be? Durability and total cost of ownership are extremely important in this segment and that’s an open-ended question. How will the 62TE stand up to a GVWR of 10,000lbs? Will it be as good as GM’s new 6L80 transmission they are finally putting in their vans? Rebuilt units are comparable in pricing so it will all come down to longevity. Chrysler is putting their 5 year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty on the ProMaster to help entice shoppers. The combination of that small diesel and a long powertrain warranty to calm customer nerves could make a difference. However, if you option the ProMaster up with the diesel and a few options and you’re in Mercedes Sprinter territory and that is a dangerous place to be with the new Sprinter’s 7-speed auto and smooth diesel engine. Chrysler fights back with lower cost of service and ownership claims and a longer warranty.

The ProMaster is a compelling alternative to the Ford and GM 3/4 ton and 1 ton vans. delivering higher payloads and greater cargo capacity with low load floors, a more maneuverable chassis, a small diesel and excellent fuel economy. However, GM’s aggressive pricing and insane fleet purchase rebate program mean the less capable Chevy Express 1500 will likely be $2,000 (or more) cheaper than the least expensive ProMaster. Will the ProMaster’s ergonomic selling points and Euro charm win over commercial America? Or will the forthcoming rear-wheel-drive Ford T-Series (American Transit) win America’s hearts with its 5-cylinder diesel and twin-turbo V6? Stay Tuned.

 

Chrysler provided the vehicle for our testing at a launch event in Southern California. The flight and meals were on Chrysler.

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Vellum Venom: 1970 Dodge Charger RT-SE http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/vellum-venom-1970-dodge-charger-rt-se/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/vellum-venom-1970-dodge-charger-rt-se/#comments Tue, 17 Sep 2013 13:21:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=518889

My departure from the cloistered world of automotive design was anything but pleasant: leaving the College for Creative Studies scarred changed me, possibly ensuring the inability to conform to PR-friendly autoblogging. Luckily I am not alone. While Big Boss Man rests in Chrysler’s doghouse, a remotely nice comment about their door handles perked the ears of the local Chrysler PR rep…and she tossed me a bone.

Perhaps you’ve never heard of Hovas’ Hemi Hideout: so here’s a slice of Mopar history worthy of a deep dive into the Vellum. Oh, thanks for the invite, Chrysler.

1

An unforgettable face: the iconic 1968-1970 design was Chrysler’s most memorable effort to spook insurance and safety special interest groups into forcing “better” vehicles on the public. Sure, we’re better off now, but is a fragile chrome halo of a bumper really that useless?

Isn’t this bumper (and complex hidden headlights) worth the extra insurance premiums? Worth it to have a disturbingly clean and minimalist design?  Probably not…

2

But still, you can’t argue with how stunning and shocking this is.  While nothing like Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, the Charger’s front clip is a timeless work of art.  The blackout grille extends over the headlights, encased in a deep silver rim, topped with a chrome bumper…wrapped up with a name: Charger R/T.  This nose and this name made a promise to would-be new car racers of the era, and its aged phenomenally well.

That said, my favorite grille of this body style was the cleanest: the 1968 Charger was the one to have. It makes the otherwise clean 1970 Charger look downright fussy!

3

Things fall apart as you look closer, however.  Maybe the solid grilles over the headlights look cheap, and the panel gaps are too sloppy. The round signal lights look like a leftover assembly from the 1950s. Or perhaps the license plate should be located even lower as to not interfere with the bumper’s strong minimal form.

4

Even though the front end looks flat from many angles…

Note how the chrome bumper tapers in near the headlights, then pushes back out at the ends of the fenders. The silver rim accentuates this dance, ditto the fenders and hood.  But that black sheet of grille?  It peaks at the middle and nothing more.  The different high/low spots are phenomenally beautiful, it is fantastically executed on this front fascia.  5

The hood’s recesses and that strong center mohawk add a bit of excitement to an otherwise far-too-subtle design for a Mopar Muscle car. If you had a problem with Mopar Minimalism!

6

Somehow I doubt the meaty rubber trim does anything to protect the Charger’s painted body from the front bumper.  Not to mention the horrible fitment of this (replacement?) trim. I’d hate to be a broke-ass dude in the 1980s when someone slams their 5-mph bumper’d Monte Carlo into my otherwise cherry 1970 Charger.  The damage would be extensive…and would go unrepaired!

 

7

Hood pins are cool…but following their cable to this horrendous gap in the rubber trim leaves much to be desired. Damn, son!

7_1But it’s less offensive when you step back a little.

8_1

The only thing cooler than Rallye wheels and Goodyear white letter polyglass tires on this Charger would be the new-age 17″ repros with fat steel-belted rubber.  I love the proportioning of a proper 1970s muscle car with 17″ rolling stock: it’s perfection.

9

The hard bend (with a slight upward angle) at the end of the fenders just “ends” me. It’s another snapshot on vehicle design that emulates the timelessness of the infinity pool in modern architecture. Combine with the Charger’s long front end and deep fenders (i.e. the space between the hood cutline and the end of the fender) and this is simply a fantastic element.

10

The hood’s negative areas add some necessary excitement, otherwise this would be too boring for an American muscle car.  There’s just too much real estate not to do…something!

11

The signal repeaters at the beginning of the negative area’s cove are a styling element that I wish could come back.  But no, we need standard bluetooth and keyless ignitions instead…probably.

12

I’d trade all that standard technology for a hood this menacing, this modern.

Mid Century Muscle?

Mad Men Mopar?

Don Draper’s mid-life crisis machine?

All of the above. 13
The intersection of the cowl, fender, hood and door isn’t terribly elegant.  Newer cars have “hidden” cowls, an advancement that’d make the Charger shine. Because not having the fenders and hood sweep over THIS space does THAT front end a huge disservice.  Plus the panel gaps kinda suck, too.

14
At least there’s no DLO fail.  But imagine this angle with the 1980s technology of hidden cowl panels!

15

A little faster A-pillar would also be nice, it’s too static just like the cowl. But asking for such changes 40 years later is beyond idiotic. And while the R/T door scoop isn’t nearly as hideous as the afterthought scoop on the 1999 Ford Mustang, you gotta wonder how “ricey” this looked to old school hot-rodders making sleepers out of Tri-Five Chevys and boring 1960s sedans.

16

The pivot point for the vent window is an interesting bit of kit.

17

Chrome elbow sleeves, because a computer couldn’t bend/cut one piece of bling for us back then. Bummer.

18

Yeah, the R/T’s useless scoop is pretty much Muscle Car Rice.  While it kinda accentuates the genesis of the door’s muscular bulge, it’s completely superfluous. 19

Chrysler’s side view mirrors for the time were pretty cool by themselves…but they didn’t match the max wedge (get it?) demeanor of the front end.  20
I never noticed the three lines inside the R/T’s slash.  Definitely adds some excitement without today’s emblem marketing overkill.

21

Note how the R/T scoop does match the contrasting muscular wedge of the door.  Problem is, the scoop is obviously a tacked-on afterthought.  Negative area like the hood was a smarter alternative. But the interplay between doors lower wedge and the strong upper wedge coming from the fender is quite fetching.  As if the Charger is ripped from spending years a the gym.

22

Yup, toned and perfected at the gym.  Too bad the door handles belong on Grandma’s Plymouth.  Perhaps we all shamelessly raid the parts bin…22_1

The SE package was always the Super Classy Excellent model to have.  The vinyl top, these “proto-brougham” emblems and the interior upgrades are totally worth it. What’s up with the pure modern “SE” lettering with that almost malaise-y script below to explain what SE stands for? I’d cut the emblem in the middle and only use the upper half.

I’d save the lower half for the disco era, natch. I mean, obviously!

22_2

Vintage Mopar marketing sticker?  Check.

23

Classic Detroit is present in the Charger’s profile.  Long hood, long dash-to-axle ratio, long fastback roof, long quarter panels and a long deck. That’s a lotta long!

The only thing too short are those doors: the cutline should extend several inches back for maximum flow.  And from the subtle curve in the front fender to the stunning hips above the rear axle, does the Charger ever flow!

  24

Aside from the obvious problem with rearward visibility, how can you hate this buttress’d roof?  The fastback C-pillar is a long, daring and classy affair when trimmed with chrome and textured vinyl.  Keeping the roof from being too boring was the rear window’s use of a different vanishing point than the C-pillar, which translates into a different stop on the blue body.

25

To make up for the different vanishing points, more chrome and vinyl. I can dig it, but perhaps such design novelties are better off on a less mainstream product.  Or perhaps not…because how many people wanted a Charger back in 1970?  And how many people want one now?  Me thinks the number is exponentially higher today.

Yes, I know these pictures suck. But you can’t imagine how painful it was to coax a cheapie digital camera to do the right thing under the harsh lighting provided by half a million dollars worth of vintage neon lights. And now I hate neon lights.

26

Chrome and vinyl: so happy together.

26_1

The different vanishing points for the C-pillar and rear window make for a little problem: the trunk’s cutline should be much closer to the rear window.  And while that’d make a stupid-long trunk, it would look stupid cool.

26_2
Just in case you didn’t know where the new Challenger got that fuel door idea from. Too bad the new Challenger doesn’t have the Charger RT’s sense of chrome trimmings elsewhere to integrate it into the package.  That said, this is a beautiful piece of outstanding metal on a minimalistic body. Which makes it a wart…and by definition, warts must be destroyed.

Killed with fire. Or splashed with acid.  Or whatever it takes for a Dermatologist to knock ‘em off a beautiful body.

28

A part of me wishes the Charger’s back-end had the same round chrome bumper treatment as the front.  And no chrome around the red tail lights.  Actually just graft the front end entirely back here, and replace the black grille with red tail lights. A bit stupid perhaps, but it’d make a completely cohesive and eye-catching design.

29

That said, the Charger ain’t no slouch in the posterior.  The vertical bumperettes need to find lodging elsewhere, ditto the round backup lights.  But the space between the lights is the perfect location for a branding emblem, and the impossibly thin decklid looks quite sharp.

30

There’s a subtle dovetail at the end of the trunk, a nod to modern aerodynamic designs. I love it, don’t you?

31

Can’t say the same for the undefined space between the rear bumper and the quarter panel.  Yeesh, this was acceptable in 1970?

32

The trunk’s gap also leaves something to be desired. While I like the interplay between the chrome bumper and the tail light trim above the license plate area, it’s a bit too subtle.  Wait, did I actually mean what I said?

The difference in “heights” at the license plate should either be a bit more aggressive, or completely, exactly the same as the rest of the light/bumper ratio.

33

Maybe the crude black paint on the tail light’s chrome trim is the byproduct of a terrible restoration…but considering factory correct restorations elsewhere include similarly sloppy craftsmanship to mimic the factory…

Oh boy.

34

The tail lights are sunken significantly into the body, just like the grille up front.  Me likey enough to adore: such use of aggressive negative areas needs to come back in a BIG way.

35

There’s something about the chrome trim’s application around the trunk lock…

36

Even the camera-infurating action of all those neon lights can’t hide the ugliness here. Maybe my idea of having an all-encompassing chrome bumper instead of chrome around the tail light isn’t such a stupid idea after all. It’d certainly address this problem.

37

The round backup light does this design no favors. Exposed screws on the chrome bezel makes it worse. Weren’t there some square lenses Chrysler coulda parts-bin’d instead?

38 No matter: the 1970 Charger is an unforgettable machines.  I can’t imagine owning one when new, only to move on to tackier metal from the disco era.  And if a 1970 Charger owner was loyal enough to stick around during the Iaococca era and beyond, well, they’d be justified to hate everything made after 1970. Just look at that roof!

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a lovely week.

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Recapturing My Youth: Looking For A Touchstone http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/recapturing-my-youth-looking-for-a-touchstone/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/recapturing-my-youth-looking-for-a-touchstone/#comments Fri, 06 Sep 2013 14:20:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=511609 Life sucks

Life sucks

The Turbo Dodge Shadow that I purchased in February of 1988 lived hard and fast but, thanks in part to my strict adherence to a maintenance schedule and my belief in the power of synthetic motor oil, it didn’t die young. By 1996 the little red car had more than 135K miles on the clock and a whole lot of hard fought-street racing victories – and maybe just a few losses – under its belt. After I changed the head gasket somewhere around the 80K mile mark, the car suffered a couple of broken timing belts, caused mostly by my inability to correctly adjust the belt’s tension, but otherwise had few problems. Still, as the miles added up, I became concerned about the car’s condition and eventually purchased a Geo Metro to take over daily driving duties. Later, after sliding the Metro off an icy highway, I traded up to a K5 Jimmy, but kept the Shadow as a my own special toy. The Jimmy came with a big loan payment, however, and all it took to totally derail my carefully balanced finances was a lay-off. Before I knew it, I was in over my head and flat broke. Stuff had to go.

I started by selling my guns, then my motorcycles, followed by my records, musical instruments and my books. Finally, as the period of unemployment became protracted and the grinding drudge of poverty really set in, it was the Shadow’s turn. Nothing, it turns out, takes longer to sell than yesterday’s hot rod and in those pre-Craigslist days it took weeks of sitting around with a red and black “for sale” sign in the window before I got the first call on it. More trickled in but, like everyone looking at well used cars, the people I spoke with all wanted something for practically nothing. I quickly sent their asses packing. I really didn’t care if they had a kid in college, had an abusive boyfriend, weren’t getting enough hours at Denny’s or whatever else their personal issues were, I had my own issues at the time and giving charity to strangers wasn’t high on my priority list. Eventually, my own family took pity on me and, although he probably didn’t really need it, the little Shadow ended up with my older brother Bruce, who had unexpectedly decided he wanted a bargain basement commuter car.

Photo by T Kreutzer

The winter of my discontent.

Bruce owned the Shadow for several years and about the time I had given up my untenable situation in the states for a dead end job in Japan, he passed the car on to his wife’s sister. Two years later, when I returned to the states with a few dollars in my pocket and memories of my protracted bout of poverty in very much in the forefront of my mind, Bruce mentioned that his sister in law was looking to sell the Shadow. I could, he said, buy it back for a song. I really didn’t think about it very long, I knew the car and knew that there was no way the last few years of its life had been anywhere near as hard as the first few, but in the thought of owning it again brought back all of the struggle and frustration that I was hoping to put permanently behind me. My time with the Shadow was done, I decided, and a week or two later plunked down $500 on a smelly, well worn 1986 Nissan 200SX. The rest is history.

In the decade that has passed since my first return from Japan my life has improved a thousand fold. The instability and financial strife that hung over my life like a specter is gone and I have settled into a life of middle-aged contentment that I had begun to believe I would never attain. The psychological scars of that earlier time, however, remain. Like the hammer of a blacksmith, the merciless, relentless pounding I took during those dark days forced out much of my happy-go-lucky attitude and forged me into the harder, sharper and maybe even fiercer adult that I am today. I have only to think about those days and my siege mentality returns with a real force, I can feel it now as a physical pressure inside my head as I write about it now.

Since so much of what I do on TTAC is storytelling, I am constantly forced search my past for material. As I recall the events of those days, I find the feelings associated with those times are close at hand. The bad times have colored the good ones that came before and the happy feelings I got from purchasing my little car and racing it around the streets of the Pacific Northwest have been replaced by bitterness and anger over the way that people tried to take advantage of me when I was at my most vulnerable.

Until I started writing about cars, I did what a lot of men do, I avoided the issue by not thinking about it. But to get at the stories in my past, I have had to pick away at the scab. To my surprise, the more I work at it the more healing I have found beneath. The raw feelings, while still there, have begun to mute and the real joy of those days is beginning to shine through once more. While the experience has not always been pleasant, it has been cathartic.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Last week, my sister Connie posted that old Youtube video where a man’s adult children go out and find his mid-sixties Impala, a car he sold when times were hard. If you haven’t seen it, go ahead and watch now, I won’t spoil it for you. She thought that I, as a lover of cars and a big sap for happy endings, would be touched by the video and the truth is that despite having seen it a dozen or so times, I was. I’m happy for the man and amazed at how hard his children worked to make this happen. But as I sat here thinking about that video today I suddenly realized have my own missing car out there somewhere, my own touchstone from a better time that I sold when my own future was not as bright. Naturally, I have to wonder if it is still out there.

I know that a 1988 Dodge Shadow, even one equipped with a turbo, doesn’t have the provenance of a mid sixties Impala or Papa John’s lost and then recovered Camaro, but I’d like to think the old car is still out there. Perhaps it endures in someone’s barn or stuffed into the back of some junk filled garage. Maybe it sits now at the curb, paint peeling, but still in use awaiting it’s moment of fame as the subject of one of Paul Niedermeyer’s photo spreads at Curbside Classic. The VIN could tell me for sure, and I am working on getting it now. I have reached out to my brother and even called the insurance agent I used to use in the hopes that the VIN might be on some old scrap of paper somewhere in their files. Maybe you can help, too.

1988 Dodge Shadow

The car is a 1988 Dodge Shadow two door in Graphic red with a charcoal grey interior. The only options the car had were a turbo engine and the five pointed alloy wheels offered that year. It had the top of the line cassette deck, the one with the joystick, and I added black and white tape pinstripes the week after I bought it. I purchased it at Dwayne Lane’s Dodge in Everett Washington in February of that year and was originally licensed in Washington State, receiving the number 506 BGE. Its last known location was Oregon where my brother’s sister in law lives.

To be honest, I don’t know what might happen if I find the car. With my plans to rotate back overseas next year firmly fixed, throwing the car into the mix would surely be problematic. Still, I might be able to store it and put it back into shape when we come home a few years from now, so I am open to the idea of looking for it. I know that it will no longer be the cutting edge performance car it once was, it was already well past its prime when I sold it, but it would be nice to have it come home. The car’s return won’t erase all the hard knocks I had to take during those dark days, but it might help take away some of the sting I still feel when I think back upon that time.

I understand now, why the man cries when his kids bring the old car home. It’s not because he loved it, it’s because he has overcome the hard times that forced him to sell the car and its return is a tangible proof of his own, ultimate victory over all the crap that life once threw at him. That’s the real power of a touchstone, to bring back the good memories and mute the bad. I think I’m ready for some of that.

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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