The Truth About Cars » Muscle Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 20:36:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Muscle Cars Cain’s Segments, July 2014: Muscle Cars Mon, 14 Jul 2014 13:31:12 +0000 TTAC_Muscle-Car-sales-chart-June-2014

It feels like we’ve known a lot about the 2015 Ford Mustang for years. There have been stories on its alleged weight gain, then stories that suggested the gain wasn’t nearly so bad. Its independent rear suspension makes the idea of serving global markets so much more tenable. Its turbocharged four-cylinder should, on paper, offer a new blend of performance and efficiency.

But it’s not here, and it won’t be sitting at the forefront of dealer lots (alongside The Used Car Deal Of The Day! Call Tom @ 555-4321! and its accompanying neon sign) for a few months yet.

It was therefore not surprising to see that Mustang sales in the United States dropped sharply in June 2014, even though sales of the venerable Ford had reported improved sales on a year-over-year basis in January, February, March, and May of this year. Could Ford really maintain a high level of interest in a departing pony car?

In a word, no. And yet, with 7631 sales in the sixth month of 2014, one could argue that Ford did, in fact, maintain a high level of interest in the Mustang, as they always do. Naturally, deals on an outgoing car improve as it ages. Some who perhaps thought they may want to wait for the new car have decided they prefer the current car. But 7600 units for a relatively impractical rear-wheel-drive muscle car, is actually a very high figure, if not for the Mustang itself than for cars which compete in a performance-oriented corner of the market.

Volkswagen announced a terrific GTI sales month: 1927 were sold. Subaru sold 2065 copies of their WRX and STi. Jaguar sold 428 F-Types. Aside from the Countryman and Paceman, Mini sold just 3238 cars in June.

The Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and even the Dodge Challenger aren’t low-volume cars. They attract lifestyle buyers – whoever they are, whatever it is they do – as well as performance car buyers. And they most certainly attract loyalists, the kind of buyers who, while acknowledging that these three cars are direct competitors, wouldn’t actually cross-shop.

After consecutive years with declining sales in 2012 and 2013, Camaro sales are up by 4360 units through the first half of 2014. If this sales pace holds, General Motors could see Camaro volume rise to a 2011-besting level, the highest since the nameplate returned in 2009. In this three-car category, the Camaro’s market share has risen from 36.7% during the first half of 2013 to 39.8% so far this year.

Since the Dodge Challenger nameplate returned in 2008, sales have always risen, doubling between 2009 and 2013, when 51,462 were sold. That streak is in danger in 2014: could the improved 2015 Challenger arrive in time for the year end results to improve from the current pace which would see fewer than 46,000 sold?

Even with its decreased volume and its third-place status in the category, the Challenger highlights the high-volume nature of this trio. FCA has sold more Challengers than Chrysler 300s this year; more Challengers than total Fiats.

The Viper, on the other hand, has clearly struggled in its latest form. June volume slid 63% to just 36 units. As for the Chevrolet Corvette, sales are booming, with 2723 sold in June and 17,744 in the first half, making it more popular than the Audi TT, BMW Z4, Jaguar F-Type, Mercedes-Benz SLK, Porsche Boxster, Porsche Cayman, and Porsche 911 combined.

6 mos.
6 mos.
Chevrolet Camaro
7721 7236 +6.7% 46,672 42,312 +10.3%
Dodge Challenger
4377 5101 -14.2% 26,281 29,982 -12.3%
Ford Mustang
7631 9243 -17.4% 44,231 43,111 +2.6%
21,580 -8.6% 117,184 115,405 +1.5%
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Ultimate Barn Find, a Speculator’s Stash, or a Clever Way to Promote a Car Sale? Sun, 22 Jun 2014 12:00:02 +0000 barnfinds1

Photos by Luc.A.

There’s been some attention on the recent acquisition by a Canadian muscle car collector of what called “the ultimate Canadian barn find”, about 40 late model American performance cars. While the assortment of Corvettes, SRT Mopars and limited edition Fords like Harley Davidson F-150s and three Ford GTs are undoubtedly desirable, I’m not sure if the term “barn finds” applies. I’m old enough that the first time I heard “the Cobra in the barn” urban legend, it had to do with a soldier who never came back from Vietnam. I’m sure the oldest version of that story has to do with a doughboy and and a 1917 Model T or even a Union soldier and a horse drawn Studebaker wagon. Either way, a barn find to me is exactly that, a find, in Yiddish a metzia, something perhaps overlooked or abandoned and now rediscovered. I wouldn’t necessarily apply it to a business proposition that didn’t pan out.

The cars that Fort Saskatchewan building contractor Lawayne Musselwhite and his friend and business partner, motorcycle dealer Darren Boychuk bought were accumulated in a Quonset hut on a dairy farm near Lethbridge, Alberta. The wealthy owner of the farm apparently caught the car speculating bug in the late 1990s and went to his local Ford dealer with $1 million in hand, seeking a salesman’s advice on buying cars that were likely to appreciate in value. While some of the cars that were bought predated the collection, a majority of them were bought new over the past decade and many of them still have their window stickers and delivery mileage. There’s a 2006 Heritage Edition Ford GT with less than 11 miles on the odometer. Apparently they were not bought for the enjoyment of driving or even displaying them. They were bought for speculative reasons and simply stored on the hut’s dirt floor. Well, those that weren’t being abused by the dairy farm’s employees. barnfind “It was disgusting the way they were left, covered in dust, overrun with mice and parked on dirt,” Musselwhite told “It was unbelievable what the farmhands were doing to these vehicles — running new special edition pickups through the mud and across fields.”

Sight unseen, Musselwhite and Boychuck bid $1.1 million (presumably Canadian dollars) for 80% of the collection. According to Musselwhite, health issues forced the sale, though the dairy farmer retained 10 unidentified cars. While some of the cars aren’t on every enthusiast’s short list, in auction parlance I’d still say that those 40 cars were well bought.

As you’d expect with a Ford dealer involved, the list is heavy on representatives wearing the blue oval, but it’s fairly ecumenical by Detroit standards and all of the cars and trucks are collectible in one way or another. Plymouth Prowlers (4 of them!) and Harley liveried Ford pickups may not have a broad market, but they are collectible to their own niches of collectors and some of the other cars are very valuable.  To begin with, there’s not a Ford GT listed for less than $220,000 on eBaymotors currently and there were three Ford GTs in the package. The 35th anniversary Z/28 Camaro and the ’03 Corvette Z06 have their fans and I’m sure that my colleague Sajeev Mehta would find the two Lincoln Mark VIIIs appealing. Both the oldest and the newest cars in the collection are Mustangs, a 1979 Indy 500 pace car edition Mustang GT and a 2012 Mustang GT California Special. barnfind3 Though the cars were indeed being stored on a farm, in a barn if you will, I just can’t bring myself to calling them barn finds. They were bought as a business proposition, so I think the collection is more of a speculator’s stash than true barn finds. Others might say that it’s simply a clever way to get publicity for a sale of low mileage modern day muscle cars? What do you think?

The full list is below but if you want to buy one of them you’d better act quickly since Musselwhite said they “are flying out” of E & S Motorcycles, where they are being stored until sale. Jalopnik reader Luc.A. lives nearby and he snapped these photos. Despite the dust and mouse droppings, they look like they cleaned up well. Pics of the Ford GTs can be seen at

1979 Mustang GT Pace Car, grey
1988 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, silver
1990 Mustang GT Convertible, green on white
1990 Thunderbird, black on grey
1990 Thunderbird S,
1994 Thunderbird S Coupe, white
1996 Lincoln Mark 8, silver
1997 F-150 Flairside
1998 Lincoln Mark 8 LSC, black
2000 F-150, Harley-Davidson, black
2000 Lincoln LS, white
2001 Mustang GT Bullitt, black
2005 Mustang, yellow 2006 Ford GT, red
2006 Ford GT, blue
2006 Ford GT Heritage Edition
2007 Shelby GT500 Convertible, red
2008 Ford F-150, Harley-Davidson, black
2008 Ford F-150, Harley-Davidson, black
2008 Ford F-350, Harley-Davidson, black
2010 Ford F-150, Harley-Davidson, purple
2010 Ford Raptor, orange
2012 Mustang GT/CS, yellow

1999 Plymouth Prowler, purple
2000 Plymouth Prowler, yellow
2001 Plymouth Prowler, black on silver
2001 Plymouth Prowler, blue
2006 Chrysler 300 SRT-8, silver
2008 Dodge Charger SRT-8, orange
2010 Dodge Ram 1500

2001 Chevrolet Corvette, silver
2002 Chevrolet Corvette Targa, silver
2002 Camaro Z/28 SS, red
2003 Chevrolet Corvette Z06, black
2006 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible, silver on black
2007 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible, silver on black
2007 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible, orange on tan
2008 Pontiac Solstice Convertible, red

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Chrysler Hellcat V8 Could Unseat Viper V10 Tue, 25 Mar 2014 13:09:47 +0000 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

For over a year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has been working on a Hemi V8 dubbed the Hellcat, which set to debut in a revised Dodge Challenger. However, the Hellcat could prove a challenge to the SRT Viper’s V10, possibly unseating the venerable monster from the throne.

Automotive News reports the rumored V8 has caused an internal debate within FCA, in particular what it would mean for the Viper when the Challenger receives the engine. SRT brand boss Ralph Giles told Hot Rod magazine:

We have a situation where, you know — we may have a situation — where the flagship car is not the most powerful car in our arsenal … how do we explain that to ourselves? So we have an internal horsepower race as well as an external one.

While the Viper’s naturally aspirated V10 pushes 660 horsepower, the SRT variant of the Challenger — pitted against the Ford Mustang GT500 and Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 — is rumored to put out as much as 700 horses .

The 2015 Challenger is rumored to debut in New York next month.

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The Clones: Send Them In Or Send Them Out? Fri, 10 Jan 2014 20:00:03 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

Trent was a poser. He was the kind of guy who wore a fake Rolex, an imitation Italian suit and “alligator” shoes that were actually made out of vinyl. His $100 hair style cost $8 at Supercuts and his midwinter suntan, the one made him look like he had just returned from a lengthy South American stay, came from a spray can. Determined to climb from the bottom rung of society, he was forever trying to get over on people by manipulating his image and the truth is I really could have cared less. What really tore it for me, however, was the day he decided to put SS emblems on his tatty old Malibu.

Although the car magazines and collector sites would have us think that, once upon a time, top drawer muscle cars were in every American’s driveway the truth is somewhat different. Back in the day, most people purchased modest cars with sensible powertrains and surprisingly few luxury options. It took someone special to walk into a dealership and order something more exotic. It turns out that a lot of these special people were young men, and despite their best intentions, the sad truth is that young men are rough on fast cars.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The result is that a great many of the fastest cars didn’t live to see old age and by the early 1990s the ones that were left were beginning to cost serious money. For a guy like Trent, a social climber who wanted the look of an expensive car without the associated costs, the obvious answer was to buy up some old parts and graft them on to his old dime-a-dozen daily driver. The result was, as he called it, “a clone.” I was incredulous at the concept. Trent was a phony.

Looking back over the years, I can say that my opinion of Trent has changed. Age and experience has taught me that the world really isn’t black and white and that if a young guy like Trent, a small town kid who wants to break out of his shell and appear more worldly than he really is, needs a knock-off Armani suit and plastic alligator shoes to feel better about himself then I’m OK with that. My feelings on what he tried to do to his car, however, remain split and that’s what I’d like to have a discussion on.

Original cars can be worth big money these days. Unless you are a millionaire with plenty of money burning a hole in your pocket, you are never going to own a real exotic. Original Yenko prepared cars, for example, are well into the six figure range and if a mortal man (or woman) is going to own anything like one, chances are they are going to end up with what is now being euphemistically called a “tribute.” Some tribute builds are quite authentic, and the people who build them provide rigorous documentation on the original “donor” car and how it was modified to match the collector car it is trying to emulate. So long as that car is sold as a tribute and never ends up being offered for sale as an original then I see nothing wrong.

photograph taken by Michael Chiolero Courtesy of Wikipedia

photograph taken by Michael Chiolero
Courtesy of Wikipedia

What I have a real issue with, however, are the down market, quick conversions of daily drivers into cheap knock-off SS cars which are then foisted off on unsuspecting buyers. Sure, there is a certain element of caveat emptor in every car purchase, but I don’t feel like someone should have to become an expert in decoding VIN numbers prior to purchasing a car on the used car market. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen cars on Craigslist that look like real SS cars that are obvious fakes. Here’s a hint kids, if you want to build a 73 or 74 SS Nova clone, start with a hatchback. The last thing I want to do is go out to your house and crawl around in the mud getting serial numbers from your old car because “You don’t know for sure if it’s an SS but the guy you bought it from said it was.”

That’s my take, anyhow, and now I’d like to hear your thoughts. Is this as big a deal as I think? Should it really fall to the buyer to check every piece of paper relating to an old car prior to making the transaction? Are clones or tributes something you would even want to own? It seems to me that if I owned a tribute car that I would get tired of forever telling people that it’s a knock-off, but that’s just me. Where do you stand?

Disclaimer: I just want to put on the record that all of the photos used to illustrate this article came from the internet and I have no way of knowing whether any of the vehicles are clones or original. By using the photos, I am not claiming that any of them are anything but what they appear to be, beautiful cars.

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Cain’s Segments: Muscle Cars Weak, Challenger Dodges The Trend Mon, 10 Jun 2013 13:52:41 +0000 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That sound you’ve been hearing for nearly two decades is the weeping and gnashing of teeth roused by the Chevrolet Beretta’s demise. Oh, Ford Probe, we hardly knew ye. Whither the Dodge Daytona? Let’s look at the continuing decline of an empire, formerly ruled by the American Muscle Car.

V8 Daytona - Picture courtesy,jpg

At Chevrolet, SS is not the oft-used badge that AMG is at Mercedes-Benz. Ford’s ST and SVT branding aren’t used to form an overwhelming BMW M-like presence. You can buy big V8-engined Chryslers, but many of Chrysler’s higher-volume products – 200, Avenger, Dart, Journey, Wrangler – go without sporting iterations. Detroit’s three automakers don’t even sell coupe versions of their mainstream sedans these days.

1990 Beretta Pace Car replica - Picture courtesy

There is plenty of sporting heritage present in GM, Ford, and Chrysler showrooms, of course. Iconic nameplates sell at a level normally associated with moderately successful midsize cars. And even in 2013, a year in which muscle car sales have fallen, the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang are America’s 29th and 30th-best-selling passenger cars, ahead of the Ford Taurus, Subaru Impreza, and Buick LaCrosse.


Although we’re also showing results for two higher-end cars, two veritable sports cars, a more accurate reflection of the muscle car marketplace is made more apparent when you leave out the Corvette and Viper. Sales of America’s muscle car trio are down 4.6% through five months. May sales of the Camaro, Challenger, and Mustang fell 8.3% in the United States.


Those declines haven’t occurred because of the lowest-volume member of the group. Dodge Challenger volume is up 28% this year, rising 15% in May. Its market share in the three-car category grew to 24.9% in May, up from 19.8% a year ago.

That market share was obviously stolen from the Camaro and Mustang, whether there are any prospective Challenger buyers who would have actually chosen the Chevrolet or Ford. It’s bit of a Sox or Cubs; Manchester United or Manchester City world.

Of the 22,263 American muscle cars sold in May, 35.6% were Camaros, down from 37.2% in May 2012. The Mustang’s share slid from 43% in May 2012 to 39.5% in May 2013. Year-to-date, the Camaro and Mustang have lost nearly four and three percentage points worth of market share, respectively.

In a market which enjoyed an 8% year-over-year increase in May, the fact that the Camaro and Mustang could be struggling to match last year’s pace shouldn’t come as a surprise. Whether you’re selling a German roadster, a driftable Japanese sports car, or an outrageously powerful Detroit pony car, the number of customers is likely to shrink as the launch date becomes a distant memory.

Dodge Challenger sales figures must then be the exception that proves the rule.

May 2013
May 2012
May % Change
5 mos. 2013
5 mos. 2012
YTD % Change
Chevrolet Camaro
7929 9023 - 12.1% 35,076 40,574 - 13.6%
Chevrolet Corvette
905 1219 - 25.8% 4820 5547 - 13.1%
Dodge Challenger
5537 4816 + 15.0% 24,881 19,442 + 28.0%
Ford Mustang
8797 10,427 - 15.6% 33,868 38,361 - 11.7%
SRT Viper
65 129 20 + 545%
25,485 - 8.8% 98,774 103,944 - 5.0%

Independent analyst Timothy Cain is the founder and editor of His look at the important segments will be a permanent fixture at TTAC, along with a  look at the market up North.  



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My Role In The Extinction Of The American Muscle Car Wed, 20 Feb 2013 12:02:09 +0000  

1969 Chevelle SS


A few weeks a go I had the opportunity to watch part of the Barrett Jackson auction. I found myself captivated by the colorful commentary that went along with each sale. Every car had a story and the commentators spent a great deal of time telling us about them. They also discussed the cars’ performance, available options and recited the original production numbers, contrasted by telling us exactly how many of those cars survive today. It turns out that many of the cars I regularly used to see back in the 1970s are extremely rare today. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, however, after all, I had a hand in making them go away.

By the time the 1980s got into full swing, around 1983, people were good and tired of the 1970s. The ‘70s had been pretty rough on the average American. We had our pride hurt when Saigon fell, we lost faith in our political institutions thanks to Watergate and we were embarrassed when our embassy was stormed by a bunch of kids in Iran. To make matters worse, we had gone way overboard on cheesy variety shows, bell bottoms and the cocaine and now we had one hell of a hangover. It was, we collectively decided, better if we just put the past behind us.

In 1983 I was a junior in high school and, with the economy still in a shambles, jobs in small-town America for kids my age were few and far between. Fortunately, my mom and dad weren’t stingy and I had enough money in my pocket to play Defender at the 7-11 and to put gas in my 6 cylinder Nova, but I aspired to bigger things. I wanted to build a fast car. It was my search for a job and my attempt to access to cheap parts that led me to form a friendship with the local hot-rodder.

Already married with three kids, Tim Harris was only about a decade older than me. He was the kind of guy who lived and breathed cars; the kind of guy who forever smelled of old crankcase oil and Dexron II. As a neighbor, he drove down your property values. His yard was filled with half stripped cars, disembodied engine and racks of body parts. Naturally, I thought he was the coolest guy around.

Easy Prey

The owner of several Chevrolet Vegas in his younger years, Tim had begun collecting parts to keep his own cars running but soon found that people were willing to pay a handsome premium for the parts they needed to keep their own cars going as well. Before long, Tim had an established business, buying up and parting out Chevrolets all over the county and, luckily for me, his business had grown to the point that he needed someone to help him. Since I was willing to work for a pittance, and bought most of my parts from him anyway, I got the job.

Tim had me do all sorts of work around the his house. I hauled wood, dug ditches, ran barbed wire and helped dismantle the cars he brought home. He worked me hard, but sometimes I got to ride along as Tim went to pick up one junker or another and, as we drove, he taught me the tricks of his trade. Like most money making ventures, the underlying idea was simple, the execution was not.

The process began in the driver’s seat and we drove about ceaselessly scouring the area for possible purchases. A potential buy was always a car that was sitting. Signs of a sitting car included a layer of dirt, pine needles or leaves on top and a patch of longish grass or other debris underneath. Flat tires were almost always good for us while an open hood or ongoing body work were usually not. With the economy in a protracted slump and high gas prices at the pump, that part was easy.

It took real skill, however, to know what you were actually looking at. I have, it turns out, a photographic memory and I soon developed an encyclopedic knowledge of the cars of the 60s and 70s. I knew their shapes, options, trim levels, possible power trains, even more esoteric things like whether or not they might be hiding disc brakes under their hubcaps. I could look at a car from the seat of the van and instantly report what it was. Tim would do the other important part, the mental math that told him just how much profit our find might actually bring. If a car was worth it, we knocked on the door of the house.

This system worked surprisingly well. Tim was a cash buyer and a great many people were swayed by the sight of his money. Together we purchased some of the great cars of the era.

One that should have been allowed to escape.

At one house, Tim scored a 1968 Chevy II with a 250 HP 327, a Muncie 4 speed and a positraction rear end for $300. It had been sitting for a while, but together Tim and I compression started the engine by rolling it down a small hill. The old car fired up and ran strong. I laid a great deal of rubber at every stop on the way home. Naturally, I was in love and wanted to save the baby blue car, but Tim would have none if it. In less than a month every part of value was sold and Tim and I hauled the stripped carcass to the recyclers in order to make room for the next victim.

So it went with dozens of cars and Novas, Camaros, Chevelles, Impalas and dozens upon dozens of late 60s Chevy trucks were sacrificed one piece at a time to the great god of commerce. Like a 19th century whaling operation, we stalked our prey, made the kill and then hauled the beast ashore where we stripped away every usable bit one piece at a time before taking the final remains to a place where they were rendered down into smelter fodder. There was one exception.

One that did get away.

The 1965 Impala SS 396 was truly a thing of beauty. Canary yellow with a black vinyl top, we found her on four flat tires and with a surprising amount of moss on the cement slab beneath her. I could see the cold calculation in Tim’s eyes as we walked around the dignified old girl, big block engine, SS wheel covers, disc brakes, all the trim pieces in good condition, flawless interior. This car was ripe for the picking. Tim ended up paying just $500 to an elderly lady who confessed she just wanted to be rid of it.

Once the title was in hand, we spent a few minutes getting the car prepped for the trip home. I pumped up the tires with a small compressor, checked the oil and water, and then we started the old big block using jumper cables. It ran rough at first but soon settled down and when we were ready, Tim let me go ahead while he followed in the van.

The old car was nice inside and the big engine ran well. The transmission shifted smoothly, and not for the first time I noticed what a really fine car it was. It did seem to wander around a bit out on the road and it had a fair amount of play in its steering, but old Impalas, especially big block cars, had a tendency to wear out suspension bushings. It was a minor problem, and I made the trip home without incident.

After parking the car, I got out and gave it a good serious look. I was still there when Tim pulled up a minute later. “This is a nice car.” I said.

“Yeah,” answered Tim, “A really nice car.”

“You think maybe someone would just buy the whole thing?” I asked.

“I could get more from parts than I could the whole thing.” Tim replied.

“It wouldn’t be right though.” I said.

‘I know.” Said Tim, “I know.”

The next week Tim put an ad in the paper and an elderly gentleman made the trip out to where we lived in the country to buy the car. Tim got $900 for it and seemed happy enough as the old car rolled down the driveway and away into the afternoon. But as it faded into the distance, he turned on me, “I could have made more money if I hadn’t listened to you.” he said accusingly.

“Somebody has to be your conscience.” I answered.

His expression lightened and he smiled. “I know.” said Tim heading for his van. “Come on, let’s go find something else we can make money on.” I paused a moment, then laughed and went with him, always ready to drive home another piece of history.

Teddy Roosevelt refusing to kill a captive bear.

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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Capsule Review: 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 Tue, 30 Oct 2012 12:00:39 +0000

Jackie is the first girl to fawn over the Shelby GT500 once it’s in my hands. Hadn’t expected that; make no mistake, it is a dude magnet without exception and the double-X-chromosome crowd usually goes for something cuter. Jackie appears to be the exception, so far. She’ll tell you she’s a bit of a tomboy. She likes cars, long boarding, and gangsta rap. Tonight, she’s traded her usual, Ralph Lauren-catalog attire (not-so-snug pants, a button up men’s dress shirt) for a dress that can only be described as one yard of Tensor Bandage that somehow made its way out of the factory with a muted floral print.

I’m hardly complaining, though it’s clear that she’s not used to wearing this kind of garment. I tell myself that it’s all because of my strong jawline, cleft chin and thick, flowing locks, but that’s a yarn of self-deception long enough to knit Jackie a twin to the sweater I’m glad she left at home.

It’s the car.

Jackie is comfortable looking at brake calipers and superchargers, but the dress is fighting her attempts to check out the machinery tonight. “Turn around,” she tells me, “I don’t want you to see me adjusting my underwear”.

“That dress is ridiculous.” I’m trying really hard to do the gentlemanly thing and focus on the car.

A pause. I’m facing away from her, but I can imagine her eyes running along the length of the racing stripes that trace the Shelby’s sillhouette. The car isn’t running, but I can hear the crackling and pinging of the cooling drivetrain against the humid, lifeless air of the August night.

“Not as ridiculous as the car,” she replies. “How fast did you say it is?”

Five point eight liters. Six hundred and sixty-two horsepower. There’s not much out there that’s more powerful than the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500. The Lamborghini Aventador. The Ferrari FF. Maybe one or two megabuck hypercars that will be gobbled up by our BRIC-nation overlords.

Jackie and I will not go much faster tonight than we just did. A quick blast into “lose your license” territory occurs in 3rd gear at around 3000 RPM – there is still so much power left on the table, I feel…impotent. “That did not feel like [exact speed redacted],” Jackie says, with the sort of contempt usually reserved for a prom night that’s come to a premature conclusion.

In 2012, where “green” is our secular religion, “carbon emissions” are a mortal sin and we worship at the altar of sustainability while flagellating ourselves about everything from our consumption habits to our role in the world, it truly is a miracle, in the most theistic sense of the word, that this car exists. A supercharged V8, a 6-speed gearbox, a 200 mph top speed, 10 mpg in town and an aesthetic so jingoistic it would make even the most ardent soaring-eagles-America-firster wonder if it needs toning down. If President Obama is forever identified with the Chevrolet Volt, then this car is Pat Buchanan’s likely chariot, a swift exit from the Nixon Administration into the severe right wing with all cylinders firing seven thousand times a minute. And yet, somehow, somewhere at Ford World Headquarters, someone approved this for production.

And still, it is thoroughly modern. A trip to Mosport, 60 miles away on the freeway, in 6th gear at 80 mph with the A/C blasting, returned 25 mpg. I played my music through my iPod via the dreadful touch-screen SYNC system (which I am unapologetic in declaring it to be the bastard spawn of Satan. It is awful, always has been, always will be, and it never, ever works for me). The 2013 model is an enormous improvement over the last one I drove, a 2011 that made “only” 550 horsepower. Despite being down over 100 horsepower over the 2013 GT500, that car was an absolute bastard to drive. As I wrote back in 2010

The new car leaves it in the dust. The 2013 Shelby doesn’t pop its booty sideways like the old car did. The new tires and improved traction control see to that. It just gallops forward while the exhaust bellows like a scalded silverback gorilla. There’s not even any audible supercharger noise. But what the hell am I supposed to do with it? Giving me the keys to this car is like Ford asking me to come shoot tin cans in their back yard, with the stipulation that I can only use a Stinger missle to knock them down. It is so powerful in any gear that anyone that needs to be passed is just vaporized by the omnipotent V8.

And this is ultimately what makes the Shelby GT500 so compelling, especially to “the generation that doesn’t care about cars”. The performance is astounding but irrelevant. The styling can be had on a $22,000 Mustang V6. A better drive can arguably be had with a Boss 302. But nowhere else can you give such a middle finger to the zeitgiest. It doesn’t want to check in via Foursquare at the Mexican-Korean fusion place. It doesn’t care about Car Free Sundays, or dubstep music or the newest celebrity chef. Exploding away from a stop light, hanging out the window, with a cigarette between our lips, without fear of the cops, or fear of another day of indentured servitude unpaid internships, or having to compose a response to the latest text message from our significant other. Morals are relative, the middle class is shrinking, God is dead, our lives are lived in public, and a small part of us yearns for an era we never knew, where marriage, 2.5 kids, and a mortgage was not only attainable, but attained early.  We’ve never had more freedom or opportunities, but we still find ourselves yearning for a past era, where things weren’t as fluid or permissive; it’s why we throw “Mad Men” themed dress-up parties where the guys get a free pass to make misogynistic remarks, pinch the girls’ rears and watch them giggle with guilty glee as they hand out baked treats and push feminism into the attics of their psyche.

The orgiastic past may recede before us, but this car – our one link to that bygone epoch – keeps getting better and better.

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Junkyard Find: 1975 Plymouth Road Runner Sat, 14 Jul 2012 13:00:35 +0000 We got an overview of Colorado’s Brain-Melting Junkyard yesterday, and today we’ll take a closer look at one of its residents. This is one of the rarest of Road Runners, a one-year-only version that was based on the downsized B-Body Fury
The original 1968-70 Road Runner was quite a deal for muscle car shoppers; you got the same kind of absurd power as the Pontiac GTO and Ford Cobra Jet Torino, but cheaper. Plenty of these cars survive today, but most of us can’t afford a nice one (though a Road Runner-ized Belvedere could be built on a more limited budget). However, you can afford a genuine 1975 Road Runner… if you can find one.
The interior shows some Cordoba influence. I wonder if those buckets are covered in Corinthian Leather.
I always enjoy the simplicity of factory AM radios of the 1960s and 1970s. The crazy thing is how expensive car audio gear was back then; this radio was probably a $200 option.
The hood release was broken, so I didn’t get any shots of the smog-gear-strangled 318 or 360 that almost certainly lives in this car. 1975 model-year cars are emissions-exempt in most states, so it would be easy to upgrade this car to proper power levels.
Here’s the only thing I bought during my visit to this yard; I saw the Kansas Wheat Centennial license plate on this car and had to have it for garage decoration. Five bucks well spent!

21 - 1975 Plymouth Road Runner Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1975 Plymouth Road Runner Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1975 Plymouth Road Runner Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1975 Plymouth Road Runner Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1975 Plymouth Road Runner Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1975 Plymouth Road Runner Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1975 Plymouth Road Runner Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1975 Plymouth Road Runner Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1975 Plymouth Road Runner Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1975 Plymouth Road Runner Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1975 Plymouth Road Runner Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1975 Plymouth Road Runner Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1975 Plymouth Road Runner Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1975 Plymouth Road Runner Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1975 Plymouth Road Runner Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1975 Plymouth Road Runner Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1975 Plymouth Road Runner Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1975 Plymouth Road Runner Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1975 Plymouth Road Runner Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]> 20
The Last Muscle-Car War: Detroit Battles For Cop-Car Supremacy Sat, 24 Sep 2011 18:23:55 +0000

Last fall, the first tests of the new Chevy Caprice PPV, Dodge Charger Pursuit and Ford Taurus Interceptor generated quite a bit of interest here at TTAC and beyond, as three all-new contestants battled to replace the outgoing Crown Victoria as America’s cop car. At the time, the Caprice seemed like the clear performance favorite, but as Sajeev Mehta has pointed out, there’s more to the cop-car equation than pure speed. Although good luck trying to tell the Detroit Three that, as all three are cherry-picking performance stats in the wake of the latest round of Michigan State Police testing.

  • Chrysler arguably has the biggest performance win to brag about, noting that the “fastest-ever lap time at Grattan Raceway [1:33.70] highlights Dodge Charger Pursuit V-8 as the police sedan with the best combination of acceleration, braking, handling and dynamics.” The V8 Dodge also recorded the fastest 0-60 and 0-100 times of the trio, thanks to an optional acceleration-biased 3.06 rear axle ratio and a revised engine management system that allows top speeds of up to 151 MPH (all new for 2012, along with upgraded brakes). For the record, that 1:33:70 time is exactly three seconds faster than the Charger’s best lap time last year.
  • After “creaming” the competition last fall, it seems GM was caught a bit flat-footed by Mopars upgrades, and its press release makes no mention of its lap time (its best lap time last year was a 1:35:80). Instead The General brags about the Caprice’s leading top speed (154 MPH) and 60-0 braking (125.8 ft). And despite last year’s “LS-X FTW” talk, the Caprice V6 turns out to be the most impressive model, beating both the Charger V6 and the Taurus non-Turbo V6 in 60-0 mph braking, top speed and acceleration.
  • As predicted last year by Sajeev, Ford’s Taurus appears to be something of a performance back-marker. Ford’s presser doesn’t mention a single performance statistic, instead seeming to coast on the Panther-Interceptor’s coattails with bullet points like “Now police departments and other law enforcement agencies can get an all-new, American-made vehicle with the expected durability and price of the popular Crown Victoria.” Ford’s only performance argument is that the Taurus Ecoboost outperforms the Crown Vic… a stunningly low bar to set (even the Impala 3.6 hits a higher top speed than the EcoBoost Interceptor).

But, as we’ve pointed out, efficiency and reliability are for more important for police fleet buyers than outright performance. If Ford can make good on the promise that it will match the Crown Vic’s durability, and can prove that its Ecoboost engine will reliably offer better efficiency than the Dodge and Chevy V8s, it might make an argument for itself. But in a world where police departments are actually hoarding Crown Vics, there’s always going to be resistance to ditching the rear-drive V8 model for the perceived complexity of AWD and a turbocharged V6.

But because the performance differences between the Chevy and the Dodge are relatively small and because performance isn’t the overriding concern for police fleet buyers, Dodge’s lap record at MSP testing may be the most significant achievement in this year’s MSP testing, for reasons that have nothing to do with prospective police sales. With the Crown Vic gone and the competition for the definitive police vehicle thrown wide open, these annual Michigan State Police tests are beginning to take on the feel of a classic Detroit proxy war, not unlike the illegal drag racing that took place on Woodward Avenue at the height of the muscle car era. And because Dodge offers high-performance versions of its Charger to the general public, its ability to beat back the Australian-built, unobtainable-to-civilians Caprice could give it something of a halo to enthusiasts. Even Ford, which sells a Taurus SHO that’s not entirely unlike the new Interceptor, can leverage police performance testing results into a brand halo. Only GM, which stubbornly refuses to offer the Caprice as a civilian model, seems to be oblivious to the civilian-market implications of what is rapidly becoming an annual Detroit showdown.

With racing becoming increasingly detached from the vehicles available for sale to the general public, police performance testing is one of the last factory-backed competitions between cars that are available for sale to the general public. In short, it’s the kind of spectacle that drove the muscle car era… and have since disappeared. As the brand that’s most dependent on continued sales of V8-powered, large  rear-drive sedans, it’s no wonder Dodge upgraded its Charger in order to come away with a narrow win this year. Maybe next year Chevy should hit back… and then capitalize on the rivalry by making a Caprice available to civilians.

The Michigan State Police have not yet released full test results for 2012 model-year vehicles. TTAC will post these results as soon as they become available. Past test results can be found here

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Chart Of The Day: The Pony Car Wars In 2011 Thu, 16 Jun 2011 17:21:58 +0000 What is there to say about this chart? Mustang had a shot… it coulda been a contender… but Camaro was just too busy building momentum, en route to what should be the nameplate’s best volume year since 1995. Challenger, meanwhile, just seems stuck spinning its wheels in third place. Oh, and since this chart has little in the way of controversy, let me just add this: if Hyundai starts breaking out its Genesis Coupe sales when it launches a muscle car-inspired facelift for the model, we would love to see how that underdog story plays out. In the meantime, though, Genesis coupe and sedan combined barely touch the Challenger’s volume… at this point pony cars are still very much an American game.

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The Return Of The Z28 Camaro Sat, 04 Dec 2010 16:44:28 +0000

When Bob Lutz came back from retirement for the umpteenth time, one of the first orders of business was to kill the Z28 Camaro. The only thing that was in high gear at the times was carmageddon, electric cars were the wave of an uncertain future, and come on, how more politically incorrect can you get than with an 8 cylinder that makes anywhere between 500 and 600 hp, while producing enough plant food to keep the world’s rainforests lush and green? Rainforests rejoice:

Word reaches us from the Toronto Star that “the iconic Chevrolet Camaro Z28 muscle sports car will make a comeback in Oshawa.” Of course it’s not official yet,  but the Star’s “industry sources” are saying that the strapping Camaro will emerge en masse from GM’s Oshawa assembly complex “late next year or early in 2012.”

The Freep must have similarly chatty industry sources, and reported yesterday that “Chevrolet will revive its high-performance Camaro Z28 as a 2012 model, giving it a supercharged version of the current Camaro SS’ V8 engine with between 500 and 600 horsepower.”

The Camaro, which had come out of retirement in 2009, shortly before Lutz, fills GM with pride. According to Freep figures, GM had sold 71,521 Camaros year-to-date. The Camaro is 7,350 units ahead of the Mustang. GM will add a convertible, and with the rumored big muscle version, it is supposed to leave the Mustang in a cloud of dust.

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Chart Of The Day: Pony Car Wars Edition Mon, 13 Sep 2010 19:23:20 +0000

Over the long haul of the Pony Car Wars, Ford’s Mustang has set the standard to which all others aspire. Having handily outsold the old F-Body Camaros (to say nothing of the nearest import-equivalent, the Nissan Z), Ford reigned alone over the declining muscle-coupe segment for much of the last decade. But the Pony Car cannot thrive alone, and the Mustang couldn’t keep its sales from sliding ever further… it needed some competition. Now, rather than fighting for pieces of a shrinking segment, the Camaro, Challenger and Mustang have been able to grow their sales together, revitalized by the renewed Pony Car Wars. Though our simple volume projection shows the Camaro on track to take the Pony Car crown from the Mustang, the short-term trends indicate a close battle to the finish this year. Hit the jump for summer sales comparisons…

Comparing the last three months of sales, it’s clear that the Mustang is fighting back. Still, if you break down those three months chronologically, another micro-trend emerges: Mustang won big in June, practically tied in July and slipped behind in August. How the Mustang-Camaro battle will play out through the end of this year is literally anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile, the big picture is equally uncertain. The fact that the closest import competitors to the Pony Cars, the 370Z and RX-8, have received no bump from the segment’s revival is troubling. The indication then, is that the rebirth of the muscle coupe enthusiasm is based on a short-term, retro-nostalgia trend rather than a real shift towards coupes and performance cars. For now though, the Camaro and Mustang are locked in the kind of mano-a-mano horserace that this industry goes crazy for, and in the process they’ve revitalized a dead-on-its-feet segment. Even if it doesn’t last forever, this will be one Pony Car War to remember.

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