The Truth About Cars » pickup http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 28 Nov 2014 11:00:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 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 » pickup http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Junkyard Find: 1975 Dodge D100 Pickup http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/junkyard-find-1975-dodge-d100-pickup/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/junkyard-find-1975-dodge-d100-pickup/#comments Sat, 22 Nov 2014 14:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=949537 Since many Dodge D-series pickup parts fit my ’66 A100 van I’m always on the lookout for members of the species while visiting the junkyard. Today’s D100, which I found in a Denver self-service wrecking yard a couple of weeks back, is a little too new to offer many bits for my Dodge, but it’s […]

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13 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSince many Dodge D-series pickup parts fit my ’66 A100 van I’m always on the lookout for members of the species while visiting the junkyard. Today’s D100, which I found in a Denver self-service wrecking yard a couple of weeks back, is a little too new to offer many bits for my Dodge, but it’s still interesting enough for this series.
17 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinGrowing up in a Navy town, ex-Navy D100s of this vintage were common sights on the street. Most of them were still in their government-issue gray paint with the Navy serial numbers still visible, but some got rattle-can paint jobs like this one.
07 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe sensible Slant-6-and-4-speed drivetrain was about right for a truck like this— you weren’t going to go fast, but you’d always get there.
19 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI didn’t grab any parts, but I did get this magnet for my toolbox.

01 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1975 Dodge D100 Sweptline Pickup Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Vellum Venom Vignette: In Praise of The Regular Cab http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/vellum-venom-vignette-praise-regular-cab/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/vellum-venom-vignette-praise-regular-cab/#comments Thu, 06 Nov 2014 14:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=941369   Cafe regulations be damned, the regular cab truck is a fantastic design. It deserves a better rep: working for people with multiple vehicles, value-conscious fleet buyers, and bottom-tier credit risks dying for a cheap new non-econobox. Or a new lease on life, after an unexpected trip to the hospital. I’ve never regretted regular cab ownership: it’s […]

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And sidewalls too, apparently.

Cafe regulations be damned, the regular cab truck is a fantastic design. It deserves a better rep: working for people with multiple vehicles, value-conscious fleet buyers, and bottom-tier credit risks dying for a cheap new non-econobox. Or a new lease on life, after an unexpected trip to the hospital.

(photo credit: www.foxeyephoto.com)

I’ve never regretted regular cab ownership: it’s right for my wallet and clutter-free lifestyle. But after a few laps at a local Rallycross (seen here at full ABS braking) the lighter, shorter regular cab became a Miata with a BedBut I digress…that Time In The Hospital Thing.

After getting progressively weaker/sicker for no reason, as I lay circling the drain for hours in a hospital bed, the diagnosis of Stevens Johnson Syndrome came for an allergic reaction to over-the-counter medicine. (NOTE: watch where you Google, S.J.S. isn’t a pretty sight.) YES I’m making a full, 100% back-to-normal recovery: the on-call allergist was Johnny-on-the-spot and my family supports me. While never missing a beat for TTAC, I couldn’t function elsewhere for a week.

Later I drove in a mere car with a large cabin and a huge cab-forward windscreen. Then the Houston heat/sun adversely mixed with my healing skin: to the point I was boiling in my own flesh. The pain from just being in the sun, from wearing non-cotton clothes, from lying on a warm bed, from trying to do anything…it was frustrating. Cue my friend, the Regular Cab’d Texas Ranger.

With a certain foreboding-yet-southern-fried Jan Hammer tune in my ears, I learned why I love this body style of pick ‘em up truck.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The Ranger’s HVAC normally freezes me, no matter the outside temperature. It was enjoyable for long days of outside labor, I reckon many truck owners understand that. But now it was to the point fingers must freeze to the shifter and glasses shall fog after leaving the regular cab…and re-fog after the first wipe.

Anywhere I went, I felt better than before I left.

There was no place more comfortable for my Stevens-Johnson Syndrome affected skin than my silly regular cab Ranger.

So what’s the point of this self-pity infused blathering?

  • Full Size or no, the regular cab pickup is one of the best designs on the planet.
  • Regular Cabs do not deserve their endangered species designation.
  • Feng Shui isn’t just for new age types, it’s for right sized truckers that need no CUV in their pickup.
  • Space Efficiency isn’t just for architects, car designers must know that “cab forward” windshields literally bake our interiors.
  • Trucks work extremely well in their “original”configuration forthepreviously stated reasons…BUT…
    • …let’s also add a little known allergic reaction to ordinary medication to the list.

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Junkyard Find: 1976 Ford Courier http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/junkyard-find-1976-ford-courier/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/junkyard-find-1976-ford-courier/#comments Thu, 06 Nov 2014 14:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=941073 After the ’79 Chevy LUV Junkyard Find we saw yesterday, it seems appropriate to follow up with another Malaise Era Japanese small pickup with Detroit badging. I found this Ford-badged Mazda B1800 just a couple of rows away from the LUV. It’s three years older and much rougher than the Chevy (Isuzu). Vehicles mostly don’t […]

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18 - 1976 Ford Courier Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAfter the ’79 Chevy LUV Junkyard Find we saw yesterday, it seems appropriate to follow up with another Malaise Era Japanese small pickup with Detroit badging. I found this Ford-badged Mazda B1800 just a couple of rows away from the LUV. It’s three years older and much rougher than the Chevy (Isuzu).


17 - 1976 Ford Courier Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinVehicles mostly don’t rust much in the Denver area, thanks to the single-digit humidity, but this one appears to have spent some time in the Midwest.
01 - 1976 Ford Courier Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAs is often the case with junked vehicles, all sorts of stuff belonging to the previous owner was still inside. Here’s a notebook with records of fuel and oil purchases stretching back to the mid-1980s. Check out the sub-dollar-per-gallon prices of February 1986; while this era’s crash in oil prices was a boon for me as I delivered pizzas in my 351W-powered Mercury Cyclone, it was also the primary cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union as well as the sales death of little trucks like this one.
03 - 1976 Ford Courier Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinReally cheap new-vehicle buyers in the 1970s didn’t want to spend several hundred bucks for a factory AM radio— yes, audio gear was expensive back then, even before the vehicle manufacturers’ markups— so they got the “radio delete” package and then added a relatively cheap aftermarket rig like this Philco.


Imagine Johnnie Taylor buzzing tinnily out of that dash-mounted whizzer cone!
06 - 1976 Ford Courier Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe driver’s door is hanging by a thread. This truck gave its all.
11 - 1976 Ford Courier Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe hubcaps stayed with it to the end, though.

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Junkyard Find: 1979 Chevrolet LUV Mikado http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/junkyard-find-1979-chevrolet-luv-mikado/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/junkyard-find-1979-chevrolet-luv-mikado/#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2014 14:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=940441 Once Toyota Stouts and Datsun 520s began selling in sufficient numbers (in spite of the Chicken Tax) to attract Detroit’s attention, the idea of selling small pickups— without actually tooling up to build them— seemed appealing to the Big Three. Chrysler had the Mitsubishi-built Plymouth Arrow pickup, Ford had the Mazda-built Courier, and GM had […]

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02 - 1979 Chevrolet LUV Mikado Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOnce Toyota Stouts and Datsun 520s began selling in sufficient numbers (in spite of the Chicken Tax) to attract Detroit’s attention, the idea of selling small pickups— without actually tooling up to build them— seemed appealing to the Big Three. Chrysler had the Mitsubishi-built Plymouth Arrow pickup, Ford had the Mazda-built Courier, and GM had the Isuzu Faster-based Chevy LUV. Each type rusted with great eagerness and were near-disposable cheap, so they’re all very rare today. I see maybe one LUV per three years of junkyard visits, so this ’79 LUV Mikado grabbed my attention right away.
07 - 1979 Chevrolet LUV Mikado Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Mikado option package, if we are to believe online sources, gave the buyer striped seats and a three-spoke steering wheel (plus the cool-looking Japanophilic fender badges).
03 - 1979 Chevrolet LUV Mikado Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe three-spoke wheel is there, but I don’t see any seat stripes. Perhaps the owner of this truck swapped in a later Isuzu P’Up bench.
06 - 1979 Chevrolet LUV Mikado Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe G18 engine, making 80 horses. 21st-century Americans require at least that much power for their lawn tractors, not to mention a crew-cab in their “small” pickups. The G18 was also found in the “Buick Opel” (an Isuzu-ized Opel Kadett sold in North America during the darkest days of the Malaise Era).

Now there’s even more to LUV, for everybody!

Did anyone buy the 4WD LUV?

This Thai-market Isuzu Faster Spacecab ad is for a second-generation truck, but I had to include it due to the little spaceman.

01 - 1979 Chevrolet LUV Mikado Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1979 Chevrolet LUV Mikado Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1979 Chevrolet LUV Mikado Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1979 Chevrolet LUV Mikado Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1979 Chevrolet LUV Mikado Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1979 Chevrolet LUV Mikado Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1979 Chevrolet LUV Mikado Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1979 Chevrolet LUV Mikado Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1979 Chevrolet LUV Mikado Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1979 Chevrolet LUV Mikado Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1979 Chevrolet LUV Mikado Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1979 Chevrolet LUV Mikado Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1979 Chevrolet LUV Mikado Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1979 Chevrolet LUV Mikado Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Junkyard Find: Electric-Powered 1988 Ford Ranger Custom http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-electric-powered-1988-ford-ranger-custom/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-electric-powered-1988-ford-ranger-custom/#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 13:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=926825 I’ve just driven a couple of modern electric cars, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the Tesla Model S, and they’re real cars. Actually, the i-MiEV is a perfectly serviceable short-distance commuter and the Model S is the best street car I’ve ever driven, but I was ready to hate both of them a lot, because all […]

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15 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinI’ve just driven a couple of modern electric cars, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the Tesla Model S, and they’re real cars. Actually, the i-MiEV is a perfectly serviceable short-distance commuter and the Model S is the best street car I’ve ever driven, but I was ready to hate both of them a lot, because all my previous experience with EVs had involved growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s and hearing a lot of eat-yer-vegetables talk from earnest green types about how electric cars are good for you, when in fact those cars sucked stringwart-covered pangolin nodules. Then, of course, there are all the flake-O electric conversions from the 1980-2000 era that I’ve seen, a fair number of which appear in self-service wrecking yards as long-abandoned EV conversions are towed out of back yards and driveways. In this series, we’ve seen this EVolve Electrics 1995 Geo Metro and this 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Electric Sport, and there have been others too stripped to be worth photographing. Today we’re going to look at a California-based Ford Ranger that still has just about all its electric running gear.
14 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinSome EVs like this were put together for driving around in warehouses, others were built by government agencies trying to showcase green technologies, and still more were built by backyard electric-car fanatics. Ford even built their own electric Rangers later on.
04 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinSince the battery box (or what I am assuming is the battery box) is so small, my guess is that this truck was made for short-distance indoor use. Running parts inside hangars at nearby Oakland Airport?
Note: Crab Spirits did some research and found this truck on the North Bay Electric Automobile Association website for us. It turns out to be a veteran of the 2004 North Bay Eco-Fest, i.e., it was admired by a lot of earnest Marin County green types, all of whom probably abandoned their 20-mile-range EVs the moment they could buy a Leaf.
17 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinI thought about buying these gauges for eBay reselling later, but it didn’t seem worth the hassle.
09 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinThe motor was still there when I visited this yard about a month ago, but the value of the copper inside it means that this is one part that will not go to The Crusher.
06 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinGreat big Bycan battery charger under the hood.
16 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinI doubt that the sight of this truck had Chevron execs trembling.
19 - Electric 1988 Ford Ranger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinI didn’t check underneath to see if the original automatic transmission was still installed. The shifter might have been just used to control forward and reverse.

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Capsule Review: 2015 VW Saveiro CD Highline (Double Cab – Brazilian Market) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/capsule-review-2015-vw-saveiro-cd-highline-double-cab-brazilian-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/capsule-review-2015-vw-saveiro-cd-highline-double-cab-brazilian-market/#comments Sun, 31 Aug 2014 17:36:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=904225 The car-based small pickup market was launched in Brazil by Fiat during the 1980s. Taking a 147 as its base, the Italians cut out the back seats, added a bed, beefed up the suspension and called it good. The market deemed it so, and soon, there was a whole new segment gracing Brazil’s roads, with […]

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The car-based small pickup market was launched in Brazil by Fiat during the 1980s. Taking a 147 as its base, the Italians cut out the back seats, added a bed, beefed up the suspension and called it good. The market deemed it so, and soon, there was a whole new segment gracing Brazil’s roads, with Fiat’s Strada dominating the segment. Since that time, nearly every challenger has been vanquished by the Strada’s unquestionable longevity – except for Volkswagen’s Saveiro.

According to VW do Brasil, the Saveiro is now the market leader in single and extended cab configurations. It has sold roughly 40,000 units up until the middle of the year while Fiat sold roughly twice that. Volkswagen says half of Strada sales were of the double cab line. So finally VW reacted and launched its own double cab (the Strada’s arrived in 2009).  Its take on this style of small pick up is different from Fiat’s. As of 10 months ago, the Strada now comes with three doors, which of course (in theory) helps entry. The Volkswagen offers just two. Getting in the car and reclining the seat, I wiggle my 6 foot, 220 lb  frame into the back seat.

Nice surprise. While the Strada seats just four, the Saveiro does it for five. There are three headrests and three point seat belts only for those who sit off to the sides. The middle passenger, besides fighting for space, has to make do with a lap belt. Space is larger than in the Strada, though I wouldn’t want to be there with two friends for more than short jaunts. The rear side windows open by popping out, while the back window is fixed. There are two cupholders and even an auxiliary jack and a compartment under the seats. Some thought was indeed put into it.

Getting into the front and sitting in the driver’s seat, the whole ambience is very typically Volkswagen. That means a sober, almost boring layout, hard but well assembled plastics, monotone decorations and lots of unmarked plastic covers where commands for optional equipment would be. All in all it is an ambience I don’t especially admire or find pleasure in being, while I can appreciate why others do. The seat is placed a little low, and the dashboard quite high leading to that sunken feeling that many nowadays equate with safety. What’s safer than driving a tank, right? As such, it’s good the Saveiro CD comes with parking sensors. That way you won’t smash the bed into anything.

Speaking of the bed, it has been reduced to 1.1 m in length and capacity is now 580L. The spare has been placed under the bed. Just to compare, the Strada has a volume 100L greater and can carry 50 more kilos (650 to the Saveiro’s 600). Though short, it is longer than the Strada’s and offers 10 tie-down points, a number its rival can’t touch.

The Saveiro Double Cab offers two engines. Both are 1.6L. One however has 8v while the other 16. The 16v is new and corrals 110 or 120 ponies (depending of fuel chosen, the first figure for Brazilian gasoline, the second for Brazilian ethanol) while the simpler mill makes do with 101 or 104 horsepower. While this output is relatively low, the multi-valve engine pulls well and vibrates less than the old one. Pulling power is steady and its capacity to rev higher makes it more comfortable to drive at high speeds on the highway. Top speed is 179 km/h, almost 10 more than the 8 valve unit. It has been on the market for a while now, and so far has not shown the same propensity of the old unit of going kaput at very low mileage. Keeping fingers crossed, one can hope Volkswagen do Brasil has finally figured out what kind of oil is needed to lubricate its 1.6 L motors.

Finally, and exclusively for its segment, the new engine also makes do without an auxiliary start up tank. In low temperatures, cars running on ethanol can have trouble firing. To avoid this, most cars here come with an extra tank you must fill with gasoline to aid firing. The new engine dispenses with this, aiding comfort and safety as there is no need for the extra tank, usually placed in the engine bay.

The Saveiro Highline comes with the 1.6 16v. I chose to drive it as I’m well acquainted with the 8v unit. It really helps the experience and makes the car that more enjoyable. Faster than ever, the little pickup has always been a handful to drive at high speeds with an empty bed. So much so that cars like these are known as caminito al cielo (road to heaven) in some South American markets. This time around VW has endowed the picape with stability control but only on the top-level Cross trim. Lower trim level buyers will have to be wary and drive with special care trying to make it around bends. While very sure-footed and planted in a straight line, the driver must not forget he is in a pickup and not a car. The bed will try to find the front of the car if the driver abuses it.

All double cab Saveiros come with disc brakes all around. Stopping power is of course enhanced, and emergency braking is done without drama. It helps that the Saveiro offers EBD throughout the Double Cab line. It’s very interesting how Brazilian cars are getting more equipped. Besides the mandatory airbags and ABS, the pickup comes with a hill holder function and special programming that allows VW to claim an off road traction launcher (depending on trim level). The Germans also claim their ABS and EBD have special programming offering better braking in muddy conditions. All of this was not present in the car I drove. For now, these are reserved for the pseudo-adventure Cross trim line.

The steering is precise as in most VW cars. In the city it’s not the lightest out there, but on the highway it beefs up nicely. Being a hydraulic unit, it offers more feedback than electric setups. The car comes with a manual 5-speed gearbox that remains among the best in Brazil. Its short and precise throws are better than the competitions and it can shift fast and true. Better yet, this time around the thumping noises of its engagement have been largely avoided.

I enjoyed this little truck. Pressure is now on Fiat to improve its Strada. Volkwagen pricing is in line with Fiat’s, but always offers just a bit more content. The drive is certainly modern and the use of an interdependent axle with longitudinal arms and springs in the back make it a less jumpy vehicle than the Strada. While the engine in the VW is smaller than the Strada’s 1.8, 16v, 132hp unit, it makes the car almost as fast and more economic, plus smoother than Fiat’s. Pulling power is aided by the hill holder function while the Strada has more torque. The Saveiro is now on par with the Strada and it will be interesting to be seen whether it will fulfill Volkswagen do Brasil’s prediction of taking over first place from the Strada. Though that will be a tough, uphill battle, the Saveiro now has what it takes.

 

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Junkyard Find: 1984 Subaru BRAT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/junkyard-find-1984-subaru-brat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/junkyard-find-1984-subaru-brat/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=892298 The Subaru BRAT, basically a factory El Camino-ized Leone, has quite the lawsuit history in this country, due to the Chicken Tax-evading-but-dangerous jump seats in the bed that made the BRAT a “car,” legally speaking. The BRAT was sold in the United States until the 1987 model year, but it’s nearly impossible to find examples […]

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03 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn RodgersThe Subaru BRAT, basically a factory El Camino-ized Leone, has quite the lawsuit history in this country, due to the Chicken Tax-evading-but-dangerous jump seats in the bed that made the BRAT a “car,” legally speaking. The BRAT was sold in the United States until the 1987 model year, but it’s nearly impossible to find examples built after the early 1980s. Here’s a reasonably nice-looking ’84 that Shawn Rodgers (you may recognize him as the hero of the Junkyard Build Quality Challenges, as well as the captain of the very fast Bunny With a Pancake On Its Head 24 Hours of LeMons Rabbit team) saw in a San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard last week and was kind enough to photograph for us.
02 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn RodgersI shoot junkyard BRATs whenever I see them, and so far in this series we’ve seen this ’79, this ’82 (which still had its jump seats), and this Sawzall-converted ’86 (I’m a sucker for cruelly hacked-up Subarus).
21 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers73 horsepower, which would be considered absolutely unacceptable in any vehicle attempting to be even vaguely truck-like today.
10 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn RodgersNice nearly-a-T-top double sunroof— called a “Halo Twin Roof”— on this one.
16 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn RodgersJust the lo-fi solution for listening to bad mid-80s AM hits!

In Australia, the BRAT was called the Brumby and it was marketed with ads featuring pig passengers.

In the United States, Ruth Gordon pitched the BRAT.

01 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 02 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 03 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 04 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 05 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 06 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 07 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 08 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 09 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 10 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 11 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 12 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 13 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 14 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 15 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 16 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 17 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 18 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 19 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 20 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 21 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 22 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 23 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 24 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 25 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 26 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 27 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 28 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 29 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 30 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers

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Report: Nissan Scraps Small Truck Plans, Navara Now On For North America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/report-nissan-scraps-small-truck-plans-navara-now-north-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/report-nissan-scraps-small-truck-plans-navara-now-north-america/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 19:15:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876322 Our industry source who reported that Nissan would use an old version of the Frontier has reported back to us with some bittersweet news. The reported next-generation Frontier, which would have been based on the bones of the old, first-generation Frontier, has been abandoned. According to our source, bringing the old technology up to modern […]

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Our industry source who reported that Nissan would use an old version of the Frontier has reported back to us with some bittersweet news.

The reported next-generation Frontier, which would have been based on the bones of the old, first-generation Frontier, has been abandoned. According to our source, bringing the old technology up to modern crash standards was too onerous a task, and the costs were simply too high – even with using an already paid for architecture.

The big issue at hand is this: Nissan still wants to have a small, basic, fuel-efficient affordable truck, since they see it as an untapped niche. Their original thinking was that the D22 Frontier would let them get their in a cost-effective way (remember, small trucks are low-margin, difficult to price and carry significant regulatory burdens). But now that this option is off the table, Nissan is forced to use the all-new Navara as a starting point.

From a superficial perspective, that’s not such a bad thing. The Navara is a modern, global mid-size pickup that is a proven design and a sales success across the globe. The problem is that, as it sits now, it’s far too expensive for what Nissan USA is looking for. So, the North American truck will use the Navara architecture, due to its crashworthiness, and ability to fit a modern, diesel engine under the hood, but the tradeoff will be a fair amount of content will not make it across the ocean.

As with the now dead D22, Nissan Mexico will be responsible for engineering the truck to meet NAFTA standards. This “clean sheet” approach, if it can be called that, will cause further delays. The current Frontier will soldier on until 2018, when the new truck arrives. A diesel variant arrives a year later. The new truck will likely have a different look and stick to the original mandate of being akin to a modern-day Hardbody. But instead of actually being a a modern day Hardbody, it will be a revamped modern truck.

Nissan had planned to give North American truck buyers something truly unique, but it was not to be. We will be getting what is arguably the better, more modern option, but this new approach will just add more time, effort and expense to the program. The goal of a low-cost, fuel-efficient pickup is still in sight. Nissan will just be approaching it in a different way.

 

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QOTD: Bring Back the Unibody Pickup? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/qotd-bring-back-the-unibody-pickup/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/qotd-bring-back-the-unibody-pickup/#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 13:35:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=837665 For decades, the formula for a successful pickup design in America has been pretty much the same. Design a simple ladder-frame chassis, drop in the biggest engine you can find, give it a front-engine rear-drive layout with an optional transfer case, and start raking in the money. From time to time, however, manufacturers have tried […]

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1024px-SubaruBaja

For decades, the formula for a successful pickup design in America has been pretty much the same. Design a simple ladder-frame chassis, drop in the biggest engine you can find, give it a front-engine rear-drive layout with an optional transfer case, and start raking in the money. From time to time, however, manufacturers have tried to swim against the current.

The last true unibody pickup (one without any type of traditional ladder frame) sold in the United States was the Subaru Baja, which ended production in 2006. A derivative of the Legacy/Outback platform, the Baja was Subaru’s attempt to cash in on the mid-2000s vogue for “sport utility trucks:” part-SUV hybrids like the Ford Explorer Sport Trac and the Chevrolet Avalanche. While those more successful models were selling well over 50,000 a year at their peak, the Subie barely managed to shift 30,000 examples in a four year run. With its funky body cladding, exposed rollbars, and limited utility compared to those other truck-based SUTs with traditional ladder-frame chassis, the Baja never managed to become anything but a niche product. Even so, it followed in a long lineage of experiments with unibody construction for pickups.

The golden age of the unibody pickup was the 60s, when every major manufacturer offered at least one. Ford had the Falcon-derived Ranchero, as well as a pickup based on the Econoline van. (The 1961-63 full-size F100 is often cited as an example of a unibody pickup design, but as Mike Levine explains here, this is technically incorrect. The ‘61-63 still had a ladder frame underneath its single-piece body.) Chevrolet had a similar offering in the Corvair Greenbrier pickup, although the more popular El Camino utilized a ladder frame. Dodge got in the unibody game with the pickup version of its A100 van. The pickup version of the Type 2 Volkswagen Transporter was increasingly popular in the burgeoning small truck segment before it became a target of the infamous Chicken Tax. That tariff also kept out the Japanese, who might otherwise have attempted to sell car-based pickups such as the Toyota Corona PU. The most popular of all these unibody pickups was the Falcon Ranchero. It offered meaningful size and economy advantages over the full-size trucks of the time, and was available with a greater number of creature comforts.

Many of these unibody pickups disappeared in the 70s, as compact, conventionally engineered Japanese pickups became more widely available. Many of these were captive imports sold by the Big 3, who utilized tricks like importing cab-chassis units separately to avoid the Chicken Tax. Unibody pickups didn’t reappear again until the 1980s. The Subaru BRAT was the first of these, followed by the Rabbit-based Volkswagen Pick-Up. The Volkswagen PU was an attempt to squeeze more volume out of the disappointingly slow-selling Rabbit; the Dodge Rampage and Plymouth Scamp were similar attempts to expand the use of Chrysler’s L Platform. Neither of those was particularly successful, with both the Volkswagen and Rampage/Scamp cancelled after only three years. The BRAT was reasonably popular, lasting in the US market until 1987. The Jeep Comanche was based on the unibody XJ Cherokee, but used a ladder frame to strengthen the superstructure. Around 190,000 units were produced before new Jeep owner Chrysler called it quits in 1992; the company didn’t want the Comanche cannibalizing Dodge’s truck offerings. After that, there were no more unibody trucks in the United States until the introduction of the Baja. Cheap gas and a slew of competitive ladder-frame pickups meant that the incentive to develop a unibody pickup was limited.

Like Subaru, Honda tried to cash in on the SUT trend with the Ridgeline. Although based off the unibody Odyssey minivan, the Ridgeline utilizes a hybrid chassis setup that incorporates a box frame. Sales have been disappointing, with the model scheduled to go out of production this month, although a sequel has been promised by Honda. The Ridgeline is often cited by midsize truck pessimists as emblematic of the reasons the segment has gone into decline. The truck offers no serious fuel economy advantage over a full-sizer. It also has a smaller bed, a lower tow rating, and less power, all in a footprint not much smaller than that of a full-size. Attempting to straddle segments was the Ridgeline’s doom. Buyers who wanted power, room, towing and hauling capability, and who didn’t care about mileage bought Avalanches, Sport Tracs, and full-sizers. Economy-minded individuals went for the cheaper, more utilitarian options like the Frontier and Tacoma. None of these alternatives were particularly great on gas, but neither was the Ridgeline; and they all offered price and/or capability advantages that the Ridgeline didn’t have. That doesn’t mean, however, that the unibody truck should necessarily go the way of the dodo.

The greatest argument against a renaissance in the small-to-midsize truck segment is profitability. Small trucks often have thin margins, and it’s hard to justify separate development programs for unique platforms. That’s ultimately what killed the Ranger in the United States, as well as the Dakota. GM is spreading out the development cost of the new Colorado/Canyon by making it a world market vehicle, but it remains to be seen if this strategy will work. Only the Tacoma has proven to be a consistent winner in the US market, and it also has the advantage of being globally sold; the same is true of the new Frontier. A US-only compact truck platform is a mistake. Repealing the Chicken Tax might open up the market to more imports, but ideally a compact truck would be developed from a platform already in use in the US. This would lower the cost of federalization, while at the same time increasing the margin derived from already existing platforms. That’s where unibody design comes in.

America is awash in unibody CUVs, whose platforms could be utilized to make compact and midsize trucks. The Chevrolet Montana/Tornado has been mentioned by small-truck aficionados as a possible import, but the cost of certifying it for American sale would probably be prohibitive. Instead, it would make more sense for GM to develop a small truck from either the Theta or Epsilon architectures, both of which have already been adapted for the American market. A small truck based on the Equinox, for example, might be profitably produced for the American market. If a small truck can offer significant price or fuel economy advantages over full-sizers, it can justify its existence against highly competitive full-size offerings. Even so, doubts remain about the segment’s overall viability. FCA chairman Sergio Marchionne recently alluded to this when discussing possible plans for a future compact pickup in the United States. Could a unibody truck be the savior of the compact truck segment?

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Junkyard Find: 1962 International Harvester C-120 Travelette http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/junkyard-find-1962-international-harvester-c-120-travelette/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/junkyard-find-1962-international-harvester-c-120-travelette/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 13:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=791945 There was once a time when you could buy street vehicles made by a farm equipment manufacturer, and IHC products still show up in self-service wrecking yards today. In this series so far, we’ve seen this ’70 Scout, this ’71 Travelall, this ’71 Scout, this ’72 1010 pickup, this ’73 Scout, and this ’74 Scout. […]

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21 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere was once a time when you could buy street vehicles made by a farm equipment manufacturer, and IHC products still show up in self-service wrecking yards today. In this series so far, we’ve seen this ’70 Scout, this ’71 Travelall, this ’71 Scout, this ’72 1010 pickup, this ’73 Scout, and this ’74 Scout. The crew-cab Travelette is a machine you won’t see every day, so I shot this ’62 that I spotted in a Northern California wrecking yard.
01 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBeing a California truck, there’s minimal rust here, but 52 years of hard work have worn everything out.
04 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHere’s a good old Black Diamond 240-cubic-inch straight-six, rated at 141 horses in 1962. Yes, that’s not much more power than a 2014 Corolla gets; pickup drivers were tougher back when instant annihilation threatened.
14 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinTwo huge bench seats, and a custom shag-carpet headliner.
26 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI’m a little puzzled by this bumper extension. Is this to protect the open tailgate when hauling extra-long loads?

01 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 26 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 27 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Review: 2014 Ram 1500 Eco Diesel (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-ram-1500-eco-diesel-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-ram-1500-eco-diesel-with-video/#comments Mon, 02 Dec 2013 15:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=664570 There’s just something about a diesel pickup truck that makes grown men regress into Tonka-loving children. Even my Prius-driving environmentalist friends in Berkeley admit they secretly want a diesel pickup. The problem of course is that diesel pickups are expensive (the cheapest diesel Ram 2500 is $36,975 and it doesn’t have an automatic transmission, the cheapest […]

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2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-005

There’s just something about a diesel pickup truck that makes grown men regress into Tonka-loving children. Even my Prius-driving environmentalist friends in Berkeley admit they secretly want a diesel pickup. The problem of course is that diesel pickups are expensive (the cheapest diesel Ram 2500 is $36,975 and it doesn’t have an automatic transmission, the cheapest oil-burning F-250 is $38,250) and, for the majority of us, the high payload and towing capacities are overkill. While economical in a specific sense, the large diesel trucks aren’t “fuel-efficient” either. Until now. Mark your calendars folks, The 2014 Ram 1500 Eco Diesel is the half-ton truck in America sporting a small diesel engine.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Although new in 2010 and refreshed for the 2013, the 1500 is undeniably a Ram. That’s because Chrysler prefers evolutionary rather than revolutionary styling when it comes to their volume truck. That’s not a bad thing, since the 1994 style cues that have lived on were sexy back then, and still attractive today. The big-rig  front end still captures my attention, but despite my family’s Ram addiction, I find the 2014 Silverado’s nose to be the better looker. As with most redesigns, the front end got bigger, brasher and has more chrome than ever before.

As you’d expect from Chrysler’s best-selling vehicle, you can get your Ram in a bevy of configurations. There are 9 trim levels, three cabs and three bed sizes available. Mix and match them and you can drive for miles without seeing an identical Ram. Of course two of those 9 trim levels cannot be injected with some diesel love. Thankfully however the trims are excluded are the Sport and Express, meaning the base Tradesman trim is diesel eligible, bringing the diesel pickup entry point down to $28,465, $8,150 less than the cheapest diesel truck in 2013. Interestingly, nothing outside calls attention to the engine under the hood aside from the EcoDiesel badging on the front quarter panels. Out back, we get twin chrome exhaust tips, just like the V8 model and the engine idles so quietly most people assumed a gasoline V6 was under the hood. More on that later.

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-002

Interior

As I said in my Silverado review last week, I was surprised that GM didn’t delay the Silverado launch to spend some time polishing up the interior. Despite the re-tweaked 2013 Ram being on the market a year before GM’s truck launched (and the basis for that interior landing in 2010) the Ram still has the best interior in the segment. Your level of interior refinement varies by trim level with the entry-level Tradesman model using plenty of hard plastics while the top-end Ram coats in the interior in stitched leather and real wood trim. In an interesting move, SLT and Laramie models can be optioned to have the same two-ton dash as the top-end Long Horn edition although the real wood and a few other niceties are skipped. Regardless of the trim, controls are conveniently located and easy to operate. While certain models keep a traditional column shifter, most Ram 1500s will be equipped with Dodge and Ram’s Jaguar-like rotary-knob shifter. While I agree that it saves console space vs a console mounted unit, it strikes me as “gimmickier”. I found it tricky to use at first but did become used to it after a week.

Front seat comfort in the Ram is excellent, but a hair behind the Silverado. That’s thanks largely to someone at Chrysler’s ergonomics department that has a concave posterior. All of Chrysler’s latest seat designs have a pronounced (and firm) bottom cushion that feels like you’re sitting on an exercise ball. Although less of a problem in the Ram than in the Chrysler 200, the problem is still present. Despite this I had no issues driving the Ram for 2 hours at a time and I still found it a better place to spend my time than an F-150. Rear seats are lower to the floor than in Chevy’s new truck and slightly less comfortable as well.

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-005

Infotainment

Things start off with uConnect 3.0 which is a basic head unit with a 4-line monochromatic display. Similar to Ford’s basic SYNC system, uConnect 3.0 offers full MP3/iDevice integration for media without the fancy graphics. Next we have uConnect 5.0. While this middle tier system may look like the uConnect system we have seen before, it’s actually unrelated. Running on a Microsoft embedded OS and not QNX (a UNIX variant), the unit is more sluggish than the 8.4-inch system but offers many of the same features excluding navigation. While other Chrysler and Fiat models will have the option to add TomTom navigation later, that doesn’t appear to apply to the Ram.

Our Laramie model was equipped with the second generation uConnect 8.4 system. The second generation system adds smartphone app integration, emergency crash notification and 911 assist (along the lines of OnStar). The big deal here is the inclusion of a dedicated Sprint cellular modem integrated into the system. This allows the head unit to function similarly to OnStar in that you don’t have to have a paired Bluetooth cell phone to get emergency services (like you do with Ford’s MyFord Touch). uConnect can also act as a 3G WiFi hot spot if you pay for the right subscription. Software updates can be downloaded over the air and the user can buy/download apps via the integrated app store, just like a smartphone. The standard 6-speaker sound system is not much to write home about, but the seven or nine speaker Alipne system that comes standard with the 8.4-inch touchscreen on most models has a balanced and natural sound.

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel 3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel Engine-001Drivetrain

Base models still have a 305 horsepower 3.6L V6 borrowed from Chrysler’s passenger cars, good for 269 lb-ft of torque. That’s about the same as Ford’s 3.7L V6 but well below GM’s truck-only 4.3L engine. Shoppers can still get some HEMI-love by checking the box for the second generation 5.7L V8 making 395 ponies and a healthy 410 lb-ft of torque. But gasoline engines aren’t what’s new, it’s the diesel burning 3.0L V6 that we’re all here to talk about. But first we need to walk back in time.

In 2007 GM purchased 50% of the Italian engine maker VM Motori. The logic was that GM needed a smooth Euro compliant diesel engine for the Cadillac CTS (and other models) in order to compete with the Germans. Sadly, GM declared bankruptcy between the engine being designed and the engine actually being used so it sat on a shelf. In 2011 Fiat bought the other half of VM Motori and found the engine gathering dust. Fiat had some quick tweaks done to the engine to make it more suitable for their use and the EcoDiesel V6 was born. While there was much talk about GM getting their hands on this same engine for Silverado duty, Fiat recently snapped up the other half of VM Motri making this a Fiat/Chrysler engine in every way that matters.

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel 3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel Engine

The high revving single turbo aluminum-block V6 engine produces 240 horsepower and a stout 420 lb-ft of torque. If those numbers sound impressive, consider this. The first 5.9L Cummins engine Chrysler used in the 2500 and 3500 series RAM trucks produced 94 fewer ponies and 20 fewer twists. In the biggest statement of progress I have seen in a while, that Cummins also delivered its power via five fewer gears.

Like the rest of the Ram 1500 lineup (except for one model with a 5.7L HEMI), all 1/2 ton Rams now use ZF’s 8-speed automatic transmission. If you’re worried it’s just a passenger car transmission that’s not up to the task, ZF’s 8-speed transmissions are also found behind the insane twin-turbo V12s that the Germans love so much.

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior

Towing & Payload

The 2014 Silverado’s 1,875 to 2,100 pound payload easily bests the Ram’s 1,340-1,620 pound range and even the F-150’s 1,510-2,090 is superior depending on how you align the trim level comparisons. (Ford still offers a “Heavy Duty” package on the F-150 which gives it a stronger frame comparable to the F-250 but Ram and GM have killed similar packages on their models.) Likewise the Ram Eco Diesel’s 9,200lb tow rating pales in comparison with the Silverado’s 12,000lb towing rating. Until you actually tow or haul that is.

Drive

Unless you need those extra pounds of payload capacity (a valid point to be sure), most shoppers will be better off with the Ram. Why? Because of how it tows and hauls. Let’s start with the 8-speed automatic. Even if you don’t choose the diesel engine, the 8-speed automatic’s greater ratio spread and faster gear changes more than bridge the 30-36 lb-ft divide between the Silverado and the Ram V6 and V8. That ratio spread and the high 4,800 RPM redline of the small diesel engine combine to make the Ram drive more like a gasoline V8 truck around town. With my 7,500lb trailer (loaded) attached, the 1500 Eco Diesel pulled effortlessly up steep grades with the transmission cranking out shifts like a Gatling gun. The small diesel and tall final gear allowed the 5,800lb pickup truck to average an impressive 24.2 MPG during my week with the truck which included out towing, hauling and 0-60 tests. On the open highway it had no trouble averaging 29 MPG at 70 MPH.

This is going to sound nuts to some, but I’m actually disappointed with the way the engine sounds. Chrysler fitted an ultra quiet exhaust system and more foam padding than a teenager’s bra to the 3.0L V6. This means that aside from a glow-plug icon on the dash that flashes for a millisecond, you’d be hard pressed to know a diesel is under the hood. After the engine has been started you get a brief moment of diesel clatter before it settles down to a quiet idle. When pressed, the engine clatters a hair more but it never sounds like a 3/4 ton diesel. Pity.

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-010

Ram raised eyebrows when they announced that their half ton truck would use coil rather than leaf springs in the rear suspension. The change has been lauded by some and vilified by the folks with Calvin-peeing-on-Ram stickers on their trucks. The truth is of course somewhere in the middle. Coil springs are more complicated to design because the spring doesn’t locate the rear axle, making trailing arms and other links necessary. Coils also handle overloading poorly when compared to a more traditional leaf setup. On the flip side, coils weigh less, provide a better ride, greater articulation and help in reducing wheel hop when the bed is empty. The simple truth is that the vast majority of pickup trucks spend their time with an empty bed. The spring rate chosen is an obvious trade off to deliver the RAM’s class leading road manners but it does result in payload capacity being about 400lbs lower than the Silverado at a maximum. Thankfully Chrysler’s 5-link suspension design, adapted from the previous generations of Grand Cherokee, maintains its poise when fully loaded (unlike GM’s 1960s attempt at coils.)

The bigger benefit of using a four-corner coil suspension is that it was relatively easy for Chrysler to adapt the Grand Cherokee’s height-adjustable air suspension system to the 1/2 ton truck. The $1,695 system is available on all quad cab and crew cab models, in all trims and in every driveline and engine configuration. In my opinion, the air suspension and $230 integrated trailer brake controller are worth every penny. Yes, the suspension allows you to vary the RAM’s ride height from 6.7 inches to 10.7 inches, but the real reason I’d pay money for it is that it also load levels. Keeping the suspension at the middle of its travel results in a better ride and more effective damping whether your truck is loaded or not.

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-009

The Eco Diesel is listed as a $4,000 option over the V6, but there are a few “hidden” costs. The only model that can’t get the 3.0L wonder is the short bed, short cab Tradesman meaning you’ll have to pay $385 for the 8-foot bed to be eligible. You’ll also have to pay $500 extra for the heavy-duty version of the 8-speed automatic bringing the total up to $28,465. That means the true premium is $4,885 at the Tradesman level. Versus the 5.7L HEMI, you’ll pay $3,350 more. When you run the numbers, the diesel won’t save you much over the 3.6L V6 but the V8 is a different matter. Even at the high fuel costs in California (and considering the cost of urea) the diesel would save nearly $750 a year in fuel resulting in a possible payback in under 5 years at 15,000 miles a year.

Even without the Eco Diesel, the Ram is the first choice in the half ton market unless you needed the maximum towing or payload capacities delivered by the 2014 Silverado. It doesn’t hurt that the Ram is slightly cheaper than the Ford or Chevy when comparably equipped. Toss in the first small diesel, the only 8-speed automatic, a load leveling air suspension system and you have quite simply the best tow vehicle in the half-ton segment. Considering that the Ram Eco Diesel is only $2,720 more than a V8 F-150 and $2,560 more than a V8 Silverado, your pay back window is even shorter than compared to Ram’s own HEMI. Or for folks like my dad who are looking to replace their 15 year old RAM 2500 Cummins but are suffering from modern 3/4 ton sticker shock, the 1500 diesel makes an interesting proposition. Compared to that generation of Ram 2500, this Ram 1500 is more capable in nearly every way. Thanks to GM needing a European market diesel Caddy and Chrysler’s bankruptcy and resurrection by Fiat, we have quite simply the most exciting vehicle I have driven this year.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.38 Seconds

0-60: 7.75 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.03 Seconds @ 84 MPH

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 67 dB

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 24.2 MPG over 765 miles

 

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel 3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel Engine 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel 3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel Engine-001 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel 3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel Engine-002 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-001 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-002 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-003 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-004 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-005 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-006 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-007 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-008 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-009 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-010 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-011 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-012 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-001 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-002 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-003 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-004 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-005 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-006 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-007 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-008 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-009 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-010 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-011 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-012 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel LCD Instrument Cluster

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Review: 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/review-2014-chevrolet-silverado-1500-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/review-2014-chevrolet-silverado-1500-with-video/#comments Tue, 19 Nov 2013 15:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=649338 I’ve never cared for the phrase “as American as apple pie” as apple pie is far from an American invention. Instead, we should say as “American as the pickup truck.” In 1925 Ford crafted the “Ford Model T Runabout with Pickup Body” and America’s love affair began. The Chevrolet Silverado, and its mechanical twin the […]

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2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I’ve never cared for the phrase “as American as apple pie” as apple pie is far from an American invention. Instead, we should say as “American as the pickup truck.” In 1925 Ford crafted the “Ford Model T Runabout with Pickup Body” and America’s love affair began. The Chevrolet Silverado, and its mechanical twin the GMC Sierra, may not be the best-selling vehicle in America (that award goes to the aging Ford F-150) but the Chevy alone has outsold the Toyota Camry by 55,000 units this year. Toss in the Sierra and there are more GM trucks sold on our shores in a year than all the Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche products put together. The high sales number and high profit margins explain the intense Ford vs Chevy vs RAM rivalry. With a new RAM in 2013 and a light refresh only a year later, GM is firing back with an all-new Silverado and Sierra. Does Chevy’s new half-ton have what it takes to be king of the hill?

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Outside, the 2014 Silverado retains Chevy’s classic styling cues with stacked headlamps and plenty of straight lines. Although I didn’t think it possible, the wheel wells have become even more square for 2014.  GM’s trucks have long been the sedate option in the half ton market, but Chevy has decided to inject a more passion for 2014. Up front we get a bolder grille, and following in Ford and Chrysler’s footsteps, there’s the vaguest hint of “big rig” styling in the hood stamping. New projector headlamps and an enormous chrome bumper round out the transformation.

Although the Silverado has grown slightly over the last generation, the difference isn’t huge. One major change for 2014 that does increase the truck’s size is the availability of the standard bed (6′ 6″) and crew cab combination making this combo 10 inches longer than the 2013 crew cab model and just shy of 20-feet. Also increasing in size for 2014 are the enormous square wheel wells. Square wells with round wheels have always looked a little peculiar to my eye. Be sure to sound off in the comment section. Although it’s a GM design cue that’s lived on for years, I think the square wheel wells would look better with a square-themed wheel. The ginormous openings will likely make aftermarket tuners happy since it’s easier to stuff bigger rubber on the Silverado without modification, but it made out tester’s enormous 20-inch wheels look small. Despite the squareness, and my family’s allegiance to the RAM brand, I think the Silverado manages to be the best looking half ton on the market by a hair.

2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes
Interior

While the outside impressed me with bold, aggressive styling and impressive fit and finish for a pickup truck, I was honestly disappointed by the interior. I found the Silverado a better place to spend my time than the Ford, but the 2014 RAM is not only more pleasing in style, but also more functional and Chrysler offers an extensive upgrade list including real wood trim and leather door panels. Practical features have long been a selling point and that continues for the Silverado. We get two glove boxes, large door storage pockets and a new center console in 5-passenger models. The wide console sports a whopping five USB ports, two of which are linked to the infotainment system while the others are charge only. There are multiple 12V DC outlets and an optional 120V inverter if you click the right option box. The console storage has been improved for 2014 but I found it to be slightly less useful than Ford or RAM’s stashes due to the cup holder module which “kinda-sorta” covers the front of the console. (Check out the picture above.)

Front seat comfort is easily the best in the half-ton market regardless of trim level. RAM’s front seats suffer from the same ergonomic flaw as many of Chrysler’s latest products: seats you sit on, not in. The Chevy’s seats on the other hand seemed perfectly shaped while the foam ranged from plush in our LTZ tester, to moderately firm in the base models. Likewise the rear seats scored top in the class with soft padding and seat bottom cushions that provided more thigh support than the competition.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Infotainment

If you’re a regular reader, you will know that I have praised GM’s low and mid-range touchscreen systems as some of the best in the business. Sadly the Silverado does not use that system. Instead, the Silverado joins the Impala and Buick LaCrosse in using a modified version of Cadillac’s CUE. So as not to step directly on their luxury brand’s toes, there are a few changes made to the system for truck duty. The expensive glass capacitive touchscreen (looks like a modern smartphone) is swapped for a resistive unit that isn’t as crisp or as glare reducing. The Chevy and Buick systems also get physical buttons for some system features, a marked improvement over Cadillac’s touchscreen only interface. Aside from these charges, the majority of CUE remains.

Like Ford’s MyFord Touch system, MyLink is sluggish in general and sometimes totally unresponsive. The software also suffers from unintuitive menu layouts and old-school mapping software that doesn’t jive with the system’s high-resolution screen. Like CUE, some multi-touch gestures are supported, but the different touchscreen is less able to decipher your intent leading to some frustrating moments. On the bright side, CUE’s selling points remain. The system’s voice command system features natural language commands and instead of treating the USB ports as separate inputs, the system aggregates them into one large music library allowing you to voice command songs without specifying the device.

Overall this implementation of MyLink ties with Toyota’s Entune system in the Tundra for third, with MyFord Touch coming in second and Chrysler’s uConnect taking the lead. uConnect is far more intuitive, the graphics are more pleasing to the eye and the system is generally more responsive. Thanks to a 2014 software update the RAM now offers OnStar like emergency services as well as app integration in the head unit.  The last thing you should know about MyLink is that it is hard to avoid. Most models of the Silverado on the lot have either the large screen or small screen version with only the most basic trim levels getting a standard radio/CD player unit.

2014 5.3L V-8 EcoTec3 AFM VVT DI (L83) for Chevrolet Silverado aDrivetrain

Instead of aping and releasing a new model with old engines, GM packs in three brand-new engines for 2014. Dubbed the EcoTec3 engine family, the Silverado comes standard with a 4.3L V6, an optional 5.3L V8 and soon there will be a 6.2L V8. All three engines share design elements, push rods and direct-injection. The 4.3L V6 is exclusive to GM’s trucks, not shared with cars and crossovers like Ford and Chrysler, the reason is obvious when you look at the power numbers. At 285 HP and 305 lb-ft of torque, the large V6 produced less power but considerably more torque than Ford’s 3.7 or or RAM’s 3.6. Thanks to variable valve timing and the direct-injection sauce, the V6 Silverado manages 18/24 MPG (City/Highway) without any special fuel economy trim parts added. While it doesn’t beat the RAM SFE’s 25 MPG highway number, it beats everything else.

Our tester had GM’s volume engine option, the 355 HP and 383 lb-ft 5.3L V8. In addition to the same variable valve timing and direct-injection systems the V6 gets, both V8 engines feature cylinder deactivation to improve highway MPGs. The 5.3L engine cranks out less power and twist than RAM’s 5.7L HEMI, but is competitive against Ford’s 5.0L V8. Those interested in V8 bragging rights will want to jump up to the 6.2L V8 which produces a class leading 420 ponies and 440 lb-ft of torque.

Regardless of the engine you choose, a GM 6-speed automatic will be sending power to the ground. The rumor mill is alive and well that an 8-speed automatic is in the works but GM has no official line on that. That puts GM on par with the 6-speed F-150 and two cogs behind the 2014 RAM 1500. You’ll find the usual part-time four-wheel drive systems and an off-road package in the Silverado but you won’t find the 2014 half-ton game changer under any Silverado’s hood: a small diesel. If your interest is piqued, come back for our review of the 2014 RAM 1500 diesel in a few weeks.

2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Towing and Payload

Trucks are all about hauling and towing and GM came to this fight to win. While most pickup trucks advertise high payloads yet only deliver those payload numbers in very specific model/trim combinations, the Silverado boasts large numbers across the board. Ranging from 1,875 to 2,100 pounds, the Silverado easily bests the RAM’s 1,340-1,620 pound payload range (now that the RAM 1500 “Heavy Duty” has been axed) and likewise is more impressive than the F-150’s 1,510-2,090 range. (The F-150 is available in a heavy-duty frame model which uses F-250 frame and suspension parts and F-150 sheet metal, I don’t consider that a half-ton truck.) The big thing to know about the Silverado’s payload numbers however is how simple the payload chart is and how little it varies from one model to the next unlike Ford’s payload chart that is pages long.

When it comes to towing, Toyota would like us all to know that they are the only one with a SAE certification when it comes to towing. Does that matter? Probably not. With the 4.3L six-banger the Silverado is good for 5,900-7,200lbs of conventional trailering, 1,100 more than Ford’s base V6 but lower than the RAM V6 thanks to their new ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic. 5.3L models jump to 6,800-11,400, ahead of the RAM and Ford and if serious towing is your bag, the 6.2L V8 can haul a 12,000lb trailer. Of course anything over 10,000lbs is probably academic for half-ton owners, since most states require you to have a commercial license to haul that kind of weight. When it comes to towing capacity, the Silverado V8s are king, but how about towing feel? That’s a different story.

2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesDrive

With my 7,500lbs trailer attached, the Silverado and the RAM’s towing abilities are defined by their transmission. With two fewer gears to choose from, the Silverado felt less capable despite the stouter numbers on paper. It’s all about the feel, especially when hill climbing. The Silverado’s V6 may put out more torque than Chrysler’s 3.6L car engine, but as Archimedes said “give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” ZF’s 8-speed automatic seemed to always have the right gear for every situation with the V6. Things get even better in RAM-land when you hitch the sheep up to Chrysler’s more powerful 5.7L HEMI. And that’s before we even talk about RAM’s new 3.0L diesel engine with 420 lb-ft of twist mated to the same transmission. This places the Silverd0, yet again, second in the class behind the RAM but ahead of the Ford.

The RAM beats the Silverado when it comes to ride quality as well.  Whether the RAM is loaded or empty, equipped with the standard coil springs or the optional air suspension, the ride is both softer and more composed than the Chevy. The RAM’s ability to load-level with that optional suspension puts even more daylight between the RAM and the GM pickups. I have to temper that with the reality that the RAM can’t tow or haul as much as the Silverado. Shoppers will need to decide if payload and towing limits are more important than ride quality since needs will vary. Likely due to the F-150’s age, the Ford feels more disconnected than the Silverado both on and off the road.
2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Gauges-001

Although a 16.8 MPG average might sound bad to Camcord shoppers, that’s not a bad number for a V8 pickup truck on a daily commute cycle with 120 miles of weekend trailer towing. GMç 6-speed transmission has a fairly tall 6th gear and the Ecotec3 family of V8 engines has an aggressive cylinder deactivation program. Combined they allow the Silverado with the 5.3L V8 to get 23 highway MPGs in 2WD trim and 22 MPG in 4WD trim according to the EPA. On a level highway with the cruise control set to 68 I had no troubles averaging 26-27 MPG when the ending was in 4-cylinder mode. Despite the RAM’s 8-speed transmission, the Silverado delivers superior EPA and real world MPG numbers while sipping on regular gasoline (RAM recommends mid-grade in HEMI models.)

Our Silverado Z71 LTZ 4WD tester rang in at $50,475 thanks to a bevy of options from park assist to a heated steering wheel and 20-inch chrome wheels. However you configure your Silverado, the 2014 model will be asking a $1,500 premium over the 2013 model thanks to a late price hike from the general. Although there are still plenty of cash on the hood offers, many dealers are complaining that the price tags are scaring away potential shoppers. This means the MSRP for our Silverado was between $1,500 and $2,500 higher than competitive Ford or RAM trucks with the difference widening slightly when you adjust for feature content. When you factor in GM’s deeper discounts the difference becomes negligible but the crazy logic remains the same.

At the end of a week, I was sorry to see the Silverado go but I was also sad GM didn’t delay the Silverado for a year. With the 2013 RAM meeting press and sales success, I think there was a missed opportunity to put the Silverado on hold, toss in a new transmission and an optional self leveling coil spring rear suspension. Doing so would have made the Silverado more competitive in this high volume, high profit segment. Still, the Silverado has a great deal going for it. With the highest payload and towing capacities in the market combined with the best real world fuel economy numbers there are some good reasons to put the Silverado at the top of your list. For the rest of us, the RAM’s better road manners, snazzier feature list, top-notch infotainment system and excellent 8-speed automatic will seal the deal.

 

General Motors provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.13 Seconds

0-60: 8.17 Seconds

 1/4 Mile: 16.5 Seconds @ 87.5 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 16.8 MPG over 784 Miles

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 67 dB

 

2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-001 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-002 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-003 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-005 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-007 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-009 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-010 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-011 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-012 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-013 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Gauges 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Gauges-001 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Infotainment-001 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior-001 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior-002 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior-004 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior-005 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior-006 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior-007 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

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Jeep Grand Comanche Episode 2: We Jack ‘Em Up In The Yard http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/jeep-grand-comanche-episiode-2-we-jack-em-up-in-the-yard/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/jeep-grand-comanche-episiode-2-we-jack-em-up-in-the-yard/#comments Thu, 07 Nov 2013 23:24:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=644274 If you haven’t heard by now, there’s a new project car in TTAC’s “garage,” a 2000 Grand Cherokee Limited. I of course use the term garage simply because “gravel driveway” fails to have the same ring. Why a car guy doesn’t have a garage is a story for a different time. All I will say […]

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2000 Jeep Grand Comance Project Car

If you haven’t heard by now, there’s a new project car in TTAC’s “garage,” a 2000 Grand Cherokee Limited. I of course use the term garage simply because “gravel driveway” fails to have the same ring. Why a car guy doesn’t have a garage is a story for a different time. All I will say on the matter is that I was promised a garage with a 2-post lift and I am still waiting…  Back to the car. Before we chop the lid off the WJ Grand Cherokee to convert it into a two door, two seat Grand Comanche we needed to tackle a few projects. We need a lift kit, off-road rubber, then we need to ditch the interior and take care of some general housekeeping items.

Iron Rock Off Road 3-inch lift kit

The whole point of this project car is for the Jeep to act as a farm utility vehicle. Since this 2000 Limited model was equipped with the “Up Country” suspension package it had a factory lift of one inch to 10.3 inches of ground clearance. If that sounds better than a John Deere Gator’s 8.5 inches, remember that the farm utility vehicle has a really short wheelbase. Translating that up to the project car meant adding three inches. (Keep in mind that since our Jeep had the factory one inch lift, the three-inch lift kits increase the height by only two inches since their base number uses the stock 4×4 ground clearance. )

After a an intense Googling session, I settled on the $499 Iron Rock Off Road lift kit. My logic was simple: it was the cheapest three-inch lift kit I could find. Why not four? According to the Jeep experts I asked, a four-inch lift would have required more complicated modifications including lowering the transfer case. I fell for the suggestion to toss in a $70 shock upgrade and my out-the-door was $633.98 after shipping.

Lift Kit In Progress

The kit arrived on time and in two large and heavy boxes. Everything was well packaged but the instructions could have been a bit better. While I pride myself as an above average DIY-wrencher, I would have liked some more detailed instructions simply as a safety margin. If you’re not comfortable disassembling your suspension, you’ll be paying hundred for the installation.

Because I’m a moron with a desire to live, when one of my spring compressors gave up on me, I decided instead of compressing the spring on side (and making it look like a big banana) I would just unbolt the suspension from the body so it would be low enough to install the springs without the compressor. This meant jacking the Jeep up one side at a time (two jacks would cost money and I’m cheap), placing a large concrete paver on the gravel to support a jack stand and then raising the other side in the same way. Right about the time I was breaking suspension bolts loose with a 24-inch breaker bar and making the Jeep sway on my dollar-store jack stands I realized this was stupid. Yet I continued.

With the lift kit installed after about 6 hours total I was able to bolt on the next item.

ProCom 16 inch steel wheels

Pro Comp 16-inch steel wheels

No project Jeep would ever be complete without steel rims. Black steel rims. Since I didn’t want to go crazy big and I wanted a large aspect ratio tire, I stick with a 16-inch wheel diameter and jumped up to an 8-inch wide wheel. Cost: $377.88 delivered. Yeehaw.

Pro Comp Xtreme MT2

Pro Comp Xtreme MT2 265/75R16

When it came to the tires my choice was limited. Because I opted for just a three inch body lift, I knew I couldn’t go too crazy on the rubber. I trolled all the Jeep forums I could find and my 30 second research indicated that a 265/75R16 would be the biggest thing I could stuff in there without pushing the wheel outside the body or sawzalling the body to pieces. After 30 seconds of online comparison I found a deal on Pro Comp Xtreme MT2 tires in just the right size for a grant total of $1,007 at my door. In hind sight a 4-inch lift kit would have helped me out here and something around 6 inches would have allowed me to get more serious 33-inch tires, but I was committed at this point.

Because I have a few connections in the fleet world, I was able to snag some time in the mechanic’s bay of a local company with a service vehicle fleet. Being the cheap bastard I am, I mounted and balanced the tires myself for free. This is also why one wheel has about 7 wheel weights on it, although I seem to have balanced them fairly well as there isn’t even a faint vibration on the highway. Score one for the cheap dudes.

Although there are more aggressive tires out there, I decided that it would be handy to be able to drive the Grand Comanche to the feed store directly. The alternative would be to drive something else to the feed store, pick up hay, straw, feed, etc, then swap it into the cut-up-hoopty for delivery. Even so the on-road toll is obvious with the tires being significantly louder than all terrains.

Jeep on alignment rack

Oops

This brings our total to $2,018.86 in parts followed by a $79 four-wheel alignment which is required after you disassemble this much of any car.  Since the car was gifted to the project, I considered this good value thus far. Then I decided to cross the creek and drive through the woods. More on that later.

 

This project is obviously for entertainment value only. My entertainment value primarily, but if you find it interesting to watch then we’re on to something. This means that comments like “why don’t you sell it and buy a X instead?” are pointless. Also obvious is the fact that I’ve never done anything like this before so it is incredibly likely that I’ll be doing stupid things, getting things wrong and generally making an ass of myself. That’s just par for this course. While I may mention specific products, I’m not endorsing anything and no person or company has given this project any free stuff. (This makes me very sad.) Lastly, if you have any suggestions, know of any sources for parts, or are in the area and want to check the disaster out, let us know.

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Piston Slap: Dash The Passat for The Road Not Taken? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/piston-slap-dash-the-passat-for-the-road-not-taken/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/piston-slap-dash-the-passat-for-the-road-not-taken/#comments Wed, 18 Sep 2013 12:52:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=518833 TTAC Commentator MightyTall writes: Hello Sajeev, I’ve been reading your articles and enjoying your sage advice given to other people. And since you said you’re running low on submissions, here’s mine: I’m currently driving a well maintained reliable 140hp 2.0l Turbodiesel, 6-speed manual 2007 Passat station wagon … 157.000 km on the clock and no […]

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TTAC Commentator MightyTall writes:

Hello Sajeev,

I’ve been reading your articles and enjoying your sage advice given to other people. And since you said you’re running low on submissions, here’s mine: I’m currently driving a well maintained reliable 140hp 2.0l Turbodiesel, 6-speed manual 2007 Passat station wagon … 157.000 km on the clock and no troubles.

I love the car and it loves me back, which is why I think I need an additional vehicle to do some dirty work. I hunt and thus often go to the woods on badly maintained dirt roads and occasionally logging road type terrain. While the Passat gives me no trouble getting there I think I’m putting undue wear on it and giving it the occasional “northwestern pinstripe” due to vegetation reaching out into the tracks. Hurts my insides watching the great car slowly getting beat up.

So what I’m thinking is, I want a SUV or Pickup Truck that fits the work environment… So no carpets, no shiny bits and pieces and as long as there isn’t rust I don’t even mind if it is already a bit battered. Now here’s the main issue, I’m 6’9″ (206cm) tall and 250 lbs … so I can’t just fit any sardine can.

Newer Japanese equipment is generally out of the question…why they shrink the insides of their vehicles in the light of demographics showing ever taller people is beyond me, but anything beyond Model Year 2000 ish seems to be smaller. Land Rover, one of my favourites, is also out … 5’8″ is the max one can be to drive those.

So really what I’m stuck with is Nissan Terrano I and II, the King Cab Pickup or their Mitsubishi and Toyota equivalents. Also Lada Niva might be interesting or if we go to more commercial type vehicles it would be a VW synchro Transporter van or box truck.

To recap, I want a basically bulletproof vehicle that is easy to keep clean and will last me several years without too much investment, preferably Diesel. Rust is a no-no since the TÜV is really adamant that no structural components be affected. SUV is also rather second choice due to the difficulty of cleaning in the cargo area and also the higher tax cost … Germany is really milking the high displacement Diesels.

If confronted with such choices and with a budget of about 5.000 € what would it be for you?

Cheers,
Mightytall

Sajeev answers:

Northwestern Pinstripe? Nice: here it’s known as “Texas Pinstriping.” It’s a mark of pride for those who do real work and I betcha you know that feeling. So thank you for writing.

I know pickups in the states, but Europe is a bit different. I’ve seen that episode of Mike Brewer’s Auto Trader where he helps with a truck purchase, so I will pretend to be an expert. And since I own a Ford Ranger, why aren’t you considering one? They got the goods, are priced extremely well and are more than plentiful. It’s the complete opposite of a Land Rover, in terms of your pocketbook, from what I see.

But do you really want a truck? I mean, an open air loading area is ideal for recently dead animals, but…

If the Passat takes you hunting everywhere, perhaps a body-on-frame vehicle is unnecessary.  Why not get one of those “El Camino looking” car conversions? VW, Ford, Opel, Peugeot and others take a passenger car platform to make exactly what you need. Unless you need more space in the (regular) cab, and that’s a big concern. Plus there’s even better hunting in even cooler places with a proper pickup!

So what’s my advice?  Buy any truck, but focus on the service history!  At this price, finding a vehicle with the best paperwork and least worn out tires/brakes/hoses/body damage etc. is your first priority.  I would test drive the Nissan, Mitsubishi, Toyota (and Ford and Isuzu/Opel) trucks and see which one you certainly do not like.  From there, find the one with the most service history and the normal wear items in the best condition.

 

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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Pre-Production Review: 2014 Toyota Tundra (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/pre-production-review-2014-toyota-tundra-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/pre-production-review-2014-toyota-tundra-with-video/#comments Wed, 11 Sep 2013 20:02:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=514913 We don’t just love pickup trucks in America, we practically worship them. The half ton pickup truck is an American icon embedded into our music, our entertainment and almost the core of our culture. If you haven’t owned or wanted to own a pickup truck, you’re probably a communist infiltrating American society and should be […]

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2014 Toyota Tundra Exterior-002

We don’t just love pickup trucks in America, we practically worship them. The half ton pickup truck is an American icon embedded into our music, our entertainment and almost the core of our culture. If you haven’t owned or wanted to own a pickup truck, you’re probably a communist infiltrating American society and should be stopped. Despite inroads from the Japanese competition, the full-size truck market is a solidly American segment that isn’t just led by the big three, it’s dominated by them. In August, RAM took third place with 33,009 pickups sold in the US of A, more than three times the number four player: this week’s Toyota Tundra. Why is this gap so large when Toyota crushes the big three in so many other segments? Let’s explore that while we look at Toyota’s refreshed 2014 Tundra.

Click here to view the embedded video.

When it comes to trucks, we’re talking half-ton cargo haulers, not the compact truck market where Toyota arguably leads. The full-size truck market is about image and brand as much as it is about capability. Aside from men’s razors, no other product in America is marketed in such a completely-divorced-from-reality fashion. We buy trucks both because they haul and because they make us look cool. (Come on, you can admit it.) Truck advertising tells us that real Americans buy trucks, have cattle ranches, sing in country groups and get all the blonde babes. Real Americans also go muddin’, drink Bud and (most importantly) buy American. It is therefore no surprise that Toyota’s biggest market is California. (Make of that what you will.) It’s also no surprise the folks at the launch event were trying hard to sell the Tie-o-ter as the most American pickup on the market. With the highest percentage of American content, plus assembly in San Antonio, there is some truth to their assertions.

Exterior

I think that part of Toyota’s tuck sales problem was the old T100 from 1993-1998. That truck was a half-step between the American mid-size and full-size trucks leading people to consider the T100 more of a mid-size competitor. Then came the 1999-2006 Tundra which grew but failed to keep up with the Americans in terms of styling and dimensions. In 2007 we got the all-new Tundra which yet again grew a half size and was finally competitive with the big three featuring two V8 engines and part-time 4WD. Sales were less than stellar. Why? Toyota believes styling was to blame and I’m inclined to agree. The “bubbly” theme of the old Tundra was fairly emasculating when you parked next to the “rugged” F-150 or RAM 1500.

2014 Toyota Tundra Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

For 2014 Toyota has addressed this problem with an enormous new grille that comes in three flavors (you can see two of them in the gallery) and features a prominent Toyota logo and very upright styling. It’s so upright the front bumper hardly protrudes from the grille at all. The larger and “chromier” grill is flanked by new headlamps that pay homage to the daring big-rig style of the 1994 RAM. The new nose makes the Tundra look bigger and meaner even though the dimensions have barely changed at all. Mainstream looks? Check.

2014 maintains the Tundra’s three cab, two bed, two wheelbase product mix. Things start out with the three-seat, two-door SR and stretch up to the six-seat four-door SR5. In a nod to the large number of truck shoppers that buy for image, not payload, Toyota offers three premium trim levels: Limited, Platinum and 1794. 1794 is named after the ranch that used to operate on the property the Tundra factory was built on. Mainstream product portfolio? Check.

2014 Toyota Tundra Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

Truck makers have finally read the memo that truck shoppers expect passenger car quality interiors. Toyota listened in 2007 but didn’t catch the all important detail “car quality interiors” not “car-like interiors.” Thankfully the 2014 refresh banishes the awkward Camry-esque of the old model for a more masculine design language. Like the competition there is plenty of hard plastic in this cabin, more fake tree than a 1970s suburban tri-level and plenty of bling. I can finally say with a straight face that the Tundra’s interior looks like a truck.

Unfortunately for Toyota, 2014 also brings a raft of refreshed, redesigned and tweaked trucks from the big boys. Compared back to back with the 2014 Silverado and the 2013 RAM, the Tundra’s interior looks a little too “try hard” with shapes that are discordant and not harmonious and parts quality that is a notch below the pack. The F-150 is getting a little old with a 2015 redesign widely expected, but I still find the Ford’s interior to be a better place to spend my time than the Tundra. Mainstream interior? Check.

2014 Toyota Tundra Interior, entune, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

2014 brings a few changes to the Tundra’s infotainment head unit. The major change is that all Tundra models will come with Toyota’s 6.1-inch Entune system only. The 7-inch system that ran the high-end software shared with the Lexus brand is not available in any model of Tundra. Consider me pleased. Toyota’s low-end system still seems to suffer from a dim LCD but the software itself is slick, speedy and easy to use. As before navigation is optional as is smartphone app integration. If you want the detailed look, check out the video. Mainstream tunes? Check.

2014 Tundra 5.7L V8, Picture Courtesy of Toyota

Powertrain

Delivering a new truck with an old drivetrain isn’t new, Ford’s been doing that for years. Unfortunately Ford is known for refreshing the under-hood-bits the next year while Toyota is known for  maintaining the status quo until a redesign. Unless Toyota breaks from tradition, this puts the Tundra at a serious competitive disadvantage. The base engine is ye olde 4.0L V6 mated to Toyota’s tried-and-true (but also tired and behind the times) 5-speed automatic. The rated 270 ponies and 278 twists are competitive with RAM’s 3.6L V6 and Ford’s 3.7L V6 on paper where torque is more important than horsepower for towing, but in the real world Ford’s 6-speed automatic makes better use of the power and 2014 brings ZF’s 8-speed to the RAM 1500 giving Chrysler’s 3.6L engine three more 60% more gears to play with. Toyota claims the V6 exists for a low entry price and as a result doesn’t even list a rated towing capacity for the V6 SR model. (Toyota says it’s 4,400 lbs.) I think that’s a serious mistake when we take two things into account. First, many truck buyers, especially those in California where Toyota is making headway, have no idea what a trailer even looks like. Second, Detroit is changing their tune on the V6 models changing them from entry engines to fuel efficient options that can haul some serious loads. RAM’s 2014 V6 model will tow 7,450lbs. Toyota was quick to say that they are the only ones with SAE verified towing numbers but I’m here to tell you the Chrysler 3.6L V6 and ZF 8-speed transmission are a weekend warrior’s towing wet dream.

Because the V6 is the milquetoast discount engine, Toyota offers two different V8s to fill out the product portfolio. Because Toyota only offers the V6 on the base SR model with the regular cab, most buyers will have a V8 under the hood. Both V8s are closely related to the engines found in modern Lexus models and as such are buttery smooth with a rich V8 burble and a torque curve that’s higher and “peakier” than the American competition. The 4.6L V8 is good for 310 horsepower and 327 lb-ft of torque, only slightly higher than GM’s 4.3L V6 and well behind Ford’s fire-breathing Ecoboost 3.5L V6. Still, this is not going to be the most popular engine because most Tundras will have Toyota’s 381HP 5.7L V8 capable of cranking out 401 lb-ft. Both V8s are mated to a mode modern 6-speed automatic which is on par with GM and Ford but notably shy of the RAM’s new ZF 8-speed for 2014. If you need more power TRD will be selling the same supercharger kit as before (as a TRD accessory it is covered by the Toyota factory warranty) which bumps the 5.7 to a class blowing 504HP and 550 lb-ft.

2014 Toyota Tundra Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Driving and hauling

If you are one of the few that tow with their pickup truck, you may be happy to know that Toyota is the only company that follows the SAE standard completely when determining tow ratings.  Or, like me, you may look at the situation more skeptically and say “OK, so Dodge, Ford and Chrysler fiddle with their numbers” but does that matter? Not to me. The big three’s 1500 series trucks all slot in around 10,000 lbs with Chevy currently claiming king of the hill. Big deal. How the vehicles behave while towing is more important to me than the numbers and with that in mind there is one clear winner: the 2014 Ram 1500. Why? It’s all about ZF’s 8-speed automatic. The octo-swapper is two gears ahead of the competition and as a result can better keep the engine in its respective power band. Towing with Chrysler’s 3.6L V6 and 8-speed automatic is an eye opening experience and even though Chrysler’s 5.7L V8 lacks the power of the larger GM and Ford V8s the extra gears make a huge difference. Still, most half ton truck owners in suburbia have a truck because they bought a Ski-Doo and can’t imagine towing a 500-pound jetski behind a crossover with a meager 5,000 pound tow rating. (Seriously, I know some of these people.) With that in mind we can just say everyone in this segment can tow more than you need.

Out on the road the Tundra drives just like a pickup truck. If you had hoped that Toyota’s badge on the nose would turn the full-size cargo hauler into a FR-S on stilts you will be disappointed. The Tundra tips/dives and leans just like a Chevy, RAM or Ford and like the competition the horizontal grip varies depending on the cab, bed and rubber you choose. Steering is accurate but numb amd cabin noise is well controlled for a pickup truck.

2014 Toyota Tundra Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

With limited time behind the wheel of the pre-production models I must draw my V6 experience from a dealer provided 2013 model. The V6 is slow and thirsty, with the 5-speed automatic always a step behind what’s required. The 4.7L V8 is thirstier than the V6 but doesn’t drink anymore than the competition. Power delivery is smooth and  the 6-speed automatic shifts firmly with a relative eagerness to downshift when towing. The 5.7L V8 drinks like a college co-ed on spring break and has a somewhat high (3,600 RPM) torque peak which makes it feel out of sorts when towing compared to GM’s 6.2L monster.

After a day tossing the Tundra around Washington state and towing trailers with unknown weights inside (seriously, nobody seemed to know how much weight was in the demo trailer) I came to the conclusion that the Tundra is finally a solid middle of the pack contender. With the exception of ye olde 5-speed on the V6, there’s nothing about the Tundra that’s smaller, weaker, less masculine or less capable than the popular configurations of the Detroit trucks.

Everything about the Tundra is quintessentially middle of the pack, but does that make it the Goldilocks of the 1/2 ton truck market? Yes and no. In the pursuit of mainstream, Toyota has abandoned the attempt to be class leading. As a result, there is nothing extraordinary about the Tundra in a positive or negative way except, possibly, Toyota’s reputation for reliability. In a segment where brand is practically more important than payload and towing (just ask the Chevy vs Ford guys), that’s a problem for Toyota as it gives shoppers little reason to try something new. The 2014 Tundra is the best pickup truck Toyota has ever made and it’s a solid alternative to any of the American pickup trucks.  But, unless Toyota breaks out of their shell and does something radical, the Tundra isn’t likely to sway many shoppers in the heartland.

 

Tundra flew me to Seattle to sample the Tundra refresh.

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Ford F-150 Tremor Vs Ram Express: Battle Of The Standard Cabs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/ford-f-150-tremor-vs-ram-express-battle-of-the-standard-cabs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/ford-f-150-tremor-vs-ram-express-battle-of-the-standard-cabs/#comments Fri, 28 Jun 2013 12:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=493485 The standard cab, short bed pickup is a rare breed these days. Most trucks that leave the dealer lot tend to be an extended cab, if not a four-door crew cab, with a longer bed and all the bells and whistles typically seen on a luxury vehicle. For a couple years, Ram has had the […]

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2014 Ford F-150 Tremor

The standard cab, short bed pickup is a rare breed these days. Most trucks that leave the dealer lot tend to be an extended cab, if not a four-door crew cab, with a longer bed and all the bells and whistles typically seen on a luxury vehicle. For a couple years, Ram has had the monopoly on a hot version of the standard cab with the Ram Express, a Hemi powered no-frills Ram, which starts at just $23,400. Not anymore.

Today, Ford announced the introduction of the F-150 Tremor. Silly moniker aside, the Tremor is a standard cab short bed truck that is explicitly aimed at “sport truck” enthusiasts. I always thought that crowd died away with the mini-truck era, but the combination of a 3.5L Ecoboost motor and a 4.10 rear axle ratio is an enticing one – don’t expect it to get anywhere near the vaunted fuel economy numbers that the taller-ratio equipped cars are apparently capable of. Power for the EcoBoost remains unchanged at 360 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, while the car gets FX4-style black alloy wheels, Boss 302-esque graphics and some loud paint hues.

ramexpress

The Express is pretty much as different as it gets. Rather than the newfangled EcoBoost, there’s an old-fashioned Hemi V8 breathing through dual exhausts. The fancy 8-speed ZF auto available on other Ram models is not available, nor is the big UConnect touch screen or any sort of “soft touch” interior. It’s all black plastic and the most basic head unit, with a 6-speed automatic as the sole gearbox. Outside, it’s indistinguishable from any other mid-grade Ram. No badges, no stripes, no alloys. You can even get it in a crew cab if you want, though this pushes the price up another $10,000.

What would you take?

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Junkyard Find: 1990 Geo Metro-amino Pickup http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/junkyard-find-1990-geo-metro-amino-pickup/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/junkyard-find-1990-geo-metro-amino-pickup/#comments Fri, 14 Jun 2013 13:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=491854 It takes a really special Geo Metro to achieve Junkyard Find status; the last one that managed the feat was this bright green electric-powered ’95, which turned out to be a Ree-V conversion made in Colorado during the EV optimism of the late 2000s. During a trip to my old San Francisco Bay stomping grounds […]

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14 - 1990 Geo Metro Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt takes a really special Geo Metro to achieve Junkyard Find status; the last one that managed the feat was this bright green electric-powered ’95, which turned out to be a Ree-V conversion made in Colorado during the EV optimism of the late 2000s. During a trip to my old San Francisco Bay stomping grounds a few weeks ago, I spotted today’s Junkyard Find parked just a few yards away from this will-make-you-haz-a-sad 1960 Nash Metropolitan.
07 - 1990 Geo Metro Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese conversions (if based on a GM car, the correct term is “El-Caminoization”; Fords are “Rancheroized” and Chryslers get “Rampagized”) usually result when a hooptie car owner who owns a Sawzall but no cash really wants a pickup truck, right now. This one looks like it was built pretty well, by the standards of the genre.
12 - 1990 Geo Metro Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNo big-block Suzuki four-banger here; this is the genuine 50-plus-MPG three-cylinder engine.
06 - 1990 Geo Metro Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinCargo capacity is quite small, which is a good thing considering the front-drivedness and tiny size of this machine.
04 - 1990 Geo Metro Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Metro wasn’t quite as miserably slow as you’d expect, but that’s more due to low expectations than actual performance.
09 - 1990 Geo Metro Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Apple sticker is a weird touch; the kind of person who would build such a hacked-up piece of backyard engineering most likely doesn’t feel comfortable with the don’t-resist-the-Cupertino-way philosophy behind Apple products. I’d guess that the builder of this car runs non-Cupertino/non-Redmond operating systems on surplus hardware. Of course, it’s possible that the builder sold his or her Metroamino to someone who bought it for a single Burning Man trip and then scrapped it.
02 - 1990 Geo Metro Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhat’s next, a Geo Stormamino? A Cateramino? Achievamino?

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Junkyard Find: 1983 Dodge Rampage Prospector http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/junkyard-find-1983-dodge-rampage-prospector/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/junkyard-find-1983-dodge-rampage-prospector/#comments Fri, 24 May 2013 13:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489429 Even as the K-cars became a huge success, Chrysler didn’t give up on the Simca-derived Omnirizon platform. In fact, the 2.2/2.5 engine helped extend the Omnirizon’s life until the 1990s. We’ve seen a fair number of Omnirizon-based Junkyard Finds, including this ’78 Horizon, this ’84 Turismo, this ’85 Shelby Charger, this ’86 Omni, and this […]

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11 - 1983 Dodge Rampage Prospector Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinEven as the K-cars became a huge success, Chrysler didn’t give up on the Simca-derived Omnirizon platform. In fact, the 2.2/2.5 engine helped extend the Omnirizon’s life until the 1990s. We’ve seen a fair number of Omnirizon-based Junkyard Finds, including this ’78 Horizon, this ’84 Turismo, this ’85 Shelby Charger, this ’86 Omni, and this this Shelby-ized ’86 Omni GLH, and now I’ve managed to find one of the rarest of all: the pickup-truck Omnirizon!
01 - 1983 Dodge Rampage Prospector Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis truck came fully loaded with options, including cruise control, air conditioning, clock, and Prospector emblems.
07 - 1983 Dodge Rampage Prospector Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSporty red-striped bucket seats!
14 - 1983 Dodge Rampage Prospector Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinChrysler was very proud of their all-Detroit 2.2 engine (no Mitsubishi, Hillman, or Simca genes in the 2.2), and this truck is covered with 2.2 emblems.
19 - 1983 Dodge Rampage Prospector Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe chunky DODGE emblem on the tailgate would make more sense on a 3/4-ton pickup, but it still works here. Remember, 1983 was the last year of the Malaise Era, with a new optimism appearing in Detroit vehicles.
21 - 1983 Dodge Rampage Prospector Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Rampage couldn’t haul much of a load— you don’t want to shift too much weight to the rear on a front-wheel-drive vehicle, anyway— but it was quite useful for hauling of lightweight items.
22 - 1983 Dodge Rampage Prospector Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI’ll need to let the members of the Haulin’ Ass Plymouth Scamp 24 Hours of LeMons team know about this truck, since I’m sure they always need parts.
America’s first sports pickup!

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Want To Impress The Swells At the Country Club? Hemi-fied Custom Dodge A100 Pickup! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/want-to-impress-the-swells-at-the-country-club-hemi-fied-custom-dodge-a100-pickup/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/want-to-impress-the-swells-at-the-country-club-hemi-fied-custom-dodge-a100-pickup/#comments Fri, 10 May 2013 13:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=487909 Of all the racing venues I visit during my travels as Chief Justice of the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court, the ritzy clubs tend to be the weirdest. We went to the Monticello Motor Club in New York a few weeks back, and twice a year the LeMons Traveling Circus rolls into the Autobahn […]

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02 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOf all the racing venues I visit during my travels as Chief Justice of the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court, the ritzy clubs tend to be the weirdest. We went to the Monticello Motor Club in New York a few weeks back, and twice a year the LeMons Traveling Circus rolls into the Autobahn Country Club in Illinois. The reaction of the members, who must navigate the madness of the LeMons pit scene as they drive their GT3s and Facel-Vegas to the clubhouse, runs the gamut from loathing to delight. Most of the time I ignore these guys— I always feel like we’re caddies in the pool in that setting— but as the owner of an A100 I just had to talk to the owner of this truck that showed up at the 2012 Showroom-Schlock Shootout.
07 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI didn’t get the guy’s name, but I recall that his passenger was a veteran of the 1949 Indianapolis 500.
03 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHe was on his way into the clubhouse, but told me to go ahead and open up whatever I wanted and shoot whatever photographs I felt like shooting. The bodywork was flawless, all the chrome was perfect, and the truck was full of custom touches like this aluminum instrument cluster.
04 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYes, that’s a modern 5.7 Hemi under the doghouse. There’s barely room for the LA-block 318 in my van, so I know some serious fabrication went into making this swap fit.
09 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis setup isn’t quite as extreme as the one in the Little Red Wagon, but it would take a very brave man to stand on this pickup’s throttle.

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It’s No Mahindra, But How About Great Wall? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/its-no-mahindra-but-how-about-great-wall/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/its-no-mahindra-but-how-about-great-wall/#comments Wed, 24 Apr 2013 16:09:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=486096 American consumers may have been robbed of a chance to buy the Mahindra pickup, but how about one from Great Wall? China Car Times has a quote from Great Wall CEO Wang Feng Ying (lifted from the paywalled Automotive News China) about possible plans for Great Wall products – made in America, no less. Great […]

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American consumers may have been robbed of a chance to buy the Mahindra pickup, but how about one from Great Wall?

China Car Times has a quote from Great Wall CEO Wang Feng Ying (lifted from the paywalled Automotive News China) about possible plans for Great Wall products – made in America, no less.

Great Wall Motor Co., China’s largest SUV maker, expects to begin selling SUVs in the United States around 2015, making it the first Chinese automaker to enter the American market in volume, the president of the company says. The automaker is also actively exploring whether to build SUVs in the United States. “Since the United States is far away from China and its import tariffs on vehicles are not particularly high, we would prefer to build the vehicle locally,” Wang Fengying told Automotive News China on Sunday at the Shanghai auto show.

Great Wall is apparently preparing a pickup truck for the U.S. Market as well. Already on sale as the “Great Wall Steed” in the UK, reviews have been particularly dreadful. While the British motoring press are hardly paragons of objectivity, a recent report by Bernstein Research, involving a complete teardown of a Great Wall SUV followed by a road-test, found that their products are far behind the standard that Western consumers are used to. Combined with a fairly ambitious timeline for launch and the notion of Great Wall products on sale in the US looks somewhat far-fetched.

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Junkyard Find: 1980 Datsun 720 King Cab 4WD Pickup http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/junkyard-find-1980-datsun-720-king-cab-4wd-pickup/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/junkyard-find-1980-datsun-720-king-cab-4wd-pickup/#comments Wed, 13 Mar 2013 13:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=480958 I see a lot of old, totally used-up Toyota and Datsun pickups in self-service wrecking yards (though any of these newer than about 1984 is a rare sight), so it takes a fairly special one to make me shoot some photos. This extremely Malaise-ated ’80 King Cab 720, with its brown paint, huge “4X4″ door […]

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I see a lot of old, totally used-up Toyota and Datsun pickups in self-service wrecking yards (though any of these newer than about 1984 is a rare sight), so it takes a fairly special one to make me shoot some photos. This extremely Malaise-ated ’80 King Cab 720, with its brown paint, huge “4X4″ door decals, and excrement-inspired tan/yellow/brown tape stripes certainly got my attention last week.
It’s bashed up, the interior is toast, and the rust indicates an origin somewhere east and/or north of Colorado. Must be a million miles on this thing, eh?
Nope, just 155,221 miles on the clock. Either the odometer broke in 1992 or this truck drove a lot of very hard miles.
The full changeover to the Nissan marque was still a few years off at this point, but Nissan was laying the groundwork with these “Datsun By Nissan” badges.
Electronically protected! No doubt the alarm was a variation on the Taiwanese National Anthem theme.
The King Cab wasn’t very kingly. In fact, it would be considered utterly intolerable by present-day truck buyers. You could sort of squeeze a couple of passengers back there, if everyone involved was very motivated, but in practice the King Cab mostly served as a place to store stuff out of the rain.
Some good patina on this thing.
Even though this type of self-service yard charges about the same for a whole long block as for a wheelbarrow full of carefully selected engine innards, whoever pulled this L20 spent a lot of effort grabbing just the parts he wanted.
Here’s an option you don’t see very often on small pickups of this era: air conditioning!

The Datsun Value Phenomenon continues!
01 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 26 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 27 - 1980 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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QOTD: What Are You Looking Forward To At NAIAS? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/qotd-what-are-you-looking-forward-to-at-naias/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/qotd-what-are-you-looking-forward-to-at-naias/#comments Thu, 10 Jan 2013 18:12:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=472850 As I gear up for NAIAS (read: do laundry, look for my passport), I am scanning the schedule for what press conferences are worth going to and what’s worth skipping? If you have any special requests, speak now in the comments or forever hold you peace. Personally, I’m most looking forward to seeing the new […]

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As I gear up for NAIAS (read: do laundry, look for my passport), I am scanning the schedule for what press conferences are worth going to and what’s worth skipping? If you have any special requests, speak now in the comments or forever hold you peace. Personally, I’m most looking forward to seeing the new GM full-size trucks. I liked the old GMT900 pickups, but the bar has been moved forward consecutively by both Ford and Ram. The old formula of a simple, honest no-frills truck may not be enough – and that could be a disastrous miscalculation by GM, leading to a Civic/Malibu-esque need for a mid-cycle refresh.

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What Happened To GM’s Hybrid Pickups? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/what-happened-to-gms-hybrid-pickups/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/what-happened-to-gms-hybrid-pickups/#comments Wed, 19 Dec 2012 16:24:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=470707 One of the most conspicuous absences from GM’s full-size truck reveal was the lack of any hybrid variants. The highly-touted but slow selling hybrid full-size trucks and SUVs were never intended to be the darlings of America’s truck space, but they played an important behind the scenes role for the company. A hybrid truck may […]

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One of the most conspicuous absences from GM’s full-size truck reveal was the lack of any hybrid variants. The highly-touted but slow selling hybrid full-size trucks and SUVs were never intended to be the darlings of America’s truck space, but they played an important behind the scenes role for the company.

A hybrid truck may have been as appealing to the average truck buyer as a camouflage tutu, but under the arcane CAFE rules, there were plenty of credits to be had by producing a hybrid truck or large SUV. For the nitty gritty details, a longer summary is available here. For those with an aversion to long, complex explanations of government regulations, let’s just say that the “credits” applied to every hybrid truck or large SUV produced would help a given auto maker reach its CAFE target, because the credits can not only be applied to the trucks themselves, but to other “underperforming vehicles” – or retained for use in later years.

But with GM cutting its R&D budgets, the “two-mode hybrid” system is set to die. In its place is a new Gen V small-block V8 with direct injection, variable valve timing and cylinder-deactivation. Final fuel economy numbers aren’t available yet, but we do know that GM is going at it alone with their “two truck” strategy, offering the large trucks alongside a smaller pickup with superior fuel economy. Unlike Ford and Chrysler, the V6 Silverado/Sierra won’t play such an important role for the General.

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Junkyard Find: 1982 Dodge Ram 50 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/junkyard-find-1982-dodge-ram-50/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/junkyard-find-1982-dodge-ram-50/#comments Tue, 18 Dec 2012 14:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=470519 There was a time, when American truck shoppers were willing to tolerate the shame of driving small pickups, when the members of the Detroit Big Three couldn’t/wouldn’t build their own and thus sold rebadged Japanese trucks. GM had the Isuzu-built Chevy LUV, Ford had the Mazda-built Ford Courier, and Chrysler had various flavors of the […]

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There was a time, when American truck shoppers were willing to tolerate the shame of driving small pickups, when the members of the Detroit Big Three couldn’t/wouldn’t build their own and thus sold rebadged Japanese trucks. GM had the Isuzu-built Chevy LUV, Ford had the Mazda-built Ford Courier, and Chrysler had various flavors of the Mitsubishi Forte aka Mighty Max. In 1982, you could get your Forte as a Mighty Max, a Plymouth Arrow, or a Dodge Ram 50. Though you could buy the Ram 50 until 1986, examples of this truck are very rare these days. Here’s one that I spotted in a Denver yard last week.
There was no mistaking this truck for a luxury vehicle. Cloth bench seat, manual transmission, no air conditioning.
Power came from the 2-liter Mitsubishi Astron L4 engine, which wasn’t quite up to, say, Toyota R reliability but made decent power.
The tape-stripe graphics were very much of their time.

Whitewall tires standard, in the “Ram 50 Royal,” whatever that was. One of the weirder ads of the Late Malaise Era.

12 - 1982 Dodge Ram 50 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee 'Badge Engineering' Martin 02 - 1982 Dodge Ram 50 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee 'Badge Engineering' Martin 03 - 1982 Dodge Ram 50 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee 'Badge Engineering' Martin 04 - 1982 Dodge Ram 50 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee 'Badge Engineering' Martin 05 - 1982 Dodge Ram 50 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee 'Badge Engineering' Martin 06 - 1982 Dodge Ram 50 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee 'Badge Engineering' Martin 07 - 1982 Dodge Ram 50 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee 'Badge Engineering' Martin 08 - 1982 Dodge Ram 50 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee 'Badge Engineering' Martin 09 - 1982 Dodge Ram 50 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee 'Badge Engineering' Martin 10 - 1982 Dodge Ram 50 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee 'Badge Engineering' Martin 11 - 1982 Dodge Ram 50 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee 'Badge Engineering' Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Is This The Best Muscle Car Deal That Nobody Knows About? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/is-this-the-best-muscle-car-deal-that-nobody-knows-about/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/is-this-the-best-muscle-car-deal-that-nobody-knows-about/#comments Mon, 17 Dec 2012 18:59:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=470498 Two doors. 390 horsepower. 8 cylinders. Two seats. Just a hair under $25k. Sound too good to be true? It might be one of the best muscle car deals going, as long as you’re willing to drive a pickup. While perusing the Ram website for someone looking to buy a pickup, I came across the […]

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Two doors. 390 horsepower. 8 cylinders. Two seats. Just a hair under $25k. Sound too good to be true? It might be one of the best muscle car deals going, as long as you’re willing to drive a pickup.

While perusing the Ram website for someone looking to buy a pickup, I came across the Ram Express; with a regular 6’4″ bed and rear-drive, it can be had with a 5.7L Hemi engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission for just $24,825. Next year, the 8-speed automatic will be the sole option. For those of us in the snowbelt, four-wheel drive will bump the cost up closer to $28,000, which makes it less of a value proposition. Note that in Canada, the Express starts at a mere $22,395 for a 4×2 single cab – the sole option is four-wheel drive, and a bigger cab is not available.

The V6 Mustang is rightly touted as the muscle car bargain of the century, but the Ram Express offers its own proposition. No, it won’t handle like a V6 ‘Stang, nor will it return the same fuel economy. But it can haul more, carry people in greater comfort (if you opt for the Quad or Crew Cab versions) and can be had with four-wheel drive. Like the Mustang V6, the base price merely serves to get buyers in the door – the real desirable versions need more options and dollars thrown at them – but the intent remains the same. And while a truck may not put up the same on paper acceleration numbers as a conventional car, they can still haul ass just fine. The Express is also extremely basic. If nothing else, it’s an intriguing, all-American alternative to the traditional muscle car – one that can tow 9200 lbs, should the need ever arise.

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