By on June 29, 2015

QOTD-Uncoolest_Teenage_Car

I just took my chopped, Carson-top-equipped, heavily-customized 1969 Toyota Corona coupe to a local car show and won a trophy without even washing the thing. All but the most tradition-bound angry old coots think the Kustom Korona is pretty cool, but that got me thinking about the reason I’d spent so many years wanting a cool Corona: my very first car was a 1969 Toyota Corona sedan. A beige Corona sedan, which cost 50 bucks at the corner gas station and had a clattery pushrod four-banger at a time when my peers and I lusted after Detroit muscle cars with tunnel-rammed V8s with Centerline wheels. This was pretty much the uncoolest car possible for a 16-year-old to drive in the East Bay in 1982.

So what’s the 2015 equivalent to that hooptiefied, unidentifiable, squat little Japanese sedan? (Read More…)

By on June 26, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 7.27.54 AM

I always get a little dismayed whenever I hear a car company talking about sales volume targets.

Yes, sure, reasonable sales targets are OK. Acceptable sales targets. If Toyota wants to say they’re going to sell one billion Camry units this year because they sold 997 million last year, that’s fine with me. If Honda wants to say they’re going to sell 950 million Accords this year because they’re contractually obligated by a higher power to slightly undersell the Camry, that’s fine too. And if Dodge wants to say they’ll sell 100,000 Grand Caravans this year, of which 99,000 are going to Enterprise, and the remaining 1,000 are going to people who don’t know any better, I guess I can accept that.

But I’ve never really understood why automakers set insane volume targets that keep them desperately reaching for sales for the next few decades.

(Read More…)

By on June 22, 2015

QOTD-RalphNader

It’s Monday, so let’s start it off by ignoring the demands of your cruel overseers in The Man’s salt mines and turning to a subject that’s sure to get all automotive enthusiasts riled up: Ralph Nader! (Read More…)

By on June 19, 2015

Range Rover in Albania. Picture courtesy of autowp.ru

As many of you know, I drive a Range Rover, which is a giant, gas-slurping SUV that simultaneously kills babies and harms small animals. This is a horrible vehicle, according to the majority of people I meet, and because of it, I’m always being judged for having more car than I “need.” It is, after all, overkill.

Right?

(Read More…)

By on June 15, 2015

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I’ve lived in urban areas for most of my life. When you do that, your street-parked vehicles will get hit. You walk up to the car and the fender is mashed in or the bumper is bent… and there’s no note left by the perpetrator. In my experience — and I’d say that in my 34 years of driving, I’ve had parked cars hit and damaged enough to notice (some of my cars hid damage very well) at least 25 times. Not once has anyone ever left a note taking responsibility for the damage. I hear that this note-leaving phenomenon has been known to happen, but such a thing falls into the urban-legend category for me. How about you? (Read More…)

By on June 12, 2015

2001 Toyota Voltz - Tokyo Motor Show 2011

Today, we are going to talk about an automobile called the Chevrolet Voltz. Never heard of it? Few have. That’s because it was one of the most bizarre and unusual rebadges of our entire automotive lives.

(Read More…)

By on June 8, 2015

QOTD - Instead of Trans Am Bandit Choice - 610px

We had a 1970s movie-car QOTD last week, and that was so much fun we’re doing it again! So, here we go: in the beginning of Smokey and the Bandit, when Big Enos challenges The Bandit to fetch 400 cases of that Colorado Kool-Aid, a wad of cash of unspecified thickness gets handed over for expenses, including a “speedy car.” As we all know, The Bandit headed straight to the nearest Pontiac showroom and bought himself a brand-new 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. In the film, that car seemed to be the fastest imaginable motor vehicle (thanks to the magic of engine swaps, stunt drivers, and special effects). In reality, however, the ’77 Trans Am was kind of a bloated Malaise Era slug, and The Bandit probably had a lot of better escape-the-smokeys car choices available.

So, in his shoes and with a ’77 Trans Am-sized stack of C-notes, what car would you have bought for that run to Texarkana and back? (Read More…)

By on June 5, 2015

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So I was sitting around the house the other day and my mind started drifting to the Toyota Matrix. Do you remember the Matrix? This was a happy little Japanese 5-door hatchback that never really harmed anybody, except people with eyes who looked directly at the front bumper of XRS models.

No, I’m kidding. It wasn’t that ugly. Also not very ugly was its twin, the Pontiac Vibe, which was essentially the Geo Prizm of the modern era. What I mean by this is, it’s got Toyota running gear, and Toyota gas mileage, and Toyota reliability, but it’s two grand cheaper on Craigslist because everyone thinks it’s a Pontiac.

Now, these were, by all accounts, excellent cars. I mean, sure, they were dull. And they drove like economy cars. And they didn’t really have many features beyond power windows and a CD player. But in the early 2000s, this was about all you could want from a new automobile that cost like fifteen grand.

And yet people didn’t want it. The Matrix and Vibe went through one redesign together where they sort of lost the character of their shapes. And then, that was it: the cars were gone, Pontiac was gone, and Toyota sort of gave up on the hatchback game except the Yaris, which is a car that makes it seem kind of like Toyota gave up on the automobile game.

So what the hell happened?

(Read More…)

By on June 3, 2015

1999 Buick Cielo Concept

This is the 1999 Buick Cielo Concept and its incredibly similar in form and function to the Soarer Aerocabin we featured yesterday. As a hardtop convertible that retains its roof rails, the Cielo (which isn’t brown, unfortunately) isn’t the only car – or even the only Buick – to leverage this concept.

A year later, Buick built the Regal Cielo Concept, applying the same technical idea to a production sedan.

(Read More…)

By on June 1, 2015

QOTD-TwoLaneBlacktopCars-Both

During April, the management of the Alamo Drafthouse Theater in Denver allowed me to select and introduce four car movies, and the final one was the 1971 road-trip classic, Two-Lane Blacktop. In the bar before the film rolled (and during my introduction in the theater, and in the parking lot afterward), a debate raged, triggered by a question I’d dropped: What are the 2015 equivalents to the full-race 1955 Chevrolet 150 two-door and brand-new 1970 Pontiac GTO that starred in the film?

(Read More…)

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