The Truth About Cars » Retro http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 02 Aug 2014 16:04:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Retro http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Piston Slap: Coming to Terms with an Old Soul http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/489747/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/489747/#comments Thu, 30 May 2013 12:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489747 Ross writes: Several years ago a friend suggested to me that I had an old soul. I pretended to not understand what he meant even though I watched old television shows, saw old movies and listened to the big band sounds of the thirties and forties. I’m beginning to come to grips with my old soul […]

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Ross writes:

Several years ago a friend suggested to me that I had an old soul. I pretended to not understand what he meant even though I watched old television shows, saw old movies and listened to the big band sounds of the thirties and forties.

I’m beginning to come to grips with my old soul though and I need a bit of advice.

A few years ago I bought a 2003 Kia Rio sedan because it was the cheapest car available with the least mileage and most warranty left. I’ve taken the poor thing from 40k to 130k miles on the clock and its just about worn out. At the time I simply commuted to and from work but my job has expanded and I now have to drive about 500 miles a month to and from various stores on the interstate.

I’m now in a position to replace the car for about 3 grand and I’m leaning heavily toward a panther platform because it satisfies my old soul and because I want to be gently wafted along the highways of Texas without arriving at my destination pounded to a pulp by the drive. I prefer the styling of the Crown Vic, but the selection of Grand Marquis’ seems better and priced better in this market. I’ve pretty much discounted the Town Car as being too pricey and/or complicated for the same amount of use.

Most of the cars I’m looking at seem to be about mid ’90s vintage with about 100k on the clock. Is there anything specific that that I should look for as I shop?

Sajeev answers:

You always look for a stack of service records.  Always.

Aside from a stack of receipts and clean fluids (especially the transmission), the only big problem with Panthers are the plastic intake manifolds from 1996-2001: the replacement has an aluminum crossover tube from the thermostat (at the bottom of the radiator hose on the intake) and that means you are golden.  If not, you need a new intake, sooner rather than later.

Other problems show up in a vehicle this old: worn brakes, bad tires, busted/frozen shocks, fried speaker cones, dissolved window lift motor plugs (video here),  tune-up concerns, cloudy headlights, etc.  Luckily most of these problems, as part of Panther Love, are somewhat easy to fix and won’t leave you stranded.  You can fix these as time permits, while enjoying the ride.

I’d recommend the pre-98s for their superior interior/exterior design and fit/finish: I call them the Fat Panthers because of their “fat content” opposed to the thin and skinny beancounted models afterwards.  Just look at the Crown Vic’s rather expansive use of glass in the greenhouse. Even if it lacks the suspension and brake upgrades of the 1998+ models, this right here is a road car.

So is this really an old car?  Perhaps…it’s a spaceship like the Jetsons’ retro Mid-Century past, not from our future. But who gives a shit, enjoy and be proud of your Old Soul.

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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Bloomberg Interview: American Car Design Rennaissance? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/bloomberg-interview-american-car-design-rennaissance/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/bloomberg-interview-american-car-design-rennaissance/#comments Fri, 05 Apr 2013 14:57:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=483682 If you have a spare four minutes and four seconds (plus time for the commercial) take the time to check out the following discussion over at Bloomberg.com. As a layman, I find these kind of discussions very interesting and would like to hear the best and the brightest, many of whom I know to be […]

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If you have a spare four minutes and four seconds (plus time for the commercial) take the time to check out the following discussion over at Bloomberg.com. As a layman, I find these kind of discussions very interesting and would like to hear the best and the brightest, many of whom I know to be connected with auto industry, give a little perspective to what seems to me to be a very shallow look on the subject of modern car design.

The active premise of the Bloomberg piece is that American car design lost its way in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, and is now beginning to return to its former glory. There is no doubt in my mind that improvements automotive technology have ushered in a golden age of performance, dependability and longevity, but I am left feeling cold when I hear people talking about how superior the “new designs,” are to the ones that came before.

There were some fantastic designs in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s and when I look back at the clean, classic lines of many of those cars I miss the days when designers used a straight edge as a part of their work. The Chevrolet Vega and Monza, while mechanically problem prone, are still wonderful looking little cars that have aged quite gracefully. The mid 80s Fox Body Mustangs, shown in the piece alongside both previous and later versions, look especially good to my eye. Of course you already know my thoughts on the Chrysler LH cars of the 1990s – I like them so much I put my money where my mouth is and have a 300M Special in my driveway.

My take is that there were some damn good designs in the eras these people are deriding. Sure there were some uninteresting and even outlandish designs too, but that doesn’t mean that designers have spent the last 30 years sleeping on the job. They were trying new things and some of those really worked. So, tell us now, what are your favorite cars from the much derided ’70s, ’80s and ’90s?

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Review: 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/review-2013-dodge-challenger-srt8-392/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/review-2013-dodge-challenger-srt8-392/#comments Tue, 12 Feb 2013 16:28:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=472956 Last time we had a Challenger SRT8 to review, well, we didn’t review it so much as we burnt the rubber off the rear wheels. Sorry Dodge, we couldn’t help it. After a few Facebook requests, we put Dodge’s 470HP retro coupé back on our wish list and someone at Chrysler decided to trust me […]

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Last time we had a Challenger SRT8 to review, well, we didn’t review it so much as we burnt the rubber off the rear wheels. Sorry Dodge, we couldn’t help it. After a few Facebook requests, we put Dodge’s 470HP retro coupé back on our wish list and someone at Chrysler decided to trust me with their retro cruiser. If you couldn’t afford that Challenger in the poster on your wall when you were in college, click through the jump to find out what Dodge’s 470HP two-door is like to live with for a week before you throw down 45-large on this retro bruiser.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Designing “retro” sounds easy to me. You pull out a picture of ye olde Challenger from 1972, put it next to a picture of your largest sedan and make the shapes fit. Next you round things off a bit, tack on some 5MPH inspired bumpers, spray it with metallic paint and hey-presto, you have a modern Challenger. You also have one enormous coupé. Sure, Chrysler says the “LC” platform Challenger is shorter than their “LX” platform sedans, but you’d be hard pressed to say where inches were excised. The result is a heavyweight muscle car with a wheelbase 9-inches longer and a body that’s 10-inches longer than Ford’s pony car.

Parked next to the Camaro and Mustang, the Challenger dwarfs them both like the Jolly Green Giant next to Little Pea. This means comparisons between the three muscle cars is difficult. It doesn’t make rational sense either because I have a hard time believing anyone will seriously cross-shop a Mustang Boss 302 and a Challenger SRT8. Why? They’re just not the same kind of car. While the Challenger’s portly dimensions are likely to turn off some shoppers, I was strangely intrigued. But then again, I have a soft spot for big Chryslers having owned both a Chrysler LHS and an Eagle Vision. The size (visual and on paper) of this beast brought another vehicle to mind: the BMW 650i. Blasphemy? Perhaps, but they’re about the same size.

 

Interior

2008 is an important year to keep in mind as it was post-Mercedes but pre-Fiat. It was in that Cerberus window that the Challenger was born. As a result, the cabin’s plastics aren’t as awful as the first generation 300/Charger, but neither are they as good as the 2011 revisions of the same. Still, the Camaro and Mustang don’t exactly come covered in the best plastics that money can buy, so while the Challenger feels a little rubbery and low-rent, the American competition isn’t much better.

On the bright side, the SRT8 392 version of the Challenger is brought up-market by standard leather upholstery with Alcantara seat and door inserts, high levels of standard equipment and one of the best OEM steering wheels available. The new SRT wheel is chunky, deeply cushioned, covered in soft leather, heated, thoroughly addictive and enough for me to forgive the rubbery dash and oddly positioned door handles. Of course, only a few days before the “publish” button was pressed on this review, Chrysler announced a “core” version of the SRT8 Challenger that drops the price by removing the leather and other options. Full details on the low-cost model have yet to be released at this time.

Front seat comfort proved excellent for long trips, although the seat design suffers from the same problem as the Chrysler 200: the bottom cushion is shaped like a “dome” making it feel as if you’re sitting “on” the seat and not “in” the seat. To hold you “on” the leather clad gumdrop during the inevitable shenanigans 470HP will invite, Dodge severely bolstered the seats. Thankfully (and unlike the Mercedes C63), Chrysler was kind enough to make the seats wide enough for normal Americans. Back in 2011 when the 392 debuted, an ivory/blue leather interior was offered, but for 2013 your only options are black on black or the red and black interior our tester wore.

Thanks to the proportions and long wheelbase, rear accommodations are large, comfortable and “normally” shaped. What do I mean by that? Sit in a Mustang, Camaro, or most other two-door four-seat coupés and you’ll notice the seat backs are set at an odd angle to “improve” the headroom and legroom numbers in an otherwise small rear compartment. Despite having (on paper) only three inches more legroom and two more inches of headroom than the Mustang or Camaro, the rear cabin feels cavernous. It’s even possible to squeeze a third adult in the rear of the Challenger, something you can’t do in the four-seat Camaro or Mustang. Chrysler also designed the optional $995 sunroof so that it doesn’t cut into rear headroom.

When it comes to cargo schlepping, Dodge went retro with a trunk lid rather than a modern trunk “hatch.” The result is a high lift-over making it difficult to lift heavy suitcases into the trunk without scuffing the rear bumper. On the bright side, the cargo hold is a cavernous 16.2 cubic feet, a whopping 44% larger than the Camaro. While the Challenger lost points in our exclusive Trunk Comfort Index (see the video segment) for having cheap trunk fabric, it gained more for having trunk hinges that don’t cut down on usable trunk space.

Infotainment

Dodge’s snazzy new engine didn’t bring Chrysler’s new uConnect system with it leaving shoppers to choose from three retro radio and navigation options. We start off with a base 6-speaker Dodge-branded audio system and a 6.5-inch touchscreen head unit with a standard CD/DVD player, Bluetooth phone interface aND USB/iPod interface port. $595 buys you the 6.5-inch touchscreen Garmin-based navigation system and Sirius Satellite radio. The system is as easy to use as after-market Garmin systems but doesn’t have the ability to enter a destination address via voice commands. Chrysler’s “730N’” navigation head unit adds the ability to voice command your navigation wishes but the cost is dear at $2,190 because it must be ordered with the optional Harmon Kardon amplifier/speaker package.

The $1,995 Harmon system used their Logic 7 surround processing engine (as seen in the BMW 6-Series), 18 speakers and Green Edge amplifiers. The system can be added to any of the infotainment options on the Challenger. (No, the irony of power efficient “green” amplifiers on a vehicle that wears a gas guzzler tax was not lost on me.) In terms of sound quality, the base system is barely average while the Logic 7 system wouldn’t be out of place on a $60,000 luxury vehicle. Before you check any of the option boxes however, you should know this generation of uConnect system doesn’t exactly love USB/iDevices and browsing your tunes is a drag. Compared to Chevy’s MyLink system or the older SYNC system in the Mustang, the Challenger’s interface is ancient and a distant third place.

Drivetrain

HEMI. 392. Almost, but not quite. Chrysler (like everyone else) designs their engines with metric measurements and the chief engineer at Dodge claims the displacement translation to English units was done after the fact. That’s why this 392 is really a 391, but that’s close enough for the marketing department. If we’re splitting hairs, the heads are only partially hemispherical. Does any of that matter? Nope.

Any complaints about the rubbery interior evaporate you look at the engine’s numbers. Chrysler didn’t just bore out the 6.1 to get more displacement. Instead, the 6.4L shares its tech with Chrysler’s revised 5.7L V8. Unlike the competition, you won’t find any overhead cams, no special direct injection sauce and only 2 valves per cylinder. Despite that, the 6.4L engine is far from retro. This pushrod V8 gets variable valve timing thanks to a trick camshaft, a variable length intake manifold and cylinder deactivation (with the automatic transmission only). The changes vs the old 6.1L SRT engine are transformative. Power is up 45HP to 470 while torque takes a 90ft-lb leap to a horsepower matching 470. More important is the significant improvement in torque from 2,000-4,000RPM. The old 6.1L engine had some odd power peaks and felt out of breath at the top end. The 6.4 on the other hand feels eager at almost any RPM.

Dodge made the Tremec TR6060 6-speed manual transmission (borrowed from the old Viper) standard, a surprising twist in a portfolio that’s automatic heavy. The manual’s shifts are short, the engagement is near perfection and the clutch pedal is linear with predictable engagement and low effort. Should you be a left-leg amputee, a Mercedes 5-speed automatic is available. Don’t do it. While the automatic transmission enables Chrysler’s Multi Displacement System to function, the 6-speed manual is better in every way including fuel economy. Speaking of economy, the Challenger wears a $1,000 gas guzzler tax because of its 14/23/17 MPG numbers (City/Highway/Combined). However, thanks to an extremely tall 6th gear we averaged 19.5MPG over our week with the Challenger and averaged an impressive 25MPG on a long road trip. Real world economy numbers with the automatic appeared to be 1-2MPG lower based on a short drive with a dealer provided vehicle.

Drive

At 4,200lbs and 198-inches long, the Challenger is a GT car at heart, much like BMW’s 4,368lb 193-inch 6-Series. That means (if you haven’t figured it out by now) that being behind the wheel of the Challenger SRT8 is more like being behind the wheel of BMW’s two-door luxury barge than Ford’s pony car. Is that a bad thing? Not in my book. Sure the Challenger cuts a circle 5-feet bigger than the Mustang, doesn’t handle as well on the track, and delivers straight line performance numbers similar to the less expensive Mustang GT, but it’s the car I’d rather drive. Why? The Challenger delivers the most polished ride of the high-horsepower American trio thanks to a standard computer controlled suspension system. If that makes me sound like an old man, let me remind you that Mustang/Camaro vs Challenger is always going to be an apples vs oranges comparison.

No performance car review would be complete without performance numbers. Before we dig in, it is important to keep in mind that the test car had a manual transmission. This means the driver is the single biggest factor involved. The 2013 SRT8 has “launch control” but it proved too cumbersome so it wasn’t used in our tests. You should also know that a single shift (1-2) is required to get the Challenger to 60 while four are required for the 1/4 mile (1-4). Traction is also a problem with any 2WD vehicle and this much power; the more control you have over your rubber burning, the faster your 0-30 times will be.

With that out of the way, let’s dive in. Our first test resulted in an 8.1 second run to 60… Because we only used third gear. That should tell you the kind of torque this engine produces. When not joking around, my best time was a 4.4 second run to 60 with a respectable 2.0 second 0-30 time. You can see from these two numbers that traction is the issue. I estimate with wider, grippier tires in the rear, a 1.8 second 0-30 and 4.2 second 0-60 would be achievable. If you opt for the automatic, 60MPH will take a few ticks longer, but because the Mercedes slushbox only needs gears 1-3 for the 1/4 mile (1-4 in the manual) Chrysler says the time will be about 4/10ths faster.

With a starting price of $44,775, the Challenger is about $2,000 more than a Mustang Boss 302 and around $5,000 more dear than a Camaro SS when comparably equipped. Of course for the price you get dynamic suspension, a larger trunk, bigger back seat and one of the best exhaust notes in the industry. In an attempt to even the playing field, Dodge just announced a new “core” model which will start just under $40-large. When pitted against the competition, the Challenger may march to a different drummer, but this is a beat I dig. The SRT8 392 is ginormous, impractical and eats like a teenager with the munchies. It’s also comfortable, powerful and put more smiles per mile on my face than I had expected. It’s hard to go wrong with those results. Just don’t race for pinks, ok?

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

Specifications as tested

0-30:2.0 Seconds

0-60: 4.4 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 12.8 Seconds @ 115 MPH

Observed Average Fuel Economy: 19.5MPG over 829 miles

2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, 392 Logo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Rear Spoiler, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Trunk, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Door Panel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, 6-Speed Shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, 6-Speed Shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Infotainment, uConnect, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Passenger Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Driver's Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Dashboard Driver's side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Engine, 6.4L HEMI V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Engine, 6.4L HEMI V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Engine, 6.4L 470HP HEMI V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front Grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Fuel Door, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: And The Beetle Goes On Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-and-the-beetle-goes-on-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-and-the-beetle-goes-on-edition/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2011 14:20:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=391723 What was old has become new… again! After letting the old New Beetle languish on the market for a remarkable 13th year, VW has revisited its ’90s retro hit with a longer, lower, wider update on the new Jetta’s platform [The 2012 Beetle is 71.2 inches wide (3.3 inches wider), 58.5 inches tall (.5 inches […]

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What was old has become new… again! After letting the old New Beetle languish on the market for a remarkable 13th year, VW has revisited its ’90s retro hit with a longer, lower, wider update on the new Jetta’s platform [The 2012 Beetle is 71.2 inches wide (3.3 inches wider), 58.5 inches tall (.5 inches lower) and 168.4 inches long (6 inches longer)]. The engine options are largely the same as the Jetta’, with TDI, 2.5 liter five-cylinder and 2.0 Turbo mills on offer, with a 200 HP range-topper offering an electronic limited-slip diff and dual-clutch gearbox.

Convertible and Hybrid versions should be coming down the pipe shortly, but for now all VW wants to talk about is the Beetle’s return to an original-style profile, its status as a “new original” and its ability to “respect the past while looking to the future.” Which is all well and good, but no matter how well the New New Beetle may tickle the Boomers’ retro sensibilities, it’s got nothing to to do with original Beetle’s values. If anything, the New New Beetle should do some of its best work by making at least a few sub-Boomers just a little bit nostalgic for the late 1990s, a simpler time when retro cars didn’t even have to be faithful to the original as long as they offered a plastic flower vase. Now those were some special times…

Der neue Volkswagen Beetle Der neue Volkswagen Beetle Der neue Volkswagen Beetle Der neue Volkswagen Beetle Der neue Volkswagen Beetle Der neue Volkswagen Beetle A Beetle for all seasons? Der neue Volkswagen Beetle Der neue Volkswagen Beetle Der neue Volkswagen Beetle Der neue Volkswagen Beetle Der neue Volkswagen Beetle Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Der neue Volkswagen Beetle Der neue Volkswagen Beetle

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Bulli For You: VW To Build Microvan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/bulli-for-you-vw-to-build-microvan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/bulli-for-you-vw-to-build-microvan/#comments Thu, 10 Mar 2011 16:18:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=386891 The first time VW showed a retro-inspired Van concept, they said they would build it but never did. Now, having shown a new, far smaller retro-inspired microvan [gallery here], VW says they will not only build the thing, but thanks to their modular MQB platform, they’ll be able to build variations of it for markets […]

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The first time VW showed a retro-inspired Van concept, they said they would build it but never did. Now, having shown a new, far smaller retro-inspired microvan [gallery here], VW says they will not only build the thing, but thanks to their modular MQB platform, they’ll be able to build variations of it for markets around the world. Though VW’s development honcho Ulrich Hackenberg insists the microvan won’t be built at VW’s new plant in Chattanooga, TN, he does tell Autocar that it will be sold in the US and

aimed at the XB produced by Toyota’s youth brand, Scion.

Which means it will be built in Mexico, alongside the New Beetle. And come to think of it, the New Bulli and New Beetle seem to have quite a bit in common: both trade heavily on heritage-inspired looks while having little (if anything) to do with their actual inspirations. Which means the Baby Boomers will love it.

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Russian President Requests The Rebirth Of ZiL http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/russian-president-requests-the-rebirth-of-zil/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/russian-president-requests-the-rebirth-of-zil/#comments Thu, 20 May 2010 18:45:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=357043 What is it about former (or ostensible) communist leaders and retro limousines? China’s Hu Jintao got a tip of the hat from us last October for stepping out in style at the country’s National Day celebrations in a retro-fabulous Hongqi HQE. Now, The Guardian reports that President Dmitry Medvedev has decided to trade in his […]

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What is it about former (or ostensible) communist leaders and retro limousines? China’s Hu Jintao got a tip of the hat from us last October for stepping out in style at the country’s National Day celebrations in a retro-fabulous Hongqi HQE. Now, The Guardian reports that

President Dmitry Medvedev has decided to trade in his Mercedes and bring back the ZiL, in what appears to be the latest attempt by Russia’s nostalgic leadership to turn the country into a Soviet theme park. Medvedev has asked aides to examine whether the austere and enduringly sinister limousine can be brought back into production.

And why not? After all, what’s more authentically Russian than being ferried through Red Square in an “enduringly sinister” vehicle made by a company that was at one time known as “Stalin’s Factory”? Is it too soon to ask about American-market availability?

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Will No One Rid Me Of These Troublesome Baby Boomers? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/will-no-one-rid-me-of-these-troublesome-baby-boomers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/will-no-one-rid-me-of-these-troublesome-baby-boomers/#comments Sat, 20 Mar 2010 18:09:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=349770 Statistically speaking, it’s a little early to be ragging on the baby boomers. In addition to numerical advantages, the boomers also haven’t slipped fully into retirement, meaning mainstream culture will be stuck for a little longer in the era of unrepentantly rosy nostalgia. And though the pasturing of America’s second-greatest-by-default generation will be ruinous for […]

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Statistically speaking, it’s a little early to be ragging on the baby boomers. In addition to numerical advantages, the boomers also haven’t slipped fully into retirement, meaning mainstream culture will be stuck for a little longer in the era of unrepentantly rosy nostalgia. And though the pasturing of America’s second-greatest-by-default generation will be ruinous for little things like government entitlement programs, the benefits to important stuff like car design will be profound. Unlike subsequent generations, the baby boomers still had the privilege of living during the golden age of the automobile, a time before Detroit’s decline, the massive government regulation of safety and emission standards, and the general blandifying of the car. As a result, boomers bring a bizarrely retro-sensibility to the modern car market, not just for restored classics, and retro-muscle cars, but for the vehicles that brought an end to the era of Detroit Baroque. Which is where things get interesting.

In many ways, the parallels between the current market and the market which was turned on its head by the popularity of the VW Beetle are eerie. The growth in size, weight and complexity of modern automobiles is a more sophisticated parallel with Detroit’s longer, lower, wider obsession. Sure, chrome, tailfins and power have been replaced by cupholders, heated seats and shadetree-proof engines, but the essential problem remains: as car companies have given us more of what we think we want, we become disconnected from the pure, elemental experience of motoring. More weight, more expense and more features are sold as the tools of freedom, but in fact their main contributions tend to be in the forms of greater costs, mechanic dependence and debt.

The Volkswagen Beetle was launched into a market that, like our own, was caught in a runaway spiral of more. Seen by Detroit’s executives as a rolling joke, the Beetle’s appeal was rooted in its otherness. Designed as a tool of transportation and social liberation rather than as an expensive, complex consumer good, the Beetle tapped into a growing dissatisfaction with the culture of more. The gruff, underpowered engine, the lack of creature comforts, the liberating ease of repair work, and the quirky design were all direct rejections of what was then the Detroit Way. Did the boomers make the Beetle one of the most successful modern car designs, or did the Beetle show the boomers that another way was possible, thus setting them on their quixotic course? An easy answer isn’t obvious.

But one thing is for certain: somewhere along the way, the boomers, like the Beetle, lost their desire for revolutionary simplicity. Even the Beetle succumbed to the siren song of more, yielding puffy embarrassments like the Super Beetle before giving way to more modern designs. Though it soldiered on in the developing world, America’s baby boom discovered that Japanese cars offered more while still providing a rugged simplicity that has evaded Detroit to this day.

But Crowns and 210s gave way to Camrys and Accords, which gave way to bigger, faster, more complicated Camrys and Accords, which in turn spawned Acuras and Lexuses. Caught up in the self-reinforcing cycle of more, the Japanese firms expanded the size, weight, and content of their cars until the distinctions between Detroit and the transplants were no more. And then they added even more.

And yet, despite pushing the auto industry back into the cycle it once gleefully rejected, the baby boomers maintain an unhealthy obsession with the automotive forms that captivated them during their turbulent youths. Cars like the Wrangler Unlimited, New Beetle and MINI make huge money for their parent brands by selling simplicity nostalgia for huge markups, by offering the look of the rugged, counter-cultural past, without any of the downsides [see this NYT [sub] review of the Wrangler Unlimited for a taste of this dynamic]. Which, of course, means that these nostalgic cars offer little to none of the attributes that actually made them popular.

Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with this. Everyone’s entitled to a little nostalgia, and if it sells at a profit, so much the better. The problem, as usual, is that baby boomers have a hard time seeing past their own needs. What consumers younger than baby boomers are missing from the market isn’t a car that looks like a Beetle, but a car that shakes up stale market assumptions the way the original Beetle did. A car that competes at the low end of the market, but will still be desirable in 30 years, like the original Mini. Will anyone be lovingly restoring a Hyundai Accent several decades from now?

Meanwhile, industry insiders scratch their heads and puzzle as to why “the kids” don’t buy cars the way they used. They blame computers, the internet and video games, and try desperately to include the techno-gadgets they think will renew fresh enthusiasm for their products. But kids don’t not buy cars because they fail to integrate Twitter properly, or require stepping away from a computer or Playstation for five minutes. Rather, why should young people get excited about cars, when the lessons of the car industry’s last great youth movement have been so thoroughly perverted and caricatured?

This rant was inspired by some news about the forthcoming Volkswagen New Beetle replacement. The news (as such) is wildly predictable: the New New Beetle will be built on a Jetta platform, offer the same engines, and possibly come with a hybrid option. Otherwise, the changes will be largely stylistic. Having imagined a much smaller, cheaper and fundamentally different Beetle based on a single cruel rumor, news that VW wouldn’t fundamentally change the Beetle’s design came as an (in retrospect, predictable) disappointment. But expecting the poster child for the boomers’ betrayal of their automotive rebellion to reignite an automotive counter-culture was never realistic.

Nor would it be appropriate. Breaking with the past requires something new, unbeholden to nostalgic profit-mongery. Otherwise, what will the car companies re-sell parodies of to us young folks when we grow up, decide that our revolution is over and start demanding four-zone climate controls and tomb-like interiors? Certainly not the Beetle. The boomers ruined that one.

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