The Truth About Cars » Sierra The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 15:25:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Sierra Barclays: GM Suffering From Worst Large Pickup Launch In 15 Years Fri, 28 Feb 2014 15:29:25 +0000 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior

Though the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado took home North American Truck/Utility of the Year at last month’s Detroit Auto Show, the large pickup and its brother, the GMC Sierra, have suffered from “the least successful large pickup launch over the last 15 years” according to Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson.

Automotive News reports the truck twins “faced a full-court press” from the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500, though winter weather also played a role in lower sales across the board. General Motors executives have come to the defense of their products, proclaiming average transaction prices of $4,000 to $5,000 more than the previous generation pickups and a combined market share hovering around 33 percent over the past few months, though the latter point held between 35 and 40 percent of the market in years past.

With dealers begging for stronger promotion and better incentives for the pickups, Chevrolet will host its Chevy Truck Month promotion. The month-long sale will offer supplier pricing (dealer invoice plus destination charges and a $150 fee) on light- and heavy-duty Silverados, and will be heavily pushed during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament with television advertising beginning March 18.

In addition, Chevrolet, Buick and GMC will all hold Open House events throughout the month of March. The month-long sale will offer supplier pricing on nearly every 2014 vehicle sold under each brand, with the exception of the SS and Corvette Stingray for Chevrolet.

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GM To Produce Aluminum Body Pickups, Secures Alcoa and Novelis As Suppliers Tue, 18 Feb 2014 21:58:58 +0000 450x299x2014-Silverado-02-450x299.jpg.pagespeed.ic.NG9-c_eHse
The Wall Street Journal today announced that GM is planning on producing aluminum-bodied pickups for the next generation Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, due for 2018. This comes on the heels of Ford moving the 2015 F150 to an all-aluminum body, with around 97% of the body structure being aluminum (Including the load floor of the bed), which Ford claims has saved 700 pounds off the curbweight of the F150. GM plans to weld panels together as opposed to Ford’s riveted and bonded aluminum panels, to seek further weight savings.

General Motors has secured supply contracts with Alcoa Inc. and Novelis Inc. for their next-generation pickups. Alcoa will also supply aluminum for Ford’s upcoming ’15 F150.

GM’s global product development chief, Mark Reuss,  hinted at considering aluminum-bodied pickups last month:


“We need to see how much aluminum is in it, not what they say is in it but what is actually in it,” Mr. Reuss said the night before Ford introduced its truck. “We are going to look at what they advertise as the weight savings from it and then we are going to go back and do some math… We can play this game real easily.”

Sources familiar with GM’s plans tell the WSJ that rather than using riveting and bonding like Ford, GM has developed a process that uses multi-ringed electrodes to weld the aluminum panels, eliminating a considerable amount of rivets from the production process, reducing weight and assembly time. It takes much less time for a machine to weld panels (be it spot or bead welds) than riveting panels together. This process is already used in smaller aluminum panels, like the aluminum hood of the Cadillac CTS-V, the new Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, the last-generation hybrid Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon SUVs.

The alleged move to aluminum for GM represents a major shift in the pickup segment: for the first time in memory, fuel economy is the prime focus, rather than payload, towing or power.  For GM, the move to aluminum can be construed as a tacit admission that their evolutionary approach to their new full-sizers is not adequate. Sales of the new trucks have been disappointing, with inventories approaching 151 days.

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GM To Recall 370,000 Silverado/Sierra Trucks For Fire Risk Sat, 11 Jan 2014 17:35:52 +0000

The new-for-2014 Silverado charmed our very own Winston Braithwaite when he tested it earlier this year. But if you ran right out to buy one after reading the review (YES ADVERTISERS THIS HAPPENS EVERY DAY) you might be without it for a few days in the near future.

GM is reportedly aware of eight issues where 4.3-liter and 5.3-liter 2014-model trucks caught fire due to “overheated exhaust areas”. These incidents all happened during “very cold weather”, and the company is encouraging owners not to let their trucks idle. Given that half of the reason people buy these sleds is to let ‘em idle in the winter, it seems unlikely this advice will be honored in the observation more than the breach, so to speak.

The fix will be available starting Monday and appears to be a software reprogramming.

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TTAC Project Car: Citizen Sierra Mon, 28 Oct 2013 12:03:14 +0000

It’s been a while since our last update on TTAC’s intercontinental project car: a UK-spec 1983 Ford Sierra Ghia finished in Rio Brown.  Since then the Sierra’s gifted creator passed away and more positively, Ford wisely ditched its Titanium trim level for a famous name befitting a premium offering with brown paint…even if it isn’t Ghia.

Jealous much of TTAC’s sweet ride, FoMoCo?  


We ended our last story with the Sierra’s hood cable unable to release the “bonnet”. Which was fixed one year ago this week: reaching between the front fascia and the radiator to grab the release lever and pop it free.  From there, two zip ties eliminated the slack in the cable and it’s been fine ever since.  A surprisingly easy fix!


Any hope of getting Citizen Sierra nice and legal started with its horrible exhaust leak, probably stemming from the Nürburgring workout given by Capt. Mike at said famous race track.

I grabbed a 2.3L Mustang manifold gasket, pulled the cast iron lump off and realized that the 2.0L Pinto motor has a unique cylinder head.  With no matching gasket in sight, I swapped my unopened part for Mr. Gasket’s sheet of “make your own” gasket paper.  In less time than it took to watch a football game, I crafted a set of four gaskets. About a week before Christmas 2012, I finished the Sierra’s exhaust. Ironically, that was also the day I confronted my inner and outer demons.

Making a concerted effort to change my attitude/personality that evening, the Sierra–in some twisted way–became my catalyst for that change. So it became that Citizen Sierra joined my personal quest for continuous improvement.


Considering the number of cars in the Mehta garage, a unique key chain was needed.  I found these vintage units (modeled after a promotional button Ford made in 1982) on eBay in the US, and they were mine in a couple of days. Nice.


Shameless Plug: in February I scored specialty car insurance, quite affordable thanks to the extraordinary customer service at the National Corvette Museum. With proof of fiduciary responsility in hand, I motored out of the warehouse for a state inspection, a simple task with any 25+ year old car in Texas!  The ride there was surprisingly serene, and it easily passed the test.

With the Sierra legal (enough) to begin the path to citizenship, I hit another roadblock: the head lights and brake lights went berserk.  I tried fixing them: repairing frayed wiring, replacing bulbs, a new brake pedal switch, a multifunction switch from a Merkur, all to no avail.  By mid March I was 100% frustrated: so I quickly reassembled my work and drove to a friend’s shop. And a little over three months later…


Sadly that friend had even more existential concerns than myself: after his cell phone was disconnected, I went to claim my Sierra, in whatever condition it may sit.  Mercifully he fixed it well, charged next to nothing and I learned a lesson…or three.

Soon after I took a few hours off work to get the Sierra titled. Except not: the county wasn’t pleased with the paperwork.  The Sierra is pictured here (above) in July at the Houston Police Department’s Auto Theft division, where they quickly processed/approved Form 68-A: a crucial part to obtaining citizenship in Texas.  While this was one of the creepiest, covert operations I’ve seen (they don’t even let you inside) the people were certainly pleasant enough.


Victory!  Sort of: between an international title that wasn’t signed by Capt. Mike and two ownership changes between here and the UK, I needed a bonded title to get legal.  My friends in the classic car trade recommended a local title company. In less than a week, they made the impossible happen.  While I enjoy working instead of waiting in lines, there was a singular downside. Their handiwork set me back a painful $750.


Legal issues cleared, the work began: first the horrible radio. While the factory unit supposedly picked up FM, it seemed to miss the land of BBC radio. Then the tape deck broke, taking away my MP3 interface!  I grabbed the same (Blaupunkt) radio from a 1980s USA Audi in hopes it would work. No dice.

Then I bought a stunning vintage, NOS, perfect DENON cassette deck, which wasn’t amplified and therefore useless to the Sierra. Stereo #4, a “so cheap its worth a shot” NOS Pyramid deck with a graphic equalizer did work, but made the original speakers crackle and pop like that “snappy” breakfast cereal.  $50 later on eBay and I was installing new 4” Kenwood coaxial speakers into a very chocolatey cabin.  The rears were a snap, but the fronts were…well you see the photo.


While the craptastic Pyramid was an improvement, it was still a horrible radio.  Back to eBay, and this Hitachi tape deck with an AUX jack and an ingenious spring-loaded pull out mechanism (no grab handle) was mine for a fair price.  Lesson learned: vintage Kenwood/Alpine audio fanbois pay waaaay too much for cassette decks!


After a few more miles of weekend cruises and plans for a short trip to judge a LeMons race, the Sierra developed some annoying problems. A ripped spark plug boot (that I destroyed during inspection/removal) needed attention, but ordering tune up parts for a Sierra (i.e. not of the GMC variety) at the parts store is cumbersome. And the word “Merkur” doesn’t help, either. Luckily an Autozone cut-to-fit kit (USA made!) combined with new Motorcraft plugs worked perfectly. A nice repair for less than $25.   4_1

The exhaust had problems at the rear, too.  $150 later and a local shop replaced the crusty rear resonator and it looks factory. Surprisingly, the new assembly is louder than the original, probably because it isn’t full of rust flakes.


Then a front-end alignment: I’m stunned at the number of shops that refuse to work on a car if the alignment specs aren’t in their machine.  I had the Ford factory shop manual (purchased from a UK re-seller of discarded library books) with the specs in hand, but nobody would play…until I found a Meineke with the balls to read books, not just computers.


Then tires: these Romanian-made Vikings were not only a poor tribute to Nordic heritage, they were past it thanks to the (mis) alignment. Since the usual places don’t stock a 165/80/13 tire, I found a vendor in California selling China’s finest speed rated radials for $34 a pop. Apparently this is a common tire size for Honda Accords from the same era, so I got lucky!

5The Sierra’s fan clutch puked its fluid at the LeMons race in late September, making it hurl coolant as I extorted bribes from cheaty racers.  Determined to find a local replacement, I realized European Ford clutches use the same removal tool as BMWs.  I was lucky to find a brilliant night manager at the local O’Reilly’s, as he hammered away at his computer to find a ($100) clutch from an E30 that dropped right in. Thirty minutes later, the Sierra was running cooler than Jonathan Goldsmith in a booth fulla hot women.


Last month I added this custom-made LeMons bribe to the Sierra’s hatch.  One race team had a talented graphic company in tow, and it’s certainly good to be a corrupt judge with a penchant for exotic machines ending in “RI”!


Our man in Czechoslovakia, Mr.  Vojta Dobeš befriended me shortly after my initial purchase.  Turns out he grew up with Fords from the 1970s and 1980s, so his love of Sierras is strong. Even better, his ability to find valuable parts is even stronger.  I literally bounced off the walls when his box of Ford goodies arrived. We are very lucky to have this guy in our ranks.


As alluded to in last week’s Piston Slap, I ran into problems while installing these parts.  Bad grounds, blown fuses, dirty connections and a truckload of time with wiring diagrams to make it all work: but the result is brilliant. Now I have a well-mannered RWD hatchback with enough head lamps to bake your legs on an autumn winter morning. Yes, really.

The plan was to put the finished Sierra* back in the warehouse…but screw that!  I’ll keep TTAC’s project car in my garage until summer rears its ugly head (no A/C) once more. Citizen Sierra is now, after all, a big part of my past, present and future.

And now you know The Truth About TTAC’s Ford Sierra. I hope you have a fantastic week.

*NOTE: the Sierra is currently running European style plates with the correct license number for the State of Texas.  This, along with keeping the real plates in the spare tire well, is a temporary measure until I figure out how to install a Texas plate without modifying the body or the plate itself.  More to come.

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Price Differential With Competing Pickup Trucks Has GMC & Chevy Dealers Upset Tue, 22 Oct 2013 12:00:49 +0000 AR-310219846

Many dealers are complaining that price differentials between the all new GM pickup trucks and heavily discounted competitors from Ford and Ram are leaving them with disappointing sales results. The new Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra were launched in June amid heavy incentives from competitive brands. But the trucks, which have been praised by the press, are not moving quickly. Automotive News reports that a Pasadena, Texas dealer says that his supply is up to 170 days, compared to his normal inventory of 110 days supply. A dealer in Austin reports a 120 day supply, up from his norm at 90 days.

GM’s original business plan for the new trucks was to sell premium trucks at higher transaction prices but CEO Dan Akerson’s dual goals of gaining market share and improving profit margins may be conflicting with each other. Dealers now say that to compete with Ram and Ford who are offering up to $9,000 in incentives on some 2013 models, GM will have to start discounting the new trucks.

Dealers feel that once their competitors’ 2013 models are sold off they expect to encounter less price competition but they feel that the lack of incentives on their own 2014 trucks are stalling what is a very important launch.

September U.S. sales of the Silverado and Sierra were down 8 percent, while Ford’s F-series sales rose 10 percent and Ram’s climbed 8 percent.

GM officials have indicated that they’d rather keep transaction prices high than chase after market share. While September sales were down, average transaction prices year to year were up about $3,000. An analyst at RBC Capital Markets said that a $2,000 increase in transaction prices would translate to an additional $1.3 billion in GM’s bottom line for the year.

The company had increased cash incentives on the Silverado to $1,000 at the beginning of October plus another $500 discount on more expensive trim packages but dealers were disappointed when only a week later the company raised the MSRP on the trucks across the lineup by an average of $1,500.

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2014 GM Pickups First to Earn NHTSA Five-Star Rating Wed, 21 Aug 2013 18:16:59 +0000 silverado_r

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stiffened its testing procedures in 2011. General Motors has announced that for the first time since those stricter standards have been in place its 2014 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups have earned overall vehicle scores of five stars, the first fullsize pickup trucks to earn that rating. The 2014 Ford F-150 and 2014 Ram 1500 from Chrysler have four-star overall ratings. NHTSA hasn’t yet released the rating of Toyota’s new 2014 Tundra, scheduled to go on sale in late August, but the 2013 Tundra received four stars from NHTSA as did the outgoing 2013 GM trucks.

Gay Kent, GM general director of Vehicle Safety and Crashworthiness, said in a statement, “Safety is as important to truck buyers as it is to car buyers. Silverado and Sierra set a benchmark for pickup truck safety by offering a full array of advanced features designed to protect occupants before, during and after a collision.”

Before NHTSA instituted more rigorous testing, almost 90% of models received four or five star ratings for side impacts and 95% were ranked with 5 stars after frontal collision testing. Those figures dropped after the new standards were implemented.

silverado int_r

In addition to new passive safety features like lap belt pretensioners, six standard air bags (including new dual stage frontal air bags), fully boxed frames and the use of high strength steel in critical areas, GM’s new pickups, the source of much of the company’s profits in its home market in the U.S. offer other optional safety upgrades like backup cameras, forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning, and a haptic safety-alert driver’s seat.

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Vellum Venom: Uwe Bahnsen, Car Designer, RIP Thu, 08 Aug 2013 03:51:41 +0000 photo

Never forget: people make all the difference.  This often overlooked fact in the glamorous world of automotive styling rings true for the life of Mr. Uwe Bahnsen. I froze in my tracks when I heard of his passing on Car Design News. His work at Ford and with the Industrial Design community influenced me, and every American who loved cars in the 1980s.

How ironic that Mr. Bahnsen’s passing was the week TTAC’s own Ford Sierra passed its citizenship test in Texas: so here’s a great Germanic-Texas Beer for you, Mr. Bahnsen.

Every car is designed by a team–not a person—but the kind words spoken about Uwe’s life say he was no ordinary designer.  And he was a good man: so instead of paraphrasing Wikipedia and the great work by Car Design News, let’s see what he did for us.

Bahnsen’s work with the “bathtub” Ford Taunus P3 and second generation Escort/Capri are impressive alone.  Especially the P3, a progressive–if not radical–design for the early 1960s.  But what’s the Super Bowl of a car designer’s career?  Being the VP of Design, making a paradigm-shifting sedan that sells well around the world. A vehicle that lives long enough to go from radical to mainstream over the course of a decade.

That work is the 1982 Ford Sierra. Unlike more exotic brands (Audi 100 and beyond) that went “Aero” thanks to pricey Italian design and/or expensive engineering for limited production, the Sierra was wholly affordable and completely common. A people’s car like the Model T and VW Beetle…just not to that famous of an extent.

Sierra meets the big fan…

But you catch my drift. Us Yanks only know the Sierra in Cosworth/Merkur drag, so perhaps the firsthand experience of Bahnsen’s hard work as told by Mr. John Topley says it best:

“It’s difficult for me to convey just how radical the Sierra was when it was launched. This was the car that replaced twenty years of the Ford Cortina, a favourite with both fleet and family buyers in Britain. By 1982 the Cortina was looking pretty tired. It was still a best seller but by all accounts it wasn’t a great drive and the technology was pretty agricultural. In spite of which, Britain was still buying masses of them.

By contrast, the new Sierra looked like nothing else around, aside from the even more radical Audi 100 which came out at the same time. I think the Sierra was more important though because it was a mass market rather than executive car.”

Moments in time like these are rare, how often does a design change the way a person moves?  On multiple continents, for over a decade?  This moment elevated the car design game thanks in part to Ford’s Aerospace division, the beginnings of finite element analysis, and usage of new technologies that made the Sierra’s wraparound bumpers and ergonomic dashboards so cutting-edge. It’s a most fertile ground for a designer.

While we (probably) live in the Golden Age of technology, Uwe Bahnsen’s world experienced a far more dramatic change from far less technology. Aside from the aforementioned Audi, most carmakers embraced this technology/design philosophy years later. Boo to them: Uwe and his team were on the cusp of something special…the future!

Uwe Bahnsen made the most of this opportunity, take it from the guy that owns one of his creations.  To this day, the original Ford Sierra looks more futuristic than a Toyota Prius, providing an ownership experience that satisfies the senses like a far more expensive BMW. This doesn’t happen often, especially in America.

More to the point, the Sierra is an ergonomic and aesthetic treat. I’d love to ask Mr. Bahnsen hundreds of questions about his life, but the fact remains: his contribution to the Automobile shall never be forgotten.

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


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GM Pickups Get Fuel Economy Figures In 5.3L V8 Configuration Mon, 01 Apr 2013 17:23:24 +0000

GM announced that prices of their new 1500-series trucks would remain flat, while the new 5.3L V8 is estimated to beat Ford’s F-150 Ecoboost in fuel economy and towing capacity.

Silverado and Sierra trucks with the 5.3L engine will apparently return 16/23 mpg city/highway in 2WD and 16/22 in 4WD configuration. The new trucks can also out-tow the Ecoboost F-150 by 200lbs (11,500 lbs versus 11,300 lbs for the Ford) while besting the 5.0L Ford trucks by a full 1,500 lbs.

Until EPA and real-world fuel economy figures are confirmed, we can only report on GM’s estimates. Also worth noting is that fuel economy ratings for the 4.3L V6 and the uprated 6.2L V8 were absent. Pricing for the Silverado will be flat, with the new model selling for the exact same base price as the 2013 versions – but without the very generous discounts that have been available for the last 16 months.

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Meet The New GM Trucks, Same As The Old Trucks Thu, 13 Dec 2012 15:48:01 +0000

GM revealed its new full-size pickups today, with a combination of “evolutionary” styling and while offering a more traditional pickup, devoid of the fancy turbocharged V6 engines and air suspensions offered in its rivals.

Three powertrains will be offered with the new trucks; a 4.3L V6, a 5.3L V8 and a 6.2L V8, and all three feature direct injection and cylinder deactivation. A six-speed automatic will back up all three engines, with GM estimating a combined 17 mpg for all three trucks. Horsepower and torque specs weren’t released.

New features include a step mounted at the corner of the pickup bed (which features no moving parts and is permanently set into the rear bumper – a rather clever idea), LED lights mounted under the bed and a seat that vibrates to warn the driver of a possible collision (similar to the Cadillac XTS). Inside, an infotainment system similar to Cadillac’s CUE dominates the interior, while rear legroom is said to be improved. GM claims that the switchgear is easier to operate with work gloves on, but presumably those must be removed for the touchscreen system to work.

Next up in GM’s truck salvo; revised versions of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Unlike Ford and Ram, GM is adopting a two-pronged approach, with the new mid-size trucks being positioned as the choice for mpg-concious buyers. The demise of the Ford Ranger has left GM as the sole domestic player in the small truck market, though the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier will provide the twins with a bit of a challenge.

1. Photo courtesy Automotive News. 2. Photo courtesy Automotive News. 3. Photo courtesy Automotive News. 4. Photo courtesy Automotive News. 5. Photo courtesy Automotive News. 6. Photo courtesy Automotive News. 7. Photo courtesy Automotive News. 8. Photo courtesy Automotive News. PH-121309999. Photo courtesy Automotive News. PH-1213099999. Photo courtesy Automotive News. Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 177
Piston Slap: LSX-FTL??? Wed, 08 Aug 2012 11:34:28 +0000


Adam writes:

I have been on your site for a couple years now and don’t remember ever seeing this topic. Our issue is we have a 2007 Suburban with a 5.3 AFM (Active fuel management) motor that was burning 1 quart of oil per 600 miles.

We bought the truck with 65k miles on it, now has 75k miles on it. After doing much reading, I found this is a very common problem with 2007 and 2008 models with the 5.3 AFM. My dealer has been more than perfect on getting it “fixed”. They did not request any service docs, instead they just verified the problem by doing a oil consumption test. Once verified, they went straight to replacing all pistons, rebuilt one head, replaced intake, and replaced the valve covers. The truck has since had about 2k miles put on it and all seems well. The oil looks new, before it would be black within 5 miles.

My main concern now is it really fixed? Or is it just patched up for another 30k to 60k miles. (from what I read this is the typical mileage when the problem starts). My dealer told me they had a production run where intakes for non-afm motors were put on the early afm motors in error. This is the first I have heard of this, and cannot find much online about it. The main theory online is that when the AFM shuts off 4 cylinders, they cool, allow small amounts of oil to pass by the rings. Over time this gums the up and they lose their spring tension.

So any insight from you guys or the members would be great. Not sure if I should keep the truck or sell it.

PS: Sorry for any typo’s, did this while at work. Also hopefully this is a good discussion for your piston slap.

Sajeev Answers:

Very interesting!  I was not aware of this particular problem with the LS Motor…I mean, I knew about LS-series Piston Slap and my love of this motor made me name this column after it…

But I digress.  It sounds like the dealer did the right thing and replaced all the offending parts as per GM’s guidelines, so good for them.  But, I know, that’s cold comfort to you. And honestly, I know of nothing that can make you feel better.

Except the automotive aftermarket! Hooray for the aftermarket!  I suggest you turn off the AFM system and forget about ever running on 4 cylinders.  All you need is a computer reflash from just about any GM tune shop, and there are plenty to choose from.  Not only does this almost guarantee that AFM will be history, you get a free performance tune for multiple fuel octane levels, no more torque management, quicker transmission action, and far livelier performance.

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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TTAC Project Car: Home and Dry! Sun, 03 Jun 2012 17:43:11 +0000

It happened. TTAC finally has their very own Ford Sierra.

It’s true: the UK-spec Ford Sierra I promised to TTAC readers has arrived.  Well actually two Brits, as our man Captain Mike Solo imported both his Peugeot 205 1.6 GTI and my Ford Sierra Ghia at the same time.  And while I eagerly awaited the Sierra’s arrival in Houston, I could not meet the ship at the port. The precious cargo went up to an official military delivery area in Dallas, about 4-5 hours away.

If you think getting the car from Europe to USA was tough, try making the journey from Houston to Dallas.

Due to timing between my work schedule, the storage fees at the receiving area and Captain Mike’s legal signature required to take delivery, the Sierra waited for at least another month before getting home.

Mike signed for both British beauties (so to speak) and proceeded to trailer off his pretty little Pug. Apparently the staff was more impressed with the bizarre brown space ship on wheels, though most of that credit goes to the exhaust leak from the 2.0L Pinto mill.

One of my racer friends from the 24 Hours of LeMons, Brian Pollock of Property Devaluation Racing, promised to tow it from the place you see here to his workshop filled with similarly bizarre and crappy old Fords.

But then the starter in Brian’s Cummins I-6 converted Ford F-350 took a dump.  No dice. He had a friend in the tow truck business who’d do us a solid, and deliver the car to Brian for $125.  Considering the alternative of leaving the Sierra in this spot, I gladly paid that. I don’t like how that white S10 is staring at my Rio Brown Ghia goodness!

And there it goes.  The deliciously Brown Ford is off to meet LeMons cars, LeMons racers and eventually…its very Brown-toned new owner.

           So what’s up with the random belt shot?  This is one of the many steps required to get me (safely) over to Dallas. See, the Mehta fleet includes a 2006 Lincoln Navigator with a ROUSH Supercharger from an F-150.  And while the roots-style fed, tubular exhaust header equipped Navigator sucks down plenty of premium fuel, the massive torque and close ratio 6-speed transmission makes towing damn near anything a breeze.  But, just in case, here’s the part number if the belt decides the Sierra isn’t a worthy trailer queen.

Luckily there was no need for drama, the Supercharged Navigator happily made it here.  There’s my Sierra!  FINALLY!

And after spending far too much time trying to get the Sierra on the back of the stupid fast Navigator, it was ready to go home. Note my smile with the ratchet straps, as I am terrible with these things.  Combined with the stress of my normal work week, the labor involved in making this day happen and my level of exhaustion while driving up to Dallas, this was no small feat. I need to clone myself.

But still, there’s always time to smile.  Even if all my friends know it’s official: I’m absolutely nuts!

And it got worse.  Apparently the Sierra was homesick, longing for some proper UK weather.  The rain went from British charm to Gulf Coast beat down in a matter of minutes.  I took this terrible shot while filling the Navigator at the gas station: the wind was so strong I was soaked under the station’s prodigious roof. The day went from tiring to absolutely miserable.

But with a bit of caffeine, my two road trip buddies Todd and Angie, the open highway and the amazing view at my back…well, it was all worth it. I doubt I’ll ever have another automotive purchase experience like this one.  And FWIW, the Supercharged Navigator got 9 MPG on the way back.

Annnnd we’re back!  The weather cleared up in the Bayou City just long enough to get the Sierra off the trailer.  And, as the Brits say, the Sierra is now “home and dry” with the rest of the Mehta fleet, some of them shown here.

This is also a good time to mention the theme song for this milestone:

Click here to view the embedded video.

I gotta see you, I gotta be with you,

We’ll make it better now in every way,

Yes, home and dry.

So what’s next?  Fixing that massive exhaust leak, coming from the gap between the engine and the  manifold. Too bad the hood release also decided to fail.  On the plus side, I finally bought a proper set of Ford shop manuals, sporting this helpful diagram. Looks like I’m spending one morning with the Sierra, a pair of jacks, a flashlight and one very, VERY long screwdriver.

Thank you all for reading.  Get your hands dirty and enjoy your Sunday!

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New or Used: Cefiro! Thu, 10 Nov 2011 18:17:04 +0000


TTAC commentator bumpy ii writes:

It’s definitely going to be used in this case. Anyway, I’m looking to pick up a fun weekend car in another 3-4 years. I like to plan ahead. Here’s what I want:

* 4 doors
* manual transmission
* normally aspirated inline 6
* (the kicker) curb weight under 3,000 pounds
* preferably built after the Reagan administration (most everyone had their emissions stuff sorted out by then)

From what I can tell, this narrows the list down to 4 cars (in order of preference):

*Nissan R32 Skyline
*Nissan A31 Cefiro
*M-B 190E 2.6
*BMW E30 325i

Am I leaving anything off? Any particular reason to favor or discount one versus another? Budget: I dunno, up to $10k if necessary. I’m in Virginia, and I’m willing to wait until the Nissans hit the DOT import exemption.

Sajeev Answers:

Why narrow your focus to I-6 motors? They are a bit slow by modern standards and are pricey to make more palatable, unless they are fitted with factory turbos. Oh, and they tend to wiggle like a wiener dog when they overheat, eating head gaskets and warping (aluminum) heads in the process. While I understand the premise of your quandary, all of these vintage racers will get their asses handed to them by a Fox Mustang (or LTD, since you want four-doors) with a full Griggs suspension, late model brakes with ABS and a souped up Windsor motor. Hell you don’t even wanna pick a fight with a 265hp, 6-speed (auto) Camry SE with a few chassis mods. There’s no better bitch slap than Toyota’s best Q-ship, especially from a 70mph dig: the 6 to 3 downshift is just nuts in that car!

And to be a real jerk, let me also tell you what 10 grand will buy in a tastefully modified 4th-gen Camaro or Firebird. They are the most underrated piece of “cheap” iron out there, even with the awful interior and terrible reputation from their collective owners. Buy one, twist the key and be better than 90% of the vehicles on the planet, even box stock.

That said, I am importing a brown Ford Sierra Ghia from the UK, so perhaps I need to encourage you. With the Sierra in mind, the only one from my list would be the Cefiro. If you are gonna be spanked by a new Camry, why not do it with class and style?

Hot Rod Griggs Fox Body LTD, son. Think about it.

Steve answers:

Inline 6? My good God man! What on Earth makes you want to drive an engine from the middle ages? Do you have some type of unique fetish for old Celica Supras and E-Classes?

Actually, I think a late 80′s MB W124 four door would actually be quite close with the weight and engine specs… but why? I’m sorry but I just have no love for the inline 6′s other than their supposed ease of maintenance (which is not nearly the entire equation when it comes to these old engines).

I would think about it some more. Years, many years. Maybe to the point of near death. If an inline 6 is a must have then just get yourself a nice old Merc or BMW for about 2 to 3k and just play with it for a while. There is no good reason to blow $10k on a proverbial Reagan era spec sheet.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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TTAC Project Car: Thank YOU, Best and Brightest! Tue, 01 Nov 2011 20:33:10 +0000  



TTAC Commentator Diewaldo writes:

Hello Sajeev,

I didn’t know how to contact you otherwise, but I found your Sierra in Nürburg. It seems to be still in good shape. I have uploaded a photo, here is the link.

Greetings from the Eifel,


Sajeev Answers:

OMG, SON! You offered to do just that in our last installment, and you kept your promise.  Has the Internet made the world that small? The fact that USAF Captain Mike found this car in a UK Classic Car advert online, while living in God-Knows-Where (don’t ask, he’ll have to kill you) and while chatting with me on Facebook during the working hour is your first clue that our world has completely changed thanks to technology.

And my fiduciary promise via Facebook sealed the deal. Mike, his bestest UK mates, and TWO of my dearest friends (one from Somerset, another traveled all the way from Houston to see it, THEN rub it in my face)  have fondled and violated that precious bond of brown paint, Ghia trimmings and honest RWD Ford engineering in some way/shape/form…while I’ve had no interaction with my Rio Brown Beauty. Zip.

Curse you, Capt Solo!


Here’s the fun part: I’ve heard of a couple of mystery decals attached to the Sierra’s chocolate laquer, and everyone kept their mouth shut. “You will know when you open the container” is the usual response to my demands. Thanks to the Best and Brightest, mystery solved!

Now I see the “GB” decal on the Sierra’s slender hatch, and a little reminder of this ride’s dunce-cap status among real car nuts.  This ain’t a Cosworth, it’s a Ghia 5-door. It has plush velour seating, rear sunshades and is finished in Brown, for chrissakes!  Obviously this will be the butt of all jokes, in a nice way.  But who knew I’d get a proper Nürburgring decal showing how you must be a “Novice” if you roll a Sierra Ghia in Nürburg! Since he’s a good sport, Mike must be absolutely chuffed at the ribbing he gets from this car!

So yes, the Internet rocks.  Because it brings TTAC’s Best and Brightest together.  Thank you all for reading, and have a laugh or two at the remedial decal on the glass, the high resolution photo is only a click away.


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TTAC Project Car: My Substitute for Love Mon, 17 Oct 2011 19:43:07 +0000


It’s been a while since you’ve heard about our project car’s voyage, unfortunately not much has happened.  Our man in Germany, USAF Captain Mike Solowiow, is busy saving the world…meaning our Sierra sits and waits for a shipping container to finish the journey to America.

Too bad the Sierra is no longer mobile.  Because its UK road tax expired, Mike cannot legally insure it.  Therefore, no more photos like the one above.  That’s right, the Sierra got its Nürburgring cherry popped! In his spare time, Mike is an instructor (yes, really) at this famous road course, so he can probably get away with such actions with minimal detriment to his “car guy” credibility.  So the Sierra sits and waits on a gravel parking spot at the base of the Castle Nurburg…but luckily for me, I have a plan to get him motivated to take action.

Because I have one of Mike’s babies, check out his personal Audi 4000!  How did this happen?

Tony Hoffman, our mutual friend and gifted VW-Audi tech, regularly helps me out at the Houston runnings of the 24 Hours of LeMons.  When I realized the extent of Tony’s Audi connections…including Capt. Mike’s friendship…I asked for a huge favor. I wanted Mike’s Audi 4000 as a LeMons Judgemobile.

Tony happily fulfilled my request.

Sure, Mike has my Ford Sierra, but I get his Audi 4000 as collateral! And while this 4000’s smooth brown cloth interior is a fair trade from the Sierra (Ghia) Chatsworth chocolate velour, my “collateral” needs a fair bit of work to be driven regularly.  So, much like Mike’s German-UK predicament, I shall refrain from driving his car.

But seriously, even though this vehicle’s cosmetics aren’t there, the proof is beyond the pictures:  4000’s are such great drivers!  Sure they aren’t/weren’t terribly easy/cheap to work on, they might have been even worse than any other sedan of its size, but the little Quattro has a tight feel and a sporty demeanor I wish we could see again in a production vehicle.  Well, maybe the modern turbo Subies are close enough for some people…

And have a look at center stack: a minimalist flat black affair with cool lights on the differential locks? Epic win! How do you feel about Audi’s MMI system now, people?

I especially like the name tag above the HVAC controls.  This solves a big problem of mine, chronically neglected in most vehicles.  Now I will never forget what I am driving!

Take your time with the Sierra, Capt. Mike, I’ll keep your 4000 in the meantime. Muhahahahahaha!

IMG_4348 IMG_4349 IMG_4350 IMG_4351 IMG_4353 IMG_4354 IMG_4355 IMG_4356 IMG_4357 IMG_4358 IMG_4359 On the Ring! IMG_4352 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 15
New or Used: The Polish Connection? Fri, 05 Aug 2011 02:27:24 +0000 (


Terrance writes:

I will be moving to Poland with my wife and baby son in July. We will need a car, and trying to calculate value is tough for me, knowing very little about the Polish market.

I don’t know how much we intend on driving, but probably the occasional couple hundred mile trip on the weekend. I would like to keep my purchase price below 5,000 dollars and have something that is easy to fix where I can maybe take it to the guy down the street who operates out of his house’s garage, and not be too afraid of the guy not being able to get parts, not having too many special tools, etc.

The other aspect of European cars is the use of natural gas. It looks like “lpg” is big in Poland as many of the cars I checked out on have the natural gas option. Does this add to the complexity of maintenance? Will this provide more value per mile than a diesel engine?

The car has to be relatively safe, and a wagon with the room would fit our style as a growing family. There seem to be a lot of 10+ year old German cars that can be had pretty cheaply ( So far I like the Mercedes and BMW wagons from the early nineties. But something tells me that a 5 year old Honda Jazz would be a much smarter choice even if it might cost more upfront.

Sajeev Answers:

Unfortunately, aside from American land yacht fetishes of a few Polish citizens , my knowledge of that market is next to nothing. But that’s never stopped me before, so why start now?

As an expert in all things cars with a deep sense of cultural sensitivity to all automotive markets, I recommend you import some buy something similar to Panther Love.  Need a wagon?  Find the most common platform on the market and buy that wagon offshoot.  If this was the late 1990s, I’d recommend a Ford Sierra wagon because of its historical success across most of Europe, its built-in mechanical simplicity/durability and its RWD design for some potential fun.

Obviously the Sierra is too old, so look at the Sierra’s modern counterparts: Ford, Opel, Renault, VW, Peugeot sedans that are also wagons.  What’s the most common platform on the streets? What is the easiest to service if mechanical complications lead to communication failure between a Polish mechanic and a frustrated Ex-Pat.

Steve answers:

Poland for all intents and purposes should be like any other country in the EU. Though I understand that there is some rather fast driving of near new cars from Germany to Poland for some reason.

I would simply get the type of vehicle that would be the best match for your budget and needs.


What do you like? Sajeev mentioned a Ford Sierra equivalent and Honda Jazz which have been well received for a long time now. Do you want something offbeat or unavailable in the US? If you ever wanted a Seat, Skoda, Peugeot, Fiat, Opel or Renault this will be your golden opportunity. The Germans also offer a long list of vehicles that are not available in the U.S. market and diesels are simply all over the place.



I would rent a couple of vehicles and just get a feel for the traffic in the area. Then buy what is local. You want to deal with the customs  and licensing folks as little as possible in any country. Unless you want to become a burgeoning exporter to the EU I would just buy a local ride and keep things simple.



Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.



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In The Midst Of CAFE Negotiations, GM Re-Invests In Trucks Wed, 20 Jul 2011 20:43:53 +0000

[UPDATE: GM responds to this piece here]

With environmentalist groups on the warpath over forthcoming 2017-2025 CAFE standards, trucks sitting on lots, and the Flint HD Pickup plant idled for much of the month, this is probably not exactly the moment GM might have chosen to put $328m into tooling for new full-sized pickups to be built at Flint. But time and the market wait for no company, and because the Silverado is GM’s single best-selling product, the investment isn’t tough to justify:

“Truck sales play an important role in the success of General Motors,” said Joe Ashton, UAW-GM Vice President. “We are confident that the next-generation of trucks will continue to be an important source of revenue for the company and jobs for our members

In case there’s any confusion though, GM is making perfectly sure nobody thinks they’re making any product choices because of union demands. At the investment announcement ceremony at Flint, Cathy Clegg, GM vice president of labor relations told Reuters [via Automotive News [sub]]

We certainly aren’t going to make a decision and make a commitment solely as a way of getting an agreement. If the market doesn’t drive it, we can’t do that

So, how is that truck market?

GM’s presser notes

GM’s retail share of the full-size pickup market has grown to 40.4 percent through May compared with 37.7 percent in the first five months of 2010.

That’s not bad at all…but it doesn’t really answer the question. So, how is that truck market?

Not bad at all! From 2008 until well into last year it seemed like cars would pull away from the trucks, but the big boys have staged a comeback. And all the growth has been in domestics too, as import brand truck sales have been stalled since the ’08 downturn. In the short term that’s great for Detroit, but in the long term it’s also the first hint of trouble for the overall market. For more let’s dig into those truck numbers

Here’s what happens when you break those trucks into what they really are: pickups, SUVs and vans. With this breakdown we can see that the pickup market isn’t looking all that solid at all, and looks unlikely to ever return to the 3m+ annual sales levels of its halcyon days. All the growth in “trucks” is coming from SUVs… and you can probably guess what the next drilldown is…

Here’s your roaring “truck” market: car-based crossovers, not body-on-frame dinosaurs. With truck-based SUVs headed back down and pickups going nowhere, the long-term prospects for the next-generation of truck platforms aren’t stellar. Let’s hope GM has seen the handwriting on the wall and will have some forward-thinking surprises for the new full-sizers, because in a market like this they need to keep winning retail share. And because nearly two million annual truck units is worth chasing, because Flint’s big trucks are important to GM’ relationship with the UAW and because the Volt is built for those bankable, swappable CAFE credits, this pickup investment is a no-brainer… for now, anyway.

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TTAC Project Car: You Meet the Nicest People In a…Ford Sierra? Thu, 02 Dec 2010 20:33:48 +0000

It may not be ready to take on the old Honda tagline, but our 1983 Ford Sierra Ghia is strengthening our ties with our car nutty friends from across the pond. While Capt. Mike’s UK connections are stronger, here’s the story of how our Sierra made it from the seller’s house to one of the Captain’s friend’s homes: a strong group of Nürburgring-fiends who claimed our lovable Air Force Yank as one of their own. But that’s for the next installment in this series because, as the Panther-intensive pictures show, I’m telling this portion of the story.

Just in case you missed it, Mike and me are on a quest for the ultimate Ford of our generation: a restomod Ford Sierra Ghia. We talk regularly via Facebook chat, no matter where he is. And while he was (probably) in a bunker in (maybe) Afghanistan, the delicious blend of Ford’s aerodynamic initiatives coupled with a Hoon-worthy RWD chassis stole our hearts. Mike’s chat window blew up with the URL to my favorite Sierra in my favorite color for sale in a UK classic car on-line magazine for tidy price of £850. I damn near screamed with delight. More to the point, I was sold.

I told him to get it to the Port of Houston and I will write a check for his troubles. Mike’s fellow Nürburgring cultists couldn’t meet the seller, but my friend could. And anyone driving from Somerset to help an American bloke in love with a brown 1983 Ford Sierra in Cambridgeshre (look it up) is certainly a kind soul, doing it in a gas guzzling Lincoln Town Car is pure insanity. Baruth wipes a tear from his eyes, and I nod my head in amazement. It has happened: it shall be mine!

I met Dereck several years back on, and he became moderator soon after: being the owner of an MOT shop, a certified Panther Chassis nut and a kind soul genuinely interested in helping people never hurts. While we had a blast running the small and friendly forum, I had no idea he’d come and visit when I was traveling on business to London, for a certain IT company and a certain English Petroleum company. Dereck drove 3 hours to have dinner with me, in London traffic, on a Wednesday afternoon, and brought gifts galore from Somerset. Plus, he picked me up from my hotel in a Cartier-fettled Lincoln Town Car. And while the hotel valets stared shamelessly, he stated, “course I would come and visit you in my Town Car, that was a long plane trip you made to visit me!”

And when the chips are down, is it any surprise that Dereck would do me a solid once again? So Capt. Mike wired Dereck the money, emailed the address and one more request: document the event with few pictures. Which are here for you to enjoy, along with his final assessment of the matter:

“Well the deed is done, one Ford Sierra delivered to Dave, documents posted. It was a 535 mile round trip, left the MOT shop in Somerset at 4:05pm and arrived back at home 3:55am the following day, just ten minutes short of 12 hours. The Town Car’s fuel meter (i.e. lie-o-meter) said 20.8 MPG, by the way. And it happened as follows:

A Rio Brown Ford Sierra – £850

6 months road tax – £112

Gas (Town Car) – £115

Gas (Sierra) – £10

2 regular coffees, 1 double chocolate muffin, a bag of chips and an Egg, Bacon, Mayo sandwich at South Mimms services – £12

Helping a buddy in a bind – Priceless!”

While I can testify that there’s no better way to drive around London than in a Lincoln Town Car, getting a Ford Sierra in the same pictures rekindles my love of the now mundane, but once cutting edge. Need more proof? Clock our latest machine next to the 1981 Ford Probe III Concept Car. The lines do not lie.

So what’s next? Well, Mike has to get it to Germany, and his corner-carving mates will do just that. Then it has to get it’s Nürburgring cherry popped before delivery to a USAF base, to be shipped early next year. Stay tuned for more action while TTAC gets its first project car, because I know the best is yet to come.

Here’s to great friends and sheer automotive lunacy!

Truck Thursday: GM Spending “Several Hundred Million” On Full-Size Truck Update Thu, 14 Jan 2010 20:14:55 +0000

According to our data, the full-size pickup segment declined by 29.4 percent last year. Of all full-sized pickups, the Chevy Silverado lost the most volume, dropping 32 percent and an eye-popping 148,521 units compared to 2008. GMC Sierra dropped 33.6 percent, or about 56k units. Overall, GM shed half a million pickup sales last year, as its total truck sales fell to 1.2 million. When you’re losing that kind of volume in a shrinking segment, you know it’s time for a hold-em-or-fold-em moment. According to the Detroit News, GM is doubling down on its full-sized truck ambitions, allocating “several hundred million” of your tax dollars towards a re-working of the GMT 900-based trucks.

A GM spokesman explains:

We’re not saying trucks are more important than small cars. In every segment we compete, we now have the money and resources to build the world’s best vehicles,

The main impetus for the move seems to be meeting fuel efficiency standards (24 mpg average for 2011 model light trucks) as much as addressing the hemorrhaging sales. Though new exteriors, interiors and aerodynamics are being promised, the new models won’t arrive for two or three years, which means GM’s trucks woes could drag on for some time.

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