The Truth About Cars » Tuner The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:58:35 +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 » Tuner 2015 Ford Mustang “Body in White” Coming w/ Ford 9″ Axle Tue, 17 Dec 2013 19:32:37 +0000 2015 Mustang

I was there when Ford debuted its new-for-1999 Mustang Cobra with its “revolutionary” new independent rear suspension. The IRS was a first for the Ford Mustang, and it was a move that Ford’s brass believed would allow the “new edge” Cobra to compete with cars like the BMW M3 for supremacy in the budget super car market. I also remember the very first question that was asked: Will a Ford 9″ bolt in? It was the first question, right out of the box … and it seems like someone at Ford remembers. The new-for-2015 Mustang is going to hit dealers with a new independent rear suspension late next year, and it seems like Ford Racing will have a 9″ live axle option ready.

According to a Ford Racing employee at PRI, the live-axle version of the 2015 Ford Mustang is expected to debut at next year’s PRI show as part of a new “body in white” program intended to attract serious racers to the platform. The body in white 2015 Mustang will also serve to take some of the shine off of bitter rival Chevrolet’s current COPO Camaro and body in white Camaro programs.

Once the live-axle 2015 Mustang racers are out “in the wild”, the parts needed to convert street-going Mustangs from independent rear suspensions to the 9″ setup should become available through Ford Racing and participating dealers. Back in 1999, SVT engineer Eric Zinkosky said the “new independent rear suspension (was packaged) in not only the same space as the solid-axle design, but we had to use the same suspension mounting points. We virtually ‘reverse-engineered’ the IRS from the known suspension hardpoints, and we had to keep everything inside the same box.” Assuming similar thinking went into the upcoming Ford Racing 9″ suspension for the bodies in white, getting a solid axle to help get a high-horsepower Ecoboost Mustang’s power down should be a lot easier than many have feared.


About my source: While I have opted to not give his name, this information came to me from a Ford Racing employee on-hand at the 2013 PRI Show yesterday, 12DEC2013, when I asked if I could look under the hood of the (supposedly) 4 cyl. Ecoboost Mustang spinning on the big lazy Susan at the Ford Racing stand. He said no. I told another PRI old-timer the story about the 1999 Cobra IRS reveal, which the Ford Racing rep overheard. He laughed and said, “Yeah, that’s not ’til next year. We’ll probably announce it at the same time as the body in white program …” but he got called away before he could say “That’s off the record.” Take that how you will.


Originally published on Gas 2.

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TTAC Author Gets Schooled: Tries Again Thu, 14 Nov 2013 15:47:33 +0000 engine3web

Earlier this week I wrote a little article about the SEMA show and those weird little auto add-ons that so many people choose to stick all over their otherwise decent looking rides. In it, I contrasted performance add-ons with “auto accessories” and tried to poke a little fun at those plastic chrome doo-dads and the people who abuse them. It wasn’t really intended to be a heavy “think piece.” It was supposed to be light, fun and maybe elicit some cheerful banter from the best and brightest. Nice and easy, right? Hell no. As usual, the TTAC readership doesn’t make anything easy…

No excuses, the premise of my article was silly. I said performance add-ons were a good thing and that auto accessories were by their very nature, stupid. Despite that, a couple of you guys took the ball I punted so lazily downfield and ran it right back up the field. The points you made are really good and since my earlier article wasn’t intended to start a serious discussion I’m not sure they got the attention they deserved. But you made me think, and when someone does that I figure they might make others think too. That means another article and, hopefully, a fuller discussion.

El Carlismo en Castilla-La Mancha Image courtesy of

El Carlismo en Castilla-La Mancha
Image courtesy of

In response to my assertion that performance mods were justifiable while appearance mods were not, Carlisimo wrote:

I scoff at mods that looked tacked on, as many of them do. But I understand them. Even a small mod can make your car feel fresh for a little while, and that’s a good feeling. Especially when you know your car isn’t everything you’d like it to be. And I have a soft spot for underglow that I won’t admit to out loud.

Those modders are more honest than those of us who install performance mods. What could be sillier than increasing our car’s top speed from 137 to 140mph when we never exceed 80? Oooh, my coilovers save me a second when I drive around in a circle on a loop in the middle of nowhere. Best $1,000 evar! (I did install coilovers on my Miata. I like them, but it wasn’t a purchase I try to justify.) In contrast, visual mods make their difference 100% of the time, including when parked, and in heavy traffic. That’s value.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Athos Noble wrote:

Personally I don’t care, even in the most offensive of the cases. And I saw plenty of those in Venezuela. Here not so much, but they’re still out there… Brembo brake caliper covers anyone? chintzy 20″ chrome wheels? As far as I’m concerned, people can spend their money in whatever they want.

For example, I would use the aftermarket to upgrade my headlamps to projectors, complete with angel eyes. I also would like a fancier stereo and some “sport” seats would spice up my current ride. Some 18″ wheels would make it look more actual too. And retrofitting later model suspension bits would make it drive nicer. A turbo kit would certainly give it more oomph and coupling it with a LPG kit would make that “affordable” to run. I could sort those issues via OEM bits, aftermarket or a wrecker.

There were other comments as well, and while they were all great these are the two I want to focus on. Part of me wants to follow Carlisimo’s point to its logical conclusion and decry any form of performance add-on for the street but Athos raises a great point when he talks about improving a lot of your car’s basic characteristics through the aftermarket and selective scavenging. It’s clearly not the black-and-white issue I tried to lay out in that earlier, sillier article and I am hoping this new discussion allows us to fully explore the topic.

I’m curious, what are good add-ons for the street? What add-ons have you mounted over the years? What did you hope to gain and did the results meet your expectations? I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Photo Thomas Kreutzer

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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Altezza Lights: A Retrospective Thu, 28 Feb 2013 14:00:02 +0000

There are some automotive fads that we can liken to the leather jacket; a contemporary piece of clothing that has endured the test of time to become a staple of one’s wardrobe. The Hoffmeister kink may be the best example of an aesthetic detail that’s achieved this sort of ubiquity and acceptance. On the other hand, certain things, like denim shirts for men and a certain style of empire waist tops that were once labeled “tit curtains” by an old lady friend of mine ( due to their unflattering drape on her trim figure) have faded away after a few seasons in the department stores. The automotive equivalent of these unfortunate footnotes may be the “Altezza” or clear lens tail lights that were all the rage a decade ago.

The Altezza tail lights originated on the Toyota Altezza, also known as the Lexus IS in markets outside of Japan. Despite being sold as a Lexus, the Altezza was designed in part by members of the hachi-roku’s development team – the original, Corolla AE86, that is. Numerous boy-racer touches, like the chronograph style gauge cluster, the drilled aluminum pedals and the oversized wheels lent the IS a youthful sensibility that may have explained why the car never really did well. As a pubescent boy with a subscription to Super Street magazine, I thought it was the coolest luxury car money could buy and promptly bugged my father to buy one. All it took was one trip to the Lexus dealer, with him in the front seat and me in the back directly behind him, to convince me that I didn’t want to spend a second longer than necessary in the unbearably cramped rear seat.

Of course, none of that stopped the aftermarket from cranking out Altezza lights by the trawler-load. All of a sudden, everything from the usual Honda Civics to dubbed-out SUVs to the awful GM J-Bodies with egregiously oxidized rear quarter panels sported these dreadful contraptions in place of the stock lamps. Even though my idea of a chick magnet was an old Nissan 240SX spray painted rattle can black with a fartcan muffler and a whistling blow-off valve, I knew that Altezza lights were a step too far, an undeniable sign of poor breeding and limited economic prospects. If only I knew that the most nubile women in my cohort were attracted to precisely that kind of guy, and not somebody who read Tom Wolfe and still bought their clothes at Old Navy.

It wasn’t long before Altezza lights began to appear on other cars. The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution’s first U.S. bound iteration was the first to feature clear tail lights, and even Mazda’s timeless MX-5 roadster succumbed to this awful trend, a problem which was mercifully rectified during the mid-cycle refresh of 2009. By that time, the whole “Import 2NR” crowd had died off thanks to the recession, the “Fast & Furious” movies morphed into generic action/car-chase flicks and the Lexus IS had become a rather staid option in the sports sedan segment.

As of now, only one car comes to mind when clear tail lights are mentioned; the Scion FR-S. Despite my complaints about certain aspects of the car, I love the way it looks – save for those damn clear lights. Though I suppose, given the car’s lineage, it is a rather appropriate choice.

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They Found Gemballa: Shot In The Head Mon, 04 Oct 2010 17:53:10 +0000

About a year ago, a mutual friend introduced me to Uwe Gemballa. He looked a bit like a pimp from central casting: bleached blond hair, a flashy watch,  gold chain. He tuned Porsches. He wanted to import Gemballas to China, and could I help him? Like many China deals, that deal never got off the ground. And as I read the news today, I think to myself: I’m glad it fizzled. Dodged that bullet. Literally.

According to Gemballa’s hometown paper Stuttgarter Zeitung, Police in Atteridgeville, near Pretoria, South Africa, found a garbage bag with the badly decomposed remains of a blond man. He had his hands tied to his back, and a bullet hole in his head. A DNA check and a comparison of the teeth confirmed: Gemballa is dead.

The South African Police didn’t just stumble over that bag. They had arrested two people who decided that it’s better to cooperate.

Gemballa has not been heard from since February 8, 2010. He had flown from Dubai to Johannesburg, South Afrika. From Johannesburg, he called his wife. According to some records, he said he had an accident and needed a “larger sum of money.” According to Germany’s BILD-Zeitung, Gemballa had claimed he had been kidnapped, and Christl should transfer a million Euro immediately. Apparently, the second story came closer to the truth. But it wasn’t the whole truth.

According to the Suttgarter Zeitung, Gemballa’s tuning shop was a front for an organized crime syndicate. Gemballa worked with the Czech crime boss Radovan Krejcir, who  is wanted by the Czech Police for tax evasion and attempted murder. Krejcir relocated to South Africa instead.

According to a sworn affidavit of Juan Meyer, a former business associate of Krejcir, Gemballa sent hot cars to South Africa. Instead of sending them for money, he sent them with money: The cars were stuffed with cash. Vehicular money laundering. Now I know why Gemballa wanted to know every detail of how cars are imported to China. And now I know why he was not happy to hear what I had told him: “Easy. In those small numbers, the cars are individually checked by the authorities, and approved.”

One day, a tuned Cayenne that was supposed to have a million Euro behind the door trim panel, arrived empty. Krejcir was upset. That put a dent in Gemballas’s business. He was short of money.

Another business associate, Jerome Safi, told Gemballa that he would invest into Gemballa South Africa. Gemballa flew down, was kidnapped, and after his wife Christl hadn’t sent the missing million, he was shot. He probably would have been shot with the million also.

Krejcir is still free in South Africa. An extradition request by the Czech government had been denied by a South African court.  Not too long ago, a high South African police official, who supposedly is close to Krejcir, lost his job.

Back in Stuttgart, the news of Gemballas death caused consternation, “however, it didn’t come as a suprise,” writes the paper. He had been written off long ago.

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New World Record: 231 mph Mon, 23 Aug 2010 10:10:09 +0000

What is the fastest sedan under the sun? Up until a few days ago, it was a Mercedes E-Class, tuned by Brabus. That car can kiss the world record good-bye.

The German tuner G-Power in Autenzell, north of Munich, equipped a BMW M5  with a 588 kW/800 hp ten cylinder engine with a twin turbo, called it “Hurricane RR” and brought it to 372 km/h (231 mph),  says Automobilwoche [sub]. The Brabus was 2 km/h slower.

The Brabus boys in Bottrop aren’t sitting on their hands. “We haven’t reached top speed yet“ said Dalibor Erakovic of Brabus. “There will be a new car.” When, how fast, and how much remains anybody’s guess.

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Review: Porsche Cayman S Turbo By TPC Fri, 04 Dec 2009 17:15:21 +0000 IMG_2662As a child, I owned something called the Lego “Expert Builder Car”. It was a fascinating product. From one box of a thousand or so Lego pieces, it was possible to build many different kinds of cars, up to and including a two-seat roadster with a working transmission. Top-notch fun, and if Lego eventually took it off the market in favor of less advanced kits focusing on Star Wars, Disneyworld, and (possibly) Twilight then we have only the abject failure of the American educational system to blame.

IMG_2680Porsche has a Lego set as well. The same basic set of components is used to create everything from a $45,000 Boxster to a $230,000 GT2. If you think it costs five times as much to make a GT2 as it does a Boxster, you’re probably an outstanding candidate for one of those $11,000 Hublot watches that uses an el-cheapo ETA mechanism to actually tell time. Nope, it’s mostly additional profit at the top of the pyramid. Porsche protects their oh-so-exclusive product ladder by refusing to assemble their Legos into toys like, say, a turbocharged Cayman.

If one listens to Porsche spokespeople, they have many reasons why a turbo Cayman wouldn’t be possible, feasible, or reasonable. These reasons are quite convincing, and they are repeated ad infinitum. Eventually the strong impression is created that a turbo Cayman would be a feat equal to, say, the Manhattan Project. Which makes it all the more interesting that there’s a guy in a shed who builds them for ten grand.

Well, TPC’s Mike Levitas isn’t exactly a guy in a shed. He’s a former Rolex-GT-at-Daytona winner with an extensive engineering background, and he’s devoted a lot of thought to his pressurized Caymans. For $9,995 plus installation, he will put nearly five hundred horsepower behind the seats of Porsche’s factory-crippled hardtop Boxster.IMG_2665

I recently had the opportunity to drive a rather well-sorted TPC Cayman S Turbo at the company’s headquarters outside Washington, DC. In the name of “balance” — something Levitas can wax rather poetic about, given the opportunity — this car was set up for approximately 380 horsepower at 5psi or so of boost and modified with a variety of JRZ and TPC suspension items.

Outside of a racetrack, it’s difficult to get even a standard Cayman 2.7 to its limits, but I was able to verify in a few short triple-digit blasts that TPC’s power numbers seem very legit. This car has pull to match a GT3 and shame a 997S, delivered across a very broad torque curve. If anything, it feels stronger than a GT3 until the very end of the rev range. Naturally, TPC will happily reprofile your boost curve if you want that top-end hit for road course work or midnight street racing.

The rest of the TPC mods also seem reasonably successful. It’s not difficult to imagine that this car would run in nearly a dead heat with a brand-new GT3 around most road courses. Ride quality is no worse than what you would find in said GT3 and pothole compliance appears to be excellent. The (anonymous by request) owner of this particular example uses it as a daily driver and a stealthy, confusion-causing trackday toy. You could do the same.

And you could do it cheaply, relatively speaking. Early 3.4-liter Caymans are now crossing auction blocks for forty grand. A $25,000 check to TPC would nearly duplicate our tester, so it is perfectly possible to obtain Z06-matching performance for the price of a lightly-used Z06. Or you could look it as GT3 lap times for half price. Porsche Cars North America would no doubt prefer you didn’t.

IMG_2668Which brings us to one tiny problem with this lovely mid-engined coupe. The watercooled Porsche engines produced from 1997 to 2008 are famously fragile, even without turbocharging. Porsche kept its split-case race-style engine for the Turbo, GT3, and GT2 until the recent arrival of its completely re-engineered waterboxer. There is no way that this particular Lego set will be as durable as, say, a 2001 996 Turbo. Perhaps this was the reason Porsche never turbocharged the car, although it doesn’t explain why there’s no new-generation Cayman Turbo. Oh well. TPC states that they have yet to experience a turbo Cayman or turbo Boxster failure, which may be reassuring enough for most buyers.

As the price of Porsche’s 911 Carrera sneaks ever closer to $100,000 in even mildly-equipped form, it might be time for the German fiscal adventurists to admit that their core product is becoming rather irrelevant. A factory Cayman Turbo would offer performance just shy of the Nissan GT-R and Z06 Corvette for similar money. That’s a formula that has worked for Porsche in the past (see: 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo) and it could work again. Heck, it might just create a new generation of Porsche fans. If the men from Weissach want some help assembling their Legos, I suspect TPC would be happy to take their call.

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