Category: Editorials

By on May 24, 2022

As we finished up our coverage of General Motors’ Turbo-Hydramatic family of transmissions, I asked which gearbox you might like to see covered next by Abandoned History. The comments honed in on Ford, and the various versions of the C family of automatics. Fine by me! Today we head back to the Fifties to learn about the genesis of all the Cs. It was the extremely Fifties-sounding Cruise-O-Matic, built with pride in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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By on May 23, 2022

S&P Global Mobility has reported that the average U.S. automobile is now 12.2 years old, which it said represented a 2 percent increase since 2021. While relatively modest, the general trend for the last five years has been for vehicles to get older as drivers attempted to milk more life from beleaguered hardware.

Much of this has been attributed to North America’s broadening wealth gap and general improvements in vehicle longevity. If you look back at Department of Transportation data from the 1990s, the average age of a car was under nine years. By 2007, the typical car would see its 10th birthday before scrappage and the number has continued to climb from there. Much of that is due to households having to make do with tighter budgets, which was arguably made easier by modern powertrains that can easily exceed 100,000 miles before needing any serious maintenance.  Read More >

By on May 23, 2022

We arrive today at the fifth installment of our Rare Rides Icons coverage on the Lincoln Mark series cars. Thus far we covered the first Continental of the late Thirties, and Ford’s desire to go ultra luxury with the Mark II sold under the newly minted Continental Division. The Mark that debuted for the 1956 model year was Mid-century in its styling, built of top quality components, and constructed in a methodically controlled manner via a QC program that consisted of seven initiatives.

It was time to put the new Continental Mark II coupe on sale.

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By on May 23, 2022

1966 Ford Econoline Falcon Club Wagon in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsDuring the 1960s and well into the 1980s, plenty of vehicle manufacturers decided that passenger trucks and vans could be called wagons (I disagree with that idea), and so you got the Volkswagen Transporter, Toyota Land Cruiser, Corvair Greenbriar, Dodge A100, and many other trucks marketed as wagons. That was confusing enough, but then Ford took it one step further by taking the passenger version of the Econoline forward-control van and badging it as a Falcon Club Wagon. Here’s one of those vans wagons, found in a Denver-area yard last month. Read More >

By on May 20, 2022

Today’s topic is an automaker you’ve likely never heard of. It’s a small company that was founded not that long ago, offers vehicles in very limited markets, and produces around 600 vehicles per year. Its product is based upon old ideas from other manufacturers, all done up in fiberglass until very recently. Let’s enter the wonderful world of Wallyscar.

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By on May 20, 2022

We return to the Ford Festiva once again today, as the subcompact Mazda-designed hatchback stormed North American shores. It did so wearing a Ford badge and a South Korean VIN, courtesy of a Kia factory. But North America wasn’t the only place it landed.

As we learned last time, the Festiva was built in several different countries and assumed many identities over an extensive history. The Festiva still has not reached the end of its life, but we’ll cover that in a separate article. We pick up today in North America, circa 1987.

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By on May 19, 2022

Honda has begun teasing out the electric Prologue in earnest, with its latest offering being a sketch of what appears to be a lifted Civic. Though what we’re actually seeing is the brand’s newest “adventure-ready” SUV tapping into the same inoffensive design language that now graces the ever-popular sedan.

The styling is neutral, perhaps even a little dull. But it’s unlikely to put anybody in a bad mood and is still rounded off in all the places one would expect from an EV. The Prologue looks as though it could come from Lucid, just with a dash of rugged design from Rivian and underpinned by Honda’s current design language. There’s little to gripe about, though there’s also not much to ogle.  Read More >

By on May 18, 2022

Ford

Unless you’ve been living under a rock since 2019, you’ve probably realized that just about every major carmaker has plans to go “fully electric” at some point in the rapidly approaching future. That’s going to mean big changes in the way we buy and use cars, obviously— but change is hard, and not every company is going to be willing or able to make those changes.

That equally obvious fact begs the question: who’s not gonna make it?

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By on May 18, 2022

The latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is confirming what local agencies have already been suggesting. Last year represented another sizable increase in U.S. roadway fatalities, pitching up by 10.5 percent over the elevated death rate witnessed in 2020. The agency has estimated that 42,915 people were killed in 2021, whereas 2020 resulted in 38,824 fatalities — a 7.1-percent increase over the declines seen in 2019. While the current situation is not nearly as bad as the rates witnessed during the 1970s, this still represents the highest per capita fatalities in sixteen years and everyone is trying to get a handle on why.

Traffic deaths have been on the rise since the start of the pandemic, confusing everyone who counts crashes because the supporting data also shows that there was a lot less driving being done during the period. Historically, years where people are disinclined from hitting the road due to a beleaguered economy tend to represent far fewer traffic-related fatalities. We can see this happening in 1942 when the U.S. braced itself to enter World War II by rationing everything from fuel to rubber. Another glaring example takes place in 1932, as the nation reached the darkest point in the Great Depression. In fact, there are very few examples of per capita improvements in on-road deaths from the pre-war period, and those that do exist coincide directly with economic recession.  Read More >

By on May 18, 2022

We return to the Turbo-Hydramatic once more today, and our third installment sees us at a critical point in the timeline of the automatic transmission. Fuel economy pressure from the government and performance demands of the consumer increased considerably in the intervening years since the THM’s debut in 1964. That meant the creation of lighter, more compact, and cheaper versions of the Turbo-Hydramatic compared to its flagship shifter, the THM400. GM branched out into the likes of the THM350, THM250, and the very problematic THM200.

In 1987, GM stepped away from the traditional THM naming scheme and switched to a new combination of letters and numbers. Number of gears, layout, and strength combined to turn the THM400 into the 3L80. But the hefty gearbox was already limited by then to heavier truck applications; passenger cars moved on to four forward gears after the dawn of the Eighties.

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By on May 17, 2022

The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) and a dozen related trade groups are petitioning Congress to crack down on stolen catalytic converters. The emission control devices are loaded up with valuable metals and are relatively easy to steal if you’re slim enough to get beneath a parked car and happen to have a reciprocating saw handy — making them prime targets for cash strapped criminals, especially now that material prices are on the rise.

Cities across the country have reported an increase in catalytic converter theft this year. While a majority of police departments are estimating a year-over-year increase of under 40 percent, some have said their figures are substantially larger. In March, Las Vegas Police Department estimated there were 87 percent more vehicles with hacked apart exhaust pipes in 2022. Philadelphia was even higher, reporting a staggering 172 percent increase in dismantled exhaust systems.  Read More >

By on May 16, 2022

We resume our coverage of Stutz today and pick up in the mid-Seventies. With the reborn brand’s personal luxury Blackhawk attracting the rich and famous from across the nation, Stutz attempted to keep the car fresh through visual edits every couple of years. In addition to the marketing appeal of a new “generation” Blackhawk, management was also able to cut costs: Split windshields became one-piece, and bespoke doors were replaced with those of a Pontiac Grand Prix.

All the while, the Blackhawk’s price continued to escalate and doubled by the end of its first decade. It was by far the most expensive American car on sale. We find ourselves in 1977, as Stutz continued with Blackhawk edits after the one-off convertible version named d’Italia was scrapped.

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By on May 16, 2022

General Motors, Stellantis, and Ford Motor Co. collectively decided to reinstate masking mandates in Michigan over the weekend — stating that the impacted factories were in areas with high levels of COVID-19.

The automakers had lifted mask requirements for employees after the backlash against government-backed restrictions and mandates hit a fever pitch in March. While protests had begun swelling by the fall of last year, the Canadian Freedom Convoy that was forcibility disbanded in February drew national attention to the issue. Despite Detroit manufacturers suggesting they would walk back restrictions (if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was okay) for months, ditching masks initially involved a series of stipulations about vaccinations and job titles. It wasn’t until public outrage spilled over into the real world that sweeping changes began to occur.  Read More >

By on May 16, 2022

We return to our coverage of Kia sedans today and discuss a midsize from just prior to the flagship Enterprise we discussed last time. Kia offered the first midsize car to bear its branding in 1987 when it introduced the new Concord. Concord was essentially a broughamed, front-rear clip swap take on the GC platform Mazda 626. Mazda discontinued the GC 626 that year and immediately sold the platform and tooling to Kia. A couple of years later, the Concord spawned a lesser sibling called the Capital. Capital looked very similar to the Concord but sold to a more economically-minded customer with its much lower level of equipment and low-powered engines.

When the Capital finished up its run in 1997, it was replaced by a compact car Kia had on sale for a few years already: The Sephia. Sephia wouldn’t do for Concord-level customers though, and upon the sedan’s discontinuation in 1995 they were directed to an all-new Kia. The company was ready with its new midsize to bookend the Concord, and it went on sale the same year. Though the new car was again on a donated platform, it was the first time Kia had some leeway to design a midsize of their own. It’s time to discuss Credos.

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By on May 16, 2022

1996 Buick LeSabre Wildcat in Colorado junkyard, RH rear view - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsDuring the bling-and-horsepower-crazed 1960s, The General’s Buick Division took the full-size B-Body platform, added a hot engine and flashy trim, and called it the Wildcat. Not many well-heeled grandfathers felt interested in doing land-yacht burnouts in the VFW parking lot, it turned out, so Wildcat sales ended after 1970… but a yearning for the glory days of the Wildcat must have inspired some Buick dealers to create their own Wildcats during the 1990s. Here’s one of those rare special-edition cars, found in a Denver-area self-service yard. Read More >

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  • Adam Tonge
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