Category: History

By on November 29, 2021

1987 Nissan Pulsar NX in Colorado junkyard, RH rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhen the “Datsun by Nissan” Sentra first appeared in the United States in 1982, it replaced the cramped Datsun 210 in the econo-commuter role. A sportier (and quirkier) car based on Sentra’s chassis showed up here soon after; known as the Pulsar EXA in its homeland and the Pulsar NX here, these cars sold well enough to become medium-commonplace sights on American roads. Most disappeared decades ago, making today’s unrusted ’87 a rare Junkyard Find. Read More >

By on September 8, 2021

Prior to 1970, buying leaded gasoline in the United States was as normal as picking up a carton of eggs or relaxing in your asbestos-laden home. After 1970, the U.S. Congress had officially adopted the Clean Air Act created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the gradual phasing out of leaded fuel began. While many bemoaned the lackluster performance of the malaise-era automobiles that followed, the rules continued to inform how vehicle manufacturers operated on a global scale.

But leaded gasoline hung in there for longer than you might assume. Most Western nations (including the United States) didn’t totally phase out leaded gasoline intended for passenger vehicles until the 1990s. Central Asia took even longer and parts of the Middle East and Africa continued to offer lead additives well into the 2000s. However, the United Nations Environment Program announced that leaded gasoline had officially become extinct over the summer, with Algeria being the final country to deplete its now-banned supply.  Read More >

By on August 30, 2021

It feels like the Subaru Outback has existed in wagon-only form forever, but you could get a new Outback sedan until 2004. In fact, the Outback name was once used by Subaru USA for outdoorsy option packages on both the Legacy and (from 1995 through 2000) the Impreza. If you want to go back down the branches of the Subaru family tree to find the current Outback‘s direct ancestor, you’ll come to something like today’s Junkyard Find: a second-generation Legacy station wagon with the Outback package, found in a Silicon Valley self-serve yard in June. Read More >

By on August 23, 2021

1986 Ford Mustang in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBecause the 1979-1993 Fox Mustang remains so popular with enthusiasts, I don’t find so many noncrashed examples in the big self-service car graveyards I frequent. In fact, these days I see more 19741978 Mustang IIs than I do Fox Mustangs (unless you consider the 1994-2004 SN95 Mustang to be a true Fox). Last week, I found this very solid ’86 Mustang LX hatchback in a Denver yard, and my camera was ready for it. Read More >

By on May 11, 2021

Bronco Badlands

A stock 2021 Bronco Badlands finished third in the NORRA Mexican 1000 off-road rally, driven by two Ford engineers. The podium finish came in the Pre-Runner Truck class.

Bronco engineer manager Jamie Groves and Seth Goslawski, another Bronco engineer, drove the majority of the 1,141 mile race across the Baja peninsula. Brad Lovell, a Bronco advisory panel member and prior NORRA winner, helped navigate and drove one stage during the five-day event.

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By on March 19, 2021

There’s always going to be some debate about what constitutes a good halo vehicle. Many will argue that it has to be a flagship model, representing the absolute best specifications and features the manufacturer could cobble together for an eyewatering price. While that’s often the case, successful halo vehicles don’t always need to be at the top of the pyramid since the real purpose is to embody the best of what any given brand represents.

But there’s little disagreement on what makes a bad one and they frequently have a lot in common. Irrational pricing and a sudden shift away from brand identity are usually at the core of a real stinker. If you don’t believe me, here are five of the absolute worst halo cars from the modern era in no particular order… Read More >

By on March 12, 2021

Mercedes

Mercedes-AMG wanted to show you its new SL Roadster, a 2+2 seater, testing its 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system at a private proving ground in Sweden near the Arctic Circle. In typical Mercedes fashion, they said it was as much a test of the Roadster’s convertible top as it was the all-wheel-drive system under these harsh conditions.

Read More >

By on February 2, 2021

2019 Mustang Bullitt

While Americans were busy scratching their heads over how to manage a Very Covid Christmas, Ford was producing the final examples of the Mustang Bullitt. Modeled after the Mustang GT driven by Lt. Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen) in the 1968 American action thriller that shares the lead character’s last name, the Bullitt tends to hit the market whenever Ford feels the itch.

For its third incarnation, the automaker decided the 2019-2020 model years were enough and had previously hinted that the model would be supplanted by an updated Mach 1. That unit has since been confirmed for 2021, taking the best components in the Mustang lineup to build a solid performer that’s economical to produce. But it didn’t leave any room for the Bullitt, with Mustang spokesperson Berj Alexanian confirming to Ford Authority that the final batch left Flat Rock Assembly right around the time we published our last review on the throwback coupeRead More >

By on August 14, 2020

As if we needed more evidence that the people running things may actually be even dumber than we are, Michigan leadership has proposed building a separate lane for autonomous cars to run between Ann Arbor and Detroit. The special road would implement a vehicle-to-infrastructure communications network and is planned to be built alongside Michigan Avenue and I-94 as its own separate lane. Kind of like a bus line or railroad.

Reminiscent of the “Highway of Tomorrow” that premiered in General Motors’ 1956 Motorama short Design for Dreaming, where a woman dances around the latest automotive products before the whole thing descends into futurist madness, Michigan’s more-modern concept is only slightly less ridiculous. State governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the project on Thursday, noting that it already had support from both the public and private sectors.

That doesn’t mean it will leave the realm of fantasy, however.  Read More >

By on August 4, 2020

Rustic and western-themed special editions have been part of the pickup truck business for generations. Dodge sold Prospector versions of the Ram pickup in the 1980s, and the same company sold “The Dude” “sport trim package” for its “Sweptline” pickups in 1970 and 1971.

The Dude is most famously — or rather, infamously — known because Dodge (or more likely its ad agency) made the peculiar choice of using actor Don Knotts as a celebrity endorser. People loved Knotts, but his best-known role as bumbling sheriff’s deputy Barney Fife hardly projected a “tough” image. Read More >

By on March 3, 2020

Listen, I know I’ve given Aston Martin a hard time ever since I’ve started writing about cars. My diatribe about the marque choosing New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as a brand ambassador netted me no shortage of attention from upset sportswriters and morning DJs who cared more about football than I ever could. To my surprise, the ordeal even landed my name in a book about the NFL that nobody read. Despite the indescribable waves of pleasure I feel from bashing the marketing efforts of any high-end brand, Aston’s cars have historically been quite desirable. In fact, I have a gigantic soft spot in my head heart for the V8 Vantage Volante Timothy Dalton drove around in The Living Daylights.

That bodes well for Aston as I prepare to exercise every ounce of pettiness from within my soul to comment up its 70th anniversary celebration of the Vantage. But then the manufacturer decided to put a bunch in an empty aircraft hangar for a photo op and I suddenly remembered that the Vantage name has been tainted by more than just Mr. Brady.  Read More >

By on January 31, 2020

Henry Ford playing fiddle with his old-time dance orchestra on his 70th birthday in 1933. (From the collections of The Henry Ford)

Henry Ford was unquestionably a great man, but he was not a very good man. As an entrepreneur and industrialist, he may have changed the world — for the better, I personally think — but as a human being he had serious failings. According to Richard Bak’s Henry and Edsel, the elder Ford would humiliate his son, Edsel, in public because Henry, a farm boy, worried that his only child would become the soft son of a rich man. That practice continued into Edsel’s adulthood.

Clara (Mrs. Ford) had to make her peace with Henry’s long-term relationship with Evangeline Cote Dahlinger, whom the industrialist met when he was 50 and she was 23 — his associate C. Harold Wills’ secretary at the Highland Park plant. Her son John Dahlinger asserted that he was the son of Henry Ford, whom he strongly resembled.

Ford’s public life was no less unsavory. His bigotries are well known. In his mind he divided the Jewish community between “good Jews” — those he personally knew, like architect Albert Kahn — and “bad Jews,” the boogeymen “bankers” of his fevered imaginations. Less well-known is the fact that many of the most hateful things attributed to Ford were not his own words. Read More >

By on September 9, 2019

Even if antique autos aren’t your jam, you’ve probably heard of the Blower Bentley. It’s the exceptionally rare racing variant of the brand’s pre-war 4½ Litre model. While perhaps not as iconic as the 6½ Litre/Speed Six, the Blower has become prominent for its ultra-thirsty, persnickety powertrain and straight-line performance. By attaching a Roots-style supercharger to the engine, Bentley turned the standard 4½ Litre into an absolute freight train. Upon seeing it in action, Ettore Bugatti famously referred to the gigantic car as “the fastest lorry in the world.”

Seemingly inspired by other British manufacturers’ recent foray into continuation vehicles, Bentley has decided to rerelease the 1929 Team Blower for a limited production run. Like Jaguar’s XKSS and D-Type, as well as Aston Martin’s DB4 GT, the Bentley will be recreated as painstakingly close to the original as possible.  Read More >

By on September 4, 2018

As someone strongly identified with the Motor City, it’s not surprising that the music of Detroit’s Aretha Franklin had some association with cars. While she first gained superstardom in the 1960s, the Queen of Soul roared back into the Top 10 in 1985 with Freeway of Love, featuring the lyric “We goin’ ridin’ on the freeway of love/In my pink Cadillac.” Franklin, whose voice was likely unmatched in her generation, had a good ear for lyrics. A little known piece of music trivia is that Mack Rice changed Mustang Mama to Mustang Sally at Aretha’s suggestion.

If Detroit is famous for two things, they are indeed music and automobiles. Ms. Franklin’s career combined them both, so for her funeral the Motor City gave its Queen ‘Retha a proper automotive sendoff. Read More >

By on July 10, 2018

Part III of this Rare Rides series explored how NSU readied itself to re-enter the car market and end its longstanding production tie-up with Fiat. Shortly after the painful divorce from the Italians, NSU’s first rotary-powered car was ready.

Read More >

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