Today’s Rare Ride coverage was prompted when your author saw an unusual pickup truck on the roads of Cincinnati. The truck in question was a black Sierra Denali from the early 2000s, with a telltale feature on its rear fenders: little lights on either side. Let’s talk Quadrasteer.
Earlier this week, Elon Musk announced that Tesla would begin offering the Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta to testers that had achieved sufficiently high marks in its new “safety score.” While company has repeatedly promised to launch FSD in earnest, which costs $10,000 to purchase or $199 a month to rent (depending on which version of Autopilot you’re using), the system has been habitually delayed from getting a widespread release. This has upset more than a few customers operating under the assumption that having bought into the service actually meant something.
That said, the rollout has technically begun and continues encompassing more users. But regulators are annoyed that the company is now testing FSD’s functionality on thousands of paying customers and the terms in which Tesla is offering FSD has changed in a manner that makes your author extremely uncomfortable. The automaker originally intended to provide the system via a simple over-the-air (OTA) update as availability expanded. However Tesla now has a button allowing drivers to request FSD by opening them up to a period of scrutiny where their driving is digitally judged. Despite your having already shelled out cash for it, access to the beta is determined by the manufacturer’s safety score.
Toyota was very focused on youthful consumer appeal at the turn of the millennium. Around the same time the WiLL sub-brand launched in the Japanese home market with its multitude of different products, a similar project was just getting underway at Toyota Motor Sales USA.
It was called Project Genesis, and like WiLL, it didn’t go well.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made dirt bikes public enemy number one for traffic enforcement in 2021, citing road safety, cluttered sidewalks, unwanted noise, and air pollution as his primary reasoning. He’s even released videos where the city destroyed confiscated bikes to celebrate the initiative.
“Anyone out there who has an illegal dirt bike — don’t even think about it. Because the NYPD will find it and will crush it,” Mayor de Blasio proclaimed via Twitter earlier this month. “These dirt bikes do not belong in New York City. It’s against the law. Period. Dirt bikes are dangerous.”
The focus on two-wheeled transportation comes after city leadership announced there was a growing number of shootings and robberies tied to certain types of vehicles over the spring. Local outlets also covered an incident where a small child was struck by a dirt bike and placed into critical condition last July. But the actual qualifications for what NYC considers an “illegal dirt bike” are confusing. Numerous exemptions are made for electric scooters and about half of the bikes crushed in the mayor’s video are regular motorcycles. It seems nonsensical and only gets worse when you begin to ponder the consequences of banning some of the most affordable modes of transportation available to poor New Yorkers.
Today’s Rare Ride was one of just two finished examples of the ill-fated second generation Maserati Quattroporte. Maserati envisioned a promising future for their large luxury sedan, but the company’s corporate parentage at the time had other (worse) ideas.
And this very car was fit for a king.
The WiLL branding project in early 2000s Japan was intended to excite and interest younger consumers with stylish products, all of which were marketed as WiLL. At the pinnacle of unique WiLL offerings were three different small Toyotas: The first two were the unpopular and unsuccessful retro-French themed Vi, and the modern-looking, popular, and unsuccessful VS.
Around the middle of VS production, Toyota just knew there had to be a part of the market they hadn’t reached yet and reintroduced the idea of the Vi with a polar opposite stylistic direction. This is the Cypha.
Several Japanese companies embarked on the WiLL sub-brand exercise at the dawn of the new millennium. Miscellaneous WiLL-branded products were introduced alongside a funky new car offering from Toyota, the WiLL Vi.
The baguette-themed retro sedan was an immediate failure amongst the youthful consumers WiLL was supposed to attract, so Toyota had a very quick rethink. Meet VS.
Today’s Rare Ride was the only other car accompanying Lexus’ LS 400 at dealerships in 1990 and 1991. The fanciest Camry offered in the US, it was a badge conversion from a Camry sold in the Japanese market.
But consumers saw through the charade, so while the high-effort LS 400 flew off the showroom floor, the minimal effort ES just sat there.
It’s become something of a mantra for me, lately, but that doesn’t make it any less true. It goes like this: Electric cars aren’t coming, they’re already here. And, depending on who you ask, they’ve been here – they just haven’t quite made it into the mainstream, yet. With the dawn of the Rivian R1T ( which became the first full-size electric pickup to reach series production earlier this month), though, a lot of people would have you believe that’s set to change. I happen to be one of them.
The North American International Auto Show, aka Detroit Auto Show, can’t catch a break.
Organizers decided to move the show to summer and the outdoors for 2020, and boom, COVID comes along and cancels it. They rebrand, move it to late summer and outdoors — at a different site — and boom, Mother Nature decides to assert herself with a day and a half of deluge. So much water fell from the sky that the second day was canceled.
While I often criticize manufacturers, I try to remain sympathetic to their collective plight. Despite being multinational corporations that typically lack accountability, they’re still businesses that need to turn a profit to maintain their existence and are constantly coping with fluid regulatory rules or social pressures. That’s one reason why green initiatives are often more about optics and money than achieving any tangible environmental goals.
But not adhering to cultural dogmas can have real ramifications, as BMW and Daimler recently found out. The companies are being sued in their native Germany for allegedly failing to meet carbon reduction targets and not setting an official date to abolish the internal combustion engine.
The WiLL project was a short-lived collaborative marketing effort by several Japanese brands, intended to capture the interest and money of youthful buyers. Using emotional engineering, seven companies launched new products in the early 2000s wearing WiLL sub-branding. Included in the myriad of offerings were three different subcompact Toyotas.
And here’s the first one, the WiLL Vi.
Today’s Abandoned History story is one of targeted marketing. In the early 2000s, an amalgam of Japanese corporations combined efforts to reach out to younger consumers via unified branding. Cars, food, appliances – all across Japan new, youth-focused products all wore the same sub-brand: WiLL.
Collectively WiLL asked, “How do you do, fellow kids?”
Today’s Rare Ride is the second Fox platform Mustang in this series, after a pristine 7UP Edition from 1990. While the 7UP was a trim package that resulted from a failed NCAA basketball contest, today’s Mustang was purchased specifically for transformation into a performance machine. It’s one of a handful ever made.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk isn’t fond of the new electric-vehicle incentives being proposed by the United States Congress and recently stated as much over social media this week. He even went so far as to allege that the bill was lobbyists working on behalf of legacy automakers and the United Auto Workers, as it monetarily benefits domestic manufacturers with strong union ties above all others.
Truth be told, it’s kind of hard to respond to those claims with anything other than an affirmative nod. Due to his seemingly intentional manipulation of cryptocurrency and willingness to overpromise Tesla investors, I’m not the biggest fan of Musk. However, he’s getting support from other manufacturers and it’s pretty hard for your author to see any legislative scenario other than the one he’s supporting — especially since this is frequently how business is done on Capitol Hill.
The plain white van you see here is the subject of our second edition of Abandoned History. Though it was produced and sold domestically as eStar by Navistar, it was actually developed in England years prior. In fact, the story of this electric van begins with the traditional black London taxi.
With the Biden administration having announced that it would start requiring companies to vaccinate employees, automakers and UAW are finding themselves in a sticky situation. Unions had previously said they wanted to hold off on endorsing or opposing mandatory vaccinations until after they discussed things with the industry and their own members. Considering Joe Biden said he wouldn’t make vaccines mandatory less than 10 months ago, employers are getting caught with their pants around the proverbial ankles.
Automakers had previously been surveying white-collar workers to see what they wanted to do while upping on-site COVID restrictions, but operating under the impression that any hard decisions were likely a long way off and left entirely to their discretion. Now the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is planning a new standard that requires all employers with 100 (or more) employees to guarantee their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any unvaccinated workers to produce a negative test result on a minimum weekly basis.
Our recent Rare Rides coverage of the Chevrolet Citation made one thing very clear: We need more Citation content. Today’s 1982 Buy/Drive/Burn lineup was suggested by commenter eng_alvarado90, who would like to see all of you struggle. Citation, Aries, Escort, all in their most utilitarian formats. Let’s go.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law a bill that effectively makes the sale of new gasoline-powered automobiles illegal within the state after 2035. On Wednesday, the state’s new governor took the brave step of copying California in deciding that all new passenger cars and light-duty trucks be zero-emission models within the next 14 years. Though she saw it as a totally original strategy necessary for stopping the horrors of global warming, which we now call climate change.
It’s also not technically her plan, as the State Assembly voted on the bill months before she took office with all Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor. It later passed the Senate in another party-dependent vote aided by the state’s Democratic majority.
We continue our Chevrolet Citation coverage today, just after the economy car’s 1980 introduction to critical acclaim and huge sales figures. Unfortunately for GM, the Citation’s true personality was quickly exposed, and things were entirely downhill from there.
Born at the turn of the Eighties during a very lackluster period in the American automotive landscape, the Chevrolet Citation was a successful entry into the hot compact segment. It debuted to immediate sales success as a budget used car buy and won a major award. Could it be the ultimate economy car for the Eighties?
It’s Citation time.
Today’s Rare Ride is one of just nine Alfa Romeo TZ3s built in 2010 by Zagato. Priced at over $1 million at the time, every example was immediately sold to a collector who put it in an alarmed garage somewhere warm and sunny, and then didn’t drive it.
However, underneath the fanciful Zagato bodywork was a platform few million-dollar class collectors covet for their garage.
This week, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (the largest automotive lobby in existence) released a set of principles relating to the EV charging infrastructure that it believes will be absolutely necessary to spur consumer adoption of electric and alternative energy vehicles in the United States.
“For the auto industry’s transition to electrification to be successful, customers will need access to affordable and convenient charging and hydrogen fueling, easy-to-understand utility rate structures that reward off-peak charging, and improved charging times,” John Bozzella, CEO of the alliance, said on Wednesday. “And we must also work together to grow EV sales without leaving low-income, rural or disadvantaged communities behind.”
That’s corporate-speak for “we need to stop catering to wealthy buyers and the government needs to pay for as much of this as possible.”
The Nineties W202 C-Class was Mercedes’ second-ever compact car offering, after its debut small car the 190. Not made of the heritage-level materials of the 190, the W202 cars were largely trashed at the bottom of their depreciation curve a decade ago by second and third owners.
Said trashing is why today’s very clean example is so unusual.
General Motors now requires salaried employees operating in the United States to disclose their coronavirus vaccination status. As confirmed by the automaker on Thursday, the decision is supposed to help the company determine what percentage of its own workforce is vaccinated so it can make better decisions about which safety protocols to implement. But your author is under the assumption that “as many as possible” will always be the preferred answer.
Earlier in the month, GM forced all salaried employees to disclose whether or not they were immunized for COVID-19 using the automaker’s internal network. Those answering to the affirmative were required to submit proof of vaccination by last Monday. But it sounds as though the manufacturer is just getting warmed up for more invasive activities.
In Part V of the Rare Rides series on the Eagle Premier, I mentioned an abandoned project at Chrysler called Liberty. Announced in 1985, Liberty was supposed to be a direct challenge to GM’s recently announced Saturn brand. Or it wasn’t, depending on what day of the week Liberty was addressed.
Chrysler’s PR department and CEO Lee Iacocca seemed at odds on what the Liberty project was, but they were both sure it was very important and it would build something, probably.
Software updates. Precisely when we had to start having a conversation about software updates – over the air or otherwise – in an automotive context isn’t something I can answer. We didn’t have them for about 100 years. Then, we did. What’s more, it seems like everyone is more or less OK with that, but should they be? Are these software updates really making your car better, or are they slowly throttling back your car’s performance and functionality in a bid to frustrate you into buying a new one?
Let’s take a few minutes to explore the possibilities.
The fifth entry in our Rare Rides series on the Eagle Premier brings us to 1988. The Premier was newly on sale after a delayed introduction, and the company building it was not the same company that spent years designing it.
Chrysler was in charge of the Premier’s fate.
The Renault group’s high profile chairman had been assassinated in fall 1986 by French extremists, and the company’s new chair, Raymond Lévy, was experiencing pressure from all sides.
Since last night’s unveiling of the 2023 Nissan Z, I’ve been chewing over my thoughts on the car. Is it good, or is it another misfire from a brand that’s struggling to recapture glory days?
After exerting far too much brainpower on the question — I’d rather ponder what’s for lunch — I’ve arrived at my answer.
There’s a great scene in The Commitments where Jimmy Rabbitte, the main kid, puts an ad in his local paper to recruit talent for his band. If you’ve never seen the movie, it’s definitely worth the two-hour – a er, commitment (sorry), but that’s off-topic. Rabbitte puts out this ad, and would-be musicians knock on his door. When he opens the door, he asks them one question: Who are your influences?
It’s a great question, isn’t it? It cuts through lots of the usual interview BS and small-talk and hand-wringing and gets right to the meat. In The Commitments, the right answers were Al Green, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding. Over at Hyundai/Kia, however, it seems like the right answers were Lancia Delta, Lancia Stratos, and Porsche 959.
What the heck is Jo talking about this time? I’m glad you asked.
As I’m sure you’ve seen elsewhere on these pages, the 2023 Nissan Z has broken cover in Brooklyn. And as much as I, TTAC’s professed Z fanatic, would love to be there, I simply can’t get away from the desk this week. Tim’s there, but I suspect he’s spending most of his time geeking out over Seinfeld filming sites.*
*Ed. note: Chris knows me too well. But Seinfeld was mostly filmed across the river in Manhattan and I’ve been to the diner that served as the coffee shop. It wasn’t that good.
Yes, we saw the reveal of the Z Proto last summer, and this production version isn’t changed all that much. Most notably, beneath the sculpted sheetmetal lies a platform that isn’t all that different than the outgoing 370Z, with a 400hp V6 that, while stout, isn’t all that new either. The journalists are surely agog with the reveal of the new car, but almost none of them will buy it. And, when you break down the likely sales figures, the new Z will likely sell in a year what a Ford F-150 sells in a day or two.
The sports car market in general is irrelevant. So why does a new Z matter? Let’s wander a bit into the history of the Z for a moment.
We continue our coverage today of the Eagle Premier from over 30 years ago. Parts I and II detailed the inception of the AMC-Renault joint project, and the technical aspects of what was a pretty advanced (or quirky) family sedan.
The time had come to put this all-new AMC offering on sale, but Premier arrived alongside some very unfortunate historical circumstances.
Part I of The Eagle Premier Story covered the inception of the collaborative AMC-Renault X-58 project in 1982, and its front-drive full-size flagship goal. It was to be an all-new car to lead AMC’s North American offerings. In today’s installment, we’ll take a look at the stylish sedan’s technical details more closely.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been keeping tabs on Tesla’s Autopilot for years, sometimes giving crashes involving the system a bit more attention than they otherwise would have. But the extra scrutiny seemed to dissipate as practically every automaker on the planet introduced their own advanced driving suites and Telsa seemed to preemptively adhere to fast-approaching government regulations (and industry norm) by introducing driver-monitoring cameras.
On Friday, the NHTSA returned to business as usual and announced it had opened a preliminary evaluation of Autopilot to determine if there were any problems with the system. The agency has claimed it received at least 11 verifiable crash reports since 2018 where a Tesla product struck at least one vehicle that was already at the scene of an accident. It’s sort of a weird metric but allegedly worthy of the NHTSA wanting to look into every model the company produced between 2014 and 2021. However, actually reading the report makes it sound like the agency is more preoccupied with how Tesla’s system engaged with drivers, rather than establishing the true effectiveness of Autopilot as a system.
The reviews are breaking today on the new Jeep Grand Wagoneer. As Jeep resurrects one of its most historical full-size nameplates from a three-decade slumber, it’s getting a lot of positive press coverage. But Jeep is in for a world of disappointment in a couple of years.
The current $7,500 Federal electric vehicle tax incentive could get a boost to $12,500 if the “Clean Energy for America” bill ever makes its way to reality – but it’s absolutely the wrong way to go, in my opinion. And, I know – “Who cares what Jo thinks about EV incentives,” right? Right –except that very, very few people in the industry have as much “green cred” as I do, so maybe you’ll want to give this one a read.
Despite regulatory efforts often being praised as essential for elevating standards and promoting safety, they’re also an excellent way to funnel money and favors between political and corporate entities in plain sight. This dichotomy is particularly glaring in regard to environmental restrictions, which frequently favor businesses that are wealthy enough to afford to adhere to them and subsidies that effectively reroute tax funding to support various industries.
Considering this, it’s fairly rare to see bigger businesses griping about government assistance. But that’s exactly what Honda is doing with a proposal in Congress seeking to provide additional EV subsidies to consumers that buy vehicles manufactured by union-backed plants. The manufacturer has stated it believes the Clean Energy for America Act is discriminatory by favoring specific automakers and will ultimately restrict the choices available to consumers – which is true.
I’ve been meaning to cover the final Chrysler Imperial for some time now. The only Imperial featured in this series so far is a collection of the early Eighties version, which was a very expensive and complicated pet project failure of Lee Iacocca.
Today’s Imperial is the follow-up model to that boxy rear-drive PLC. Let’s check out the longest and most luxurious K-car variant ever made.
We continue our 1990s-then-2000s series today, following up the last post that featured compact American two-doors from 1998. By the late 2000s, the Escort, Neon, and Cavalier were all dead. In their place were the Focus, Caliber, and Cobalt, and not all of those had a two-door variant. That means we focus on four-doors today. Let’s go.
The Fast and Furious franchise gets a lot wrong when it comes to tuning cars – but what thing it gets mostly right is the spirit of family that comes with that lifestyle.
We’ve featured a number of Zagato-enhanced Rare Rides previously, the majority of which were from exotic European nameplates. The most recent example of the type was the Ferrari 599 GTZ Nibbio Spyder. Today’s Rare Ride is from a different Italian brand, one thus far unrepresented by Zagato edits.
Presenting the Lamborghini 5-95, from 2014.
The special takes on the early 2000s Ford Thunderbird just keep on coming! Our first Thunderbird edit came from Ford, in the 007 Special Edition made in conjunction with the fairly terrible James Bond film Die Another Day. More recently, we took a look at a Chip Foose creation ordered up by Ford called the Speedbird.
In a similar vein, today’s Rare Ride comes from Ford customizer Saleen in conjunction with Californian wheel firm Bonspeed. Are you ready for retro?
They say that drag strips are for fast cars, while racetracks are for fast drivers. That may be true, but this is a premier, top-shelf car enthusiast blog, however. We’re all friends here, and we’re all just delusional enough to believe – if only a little bit – that we were all but a go-kart or midget sprint or jr. dragster away from motorsports greatness at one point in our lives, and that’s the real allure of the drag strip: it’s an easily accessible, relatively affordable way to experience motorsports firsthand.
Ready? Let’s get started.
Latest Car ReviewsRead more
Latest Product ReviewsRead more
- Tassos The EQS is the best looking BEV, better than even the only Tesla I would ever consider (the S) and more luxurious inside etc etcThe self driving features will come in handy when I'm 110 and my eyesight and reaction times start to suffer.But that's four decades away, and only Tim recommends 40 year old "used cars"
- Tassos "Baby, Baby light my fire!""Oh God please give me a Kia Forte" --Janis Joplin
- Tassos The fugly looks of any Subaru, and especially the non-sporty non-elegant, fugly, low-rent looks and interior of the WRX are alone a sufficient turnoff to never want to own one.One can be a 100% car enthusiast but ALSO demand a beautiful AND luxurious vehicle one can be truly proud of and which makes one very happy every time one drives it.The above is obviously totally foreign to Subaru Designers and managers.
- Thehyundaigarage Am I the only one that sees a Peugeot 508?
- Lou_BC I realized it wasn't EV's burning by the absence of the usual suspects.