We featured the predecessor to General Motors’ J-body last week in the Pontiac Sunbird, which was replaced by the J-body J2000 in 1982. But the Cavalier was always the star of the J-body show; the one everyone thought to buy.
Today we feature an immaculate wagon from Cavalier’s second generation.
Well hello! It’s been over a year since we’ve had an update on the 2019 VW Golf Sportwagen seen here. In our last installment, I was filled with optimistical-ness at the prospect of years of trouble-free ownership. After all, surely all the kinks were worked out on this end-of-model Golf that was in production since 2013.
Spoilers: I was wrong.
Today’s Rare Ride marks the third time we’ve featured a Pontiac Sunbird in this series. The first Sunbird was from 1978 and presented itself as the Safari Wagon. But that was just a renamed Astre and not a real Sunbird. The second Sunbird we saw was a convertible with a 2000 in its name, a J-body from a time of naming turmoil at Pontiac.
In contrast, the Sunbird we have here is the original: An economical and optionally luxurious car that debuted in the Seventies without a confused identity. Your author’s never seen one in real life.
Back in January, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said he remained confident that his company would be able to deliver a self-driving vehicle exceeding the capabilities of an average human pilot by the end of 2021. But this has become a tired excuse used almost reflexively by automakers for years, making the inevitable shifting of the goalpost so predictable that nobody even bothers to get upset anymore. Being lied to is just part of everyday living and the automotive sector is just one droplet in the overflowing bathtub of mendacity.
Unfortunately, organizations continue making the mistake of expecting to be given the benefit of the doubt as they continue repeating the same fables. We know they’re working on solid-state batteries and autonomous cars, but they’re hitched to these unrealistic expectations and completely fabricated timelines that draw our focus while they engage in slimier practices on the sly. While holding them accountable is often easier said than done, catching them in a lie is usually fairly simple. For example, the California Department of Motor Vehicles accidentally called out Tesla on the full self-driving (FSD) beta it’s been testing with employees.
During my brief time as a service advisor/writer, I worked in two types of shops. One was an “express lube” – meaning this shop only did basic maintenance, such as oil changes and tire rotations. Cars that needed more complex repairs were sent across the parking lot to the main service bays – the full-service ones.
The other type of shop I worked at was a full-service one. This dealership had no express lube – techs did everything from oil changes to fluid flushes to warranty work to major customer-pay jobs.
Rare Rides has featured the predecessor of today’s sedan previously, in a very pearly 1990 V8 Quattro. After Audi spent a few years unsuccessfully trying to sell its first-ever attempt at a flagship full-size sedan, it took the lessons learned from the D1 and developed the D2 A8 and S8.
Last week, we reported about a crash in the Houston area involving a Tesla Model S – a wreck in which authorities claim there was no one in the driver’s seat at the time of the impact.
It’s unclear if the car was equipped with Tesla’s Autopilot autonomous-driving system, and it’s also unclear if the authorities’ claim has been verified (The Verge reports someone may have been in the driver’s seat after all). Still, there has since been debate over whether it’s even possible for Autopilot to be defeated in such a way that someone could leave the driver’s seat.
On Tuesday, the largest automotive lobbying group released a handful of safety guidelines related to driver monitoring for vehicles equipped with driver-assistance features. It’s pageantry designed to convince you and the rest of the world to embrace technologies that have already led to unsettling privacy violations. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation making recommendations for the industry is farcical because the AAI already represents just about every major player on the field, suppliers included. The only real outsider is Tesla, which the organization decided would make an excellent scapegoat for the broader tech agenda.
But there’s still merit to the discussion, especially if the only proposed solution is to let the industry watch us inside our cars 24/7.
Today’s Rare Ride is a prototype super car from 1996, 1997, or 1998, dependent upon which place you see it online. Scissor doors, 8.2 liters, 550 horsepower, and a fully bespoke body all sound great. There are no YouTube videos or even any news articles about the Shark S-1, so this is some exclusive content for you.
Quite a few questions remain.
Having noticed that Washington got a bit of publicity for vowing to ban all vehicles reliant on internal combustion after 2030, a dozen other American states decided it would be a good idea to reaffirm their own religious-like commitment to the environment by saying they too will be restricting your choice of automobiles by 2035.
The coalition of states — most of which don’t have a populace that’s dependent on automotive manufacturing for work — also formally asked the Biden administration to introduce standards that would obligate the United States to ban everything that emits smoke within the next fifteen years. Many activist groups are calling it a heroic act, though it’s difficult to recall any parables where the hero went around banning things and also represented an institutional power structure.
Believe it or not, two full years have passed since I took the very long and fairly rushed journey from Cincinnati to Austin to purchase the 2015 Lexus GS 350. After the fly-then-drive non-holiday trip, it was time to settle into some routine ownership and driving. Routine might be the wrong word though, as within a year the scope of “routine” changed considerably. Want to guess how many miles it’s accumulated over the past couple of years?
Today’s Rare Ride is kind of like a more modern and luxurious version of the Honda Civic Wagovan sold in North America in the Eighties. Offered by Nissan only in the Japanese domestic market, a case for the Rasheen in North America could’ve been made. Let’s check it out.
Undoubtedly eager to improve the take rate of electric vehicles, automakers have a myriad of solutions at their disposal. But the majority have something to do with getting the government involved to futz around with taxes.
Normally, this has to do with making special exceptions for EVs or subsidizing them via rebate programs. But governments seem happy to do this, as increasingly more legislation is advanced that would place restrictions on when and where people will be able to drive internal combustion vehicles, and automakers appear to be getting with the program. We’ve already seen manufacturers choosing sides in America’s gas war and now the Europeans are getting in on the action by demanding higher taxes be imposed on vehicles reliant on gasoline or diesel.
We continue the Cheapest Of series today on Buy/Drive/Burn, and check out the least expensive full-size truck-based SUVs on sale in America in 2021. And we’ve been generous today and equipped each of them with four-wheel drive to avoid any usability concerns. Today’s trio is very close in price but diverges elsewhere. Let’s go.
That figure grows to two today with the lovely, stylish, and luxurious 164.
The Biden administration expanded on its $174 billion proposal to boost electric vehicle sales on Thursday, suggesting that the United States government make it rain money on those purchasing EVs.
Technically a part of the $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, which has been expanded to include jobs and numerous environmental projects, the proposal makes a lot of special exemptions for alternative energy vehicles backed by large financial commitments. $100 billion will be set aside for new consumer rebates, potentially opening up the door for manufacturers that have already exhausted their quota of federal tax credits linked to zero-emission cars.
Last time on Rare Rides we introduced Mitsubishi’s Debonair, which began its tenure as Mitsubishi’s flagship luxury sedan in 1963 and remained the same for a very long time. Upon the model’s second generation in 1986, the Debonair made the switch to front-drive and adopted more modern looks in an attempt to appeal beyond very conservative large sedan buyers in Japan.
But the changes still weren’t enough, as we’ll see today.
Today’s Rare Ride is the second attempt Mitsubishi made to build its own full-size executive car for the Japanese Domestic Market. Debonair never moved outside its home market, and always played third fiddle to competition from the likes of Toyota Crown and Nissan Gloria (then a Prince model). Today’s example goes slightly further and adds AMG flavor to the front-drive mix.
There’s a lot of information to cover here, and today we talk about the model’s beginnings.
Rare Rides has touched on Monte Carlo once before, in a well-past-its-prime NASCAR / Jeff Gordon edition from 2000. Monte Carlo surfaced again more recently, as its Nineties iteration was effectively a renamed second-generation Lumina coupe. But we’ve never covered the Eighties Monte Carlo, which was a very popular car in the midsize segment at a time when the personal luxury coupe was alive and well.
And someone kept today’s 1987 example in as-new condition.
Today’s Rare Ride is largely forgotten. Some call it a “super car,” while others argue over whether it was a kit car or a production vehicle. It seems to be the latter, not that it makes much of a difference 25 years later when so few were made.
Come along and learn about Tojan, a very special take on a Pontiac.
Today’s Rare Ride is the last entrant in a set of four cars introduced to the series back in November 2018. Tiny, retro, and a convertible, Nissan’s Figaro is by far the most popular of the four Pike cars. It’s also the one you can always find for sale in the United States.
Let’s take a look.
Volkswagen is either hellbent on destroying its brand appeal or we appear to be on the receiving end of an early April Fools’ prank because there’s a rumor going around that the automaker is going to be changing its name to “Voltswagen” to better encapsulate what an absolute cringe festival it has become.
Known best for offering unassuming but exceptionally nice to drive automobiles with styling that ages rather well, Volkswagen has been bending over backward to present itself as an EV manufacturer that’s chasing down all the latest trends. But your author is convinced that the initial feedback will be so overwhelmingly negative, VW will ultimately make some excuse and fall back to highlighting its more traditional aspects.
And earlier today the Internets served up a random ad for a teal 10th-generation T-bird in fantastic condition. Seems like a perfect opportunity to add it to our coverage of the long-lived personal luxury nameplate.
Consumer Reports has taken umbrage with Tesla’s new cabin camera designed to monitor the driver by suggesting there might be some privacy concerns. While that sounds like the understatement of the year, we’ve seen other companies (e.g. Cadillac) deploy similar devices with little pushback. Uncoverable lenses on our laptops and phones are creepy enough. When the auto industry starts affixing driver-monitoring cameras to the dashboards of automobiles, you have to sit back and ask yourself how much longer you’re willing to be a party to the prologue for George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Trapped like a dog inside the hot car of progress, we’ve been attempting to honk the horn until someone pays attention. Mercifully, Consumer Reports doesn’t seem to have forgotten its roots in consumer advocacy and is walking up to our window with a rock. It’s demanding more privacy protection for vehicle operators, and not just from a single automaker.
We’ve featured exactly two Rolls-Royce creations previously at Rare Rides. The first was the completely bespoke mega-buck Sweptail in 2017, and more recently the Silver Spectre, a shooting brake based upon the Wraith coupe.
Today’s Rare Ride falls somewhere between those two on the cost spectrum. It’s a one-off creation from famed design house Pininfarina.
Today’s B/D/B was suggested by commenter namesakeone, who posited that a couple of the cars featured in the worst halo cars article last week might make an interesting trio for this segment.
I needed to cover one more as a Rare Ride first, which is why we saw that Thunderbird yesterday. Requirement out of the way, it’s time to have our first multi-decade, Rare Rides-sourced Buy/Drive/Burn.
Today’s Rare Ride was a part of a very limited run of Thunderbirds that coincided with the release of the last Pierce Brosnan era Bond film, Die Another Day.
It’s a car so special it’s probably almost priceless, and should be stored in a heated garage next to a Plymouth Prowler and/or Chevy SSR.
Today’s Rare Ride was sort of off the radar as a present day vehicular category until your author was presented with one in an ad. It’s the sort of luxurious conversion van people bought to take their grandkids on vacation in the Nineties and early 2000s, but updated for today.
Presenting the Ford Transit Explorer Conversion. It’s quite large.
Today’s Rare Ride was commonplace a couple of decades ago, but it’s one of those cars by and large ruined via neglectful owners, inattentive build quality from the factory, and BHPH lots.
Come along as we learn about the most luxurious Chrysler LH sedan of the Nineties.
Lobbyists are reportedly seeking to soften the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) now that there are some new faces in the White House. Signed in 2018, revised in 2019, and effective since 2020, the USMCA sought to restore North America’s manufacturing base with new content requirements and place the United States in a more favorable position than it held under the North American Free Trade Agreement. But industry groups are now claiming that interpretations from government agencies are gumming up the works, and accusing the U.S. of having a different interpretation from what the other nations had originally agreed upon.
“[The USCMA interpretation makes] meeting the … content provisions that much more difficult for everyone to achieve,” stated David Adams, president of Global Automakers of Canada.
Today is one of the few occasions where Rare Rides presents a curated collection of cars for your review.
A serious Francophile in Minnesota has amassed a collection of trois Renault Fuegos et un 17 Gordini. Has a more exciting sentence ever been published? I think not.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate voted 66-34 to confirm Michael Regan as the next administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Biden campaign had signaled that it wanted to clean house following appointments from the Trump administration well before the election, noting that the EPA was of particular importance since it needs to be in line with the bold energy strategy. Regan’s role as administrator is essential since he’ll have the ability to encourage the United States to reduce emissions wherever possible.
Whereas the Trump administration sought to undo Obama-era policies it deemed untenable and soften the power of highly influential independent executive agencies, Biden and company are bent on restoring those policies while strengthening some of its own. Regan (44) is presumed to pursue greenhouse gas emissions reductions for automobiles, powerplants, and oil refineries by any means available. He began his career as an environmental regulator for the EPA during the Clinton administration, stayed on through the Bush years, and later joined the Environmental Defense Fund — a nonprofit environmental advocacy group that frequently partners with multinational companies to create “market-driven” solutions to climate change.
Today’s Rare Ride marks the second entry from small Italian car manufacturer Moretti. The first Moretti featured here was a 750 two-door sedan from the early Fifties, which was an original design to the brand.
In contrast, today’s 126 Minimaxi was made long after Moretti stopped creating its own cars.