Best Fuel Filters: Fuelish Behavior
This is a slightly difficult list since virtually every vehicle on the road takes a different type of fuel filter. Unless you’re driving a GM product from the ’90s; experience shows they all used roughly the same one from about 1990 until about 2008. Also, know that there typically aren’t service intervals for the replacement of these things – generally, when they go bad, you know.
Best Phone Mounts: Can You Hear Me Now?
We know, without a doubt, there are several readers in the audience shouting into their screens that few people use a phone mount these days. One’s phone generally stays in a pocket or unceremoniously flung into storage bin or cupholder. And, yeah, you’ve got a point.
Street Rod: The Granddaddy of Car Culture Software
While the summer months are normally the perfect time to take a road trip, New York has mandated that any jaunts out of state require a 14-day quarantine upon return — and any location one might want to visit on a lark has a strong likelihood of being closed to visitors.
Seems like a lot of hassle with very little payoff for yours truly, so I’ve been escaping into old films and television shows before they’re cancelled for being offensive. Video games have also become a staple of the modern pandemic lifestyle and, if you read my review of the Ford Simulator franchise, you’ll recall that my tastes skew toward terrible, automotive-themed DOS programs from the late 1980s.
Today’s entry is actually pretty decent, however — or at least it would have been at the time of its release.
Best Ceramic Coatings: Big Shiny Cars
There’s an urban myth amongst gearheads that a clean car runs better. Whether or not it’s true, we can’t say. However, why take that chance? Best to keep your ride in spic-n-span shape.
Best Multimeters: Volt of Lightning
Whether you’re working on a collector car or a daily beater, having a multimeter on hand when one’s required can be a lifesaver. Not only can it help diagnose electrical issues but it can also help narrow down issues and prevent the replacement of perfectly good parts.
Best Welding Gloves: Just Glovely
Following up our list about welding helmets we felt it appropriate to compile a list of welding gloves. After all, you’re not trying to stick metal together with your bare hands are you? And that pair of cotton gloves is totally inadequate, by the way.
Best Convertible Car Seats: Safety First
It’s all well and good to reminisce about the good old days but, chances are, we’re looking at another time through seriously tinted rose-colored glasses. Sure, more than a few of us used to bounce around on the bench seat of a station wagon or in the bed of a pickup truck but there’s no way anyone can argue in good faith that it was very safe.
Best Electric Pressure Washers: Under Pressure
It’s totally not a filled-with-soap myth that a clean car runs better, right? Except for off-road rigs. They run best when caked with a thick layer of sticky mud and dirt.
Best Tool Boxes: Organize This
It’s a debate for the ages: should one put tools back in their place during a repair? One school of thought says that if you don’t, then they’re at hand and easy to reach. Others argue that the time spent walking back to the bench is well spent since you always know exactly where the tools are sitting. We’ll let you guess which side of the debate this author resides.
Best Dog Car Harnesses: Who's a Good Boy
We’ll preface this post with the note that your humble author has never, and likely will never, have any canine livestock in his home. But plenty of people do, while continuing to maintain their gearhead status, explaining the presence of today’s list.
Best LED Fog Lamps: Mist the Mark
Tacking extra lights onto one’s vehicle is a practice nearly as old as the concept of the automobile itself. After all, you know better than the cadre of engineers who worked for ages designing the thing, right?
How to Score All The Cashback Deals From Tire Rack
You already saw our feature on the tire sale at TireRack on Goodyear winter tires, but it’s looking like the online superstore has a bunch of ways to earn some solid cashback between now and the end of the month. Covering everything from winter and all terrain tires to more basic all-seasons, the deals include options from Michelin, Continental, Yokohama, Cooper, Dick Cepek, Firestone, Khumo, and Pirelli. Click through the links below for a closer look at the various promos out there and how to qualify.
When 18-Year-Old Auto Upgrades Go Wrong: Forward Collision and Lane Departure Warning System - Advent LDWS100
If there’s anything we’ve learned with this project, it’s something we should have already known but tend to forget: Most projects turn out bigger than first imagined, and some are so large as to be either impossible, or not such a good idea after all — at least for those without the proper tools or knowledge.
Such was the case when we went to install the Advent LDWS100 Advanced Driving Assistance System. This is not to say the Advent isn’t a good device. Or to say that it is. It’s simply to say that we couldn’t get it working, so we don’t know.
Drive a New Civic? Got a Tax Refund? Time to Add Power
Honda’s new Civic is a heck of a car, even if the styling is polarizing. But it’s not a performance car like Civics of old, where mixing and matching engine and transmissions from other models could yield a very quick ride with a stratospheric redline. Enthusiasts are anxiously awaiting the Si and Type-R trims, which promise plenty of power — but what of those who already have a car, or need features the high-performance cars don’t have?
Enter Hondata, the firm that’s been tuning Honda engine management systems for years. It’s been the industry leader for those looking to do those engine swaps, and has developed software and devices to add performance to the factory ECU.
Recently, Hondata released its FlashPro for the newest Civic powered by the 1.5-liter turbo engine, and I had a chance to drive a Hondata-tuned 2017 Civic.
Even stock, the new turbo Civic is faster in the quarter-mile than the previous-generation Civic Si, so the extra performance should be impressive.
The 18-Year-Old Auto Upgrade: Backup Sensors - Hopkins NVision
If you’re looking for some electronic assistance backing your car but don’t want to mess with installing a rearview camera, a backup sensor system might be the solution.
Consisting of ultrasonic sensors mounted at the rear of the vehicle and connected to an audible alarm inside the car, a sensor system gives you a warning when you’re getting close to something behind you, typically growing more urgent as you get closer.
The 18-Year-Old Auto Upgrade: Backup Camera - Pyle PLCM7500
There’s no question a rearview camera can add a measure of convenience to the business of backing up and increase your margin of safety. Studies have shown a rear camera makes it easier to see small children, pets, or obstacles behind your vehicle that might be otherwise invisible using just your mirrors or looking out the rear window. And that goes double for pickups and other tall vehicles, which can have a blind spot as long as 50 feet to the rear. Adding a rearview camera can also make it easier to see and hook up a trailer.
Many new cars have backup cameras, and it’ll be mandatory equipment by the 2018 model year. For those of us without, the aftermarket offers plenty of choices.
The 18-Year-Old Auto Upgrade: Compact Inverter - Schumacher X114
If you’re looking for an inexpensive power inverter and don’t want to sacrifice a cup holder or other interior real estate, the Schumacher X114 might be just the ticket — as long as you don’t mind a bit of noise with your power.
Capable of putting out 140 watts of continuous power, the X114 has more than enough juice to drive a laptop or other small electronic device. To that end, it comes equipped with one 120V receptacle, and a 2-amp USB outlet for charging a phone, music player, or most anything else that can be charged via USB.
The 18-Year-Old Auto Upgrade: Head-up Display - Garmin HUD+
A windshield head-up display, or HUD, is a beautiful thing. Capable of displaying navigational guidance, vehicle speed, and other information on the lower part of the windshield and in the driver’s line of sight, HUD systems have become increasingly common on new cars since their first appearance a couple of decades ago.
More recently, a handful of aftermarket suppliers and startups have gotten on the bandwagon, offering devices that pair with a smartphone via Bluetooth to provide similar functionality, even if these devices lack the seamless integration of a factory system.
The 18-Year-Old Auto Upgrade: Power Inverter - Energizer EN180
Even if your car is equipped with a built-in power port or two, it may not have enough outlets to support all the electronic devices and habits of you and yours, or said ports may be inconveniently located or accessed. Maybe you want a configuration your car doesn’t have, like a 120V outlet to power a laptop or portable DVD player. Or maybe whatever ports your car has just haven’t been quite right since that last Big Gulp incident.
If any of these scenarios is the case, a power inverter can be the solution. Depending on the make and model you choose, an inverter can give you the versatility to power several devices at once, juice up your laptop or other electronic device, or provide more power and quicker charging than built-in ports in your car. And with prices starting at less than $50, inverters are affordable enough to make sense for almost any budget.
The 18-Year-Old Auto Upgrade: Bluetooth Speaker - Motorola Sonic Rider
Safety experts generally agree that shutting off your phone altogether while behind the wheel is the safest way to travel, but the reality is that just isn’t going to happen for many drivers. In spite of thousands of deaths and close to a half million injuries chalked up to distracted driving every year, we are a society largely addicted to our phones.
But experts also agree going hands free is a safer option than handling a phone on the go, and most newer vehicles now have Bluetooth so drivers can keep their eyes on the road and use voice commands to make and receive calls. While arguably still distracting, hands-free calls are a better idea than punching keys at highway speeds, when a car travels the length of a football field in about five seconds — coincidentally, the average length of time it takes to read or send a text message.
For owners of vehicles without built-in Bluetooth, there are all kinds of aftermarket solutions available, from small units with a microphone and speaker that clip to a sun visor and cost as little as $20, to replacement head units that will set you back hundreds of dollars or more. For the purposes of this exercise, we looked at the former for their ease of installation and low cost.
The 18-Year-Old Auto Upgrade: Phone Mount - IOttie Easy One Touch 2
With the average age of cars on the road now on the far side of 11 years, the latest electronic safety and convenience systems don’t do most drivers much good. But the good news is that any car can be upgraded with many of these features, from blind spot warning to Bluetooth for streaming music and hands free phone calls. You can easily install most of them yourself, and for a lot less than making payments on a new car.
Our new series of articles detailing some of these features will take you through what products are available, how they work, and what they cost. We’re starting with nine products available from the automotive aftermarket provided by our sponsor eBay, who has also graciously offered up three $500 gift cards. We’ve independently made our product choices based on ease of DIY installation, popularity, favorable reviews from other sources and users, and brand recognition with websites and readily available customer support.
Oh, and we’re installing all these upgrades on a 1999 Acura TL with 152,000 miles.
First up, let’s keep it simple: a trick phone mount from iOttie, the Easy One Touch 2.
Movie Review: The Last Chase, Starring a Porsche 917 (and Lee Majors)
This post started, as some of mine do, with a question about cars from my brother Jeff.
He texted me from Jerusalem, Israel, wanting to know whether the Porsche in a 1981 movie titled “The Last Chase,” starring Lee Majors, was a real Porsche or a replica.
Not knowing anything about the movie, I told him it was likely to be a real 911, since they weren’t that expensive then, so nobody would have bothered making a replica. He texted back that it wasn’t a 911, but something that looked “more like a Chaparral.”
Intrigued, I did an image search and he’s correct. While it’s easy to tell a Porsche 917 from one of Jim Hall’s racers, the 917 in The Last Chase does indeed look more like a Chaparral than like Porsche’s iconic 911 road car.
My brother’s question answered, I proceeded to watch the film, which is posted in its entirety on YouTube (you can watch it below the jump).
My next thought: how did I not know about this movie?
Product Review: Will the ReliefBand Motion Sickness Device Let Me Go Racing?
They say the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.
I was blessed with an appreciation for road racing and cars that corner and handle well. Unfortunately, I’m also very prone to motion sickness. That means I can’t race cars.
Back when I was riding around in the rear facing far back seat in the Buick station wagon belonging to my best friend Stevie Margolin’s mom, this affliction was called “car sickness.” It was either in that Buick or on one of Detroit’s Bob-Lo boats that I recall first experiencing nausea when in motion.
Nausea and motion have a long association. The term nausea in fact comes to use from the ancient Greek word for boat. Up to 95 percent of the population experiences some form of motion sickness, with 5-15 percent being extremely sensitive to it. Placebos, pharmaceuticals, over the counter medications, pressure bands, and even skin patches behind the ear have all been tried as treatments to varying degrees of success and side effects.
A new wearable medical device called the ReliefBand may make that motion induced nausea a thing of the past — and finally let me go racing.
Tire Test: BFGoodrich KO2 in the Snowy Hills of Maine
BFGoodrich’s All-Terrain T/A tires can be found everywhere, from your local construction site to the most grueling of off-road races. I’ve fitted some of my trucks with the original KO and used them on and off-road, so I was curious what improvements BFGoodrich could bring to its latest iteration: the new KO2.
BFGoodrich brought me up to Bethel, Maine to test out its new tire in the nearby hills — and to catch this year’s Red Bull Frozen Rush.
The Frozen Rush trucks run a one-off spiked version of the same tire, but I was more interested in the street version that might adorn one of my (or your) vehicles.
K40 RLS2 Radar Detector Review
I’ll admit it. I haven’t used a radar detector in years. My typical method of avoiding tickets has relied on the (patent pending) Spousal Alert System, in which the wife screams at me if the car is going too quickly in proximity to one of Ohio’s finest.
Problem is, 10 years in, I have yet to find the mute button.
Plus, she doesn’t drink coffee, so the Spousal Alert System has some glitches on drives longer than four hours. A planned family reunion in northern Wisconsin, 10-plus hours from home, reminded me that an alternative was needed. Thankfully, the kind folks from K40 Electronics offered their new RLS2 radar/laser detector for review. I’m pretty sure it already saved me from a ticket or two. With an MSRP right around $400, it is priced in the ballpark of the major players in the market.
2015 Infiniti QX70S RWD Review
Fifteen years ago, buying a practical luxury car to replace a Honda Accord meant going down to your BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, or occasionally, Audi showroom and coming back with a 5-Series, E-Class, GS, or if you were particularly brave, an A6. All these brands except Audi had SUVs at the time though, but they were hardly replacements for a midsize luxury sport sedan. The Mercedes ML handled like a truck while the RX300 wasn’t exactly intended for the sport sedan driver, something emphasized by the number of moms and AARP members who bought them at the time. Meanwhile, my dad test drove an X5 and 5-Series back to back and promptly bought a 530i.
But no one fifteen years ago would have considered Infiniti, whose only rear-drive sedan was the full-size Q45, which no one bought. A few years later, Infiniti went through a product renaissance, bringing out the Infiniti G35 (which many people bought), the M (the one based on the JDM Nissan Gloria few people bought), and an updated Q45 (which even fewer people bought). In 2003, they also brought out a sporty crossover – the FX. It was meant to compete with the X5, Porsche Cayenne, and XC90, but the FX was dramatically better on-road than off-road compared to most of its competitors. The FX, despite being smaller and not capable of tackling off-road trails, became a sales success for Infiniti.
Book Review: No Time to Cry by Wilmer Cooksey, Jr.
“On one occasion I was called out into the yard because there had been a shooting. A guard, a line worker and a car thief had been shot. The thief had been wounded gravely by the guard and was bleeding but he had made it into the cab of the car hauler and had driven for some distance before he crashed and was caught.”
Book Review: "Detroit: An American Autopsy"
(When I put this into the TTAC “back-end”, I forgot to change the author. This article is the work of John Marks, not Jack Baruth — JB)
Former Detroit News city-beat reporter Charlie LeDuff’s memoir Detroit: An American Autopsy (2013; newly out in paperback) fairly pulsates with not-quite-controlled rage, but at least he came by it honestly. A working-class native of Detroit who parlayed his talents for finding stories and for telling stories into a position at the New York Times, LeDuff quit what once had been his dream job in 2007.
After ten years (a span of time that included 9/11), LeDuff had had enough of the Times’ “intellectual mud wrestling and… oblique putdowns.” The straw that broke his back was an editor’s telling him that he spent too much time writing about “losers.” (One gets the idea that if that editor wasn’t a Brown graduate named Chauncey who was wearing a Brooks Brothers oxford-cloth shirt, he might as well have been.)
After a brief unsatisfying stint in Los Angeles, LeDuff and his wife and infant daughter returned to Detroit in 2008, so he could “chronicle the decline of the Great American Industrial City.” His timing was impeccable, to say the least.
Product Review: LX Dual USB Car Charger With Leather Grip
The vehicles we aspire to own have one thing in common: timeless design over mere transportation: Ferraris over Fiats. CUVs instead of sedans, or personal luxury vehicles in lieu of a hatchback. So why not treat yourself to a leather-wrapped charging apparatus?
Cars I've Loved And Hated by Michael Lamm
Micheal Lamm has worn a lot of hats in the automotive media world, including stints as editor and publisher at a number of respected publications (besides siring the man who gave the world the 24 Hrs of LeMons series). In addition to wearing a lot of hats, Mike has also owned a lot of cars including about 80 collectible and special interest automobiles over the past 62 years. Most of them he loved, others he grew to hate.
Toyobaru Drift School Post-Mortem
Regular readers of TTAC already saw Justin Wheels Crenshaw and W Christian Mental Ward had a chance to attend the Abu Dhabi Drift School where the RWD Toyota GT-86 is the car of choice.
After sliding around like hooligans, we both had some opinions on them and continued the discussion at the Viceroy Hotel’s “ Taste of Atayeb” while overlooking Turn 18 of the Yas Island Circuit.
Slide Rules: A Day At Toyobaru Drift School
Subayotas by night
Buckle your seatbelts folks; we’re firing up the wayback machine. Last week I had the privilege of attending the Yas Island Drift School with none other than Justin “Wheels” Crenshaw. I have actually known Justin for a few years now, back when he was juggling press loaners and writing for TTAC, while I had no idea this site existed. He helped me with this story, as well as editing it, so hopefully he saved Baruth some stress and the B&B some frustration with my tenuous language skills.
Behold, the Yas Island F1 track and general gearhead amusement park. We arrived for class and set about beating up their Toyota GT-86’s.
Dead Tree Maps Aren't Dead Yet
With fall foliage peaking, it’s time for my third annual Appalachian Road Trip. Last year my friend and his father couldn’t make it, so it was just the old man and me. With fewer time constraints, I planned a route from West Virginia to “The Dragon” and back. Lessons were learned, among them the insanity of planning 360 miles of back roads driving in a day that also includes a few hours of hiking (my new max: 250) and, the subject of this piece, the inability of navigation systems to replace good old paper maps.
Don’t you sometimes want more attention? Aching to simply blow people away? The people at Banshee Horn LLC might just have the thing for people who want to be noticed. It is called the Banshee Horn, and it does what the name says. The folks promise in an email to TTAC that the gadget helps you “warn motorists up to 3 blocks away” with a pain-inducing 139 decibel horn.
Book Review: Once Upon A Car
“In the end, it was all about the car—designing, engineering, assembling, and selling a product that consumers wanted to own and drive.” So observes Bill Vlasic near the end of Once Upon a Car, his 379-page account of the recent “fall and resurrection” of the Detroit car manufacturers. Vlasic’s book is quite late to the party, following other journalistic accounts by Alex Taylor III and Paul Ingrassia and insider accounts by Steve Rattner and Bob Lutz. Can it possibly offer anything new? Is it worth reading? Yes, and yes. Yet Vlasic’s book also shares a fundamental weakness with the others, one all the more damning because of the above observation.
TTAC At The Movies: "Drive"
Somewhere around Season Five of The Sopranos, mob boss Tony Soprano asks his psychiatrist, “Whatever happened to the strong, silent type?” Here’s one answer to that question: Ryan Gosling’s performance in Drive. Awkwardly taciturn in many scenes and utterly wordless in others, Gosling’s nameless Driver has a ruthless economy of both word and action. As an action movie, Drive is patiently paced; as a love story and character study, it is almost too sparse to parse. Since this is TTAC, however, we’ll mostly talk about the cars and the driving…
Book Review: "Car Guys Versus Bean Counters," Take Two
Never assume that press accounts of what’s going on inside the auto companies resembles what’s actually going on. For my Ph.D. thesis, I inhabited General Motors’s product development organization much like an anthropologist might inhabit a Third World village. What I observed during my year-and-a-half on the inside bore virtually no resemblance to what I read in the automotive press. Journalists aren’t inside the companies, have contact with select high-level insiders, and tend to print the PR-approved accounts these insiders provide. These accounts reflect how senior executives want outsiders to think the organization operates and performs much more than how it actually does. To the extent journalists know the reality—and few do any digging—they rarely print it. So I’ve refrained from even guessing at what’s been going on inside GM. Instead, I’ve been hoping that some insider would write an insightful account of the eventful past 10 to 15 years. None have, until ex-vice chairman Bob Lutz’s new book, Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: the Battle for the Soul of American Business. Lutz has a reputation for speaking his mind and straight shooting. What does his book tell us about what really went on inside GM?
Read My Review Of "American Wheels Chinese Roads" At The Wall Street Journal
As promised yesterday, my review of Michael Dunne’s American Wheels Chinese Roads: The Story of General Motors in China is now live at the Wall Street Journal website [sub] as well as today’s print edition. Be sure to pick up a copy and stay tuned for TTAC’s own review of this important book, by our man in China, Bertel Schmitt.
Movie Review: Senna
I was just a pre-licensed car nut when the July 1994 issue of Car and Driver passed along the news of Ayrton Senna’s death. Brock Yates’ column in that issue said, “In a sad way, Ayrton Senna’s death dignifies motor racing…He did not die in vain, but rather he made the ultimate sacrifice in seeking his own personally mandated pinnacle of achievement. Tragically, ironically, he may serve his chosen profession more in death than life.” This meant nothing to me at the time. But it means something now.
Battle Of The Batteries: Toyota And Nissan Power Houses With Cars
„When will it discharge?“ asked a reporter on Monday at Nissan. I ducked under my desk. “In one or two years,” answered Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn. I broke cover when I realized that they were talking about the Leaf powering the house.
Book Review: Car Guys Vs Bean Counters: The Battle For The Soul Of American Business
I can’t say that I was completely surprised when, about two thirds of the way through Bob Lutz’s new book Car Guys vs Bean Counters, I caught a sideswipe at myself and The Truth About Cars, which the retired Vice-Chairman of GM describes as
a Web site that often offers anything but.
After all, TTAC and “Maximum Bob” have long been sparring partners, and were indirectly debating the fate and fortunes of General Motors well before I ever started writing about cars. What was surprising was that this passing shot at TTAC’s credibility would actually help bring us, two presumptive arch-enemies in the world of automotive ideas, to a better understanding of each other. The exchange that a single paragraph prompted taught me that, against all odds, Bob and I share a fundamental character trait: we are at our best when we’ve been goaded into action by a no-holds-barred call-out. In celebration of this shared value, let’s take off the gloves and give Car Guys the unflinching look it deserves.
Review: Toyota Under Fire
Has it really been a year since the United States tore itself apart in a frenzy over the possibility that Toyota’s might suddenly accelerate out of control? So intense was the furor over Toyota’s alleged misdeeds, that it seems like the whole scandal occurred only yesterday, yet the brevity of the crisis already gives it the distance of ancient history. Now, just a year after the height of the hysteria, the first major book on the subject has arrived, casting a clear light on the events of the recall. Serving as a history of the scandal, a case study in Toyota’s responses to it, and a cutting critique of the media’s coverage of the recall, Toyota Under Fire is a powerful reminder of the many lessons that emerged from one of the most intense and unexpected automotive industry events in recent years.
What The World Needs Now… Is A Wallet Made From Real MB-Tex… And GTO Trunk Fabric…
The ad says that cotton is “the fabric of our lives.” It wasn’t the fabric of my youth, I can tell you that. There were the blue school uniforms, seemingly forged in a single piece from iron-strong polyester, hot in the summer and abrasive in the winter. There were suits and ties in rough wool to wear during the weekends, sweaters in soft Lacoste velour and miserable Brooks cable knit, and the instantly dirty, plasticized leather of the Nike “Burt Bruin” shoes on my feet. And, of course, there was M-B Tex, eternal and unchanging, perennially youthful even as the car surrounding it disintegrated into flakes of chromed rust.
Review: Test Drive Unlimited 2
Test Drive Unlimited 2 (TDU2) is the latest pistonhead-oriented video game, a genre I’ve enjoyed since Test Drive first arrived in 1987. My PS3 usually spins two amazing time wasters: Gran Turismo 5 (GT5) for sheer hotshoe geekiness and the Grand Theft Auto series (GTA) for snark, storyline and reality-blurring gameplay. TDU2 sets out to blend elements of both, making it unique and intriguing in concept alone. But does the promise of a game that’s less serious than GT5 but more car-focused than GTA work in practice?
Book Review: Overhaul: An Insider's Account of the Obama Administration's Emergency Rescue of the Auto Industry
John McElroy recently quit the Automotive Press Association because they invited Steven Rattner, former head of the government’s auto industry task force, to speak. He warned, “If you want to read [his] book, DON’T BUY IT. Get it from your local library, because Steven Rattner is a rat who doesn’t deserve a dime of anyone’s money.” What he didn’t say: don’t read the book. And with good reason: it’s well-written, insightful, and definitely worth reading.
Review: Gran Turismo 5
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Time and time again, it’s the comparison that kept occurring to me as I played Gran Turismo 5 on my PS3. The fruit of years – and years of development, Sony’s Forza-killer was finally bestowed upon us this November. Befitting its immense gestation period, the game is a mix of out-dated user interfaces and standard cars and tracks, a sublime driving engine, and incredible detail on some of the newer premium cars. Originally targeted at Forza Motorsport 2, it came out after Forza 3, and it plays like something in between the two.
Book Review: Chrysler's Turbine Car – The Rise and Fall of Detroit's Coolest Creation
First things first: having stuck my neck out a quite a bit with a piece I wrote last year The Truth About Why Chrysler Destroyed The Turbine Car, I approached this book with a mixture of eagerness and trepidation to find out if my own theory held any water. It does (whew!). This well researched book by Steve Lehto confirms it: the myth that Chrysler had the bronze beauties scrapped because of import duties that needed to be paid is utter junk and a baseless urban myth. It even confirms my speculation that the Ghia bodies cost about $20k each, and therefore any import duties would have been insignificant:
Book Review: Where The Suckers Moon
Book Reviewed: Where the Suckers Moon: An Advertising Story, by Randall Rothenberg, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994, 477 pages.
I don’t know what you get out of the current Subaru Legacy ad campaign, but what I get out of it is: “The Subaru Legacy is so banal, and sucks so unrepentantly hard, that we had to put extra crap on an old Kia Optima to create an alternative you wouldn’t automatically prefer.” This is not the first time Subaru has pointed a shotgun at its own feet, nor is it likely to be the last.
Where The Suckers Moon is, primarily, a story about advertising, but along the way we get a true sense of Subaru itself: a company stumbling from failure to failure, forever being rescued by market conditions, outrageously misinformed buyer perception, and completely random factors. It’s simply a company that is too lucky to fail, no matter how hard it tries.
Book Review: Can-Am Cars In Detail
Handed out to undeserved recipients and devalued by lazy writers alike, few words are as hackneyed as iconic or legendary. If everything is an iconic legend, nothing is. Sometimes, though, the words are exactly appropriate. The Canadian American Challenge Cup racing series which ran from 1966 to 1974, more popularly known simply as Can-Am, included cars and drivers that are truly iconic and the series was genuinely the stuff of legend. Though the big block V8 engines of Can-Am last roared over 35 years ago, even today the name Can-Am resonates strongly with car enthusiasts.
Book Review: Sixty To Zero [Part II]
Editor’s Note: Part One of Michael Karesh’s review of Sixty To Zero can be found here.
Journalists write stories. A coherent story is a partial truth at best. If it’s portrayed as the whole story, it’s a lie.
In Sixty to Zero, veteran auto industry journalist Alex Taylor III provides an unusual level of insight into the relationships between top auto industry journalists and the executives they cover. He acknowledges getting too close to these executives more than once, and blames this for several embarrassingly off-base articles. But even in his most self-reflective moments, Taylor fails to recognize an even larger source of distortion.
Book Review: Sixty To Zero
Product Review: E30 LS1 Conversion (Van Swearingen)
For its day, the BMW E30 3-series was an impressive blend of German craftsmanship, understated and cohesive style with remarkable performance. Then again, the E30 may lack straight line performance but the handling remains stellar. And the look is almost timeless. But it needs more than 200 horsepower to truly shine outside of its numerous wins at the 24 Hours Of LeMons. Perhaps 345 horses will help the cause. So let’s put a lightweight, torque intensive V8 under the hood to fix that singular shortcoming.
Book Review: Colin Chapman: Inside The Innovator
At the start of the 21st century, Motor Sport, the UK racing magazine, looked back and asked an expert panel to rank the most important people in Formula One history. Behind F1 majordomo Bernie Ecclestone and Enzo Ferrari, third on the list of 99 was Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman, aka Chunky, founder of Lotus (that’s where the ACBC on the Lotus logo comes from – where the name Lotus comes from is somewhat shrouded in legend and myth).
Of the remaining 96 people, at least 7 were employees or close associates of Chapman. Graham Hill started out building transmissions at Lotus. Mike Costin and Keith Duckworth (i.e. Cosworth) were also early employees. Along with Hill, the drivers who raced for Chapman make up a veritable Hall of Fame: The aforementioned Hill, Jimmy Clark, Mario Andretti, Jochen Rindt, Ronnie Petersen, and Nigel Mansell are just a few. Sir Jackie Stewart drove for him in Formula 2.
Book Review: The Great Auto Crash
To say that the auto industry has had a rough several years would be an understatement of epic proportions. The bailouts of GM and Chrysler dragged many of the industry’s challenges into the open, and the dramatic rescue effort brought an unprecedented level of public awareness of long-festering problems with Detroit’s business model. Here at TTAC, these troubles have provided much grist for our discussions, which tend to focus on the product, business and customer care factors. But behind the decades of Detroit’s weak products and poor business practices, lies a political-economic narrative that tends to be left out of the discussion. In End of a Dream or The Great Auto Crash: An Inside Story, economist William Vukson fits the great sweep of macroeconomic policy since Richard Nixon into a slim volume, and explains Detroit’s dramatic collapse in terms of trade and fiscal policy rather than, say, Detroit’s “Deadly Sins”.
Book Review: Carjacked: The Culture of Automobiles And Its Effects On Our Lives
[Editor’s note: Please join us today at 3pm Eastern (noon Pacific) for a livechat with the authors of Carjacked: The Culture Of The Automobile And Its Effects On Our Lives]
Over the last several weeks, the Toyota recall scandal has reopened the national discussion about car ownership, raising new questions about the role of personal responsibility in our relationships with automobiles. Here at TTAC, we’ve argued passionately that a major lesson of the Toyota recall is that consumers can not rely on brand reputation or the assumption that cars will always work as we expect them to in order to protect ourselves and our families. But responsible car ownership doesn’t end there. To maintain a functioning relationship with our cars, it’s important that motorists understand that the vehicles we cherish come with high costs. And anyone who thinks that the awesome power of the private automobile doesn’t come with great responsibilities would do well to read through the relentless documentation of these costs that makes up the book Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and Its Effect On Our Lives.
Product Review: Harbor Freight Hydraulic Scissor Lift
Having lead a life of high adventure in my youth, scaling pinnacles of rocks and ice, I never imagined that I’d meet my end, flat on my back crushed beneath a falling car. I was setting a new land-speed record for butt-shoulder-shuffling on my way out from under the creaking, swaying mass of 1999 Volkswagen New Beetle-shaped steel groaning menacingly above my body. Moments before the VW started moving it was resting firmly on my tried, and until-that-moment trusted ramps and jack-stands. But now I was going to die, life flashing before my eyes, staring swaying death in the face as my wife’s “cute bug” transformed into Damocles’ Sword, or Poe’s Pendulum, my garage floor playing the Pit. The tremor ceased as my head cleared the oil pan, and the Beetle slowed, then stopped making the horrific creaking noises as the jack-stands stopped wobbling. I cleared the bumper and leapt to my feet in a single motion, and relief swept over me like the expected post-quake tidal wave should. “Damn, I’m still alive!… in fact… I’m completely unharmed!” Running into the house I yelled at the family: ‘Did you guys feel that?!” … only to be met with a non-chalant: “feel what?”
In retrospect the tremor which scared me out from under the car was only a barely-rattle-the-china 3.2 on the Richter Scale, but it drove home an indelible lesson to this DIY mechanic living in a region where three tectonic plates meet: I NEED to get a lift!
Product Review: Optima Batteries
Perhaps you’ve seen the advertisement: an Optima battery survives the rigors of a demolition derby, then goes into the vehicle taking it’s owner home. But is it pure advertising hyperbole or is there something to the claim? To find out I tested the Optima Red Top and Yellow top batteries in situations ranging from daily-driving to that demolition derby-in-denial, the 24 Hours of LeMons.
Product Review: Monroe Shock Absorbers (Sensa-Trac and Max-Air)
In times like these, folks keep their cars longer (just ask Comrade Fidel’s oppressed masses of loyal subjects). Unfortunately, faster-spinning odometers have the nasty side effect of more quickly chewing up your car’s normal wear items. Some of these components (like brakes) can get downright demanding as they die. Others, like shock absorbers and their MacPherson strut cousins, just blend into the woodwork and stay there. Much like the guy in your high school yearbook that you can’t remember, your vehicle’s shocks and/or struts get Rodney Dangerfield-levels of respect and even less attention. Symptoms of worn shocks or struts include excessive floating after traversing even small bumps in the road, greater-than-normal body roll during cornering, increased braking distance, and extreme front end dive under moderate-to-hard braking.
Book Review: "Shop Class as Soulcraft" by Matthew Crawford
Matthew Crawford is a practicing motorcycle mechanic out of Richmond,Virginia. He’s also an excellent writer who holds a philosophy degree from the prestigious University of Chicago. This unusual trifecta informs “Shop Class as Soulcraft: an Inquiry Into the Value of Work.” Anyone who’s changed their oil or timed a distributor (remember them?) will appreciate the result.
Review: BlackBerry VM-605 Speakerphone
The latest advancements in communication imply a great future for the automobile. And yet, like my former manager in Corporate America once said, “I can’t wait to go to a place where my BlackBerry doesn’t work.” Like most BlackBerry addicts, I doubt she really meant it. Mostly because these handheld email magnets are legalized crack, for better or worse. Now BlackBerry makes a self-branded, visor mount speakerphone: traffic jams en route to work and business travel in sub-par rental cars shall never be the same. And its name is the VM-605.