Junkyard Find: 2004 Pontiac Aztek

When the Pontiac Aztek concept SUV was unveiled in 1999, it was a bit odd-looking but no more so than the Isuzu VehiCROSS. It looked angular, low, and menacing, which is just how plenty of Americans wanted their truckish vehicles. When the production Aztek appeared as a 2001 model, however, some changes had been made.

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The QOTD Answer: The FX is the Best Infiniti Ever


Our recent QOTD post asked for your thoughts on the best Infiniti model ever. Therein, I promised a follow-up post with my answer to that very important question. So let’s get right down to it: I think the first generation FX was the best Infiniti ever.

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Junkyard Find: 2006 Toyota Camry With Manual Transmission

When I walk the rows of a big Ewe Pullet-style self-service car graveyard, I always take a look inside every 2000s Toyota Camry I see. I do this because I wish to document one of the most elusive of all junkyard inmates: One of the final Camrys sold in the United States with a factory-installed manual transmission. Prior to today's Junkyard Find, the newest discarded three-pedal Camry I'd found was a 2001 model in California. We're pushing the record another five years forward today because I've found this five-on-the-floor-equipped 2006 Camry in the very same yard.

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Rare Rides Icons: The History of Kia's Larger and Full-size Sedans (Part X)

As we return to the history of Kia’s large sedans, we find ourselves in the midst of the 2010s. When the full-size and rear-drive K900 was introduced for the 2015 model year, Kia’s front-drive comfort option, the K7 (Cadenza to you), was in the midst of its first generation. A replacement for the unloved and ugly Opirus (Amanti to North Americans), the K7 ushered in sophisticated but bland Euro-centric styling from Peter Schreyer upon its launch in 2010.


Cadenza didn’t make its way to the North American market until 2014, and debuted with slightly sharper styling and a nicer interior via a mid-cycle refresh. Kia took its time in bringing the Cadenza to the North American market, as they wanted to be sure they got it just right


In the end, the first Cadenza fell between the soft rock of the Lexus ES and the hard place of the Nissan Maxima. Additionally, it lacked the prestige to compete with other large front-drive upmarket offerings of the time. The new cadenza lasted only three model years in North America, as Kia was ready for an all-new generation K7/Cadenza in 2017.

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Abandoned History: Ford's Cruise-O-Matic and the C Family of Automatic Transmissions (Part VI)
We return to the final entry in our Cruise-O-Matic and C transmission series, at a time when the former’s Fifties-tastic name had faded from the memory of most. The C family was the wave of the future when it arrived as a rework of the Cruise-O-Matic in 1964. The first of the line was the C4, a medium-duty box that was followed two years later by the heavy-duty C6.
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Rare Rides Icons: The History of Kia's Larger and Full-size Sedans (Part IX)

It’s time once again for more Kia large sedan goodness. Like last time, we pick up in the early 2010s. Kia’s second full-size sedan developed under Hyundai’s controllership was the K7, or Cadenza in all markets outside South Korea. Pitched as a value-priced premium front-drive car, it competed against the likes of the Toyota Avalon and Nissan Maxima, but lacked any defined comfort or sporty characteristics. Cadenza also had a bland corporate design courtesy of the company’s new Euro-like styling mission, and former VW designer Peter Schreyer.

Shortly after the Cadenza went on sale, Kia turned its sights toward an even larger sedan: A new rear-drive one to occupy the luxury space, a class above the Cadenza. It was the largest car Kia offered in nearly two decades, the first rear-drive Kia since the (Mazda Sentia) Kia Enterprise of 2002, and the first rear-drive sedan Kia ever sold in the North American market. It’s time for K9.

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Rare Rides Icons: The History of Kia's Larger and Full-size Sedans (Part VIII)

We return to Kia’s large sedan history today, at a point shortly after the launch of the K7. Kia’s full-size front-drive for the 2010s, the K7 was called Cadenza in all export markets, and was a successor to the unfortunately styled Opirus (Amanti in North America). Kia hired Peter Schreyer from his longtime employment at Volkswagen Group in order to usher in a new stylistic era at Kia.

Though it went on sale for the 2010 model year, Kia wasn’t quite ready to send the Cadenza to the North American market. With the market’s general rejection of the Amanti in mind, Kia called on Schreyer to refresh the Cadenza and lux it up before its North American launch.

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Rare Rides Icons: The History of Kia's Larger and Full-size Sedans (Part VII)

We return to Kia’s midsize-or-larger sedan history today in the latter portion of the 2000s. In our last entry, we learned about the Optima, which arrived as Kia’s first midsize developed under Hyundai’s majority ownership. Sensibly the Optima was a light rework of Hyundai’s Sonata, and the two shared almost everything (including very poor crash safety ratings).

On the more executive full-size side of the lineup, Kia’s Opirus was the first large car developed under Hyundai ownership. It shared a platform with the Grandeur (XG350 to you). While the Opirus saw okay sales in most markets, it failed in North America where it was sold as the Amanti. Very few North Americans wanted a $39,600 (adjusted) Kia, no matter how many luxury styling touches it borrowed from other brands. And so the Amanti was canceled after 2009 locally (2012 elsewhere). By that time its replacement was already on sale. Meet K7.

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Rare Rides Icons: The History of Kia's Larger and Full-size Sedans (Part VI)

We return to the story of Kia’s midsize and larger sedans today, around the point when Kia found itself under the watchful eye of Hyundai. The larger South Korean company purchased a controlling stake in its competition in 1998, which meant big changes to Kia’s product almost immediately after.

The union led to the first full-size luxury sedan Kia developed from the ground up, the Opirus (Amanti to you). It turned out the Amanti was the derivative and rather ugly sedan few in North America desired, though it fared a bit better elsewhere. But by the time the Amanti arrived, Kia was already selling a new midsize that North Americans did want. Let’s talk Optima.

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Rare Rides Icons: The Ford Festiva, a Subcompact and Worldwide Kia by Mazda (Part IV)

We reached a conclusion to the first Ford Festiva (or Kia Pride, Mazda 121, SAIPA, etc.) in our last installment, which saw the little hatchback finalize its Ford duties in 1993 and its Kia responsibilities in 2000. And while it continues life today as a Wallyscar in Tunisia, our coverage here moves on to Ford’s not-so-anticipated follow-up entry to Festiva, another Festiva! It’s an Aspire to you.

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Rare Rides Icons: The History of Kia's Larger and Full-size Sedans (Part V)

In our last installment of Kia’s larger sedan history, we covered the midsize Credos. The Credos was an important first for Kia, as the first midsize the company produced where it had a bit of leeway with the design. Ultimately, the Credos hid its Mazda 626 bones decently well and did a good impersonation of a late Nineties Ford Contour after a refresh.

But just as Kia settled into Mazda platforms and designing their own sedans, the goalposts were moved courtesy of the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Kia was left without much money, and few options. We pick up there.

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Rare Rides: The Wallyscar Brand, From Tunisia With Pride

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

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Rare Rides Icons: The Ford Festiva, a Subcompact and Worldwide Kia by Mazda (Part III)

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

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

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Abandoned History: General Motors' Turbo-Hydramatic Transmissions (Part III)

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

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

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Rare Rides Icons: The Ford Festiva, a Subcompact and Worldwide Kia by Mazda (Part II)

We return to our Rare Rides Icons coverage of the Ford Festiva today. An important world vehicle for the likes of Ford, Mazda, Kia (and eventually many others), the Festiva arrived at a time when rear-drive subcompacts were being replaced by much more efficient models that were front-drive. And the Mazda-designed Festiva was certainly more efficient and more front-drive than the Fiesta it replaced.

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  • FreedMike Can the final last call edition be the Secretary Special, with a V6 and a vinyl roof?
  • FreedMike I’ve never heard of this so I’ll have no problem not attending.
  • ToolGuy As I understand it, the Toyota Prius basically lasts forever because the engine gets a gentle duty cycle and the battery gets babied. This seems like the opposite of that.[Impressive tech, not for me, but then neither is the Prius.]
  • Dusterdude Excellent work ! Your stories are always linguistically interesting . Even if you weren’t writing about a quirky car on a long and adventuresome journey - I know your write up would still be interesting ! ( I also have a Soft spot for large cars - as my daily driver is a 2000 Chrysler Concorde )
  • MaintenanceCosts There have always been just two reasons to buy AMG cars: the menacing, hard-edged V8 warble, and the styling with subtle shapes but perfectly aggressive details. This is missing both of those things: the styling has gotten cartoonishly aggressive, and the engine will sound like a fart-can Civic. I don't understand why I should want it.