Hammer Time: The Real Cost of Being a Car Guy

Forgive me father, for not only have I sinned (at least for right now), but I’m going to make a sordid confession about my daily work life that will tick off 99 percent of the people here.

I find that auto enthusiasts — that’s you — are completely irrational. In fact, sometimes you’re just plain nuts.

It has nothing to do with conspiracy theories, the federal government, or the fact that every manufacturer wants us enthusiasts to become mindless traders and renters instead of long-term keepers. What it really comes down to is that most auto enthusiasts I know simply act like emotional fools.

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Hammer Time: From Old Caddys to VW Crusher Fodder, Steve Lang's Best of 2015

Would you visit a hotel that rents its rooms by the hour to see a 36-year-old Cadillac with a wrench sticking straight out of the carb?

That old-school Caddy — a 1979 Cadillac Deville D’Elegance — had pretty much popped straight out of Craigslist while I was eating some hashbrowns at a nearby Waffle House. About an hour after I first saw it, I bought it for $500. TTAC compatriot W. Christian “Mental” Ward even helped me drive it off to my dealership.

It was pretty beat up, but the Caddy could still maybe, kinda, sorta play the part of a “Goodfellas” Cadillac if you were far enough away from it. Maybe 50 feet. Maybe 150 feet with a really old pair of eyeglasses.

Between seeing a nice thick solid line of fuel sputtering out of the Cadillac’s tailpipe off Highway 278 and watching its body bounce like a pinata at a kid’s birthday party, I decided to do something.

I decided to write for TTAC again.

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A Tale Of Two Scions: Scion IA Vs. Scion IM

I call Scions “the acronyms from hell” because even I have trouble keeping up with all of them.

iQ, iA, iM, tC, xB, xD. Did I forget one? The xA and…wait! I forgot the FR-S, but that’s only because I rarely see those go through the auction block. Everything else, save the two new iA and iM models, seems to make a perennial pilgrimage to the wholesale heaven of unwanted used cars for one unfortunate reason.

Scion, historically, can’t help but hit ’em where the customers ain’t.

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Why Would Anyone Ever Recommend The Dodge Journey?

There comes a point in our lives when we all fly off the handle. It can happen when we’re still young and ready to believe anything or when we’re old and the voice of those young’uns make us instinctively say nasty, insensitive thoughts.

Temporary insanity comes and goes with the seasons. With that I am about to recommend a [s]car[/s] [s]truckster[/s] [s]minivan[/s] lame duck vehicle that has a surprisingly good fit for one type of buyer in particular: Those with large families who want a new car but don’t really give a shit about cars.

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Hammer Time: Why Cheap Cars Don't Sell

Consumer Reports recently came out with a study that featured the seven least satisfying new cars in today’s market. The worst? By a margin worthy of “Independence Day” going up against “Pluto Nash,” it was the current generation Kia Rio. Only 40 percent of current owners would recommend buying a new one.

The usual demerits for a compact such as the Kia Rio would be that it is tinny, cheap, loud and had interior accompaniments that would be worthy of a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe. In other words, it’s a Korean version of the Mitsubishi Mirage with substantially more power in exchange for far less usable interior space and an ugly beak. That may just be my personal opinion.

But there’s a far guiltier crime of irrefutable measure that the Kia Rio is known for at the auto auctions, and Consumer Reports managed to hit the exact bullseye of that bullseye.

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Hammer Time: Whatever Happened To Black Friday?

We used to always hang out together on the day after Thanksgiving.

Black Friday was a complete knockout when she was a young lady. Sexy, seductive, easy to please, and so damn smart! The two of us would go out shopping and pretty much knock out everything I could ever need for my cars before lunch. She was a true gearhead at heart, and for a long time she made my life easy. Oil change packages for $5. A gallon of coolant for a buck. Free spark plugs. She had an uncanny ability to find every item I would ever need for my family garage. With her small army of circulars and rebates, I could get it all for only about 20- to 30-percent off the retail price.

She… was… awesome!

My wife and friends would hang out with her as well. Everyone loved Black Friday for her fun and chatty nature. It wasn’t just the deals that made Black Friday so enticing back then. It was the experience of enjoying that one day when she was the true queen of retail America.

But then she had what could only be described as a mid-life crisis.

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Should Americans Fund Fracking?

Imagine growing up in the modern day world and having no future.

No education. No upward mobility. No right to pursue a better life beyond just a few crumbs of financial sustenance.

This is the reality in most Arab countries and former Soviet republics. It’s a world where opportunities are almost non-existent and certain cliques and clans determine who has the exclusive right to get ahead.

I grew up traveling the world in a family business — the food import business, to be exact. I have learned that in the West there is a tendency to believe folks can overcome Herculean odds in the pursuit of that better life, whatever and wherever it may be.

That opportunity just isn’t there in these places where even geniuses can be damned to a life of a terminally squalid environment. It’s a shame. But what if instead of investing billions of dollars in armaments and other forms of support to these idiotic regimes, we tipped the scales of supply and demand a bit in favor of the billions of little guys and little girls?

Let me explain.

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Chevrolet Cruze: Success or Failure?

There was a time when the word ‘cockroach’ was the best way to describe any old Chevy compact.

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Hammer Time: What Car Would You Keep for 25 Years?
A quarter of a century can yield an amazing level of improvements to a modern day car — but this isn’t always the case.Take for example a 1958 Chevrolet Bel Air and compare it with the 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera. Even back in 1983, a 1958 Bel Air could offer the keepers among us the enduring joy of a long-term relationship. That big block Chevy V8, even in the early Reagan era, could give you a fiendish ear-to-ear grin behind the wheel. The Cutlass Ciera on the other hand was a rental car from birth with the vapid empty soul of a parts bin beater. It would take a special masochist of an owner to make that a long-term keeper.Modern day cars have similar parallels.
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Hammer Time: How Can Volkswagen Save Themselves?

Twenty-two vehicles on the front line and not a single one of them a Volkswagen.

This wouldn’t be surprising if this were a used car lot or a new car store that sold a different brand, but this is Jim Ellis VW — the most successful Volkswagen dealership in the entire metro-Atlanta area.

How successful? They have two locations and sold Volkswagens every day for well over 44 years. This dealership was founded on day one with Volkswagens exclusively in their blood. No competitor in the southeast can come close to that level of enduring success.

So what does it mean when one of your most loyal dealers in the entire nation won’t even put your vehicles on their front line?

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What Is Your Used Car Sweet Spot?

One of my good friends and long-time TTAC commenters asked me this question.

Hey Steve,

If you have a moment, what are the high and low values right now at auction for the following:

2000 Chevy Monte Carlo SS 40K miles gold/tan

2006 Mustang GT premium 27K maroon/tan

2006 G6 GTP folding hardtop 53k black/black

I could only give him one response and it wasn’t, “Go play darts and put some numbers together!”

The answer came in three simple words.

Condition, condition, condition.

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Hammer Time: Can A 1994 Dodge Viper Bite You In The Ass?

Monday morning. Auction time. I have 116 vehicles in front of me and a 21-year-old supercar that’s making me think back to the days when truck engines in car bodies were still all the rage.

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823,000 Cars. Which Ones Stink?

I guarantee that every brand loyalist will have a reason to hate me after reading this article.

Every manufacturer sells a shitty car or two and then hides those defects behind a not-so-small army of lawyers, dealers, and corporate employees.

Why?

It’s the corporate American way. In our legal world, the power of denial can save you billions of dollars if you have the right army to fight your battles.

Every manufacturer plays this game. Every… single… one…

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Hammer Time: A Shotgun Hit & Run

“Honey? I just got into an accident!” she said.

My body experienced an instant adrenaline rush as my mind wandered through the worst “what if?” possibility of that moment, something like the image above.

My wife… Hospital… Pain… Medical bills… The other driver…

“Is everyone okay?” I asked in reply.

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Hammer Time: Flying Is The Devil's Work

4 a.m.

The alarms clocks ring. Both of them. Just in case I get any funny ideas.

I go through the semi-conscious motions. Clothes… suitcase… glasses… coffee… breakfast. By 4:15 a.m, I’m out the door and driving to the airport in a 21-year-old Geo Prizm. I figured that a 5-speed and a stark lack of noise insulation will keep me alert. Thanks to Atlanta’s penchant for using steel plates to cover up every possible pothole on the road, I am not disappointed.

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  • Bob65688581 "Give me liberty or give me death." Lots of societal choices can be phrased this way. I remember the same debate when seat belts were introduced. We went too far with seat belts - the horrible mice! We used interlocks to ensure compliance. ... ... and then we came back to a reasonable balance. So we have several options: - We can do nothing. Innocent people will continue to die. We will be passive accomplices of those deaths. Our freedom! - We can go overboard, creating more problems than we solve. We're good at this. - We can find solutions that are effective and livable. I vote for doing nothing because FREEDOM...
  • Bob65688581 "Three-row off-road" is an absurdity.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird The hideaway headlamps on these and other Ford vehicles of the era could have issues mostly vacuum related. Usually the vacuum hoses that ran to the actuators would deteriorate. The “coffee can” reservoir which was mounted in the front header was rarely an issue because it was protected from the elements. The other coffee can reservoir used for the HVAC controls and actuators and mounted under the passenger side wheel well had a tendency to rot away. I once replaced one on my 70 Mustang when I noticed that the vents were acting janky. Later model Fords like Fox bodies used a durable plastic globe shaped one. The radio on these 69-70 full-size Fords mounted on the left side of the aircraft style instrument cluster within the drivers touch probably disappointed many young people. “Mom will you change the station?” “Andy Williams is so square”.
  • MichaelBug For me, two issues in particular:1. It can be difficult for me to maintain my lane on a rainy night. Here in southeastern PA, PennDOT's lane markings aren't very reflective. They can be almost impossible to make out when wet.2. Backing out of a parking space in a lot with heavy pedestrian traffic. Oftentimes people will walk right into my blind spot even if I am creeping back with my 4-way flashers blinking. (No backup camera in my '11 Toyota Camry.)Michael B 🙂
  • Tagbert When you publish series like this, could you include links to the previous articles in the series so that we can follow through? Thank you. Edit: now I see a link embedded in the first paragraph that goes to the previous story. It wasn’t clear at first where that link went but now I understand.