Rare Rides: A McDonald's Edition 1986 Ford E-150 Econoline Conversion

The Rare Rides series has featured around 10 special edition cars in past, depending on how generous you are with the term.

And while every special edition presented here thus far was designed to add some padding to a manufacturer’s bottom line, today’s special edition McDonald’s van had a much more benevolent purpose.

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Rare Rides: The 2003 Lancia Thesis - Questionable Styling and Legality Comes Standard

Rare Rides occasionally features vehicles that have somehow slipped through the 25-year importation net and exist in this country as illegal immigrants. First up was a little Citroën Picasso hatchback from Arizona, and more recently we featured a bright orange Fiat Barchetta from Florida.

Today we venture into illegality once more, with the luxurious and beautiful Lancia Thesis from 2003.

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Piston Slap: Deep-Sixing Unknown Friction Materials?

TTAC Commentator tonycd writes:

Hi, Sajeev! I’m a long-ago occasional TTAC contributor, occasional B&B pontificator, and longtime admirer of your column, with a question of my own.

My brother just picked up a very used ’09 Mazda6 Grand Touring V6. Lotsa horses, in need of brake service to rein them in. He’s hearing and feeling a pulsing through his brake pedal, sort of a low rhythmic moaning tone. It could be wear indicators, but more likely it’s a warped front rotor. Either way, he’s pretty confident he’s going to have to replace all the friction materials, including the rotors.

Which leads to my question: What’s a not-crappy brand of brake parts? He doesn’t want to expend all the labor on replacement, only to have them immediately warp again the first time he heats them up (which he will – especially with 274 ponies, he’s an, er, enthusiastic driver). Everybody knows Brembo, but who else sells quality?

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Piston Slap: What Exactly Is a Cheap Used Car?

Raul writes:

I own a 2016 Kia Sportage with 13,500 miles. For financial reasons I would like to sell it and buy a cheap used car. Coincidentally, a friend of mine is selling a 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300 with 34,000 miles. Would it be an intelligent decision to buy it, or will it be a nightmare? Should I keep my Sportage?

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2016 Nissan Pathfinder S Rental Review - Eighteen Grand

I have zero patience with people who make pricing comparisons between new cars and used cars. It is almost always done to show off the supposedly superior financial acumen, automotive knowledge, or enthusiast credentials of the person making the comparison. “I sure feel bad for that single mother emergency-room nurse who just wasted her money on a new CR-V. Doesn’t she know that she could get an ’86 Silver Spur for that kind of money? Or a early 308GTS roller chassis? Or a Cessna 152 that just needs a major overhaul to be pretty close to airworthy?” I have a pal, Freddy, who specializes in that sort of article for the nice folks at Jalopnik: “For the price of a new Mirage, you could be the owner of a 1991 Mercedes-Benz 600SEL with 178,000 miles on the clock and half of a wiring harness!”

Just this once, however, I am going to make an exception to my own self-imposed rule, and it goes something like this: Last week, I rented the 2016 Nissan Pathfinder S that you see above. I drove it from Columbus, Ohio, to High Point, North Carolina, over the course of a long morning. It was pretty much okay, as you will read below. If you go a Nissan showroom, you will see the 2017 Pathfinder, which offers some nontrivial improvements, starting at $30,200. And you will see the Nissan Rogue Sport, which is the company’s smallest crossover in this market, starting at $21,800 or thereabouts. But if you open up the used-car search engine of your choice, you will see that a 2016 Nissan Pathfinder S — just like the one pictured above with reasonable mileage and still very much under the factory warranty — can be had for the mildly astonishing sum of $18,000.

So let’s evaluate this Pathfinder in the context of its current price, which is $18,000. Is it worth paying less to get “more truck” than you would get with a brand-new Rogue Sport? Or should we leave questions like this to the Bring-A-Trailer types out there?

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What Car Did I Buy? Droptop Desires Got The Better Of Me, It's Time To Supplement The Family Minivan

Intending to ask your advice before I actually made a purchase, I was left alone with no family to entertain me last Friday night and, well, something happened. To go along with our long-term 2015 Honda Odyssey EX, I exchanged a large sum of cash for a new vehicle.

Tell people what you’re going to name your baby, and they will tell you what they really think. Tell people what you named your baby, and they’re more likely to say, “Oh, how nice,” even if you named him Dwayne.

Similarly, tell people what car you’re planning to buy, and they’ll be forthright with their opinions. Tell them what you’ve already bought, and they’ll be more likely to say, “Oh, how nice,” even if you bought a Outlander.

So we’re going back in time to last Thursday. The automotive universe is littered with options. My choices are limitless. Major life changes have presented our family with new opportunities, but also new challenges. Regardless, it’s time to double the size of our fleet.

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Used Car Prices Falling Amid Stock Overflow

A surge in vehicles coming off lease agreements has boosted used vehicle inventory in the United States — a trend that’s proving to be good news for dealers and a headache for Ford, General Motors and FCA.

Three or four years ago, used vehicle inventories were at a low point. U.S. automakers weren’t offering bargain leases during the recession and were apprehensive to begin doing so in the years following. Such isn’t the case anymore, with an estimated 12 million low-mileage vehicles set to come off lease by 2019, according to Reuters. Customers leased those vehicles between 2014 and 2016 when automakers experienced a sales and leasing boom.

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Piston Slap: Branded Title = Scarlet Letter?

Darrick writes:

Hey Sajeev,

First of all, I want to say that I enjoy your articles and your love of Panther and Fox body Fords. (Woot! —SM)

I’m writing to you about my 2005 Ford Focus SE ZX4 in the hope that you may give me some guidance.

I moved to the east coast (southeastern Virginia) from the Midwest in 2008. A year later, I received a brutal lesson in what coastal flooding can do to a neighborhood and when said flooding finds its way into a vehicle. My Focus sustained $3,500 in damages, and nearly all that amount was due to airbag and seatbelt system damage. I had insurance, so I was only out of my $100 deductible, but the damage cost was such that I now have a branded title due to flood damage.

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Crapwagon Outtake: 1991 Nissan Sentra SE-R

The Nissan Sentra SE-R was often compared to Nissan’s OG hot sedan — the 510. With decent power and handling in a three-box profile, I can see the resemblance. The factory limited-slip differential helped put all those whopping 140 horsepower to the ground better than most other front drivers.

And that SR20DE engine also pulls a premium the week before Race Wars.

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New or Used: A Used Car's Silent Ricochet?

Riddle me this, GradDad…(photo courtesy: Honda)

TTAC Commentator Silent Ricochet writes:

After almost 6 years and 55,000 mostly reliable miles, the Cavalier must go.

I knew the car was aging and I thought it could make it another year. I recently graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree back in May and since then my Cavalier has been on a steep decline in terms of safety and reliability.

Within the last month alone, I’ve blown three brake lines, the first of which almost resulted in my death. Today, I got the car on a lift for the first time since perhaps last summer in an attempt to fix my third blown brake line (for the rear brakes) and what my two mechanic friends and I saw was horrifying.

The amount of frame rot was staggering. The two of them, with their eyes wide and mouths agape, looked at each other and then looked at me. “Why the f**k are you driving this thing?” One asked. The other said “You shouldn’t be. I’m surprised your parents let you, to be honest.” I thought they were exaggerating. They weren’t. The rust is unbelievably bad.

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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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Who Wants To Forge Their Car's History?

Hat tip to reader Alexander who sent us a link to a comprehensive 1991 BMW 325ic’s service history offered up on eBay because someone just probably wants them for the “novelty.”

The items reportedly include purchase paperwork and dealer maintenance records for an Alpine White, automatic convertible built around April 1991. Paperwork from Hawaii, Washington and California is included in the mildly suspicious auction lot listed with a Washington location.

“I want to frame those oil change receipts and hang them on my walls,” said nobody browsing this eBay listing.

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Piston Slap: The Fallacy of Engine Hour Meters?

Ryan writes:

Sajeev Mehta

It appears that you have picked up where Steve Lang left off. That is answering general automotive questions that puzzle automotive enthusiast.

My question, what average speed would be good or bad for a used vehicle? I am in the market for a used truck (3-6yrs old), and have noticed that these newer trucks have mileage and hours tracked in the dash display screen. It is easy math to calculate the average speed for the life of the vehicle. What should I look for?

Or run from?

Best and brightest?

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Piston Slap: The Cons of Recon Before Trade-in?

TTAC commentator cwallace writes:

Sajeev,

Here’s what’s probably an easy question for you: Is it ever worth the money to update wear items on a car before trading it in?

My trusty 2007 Accord EX V6 is suddenly about to cost me some real money. With 154,000 miles on it, the tires are about shot, it needs new struts, there’s a crack in the windshield, and the rear main seal is starting to make a mess of my driveway. Plus, my commute just got a lot longer, so the lack of creature comforts (like sound insulation, for heaven’s sake) make me think I’ve got my money’s worth from this car.

Other than those things, it looks good for its age, and everything else works just as it should. All that dealership service paid off, is what I tell myself.

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Piston Slap: A Used Car on The Road to Recovery

Anonymous writes:

Hello Sajeev,

I was in contact with Mark Stevenson regarding my terrible, and unfortunately pretty common situation. I am post DUI (sadly not my first), but have quit drinking and am well on the road to recovery. I live in a city that does not have transit that will get me to work on time and therefore require a car to get there.

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  • Inside Looking Out For midsize sedan it is too small. It basically is a compact car.
  • Stodge I test drove the 200S and damn, its suspension was so firm, I was convinced it didn't actually include suspension at all. It hurt my spine and hip, it was that firm.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird If Mopar had only offered sport hatch versions of the 200 and or Dart they might have sold more of them for folks who wanted some more versatility without having to go for a small utility Compass Patriot or new at the time Renegade or Cherokee.
  • El scotto I started driving in the late 70's. The cars high school kids could afford and wanted were very very worn out muscle cars. Oh Lordy those V-8's bring back some happy memories. Oh there some outliers in my crowd, a VW Bug and a Dodge Scamp with slant six; neither car would die. In 10 years their will be young people wanting very used Teslas or Dodge's with hemis. B&B, I say that if someone is excited about their EV, Hybrid, or Hemi welcome them to the club of people who like cars.
  • El scotto Farley and Billy Ford need to put on some jeans, flannel shirts and PPE. They should (but never will) walk the factory floors and ask "what is wrong?", "what could we be doing better?"Let me caveat that. Let Jimmy and Billy explain that any constructive criticisms will be non-attributable. Oh they can use platitude like making the house level again or setting the ship on the right course.Sadly I suspect than many, many Power Points will die in vain in the executive suites in Dearborn. At least three if not four very expensive consulting teams will be hired to review Ford's QC problems. Four consulting teams will mean four different solutions. None them will be put in action. Ford will still have huge QC problems.