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The 10 Most Disappointing Supercars

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Becky Graebner
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1. De Tomaso Pantera

Produced: 1971-1991

What do you get when you combine an Italian sports car built by an ex-racer and a Yankee Ford V8?  The Pantera (and, if you’re Elvis, a new target for shooting).

De Tomaso and Ford teamed up in the early 1970s to produce a mid-engine sports car that was affordable.  The project seemed like a good idea—Italian styling and American power? It could work.  When the Pantera debuted, it caused a sensation; however, it soon became apparent that the product of this union was extremely unreliable.

Elvis’ Pantera refused to start one day. He shot it…

The Pantera was plagued by shoddy construction, an over-heating engine, complicated wiring, and expensive repairs. It also had a penchant for drinking oil… Ultimately, the ailing Italian-American monster was killed by the gas crisis. Ford stopped importing the car in 1975.

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Cute Car

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014 - by Stephen Green

DIMPLES

Your next car might have dimples:

Golf balls are dimpled for a reason — they sail through the air just slowly enough that the uneven surface reduces drag, helping them fly farther than they might otherwise. Wouldn’t it be nice if your car could get that kind of aerodynamic boost? It might, if MIT’s newly developed morphable surface becomes a practical reality. The technology creates dimples on the fly by sucking the air out of a hollow ball with both a stiff, rubber-like skin on top and a soft material just below. The result is odd-looking to say the least, but it’s effective. It can wrinkle itself to cut down on air resistance when it’s traveling slowly, yet smooth itself out to minimize drag at high speed.

Vehicles would be the most likely to benefit from the concept, and researchers already foresee transportation whose panels dimple to improve your mileage.

Aesthetically I have to wonder if consumers would go for it. Would you trade that perfectly-reflective wax job for an extra MPG or two?

****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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The 10 Most Amazing Automotive Collaborations

Monday, June 23rd, 2014 - by Becky Graebner

1. Citroën SM

In 1961, Citroën began development on a vehicle called “Project S.”  By 1968, Citroën had acquired Maserati and, subsequently, all of their high-performance technology. French and Italian forces combined, resulting in the Citroën SM which contained a Maserati V6 and a Citroën suspension. The SM’s speed, power, dynamic styling, and ingenious technical features were extremely innovative for the time. The SM even set a land speed record in 1987 at the Bonneville Salt Flats!

The SM might not have been wildly popular, but it definitely deserves a place on this list.

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The 10 Greatest Formula 1 Racers of All Time

Saturday, June 14th, 2014 - by Becky Graebner

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This list is an amalgamation of the winning-est, most iconic, and most talented Formula One drivers to ever live. I purposefully left off drivers who are currently active because their history is still being written.

10. Mario Andretti

Mr. Andretti is an icon in the United States’ race world—and rightfully so.  With wins in NASCAR, IndyCar, the World Sportscar Championship, and Formula One, Andretti is one of the most successful Americans in his sport.

Andretti moved from Italy to the United States when he was 15 years old.  Having already been bitten by the racing bug while in Italy, Mario and his brother Aldo continued racing on dirt tracks near their home in Pennsylvania.   Andretti came to F1 in 1968 and held the pole at his debut race, the 1968 United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen.  He was active in F1 for fifteen years, eventually winning the 1978 championship.  Out of 128 starts, he had 12 wins and 18 poles.

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10 of the Most Ultra Rare Automobiles in the World

Sunday, June 8th, 2014 - by Becky Graebner
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1. Ferrari 250 GTO

I admitted in my Ferrari post that this is one of my favorite cars of all time.  I mean, just look at it!

This GT car was produced in two distinctly styled bodies from 1962 to 1964.  The ’62 and ’63 GTOs were Sergio Scaglietti designed and produced and came to be known as “series I.”  In 1964, a limited number of GTOs were produced by Scaglietti, but fitted with a body designed by Pininfarina.  This styling was subsequently known as “series II.”  In all, thirty-six GTOs were produced.

This car is not simply famous for its Ferrari good looks or small production numbers, but for its dominance on the track.  The 250 GTO had several successes: winning the GT category at Le Mans in 1962 and 1963, winning the Nurburgring 1000 km in 1963 and 1964, and taking the Tour de France in 1963 and 1964 (just to name a few).

To many car collectors, the 250 GTO has become akin to the “Holy Grail.” In 2012, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO that was specifically built for Stirling Moss reportedly sold for $35 million.

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The 10 Most Iconic American Muscle Cars

Monday, June 2nd, 2014 - by Becky Graebner

Promotional Shot Of 1964 Ford Mustang

1. Ford Mustang

Where does one even start when talking about the Ford Mustang?  This car has become the embodiment of America’s love affair with speed and muscle.  This iconic Ford instigated the creation of the “pony car” classification of automobiles and prompted competing car manufacturers to crank out America’s other favorite muscle cars.  For Ford, the Mustang was (and continues to be) a smash hit.

The first Mustang debuted at the New York World’s Fair in April of 1964.  It was originally equipped with a 260-cubic-inch (4.3L) V8 but was quickly upgraded to a 289-cubic-inch (4.7L) V8 in its first year.  By 1968, the Mustang was outfitted with a 302-cubic-inch (4.9L) V8.  The following year, Ford released several performance packages for the Mustang including the Boss 302, Mach 1, and Boss 429.  The speed and power had arrived.

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10 Female Racing Pioneers and Icons You Have Probably Never Heard Of

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014 - by Becky Graebner

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1. Helene (de Rothschild) van Zuylen

Ms. Van Zuylen is a name that many people  probably find unfamiliar. It is a shame because this adventurous French socialite is credited as being the first woman to compete in an international motor race.

Helene’s husband, Baron Etienne van Zuylen, was the president of the Automobile Club of France, and thus responsible for organizing the 1898 Paris-Amsterdam-Paris Trail, a 889-mile city-to-city race.  Helene participated (and finished) The Trail, becoming the first woman to ever compete in an international race.

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A Handsome Stable: The 10 Most Beautiful Ferrari Road Cars

Monday, May 19th, 2014 - by Becky Graebner

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I attempted to make a list of the world’s most beautiful cars but it turned out to be way too long for any sane person to read in one article.  However, during my list making, I realized that I was strongly favoring the Italians.  I decided to compile a list of the most beautiful Ferraris.

Before anyone chokes on their spaghetti because I did not include their favorite Ferrari, please note that this list only includes Ferrari road cars.  There are no sport prototypes/ racecars or Ferrari collaborations (i.e. Dino and Zagato).  (My own favorite isn’t even included here because it is technically a racecar.)  We can cover them later.

Enjoy my numerous horse puns–as well as the gorgeous cars.

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The 10 Ugliest Cars of the Last 30 Years

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014 - by Becky Graebner
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This is not an example of an ugly car.

It’s always a special treat when a trip to the grocery store or dentist turns into a rare car-spotting experience.  A forgotten classic or exotic is seen prowling the streets or, even better, appears in the parking lot next to your car.  Cue daydream starring you in that exotic car.  Maybe you’re in Monaco, driving into the sunset when…

Then you see it.  Your daydream starring your gorgeous, oil-drinking darling is shattered as one of the many eye-sores on wheels pulls into the parking lot. Tragedy.

Why oh why can’t everything be as glamorous as the Alfa Romeo Touring Berlinetta or as muscular as the Shelby Cobra?

Yes, sometimes the most misunderstood of car designs become iconic classics; but sometimes, they don’t.  This is a list of the latter.

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Is Smart Car Vandalism the New Cow Tipping?

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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Growing up on the outer edges of Atlanta’s suburbs, I’d heard about cow tipping. For the uninitiated, the idea of cow tipping stems from the (false) supposition that cows sleeping standing up could be knocked over easily. Truth be told, cow tipping is an urban legend – probably what city folk think we do out in the sticks.

Last weekend in San Francisco, a group of people prowled the streets of the city overnight and vandalized Smart Cars by turning them on their sides, hoods, and rear ends.

Hitting four smart cars in a few hours, an eyewitness account indicated that eight people wearing hooded sweatshirts flipped one of the cars. At approximately 1,500 to 1,800 pounds per car, each vehicle had smashed windows as well as significant body damage from being flipped over.

Speaking about one of the car-tipping incidents, eyewitness Brandon Michael said “I thought they looked like they were up to no good and then sure enough they walk up to this Smart Car right here, all huddle around it and just lift it up and set it on its hind legs, like a dog on its hind legs, — that’s pretty much it.” According to San Francisco Police Officer Gordon Shyy, the car-tipping vandals have yet to be identified and will likely face felony charges if caught.

Vandals in other cities have targeted the tiny cars in years past. Three years ago, a group in Vancouver turned a Smart Car over as a crowed cheered them on. In 2009, authorities arrested an Edmonton, Alberta man for tipping a Smart Car.

The police don’t know if the vandals are random thugs going after easy targets or if they are trying to make a statement against the environmentally friendly cars.

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The Cadillac ELR Proclaims: ‘The Emperor has no Clothes!’

Monday, March 10th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

The new commercial for the Cadillac ELR, a fully electric vehicle, has riled some people with its unabashed American patriotism. They’re outraged that a commercial selling a car would dare to celebrate American exceptionalism.  Some are calling it xenophobic. Twitter feeds erupted with anger at the arrogance and self-confidence of the American businessman portrayed in the ad.  Others called it “hyper-patriotic.”  They did not mean this as a compliment.

The outrage against this commercial is quite peculiar. In the Ukraine right now people are fighting and dying in order to remain Ukrainian and not to become citizens of Russia. Why shouldn’t Americans be pleased to be American?

We have this situation because the idea of loving our country is seen as arrogant by our pundit class and our education system.  My children learned about the Civil War but the focus was on slavery, not the Abolitionists or the Union that fought to end it. They learned the Native American experience as one of oppression and slaughter and America was the villain of every lesson. When history turned to World War II the majority of the class time was spent on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, bashing America for using nuclear weapons, leaving Pearl Harbor as a footnote. The Bataan Death march wasn’t covered. Is there any wonder some students graduate from high school after reading A People’s History of the United States by the America-hating Howard Zinn and feel little sense of patriotism and pride in their own country? That is by design, not by accident.

Here’s the danger of this Cadillac ELR commercial that celebrates America: America is a great country, an exceptional one, the grand experiment in self-government that has unleashed unprecedented freedom and liberty to her citizens. This commercial is like the parable of the boy who cried out that the Emperor had no clothes on. Once the boy said this, the people no longer had to pretend any more, or try to fool themselves into seeing something where there wasn’t anything. There are those who wish to “fundamentally transform” America into something else, and a commercial like this one reveals the ridiculousness of that goal.  Well done, Cadillac. Well done.

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4 Reasons Americans Don’t Care About Cars Anymore

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014 - by Becky Graebner

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in February of 2013. It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months…

Automobiles are everywhere, so it might come as a shock to some that the culture surrounding their creation and appreciation is dying.  America has a long, rich history with the automobile — to the extent that you could call it a love story. Many a man and woman have been bewitched by the thundering horses under the hood, the smell of rich leather, the pulsing power felt underfoot, and the consequential adrenaline rush from a short spin around the block. The automobile is an essential piece of the cultural fabric of America. We helped to invent it, fine-tune it, unleash it… and, in the end, we fell in love with it. Owning a car became a source of pride, as well as a symbol of success and freedom. What’s more American than the image of a green, 1940s Chevy pick-up driving down a stretch of Route 66, a tan arm resting on the rolled-down window, fingers feeling the wind? It makes you want to yell, “America!” and go drink a Coke on the 4th of July.

Unfortunately, I’m not so sure this vision is a reality anymore. The vibrant love between car and man that inspired an entire culture of auto devotees now seems to be dwindling. The gear-head enthusiasts will always motor on, I am sure, but what happened to the average American? Simple respect and appreciation for the metal beast has shifted to sheer disinterest in cars. The following is the sad, draft-obituary of America’s car culture…

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A Big Toy For Grown-Up Boys

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

Tonka F-150

The 2014 Chicago Auto Show offers the largest selection of production and concept vehicles of any auto show in the country. Like every other auto maker, Ford is serving up some exciting vehicles, including a reimagined 2015 F-150. But the absolute coolest truck at Ford’s show space in Chicago is bound to bring out the little boy in all of us guys: the Ford Tonka F-150.

Based on an F-150 Lariat powered by a 5.0-liter V8, it gets mechanical upgrades that include a six-inch Pro-Comp lift kit, 20-inch alloy wheels, and a Quiet Tone exhaust system. That’s all well and good, but this truck is all about the style, and it has plenty of that.

It features chunky new bumpers, side cladding, step bars, and a redesigned tailgate all embossed with the Tonka logo; stainless steel billet steel inserts on the grille openings; fender vents;  and to top it all off a bulging ram-air hood that’s just short of being cartoony. More Tonka logos are applied to the interior, and the bed is finished with a hard tonneau cover and heavy-duty carpeting.

The Tonka F-150 is available in any color as long as it’s yellow, because anything else would just be wrong. Prices vary by participating dealer, but the conversion listed on the show truck is $22,282 on top of the $50,078 truck it’s built on for a grand total of $72,360.

Ford is collaborating with Tuscany Motors to produce a limited run of 500 Tonka F-150s. The companies produced a handful of the trucks in 2013, and the response to them led to this year’s new run. Sure, they’re a little pricey, but if you can afford to relive your childhood in the coolest possible way, wouldn’t you?

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Will Volkswagen Make The Beetle Cool Again?

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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My first car was a 1969 Volkswagen Beetle, a semi-automatic in a sort of blue I called “electric powder blue” (clearly not a factory color). It was far from the perfect car – the heat ran constantly, so I had to disconnect it during warmer months and reconnect it when the weather turned cold. The parking brake didn’t work, so I had to carry a chock block with me everywhere I went. When it finally died, it left me stranded on a pretty remote stretch of Highway 78, and I had to hitchhike to the nearest pay phone. But it was a Beetle, and I was proud of that car and look back on it fondly even now.

When Volkswagen introduced the New Beetle in 1997, the company brought out a car that was funky and fun, but it just didn’t exude the same cool as the original Beetle that became an institution. (I honestly thought the car was a bit girly.) The 2011 reintroduction came closer, but it still wasn’t the same.

Now it looks like Volkswagen may be ready to make the Beetle cool again. This week VW has unveiled a concept car they’re calling the “Beetle Dune.”

VW calls the Beetle Dune Concept a “Baja Bug for the 21st century”.  Of course, real Baja bugs were heavily modified rear-wheel-drive Type 1 Beetles, fortified for desert racing in Mexico’s Baja California. The front-wheel-drive Dune Concept is an aesthetic statement only, with no desert-strafing aspirations.

The car on the show stand wears a desert-hued paint VW calls Arizona – a yellow-orange metallic – with matte-finished two-part fender cladding on the wheel arches intended to convey a bolder stance than the base Beetle musters. The larger, 19in wheels have increased offset to visually fill the fender openings and push the wheels to the corners of the car, while a custom raised hood and rear spoiler that doubles as a ski rack round out the appearance changes. The Dune does sit two inches higher than the 210-horsepower Beetle R-Line, on which the concept car was based.

Unsurprisingly, VW says the Dune “looks production ready”, since it is basically an appearance package, but the overt hint suggests a production version may come along.

Doesn’t that car just scream “badass”? The Beetle Dune looks muscular, edgy, and much less feminine than the late 90s Beetles, yet it retains that distinctive funkiness that’s always been appealing. This is a new Beetle I could get excited about, and I bet plenty of other Beetle enthusiasts could too.

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Get Off the Phone!

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013 - by Paula Bolyard

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If you have a phone that’s equipped with a camera, you’ve likely noticed how easy it is to lapse into observing life vicariously, through the lenses of our cameras, instead of truly savoring the moment. Afterward, we regret that we were passive observers and we didn’t fully immerse ourselves in the experience. Be honest, who hasn’t let their food get cold while they scrolled through Instagram filters or “staged” the corned beef sandwich in an attempt to share the goodness with friends and family on Facebook? Even if  you have decided to eschew participating in this Brave New World of head-nodders milling about, you will find yourself accosted on all sides by serial selfie-snappers at family events, restaurants — even at funerals!

In a new video, Buick teams up with “intertainers” Rhett and Link, asking us to take a step back to evaluate our relationships with our phones through the parody song, Get Off the Phone:

Get off the phone now!
It’s gonna be okay
There’s no need to be afraid.
It doesn’t love you
Its gonna die one day.
The government is probably
Spying on you with it anyway.

Rhett and Link’s song, and the accompanying #IntheMoment campaign, turns the camera lens back on those of us with our heads buried in our smart phones — those of us watching virtual life on four-inch monitors while the real world transpires around us — sometimes without us. In one scene, a young dad is shown missing his son’s first taste of birthday cake as he’s busy Facebooking — about his son’s birthday. This hits a little too close to home for some of us.

There’s something tangentially related to a Buick in the ad/PSA/parody (Rhett and Link drive a Buick Regal in the video), but it’s mostly a secondary, subliminal message. As we continue down this road of smart technology and on to Google glass and whatever the Silicon Valley geniuses think up next, Buick asks us to consider some boundaries going forward. Technology shapes us — the way we work, play, and relate to one another as human beings. It’s important to pause now to consider how our increased dependence on technology wreaks existential changes to our relationships and our daily lives.

Should we dial it back at this point? Is that even possible or have we crossed the technological rubicon from which there is no return?

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Does New Honda Commercial Promote ‘a Culture of Rape’?

Monday, December 16th, 2013 - by Dave Swindle

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Just received this morning from a reader via email:

Amid all the problems of the world in India and elsewhere:

Just in time for the holidays, Honda has a new ad trivializing rape for its commercial gain.

In the cartoon, two men are depicted lowers a restrained man, who takes the place of a angel to top a tree. One of two workers  says, ‘we might have to twist him on.’

This is not only tasteless but entertains a culture of rape. Even the most radical feminist should stand against this, as women suffer disproportionately from acceptance of this culture.

Please help take a stand up  against this by taking the lead and cover the story.

I am sure your viewers would applaud taking a stand against this.

What do you think? Should one “take a stand” against Honda’s PG-13 rated double entendre type joke in an effort to reduce rape?

Or are there pieces of media that inspire much more crime and chaos than holiday car commercials? Like the Koran, perhaps?

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Another Blow for the Chevy Volt

Saturday, December 7th, 2013 - by Ed Driscoll

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“Chevy Volt doesn’t make 2014 list of fuel economy leaders,” the Washington Examiner reports:

The Department of Energy released its 2014 fuel economy guide, complete with a list of fuel economy leaders, and yet again, the Volt didn’t make the list.

In fact, the Volt — a compact car — doesn’t even perform as well by most metrics as some midsize plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, according to the guide.

The Volt gets 37 combined mpg (35 mpg city, 40 mpg highway) using premium gasoline. That’s better than most non plug-in vehicles, for sure. But compare that to the Honda Accord plug-in hybrid, which gets 46 combined miles on gasoline — with no mention of it being premium — and 47 mpg in the city and 46 mpg on the highway. Or the Toyota Prius, which gets 50 mpg combined (51 mpg city, 49 mpg highway).

With a starting price of $34,185 (before the $7,500 tax credit, $26,685 if you get the full credit), the Volt isn’t exactly cheap. Compare that to the Prius, which outperforms the Volt on most measures and has a starting price of $29,990 before the tax credit.

The Volt has a range of 344 miles with premium gasoline. Compared to the Ford Fusion plug-in (602 miles with regular gasoline), the Accord plug-in (561 miles with regular gasoline) and the Prius (530 miles with regular gasoline), and the Volt falls further behind.

Perhaps the Government Motors vehicle simply isn’t as hot as it seemed when it was first envisioned — on the other hand, it can on occasion, get too hot for the wrong reasons. If so, here’s news you can use from car blog, Jalopnik: “What To Do When Your Electric Car Catches On Fire: An Explainer.”

On the other hand, perhaps this California proposal might light up Chevy Volts — or at least their sales:

One longtime critic of federal transportation spending once concluded that it would be less expensive for the government to buy every new transit rider a Jaguar XJ8 than it would be to build certain new rail systems. Unfortunately, California officials may not have realized that the idea of buying people new cars wasn’t a serious proposal as much as a way to illustrate a point about excessive spending.

The California Air Resources Board is now embarking on a program that would help poor people buy energy-efficient vehicles. In one scenario posed by the agency, a “voucher” might even pay the full price for a Nissan Leaf, an electric car with an MSRP above $21,000, or for used cars with lower price tags.

Perhaps the state could even design a low-cost “people’s car” for the masses…

*****

Cross-posted from Ed Driscoll’s blog

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What Is to Blame for Paul Walker and Roger Rodas’ Car Crash?

Monday, December 2nd, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

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Actor Paul Walker and racer Roger Rodas are dead. The cherry-red Porsche Carrera GT they were in on Saturday is now a burned-out carcass.

The link between Walker in The Fast and the Furious series and the manner of his death is of course ironic, thus feeding the news frenzy. His claim to fame was portraying an illegal street racer. He broke the rules and lived on speed.

In real life, he was a 40-year-old dad and car enthusiast. He died in a car driven by Rodas, a racing buddy and personal friend. Rodas was an experienced race car driver, but something went horribly wrong.

Humans seek truth. We want to know why. We want to know how. We investigate and piece together clues in hopes of solving mysteries, allowing ourselves to sleep better at night. In this case, two men paid with their lives and we are wondering whom, or what, we can blame.

Joy-riding and Human Error?

Some articles on the fiery crash are suggesting that the existence of rubber around the crash scene indicates that Rodas and Walker were doing doughnuts and that goofing off might have led to the crash. The local sheriffs have also stated that they believe “high speeds” were also a factor.

I am uneasy with the quick assumption that idiocy was to blame (especially since the existence of rubber in figure 8 patterns still seems unconfirmed). We don’t know the cause yet. The car may have failed! Something snaps, something else bursts, and there go the brakes. Even the best drivers are sometimes no match for velocity + a stationary object.

Legendary driver Ayrton Senna was probably one of the best F1 drivers to live and he was killed in his race car. It is believed that his car’s suspension failed and pieces hit his helmet. His visor was also punctured—possibly by a tie rod. Even thought he was one of the greatest drivers, there was nothing he could do to save himself.  In the end, he died doing what he loved.

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The Everyday Porsche?

Thursday, November 28th, 2013 - by Stephen Green

MACAN

That’s the Macan, Porsche’s entry into the super-competitive (and excruciatingly dull) midsize crossover market. “Autoextremist” Peter De Lorenzo worries:

The Cayenne was one thing, as a sporty entry into a class that already started at a luxury price point, Porsche’s SUV entry found its calling and became an instant player. But with the Macan it’s different. This segment is as mainstream as it gets, and the players in it are decidedly ordinary and for the most part, uninspired. Will it stand out? I have no doubt whatsoever that it will. But I also get the feeling that Porsche is placing itself on the precipice of The Abyss, staring at a product leap that could inexorably alter its future, whereupon it becomes too common and too part of the mindless suburban crawl, or for performance-luxury manufacturers, what’s known as The Dark Side.

That Porsche was once exclusively a maker of sports cars that had a narrowly defined appeal with a hard-core group of enthusiast drivers – both for the brand’s enduring engineering quirkiness and the fact that when driven hard, the cars – the hallowed 911 in particular – demanded a considerable level of skill from its drivers in order to maximize their performance potential – seems like a distantly quaint notion now.

(That link might have gone stale by the time you read this, since De Lorenzo doesn’t use permalinks on his columns until they go into the archives.)

I’m not a Porsche Man. I’ve already owned one five-months-a-year car here in Colorado, and it’s just a silly expense. That’s doubly true since we have two boys to put through college, and I want them to live long enough to get there. It’s one thing to steal the keys to the Mercedes truck one weekend, and quite another to “borrow” the Porsche. But I’ve always been glad to know Porsche Men are out there — guys with the money and skill to buy a challenging sports car and to drive it the way it ought to be driven.

If Porsche ever loses sight of that — their core customers and those of us who are happy just to share the road with them — it’ll be a corporate crime at the capital level.
*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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A Historic Ford Mustang Returns

Thursday, November 14th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

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One of the things I love about aimless wandering (both on foot and behind the steering wheel) is that you never know what you might see.  In my case, I’m always on the lookout for cool cars.  Maybe it’s a candy-apple red Alfa Romeo Spider, slumbering quietly on the street. Tucked in among the autumn leaves, most pedestrians pass it not even knowing what it is.  You wonder who owns it.  Perhaps it’s an old-school Ferrari on the freeway, breaking the speed limit, or an ancient Land Rover Defender that you frequently spot chugging around town.  You might be unable to distinguish between the cracks giving away its age and the scrapes broadcasting its adventures, but nonetheless, it definitely has a few tales to tell.

Cars are great storytellers as well as the subjects of great stories. Car enthusiasts and gear heads love a good car sighting or find—in a barn, in a garage, on the street… They remind one of simpler times when feeling the wind through your hair was all that was required to live. You never know what is lurking in the garage of the most unassuming house…

It seems that yet another great tale of an unknown, history-laden car has just been revealed in Chicago, IL.

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Richest Americans Are Going ‘Conservative’ with Car Purchases

Thursday, November 7th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

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Millionaire pop stars, professional athletes, and reality TV darlings may show off their exotic luxury vehicles and souped-up SUVs in tabloids and on TV but America’s richest aren’t interested in those types of cars. The Wall Street Journal posted an article on MarketWatch identifying some of the most popular cars in the wealthiest U.S. neighborhoods.  Clue: it’s not what you think.

Some of the top cars that America’s richest are purchasing are sure to surprise you–they definitely surprised me…

They’re buying WHAT?

The American Classic: Jeep Grand Cherokee

Why it’s surprising:

According to MarketWatch, the Cherokee is extremely popular in posh beach communities.  This is an American classic, yet not what you would expect the 1% to be driving into their heated 4-car garages.  With a price tag starting at $28k, this is an extremely conservative car purchase for the uber-rich.  (The Wrangler was also popular in these communities.)

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Why it’s surprising:

This is the new kid on the luxury block–and it starts at only $36k.  (It’s okay if you did a double take between the name “Mercedes-Benz” and price tag “$36,000.”  Most people do–at the TV commercials, billboards…)  This sedan was created in order to lure younger buyers into becoming Mercedes-Benz-buying lifers.  However, this vehicle isn’t just attracting the younger demographic of uber-rich.  The C-Class also seems to be the “IT” “Sweet 16″ birthday vehicle.  In this case, I’m not sure Mercedes will hook life-time brand buyers, but the swarms of birthday C-classes are, at least, sure to cultivate a taste for luxury in the spoiled teen population.

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The Most Spook-tacular Cars On the Road

Thursday, October 31st, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

halloween

Washington, D.C. is ready for Halloween! Row houses have been covered with giant cobwebs, yards scattered with pop-up ghouls, and porches decorated with cleverly carved pumpkins. Our neighbor has a giant arachnid perched above the front door–and when I say “giant,” I mean the spider is half the size of a car. Eek!  Traditional yard and house decorations aside, every once in awhile I see a decorated car (a few pumpkin stickers or a fake bat)– but that’s child’s play compared to some of the die-hard Halloween decorators out there. These die-hard Halloween fans have graduated from the spooky house and yard decorations to the drivable canvases parked in their garages.  Their cars.

I would like to honor these die-hard decorators with an awards ceremony that I’ve created just for them.

Here are the winners of the first annual Automo-BOO-le Awards:

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How to Be a Kick-Ass Female Customer at an Auto Repair Shop

Thursday, October 24th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner
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No More “Woe is Me! I Paid too Much!”

I got a text from a friend last week regarding her Volkswagen Jetta: “Why is my oil change going to cost me $98?!”

My reply: “Look it up.”

I never did find out why my friend’s Jetta was quoted for a $98 oil change, but her surprise at the high quote did remind me of an article I read in The Atlantic a few months ago.  This article touched on a study that showed women are sometimes overcharged by auto repair shops.  Apparently, most repair shops believe women know less about cars and repairs and, if they are not proven wrong (by the female customer), they will charge the lady more.

Was my friend getting ripped off because she was female? Perhaps–but also, maybe not.

Obviously, not all repair shops overcharge (women OR men), so don’t get me wrong that I’m hating on my buddies at Pennzoil.  However, it doesn’t hurt to make sure you’re being treated fairly whenever you’re out and about—and especially when you’re taking care of an expensive purchase like a car.  It pays to be informed and to be bold — literally.

Here are some tips:

Own that Auto Shop

Women who defy stereotype come out ahead. — The Atlantic

You’re the customer and you’re in charge of the transaction.  If you don’t like what Business X is telling you, you have the option of leaving and trying your luck someplace else.  When you walk into that waiting room or pull into that garage bay, own it.  You’re here because you want to tune up your car. Don’t act meek. You’re in charge.  Be friendly and strike up a conversation with your attendant.  It doesn’t hurt to make the transaction personal.  If you’re relaxed and friendly, they’re more likely to like you—and probably less likely to tack on an additional $15 to your bill because of your gender or lack of know-how.

Case in point: Whenever I go to into a Jiffy Lube or Pennzoil, I always like to hang out in the garage while they do the tune-up or oil change.  (Not only do I get to see exactly what they are doing–I find it interesting–but I also like chatting.)  The workers don’t usually mind–and I think they like giving me the blow-by-blow account of my car’s tune-up.  By being engaged, I come off as informed and less likely to fall for any suggested, unnecessary repairs/parts replacement.

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4 Safety Systems Steering us Closer to Autonomous Cars

Thursday, October 17th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Google-Car

Autonomous cars have been creating some buzz in the news lately.  From coverage on their capabilities and advantages to warnings about their limitations and security issues, everyone seems to be curious about the autonomous car.  Something else is brewing within this new-age driving hoopla: a battle for control of the stick shift.  Computer-operated driving systems are quickly infiltrating our beloved cars, crossing the line from “human driver” to “automated chauffeur.”  Are you ready?

A lot of the talk surrounding these systems is acronym-heavy and the names change depending on the car manufacturer.  (I see they are already creating aliases to confuse the human competition!)  Here’s an easy-to-read, short guide to the systems that are bringing us closer to autonomous cars.

1. Park-Assist

This is the system that allows drivers who dislike parallel parking to sit back, relax, and let the car do it for them.  The existence of this system does not indicate an fully autonomous car—the driver still needs to help the car out with shifting.

How does it work? Although the computer takes over to maneuver the car into the parking spot, most systems still allow the driver to press the brake, controlling the speed of the system’s parking throughout the entire maneuver.  To begin, the car will indicate to the driver when to stop alongside the car it intends to parallel park behind.  The driver will need to shift into Reverse to allow the system to back the car into the space.  When the car determines it has finished this procedure, it will notify the driver to shift into Drive.  The car will then pull forward, evening out the spacing.  Finally, the car will notify the driver to put it into park.

Available in: Ford Focus Titanium, Toyota Prius V, Land Rover Evoque, Mercedes-Benz GL350 (just to name a few)

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