Tuesday, January 31, 2006
This week's trivia: Name the three different cities in which corvettes have been produced. Lets not get cute and talk about how someone may have built one in their garage. I'm talking about normal production corvette plants.
Monday, January 30, 2006
One very underrated feature of the Malibu Maxx is the equipment used to generate that power. Based on Chevy's 3.5 liter V6, the 3.9 in the Maxx doesn't appear to be anything special with its iron block and pushrod design. However, closer inspection reveals variable valve timing for both intake and exhaust.
This marks the first instance of variable valve timing in a pushrod engine, and is a very exciting development considering cars like the Corvette have yet to take advantage of this technology. It will certainly open up options for powertrain engineers looking to boost the power and efficiency of their pushrod engines.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
After going to my local dealer and sitting in a Pontiac Solstice, I have got riled back up about convertibles. I miss my old convertible. Its a car that looks even more beautiful in person. The extreme round front is not as pronounced when your standing over, looking down on the car. It is unfortunate that a front license plate is required in Massachusetts. Pontiac is nice enough to supply a bracket, however I'm sure drilling is required to get it in there. The whole car is very elegant, which is not what you think of when you say Pontiac. When you think of Pontiac generally you think of huge hood bulges and giant fender flares. The one part of the car that does follow in gaudy Pontiac tradition is the 245mm wide tires. Holy crap is that huge for a 2 seat roadster from the factory. For comparison the GTO Pontiac also sells comes with 245mm tires as well. The inside is big. There should be no problem for those of us who have long legs. All this for $20 to $24k.
This week's trivia/Google questions is:
Name the 2 seat roadster prototype and year which eventually evolved into the highest selling 2 seat roadster in Ford's company history. Email your answers here.
Monday, January 23, 2006
On closer examination, you can see it is a Ssangyong Korando, with a Michigan dealer plate:
Ssangyong has very little presence on the Internet, so digging up information was rather difficult. I managed to find a few reviews, and most of them are surprisingly favorable. It seems the truck is built in Korea, and in fact Ssangyong is Korea's fourth-largest auto maker. The obvious resemblance to the Jeep Wrangler is apparently intentional, as the truck was drawn up by a Professor of the Royal College of Art in London who used the WWII Willys Jeep as his basic theme. I would have thought the seven-slot grille and round headlights would have brought the wrath of Jeep, but it has somehow escaped. The Korando uses Mercedes engines, and Borg Warner transmissions and transfer cases. Daimler had a stake in Ssongyang (possibly explaining Jeep's tolerance), but has since sold its stake to Daewoo, the majority shareholder.
None of this explains what one was doing wearing Michigan dealer plates navigating morning rush hour in Los Angeles. It was possibly on a shakedown run in preparation for an entry into the U.S. market, or it could have been on some kind of comparison test for an auto publication, but I couldn't find any mention of it anywhere online. Nonetheless, an interesting sight during the morning commute.
Lincoln seems to have realized the importance of this heritage by bringing back the Zephyr name: The Zephyr was originally offered in the 1930's and was in fact the car that made Lincoln financially successful. The names Continental and Town Car are classic Lincoln. Before the mediocrity of the 80's, these names had 50 years of history and heritage behind them.
Regardless of Cadillac's apparent success in the switch from names like DeVille and Seville to DTS and STS, Lincoln appears to need all the help it can get and it would seem wise to remind people as much as possible of the days when a Continental was something you wanted to work towards. As much as someone may aspire to someday own a 760Li, S600, or LS430, I think Lincoln would do better to try to add Continental or Town Car back to the list, rather than MKS.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
What Mr. Olsen doesn't seem to take into account is the difference between assembly line jobs and upper level (R&D, management) jobs. While Toyota may have factories in Indiana, their corporate offices are in Japan, and Toyota is certainly a foreign company.
Buying a Toyota is hardly the same as mailing cash overseas: many mutual funds include Toyota stock, and Toyota pours a fairly large amount of cash back into U.S. operations. However, the majority of Toyota's profits go home to Japan.
While the UAW may be thrilled that Toyota has opened so many jobs for them, the overall state of the U.S. economy is not aided by the proliferation of Camrys and Corollas, while it is rather directly linked to the success of both GM and Ford.
Mr. Olsen seems to share the rather popular opinion that the American auto industry is in no real danger, nor is it linked in any real way to the U.S. economy. The reality of the situation is that stereotypes brought on by inferior product in the 80's, along with aggressive and deceptive marketing by Toyota and other foreign manufacturers today, have put Ford and GM in very real financial danger. Further, the health of these two companies is extremely important to the health of the U.S. economy as a whole.
As always, chosing a vehicle that is the best solution for your particular needs is a smart move. Perhaps, however, country of origin should carry more weight in the decision than has previously been necessary.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Now its trivia/google search time. Please guess or find the total number of Lamborghini sales for 2005. Please email entries here with subject as Street Level Trivia. A winner will be announced Jan 24th.
*Edit* Total number of Lamborghini's sold in 2005: 613.
Monday, January 16, 2006
The end result may see Toyota unable to import its current hybrids, which would of course be a fairly serious blow. While a monetary settlement is much more likely, this should be interesting to watch in any case.
While Boris Said was originally listed as the fourth driver, Howard Boss Motorsports has announced that Jan Lammers will take his place, citing "size limitations." This may sound trivial, however the height difference between Said at 6'4" and Patrick at 5'2" is not slight. Most multi-driver race cars have slightly adjustable seats, but 14" of travel is simply not possible. Lammers has won the Daytona 24 twice, finished third last year, and is certainly an appropriate replacement for Said.
This rehashes the difference between active and passive safety. Passive safety is the ability of a vehicle to absorb damage without adversely affecting its occupants. Crumple zones, seat belts, and general heft are means to this end, with SUVs and other large vehicles standing as examples. Active safety, on the other hand, is the ability of the vehicle to avoid the danger in the first place. Nimble handling and computer controlled stability systems contribute to this, as demonstrated by smaller, sportier cars.
While both are obviously important, it would seem to make sense that if the goal is to reduce and minimize injury, avoiding the accidents in the first place would be more effective.
Either way, in the meantime it should make for some exiting racing as 22 cars take to each track.
In an attempt to retain the die-hard fans, as well as bring back the bored masses, the FIA has settled on a number of significant rules changes designed to liven the competition in various ways. The cars will look significantly different, as the rear wings will be split in the middle. This will allow for a smoother wake behind the cars, which will in theory allow trailing cars to follow closer, facilitating passing. The cars will also run slick tires, allowing for much greater mechanical grip. Coupled with some aerodynamic adjustments, this will again allow for closer running and more passing. Another goal of the changes is to reduce costs, hopefully attracting more teams while keeping those currently running. Larger fields would obviously make for more exciting races.
As an F1 fan, I am very excited to see what effect these rules have on the series. Formula 1 has long thought of itself as the pinnacle of motorsports. With any luck these changes will start to convince the rest of the world of the same.
Regardless of exciting new rules changes and the formation of new teams, dropping race dates is never a sign of good health for a race series.
Sunday, January 08, 2006
William Clay Ford, chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Company has announced that his company will hold on to its market share in 2006. The automaker has been losing market share every year for the past five years and Mr. Ford has vowed that this is the end of the line. Of course losing market share isn't always a bad thing. The highest volume manufacturer is not always the most profitable manufacturer, which partially explains why this vow to hold on to market share can be viewed as a change of strategy rather than simply stating the obvious. In recent years Ford allowed market share to slip at times when retaining it would have caused losses. Back in 2002 when William Ford replaced Jacques Nasser as CEO of Ford this strategy made a lot of sense. The company was reeling from a $5.5 billion loss in 2001 and it was crucial to show a profit quickly, even if it meant sacrificing market share. Today Ford's most visible setback (besides having its debt rating cut to junk status) is losing the distinction of being the world's second largest car manufacturer.
If this all sounds a little familiar, think back a few years to the period when GM made a whole lot of noise about its intentions to reach 30 percent domestic market share. After years of slipping they wanted to climb back up to what they considered a reasonable share, and intended to get there through sustainable business practices. All of the executives wore gold pins advertising their intent to hit the thirty percent mark. After a while it became clear that they would never even crack twenty seven percent and the pins quietly went away.
Does Ford have a better shot? Arguably yes. Its product line is the best it has been in years, and the company seems to have a good idea of what its customers want. But competition from both domestics and imports is fierce, and Ford will have to work hard to hold on to the market share it has.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Volkswagen has unveiled a new crossover to their potential lineup. This new vehicle is a half car and half motorcycle. The GX3 is the crossovers current name. Powered by a 1.6L 4 cylinder engine with 125HP this baby is made for the mean streets of the city. With an amazing 46 MPG rating and the top speed of 125MPH this pocket rocket can move. This not-so-standard vehicle is made to get your blood moving. Designed with the cityscape in mind, the GX3 is made to corner and power down the road. The estimated price tag of this machine would be less than $17000. Not too bad for a modified motorcycle with two seats.
From what the statistics read, this odd machine weighs in at lean 1257lbs which gives it a very nice power to weight ratio of 10 lbs/hp. The 5.7s 0-60 MPH isn't have bad either. Still keep in my mind that at 46 MPG this rocket is pretty impressive. Take a look at the link below for some photos and more detailed information.
At the time of the release, Ford was producing 24,000 hybrid vehicles annually, with plans to produce 250,000 hybrids per year by 2010.
Friday, January 06, 2006
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Of course there's more to be concerned with than just the American market. Ford was recently surpassed by Toyota as the world's second biggest automaker. GM and Ford are both losing ground in the global market while Toyota continues to thrive. Will we see a new global sales leader by the end of the decade? It's too early to tell, but it's definitely not out of the question.
"E85 is the term for motor fuel blends of 85 percent ethanol and just 15 percent gasoline. E85 is an alternative fuel as defined by the U.S. Department of Energy. Besides its superior performance characteristics, ethanol burns cleaner than gasoline; it is a completely renewable, domestic, environmentally friendly fuel that enhances the nation's economy and energy independence." -ksgrains.com
Unlike the "hybrid" bandaids which still use a normal gasoline mixture. GM's solution is an actual difference maker in the transition from foreign oil to domestic fuel.
Today modern technology has allowed manufacturers to deliver the power we crave with none of the emissions we detest. Why then, one might ask, can't they simply bring back the cars so adored by the American public? Indeed why not? And so they have. Chrysler probably deserves credit for kicking off the modern age of retro styling. Its Prowler arrived in 1997, delivering the styling of a classic hot-rod melded with the performance and reliability one can expect from a modern chassis and powertrain. Others soon followed, pilfering their own (and others') heritage for shapes and lines that stir passion in consumers' hearts. The New Beetle, the PT Cruiser, the Mini, the HHR, the Mustang... the list goes on.
Now Chrysler is at it again, bringing us perhaps the most cleanly and gorgeously re-interpreted car yet. The Dodge Challenger. Unlike the new Mustang which borrowed styling cues from several generations and integrated them into a new design, the Challenger concept is a straight-forward remake of the 1970 Challenger. It delivers the lines and stance of the original car, in a thoroughly modern package, backed by a proven chassis and drivetrain. This isn't "building it like the used to." this is better.
For now it's only a concept, but recent years have shown that making the leap to production is not something to bet against. Chrysler says that if the car gets the response they're looking for, it could be in production by 2009. Only time will tell how long the retro movement will last, but for now let's hope DC has the good sense to put this stunning car into production.
Monday, January 02, 2006
In January of 2002 I had an opportunity to spend a week with an XJ8 and it's J-gate shifter. I was absolutely thrilled to be driving a Jaguar, so the shifter was not the first thing I noticed. However, after spending a few days driving the car I realized that it was hands-down the best automatic transmission shifter I have ever used. I liked it so much that I re-read one of the Jaguar reviews in a magazine I had handy to make sure I had read it correctly. Sure enough, this shifter which has been the bane of seemingly every magazine editor that had ever used one was my number-one favorite. The movement of the shifter through the gate was very smooth, and it clicked assuredly into every notch along the way. The magazine editors frequently gripe about the difficulty they have moving the shifter along. I find that the distinct notches make it easy to tell which gear it is in. Where they found the J pattern to be difficult to master, I found it intuitive as it followed the natural arc of my hand and arm.
I honestly do not know what all of the complaints were about, as I have never had the shift pattern of an automatic transmission much affect my driving experience, but what really surprises me is how much I prefer Jaguar's approach where the popular opinion seems to be the opposite.