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Throughout The Car Industry



Categories: Good, Bad & Ugly

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly: 997 Farewell Tour

On: Wed, Sep 22, 2010 at 12:08PM | By: John Welch


The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly: 997 Farewell Tour test 1-1

The 996 Porsche 911 was considered by some to be a departure from the 911 norm. Not in a good way. The flat-six was water-cooled, total blasphemy to some, and the sinewy Coke bottle shape had lost its curves. To go with its newfound slab-sidedness, the 996 headlight came to a point, and the interior contained an amount of buttons unbecoming a Stuttgart thoroughbred. Porsche listened to its customers and addressed all of these issues (save the lack of air-cooling and the 'buttons' thing) in 2005, with the introduction of the 997 model 911.

A return to round headlamps, slippery curves, and a slimmer frontal area had Porsche loyalists rejoicing, and everyone else left slack-jawed. The new 911 was faster, sleeker, and much better looking, despite the radiators and the nav system. It has spawned countless variations and received thousands of improvements over its life cycle. Eventually no one will remember the annoying thumb controls that accompanied the first 997s to feature the PDK dual-clutch tranny. They will however recall the meteoric rise in horsepower that several models received, or the improved understeer control delivered by the Carrera and Turbo AWD variants.

The 997 is ancient by modern sports car cycle standards; though due to be replaced it isn't going down without a fight. The last three models added to the 997 line (so, that’s what, 85 variations now? Let's see what I can name off the top of my head: Carrera, CarreraS, Targa, Targa 4S, Carrera Cabriolet, GT3, GT3 RS, GT3 RSR, Turbo, Turbo Cabriolet, GT2, 911SC . . . I'm running out of space here . . . ) are all doozzies! The Speedster, the newest GT3 RS, and the GT2 RS are all the highest examples of the breed, all murderous in their intent. Hop inside the post for details on all three rear-engine menaces . . .


The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Korean Chevy On British TV Edition

On: Fri, Sep 10, 2010 at 1:49PM | By: John Welch


The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Korean Chevy On British TV Edition test 1-1

Chevrolet is on a roll, of sorts, lately. Ok, ok, it's "rolling out" several new models . . . sorely needed new models, as the Camaro fount is sure to dry up anytime now . . . The Chevy Cruze hits the ground, ahem, rolling with a snazzy ad campaign and a sweetheart of a turbo engine. The car is sleek and the interior well-appointed, but compared with the soon to be released Ford Focus or Hyundai Elantra, the Cruze still looks dated. Notice I didn't mention the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla, both cars who received updates around the same time the Cruze was introduced to foreign markets. The little Chevy might just be a better car than its Japanese competition.

How about an even smaller Chevy? Also a Korean Chevy, but still . . . the production-spec Aveo has broken cover, and the exterior has retained as much of the flair promised by the "Aveo RS" concept as is possible. Quad headlamps set into black surrounds, interesting if not completely wild rear dimensions. Hidden door pulls for the rear doors. The only question is, will it be saddled with a total dog of a motor? Also, what does any of this have to do with British television? The second of three "Reasonably Priced Cars'" used on the BBC's Top Gear program was a Chevrolet Lacetti . . . familiar to us as a Suzuki Verona, and made by Deawoo—you guessed it, a Korean Chevy. A white-clad fellah named "The Stig" did at one time test this car and many others for Top Gear. Now he is a pariah of the highest order, shunned by the BBC and his fellow Top Gear presenters (I don't know if we really can call The Stig a 'presenter'), all in the name of making a few bucks he felt the Beeb owed him. We all have families to feed; which side are you on?


The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly; Sports Car Weekend

On: Tue, Aug 31, 2010 at 11:55AM | By: John Welch


The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly; Sports Car Weekend test 1-1

The two premiere North American road racing series took to Canadian tracks this weekend, with mixed results. Both the American Le Mans Series and the Rolex Grand Am Series ran their second to last races, ALMS at Mosposrt in Ontario, and Grand Am at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal. Both race courses are stunning, and feature heavy doses of history and elevation change. Mosposrt offers some of the best downhill straights in North America, bettered only by Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca. It’s no Spa Francochamps, but its damn close. Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has one of the best hairpins anywhere in the world, the turn 10 complex. This is spectator heaven, at the bottom of a hill and set up so that it can be surrounded by race fans. Truly an excellent piece of track engineering.

Both races were entertaining, in their own way. The Rolex Grand Am race was disappointing because it is the last race before the season ender—at the dreadfully boring Miller Motorsports Park in Utah. The ALMS offering was bad for several other reasons. I've actually had serious nightmares about the ALMS folding or turning into a series dominated by GT cars. The bad and the ugly aren't going to help me sleep . . .


Play It Again ... And Again ... And Again, Sam!?

On: Mon, Aug 9, 2010 at 9:51AM | By: Lou Ruggieri


Play It Again ... And Again ... And Again, Sam!? test 1-1

There is nothing like hearing a great cover song.  It's a new twist on an old favorite, reminiscent of your youth and days gone by when everything seemed to be better for anyone lucky enough to be a part of the time. Whether it's The Atari’s doing a cover of 'Boys of Summer', or Joe Cocker's great rendition of 'With a Little Help from My Friends' by The Beatles, or Lenny Kravitz's cover of the Guess Who hit 'American Woman', the feeling you get makes you instantly tell the youngest person around that will listen exactly where you were the first time you heard or saw the original band play that song. But as good as even the best covers are, no band has ever made it truly big on covers alone. Real success comes from original material, and what makes a band truly memorable.  

 

The auto industry, however, seems to be stuck in a series of cover albums over the past decade or so. Beginning with the PT Cruiser that harked back to the Woodys of the 30s, there has been a disturbing, and not so subtle, trend among auto designers. Car after car, there has been an incredible number of retro styles that hark back to some other decade. The annoying Volkswagen New Beetle made its return to the streets after many years in the hazy memories of the 70s. Chevy has had little in the way of retro success. The list of sales disappointments includes the SSR that was supposed to recall pickup trucks of the 1940s and 1950s, or the HHR which did not recall the 1949 Suburbans like GM said it was modeled after, but instead simply recalled the Chrysler PT Cruiser. Ford jumped on the bandwagon with the overpriced and under performing Thunderbird, and then had mild success with the Ford GT, even though it couldn't secure the rights to the name GT40. The Jeep Commander, Toyota FJ Cruiser, the list goes on and on.


 

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: 1st Anniversary Edition

On: Mon, Aug 2, 2010 at 3:19PM | By: John Welch


The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: 1st Anniversary Edition test 1-1

The Good: Last year we began preparing to launch The AutoShopper Blog right around this time. The first images were saved on July 30th, the first article written on August 1st. Though it wasn't the first article posted, the first article I wrote was a recap of the Rally Cross portion of the 2009 X Games.

I was blown away. The idea of a home-grown Race of Champions-type Rally Balls-Off made me giggle in my sleep. It was better than the RoC: no silly dune buggies, the rally cars are different brands and there were prominent jumps that the drivers had to negotiate. Two of them! The course weaved through the L.A. Coliseum, out into the parking lot, then back into the arena for jump-tastic, fascia-destroying 70-foot launches in the middle of the bowl. It was a perfect concoction of familiar drivers and short-attention span laps that would capture the skateboard-centric mind and possibly open a new form of racing to a new group of potential fans. After all, what could be more extreme than slinging a 2,500 lb. vehicle around gravel-strewn corners right next to 300-foot drop offs? That happens at every World Rally Championship race. Totally gnar-bonetubularRadical, Yo. I was so keyed-up I failed to notice the deplorable ESPN camera work or the obvious lack of scrutineering and serious scoring. That is the "Good" portion of today's article, last year's X Games Rally.

 . . . And now for the BAD . . . duhn-dun DAaaahhhh . . . The coverage and execution of the 2010 X Games Rally. The Ugly? ESPN/ABC motor sports coverage in general. Two words: "Sorely Lacking" . . .


LF-A Waste of Money?

On: Wed, Jul 28, 2010 at 2:21PM | By: Lou Ruggieri


LF-A Waste of Money? test 1-1

At the end of last millennium, Japan all but completely bowed out of the supercar market. Only the Acura NSX held on for another few years until 2005, but even now that car has come and gone. The world was worse off without its road warriors from the Far East.  

Slowly but surely, however, Japan has returned to the high horsepower wars. Mitsubishi left the 3000GT VR4 by the wayside, and came to play with the Evo. Mazda brought back RX franchise and moved it a notch forward from the 7 to the 8.  Nissan continued the Z legacy from the twin turbo 300ZX to the 350Z and then the 370Z. They even raised the bar by bringing the heralded Skyline to the states in the form of the almighty GT-R. It's been only five years since the end of the NSX, and the world has been waiting with bated breath for an NSX replacement that has been scheduled and canceled more times than the average colonoscopy appointment. In 1998 the king of the Toyotas and, arguably the imports of the decade, the Supra, ceased sales in the US. After more than a decade, Toyota has finally returned to the market with a high powered street fighter in the form of its premium brand Lexus.  


The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

On: Fri, Jul 16, 2010 at 4:02PM | By: John Welch


The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly test 1-1

I was skeptical at first. I saw the name "Dallara" and, like most of the sheep watching the Izod IndyCar Series 2012 announcement, I was immediately put off to the point of nausea. A day or two has passed, and I have let the idea of "Lego Cars" roll around in my tiny brain for several evenings. My opinion has changed, somewhat, and I would be glad to lay it out for you. In case you don't have any clue what I'm talking about, we will cover the new IndyCar rules in depth inside the post.

Where are all the disasters? Is it just me or has the auto-doom media train slowed down a little bit? This really isn't a bad thing; the fewer recalls the better. It just makes finding actual "news" a little tougher. Good? Bad? I'm not sure . .  discuss amongst yourselves . . .

Hybrid wheel designs are stuck in the 20th century. Supposedly they have to be manufactured using aluminum, and supposedly aluminum has to be blocky and chunky and downright eye-offending in order to support the weight of an automobile. Usually, a rather diminutive automobile. Bull-honky; we explore awful hybrid rims and some decent designs, inside the post.


Substandard Features

On: Tue, Jun 22, 2010 at 10:38AM | By: Lou Ruggieri


Substandard Features test 1-1

One of the theories that physicists tell us about the universe is that it is a constant cycle of expansion and contraction. The red tint that glows around distant stars is empirical evidence that those celestial bodies are, in fact, headed far off into uncharted space. Those same scientists tell us that one day the expansion will cease and that the light around those stars will begin to have a blue tint to it, indicating that the universe is heading back inward, and that the contraction has begun.  

It seems that the financial cycles of the United States are not much different from the cycles of the universe. The Roaring 20s were a time of great celebration and expansion, while the 30s brought on the biggest contraction in US history, only to be followed by he booming expansion of WWII. This cycle of cycles has continued until the market crash of 2008 signaled the beginning of another contraction. As we’ve seen, major car manufacturers are not immune to the ways of the universe, with two of the big three needing bailouts from the federal government. Although those debts are all but paid off, it does not mean that the automotive industry is out of hot water by any means. Perhaps instead of fighting the Big Crunch, as it’s called in the scientific world (the antithesis of the Big Bang), car makers and consumers should start to change their attitudes towards embracing the coming contraction. How so?  Well, it seems that in times of crisis, all but the very essentials are deemed unnecessary. The superfluous extras that are expendable are well, expunged, and the bare necessities rise from sub-standard to the standard.  

In a country where people are losing their houses, jobs, and shirts at an alarming rate, a quality car is almost a luxury. But the fact of the matter is people like owning new cars. So how can car manufacturers find an acceptable compromise between the need or want for a new car and that fact that many people have had to make concessions and work jobs that will earn them less compensation? Easy, change the standard!  

For the last twenty years or so, car companies have competed with each other on the premise that more is more. More gadgets, more gizmos, more ‘packages’, more paint schemes, and more gimmicks will lure the potential buyer to their product. Anyone remember the Wide Track Grand Prix? How about the ‘Cab Forward’ Dodge Intrepid? Or maybe even more gimmicky ads like the Dodge Neon that always said, “Hi!” Or perhaps you remember Cadillac Catera: “The Caddy that zigs!” These were all goofy marketing ploys to suggest that those cars were different or better, when in reality they were just average cars with nothing all that special about them. But up until the late 20th century, options like power steering and power brakes were just that—options. Maybe it’s time to stop trying to push onward, and understand that car manufacturing, and the country, may have to take a step or two backwards before it can move forward. 


The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly: Six Hours In Monterey

On: Fri, May 21, 2010 at 3:51PM | By: John Welch


The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly: Six Hours In Monterey test 1-1

We haven't enjoyed an American Le Mans Series race since the weekend of April 18th, when the ALMS parade put on an excellent show in Long Beach. That race was won on a last lap pass, an astounding move by Simon Pagenuad in his formally LMP2 ARX-01c. Remember, the Le Mans Prototype classes have been combined this season. Performance equalizers have been put in place to ensure fierce, competitive racing between the powerful, heavy LMP1s and the nimble but less powerful LMP2s. The car Pagenaud dusted off for the win, Adrian Fernandez's Lola/Aston Martin, is powered by a 6 liter V12. Pagenaud's Acura sports a tiny, wheezing HPD (Honda Performance Development) V8. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand the advantage the Aston might have over the Acura. This sort of competitive parity is found only in the ALMS (the European Le Mans Series still separates LMP1 and 2) and it makes for some fantastic finishes.

As far as the points battles are concerned, 2010 is a stellar year for fans of razor-thin margins. Two, I repeat, TWO of the four classes are tied at the top, and these classes just happen to be the two top classes—LMP and GT. In LMP there are eight teams within ten points of each other. The ALMS proves time and time again that its formula for parity is unrivaled in top-level motorsports the world over.

There are no European teams competeing in the Monterey Grand Prix this weekend, which is a significant disappointment. That means the Audi drought continues and no oil-buring French-Lions. For the first time this season there will be no Prodrive/Gulf/Lola/Aston-Martin prototype to lust after. I think the embassment of being defeated by an inferior marque/car may have put the gorgeous AMR Lola back in Europe for good. I sure hope not; that thing is baby-blue candy-coated sex on wheels and it would hurt me deeply if I was never given the opportunity to hear its twelve-cylinder siren song again . . .

Stupid CBS and your stupid delayed programming. The Monterey Grand Prix takes place this weekend, but will not be seen on television until May 29th. Let's be honest, if this is the only "Ugly" thing I can find to gripe about then the ALMS must really kick ass. Seriously, the ALMS absolutely flattens ass and then rearranges ass's molecules. Throws ass in the dryer right after wringing ass's neck. Beats ass with ass's own sister. Tases ass while curb stomping ass. You get the picture. The American Le Mans Series is pretty sweet.


How to Avoid Buying a Lemon - Three Easy Tips!

On: Wed, May 19, 2010 at 10:49AM | By: Michael Jon Lazar


Avoid Buying A Lemon! test 2

There are many common used auto pitfalls that many consumers can easily overlook when they are in the process of seeking to purchase a used car. It does not really matter whether you are seeking to get your hands on used cars from a used car dealership, or you have your eyes set on private purchase: lemon cars do exist and there are some easy ways that you can go about assuring that you never purchase one.

First and foremost, what is the definition of a car that is deemed be a lemon?

According to Carlemon.com, “A vehicle that continues to have a defect that substantially impairs its use, value, or safety. Generally, if the car has been repaired 4 or more times for the same Defect within the Warranty Period and the Defect has not been fixed, the car qualifies as a Lemon. All States differ so you should consult the Lemon Law Summary and the State Statutes for your particular State. Note that the warranty period may or may not coincide with the Manufacturer's Warranty.”


Four Of The Ugliest Cars Ever!

On: Tue, May 11, 2010 at 7:46AM | By: Michael Jon Lazar


Main Image test 2

Over the past wonderful, invigorating, and very inspiring century of the history of automobiles, there have been some rides that have truly defined what cars are—or what they may be like some day—and then there have been the others. Perhaps a kind word to call these classic car flops would be a mistake. But in all reality, the best three words that can be used to adequately describe what these horrendous-looking cars truly represent would be as follows: The good, the bad, and the ugly (the super ugly, in all reality). Indeed, while there have been some major breakthroughs in the cars that we enjoy owning and driving these days—even if our auto bill negates that factor of joy in our minds when we get the statement in the mail each month—there have been some pretty sloppy mistakes (some of the ugliest cars ever to be made) that have been made along the way. To better enhance this perspective: these are, more than likely, four of the most hideous cars that have ever graced any showroom floor over the past hundred years of auto making.