Category Archive:

Cars & Coffee Eclipses Crystal Cove

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Before dawn on Saturday October 21, 2006, Ford opened the Premier Automotive Group and Mazda North American Operations campus to “Croissant Derelicts”. It was a stunning success with over 350 cars on display.
As you might remember from last week’s story, the Irvine Company kicked the “informal” Saturday morning car show out of the Crystal Cove Promenade on Pacific Coast Highway in Orange County, California. Too much congestion, too much noise, blah, blah, blah. Ford steps in offering up its nearby campus adjacent to the upscale Irvine Spectrum, but not nearly as muy elegante as Crystal Cove.
John Clinard, Ford’s Regional Manager of Public Relations was the principal driver of the event. Hats off to John. He really knows how to pull the folks together.

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Would they come? ABSOLUTELY! In an in-your-face showing to the Irvine Company, car enthusiasts in Southern California flocked to the new venue in Irvine which is about five exits south of AutoPacific’s headquarters in Tustin.
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An eclectic array of cars is on display every Saturday at Cars & Coffee


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Good Bye Ol' Paint – Infiniti M45 Off Lease

Unlike many media/analysts, AutoPacific and VehicleVoice staffers actually have their own cars. We actually go to dealerships and buy them just like normal folks.
Two years ago just as the lease was coming due on my 2003 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer I was driving through the local auto mall and rolled past the Infiniti dealership where they were having a fire sale on out-of-production first generation M45s. You remember the 1st M45. It was a Nissan Cedric/Gloria/Cima with “sporty” cues like a fast greenhouse and frameless door windows. The M45 had been put in the Infiniti lineup as a stopgap between the fading-fast I30 and the already faded Q45. Only a short-term proposition, Infiniti did what it could to differentiate the car and make it an “Infiniti” – did a pretty good job.

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New Lease Chosen for Most Horsepower for the Buck
Frankly, I didn’t like the way the car looked, but the price was too good to pass up. Turns out I have gotten into the mode of leasing vehicles based on horsepower per lease payment dollar. The 340 horsepower for the M45 made the discounted lease they were offering a real deal.
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The M45 was the 1st sedan I had personally had for ten years. The previous five two-year leases had been SUVs – one Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo and four Ford Expeditions. Just could not bring myself to get sixth SUV for this iteration.
On the upside, the Infiniti was very, very fast. The V8 sounded outstanding at full roar. Handling was OK. The seats with temperature controls interfering with your inboard thigh were among the most uncomfortable in the industry for few years. They were shared with the G35 and FX and thankfully they have been replaced by better seats for its most recent cars.


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Of Blizzaks and Body Shops

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This is a blog about which I have been hesitant to write. You see, it has to do with accepting my own bad judgment and the requisite payment for the same. For twenty years I have lived where it snows quite regularly and accumulates on the ground. Until maybe ten years ago, I never gave snow tires a second thought. Primarily because I was usually driving in something with very good all-season tires and either front- or four-wheel drive. Mobility was rarely a problem. But about ten years ago, I bought a relatively powerful rear-drive sedan that was delivered with some very aggressive 18-inch Z-rated performance tires. To say the car was difficult to drive in the snow is misleading. The car was undrivable in the snow. The sticky summer tires turned hard as linoleum once the temperature got below 45°F, and the jumbo 27/35-18s at the rear were so wide they couldn’t bite down and get anything even remotely resembling grip in snow. Without snow tires, the car would be little more than an attractive driveway ornament for about a third of the year.
If you live where it snows and you drive something with performance tires. be it rear-drive, front-drive or even all-wheel-drive, you NEED snow tires.


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Guilty Pleasures – The Three Vehicles I Never Want My Friends To See Me Drive

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Long a car-sick motor head, over the years I’ve cultivated a rather ecclectic (and quite strong) list of likes and dislikes in the vehicles I have owned. Lots of overpowered coupes and sedans, a couple of oddball oversteering rear engined cars with more power than their engineers had envisioned when first they set pencil to paper, and only a single vehicle that could be categorized as a truck. And a pretty poor excuse for a truck at that.
Recently, after discussing favorite “Guilty Pleasure” films with some journalist pals, the topic turned the concept of Guilty Pleasure vehicles. Vehicles you like (or would like) to drive but would never admit it to a friend. At the top of the list were those small, innocous, underpowered economy cars that can be driven at ten-tenths all the time without raising the ire of police or other drivers. Why precisely these came up first is of some small concern to me. Perhaps I need a new set of journalist friends, but I digress.
Next the subject of traditional big American Iron came up. As in large, V8 rear-drive cars with primitive solid axle rear suspension systems better suited to buggies or heavy duty pickups than 21st century land transport. Nothing of any collectible interest or classic in nature, we’re talking about post 1985-metal. At the risk of trading in my VehicleVoice correspondent credentials and my AutoPacific analyst pass, the first of my automotive Guilty Pleasures comes to light, the Lincoln Town Car.


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Ghosts That Still Haunt GM – Samuelson

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The following article was published in the Washington Post on November 30, 2005. It is an interesting historical and current perspective on how the more things change the more they remain the same… at least in the case of General Motors. Isn’t it interesting that Chrysler Group remains able to stay under the radar as GM and Ford are getting all the brickbats from the media?
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Ghosts That Still Haunt GM
By Robert J. Samuelson, The Washington PostWednesday, November 30, 2005
In 1927, “The Jazz Singer” — the first successful major movie with sound — opened. In 1931, Charlie Chaplin, a silent-movie star, said: “I give the talkies six months more.” A similar frame of mind now haunts General Motors, which recently announced it would close 12 facilities and cut 30,000 jobs by 2008. Granted, GM is burdened with costly labor contracts and huge numbers of retirees, reflecting an era when it had (in 1962) as much as 51 percent of the U.S. vehicle market. But GM also inherits a self-defeating management style formed during its glory days. It presumed that superior managers could always anticipate and control change. By contrast, many top managers in younger companies accept that they will face disruptive surprises that could, unless successfully countered, destroy them.
The difference has consistently disadvantaged GM. Its latest downsizing is the company’s third since the early 1980s. With each, GM has struggled to catch up with changes that it badly misjudged — the demand for smaller cars in the late 1970s; the superior quality and production techniques of Japanese manufacturers in the 1980s; and now the demand for snazzier cars and (almost certainly) better fuel efficiency. The conceit that GM could “manage change” often served as an excuse to stand pat — until change was unavoidable.


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Yarn – Nobody Ever Talks About Ford's Carrousel Concept

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Chrysler was the first manufacturer to launch a truly competitive Minivan in the US market. Of course, Volkswagen had been around for years with its Microbus and Toyota beat Chrysler to the market by a few months with its forward control Toyota Van, but Chrysler launched the first “real” Minivan. But Chrysler was not first with the concept.
Ford Minivan Concepts Were Precursors to Chrysler’s Extremely Successful Minivans
The concepts leading up to the Chrysler Minivan were done at Ford Motor Company. Two groups developed competing Minivan concepts. Hal Sperlich’s Advanced Vehicle Engineering Team developed a Minivan concept based on a front wheel drive platform. It was called the “MiniMax”. Hal Sperlich was later to take this basic concept to Chrysler where the K-Car based Minivans were developed and launched in early 1980s. The second Minivan concept… one that has never really seen the light of day, was the Carrousel. Carrousel was developed by Alex Galaniuk’s Light Truck Advanced Engineering team in 1974 running parallel with the MiniMax.
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Carrousel was a relatively simple concept – take a short wheelbase Econoline Van and make an extremely luxurious wagon/family hauler out of it. The Carrousel had a 460 CID V8 (tucked under the instrument panel in the style of full size vans those days), Thunderbird interior, woodgrain sides, whitewall tires and full wheel covers. It was fully driveable and the prototype was produced by Carron & Company in Inkster, Michigan. The interior had a full flat rear load floor and folding second row seat developed by Lear for the concept. Carrousel was a 5-passenger van.
Inexpensive Program Killed Because it Threatened Country Squire
In those days, Carrousel was a $67 million dollar program. Petty cash to a big car company like GM or Ford or Chrysler. But Carrousel was never to see the light of day. It died when Ford’s research showed it would cannibalize heavily from the Country Squire station wagon then a Ford family jewel. Threatening the Country Squire was verboten and Carrousel (and MiniMax – not so much of a threat) was shelved only to be seen a decade later behind Ford’s Truck Engineering building resting on four flat tires with its paint peeling.
While Carrousel was based on a rear wheel drive platform that was not as package-efficient as a front wheel drive Minivan, its styling and utility would have establlished a quick and low investment program. Another nail in the coffin… General Motors had nothing like Carrousel. In the days when Ford followed GM’s lead in almost everything, that was a definite vote against the innovative new idea.


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