There, now I feel better, it’s out there. I’ve gone road hunting in CJ’s that still hurt my back, but it was still fun! I have owned a 1986 four-door Wagoneer (XJ), then a 1996 Grand Cherokee (ZJ), a Liberty (KJ). Designed by Diamler at the time and not my favorite because it was way to top-heavy as you can see here after an Illinois driver on his cell phone clipped me. I walked away.
It’s the only vehicle I have exited through the sun roof. We currently area about to purchase our 2011 Wrangler Unlimited (JK) off our lease and I can’t wait to start making it more our Jeep. First thing I’m going to do is put a cold air intake to give it some zip. I have been to Camp Jeeps at both the Chicago and Milwaukee auto shows. Milwaukee was the better ride. Check out the videos from my rides. Yup, all in.
It was when American Motors, where my dad worked, bought Kaiser’s money-losing Jeep operations in 1970 that I started to dig into the history of the Jeep brand. AMC was hurting at the time and this was a big gamble for them but the Jeep utility vehicles complemented AMC’s passenger car business. Actually it saved the company. AMC was able to share components, achieving volume efficiencies, as well as capitalizing on Jeep’s international and government markets.
It created the Sport Utility market
The four-door Jeep Wagoneer (SJ) set the pace as it was the first luxury 4×4 sold and produced from 1963 to 1991, nearly 30 years before the term SUV was in vogue. Compared to what GM, International Harvester, and Land Rover were offering at the time, it was the Wagoneer’s luxury that set the bar. Adding to success of the Wagoneer, and it’s two-door version Cherokee AMC introduced in 1973 was the Quadra-Trac full-time four-wheel-drive system which attracted even more people to Jeep products who wanted four-wheel-drive traction without the inconvenience of a manual-shift transfer case and manual locking hubs.
The Wagoneer Limited you see in these images which later morphed into the Grand Wagoneer, had the whole deal, deep pile carpeting, advanced overhead cam inline six and then later a monster AMC 401 V8 engine, auto transmission, power windows, a/c, power steering, power brakes, an independent front suspension and yes, real wood outlining the fake vinyl wood as you can see in this example which I think is a 1981. It’s a little on the rough side but there are lots of places that specialize in full restorations like GrandWagoneer.com. The vehicle still has a following even though the last Grand Wagoneer rolled off Chrysler’s Toledo assembly plant on June 21, 1991. Now that Fiat owns Jeep there were images floating around showing a modern version of the Grand Wagoneer which I have heard won’t come on the market for another couple of years.
I would love to have a Grand Wagoneer to show off to the people I know who drive Cadillac Escalades or Range Rovers. Sure buddy, one on one! I made a trip to one of my favorite sites, Hemmings, and found Grand Wagoneers from the mid-20’s to all the way up to 50 grand like this one. Have you looked at the current prices of the Caddy or Rover?
So what if you don’t have the cash?
Surprisingly with such a long run, you’d thing there would have been a promo model made but it never happened, however this Grand Wagoneer produced by AutoArt is a great alternative. I picked up this 1/18th scale diecast about five years ago for around $100. Even though AutoArt has stopped producing them, they pop up on eBay except for the white one which is nearly impossible to find. Check out the details on this. All the doors open, along with the hood and rear lift gate. The interior has real carpeting and upholstery. Check out the engine bay. I love looking at this. I keep hoping that someday there will be a way to take it and scale it up into the real deal.
Spark recreates iconic 1958 Edsel in 1:43 scale
As a kid I thought Edsels were cool. I loved the big horse collar grille, the pair of twin headlights and those slim cat-eye taillights. This was styling extreme to the max in an age of styling extreme. It was an age where giant tail fins and portholes in the sides of cars were welcome.
Who wouldn’t like this in your face design from Ford?
Well, apparently nearly everyone, as the Edsel lineup fell flat on its crankcase and was discontinued just a few years later. But styling fashionistas, those of us who appreciate styling daring do, can still get our fix via Spark’s new 1:43 scale Edsel Citation Hard Top Coupe.
Spark recreates the 1958 model in black with a white roof, and the two-tone paint job just makes this all the more attractive because it reflects the fun and style trends of 1950s autos.
Spark is no newcomer to 1:43 cars, it offers a variety from standard street cars to race cars of all ilk. Here’s what I like about this one. Read more
Fiat gives Chrysler a fine mid-size car with new 200C
The former Chrysler 200 was so long in the tooth you may have wanted to nickname it Snagglepuss.
It was updated a couple years back by Fiat, after it snaggled Chrysler away from bankruptcy and the U.S. government. Mostly, that change in ownership has done nothing but help Chrysler’s various lineups, and the new Chrysler 200 again confirms that.
The midsize sedan, which rides on the Jeep Cherokee platform so is available with all-wheel-drive, carries the rounded styling first seen on the sporty Dodge Dart. This is a handsome sedan with swept back rear quarter to give it both a modern and sporty profile. The tested C model with AWD tops the 200 lineup and its $30,195 starting price reflects that. This isn’t your great aunt’s old Chrysler 200 winter beater car.
The 200 comes in basic LX trim with a list price of $22,695 and in that form is front-wheel drive with a competent 184-horse MultiAir 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. A mid-level S model is available in all- and front-drive as is this upscale C model.
This C stands out due to its more powerful 3.6-liter V6 that features variable valve timing and delivers 295 horses and a torque rating of 262. Tires also grow to 18 inches and the interior is decked out with leather trimmed heated seats and a load of bells and whistles. The vivid blue pearl (bright metallic blue) test car ladled on three option packages to doll itself up and hit a rather optimistic $34,675, including a $795 delivery charge.
The car itself feels more modern and refined that past 200 models. The engine is strong and will get to highway speeds easily, even with four people aboard. This is a fine highway cruiser for the family and the giant 16-cubic-foot trunk will accommodate a load of luggage.
While the car feels strong, it doesn’t really jump from a stop as you might expect. It feels heavy despite a moderate 3,473 lbs. Its 9-speed (that’s right!) automatic transmission is designed to save gas, but not to put the car on a speedy trajectory, especially in city driving. The car is rated 18 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. I averaged a fine 24.2 mpg in about 75% highway driving and with up to four aboard. Read more
My previous test of the compact Dodge Dart was near perfect. That was the Limited model, this metallic red beauty was the sportier GT.
Blame it on age or our increasingly decrepit roads, but this one was harder on the derriere.
Oh, I still like the Dart and would recommend the Limited or any model without the sport suspension that the GT features. This one is just too stiff with the ride bordering on harsh. Racy R18-rated tires didn’t help either. The GT intends to be a boy-racer toy at a modest price and it comes close to that goal.
There’s strong power here with a 2.4-liter I4 Tigershark engine with MultiAir to increase fuel efficiency. It generates 184 horses and a torque rating of 171. So pound the gas pedal and the Dart GT responds.
In normal city driving there’s good power too, although some hesitation as you accelerate. Linked to a 6-speed manual, which is standard, you could likely have some fun with the GT. But the test car added an optional $1,250 6-speed Powertech automatic that tames the oomph factor, mostly. You’ll still hit highway speeds easily, but the car feels a bit heavy and the shifts are not as crisp or timely as they would be if the driver was handling those duties.
Still, the car looks sporty with trim lines and an attractive profile. I like the car’s nose and the full body-width LED taillight that reflects other Dodge model styling. Dart looks sharp. Read more
Rarely have I driven a sports coupe that was more pure fun to drive and garnered more attention than the Subaru BRZ, and yet …
The BRZ, a kissin’ cousin to Scion’s F-RS, is far from perfect. But it’s so much fun you might overlook most of its shortcomings.
First, there are many bright spots. It’s an edgy looking sports car, one that gets thumbs up at stoplights from young men, young women and guys on motorcycles. It has a triangular center mounted brake light below bumper level in back and the tested Limited model touts a mean Star Wars look rear wing that even Darth Vader would give a thumbs up.
The test car was a dark metallic gray that complimented that edgy, somewhat menacing look, and being rear-wheel drive and packing a 200-horse Boxer 4-cylinder, the car has excellent balance and a peppy feel. BRZ accelerates quickly from a stop, but doesn’t have explosive power as it would if the car’s horizontally opposed Subaru-designed engine had a turbocharger. Could there be one in the future? One can hope.
Subaru also gives the car an easy shifting 6-speed manual that slips through the gears smoothly and synchs well with the engine to give it that pep. The clutch works well too, so unlikely you’ll tire in thick traffic or kill the engine at a stoplight.
Handling is light and easy too with good steering feedback and the car feels well balanced so it zips through tight corners like the sports car that it is and with the car’s rear wheels feeling well planted. The low profile provided by the Boxer engine keeps the center of gravity low, which also helps handling. A Torsen limited-slip differential and stability control give BRZ sticky footing upon acceleration and in corners and much of the car’s light feel is attributable to its modest weight, just 2,776 lbs. Read more
American Muscle came in various shapes and sizes in the late 1960s and early 1970s, before the first oil embargo put the nix on giant V-8s and the awesome grumble and power they delivered.
Now Auto World creates a beautiful 1971 Plymouth Road Runner in Petty Blue with white vinyl top (remember those?) in 1:18 scale. This is part of the aptly named American Muscle lineup that retails at roughly $80-85, a good price for this scale considering some 1:43 scale diecast and resin models are approaching that price range.
An advantage here too is that the doors, hood and trunk all open, so you can easily see the interior, a bright blue in the sample car, plus the well detailed V-8 under its long hood with black Air Grabber scoop.
Road Runners were fast, on- or off-track, and yes, Richard Petty, the King of NASCAR, successfully raced one in 1971. Auto World makes that one too. Read more
First, there aren’t many true wagons anymore. Second, Volvo absolutely nails the V60, if you want your wagon to feel like a sports sedan.
I could have sworn I was in an Audi or Mercedes and barely noticed this was a wagon thanks to this Volvo’s generous power and nimble handling abilities. My gorgeous light “power” metallic blue V60 T5 Drive-E was a rocket, but one that would chop off corners and stick to the road like it was designed mostly for a spin around Road America.
The V60, which is an early release 2015 model, features a 2.0-liter direct injected turbocharged I4 engine that creates 240 horsepower and 258 foot-pounds of torque. You touch the gas pedal and it jumps to life, one of the livelier power plants I’ve driven lately.
The front-drive wagon has good grip too, thanks to 19-inch R-rated low-pro Pirelli tires. Pushing the car hard into high-speed corners it hunkers down and sticks like a racer. The down side is that the ride is overly firm, which could be a drawback to some families. However, 17-inch tires are standard and without the car’s Sport Package ($1,500) that includes fancy wheels, a sport-tuned chassis, plus paddle shifters on the steering wheel and overly tight sport seats, the ride might feel just fine.
Shifts from the 8-speed Geartronic automatic are fairly seamless and feature Start-Stop technology that shuts the car’s engine off at stoplights or any time it sits motionless for a second or so. You’ll notice it at first, but this Volvo system offers a less abrupt shutdown than the pricier Jaguar XJL I drove earlier this year. These type of systems are already being used on hybrid cars. Read more
Phoenix Mint delivers high value 1937 Studebaker ambulance
Not every new diecast vehicle is a muscle car or modern model. The Phoenix Mint reaches back to World War II for its vintage 1937 Studebaker Army Ambulance in 1:43 scale.
Studebaker, an Indiana-based automaker that got its start by making wagons for farmers in the 1850s, was still a thriving company during the war. It had supplied wagons and vehicles to the military for years and its truck lineup was extremely popular in the day. So converting a Coupe Express, that was similar to today’s pickups, or just buying and converting a chassis, engine and cab into useful Army vehicles was easy. Studebaker also made many heavier duty trucks for the military over the years.
For the record, Studebaker merged with Packard in the mid-1950s and made its final car in 1966, at its Canadian plant.
Phoenix Mint’s version is a no-brainer buy if you love Studebakers or enjoy collecting military vehicles in all their iterations. This is a high value model. Here’s why. Read more
The need for speed
Who doesn’t like to jam the throttle and get pinned to the back of your seat in a fast car? I’m in! I had two chances recently at Road America to drive the new Corvette and Dodge Challenger Shaker. What a hoot, and then some. It used to be the Italians and Germans who were the kings of fast cars but not anymore. There are some super fast cars built right here in America. Buckle your seat belts and come along for the ride.
Fiat goes long with 500L (get it?) to connect with more buyers
Credit Fiat for quickly deducing that its cute, but diminutive, 500 runabout simply won’t do for many U.S. families. The Italian automaker that owns Chrysler needed something that would cast a wider net when trying to land more customers on our shores.
Voila! The 500L!
This is a small crossover or wagon much along the lines of MINI’s Clubman. That’s to say it’s boxy and big enough to hold four adults and some groceries under the hatch. It remains cute, like the MINI is cute, but no one will mistake it for the much smaller Fiat 500 that its name implies it descends from.
But this is a different beast in that at 167.1 inches the 500L is nearly two feet longer, plus a little wider and taller, than the tiny 500. The 500L rides on a much larger 102.8-inch wheelbase, a little shorter than a Subaru Forester, for example, and nearly a foot longer than Fiat’s 500. The L is no featherweight either, at 3,203 lbs. it’s about 900 lbs. heavier than its smaller sibling.
I parked the 500L next to a standard MINI in a fast food parking lot and was amazed at how much larger the Fiat looked.
What all this size means is that the 500L rides well, but remains a good handler, like its smaller model, the 500. The suspension does a surprisingly good job of soaking up our roads’ numerous imperfections. Some larger crossovers and small utes don’t feel this well controlled. As with the 500 model, this one’s ride quality surprises. Read more
A garage sale like no other
It seems things got a little tight at Shelby America so they decided to do a bit of house cleaning. Not your regular office stuff, these are rare prototypes. 11 Shelby concept cars and prototypes are up for grabs. Shelby says it would rather see them in the hands of enthusiasts than sitting in storage. I’m down with that. Several of the cars are of course Mustangs, including the 2011 Super Snake with a 5.4-liter supercharged V-8 that chucks out 750 hp! You’ll need to have deep pockets to score one of these with most going in six figures. Start drooling.
Pokey Mitsubishi Mirage offers bare bones performance
Last year when I drove the 109-horsepower Nissan Versa Note I thought I’d driven the slowest accelerating car made in the past 10 years, but that was before I’d driven the new Mitsubishi Mirage. This makes the pokey Versa Note feel frisky.
Mirage is a pleasant looking little hatchback designed top to bottom for the entry-level buyer who needs new wheels, but can’t afford much. It’s a small market segment, but let’s face it, there is a need for inexpensive entry-level economy cars. We’re not all rich, or even middle class, these days.
I’m happy that such low cost economy models exist. But I really expect a new car to have enough power to get out of its own way, or at least that of the aging winter beater car that’s tailgating me.
For the record Mirage has a 1.2-liter 3-cylinder engine that creates … wait for it … 74 horsepower. In short it’s slow to pull away from stoplights and requires quite a long run down an entry ramp to make it up to highway speeds. Under heavy acceleration the drivetrain groans considerably. Mentally, I was groaning too. Read more
Town & Country minivan carries family, friends and stuff easily and efficiently
This week’s Chrysler Town & Country Limited is at the top of the minivan food chain, meaning it’s loaded with extras and luxury items that most families would be proud to wallow in, if they weren’t in a minivan. But heck, a minivan is easy to climb aboard, and this one has a luxurious ride along with good power and tons of storage room. Ah yes, and it will carry a family of seven. Not much else can boast that, and be this comfortable.
First, consider that the tested cashmere (metallic tan) test van had power sliding side doors. This makes it incredibly easy to load up the family for all those kid events, and if you have young children, it’s equally easy to strap them into their child seats. In a sport-utility vehicle, for instance, you have the doors in your way along with a bigger step up, making it tougher for the kid to crawl aboard, and a bigger lift for the parent loading one aboard.
The Town & Country, or T&C, also boasts a power hatch to make loading groceries, luggage or athletic equipment easier too. This one goes a step further with power third-row seats that you control just inside the hatch, part of a $1,995 luxury package. Within seconds you can lower the third row for a hefty hauling area. Cargo space starts at 33.0 cubic feet behind that third seat (about double that of even the largest luxury sedans) and expands to 83.3 cubic feet with the third row down. Read more