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For the car guy who has everything

It’s official my and Mark’s slot car tracks are crap

Slot mods tracks, slot car tracks, slot cars, neiman marcus, neiman marcus christmas gift bookWhen I worked with Mark at Kalmbach Publishing he and a couple of other guys there got me into slot car racing. They gave me one crappy car and I was hooked. What car guy wouldn’t be? I was sucked in and started buying more cars off eBay. Most of the other guys I raced with had tracks and of course I had to build one. Mine is a much smaller replica of Road America, a track Mark and I both love and have driven on multiple times. I was happy with it until I saw this track pictured on the left.

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NEWS: Replicarz plans 1:43 Indy winners

70 Colt front

The Johnny Lightning Special that won the 1970 Indy 500 with Al Unser at the wheel.

This view of the Replicarz 1970 Indy 500 winner shows great turbo detail.

This view of the Replicarz 1970 Indy 500 winner shows great turbo detail.

1970-71 Al Unser cars coming soon, plus Blue Crown Specials

I recently got a chance to see some pre-production photos of Replicarz’s latest Indy 500 die-cast models, these in 1:43 scale. So thought I’d share them with my die-hard die-cast fans.

Replicarz, the Vermont-based die-cast model distributor has been cranking out beautiful 1:18 scale IndyCar models for several years now and more are on the way. But next out, by late fall to early winter, are the firm’s first 1:43 Indy racers.

Brian Fothergill of Replicarz says the company will offer the 1970 and 1971 Indianapolis 500 winners, both driven by Al Unser, available in 1:43 scale at $89.99. The cars are both PJ Colt designs, the PJ in this case standing for Parnelli Jones, one of the team owners for Unser’s first two Indy wins.

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2015 Lexus IS350

Lexus IS350 a BWM 3 Series fighter heavy on luxurylexus3

Star Trek groupies may already believe in mind melds, but BMW and Lexus engineers and designers have convinced me it’s a real phenomenon.

Their convincing argument is their creation of two like models that if more identical would be sold in the same showroom. Lexus calls theirs the IS350, while BMW sticks with 335i.

It’s no surprise really, BMW’s 3 Series rear-drive sport sedan has for decades been the holy of holies for auto enthusiasts and many magazines that cater to their Bimmer fetish. Lexus got the idea to fight the 3 Series about 10 years back, launching the IS series in 2005 as it looked to induct younger buyers into the Lexus family.

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Chasing a future classic car

Name the most iconic Mustang

gone in 60 seconds, eleanor, eleanor mustang, collector cars, famous mustangs, iconic ford mustangs, ford mustang

Photo: Yahoo

I can think of a couple, the first one introduced in 1964 1/2, 1965 Shelby GT350, 1968 Shelby GT 500KR (I love the convertible!), and for sure soon to be a future icon is Eleanor from the movie Gone in 60 Seconds. One of three of the original Eleanor Mustang hero cars is heading to auction at Mecum’s Austin 2014 auction, December 12th and 13th. What will it go for? If this is any indication, in May of last year, another Eleanore sold for $1M at a Mecum auction. A Million Bucks!!!!!! I could sell all my stuff and still wouldn’t be close. This car is beyond cool. Check out more on the car.

 

Slot Cars: Slot.it 1971 McLaren M8D Can-Am

Slot.it creates a fast, good-looking Can-Am McLaren

I Always have loved Can-Am cars, their shape, their power and the fact that many of the best drivers from the late 1960s and early ‘70s ran them.

So for slot car racers it’s happy news that Slot.it is extending its stable of Can-Am (Canadian-American Challenge Cup) cars with a new McLaren M8D from 1971. Slot.it has been producing highly competitive slot racers for 10+ years and this McLaren is as fast as its past models.slot.it mclaren

Slot.it cars have lightweight chassis with strong magnets and are well balanced to begin with. Add in a 21,500-rpm sidewinder motor and they are fast and easy to drive right out of the box. The real racer’s engine cranked 680 horses, so it’s appropriate that Slot.it gives the model a high-revving motor.

There aren’t a ton of Can-Am cars available, but this is a nice addition with its crisp paint and tampo printing job to create a stunning glossy black racer with yellow rear wing.

With the addition of just one larger magnet atop the standard bar magnet, the well detailed test car was turning laps within 0.1 seconds of my best current Can-Am racer made by Revell Monogram. With the proper silicone tires, this will easily be among your quickest, best-handling cars, and with little prep time.

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Die-cast: Norev 1970 Porsche 917K

Norev creates colorful 1:18 Porsche 917K racer

Racing fans, especially those dialed into the LeMans scene of the 1970s know Porsche 917s were king of the hill, or racetrack, as the case may be.

Cool paint scheme!

Cool paint scheme!

These Germanic wonders created massive horsepower and their sleek lines and body work created massive downforce. They were the unchallenged endurance racers of the time.

Norev, a French die-cast model maker, introduces a new 1:18-scale collection of 917s that raced at LeMans in France, along with other noted circuits worldwide. The review car was the blue and green Martini & Rossi Racing Team’s No. 35, driven by Gerard Larrousse and Gijs Van Lennep in the 6-hour endurance race at the famous Watkins Glen circuit in 1970.

The History

The 917K was the highly successful short-tail version of the 917, winning the 24 Hours of LeMans in both 1970 and 1971. The long-tail models originally introduced by Porsche in 1969 were highly unstable. The short tail Kurzheck version, which is where the K comes from, ran away with the sports car championships for both years.

In 1971 a 917K was clocked at a top speed of 243 mph at LeMans and was the presumed victor, even before the race was run. The Martini team was a popular and successful entrant for years and this model is of Martini’s “psychedelic” livery that featured a wild blue and bright green paint scheme that excited fans and journalists, even though it was not, ultimately, a winner.

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2015 Kia K900

K900, like Equus, delivers quiet luxury, many features at lower priceK900A

Established luxury makes may want to check that rearview mirror as Kia and its cousin Hyundai are gaining on them, rapidly.

Case in point, the new Kia K900, the separated-at-birth twin to Hyundai’s luxurious Equus. Both the K900 and Equus are ladled with luxury features, look as luxurious as any full-size luxury sedans on the road, and are as quiet as Miller Park in October – quieter!

Sound deadening and a smooth-running 5.0-liter V8 create an interior that could pass for a sensory deprivation tank, if you close your eyes. You won’t want too though because the interior looks great too and cradles you in its soft leather trimmings.

Did I mention that you’ll pay on the order of $10 grand less than a “traditional” luxury make?

Consider the K900 starts at $59,500 and even at that price you get much of the luxury trimmings that came on the metallic gray test car, which added a $6,000 VIP package to push this to $66,400, including a $900 delivery fee. A Lexus, Audi, Mercedes-Benz or other full-size European luxury sedan will run you considerably more. But then their logos have been around longer.

k900bCertainly value is a big part of the Kia’s story, but while value talks, performance walks. That is, it puts you in the hunt for luxury sedan buyers’ stock option checks.

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Die-cast: Autoart 1:18 Pagani Huayra

Autoart’s Pagani Huayra is a super supercar, but pricey like the real deal

Amazing detail when you open the Pagani Huayra up completely.

Amazing detail when you open the Pagani Huayra up completely.

Italy is the home of supercars, but I remember when Ferrari was pretty much the only super car that folks recognized by name. In fact, there weren’t all that many super cars out there.

Then came Lamborghini (also from Italy), then McLaren (from England) and now Pagani, another Italian firm. These boutique supercar builders create small batches of $1+ million road warriors that could be raced, but that mostly sit around in rare car collections and occasionally show up at high-profile car shows, now known as concours.

One such beautiful beast is Pagani’s Huayra, which Autoart now creates in 1:18 scale. The Huayra is named after Wayra Tata, which I’m told means “God of the Winds.” That is in Quechau, the official language of the Inca empire. I’ll have to brush up on my Quechau to confirm that.

The History

In any case, Pagani started making supercars in 1999, first launching the Zonda. The Huayra, only the second Pagani model, debuted in 2011 and went into production in 2012 under the watchful eye of designer Horacio Pagani.

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2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible

Jag’s F-Type V8 roars to new heightsjag1

Jaguar still carries some mystique from its racing days of the 1950s and ‘60s, but it has been devoid of a two-seat sports car for ages.

While many of its newer sedans have been sexy beasts, they have not satisfied that hot rod Jaguar need for a Porsche 911 fighter … until now. The F-Type convertible’s debut delivers the most enticing roadster design since Jaguar’s E-Type wowed auto enthusiasts in the 1960s.

This model has a long nose, big engine and svelte tail too, along with a price tag to match your expectations once you’ve spied an F-Type. This week’s test car was the ultimate S V8 version with a starting price at a simple $92,000. Add an $895 delivery fee and that should about do it, well, almost.

The gorgeous Italian Racing Red (medium metallic red and $1,500 extra) test racer, er car, added a bevy of goodies packages to push this rear-drive beauty to $103,820. Pricey, but easily not the priciest sports car around.

Beyond its stellar looks, and they are stellar, the Jag delivers first-rate performance delivered with the best exhaust tone of any car I’ve driven in at least five years. Plus the Performance Pack that adds $2,950 to the bottom line includes Selective Active Exhaust that allows you to improve its sound with the touch of a console button.

jag3The Jag’s deep throaty V8 bellow coupled with its crackling exhaust note when you gun the engine and then let off suddenly is a thing of audible beauty. People look. People are envious. People wish they were you.

OK, so maybe that’s childish of me, or any buyer, to enjoy. But it IS enjoyable, as is virtually every other bit of the F-Type’s performance.

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2015 Honda Fit EX-L w/Nav

Honda Fit not a hit, just a basic entry-level car

Honda’s new 2015 Fit is larger inside than the previous model, but remains a basic entry-level car that delivers excellent gas mileage.Honda side

But it has its limitations, as all entry-level cars do.

Power is modest, the ride is rough and wind noise is fairly intrusive. This is not the tightly built, quiet muted engine of many previous Honda’s I’ve driven. I was a bit disappointed.

The 130-horse 1.5-liter direct-injection I4 with variable valve timing is a winner as far as gas consumption, but its acceleration is mild to lackluster. Press the ever-present green Eco button on the dash’s left side and torque drops further for less getaway power from a stop.

There is a bit of a solution. On the bright red tested EX-L model with a navigation system there also is a Sport setting for the floor-mounted Continuously Variable Transmission. That helped boost the oomph, but only mildly and turned the already groan prone engine into a big time groaner. The harder you accelerate, the noisier it gets.

With a 6-speed manual transmission it’s possible that the 130-horse I4 would be fairly peppy. But with this CVT it struggles to get out of following vehicles’ way. To be honest, this felt much like a hybrid in the acceleration department.

The upside, and it’s a big one, is gas mileage. Rated at 32 mpg city and 38 mpg highway I managed an impressive 41.6 mpg in about 60% highway driving, about half in the Eco mode and little in Sport.

Honda1Naturally many Fit buyers will be looking for economy, the base LX model starts at $16,315, so meets that need, and also has a 6-speed manual tranny. Move up to the automatic and you’re looking at $17,115, still quite a bargain in today’s market. The test car is near the top of the segment with navigation and heated front seats part of the EX-L package. Base price here is $20,800 and this added only delivery of $790 to hit $21,590.

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Die-cast: TSM 1954 Buick Century Convertible

1954 Buick Century: When massive was sexy

Back in the day, that’s pre-school days for me, a big gruff Broderick Crawford rounded up bad folks on the TV show, “Highway Patrol,” pursuing evildoers in a variety of Buick Century coupes and sedans. The car appeared as massive as Crawford and you just knew that you didn’t want to mess with this man, or his car.buick

Today TSM (True Scale Miniatures) Models creates a less threatening 1954 Buick Century convertible for us die-cast fans, this one in 1:43 scale and a glossy black with red interior – sharp!

The History

The Century exuded speed and muscle, in fact, its name marked the first Buick to hit the 100 mph mark back in 1936. But the name had gone dormant for a few years when Buick revived it in 1954 for its lineup of light (at the time) luxury speedsters. Century came as a sedan, Riviera hardtop coupe (Crawford’s first patrol car) and 4-door wagon in addition to the convertible.

But the convertible was rarest, just 2,790 being made in the first year of this body style. It packed a 322-cid V8 that pumped 200 horsepower. This was Buick’s Roadmaster engine that just kept gaining power until it reached 255 horses by the 1958 model that ended Century’s run, at that time.

You can tell a 1954 from a 1955 model by its three Ventiport holes in the front quarter panels. In 1955 Buick created a fourth hole. And the cars were long too, a full 206 inches and riding on a 122-inch wheelbase, near that of a full-size SUV today.

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Die-cast: Spark 1:43 DeltaWing 12 Hours of Sebring

Spark delivers uniquely shaped DeltaWing racer

Every once in a while a new shape surprises the racing world. In the late 1950s and early ‘60s it was the rear-engined F1 racer that eventually took the Indianapolis 500 by storm. In the 1970s it was the 6-wheeled Tyrrell F1 racer. Today it’s the DeltaWing.delta1

This shiny silver racer features a triangular shape with two wheels close together in its needle-like nose and a wider rear-end complete with a vertical wing, so a delta wing shape. Spark Models now brings the shape to an eye-catching 1:43 diecast model that will stand out in any racecar collection.

The History

DeltaWing, the racer, started on the drawing board of designer Ben Bowlby back in 2009 and originally was a proposed chassis for IndyCar, which was looking to revamp its racecar package. While it didn’t fly among the upper brass there, likely because it wasn’t a fully open-wheeled racer, it did gain support in the racing world.

Ostensibly the DeltaWing’s design is aimed at cutting drag so it is faster in a straight line and also more fuel efficient, plus reducing weight for better fuel economy. Its nose is thin with the front wheels creating just a 2-foot wide track, while the rear tires’ track is about 5 ½-feet wide. You’d think the car would be unsteady, but it’s not and turns crisply into turns.

delta2Major IndyCar team owner Chip Ganassi funded the DeltaWing project and Dan Gurney’s noted All-American Racers built it to be entered as an experimental racer at the 24 Hours of LeMans in 2012. Nissan provided the engine, originally a 1.6-liter turbo I4. At LeMans it qualified 29th out of 50+ cars and was running well before being involved in an accident with another racer.

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2014 Kia Optima Hybrid EX

Optima Hybrid a looker with spunk, yes a hybrid with spunk!

Let’s put this right out there, I like Kia’s Optima.IMG_0981

Optima is one of the best looking mid-size cars on the market, looks like a luxury sedan and rides and feels like an entry-level luxury sedan. It also is well equipped for its price, making it a high value front drive car that will carry five comfortably.

What pushed me well toward the “love it” end of my rating spectrum is the tested blue-gray’s hybrid system. Many hybrids are still lackluster when it comes to acceleration and refinement. Kia’s Optima Hybrid EX not only looks great it performs well.

I tested this for a week that included about a 500-mile round trip to Miami County, Ind., and several days of the usual area city driving. I could have gotten by with just one gas fill-up in that period as I averaged 39.5 mpg, basically confirming the EPA estimates. On the highway the trip computer boasted 41 mpg and range was listed at more than 600 miles.

That alone makes Optima a fine highway cruiser, but riding on a 110-inch wheelbase (2 inches shorter than last week’s Ford Fusion) Optima offers a pleasant ride with just a bit of rump bumping on severe bumps. You feel well insulated in the Kia, which features a luxury-quality quiet interior.

IMG_0983But performance is equally smooth and comfortable. Acceleration is decent in full Eco mode where the electric motor portion of the hybrid powerplant does most of the work. However, you can flick off the Eco mode with a touch of your right thumb and the gas engine does more work to give you better than average acceleration. This may be preferred when you’re in serious city traffic where acceleration may be needed to avoid a jam.

While a gas-powered Optima features a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with a stout 192 horsepower, the hybrid system with the same sized gas engine plus electric assist ups that to 206 horses and 154 lb.-ft. of torque, a bit less than the gas-driven version, but still reasonable.

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2014 Ford Fusion Energi SE

Plug-in hybrid Fusion Energi touts impressive fuel economyIMG_0862

Ford’s midsize sedan, Fusion, has been well received both because of its high-end somewhat sporty looks and its driving characteristics. Fusion may prove to be Ford’s biggest hit since the Taurus was new.

Fusion melds, or should we say, fuses the looks of an Aston Martin or Jaguar’s upscale sporty nose with the tail and profile of a sleek Mazda6 to create a good-looking family sedan that can make any suburbanite proud of his or her nod to trendy car fashions. Gone is the look-alike (nose at least) mid-size sedan.

Add in that Ford has gone all in on hybrids, including this hot “sunset” (metallic deep orange) Fusion Energi SE, and you’ve got a trendy family hauler. It’s economical to drive, if not to buy. While a gasoline-only powered Fusion can be had in the mid-$20,000 price range, the Energi, a plug-in hybrid, starts at $35 grand and change. The tested SE lists at $38,700. Add in a $795 delivery charge and just two options and the test car hit $40,585.

I’ll make this point just once. You don’t buy a hybrid to save money, but to help the environment.

Sure, you’ll save each week on fillups. I got 45.2 mpg and shelled out just a bit more than $20 for 300+ miles of driving in a week. EPA estimates put the car at 43 mpg in all gasoline-powered mode and 88 when combining gas and electric, with a full plug-in charge at night. I didn’t plug in each night, but got about 20 miles of electrical charge for each plug in and registered 111 mpg in a day with the charge and driving about 10 miles beyond it. While the car is charged it shows you getting 999.9 mpg. Cool, while it lasts!

Like the Ford C-Max Energi I drove about a year ago, this one is easy to charge. Unload the special charging cable from the trunk, plug it into a regular 120-volt electrical outlet in a garage and then the cable’s pistol grip into the round outlet on the driver’s side front fender. A little cap rotates, after a tap, to reveal the outlet. About 7-8 hours later you have the 20-mile charge. Using a 220-volt outlet (like your dryer would use) will charge the vehicle in just a couple hours, Ford says.

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2014 MINI Cooper S Hardtop

New MINI Hardtop maximizes motoring fun

 MINI has a deceptively simple message for its potential buyers, Let’s Motor!IMG_0864

Yet it delivers exactly that, simple motoring fun.

A new, larger MINI was reintroduced in 2002 by BMW, the former Mini was a British make. Now, a dozen model years later, its third and again larger (about 5 inches nose to tail) iteration, continues to be a cute boxy hardtop that is a blast to drive. This is especially true of the tested Volcanic Orange S version with a new 2.0-liter twin-turbo 4-cylinder engine.

That smooth running BMW-designed powerplant belts out 189 horsepower and features a torque rating of 207. It kicks you in the seat of the pants, especially when the car is set to Sport mode. The S model offers three driving settings, Eco that reduces power and saves fuel (MINI-malizing they call it), Mid (perfectly fine for nearly all driving) and Sport (booster rocket power).

You simply turn a ring on the base of the shift lever housing and once it hits Sport you know it. Power is instantaneous. The MINI zips forward like a race horse set free from a starting gate. Sport also firms up the suspension, which might be needed on the race track, but only further intensifies the rump thumping you already get in the MINI on the street. Despite the 2014 model’s wheelbase growing 1.1 inches, the ride is no smoother and the shock damping feels almost non-existent in the Sport setting.

IMG_0866The Mid setting eases shock stiffness some, as it does the horsepower and torque. But MINI still hustles away from stoplights quickly and power is near instant with the twin-turbo booster set at the Mid, default, level. Go Eco and you’ll feel the car ease away from a stop, but power is substantially reduced. This may work well in jammed city driving where you just crawl from stoplight to stoplight.

Handling is go-kart like responsive all the time, but extraordinarily quick in Sport mode. That’s what makes MINI so much fun, especially around town. You can flick the car into a tight curve or corner and zip out the other side like you’re an F1 racer on a quick practice lap. Steering is immediate and easy.

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5 cars that will never be classics…

…and guys should never be seen driving in.

Levi's edition gremlin, amc gremlin, iconic small carsBefore I reveal what they are, I want to get a couple of things out there. I love cars, some that get great mileage, some of them are small, and some of them are unusual designs. This comes from a guy who drove a Gremlin and a Pacer which by the way are no longer manufactured. However, a Gremlin X with a 304 and Levi’s interior is a popular collector car since they are difficult to find in good shape. I’ve seen some for sale in the $20,000 range. I know you’re probably thinking, a guy who lives in a glass house….. you will for sure once I get rolling on the list so here goes.

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Die-cast: CMC 1938 Alfa 8C 2900B Speciale Touring Coupe

Art Deco Alfa Romeo 8C delivers museum-quality look, details 

Everything opens and everything is replicated in great detail on the CMC model.

Everything opens and everything is replicated in great detail on the CMC model.

The automotive Art Deco era, where sleek streamlined profiles and styling flare were at their peak left us an astounding number of quirky, yet beautiful cars.

European makers were at the forefront of such styling in the 1930s with the likes of Bugatti, Delahey and Alfa Romeo wowing the wealthy aristocracy of the day. One such beauty was the Alfa Romeo 8C, a sports coupe that seemed hell bent on performance.

Now CMC brings its prestigious moniker and die-cast model skills to the Alfa 8C 2900B Speciale Touring Coupe. It’s a recipe for a deliciously lavish 1:18 scale model.

History:

Vittorio Jano was famous for his engines at Alfa Romeo before Enzo Ferarri lured him away to help create powerplants for the red racers that made Ferraris into an icon. But in the 1920s Jano created his first straight-eight cylinder engine for Alfa Romeo and then the P3 single-seater that was a constant winner in Formula 1 during the 1930s.

alfa1Yet in the 1930s racing was only a part of the Alfa story. The Italian car maker was cranking out beautiful road cars too, their bodies being built by the finest coachbuilders of the day and featuring radical sweeping designs. The 2900B Special Touring Coupe is but one.

The 2900 was designed first and foremost to compete in the Mille Miglia, the most important road race in Italy, winning in 1936 and ’37. In all Alfa won four Mille Miglia. But by the end of the decade the 2900 was also a fine coupe and roadster with a sexy body created by couch builder Carrozzeria Touring.

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2014 Dodge Journey Crossroad AWD

New Journey Crossroad improves the breed

All credit goes to Chrysler and its Italian parent, Fiat, for constantly improving the handsome Journey mid-size crossover.dodge1

My first couple drives in the Journey left me wanting, the last one four years ago was a step up and now this latest tester, a bright pearl red Journey Crossroad with all-wheel-drive, was a leap forward.

Outwardly you’d think this is pretty much the same vehicle as a few years back with some exterior tweaks. But many of my previous complaints are gone. That’s not to say Journey is perfect, but heck, what $32 grand vehicle is?

Let’s start with the overall drive quality. That always has been pretty good, the big upside here being a comfortable ride, quiet interior and reasonable power along with light easy handling. This model also has all-wheel-drive, so should perform well in winter, a decided plus in Wisconsin.

Journey is easy to drive, its six-speed automatic shifting smoothly and its 3.6-liter V6 with variable valve timing providing ample power. The V6 is rated at 283 horses and if you tromp the gas pedal it’ll get up and go, but there is a noticeable lag in acceleration at the start. I noticed it most when cruising between Milwaukee and Indianapolis on a weekend jaunt. Press the gas pedal as you ease into the passing lane and then wait for the acceleration to pick up. Yes, you can pound the gas pedal, but that creates a less than appealing ride for passengers. So plan ahead, as you might with a vehicle packing a turbocharged engine.

dodge3Handling is light and Journey is easy to park in a tight spot. Braking is fine with four-wheel discs plus stability and traction control. Journey rides on 19-inch tires.

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2014 Range Rover Supercharged (LWB)

LR1Big Rover a tough powerful beast, and pricey too

Land Rover has pounded out rough-terrain handling trucks for years. Think of safaris and you think of Land Rovers, usually with a tire mounted on the hood and a rhino charging after it.

Today’s Land Rovers and Range Rovers are just as capable in the bush, but civilized enough to lug the queen around her estate, if need be. The tested Aintree (a town in England) Green Range Rover Supercharged LWB (long-wheelbase) is exceedingly long on the luxury, while still designed to dominate any terrain you throw at it, mud, slush, rocks and streams.

You might be surprised to find out that the tested Rover’s starting price is $105,300, plus an $895 delivery fee, which compared to the base price seems a bargain. Amazingly at six digits the Rover did not come with any running boards or power step-up and nary a third-row seat. Yet there were options that pushed this luxury land yacht to $122,900.

What’s an option once you hit $106 grand or so? Many apparently.

The lovely test ute added a vision assist pack that included a surround-view camera that allows you to view the truck’s perimeter. Cool! It also included automatic high-beam headlights and adaptive Xenon lights, plus a blind spot monitor with a closing vehicle sensing & reverse traffic detection system. That alerts you if you’re about to ram a stopped or suddenly slowed vehicle and also see out the back. Many luxury cars and trucks now have similar systems. The package also featured configurable mood lighting (Shagadelic baby!) and a leather steering wheel (again, something most $30 grand vehicles have, or offer). Price tag? A modest $1,760.

But there was so much more.

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Die-cast: Automodello 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III

linc2

What says Continental more than the fake tire sculpted into the trunk lid?

Resin Continental Mark III a rare offering

Rarity plays a big role in full-size vintage auto prices.

This is true too for diecast models, which is what makes Automodello’s new 1:24 Lincoln Continental Mark III a hit, even at its strong $299 asking price. This is a car for baby boomers who favor the classics over muscle cars. (I know that’s heresy.)

This is rare in that I’ve never seen a 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III in cast resin and in 1:24 scale. On that front Automodello has created a stunningly accurate and beautiful body with crisp accent and trim lines that reflect the Continental’s long, lean elegance.

The History:

The Mark III was a Lee Iacocca idea that legend has it came from his desire to see a Thunderbird of the day equipped with a big Rolls Royce grille. That pretty well sums up the Mark III’s appearance.

linc

The giant grille is reminiscent of that used by Rolls Royce.

But it was 300 lbs. heavier than the T-bird, yet packed 365 horsepower coming from a new 460 cu.in. V8. That engine was created to help Lincoln challenge Cadillac’s Eldorado, along with the likes of Oldsmobile’s Toronado and Buick’s Riviera.

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2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

Miata still sets a high bar for sports car marketmiata

When it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Mazda’s designers and brain trust have shown great wisdom to follow that axiom with the Miata sports car.

For 25 years now the MX-5 Miata has made its mark by NOT changing much. There have been tiny body styling tweaks and interior tucks and thankfully the horsepower grew from 116 originally to 167 today. But Miata has remained true to its original design and purpose, being a lightweight, superb handling sports car with enough pep to put a perpetual smile on a driver’s face.

Soon Mazda will unveil a new Miata, and we’ll hope the designers still don’t break what isn’t broken. But for now we can relish in the fun and modest price tag the current model embodies.

Two years have passed since I last drove a Miata and reading back over that review I couldn’t find anything I’d disagree with from the most current drive. Here’s my latest synopsis.

miata1The “true red” test car was the mid-level Club model with a black power hardtop. That means it’s a convertible, but the hardtop keeps it quieter inside than the standard cloth top. Naturally you pay more, but Miata is still a value-minded roadster. The base Sport model with soft top lists at $24,515 with delivery and the tested Club with hardtop was $29,460, with delivery. Moving up to the Grand Touring hardtop pushes the sticker to $31,345.

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2014 Toyota Highlander Ltd. Platinum hybrid

New Highlander may threaten Lexus it’s so luxurioustoyo2

Toyota better be careful. It might be cutting into its Lexus sales with its latest Highlander.

Who needs a Lexus when Toyota’s Highlander is so darned luxurious?

First, the styling is sharp for a sport-ute. Everything from the hood creasing to the elongated swept-back lights to the profile make the Highlander look like it’s in motion, even as it sits, all 4,861 lbs. of it, in the driveway. Mine was a handsome silver model, the top-level Limited Platinum version with hybrid power system and all-wheel drive.

Price of admission? $51,761 as delivered, with a base price of $49,790 and an $860 delivery fee, plus a few options. A Lexus will cost you more.

Yet Highlander is pretty much state of the art luxury as it arrives in Limited Platinum trim.

Seats are leather and powered, with both front and second row seats heated. Front seats are cooled too, with three settings, and the thick leather steering wheel is heated to take winter’s chill away quickly. There’s a power rear hatch (more about that later), and a power panoramic sunroof and shade.

Read more

2015 Chrysler 200C AWD

Fiat gives Chrysler a fine mid-size car with new 200C

The 200C (left) and 200S feature sophisticated styling and one might argue, a bit of Italian flair.

The 200C (left) and 200S feature sophisticated styling and one might argue, a bit of Italian flair.

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 (see my interview with the lead engineer done at the Chicago Auto Show) 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 200 looks attractive from the rear too.

The 200 looks attractive from the rear too.

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

Die-cast: AutoArt Mustang GT show car

Small scale Mustang GT ponies up the value, detailMustang GT

Ford’s Mustang turns 50 this year and you’d likely have to be dead not to know that by now.

A new 2015 model is being previewed at all the major car shows now and the mainstream media has been agog over 50 years of Mustang since at least January.

But if not for the 2005 revision of the famous pony car, Mustang might not have been around for its 50th Anniversary. Back in 2004 a new Mustang GT show car toured the country’s auto shows to re-launch, in a way, the Mustang brand, whose sales had slipped. Just two years earlier Chevrolet had pulled the plug on its Camaro, long Mustang’s chief competitor. It returned to Chevy’s lineup in 2010, at least in part to the Mustang’s resurgence.

So when you look at the 2005 Mustang, you see the fastback styling of the iconic late 1960s models, the GT, Mach 1 and Boss. This was the re-design that re-established Mustang in the market and led to stellar models up through the present.

mustang GT1Autoart delivers this somewhat historic Mustang now in a high-value 1:43 scale version painted a “red fire,” sparkling metallic red, with black window trim. It’s modestly priced at just $35.90 MSRP. That’s a bargain in today’s diecast market.

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2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible

 

Muscular Stingray convertible opens up more ways to have funvette3

I had to laugh at the timing. After a beautiful spring week, a “velocity yellow” Corvette Stingray convertible showed up for a test drive as snow was flying and the temperature had dropped to the mid-30s, ah Spring in Wisconsin.

But by the weekend, the sun and 60+ degrees had returned, allowing me to drop the yellow screamer’s black cloth top, at least for a while. It only takes 20 seconds to power the top down, and you don’t even have to loosen any latches at the roofline.

auto reviews, 2014 chevy corvette convertible, Vette convertibleI’d driven the new seventh generation Corvette coupe last fall, but just briefly. This time I was allowed a week in the bullet-like street racer with its long pointed nose and menacing Star Wars looking tail with four tailpipes bunched together and burbling away happily. Folks always notice a Vette, and slathered in near neon yellow, this one screamed for attention. I was hoping our state troopers would prove color blind.

Funny thing, everyone wants a ride when you are testing a Vette. I had new friends at the office, gas station, custard stand, you name it. And why not?

The 2014 Vette is not only a looker, it’s a racer, a muscular heart-throb of a car with a massive 6.2-liter direct-injected V8 that features variable valve timing and boasts 29 mpg EPA rating on the highway. And this with 450 horses no less. I’m betting it would get darned close to that if a driver could resist tromping its gas pedal so hard. But avoiding that is like eating just one potato chip, a challenge.

Read more

Die-cast: CMC 1938 Bugatti 57SC Corsica

 

CMC’s Bugatti Corsica a work of artbug1

Bugatti has always been a brand for the upper echelon buyers, folks who want the best, the most beautiful and who value quality and uniqueness as much as performance.

No wonder that CMC has chosen a 1938 Bugatti as its latest 1:18-scale work of art.

In 1938 Bugatti created one of its most rare cars, the Bugatti 57 SC Corsica Roadster. The 57 SC chassis and engine was all Bugatti, but its flowing body was a combined effort designed by Jean Bugatti along with Eric Giles. Giles was designing the car for his brother, British Col. G.M. Giles, later chairman of the Bugatti Owners Club. This was back in the day when the wealthy could basically design their own coachwork to be installed exclusively on a manufacturer’s chassis.

cmc-ProduktfotoCoachbuilder Corsica, of North London, constructed the car’s sensuous body with its large sweeping pontoon fenders and long lean arrow-like hood. Alligator, then a popular luxury hide, was used for the interior.
Now owned by Californian John Mozart, the car won Best of Show at the 1998 Pebble Beach Concours. There’s no denying this is a beautiful car, well restored.

Read more

Recent Articles

21
Oct

For the car guy who has everything

It’s official my and Mark’s slot car tracks are crap

Slot mods tracks, slot car tracks, slot cars, neiman marcus, neiman marcus christmas gift bookWhen I worked with Mark at Kalmbach Publishing he and a couple of other guys there got me into slot car racing. They gave me one crappy car and I was hooked. What car guy wouldn’t be? I was sucked in and started buying more cars off eBay. Most of the other guys I raced with had tracks and of course I had to build one. Mine is a much smaller replica of Road America, a track Mark and I both love and have driven on multiple times. I was happy with it until I saw this track pictured on the left. Read more

21
Oct

One Hellcat of an idea!

Boo!

Dodge hellcat, 2015 dodge hellcat, Dodge’s new Hellcat is one hell of a car! With a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 that makes 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque and will hit 60 in around 3.6 seconds. Wow that’s fast! Think how fast you could get to your bank to take a loan out to buy it. How much will you need? The most-powerful production sedan ever starts at $63,995. Car guys are all over this car. Vin #0001 Stryker Red 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat recently went for $825,000 at a Barrett-Jackson auction in Vegas. After matching contributions from a local foundation, a total of $1.65M, more than any other charity vehicle in Barrett Jackson history, was raised. Pretty scary, right?

Be the first on your block to have one

dodge hellcat, 2015 dodge hellcat, dodge, hellcatWellllllllll, not exactly. But you could be the first one to have a Hellcat image carved on your Halloween pumpkin. For real. The guys at WeRMopar.com did all the R and D so all you have to do is the carving. I’m all over this! Maybe I’ll add the sweet sounds of the real deal revving up its engine or maybe doing a burnout. Dodge has already created a ringtone. You in? Make sure you share your pumpkin on our Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

18
Oct

NEWS: Replicarz plans 1:43 Indy winners

70 Colt front

The Johnny Lightning Special that won the 1970 Indy 500 with Al Unser at the wheel.

This view of the Replicarz 1970 Indy 500 winner shows great turbo detail.

This view of the Replicarz 1970 Indy 500 winner shows great turbo detail.

1970-71 Al Unser cars coming soon, plus Blue Crown Specials

I recently got a chance to see some pre-production photos of Replicarz’s latest Indy 500 die-cast models, these in 1:43 scale. So thought I’d share them with my die-hard die-cast fans.

Replicarz, the Vermont-based die-cast model distributor has been cranking out beautiful 1:18 scale IndyCar models for several years now and more are on the way. But next out, by late fall to early winter, are the firm’s first 1:43 Indy racers.

Brian Fothergill of Replicarz says the company will offer the 1970 and 1971 Indianapolis 500 winners, both driven by Al Unser, available in 1:43 scale at $89.99. The cars are both PJ Colt designs, the PJ in this case standing for Parnelli Jones, one of the team owners for Unser’s first two Indy wins. Read more

17
Oct

2015 Lexus IS350

Lexus IS350 a BWM 3 Series fighter heavy on luxurylexus3

Star Trek groupies may already believe in mind melds, but BMW and Lexus engineers and designers have convinced me it’s a real phenomenon.

Their convincing argument is their creation of two like models that if more identical would be sold in the same showroom. Lexus calls theirs the IS350, while BMW sticks with 335i.

It’s no surprise really, BMW’s 3 Series rear-drive sport sedan has for decades been the holy of holies for auto enthusiasts and many magazines that cater to their Bimmer fetish. Lexus got the idea to fight the 3 Series about 10 years back, launching the IS series in 2005 as it looked to induct younger buyers into the Lexus family.

Read more

17
Oct

Chasing a future classic car

Name the most iconic Mustang

gone in 60 seconds, eleanor, eleanor mustang, collector cars, famous mustangs, iconic ford mustangs, ford mustang

Photo: Yahoo

I can think of a couple, the first one introduced in 1964 1/2, 1965 Shelby GT350, 1968 Shelby GT 500KR (I love the convertible!), and for sure soon to be a future icon is Eleanor from the movie Gone in 60 Seconds. One of three of the original Eleanor Mustang hero cars is heading to auction at Mecum’s Austin 2014 auction, December 12th and 13th. What will it go for? If this is any indication, in May of last year, another Eleanore sold for $1M at a Mecum auction. A Million Bucks!!!!!! I could sell all my stuff and still wouldn’t be close. This car is beyond cool. Check out more on the car.

 

15
Oct

Slot Cars: Slot.it 1971 McLaren M8D Can-Am

Slot.it creates a fast, good-looking Can-Am McLaren

I Always have loved Can-Am cars, their shape, their power and the fact that many of the best drivers from the late 1960s and early ‘70s ran them.

So for slot car racers it’s happy news that Slot.it is extending its stable of Can-Am (Canadian-American Challenge Cup) cars with a new McLaren M8D from 1971. Slot.it has been producing highly competitive slot racers for 10+ years and this McLaren is as fast as its past models.slot.it mclaren

Slot.it cars have lightweight chassis with strong magnets and are well balanced to begin with. Add in a 21,500-rpm sidewinder motor and they are fast and easy to drive right out of the box. The real racer’s engine cranked 680 horses, so it’s appropriate that Slot.it gives the model a high-revving motor.

There aren’t a ton of Can-Am cars available, but this is a nice addition with its crisp paint and tampo printing job to create a stunning glossy black racer with yellow rear wing.

With the addition of just one larger magnet atop the standard bar magnet, the well detailed test car was turning laps within 0.1 seconds of my best current Can-Am racer made by Revell Monogram. With the proper silicone tires, this will easily be among your quickest, best-handling cars, and with little prep time. Read more

14
Oct

The toys we had as kids

Oh, I had one of those…….

Bet I could count on one hand the amount of guys who never played with model cars growing up. We had them because there was a connection. Our parents, relative, or the guy down the street had one. Yup, he was the cool guy. We smashed them, burned them, and blew them up. Boy did I get busted for that one. Of course we did have special ones that never went out of our bed rooms like your first one. Remember it? I remember mine and it wasn’t a Rambler. I was probably about five or six. Dad and I had an HO train layout so we made several trips to the local hobby shop growing up in Madison, WI. to get more stuff. There it was, the shiny bright object before I even knew about shiny bright objects! It was a promo model VW promo models, promo models, collector toyscar and dad knew I wanted it but I would have to do one thing first. OK, I’m giving a deep dark secret here. Like Linus, from Peanuts, I had this blanket that, well I sucked on. Hey I was a kid. So I gave it up. Yup, I wanted it that bad. Now you’re wondering what was the car? You would never guess in a million years! Wait for it…..an early 60’s Volkswagen Beetle, and it was pink. An early view of my softer side:) As I picked up on how this whole deal worked, I was giving up all kinds of promo models for doing stuff my parents wanted me to do and I made them think it was their idea.

Look ma, no hands!

58-ford-remote-control, promo model cars, ford promo model carsJust the other day I was “just looking” on eBay and came across another early car I had 57-remote-control-promo-modelthat let me run it around with a remote control. This 1958 Ford Hardtop made by AMT was exactly like it. Took two D batteries and you could run it forward and backwards and turn it left and right. Hey this was the technology of the day. One of my relatives must have given it to me as a gift at one time, this one went for 140 bucks recently on eBay while this red 57′ sold for 99 bucks. But I also had one even cooler than that, a 1958 Skyliner that retracted the top just like the real one back into the decklid. Couldn’t find one but it was exactly the color of the real deal here only nowhere near as complicated.

hardtop convertibles, ford skyliner

Multi-license with GFDL and Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-2.5 and older versions (2.0 and 1.0)

The Skyliner was the only true hardtop convertible in the world when it was introduced in 1957. The top came down with a touch of a button but that was the simple part. To get the top into the deckle took three roof drive motors driving four lift jacks, four door-lock motors, ten solenoids, and four locking mechanisms for the roof. 610 feet of wiring made sure all that stuff was talking to each other. A good example is hard to find and when one is it will take about $75,000 to take it home. Too rich for me. I’m going to keep looking for the model I once had. Give me a shout if you find one.

 

13
Oct

Die-cast: Norev 1970 Porsche 917K

Norev creates colorful 1:18 Porsche 917K racer

Racing fans, especially those dialed into the LeMans scene of the 1970s know Porsche 917s were king of the hill, or racetrack, as the case may be.

Cool paint scheme!

Cool paint scheme!

These Germanic wonders created massive horsepower and their sleek lines and body work created massive downforce. They were the unchallenged endurance racers of the time.

Norev, a French die-cast model maker, introduces a new 1:18-scale collection of 917s that raced at LeMans in France, along with other noted circuits worldwide. The review car was the blue and green Martini & Rossi Racing Team’s No. 35, driven by Gerard Larrousse and Gijs Van Lennep in the 6-hour endurance race at the famous Watkins Glen circuit in 1970.

The History

The 917K was the highly successful short-tail version of the 917, winning the 24 Hours of LeMans in both 1970 and 1971. The long-tail models originally introduced by Porsche in 1969 were highly unstable. The short tail Kurzheck version, which is where the K comes from, ran away with the sports car championships for both years.

In 1971 a 917K was clocked at a top speed of 243 mph at LeMans and was the presumed victor, even before the race was run. The Martini team was a popular and successful entrant for years and this model is of Martini’s “psychedelic” livery that featured a wild blue and bright green paint scheme that excited fans and journalists, even though it was not, ultimately, a winner. Read more

11
Oct

Where no man has gone before

William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy reunite for VW TV spot

VW, VW e-Golf, vw xl1

Photo: VW

Did I ever tell you that I’m a huge Star Trek fan? Yuppers since the original series was on in the 60’s all the way to the end with the last of the franchise TV show, Enterprise. I have built most of the Enterprises along with some other star ships. In fact, what caught my eye about this spot is the screen grab on the left from the kid’s bedroom. Pretty close to what I had.

Me and William Shatner are tight. A couple of years ago a flying buddy of mine made a flying replica of the Enterprise A and I made a video, uploaded it to my YouTube site and that’s when the fun began. Views started climbing faster and faster. I started digging down into the comments and it turns out “The Shat”, Bill wants all his close friends to call him that, tweeted about the video and I tweeted back. Yup, we’re tight:) Go check it out but hurry right back.

Ok, back on topic here. VW is using the duo to introduce its e-Golf electric vehicle and its XL1, the mini-spaceship coupe that’s only sold in Europe due to its $140,000 price tag. Ouch! You know how I feel about electrics. Fun spots though. Read more about them and less about me here.

11
Oct

2015 Kia K900

K900, like Equus, delivers quiet luxury, many features at lower priceK900A

Established luxury makes may want to check that rearview mirror as Kia and its cousin Hyundai are gaining on them, rapidly.

Case in point, the new Kia K900, the separated-at-birth twin to Hyundai’s luxurious Equus. Both the K900 and Equus are ladled with luxury features, look as luxurious as any full-size luxury sedans on the road, and are as quiet as Miller Park in October – quieter!

Sound deadening and a smooth-running 5.0-liter V8 create an interior that could pass for a sensory deprivation tank, if you close your eyes. You won’t want too though because the interior looks great too and cradles you in its soft leather trimmings.

Did I mention that you’ll pay on the order of $10 grand less than a “traditional” luxury make?

Consider the K900 starts at $59,500 and even at that price you get much of the luxury trimmings that came on the metallic gray test car, which added a $6,000 VIP package to push this to $66,400, including a $900 delivery fee. A Lexus, Audi, Mercedes-Benz or other full-size European luxury sedan will run you considerably more. But then their logos have been around longer.

k900bCertainly value is a big part of the Kia’s story, but while value talks, performance walks. That is, it puts you in the hunt for luxury sedan buyers’ stock option checks. Read more

8
Oct

Die-cast: Autoart 1:18 Pagani Huayra

Autoart’s Pagani Huayra is a super supercar, but pricey like the real deal

Amazing detail when you open the Pagani Huayra up completely.

Amazing detail when you open the Pagani Huayra up completely.

Italy is the home of supercars, but I remember when Ferrari was pretty much the only super car that folks recognized by name. In fact, there weren’t all that many super cars out there.

Then came Lamborghini (also from Italy), then McLaren (from England) and now Pagani, another Italian firm. These boutique supercar builders create small batches of $1+ million road warriors that could be raced, but that mostly sit around in rare car collections and occasionally show up at high-profile car shows, now known as concours.

One such beautiful beast is Pagani’s Huayra, which Autoart now creates in 1:18 scale. The Huayra is named after Wayra Tata, which I’m told means “God of the Winds.” That is in Quechau, the official language of the Inca empire. I’ll have to brush up on my Quechau to confirm that.

The History

In any case, Pagani started making supercars in 1999, first launching the Zonda. The Huayra, only the second Pagani model, debuted in 2011 and went into production in 2012 under the watchful eye of designer Horacio Pagani. Read more

6
Oct

Braking News: 2016 Fiat 500X

Will utilize the Jeep Renegade platform

Paris auto show, new car introductions, fiat 500x, fiat

Yahoo

At the Paris Auto Show today Fiat introduced its entry into the super hot mini-suv category, the 500X. Fiat is hoping the suv will give its sales a bump start. Not sure if you see this too but the rear looks Mini-ish. Read on.

4
Oct

2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S Convertible

Jag’s F-Type V8 roars to new heightsjag1

Jaguar still carries some mystique from its racing days of the 1950s and ‘60s, but it has been devoid of a two-seat sports car for ages.

While many of its newer sedans have been sexy beasts, they have not satisfied that hot rod Jaguar need for a Porsche 911 fighter … until now. The F-Type convertible’s debut delivers the most enticing roadster design since Jaguar’s E-Type wowed auto enthusiasts in the 1960s.

This model has a long nose, big engine and svelte tail too, along with a price tag to match your expectations once you’ve spied an F-Type. This week’s test car was the ultimate S V8 version with a starting price at a simple $92,000. Add an $895 delivery fee and that should about do it, well, almost.

The gorgeous Italian Racing Red (medium metallic red and $1,500 extra) test racer, er car, added a bevy of goodies packages to push this rear-drive beauty to $103,820. Pricey, but easily not the priciest sports car around.

Beyond its stellar looks, and they are stellar, the Jag delivers first-rate performance delivered with the best exhaust tone of any car I’ve driven in at least five years. Plus the Performance Pack that adds $2,950 to the bottom line includes Selective Active Exhaust that allows you to improve its sound with the touch of a console button.

jag3The Jag’s deep throaty V8 bellow coupled with its crackling exhaust note when you gun the engine and then let off suddenly is a thing of audible beauty. People look. People are envious. People wish they were you.

OK, so maybe that’s childish of me, or any buyer, to enjoy. But it IS enjoyable, as is virtually every other bit of the F-Type’s performance. Read more

4
Oct

2015 Honda Fit EX-L w/Nav

Honda Fit not a hit, just a basic entry-level car

Honda’s new 2015 Fit is larger inside than the previous model, but remains a basic entry-level car that delivers excellent gas mileage.Honda side

But it has its limitations, as all entry-level cars do.

Power is modest, the ride is rough and wind noise is fairly intrusive. This is not the tightly built, quiet muted engine of many previous Honda’s I’ve driven. I was a bit disappointed.

The 130-horse 1.5-liter direct-injection I4 with variable valve timing is a winner as far as gas consumption, but its acceleration is mild to lackluster. Press the ever-present green Eco button on the dash’s left side and torque drops further for less getaway power from a stop.

There is a bit of a solution. On the bright red tested EX-L model with a navigation system there also is a Sport setting for the floor-mounted Continuously Variable Transmission. That helped boost the oomph, but only mildly and turned the already groan prone engine into a big time groaner. The harder you accelerate, the noisier it gets.

With a 6-speed manual transmission it’s possible that the 130-horse I4 would be fairly peppy. But with this CVT it struggles to get out of following vehicles’ way. To be honest, this felt much like a hybrid in the acceleration department.

The upside, and it’s a big one, is gas mileage. Rated at 32 mpg city and 38 mpg highway I managed an impressive 41.6 mpg in about 60% highway driving, about half in the Eco mode and little in Sport.

Honda1Naturally many Fit buyers will be looking for economy, the base LX model starts at $16,315, so meets that need, and also has a 6-speed manual tranny. Move up to the automatic and you’re looking at $17,115, still quite a bargain in today’s market. The test car is near the top of the segment with navigation and heated front seats part of the EX-L package. Base price here is $20,800 and this added only delivery of $790 to hit $21,590. Read more

1
Oct

Die-cast: TSM 1954 Buick Century Convertible

1954 Buick Century: When massive was sexy

Back in the day, that’s pre-school days for me, a big gruff Broderick Crawford rounded up bad folks on the TV show, “Highway Patrol,” pursuing evildoers in a variety of Buick Century coupes and sedans. The car appeared as massive as Crawford and you just knew that you didn’t want to mess with this man, or his car.buick

Today TSM (True Scale Miniatures) Models creates a less threatening 1954 Buick Century convertible for us die-cast fans, this one in 1:43 scale and a glossy black with red interior – sharp!

The History

The Century exuded speed and muscle, in fact, its name marked the first Buick to hit the 100 mph mark back in 1936. But the name had gone dormant for a few years when Buick revived it in 1954 for its lineup of light (at the time) luxury speedsters. Century came as a sedan, Riviera hardtop coupe (Crawford’s first patrol car) and 4-door wagon in addition to the convertible.

But the convertible was rarest, just 2,790 being made in the first year of this body style. It packed a 322-cid V8 that pumped 200 horsepower. This was Buick’s Roadmaster engine that just kept gaining power until it reached 255 horses by the 1958 model that ended Century’s run, at that time.

You can tell a 1954 from a 1955 model by its three Ventiport holes in the front quarter panels. In 1955 Buick created a fourth hole. And the cars were long too, a full 206 inches and riding on a 122-inch wheelbase, near that of a full-size SUV today. Read more

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