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A killer deal on Craigslist

You never know what you might find

This article caught my attention because I’m getting our 2008 Chrysler Pacifica ready to sell on Craigslist. This is not my first rodeo as I sold our 1994 Dodge Intrepid with no problems a couple of years back. I love looking at the listings, just to see what’s out there like this Lotus Esprit. Read on.

Die-cast: BoS Models’ Buick Flxible Premier Ambulance

A beautiful Buick ambulance in 1/18 scale …Buick Flxible Premier Ambulance

Every kid of the 1950s and 1960s remembers the extremely long brightly colored ambulances of the day, either from seeing them as they ran our city’s streets with lights flashing and sirens blaring, or from TV shows of the day.

Cadillac ambulances with their big tailfins were popular to be sure. We all remember the Ghostbusters’ Ecto-1. But many ambulances were based on Buicks too, in fact from the 1930s forward Buicks were the basis for both ambulances and hearses.

BoS-Models, also known as Best of Show, has just launched a beautiful cream and crimson 1960 Buick ambulance in 1/18 scale and it’s a stunner. This diecast resin ambulance is more than 13 inches long, finely finished and reflects a custom ambulance created by The Flxible Co. in Loudonville, Ohio.

The HistoryBuick Flxible Premier Ambulance

This long-wheelbase Buick built by Flxible (the E was dropped to create a registered trademark) was the Premier model and listed at the time for $8,615.

Flxible made ambulances, hearses and buses, but started as Flexible Sidecar Co., making motorcycle sidecars. The name came from a patented flexible mounting that allowed sidecars to lean in corners with the motorcycle, making them safer and easier to control. Flxible closed in 1996 after 83 years in business.

In the 1960s the firm used primarily Buicks to create their ambulances and hearses and had a smaller model, the Flxette, that rode on the 126-inch wheelbase of a Buick Electra. The premier was more than 27 inches longer.

The Model

The 1960 Buick Electra had a concave grille, with side-by-side quad headlights, and the first tri-shield Buick logo on its grille. Plus the front fenders sported four VentiPorts, the chrome portholes of a sort that had started in 1949 Buicks and had returned for 1960. All of that is perfectly captured in the resin BoS model.

Buick Flxible Premier AmbulanceThis Buick’s front and rear bumpers, and naturally that toothy grille, are all chrome as are the door handles, mirror, and taillight surrounds. The roof sports two standard red bubblegum lights trimmed in chrome and the center-mounted red light and siren to get folks attention. The thin white-sidewall tires also feature full chrome hubcaps and they’re pretty darned fancy looking for an ambulance, but were standard fare in 1960.

Buick is spelled out in photo-etch on the hood’s nose and BoS puts red Fire-Rescue and Ambulance decals on the roof. A fire and rescue emblem is emblazoned on the big wagon’s back door and Ambulance markings with a cross are printed on the rear side windows. The model also has a no. 138 decal on each side in front of the doors to represent the car’s fleet marking. Flxible script logos are on both front fenders too.

This is a sealed body model, so no doors open, nor the hood. All windows are posed up too so the light and dark gray interior will stay dust free if you display this outside a case. You’ll need a larger than usual acrylic case if you want to enclose it due to the car’s length.Buick Flxible Premier Ambulance

Inside there’s the new, at the time, Buick two-spoke steering wheel with horn buttons instead of the usual chrome horn ring. Gauges are raised on a pod atop the dash, very modern for the early 1960s, while the shift lever is still on the column.

Naturally the ambulance’s tail is most interest and there is a gurney there with yellow mattress and white pillow, plus two jump seats to accommodate an attendant or two. There is no other medical equipment in the rear and I really wish the tail’s big door opened to give a better view inside.

Still, this is a beautiful long-wheelbase ambulance, not your typical subject matter for a 1/18 scale model!

Vital Stats: 1960 Buick Flxible Premier AmbulanceBuick Flxible Premier Ambulance

Maker: BoS-Models

Scale: 1/18

Stock No.: 213558

MSRP: $135.95

Link: American-Excellence.com

 

2017 Genesis G90 RWD 5.0 Ultimate

Genesis has it all, but the panache and name …2017 Genesis G90

When Toyota launched Lexus in 1989, its first sedans impersonated Mercedes-Benz models, but cost a lot less. Now Hyundai has launched its impressive new Genesis luxury car lineup with two models and the top-level G90 looks like a Bentley. Even its logo resembles that of the British make.

Again the formula is to create a car that visually screams luxury while undercutting the original by thousands of dollars. To be sure the new G90 competes mostly with the large Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Lexus and Cadillac sedans. But if you could convince your neighbors you were driving a Bentley, yet only spent $70 grand or so, well, you just might try.

That’s what Hyundai is betting on, just as Lexus did before it.2017 Genesis G90

Certainly the G90 is impressive and dressed in Caspian Black, a metallic black paint job, the tested rear-drive Ultimate model turned heads. People asked what it was. Genesis didn’t ring any bells.

But it may soon. Along with this 5.0-liter, 420-horse, V6-powered G90 Genesis offers the G80 with a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 that creates a substantial 365 horsepower. Both models are rear-wheel drive, but offer all-wheel-drive versions too.

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A Jeep gets stuck and gets unstuck, mostly

No newsflash there because it happens everyday

Just because there are those of us like me who drive Jeeps doesn’t mean we don’t get stuck every once in a while. Hey we have the most capable 4×4 ever so we’re going to push the envelope. Count on that. Getting stuck is one story while getting out is another like this dude who went in the mud with one Jeep Wrangler and came out with two. This is a classic video of how not to pull a Jeep stuck in the mud.

When Station Wagons roamed the plains like the buffalo

See if you can relate to this. Summer trips with the fam

american motors, amc, amc station wagons, amc cross country wagons, station wagonsIt’s the mid 70’s or 80’s when the whole family piled into the family wagon to go on vacation. It could have been west like I did with my family in our 1967 Rebel Cross Country wagon. Almost identical to this one I found in the classified sporting the same Strato Blue Metalic color. Yup, I have all kinds of stuff still rattling around in my brain. Mom, Dad, and my two younger sisters went to Yosemite to see Old Faithful and stuff like that and

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Die-cast: NEO 1966 Pontiac GTO Convertible

Pontiac GTO Convertible = crisp, muscular model …

1966 Pontiac GTO

Great color scheme for a GTO!

Those of us of a certain age used to worship (or close to it) muscle cars in the 1960s, and many credit Pontiac with launching the idea of a muscular mid-size car that the masses could afford.

Pontiac’s first was the 1964 Tempest with the GTO package ($295) that added a 389 cu.in. V8 that delivered 325 horsepower with a 4-barrel carb.  Otherwise the hardtop and convertible Tempests were typical family cars.

Certainly there are a fair number of die-cast models of GTOs these days, but NEO has added the 1966 Convertible version to its growing America car collection in 1/43 scale. Our review model came from the good folks at American-Excellence. As with other NEO models in this scale, this one is expertly executed.

The History

In the mid-1960s there were a lot of hardtops and convertibles, not so much these days. But in 1966 Pontiac wisely made the GTO a separate model from the Tempest and was restyled to include a kicked-up rear fender line.1966 Pontiac GTO1966 Pontiac GTO

The car rode on a 115-inch wheelbase and was just over 206 inches long. Its lines accentuated its length to give it a lean yet muscular look that matched its performance persona.  It still packed the powerful V8 engine and a Ram Air package was available too. The hood scoop helped emphasize the car’s power.

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2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XLE Premium

Hybrid Avalon comfy big sedan, easy on the gas …2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Sadly big comfortable sedans are about as popular these days as a new Nickelback album or The Dixie Chicks at a Texas veterans fundraiser.

Too bad because as passé as big sedans are, they can move a family of five in smooth, quiet comfort and also beat the exhaust pipes off a big SUV or Crossover for gas mileage. This week’s test car, a beautiful Parisian Night Pearl (dark metallic blue) Toyota Avalon Hybrid is a sparkling example.

The Avalon does basically everything well. Its ride is near perfect, comfortable and well controlled. This is no floaty boat as in olden days when sedans seemed to ooze down the highway. Avalon’s four-wheel independent suspension handles rough roads with ease. Yet the car is responsive enough to feel well connected to the road.

Steering is on the light side in the car’s normal setting, but switch it to Sport and steering effort is firmed enough to feel more like a luxury sport sedan without requiring six-pack abs.2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

That Sport setting, engaged via a button on the console, also brings to life the silky smooth 2.0-liter I4 that’s coupled with a hybrid system that powers an electric motor at low speeds when gas engines are at their least efficient. Like other hybrids that electric power comes from batteries that are juiced up by a regenerative braking system.

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2017 Volvo V60 T5 AWD Cross Country

Volvo ‘s V60 Cross Country touts pizzazz, not smooth ride …2017 Volvo V60 Cross Country

Volvo’s V60 Cross Country wagon/crossover wisely borrows some styling pizzazz from the likes of Mazda, then goes about saturating the vehicle with its usual core competency, safety.

Pretty nice combo, but it ladles on enough luxury to push the V60 to luxury-level pricing, but without the ride to match.

You can look at the V60 competing on two ends of the wagon/crossover spectrum, starting with Subaru’s Outback, which is considerably less expensive, but has a nicer ride and at least as much off-road capability. Or you could look at the Volvo competing with the likes of BMW or Audi wagons and small crossovers, in which case the V60 is a bit less pricey at its base level, the T5 Drive E that starts just above $37,000.

The V60 Cross Country is fully a luxury crossover with the intent of being amenable to going off road. At 7.9 inches, its ground clearance is greater than the standard V60. The sharp looking metallic bronze test car though added a Platinum package, plus four others to go from a $41,700 base price to $50,130. I question how many buyers will be fording streams and straddling large boulders with such an investment.2017 Volvo V60 Cross Country

Certainly around town and on the highway the V60 Cross Country is a fun drive. Its peppy 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection I4 kicks out 240 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. Tromp the gas pedal and hold on, this will rock. There is one caveat though, the V60 suffers from major turbo lag at slower speeds when you get on and off the gas pedal frequently. My advice, try to plan ahead if you’ll need a burst of speed.

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Die-cast: Replicarz’s 1964 Indy Smokey Yunick sidecar racer

PRE-RELEASE REVIEW:

Sidecar racer unique, weird, unsuccessful, but a cool die-cast model …Replicarz 1964 Smokey Yunick sidecar racer

The mid-1960s were a wild and revolutionary time for race car design and technology at the Indianapolis 500, the predominant race in the world at the time.

The era saw roadsters with their engines in the front replaced by racers, such as Lotuses, with engines in the rear. There were a variety of engines from Offenhausers to Fords to Chevys, plus some jet turbines that darned near won, twice.

Then there was the sidecar roadster created by master mechanic and designer, Smokey Yunick, who had already taken on the stock car world at Daytona and entered several cars over the years at Indianapolis, including a 1962 roadster with a giant wing over the hood and driven by 1960 winner Jim Rathmann.Replicarz 1964 Smokey Yunick sidecar racer

But by 1964, a pivotal and also disastrous year for Indy due to its worst and most terrifying crash that killed two drivers, Smokey had created what was commonly known as the sidecar racer, his Offset Roadster with sidecar. It carried his usual gold and black color scheme, and now Replicarz is creating it in 1/18 scale resin for us diecast collectors.

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2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

New Hybrid Accord comfy family sedan with top-notch mpg …2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

            Honda’s Accord is a car that’s hard not to like. It’s comfortable, handles well and provides a first rate ride. There’s room for four or five adults and the trunk is sufficiently large. Sexy it ain’t.

Now add a hybrid power system and well, for many, yawning will ensue.

Honda though has tweaked its 2017 Accord to cut a few pounds, add a little overall length, which aids trunk space, and given it a 16-horsepower boost. Refinement defines the Accord, which has been around now for 40 years. Accord never has been about sexy, it has been about service. Owners get their money’s worth in fuel and design efficiency.

The new Accord hybrid punches up its pony power by 16, now at 212 horses, but still with a modest 129 ft.-lbs. of torque. The tested dark red Accord features a 2.0-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder gas engine along with a hybrid electric system. Power is applied smoothly via the electronic CVT (continuously variable transmission), and the car is exceedingly quiet, inside and out.2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

But while the Accord cruises like a champ, it’s still fairly slow away from a stoplight and takes a while to wind up to highway speeds. There’s an Econ button to further slow the shifts to save fuel, but I left the test car in normal mode just for the small boost of power it provided. That said, there IS a Sport button on the console that actually gives the Accord more power away from a stop. You’ll want it engaged, a lot!

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Die-cast: Automodello’s 1966 Ford Galaxie 500

Rare 7-Liter Hardtop beautiful in 1/24 scale …Automodello 1966 Galaxie 500 Hardtop

As a kid I saw a lot of Ford Galaxies around the neighborhood and some of my northern Indiana relatives who farmed had them and weren’t afraid to run them out in a cornfield if necessary.

But rarer was the Galaxie 500 7-Liter Hardtop, a luxury model that wasn’t afraid to lay a little rubber at a stoplight. That’s the cast resin model Automodello reproduces in popular 1/24 scale and paints up in a variety of historically accurate colors.

The History

While the Galaxie 500 debuted in 1965 it was the 1966 model that boasted a new 7-liter V8. This was Ford’s already powerful 390 V8 but enlarged to 428 cu.in. to create a real torque monster. Unlike the earlier 390 model this one could accommodate all the luxury options Ford packed onto its Galaxie 500 models to push them from standard family cars to luxury models.

So in addition to performance type power, the 1966 models had power steering, power brakes, and air conditioning. The 7-liter also could be coupled with an automatic transmission, something the earlier Ford 427 V8 designed for NASCAR use, could not.Automodello 1966 Galaxie 500 Hardtop

The new 7-liter model came only in hardtop and convertible models and sold well, about 11,000 units being made that year. By comparison, just 38 models were equipped with the horsier 427 V8 that year.

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2017 Volkswagen Passat V6 SEL Premium

New VW Passat hits for the cycle … 2017 Volkswagen Passat

            It may be a bit early in the calendar year to talk about hitting for the cycle, but the 2017 Volkswagen Passat does just that.

Rare is the mid-size car that delivers healthy power, refined handling and ride along with a quiet interior. Often a sedan with respectable power is noisy inside, or rides like a buckboard.

But the Passat is a pleasant blend that retains its sporty characteristics while delivering the “dreaded” practicality of room for five adults and their luggage, while also being a delight to drive and competitively priced. Its one drawback through the years (the car was redesigned for the 2016), has been reliability. The old model had issues. Time will tell if that monkey is off VW’s back for Passat, which is made in Tennessee.

From a driving standpoint I haven’t driven a more pleasurable mid-size car in ages. First, this pretty “Fortana Red” test car was the SEL Premium model with VW’s romping V6, a 3.6-liter number that creates a kickin’ 280 horses and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. Coupled with a 6-speed automatic the power comes on in a hurry and gives the front-drive Passat major power.2017 Volkswagen Passat

Better yet, that power is smooth, not a burst as with the standard engine, a 1.8-liter turbocharged I4 that makes 170 horses. You’ll drink more gas with the V6, 20/28 mpg vs. 23/34 mpg for the I4. But I still got 23 mpg in a mix of driving that leaned more toward city speeds.

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2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe 4Matic

Mercedes’ sporty C300 coupe a smoothie …2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 coupe

            Mercedes-Benz is on a roll. Not only has its Formula 1 racing team dominated for three straight years, now its street cars are back on top of their game.

A couple years ago I sort of fell for the C300 sedan and now, in the dead of winter I get to drive the C300 coupe with 4Matic, Mercedes’ all-wheel-drive system. Glad I had the extra grip as we had snow and slush and sloppy roads during the test.

This model features slimming sporty coupe lines that make it stand out among today’s usual humdrum car designs. And while it leans heavily toward sport, the luxury and pleasantness of the sedan are ever present.

The C coupe rides on the same smoothing 111.8-inch wheelbase and weighs a bit more than the sedan at 3,770 lbs. The car feels deliciously well balanced.2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 coupe

As in the sedan Mercedes delivers a scrumptious blend of sporty power, the eager 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 that kicks out 241 horses, and comfort. All that starts with a silky 7-speed automatic transmission that easily harnesses the turbo’s 273 ft-lbs. of torque, and cushions the ride with independent suspension at all four corners.

Ride is absolutely stellar, controlled and easy on the occupants, but still responsive enough to be sporty. Cornering is smooth and as precise as you want it to be courtesy of Mercedes’ Agility Select system that allows the driver to toggle through four settings, from Eco, to Comfort to Sport to Sport+.

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2017 Toyota Corolla XSE

Toyota Corolla still running strong 50 years on …2017 Toyota Corolla

Like Energizer’s bunny, Toyota’s Corolla just keeps on running through the generations and has succeeded like no other car model. It’s now 50-year run has resulted in more than 40 million Corollas being sold, most of any model.

That’s more than the VW Beetle, the other long-term, low-cost people’s car. Corolla really owns that title now. Everyone has either owned one, or had a kid that owned one, or an aunt, uncle, step-child or, well, a family member that has owned one.

Full disclosure, our family bought a new Corolla in 1983 when we had a 2-year-old and a second child on the way. It was reliable (we wisely decided against a Chrysler K car and Renault Alliance), economical, came with a stick-shift to help us save fuel and had a big enough trunk to hold a highchair and loads of diapers for trips to the grandparents.

Today’s new Corolla furthers that high value statement while remaining highly reliable and actually a bit more stylish than in years past. Toyota has put some effort into styling the last few years and so the 2017 Corolla is more than just an econobox. It looks good and drives well while remaining affordable and economical to run.2017 Toyota Corolla

Let’s start with price. That’s what most of us think of as relating to value.

A base Corolla L starts at $19,365 and the tested top-level XSE lists at $22,680, plus $865 delivery. A few other brands have similarly priced models that drive a bit sportier, but Corolla comes with most everything a buyer would want, plus is laden with the latest safety equipment.

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2017 Lexus LX 570

Pilot wannabes will like button-happy Lexus LX 570 …2017 Lexus LX 570

If you’ve always dreamed of being an airline pilot, but never got the training, you should try landing the new Lexus LX 570.

Lexus has created a cockpit fit for a pilot wanna-be with buttons galore. About the only thing missing is an altimeter.

Here’s a quick count of what you’ll get for nearly $100 grand. The center stack has 15 buttons plus four temperature control buttons, and two knobs for the radio. The console features 11 buttons, two toggles, and two knobs, plus a small park brake lever.

Need more? Oh there’s more. The power adjusted tilt/telescope steering wheel’s hub has 10 buttons, plus a 4-way directional pad and there’s a cruise control stalk behind the wheel. There are another 8 buttons on the dash’s face, plus the start button. Ironically the foot-wide screen atop the dash is not a touchscreen, but controlled by Lexus’s awkward and touchy mouse pad on the console.

If ever there were an argument for an autonomous car, this would be the starting point.2017 Lexus LX 570

Once you’ve mastered the maze of buttons, toggles and screen controls you’ll find the LX570 is the luxury version of Toyota’s Land Cruiser, a big beast of an SUV with serious off-roading capability. It has a wheelbase of 112.2 inches and is a full 199.4 inches long. The Lexus weighs in at a stout 6,000 lbs., but will tow 7,000.

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Die-cast: Replicarz’s 1970 Indy winner, Al Unser driver

Replicarz goes big with its 1/18 scale PJ Colt … 1970 Indy 500 winner

One of my favorite race cars, and that of many other youngsters in the 1970s was the PJ Colt that Al Unser drove to back-to-back Indianapolis 500 wins in 1970 and ’71.

It was colorful and with its lightning bolts on the nose and tail the car looked fast and, well, cool!

Replicarz knows that and created beautiful versions of both the 1970 and ’71 cars in 1/43 scale a couple years back. Now it turns its considerable attention to the more detailed 1/18 scale model of the original 1970 racer. This takes the detailing on the Colt to a much finer level and creates a stunning desktop display car.

The History

Al Unser teamed up with former racer Parnelli Jones’ race team for 1970, driving its Ford V8-powered PJ Colt chassis to win the national driving title and the Indy 500 that year. Sponsorship, and the beautiful car livery, came courtesy of sponsor Johnny Lightning, a toy die-cast car maker (Topper Toys) competing with the likes of Matchbox and Mattel’s Hot Wheels brands.1970 Indy 500 winner

Unser won 10 races in 1970, none bigger than Indy. This was the first of Unser’s record four Indy 500 wins and put him on a path to racing fame, along with brother Bobby. Al was the fastest qualifier in 1970 and led 190 of the race’s 200 laps. You can’t get much more dominant than that.

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Die-cast: TSM’s 1971 BRE Datsun 510

A special BRE Datsun driven by John Morton . . .1971 BRE Datsun 510

In the early 1970s Trans-Am racing was a big deal, even among the small sedan makers, like Datsun, which is what Nissan was known as in the U.S. at that time.

A lot of folks will think of the pony or muscle car racers, the Mustangs, Camaros and Cudas, but Alfa Romeo was big in the under 2.0-liter (U-2) class and Datsun dominated the class in 1971 and ’72 when it had become the Trans-Am 2.5 Challenge.

Cars were simply modified street cars, but Datsun put a lot of cash into the class sponsoring Brock Racing Enterprises (BRE) headed by Pete Brock, a noted sports car designer. The red, white and blue BRE Datsun 510’s soon became synonymous with success. Now TSM Models comes out with a high-value 1/18 scale version, available through Replicarz.1971 BRE Datsun 510

The History

Brock’s small team of racers and mechanics won six of the 10 races in 1971 and driver John Morton was the Trans-Am 2.5 champion, although in somewhat odd fashion, not that Morton and the Datsun weren’t dominant in most races. He set many fast laps and was often on the pole.

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2017 Honda Civic Touring Coupe

Civic Coupe is sleek, peppy, responsive, but …2017 Honda Civic Coupe

Honda’s new Civic Coupe has a sleek profile, peppy turbocharged engine and responsive handling, but it also has a few issues that reinforce it’s an entry-level car.

Through the years the Civic has grown up. It has gotten larger and now rides on a 106.3-inch wheelbase. It’s no longer an econobox. Civic also comes as a sedan, coupe and for 2017, a hatchback, with the coupe having the best overall styling.

Previously I’d driven the economical sedan with base 2.0-liter 158-horse I4. It’s underpowered, so the coupe was more fun to drive with its 1.5-liter I4 turbo that creates 174 horses. It was linked to Honda’s 6-speed CVT, which is adequate, but groans quite a bit under heavy acceleration.2017 Honda Civic Coupe

Power though is good and could only be improved with a 6-speed manual.

Handling is the car’s strong point though with quick steering that is responsive, making it fun to drive in town. Civic feels heavier than the car’s 2,888 lbs. would seem to indicate, but the Honda carves through corners well and there is no play in the wheel.

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Die-cast: Autoart Honda RA272 1965 Mexico GP winner

Autoart crafts delicate 1965 Honda F1 beauty …Autoart 1965 Honda RA272

In the glory days of Formula 1 racing new teams joined the ranks of the old standbys, Ferrari, BRM and Lotus to prove they too could build fast open-wheel racers with strong engines. For the fans it was exciting, not the least of which was because all the cars looked different and featured their country’s racing colors, not corporate sponsors.

Into this racing environment came Honda in 1964. The Japanese car maker had only been building road cars for four years and already was set to challenge the established F1 teams, plus it built its own chassis and engine. Few race teams did both at the time.Autoart 1965 Honda RA272

Autoart has created the Honda RA272, Honda’s second F1 racer as it competed in 1965, its first full season on the F1 trail, which was conducted mostly in Europe with European race teams. This 1/18 scale model of the car American Richie Ginther drove to Honda’s first F1 win is a delicate beauty befitting the simplicity of mid-1960s racers.

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2017 Cadillac XT5 Premium AWD

Cadillac XT5 long on style, short on details …2017 Cadillac XT5

Cadillac has mastered the styling, now it needs to work on the details.

The new Cadillac XT5 crossover continues Cadillac’s sharp chiseled styling with tall taillights and noteworthy nose and headlight stylings. Its interior is luxurious and attractive in a way most German makes have yet to figure out because of their love for black leather.

But the XT5’s seats are way too snug in the hip and the ride too firm for our crumbling Wisconsin roads that are cracked by time, winter and a lack of willingness to pay for improving them. Additionally its CUE audio screen is improved, but still not the easiest to master while driving.

2017 Cadillac XT5The XT5, which replaces the SRX and rides on what should be a smoothing 112.5-inch wheelbase delivers a firm ride that turns too sharp and bumpy on cracked streets and highways.

Yet like other Cadillac’s and GM products, the XT5 delivers ample power with a new 3.6-liter direct-injected V6 with variable valve timing. It’s rated at 310 horsepower and 271 ft.-lbs. of torque, so it’ll scoot when required to. That happens best when in Sport mode which holds gears longer in the 8-speed automatic. In normal mode acceleration is moderate.

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2017 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition

New Honda Ridgeline redefines pickups2017 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition

Honda has reinvented the pickup and it’s a darn sight nicer than whatever you’ve driven before.

To be honest, it’s a suburban cowboy’s pickup, but that’s what so many pickups are used as anyway – kid haulers and the occasional run to a home improvement store or big-box garden center. This one is just being honest about it and making your ride simply oh, so, comfy.

The Ridgeline is not about who has the bigger engine, toughest body, greatest towing capacity, it’s about refinement in a crew cab pickup body with a big open bed for hauling. It’s also quite a bit more.

2017 Honda Ridgeline Black EditionMy test truck was the Black Edition, which (not surprisingly) is black, with black wheels and a black grille to give it a decidedly elegant, yet macho look. Think I wanna be formal, but I’m here to party too! This is Honda’s top-of-the-line Ridgeline.

Like all Ridgelines it comes with a 3.5-liter i-VTEC V6 that creates 280 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s just fine. Acceleration is good and steady from a stop and ultimately Honda says it’ll carry a 1,584-lb. payload, best in class. It’ll even tow 5,000 lbs., which is well shy of competitors like the Chevrolet Colorado and Toyota Tacoma, but plenty for pulling a camper or boat or snowmobile trailer.

Ridgeline rides on Honda’s sturdy Global Light Truck platform with a 125.2-inch wheelbase that calms road imperfections. This feels smooth and controlled like Honda’s Pilot, a full-size SUV.

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2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD

Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWDMazda CX-3 flickable fun, but practical too

Small hatchbacks have always been fun to drive and practical too. So why shouldn’t a small crossover with a hatch be much the same?

Well, more and more tiny crossovers are being made and mostly they are pretty entertaining to drive. This week’s bright metallic blue (dynamic blue mica) Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD fits that bill.

Steering is light and lively with quick handling and downright perky acceleration when you toggle the Sport mode on the console. That pumps up the revs so the 146-horse 2.0-liter I4 has maximum torque, which also is 146. The Mazda zips away from stoplights with relative enthusiasm, but you’ll need to toggle back to the normal setting or it holds the engine’s revs way too long and eventually will suck down gas mileage.Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD

But hey, toggling the Sport mode is almost as much fun as shifting a manual transmission – almost.

Add to that the practicality of all-wheel-drive to help steady the little crossover in winter slop, plus excellent fuel economy and you’ve got an attractive and cute ute, er crossover to take the place of any small sedan or hatchback.

The CX-3 is Mazda’s smallest crossover, just down a notch in size and wheelbase, from the CX-5. Both handle well.

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Die-cast: NEO’s 1/24 scale 1949 Cadillac Series 62 Club Coupe

NEO’s smaller scale ’49 Caddy nearly as nice as big 1/18

If you do something well, it often behooves you to repeat what you did. NEO knows that and creates a new 1949 Cadillac Series 62 Club Coupe, this time in 1:24 scale.NEO 1949 Cadillac Series 62 Club Coupe

As with its previous 1:18 scale version, this Club Coupe is a car with presence, class and substance, just a tad smaller. The real one also was a sales standout for Cadillac as the brand fought to re-establish itself after World War II.

This black resin beauty continues the detail NEO brought to its earlier model, but in the smaller scale so popular with plastic car model builders. Both Cadillacs are distributed by American-Excellence, which supplied our review model.

The History

In case you missed our Scale Auto DC review of that model, here’s a refresher.NEO 1949 Cadillac Series 62 Club Coupe

Cadillac launched the Series 62 in 1940 as an entry-level Caddy, but production ended in 1942 as auto factories turned their efforts to war machines. The third generation Series 62 designed by GM’s noted Harley Earl went into production as a 1949 model, riding on a 126-inch wheelbase, measuring 214 inches long and touting GM’s new overhead-valve V8.

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Recent Articles

22
Mar

A killer deal on Craigslist

You never know what you might find

This article caught my attention because I’m getting our 2008 Chrysler Pacifica ready to sell on Craigslist. This is not my first rodeo as I sold our 1994 Dodge Intrepid with no problems a couple of years back. I love looking at the listings, just to see what’s out there like this Lotus Esprit. Read on.

21
Mar

Die-cast: BoS Models’ Buick Flxible Premier Ambulance

A beautiful Buick ambulance in 1/18 scale …Buick Flxible Premier Ambulance

Every kid of the 1950s and 1960s remembers the extremely long brightly colored ambulances of the day, either from seeing them as they ran our city’s streets with lights flashing and sirens blaring, or from TV shows of the day.

Cadillac ambulances with their big tailfins were popular to be sure. We all remember the Ghostbusters’ Ecto-1. But many ambulances were based on Buicks too, in fact from the 1930s forward Buicks were the basis for both ambulances and hearses.

BoS-Models, also known as Best of Show, has just launched a beautiful cream and crimson 1960 Buick ambulance in 1/18 scale and it’s a stunner. This diecast resin ambulance is more than 13 inches long, finely finished and reflects a custom ambulance created by The Flxible Co. in Loudonville, Ohio.

The HistoryBuick Flxible Premier Ambulance

This long-wheelbase Buick built by Flxible (the E was dropped to create a registered trademark) was the Premier model and listed at the time for $8,615.

Flxible made ambulances, hearses and buses, but started as Flexible Sidecar Co., making motorcycle sidecars. The name came from a patented flexible mounting that allowed sidecars to lean in corners with the motorcycle, making them safer and easier to control. Flxible closed in 1996 after 83 years in business.

In the 1960s the firm used primarily Buicks to create their ambulances and hearses and had a smaller model, the Flxette, that rode on the 126-inch wheelbase of a Buick Electra. The premier was more than 27 inches longer.

The Model

The 1960 Buick Electra had a concave grille, with side-by-side quad headlights, and the first tri-shield Buick logo on its grille. Plus the front fenders sported four VentiPorts, the chrome portholes of a sort that had started in 1949 Buicks and had returned for 1960. All of that is perfectly captured in the resin BoS model.

Buick Flxible Premier AmbulanceThis Buick’s front and rear bumpers, and naturally that toothy grille, are all chrome as are the door handles, mirror, and taillight surrounds. The roof sports two standard red bubblegum lights trimmed in chrome and the center-mounted red light and siren to get folks attention. The thin white-sidewall tires also feature full chrome hubcaps and they’re pretty darned fancy looking for an ambulance, but were standard fare in 1960.

Buick is spelled out in photo-etch on the hood’s nose and BoS puts red Fire-Rescue and Ambulance decals on the roof. A fire and rescue emblem is emblazoned on the big wagon’s back door and Ambulance markings with a cross are printed on the rear side windows. The model also has a no. 138 decal on each side in front of the doors to represent the car’s fleet marking. Flxible script logos are on both front fenders too.

This is a sealed body model, so no doors open, nor the hood. All windows are posed up too so the light and dark gray interior will stay dust free if you display this outside a case. You’ll need a larger than usual acrylic case if you want to enclose it due to the car’s length.Buick Flxible Premier Ambulance

Inside there’s the new, at the time, Buick two-spoke steering wheel with horn buttons instead of the usual chrome horn ring. Gauges are raised on a pod atop the dash, very modern for the early 1960s, while the shift lever is still on the column.

Naturally the ambulance’s tail is most interest and there is a gurney there with yellow mattress and white pillow, plus two jump seats to accommodate an attendant or two. There is no other medical equipment in the rear and I really wish the tail’s big door opened to give a better view inside.

Still, this is a beautiful long-wheelbase ambulance, not your typical subject matter for a 1/18 scale model!

Vital Stats: 1960 Buick Flxible Premier AmbulanceBuick Flxible Premier Ambulance

Maker: BoS-Models

Scale: 1/18

Stock No.: 213558

MSRP: $135.95

Link: American-Excellence.com

 

17
Mar

2017 Genesis G90 RWD 5.0 Ultimate

Genesis has it all, but the panache and name …2017 Genesis G90

When Toyota launched Lexus in 1989, its first sedans impersonated Mercedes-Benz models, but cost a lot less. Now Hyundai has launched its impressive new Genesis luxury car lineup with two models and the top-level G90 looks like a Bentley. Even its logo resembles that of the British make.

Again the formula is to create a car that visually screams luxury while undercutting the original by thousands of dollars. To be sure the new G90 competes mostly with the large Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Lexus and Cadillac sedans. But if you could convince your neighbors you were driving a Bentley, yet only spent $70 grand or so, well, you just might try.

That’s what Hyundai is betting on, just as Lexus did before it.2017 Genesis G90

Certainly the G90 is impressive and dressed in Caspian Black, a metallic black paint job, the tested rear-drive Ultimate model turned heads. People asked what it was. Genesis didn’t ring any bells.

But it may soon. Along with this 5.0-liter, 420-horse, V6-powered G90 Genesis offers the G80 with a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 that creates a substantial 365 horsepower. Both models are rear-wheel drive, but offer all-wheel-drive versions too. Read more

15
Mar

A Jeep gets stuck and gets unstuck, mostly

No newsflash there because it happens everyday

Just because there are those of us like me who drive Jeeps doesn’t mean we don’t get stuck every once in a while. Hey we have the most capable 4×4 ever so we’re going to push the envelope. Count on that. Getting stuck is one story while getting out is another like this dude who went in the mud with one Jeep Wrangler and came out with two. This is a classic video of how not to pull a Jeep stuck in the mud.

15
Mar

When Station Wagons roamed the plains like the buffalo

See if you can relate to this. Summer trips with the fam

american motors, amc, amc station wagons, amc cross country wagons, station wagonsIt’s the mid 70’s or 80’s when the whole family piled into the family wagon to go on vacation. It could have been west like I did with my family in our 1967 Rebel Cross Country wagon. Almost identical to this one I found in the classified sporting the same Strato Blue Metalic color. Yup, I have all kinds of stuff still rattling around in my brain. Mom, Dad, and my two younger sisters went to Yosemite to see Old Faithful and stuff like that and Read more

12
Mar

Die-cast: NEO 1966 Pontiac GTO Convertible

Pontiac GTO Convertible = crisp, muscular model …

1966 Pontiac GTO

Great color scheme for a GTO!

Those of us of a certain age used to worship (or close to it) muscle cars in the 1960s, and many credit Pontiac with launching the idea of a muscular mid-size car that the masses could afford.

Pontiac’s first was the 1964 Tempest with the GTO package ($295) that added a 389 cu.in. V8 that delivered 325 horsepower with a 4-barrel carb.  Otherwise the hardtop and convertible Tempests were typical family cars.

Certainly there are a fair number of die-cast models of GTOs these days, but NEO has added the 1966 Convertible version to its growing America car collection in 1/43 scale. Our review model came from the good folks at American-Excellence. As with other NEO models in this scale, this one is expertly executed.

The History

In the mid-1960s there were a lot of hardtops and convertibles, not so much these days. But in 1966 Pontiac wisely made the GTO a separate model from the Tempest and was restyled to include a kicked-up rear fender line.1966 Pontiac GTO1966 Pontiac GTO

The car rode on a 115-inch wheelbase and was just over 206 inches long. Its lines accentuated its length to give it a lean yet muscular look that matched its performance persona.  It still packed the powerful V8 engine and a Ram Air package was available too. The hood scoop helped emphasize the car’s power. Read more

10
Mar

2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XLE Premium

Hybrid Avalon comfy big sedan, easy on the gas …2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Sadly big comfortable sedans are about as popular these days as a new Nickelback album or The Dixie Chicks at a Texas veterans fundraiser.

Too bad because as passé as big sedans are, they can move a family of five in smooth, quiet comfort and also beat the exhaust pipes off a big SUV or Crossover for gas mileage. This week’s test car, a beautiful Parisian Night Pearl (dark metallic blue) Toyota Avalon Hybrid is a sparkling example.

The Avalon does basically everything well. Its ride is near perfect, comfortable and well controlled. This is no floaty boat as in olden days when sedans seemed to ooze down the highway. Avalon’s four-wheel independent suspension handles rough roads with ease. Yet the car is responsive enough to feel well connected to the road.

Steering is on the light side in the car’s normal setting, but switch it to Sport and steering effort is firmed enough to feel more like a luxury sport sedan without requiring six-pack abs.2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

That Sport setting, engaged via a button on the console, also brings to life the silky smooth 2.0-liter I4 that’s coupled with a hybrid system that powers an electric motor at low speeds when gas engines are at their least efficient. Like other hybrids that electric power comes from batteries that are juiced up by a regenerative braking system. Read more

3
Mar

2017 Volvo V60 T5 AWD Cross Country

Volvo ‘s V60 Cross Country touts pizzazz, not smooth ride …2017 Volvo V60 Cross Country

Volvo’s V60 Cross Country wagon/crossover wisely borrows some styling pizzazz from the likes of Mazda, then goes about saturating the vehicle with its usual core competency, safety.

Pretty nice combo, but it ladles on enough luxury to push the V60 to luxury-level pricing, but without the ride to match.

You can look at the V60 competing on two ends of the wagon/crossover spectrum, starting with Subaru’s Outback, which is considerably less expensive, but has a nicer ride and at least as much off-road capability. Or you could look at the Volvo competing with the likes of BMW or Audi wagons and small crossovers, in which case the V60 is a bit less pricey at its base level, the T5 Drive E that starts just above $37,000.

The V60 Cross Country is fully a luxury crossover with the intent of being amenable to going off road. At 7.9 inches, its ground clearance is greater than the standard V60. The sharp looking metallic bronze test car though added a Platinum package, plus four others to go from a $41,700 base price to $50,130. I question how many buyers will be fording streams and straddling large boulders with such an investment.2017 Volvo V60 Cross Country

Certainly around town and on the highway the V60 Cross Country is a fun drive. Its peppy 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection I4 kicks out 240 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. Tromp the gas pedal and hold on, this will rock. There is one caveat though, the V60 suffers from major turbo lag at slower speeds when you get on and off the gas pedal frequently. My advice, try to plan ahead if you’ll need a burst of speed. Read more

26
Feb

Die-cast: Replicarz’s 1964 Indy Smokey Yunick sidecar racer

PRE-RELEASE REVIEW:

Sidecar racer unique, weird, unsuccessful, but a cool die-cast model …Replicarz 1964 Smokey Yunick sidecar racer

The mid-1960s were a wild and revolutionary time for race car design and technology at the Indianapolis 500, the predominant race in the world at the time.

The era saw roadsters with their engines in the front replaced by racers, such as Lotuses, with engines in the rear. There were a variety of engines from Offenhausers to Fords to Chevys, plus some jet turbines that darned near won, twice.

Then there was the sidecar roadster created by master mechanic and designer, Smokey Yunick, who had already taken on the stock car world at Daytona and entered several cars over the years at Indianapolis, including a 1962 roadster with a giant wing over the hood and driven by 1960 winner Jim Rathmann.Replicarz 1964 Smokey Yunick sidecar racer

But by 1964, a pivotal and also disastrous year for Indy due to its worst and most terrifying crash that killed two drivers, Smokey had created what was commonly known as the sidecar racer, his Offset Roadster with sidecar. It carried his usual gold and black color scheme, and now Replicarz is creating it in 1/18 scale resin for us diecast collectors. Read more

24
Feb

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

New Hybrid Accord comfy family sedan with top-notch mpg …2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

            Honda’s Accord is a car that’s hard not to like. It’s comfortable, handles well and provides a first rate ride. There’s room for four or five adults and the trunk is sufficiently large. Sexy it ain’t.

Now add a hybrid power system and well, for many, yawning will ensue.

Honda though has tweaked its 2017 Accord to cut a few pounds, add a little overall length, which aids trunk space, and given it a 16-horsepower boost. Refinement defines the Accord, which has been around now for 40 years. Accord never has been about sexy, it has been about service. Owners get their money’s worth in fuel and design efficiency.

The new Accord hybrid punches up its pony power by 16, now at 212 horses, but still with a modest 129 ft.-lbs. of torque. The tested dark red Accord features a 2.0-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder gas engine along with a hybrid electric system. Power is applied smoothly via the electronic CVT (continuously variable transmission), and the car is exceedingly quiet, inside and out.2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

But while the Accord cruises like a champ, it’s still fairly slow away from a stoplight and takes a while to wind up to highway speeds. There’s an Econ button to further slow the shifts to save fuel, but I left the test car in normal mode just for the small boost of power it provided. That said, there IS a Sport button on the console that actually gives the Accord more power away from a stop. You’ll want it engaged, a lot! Read more

22
Feb

Die-cast: Automodello’s 1966 Ford Galaxie 500

Rare 7-Liter Hardtop beautiful in 1/24 scale …Automodello 1966 Galaxie 500 Hardtop

As a kid I saw a lot of Ford Galaxies around the neighborhood and some of my northern Indiana relatives who farmed had them and weren’t afraid to run them out in a cornfield if necessary.

But rarer was the Galaxie 500 7-Liter Hardtop, a luxury model that wasn’t afraid to lay a little rubber at a stoplight. That’s the cast resin model Automodello reproduces in popular 1/24 scale and paints up in a variety of historically accurate colors.

The History

While the Galaxie 500 debuted in 1965 it was the 1966 model that boasted a new 7-liter V8. This was Ford’s already powerful 390 V8 but enlarged to 428 cu.in. to create a real torque monster. Unlike the earlier 390 model this one could accommodate all the luxury options Ford packed onto its Galaxie 500 models to push them from standard family cars to luxury models.

So in addition to performance type power, the 1966 models had power steering, power brakes, and air conditioning. The 7-liter also could be coupled with an automatic transmission, something the earlier Ford 427 V8 designed for NASCAR use, could not.Automodello 1966 Galaxie 500 Hardtop

The new 7-liter model came only in hardtop and convertible models and sold well, about 11,000 units being made that year. By comparison, just 38 models were equipped with the horsier 427 V8 that year. Read more

17
Feb

2017 Volkswagen Passat V6 SEL Premium

New VW Passat hits for the cycle … 2017 Volkswagen Passat

            It may be a bit early in the calendar year to talk about hitting for the cycle, but the 2017 Volkswagen Passat does just that.

Rare is the mid-size car that delivers healthy power, refined handling and ride along with a quiet interior. Often a sedan with respectable power is noisy inside, or rides like a buckboard.

But the Passat is a pleasant blend that retains its sporty characteristics while delivering the “dreaded” practicality of room for five adults and their luggage, while also being a delight to drive and competitively priced. Its one drawback through the years (the car was redesigned for the 2016), has been reliability. The old model had issues. Time will tell if that monkey is off VW’s back for Passat, which is made in Tennessee.

From a driving standpoint I haven’t driven a more pleasurable mid-size car in ages. First, this pretty “Fortana Red” test car was the SEL Premium model with VW’s romping V6, a 3.6-liter number that creates a kickin’ 280 horses and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. Coupled with a 6-speed automatic the power comes on in a hurry and gives the front-drive Passat major power.2017 Volkswagen Passat

Better yet, that power is smooth, not a burst as with the standard engine, a 1.8-liter turbocharged I4 that makes 170 horses. You’ll drink more gas with the V6, 20/28 mpg vs. 23/34 mpg for the I4. But I still got 23 mpg in a mix of driving that leaned more toward city speeds. Read more

16
Feb

2017 Chicago Auto Show

Cool new cars and fun stuff to do

Going to the Chicago Auto Show is one of our favorite trips of the year because we always have a great time. This year was no different. We captured some of it in the two videos below. If you’ve been thinking about going, and we recommend it, get a long little doggie, because it runs through February 20th.

10
Feb

2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD

New Nissan Pathfinder more civilized, comfy …2017 Nissan Pathfinder

My Navy son had a Nissan Pathfinder years ago and it was a true sport-utility truck, built on a truck chassis and able to go off-roading with the other utes of the day.

Pathfinder has been around now for 30 years, but those trucklike days are gone as more utes convert to crossover vehicles built on car platforms. That’s what the 2017 Pathfinder rides on. That makes for a more comfortable ride and more civilized vehicle.

The tested gold Pathfinder Platinum was the top-shelf model though, with a 4-wheel-drive system. Still, at nearly $45 grand I’m not sure I’d slop it through much mud and muck. That’s OK though, because precious few buyers ever took SUVs off-road, which has led us to the ever expanding crossover market. It makes sense to give drivers a vehicle more suited to 99.99% of their driving.2017 Nissan Pathfinder

Pathfinder’s new styling looks less boxy and trucky. It rides on a 114.2-inch wheelbase and feels as refined as any of its competitors, such models as Toyota’s Highlander, Honda’s Pilot or Hyundai’s Santa Fe. The interior is quiet and lathered in leather.

But it’s the Pathfinder’s power that’ll get your attention once you sit inside the roomy interior that will seat seven because of its third-row seat. Read more »

7
Feb

Die-cast: NEO’s 1933 Cadillac Fleetwood All-weather Pheaton

’33 Cadillac Fleetwood long on style …1933 Cadillac Fleetwood

There have been some fine luxury cars made in the United States, exemplary machines that set the auto world on its proverbial ear. Pierce-Arrow, Packard, Duesenberg, Auburn and Cadillac come to mind.

Only Cadillac is left, but that’s because GM kept it alive through the Great Depression when it was churning out some fantastic cars and engines in a weak market. One model sums up the strong Cadillac effort of that era, its V-16 powered Fleetwood All-Weather Phaeton.

Oh baby, this was a monster with a 149-inch wheelbase. That would make the current Cadillac Escalade SUV look like a mid-size vehicle as the Fleetwood base was 33 inches longer than an Escalade. Now NEO has created this elegant drop-top in 1/24 scale resin, and it’s a deep red beauty.1933 Cadillac Fleetwood

The History

The Fleetwood’s V-16 was new in 1930 and surprised the automotive world that thought the V-12 was the way to go. Caddy created an overhead valve 452 cu.in. V-16 that created 185 horsepower. It was linked it to a 3-speed synchromesh transmission, another Cadillac invention.  Cadillac kept pushing too, following in 1931 with a similar new V-12.

The massive car also featured four-wheel power-assisted brakes, a leaf spring for the front and rear suspension with a solid front axle and live rear axle. Read more »

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