Hybrids even before the word was in vogue
I’m not blogging about one of the cars that all the manufactures make, I’m blogging about a promo model made by Marx Toy Company where metal and plastic combine to make an exceptionally detailed collector piece like this tin and plastic 1953 4 door “paper” woody station wagon.
The “Toy King” of the United States
That’s what Time magazine called Louis Marx in an 1955 article. Marx was said to have business savvy with the mind of a child because he could see into the eyes of kids and create models that they wanted. Beyond this car, Marx Toy Company, made tons of other toys such as a Alabama minstrel dancer and the Zippo climbing monkey. In 1922, these two toys accounted for 16 million in sales. A few years later he came back with whistling yo-yos, and they climbed in sales faster than Zippo and sales were not up to 100 million of these whistling and non-whistling toys. But the company is perhaps best know by people in my era when in 1964 they produced and distributed Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots and in the 70’s a large plastic tricycle called Big Wheel which is in the National Toy Hall of Fame. Marx didn’t make the jump with the new electronic toys hitting the market and was purchased by Quaker Oats who shut down the factory. Could you imagine how much fun it was working for this company? The only thing cooler would be working for Mattel at Hot Wheels. Read more
Looks matter in much of life, sometimes fairly, sometimes not. But good looks are so rare in small crossovers and sport-utes that when one has them, it deserves more than a passing glance.
Lexus’ NX is a looker. I’ve said it before, as I’ve tested this vehicle a couple times, and I’ll keep saying it until some other car company out-designs the NX. Its taillights look three dimensional even from a distance and the front lights are big checkmarks laid sideways. Its interior is angular and attractive too, the test unit featuring dark red leather seats with black trim — this is not your German cousin’s luxury crossover!
My test vehicle was the NX 200t F Sport with all-wheel-drive and decked out in a bright sparkling white paint job. Finally, a car that isn’t gray! The white accentuated its spiffy styling, and as in past drives, outside of a stiff ride and horribly clunky radio/navigation tuning system, the NX is a delight.
The 200t features a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 with variable valve timing. It creates 235 horses and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s plenty of power for a small crossover. The turbo does exhibit some lag under normal acceleration, but flip the dial on the console to the Sport setting and boom, the power is stronger and more instantaneous. I drove it in Sport most of the week, although it resets to the Normal setting every time the vehicle is turned off.
Lexus’ NX 300h that I tested earlier had a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with hybrid system to create 194 horses, but it is down on torque and seemed lackadaisical on acceleration. Gas mileage was better in the hybrid, at 29.9 miles per gallon as opposed to 24.5 mpg this time. The EPA rates the 200t at 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. Your call, but I prefer the turbo’s power. Read more
It has been a long, long time since an affordable convertible with Italian styling was available in the United States, but now we have Fiat’s 124 Spider.
Actually, we had it all along, or at least since 1989, in the form of a Mazda Miata. The new Fiat is mostly Miata, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Ah, but there are differences.
For stylistas who prefer a long hood reflecting the styling of previous Fiat Spiders and other Italian sports cars, Fiat’s restyling of Miata’s body will be alluring. And it is. The Spider looks longer and leaner than the cute, but edgy Miata.
The 124’s headlights are round and taillights are rectangles, similar to the 1960s Spider, the ride is a tad smoother and well, plus there’s a bit more oomph under that long hood. Fiat uses one of its Multi-Air turbocharged 1.4-liter I4 engines to propel the roadster.
That’s not a huge upgrade in the pony department, moving from Mazda’s 155 horses generated by its 2.0-liter I4 to 160 in the Fiat. But the torque, the oomph if you will, is more substantial at 184 lb.-ft. with the turbo.
Dimensionally Fiat’s Spider is about 5 inches longer (most of it hood we suspect) and 100 pounds heavier. But what’s that among friends.
From a driving perspective the feel is nearly the same in a 124 Spider as in a Miata – simple fun. Handling is quick and light, the car feels you totally control it and can put it anywhere you want on the road. The roadster corners well on twisty roads and thanks to the turbo, it leaves a stoplight with a touch more zip than the Miata. Read more
More like a cyber barn
Hey I just coined a new term. I’m always on eBay either selling or buying stuff. If you’re looking for something rare, that’s the place to start. I have a search parameter set up for promotional model cars and just they other day these two finds came up. What makes them unusual is that both of them were being sold by an eBayer located in Japan so they both have some miles on them. Well not literally. Read more
Fins were fun and gave the 1950s cars both personality and a hint of aerodynamics that merged the streamlined models of the 1930s with the aerospace world of the 1960s to come.
Buick may not be the first brand you think of when it comes to ‘fin’ish styling, but in 1957 it was tastefully incorporating fins into its sleek designs. Witness the 1957 Buick Roadmaster Hardtop Coupe with is four ventiports and straight tailfins with round projected taillights hinting at being afterburners in those beautifully sculpted chrome rear light surrounds.
NEO does another fine job of re-creating the look of a 1950s chrome-laden model in 1/43 scale resin with the Roadmaster, and for a still modest $74.95. Some 1/43 models are now creeping over the $100 mark.
All Buick hardtops were considered Riviera models in 1957 and 4-door sedans were eliminated. The clean, sexier look of the hardtop with no B-pillar was setting the styling and sales trends. Two-tone paint was being enhanced by chrome sweeps on the hardtop’s sides and around the windows. Read more
Chrysler has long had one of the best riding, most comfortable minivans. Chrysler invented the minivan for crying out loud.
But it hasn’t always felt as refined as other brands’ vans.
Now comes the Pacifica, a restyling and renaming of the former Town & Country, which has departed. The old Pacifica crossover, which was sort of a minivan, also is no more.
That’s fine because the new Pacifica looks better than both predecessors and delivers a luxury ride and feel that puts it ahead of many of its competitors.
The nose looks sleeker, more aerodynamic. Inside, Pacifica is extremely quiet, and still comfortable. The tested metallic black top-of-the-line Limited was loaded with everything a family of four to seven could want on a trip — video screens for the kids in back, a panoramic sunroof, a third row sunroof and electronic safety devices galore. Plus room, lots of room.
Seats were tan leather with a dark brown dash, a look similar to that in many luxury sedans. Front seats are powered and have three-level heating and cooling and the first two rows of seats are captain’s chairs, so have fold-down arm rests. The third row seats are split and powered, so you can lower them with the push of a button inside the power rear hatch. Both side rear doors are powered and slide, a feature that starts on the Touring model. Read more
British sports cars used to rule the world’s road courses with the likes of Jaguar, Aston Martin, Austin Healey, Triumph, and Lotus slicing through corners to give their drivers a thrill. Speed wasn’t always so essential, but handling was key.
Lotus always has prided itself in creating lightweight, crisp handling cars. But today speed and power are more important than in the formative 1950s and ‘60s, and that’s what makes the Lotus Exige S a highly sought after sports car.
The mid-engine Exige, built in Hethel, England, has been around since 2000, with the first S model appearing in 2006. Exige is now in its third iteration, or Series 3, which is what Autoart’s model portrays. A Series 2 version also is available from Autoart. Read more
I love Australian cars
Unfortunately after next month there will no longer be anymore built after Ford closes the doors on its plant following the lead from GM who shut down its Holden plants. At one time this was a booming market cranking out just over 400,000 vehicles in 2004 but it dwindled down to 175,000 in 2009. Why did all they pull out? Mostly political tax stuff that I’m not going to get into here.
A little history first
Holden manufacturing dates back to 1856. They were the first to introduce the “ute” and Australians ate it up. It became a huge market. It may have also inspired the El Camino and Ranchero built by Chevy and Ford in their U.S. Plants. See my blog entry, history of the El Camino and Australian “utes”. The Holdens, in my opinion, are the fastest and best looking cars produced in Australia. In 1925, Ford Australia’s first products were, of course, Model Ts assembled from knock-down kits. Ford is best known in Australia for the Falcon, not the same as the one produced here in the U.S. Chrysler also played in the Australian market but only stuck around for a much shorter time. Read more
Not much in the car world is better than a sexy sports car, except maybe one that offers four engine choices and a wide span of prices so more folks can afford said sexy beast.
Lexus happily does just that with its RC sports coupe, which offers two versions of its 3.5-liter V6, plus a rockin’ 467-horsepower V8-powered F model for the serious racer wanna-bes or guys overcompensating for something.
The tested base RC 200t lists at $39,995 while the V8 version starts at about $64,000.
I tested the RC 350 more than a year ago and found it powerful, stylish, nimble and well, pretty much a hoot to drive. The 200t is less of the same.
Still stylish with its distinctive spindle grille and edgy overall looks, the RC 200t features a good looking interior too and all the handling and fun of the 350, but with less power and one major stumbling block, an annoying hesitation for that power to kick in when you first tromp the gas pedal.
Here’s the deal. Read more
The Noble M600 may be the fastest car you’ve never heard of, and no wonder in the U.S. market because it’s not readily available here.
Nope, Noble is a British supercar made outside Leiscester, England, where it sells for 200,000 pounds. How much that translates into U.S. dollars after the Brexit vote may require a phone call to your local banker .
But Automodello’s new 1/43 scale version is a modest, considering the original’s price tag, $119.95. And we shouldn’t be surprised that Automodello takes on the Noble for a model as it has been mining models of some of the lesser known makes and rare vintage cars and racers that other die-cast and resin model maker have steered clear of. For the record, this is Automodello’s first model of a currently produced car and away from its vintage lineup.
World War II was coming fast and the 1941 model year cars would be the last sold to civilians before the U.S. car factories were switched over to assembling airplanes, tanks and other war machines.
So the 1941 Chevrolet Special Deluxe Station Wagon was special in more than just name, it was a reliable people hauler and a spiffy one at that. Chevrolet made roughly a million cars for 1941 and the Special Deluxe was the cream of its wagon crop and made in limited quantities.
Now it’s among NEO’s newest batch of top-flight resin models featuring vintage U.S. autos, several of which we’ve reviewed here. The latest is a black and wood 1941Chevy wagon, the prototypical Woodie of mid-century cars. This one featured white ash and mahogany body work, something that’s a bit hard to fathom for us living in a plastic and composites world today.
The 1941 Chevys were the first Chevys without running boards and also featured headlights built directly into their fenders, increasing their stylishness.
The Deluxe was Chevy’s main trim line from this year until 1952 when the 210 model debuted. The 1941 model had a new grille and updated suspension and rode on a 116-inch wheelbase that was 3 inches longer than the 1940 model, aiding the car’s ride. Power came from Chevy’s “Blue Flame” inline 6 engine that delivered 85 horsepower. Read more
Prius’s nerdy look is gone, so if you were one of those kids, like me, who had the mechanical pencil and pocket protector in high school, well, you’d best reconsider buying the hybrid.
Toyota has jazzed up the Prius in looks and performance. The bright “hypersonic” red ($395 extra) test car nearly glowed in the parking lot, plus it looks more trim and sporty than past models. Like other Toyotas the nose uses creases for styling that bring it to a noticeable point and the taillights feature sharp angles previously saved for sports cars. The profile is more that of a sporty hatchback now.
So if you’re looking for a hybrid that gets great gas mileage, and don’t mind looking a little trendy, instead of nerdy, the Prius Four Touring could light your fuse.
The newest Prius isn’t bulbous and chubby looking like past models, but it’s still a gas mileage champ. I got a fantastic 57.6 mpg, while the EPA rates this model at 54 mpg city and 50 mpg highway. I spent more time in town and driving in the 40-45 mph range. Read more
Funny, but I enjoyed driving the new Toyota RAV4 hybrid more than its gas-powered model that I had earlier this year.
This one seemed sportier, and that’s a contradiction to all things hybrid. Power seems a bit better, and is with a combined 194 horsepower for the hybrid vs. 176 for the gas-powered model. But handling seemed much more precise and sporty too.
RAV4 is a small ute/crossover and easy to park and steer. The wheel feels moderately light and the hybrid turns into corners well and is responsive. Wheel play is minor.
And while compared to the standard model it has more ponies to power it with the electric hybrid system working well via an electronic continuously variable transmission (ECVT), it’s not exactly quick. There’s still the electric whine when you let off the brake and a slow chug up to 15-20 mph. The harder you press the accelerator the crossover will respond though and get up to highway speeds fairly effortlessly. The down side is an engine that feels and sounds as if it’s working pretty hard.
Like so many vehicles, there are drive mode selection buttons, here on the bottom of the center stack somewhat hidden behind the console-mounted gear shift knob. You can go Eco to save fuel or Sport for a bit more juice to the wheels. The bump up in power is minor, but every little bit helps sometimes. Read more
Restorations take a lot of time and cash …
By Paul Daniel
.. I’m short of both right now. Getting a forgotten car back on the road is one thing but getting it back on the track it another. Watch this video where the iconic 1966 Le Mans-winning P/1046 GT40 shared by Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon returned to the track at Lime Rock Park. It took almost two years to make this happen. Enjoy.