All posts by Paul Daniel

Family, Faith, and Speed....... My wife works for a major healthcare provider. She's the brains of the operation since she has a Masters in Nursing. Our daughter takes after one of her grandmothers with her passion for music. Really great kid! Even loves aviation, one of my passions, and is looking at a possible career in it. I'm heavily involved in a variety of volunteer rolls at the Catholic Church we attend. I love speed!!! I'm a pilot, car guy, and ride a Suzuki Hayabusa. 0-60 in 3.2 seconds, 0-100 in 5 although I'll have to take Suzuki's word on that. I love going for rides with friends and enjoy the twisties where my bike really shines. I've been in the cockpits of a DC-8, DC-9, 767, 747, MD-80, and Embraer 190. I spend a week each year volunteering at the EAA flyin in Oshkosh. Love the Thunderbirds (autographed one of my F-16's) and the Blue Angels. Love the roar as they make passes.

Car Spot: The Chevy Vega

A car that rusted right off the assembly line

It was a car that was doomed almost from the very beginning. Code named the XP-887, the Chevy Vega was meant to stop shoppers from buying the many cars being imported from Japan that got great gas mileage but when GM’s corporate engineering staff finally delivered its first prototype to Chevrolet, it lasted just eight miles at GM’s Milford proving ground before the front end fell off.

Vega Pro-Street driven by one of my coworkers at the golf course I work at during the summer months.

When John DeLorean was named Chevrolet’s general manager in 1969 with the project already late in developement, he convinced his staff that no matter how much they disliked the XP-887, it would be judged as a Chevrolet, and it was in the division’s best interests for it to succeed. They tried naming it the Gemini, which tied into the US space program at the time but GM president Ed Cole insisted on calling the car Vega, even though the name tested poorly.

RELATED: See John DeLorean’s most famous creation

Introduced in 1970, the car couldn’t make its targeted base price of $2,091 which was $311 more than the Volkswagen Beetle and $172 more than Ford’s new Pinto, while AMC’s Gremlin’s base price was $1,999. It was also 200 pounds over its one-ton target weight.

Despite all this, the automotive press loved it. It was Motor Trend magazine’s 1971 Car of the Year. After that, it was all downhill.

In 1972 Chevy recalled half a million Vegas because rear axle shafts could separate from the housing, causing the wheels to literally fall off. But that wasnit it, faulty brackets on the single-barrel carb jammed the throttle open. The optional two-barrel engine could backfire violently enough to split the muffler, blowing hot exhaust on the fuel tank and causing it to expand, rupture, and ignite. Yikes.

An undiscovered defect in the new rust-proofing system left the underside of the front fenders unprotected. In typical GM fashion to save money it had rejected plastic fender liners leaving Vegas prone to rapid corrosion not only in the fenders, but rocker panels, lower doors and front suspension parts as well.

The train wreck continued with its engine. If it got too hot the cylinders would distort, wearing the coating on the walls and forcing coolant past the head gaskets and if a Vega owner didn’t keep the coolant topped off, the Vega could, and often would, destroy its own engine. Chevrolet did its best duck and cover by extending the engine warranty and retrofitting an overflow bottle and low-coolant warning light, but not before many owners got replacement engines to go with their replacement fenders.

Oh and one last goofy GM idea, how the cars were transported. General Motors and Southern Pacific designed “Vert-A-Pac” rail cars to hold 30 Vegas each, compared with conventional tri-level autoracks which held 18. The Vega was fitted with four removable cast-steel sockets on the underside and had plastic spacers—removed at unloading—to protect engine and transmission mounts. The rail car ramp/doors were opened and closed via forklift. Vibration and low-speed crash tests ensured the cars would not shift or suffer damage in transit.

Despite all this fun and games, Chevy managed to sell just over 2 million Vegas before the plug was pulled in 1977. Compared to 3.1 million Pintos, which had its own set of problems, and 671,475 AMC Gremlins. Still this car has a loyal following like the owner of this Vega who had stuffed a 427 V8 in it and owns two more. The most valuable Vega is the Cosworth. Chevy only built 2,061 cars in 1975 and 1,447 the following year. Perhaps that was because of its $6,000 price tag. Today, it’s easy to find a low-mileage Cosworth Vega. According to Hagerty, one in Excellent Condition sells for around $15,000 so if the Cosworth Vega was a Vega for the price of two when it was new, now it’s about the price of ten.

Be sure to check back next Friday for another one of my car spots and have a great weekend.

Car Spot: 1969 Firebird Convertible

A better buy than its Camaro cousin?

So which is better, the Camaro or the Firebird? You’d get great arguments for both of them. The owner of this 1969 Firebird convertible would certainly argue for his ride. This one is cherry and I’ve seen it here before at the golf course that I work at during the summer months.

The first generation Firebird had the same Coke bottle styling shared as, the Camaro but the Firebird’s bumpers were integrated into the design of the front end, a Pontiac trend. The Firebird’s rear slit taillights were inspired by the 1966–1967 Pontiac GTO.

This body style was not the Pontiac pep’s first choice. They had been working on a two-seat sports car based on the Banshee concept but you know GM. Don’t mess with the Corvette, it’s our king, so this was what they ended up with. Not too shabby though.

While this is clearly a V8, I’m not sure which. It could have been the 350 with either a two- or four-bbl carb, 265/325 hp, or the 400 four-bbl, 330 hp.

What’s it worth? If it has the 350 in it, according to Hagerty, $15,000 for one in Fair condition all the way up to $67,000 in Concours. If it has the larger 400, its value bumps up to $20,000 in Fair condition all the way up to $95,000 in Concours. But how can you put a price on having the top down on a warm Summer day, especially here in Wisconsin where the season is so short.

Be sure to check back next Friday for another car spot along with a little bit of history. Have a great weekend.

Car Spot: Back to the Future DeLorean

THE Iconic movie car

Show of hands. How many of you have never seen one of any of the Back to the Future movies? OK, go watch one of the movies and then come back and read this post because you will know exactly what this week’s car spot, a Back to the Future DeLorean I spotted at KidVenture during EAA’s AirVenture held each year in Oshkosh, WI. This year’s event started on Monday, July 25th, and runs through Sunday, July

Back to the Future at EAA’s KidVenture

The DMC-12 was never a big hit in sales but was in the three Back to the Future Movies that Doc Brown and Marty McFly traveled back in time. There were actually three used in the movie, all capable of doing 88 miles an hour and jump in time thanks to the flux capacitor.

“A” car was the star car. This did the bulk of the movie work and was the most detailed. A couple of years ago it sold at auction for just north of half a million bucks.

The “B” car was used mostly for exterior shots and was destroyed by a train at the end of the movie.

The “C” car wasn’t much of a car. Used mostly for interior shots. After the movies ended it sat left to rot on a back lot. A fan bought it and used parts from other DeLoreans to construct a complete car. Its last known location was in Japan in a company’s lobby.

I’ve seen this replica car at EAA AirVenture the last couple of years. It has a super-detailed cockpit with all the dials and instruments Doc Brown and Marty would have used. The heart of the car, the flux capacitor is well detailed too. While I’ve never been able to talk to the owner, I’ve seen it driven and it attracts quite a crowd.

What’s it worth? Anywhere from $40-60,000 depending on the details. That’s about 20 grand less than a car that hasn’t been converted but about 500 thousand less than the real deal.

Be sure to check back next Friday for another one of my car spots with a little bit of the history behind the car. Have a great weekend.

Car Spot: Early 60’s VW Beetle

A car that generates instant smiles

When you think of all the cars ever made, there are just a handful that would be considered iconic. The Jeep CJ’s, Corvettes, and the VW Beetle. Introduced as “The People’s Car” in 1938, millions of Type 1 were produced all over the world. I’m not a Bug expert but this one looks like a 1960 or 61 and was in fantastic shape. The paint and chrome looked like it had just come out of the factory in Germany or one of the several other countries the car was built.

RELATED: Read about one of the biggest Bug fleets

There were minor changes as the Beetle evolved. 1960 models received a front anti-roll bar along with a hydraulic steering damper. In 1961 a new engine and transmission. Engine displacement stayed the same at 1,192 cc but the power was bumped up to 34 bhp at 3600 rpm. The single-barrel Solex carburetor got an electric automatic choke while the transmission was now fully synchronized. The traditional semaphore turn signals were replaced by conventional flashing directional indicators worldwide.

RELATED: Read about how I became the temporary caretaker of a Bug convertible

Values for this year have been trending up recently. A quick glance at this one I’d put in at least in Excellent Condition and according to Hagerty, it would be valued at $39,400 while one in Concours condition is selling for $65,000. A collector car lacking in horsepower but way over delivers in fun!

Check back next Friday for another one of my Car Spots along with a little bit of history. Have a great weekend.

Car Spot: Early 60’s Lincoln Continental

The golden era for American luxury sedans

One of the era’s most enduring icons is the 4th generation Lincoln Continental, a car that would be forever etched in the minds of a generation who saw a President assassinated in one on November 22, 1963.

Not sure what the fate of this one I found recently is, it’s going to need a lot of work if it’s a future restoration project. For those looking to relive to Haute couture’s past, 1961-69 Continentals are reasonably priced. Final year sedans, according to Hagerty, sell for as little as 30 grand in Concours condition while excellent drivers, about half that. Convertibles will set you back quite a bit more at around $104 thou.

Have a great weekend and check back next Friday when I’ll have another car spot along with a little bit of history on that car.

Car Spot: Saturn Sky

This fun little two-seater never had a chance

If you’ve read any of my previous spots about General Motors cars, I’ve shared how the company had what seemed at the time a good idea but it ends up getting killed by a bloated corporate culture. This week’s spot, a Saturn Sky, is yet another example.

The Saturn Corporation was created by GM in 1985 and designed to compete against Japanese Imports. Everything was new, dealer network, pricing, workforce, and a brand new plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee. Marketed as a “different kind of car company”, its cars utilized GM’s advanced spaceframe construction with dent-resistant polymer exterior panels.

Saturn took a lot of resources and when the economy went south in 2008, GM cut Saturn’s development budget leaving them with rebadged cars from other divisions. So Saturn essentially lost its unique selling proposition and production ended in 2009. Its highest level of sales was 1994 with just under 300,000 vehicles marked. Penske Automotive saw an opportunity and tried to buy the brand but it never worked out and another brand faded into the sunset.

This Sky was a fun little car. Initially released in the first quarter of 2006 as a 2007. It was built at GM’s plant in Willmington, Delaware alongside the Pontiac Solstice. It featured 18-inch wheels and was powered by a 2.4 L I4 that produced 177 hp. There were two other options for more fun. A 2.0 L turbocharged direct-injected engine that bumped horsepower up to 260 and a dealer-installed turbo upgrade that ran the ponies up to 290. Wheeee. 0-60 times were around five seconds.

You can find these turbo Red Line editions for sale on the major car sites, anywhere from 12 grand to just under 20 on average. Prices have bumped up quite a bit in the last year or so. I even found one on Hemings for $31,500. These cars were not cheap, to begin with, and while they are holding their values, they really aren’t jumping in value so would not be a great investment but what a fun summer car:)

Have a great weekend and be sure to check back next Friday for another one of my car spots.

Car Spot: 1950 Pontiac

A rolling time capsule

Every classic car has a story and Gary Sipiorski of Green Bay is a great example. He is the owner of this 1950 Pontiac, Sky Blue over Cream with a Silver Streak 8 engine. 72 years old and all original. Click here to listen to the conversation I had with him at the Cars and Guitars Event sponsored by the Green Bay Auto Museum.

Check back next Friday for another one of my car spots and have a great weekend.

Car Spot: Pontiac Fiero

A fun two-seater that died way before its time

The more of these car spots I do and looking at the history of each vehicle I’m finding a common theme with those built by General Motors, great idea and crappy execution. This 1988 Fiero GT I recently spotted is another example.

The Fiero was conceived as a small, two-seat sports car with an all-new suspension and a V6 engine. Keep in mind that at GM the Corvette was sacred and reluctant to invest into a second two-seater so the Fiero was pitched as a fuel-efficient four-cylinder commuter car that just happened to have two seats, rather than a muscle car. Think oil crisis. This car was fast-tracked by engineers and they brought back a running prototype in less than six months.

But that was the easy part. Think big, over-bloated, don’t pee in my sandbox corporate GM. It was given a 400 million budget, small by GM standards, but how that money got spent was where the roadblocks began. Engineers were split into two categories, the car guys who would create blueprints for the car, and manufacturing guys who would work out the fabrication and assembly issues. Blueprints traveled back and forth between the two engineering branches, resulting in a waste of time and money. The project manager had to literally sit the two teams of engineers down next to one another, allowing for no excuses as to why nothing was getting done. Here’s an idea. How about building a car like American Motors did creating a platform team where everybody is all on the same team. Chrysler started doing that when they bought AMC in 1987 and it works great.

Love the rear spoiler and Corvette tail lights.

As the car started coming together it was looking pretty cool, sort of like a Ferrari or Porsche. Nothing like a typical GM car. The plan was for a, high-performance, aluminum-block V6, but the cost of developing a new engine would be more than the production of the whole car itself. In typical GM style they were forced to settle for the already manufactured four-cylinder engine, the “Iron Duke,” nicknamed for its heavy iron block. It didn’t fit so they put a smaller oil pan making the engine run on less oil. This was just one of many issues. Another was weak connecting rods that would shatter, blowing pieces through the engine block and dumping oil on hot exhaust components. There were several Fieros that caught fire because of this. Like other GM cars, to save costs, it shared components. Here’s a great example. The front suspension was derived from the Chevette. The automotive media’s response was “meh” but the car sold well and initially GM couldn’t keep up with demand when it debuted in 1984

The word Fiero means “very proud”, “fierce”, “bold”, “haughty” “cruel”, “severe” in Italian, and “wild”, “fierce”, or “ferocious” in Spanish.

But it took four years for the car to look like its original design. Finally, in 1988, numerous changes were made to the Fiero to bring it in line with its original design. The suspension was completely redesigned suspension to finally click with the mid-engine layout and included new two-piece brake calipers and upgraded brake rotors, items cut originally by GM. While the engines saw improvements, the planned turbochargers never came, sales were declining, and the years of mismanagement led to the cancellation of the car after the 1988 model year.

The car is cheap fun. The later years with the V-6 cost the most but are still very affordable. According to Hagerty one in Fair condition is under two grand. The four cylinders should be avoided. One in Concours condition goes for under nine grand. They are not trending up much at all. Too bad. This is one of those GM stories that could have been.

Be sure to check back next Friday for another one of my car spots and have a great weekend.

Car Spot: VW Scirocco

One of VW’s wind cars

The Scirocco first landed in North America in 1974 and Volkswagon’s intent for the coupe, with its edgy design, was to replace its aging bubbly-looking Karmann Ghia. VW’s Golf couldn’t be that replacement because that was intended to succeed the Beetle platform. The Scirocco was meant to be a more sportier than the Golf with sharper body lines and more complex engineering designed to deliver a different driving experience.

VW gave the three-door, front-engine, front-wheel-drive, sport compact hatchback two shots here in the US. from 1974 to 1992 and then again from 2008 until 2017.

Despite having crappy power and a four-speed manual transmission the car actually sold well. When Volkswagen brought it back in the second-gen model, they put in more fun with a 16-valve, 1.8-liter four-cylinder from the GTI. In all, nearly 800,000 units were sold worldwide between the two generations. Despite that VW decided to pull the plug and discontinued it in favor of its successor, the Corrado.

This second-gen one I found on a recent trip to Appleton, WI was is in line for a restoration. I made a quick check to one of my favorite place to look at cars I will never own, BringATrailer, I found them quite reasonable. First-gens were the cheapest going for around $5,000-8,000 while the second-gens with the 16V and five-speed selling for as high as $32,000.

Be sure to check back next Friday for another car spot and a little bit of history. Have a great weekend.

Car spot: A British classic

Even though they are now owned by a Chinese company

When I think of great British automotive names, Lotus immediatley comes to mind mainly because of Jim Clark and Colin Chapman. That dynamic duo won with just about any car they put on the track. It’s that great racing heritage that lives on to this date with their sport cars

Take for example this week’s car spot the Lotus Evora. Normally a very easy car to spot, this one even more because of its color. It’s factory. I checked. Launched in 2008 at the British International Motor Show, it was based on the first all-new vehicle platform since the introduction of the Elise in 1995.

How could I possibly miss this car at the gas station?

A Toyota-sourced 3.5-litre 24-valve 2GR V6 engine, mid-mounted engine powers the car. I could not find out a horsepower number for that engine but on the S version, not sure if this one was or not, comes with supercharger pumping out 416 hp. The standard Evora does 0-to-60 mph in 4.9 seconds, 0 to 100 in 11.8, and the quarter-mile in 13.4 at 105 mph. Top speed is 162.  Evora S reaches 60 in 4.3 and 100 in 10.4, and it covers the quarter-mile in 12.8 at 110. It also adds 10 mph to top speed.

Besides being fast, the car is super light and slippery with a drag coefficient of 0.337. Super light because it’s constructed on a lightweight aluminum tub with an additional front crash structure also made from aluminum, along with a steel rear sub-frame that houses the drivetrain. The chassis was designed to utilize proprietary 6000 Series alloy extrusions, which are bonded with an epoxy based adhesive and riveted together to increase torsional rigidity. All this for around 100 grand.

I actually got to talk to the owner and he seemed to be a true enthusiast and has had the car on the track at Road America. It also turns out that he is a Ducati owner. I like him.

I want to back up for a bit. After Colin Chapman’s death, the company passed through several hands being owned by General Motors, then Romano Artioli and DRB-HICOM. It is currently owned by Chinese multinational Geely. Nowadays what doesn’t China own?

Here’s a bit more information on Chapman that I discovered while watching a documentary on Netflix about John DeLorean. Chapman invested into DMC when DeLorean was desperate for cash and just before DeLorean was busted in an FBI sting for trafficking cocaine. It was shortly after Chapman’s investment that he passed away on December 16, 1982.

Be sure to check back next week for another car spot and have a great weekend.