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8
May

Die-cast: NEO’s Willys Jeep Station Wagon

Willys Jeep Wagon looks sharp in Michigan State Police  trim … NEO's Willys Jeep Station Wagon

Everyone likes the old Jeeps, the original Willys models that looked like World War II era army Jeeps, all boxy and plain and ready to take on any rugged terrain that muddied their way.

Now NEO delivers a handsome 1/43 scale navy blue Michigan State Police version of the Willys Jeep Station Wagon. It’s fun and just peculiar enough to be a real conversation starter on any model shelf.

The History

After World War II the Jeep moniker landed with Willys-Overland in Toledo, Ohio. It enlisted Milwaukee industrial designer Brooks Stevens to design a Jeep Station Wagon. This was the first all-steel station wagon made for the mass market and it was a hit, with more than 300,000 being made from 1946 through 1965. When the wagon went into production many other automakers’ station wagon bodies were still made of wood.

Since Willys didn’t have the means to make its own bodies, the Jeep wagon’s bodies were created by steel fabricating companies and attached to the chassis. Many of these same companies were making large metal household appliances when not stamping out Jeep bodies. Read more

5
May

2017 Toyota Prius Two Eco

Toyota’s new Prius still dowdy looking, but a stellar hybrid … 2017 Toyota Prius

I laid a lot of praise on Kia’s new Niro hybrid recently, all deserved, but I was basing my hybrid comparison to the previous Toyota Prius. Now I’ve driven the 2017 Prius Two Eco and wow, this is a stellar hybrid.

Get this, I got 57.5 miles per gallon in a week’s drive. That includes plenty of city and two longish highway jaunts. But that’s just a number, and as the EPA says, your mileage may vary, although it rates this Eco version at 58 mpg city and 53 highway. Believe it!

Yet, if this were a tinny econobox that rode like a soapbox derby racer, well, most of us wouldn’t care so much about the mileage. We still need function and comfort, and Prius delivers.

First, note that there are nearly as many Prius models as there are pickup versions from most automakers. The Two Eco is the cost leader at $24,540, with a $865 delivery fee to end up at $25,405. There are five other trims of the four-door hatch model that, while slightly more streamlined than its earlier version, still remains dowdy looking. The exception are its stylish taillights.

2017 Toyota Prius

At least the taillights are stylish.

Looks aside (and that’s where the Niro wins hands down), the new Prius is light and agile and so tightly built it feels as snug as a three-piece suit. There are no squeaks or jiggles. It’s as quiet inside as most entry-level luxury cars. The doors close with such a resounding thud as to need a little extra elbow grease to latch the doors, the seal is that tight.

Road and tire noise is nearly non-existent.

And at just more than 3,000 lbs., the Prius Two is light, leading to nimble handling, good cornering and creating a relatively fun driving experience. Read more

4
May

The crazy stuff people put on their cars

After all they are their cars

Jeep Wrangler, jeep wrangler unlimited, jeep with top down.

Photo: FCA

I love our 2014 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. It sometimes feels like an extension of who I am but not so much that I go crazy and start putting really crazy stuff on it. BTW, I am crazy.  Just like people dress themselves each morning to make themselves comfortable, and to also perhaps make some kind of statement, they also dress their cars with different things to make a statement. A statement of what? New wheels, wider tires, driving lights, yes, eyelashes, fake hood scoops, gigantic spoilers, not so much. While I couldn’t find a breakdown for “stupid stuff”, overall the Alliance of Automobile Manufactures is projecting retail online sales for aftermarket parts at $8.89 billion in 2017, posting a 16% increase over 2016. And that’s just the online, not brick and mortar. Let’s dig deeper into the crazy stuff people put on their cars, much of it seem right here in the Milwaukee, WI area. Read more »

1
May

Die-cast: Automodello’s 1937 Delage D8-120 S

Automodello's 1937 Delage

1937 Delage a near perfect one-off …

Today, rich folks will plunk out a half a million bucks for a new Ferrari or Lamborghini and think they have something special, unique. Yet hundreds are made of such models.

Consider the rich folks of the 1930s who selected a fine chassis and drivetrain from a high-end manufacturer, like France’s Delage, and then commissioned a coachmaker to build a one-off body, just for their chassis. Ah, now that’s exclusivity.

That’s exactly what happened in 1937 when a Delage D8-120 S chassis was built and delivered to coachbuilder Pourtout that created a hand-formed aluminum body for the car. And what a body it was!

Now Automodello recreates a 1/24 scale cast resin version of this streamlined beauty. It’s a knockout!

The HistoryAutomodello's 1937 Delage

The Delage D8-120 S Aerodynamic Coupe is fantastic is a true one-off designed by famed stylist Georges Paulin. Records show the body alone cost $18,000 to build, roughly $300,000 in today’s coin.

The car was first shown at the Paris Auto Show in 1937 and Louis Delage, the carmaker’s owner, drove the car for three years before it was sold. Delage had always believed in proving his car’s mettle by racing them, one even winning the 1914 Indianapolis 500. So performance was important to him. Read more »

28
Apr

2017 Lexus GS F

Lexus GS F is a NASCAR wannabe in street clothes … 2017 Lexus GS F

            Unless your name is Hellcat or you sport some semblance of racing stripes and a hood scoop you’re not supposed to gurgle and pop with power if you’re simply a luxury sport sedan.

Ah, but the Lexus GS is everything from a fine luxury sedan to a NASCAR wannabe, a racer in street clothes.

A base GS 200t, you see, is equipped with a 241-horse 2.0-liter I4 that’s turbocharged. Oh that’s nice and sporty in its own way and a potential Lexus owner that’s pushing the limits of his home equity loan to snag one will shell out roughly $47 grand and change.

But there are so many other choices, two more engines and a hybrid model too. So say sayonara to that base model if you want to light up the tires and thumb your nose at German luxury sedans, or domestic muscle too. The tested GS F, or F Sport model is the sharp end of the GS line and it’ll flat out fly.

Reason?

No, it’s not a HEMI, but the Lexus has a sexy sounding V8 that’ll nearly put the roughly 4,000-pound sedan into orbit. The numbers are this, 5.0-liter V8 creating 467 horsepower and 389 lb.-ft. of torque. Don’t go pooh-poohing that because your Vette or Hellcat has more ponies. With its modest weight and a dandy drive mode system that allows you to go from Normal to Sport or Sport+, you’ll suddenly find the GS turning surly.2017 Lexus GS F

I was expecting good power, but punched the console’s drive mode button just as I was pulling onto the freeway and the rear-drive GS twitched its tail and rocketed up to, er, well, more than the standard highway speed before I was halfway down the entry ramp. Haven’t had this much fun since my last Vette drive, and that’s been a while. Read more »

23
Apr

Die-cast: Autoart’s Mercedes-AMG GT3

Even as a model Mercedes-AMG GT3 is sexy …Mercedes-AMG GT3

Some cars are sexy, some are nasty, some are fast. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 racer is all of the above, a lawn dart of an automobile with a long nose and a monster rear wing. Looks like it could nail any competitor to the pavement.

Autoart creates a beautiful 1/18 scale version of the GT3 racer as it was presented to the media a couple years back in a gorgeous matte metallic gray paint scheme with yellow racing stripes and a No. 1 on each door.  Who’s to argue with that?

The History

If you’re deep into NASCAR or IndyCar racing you may not know much about GT3 cars. But Group GT3 cars are Grand Touring (get it?) cars that race in various series around the world.  The GT3 designation started in 2005 under rules set by FIA, the international racing rules group.

In essence GT3 cars must be based on production GT cars and have 500 to 600 horsepower and weigh between 1200kg (2,645 lbs.) and 1300kg (2,866 lbs.). They also feature ABS, traction control and include built-in air jacks to facilitate quick pit stops. Currently about 40 cars have been approved, or homologated to race in GT3, including the likes of Audi, Aston Martin, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Ford (GT), Ferrari, Lamborghini, BMW, along with the Chevrolet Corvette and Dodge Viper.Mercedes-AMG GT3

The Mercedes-AMG GT3 is built in conjunction with Mercedes’ AMG performance unit in Sindelfingen, Germany. Under its massive hood is a 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8 that creates 622 horsepower, while the production model has a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 that tops out at 577. The older naturally aspirated engine is simpler and more reliable for racing, hence the difference. Oh, and top speed is 206 mph. Read more »

21
Apr

2017 Toyota 4Runner 4×4 TRD Off-Road Premium

Tough Toyota 4Runner is anything but a TRD  …2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD

Let’s face it, you’d better have a pretty strong, competent vehicle if you’re going to give one of its models the TRD moniker.

We all know what that sounds like, but in Toyota’s case it means Toyota tough, as in Toyota Racing Development. And that’s why the new 4Runner proudly touts TRD in its name and on its haunches.

The test truck was the mid-level TRD Off-Road Premium edition with four-wheel drive and a sparkling Barcelona Red Metallic paint job. It also features a tough-looking exterior with distinctive nose and a hood air scoop that not all models have, not to mention few of its competitors.2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD

4Runner is a big ute, rolling on a 109.8-inch wheelbase it’s a sizeable 191.3 inches long and weighs a hefty 4,750 lbs. So move over mid-size crossovers and SUV pretenders, 4Runner is ready to go rock-climbing, and the TRD version thumbs its nose at rough terrain. Read more

20
Apr

Do red lights at intersections mean anything?

From what I’ve seen recently shows drivers care less

I’ve been thinking about doing this blog entry for a while and this morning an experience drove me to the keyboard. I’m stopped at a busy intersection on my way to work. I had just missed the left turn green arrow so I was waiting for traffic to clear and make my turn when this guy behind me honks his horn for me to go. Go, where, there’s lots of traffic here dude and I’m on a motorcycle. The light turns yellow and I wait. Recently I’ve seen too many drivers here in Wisconsin run the red light and I don’t want to get wacked. The guy gets out of his truck and gives me a lecture on how I didn’t have to wait for the green arrow and could have turned on the orange. Not this rider. He also said that I was holding a whole line of vehicles behind him and I should show some courtesy. OK, whatever. When I turned on the next green arrow, guess how many vehicles I was holding up. Yup, just him. Read more »

16
Apr

Die-cast: BoS-Models 1957 Imperial Crown Southampton

Imperial Crown Southampton: When styling still mattered … 1957 Imperial Crown Southampton

As a kid I, like many folks at the time, liked cars with jet-like fins. Plus I’ve always been a sucker for the cool fake spare tire molded into the trunk lid. So Imperials, Chrysler’s luxury brand, were, and are, a favorite.

Few Imperials were more impressive than the 1957 Crown Southampton, a monster of a car, but dripping with style. Its nose with twin dual headlights favored Cadillac styling, but its slightly outward leaning tail fins and aircraft-like pointed taillights set it apart from the more staid luxury models of the day.

BoS-Models now creates a beautiful 1957 Southampton in a stunning bronze paint scheme with a cream-colored roof and enough chrome to blind an army of car show onlookers on a sunny day. This is in 1/18 scale and the body is cast resin.

The History

Imperial became its own brand, like Cadillac for GM and Lincoln for Ford, in 1955. The second generation Imperials debuted in 1957 and had their own distinct platforms, something that lasted until 1966.1957 Imperial Crown Southampton

These brutes were big and strong, so sturdy in fact that they were banned from most demolition derbies as being too tough to knock out of competition. Much of the reason was the Imperial’s full perimeter frame with box cross sections forming an “X” for strength. Meanwhile most cars were moving to lighter unibody construction.

The Imperials of 1957, which were part of Chrysler designer Virgil Exner’s “forward look” styling, also featured Torsion-Aire suspensions that used an indirect-acting torsion bar system up front. It lowered the car’s center of gravity and moved it rearward to improve handling. Read more »

14
Apr

2017 Kia Niro Touring

Kia’s new hybrid will knock your socks off …2017 Kia Niro

            Roughly once a year a test car knocks my socks off, trips my trigger, simply surprises the heck out of me and this week’s Kia Niro Touring has me amazed.

Looking at it you’ll say that’s no car, that’s a crossover vehicle. And that’s what Kia wants you to say. The styling is typical Kia wonderful with good looking nose, tail and beautifully proportioned profile. It has a taller stance like a crossover, but (and this is one of at least two surprises) it is front-wheel drive, and as of now AWD is not an option.

Second surprise, from a driving standpoint, this little beauty is a hybrid.

That’s right, it has an electric motor to go along with its 1.6-liter 4-cylinder gas-powered engine to create what sounds like a modest 139 horsepower. Don’t let that number fool you.2017 Kia Niro

Sure, left in Normal drive mode the acceleration here is (yawn), shall we say, modest. But simply by sliding the 6-speed Sportronic gear lever to the left into Sport mode the Niro jumps to life. Acceleration is quick and quiet as the electric motor propels this honey to normal city cruising speed.

I found myself leaving the shifter in normal mode, which is the most economical way to go, and then slipping it into Sport at stoplights. Fun, and zippy! Read more

7
Apr

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude 4×4

Jeep’s Renegade a fun drive, high-value 4×4 …2017 Jeep Renegade

Young folks wanting a Jeep for its looks and rugged personality, but who are on an entry-level budget and prefer comfort to mudding ability can find refuge in Jeep’s Renegade.

This is a multi-trim model that ranges from $20 grand, including delivery, up to $30 grand for an off-roading version. Renegade is built on the Fiat 500X chassis in Italy, so quite a ways from Toledo, Ohio, the spiritual home of Jeep and its predecessor, Willys.

But Renegade, despite being a downsized Jeep offers much more civility for daily driving, plus that low-ball entry price. Mine was a near fluorescent neon green (dubbed Bright Hypergreen) that seemed to glow in the parking lot like one of those radioactive bars that Homer Simpson gets stuck in his pocket.2017 Jeep Renegade

Folks at the office taunted me about the color, but it turns out to be quite fun to drive around in such a glow stick and was incredibly easy to find in any parking lot.

It’s the civility that strikes me most about Renegade. Ride is downright comfortable and tame, not the usual don’t-come-knocking-when-this-baby-is-rockin’ ride of its original off-roading cousin, the roughhewn Wrangler. Even on Wisconsin’s crumbling roads the Renegade delivered a relatively well-controlled an smooth ride, no small accomplishment for a vehicle riding on just a 101.2-inch wheelbase. Read more »

31
Mar

2017 Jaguar F-Pace 20d Prestige

First Jaguar sport-ute off to fast start …2017 Jaguar F-Pace

            Jaguar has its first sport-utility truck, the F-Pace and it’s already its best-selling vehicle. That tells you a lot.

First, it tells you that tradition and heritage take a back seat to the overwhelming popularity of sport-utes and crossovers. Second, it tells you Jaguar buyers were ready for a Jag truck. And third, it tells you that the F-Pace must be pretty good at satisfying that itch.

Jaguar smartly delivers three engine choices in its new ute. The same 3.0-liter supercharged V6 as in last week’s Jaguar XE sedan will likely be the main choice of buyers. It cranks a healthy 340 horsepower with 332 lb.-ft. of torque, but drinks premium fuel and gets just 18 miles per gallon city and 23 mpg highway.

The dark metallic gray test truck went the other way, packing an Ingenium 2.0-liter I4 turbo diesel under the F-Pace’s muscular hood that even includes a mild hood bulge. The diesel features 180 horsepower and a grunt-rich 318 lb.-ft. of torque.2017 Jaguar F-Pace

Fuel mileage is impressive. The diesel is rated 26 mpg city and 33 highway. I got 27.7 mpg in driving that was heavier on city driving this time. There also is a stop-start feature here to save fuel, but it can be turned off, which makes sense from a smoothness of operation standpoint once the truck’s engine is warmed. Read more »

28
Mar

Die-cast: Autoart’s 2013 Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak rally car a sexy winged warrior …2013 Peugeot 208 T16

I have to admit that European rally cars, the little high-powered mini racers with big engines and wings to match, fascinate me visually. They look tough and aggressive and fast and fun.

Now Autoart releases a sharp all black 1/18 scale version of the Peugeot 208 T16 that was raced up Pikes Peak here in the U.S. in 2013. It looks like it rocks with a giant wing on an equally giant pedestal and with tires so fat they look like they’d hold on to any road even if the car were upside down.

This is a beautiful little beast! Here’s the story on it.

The History

Rally superstar Sebastien Loeb (9 titles) was chosen to run this custom built Peugeot up Colorado’s Pikes Peak in 2013 to challenge the record time of 9:46.164 set a year earlier by Rhys Millen. Loeb crushed it, making the 19.9 km run in 8:13.878.2013 Peugeot 208 T16

The French Peugeot had to straighten 156 corners while climbing to Pikes Peak’s summit. The video is amazing (insert it), as there is no guard rail along the route that the likes of Bobby Unser and most of the other Unser clan have proven themselves champions through the years. Read more »

26
Mar

Mario Andretti: One of the nicest guys I ever met

I was a regular at Road America

Lola race cars, savageonwheels.comWhile doing sports on Green Bay TV during the 80’s and 90’s I had some fantastic opportunities to meet really interesting people. Sure, all the Green Bay Packer players of that era, but my main passion was auto racing. Anytime there was anything going on at Road America, I was down there. I loved being there and still do.

On the list of nice guys were Roger Penske, Walter Payton, and Tom Cruise. He’s a short guy. The nicest on that list, and also short, was Mario Andretti. I interviewed him a bunch of times and it was like we had known each other for ever. Check out this story on Mario done a week ago today on CBS Sunday Morning. Enjoy.

24
Mar

Getting the media’s attention

I wish I had come up with this idea

Bob and Brian Plane Pull, Extreme Plane Pull, Media Events, public relations Back in my public relations days I knew the media in the Milwaukee market really well. I was the only PR professional that specifically designed events that were just about slam dunks in getting the media out. How’d I do it? By designing unusual things that participants normally couldn’t do and then invite the media out to try it ahead of time.

I remember two events that were a lot of fun, one especially since one was centered around aviation. Here’s a live interview I did on one of the TV stations’ morning show. The other one was an Urban Adventure race, sort of like the Amazing Race on CBS, where I repelled four stories while doing a live interview at the same time. That was a rush.

Toyota Hilux, Toyota trucks, tamiya radio control trucks, radio control trucks, pr events Now I’m on the other side of the fence…

…and found this video where 15 radio control trucks work together to pull a full-size Toyota Hilux. This wasn’t their first time to this rodeo. They staged a slightly different version in the 80’s. Hats off to your PR staff Toyota. You definitely got my attention along with lots of other outlets.

 

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