Tag Archives: car spotting

Car Spot: Chevy SSR

A craft vehicle from Chevy that never took off

In the early 2000’s it seems that just about every manufacturer was into the retro movement. There was the Mini Cooper, new VW Bug, and PT Cruiser. One of Chevy’s entry was the SSR which stood for Super Sport Roadster.

Introduced in 2003 on New Year’s Eve, Chevy had big plans. It was built for speed and used GM’s 5.3 L 300 hp Vortec V8 making it go from 0-60 in 7.7 seconds with a 15.9 second quarter mile run at 86.4 mph. In 2005 the upped the hp to 390 by using the LS2 V8, the same engine found in the C6 Corvette. It was mated to a six-speed manual taking the 0-60 time down to 5.29 seconds. It also came with all the luxo items available at the time.

The manufacturing process was unusual to say the least. It rode on a GM368 platform specific to it, and featured a steel body retractable hardtop designed by Karmann and built by ASC. The front fenders, were made with deep draw stampings, a forming technique that had not been used in automotive stampings in decades. It sold for around 42 hundred bucks.

Despite heavy promotion, it was the 2003 Indy 500 Pace Car, it never sold well. On November 21, 2005, GM announced that it would close the Craft Center, where the vehicle was built, in mid-2006, and that was the end for the SSR. The final SSR, a unique black-on-silver model, was built on March 17, 2006. Total production was just 24,112.

Like the Cadillac Allante I shared a couple of weeks ago, the long term prospects for this GM oddball probably aren’t great. Giving it any juice right now is interest from retirement-age guys like me but the younger buyers, not so much. Even with a six-speed it’s not rare enough. So what are they going for now? According to the Hagerty Price Guide they are selling for slightly over their original sticker and the 2005 and 2006 LS2-powered SSR are the most desirable. It you’re looking for one of the 2,200 sold with a six-speed you’ll need to add, and in an extra 5 grand. I kind of like it because of its quirky design and how it stands out. I mean look, I saw this one in a grocery store parking lot next to the mundane SUVs and pick up trucks.

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

Car Spot: The much-maligned PT Cruiser

A car that could have been so much more …

Remember about 20 years ago when the car manufacturers were caught up in its nostalgia faze? That’s the period that gave us the new Mini Cooper, new VW Beetle, and Chrysler PT Cruiser. I know what you’re thinking. Either it was the coolest car or lamest car ever. That’s the way it rolled during its nine-year run from 2001-2010. But if you’re with the “lamest car ever” crowd I ask, how did it end up selling more than 1 million copies?

Clean PT Cruiser I spotted while on vacation in Fl

PT Cruiser was described as “segment busting” in the marketplace in its introduction where then Chrysler’s Dieter Zetsche (Remember: “Merger of Equals”) described it as a continuing example of the automaker’s innovation for new segments as well as “demonstrates that you can have head-turning style, practicality, and value all in one package.” The automotive press agreed. In 2001 Car and Driver named the PT Cruiser to its Ten Best list and the PT Cruiser also won the North American Car of the Year.

The interior packaging was noted for its high-roof, high h-point seating, and flexible cargo and passenger configurations—a multi-level cargo shelf as well as a fold, tumble, and removable rear seating. Chrysler designed the PT Cruiser to fit the NHTSA criteria for a light truck in order to bring the average fuel efficiency of the company’s truck fleet into compliance with CAFE standards. Engines included two four bangers, a six, turbo diesel, and turbo four. My mom had one of these and just loved it.

There were a bunch of updates and special editions available during the car’s, err truck’s, nine-year run. Among them, Classic edition, Limited edition, Touring edition, Couture edition, “Dream Cruiser”, “Street Cruiser”, “Pacific Coast Highway” edition”, and PT Cruiser GT. In fact, it was the ability to customize the PT Cruiser that made it so popular.

The non-GT Turbo (180 hp) edition models, introduced in 2004, were identified by a “2.4L Turbo” badge on the lower right-hand corner of the rear lift-gate like this one I found on a recent trip to Florida. The GT model, introduced in 2003, had a “2.4L Turbo High Output” badge on the right-hand corner of the lift-gate indicating the 215–230 hp engine version.

Car was originally going to be sold through Chrysler and Plymouth.

The car is a great example of a manufacturer simply forgetting about the car. Sales dropped off and the production run ended. But there is still a devout following for the car with owner groups all over the country. You can pick a GT up for under $3,000. Fun car for not a lot of money.

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

Car Spot: Dodge Magnum

A superfast grocery getter …

Show of hands. How many reading this remember station wagons? Most likely it was your parents who purchased one to haul the family around on vacations. We had a 1967 AMC Rebel and went all over the country with it. I remember dad ordering it and opting for the 290 V8. This was the Gen-2 short-deck that produced a respectable 225 hp. That engine was the basis for AMC’s upcoming entry into Trans-Am and the muscle car era. But the words station wagon and muscle car were almost never mentioned in the same breath.

Magnum ad I found for sale on eBay

Fast forward to 2005 when the words came together in the form of the Dodge Magnum. Where, for under $38 grand you could get a people hauler that was capable of 0-60 in less than six seconds, when ordered as the RT version with its 345ci Hemi V8 producing 340 horsepower.

Dodge Magnum I spotted in for service at a shop in Florida when I was visiting

This was the handywork of soon to retire head of design Tom Gale and done before the “merger of equals” with Daimler in 1998. Don’t get me started on that because my dad was there during that fiasco.

Based on the Chrysler LX platform the Magnum RT used the Mercedes-Benz derived 5-speed automatic. It also had fog lights; a bright grille; leather seats, steering wheel, and shifter; and a six-speaker stereo along with four-wheel disc brakes and anti-locks were also part of the deal.

The car sold well and was well-received by the automotive press and in 2005 was one of Car and Driver’s Ten Best. There’s an AMC connection here because it was built in Brampton, Ontario, a plant that AMC had bought just before being purchased by Chrysler in 1987.

Like so many fun cars, this one has a sad ending.

On Nov. 1, 2007, Chrysler announced that, as part of its restructuring plans, the Dodge Magnum would be one of four models discontinued after the 2008 model year. In Chrysler’s words: “The Magnum, along with the PT Cruiser convertible, the Crossfire, and the Pacifica were not earning their keep”. Production ended on March 28, 2008.

I was at a media event just after this and was told by an insider that it was a retiring Chrysler executive who never liked the Magnum that convinced management to pull the plug. There were almost 170,000 of this iteration of the Magnum which is not a bad number when you consider vehicles that have sold less have stuck around a lot longer. Had this vehicle somehow found a fan in the company to save it for a bit longer, there’s almost no way it would still be alive in the current environment where SUVs have taken the place of the station wagon.

But the vehicle has created almost a cult following and you can pick up the RT’s more muscular brother, the SRT8, which had a bigger Hemi and could do 0-60 in just a touch over 5 seconds for under $25 grand.

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

Car Spot: Bugatti Veyron

A car for those with very deep pockets

A car that costs more than most homes and will go almost 400 miles per hour will always turn heads, whether it’s driving by or just parked. How many times have you said that if you won the lottery, you’d buy a Bugatti Veyron?

This is a car so many car folks lust for.

So let’s say you hit it big and have the $2 million to plop down to drive one home, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Maybe that’s part of the reason you see them parked so much like this one a friend spotted while on vacation in Florida.

So the usual items that come with buying a car are oil changes, brakes, shocks, tires, and other maintenance items that come up. The cost of owning this ride can make your eyes water. Let’s start with the most basic item, oil and fluid changes. Bugatti recommends all fluids have to be changed each year and that costs a hefty $25,000.

Why? The car has 16 drainplugs and they are not easy to get at. A highly trained mechanic will have to take out the rear wheels and brakes, as well as the lining on the rear fenders along with the one underneath the back of the car.

But wait, there’s more! It will cost $6,400 to replace each individual turbocharger and around $9,000 in labor to replace a pair. An air cooler is $9,000, there are two of them. You would get off easy on the camshaft adjusters at about $800 per piece, but since the engine has to be taken apart, the labor costs are a killer at around $21,000.

How about tires? The car will do 0-60 in under three seconds and you know you’re going to do that often to impress your friends. Bugatti advises all Veyron owners getting new tires once every couple of years and a fresh set costs $38,000. We didn’t pay that much when we purchased our 2017 Jeep Compass.

Well as long as you’re getting new tires, you might as well get new wheels, right? They have to be replaced every 10,000 miles and that will set you back $50,000.  I’m not a math whiz but, you’d be looking at around $100,000 in maintenance costs in just a couple of years of ownership. But then again, how can you put a cost on fun?

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

Car Spot: Classic Vette

It’s Spring (nearly) in Wisconsin

The snow melts, the birds start chirping, baseball begins, and classic cars come out of their long winter hibernation here in Wisconsin. Not that this third generation C3 Corvette would have to worry about rust but they don’t handle well in snow.

Patterned after the concept car, the Mako Shark, in 1968 it was the first of many Corvettes to be a pace car for the Indy 500. The 350-cu.in.  engine replaced the old 327 as the base engine in 1969, but power remained at 300 hp. 1969 was the only year for a C3 to optionally offer either a factory-installed side exhaust or a normal rear exit version with chrome tips. The all-aluminum ZL1 engine was also new for 1969. Listed at 430 hp but it was reported to produce 560 hp and propelled a ZL1 through the 1/4 mile in 10.89 seconds.

In 1968 there were 28,566 produced, a jump of about 5,000 from the previous C2. I couldn’t see what engine this example had but assuming it’s the base 327, Hagerty values one in good condition, which this one appeared to be, about $25,000. Not a bad price for vintage late ’60s early ’70s muscle.

Stop back next Friday when I’ll have another car spot to share and have a great weekend.

Car Spot: 2nd gen Z28 Camaro

Iconic pony car took on the Mustang

The late 60s and early 70s were great times in the auto industry because it was all about American muscle. Ford had just launched the Mustang to kick off the pony car era and Chevy followed up with its answer, the Camaro. It first went on sale on September 29, 1966, for the 1967 model year. It was code-named Panther but in keeping with Chevy starting the name of every vehicle with the letter C, named Camaro. Automotive press asked Chevrolet product managers, “what is a Camaro?” and were told it was “a small, vicious animal that eats Mustang.

The Z28 was created at launch by Camaro to make them a force in SCCA’s Trans-AM series and that time from 69-72 was really its golden era.

RELATED: Read Paul’s post about racing Trans-Am on a budget.

This is a 1970-ish Z28 that I spotted in a garage while helping my daughter move into her new apartment. She actually saw the car first.

This is a second-gen Camaro that was totally different than the one it replaced. It featured a new Z28 engine that was essentially the same as a Corvette LT-1. But because in Chevy world the Corvette has to be the big dog the engine was rated at ten less horsepower (360 vs. 370), while torque ratings were the same (380 lb-ft). This one looks like a project that is close to completion, still missing the turn signals, front bumperettes, rear bumper, and tail lights. Definitely ready to race though with the wide-body flairs, spoiler, four-speed, and roll bars. I think it might make a great autocross car.

A quick check on Hemmings found these cars to be affordable selling for the mid-40s. Too bad the Camaro goes away in 2024 and be replaced by a four-door electric car. I call them toasters. What a wasted opportunity. Check back next Friday for another car spot and have a great weekend.

RELATED: Read Paul’s argument on why this rush to electric cars is crazy.

Car Spot: This Midget was a King

Billed as the World’s Most Exciting Small Car

Just after World War II ended the car business was booming. All those GI’s coming home wanting something new and/or cool to drive. Claud Dry and Dale Orcutt cashed in on that and created the King Midget in 1946. For a time, their company, Midget Motors Corporation was the sixth-largest auto manufacturer. The car was built until 1970. I spotted this at a recent car show in town.

The Model 3 was sold fully assembled, and advertised in magazines like Popular Mechanics and Mechanix Illustrated. It was powered by a rear-mounted, air-cooled, one-cylinder Wisconsin or Kohler engine making 9.2 or 12 horsepower mated to a two-speed automatic transmission. It has a fully independent suspension and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. It gets around 50 mpg and had a top speed of about the same. The 177-inch runabout rides on eight-inch wheels. The car ranged in price from just under $900 up to a bit over $1,000 during its 13-year run. If you’re looking to get into the old car hobby, this is a great entry point. According to NADA pricing, today’s low and high values are $4,300 to $13,000. This car reminds me of Corvairs and VW Beatles in that their smiles per gallon factor are huge.

RELATED POST: See my story about one of the last VW Beatle Convertibles.

Be sure to check back next Friday when I’ll have another car spot. Have a great weekend.

Car Spot: The ultimate ride for a Green Bay Packer Fan

You can look but not touch this one.

Green Bay Packer fans are the best in the NFL. Sure, I’m biased since I am one but they/we are not ashamed to show our pride for the green and gold. One thing we love to do is tailgate before a game and this 1958 Chevy Pickup is a great example of what it’s all about. So much so, it’s on display at the Packer Hall of Fame.

This pickup was fully restored by a local car dealer donated to the Hall of Fame. It’s a 1958 3100 pickup that rolled off the assembly line in Baltimore, MD equipped with a 235 cubic inch 6 and puts out 145 hp. In the day that was pretty good. As a tribute to the team, it is dressed in Polar Green. Go Pack Go!

Be sure to check back on Friday as I’ll share a new car spot. Have a great weekend.

Car Spotting: 2019 Ford GT

One of 50

Show of hands. How many of you have seen the movie Ford vs. Ferarri? That’s part of the reason behind the creation of this special edition 2019 Ford GT. As if they’re not special enough, right? This one was built to commemorate the 1968 LeMans race where a Ford GT in Gulf colors won the race. This one I spotted while on vacation in Florida. The owner also owns the previous model Ford GT. Lucky guy.

When he was chosen by Ford to be able to purchase it, yup, you need to apply before you can even buy it, it set him back around $600,000. Now they go for around 1.3 Mil. Oh, and I forgot to mention that Ford makes the owner sign an agreement that they will not sell it for two years after purchase.

RELATED VIDEO: Paul takes a lap in a Ford GT at Road America.

This Heritage Edition features the 647 HP twin-turbo V6, 7-speed dual-clutch transaxle, top speed of 216 and will go 0-60 in about three seconds. Imagine that. Going fast and looking cool all at the same time. I’m down with that.

Check back each Friday as I feature a cool car I spotted out and about.

Its mother was an S-10 Blazer

Supercool Rodster

I love unusual cars. Maybe that’s why I like AMC cars so much. They tend to attract me. So I was at this car show in Florida recently where there were all kinds of cool Corvettes, Ford GTs, and even a 1970 AMX. But it was this Rodster that caught my eye. It’s called the Cruisin’ Machine and it’s a kit car.

The Rodster is the brainchild of Henry Caroselli, a talented designer with a background in award-winning advertising work for the Mazda RX-7, the Miata, and a stint at the Magic Kingdon. His intent with the Rodster was to design a cruisin’ machine with several styling traits of historic automobilia and place it on a stout, modern chassis that would make the build easy and make the finished car reliable and dependable and a drive-anywhere looker. The kit costs $3,999 and includes all the body parts and interior. The builder just needs to acquire a Chevy/GMC S-10 Blazer/Jimmy. If you like to build, this one is for you. It’s certainly something you don’t see every day.