Archive | August, 2010

Chevrolet Venture Exhaust Fail

Yes, that is dual exhaust pipes sticking out the back of this Chevrolet Venture.  Yup…..Sadly I was not around when this beast was started as I would have loved to record the exhaust note.

First Drive – 1967 Ford Mustang: The Sun Bums Mustang

This past weekend I had the honor of driving the Sun Bum’s 1967 Ford Mustang convertible.  You see the Sun Bum’s own a cabin across the road from my family’s cabin up in Northern Minnesota.  I have eyed this yellow 67′ Mustang from afar ever since I was a kid.  When I was old enough to cross the road alone, I ventured over and stuck my nose to the glass, gawking at the leather and vinyl interior.

This summer Sandy (the owner of the 67′) walked over to me and said “You wanna drive it?”  I of course said the words I have waited to say since I was a little kid – YES!  This past weekend Sandy ran an errand and when she came back she pulled the Sun Bum’s 67′ Mustang into our driveway and honked the horn three times.  I was down the road talking to a family friend.  Immediately looking at him, he knew and said “Go.”

As I slid into the drivers seat, I got goosebumps.  I’ve stared at this car for years from across the road.  The interior is all original!  The seats are *ahem* cushy with little to no lateral support.  The dashboard has no cracks nor did the seats.  The door panels were in terrific condition.  We lowered the windows, turned up the tunes on the radio (oldies of course) and we hit the road.  Sandy was wearing a sun hat and I had a big stupid smile on my face.

Sandy had a lone speaker in front of the automatic shifter.  Yes, this Mustang is an automatic and yet I still enjoyed myself.  Sure I wouldn’t have minded a third pedal, but beggars can’t be choosers. Regardless we hit the road and the engine purred.  As I mentioned, the car isn’t rebuilt but the engine is. This is a rebuilt 289 which replaced the original 289 V-8.  With only two rust spots on the whole car, the thing is cherry.

The V-8 isn’t powerful enough to snap the rear end loose off the line, but she’ll go.  We got onto a two lane highway and hit about 60.  But honestly, between the wind noise and the sloppy steering, it felt much faster.

Oh that sloppy steering? It probably had the loosest steering I have ever driven, yet I didn’t care.  We cruised around a local lake and then through town.  As we headed back to the cabin I noted the similarities between this 1967 Mustang and the new 2011 Mustang.  From the dual cowl dash and two main round gauges, to the lines on the exterior.  The bloodline seems to have continued and the new Mustang is still a true thoroughbred.  Back to the Sun Bum’s 67′.

Sandy and her husband named themselves the sun bums due to living in Mexico sixty percent of the year and the rest in Northern Minnesota.  This weekend was a work weekend at the cabin, what with pulling boats and starting to close up for Labor Day, which is a mere week away.  But a car I have admired from afar and up close alike, I finally had the opportunity to drive. And that my friends made the weekend special.

Ford Ranger Plant in Minnesota Still Set to Close

We have all heard from sometime that the Ford Ranger plant here in Minnesota is going to close.  Some wondered if the recent tax breaks that went into effect in April would keep the plant open.  The Detroit News reported yesterday that Ford officials met with Governor Tim Pawlenty to discuss the future of the St. Paul plant.  The plant only builds the Ranger which has been slated for death for quite some time now.  With the F150 continuing to get more and more fuel efficient, the Ranger’s role is becoming less necessary.  Despite meeting with the Governor and the recent tax breaks, Ford continues to say they plan to shutter the plant.  The date of closing has not been given though neither has the death date of the Ranger.  I am betting those two dates will be somewhat close to each other when revealed in the future.  It has been said numerous times that the new larger Ranger that will be sold around the world will not be sold in North America.

Source- The Detroit News

Video – Porsche 911 Sport Classic: The Ducktail I Want

Remember when you were a kid and your parents told you money doesn’t buy happiness?  They lied!  They didn’t mean to lie but they did.  You see Porsche is building a mere 250 911 Sport Classic’s priced at an eye watering $255,600!  You see this car is a emotional purchase not a reasonably thought out purchase.  You can buy a lot of car for that kind of cash but this, this is the Sport Classic.  An extra 23 horsepower over a stock 911 and that amazing duck tail spoiler.  They also throw in carbon ceramic brakes but that color….that color with the two tone racing stripes just finishes it off with the black wheels and the duck tail.  Watch the video and listen to that exhaust note and the engine wind up.  Just heavenly.  Yes folks money may not actually buy happiness but it can buy things that make you happy and isn’t that darn close?

REVEALED – 2011 Dodge Charger Pursuit

Not content to let Ford and Chevrolet take the Police departments over fully Dodge has revealed the upcoming Police Pursuit vehicle.  This is the 2011 Dodge Charger in all it’s glory.  In fact this is the first official picture released by Chrysler of the 2011 Dodge Charger.  Details are still flowing in but you can bet the pursuit vehicle will feature both the new Pentastar V6 (that just launched recently in the new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee) and the Hemi V8 with MDS.  Rear wheel drive will of course be the drive train set up and it is still murky as to the transmission choice, though I would assume the current 5 speed automatic will be in the police Pursuit vehicles.  Oh by the way, they finally got around to adding a column mounted shifter for the police package thus freeing up some space between the seats for other equipment.  Also inside the Pursuit vehicle they are touting red and white LED interior lighting which is for night-vision equipment and more.

Source- Chrysler

Minnesota Dodge Viper Club Gathers at Waconia Dodge

This past Saturday the Minnesota Viper Club gathered at Waconia Dodge to show off their toys.  My friend Ross was on hand to report on the mayhem.  At least 2o Vipers showed up (probably more he lost count) and most were unique.  Vipers are a unique type of beast, brash and unforgiving they will bite you and leave the venom so you will never forget.  Everything from a chromed out engine bay to a custom painted interior nothing was too out there.  A few were up front about the fact that they tracked the cars regularly, which is as it should be.  Enjoy the mini gallery and drool at the V10 awesomeness.

Photography- Ross Meuffels

Wheels of Italy Comes to Minneapolis

This past weekend marked the 8th annual Wheels of Italy car show.  As the name implies this is a show for everything Italian.  From prancing horses to raging bulls the shows was not a disappointment.  I was not on hand this year (I attended last year) but luckily for us local photographer extraordinaire Alex Bellus was in attendance and took some stunning photography.  Alex mode note that one of the coolest rides that showed in his opinion was the Ferrari 250 California Spider.  Like last year the event was held near Lake Calhoun from 10-4pm and was open to the public.  Word on the street is that even a car or two that made it to Pebble Beach Concours hustled back to Minneapolis to make the show.  While I hope to make it again next year for now grab a cup of coffee and take a gander at the gallery below for Alex has some great shots of some gorgeous automobiles.

Photography- Alex Bellus

Review – 2010 Corvette Grand Sport Convertible: A Nice Slice of Pie?

Most boys when they are young dream of two things: hot girls and fast cars.  One of those fast cars typically includes the Corvette (though your situation may vary).  I distinctly remember when growing up thinking about the Corvette, although it was not until the C6 (6th generation Corvette) introduced in 2005 that my interest was truly piqued.  The Corvette has always been somewhat of a performance bargain, and that is still the case to this day.  For the 2010 model year the question is simple – is the new Grand Sport Package all that and a slice of pie, or just another trim option not worth the price of entry?  Let’s find out.

Exterior

The first thing you notice about Corvette is that Chevrolet ditched the flip-up headlights (years ago).  This gives the car a clean look day or night, and the projector lenses provide crisp cut off lines at night.  The front end is low, with a slight plastic lip attached to the front clip (careful when parking!).  Directly above the Corvette emblem is an air inlet like those found on Corvette Z06 and ZR1 models.  Directly behind the front wheel wells are two gills topped with Grand Sport lettering.  The rear quarter panels have a rear brake duct and the door handles are hidden (as with all C6 Corvette’s).  The rear features four round taillights and quad exhaust tips poking out from the center of the car.   The exterior is aggressive and taught.  More then one person noted that the headlights reminded them of those on Ferraris, and I can see how they make that comparison.  The Grand Sport hash marks on the front fenders I could go without, but they are not terribly gaudy.  The soft top is power operated, however you have one latch inside to release before lowering.  The top stows in the rear, eating into trunk space, which is surprisingly still enough for a nice weekend getaway (tested).  The rear deck is clean and flat when the top is down.  Overall, the exterior is good looking with an aggressive stance.

Interior

The interior of this car is such a love-hate drama.  I love that it is functional.  I hate that is dated.  Let’s start with the functional part – with more then enough leg room, the interior is comfortable.  The seats are comfortable for everyday driving and the ergonomics are excellent, with switchgear in easy reach and everything laid out nicely.  The head up display is terrific day and night.  OK, I am done with the good – now the bad.  This interior has aged.  The plastics are fine but nothing to write home about. The optional leather wrapped dash and door panels do their best to kick things up a notch, and it is an improvement.  The electronics are another story.  The $1,750 optional navigation system is disc based, not the newer hard drive-based system used in many of the current General Motors cars.  You want to listen to your iPhone/iPod? Too bad, there is no USB port.

Want to use an auxiliary in? Nope not available.  You pretty much need a radio transmitter to play such advanced devices.  I realize that those things aren’t what this car is about….but come on, it is 2010!

I cannot decide if I am being too picky or unrealistic but I will say on a road trip down to Iowa I pretty much just settled for XM radio since I was not going to obviously listen to my iPhone.  I would like to note that for 2011 I have heard the Corvette will get both an auxiliary port and USB port.

Just want to warn you, the center tunnel seems to get nice and warm, which you will notice if you rest your leg against it.  Oh, and those comfy seats?  They are comfy, but in no way up for what this car is capable of on a track.

So while comfy for everyday driving and highway trips, the interior is overall just fine, but it is definitely aging.

Powertrain

It is truly amazing how quickly any negatives I just previously stated fade away once you push the start button.  The pushrod V-8 comes to life with a nice raspy burble.  The 6.2 liter LS3 V8 pushes 436 horsepower and 428 pound feet (with optional exhaust), while six-piston brake calipers up front clamp down on cross-drilled rotors.  The brakes shed speed off quickly.  That power was put down (you sitting down?) through a six-speed automatic transmission.  I will state that more Corvettes then you want to believe are actually sold with automatic transmissions.

A sad but true fact.  Do not worry too much because we have paddle shifters (that might be out of a Malibu).  I will say this, while I would personally never buy a Corvette with an automatic transmission, it behaved better then expected.  It did what I wanted it to do 95% of the time.  Still, I would skip that pesky $1,250 option.  One option I would not skip is the $1,195 for that optional exhaust.  Dual mode exhaust combined with a drop top is a combination for pure awesome.

The exhaust note is tame and deep when you mash the go pedal, until about 3,300 RPM and then the baffles open up and it sounds like the devil.  You can not help but grin like an idiot.  That is just it, while driving this car it hard not to smile.  By the way, how many cars with 436 hp do you know of that are rated at 15/25 mpg?  Try that in a Ferrari!  In the city I averaged 15.4 mpg with plenty of spirited driving.  On the highway trip down to Iowa I averaged 24.1 with the cruise control set at 77.  That is nothing short of impressive!

The current Corvette has been on the market since 2005.  That is over 5 model years, and we probably will not see the next Corvette (C7) until 2012 at the earliest (probably later then that).  The first question is, does the Corvette still compete on the same level as it used too?  It has certainly aged, yet it can still keep up with the best of them.

The base price is hard to argue with too,  though the Grand Sport model I was in had a sticker price of $75,740.  That is close to a brand new Z06.  Part of that problem was the $16,210 in options.  You could pare that down easily and still have a great performing car.  I would say without a doubt the Corvette Grand Sport optioned lightly might be a better value then the base Corvette in many regards.  So yes, it is all that and a slice of pie – just be careful on those options

Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors

CUV’s – Perception vs. Reality

Recently, I had a conversation with a baby boomer about her vehicle.  She drives a Honda CR-V and tells me she likes it.  It came up during the conversation that she thought her CR-V was a truck.  I started asking questions and digging into why she might think this.  Apparently, it has to do with the raised ride height, all-wheel drive, and overall vehicle appearance.  I then, as gently as I could, informed her that her “truck” was not really a truck, rather it was what many refer to as a CUV.  CUV stands for crossover utility vehicle and these are not “trucks” in the traditional sense.

When SUV’s first came onto the market, they were little more then short trucks with four doors.  They have since evolved, but many people in the general public see current CUV’S and traditional SUV’s as the same.  A CUV isn’t like a normal SUV in many ways – starting with the fact that they aren’t body on frame vehicles.  They are unibody and essentially based off car platforms.  They aren’t designed for the same capabilities as a traditional SUV.  The aforementioned baby boomer from earlier was shocked to learn that her CR-V is based off a car.

CUV’s still have all-wheel drive, but most do not have off-road capabilities or even a low range like a traditional four-wheel drive. However, there are some that have locking differentials for deeper snow and sticky situations.  Interestingly enough, many CUV’s are more capable then most consumers will ever need.  With all that said, towing capacities are much lower then that of a typical SUV.  The current Ford Explorer is a typical SUV, being body on frame.  That will all be changing though with the new version that is set to go on sale at the end of this year/beginning of next year.  The next generation Explorer went more mainstream, being unibody.  This trend is continuing to expand among other SUV’s, including the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee (though the Grand Cherokee has always been unibody).  The 2011 Grand Cherokee will also be unibody, though it will still retain hard core off -road capabilities in certain trim levels.

What this all boils down to is perception.  People seem to want an “SUV”, but they do not want the many things associated with them.  That list includes, but isn’t limited to, poor gas mileage, rough ride, sloppy handling and many other things.  There are things people still want though – like increased ride height and the idea of off road capabilities.  So what does this mean?  It means that people want some characteristics of the SUV and not others – and that poses a challenge to marketers.

Confirmed – 2011 Dodge Durango is a Durango

So Dodge has finally launched the new upcoming 2011 Durango replacement website.  Guess what?! Turns out the Durango replacement will be in fact another Durango!  That’s right folks.  The rumors of the name changing to Magnum were apparently wrong.  They have put up three full teaser pics which between these and the spy shots we can pretty much tell what the new Durango will look like. Remember this based off of the new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee with a slight stretch.  Powertrain will be the same as the 2011 Grand Cherokee.  Check out the full teaser site here.

Source- Dodge