By J. Smith
What exactly is it about certain cars (or trucks) that allow them to embed themselves in our hearts and minds, regardless of logic or utility? By my count, I’ve owned or been in possession of 28 cars in the 20 or so years I’ve had a driver’s license. In my back roads, I’ve had Clint, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach. But there are only a few that have truly wormed their way into my heart. At least one of them—a 1976 Buick Electra 225—I still dream about occasionally. Literally—I have had dreams of driving that car many times in the 18 years since we parted ways.
I find that many, although not all, of the cars that have endeared themselves to me have been cursed by tragic flaws, typically costing time, money and heartache. And many of the ones I still think about slipped through my hands in the space of a few months.
Perhaps it goes back to childhood. My dad was and still is a confirmed car addict. A real gearhead. Despite working 30 years at GM, not all the cars he owned were GM models. Back in the early 70’s, he owned a Datsun pick-up—probably the only autoworker in Michigan that owned one. He bought it new and only drove it a few years. I don’t even know if he had it while I was alive; I certainly don’t remember it. But I do remember the two or three 240Zs he had in the 70s. Sometimes he will rhapsodically recall the motorcycle like wind-up of the straight six, rev happy in a way that few cars were at the time. This is quickly followed by him slowly shaking his head and cursing the rust that caused most of the 70s Z cars to dissolve back into the ground.
By Chris Haak
Late Sunday night, Judge Robert Gerber of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan approved the sale of all of GM’s valuable assets to the so-called “New GM” as part of a Section 363 asset sale under the bankruptcy code. The move was expected to occur eventually – since it’s almost exactly the same scenario that played out in June as Chrysler’s “good” assets were sold to a new company that became Chrysler Group LLC and was approved by the same bankruptcy court (albeit by a different judge). Click here to download the large PDF of Judge Gerber’s ruling.
Judge Gerber stayed his ruling for four days to allow for the expected appeals – which in the GM case, appear to be coming mainly from bondholders who are attempting to extract more value from the bankruptcy than the 10% of the New GM that they are slated to get, and from personal-injury litigants, who are protesting the concept that most of GM’s product-liability claims would remain with the Old GM entity and therefore be liquidated.
The good assets will be transferred to an entity known as NGMCO, Inc. (New GM Corporation, get it?), which will change its name to General Motors Company, and will continue to operate GM’s brands and sub-brands such as Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, and GMC. Meanwhile, the so-called Old GM (the former GM Corporation), following the sale of its desirable assets to NGMCO, will be renamed Motors Liquidation Company, and the remaining assets, including property, brands, plants, and equipment – not to mention billions of dollars in liabilities – will be liquidated and otherwise eliminated.
By James Wong
From as early as 2003, Alfa Romeo has already shown its interest to the public to build a limited production supercar bounded by exclusivity and performance. The 8C, first unveiled as a concept car at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show, showed what Alfa Romeo envisioned its supercar to be: to echo the style of the Alfas of the 1930s-1940s, yet to have the underpinnings of a modern sports car.
The result is plain to see. The production version uses the glorious Maserati 4.7 V8 also used in the Granturismo S, along with a quick-shifting six-speed robotized manual gearbox which can shift gears in as fast as 175 milliseconds. With a kerb weight of slightly above 1.5 tons, the car is sure to be quick. Coming with 6 pot Brembo brakes at the front and 4 pots at the rear, the car can stop in time too, when the need arises. What is more amazing here though, is how Alfa managed to combine all that performance into a car that is left relatively unchanged from its concept design.
By James Wong
It’s no coincidence that the first car I would be driving from Alfa Romeo would be the Spider. Of all of the cars in its range, I was seduced mostly by the Spider, following behind in a close second place by the Brera. Often, we might refer to cars as ‘sexy’ or ‘gorgeous’. Well, this Spider is a bombshell.
The particular example we had the privilege to sample is in a rather unflattering silver colour, not helped by its adventurous interior colours of brown and petrol blue. Still, the car looks amazing either way, and despite stepping to it after previewing the 8C, the car didn’t feel out of place. In fact, I think the Spider could hold ranks pretty well even amongst supercars. The triple circular headlamps, the razor-sharp front end, the elegant door handles and the well-tailored rear end (I say tailored because it really looks like a suit) signing off with Spider in cursive is just perfect.
By Chris Haak
It’s still nowhere near time to break out the champagne and declare the new-car market healed, but there were a few pockets of sunshine, as industry sales fell 27.7% in June 2009 compared to June 2008 (although June 2008’s sales were down 18.3%. Most impressive were Ford’s results, which dipped only 10.9% and were by far the healthiest of the major automakers. Ford saw sales increases from the Flex (+247%), Fusion (+26.0%), Escape (+1.9%), Expedition (+7.1%) and Ranger (+8.8%) in June, with the Taurus, Taurus X, Focus, Mustang, Edge, and Explorer all bringing up the rear.
Freshly-minted Chrysler Group LLC emerged from bankruptcy during early June, and in spite of trimming fleet sales significantly (according to the company, its fleet sales were down a staggering 95% in June 2009 vs. June 2008), but aside from Chrysler-touted retail market share gains (+1 percentage point according to the company, on the back of hefty incentive spending, according to Edmunds), the only model that posted an actual sales gain compared to June 2008 was the Challenger coupe, which was available only in SRT8 trim and was only just launching in June 2008. Notable flops from Auburn Hills include the PT Cruiser (-82.3%), Sebring (-65.7%), Charger (-58.2%), Grand Caravan (-59.1%), Nitro (-42.9%), Commander (-68.0%), and Compass (-53.4%).
By Kevin Miller
A year ago this month, Chrysler’s PR reps dropped off a 425 HP Dodge Challenger SRT8 at 100 Techshake Plaza for a weeklong review. Our intrepid editor Chris Haak garnered more attention than most B-list celebrities over a long weekend driving the then-new Challenger SRT8 in Hemi Orange for a week. We later had the opportunity to review the Dodge Challenger R/T, which features a 375 HP Hemi V8 coupled to 5-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission.
Now, we have finally tested the third member of the Challenger family, the SE. Equipped with a 250 HP, 3.5 liter V-6 and a pedestrian four-speed automatic transmission, the Challenger SE finds itself resolutely unable to live up to its reborn muscle car looks.
By J.S. Smith
A while back, I had the opportunity to take a 2009 Ford Focus sedan on a long road-trip to northern Michigan. I actually had no choice in the matter; this was the car available in the motor pool. Still, I was thankful, given that my two previous forays into the motor pool produced cars almost ready for expulsion. So, humble as the Focus sedan is, it was a marked step up from previous work-related trips. This particular car has 2,274 miles on the odometer, so it was pretty fresh by fleet standards.
I was also more than a little interested in driving the vehicle because my wife and I own a 2001 Ford Focus wagon. The first generation Focus is a truly great vehicle design. It towered over the other compacts of the early 2000s, and was recognized on both sides of the pond as the top car in its class. Sporty handling, firm ride, an interestingly esoteric dash layout and interior room rivaling mid-size sedans—not to mention good fuel economy and handsome styling. And the wagon versions boasted cargo capacity exceeding most mid-size SUVs. Sure, the early models—at least in North America—were alarmingly recall prone, and there were some quality issues, but the design and packaging are still, to my mind, unrivalled. At least in the US.
By Andy Bannister
French company Peugeot is attempting to hark back to its distant past as a pioneer of big seven-seater estate cars with the revival of its classic 5-series tag on its latest MPV, to be known as the 5008.