Thursday, September 23, 2010

Of Magical Mustangs and Howling Coyotes

By all accounts the new Mustang 5.0 is an American muscle masterpiece.

Power-to-weight besting many exotics and handling to match. Road course times within 10ths of 70k BMW M3s. Fire-breathing Camaros left at the apexes.

Solid rear axle? Chant that one all you want, at least until the first mid-corner pothole.

But something's fishy out in the pony pasture, and the stench is coming from the Mustang corral.

It's not so much the gamey spec-sheet: want the advertised 17/26 MPG? Better spec that 3.31 rear axle. Want to stay with a Camaro in the 1/4 mile like in all those magazine tests? Spec 3.73 and kiss the MPGs goodbye.

No, it's more the gaping gap in gallop documented in magazine testing of the soon-to-be legendary new 5.0.

Anybody notice that Motor Trend seems to find a tailwind every time they test a 2011 Mustang? We're talking a BIG tailwind ... as in a whole second's difference to 100 in the V8 compared to every other major car magazine 5.0 test out there. Similar specs-defying gaps for the V6.

But the tailwinds aren't just blowing hard out in California.

Car and Driver, the U.S. enthusiast book most likely to sniff-out and document automotive fish odors, recently tested a 5.0 Mustang convertible (200ish pounds heavier and mired in 3.31 gears) and got acceleration numbers nearly identical to the light & tight 3.73 coupe.

Something even fishier floating between the prose and numbers columns of CD's big June Pony Car shootout issue: Text that claims the 'Stang needs a shift to 3rd gear to hit 60 but a numbers column showing the car hitting 60 in second gear.

In fact, most sources show a 3.73 5.0 needing third to hit 60, but it's doubtful anybody getting mid 4s to 60 is making that third shift.

In the old days they used to tell you about this stuff.


Leaving out the magically-motivated Mustangs of Motor Trend, it appears Ford has built the best handling Mustang ever, but one still hampered by the real-world torque deficiencies of modern overhead cams against old-school pushrods.

All of this is good news in any case. It means Muscle Car Nation is still firmly rocking that 60s vibe where car mags hype but the streets and strips decide.

The Great Recession was over last year according to the people who label these things. CAFE 2020 is on the horizon. The drag strips will be a fun place to hang out during The Good Old Tire-Melting Days II.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ford's Performance Problem

Has Ford painted itself in a corner for 2012 with its mind-blowing new V6 Mustang?

You're UnHumble Car Czar says, "Yep, probably" ... because now Ford's two new lower-line up-and-comers, the turbocharged Fiesta (2012) and (possible) turbocharged Focus (SWG: 2014) may bump up against or even pass Ford's 24k 305 hp secretary(it) pony on the price charts.

Traditionally V6 Stangs have never been competitive with hot hatches in a straight line, let alone in zigging and zagging. It's an all-new game for 2011; the lowliest pony now hits 60 in the low fives and slices and dices with any EuroSedan you care to mention.


With traction control, folding rear seats, and 30 MPG on the highway, practically every argument for choosing a hot-rodded economy car over what is likely America's best all-around sports coupe to-date disappears.

Ford should probably figure out how to raise the price of the Mustang, but this office thinks it's a much better idea to keep the prices of the blown Fiesta and Focus really, really low.

I am the CarCzar, and I'm here to help.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Business as Usual for Innocents at Main Street AutoMall

Thank goodness car dealers have been exempted from financial lending reform. These hard-working local businessman would be hurt by the restrictive provisions of the U.S. government's latest Wall Street-bashing legislative fusillade according to multi-zillionaire West Coast Mega-Dealer Ron Tonkin.

"This is a win for my children, and my children's children, who would be sentenced to lives as mere millionaires if my dealerships could no longer screw those least able to afford to be screwed with sucker loan terms," Tonkin didn't say.

The nation's automotive landscape may be changing, with electric cars, six-cylinder Corvettes, and Buicks that handle better than BMWs.

But at least we know now we have preserved a little of that old-time automotive Americana:

Balloon note loan structures and PayDay lending-level interest rates for those too uncreditworthy or too dumb to look elsewhere ... loan payment insurance premium schemes ... all of which will keep Ron Tonkin and his fellow hard-workin' local Main Street businessmen in Bentleys and Ferraris when they're slumming it on St. Barts all winter.

Fear not, Automotive Nation. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes Change is just Chump Change.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

My Porsche is a P O R S C H E. Lookit!

A word with Porsche today. You guys normally fly under the radar owing to your ages-old stubborn brilliance in rear-engined cars, not to mention your perfect recent Boxster and Caymen.

All of it's been enough to overlook dumb stuff like the Cayenne and Panamera, not to mention ridiculously-priced straight-from-the-VW bin options that cost as much as a whole VW.

But your new Boxster Spyder, by all accounts the Porsche to own if you're going to own just one, cannot escape this office's wrath.

Everything about this new car of yours, from the pared-down weight to the nicely-bumped horsepower is fantastic.

The Carrera GT-inspired rump is divine.

But why-oh-why did you ruin this car by plastering P O R S C H E on the doors?

Why not even a $500 Bad Graphic Idea Delete option on the build sheet?




Back in the 914 days when you really were making glorified Volkswagens, this tackiness was almost forgivable. (Hey everybody: It may sound like a Kharmann Ghia, but it's a P O R S C H E).

Feel free to keep on junking up your GT3 RS with such graphics – some owners might want to pretend they're driving factory sponsored Rolex series race cars, after all.

But please, PLEASE tell us that your Boxster Spyder door P O R S C H E banner is not painted on.

Please tell us it's just a sticker meant to seal the deal owing to market research that indicates that your average buyer can't overcompensate for personal shortcomings sufficiently by just owning a Porsche that doesn't tell everyone it's a P O R S C H E.

Please sell us a $1,200 Porsche blow dryer so we can feel like we spent enough option money to fix this mess in our own driveways.

I am the Car Czar, and I'm here to help.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


The Corvette.

The Viper.

The Mustang.

The Camaro.

The Daytona.

The GTO.

The F456

The Twin Mill.

The Beatnik Bandit.

The Red Baron.

The Batmobile.

The Custom Van Rockin' Cragar Keystone Klassics.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Really Brief Musings on Old White Guys in Congress

Congrats to the boss for getting a health care package passed ... I think. Alas, no one in even my high office has a clue what's in it after months of grinding by the Washington I-Win...No-I-Win legislative sausage factory.

If any great tragedy comes out of the Big O's national healthcare campaign, it's in being forced to watch old white guys who have been soundly whipped at their own game fighting tooth-and-nail to look like the final bell never rang ... kinda like they idiotically did for a year-plus after the 2008 election with birth certificate challenges and tea parties.

House Minority (relish the irony of the term) Leader John Boehner is sort of the poster child for today's pretending-to-still-be-relevant Republican. The guy plainly smirks every time he's on camera, even as his party's once-proud elephant trunk dangles limply just outside the Capital Hill circus tent.

Boehner looks like the insolent kid in the back of the classroom who's got it in for the teacher but can't do jack about it.

Then you've got the Grand Old Party Outburst Guys: Mr. "You Lie!" And lately Mr. "Baby Killer!"

Abe, Ike, and Dutch can't be proud.

Eventually these entitled old hacks will be replaced with some more formidable talent and we'll have a real ballgame again.

Until then, keep popping that popcorn, and always bet on the half-black guy.

Friday, March 19, 2010

From the What Were They Thinking Files: The Worst Automotive Ideas in Decades

Today your UnHumble Car Czar's list of automotive mistakes, decade-by-decade. Since every car was cool before muscle cars made everything else boring, let's leave the seven decades preceding the 60s out. Bad ideas are relative, see.

60s: Skinny Tires
Fitted to the biggest torque monsters ever to wrinkle asphalt. Combine those with drum brakes, no seatbelts, no safety glass, and Impale-O-Matic steering columns and wallah! Social Security solvency gets a few more years' reprieve.

70s: Wire Wheel Covers
They rust. The fall off. They're so Lamont Sanford.

80s: The Car Bra
Keeps bugs and stones off eight inches of your car hood. Remove after a year of sun and rain and enjoy your new two-tone car hood. The worst part is you looked like a dork the whole time.

90s: Smoked Headlight Covers
What kind of dimwit buys covers to dim his headlights? Cruise a trailer park and find out what kind and how many. But get there fast, before Darwin goes quota filling.

00s: The H2 Hummer
Owners willing to pay nearly as much as the real thing for this dressed-up Chevy Suburban assclown. Owners willing to spend 50 grand more in home equity hock over an H3 to delude themselves into the believing they rock the roadways. Drivers often petite and wholly unaware of the irony.

10s: Porsche Panamera, Honda Crosstour, BMW X6, Acura ZDX, etc.
When even the fawning connoisseur magazines have to apologize for reviewing these Big Butts you know you've got a problem. Let's face it: only the guys who wear suggestively-too-large shoes and dangle an extra foot of belt out of their buckles even claim to dig Beyoncé.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

2012 Ford Fiesta RS Turbo: An Internet Rumor

Time for this office to once again help Ford spec-out its upcoming Fiesta Turbo.

I say "upcoming" because The Big Blue Oval has been teasing web punks with a "Turbo Kit" in its buyer surveys forever ... and proudly shows "Turbo Kit" as the #1 most-popular option ... so the Fiesta Turbo is a done deal for 2012 according to an internet rumor I just started.

The spec for the 2011 normally-aspirated Fiesta looks to be set, complete with smart packaging, back-to-the-80s curb weight, and That 70s Show funky colors. It looks like Job 1's alternative to a clutch & stick is a slick sequential-gear dual clutch tranny, but tragically with -0- manual intervention options except Ford's patented "You Really Shouldn't Have Asked" ViolentDownShift™ "L" low gear choice.

No manual control of Ford's self-proclaimed "Advanced Six-Speed Transmission" might be fine in a modern-day Crown Vic, but it will not do in a car that is already on its way to placing Ford on the Gotta Have It Podium with a generation of paddle-slapping-happy Gran Turismo racers.

Ford: If you're going to go to the trouble of blowing a Fiesta, don't blow it by sticking non-stick-shifters with no gear selection control.

This car needs paddle shifters.

Right for up. Left for down.

And a Forward for upshift/Backward for downshift center tunnel stick to resort to once we future Fiesta Turbo drivers realize we're not stuck inside a narrow F1 tub with no room to move anything but fingers and therefore not really in need of something gimmicky like paddle shifters.

Judging by the once-upon-a-time Focus SVT, the balance of the spec on your hotted-up Fiesta should be right-on.

Probably some nice 17-inch wheels shod with 45-series rubber and maybe a suspension nip and tuck here and there.

With luck, someone will tone down the garish silver center stack trim on the normally-aspirated model and try something a little classier.

You're going to need royally-righteous purple and tangy orange paint options on the 2012 Fiesta Turbo, too, because let's face it, Ford, you're the new Anti-Toyota.

You are the anti-boring, with 240 hp Escapes, 365 hp Taurus SHOs, and 412 hp 5.0 Mustang GTs.

You are the anti-beige, with Grabber Blue and Lime Squeeze already on your palette.

Your most recent corporate walk of shame is already years behind you.

Therefore, thou shalt cut loose and celebrate the end of this dismal world recession (another internet rumor I've started) with a tight, blown, paddle-shifted urban brawler wearing the orange of the fiery sunset of our discontent and the purple of the dawn of a new age.

Thou shalt call these new cloaks "Orange Sunset" and "Purple Dawn."

Thou shalt make these cloaks to be metallic and put them on the 2012 Fiesta RS Turbo, pricing everything under 21k with a paddle-shifted dual clutch tranny and no obligation to purchase an increasingly-useless factory-installed GPS.

I am the Car Czar (sorry about all that "Thou shalt" stuff ... sometimes I get to thinking I'm more powerful than I actually am), and I'm here to help.


(Updated: The Big Blue Oval owns the Bowtie Guys in our Hot Hatches that Don't Yet Exist category)

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Trouble with Toyota Trouble

So lemme get this straight. The maker of some of the highest quality cars in the world finally screws up with one inconsistently-sourced accelerator linkage and suddenly there are questions about the quality of all Toyotas?

Congressional investigation coming up. Toyota company president Huki Saki Suki (I made that name up, so be assured it's spelled correctly) falls on his sword. Headlines everywhere: This Toyota model and that Toyota model might have this and that wrong with them too.

The Swine Flu is starting to look under-reported.

It's important to remember that Toyotas have always been good, if mostly boring cars. It's also important to remember that Toyotas have never been the perfect cars spun by the consumer media, who tend to evaluate reported problems with automotive models rather than actual problems.

Actual problems are tough to find when manufacturers make a habit of secretly fixing low-quality parts and secretly recalling low-quality parts, as Toyota did for much of its existence as a high-quality automotive manufacturer.

Engine melt down out of warranty? We've had some problems with that engine. We'll put a brand new engine into your car free of charge – just make sure to be nice to us on the customer comment card. And while you're in, we'd like to treat you to a rolling upgrade – we're rounding-off the edges on those square factory tire/wheel combos ... better ride and better gas mileage. No charge for our new upgraded see-through windshield, either.

(Foregoing embellishments courtesy of internet blogging, where you can get away with practically anything. And, oh yeah ... Huki Saki Suki , John Edwards, and a goat – really).

This whole fall-from-grace thing with Toyota is as blown out of proportion as the Tiger Woods-and-the-cocktail-waitresses tales that are all over the media, which suggest that the multi-racial Zen Buick driver has fallen to as many as 27 skanky cocktail waitresses recently when the number is much closer to 26.

The Americans and Europeans have given us cars with far worse design flaws over the years, yet we forgive them – knowing they're hamstrung by poor management, union bums, and German engineers, and Bosch and Lucas electronics – and cherish the best of their breed – muscle cars, sports sedans, hot hatches – not because they're perfect, but because someone with a driving soul laid it all on the line to give us cars that are good for our souls

Toyota makes cars that are good for some people's souls – mainly people who's souls are happy driving a car without soul. Those people will stick around, to be sure.

Maybe it wouldn't hurt, now that the whole "perfect" charade is over, for Toyota to re-dabble in some cars with real soul. The MR2, Celica, and Supra Turbo come to mind.

But in the meantime, there's nothing wrong with any Toyota that a little time in the shop won't fix.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Five Cool Cars that Could be Conan’s

Your UnHumble Car Czar is working all of his political connections (-0-) this week to see that Conan O'Brien gets the boot from NBC late night television and Jay Leno wins his old job back. No animosity or affinity here. It's all about cars.

Here's the math:

Conan O'Brien is funny, but not that funny. His What Can I Get Away With shticks featuring the self-pleasing bear, et al. are mostly derivative and best performed on college campuses. Conan will get funnier out of all this, guaranteed. Getting screwed by a feckless corporation always makes a funny guy funnier – the biting kind of funny that makes funny worthwhile. It will be fun watching Big Red create a flat-out copy of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog to torture the network intellectual property lawyers with. Maybe he'll take a shrug-of-the-shoulders cue from Chinese counterfeiters and bring us something like Tryhump the Insult Comic Frog. And maybe he'll actually get his new show written and produced in China to give the NBC legal suits even more grief. (And he can make jokes about having traces of Cadmium in his jokes).


Jay Leno will return to being Jay Leno – safely amusing. He will give another network Peter Principle division the wish it wished for. Jay Walking is pretty funny. It's fun also to watch Wynton Marsalis kowtow to The Chin, reminding us that between Kevin replacing Branford and Jay replacing Johnny and Johnny needing to pay Ed to laugh at his jokes even back-when, The Tonight Show has always been a grand celebration of corporate butt-smooching. Real game-changers need not apply.


Really neat car collections.

(If you're with me so far, it's because you've made a huge logic leap right along with me. Welcome to The Show, amigo).


We get a funny-enough guy who remains employed at a big-buck salary on a major network ... one who despite being a high-profile corporate get-along is a real car guy with a really neat car collection to feed and care for.

We get a sometimes-funnier guy walking around with an extra $40 million in hit-the-road-Conan dough ... and the same old lame Tonight Show as one of his major competitors. A sometimes-funnier guy who's bound to get richer yet against the So-Yesterday Show, and who pretty soon will have the bucks to build up a really neat car collection without breaking a sweat.

(If you're still with me, and if you won't for a moment consider the notion that Conan O. already has more than enough scratch to rock a really neat car collection, good on 'ya. You're making my job a pleasure).

Put Mr. Leno's real car collection and Mr. O'Brien's theoretical car collection out there in the world's collective don't-know-why-we-care-but-we-do consciousness along with David Letterman's big-ticket race cars (Mr. L. apparently rents most of his personal rides: taxicabs driven by Mustafah and interns driven by ... Dave) – and suddenly we have three really neat car collections in the world of late night talk show comedians.

A pop culture celebration of what we should be doing with Big Money in the last throes of the Oil Age, before all the Kool Kids get turned on to the slot car rush of electric whooshmobiles like the real Tesla Roadster and unreal GTbyCitroen.

The Chase: Hire Conan O'Brien, ABC.

It's time you stopped running Seinfeld re-runs at 11:30 and get while the getting's good. Jerry Seinfeld doesn't need the royalty dough, as he has done nothing good for car collecting, being stuck in some obsessive-compulsive Porsche loop where he buys a 911 in every color, transmission, and gear combination until he's filled up a Manhattan parking garage with one model year, and then proceeds to buy another parking garage to start the insanity over again with the next model year.

Truly sick.

Mr. O'Brien, cash-in-hand, can start his very own late night talk show comedian car fleet, perhaps eschewing the steam-powered Toronado eccentricities of the Leno collection and the high-falutin' race machines owned by The Gap-Toothed One to buy a sweet fleet of Gen-Now Cool Cars, which are not smart cars nor Smart cars, but just the coolest cheap cars you can get today.

Cool because cool is always cool.

Cheap because Mr. O'Brien should probably save the balance of his windfall for retirement. People just aren't watching television much anymore. All the money is in internet videos of cats.

Here are five highly-recommended shoe-ins for Conan O'Brien's New Theoretical Late Night Comic Car Collection in no order save for numerical (flowers if you're viewing this blog in Firefox: those guys are just not numbers people):

  1. Lotus Elise (More fun than a Ferrari. Cheaper than a Ferrari oil change).
  2. Volkswagen GTI (All the grins and utility any city dweller really needs. You can get it with a real paddle-shifted twin-clutch tranny without having to troll Sunset Boulevard at 3 a.m.).
  3. BMW 128i (So Chi-Chi and so Cheap-Cheap [if you don't let the dealer load it up] that all the car mags whose editors are still making payments on 40k 328s are bashing it mercilessly).
  4. Fiat 500 Abarth (Because a late night comedian needs personal transportation that writes its own jokes).
  5. Nissan Cube in lime green (not because this car belongs on the list, but because Conan O'Brien is tall, skinny, red-headed, and always playing with his nipples on camera. Adding a lime green dorkmobile to the Aura of Conan seems to go so right with everything that's already so wrong, and it would look just sinister next to a Burnt Orange Elise).

I am the Car Czar, and I'm here to help.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sony Delays Gran Turismo 5, Maybe ... Just for Me

The thumb-racing world was rocked today by the announcement that the release of Gran Turismo 5 is on indefinite delay.

Sony Corp. says Japan's anticipated March release of GT5 is on hold, but there's good news for everywhere else in the world: the latest iteration of the race simulation masterpiece maintains its previous No Firm Release date.

What does this mean for U.S. Gran Turismo hot shoes?

It means they'll have to indefinitely wait some more.

It means they'll still need to get their fix in GT5 Prologue carving up Suzuka East with the same old tuned Lotus Elise or Corvette Z06 and destroying all comers at Daytona and the High Speed Ring with the spooky-fast electric GT by Citroen ... or maybe a Dodge Viper to be fair. Of course there are other entertaining cars in Prologue, but do they really matter when a grand +, including nearly every streetable fun car in history, will be garage-able, tune-able, and race-able in GT5 The Full?

(Geez. No wonder it' s taking so long)

The delay couldn't come at a better time for your UnHumble Car Czar, who remains stuck two 750-point races out of pocketing the coveted S-Class license and the chance to buy a 2007 F1 Ferrari for a mere $2 mil. I say "mere" because I've been to $2 mil so many times in GT5 Prologue that I've had to resort as many times to bleeding cash on a rainbow garage of street Ferraris and Astons to stay under the winnings cap. That's what happens when your racing talent really and truly runs out with two races to go in the game.

I really want that F1 Ferrari bad, but my repeated failure to get the gearing, camber, and aero right on my tuned Mines and Z06 test mules, plus my habit of failing in the rhythm Ss of Suzuka and completely blowing the last kink before the main grandstands while trying to woof past five cars in one apex is likely going to keep me unfulfilled and out of the hunt.

Without a fake real F1 Ferrari to prance around the limited track selection in GT5 Prologue there's no sense looking forward to the 1,000+ cars and multitude of tracks in the long-delayed and still-delayed full version of the best driving simulation ever to hit a home gaming system.

Let the talented and bored F1 Ferrari-driving S-Class geniuses be disturbed by this disturbing development. Let them worry about whether their hard-won S-Class license and F1 Ferrari will transfer to the full version.

If anybody needs me in the meantime, look for me somewhere in a in a tire barrier near Turn 15 at Suzuka. I really need to hit the brakes earlier there.