Category: Wheels

A story you probably thought you’d never see

Douglas A. McIntyre:

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles proposed a merger with Renault that would create the world’s third-largest carmaker. The eroding economics of the industry make such deal more likely by the day. Deep trouble at Ford Motor and General Motors’ need for more heft to compete with rivals Toyota and Volkswagen make a marriage between the two largest car companies increasingly probable.

Fiat Chrysler argues that a tie-up with Renault will lead to $5.5 billion in savings. As car sales have flattened in the United States and started to drop in China, the two largest markets in the world offer less hope for revenue improvement. Neither company has much of a sales footprint in China. Renault has none at all. Both have a strong market share in Europe, but it is one of the most competitive markets in the world. At the low end of the market, VW is the dominant force. At the high end, it is BMW and Mercedes.

While GM and Ford both have a strong market share in the United States, Ford has stumbled. It has withdrawn most of its sedans in the American market because sales have shifted from cars to sport utility vehicles, crossovers and pickups. Ford’s only bright spot in the United States is its F-Series full-sized pickup, which is the top-selling vehicle in the nation. Ford’s sales in China are abysmal and falling. GM’s are strong, but it is up against other car companies, both local and global, that need the largest car market to be successful.

Ford’s management, under CEO Jim Hackett and Executive Chair William Ford, has shown it can cut costs. It recently cut 7,000 white-collar workers. That will save $600 million. Hackett has set total savings of $14 billion for the five-year period that began last year. He also said the company will invest $11 billion to have 40 electric and hybrid cars by 2022. Not many outsiders believe he can make his goal. Ford may build more electric cars and hybrids, but selling them is another matter. The competition in this market runs from tech companies like Alphabet’s Waymo to Tesla, startups and every major manufacturer in the world. There is no evidence Ford is ahead of this wave, and so far, it appears the company is behind it. Confidence in Hackett, in particular, is low.

GM is better regarded than Ford, primarily because of the work of CEO Mary Barra. She has been CEO of GM since 2014. It also has cut costs. However, many outsiders believe it is ahead of most of its rivals in both the electric and self-driving car businesses. GM owns 75% of Cruise Automation, a leader in artificial intelligence of future cars.

GM has two other advantages over most global manufacturers. It is among the leaders in car sales in China. With its joint venture partners, it sold 813,973 vehicles in the first quarter. GM is also the leader in U.S. car sales, with about 17% of the market.

One of the primary hurdles GM would have if it took over Ford is that the market share of the two in the United States would be close to 30%. Either U.S. regulators would need to accept that, or the combined company would need to sell or spin out some of its brands. The most likely of these are GM’s Buick or GMC truck business.

While GM may have a future as a standalone car company over the next decade, Ford does not. Its market cap is down 42% over the past five years, while GM’s is close to flat. The savings in a combination would be well into the billions of dollars. A marriage of the two also could compete effectively with Toyota, VW and perhaps the new Fiat Chrysler and Renault combo. GM also has the advantage that it is considered to make among the most dependable American cars.

Who would have predicted a GM–Ford merger at any point?

The possible irony here is that GM has fallen out of favor with many car buyers due to its bailout in 2008. And GM clearly has issues with those not turned off by the bailout, as GM Authority reports:

During GM’s Q1 2019 earnings call, a Barclays Capital analyst asked GM CEO Mary Barra a rather interesting question: whether the automaker’s products lack the desirability of key rivals, particularly when it comes to vehicle design and effective marketing tactics that attract buyers.

“We’ve talked over the years about the cultural change you did at GM and a greater focus on cost accountability, making sure you’re in the right product and geographies to drive profit,” asked Brian Arthur Johnson of Barclays Capital. “But one thing I do hear from investors is, if they look at GM design, broadly speaking, both the vehicles, the interiors, the advertising it just doesn’t, in some people’s view, have the kind of pizzazz as you might see. I don’t always like going back to Tesla, but it’s not lost on some of us that one of your designers created Elon’s vehicle lineup.

So just, how are you thinking about the state of design overall at GM? Is it an important differentiator? Or do you think it’s more important to get capable vehicles out there and kind of play it more on the profit and the cost game? And if it is more important, what would you — what are you trying to do to kind of move it to the next level?”

GM CEO Mary Barra responded with the following, providing some insight into the automaker’s thinking and processes:

“I think it’s incredibly important. You have to do everything to win in this market. And design is a very important piece of it. I think we have a very disciplined process where we clinic data and understand the customers in segment and what they’re looking for, how they view products. Full-size truck is different than a Cadillac is different than a compact SUV like the Chevrolet Equinox. And so, we have a very rigorous process on how we develop trucks and really focus on putting the customer at the center as we do those designs.

But all aspects are critically important. I think if you – you mentioned advertising as well. I think Cadillac is a really good example as you’ve seen the shift that we’ve made. And Steve Carlisle can do a better job of telling you, but the list that we’ve had with Cruise, with the right campaign has been very very successful. And I would also say, when you look at brand building, there’s been tremendous improvement across all of our brands and strengthening from the key brand metrics.

So we’re focused on having beautifully designed products that people want and desire and got to have to having the right contenting, so we could have the right package and efficiency and affordability for the customer and winning in the marketplace and then having advertising that breaks through. But sometimes the advertising that breaks through and is most effective with the customers isn’t the one that wins all the awards.”

That seems like a nice reply, but it still doesn’t really explain what the automaker will do to solve the elephant in the room, which is that a significant amount of U.S. car buyers do not desire GM, its brands or products when shopping for a car – whether due to prior quality or reliability issues, image-related factors, or an entire list of other potential reasons. It’s a serious problem, one that leaves GM competing for a smaller portion of buyers.

Meanwhile, some of the automaker’s newest vehicle designs have been critiqued for being bland or unattractive, including such models as the all-new 2019 Chevrolet Silverado, refreshed 2019 Camaro, and the all-new 2020 Cadillac CT5.

In addition, the Super Cruise campaign mentioned by Barra might make for a good talking point, but its success is very limited. The spot in question – called Pioneers – isn’t focused on Super Cruise, but rather mentions it in passing, while also bringing up a whole bunch of other Cadillac attributes. But apparently, it’s effective.

Or not if it’s not actually selling GM cars.

This will be really interesting to watch.

 

Mustangs and Chargers and Corvettes! Oh my!

One of the two Car Chase Wonderland YouTube channels recently posted tributes to movies with car chases featuring Ford Mustangs …

… and Dodge Charger …

… both of which were featured in the greatest car chase of all time:

My exhaustive coverage of Corvettes on this blog has included the lamentation of the lack of great movies and TV shows that feature Corvettes as central to the setting.

Someone then reminded me of this movie:

It turns out Car Chase Wonderland also has footage of other Corvette chases …

… though the extent to which any of these Corvettes are central to the movie, except for the abominable “Corvette Summer,” is debatable.

The last Corvette

Dave Cruikshank:

The front-engined Corvette is dead. GM head honcho Mary Barra delivered the news last week the final production C7 would be auctioned off this summer.

While the press skimmed the surface of this historic automotive event, The C7’s demise has received little in-depth coverage. Not only is this a melancholy milestone for us ‘Vette fans, but a little bit of an automotive Groundhog’s Day as well.

Case in point, take the introduction of the GM’s LS powerplant way back in 1996. It debuted in the 1997 C5 Corvette and then GM quietly phased out the Gen 1/Gen II small-block motors with little fanfare. By the time production halted, GM produced over 50 million old-school V8s, easily dwarfing the Model T, Corolla, and the VW Bug for all-time automotive sales goliath. Yet, it went out with a whimper and folks hardly noticed.

Fast forward to last week’s announcement the C7 was dead, and GM seems to be taking a similar tack, quietly pulling the plug on the the last front-engined ‘Vette. Lasting just six model years, the C7 will match the C2 as one of the shortest running generations in Corvette history.

It also quashes the conventional wisdom that the Corvette would be a two-platform lineup, at least for the time being. Let’s back up and review key events that led to the euthanization of the old-school Corvette.

GM invested almost two-thirds of a BILLION dollars in the expansion of Bowling Green. We were certain it was to accommodate two Corvette models. Some thought it would be a Cadillac variant or at the very least, the C7 would live on to appease traditional Corvette buyers.

Now that the C7 is dead, what’s going on in Bowling Green that required doubling the size of the factory? Is there a second model we don’t know about? In an SUV/CUV crazy market, it seems unlikely that GM would field a high-zoot sports car as the crown jewel of Cadillac. A more profitable Escalade would make sense, but a low volume sports car? Seems far-fetched at this point.

We know that high-performance engine assembly for Corvette (and now Cadillac’s Blackwing V8) has been brought in-house, and the paint shop is completely new, but what exactly will GM do to fully allocate a mega-expanded Bowling Green is up for debate. As we’ve all seen in the past few months, GM isn’t shy about shuttering plants if they aren’t running at darn near 100 percent capacity.

Especially risky for Bowling Green when you’re completely rewriting the rules of the brand and the jury is still deliberating if a mid-engine car will be warmly regarded by the Corvette faithful.

We would have loved to have been a fly-on-the-wall when Corvette Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter and gang pitched GM brass on the C8 Corvette. It was probably the hardest sales job ever in the annals of automotive history. Could you imagine the following scenario? Let’s cue up the wiggly lines on the TV and go back in time…

Picture Tadge at a round table with GM brass, “Hey, we are the undisputed king of sports cars in the North American market, selling between 25 to 40,000 units annually at a huge profit to the company. What we’re proposing is completely re-writing the template of the car, with a more exotic design. Even if it means alienating our fiercely loyal customers…”

As we know now, GM brass approved this strategy and we’ll have to see how it pans out at the end of the year when the C8 hits the market. If that weren’t enough change, there is most likely an electric or electric-assisted versions of the C8 waiting in the wings as well. Whether Chevrolet can maintain sales volume with a completely different car remains to be seen, which hints there could be more going on.

So if the C7 is dead, could a Corvette branded SUV be in the wings? This would make the most sense. Before you dismiss this as heresy, one only needs to look to the Porsche line-up and note its 2.5 ton Cayenne SUV accounts for the majority of Porsche sales and probably helped it survive and remain a semi-autonomous car company.

Chevrolet critics have long lobbied for a spin-off of the Corvette because they think the Bow Tie image is damaged or not cool enough to attract younger, foreign-brand leaning customers. We say Corvette and Chevrolet are intrinsically linked forever and busting them up is a long-shot, but still believe the Corvette as a multiple-platform brand has not been ruled out.

We speculated that the Camaro would replace the C7 as the front-engine, rear wheel drive “entry level” Corvette and we now feel vindicated. For decades, “the pony can’t outrun the horse” was an unwritten rule at Chevrolet. Corvette was the performance king, period. That credo was obliterated in slow-motion starting almost 10 years ago with the introduction of the Fifth Gen Camaro.

Chevy’s pony has since matched Corvette tit-for-tat with shared engines, an equally sophisticated chassis and the best tuning and refinement (thanks Al Oppenheiser) GM can bring to life. Not only has the Camaro been groomed (right before our eyes) to take the Corvette’s crown, it is one of the best performance cars on the market at any price. A fitting successor to our “old-fashioned” C7 and good news that we can all rejoice in.

I can personally attest how mystical the idea of a mid-engine Corvette has been for the last zillion years. I can remember as a kid, I’d hit the drugstore at the end of the month to see new issues of the big car magazines. Staring back at me from the news stands were headlines that barked “Secret Mid Engine Corvette Coming!”

Time and space would stand still, and I would plop down, right there on the spot, and read the story, hanging on every word. The pictures of Zora Arkus-Duntov and Bill Mitchell next to advanced Corvette prototypes at GM’s Warren, Michigan Design Center were exotic and beguiling.

Bristling with the latest high technology, these future Corvettes not only captured my imagination, but an entire generation of car lovers as well. Entire forests were clearcut over the years to print the latest scuttlebutt on a car which until this coming July 18th, 2019, never materialized.

    • The Mid-Engine Corvette story is decades in the making. Photos: General Motors

    You would think the announcement that the car is indeed slated for production would be heralded as the second automotive coming but sadly, that’s not reaction on the internet. Social media forums are the latrine walls of our generation and feedback on the new car has been brutal.

    “Oh look, a new Fiero,” is a common, fairly kind response. Another reader posts, “If I wanted a Ferrari, I’d buy a Ferrari..” Others are more blunt in their disdain for the new car, “It looks like sh*t…”

    Fair enough, but the hardpoints of a mid-engine car design are fixed and unmovable, and lend itself to look-a-like styling. Cab-forward passenger compartment, short hood, the elimination of aft stowing, and a rear bulkhead in the cabin, are just a few of the aforementioned obstacles engineers face, not to mention stylists.

    Which leads us to um, the styling. Chazcron over at MidEngineCorvetteForum always has the most up to date renders.

    Here’s our take: We predict the new-age C8 Corvette will be a game changer. We speculate the performance will be such a quantum leap ahead of the C7 that it makes the old car obsolete. We think once people see and drive the new car, it’s risky approval by GM will seem like a no-brainer.

    If it comes in at $75,000 (with the anticipated exponential leap in performance,) it will put the foreign exotics on the trailer – for a third of the price – and will change the global sport car market forever.

    It would serve us well to remember Zora Arkus-Duntov at this time. He was convinced the mid-engine layout was the evolution the Corvette was destined to undergo. He tried in vain for years to get a mid-engine car approved and sadly, died without seeing the birth of such a Corvette. We know he’s watching from up above with a smile…

    The childlike faith that GM will not screw up America’s only sports car boggles the mind. Everyone with the remotest interest in cars should know of GM’s record of new technology — the melting aluminum engine for the Chevy Vega, the Oldsmobile diesel V-8, Computer Command Control, the V-8-6-4 … shall I go on? How about the powerhouse Corvettes that got all of 165 horsepower in 1981 and 205 horsepower in 1984?

    A rear-mounted engine will be an engine that no normal person can do anything with beyond maybe checking the oil. Corvettes have always been cars their owners could work on, but apparently not anymore. Nor will a rear-engine Corvette have any room for luggage, unlike the C4 through the current C7. (So much for weekend getaways.) Nor will be the C8 be a car its drivers can shift, since they will all have automatic transmissions, a point Cruikshank ignored. (Manual transmissions require driver skill.)

    No one with any sense believes GM will sell the C8 for only a little more than the C7. This car will be more expensive to build, and Government Motors already has too many vehicles that don’t make money. Nevertheless, snobs who don’t buy Corvettes now because they’re not Ferraris or Porsches won’t buy Corvettes when they are rear-engine and more expensive. So this is likely the final Corvette, because GM will not sell as many Corvettes as they think, they will lose money, and they can’t lose money.

    A bargain at twice the price

    Real Clear Life:

    Did you recently run your little red Corvette right into the ground? Or is the Chevy sports car still on your bucket list, so far remaining just out of reach of your bank account? Either way, if you’re interested in a new ‘Vette, now is the time to buy.

    After it was revealed back in February that dealerships were weighed down with 9,000 C7 Corvettes, Chevrolet is offering a once-in-a-lifetime deal on the model: zero-percent financing for a whole 72 months (yes, six years), available until April 1st.

    That’s not all. Individual dealers are also offering additional discounts, a rare occurrence alongside the flatlined APR — normally, you get one or the other, not both. As the Drive points out, a quick search found a 2018 Corvette Z06 for $71,194 (down from $86K) and a 2018 Chevy Corvette Grand Sport for $62,297 (down from $78K). But the Corvette Stingray is also part of the offer, as you can see on Chevrolet’s Current Deals page.

    The reason for the surplus isn’t necessarily that these cars are undesirable, but that the next Corvette is so desirable that buyers are willing to wait until the eighth generation rolls out.

    But the Corvette C8 still hasn’t debuted, so as Carscoops notes, there will most likely be additional discounts for 2019 C7 models. So if you can’t decide in the next week, don’t despair — be on the lookout

    That is fortunate since i probably don’t have time to buy one by Monday.

    I decided to spec one out wigh minimum equipment…

    … and came up with $58,155 for a base Vette with only the darker red paint and transparent top. (I forgot Corvette Museum delivery for $990.) Going to the top of the line (while avoiding frivolous options like red brake pad calipers and Stingray logos )…

    … takes it up to $80,005. I can afford the $5.

    The only way to drive

    Vaksal G. Thassar:

    I was backing my wife’s car out of our driveway when I realized I wasn’t watching the backup camera, nor was I looking out of the rear window. I was only listening for those “audible proximity alerts” — the high-pitched beeps that my car emits as I approach an object while in reverse. The problem was that my wife’s car, an older model, doesn’t offer such beeps.

    I had become so reliant on this technology that I had stopped paying attention, a problem with potentially dangerous consequences.

    Backup cameras, mandatory on all new cars as of last year, are intended to prevent accidents. Between 2008 and 2011, the percentage of new cars sold with backup cameras doubled, but the backup fatality rate declined by less than a third while backup injuries dropped only 8 percent.

    Perhaps one reason is, as a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration put it, “Many drivers are not aware of the limitations” of the technology. The report also found that one in five drivers were just like me — they had become so reliant on the backup aids that they had experienced a collision or near miss while driving other vehicles.

    The fact that our brains so easily overdelegate this task to technology makes me worry about the tech industry’s aspirations — the fully autonomous everything. Could technology designed to save us from our lapses in attention actually make us even less attentive?

    Uber’s march toward a self-driving car hit a major speed bump last year in Tempe, Ariz., when one of its self-driving Volvos struck and killed a pedestrian. While a lot of focus was on how a vehicle with cameras and radar sensors could completely miss a human being on the road, less has been said about the failure of the most intricately programmed system in the vehicle — the brain of the human in the driver’s seat.

    An investigation revealed that the driver was watching Hulu until the moment of the crash. Because the human brain is impeccable in its ability to filter out extraneous information, thistype of behavior should have been predicted. During normal driving, our brains are in a near-constant state of vigilance. But let someone or something do the driving for us and this vigilance easily fades.

    Something similar seems to have happened with a handful of fatalities involving Tesla’s Autopilot mode. It seems that the drivers made little to no effort to intervene.

    The introduction of safety technology has resulted in unintended accidents in other contexts as well. In December 2017, a patient died at a major medical center when a nurse searched for an anti-anxiety medication in an automated dispensing cabinet by typing only its first two letters. She chose the first drug that appeared in the results — Vecuronium, instead of Versed. Vecuronium is a paralytic drug that is sometimes used in executions.When it was administered, the patient’s vitals crashed and she died within days.

    Technology seems to have turned against us once again in the deadly crashes of two Boeing 737 Max 8 aircrafts. In October, pilots on Lion Air Flight 610 in Indonesia seem to have struggled against the plane’s supposedly lifesaving technology. Investigators suspect that sensors incorrectly interpreted the plane’s ascent as too steep, causing the plane’s “maneuvering characteristics augmentation system” to kick in. It brought the plane’s nose down, ultimately into the Java Sea at 450 miles per hour.

    Boeing had begun to develop a software fix, but it wasn’t ready in time for Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which just this month crashed, possibly because of the same bug, killing all 157 people on board. In these cases, no one can criticize the pilots for failing to pay attention. Still, the crashes were a wake-up call, especially because pilots weren’t required to be trained on the new technology.

    Though a supercomputer will always surpass the human brain in terms of pure speed, the brain is beyond complex in its ability to reprioritize salient data inputs from multiple sources. If one input becomes less relevant, our cognitive systems shift their attention to the next most relevant one (which these days is usually our mobile devices).

    But there’s one feature available on some cars today that can increase a driver’s vigilance instead of diminishing it — the manual transmission.

    A car with a stick shift and clutch pedal requires the use of all four limbs, making it difficult to use a cellphone or eat while driving. Lapses in attention are therefore rare, especially in city driving where a driver might shift gears a hundred times during a trip to the grocery store.

    I’ve owned a stick-shift vehicle for the last 20 years. I bought my first upon graduating from med school — a used 1994 BMW 325i. Years later, my best man wrote “just married” on the back windshield, and the next year my wife and I drove our newborn son home from the hospital in it.

    Sadly, sales of manual transmissions are falling, and many automakers, including Audi, are discontinuing the option in the United States. It appears that I’ll have to keep my 2013 S4 model until 2026 if I want to teach my kids to drive a stick.

    When I bought that first five-speed BMW, my dad cautioned me about safety, thinking that driving a stick would be more distracting and less safe. He was wrong. Though research on the safety of manual transmissions is scant, one study on the driving performance of teenage boys with A.D.H.D. revealed that cars with manual transmissions resulted in safer, more attentive driving than automatics. This suggests that the cure for our attentional voids might be less technology, not more.

    I’ve felt for some time that safer roads and vehicles has resulted in worse drivers. I’m not suggesting going back to the days of bias-ply tires, drum brakes and road signs with no give to them, but drivers seem to be putting less thought into their driving because they can.

    The alleged $169,900 Chevrolet

    Corvette Forum asks:

    It’s safe to say that no car in recent history has been more hyped up and talked about than the forthcoming C8 Corvette. But that’s what happens when you’re allegedly taking an American icon and changing the entire drivetrain layout. Thus, we’ve been awash with more rumors and conjecture than usual in regards to Chevy’s radical new Corvette. The latest of which popped up right here at Corvette Forum recently. And it’s safe to say that you probably won’t like it.

    “$169,900 is a go,” said Zerv02“If you’re in the under 100k camp, you will be disappointed. Let the madness ensue.”

    Now, if you’re a regular around these parts, you already know that this is the same member who allegedly saw the C8 Corvette interior with his own eyes. Then, he shared a sketch and some additional info about it with us. This claim, however, is more than a little shocking. Especially for those who believe the Corvette will continue its position as a value-priced supercar. And most people just aren’t buying it. Starting with f-16pilotTX.

    “I love all the contributions you shared with us Zerv02. But with all of the other evidence and credible sources, I just can’t see that happening, brotha.”

    Others, like fasttoys, point out the many obvious problems this price point would present for GM.

    “Lol I am out!!!!! Good luck GM. Zerv, you’ve lost your mind. If you’re correct, GM has lost their mind. Not buying a Chevrolet for 169k. I can buy a pre-owned 2017 Mclaren 570S for $145k with less than 4k miles and with a 3-year unlimited mile warranty. I can buy an Audi R8 for under that price. That is a hand-built car with a hand-built V10. Even the Viper was hand-built and came in at just $100k.”

    Others, including Corvette ED, don’t necessarily see a problem with it. That is, of course, if this is the price of the range-topping version with world-beating performance.

    “For the top-of-the-line 1,000 hp car, that price would be good. I see the base mid-engine car having a starting price of $65,000.”

    And in that regard, it makes a little more sense, especially if GM is aiming to go up against the best the world has to offer in terms of performance. Which is what the OP believes will be the case.

    “This will be a global car. An American GT to compete/rival the likes of Porsche, McLaren, the Italians, ect.”

    In that regard, a high price makes a little more sense. If Chevy wants to build a halo car similar to the Ford GT, they could certainly do so and charge a hefty premium. In limited numbers, it would most certainly sell out, as the GT did with no issue.

    Corvette Forum asked for opinions, and got them (abbreviations, misspellings and bad grammar not corrected):

    • My personal opinion is keep it do able for the common gm fan that being said tho is its it not time to evolve into what checy/gm is as a big name every type of race winner and it’s already proven in drag racing drifting etc but it’s not world renoun like Ferrari or McLaren l. What best way to that build a hyper car and disimate all that gonna cost a lot because r and d isnt cheap so if I pay that much I expect to get that much if u no what I mean
    • If GM decides that the C8 will be it’s only offering to the public and the price tag is on average 100k+, they can begin plant closing 6 months after the “kids” have their new toys.Just watch!
    • No closings due to $100k+ ZR1 and near-100k, Z06. In ’19, pricepoint won’t make a significant difference. Look at Harley. (2019 CVO is $44k.) Their issues are due to a vanishing demographic and Snowflakes’ inability to afford or even appreciate their products. (This phenomenon is killing Vettes too.) IMO, GM will continue with loss-leader C-8s at $60-$100k. The ZR1 will be “Holy Shit” high but, within a year, begin trickling down to relative affordability.
    • I believe GM has the ability to flatten the competition…..all of them…. at a reasonable price. But what is reasonable for a corvette? 165k ish? So be it. Holden/GM laid the smackdown on the 5 series with the G8. Apples and oranges i know, but i see i terrace type as its always been the last 20 years. You will be able to get 80% of the performance at 50% of the top tier cost with aftermarket close behind the lower performance optioned C8’s
    • I agree with you GM could lay the smack down but guess what ? a Lambo or Ferrari buyer will NEVER EVER buy one, they are filthy rich and the Corvette is a cheap car to them no matter where the engine sits or what the price is. I am a Corvette man no doubt about it but i win a couple of millions and guess what an real exotic will be sitting in my garage not a Corvette.
    • If GM has to make a mid-engine hyper-prized supercar with small production numbers, let them. But leave the Corvette out of it. In the real world, supercars dont exist, meaning most of us can never have them. Wanting what you cant have is a waste of dream. And keep the damn engine in the front where it should be, letting the drivers ass sit on the back wheels. Its a sportscar.
    • after working for GM 27 years, I can say they can make as much money mass producing the Corvette than putting a high dollar price tag that no one can afford, base will be $65,000
    • Also did work at GM for 27 years and am a fan of Sloan’s vision. Looking at the whole GM, I don’t see Corvette being their most expensive product. There’s already a disconnect having Corvette within Chevrolet, THE Corp’s volume brand. Then, GM should reinforce Cadillac as its premium brand. Cadillac cannot sustain its leadership image around the World with recent products, however good they may be: basically everyone is “good” today, and some relatively newcomers really excellent. The brand needs much more: it would need the Cien, the Ciel, even the Sixteen; those should sell in tiny volumes at very high prices and should not have to be individually profitable: a very difficult exercise for GM! But then, desirability of the brand will go up, and pull the upper half of GM’s lines, including Corvette.
    • Based on these photos I have no lust in my heart for the C8, no matter how well it drives. Hopefully they work out the shape because as shown it’s atrocious.
    • It looks great but $170 thousand, plus tax makes this pretty close to $200 grand. I guess we can all kiss Corvettes goodby! I guess that Corvettes will soon be a thing of the past. If 95% of the peple in this country can’t afford to purchase one then I’m sure GM will shut down production pretty fast. I have had one from every gen but 4 and I guess I won’t have one from 8.
    • I worked at GM for 39 years and I’ve learned in that time that upper management is disconnected from the everyday reality of the common man who is the Corvette buyer . The Corvette shoud remain a RWD car at a price that the common man can someday afford . This new model should have been moved to the Caddy lineup . There they might find buyers willing to part with close to 200 Grand for a car and sales tax’s .
    • I suspect that the majority of us Corvette enthusiasts bought our cars used…and at a fraction the new car price. Doesn’t mean we would not have bought a new one, but at some point family finances take over. I predict that a $170K Corvette would sell about 1/10th of the volume of the C7s (including all variants). With that few new C-8s out there, a large number of Corvette enthusiasts will be disappointed by the dirth of available used C-8 inventory and, possibly, move on to other brands/products. I don’t think that’s what GM wants…to effectively destroy the brand through its exclusivity. I think it possible that Corvette will either launch a “C-8 Corvette lite” or continue/further evolve the C-7 so that the C-8 could stand on its own as a Ford GT fighter and the rest of us could drive our favorite mark while dreaming of the day when we could step into a used C-8. Just my thoughts.
    • OK, If you got the bucks. The number of buyers is being cut down every year as the price keeps going up up up.
    • GM got bailed out by the US Government once, after that you can bet that GM will not subsidize a loss product again (ie SSR, Pontiac etc)., especially a marquee name like Corvette! Considering a 1LT msrp is around 60k and then there are 4-5 more expensive models after that up to 120k you have to look at the sales numbers and determine which category this new car needs to be in. While I like the Z06, I bought a new 1LT and added Z06 wheels and can’t be happier. Now I keep my cars, I have my original 92 and my original 05 SSR. So it will be exciting to see what comes out and their idea of an entry price. But you know if they do look good, you will not be able to get one for MSRP until 2021 as they will all be sold above MSRP just like the 2014 C7 were.
    • A Corvette that isn’t attainable isn’t a Corvette. The car should be built but it should be a Cadillac. Keep the Vette for the masses, elevate (and perhaps save) GMs most iconic brand with a Caddy super car! 

    I suspect that never in the history of the Corvette have there been so many negative reactions to a proposed new Corvette. If anyone at GM had a decent respect for the opinions of mankind — assuming these rumors are true, and you know what’s said about rumors — GM management would be concerned.

    For that matter, those who love Corvettes should be concerned. The great thing about the fifth-generation Corvette — and if you’re looking for a Christmas present for your favorite blogger may I suggest …

    … is that it is neither as mechanically complicated (front-engine rear-drive V-8 powered) nor as expensive nor as fussy as exotics that may deliver more performance but can’t really be used as daily drivers. GM has not built a mid-engine car since the Pontiac Fiero in the 1980s, so given GM’s quality reputation one should be suspicious it can pull this off, particularly given GM’s current problems. And given that GM makes money on every Corvette it makes now, a phrase about not fixing what isn’t broken comes to mind.

    As I’ve extensively documented here before, the Corvette might be the best performance bargain in the entire world, but not so much north of $100,000. Even with tires not recommended for use below 40 degrees, a Corvette that breaks down can still be fixed at one of the thousands of Chevy dealers in this country. That statement does not apply to Porsches, Ferraris or Lamborghinis.

    Government Motors fails again

    Investors Business Daily:

    General Motors’ decision to close four U.S. plants and lay off 14,700 workers, 15% of its domestic workforce, is an economic tragedy. And it might have been avoided if GM had listened to the market, rather than the Obama administration.

    During and after the financial crisis, GM decided to do the government’s bidding in exchange for billions in subsidies. At one point, the federal government owned more than 60% of its shares, costing it more than $50 billion. By the time it sold the shares in 2013, U.S. taxpayers had an $11.2 billion loss.

    How’s that working out for GM now? Not very well.

    GM’s CEO Mary Barra, who took over the company in early 2014, reshaped the company’s offerings to please the Obama White House’s leftist auto czars, as did her predecessor. Barra has bet the company’s future on electric cars and other less-popular offerings, instead of what people want.

    “The (GM) restructuring reflects changing North American auto markets as manufacturers continue to shift away from towards SUVs and trucks,” Reuters noted. “In October, almost 65% of new vehicles sold in the U.S. were trucks or SUVs. That figure was about 50% cars just five years ago.”

    So what was GM making? Well, electric cars, for one. But even with a $7,500 subsidy, they don’t sell fast enough. Why? As the joke goes, the extension cord isn’t long enough. For anyone who has a long commute or wants to take a road trip, an e-car makes no sense. As such, GM’s commitment to electric cars is emblematic of its recent market failures.

    Worse, it’s based on a kind of environmental fraud. Electric cars aren’t “zero emission,” as we’re constantly told.

    For one, building an electric car produces more CO2 than building a regular car. For another, if the car’s batteries get their charge from electricity generated by a coal-fired plant, that makes an “electric car” really a coal-fired car.

    It’s the electric-car industry’s dirty secret, one that undermines GM’s rationale for making such a big bet on electric cars.

    As for President Trump, he hasn’t directed his anger at electric cars per se. He has directed it at GM’s layoffs from closing four plants here in the U.S., idling nearly 15,000 people.

    Very disappointed with General Motors and their CEO, Mary Barra, for closing plants in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland,” but keeping plants in Mexico& China, Trump tweeted Tuesday. “The U.S. saved General Motors, and this is the THANKS we get!”

    In particular, Trump’s says the corporate tax cuts and sharply lower taxes on repatriated profits from overseas should be going straight to the bottom line of comes like GM. So he’s now promising to look into cutting subsidies on electric cars and imposing tariffs on domestic car imports.

    We understand Trump’s ire. But it’s misplaced.

    Government shouldn’t pick winners and losers. Period. And that’s exactly what subsidies are: the government substituting its judgment for that of the marketplace. Why do we do it at all?

    It never works as expected. It can’t. The government, despite delusions to the contrary, can’t possibly know what people want and need. Yet, a perpetual leftist dream remains an economy run and funded by government “experts.”

    We see that in the Obama administration’s decision to subsidize GM during the financial crisis by investing tens of billions of taxpayer dollars in its stock and propping up money-losing operations. By ignoring the supply-and-demand signals of the marketplace, it only made GM’s problems worse.

    More specifically, it led to GM committing itself to the unprofitable electric car market, one of President Obama’s pet projects. At one point, Obama even vowed to buy a Chevy Volt when he left office. He didn’t.

    Not only has GM’s Barra embraced electric cars, but she sees the government as her partner in the enterprise, as she wrote in a recent USA Today op-ed. In it, she noted that her electric car plan “requires collaboration by the private and public sectors, supported by comprehensive federal policies.”

    It’s no joke that some today call GM “Government Motors.”

    Ironically, one of the victims of GM’s cutbacks will be the hybrid plug-in Chevy Volt. Even so,  GM’s commitment to the subsidy-sucking electric-car market remains unshaken, Barra says.

    After all, who needs to please actual customers when government can compel people, either by huge subsidies or outright regulation, to buy your product?

    And who buys those electric cars, anyway? Mainly those whom the left calls “the rich.”

    “Overall, the top 20% of income earners receive about 90% of EV tax credits,”  noted The Hill. “Additionally, data from 2014 indicates that over 99% of total EV tax credits went to households with an adjusted gross income above $50,000.”

    So we subsidize wealthy consumers at the expense of lower-income consumers, who can’t afford electric cars. That’s economic perversion, “regressive” not “progressive.”

    “Barra wants taxpayers to foot the bill for her speculation on what the future will look like,” economics writer and Wall Street analyst John Tamny recently noted. “If Barra were truly certain, she wouldn’t ask for taxpayer support.”

    Lest you think we’re being too harsh on GM, it’s not alone. Once-dominant GE’s shares have plunged nearly 60% this year. There’s a common theme here: GE’s long slide from grace began when Jeffrey Immelt, GE’s former CEO, began spending more time at the Obama White House than running his company.

    There’s a lesson in this for other companies, summed up in Instapundit Glenn Reynolds’ catchphrase: “Get woke, go broke.” Immelt already learned that bitter lesson; Barra is learning it now.

    Sadly, GM is just another once-great American company that went wrong trying please a government master, and not the customer. We can only hope other companies will learn from GM’s error.

    ‘Javelin’ was right

    Readers of my previous blog may hazily remember that 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had the Secret Service handle of “Javelin,” after his father, George Romney, who ran American Motors Corp. before he was elected governor of Michigan.

    (I’d say here that we owned a Javelin, but you knew that.)

    On Monday, GM reported plant closings and layoffs, which prompts the Goldwater Institute (whose namesake, Sen. Barry Goldwater, owned both an AMC AMX and a Chevrolet Corvette, so he was the man) to observe:

    “Let Detroit go bankrupt,” former presidential candidate Mitt Romney wrote in 2008, arguing that the federal government should not bail out the failing domestic auto industry for their poor management decisions. Vilified for turning his back on America’s autoworkers, Romney lost the argument, Barack Obama won the election, General Motors got its way, and U.S. taxpayers got stuck with an $11.2 billion bill to keep the company alive.

    Today’s announcement from General Motors that it will close two plants in Metro Detroit and lay off 14,700 workers helps prove Romney right, albeit ten years later. Romney wrote that with a bailout, the American automotive industry’s demise “will be virtually guaranteed” because it would not be forced to undergo radical restructuring to be competitive in the marketplace. By subsidizing failure, the federal government would be gambling with taxpayer dollars and forestalling the inevitable.

    This wasn’t the first time the government had bet heavily on General Motors at citizens’ expense. In a story much like recent efforts by state and local governments to give away billions of dollars to win a new Amazon headquarters, the cities of Detroit and neighboring Hamtramck teamed up in the early 1980s to win a new General Motors factory, chasing the promise of jobs and renewal of depressed and blighted neighborhoods. The Detroit News reports:

    General Motors and Detroit Mayor Coleman Young hatched a plan: If the city would get the land, the auto company would build a state-of-the-art plant, crossing the border with Hamtramck, employing 6,000 people and providing a glittering example of what the auto companies and their suppliers could do in the city of their birth.

    Residents who had lived in the targeted neighborhood would be given offers to sell their homes and move to make way for “progress,” but as the Detroit News reports, not everyone wanted to sell. In the face of protests and a legal challenge, the city moved forward with the plan, and a Michigan Supreme Court decision upheld the city’s decision to raze the site for General Motors. The factory was built, and decades later the court decision was overturned, but today, some 37 years later, that factory will be closed as General Motors fights to save costs.

    One Detroit-area politician is feeling particularly burned by the decision. Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat who was elected to Congress in November, decried the decision on Facebook:

    “[M]ake no mistake, this is a perfect lesson illustrating that corporations are not your friend, and handing them tax breaks and incentives is a losing game. Taxpayers bailed GM out with billions just a few short years ago – and now they cut jobs to make bigger profits?

    “What’s worse, Detroit tore down the vibrant Poletown neighborhood for GM, destroying a community, displacing hundreds of families, and a couple decades later this is how we’re rewarded.”

    Hoping for rewards in exchange for corporate welfare can come with a high cost, and General Motors’ story should be a cautionary tale about government picking winners and losers with taxpayer dollars—and in taking private property for a supposed “public purpose.”

    In a paper for the Goldwater Institute, economics professor Shirley Svorny wrote about the high costs of government subsidization of private businesses—and who pays the cost when if those companies fail:

    There are limited, specific situations where local government can improve on private-sector outcomes. A political decision to redirect tax dollars so that benefits accrue to individual firms is not one of those situations…The company bears none of the costs if it fails in its effort or chooses to move elsewhere. That burden falls on taxpayers.

    The thousands of autoworkers who lost their jobs today—and the homeowners who lost their property to General Motors decades ago—know that lesson all too well.

    Life imitates art, motor vehicle department

    Some time ago I wrote about a Hot Wheels car, the Overbored 454, that prompted my semi-fascination.

    Click on the link and you can read my speculation over which Chevrolet (obviously since Chevy designed the 454, and the 454 is still available from GM in crate engine form) the Overbored 454 was supposed to emulate.

    Then came this photo from Holz Motors in Hales Corners via Facebook Friend Chad Millard …

    … which certainly looks a lot like the Hot Wheels car (minus the hood actually covering the engine):

    The real car is a Hot Wheels edition Chevy Camaro SS, about which the Chicago Tribune writes:

    Back when the days were long and the years were endless, back when time was on my side, I used to line up two lanes of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, running from the family room to unknown roadways. A few decades later my kids did the same thing on the window sills overlooking our city street. We are not alone. There is something magical about a toy car, how it transports you through time and space, through reality and imagination.

    The Hot Wheels package on the 2018 Chevy Camaro is the same kind of time machine. Instead of fantasizing about all the driving freedoms of adulthood in a die-cast toy, the real-life Camaro V-8 powers you through the nostalgia of youth. At least that’s the premise of the $4,995 package celebrating 50 years of Hot Wheels history.

    The Custom Camaro was the first of the inaugural class of 16 Hot Wheels to be sold in 1968. It had a racing stripe and mag wheels. The 2018 Camaro 2SS features a black racing stripe bisected by an orange strip the width of a Hot Wheels track. The orange Crush exterior also evokes the toy’s racing track. It has special 20-inch satin graphic, or black, wheels that unfortunately do not have the five-spoke mag wheels with red stripe slicks of the toy version.

    Hot Wheels badging adorns the fenders, illuminated door sills, and steering wheel. Orange stitching, orange brake calipers and other orange elements keep occupants in a Hot Wheels state of mind.

    But the real charm is the 2SS Camaro itself. The 455-horsepower 6.2-liter LT1 V-8 engine — same as in America’s supercar, the Corvette — is a bruising, chest-thumping beast of burden. The engine note is a national anthem of engineering prowess, thanks in part to the dual-model performance exhaust ($895). There is a quiet or stealth mode to activate valves in the exhaust, so cruising around the neighborhood need not be obnoxious. But like any big dog, it begs to be let loose.

    This most powerful Camaro SS ever, according to Chevy, hits 60 mph in 4 seconds with the eight-speed automatic. With the six-speed manual in the test car, Chevy estimates 4.3 seconds. That’s the penalty for rowing your own and thinking man is better than machine.

    The manual is worth the penalty. The gear stick manual is short and stubby, the shifting quick and direct. Unless you’re easy on the throttle. In an attempt to save fuel, at light throttle from a stop, as you shift to second, the car will redirect it to fourth. First to fourth is nothing I got used to in my week with the car. It could be a problem if you’re turning right or left from a stop sign and need to jump into the far lane to beat traffic then have a sudden lack of power. Then just start in second. Active rev matching paddles help to keep downshifts smooth.

    The rear-wheel drive handling is composed; you can wag the rear with much more control than the buffoons in V-8 Mustangs crashing out of cars and coffee events all over YouTube. We weren’t able to track it but spent plenty of time on and off ramps grinning like lottery winners. It’s been over a year since we last drove the Mustang, so memory may favor the fresh, but the overall handling was more confidence-inspiring than the other muscle cars. At a decade old and aging, the Challenger is just so big and heavy. Camaro could be pushed harder, faster, better than Mustang and Challenger. And the steering wheel feels as if it were made for your hands.

    The inside feels as if you got microsized inside one of those Hot Wheels, though. The high beltline and low roofline make for small windows and poor visibility, which has become as synonymous with Camaro as muscle cars are with midlife crisis. But the outside is striking enough to stand the test of time, as it has for classic Z28s. Tradeoffs.

    Once inside, the cramped cabin sort of perfects itself. All the controls are within effortless reach so the driver can stay snug in the seat. The center console is thick, the seats narrow, but the orange stitching and uncluttered dash with circular vents maintains that Hot Wheels state of mind. GM’s layered vehicle info display takes a minute to understand but then it’s very easy to use, as is the touch screen and voice commands. The head-up display is excellent as well.

    The rear seats are more for storage or for folding down than sitting anyone; toss your phone back there if the cupholders are in use. The trunk is huge, but the opening small. We had to jam our hockey bag in like we were stuffing our foot in a skate for the first time all season. Once inside there is plenty of depth for golf bags, suitcases, and the two passengers that couldn’t fit in the rear seats.

    The Hot Wheels package may seem like an unnecessary money grab for a vehicle about to get refreshed for 2019, but all the little easter eggs, badging and Hot Wheels track elements are reminders of a time when dreams were only as big as the imagination. Camaro is the payoff to all those Hot Wheels-inspired dreams.

    This is not an Overbored 454; it’s a Not-Overbored 376, but the Camaro’s 455 horsepower is five more than the most powerful 454 Chevy ever offered in a car, the LS-6 454 in the 1970 Malibu SS. (And that may have been an underestimate, since insurance companies were getting nervous about horsepower.) That same year Chevy claimed it offered an LS-7 454, with reported 465 horsepower, in the Corvette, though the LS-7 was never actually built for a Corvette.

    That’s the Hot Wheels SS. In case you find 450 horsepower insufficient …

    … you could upgrade to the ZL1, with 200 additional horsepower thanks to its turbocharger.

    Another potential similarity with the Corvette is that you can get the ZL1 without its (suitable only for the height-challenged) back seat. I think the Overbored 454 lacks a back seat.

     

    That’s a Ford what?

    Motor Junkie has an interesting piece about familiar-brand cars that you may not recognize if you’ve never left the U.S.:

    Everything began when Ford started selling their Model T cars worldwide, establishing assembly plants on several continents. The Model T was a utilitarian product people all over the world loved. But to continue selling cars in different countries, Ford needed to develop models to suit each specific market. This started the idea of founding subsidiary companies independent from Detroit.

    So, Ford concentrated on engineering and building specific products under well-known American names. And here are the most interesting cars by U.S. companies they sold in various parts of the world. Dodge, Ford and Chevrolet offered everything including right-hand drive muscle cars, luxury sedans and even pickup trucks. And they sold them in Europe, Australia, Africa and South America.

    Ford Falcon GT HO 351

    Probably the most famous Australian muscle car was the mighty Falcon GT HO 351 Ford introduced in 1971. Despite its performance portfolio, it was a four-door sedan with proper muscle car equipment. And it came with Ford’s 351 V8 with a shaker hood and beefed up suspension and brakes.

    The power output was 300 HP for the standard version, but Ford also offered Phase II and Phase III options. The car looked the same, except with upgraded mechanicals. And in the ultimate Phase III version, the Falcon GT HO produced over 350 HP. The performance was astonishing with 0 to 60 mph in the six-second range and top speeds over 140 mph.

    The Falcon GT HO was successful at racing, dethroning its arch enemy, the Holden Monaro GTS 350. In the U.S., the Falcon was an economy car. But in Australia, it was a well-respected four-door muscle model with racing pedigree.

    It’s true that the American Ford Falcon was an economy car (except for the Falcon Sprint), but the Falcon’s underpinnings made up the first Ford Mustang.

    Chevrolet Firenza CanAm

    One of the craziest, rarest Chevrolet muscle cars is the Chev Firenza CanAm. Chevy introduced it in 1973. They based the Firenza CanAm on the Vauxhall Firenza, a two-door sedan they designed and constructed in England. However, they built it in South Africa under the Chevrolet badge.

    But, the best thing about this car was the engine. It was a 5.0-liter Chevrolet V8 straight from the Z28 Camaro with performance intake and heads producing close to 400 HP. Since the Firenza body was light, the V8 could launch this homologation special in 5.4 seconds to 0 to 60 mph.

    These acceleration figures were closer to a Ferrari than a Chevrolet. They only produced 100 Firenza CanAms, almost by hand and mostly for racing. Today, surviving examples are quite rare and expensive.

    The Firenza on which the CanAm was based had four-cylinder engines of 1.2 to 2.2 liters. To stuff a V-8 into small car is such an American thing to do.

    Ford Capri

    The success of the Mustang inspired many American brands to offer a pony car model of their own. Even in Europe, the Mustang was popular and common. However, Ford wanted to explore the market further with a smaller, European version. It would be less expensive and more suited to the needs of their European buyers.

    And this is how the Ford Capri came to be in 1969. They designed in the UK, so the Capri was a European Mustang in every way. Using the “long hood-short deck” formula and semi-fastback styling, the Capri had a fantastic stance. Although they based it on the standard Cortina floor plan with the same engines, the Capri looked like a thoroughbred sports or muscle car.

    In fact, people often confused it with U.S.-built Ford. This affordable coupe proved almost as successful as the Mustang, selling in millions during its 16-year lifespan. Interestingly, they imported it to America as the Mercury Capri in the mid-70s.

    Want proof that a Capri was a hot car? Watch this scene from the John Wayne-as-cop movie “Brannigan,” set in London:

    Chevrolet Opala SS

    The Opala SS is the typical example of a Brazilian muscle car Chevrolet produced in the height of the muscle car craze. They introduced this handsome fastback coupe in 1969. It came in a wide arrange of formal body styles as Chevrolet’s main mid-size model for the Brazilian market. However, the name, “Opala,” was controversial because customers thought it represented a mix between the names, “Opel” and “Impala.”

    Germany’s Opel was a part of GM and produced a model they called the Rekord. While it was visually the same, the U.S.-made Chevrolet Impala used the 4.1-liter straight six, like Brazil’s Opalas. Either way, Chevrolet decided to introduce the performance version of the Opala using the same 4.1-liter straight six tuned to produce 169 HP.

    Although not much by today’s standards, it was enough to give the Opala SS decent performance figures, attracting many customers. The Opala SS was even successful on the race tracks and won many events in Brazil during the 1970’s. And the Opala SS had a distinctive appearance package that included a vinyl roof and racing stripes. Also, it came with cool graphics and sporty wheels to differentiate it from its lesser cousins.

    The Opala certainly does look like an Opel Manta of the early 1970s.

    Dodge Charger R/T

    Most people know what the Dodge Charger looks like since it is one of the most popular classic muscle cars in the world. However, the Brazilian version is different even though it carries the same name and model designation. In the late 1960’s after the demise of the Simca operation, Chrysler introduced the Dodge Dart to produce locally.

    The car was modern and among the most prestigious Brazilian models. But in 1971, Chrysler surprised Brazilian performance enthusiasts with a new model they called the Charger R/T. It was a dressed up two-door Dart with a new front design and cool graphics. They also gave it a vinyl roof and a 318 V8 engine with 215 HP.

    The new Charger R/T was immediately one of the most desirable cars in Brazil. It came with optional air conditioning and a plush interior. The front disc brakes made it highly advanced for the time. The high price meant it was relatively rare, but it was a hit with Brazilian car fans.

    Ford Falcon Cobra

    In 1978, Ford was getting ready to introduce a new body style for its popular Falcon. They wanted to produce a new model in a sedan or station wagon because the two-door coupe was out of production. After closing down the assembly lines of the old model, Ford was left with 400 coupe body shells to scrap. However, Ford decided to turn the leftover bodies into a special version they called the Falcon Cobra.

    The 1978 Falcon Cobra came with a 5.8 or 5.0 V8 engine and automatic or manual transmission. Also, it came in two colors, white or blue. Each car had racing stripes as an homage to the Shelby Mustang, which was popular in Australia. Today, the Falcon Cobra is a valuable and popular car in Oceania.

    Ford here did do something sort of like the Torino Cobra, building a Torino Cobra Jet with a 429 V-8. Ford also tried to build a later counterpart to the Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth Road Runner Superbird (both reactions to the Ford Torino Talladega) by building a prototype King Cobra Jet whose purpose was to be run in NASCAR.

    Chrysler Valiant Charger

    Chrysler Motor Company wanted to participate in the Australian muscle car class, so in 1971, they introduced the Valiant Charger. They based it on a regular Valiant platform but gave it a sporty new two-door body. The Charger got its name from its American cousin, the Dodge Charger. To be able to keep up with mighty Falcon GTs, Monaros and Toranas, the Valiant Charger came with several performance engines.

    The most popular engine came from a hot version of Chrysler’s six-cylinder engine featuring new cylinder heads and updated intake systems. In the R/T version, the 4.3-liter six delivered over 240 HP, but the most powerful version was Charger 770 SE E55. Under the hood was a well-known Mopar-built 340 V8 with 285 HP and three-speed automatic. This engine was common in Dodge Challengers and Plymouth Barracudas in America.

    The concept of a hemi Slant 6 probably would have been a bit mind-blowing here 50 years ago. With few exceptions like the Ford 300 six (which was only used in trucks because big cylinders are great for torque) and the Pontiac Sprint overhead-cam six, the answer to “we need more horsepower” always ended with the number eight.

    Ford Sierra Cosworth

    Ford UK is a popular economy car manufacturer. However, occasionally, they produce a machine with amazing performance and power at affordable prices. Some say that fast Fords are perfect examples of “blue collar” sports and muscle cars since they attracted mid-class buyers.

    One of the most legendary British muscle cars is the fantastic Sierra Cosworth, which they introduced in 1985. And the Sierra was an ordinary family sedan Ford produced in numerous versions. The car featured rear-wheel drive and an independent rear suspension. However, when Ford decided to contract Cosworth tuning house for a performance model, a legend was born.

    Cosworth took a three door-body and added a special body kit with spoilers, unique wheels and colors. Under the hood was a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine producing 225 HP, propelling the car to 60 mph in just 6.5 seconds. For 1985, those were fantastic numbers, so the Sierra Cosworth immediately became one of the hottest British cars on the road. Also, it was successful on the tracks, winning many races.

    Ford brought this car to the U.S., calling it the Merkur XR4ti, with the same engine that would be later put into the Ford Probe GT. An ex-girlfriend of mine had one. All I remember about it is that it mechanical issues. As for the Probe GT, I drove one. It was fast once the turbocharger spooled up, but it had the most torque steer of any car I’ve ever driven.

    Chevrolet Veraneio

    Lots of American manufacturers produced trucks and vans abroad using identical platforms and designs as in America. Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge produced pickups for the South American and Mid-Eastern markets similar to their domestic models except for the engine and trim options. However, for the big Brazilian market, Chevrolet decided to go with unique styling and somewhat of a different concept than in the U.S.

    The best example is the cool-looking Chevrolet Veraneio. It was just one SUV/crossover model they produced from the late 1950s to early 1980s in Brazil. Chevrolet realized Brazil needed trucks as well as a local version of the Chevy Suburban. The Suburban model could carry up to nine passengers and their luggage and still could tackle those rough Brazilian roads.

    They built the Veraneio on a truck chassis and equipped it with standard six and V8 engines. But, they covered it in a groovy looking SUV body. Despite having a unique design, the Veraneio was identical to other Chevrolet truck products underneath the body. Today, it is hard to find one in good condition since most people used their Veraneio as a work vehicle.

    They could have called this the “Suburbano,” which is Portuguese for “Suburban,” but no Brazilian may have understood the reference.

    Ford F-1000

    When Ford realized Chevrolet was building special models for the Brazilian market and winning buyers over, so they decided to do something similar with their truck operation. And that is how the interesting and quite strange F-1000 came to be. Ford introduced the F-1000 in 1979 and it was outdated in styling but advanced in construction.

    It featured an extended cab but came with two doors and a short truck bed. They equipped it with an all-wheel drivetrain, which local buyers needed for driving through the jungles of Brazil. However, the most interesting thing was the engine.

    All F-1000s came with diesel six cylinders and later, turbodiesel engines. The engine choices limited the F-1000’s appeal to commercial users. But almost all buyers used them as dependable work trucks. Production ended in 1998 but those interesting trucks are still roaming through Brazilian roads.

    The first four-door short-box pickups I remember seeing were on a family trip to Minnesota, where we were staying at a house next to a train station, where four-door Dodge Stepsides were parked. They also could be driven on the tracks, which blew my four-year-old mind.

    Chevrolet SS

    Behind this strange name is the Australian built Holden Monaro GTS. They exported it to South Africa and sold it under the SS badge through their dealerships. The car was basically the same as the Monaro GTS except for the front grille. Also, the South African SS had four headlights. Buyers could choose between two V8 engines.

    The standard powerplant was 308 V8, but most customers wanted the 350 V8 with 300 HP. With this engine, the SS could accelerate to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds and top 130 mph. Interestingly, despite relatively high production figures, the Chev SS is rare. This is because drivers either crashed most of them or sent them back to Australia.

    Between 2004 and 2006 Pontiac took the last Holden Monaro, put Pontiac badges on it, called it a GTO, and brought here. The styling kind of doomed it, which is too bad, because that car was fast, as I found out when I test-drove one. Sadly, it had only seats for four, and we have five in the house.

    Ford Escort Mk1

    Although the British car industry was always known for its luxury and sports cars, their economy models were just as interesting and unique. And this was the case with the Escort Mk1, a mass-produced economy car that became one of Ford’s global bestsellers. Also, it was a fantastically successful motorsport legend.

    Ford introduced in the Escort Mk1 in 1968. It was a compact rear-wheel-drive saloon they aimed at family buyers. And the basic version used the forgettable 1.1 and 1.3-liter engines. But for those who wanted more, Ford offered the hot 1600 RS and RS 2000 models. Those cars had special suspensions and engines.

    They also had a lot of power and a small weight. And this combination made them capable of defeating much more expensive cars. Also, they were proper racing monsters.

    Not here, though, I had a 1991 Escort GT, which was a great car, though it had merely a 1.8-liter DOHC four with 127 horsepower. The hairiest British Escorts had 200 horsepower and all-wheel drive.

    Ford Landau

    Ford presented the Landau in 1971 as the biggest and most expensive car they sold in Brazil. However, the Landau was basically an upscale mid-60s Ford Galaxie. They produced it until 1983, make few changes during that time. So, the Landau was common and a car the government officials used.

    Under the hood was a 302 V8 engine the mated with a three-speed automatic or manual gearbox. Interestingly, in the late ‘70s, Ford Brazil produced several thousand Landau models they modified to run on alcohol rather than gasoline due to the oil crisis. They built over 77, 000 Landaus during its 12-year production run.

    As you will notice with the previous car and the next one, South American vehicles of this vintage look like updated 1960s designs, which is a strange effect.

    Ford Falcon Sprint Argentina

    Ford unveiled the Falcon in America in 1960 as their bestselling compact model. And it came with a range of six and eight-cylinder engines and several body styles. So, to reclaim its position as the market leader in Argentina, Ford decided to present an Argentinean version in 1962. It was basically identical to the U.S. model featuring just a few design differences.

    In 1973, Ford Argentina wanted to explore the muscle car market, so they announced a new performance model they called the Falcon Sprint. This was the same 10-year-old four-door sedan. However, it came with an appealing graphics package, a different front end and a 3.6-liter straight six delivering 166 HP.

    Ford Capri Perana

    Basil Green was an accomplished racer turned tuner and dealer. So when Ford introduced their affordable and cool-looking Capri coupe in late 1969, he realized the potential. And soon, he introduced the Capri Perana. Green took the 3.0-liter V6 Capri they delivered from England and installed a 5.0-liter Ford V8 from Mustang.

    To make the car handle properly, Green had his engineers modify the suspension, chassis, brakes and steering. So, after some thorough work, the Capri Perana was born. The power output was around 280 HP. But in the lightweight body of the standard Capri, the Perana was able to reach 60 mph in just six seconds.

    See the comment about the Firenza CanAm.

    Ford Taunus

    The Taunus was a line of mid-size, family sedans and wagons Ford Germany built from the late 1930s to 1982. Over the years, Ford Germany produced numerous models and versions. And they sold well in Europe as well as in other parts of the world, too.

    The Taunus didn’t share any components with American-built Fords. But Dearborn often used the same compact V4 engines they produced in Germany for some of their show cars and prototypes.

    That’s Taunus, not Taurus.

    Chevrolet Calibra

    In 1989, the GM subsidiary Opel introduced an advanced sports coupe they called the Calibra. The car featured modern, aerodynamic styling. Chevy built a lineup of four and six-cylinder engines and front wheel drive. And at the time, it was one of the best affordable sports cars on sale in Europe.

    However, GM decided to reintroduce this car in South America, and not as the Opel but as the Chevrolet Calibra. They sold the car with minimal modifications. The top brass at GM even considered bringing it to America, but that didn’t happen.

    It looks sort of like a Geo Storm or a Saturn SC.

    Ford Granada

    American car enthusiasts will recognize the Granada name since Ford introduced it on a series of mid-size cars from 1975 to 1982.  However, you may not know about the European Granada. It was a different model Ford produced from 1972 to 1985.

    Ford conceived it as a luxury model, so the Granada was the biggest car they sold in Europe. It was also powered by four and six-cylinder engines and featured a long list of optional extras. The model came in two distinctive generations and they later replaced it with the Ford Scorpio in 1985.