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Monday, April 23, 2012

The Introduction Of The New Infiniti JX

At the Atlanta International Auto Show, Infiniti introduced a new midsize SUV, the JX that rivals the full size offerings from other manufacturers in space. Room for 7 passengers, with the economy and the power of the Z sports car derived V6. More interior space than a Cadillac Escalade. We will have a full Video Road Test when vehicles are available. Join and get notification when we start.

The Scion IQ Disapoints

The Scion IQ is refered by Toyota as a "New Urbanism -- a vehicle for a more progressive buyer". Interesting, I consider myself very progressive, I feel pressured that to maintain my progressive Club Membership I need to like this car! If I don't will Toyota turn me in, will my progressive standing be suddenly revoked?. 
My first impressions as I saw the car up close, I imagined that the exterior styling was done by Frigidaire, tasteful, boxy, tall and the light inside comes on when you open the door. Inspecting the exterior I noticed the typical great Toyota Fit and finish on the paint and body. When I first open the drivers door and saw the seats I honestly said to my self, "look they put on mismatching seat covers so that the testers would not soil the seats". Oops! How wrong I was! The burlap like seat fabric was the actual seat upholstery. The seat bottom in a Grey checkerboard pattern and the backrest in Grey burlap. Not one of my better first impressions. Being "progressive" I try to keep an open mind and hoped my children and grand children have taste closer to mine rather than the designer who picked the material combination for the IQ. 
Chanting the "progressive" mantra. I am certain that Scion knows its potential customers better than I do. I continued with my inspection of the interior, as I sat down in the drivers seat and pulled the door closed my ears were assaulted by a very un-Toyota like, hollow and tinny sound as the door closed. Yet the sound brought on a warm and fuzzy feeling, slowly my brain fondly recalled the memory of my father in laws 1968 Toyota Corrolla 2 door wagon, the door on the IQ sound it just like it! Turning my attention to the door panel material, what came to mind is that the plain smooth grain light and contrasting darker Grey vinyl is very simple and continued the Frigidaire theme of an easy to wash interior. As I looked around the rest of the interior and dashboard, the theme of hard plastic that is easy to clean surfaces continued through the whole interior, including the sum visors the headliner however was softer.
Being the "progressive" that I am, a vision popped into my head. If the old Soviet Union had stayed in power, this is the kind of car that they would have built for the people, minus the good exterior styling and the great fit finish of course,
Scion refers to the IQ as "a new premium micro-subcompact segment with a level of innovation that makes a car this size possible". Translation! If they say Premium enough times a certain number of people will begin to believe it.
I am beginning to think that my "Old School Urbanism" is about to become extinct! Cashmere coats with silk linings, Cole Hann shoes, Willson leather motorcycle jackets, plush Wilton wool carpets. Is the universe finally unraveling?
I have a different body proportion than my 6' 7" friend Mike, who test drove this car with me. My 6 foot frame consist of a longer torso than Mike, more padding on the bottom resulting in a problem with the seating position for me. I pushed the drivers seat as far rearwards as it would go to accommodate my legs. To reach the steering wheel comfortably I had to bring the backrest forward, putting my head firmly in touch with the headliner.
In the 60's and the 70's, cars such as the MGB GT and the Porsche 911 had rear seats that were only useable by legless children. The leg room provides by those sports cars, was greater than the IQ when both front eats are pushed all the way back. You can say, I also had

Lycra bathing suit and little else between the seat back and the hatch. When folding the rear seats down to be able to us the space, you first have to remove the head rest and find a place to stow them with their menacing steel shafts. If you are a "New Urbanite" mom or dad, and you want to put a baby seat in the back, you will have to do it from the right side of the car where the seat slides further forward and it will still be a very tight fit.
So I took it for a ride in its intended urban setting. Initial impression as we pull out of the parking lot is there is a lot of engine and road noise, once up to speed the droning continues. The 1.3 liter 96 horsepower engine provides adequate power and some very Singer Sewing Machine like noise. I am certain that this will be a good durable car in typical Toyota tradition. The 11 standard airbags will provide protection if the worse happens. Obviously this vehicle is aimed directly at the Smart car (IQ, get it!) But this segment is full of really great cars from Nisan, Ford, Kia, Fiat and yes Totota. For a car this small and a price range from $16,000 to $18,000 I expect more than just cute and great TV commercials
What I am really looking forward to is the FRS Scion all wheel drive sports car.

Last Stand For Kaiser-Frazer

Kaiser-Frazer Corporation was a partnership between automobile executive Joseph W. Frazer and industrialist Henry J. Kaiser. In 1947, the company acquired the automotive assets of Graham-Paige, Kaiser-Frazer was the only new US automaker to achieve success after World War II, if only for a few years.

Henry Kaiser had no automotive marketing experience while Joseph Frazer did, He was president of the Graham-Paige Corporation prior to the Second World War. Henry Kaiser was a damn the torpedoes full Speed ahead kind of guy. Joseph Frazer was a realist. As sales for K-F products dropped off in 1949 as Ford Chrysler and GM introduced a new generations of designs, Kaiser pushed for more production creating an oversupply of cars that took until mid-1950 to sell. With nothing but friction between the two, Frazer left the company in 1951, and the Frazer nameplate was dropped after a short 10,000 unit production run. In 1952 the Corporation was renamed Kaiser Motors Corporation and continued building passenger cars through 1955.

In 1953 Kaiser bought the strapped Willys-Overland company and merged the Kaiser and Willys became the Willys Motors. The decision was then made to exit the passenger car market, which was accomplished at the end of the 1955 model year. By 1956, Willys Motors was building only utility vehicles, many for export, and was turning a healthy profit.

In 1970, the Kaiser Jeep Corporation, as the company had been renamed in 1963, was sold to American Motors Corporation which continued to manufacture Jeep vehicles until AMC itself was purchased by Chrysler in 1987 for $360 million. Chrysler wanted the Jeep vehicle line and had estimated that for them to create a similar competing product and build a reputation to match would have cost in excess of $1 billion.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mercedes Benz 300SL

The Story of the 300 SL, by Miguel Caparros.

It is not often that you run into a show condition Mercedes 300 SL at a local car show in Georgia, this is the second time I ran into this car at a small event. The owners of this car have the means to afford their fantasy car and enjoy being with the local crowd instead of the slightly more formal venues these cars are normally seen in. With only 1400 cars made it is a rare beast. The 220 HP car was the fastest street production car of its time, with a top speed of 161 mph, this car is still fast 56 years later.

It is the lines of this car that takes your breath away. Strongly influenced by the factory race cars from 1952 and 53 and suggested by American Importer Max Hoffman (I am sure Max primed the financial pump too) Mercedes did a masterful job building the first supper car of the modern era. Max's instincts were right a lot in the 50's and he created a market in the United States for this car. Fully 80% of all the 1400 were sold in the States. In 1957, as I child, I rode in a friends of my fathers 300 SL, I thought it was the car of the future, the gull wing doors and having to climb over the sill to get into the cockpit was more like getting into an airplane than a car. 20 years later we had the opportunity to have one stay briefly with us.

The black with red interior 1957 gull wing was a boys dream come true. It was no easier getting in at 6 feet tall that it was at 4. The 300 was equipped with a swing away steering wheel that made the job a little easier. The steering wheel's mechanism was a little disturbing to the mechanic in me as I had nightmares of the wheel becoming loose while driving, you have to see the mechanism to understand, it is hinged like an elbow is the best way I can describe it. No accidents ever happened due to my fears as far as I know. Although it is a wide car for the era it is rather snug inside as the sills that are the structure of the car and take up two feet on each side.

Driving the car. My test subject was a 1957 and had benefited from the constant improvements that were made on these cars on a daily basis, I am a believer that no two 300's were ever the same. Mine had the remote short shifter and the car in the video has the original bent shifter that removed the possibility of mounting the radio that my test car had. Apparently the 57 car I had was equipped with the taller gear (more top speed) the give away to this option was the 180 MPH speedometer vs the 160 of all the other gear ratios. Unlike other cars of the era all you had to do with the 300 to start is was turn the key, this car was the technology demonstrator for MB and Bosch direct fuel injection. Lets just say we recently re-discovered direct injection, again.
The car started and settled to a cold idle of 1100 rpm once warmed up it was at 700 rpm and very smooth. Six cylinder engines are inherently smooth and the 300 injection helps it put out some serious power and instant response. Our shop was in historic Nyack New York, located 25 miles north of midtown New York City overlooking the Tapanzee bridge and the Hudson River it felt more like 150 miles we were so rural. We had an entrance and exit to the New York Through Way less than ½ mile away, and some very understanding police that tolerated us and several of the other Exotic car business that provided some great revenue for the area. The immediate reaction is how confined I felt not being able to open a window. I have never felt that confined even strapped in a race car, the combination of the black car and the late spring sun increased the temperature quickly to the uncomfortable level. I pop the door up driving down main street until I was on the turnpikes on ramp and pulled it down.
The car accelerated with authority, even by today's standards this is a quick car. The taller gearing that gives up acceleration for ease of cruising and greater top speed provided 0 to 60 in 6.8 seconds. The ride motions of the car were certainly firm and the stiffness of the structure, lack of rattles and body shake gave a reassuring feel. There was mechanical noise from the engine and transmission but as the speed increased an interesting thing happened. The wind noise associated with the wind deflecting off moldings and sharp edges disturbing the air were not there. As a matter of fact it was a bit eery as speed increased. The New York State troopers frown on people like me but luck was with me that day. In an open stretch of empty road I was able to stretch the 300 SL's legs. I hit just over 155 with plenty more in reserve when I remembered I was driving a 20 year old car, and a very valuable one at that. These cars new went from $6,500 to $8,000 I seriously doubt that any ever sold for any less.