So on my last blog post, I might have been a little harsh in criticizing Tesla. I’m always the first one to admit when I’m wrong, and I have to give the automaker props for achieving success in an extremely competitive market. In my defense though, I did say that 2013 would be a ‘make or break’ year for them, and I’m leaning toward this year being a ‘make’ year for Tesla. 

There are three really good reasons why Tesla deserves kudos for a job well done, aside from the obvious, which is to say that not many car ‘start-ups’ historically have even survived as long as Tesla has. First off, they have managed to make a really good car, even if you ignore the fact that the model S represents a total deviation from the norm since it does not run on an internal combustion engine. Consumer Reports gave the model S a 99 out of  a 100 score, which is incredibly difficult. It also won Motor Trend magazine’s 2013 car of the year award. And if you have ever seen one up close, you can tell right away that the body lines are sleek and streamlined, and that it’s obviously a luxury sedan, and looks very well made. 

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The second thing that Tesla has done right is living up to it’s corporate guidance, in other words, when the company says it will produce 2,000 cars a month, pay back the Department of Energy loan early and achieve profitability, and then actually does those things, it’s no wonder the company stock has more than doubled this year. Investors like companies that do what they say they are going to do, because it makes them feel more secure about their investment, and it’s not easy to accurately predict the future, but not impossible if the company is managed well. But the third thing that Tesla has going for it is the smart entrepreneur that’s leading the charge. CEO Elon Musk is obviously no dummy, and I find it interesting that in all the recent accolades given to Tesla and what the company has been doing right, I don’t always hear that the guy in charge is largely in part the reason for the company’s success. 

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It’s sad that other companies like Coda Automotive have failed, and Nissan hasn’t quite lived up to its expectations in Leaf sales, but love it or hate it, the electric car is not going away. It still comes down to the cost of batteries in my opinion, which is partly why I think Tesla has done well. They didn’t bother trying to produce a low-end car that ultimately would have been too expensive anyway (because batteries just aren’t cheap), which is what Coda did. Instead, they made a really nice car to compete with the luxury sedan market, and have actually outsold the Mercedes S class and BMW 7 series models. Yes, they’re still a small fish in a big pond, but you know what, I think they’re doing pretty good with all things considered. 

Once again, gas prices are rising and not surprisingly, the electric car market is still making headlines, specifically with Tesla thanks to a scathing test review of its new model S by New York Times writer John Broder. Despite Tesla’s claims that Broder fabricated data in his story (more like exaggerated in my opinion) the question remains whether or not now is the time for an electric vehicle that is priced in the stratosphere, and what the long term future will be for the Bay Area-based auto maker.

I honestly think 2013 will be a benchmark year for Tesla as they work hard to achieve profitability and somehow sell the idea of a luxury electric vehicle to ‘green’ driving enthusiasts. The EV industry is already working hard to sell the public on the idea of owning a pure electric vehicle in general let alone one that is priced well over, in fact more than double in some cases, the average price of nearly every EV that is now on the market. When you think about it, you would never buy a Tesla on the idea that you would be saving money on fuel costs. Why? Because even the cheap Model S cost more than $50K, with the higher performance version selling  for almost $100K. So, for example, if you buy a 2013 Honda Fit for $20K that gets at least 30 mpg, when you break it down,  it would be much cheaper to own than even the cheapest Tesla. So why buy a luxury EV? Is the ‘green’ Tesla the new smug impractical car to own, much like owning a Hummer use to be?

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On the financial side of things, Tesla has notoriously been losing money. Its losses in profits went from losing more that $50 million in 2009 to more than $250 million in 2011, and just recently announced, in 2012, the company lost almost $400 million. Despite all that, and the fact that they only produced about 3,000 cars last year, the company hopes that next quarter they will actually show a profit, and are on track to make approximately 20,000 cars by the end of the year. They also claim to have some 15,000 orders for the new model S. That sounds great for 2013, but will the demand sustain itself when the Wall St. Journal just reported that used vehicle sales are at an all-time high right now because drivers are looking at every possible means to save money. Used car dealers are actually having a hard time keeping any inventory. I hate to sound like a broken record, but more than a hundred years ago, Henry Ford succeeded in making the automobile highly successful by making it, at the very least, affordable to the masses. The Tesla seems like a very well-built car, but is it the EV that the auto industry has been craving for so long that will make electric cars mainstream?

Time for an update on the green car market. I don’t need to remind anyone that with gas prices approaching $5 a gallon (I live in CA) the market for more fuel efficient vehicles couldn’t be better right now, or is it?

So, we all know that there are quite a few choices when it comes to hybrid cars, and while the Toyota Prius is still popular, Chevy’s new Volt has done a good job of reinventing the hybrid with a much more efficient system, despite some issues with battery recalls and in my opinion, bad press. Only problem with the Volt, I think, is the price, and the Volt is not alone. New entry Coda Automotive and it’s 100% electric vehicle boasts a nice range, arguably better than the Nissan Leaf, but comes at a hefty price of close to $40K, which is about the same as the Volt. Of course, the Volt has the advantage of NOT being a 100% electric vehicle, giving hesitant EV buyers the piece of mind to know that their foray into the green car market won’t mean worrying about being left stranded somewhere when their charge dies and there isn’t a recharge station near by. I think that fear will linger for a while, but honestly, EVs are really not meant to be a long, road trip type car anyway.

So, lets consider sales figures. Nissan is struggling with only 5,212 Leafs sold in the US as of October(from the Detroit News), a far cry from the company’s goal of selling 20,000 Leafs by the end of this year, but considering Nissan’s early entry into the market, the advantage to the average consumer is the availability of used vehicles for sale, and we all know used is a lot cheaper than new. You can’t buy a used Coda since it’s a new vehicle this year, but do a simple search on Craig’s List and you’ll find 2011 Nissan Leaf’s for around $25K, and yes, I understand that a new Leaf is about the same price as the Coda, but since it has been on the market longer, it has had some time to mature, with new infrastructure to go along with it. If you go to Nissan’s website and look for charging stations, it says there are currently 6,300 nationwide and growing, but more importantly, they have some new stations that can recharge your Leaf in about 30 minutes. I consider this a big plus in one of the EVs biggest barrier to entry among new buyers: fear of limited range and long re-charge times, cost, however, is still an issue, which is why being able to buy one used, is a huge plus.

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The Chevy Volt on the other hand has sold more than 16K units to date this year, which is three times what it sold during the same period last year. A used Volt will run you about $30K plus, which is a little more than a used Leaf, but again, with potential buyers being fearful of a limited re-charging infrastructure, the Volt should continue to do well.

Most surprising I think on the green car front is Toyota’s recent announcement to scrap plans of a widespread rollout of its pure electric mini eQ car. Having been the early adopter of green cars when it introduced the Hybrid Prius, now more than 10 years old, logic would dictate that Toyota should be ‘gung ho’ to rollout a pure electric car, not pullback and say the market isn’t ready due to high production costs, long recharge times and limited range, although that is all probably true, a market takes time to mature, and they should know. When the Prius was first introduced, it really was not a cost-effective solution, i.e., the high-cost of the car was not offset by the fuel savings. However, Toyota is introducing an all-electric Rav4 that it has jointly produced with Tesla Motors and plans to roll out just 2,600 vehicles in the next three years­–not exactly the same as when it introduced the Prius in the US in 2000 and sold closer to 6,000 of them that first year. Has Toyota lost its nerve, or are they just being smart about making their next move into the green car market? The recent bankruptcy filing of A123, the Waltham Mass-based lithium ion battery producer, may just be evidence that Toyota knows exactly what they’re doing. Much like Nissan, Toyota has its own lofty sales targets to deal with. The Japanese carmaker has projected it will sell between 35K to 40K plug-in hybrids by the end of this year in Japan, but has so far only sold around 8,400. Much like the other EVs and hybrids, the Prius plug-in isn’t cheap. The standard plug-in Prius starts at $32K plus and the plug-in Hybrid Advanced is closer to $40K.

Time will tell who will come out on top. I think the biggest fear about owning a pure electric vehicle comes down to running out of juice with no where close by to recharge it. When you think about it though, this really shouldn’t be a big deal since you should have some idea how far you plan on driving before you leave the house, I mean you do the same with gas don’t you? The other thing is Nissan makes it easy to find out where the recharging stations are, and have drastically improved the time it takes to recharge a car, not to mention AAA has trucks that will come out and recharge your EV in case that ever happens (see my earlier blog on this topic). I’m sure it took time for a gas station to appear on nearly every corner, but think about how much work was involved in digging up the ground to install huge storage tanks, etc., all things you would NOT have to do to create a recharging station. A bigger issue is the need for better battery technology. Lithium is a highly unstable metal that is dangerous and expensive. I honestly believe this is a bigger barrier to entry than anything else. Admit it though, wouldn’t like to NOT have to buy gas?

by Thomas Zizzo

I’ve seen the lists, but I wanted to chime in with my own list of popular movie cars. To say I’m a movie buff would be an understatement, so my list of Hollywood cars is wide, but specifically chosen. While some movies had some interesting vehicles play critical roles, there have been a few that have become so synonymous with their Hollywood portrayal, it’s hard to picture them as being just another car. Let me put that another way. When you see one of these cars on the road, you can’t help but think of the movie that made them famous. I’ve narrowed them down to these ten, in no particular order.

The Italian Job -1969 Austin Mini Cooper S

The British micro car exploded in popularity after the Italian Job was first released in the late 60’s, not just because it was a cool little car, but it literally played a pivotal role in the film, you might say it was the biggest star in the movie, and that’s saying a lot considering the movie had quite a few human stars in it. The plot of the film involved a huge gold heist, which would not have been possible without the help of the quick, agile little cars; little, being the important factor here. The car chase scene, arguably one of cinema history’s best, has the Minis driving over roof tops, down stairs, in and out of buildings, it was as if there was no where the little car couldn’t go. In its own right, the classic Mini Cooper is an awesome car, but just as ET made Reese’s Pieces popular-an already tasty candy-The Italian Job made the Mini one of the sweetest little rides you could ever dream of owning.

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Christine -1958 Plymouth Fury

As far as I’m concerned, no movie car list would be complete without a 1958 Plymouth Fury, because it IS the title character of the movie. Although most may not admit it, I think just about everyone at some point develops a special relationship with their car. In Christine’s case, it was beyond scary and literally took on a life of its own. Most of the time people only think their car is possessed when it won’t start or breaks down a lot. Christine was much more than that of course, and I will admit there were times in the movie that I was rooting for the old Fury. Not many of the late 50’s Plymouth were ever produced, making them a rare sight, and technically, there were no production Furies made in red, but if and when you ever do see one, Christine is the only thing you’ll be thinking of.

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Bullitt -1968 Mustang Fastback

I will admit I’m a little biased about this choice because I love vintage Mustangs, but hands down if the actual car that was used in the movie ever came up for sale, the price it would bring would be astronomical. Just finding a highland green 1968 GT Fastback with the 390 big block engine would be a great score, but considering the car’s iconic chase scene in the movie on the hilly streets of San Francisco with Steve McQueen behind the wheel-and he did in fact drive for most of those scenes, it’s value really is priceless. In the movie, the green fastback didn’t really have a huge role, but the chase scene was so good, it became a cult classic. The car is so revered that Ford even introduced special edition Bullitt Mustangs in 2001 and again in 2008. There was even a YouTube video done that retraces the chase scenes’ hills and turns in San Francisco some 40 years later. Even the iconic American Racing wheels, arguably the best vintage after market wheel ever made, have been reworked and branded, Bullitt wheels. Get your hands on one of these cools rides, and like Steve McQueen, you’ve got your fast machine.

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Herbie The Love Bug -1963 VW Beetle Ragtop

Not only is the car in Herbie the title character, but the loveable bug did everything but talk in the film, that is if you don’t count the beeps as talking. Herbie was the complete opposite of Christine, and never before had a movie car been more animated as it shook, beeped (Beetles have a very distinct horn) squirted oil and nearly committed suicide off the Golden Gate bridge. It’s easy to forget that Herbie is a car, and you can’t help but love the unique look and simplicity of a classic VW Beetle. Almost any car enthusiast will tell you that at one time in their life, they’ve owned one, as if it was a rite of passage, and the VW Bug has outsold every car in automotive history, including the Ford Model T. For the role in the movie, Herbie was actually cast for the part. Disney put several cars out on the studio lot and had employees check them out and choose which one they liked best. The Bug was an instant hit. While there were more than 6 cars used in the making of the original film (no one really knows exactly how many cars they used) one of the original surviving cars is owned by the movie’s main character, Dean Jones. Seems fitting that he has the original Herbie in his driveway.

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Goldfinger -1964 Aston Martin DB5

While there have been many ‘Bond’ cars over the years, much like his ladies, the one that has stood out the most was the 1964 Aston Martin DB5, which first appeared in the movie Goldfinger. Not only is the British classic sporty and slick, but the original car used in Goldfinger had all the cool goodies you would expect to see in a spy car, blade-like wheel spinners, oil slick, smoke screen and even an ejector seat. It is probably the only Bond car that appeared again in other Bond movies, even in one of the most recent, Casino Royale. If you want to feel cool cruising around in this classic however, it’ll cost you, try somewhere in the neighborhood of around $400K, that is if you can even find one for sale. The original car used in the movie recently sold at auction for more than $4 million.

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Back to the Future -1981 DMC-12 DeLorean

The DMC-12 DeLorean is not only a unique and rare car (DeLorean’s untimely death meant the company wasn’t around very long for many to have been made) it really wasn’t a great car, as far as sports cars go. The version sold in the US had less than 150 horsepower, and could accelerate to 60 mph in a disappointing 10 seconds. But it had a certain look, and with the gull-wing style doors, it was perfect for the role of ‘car-turned-time-machine’ for the 80’s box office hit, Back to the Future. It is quite possible that the stainless steel bodied car would have been all but forgotten if it were not for its role in the Back to the Future movies. Funny thing though about the car in the movie-it needed to hit 88 mph to make the jump in time, but a stock DeLorean speedometer never went past 85 mph.

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Vanishing Point -1970 Challenger RT

I didn’t want to leave the Mopar fans disappointed, and lately it seems that this movie-and the car used in it-have reached cult status. I’m talking about the 1971 film Vanishing Point, and its star, the white 1970 Challenger RT. Why is it cool? Because the film is just about some guy driving from Denver to San Francisco in record time, not much plot, and who needed plot in the 70’s when you were behind the wheel of a cool Challenger RT. The other reason it’s cool is because Mopar fans loved it so much that a Chrysler dealer in Pennsylvania worked with Dodge to sell a new Challenger ‘Kowalski’ edition, Kowalski being the name of the main character in the movie. Basically, if you’re a Mopar fan, you know the movie Vanishing Point, for the car of course.

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Gone in 60 Seconds –1967 GT 500 Shelby ‘Eleanor’ Mustang

As much of a Mustang purist as I am, I have to admit that the real star of Gone in 60 Seconds, was the Eleanor 1967 GT500 Shelby Mustang, even though we all know it wasn’t a real Shelby, it managed to get a lot of people’s attention. Never mind Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie, no one honestly remembers their performance in the movie, but what they do remember was that tricked out Mustang. In the original 1974 film, which technically wasn’t the original because the stories were different, and the title of the movies were different (the 1974 movie is Gone in Sixty Seconds, not 60), it did feature an ‘Eleanor’ Mustang; a 1973 Mach 1, but was no where near the modified 1967 Mustang hot rod used in the 2000 movie. Designed by illustrator Steve Stanford and built by hot rod legend Chip Foose, Eleanor was destined to be a hit among car freaks. While I still like a good stock 1967 Mustang Fastback, I certainly would not turn away an Eleanor Mustang. The design was so cool in fact it spawned a niche industry of remakes of the movie car. You can still get one, now branded as a Shelby GT500CR, made by a company called Classic Recreations, and they aren’t cheap, but they are officially sanctioned by the legendary Shelby himself, so that obviously means they’re cool.

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Smokey and the Bandit1-1978 Pontiac Trans Am

Smokey and the Bandit started a love affair with the Trans Am, and why not, by the late 70’s the muscle car era was over, but someone forgot to tell Pontiac, and Smokey and the Bandit was a reminder that cool, fast American muscle cars still existed. Trans Am sales soared in the next couple of years as a result of the film. Sometimes I think we forget why muscle cars were the king of cool. They were cool because they were simple, elegant, fast and CHEAP! The Bandit was as country hillbilly as can be, and while a $5,800 Trans Am would have been a high-end car for the southern truck driver, it was a far cry from any European sports car or even something like a Corvette, which would have been almost double the price in 1978, and even less horsepower than a Trans Am! Lets face it, with the muscle car look, 6.6 liter 400 cubic inch motor and that cool, swirled metal dash, the Pontiac Trans Am was perfectly cast for Smokey and the Bandit, and getting one in the late 70’s was as easy as going to your local GM dealer, and people did.

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Transformers -2010 Chevy Camaro ‘Bumblebee’

I struggled with this choice since it’s a newer movie, but there’s no doubt when you see a 2010, yellow SS Camaro with black rally stripes cruising down the street, you can’t help but think of that scene in the movie when the humble old Bumblebee changes over to the new kick ass Camaro. After a short hibernation (Chevy stopped making the Camaro after 2002), the Camaro was reintroduced several years after the movie first aired, modeled after the cult classic 1969 Camaro, auto enthusiasts, especially Chevy fans, were very excited about its release, and seeing it in the movie before it was officially on the road was quite the tease. Oddly enough, Bumblebee in the original Transformers comic books was a VW Beetle, arguably the true first car for any teenager, in fact my best friend’s first car was a yellow Beetle, the use of the Camaro was a bit of a marketing ploy with Chevy to debut its new creation I’m sure. Chevy did in fact sell a Transformers edition Camaro in 2010, and for the release of the third film in the franchise, another special edition for 2012, cementing the car’s place in movie car history forever.

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By Thomas Zizzo

Carmakers have figured out that bringing back retro styling to their designs is good for business, too bad they don’t feel that way about the pricing.

Once Ford started doing well with its retro-styled Mustang in 2005, Dodge quickly got on board by bringing back the Challenger, looking much like it did back in 1970, then Chevy with the new Camaro, and for 2012, the VW Beetle finally got a new look, bringing back a little bit of that old vintage Bug style, but what made some of these cars such huge hits back in the day was that they were somewhat affordable. Not so much now it seems:

  •                                        Inflation adjusted/new car price             Original price
  • 1965 Ford Mustang                        $16,938                                     $2,372                        six cylinder model
  • 2012 Ford Mustang                        $22,310                                                                      six cylinder model
  • 1969 Mustang Boss 302                  $21,991                                    $3,588
  • 2012 Mustang Boss 302                  $43,000
  • 1963 Corvette Convertible                $31,256                                   $4,252
  • 2012 Corvette Convertible               $55,000
  • 1970 Dodge Challenger RT              $18,178                                    $3,273
  • 2012 Dodge Challenger RT              $30,000                                                                         5.7L Hemi V8
  • 1967 Volkswagen Beetle                  $12,108                                    $1,798
  • 2012 Volkswagen Beetle                  $19,795
  • 1969 Chevy Camaro                        $16,714                                    $2,727                         base V-8(307 CI)
  • 2012 Chevy Camaro                        $23,280                                                                       base V-6 model
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*inflation adjusted prices were calculated using the US Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator illustrating today’s buying power of decades old prices

In an obvious attempt to lure aging Baby Boomers who owned iconic muscle cars in the late 60’s when they were teenagers, carmakers have successfully brought back the right styling and performance, but at a hefty price. If you look at the original price of Ford’s ultra cool Boss 302 Mustang introduced in 1969 and adjust for inflation, you’ll see that it was far cheaper than the brand new one being re-introduced this year. True, you get a lot more car for your money than you did 43 years ago(a 1969 Boss 302 had about 290 horsepower, compared to the new one that has well over 400 horsepower)but is it worth double the original price? Look at the price of an old Corvette, it was far cheaper back then compared to what new ones cost today, but given how much cars have changed with technology and performance, is it fair to say they are now overpriced? I would argue yes, they’re overpriced.

Back in 2000, a brand new IBM Thinkpad laptop, with 64mb of RAM and a whopping 12 Gig hard drive-weighing in at less than 8 pounds, would have cost you in the neighborhood of $3,500, and that’s NOT an inflation adjusted price. Even a 17” MacBook Pro, with a 750 Gig hard drive and 4 Gigs of RAM will only cost you $2,500 today. A high-def TV purchased 6 years ago was almost triple the cost of one today, so why has the auto industry reversed this trend? It’s a fair question, I think, because cars made 40 years ago also contained a lot less plastic and other cheaply made components used today. If it’s a question of better technology, doesn’t that usually get cheaper as a market matures, much like it has for things like TVs and computers? Maybe it’s a labor cost, but minimum wage in 1969 was $1.60 an hour, or roughly $9.80 when adjusted for inflation. That means that workers most likely got paid more 40 years ago, coupled with the fact that a good part of the auto manufacturing process isn’t even done by humans today.

Auto manufacturers 40 years ago understood the value of a good deal, how else can you explain the fact that Ford sold more than a million Mustangs, yes, a million, by the second year of the popular car’s initial production run. Then there’s the fact that during the late 60’s, popular muscle cars started to appear with many options deleted, such as radios, power windows, AC, etc. Cheap performance was all that mattered, and as odd as it seams, those old cars with deleted options are now more valuable because of it. Even Pontiac’s iconic 1964 GTO, widely regarded as the first true muscle car, was marketed under the idea that you didn’t have to spend a ton of money to get great performance and styling. Even it’s name, GTO (Gran Turismo Omologato), was considered a flip of the middle finger to Ferrari, which incidentally would have cost as much as a new home in 1964. I know I’ve said it before, but there’s a reason the most produced cars in history were so successful; they were affordable.

It (Model-T) will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one.” Henry Ford.

by Thomas Zizzo

As of January 1, 2012, California’s new Child Safety Seat Law goes into effect. The new law requires parents to keep children properly buckled into a car seat or booster in the back seat until the age of eight. The old law stated that a child who is ‘6 years or 60 pounds’ needed to be in a safety seat.

A driver can be fined more than $475 and get a point on their driving record for each child under 16 years of age who is not properly secured in their vehicle.

Children age eight or older may use the vehicle seat belt if it fits properly with the lap belt low on their hips, touching the upper thighs, and with the shoulder belt crossing the center of the chest. If a child is not tall enough for proper belt fit, they must ride in a car seat or booster seat.

Vehicles are now explicitly forbidden from crossing double parallel solid white lines, commonly found in carpool lanes on highways.

A new adjustment to sobriety checkpoint regulations now prevents authorities from impounding vehicles at checkpoints when the driver’s only offense is failing to hold a driver’s license. The new law requires that the officer make a reasonable attempt to notify the registered owner in order to release the vehicle.

Repeat offenders can have their driver’s license suspended for 10 years if they have been convicted of at least three DUIs.

Electric vehicles must be plugged in for recharging when parking in an EV-designated space, otherwise they may be towed. In addition, the law prohibits a person from obstructing, blocking, or otherwise barring access to an EV-designated parking space.

Anyone who is convicted of reckless driving under Section 23103.5 of the vehicle code can apply for a restricted driver license prior to the completion of their one-year suspension, provided they meet specified conditions, including the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device in their vehicle.

-by Thomas Zizzo

I’m not sure why I’ve always liked smaller cars. I think maybe it’s because they’re not as common and typically get better gas mileage or are easier to park, whatever it is, I love driving little cars.

I put together this list of my favorites, but there are specific reasons why I chose these cars, and I will explain. First of all, it has to be small, and I understand that while some cars are relatively small-you can call them compact, some cars are really small; I’m looking more at the really small, but not so small it would be considered a micro car, such as a classic BMW Isetta, or a late 50’s Nash Metropolitan. Those cars didn’t make my list because not only are they considered micro, they no longer exist, and haven’t for quite some time. I believe that a car is really great if it has been around for a while, and evolved over generations of drivers while maintaining its original appeal. So you will notice on my list that these cars have been around for many years and can still be found today. Of course, the popularity of small cars seems to be on the rise when you look at some newer cars available now, such as the return of the little Fiat 500 to the United States, thanks to the merger with Chrysler, and the new Scion iQ. Only time will tell with these cars; are they a passing fad or a new standard. There may be other cool small cars out there, but these are my favorites.

VW Bug

The Volkswagen Beetle is hands down the greatest small car ever made, and before you jump in to argue, I’ll tell you why. There have been more VW Bugs made than any other car, yes, ANY other car, including the Ford Model-T when it surpassed an astounding 15 million plus cars sold by the early 70’s. Yes, there are cars that are smaller, but overall, a Bug is pretty darn small compared to most. When referring to vintage bugs(anything made prior to the late 70’s)they’re simple, easy to work on, cheap to maintain, and despite being small, they’re quite roomy inside. I can still remember the first time I went to park my ’61 Bug on a busy street that normally would have required a complex parallel parking maneuver, it was so easy I almost laughed. What amazes me even more is that the Bug still lives on, and while the new ones are a far cry from the original models, the soul of the little German car is going strong, and shows no signs of dying any time soon.

Mazda Miata

A Mazda Miata is pretty darn small, almost micro in size, and when it first debuted in 1989, it was such a huge hit that people paid above sticker price to get one-what???! Yep, they did, in fact most dealerships had waiting lists for the little convertibles. The inspiration for the Miata came from the vintage MGs and two-seat roadsters of the late 50’s and 60’s, and for whatever reason, by the late 80’s and early 90’s, small convertible sports cars were non-existent. The Miata is still produced, although much more refined than its first inception. You might say that the age of small roadsters was destined to make a comeback with the introduction of the Miata, and why not, they’re a blast to drive, just make sure you don’t need to bring any luggage larger than a gym bag for a road trip.

Austin/BMW Mini

The Mini of course prides itself on being small, hence the name. Much like the VW Bug, it’s hard not to fall in love with the little car, and its popularity is arguably just as big. Some might consider it micro-an original vintage one maybe, but I would argue that it isn’t quite as small as it looks. The inside of a vintage Mini is actually very roomy, considering its size. Hollywood made it uber-famous with the 1969 cult classic film The Italian Job, and when BMW took over the brand in 2001, the spirit of the Mini was kept alive, even if the new Mini is a little larger than its humble beginnings. Point being, small is still cool, and the Mini keeps that idea alive even today.

Jeep

The Jeep CJ, known today simply as the Wrangler (CJ stood for Civilian Jeep) was arguably the first true SUV, and when you really look at one, they’re small, at least I think so. Not many vehicles have evolved yet remained true to its original flavor like the Jeep. It literally defined a new category of car-not a truck, but not a passenger car, it is something else. The CJ was first introduced after the vehicle’s huge success during WW2, and much like the military version, the CJ was simply unbreakable and could go just about anywhere. I think people have always had a desire for adventure, especially with their cars, and what better to fulfill that desire than with a Jeep. It has changed owners/manufacturers over the years (Willys, AMC, Chrysler) but the overall concept and look has stayed the same. Even when SUVs became all the rage in recent years, the Jeep was always a contender in its class, and thanks to its compact size, the only reason other SUVs have done well is because the Jeep is considered by many to be too small. As I have said before, time will tell, and the Jeep truly lives up to the idea that good things come in small packages.