-Thomas Zizzo

Being a car enthusiast, you might say there are plenty of cars I would consider my ‘dream’ car. Of course, a 1970 Boss 429 Mustang will run me close to a quarter of a million dollars, but just because my dream car seems a little out of reach doesn’t mean other potential dream cars are that impossible to own.

Silver Shadow Rolls Royce

Built between 1965 and 1980, the Rolls Royce Silver Shadow has the classic look that just screams the highest level of quality and design that the British luxury car-maker is known for. You just can’t get a more luxurious car than a Rolls Royce, except for maybe a Bently, which is made by the same company. It’s safe to say any true auto enthusiast would dream of owning a Rolls, but many might not know it isn’t really that crazy to own one. Ok, so a new one will cost you as much-if not more-than my own personal dream car, but you can easily pick up an early 70’s model Silver Shadow for around $15K or less. That’s not bad considering the level of quality in which a Rolls Royce is produced. They are literally hand made. If you see wood on the dash, it’s REAL wood that the factory cut and varnished themselves. In an age of mass production with ultra-cheap labor, you can’t get anything better for an automobile at that price. Of course, a tune-up and/or replacement parts may cost you an arm and a leg.

1970's Silver Shadow Rolls Royce

 

Magnum PI Ferrari 308

If you grew up in the 1980’s like I did watching the rogue private investigator played by Tom Selleck cruising the backroads of Hawaii, you’ll remember one thing for sure-the red 308 Ferrari he drove. That iconic ride is so distinctly Ferrari and was once considered a dream car that only the well-off could own. Now, for between $25K to $40K, and a retro Detroit Tigers baseball hat, you too can look like Magnum PI cruising down the street. It’s arguably still not a cheap car, but it sure will get you noticed, and given the price for just about any other Ferrari, it would be considered an ‘entry-level’ car of its kind, and wouldn’t be a bad investment.

 

Ferrari 308

 

Porsche 944

Nothing says performance and style like a Porsche, but even old Porsches, except for maybe the 914, ok, and the 924, aren’t exactly cheap. Then there’s the 944, which if you remember from the iconic John Hughes film Sixteen Candles, the coolest guy in the movie (Jake Ryan) drove a red 944. For a long time I dreamed of picking up a date in a cool red Porsche like the one he drove in the movie, and now, that dream car will cost a whopping $5K or less. I couldn’t even get a classic Mustang for that-at least one that doesn’t need a total overhaul.

1986 Porsche 944

 

Lexus LS400

A 1995 Lexus LS400 was probably the most luxurious (LS stands for luxury sedan) Japanese car you could ever buy. With premium options, an LS400 could have had a sticker price of more than $40K, and why shouldn’t it, for that kind of money you got the reliability of a Toyota, but the luxury of a Cadillac. It was such a cool car that even Bill Gates drove one, making the Lexus the car to have if you wanted to be like Bill. But that was then and now, for less than $5K, you can own one of these comfortable and luxurious cars. I would say that out of all the cars I’m putting on this list, it would arguably be the best buy for the money. Back in the late 90’s, it was rumored that this very car was a status symbol for Microsoft employees, not just because Bill Gates drove one, but because it was also a really nice car.

Lexus LS400

 

Pontiac GTO 2005-06

The Pontiac GTO introduced in 1964 is widely regarding as being the first true muscle car. It’s aggressive styling and brute horsepower started a trend among American carmakers that would define an unforgettable era in automotive history.

Fast forward to 2004 with the reintroduction of the GTO. By now, American carmakers were long criticized for putting out cars that lacked the sleek styling of their European counterparts. The new GTO not only looked like a European sports car, but boasted big performance as well. The 2005/06 models got even better when GM replaced the LS1 motor with the more popular LS2 engine used in Corvettes, giving the GTO more than 400 horsepower and a 0 to 60 time of less than 5 seconds. The cool styling and strong performance made the car a big hit, but at a hefty price of well over $30K, ok, arguably that’s cheaper than a Corvette, but we are still talking about a two door sports car. Keeping in mind a 2006 Pontiac GTO is only 5 years old, you can easily pick one up for about $15K, not bad considering the LS2 engine by itself costs about that much.

 

2006 Pontiac GTO

So here is what I consider to be the ugliest American cars ever made. Yes, there are plenty of foreign cars that got hit with the ugly stick, but for the purposes of this list, I’m sticking with American cars, and the good ole’ US of A has had a few duds over the years when it comes to looks and styling.

Starting with the bottom is the Cadillac Cimarron. While I realize that the Cimarron is not the ugliest American car on the road, it forever changes the term, ‘the Cadillac of…’ when used to describe the best of something. As the term suggests, a Cadillac is supposed to be the ultimate in design and styling, which the Cimarron is not. Most Cadillac fanatics will tell you they do not even consider the Cimarron a Cadillac. It was ugly, poorly made and completely un-like what a Cadillac should be.

Cadillac Cimarron

Next up is the Chevy Chevette. This car came during a time when gas was becoming very expensive-if you could get it at all-and obviously no one in the US could figure out how to make an economy car look cool, kind of like the early days of diet food, sure it was good for you, but it tasted so bad most preferred to starve. The US had to compete with the likes of Honda and Toyota, and while they got the size right, that was about the only thing they got right. All you could really say about this car in the late 70’s was that it got good gas mileage and it was easier to park than most of its American brothers and sisters.

Chevy Chevette

Coming in at number eight is the Chevy Citation. This is the line that replaced the Chevette, and believe it or not, won Motor Trend’s car of the year for 1980. Still doesn’t change the fact that it was ugly. It looks like a boxy, bloated Pinto, and yes, that’s on the list too.

Chevy Citation

At number seven on the list is a more recent design, the 2001 Pontiac Aztek. It kind of looks like a cross between an SUV and a Toyota Prius-yikes! It’s hard to tell if it’s an SUV or a car, today we call them ‘crossover’ vehicles, but the body lines have no distinct style, it’s over done with plastic body cladding, and the bumpers, well, just look at it, it’s pretty damn ugly.

2001 Pontiac Aztek

Number six on the list is probably a car not many have heard of, and the fact that it was hideously ugly may be why. AMC, who has brought to the car world some pretty ugly cars, introduced the Matador in 1971. It replaced the previous Rebel line of cars, and I think it represents the worst of 70’s styling, much like a few other AMC cars. If you took the front end of a Ford Pinto, stretched out the wheelbase, slapped some Corvair taillights on it, then added a Chevy Vega roofline, you get something that looks like a Matador.  Even worse was the Barcelona model, which came standard with an interior that no car should ever have, even seatcovers from the flea market would look better than that interior.

Next up is the Mustang II. By 1974, the Ford Mustang was due for a radical change, unfortunately, the muscle car era was over, and smaller, more fuel efficient cars were on every car makers mind, too bad styling was not. Looking like something between a Pinto and a bad dream, the Mustang II represented a huge shift for the popular sports car. Unfortunately, the Mustang wouldn’t look cool again until at least 1985. It came in the Pinto fastback version, or the boxier standard type-both were incredibly ugly. The only good thing that came out of the Mustang II was that hot rodders could take the front ends out of them and bolt them up to their old rides giving them independent front suspension and disc brakes.

1974 Mustang II1976 Mustang II Cobra

1976 Mustang II Cobra

Number four on the list is the AMC Gremlin. The name alone screams ugly, but in my opinion, it still isn’t as ugly as its close cousin, which is number two on my list. It was yet another car meant to compete in an auto market where cars were getting smaller and more fuel efficient, but its looks were nothing like the more popular imports of its day. The 70’s were destined to be an era of odd automotive styling, and the Gremlin was evidence of that trend.

AMC Gremlin

At number three is the Ford Pinto. It would forever be synonymous with failure. It not only had ugly styling, but it was plagued with mechanical problems, most notably, its propensity to explode with a rear end collision. Of all the really bad designs that came out of the 70’s, the Pinto somehow gets looked at as the benchmark of bad design, but next up on the list is actually worse.

Ford Pinto

I would say the AMC Pacer should be number one, but it was a very difficult decision and it took the number two spot. What can you say about it, it’s so ugly it’s hard to know where to start. When it debuted in 1975, Road Testmagazine said it looked like a ‘four-foot submarine sandwich’. The Pacer even made the Pinto look tame, which is saying a lot, I think. Personally it reminds me of those odd space ships that were used for the series Lost in Space. If you want people to stare at you while you’re driving, get a Pacer.

AMC Pacer

Number one should be no surprise. The 1958 Ford Edsel was hands down the ugliest car ever made, even though I personally think the Pacer was uglier, more people will say ‘Edsel’ when they think of an ugly American car. It was the grill, that toilet seat or horse collar front end is what sealed its fate for sure.

1958 Ford Edsel

There’s no doubt that electric cars are making a comeback, and while new technology has made them more efficient with longer range capabilities, nothing has changed about the fact that once batteries are dead, it takes time to recharge them.

Electric cars can typically take about ten hours to recharge with a standard outlet, or if you have the $2K to upgrade to a 240 volt charger-what is typically used to power electric clothes dryers-then the charge time is reduced to about 3 hours. The latest and greatest technology for recharging EVs is called ‘Level 3’ and uses a 480 volt system. It boasts a recharge time of 80% capacity in only 30 minutes, only problem is, the special wiring upgrade is in the neighborhood of $50K.

So the big question is, what do you do if you’re driving home and your EV dies?  Not surprising, AAA has recently come out with new trucks equipped to rescue your battery drained EV.  Their new tow trucks are equipped with a 4.5 kWh lithium-ion battery on board that can give a standard electric car anywhere between 15 and 3 miles of power, depending on the type of charger your car has.

AAA will deploy the trucks with mobile electric vehicle charging capacity in six metropolitan areas across the US as a pilot program including San Francisco Bay Area, Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, Knoxville and the Tampa Bay area. AAA estimates that there will be 1.2 million EVs on US roads by 2015. On a personal note, if oil companies were smart, they would start adding recharge stations to their existing gas station infrastructure across the country. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of years, there’s no doubt that an electric car, or very efficient hybrid car, is automakers big revenue race, that is to say, they will be competing to one up each other with a better, cheaper fuel efficient car. If oil companies ignore this fact, they could be like the next saddle makers before everyone starting owning a car instead of a horse. You watch, it WILL happen.

I read an article in Forbes recently titled the death of the pickup truck claiming mostly that declining truck sales have been attributed to high fuel prices and an overall change in buyer’s attitudes about needing a truck.  While I believe this is partially true, I think there are other reasons why fewer people have been turning down that new truck purchase. I also don’t believe the truck is dead or even dying for that matter, evolving maybe, but remember that the first cars ever made were trucks or used as such.

Yes, it’s true that trucks use more fuel, and when the price of gas in California hit more than $4 a gallon, spending more than $100 to fill the tank was definitely a good reason to not buy a truck, but there are other reasons as well. I think one of the bigger reasons buyers are looking at cheaper crossover vehicles and compact SUVs, which are also more fuel efficient, is the fact that trucks now have too many options that make them some of the most expensive vehicles on the market, and the real question is why? Traditionally, pickup trucks never had a lot of options, so for the buyer, they were a cheaper alternative to big SUVs that were more expensive. All the smart buyer had to do was add a carpet kit and a camper shell to a cheap truck and bam, you had a much cheaper SUV. I still remember when a new truck didn’t have leather interior, or power windows and seats, heated AND cooled seats, or backup cameras and in-dash GPS navigation or in some cases they didn’t even come with a rear bumper!

I know it seems ridiculous now to get a truck without even a rear bumper, but pickup trucks were never fancy because they didn’t need to be. You hauled your stuff in the bed, got from point A to B and that was all you needed to do with them. If you had to tow something, you got a heavier duty model, the more weight you needed to tow, the tougher the truck you got. And they drove like a truck-meaning, you could easily tell the difference when you rode in a truck compared to how the ride feels in a car. It’s hard to tell the difference between the two now. In short, truck manufacturers have catered their line of pickups to satisfy people that drive cars, and that has made them expensive, and frustrating for the traditional truck owner that doesn’t want or need a fancy pickup. It’s not uncommon to see trucks that cost $60K or more, that is if you want one that will function like a true truck and not just a cheap car with an open bed that still gets lousy gas mileage. So now they aren’t as attractive to traditional car owners because they’re just as expensive or more than SUVs, not only in base price, but for fuel economy as well.

To give you an example of what I’m talking about, the Ford F-series trucks, which are the most popular trucks(and vehicle) on the road, will cost you at least $20K for a base model F150, will get about 17 mpg, and to be quite honest, is not nearly as tough a truck as a base model F150 used to be. The V-6 engine won’t handle real heavy loads(option-less F150s in the early to mid 90’s generally came with V-8s) or tow very much, and of course it will still get lousy gas mileage, and because it’s the base model, it won’t have those fancy features that have been added over the years to attract the non-traditional truck owners. So what you have is basically a truck that isn’t a very good ‘truck’, making them less attractive to any buyer that isn’t a local municipality, leaving only the more optioned ‘better’ trucks that are now too expensive for anybody. A Ford F-250, the baseline heavier duty model that is more like a ‘truck’ as we know them to be, will cost you close to $50K, and can get way more pricey depending on how many bells and whistles you want to add to it. Back in the day-I’m talking about 15 years ago-a base model F150 was tougher, could handle heavier loads, and cost about $14K-gas mileage was still lousy, but gas was also much cheaper then. Even the heavier duty F250/350 models were based on the same body as the F150, unlike today’s models that are entirely different, and of course more expensive.

The same scenario is also true for most of the smaller pickup trucks, and although I believe that the truck will never really die, in this economy, car manufacturers need to shift gears and stick to a tried and true philosophy that less is more.  However, some contractors that drive their pickups all day long tend to like a more comfortable ride and don’t mind paying a little more for a fancy pickup, which is one of the saving graces for truck manufacturers, but narrows down the market of potential buyers.

I think that if the auto manufacturers want to sell more trucks, they should beef up the drive train of their base model pickups, and let the buyers add whatever after-market accessories they want, which is cheaper to do than buying one that is already equipped with features they don’t need. Keep it simple, we are living in a time that calls for ‘leaner’ standards, mostly to save money, but will the car-makers sacrifice that extra revenue for the all the added features they like to include? They should if it means they will sell less volume. Remember that Henry Ford made a killing in the car market by producing something cheap and affordable (model-T’s came in one color, black, to reduce costs). Aside from the Volkswagen Beetle, the Ford Model-T was the most produced car ever, of course it should be no coincidence that the ‘Bug’ was a simple, affordable car as well.

 

 

I admit this is more of a gripe than anything else, I just don’t understand what people are thinking when they post ads to sell their cars on Craig’s List.  Remember the time when you had to PAY to place an ad to sell your car? You chose your words wisely-because more words meant more money you had to pay-and you cut to the chase. Then the Internet came along, and the wonder that is Craig’s List. Thanks to technology, you can now place an ad online, in front of a bigger audience, write as much as you want with multiple pictures, and you can do it for free! The free part unfortunately has been devastating to newspapers and journalists like myself-who knew classified ads were so important to the publishing industry’s bottom line, but that’s a whole different subject.  It’s the car ads I tend to browse through the most, and there are things people do that just don’t make a lot of sense to me.

Too much to list

Making this statement in a FREE ad you post on CL is just a huge slap in the face because it was what you used to say when you had to pay for more words but didn’t want to because that cost more, hence, too much to list. Saying that now is like saying, I’m just too lazy to list everything, or there really isn’t too much to list but it sounds good like the car has way more options and new things done to it than there really is. It’s a FREE ad, you can go crazy and list just about all anyone could list. Some people do, and it can be a bit much, but the more information the better-I think.

Pictures

So there was a time when not everyone had a broadband Internet connection and posting a lot of pictures was a bit more of a nuisance than it is now, but it can still be a little redundant. I don’t care how nice your car is, no one needs to see 30 plus pictures of it. Yes, if the car is a restored classic, it’s nice to have pictures of all the fine details, but even if that is the case, a link to a flickr account would be just fine, or even your g-mail Picassa page. Of course, the opposite also tends to tick me off; no pictures at all. Some people even have the nerve to say they’ll post pictures later-but they never do. You have access to a computer-really, who doesn’t in 2011-but not a digital camera or the knowledge of how to upload photos? And then there’s the people that take pictures at night, which is either brilliant or stupid, I’m leaning toward the latter. And the all-time, lame, don’t know what people are thinking, thing to do is post a ‘file’ photo. In case you don’t know what that is, it’s a picture that isn’t what you’re actually selling, but something similar, like someone else’s 1967 Mustang, preferably one that looks really nice.  So we get to see a car that isn’t your car. Some sellers will say, this is what it COULD look like. Obviously the message that sends is the actual car you’re selling is too much of a piece of crap to even post a actual picture of it. Honestly though, if you were selling your Victorian home in San Jose, would you post a picture of the Winchester House?  Think about it, that’s essentially what you’re doing.

Testing the waters

Ok, I really don’t know what this means, but a lot of people like to say it. I think what it means is you’re not sure if you want to sell your car or how much to ask, but obviously you DO want to sell it, otherwise you wouldn’t have taken the time to post an ad. All that statement is really saying is you’re clueless about selling a car. Just post a regular ad, if you get no serious offers, calls or e-mails, maybe you need to lower your asking price or re-work the ad.

Basic sales techniques

Every now and then I see people use this idiotic tactic where they ask one price, but will say they’ll take no lower than another price. For example, ‘I want $3,500, but I won’t take any lower than $3,000’. I know it seems unbelievable, but people really have done that. Who knows, maybe a really stupid buyer will come along and say, ‘oh, you’re willing to take $3K, but I’m feeling generous so I’ll give you $3,500.’

Perhaps the dumbest thing I have ever seen on a CL ad, and I see it way too much is this brilliant statement: ‘It ran great three years ago when I parked it-won’t start now.’ If a car doesn’t run, it doesn’t run. If it were a simple fix, which I also tend to hear, than you would have fixed it before you posted your ad. Saying the car was great several years ago does not tell potential buyers anything about what its current state is, it’s like saying Grandma was doing just great three years ago, but she’s dead now. I will say that for an old classic car that was sitting under a tarp in a barn for years, that statement might have some merit, mostly because potential buyers would know that the car is just a somewhat taken care of classic that no one has driven for years, so now it won’t start and the seller has no interest in getting it running again. Unfortunately though, this is not how most people make this statement. I’m talking about those people selling plain old used cars that were daily drivers-not classics, and they have gone to disrepair, but the seller wants to sound reassuring that there was a time when it DID run good, which honestly, you could say about any car.

 

 

 

It’s no secret that online stores have great prices-but don’t forget why traditional ‘brick-and-mortar’ stores are still a better way to go for automotive accessories, particularly when you’re looking at something that is hundreds of dollars or even up over a thousand dollars, and more importantly, specific to your vehicle.

Knowing your car

 The first thing you need to know before you shop for the accessory or part you’re looking for is to identify what you’re driving, and what’s available for that model, such as the year and make of your vehicle. I’ve spent enough time looking up parts to know that in order to get the correct part, vehicle applications can vary depending on years, models, trim packages, special editions and the like, and it can get a little confusing. The applications can be so daunting in fact that many online databases simply cannot decipher the exact vehicle you have. Some sites are better than others, but knowing exactly what you have to make sure you get the right part is key-VERY key.

Here is an example of what I’m talking about. Assume you own a 2007 Chevy Silverado pickup, that was the first year of the current bodystyle, but if you got the heavy duty (2500 or 3500) model, it is what General Motors refers to as the ‘classic’ bodystyle, meaning it’s the same body that was used prior to 2007, and they kept that body with the heavier duty trucks into the following year. However, if you bought your new Chevy (the light duty 1500 version) early in the year, it may still be the classic body. So, many databases will not know that your truck is actually a 2006 body and not like the current year. The current Chevy and GMC models are also slightly different, even though many people think they are the same (up until 2007, GMC and Chevy truck beds were interchangeable, this was the first year they have not been like that). This seems to happen in cycles. An almost identical scenario happened in 1999/2000 when that generation of GM trucks first hit the market. The 2004 Ford F150 is another classic example, if you have the Heritage model; it’s actually a 2003 body and chassis. Confused yet? You’re not alone, and these are just two examples. This is why the person behind the counter at an accessory or parts store is better equipped to get you the right part, because they’ve seen all the different models and probably found out the hard way by getting the wrong parts already, but have since learned what is what. They need to know these things in order to do their job, and no offense to ‘e-tailers’, but they sit at a desk on a phone and have probably not dealt with the parts they’re selling in a ‘hands-on’ sort of way. Remember, just because YOU think you know exactly what you have, doesn’t always mean you do.

Why shipping isn’t always free

So if and when you get the wrong part ordering online, that free shipping is no longer free because you have to pay to send it back, unless you want to have to deal with calling the e-tailer to get reimbursed for getting the wrong part, but if you made the mistake by not knowing exactly which vehicle you had, good luck getting credit for that shipping charge. The other way you get the shaft on having to return something that was originally shipped for free is if the part you bought simply doesn’t work, for reasons you didn’t anticipate. An example of this is if you were to buy something like a cargo divider for your truck bed and it didn’t work because you had an aftermarket hard tonneau cover that got in the way, although you thought it wouldn’t be a problem. This would be your fault, so although you didn’t have to pay for shipping to receive it, you do have to pay shipping to return it. Believe it or not, if the box is ‘oversized’, the cost to ship it back to the manufacture or e-tailer could be almost as much-or more, than what you originally paid! If you had bought this in a store, the salesperson would have known the part would not work, and even if they didn’t, it would have been their responsibility for getting it wrong, and would have to give you all your money back. Remember to always ask a store salesperson if the part you want to order is a ‘special’ order, because sometimes those types of orders cannot be returned or they can but a ‘restock’ fee will be charged. If it’s simply a matter of a part sitting in a local distributor’s warehouse, then it’s usually no problem for a store to just return a part with no extra cost to them or you-but always ask to make sure this is the case.

Warranty issues

Things break, come damaged, or are just plain defective. If you buy something online, dealing with a warranty issue takes time and just isn’t fun at all. You have to do the calling, you have to wait on hold, you have to ship back the old parts-need I say more? When you buy something at a brick and mortar store, they have to do all of this for you, that is to say they SHOULD do all of this for you. Smart store owners know that they are competing with online retailers and that their only ace in the hole is good customer service. You may pay a little more, but you have the piece of mind to know that if you have any issues at all, it will be taken care of with little hassle to you.

Go for it

If you’re 100 percent sure you have the right part number and know exactly what you’re getting, there’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of a good online deal. I find it helpful to look at reviews of products-Amazon is good for that. Online forums are also good. Just remember that most brick and mortar stores can meet or beat almost any competitive price, and if they can’t, it’s because e-tailers have removed the only thing that really matters from the box: the service before, during, and after the sale.

So I realize all of my loyal readers (hey, I can dream can’t I) have eagerly been awaiting part 2 of ‘It’s not easy going green’ so here it is.

Apparently, going green for the car market is cool right now. I would like to say the auto industry is embracing a long-overdue market that not only makes good business sense, but can be beneficial to the planet and help take our grip off foreign oil. I know that’s probably not the case, but regardless, the car has taken a sharp turn in evolution that could have long-lasting benefits, not to mention the all-encompassing wow factor.

So what could I possibly be ‘wowing’ about when it comes to green cars? How about a Hybrid supercar. Jaguar recently introduced a concept hybrid supercar, the CX-75, that can hit speeds of more than 200 mph, 0 to 60 in less than 3 seconds, and put out the emissions equivalent of a Toyota Prius. If that’s not enough wow, how about the Porsche 918 hybrid with four driving modes and a 500-plus-hp, 3.4-liter V-8, augmented by a trio of electric motors.

Porsche AG design Chief Michael Mauer says, “There is no contradiction anymore between performance-between having fun driving a car and this whole environmental discussion.”

Photo courtesy of Jaguar-the hybrid prototype

 

So there you have it, it IS possible to have a fast-really fast, cool car that’s good for the air we breathe and won’t suck down fossil fuels like virtually every high performance car we have ever known. Once again, all I can say about that is, it’s about time!

The recent ‘green’ movement is going way beyond cool concept cars, Mazda is on a mission to have most of it’s cars increase fuel economy by more than 30 percent by 2015. Don’t be surprised if 40 mpg becomes a standard by then, and with so many other car manufactures vying for the top position on the green list, making cars more fuel efficient will be the new competitive edge in the automotive market.