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Morgan Roadster, What’s Old Is New

Cars August 4, 2017

The Morgan Roadster may appear to be an old-timey touring vehicle, but don’t let that fool you – it has only been around since 2004, as a replacement for the Morgan Plus 8 (the only difference being updated Ford V6 mechanicals). Touted as a powerful, luxurious, classically styled vehicle suited for long drives, the Roadster manages to do this with the help of an aluminum, galvanized steel and ash wood body, a new, lighter engine (more power, less torque), and better fuel economy.

The luxurious qualities of the Morgan Roadster include air conditioning (standard in U.S. models), natural leather, and ash wood, with a top speed of 140mph (It can go from 0-62 in about 5 1/2 seconds). It’s available as a two-seater or four-seater, in a small range of classic colors, including Royal Ivory, Corsa Red, Indigo Blue, Connaught Green, and Black, as single colors or in two-tone combinations.

It has a six-cylinder Ford 3.7 Cyclone V6 engine and a six speed transmission, a fifteen gallon gas tank, and gets on average almost twenty-nine miles per gallon. It weights 2,072 pounds with a maximum weight (including passengers) of 3,086 pounds. The average ground clearance for a two-seater is just about four inches.

Styled as a sports car for the extremely wealthy, the Morgan Roadster hearkens back to an earlier time, perhaps the Industrial Age or the Roaring 20’s, when people had more wealth than wants, able to purchase personalized items in every category imaginable. The Roadster is similarly imminently customizable, each vehicle made to specifications by the purchaser, with choices ranging from special paint options and custom stitchwork.

The Morgan Motor Company, situated in the United Kingdom, offers luxury sports cars including the Morgan Roadster, and driving accessories (such as tailored driving jackets, aviator goggles, and leather wheel covers)  for sale to complement a high-class lifestyle.

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Only One of Its Kind, the Phantom Corsair

Cars August 3, 2017

The 1938 Phantom Corsair

The 1938 prototype Phantom Corsair is the only one of its kind. Though some may dismiss it as a failure (production was never begun due to its benefactor’s death in a car accident a year after the prototype was made), it is also regarded as a vehicle ahead of its time, due to its design and styling.

Rust Heinz and Maurice Schwartz were the two people responsible for bringing this beauty to life, adding futuristic details such as push-buttons instead of door handles, beverage cabinets, and a low body.

The Phantom Corsair weighs in at 4,600 lbs, but because of its low, aerodynamic build and a modified engine (from Lycoming), it could still reach speeds of up to 115mph. Another modification made was a conversion of the Cord 810 chassis to support a longer steel and aluminum body, which measures 237 inches long and almost 77 inches wide.

The result is a wide, long, low, powerful car able to seat six people (four in the front and two in the back with the beverage cabinets) comfortably in a vehicle that was sure to turn heads. Though the original prototype cost around $24,000 to make, it would have gone into limited production with a price tag of $12,500 per vehicle.

Sadly, we may never see another like the Phantom Corsair except in media, like the video games L.A. Noire and Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven (it’s a rare vehicle that you can unlock and drive in both games), the film series Popular Science, and the movie “The Young in Heart” (featured as the “Flying Wombat”).

If you ever find yourself near Reno, Nevada, however, you might get the chance to take a peek at the Phantom at the National Automobile Museum, also known as the Harrah Collection. It’s well worth the trip to see this tantalizing taste of the past’s perception of our future.

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The DeLorean: Commercial Failure, but Never Out of Style

Cars August 3, 2017

The DeLorean DMC-12 managed to rise above the rubble and remains to this day as one of the most iconic vehicles of all time, despite its troubled past and low production numbers. While only 9,200 DeLoreans were made in its original run between 1981-1983, the surviving models have been displayed around the world in museums, theme parks, and in films, most notably the Back To The Future trilogy.

The issues surrounding the birth of the DeLorean were many – ranging from untested manufacturing technology to schedule pressures to bankruptcy as the owner of the DeLorean Motor Company was arrested and charged with drug trafficking (while he was found not guilty, the damage had already been done and the company went bankrupt). After production halted, it would take several years for someone to once again take a chance on the brushed steel beauty (Stephen Wynne began assembling the vehicles with remaining parts inventory in 1995, though the replica production has been slowed by legalities).

A unique vehicle due in part to its gull-wing doors (which use cryogenically preset torsion bars and gas-charged struts) and external brushed stainless steel body panels, it should also be noted that it is unique for its rear-mounted engine. These and other changes, such as a right-hand drive option, a “dead” pedal, and hood style re-working were made to the car’s design throughout production.

There are also a few extra-special DeLoreans, such as the three gold-plated vehicles completed as part of a promotion with American Express and Consolidated International (more commonly known as Big Lots).

While you may not be able to see a DeLorean in action, there are a few places where you can marvel at the majesty of these rare vehicles, such as the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada, and several museums in California. There are also DeLoreans on display in Japan, Canada, Ireland, and New Zealand.

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Chevrolet Camaro

Cars August 1, 2017

Classified as both a “pony” car and a “muscle” car, the Chevy Camaro’s flexibility has been explored over six generations, despite a few gaps (most notably from 2002-2009) in the production.

Its entrance into the industry in the late 1960’s was shrouded in mystery, including a code name (“panther”), intriguing, enigmatic telegrams, and a press conference that connected fourteen cities in real time via telephone, a feat which had never been done before.

The Camaro’s origin stemmed from the French language, the word “camarade” turning into “camaro”, as the designers wanted something that would call to mind the image of a partnership between driver and vehicle, while still keeping their tie to Chevrolet’s vehicle line which always started with the letter “C” – such as the Corvair (the Camaro’s predecessor), the Chevelle, and the Corvette.

While the Chevy Camaro is primarily known as a “pony” or “muscle” car, this hasn’t prevented it from being a popular choice in the racing world, especially in drag racing and road racing. There’s even a specific Camaro Cup (since the mid 1970’s) in Sweden, and in the U.S., all the Chevrolet NASCAR teams on the Xfinity Series circuit use the Camaro. The Camaro as driven by Bob Jane placed first in both the 1971 and 1972 Australia Touring Car Championship, and was used as a pace car for NASCAR in Indianapolis, Daytona, Watkins Glen, Mosport (Canada), and the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

While the Camaro may not be as flashy or iconic as some other vehicles, it has been part of product placement deals on several media platforms, along with its two most famous appearances, as the car “Bumblebee” in the Transformers film franchise from Michael Bay (both as a 1970’s model and a fifth generation), and on the popular TV show Hawaii 5-0, which is provided with most of their vehicles by Chevrolet.

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Ford Mustang

Cars August 1, 2017

What do the Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird, AMC Javelin, Chrysler’s Plymouth Barracuda and the Dodge Challenger (specifically the second generation iteration) have in common? Besides all being sports-style coupes with long hoods and short rear decks, and belonging to the “pony” class of American-style cars, they were all inspired (along with the Toyota Celica and the Ford Capri, both imports) by the design of the Ford Mustang, the creator of the “pony”  class of American vehicles.

In just six generations, the Ford Mustang has experienced plenty of ups and downs (the most obvious downturn happened after a reimagining of the Mustang as a larger, heavier version of itself during the early 1970’s), but has managed to remain one of the most iconic vehicles in history, as evidenced by its winning the Tiffany Gold Medal for Design in 1965 (making it the first vehicle to do so). The Mustang has also won the Motor Trend Car of the Year award twice, first in 1974 and again in 1994.

Unsurprisingly, the Mustang has been entered in and placed in several races, including the Tour de France (coming in both first and second in 1964), as well as different types of races, including drag racing (John Force became a 14-time champion driving a Mustang), sports car racing (Brandon Davis won the 2009 SCCA Challenge with a Mustang), stock car racing (Carl Edwards won in 2011 on the Texas Motor Speedway), and drifting.

In pop culture, the Mustang’s iconic look has long been a staple of the cool crowd such as James Bond in “Diamonds Are Forever” and Steve McQueen in “Bullitt” and the film “Need for Speed”. Outside of film, the vehicle has been featured in music (Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally”), television (the original “Batman” series), and a documentary (“A Faster Horse”).

If you want to learn more about Mustangs, you can watch “A Faster Horse” (the documentary details the building of the 2015 Mustang) or visit the National Mustang Museum, which was opened in Concord, North Carolina in the summer of 2017. You can also check out a list of the ten most expensive Mustangs sold at auction at Mustang 360.

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Nissan Altima

Cars July 4, 2017

Nissan Altima

Perhaps one of the most commonly driven cars in the U.S., the Nissan Altima has remained a component of U.S. highways since its conception in 1992, due to its competitive pricing and safety awards. Along with the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord, it is one of the most popular mainstream mid-size sedans.

Arriving on the heels of its predecessor, the Nissan Stanza, the Nissan Altima is a U.S.-built vehicle (with production plants in Smyrna, Tennessee as well as Canton, Mississippi) based on the Nissan Bluebird model design. It measures 180 1/2 inches long, about 67 inches wide, and is almost 56 inches tall. It has a 2.4L engine as well as a 5-speed manual transmission or optional 4-speed automatic.

While most of the Nissan Altima’s changes over the years have been various facelifts (including new front grilles, re-designed interiors, and electronic stability control), there have been one or two mechanical issues, specifically for the 2002-2003 Nissan Altima, which experienced problems with catastrophic engine failures due to excessive oil consumption, sometimes in part because of a failed catalytic converter. This, however, was fixed on later models when the real problem became apparent: raising the front mudguards and re-designing the floorboards to protect the metal plates underneath the vehicle.

There are also a few variations on the Nissan Altima, including a Coupe version and a Hybrid option. The hybrid was even used in New York City by the police department for its entire run (2007-2011), while the coupe was revealed at the LA Auto Show in 2006 and began selling in 2008, adding luxuries such as a Bose audio system, a navigation system, and NASA-inspired “zero gravity” front row seating in order to reduce the driver’s muscle fatigue.

You wouldn’t necessarily think of a Nissan Altima when racing or motorsports is mentioned, but the Altima has in fact taken part in several races, including two where it has one, the 2013 and 2016 International V8 Supercars Championship. It has also taken numerous podium finishes in, among other races, the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.

It also has the distinction of winning the 2002 North American Car of the Year, the 2010 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Highest Front-Impact Crash Safety Rating, and placed as one of the Top Safety Picks of 2017 by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.

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Chevy Impala – It Has the Claim to Fame

Cars July 3, 2017

Chevy Impala

The Chevy Impala may not be on many impressive lists concerning unique design, economical considerations, or racetrack records, but it does have a few claims to fame: it’s the best-selling vehicle in the United States, and it’s the car made famous by the longest running science fiction television series in America, “Supernatural”. (Amy Ratcliffe at Nerdist has a fun rundown of her visit to set and seeing the car in person, which you can read about here)

Impalas started rolling off the production line in 1957, and apart from a few hiccups here and there, has maintained a steady output, and in 2014, it was ranked as the most affordable large car in the U.S.

While the Chevy Impala has gone through several changes over the years (both redesigns and parts), ten generations later it still manages to garner recognition, like in 2012 when it became the first American sedan in twenty years to earn a top score (95/100) from Consumer Reports.

Despite its main use as a full-size car for the average consumer, the Chevy Impala has worn plenty of different hats during its entire career, including a brief time on the NASCAR track (mid-2000’s), several appearances on the small screen (most notably on “Supernatural” of course but it can also be seen on “The Following”, “X-Men: Apocalypse”, “Imperium”, “Longmire”, and “Psych”), and as a staple in government fleets.

In 2015, the Chevy Impala became the only full-sized vehicle manufactured in North America that runs on CNG and gasoline, and one of two such bi-fuel vehicles (with the Honda Civic) to be offered to both fleet and retail consumers by a major automaker. It placed as one of the top five finalists in the 2015 Green Car of the Year Awards at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

By Kaitlin Cone

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Ford Thunderbird, the Original Personal Luxury Car

Cars July 3, 2017

Spanning over eleven generations and almost fifty years, the Ford Thunderbird is responsible for carrying thousands of people over hundreds of miles in both comfort and style. Often credited with the creation of the “personal luxury car” niche, the Thunderbird has undergone several changes throughout the years but retained its original purpose as the perfect road trip vehicle.

Almost four and a half million vehicles later, the Ford Thunderbird is still beloved by many Americans who want a less pretentious (and less expensive) convertible or hard top for Sunday afternoon drives, weekend car trips, and the occasional jaunt across country. It has also done well in racing, particularly for NASCAR drivers Bobby Allison, Bill Elliott and Davey Allison, and Alan Kulwicki. The Thunderbird even set a record – during a 1980’s qualifying session at the Talladega Speedway, the vehicle created a new record for the fastest lap in stock car history (over 200 mph), a record which still stands today.

Unfortunately for the Ford Thunderbird, nothing lives forever, no matter how classic and beloved. As time goes by and people live at faster and faster paces, the vehicle simply can’t keep up with the need for more seats, more space, and more economical choices. In 2005, the last Ford Thunderbird rolled off the line.

The good news is that with almost five million Thunderbirds made, there are vehicles available for those who still dream of seeing American in one of these beauties. And who knows? The Thunderbird has been put on hiatus before and been brought back to life. With all the interest in a return to the past for a glimpse into a simpler time, there may yet be another iteration of the Thunderbird for future car lovers. At the very least, it will continue to inspire designers for many years to come.

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