Car Guy

Car Guy

Radar Love

By 7.10.15

A bullet-proof vest does not mean you’re bullet-proof. It just means most bullets won’t penetrate the vest.

But some will.

Same with radar detectors. You’ll be less vulnerable — but you won’t be able invulnerable.

Probably the greatest threat — the one radar detectors are least able to protect you from — is so-called “instant-on” radar. The problem isn’t that your detector won’t detect that you’ve been targeted. The problem is not detecting the radar in time to do much about it.

Here’s how it works:

Revenue collector parks on the shoulder or some other such place where — ideally, from his point of view — he can see oncoming cars before they can see him. He waits, finger on the proverbial trigger. His radar gun’s trigger. When he sees you coming, he pulls the trigger and a brief burst of radar emanates from his gun. Just as your radar detector detects the signal, it’s already bounced back to him, giving up your speed. You hit the brakes, but it’s too late.

He’s got you.

Car Guy

The End of AM/FM Radio?

By 4.20.15

A new car without a radio?

It sounds as unthinkable as a new car without floor mats or a heater. But there is a real danger that your next new car might come without an AM/FM receiver.

Or, might cost you extra.


As unthinkable as it sounds — and as undesirable as it would be (based on known consumer preferences; more on that in a minute) — there is chatter in Detroit that the car industry is giving thought to retiring the AM/FM receiver in favor of music piped into the car via subscription-based satellite radio, iPods, smartphones, and various mobile apps.

Rather than these technologies supplementing AM/FM radio — as they do right now — they would replace it.

Leaving you in the dark.

Well, in the quiet.

Unless you opened up your wallet and paid for the satellite radio hook-up.

Car Guy

Great Engines of Yesterday

By 4.16.15

Modern car engines are hard to fault... objectively. They start immediately — even when it’s 15 degrees out. They rarely stall out — leaving you dead in the water in the middle of a busy intersection. Most require not much more from you than gas and oil for the first 100,000-plus miles from new.

But when was the last time you turned off the stereo and rolled the window down just to listen to their music? Or proudly popped the hood for your friends?

Not much to see, is there?

You don’t need to be a gearhead to understand.

Ever been in a busy place, like a shopping mall parking lot, and heard the instantly recognizable sound of an old air-cooled VW? We turn to look — and smile, remembering. Anyone who was young in the ’60s knows the distinctive pitch made by a 289 Hi-Po Ford… the low bass rumpa rumpa rumpa of an idling big-block Chevy.

Car Guy

No More ‘Speeding’ For You!

By 4.3.15

Someday — and that day might be closer than you want to know — we’ll look back fondly on speed traps.

Because at least you could speed. Give the finger — via the accelerator pedal — to ridiculous, dumbed-down/one-size-fits-all velocity maximums laid down by bureaucrats whose prime directive always seems to be to suck the joy out of everything, especially driving.

Sometimes, of course, you’d get caught — and fined.

But most of the time you could “get away” with it. (Kind of like the way people used to be able to “get away” with not buying health insurance, if they decided it wasn’t something they needed.)

Tomorrow, you may not be able to “speed” even if you wanted to.

Because your car will not allow you to.

The uber governor — Ford’s Intelligent Speed Limiter — will see to that.

Car Guy

Things to Know About Muscle Cars… Before You Buy One

By 3.30.15

Owning an old muscle car can be a lot of fun. But it’s not all fun — and you ought to know what you’re getting yourself into before you get yourself into it.

First, some definitions.

Muscle cars are old.

Nothing new — nothing modern — qualifies as a muscle car. The defining attribute of a muscle car is not horsepower or performance. Nor that it has a V8 engine feeding power to the rear wheels. There are many new (and modern) cars that do that. And they are not muscle cars, even if some of them look like they might be (and perform better than the real ones did).

What, then, defines a muscle car?

One thing, above all: It was made before the Era of Control. That time — long ago — when it was possible (legal!) for a major automaker to build a car with a huge engine and a completely outmatched rest of the car. No computer to modulate the outbursts of power. It was on you to keep it under control and that was no easy thing. If the car in question has anti-lock brakes, traction control, or air bags it cannot — by definition — be a muscle car.

Car Guy

Tesla Loving Care

By 2.26.15

There is an episode of the TV show Top Gear involving a Prius hybrid and automatic weapons. Oh, how I wish I could do the same to a Tesla.

Unfortunately, I (like you) am too poor to afford a Tesla. But that doesn’t mean we won’t continue to be forced to “help” Elon Musk build these mobile — just barely (and briefly) — monuments to crony capitalism.

Car Guy

Welcome to GMC Canyon Country

By 12.17.14

Stay smallish — or go bigger?

That was the question GM product planners had to ponder when considering which way to go with the Chevy Colorado and its GMC-badged cousin, the Canyon (subject of this review).

The previous Canyon/Colorado were still nominally almost-compact trucks… smaller than the Dodge Dakota (RIP), but not quite as small as a Ford Ranger (also RIP).

The all-new Canyon/Colorado edges closer to Dakota-sized. That is, it is mid-sized now… officially.

There are no compact trucks on the market anymore.

I wonder whether GM made the right move, upsizing the Canyon/Colorado — me-tooing the also-now-mid-sized Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma pick-ups… rather than go smaller — back to compact — and enjoy the fruits of being the only game in town?

On the other hand, the Canyon and Colorado are not merely larger. They are clearly superior. That’s not the press kit talking. That’s the facts talking. I’m just conveying them to you.

Have a look yourself and see what I mean.

Car Guy

How Uncle Killed Pontiac

By 12.15.14

The French philosopher-economist Frederic Bastiat wrote about the unseen repercussions of government interfering with the market’s natural progressions. In other words, what might have been. Perhaps the saddest four words in the language.

One such might-have-been is the 1982 Turbo Trans-Am.

You have probably never heard of it. Because, of course, it was never produced. But it almost was. And had it been, Pontiac might not have gone out of business.

But, I am getting ahead of the story.

It was the early ’80s and the Pontiac Firebird (and its sister car, the Chevy Camaro) were long overdue for a major update. They’d been in continuous production since 1970 and although they’d both set sales records for their respective divisions in the mid-late ’70s — in part because they were neat cars but also because there were so few other neat cars around during the disco-era darkness — by the time of Ronald Reagan’s first inauguration, it was clearly time for a change.

Car Guy

If the Tesla D’s Such a Great Car…

By 10.20.14

My teeth hurt. Over the past week, I’ve been assaulted by one “news” story after the next about the latest fruit of government motors. Not GM. Tesla. The Model D. It is very slick! And very quick! It has all-wheel-drive! Not one but two electric motors (which isn’t new, by the way). Orgiastic comparisons with Porsche 911s and other exotic high-performance cars.

No mention, of course, that the government doesn’t pay people to buy 911s. Nor is Porsche a rent-seeking cartel whose existence depends on government support.

I was asked recently during a radio interview (here) why I do not like the Tesla. But that is not the right question, much less a fair question.

Car Guy

Bring Back T-Tops!

By 10.2.14

Some things — bell bottom corduroys, for instance — will never make a comeback. Well, hopefully. But I’d really like to see a new car with T-tops again.

Remember T-tops?

The ’68 Corvette was the first production car to offer them (though the idea had been patented in 1951 by Gordon Buehrig, automotive god/he-who-designed the ’35 Auburn Speedster and Cord 810, among other beautiful things) and by the late ’70s — by which time convertibles had all-but-ceased-to-exist — they had become a popular way to experience the wind in your hair.

They weren’t flimsy and easily damaged — stained/torn — like convertible soft-tops. And they weren’t heavy and unwieldy, like a removable hardtop. (This was before the invention/widespread availability of the folding retractable hardtop — which eliminated the need for a block and tackle or, at least, two strong men plus somewhere to put the damned thing once you got it off the car.)

You enjoyed the open-air experience when the weather was nice and you were so inclined. The rest of the time, you had the physical security against the elements (and the maggots) of a hardtop.

Well, except when it rained.