Out ‘N About In Sonoma County

I am going easy on you, what with the holiday rush.  So, here’s a picture heavy/text light post.  Look at what great cars I get to see as I go about my daily life.

The photos of the Datsun pickup are of our mechanic’s 1973 Datsun 1/4 ton that he inherited from his grandfather.  IMG_0705

IMG_0703It’s a pretty cool truck with a nice leather interior.  It’s got American Racing Torqthrust wheels that give it a shiny aftertaste.  It’s a nice little hauler/daily driver!

IMG_0694A couple of weeks ago, my mom was driving by a smoke shop and happened to see this lovely 1930s Cadillac.  I like the Chevy Aveo trying to look cool in the picture!IMG_0693IMG_0691In Santa Rosa, CA, there is an avid fire truck collector/restorer.  I happened to be driving by and there was an early Ward LaFrance fire truck from the 1960s!  They don’t get much nicer than this one!  IMG_0709

IMG_0708We also saw a lovely 1942 Ford Tudor Convertible (I know that they didn’t make any Tudor convertibles, but the owner seems to think so…)


While volunteering for community service at an event at John Ash & Co, I happened to see this lovely 1952 Chevy delivery van.  It’s driven most days, from what I’ve heard.  Go to the event in style and have a lot of space left over!  Booyah!

Photo0112My mom snapped the pictures of this lovely Ford Ranchero when she was at “work.”  IMG_0715


Yet another beauty we saw was this pristine 1960 Chevrolet Impala wagon.  IMG_0713


For those of you who enjoy old Ford pickups, this one’s for you.  My mom and I were going to pick my sister up and we saw this beautiful old Ford F-2 from around 1955 driving along.  From what I could see, it’s used a lot.

Photo0120When my dad and I were at a regatta, we saw quite a few lovely old trucks.  I’ll start off with this old Dodge rat rod.  I’ve seen it a lot, but it’s usually being driven too fast for me to take a picture!  It’s pretty cool.


We also saw this ancient Chevy Cameo pickup from Oregon.  It’s loaded with a lot of miscellaneous items, but it’s a hard-working old pickup that earns it’s oil changes.  Photo0101

While there, we also happened to see this period-correct Ford F-1 ice cream truck.  The owner was raking in the cash, and the truck got a lot of thumbs-up!  Photo0100

The El Camino peeking its nose into the picture with the ice cream truck is driven daily, and looks amazing.  It was marketed as a truck that drove like a car.  This one is from the late 1970s, and is all original!  Photo0098

I hope that you had a bountiful holiday season, and wish you a happy New Year.  Since New Year’s day is on a Tuesday, I’m going to take a mini-vacation from the blog, and will be back next week.  Thanks for being such loyal and wonderful readers.  You can look forward to more interesting and wonderful posts in 2013.  I happen to have a FABULOUS one up my sleeve!  Stay tuned.

Happy New Year!

Gifts for the Car Enthusiast!

I know it is a bit late for me to publish this post, but I’ve been fighting my way through finals.  Yuck.  Anyways, I’m done with finals, so I figured I’d write up this post.  Those nutty relatives in the attic need to be satisfied with some gifts…  Wait, or am I talking about myself?  Hmmm…

AllPosters 1966 Shelby Cobra Poster.  $12.99 Holiday price.  This poster can come as a paper poster or a tin poster.  Either of these are great gifts that can be hung on the wall.

Accutire Ms-4350B Programmable Digital Tire Gauge.  Coming in at a cheap $9.94, this tire gauge is an amazing gift, as you are able to program in the factory-recommended tire pressures for BOTH the front and rear tires.  It reads from 5-99 PSI in 1/2 pound increments.  It comes with a five-year warranty, so there shouldn’t be too many worries.  This is a good gift for somebody who inflates and deflates their car’s tires a lot.

I’m A Classic:  T-Shirt from AllPosters.  This t-shirt is a bit expensive at $21.99, but it’s funny AND a great gift.  This is holiday pricing, and the shirt will arrive by January 14.

LifeLine First Aid AAA Explorer Road Kit.  This kit is a mere $16.99, and it has a full first-aid kit from LifeLine (they normally sell to emergency services) that has 70 items, plus a full AAA road kit.  This is a good gift for anybody.  Plus, the bag is big enough to hold items like Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary and Thesaurus.

If you’re too young to drive, but you have an Xbox, then the NASCAR 09 is for you.  This game is put out by EA, and you live the life of a big NASCAR driver, signing big fat contracts and racing against all the big names.  You can buy NASCAR 09 online at Amazon.com for $29.99.

Puma driving shoes.  Puma is known for their stylish shoes, and they have recently come out with a new line of driving shoes.  Most shoe stores will have them, along with any good car parts store worth it’s salt.  These driving shoes are stylish, and allows the driver an accurate feel of the pedals.  These shoes are relatively inexpensive at $100, and they are well worth every penny of it!

Ray Ban Sunglasses.  Since sun glare causes so many accidents, why not give a nice pair of sunglasses to the car nut in your family?  If they have a sense of style, then they will LOVE the Ray Ban Ultra Caravan sunglasses!  These sunglasses are a bit expensive, coming in for a grand total of $340, but they are stylish and awesome.  They have military-grade polarized lenses, and the frame is covered in 18-karat gold.  Plus, they are retro.  What’s not to love?

GoPro Cameras.  Ever go onto YouTube and watch all of those high-performance driving videos?  Well, all of the in-car shots are from GoPro cameras.  Yep.  GoPro offers small hand-held cameras that start around $50 and go all the way up to $650.  These cameras are rugged, and can be configured to do live feeds.  Plus, they are compatible with almost any camera harness, tether, or stand.

If you know a car enthusiast who still hasn’t seen this gearhead classic, you’d be doing them a monumental disservice if you don’t give them this movie. Aside from being a solid 60s crime thriller, Bullitt is loaded to the gills with vintage Detroit iron in nearly every scene, and the showdown between McQueen’s ’68 Mustang fastback and the bad guys’ ’68 Dodge Charger R/T is the car chase by which all others are measured. It still remains at the top of the heap – even after more than forty years.  I should get Bullitt.  Hint.

Carville Die-cast cars.  Die-casts are scale cars that look awesome.  Carville makes a variety of die-casts that range from a Ford Model T (I’ll have it in black, please!) to a Pagani Huayra.  And the best part is they are handmade here in the US of A.

If you have a relative who is planning on buying a classic car, or going to an auction, then the 2013 Collector Car Price Guide is for them.  It has over 250,000 accurate price listings for just about every car made from 1901-2005.  It only costs $21.99, making it a great gift for  that special somebody!

These are just a few of the amazing gifts out there for the car enthusiast (or nutty relative).  The recipients can be both gifts for car loversstylin’  and cool.  And even though a Pagani Huayra won’t fit in a stocking hung with care, I will be most happy should I be gifted with one!

Happy Shopping!

Own a Volkswagen? Get $1,000 from Chrysler – Trade-In or Not!

Fiat and Volkswagen have been going through a public feud in Europe, due to the fact that there is a large financial crisis going on there.  The effects of the crisis can mean manufacturing over-capacity.  Fiat’s Sergio Marchionne is currently president of the ACEA (basically the European Automobile Manufacturer’s Association).  VW has repeatedly called for Marchionne to resign.  However, Marchionne and VW CEO, Martin Winterkorn “buried the hatchet” last year at the Paris Motor Show.

The rivalry may not be completely buried, as Chrysler is offering $1,000 to current VW owners and/or lessees.  Since Fiat owns 58% of Chrysler, you get the connection.  Unlike most programs, this doesn’t even require owners to trade in their VW!  The offer applies to most Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/SRT/Ram/Fiat products, excluding the VW Routan.  Why the Routan?  Because it is essentially a Chrysler Town & Country with a VW badge on it.  You have until January 2, 2013 to make use of this offer.  All you need to do is go to your local Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram/SRT/Fiat dealer and show them your proof-of-ownership/lease papers and get the cash.

Fiat only holds a skimpy 6.4% of the European car market, while Volkswagen holds a massive 24.5% of the European car market.  However, the tables are turned on Volkswagen in the U.S., where they hold a tiny 4.0% of the U.S. car market, while Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/SRT/Ram/Fiat holds 11.4% of the total U.S. car market.  Is this a sign that Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram/SRT/Fiat is struggling in the U.S.?  Nope, Chrysler has sold almost 375,000 units of every model that is currently offered in the U.S., and earned $381 million dollars in this quarter alone.

The 2013 Motor Trend Truck of the Year!

As many of you might know, Dodge products have been kind of yucky and disappointing (i.e. Dodge Caliber). To use better vocabulary, they are lacking a certain sophistication, and not up to expectations.

The trucks made by Dodge weren’t very good, and people bought them because they were cheap.  From the late 1960s to the late 1990s, Dodge’s trucks were kept afloat by government fleet sales.  In 1994, Dodge came out with a game-changer.  The new Ram 1500/2500/3500 were revolutionary – they had enough power to send a big rig running, and they were at the top of their class in terms of towing. Further, their design was top-notch.  And, they sent Chevy/GMC and Ford back to the drawing board.

The generation that debuted for the 2001 model year was something of a joke.  It wasn’t comfortable, the only “real” power for the 1500 came in the form of an outdated 5.7 liter Hemi V8, and the 2500 got its power from a 5.9 liter Cummins diesel that had been in service since 1990.  It was slow, and outdated.  Dodge was a joke.  Again.  This was during the time of the race to see which half-ton could tow the most with the most power.  Then, the economy tanked.

Dodge came out with the current generation of the Ram 1500/2500/3500 in the darkest days of the recession.  That was back in 2008, and the Ram was expensive ( yet very nice).  As all truck owners know, there is no truck that is the magic truck that changes everything.  Sometimes, we have to suck it up and buy the truck that works for us, not the masses.

Well, Ford has been going the way of smaller, more fuel-efficient engines, Chevy/GMC is coming out with a new line of trucks next year, and Ram is leaning towards more efficient engines and eight-speed transmissions.  The old 3.7-liter V6 that used to serve duty in everything from most Jeeps to all the Ram products except the 2500/3500.  So that engine was a disaster – it was slow, it had very little power, and it sounded like a diesel.  Now, the new Pentastar V6 displaces 3.6 liters, and has 42% more power than the old engine.  Plus, it offers 13% more torque.  Oh, and it’s mated to the excellent new 8-speed ZF automatic that has been beefed up a bit for towing duty.  Yahoo.

The historic 5.7-liter Hemi V8 has been around since 2001.  However, it has been updated every single time the Ram 1500 gets an update.  This time, it has the same amount of power (390 horsepower, 410 lb-ft of torque), but it is more efficient, thanks to Variable Valve Timing.  Plus, there are revised cooling systems, electric power steering, and a cool new electrical system with pulse modulation that uses power more efficiently to lessen the strain on the alternator.

Most people focus on the powertrain of a pickup truck, yet that may be one of the less important topics on the refreshed Ram 1500.  Ram has added air suspension, which may raise concerns about reliability.  But, the Ram 1500’s air suspension looks like the ones found in modern full-size luxury cars, which typically weigh about as much as a half-ton pickup.  This air suspension is cool.  It can raise the truck 1.2 or 2.0 inches, depending on which off-road mode the 4WD system is set to.  There is also an aero mode that will lower the truck 0.6 inches (this is intended for long drives on the interstate).  Active shutters behind the grill will close at highway speeds, directing air AROUND the truck, not UNDER.  This, plus the slightly redesigned body cut the truck’s coeffecient of drag from 0.39 to 0.36, to net a 6 percent increase in aerodynamic efficiency.

If you are thinking that Ram left the interior of the Ram 1500 as disgusting as it was four years ago, then you would be greatly mistaken.  The Ram 1500’s interior has gotten as much attention as the exterior and mechanicals.  The interior layout is the same, so if you have driven a Ram 1500 of this generation before, you will know that the Uconnect infotainment system was slow and horrible.  The screen is brighter than before, and it has higher resolution than most navigation screens.  The screen is now a massive 8.4 inches (think of putting an iPad Mini in the dash), and you can further upgrade the system with various apps like:  Pandora internet radio, etc.  Plus, it can provide you with an in-vehicle WiFi hotspot.  While Motor Trend likes the layout of the system, problems from before still plague the Ram 1500.  Sometimes, it’s slow to respond.  Also, the navigation system can sometimes lose track of the truck when it is in motion.  It sometimes thinks that the truck will be a few hundred yards off the highway!

The new 8-speed automatic is essentially the same ZF transmission found in the Chrysler 300/Dodge Charger and Rolls-Royce Ghost.  The transmission control is a radical departure from the column shifters or console shifters we are used to.  It is a dial.  It may seem like truck blasphemy, and to some it is.  It is nice to have it placed on the dashboard, however.  The Motor Trend testers weren’t the only ones who turned up the radio when attempting to do a three-point turn.

Another gripe about the Ram 1500’s transmission controls – the tiny pushbuttons on the steering wheel are right above the cruise control buttons, and aren’t clearly differentiated from the cruise control buttons.  IF Ram is concerned about customers shifting the truck while wearing work gloves, then they would have installed shift paddles, NOT tiny buttons.

One of the things that many truck buyers want is on/off-road prowess.  If you are looking for off-road prowess, get a Ford F150 SVT Raptor.  If, however, you need some off-roading chops, then the Ram 1500 might be your ticket.

For those of you who have driven the current generation of the Chrysler 300, you will be shocked to find out that the Ram 1500 SLT with the Pentastar V6 drives almost exactly like a Chrysler 300 with a bed.  The 2013 Motor Trend Truck of the Year judges were amazed at how well the Ram 1500 SLT drove.  The torque comes in at relatively low RPMs, with a peak of 269 lb-ft.  Plus, you can still be rewarded by swinging the tachometer up to 4500 RPM to get the full 305 horsepower.  Plus, the Pentastar sounds good for a V6.  The Pentastar and the 8-speed automatic make for a potent entry-level truck.  Plus, the air suspension works as well off-road as it does on asphalt.  Body motions are relatively few in cornering, while bumps are soaked up quickly and quietly without any complaint.

The Ram 1500 V-8 Sport is a totally different animal.  Of course, 390 horsepower and 407 lb-ft of torque will make it quicker.  A lot quicker.  The interior will remind you of an SRT product, with the same seats as the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8, and the same feel as an SRT product.  The interior is also a bit louder in the V-8 Sport, with engine note and road noise being a bit louder than the SLT.  The anti-roll bars and coil springs allow for less body roll in cornering, but they don’t give the driver the same feeling of control the driver would get in an SLT.  The steering is the same, but bigger tires give more grip and tire slap.

The V-8 Sport has so much power that it is hard to hook up the rear tires to the pavement.  With a good launch, look for 60 in a scant 6.9 seconds.  Ford’s Ecoboost engine might give quicker results, but if you want a classic American V8, then the Hemi V8 is a good choice.  When the V-8 Sport is hooked up to a trailer, that’s when the engine comes alive.  The quarter mile will disappear in 20.0 seconds at 69.4 mph.  Yikes.  The Ram SLT with the Pentastar may have a bit less power, but it still has enough power to tow at 75% towing capacity.

The 2013 Motor Trend Truck of the Year judges were extremely impressed with the Ram 1500.  The V6 covers the area once patrolled by the Dakota, and the V8 turns the truck into a truck that inspires confidence like no other half ton.

They say brand loyalty is one of the strongest criteria in buying a truck.  It would be a shame to be a Ford guy and never think of the Ram 1500.  As good a truck as the F150 is, the Ram is better.  For now.  I may have a Chevy pickup, but I should say that the Ram 1500 is a good choice for those who need a truck that is bigger than a Toyota Tacoma, yet smaller than a Ford F250.  The 2013 Ram 1500 is a job that comes close to perfect.  It may not be a game-changer for trucks like the Porsche 959 was for supercars, but it is a very good truck.  Congrats, Ram.

The Original 1966 Batmobile Will Hit the Auction Block in January!

There have been many cars that have won the hearts of car enthusiasts and TV enthusiasts alike.  We all fondly remember the DeLorean from Back to the Future, and the Batmobile from the original TV series in the mid-60s.  You can now buy the original Batmobile at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Arizona.  When?  January 19, 2013.

Legendary customizer, George Barris built the car in 1955 on a $15,000 budget.  I’m sure that it’ll go for much, much more than that…  The Batmobile is based off of the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car with a Ghia body.  Some may be fooled by the afterburner sticking out the back, but those car nuts out there will know that it is actually powered by a 390-cubic in (6.4 liters) Lincoln V8 that is bolted to the original B&M Hydro Automatic Transmission.  George Barris is the one and only owner of the car, and he is unfortunately  putting it up for auction.

You can read more about the Batmobile and George Barris at the Barrett-Jackson website.  http://www.barrett-jackson.com/application/onlinesubmission/lotdetails.aspx?ln=5037&aid=466

With the holidays just around the corner, what a thoughtful gift for the car enthusiast in your family.  So what if it’s a little late?

The Chrysler Museum is Shutting Down After Just Thirteen Years

Chrysler has recently announced that they intend to close the Walter P. Chrysler Museum at the end of the year.

The Walter P. Chrysler Museum is shutting down after just thirteen short years of exhibiting 67 lovely pieces of automotive history in Chrysler’s headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

Chryslers, Dodges, Jeeps, and long-gone brands like:  Hudson, Willys-Overland, Rambler,  DeSoto, American Motors, and Plymouth have long been displayed.  The oldest car there is a 1902 Rambler Runabout Roadster.

The collection of cars will be purchased by the Chrysler Group, the company stated in a press release.  “The proceeds from the sale along with the remaining cash reserves of the Walter P. Chrysler Museum Foundation will be transferred to the Chrysler Foundation, where they will support a broad range of charitable community activities and organizations,” said Brian Glowiak, the museum’s president.

Glowiak was also heard to say, “Chrysler will continue to share its automotive heritage housed at the museum with the public during special exhibitions.  The existing museum facilities will be also be used to meet Chrysler Group needs.”  This may mean that Chrysler will loan the cars to other museums or keep the cars in storage until special events come up.  Perhaps they will one day make their way to Los Angeles and the Peterson Museum.  One can hope, at any rate.

The museum will close on December 30, 2012.  Its last temporary exhibition is called “Cars, Trees, and Traditions.”  Does that mean driving into them?  I know a certain grandparent that might have liked (or starred in) that particular exhibit…  It certainly is his tradition.

Audi’s Allroad is Back and Hungry!


Just six years ago, any potential buyer for a family-friendly Audi station wagon could choose between the:  A4 Avant (wagon in German), A6 Avant, or the A6-based Allroad.  The Allroad was slightly higher than the A4 and A6 Avant’s, and was more fun to drive (but notoriously unreliable).

Determined NOT to let Volvo get out of sight, Audi has re-introduced the Allroad.  This time, it is based on the very reliable A4 platform.  Even though the A4 is a smaller car than the A6, the Allroad is actually a bit bigger than the older model.  It’s engine is much less powerful than the mighty 250 horsepower, 258 lb-ft of torque twin-turbo, 2.7-liter V6.  The 300 horsepower, 280 lb-ft of torque V8 is still much more powerful than the much more fuel-efficient 2.0 liter turbo four cylinder that pumps out 211 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.

Also, the ride-height-adjustable air suspension isn’t available on the new model.  But, Audi has raised the A4-based Allroad 1.5 inches, compared with the normal A4 Avant.  Plus, it borrows the A5 coupe/convertible’s one-inch wider track, front and rear.  To keep the new Allroad competitive, Audi changed the tire size from a 245/40/18 to a 245/45/18.  You can still get the 245/40/18’s on optional 19-inch wheels.  Audi predicts most buyers will stick with the 245/45/18’s.  Audi has also changed the final driv ratio to compensate for the tall tires.

Even though those various mechanical bits are very exciting, Audi has to protect them.  So, stainless-steel skidplates come standard on the Allroad.  There’s also enough plastic cladding around both the bumpers to make a Tupperware jealous.  For those who don’t want to look like their car belongs to yet another Bear Grylls fan, Audi will paint all that plastic cladding body color for just $1,000 (it’s worth it to look rugged on the Allroad…)!

Inside the Allroad, the interior is pretty much the same as the outgoing A4.  But, some materials have been upgraded.  The electronics are state-of-the-art.  The MMI navigation and infotainment system can be had with a T-Mobile SIM card that wirelessly connects to Google Maps.  This will add $15 to $30 to your monthly payment, but the graphics and navigation are on par with the high-end private jets.  This little SIM card also allows for weather information, points of interest, and a few other features.  It’s well worth that extra money.

The Audi Allroad really doesn’t have much competition.  It’s only real competition is the Volvo XC70, which Motor Trend last tested way back in 2008.  The 235-horsepower, inline-six cylinder powered Volvo may look WAY cheaper on paper, but it doesn’t come with:  all-wheel-drive, navigation, leather interior, sunroof, and power seats (all of which are standard on the $40,900 Audi), you’ve added almost SEVEN THOUSAND dollars to the Volvo’s $33,825 base price.  Now, the Audi seems like a pretty good deal…

Even though the Allroad is bigger than the old model, it doesn’t feel like it inside.  Audi has always been in the top five for safety, and the Allroad is no exception.  All of its safety equipment seems to take away a lot of interior space.  While there isn’t much room in the back seat, you can go for a few hundred miles sitting on very comfortable seats, knowing that all the airbags in the back will protect you from death.  In comparison, the Volvo is bigger, being about five inches longer and wider.  But, the Volvo has about 350 pounds on the Audi (which isn’t a lightweight either).

At Motor Trend‘s test track, the whole test crew was impressed at how fast the chunky (ish) Audi is.  The Quattro all-wheel-drive system puts down all of those 258 lb-ft of torque with a lot of ease.  Since the Allroad is more focused towards touring, it doesn’t have the rear-wheel biased feel as the A4 Avant.  Instead, the center differential of the Quattro all-wheel-drive system has a 50/50% torque distribution.  Surprisingly, there is very little brake dive and body role in the Allroad.  The electro-mechanical steering may be a bit light feeling, but responds to a command almost instantly.  Michael Febbo of Motor Trend would like to see Audi Drive Select become an option on the Allroad someday.  Also, an Allroad S with the supercharged 3.0 liter V6 from the S4 would be nice.

But, the Allroad is still a pretty quick station wagon. 0-60 in 6.5 seconds may not seem like a lot, but it is for a station wagon.  The Volvo XC70 hits 60 in a leisurely 8.9 seconds. In the quarter mile, the chunky Swede falls far behind, with a run of 16.7 seconds at 87.9 miles per hour.  The Audi will do the quarter mile in 15 seconds flat at 92.4 miles per hour.  That’s pretty fast for a station wagon.

The Allroad will go just about 90% of the places a CUV (compact utility vehicle) will go.  That’s pretty good for a station wagon.  It also handles like a station wagon (still pretty fu n to drive), looks like a CUV, and is a good car.  Overall, the Allroad is a good car for a family of four who is outdoorsy and needs some four-wheel-drive capability, without having to sacrifice the fuel economy and sport touring gains of a station wagon.  I’d recommend it to almost anybody in the market for a $40,000 station wagon.  Also, it’s a good compromise for automotive journalists who will miss the two station wagons and one hatchback option.  As I said before, it’s a great car.  How about this as a replacement to the old family car?