QOTD #56: Have US car companies finally caught up?

Road&Track-11-2012Sitting in the waiting area reading a 2012 edition of Road & Track, the article that caught my attention was “A World of Difference: Detroit finally ‘gets’ the driver’s car—what happened?” Most car afficianados know that despite their patriotism, European and Japanese manufacturers have been making better cars for a long time. But is this still the case?

A decade ago, we’d have said this was never going to happen; domestic cars might excel at Interstate cruising, but most were a disappointment when the pavement got snaky. We’d shrug and say it was cultural—Detroit didn’t get it. … But Detroit is paying attention. … When did these people put on specs and notice that cars sell based on how they drive?”

The author of the article, Kevin Wilson, lists a number of flops such as the 1981 Cadillac Cimarron, 1985 Merkur XR4Ti, and 1994 Oldsmobile Aurora*. He does list some highlights like the 1986 Dodge Omni GLHS and 1993 Ford Probe GT, but not many good drivers were available unless you include the Corvette and Viper.

Obviously, the article is dated. But consider what Detroit has been putting out recently. Remember the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V, 2013 Ford Focus ST, and 2012 Buick Regal GTS? These are serious contenders which have received good reviews across the board. Now all of us can’t afford to buy new performance models such as these. But it is good to know that US cars are being recognized once again.

The big question for me is whether the new American offerings will draw me back into the fold. While I am glad for the American resurgence, it will take a while before I gladly replace the Jag with an American car. Part of that is my budget but part of it is the reputation earned by poor quality US products since the 1970’s.

Ask most people you know to name a reliable car and Toyota and Honda top the list. Ask them to name a driver’s car and Europe wins again with the BMW 3-series. Here is my point. Reputation is something that is quickly earned but hard to lose. If you build poor quality cars, people will remember that for a long time. You know the saying, “your reputation precedes you.” If US manufacturers want to win back a bigger share of the market, this is a good start. But it will take some time to rebuild their tarnished reputation.


*I actually liked the looks of the Olds Aurora—especially the second edition. Perhaps its inclusion on this list is not warranted as ” the stylish and content-rich sedan did go a long way towards upping the perceived quality of American automakers” (Hemmings)

QOTD #55: How about a Honda V12 for your next race?

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Call me uninformed, if you will, but I never knew Honda ever made a V12 engine. I am not a race car fanatic so I am not familiar with the non-production engine layouts used for F1 racing, etc. But this one made me very curious. The 1.5L (92 cu in) Honda V12 engine had 48 valves and produced about 230 hp in racing trim. Very interesting.

Here is what I discovered about the engine:

“The engine dimensions of the 1965 48-valve V12 were 58.1 x 47.0 mm, 1,495.28 cc. Power output of 230 bhp (170 kW) @ 13,000 rpm was quoted — this was the most powerful F1 engine of 1965. The engine was safe to 14,000 rpm. … It used 12 Keihin carburetors, one for each cylinder, later to be replaced by low pressure fuel injection before entry into the Italian GP.” (Wikipedia)

“Power takeoff was by spur gears from the centre of the crankshaft driving directly into a transverse shaft 6 speed transaxle.” (primotipo)

Personally, I would rather hear the growl of the big Jaguar V12 and I’m not sure I would like to tackle syncing 12 carburetors. BUT… I have to admit that this is an intriguing engine in such a little car. Just how fast could it make this little car go?


H/T Hemmings

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QOTD #54: Which is the most reliable Jaguar model ever built?

This kind of question is always interesting. In all honesty, this usually becomes more of a popularity contest. My favorite Jag was the silver 1982 XJ-S V12. It was an awesome car to drive and one I wish I had been able to keep. But ask me which one has been the most reliable and I’d have to vote differently. The XJ-S didn’t have a working heater and sucked gas out of the pump faster than I could put it in. The blue 1990 XJ6 (as well as the white 1990 XJ6) had their share of troubles. The sagging hydraulic suspension, inoperative heater fans, embarrassing oil puddles, and continuous electrical problems were aggravating. But when I purchased the 1995 XJ6, things were quite different. Sure, there have been problems but nothing serious. Even after using it as my daily driver for home inspections, it keeps plugging along with little to no maintenance. It has been the most reliable Jaguar I have owned. But what do the experts say?

David Muhlbaum recently posted an article at Kiplinger entitled, “15 Cars that Refuse to Die.” As you would expect, the author includes Irv Gordon’s 1966 Volvo P1800 and Peter Gilbert’s 1989 SAAB 900 Turbo. But the rest of the list might surprise you. Sure enough, one of the 15 cars that refuse to die is the 1995-97 Jaguar XJ6 (X300). How about that? Somebody actually agrees with me. Here’s what David says about it.

“Here’s our thinking: During the 1970s, Jaguar reliability was horrid. A common solution to the car’s troubles was to rip out the Jaguar motor and replace it with a good old Chevrolet V8. But in the 1980s, under the leadership of an industrial turnaround specialist, Sir John Egan, the marque started to improve. Then Ford bought the company, infusing money and development know-how. By the late 1990s, the company was scoring well on J.D. Power vehicle dependability and initial quality rankings. So that’s why the last iteration of the classic Jaguar inline-6 sedan is still motoring on, often in the hands of a second owner who’s always hankered for a Jag but couldn’t afford one new” (link).

Read the entire article and you will find that the author really isn’t talking about reliability. He’s talking about cars that keep existing long past their prime because of several reasons. Some keep running because they are well built. Others still exist because their owners refuse to let them die. I think my 1995 Jaguar XJ6 is a combination of the two. It’s a beautiful sedan with a reliable drive train. Although it does leak some oil and has been in an accident, it’s quite a leap above the others I have owned in dependability — even the heater works! While it’s nice to have something more reliable than those I’ve owned in the past, I can’t quite escape the likeability factor when it comes to owning a car. In other words, I want to drive something that I like. But it doesn’t hurt that that this one has been so dependable. It’s a definite win-win combination.

H/T Al Roethlisberger

QOTD #53: What Right Hand Drive options are available in northeastern Ohio?

Being that my father was stationed in England during his time in the USAF, I have always been curious about the British accent and driving on the wrong side of the road. I’ve not had the privilege of visiting Great Britain or driving from the passenger side but I may soon have that opportunity. I say that because the US Postal Service recently interviewed me for a part-time position as a rural route delivery person. If offered the job, I have decided to take it. However, there is one slight wrinkle to the plan. This position would require me to drive my own car from the passenger seat to deliver mail.

As you may recall, I currently own two vehicles. My daily driver is a 1995 Jaguar XJ6 and my wife’s is a 2003 Chrysler Town & Country minivan. Both of these are Left Hand Drive (LHD) vehicles. So, using one of them would require some modifications or some clever shenanigans to reach mail boxes through the passenger side window. Someone suggested reaching my leg across the car to use the pedals. This isn’t a very good idea since the transmission/drive shaft tunnel is in the way. I think I would be visiting the chiropractor more frequently if that were a daily occurrence. So, here are the two ideas I am considering should I be offered the job.

MODIFICATION

Using the steering wheel from the passenger seat shouldn’t be too big of a deal. But the pedals would be almost impossible to operate from that position. So, the best idea would be to have some pedals installed on the passenger side flooring. A Google search revealed that driver training cars have a brake pedal installed for the trainer to use when necessary. But can you have duplicate gas and braked pedals added for postal work?

kit1DualBrake.com offers a FAT dual control kit. From what I can tell, this kit could be installed in my vehicle and allow me to accelerate and brake from the passenger seat. The cost is fairly reasonable at $378.24 plus shipping. I’m not sure how much installation would cost but would expect about that much to get it done right. I’ll be asking my mechanic and the local upfitter for ideas later this week.

USED RHD VEHICLES

With my reputation for purchasing a car every other month, you already know that I have been investigating what Right Hand Drive (RHD) cars are available in the area. At the present there are several possibilities.

  • 1960 Jaguar Mark II
  • 1960-jagNow wouldn’t that be a sight to see every day when your mail was delivered? Obviously, this is not a reasonable possibility for the job or my bank account. The starting bid of $2000 will probably reach a much higher price and I am sure that the weekly repairs would eventually double the purchase price. But it is a fun car to think about.

  • 1983 AM General Postal Jeep
  • 83-jeepThis vehicle might be a short term solution. The price is definitely attractive but would a 2WD Jeep work in Ohio winters. And would the lack of power steering and power brakes get older fast? I don’t know. If it were located in Ohio, I think I would take it for a test drive. But it’s not. It’s for sale on a lot in Missouri which is about 10 driving hours away from where I live.

  • 1999 Jeep Cherokee
  • 99-jeepThis vehicle has 4WD, factory RHD, and a good description. I like that it has working AC and runs well. I don’t like the rust and the price seems a but high. But it might be a good vehicle to consider if the other options don’t pan out.

  • 1989 Nissan S-Cargo Van
  • nissan panel van 2Now if this one ends up with a decent price, I may have to take a drive back from the West Coast in it. This would definitely be a fun one to own and drive. According to the description, it is a legally imported unit. And it is 25 years old so would probably pass as a Classic car. I wonder how small it actually is and if I would fit in it. In any case, this one makes me smile.

At this point, I don’t know whether this job will be offered to me. So, this is all conjecture. The Post Master who interviewed me told me that she would let me know Wednesday or Thursday of this week whether I am chosen for the job. Until then, I am going to see what options are available to me so that I am ready to make a well educated decision. If you have any ideas or know of any postal jeeps available in northeastern Ohio, feel free to let me know.

QOTD #52 : How much can a 2006 Mercedes-Benz ML500 tow?


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There are several challenges that accompanied my search for the answer. The first problem was finding the correct year owner’s manual. The manual that came with the car had a date of 2008 (edition date and version are located on the back cover). For that year, towing capacity was higher. The second problem was that our pre-owned ML500 is not equipped with the towing package. To properly tow a trailer, the new owner would require a hitch, skid plate, and a software update to accommodate the weight. After a search through the dealership, I found the proper manual for a 2006 ML500.

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A 2006 Mercedes-Benz ML500 tow rating is 5000 lbs.

According to the 2006 USA Edition D Operator’s Manual M-Class, “the maximum permissible gross trailer weight to be towed is 5000 lbs.” Note again that this applies to an M-Class properly equipped with the towing package. Members of the various Mercedes-Benz forums have claimed different capacities. And aftermarket hitches may have a different capacity than what is recommended by Mercedes-Benz. If I was the owner of a Mercedes-Benz ML500, I think I would go by the book. Who wants to replace a transmission or rear suspension? Be wise.