Category Archives: Site News

Weekend Driving Music – The Destination Version

The Radio Towers in Grand Prairie
The Nuke Plant in Fulton*
Johnson Beach in Pensacola**

The oft quoted saying goes something along the lines “It isn’t the destination, it’s the journey that matters”.

Christ, it has been a WEEK.  I’d be lying if I said that a few days this week have been pretty brutal.  The truth is every day this week has been a beat down.  I really can’t remember the last time I approached a weekend feeling this tired and worn out.  To quote on of my old dealership general managers from my GM days, it feels like the kind of tired that not even a good sleep is going to fix.  I could bore you with a list of everything that went on this week to just suck the life out of me, but this is a car blog, not one of those whiny ass woe is me my mommy didn’t hug me enough blogs.  So, as all great men do, we’ll suck it up and slog along.

Like I said above, the saying we normally hear is that it isn’t the destination that we need to enjoy, but simply the journey that counts.  I can see the logic behind this.  I even agree with it.  But sometimes I think we need to take a look at the final destination, the place where that journey takes us as equally important.  After all, the journey never would have been taken unless we had someplace to go.  I think that is one of the reason I love cars: they give us the means to actually go somewhere.  Yes, I could ride a bike to the above mentioned radio towers, or walked along the twisty back roads to the power plant, or fly to Pensacola and go to the beach.  Doing it by car, however, gives us a greater level of freedom.  It allows us to undertake that journey with greater speed, safety, and control.  Once we get to our destination, no matter how exciting or mundane the journey, it is there we can reflect on all that brought us there.  We can go to these places that we know and find some sort of comfort or peace and unwind.  Then again, sometimes the drive itself is our end goal; we can just get in our car and burn gas and let the entire world slip away for a few hours.  Go get lost.  I just hope you don’t have to have the week I had to find the motivation to get out there and drive.

*It wasn’t the nuclear plant itself, but a fairly open area that wasn’t fenced off where you could just park and kind of watch it do what power plants do.  The open field combined with the power plant gave of this sort of man and earth vibe.  Old world naturism meets the leading edge of man’s scientific quest for knowledge

**No, I have never just decided to up and drive to Pensacola.  There have been a few down and backs to Houston, Austin, and San Antonio though, for no other reason than I just wanted to.  If I had a Bugatti Veyron and the money for gas, you could bet your ass there would be some high speed runs to the Florida panhandle and back.

 

Save the Jeeps

The ship is sinking and there is but ONE cargo on board that’s worth saving. Sales are down and the concept vehicles don’t promise much hope for the future. The big government bailed out the big three. Actually, that’s only 33% true. Ford revamped it’s entire fleet, drastically improved quality and took not one single dollar from the government to do it. (Kudos to Ford). The other two took significant bail outs from The Bank of Obama, member FDIC*. GM is cutting costs and is at least acting like they want to survive. The other….not so much. If somehow you haven’t guessed who I’m talking about you can stop straining your last remaining brain cell because I’ll tell you. The ship is Chrysler and that cargo worth saving is Jeep.

Please, think of the Jeeps…

 

Musings: Marketing Mavens Migrate to Metal

I have a love hate relationship with Toyota’s young, hip, cool brand.  Scion, on one hand, represents everything I hate about most cars: they have forced character that comes from marketing and not actual driving pleasure and the majority of thier line up sucks (ugly toaster vans and a shitty replacement for the Celica and a micro car that most people don’t even know abuot.).  Sure, the Scion dealership is one of two places to get one of the most overhyped products in the market right now, but it still stands that the brand aiming for the young, hip, cool, urban buyer is still more sought after by baby boomers.  Further, I just can’t stand to accept any brand whose buyers care more about SXSW (Austin sucks, by the way) than TX2Kxx is really a brand that enthusiast buyers should even care about.

But I love Scion because they understand marketing.  They know the target demographic and rabidly persue it like one of the above mentioned Austin hipsters after an ironic tee shirt that isn’t really ironic, just stupid.  Scion has taken a firm grasp of the young, hip, cool demographic and attacked it relentlessly by positioning themselves not as a manufacturer, but a lifestyle brand.  It isn’t just about the car, it is about what the car represents.  They claim not to just be an automotive brand, but a brand that persues music, style, etc. 

So after single handedly (or, not at all) promoting electronic music to the mainstream and securing their place as the car for hip yuong urbanites, they are now approaching the next logical step – indy kids and hipsters.  No, I said that wrong.  They are trying to get their foot in the door of the metal world.  Thier new advertising campaign is aimed at the metal heads out there.   Look, I know marketing tends to work this strange magic that makes even I say the Prius has a place in this world other than a firepit or junkyard, but when I think metalheads who drive around slamming gears while rocking out to Amon Amarth (don’t hate, I love me some Viking Speed Metal), the FRS and tC are really the last cars I see them driving.

I’ve been wrong before, but I would love to see how the Autotuning Zeus goes after this one.  What say you?

Musings – There is a sucker born every minute.

Remember my article last week about the Chicken Tax?  Remember how the point we made was that none of the big three ever made a light truck that was in real competition with the Tacoma or Frontier?  Well, I’ll tell you something interesting.  They did make something that was aimed to compete with the Taco and Fronty – the problem was YOU the buyer.  See, you were cross shoping wrong.  You weren’t supposed to cross shop with teh Ranger and the S10.  No sir, you were supposed to cross shop the Taco, Frontier, and PT Cruiser. 

That’s right dear readers.  For registration purposes, one of ChryCo’s first attempts at a throw back ride, the PT Cruiser, was classified as a light truck.  So the death of the domestic light truck is your fault.

Weekend Driving Music: New this Week

No Rob, it’s not that hot new band Evanescence. New this week is a the Lupe Fiasco album. Gotta love that saxophone with a great beat to accompany it. Now, I’m not normally a guy that listens to rap…but I listen to Lupe. In fact, I listen to Lupe whenever I’m building something or working on the truck.

Speaking of working on one’s vehicle. A friend of Cars and Cranks just opened up a new shop in the Haselet TX area by Texas Motor Speedway. It’s a place where you can pay per hour to use the lift, tools, you name it. Perfect for if you live in an apartment and don’t have access to a garage. Brandon’s a knowledgeable guy too so if you need help hit him up. He’ll even let you listen to Lupe while you work. Hit him up at http://www.facebook.com/Tacomaguy

A History of Cars, Taxes, and Race Chickens

A recent news article came out that presented the position of a number of high ranking executives at GM: essentially, they were upset that the US Treasury wouldn’t sell their share of GM at a loss in order to remove themselves of the “Government Motors” stigma. Now, I personally would be more upset of the stigma that my company had gotten in the position it was in by shoving a shit product down the throats of US consumers and needed to go crawling on hand and knee to an organization that knows as much about cars as it does the Internet, but that is neither here nor there. They were also upset about the government restrictions on them using private jets, and I’ll just leave that there to stew and piss you off some more. Articles like the piece mentioned above are about to start coming fast and furious (you can laugh now) as the US elections approach. As one of the largest manufacturing industries in the US, it is without question that the current state of our automotive industry will be a constant topic of debate. The auto industry has become politicized: GM has closed plants down to stump speeches, anti bailout forces and those against “big government” are behind Ford for doing things the right way, and a government that owns near as makes no difference 30% of the General is constantly investigating its biggest competitor. Unfortunately, this is nothing new.

It sure was nice of them to circle the problem.

Sergio Pininfarina ( Sept. 3, 1926 – July 3, 2012 )

                                                                        

                        When someone dies people like to look over the individual’s life’s work and determine what kind of value it had. Contributions to society and legacies are big factors in this assessment. I remember vividly when the Ferrari Enzo came out back in 2002, when I first saw it I thought to myself, “Sweet Jesus that is hell fire on wheels!”

After Conquering a Mountain….I’ve Returned

We’ve taken a bit of a break but I’m here to tell you The Cranks are back. I mean, if we weren’t back I wouldn’t be typing this right? As my comrade has suggested….I went on a long trip this summer. “Trip” is likely an understatement. I embarked on a voyage. A voyage to a land of beer, beards, and badassery. The plan was to drive from Dallas Texas all the way to Silverton Colorado. From there we’d hit Telluride and then Durango.  Round trip would be about 2,200 miles. And we were ready. The Tacoma just had an oil change and a fresh 3″ lift installed by yours truly and some friends. In addition to that I had GPS and a gorgeous copilot. Pretty solid plan if you ask me.

Epic Voyage = Epic Pictures

Musings: They own how much of the company?

When I started up Cars and Cranks, one thing I promised myself I’d do my best to avoid is real world politics.  I have plenty of other ways to get that out of my system, I don’t need to take up any of your time arguing which color is better for us.  But this one I just couldn’t let go.

One of the news blurbs I’ve read recently has quoted Joe Biden’s current stump speach as “Osama is dead and GM is alive”.  Ya know, because President Obama issued the kill order on Bin Laden and signed the bail out paperwork for GM.  Well, I guess we are leaving out the fact that most industry analysts say GM is in for another bankruptcy in the near future.  Following that, I saw this piece today:

http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/your-tax-dolars-at-work-gm-loses-its-shirts-on-every-volt/#more-459675

It seems that every time GM sells another Wondervolt, they are out about $50k ($49,000 according to the article from TTAC).  I read somewhere that VDub loses a bit on every Veyron sold, but considering the volume difference between the other V car and the Veyron, I’m thinking this is a bit different.  GM’s Veep of Global Marketing says that once the volume steps up it shouldn’t be a problem.  I dunno.  I’m of the school of thought that if it costs us about eighty grand to make something and we only sell it for thirty, that is kinda sorta a BAD PRODUCT AND WE NEED TO TAKE A NEW APPROACH TO STOP SPENDING MONEY JUST TO LOSE IT.

The .gov still owns near as makes no difference a third of GM. Food for thought

Deal of the Week – Porsche Put the Engine in the Wrong Place Edition

I was once told by someone far wiser than I that in life, a man must own a certain spectrum of vehicles.  Essentially, by maintaining a proper collection of cars, we can experience the finest the world has to offer on a daily basis.  For example, one should own a Ferrari, if even only for the briefest of times.  Sure, 360s are sliding in prices but even at a $70,000 low end I’m hard pressed to find a DotW from the Prancing Horse brand that I can recommend with a straight face.  I was also told that I should spend more than just a few years with a Mercedes Benz, but I’ve already featured one for the Deal of the Week.  He further said that I should move from the Benz to a Cadillac, but it has been so long since GM’s luxury offering has actually been luxurious, I don’t think I could advise as such in good conscious.  He did say, that while young and unwise, I would without question need to own a Porsche.

Like most that bleed Bavarian Blue and White, I have a strange sort of love hate relationship with the Stuttgart brand.  The ass engined super Beetle of death known to rest of the world as the 911 has always held a top spot in my dream garage, regardless of how hard it is to reconcile that it would sit next to an M3.  The 911 is one of those cars that is wrong on multiple levels, yet everything that is wrong comes together to be perfect.  But deals on 911s really aren’t.  You can pick up a 80s pre 964 for cheap, but it isn’t going to be cheap in the long run.  The 996s are starting to really come down in price, but as with all modern German cars maintenance is going to break the bank unless you are really into DIY*, and you have to deal with all those idiots that say that Porsche doesn’t make a real Porsche anymore while lovingly gazing at their 993s that haven’t run in months because they can’t afford a new head or rebuild**.  But fear not good readers, there is hope.

In 1982, Porsche introduced a front engined, rear driven (“BLASPHEMY”-911 owners) sports car based on the brand’s sports coupe/touring car, the 924.  Internally designated the 951, the Porsche 944 was the budget minded (compared to the 911, at least) enthusiast’s choice.  It followed the tried and true front engine, rear wheel drive, DIY cogswapper in the center formula that we all love.  Offered in a base, Turbo, and Turbo S/S2 specifications, the 944 was well known for not only offering a great drive, but also racing hot on the heels of the 911.  This did not go unnoticed by Porsche***, and it is a well respected unofficial truth that the 944 was detuned from the factory in order to not cramp the Carrera.  While not blazing fast by today’s standards, the 944 in its Turbo and Turbo S, and S2 configuration will still offer most of us an acceptable level of performance thanks to its low curb weight and decent power output and modibility.  The S and S2 will offer better performance, but are harder to find for a deal, much like the 968 that followed.  For those that care for such things, it still carries the cachet of being a Porsche, and even most modern 911 owners must tip their hats to the 944.

Finding a Turbo that hasn’t been molested for a good deal is like finding a fair priced Supra.  There are specimens out there running around on well over 150k miles with owners feeling put off that they can barely move their metal for the paltry sum of twenty grand.  If you are buying a turnkey race car, sure that number seems appropriate.  However, if you are like me and considering a 944 as a secondary toy and project car, then picking up something decent to start with is on par with a clutch job on a Carrera GT.  Much like picking up one of Germany’s other favored brands, you must look for one that has maintenance records.  Be prepared to do a timing belt job every 40-50k miles, and unless you have the prohibitively expensive tool you’ll need a good shop for that.  Other things to keep an eye on are a failing water pump and a cracking dash.  Further, most examples for sale are pushing thirty years old, so budget accordingly.

Excellence magazine (yes, Porsche owners are that douchy) gives us a range of ten to thirteen seven depending on year and condition for a Turbo.  I found this pristine example in Canton, OH.  At an advertised 48,000 miles, this has been someone’s garage queen.  It is on the third owner, so I would take him to task over the miles.  Other than that, the body is straight, the paint is clean, and the interior is nice.  It sits right in the mid range of the prices Excellence suggests at $8995, so while not a complete steal, it is a deal for what you are getting.  I’d offer $8000 cash as it stands, and work from there.  After that, cross one of the wise man’s list.  Click here to go to the AutoTrader link.

*Anyone who says Porsche doesn’t make a real 911 any more should be held in the same regards as someone who says a factory turbocharged M car isn’t a real M car.  In other words, ignore them.

** You must remember that even though deprication and age has dropped that $65k car down to $20k, you are still paying for repairs and parts from an out of production $65K car.

***Finally, a history lesson.  Porsche was actually set to end production of the 911.  It had been the same car for almost twenty years when we crossed into 1981.  Porsche had every intent to kill the 911 at the end of the 1981 production cycle.  However, CEO Peter Schultz nixed that idea from the engineers, indicating that he and future CEOs would keep the 911 alive for what would essentially be the life of the company.