A car’s weight has a dramatic effect on its performance, ride, handling, and fuel economy. Figuring out how much a car weighs should be simple, but the weights listed in brochures, road tests, and other sources can be contradictory and confusing. A vehicle’s specifications may list shipping weight, manufacturer’s curb weight, and gross vehicle weight ratings, all of which are quite different. To sort out this confusion, let’s look at what each of these terms means.
Although Porsche and Volkswagen hadn’t exactly set the world on fire with their first joint-venture sports car, the 914, the two companies decided to try again in the early seventies with the Porsche 924. Developed by Porsche as a Volkswagen, the new model ended up becoming Porsche’s first front-engine, water-cooled production car and launched a new line of “volks Porsches” that lasted into the nineties. Here’s the tangled history of the 924.
Continue Reading Yuppie Sports, Part 1: The Porsche 924
Ford and Chevrolet prosaically described these curious hybrids of coupe and pickup truck as sedan pickups, while our Australian readers would call them coupe utilities, utilities, or simply “utes.” Never overwhelmingly popular in the U.S. market when they were new, they have become curiously iconic, presaging America’s infatuation with trucks. This week, we examine the history of the Ford Ranchero and Chevrolet El Camino.
Continue Reading Cowboy Cadillacs: The Chevrolet El Camino and Ford Ranchero
Launched in 1983, the Pontiac Fiero promised to be a good-looking, affordable mid-engine sports car introducing exciting new techniques in production and design. Alas, it became one of GM’s great disasters: overweight and underpowered, tarnished by alarming reports of reliability problems and engine fires. By 1988, more power, better looks, and a $30 million new suspension brought the Fiero closer to its original promise — just in time for the corporation to bring down the ax. This week, we look at the origins and history of the Fiero and the reasons for its sad fate.
Sophisticated, glamorous, gorgeous, and fast, this car is on everybody’s short list of the greatest cars of all time. Its flaws are well documented, but there are few automobiles that still command more loyalty or more all-out lust. This week, we examine the history of that favorite sixties icon: the 1961-1975 Jaguar E-type.
Continue Reading Top Cat: The Jaguar E-Type
Certain cars become emblematic of a time and a place, perfectly encapsulating the values, priorities, and obsessions of their eras. For America of the fifties, it’s the 1955–57 Chevrolets and the 1959 Cadillac; for the sixties, the Mini, the Beetle, and the Mustang. For the seventies, we’d make a strong case for the Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Generally reviled by critics, staggeringly popular with the public, and much imitated, the Monte Carlo remains as powerful a symbol of the period as disco balls, platform shoes, and The Brady Bunch. This week, we explore the history of the Monte Carlo and consider the reasons for its immense — and ultimately ephemeral — popularity.
Continue Reading Disco-Era Darling: The Chevrolet Monte Carlo
For most people, the words “Ford Mustang” evoke one of two things: the original 1964–1966 icon of sixties Americana or the boxy 1979–1993 Fox Mustangs so beloved of amateur hot–rodders. This week, we consider how one evolved into the other, examine the history of Ford’s ubiquitous Fox platform, and take a look at the most unusual of all Mustangs: the high-tech, turbocharged, four-cylinder 1984-1986 Ford Mustang SVO.
If you’re an American over 30, you may have some hazy, not necessarily happy memories of the Renault Le Car, sold here from 1976 through 1983. To Europeans, who will need little introduction, it was known as the Renault 5, a ubiquitous French subcompact that helped to popularize the supermini genre. Although it never sold very well in the States, Renault moved more than 5 million of these cars in other markets between 1972 and 1986, making the “Cinq” one of the best-selling French cars of all time. It also spawned a wild little rally car: the fearsome mid-engine Renault 5 Turbo.
By 1963, Studebaker was already doomed, but its dynamic president, Sherwood Egbert, was not yet ready to admit defeat. Not only did he launch the sporty Avanti, he hired Andy Granatelli to develop a series of hot engines that transformed the humble compact Studebaker Lark into a ferocious — and unlikely — performance car. This is the story of the Lark and Super Lark.
It sounded so promising at the time. After years of dismissing imported compacts as cars for kooks, GM was finally going to build an attractive, sophisticated subcompact featuring the latest advances in manufacturing technology. To follow that, Chevrolet was going to offer a sporty version with a racy twin-cam engine built by the legendary English firm Cosworth. It was the car that was going to save America for American cars — that is, until it all went wrong. This is the story of the 1971-1977 Chevrolet Vega and 1975-1976 Cosworth Vega.
Continue Reading Falling Star: The Checkered History of the Chevrolet Vega
In February 1954, Mercedes-Benz introduced its first two postwar production sports cars. One was the remarkable “Gullwing” 300SL, the street version of the race car that won Le Mans in 1952. The other was the smaller Mercedes 190SL roadster, a pretty and competent (if underpowered) tourer suggested by legendary importer Max Hoffman. This is the history of the 1955-1963 190SL.
Continue Reading Little Sister: The Mercedes 190SL
For much of its existence, American Motors’ focus was on compact economy cars, a cause that the company once promoted with missionary zeal. How, then, do we explain this car? Not simply a Supercar, but a bona fide street racer bearing the well-known name of performance-parts guru George Hurst — and the last car to wear the Rambler nameplate. This is the story of the 1969 Hurst-AMC SC/Rambler.