Crying Shame

We’re all familiar with my overriding (and much-mocked) criterion that a car shouldn’t just perform;  it should be beautiful as well.  And yes, I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder:  while some may drool over some 1960s-era muscle car, I feel vaguely nauseated every time I see one because there’s a great deal of difference between muscular and muscle-bound.  It’s the reason I’d prefer a 1964 Mercedes 230SL

…over an AC Cobra of similar vintage:

However, there is one other car that I would take over just about any other open-topped sports car.  But of course, nothing in my life is ever easy when it comes to affairs of the heart, and this no exception.

It’s the 1957 Maserati 150 GT Spyder, and Maserati only made one of them.  (Needless to say, the last time it sold, it brought a price of $3 million.)  But, but, but:

Here’s its story, and some more pics for those who are interested.

For my money, the only car which ever came close was the 1957 (what was it about that year?) BMW 507 Cabrio:

If someone put a gun to my head and said, “Pick a sports car from the 1950s…” I’d grab the Mazza with both hands, and if denied that, then the little Beemer.

No, I wouldn’t take a Mercedes 300SL Roadster over either.

Too muscle-bound by comparison.

Go ahead, mock me.  You know you want to.

Worth Consideration

As my Readers all know, I’m not a fan of electric cars, especially the mini-ecowagons like the Prius.

But what if your neck-snapping torque monster electric engine resides not in an ugly box or the industrial Tesla design, but in something more to an old car lover’s heart?

Ex-Bandmate Knob supplies the answer, sending me this review.  Go ahead, make your day for a little over a quarter of an hour.  Just ignore the silly pajama pants.

All I can say is that it has me thinking…

Calling Bollocks

Here’s an example of “studies” that just set my hair on fire:

The LEAST reliable used cars revealed
Warrantywise has published data from its Reliability Index for older cars
A minimum of 100 examples of each car is needed to provide a reliability score

…but here’s where the turd hits the punchbowl:

It measures reliability based on the volume and cost of repairs to vehicles

Including cost of repairs means that.. wait for it… cars like Bentley and Audi are going to fall to the bottom of the list, regardless.

Here’s the scenario:

  • one of their “reliable” cars (e.g. the Dacia Sendero, a complete POS) may have ten problems after its warranty expires, but because the average cost of repair is $100 (Dacias being made of plastic and scrap metal), its score comes to 1000
  • an Audi A7 breaks down only twice, but its average cost of repair is $1,500 (because when quality stuff does break, it’s expensive to fix), giving it a score of 3000 — so the Audi is three times less “reliable” than the Dacia, according to the study.

But in terms of actual (instead of cost-weighted) reliability, your Dacia was in the shop ten times, compared to the Audi’s twice.

I’m not saying that’s what happened in the study (I don’t have access to the raw data), but that’s the problem when you add irrelevant factors to an equation.

The real problem lies with the title.  If Warrantywise had called their study “Total Cost Of Post-Warranty Ownership”, it would have given the output a better foundation.

Or if they were going to stick with reliability, they should have ignored cost and instead stressed weighting factors of “frequency of breakdown” and “magnitude of failure” (brake lights fail, no big deal;  transmission dies, much more serious).  That, at least, would have given prospective buyers a clue.

All that said, I’d still get one of these (with only 12,000 miles usage)

…over a poxy Mitsubishi anything.

(See what I did there?  About the same thing as Warrantywise did.  It’s called “bias”.)

Anyway:  if you can afford to buy it, you should be able to afford to maintain it.

And can ignore silly studies.

Fair Warning

Via Insty. I see the following announcement:

Mercedes-Benz and Nvidia are going to build a new software-defined computing architecture for automated vehicles based on the Nvidia DRIVE platform that will be installed across the fleet of next-generation Mercedes-Benz vehicles, starting in 2024.
“The entire fleet, every car from the entry A-classes to the S-classes, will have the highest-performance Nvidia AI supercomputer on board.”
Shapiro said that each of these new Mercedes vehicles will come with the full surround sensor suite installed and then, similar to how Tesla does things today, it will be up to owners to decide if they want to activate features, either when they purchase the car or after the fact with an over-the-air update. “There will be different business models, subscription service possibilities or one-time fees or things like that, depending on the region, that potentially turns the car into a fully upgradable, perpetually upgradable device, and there potentially could be be a Mercedes App Store,” he said.

Emphasis mine because Mercedes, being German, will make that particular feature disappear just as Porsche decided that drivers shouldn’t be allowed to change gears manually in their (Porsche’s) precious little Nazi pocket rockets.

My take on the above, therefore, rewords their announcement thus:

If you’re going to buy a Mercedes, buy one before the 2024 model year comes to market. 

Me being me, I’d rather buy a still-older (but rebuilt) Mercedes, like this one (for about the same end-price of a comparably-sized new Merc):


…or even this Mercedes (which has had all the rebuilding done — see the pic gallery):

No silly tech doodads that cause your car to stop because some sub-system software failed, or because some AI algorithm decided that you’d done enough driving for the day, or that would require the entire IT Department at Daimler-Benz to fix it.

Just good, honest driving pleasure in a car with proven reliability.  What Mercedes used to be renowned for.

My simple belief is this:  we wouldn’t accept this kind of software built into our guns, so why should we allow it in our cars?

Chick Cars

When Fiat announced its re-entry into the U.S. market with the teeny revamped 500 model a few years back, their ad campaign was unashamedly aimed at the female car buyer, the theme being:  “The Italians Are Coming!”  It was a brilliant piece of positioning, because the small car / indifferent performance / cute factor was never going to attract too many heterosexual or non-metrosexual men.  And it wasn’t the first time Fiat had gone down that road, so to speak:

…which led to this:

VW, of course, had used the same positioning with their relaunch of the revamped (and awful) Bug — less overtly, but with the standard accessory of that cutesy little single-stem flower holder on the dashboard, the target market was quite obvious.

Marketing aside, however, quite a few cars have always appeared to me to be perfect “ladies’ cars”, as much for their petite-ness as for anything else.  Here’s the Lancia Fulvia of the late 1960s:

Even the Mercedes 230 SL of the same era was, I think, positioned in the same niche:

Both had engines that were respectable enough — for sure, neither was underpowered — but the cars were definitely not hot rods, by any stretch of the imagination.  My mother always dreamed of having a “pagoda top” (never happened, sadly — she had to suffer with an Austin Healey 3000 instead), and even New Wife, on seeing a beautifully-restored 230 SL poodling around Plano, was impressed enough to comment.

The difference between the two eras, by the way, is that in the so-called “pre-feminist” era of the early 1960s, neither the Fulvia nor the 230 SL were ever overtly marketed at women.  Whether it was because, in those days, men made the car purchase decisions on behalf of their wives or daughters, or whether the car manufacturers’ marketing departments didn’t want to risk alienating potential male customers by positioning those models as “chick cars”, I have no idea.

Of course, the modern take on positioning your car in the female market reached its apogee when Subaru made their cars the choice of lesbians.   (Think about that if you’re considering a new Outback or Forester.)  And while the Mazda Miata became the fashion statement for West Coast homosexual men, it was never marketed as such.  (For those who want to find cars to avoid because they’re associated with lesbians and homos, this tongue-in-cheek [sic]  list will spell them out for you.)

I don’t have a problem with cars best driven by women.  I think a woman looks better in a Lancia Fulvia than in a Pontiac TransAm or Camaro, by the way.  But then again I’m a sucker for classy, feminine women, so take that anyway you want.  No prizes for guessing which one of these I think is more appealing:

As Mr. Free Market says:  I’m just too old-fashioned to live.

By the way, lest you think I was having a go at metrosexuals and the Fiat 500 in my earlier comment, note this British ad:

Uh huh.

Oh, and by the way, if we’re talking about then and now, here’s an old take on Fiat’s open-top:

…and their new one, by way of Gucci:

I should point out that the older Fiat 500 was originally marketed as a family car.  The modern one?  Not quite so much.

Two Out Of Ten Ain’t Bad

According to these guys, the top cars of the 1980s were (as listed):

  • 1983 Golf GTI
  • 1984 Ferrari Testarossa
  • 1985 Corvette
  • 1986 Porsche 959
  • 1987 Camaro IROC-Z
  • 1987 RUF CTR
  • 1987 Mustang 5.0
  • 1987 BMW M5
  • 1987 Ferrari F40
  • 1987 Buick Grand National/GNX

A couple of points come to mind.  The RUF and 959 Porsches aren’t really “production” cars in the true sense of the word — they’re essentially low-volume tweaked models.  The F40 is a wondercar — still is — but it wasn’t really a car for the general public back then, just as La Ferrari isn’t for today’s public.  As for the rest — and I’m trying not to compare this list to today’s cars in terms of performance — the only one I’d consider owning is the BMW M5, which I have driven, and it was fantastic — even with all the shit we know goes along with Beemer ownership.

And while the Ferrari Testa is the best-looking of all of them, in practice it’s a beast to drive — it once took me about a dozen tries to parallel-park it, to the amusement of many onlookers.

I’ve driven a couple of the others as well:  the Mustang and the Grand National were great, but butt-ugly.  I was nearly talked into buying a Buick, actually, but the purchase was nixed by Wife #2, who pointed out (quite reasonably) that a supercharged rear-wheel drive car with crap handling was not the optimal vehicle for Chicagoland’s icy and potholed streets.  The IROC-Z was really aimed at the street-dragster market, as was the Corvette (then and now), which leaves me out.  And all these cars drank gas quicker than you could toss out the window in 5-gallon cans.  Except for the Golf.

The Golf GTI needs a special mention, as it’s the only other car I’d take from the Hemmings list.  While its 90hp performance is risible by today’s standards, it wasn’t back then;  remember that the Porsche 356 only developed 95hp.  But the VW’s light weight made it truly quick, if not especially fast, and on city- and suburban streets it was a rocket.  And it handled better at speed than the Mustang, Camaro, or Buick.

Frankly, I think one of the 1980s’ best cars (and most glaring omission from the Hemmings list)  was Toyota’s 1986 MR2 model, but no doubt someone’s going to take issue with this.  I thought it was superb, especially when compared to its major competitor, the stupefyingly-bad Pontiac Fiero.

In fact, the Toyota’s only real competition came from Europe, in the form of the Lancia Delta Stradale:

…except of course that the “Mister 2” didn’t break down every quarter-mile, as the Lancia was prone to do.

Feel free, as always, to add your own ideas in Comments.