Wednesday
Jul012015

2015 Ford Mustang I4 EcoBoost Premium: Fun with a Four?

By Ted Orme

I have a long term love affair with the Ford Mustang, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. I went cross-country in one of the original “pony cars,” a sleek 1965 V-8 fastback. It was a truly epic trip until an extra passenger forced the use the cramped back seat for part of the return trip.

Mighty 5.0-liter V-8 Mustangs were the hot rides at high performance driving sessions for the press I attended at Bob Bondurant’s Sears Point, California and Bill Scott’s Summit Point, West Virginia driving schools – thoughts of which still get me whipped up. And, of course, there were all those Mustang test cars through the years that gave great fun and caused me to set a very bad driving example for my children.

Now in its ninth generation with more than 9 million models sold, the Mustang has earned fame and glory and top classic car dollars with such legendary models as Cobra Jet, Boss 302 and 429, Mach 1 and Shelby Mustangs.

But there was one glaring exception: the thoroughly despised 1974-78 Mustang II, a four-banger Pinto in disguise rushed to production in response to the first oil crisis and onset of fuel economy standards. The 2.3-liter, single-overhead cam buzz bomb in the Mustang II was rated at – can you believe – a truly pitiful 88 horsepower, which was reduced even further to 83 horsepower with the mandatory addition of a catalytic converter in 1975.

With this foul memory still lingering in my mind, I recently got the keys to the latest 2.3-liter four-cylinder Mustang, the 2015 EcoBoost I4 Premium. The all-new 2015 Mustang sports new sheet metal, a refreshed engine lineup with more horsepower, revised drivetrain, a clean-slate platform and a first-ever fully independent rear suspension.

 

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Wednesday
Jun242015

1973 Ford Thunderbird

By Vern Parker

A heart attack six years ago dramatically altered Robert Conrad's active life style. No more hunting or fishing trips were in his future and his newly purchased power boat was reluctantly sold.

Sitting around the house doing nothing proved to be frustrating. That is when a friend introduced Conrad to the world of antique automobiles.

He found much to admire in the old cars on display at car shows. A 1973 Ford Thunderbird he saw reminded him of a similar one that his brother-in-law had once owned. “Cars still had character in 1973,” he observes.

Once the legal papers were signed on March 27, 2014 Conrad drove the blue Thunderbird to his Stafford, Virginia home.

That was a remarkably good day.

 

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Thursday
Jun112015

1971 Pontiac Grand Prix

By Vern Parker

Ninety years ago General Motors took action to close a price gap that existed between Chevrolet and Oakland. The car chosen for the task was named Pontiac which proved to be so successful that it replaced Oakland.

For 15 years Pontiacs were produced until World War II halted all civilian automobile manufacturing in 1942. After the war was won Pontiac production resumed.

About three decades passed and although young Jack Jones didn't yet have a license to drive he noticed the attention a slightly older friend received whenever he drove by in his father's nearly new 1971 Pontiac Grand Prix.

The striking image of that Pontiac on the streets of Brooklyn, New York never faded from Jones' memory.

 

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Monday
Jun012015

1972 Volkswagen convertible

By Vern Parker

In the spring of 1982 Karl Widmayer was stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia and found himself in need of a small commuter car.

He commenced shopping for a good used car, preferably a convertible. He promptly found what he was seeking that was located only a few miles south of his home.

The ten year old 1972 Volkswagen Super Beetle convertible was painted Texas Yellow, an unlikely name for the color of the paint on a German car. Like all Volkswagen convertibles in that era it had a padded convertible top. Widmayer purchased the car without hesitation and drove it home never thinking that he would still be driving it 33 years later.

 

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Monday
Jun012015

2015 Toyota Yaris SE: Ready for Renewal

By Ted Orme

As I’ve said in previous reviews, I look forward to driving “econo” cars because, like top-of-the-line luxury cars, they tend to define the automotive state-of-the-art. Such was the case for the little three-cylinder Ford Fiesta (Nov. 3, 2014) and the all-new Volkswagen Golf TDI diesel (Dec. 4, 2014) I got the chance to test last year. Not so much, however, for the 2015 Toyota Yaris SE 5-door hatchback, which still fills the basic transportation needs of those on a budget but is losing ground to newer generation competitors.

Assembled in France since 1999, the Yaris is still driven by basically the same powertrain, which is, literally, its weakest feature. Let’s face it, a 1.5-liter four-banger cranking out a paltry 106 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 103 lb-ft of torque at 4200 rpm just doesn’t get it done these days. And that’s with an antiquated four-speed automatic with an old-fashioned zig-zag shift gate and no manual shift option. A five-speed manual is also available in the Yaris, and I would recommend it for those who still know how to operate a clutch.

In comparison, the 1.6-liter 2014 Hyundai Accent GLS sedan my daughter, Katy, purchased last fall is good for 138 horsepower and 123 lb-ft of torque with a six-speed automatic which, along with CVTs, is what you will find in most modern subcompacts. The 1.5-liter fours in the Honda Fit and Ford Fiesta Accent also deliver more kick than the Yaris, producing 130 horsepower and 123 horsepower, respectively.

 

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