Marketplace Gold Medalists: 2012 Toyota Camry & Camry Hybrid

By Ted Orme

Auto writers sometimes trip over their enthusiasm. A lot of us are puzzled how the humdrum Toyota Camry can be the most popular car in America for all but one of the past 15 years. With a redesign for 2012 and no tsunami to impede production, the Camry will surely keep that title this year.

How has this sedate sedan captured the hearts and loyalty of so many of our fellow citizens and the score of so-called enthusiasts? Not hard to figure really. It’s the great gap in expectations between performance oriented drivers and “educated consumers.” You know, those smart shoppers who want comfort, value and a Consumer Reports reliability survey shot full of superior red dots.

I don’t love or hate Camry. Call me mellow. So I welcomed the recent opportunity to drive two redesigned, seventh-generation 2012 models back to back and see for myself their observable appeal to the masses. The Camry XLE and Hybrid models looked a lot alike, of course, with better defined and upgraded styling inside and out. They rode a lot alike on nearly identical suspensions and both are powered by 2.5 liter four cylinder engines – plus, the electric system in the Hybrid. But they had distinctly different personalities and wide gaps in fuel economy and price.

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1963 Split Window Corvette

By Vern Parker

The owner of the Blackley Chevrolet dealership in Hornbeak, Tenn., was related to a salesman there. A half century ago most of the dealership sales involved pickup trucks and durable sedans.

Regardless of that fact the salesman ordered as a demonstrator one of the freshly redesigned Corvette Sting Ray split window coupes.

He selected a new color that was offered that year – saddle tan – for the new Corvette. Because he considered the sleek Corvette a manly sports car he ordered the car with no power brakes, no power steering, no power windows, no automatic transmission nor air conditioning. All such features, the salesman explained, merely added weight and consumed horsepower.


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1956 DeSoto Sportsman

By Vern Parker

Parts from about one-fourth of the United States have contributed to the restoration of Jack Gallagher's 1956 DeSoto Fireflite Sportsman.

“I've always liked orphan cars,” Gallagher confesses. Automobiles which no longer are in production appeal to him.

In August of 2010 he located the 1956 DeSoto two-door hardtop offered for sale by a broker of antique cars in Florida.

Detailed information about the car was transmitted and Gallagher discovered that the car was originally sold in Mississippi once it had left the factory in Detroit on Nov. 28, 1956.


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1958 Mercedes-Benz 180D

By Vern Parker

More than 25 years ago Barbara Frank found herself in West Germany -- Munich to be specific. At the time she was teaching an extension program of the University of Maryland.

One of her more mature students mentioned to her that he knew of a recently widowed German woman who had an automobile that she was unable to drive. The student encouraged Frank to go inspect the car.

Frank eventually went to investigate the car and discovered a pristine, always garaged, 1958 Mercedes-Benz 180D, a small diesel-powered four-door sedan, the sort of vehicle usually found parked at taxi cab stands in many German cities.

The black sedan had obviously received excellent care and the widow wasn't up to the task of learning to drive a four-speed manual transmission.


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2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK: Better in Every Way

By Brian Armstead

When Mercedes-Benz launched the then new GLK in 2009, the auto industry was still in a bad way. Sales were down in every segment, and some questioned the sanity of Mercedes for launching a premium, small, SUV.

But hindsight is always 20/20, and the segment is now rife with competitors, most notably the BMW X3 and Audi Q5. Both are solid vehicles, but both need to be very afraid of the 2013 GLK 350, which is better in every way than its predecessor.

Let’s start with styling. Where the 2009 GLK looked like a mini G Wagen (which Mercedes says is the bloodline vehicle for the GLK), the 2013 model still has the G’s rugged appeal, but also features the swoopy look that now adorns many Mercedes, including the SL550 sports car. The front of the GLK features new headlights with LED daytime running lights, a new bumper and grille. Redesigned roof rails and sculpted door panels enhance the side profile. At the rear, LED tail lights are now standard, and chrome plated tailpipe trim adds design flair. New 19” wheels are also standard, while 20” wheels are optional and part of two packages – the Appearance Package and the AMG Styling Package. The AMG package also adds AMG front and rear skirts, AMG grille with two chrome louvers, AMG LED daytime running lights and aluminum roof rails.


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