GM’s Willow Run Plant Closes: The End of Many Eras

When built in 1941, Willow Run was the biggest factory in the world, and maybe still is: 1.25 miles long, covering some 5 million square feet. It was here that Ford built the B-24 Liberator bomber in such quantities that one every 55 minutes came off the line.

That plane was instrumental in winning World War II, as Willow Run taught the world how to mass-produce complex machines with tremendous speed and accuracy. There’s a great video here of the process and the glory days, when some 42,000 people worked there.

The development of Willow Run played several roles in the history of the automobile as well. The foundations of lean production were created there, and after the war Toyota studied American methods, including those at Willow Run, and created a system that changed automaking forever.

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Airing of the Grievances: Automotive Edition

Yes, it’s Christmas Eve, but many folks in these parts choose to celebrate Festivus too (or instead).

In 1997, “Seinfeld” introduced the concept of Festivus to a public looking for a less-commercial way to celebrate the holidays; a “Festivus for the rest of us.”

The Festivus celebration begins with an “Airing of the Grievances,” so let’s gather around the aluminium pole and air the auto-related grievances that offend you most. The Fesitvus feast and Feats of Strength will have to wait for another day…

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Are Demos for Dummies?

Some of the more enticing offers that car dealers make are on their “demos”—demonstrator cars driven by management or salespeople and sold as “new” cars at a discount. They are also generally used for test drives by customers and sometimes as loaners.

The pitch, of course, is that you are getting a new car with only a few careful miles on it. A car is considered new if it has never been officially registered with the state, but in fact demos are used cars in all but their legal status. This fact creates problems for buyers.

Demo cars often get hard use, and their history is hard to determine. Check them out carefully, as you would any used car. Get maintenance records. Dealers often don’t figure depreciation into their asking price. Negotiate! The mileage on the car is usually subtracted from the factory warranty. If the car has been titled and registered by the dealer (as most last-year’s models are), then current rebates and incentives don’t apply.

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Cars Coming Soon->A “Very Different” Ferrari and Hyundai Veloster’s Big Reveal

Luca di Montezemolo

When a car company promises something “very different,” it’s hard not to expect something amazing and exciting. Usually, though, we end up with something like the Acura ZDX. Different, for sure, but certainly nothing with mass appeal. Or even good looking. (But good news, Acura fans, a nose job could be on the way!)

When Ferrari promises something very different, well, consider my attention piqued. Autoblog found a French sports magazine where Ferrari chief Luca di Montezemolo declared:

You will discover at the Geneva Motor Show a very different new Ferrari that proves that we adapt as the world changes.

There are two possibilities here:

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Car Wanted: Maserati GranTurismo Convertible

Maserati Gran Turismo convertible

Well, you can’t have the GranTurismo Convertible, because it’s now sold out in the U.S. Maserati disposed of 558 of these babies at fire-sale prices in the ten months since its introduction in March, so if you want one now, you’ve got to go on a waiting list.

Altogether, the company has sold 1,717 vehicles in the past year, and sales are up 48 percent in the U.S. By comparison, through November, Bentley sold 1,233, Lamborghini 264, and Ferrari 1,396.

For a luxo sports car like this—a Ferrari-junior four-passenger cabrio with all kinds of options—the starting price of $135,800 is really a great bargain. The car’s engine, a 4.7-liter V8, was co-developed with Ferrari and produces 433 hp, fed through a six-speed ZF automatic. It can do the quarter-mile in 13.2 seconds or 0-60 mph in 5.15, per the website.

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Big Engines + Small Cars = Insane Fun

Mercedes-Benz B55

Imagine the Nissan GT-R‘s engine in a Versa. A Lexus LFA‘s powerplant stuffed into a Yaris. An Acura NSX mill crammed into a Fit.

Crazy stuff, right? In most circumstances, the simple logistics of fitting big, powerful engines into tiny spaces doesn’t allow such insanity to manifest. Combining wild horsepower with conservative econo-cars is like stuffing a massive government takeover into the Republican agenda. It’s just not gonna happen.

Well, unless you’re a trainee at Mercedes-Benz. Then, by all means, take that big-engine small-car combo and see what kind of craziness you can wring out.

Apparently a foreman in the technical-vocation-training department at Mercedes-Benz had an idea: Assign a handful of trainees the task of squeezing a 5.5-liter, 385-hp V8 from the E550 into the conservative, mild B-Class. Crazy? Impossible? Not so much! In fact, the result may be the coolest little pocket rocket ever made.

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Green Update–>Why Ethanol Subsidies Are Egregious and Absurd

Cellulosic Ethanol Plant in Florida

Everybody seems to hate them, but Congress just passed another round of ethanol subsidies last Friday as part of its elephantine $858-billion tax relief bill. The ethanol boondoggle has cost U.S. taxpayers over $21 billion since 2006 ($6 billion this year).

The subsidy funnels 45 cents in tax credits for every gallon of ethanol that’s blended with gasoline. And it sets a 54-cent per gallon tariff on imported ethanol to keep competition out, while you pay more at the pump. Brazil, which sensibly produces ethanol from sugarcane, not corn, is challenging the U.S. at the World Trade Organization.

Making ethanol from corn is the worst idea ever. With about 40 percent of corn production now devoted to ethanol, it’s no mystery why food prices are ballooning. Industry apologists, however, maintain the high cost of food is owing to speculators, greed and high oil prices. Mm-hmm.

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2012 Ford C-Max or 1984 Plymouth Voyager?

2012 Ford C-Max

I admit, an old vs. new minivan showdown may not have the same sex appeal as yesterday afternoon’s eye-bending bikini girl photo and lesbian car ad video. (There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.)

Ford is attempting to reinvent the minivan segment, though, which to some of us van shoppers is equally hot, just in a transporting-the-family kind of way. Ford’s entry into this market is curiously similar to the vehicle that started it all: the Plymouth Voyager.

Considering the length of the 2011 Honda Odyssey “minivan” comes within 4 inches of the 1990 Ford Econoline, its safe to say that minvans are no longer mini. With the new Ford C-Max, Ford hopes that, like bikinis, smaller is better.

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Sex Sells Cars (Duh!): Renault’s Twingo Ad

2010 SEMA Show Bikini Models

2010 SEMA Girl Embellishes a Ferrari

The combination of sexy girls and sexy cars has been turning on guys for many a year. Now, Renault has taken a new tack, trying to attract the ladies to its Twingo city car with a clever but, for some, racy ad. Two media outlets in Italy have banned it.

In the ad, two cuties make eyes at each other and head for the bedroom. Suddenly, just as things start to get interesting, one grabs her pink top and heads out for her pink Twingo. See what happens after the break.

One of the media outlets banning the ad is Mediaset, owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The PM, you may recall, has been involved in many a sex scandal through the years. Last month, during the political furor one such scandal caused, he remarked, “Better to have a passion for beautiful women than to be gay.”

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BMW Brings Advertising Inside Our Eyelids

No one can force you to watch an advertisement. As long as ads have been around, so has the option of changing the channel, turning off the TV or skipping through them with the DVR.

When advertising crept into movie theaters, that all began to change, as captive audiences sat in front of massive screens with no way to turn the ads off.

BMW has taken that a step further, figuring out a way to burn an image of its logo inside the eyelids of moviegoers. Cool or scary? Read on and decide for yourself!

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