Dana Point Concours Hosts Some Beauties

Last weekend the wealthy, the wannabes and the just plain car lovers gathered to gawk at some great classics, motorcycles and almost-classics at the Dana Point Concours d’Élegance in Southern California.

The setting was a golf course at the foot of the fancy St. Regis Hotel (blurbed as the only Five-Star and Five-Diamond resort in California). Certainly not all the attendees could afford these digs, but they did see some fine cars, ranging from old, old classics to vintage Corvettes and T’birds. Some people even bought a few.

The event is not really up to Pebble Beach standards, but it has been around for 28 years in one form or another, and this year’s event included “nearly 200 judged entries and perhaps an equal number of display vehicles,” an auction of over 100 cars and a bunch of awards.

We’ll show you some of the ones that caught our eye.

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Cars Coming Soon: Laser-Powered Mazda, Another New Lamborghini, No Jeep Pickup… Yet

Mazda Kabura concept

Put the words “laser-powered” in front of anything and, odds are, I’ll be sold on it.

For some reason I’m reminded of a great Steve Martin quote,

I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too.

Imagine a laser-powered turtleneck sweater. Infinitely more cool, right?

The same is true for cars. Would you want one powered by a measly spark, or a laser beam?

I’ve been tracking the progress of laser ignition for over two years (here and here), and now, finally, we might have our first real candidate: the next Mazda rotary engine.

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Saab Dodges Another Bullet

Victor Muller and employees in Trollhattan

Victor Muller apologizes to unpaid employees in Trollhattan

Victor Muller, the Saab CEO (formerly head of Spyker), must be one persistent guy. In the face of the company’s imminent demise, with workers going unpaid and his board bailing out, he gets a $26.5 million order for 582 cars from an undisclosed Chinese firm.

And on Tuesday, he concluded a $39 million lease-back deal on Saab factory and office properties with a consortium of Swedish investors. European regulators need to approve, but that should happen soon.

Muller is blessed or cursed, depending on how you look at Saab’s future, but whatever else, he is tenacious. So, before you write off the company as dead, look at his other prospects.

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Direct Injection Could Be Maintenance Nightmare

2011 Cadillac STS

Cars with direct injection: Trouble waiting to happen?

Writers across the automotive blogosphere are guilty of using the words “direct injected” as an adjective meant to give some punch to the description of a new engine. I am no exception:

Buick will offer a no-extra-cost 3.6-liter direct-injected V6…

But what does “direct injected” really mean? Many readers of this blog are enthusiasts and know exactly what the term describes, but for others, it’s just more techie jargon that sounds cool in front of the term “V6.”

I’ll briefly describe what it means, but more importantly, ask if direct injection is the savior some automakers believe. Some evidence is beginning to crop up that could translate to future maintenance disasters.

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How Patriotic Is Your Metro Area?

U.S. flag on car

When CarGurus started thinking about this year’s July 4th, we decided to take a look at which major U.S. metro areas are most patriotic in terms of car shopping. We looked at the cars our DealFinder shoppers have inquired about in 50 major metro areas, and we found that shoppers in some areas have a strong preference for American brand cars, while those in other areas actually prefer foreign cars.

We were not at all surprised to find that shoppers in the Detroit metro area had the strongest preference of all the areas we studied for American brand cars. St. Louis fell very closely behind, with Cleveland, Milwaukee and Tulsa completing our top five most patriotic car buying metro areas. The Midwest generally had the strongest interest in American cars.

California, meanwhile, took the bottom four slots in our list, meaning shoppers in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose metro areas had the lowest interest in American brand cars. New York, Boston, Seattle and Miami also placed in our bottom 10, suggesting that car shoppers in metro areas on both coasts had the least interest in American brand cars.

Where did your metro area place in our ranking? You can see our complete list and read the whole study here.

Does patriotism come into play when you’re shopping for a car, or do you try to focus on practical or financial issues? Or maybe other considerations?


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Green Update: Why the Prius Is Still Dominant

2015 Toyota Prius

Design study for the 2015 Prius

In a word, the Prius’s reputation is what still enables it to command top price (MSRP and over) in new and used markets. We all know it’s a good, if boring, car that does what it promises, holds its value and convinces owners they are being green.

Some celebs bought them initially, and that attraction may have rubbed off on others. Another factor is price. When the Prius plug-in arrives, it will beat the Volt’s price (and perhaps equal its performance) for $10,000 less. Average transaction price for a new Prius is $26,000, and the used-car market is soaring.

The New York Times reports that:

A 2008 Prius, with a Blue Book value of $13,600 a year ago, can command $18,250 today. A three-year-old Prius is worth 77 percent of its sticker price today, versus 48 percent a year ago, according to Kelley Blue Book.

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The Half-Price Used Car: Possible?

We all hear stories of the deals other people get when car buying. People brag about picking up a car for “under invoice” or knocking $2K off the purchase price during fierce negotiations.

Good deals, to be sure, but what about the mother of all car deals? The kind of sale typically reserved for grocery stores, discount electronic retailers and day-after-Thanksgiving sales… the holy grail of discounts: 50 percent off.

Is it possible to get a car for half off? Would a dealer even consider such an offer?

Absolutely. Sometimes. Maybe.

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Ford’s Quality Hit: Too Much Distracting Tech

2011 Ford Edge SEL MyTouch screen

It had to happen. Consumers, disgusted or confused by Ford’s proliferation of its Sync and MyTouch systems, complained in sufficient numbers that Ford’s quality rating, as measured by the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, fell from 5th place last year to 23rd this year.

Problems with these hands-free systems have accelerated by nearly 240 percent.

The Power study is an industry benchmark in determining car quality as perceived by consumers during the first 90 days of ownership. Lexus came out on top this year.

Now, I have never driven one of these Ford tech-mobiles, but the combination of touch-sensitive buttons; knobs that twist, pull and push; touch-screen choices in small and changing multiple fonts; steering-wheel-mounted controls; swipes and pushes with the finger; and voice commands that don’t work—how could all this crap not distract one from driving? And sometimes the system balks.

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Racing: It’s for ALL the Idiots!

A new generation of speed freak!

I drove for the first time when I was about 9 years old.

That’s also when I crashed for the first time, slamming hard into a big blue dumpster after the brakes on my homemade go-kart failed.

Those early days behind the wheel of a go-kart I made with my dad are what sparked my love for cars and my desire for speed (not to mention a hearty appreciation for good brakes). Today, like most responsible adults, my driving is limited to shuttling the kids to school and piano lessons with the inevitable stop at Costco.

Not exactly the stuff of blood-pumping exhilaration, which is why I’m so thankful for two things: the thrill of the track and my son’s go-kart.

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Hot Rods Are Cool, Still and Forever

1935 Ford Custom

In the car world the really creative hot-rod nuts who toil in crummy backyard garages or expensive custom workshops are the ones the car media ought to celebrate. But mostly, they don’t get no respect.

Hemmings compared the gorgeous Chip Foose creation above, a 1935 Ford Custom Coupe, to cars of the past created by custom coachbuilders. Or, as one commenter (Rick Block) put it:

Nowadays, folks like Chip Foose create a completely different chassis and mate an engine unrelated to the chassis. I think it would be more fitting to say Foose etal would be called constructors, much like the english and/or american sports car companies such as Shelby, Caterham and Lotus [sic].

Hot rods are really a combination of both approaches, and we’ll show you a few we like. The U.S. Senate, which can’t do anything much else these days, has designated July 8 as “National Collector Car Appreciation Day.” Collectors and restorers of old cars deserve to be celebrated.

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