Want to Go Green? Drive With Gas!

2013_nissan_leaf

As I become more of a proponent of electric vehicles, I forget that I was once firmly against them.

It took me a long time to hop on the EV bandwagon, because I wasn’t convinced the problems of limited range, questionable cold-weather reliability and the lack of charging infrastructure could be overcome.

As the years passed I’ve become more convinced that electric cars have a place. They certainly aren’t replacements for the family road-trip vehicle, but they are perfectly suitable vehicles for commuting back and forth to work.

My biggest problem with electric cars, though, remains unaddressed.

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Slingshot Blurs Line Between Sports Car and Motorcycle

Polaris Slingshot

Described as a sports car, it sounds wildly unsafe.

There’s not a real windshield, no doors, no roof, no airbags, and it rides just 5 inches off the ground. It weighs under 2,000 pounds, has a weight distribution of 66/34 percent front/rear and is powered by a 2.4-liter GM engine with a 5-speed transmission sending power to the rear wheels.

Or shall I say wheel.

The Polaris Slingshot isn’t a car we’d normally cover on this blog, because it isn’t a car at all. The Slingshot is a three-wheeled motorcycle, but it’s the most car-like motorcycle ever made.

Which isn’t a good thing.

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World’s Weirdest, and Coolest, Vehicle Conversion?

stretchla

So you think you know someone. You can be married to a woman and share life’s most intimate moments, and then, one random Sunday morning, she can say this:

“You should look up my friend Otmar and his zip-together Volkswagen bus.”

Ummm…. what?

I replied, “Who is this friend you speak of and why have I never heard about said zip-together bus?”

She said he’s a long-time family friend and that she has physically laid eyes on this bus. I promptly asked Google for more information and found what I believe to be the weirdest, and possibly coolest, conversion project I’ve ever heard of: The Stretchla.

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What Car Would You Lease for $199 Per Month?

1997 Honda CR-V

My brother didn’t get a new car for Christmas. He didn’t ask for one, but it would have been pretty cool if someone had given him a car yesterday with a big red bow on top.

Since it didn’t happen, it’s probably time he makes the investment on his own. My brother is newly employed as a teacher, so he can’t afford to finance a new $30,000-plus vehicle. What he can afford is a cheap lease, which he took the opportunity to ask me about at our family gathering yesterday.

My brother’s current car is a 1997 Honda CR-V that has provided almost 240,000 miles of service. It was a fine car for a college student, but it’s not a fine car for a newly employed teacher.

So here’s the challenge: What new car can be leased on a budget of around $199 per month?

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Merry Christmas! Here’s Your Brand New Alpha Romeo 4C!

alfa_romeo_4C_spider_side

Today is a special day indeed. It’s a day when we can take a break from work and spend time with family and friends while showering them with love in the only acceptable way: with gifts that have drained our bank accounts and maxed out our credit cards.

If you happen to have some room left on credit or some cash to spend on a late gift, allow me to suggest the new Alfa Romeo 4C Spider.

This is the car that hails the re-entry of Alfa into the U.S. market. Until now, the Spider version of the 4C has been mostly disguised, but it’s been caught in the raw during filming of a new TV commercial.

Keep reading to see more of the latest Italian sports car that Santa’s elves need to start building right away.

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When’s the Last Time a Rear-view Mirror Made the News?

Cadillac Camera

The first backup camera ever invented was made of glass and adhered to the front windshield. It was called a rear-view mirror. I looked toward Wikipedia for more history on the veritable safety device, because there just isn’t much chatter about them these days. Here’s what I found:

The earliest known rear-view mirror mounted on a motor vehicle appeared in Ray Harroun’s Marmon racecar at the inaugural Indianapolis 500 race in 1911. Although Harroun’s is the first known use of such a mirror on a motor vehicle, Harroun himself claimed he got the idea from seeing a mirror used for a similar purpose on a horse-drawn vehicle in 1904. Harroun also claimed that the mirror vibrated constantly due to the rough brick surface, rendering it largely useless.

Elmer Berger is usually credited with inventing the rear-view mirror, though in fact he was the first to patent it (1921) and develop it for incorporation into production streetgoing automobiles by his Berger and Company.

So there you have it. The rear-view mirror hasn’t made the news since about 1921.

Leave it Cadillac to make the rear-view cool again.

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The Blood of BMW Flows Through Hyundai’s Veins

Hyundai performance

Here’s some pretty huge news coming out of South Korea:

Hyundai has wooed a longtime BMW engineer to head up a new performance division.

This isn’t just any BMW engineer, either. It’s not like Hyundai was content hiring away some guy who stepped on board with BMW last year and is making his way up the career ladder by heading over to Hyundai. Nope. This is Albert Biermann, former vice president of engineering at BMW’s M Division. Biermann has been at BMW since 1983. This is the guy who helped bring us every generation of M car including the latest M3, M4, M5 and M6.

And in April, he’ll work at Hyundai.

Did I mention this was huge?

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Battle of the Microcar: Elio Versus Tango

Elio

Gas prices continue to fall, and guys like me, who lumber through town in big SUVs that swallow fuel as quickly as we suck down carmel macchiatos, are smiling, because fill-ups have gone from almost $90 to just over $50.

Saving money at the pump makes us happy, and we spend the saved money on extra macchiatos.

Yes, even macho SUV-driving guys drink macchiatos. We may not like to admit it, but we’re also interested in microcars. Why? Because sometimes we just don’t need the capability and room that giant utes offer. Sometimes we just want to drive to work quickly and cheaply.

A few microcars are hitting the market to fill that need. Two of them in particular are addressing the need for tiny driving in drastically different ways.

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60,000 Classic American Cars, and Three Good Ones

Cuban cars

The cars of Cuba are somewhat legendary in the United States, because the vehicles that roamed the roads there in the 1950s are the same ones being driven today. Since we’re not allowed to go there, very few of us have seen them in person, yet we know they exist.

Does that mean American collectors should start salivating over the prospect of virtually untouched classics if Cuba and the U.S. become friends again?

Probably not. The 1959 Cuban revolution essentially put an end to imports of American cars, so Cubans have had to make do for the last 55 years with what they had, or buy Soviet-era imports. That means no new parts, no new cars and lots of Chevrolets and Buicks running with Soviet-made engines.

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Let’s End the Epidemic of Valet Joyrides

2015 Chevrolet Corvette

I feel bad for valet drivers who have to sit behind the wheel of my car. Sure, it’s a nice Audi Q7, but a guest driver will find him or herself surrounded by scattered piles of unread mail, empty coconut-water cartons and various bits of food left over by two ravenous little girls who become a spinning mass of Tasmanian devils once strapped into their car seats.

My car isn’t a place where someone would want to spend a lot of time, and I assume valet drivers try to find the closest parking spot and exit as quickly as possible, hoping the next customer will own something a little more fun.

This week there’s a great example of a valet enjoying a new car in a completely inappropriate way.

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