May 112013
 

Automotive companies have made waves in recent years with retro inspired styling.  All of the major American brands introduced one or multiple models that paid homage to styling from the 60s and 70s.  These cars give buyers from older generations a gateway into their pasts with modern versions of models from a simpler time, while also giving younger buyers a taste of the fast muscle car era.

What is interesting about the retro styling movement is that it’s limited to automobiles only.  Clearly there is an emotional attachment to our cars and the isolated nature of the automotive retro movement is proof of that.  The retro movement didn’t show up in any other form of consumer transportation, from motorcycles, to boats, and so on.  In fact, this retro styling movement did not show up in any other form of, well…anything.  Think about recent releases of other products in other industries.  From homes, to home appliances, to all forms of computers and electronics, to furniture, and so on, we didn’t see any real “throwback” trend.  The goods we were buying continued to get sleeker and more modern looking and feeling.

Now coming back to cars, I know some may say that perhaps the Chrysler PT Cruiser started the modern automotive retro styling movement.  I think they would be right.  After all, it was introduced in 2001.  But really, who cares about that awful throwback hearse anyway?!  That’s why this discussion is centered on the faster, flashier cars that better defined the retro styling movement.  This brings me to what is arguably the peak of this movement, and one of my favorites, the introduction of the 2005 Ford Mustang.

2005 Ford Mustang

Courtesy of Serious Wheels

This generation Ford Mustang ushered in an era of precise retro styling working in perfect harmony with current day technology.  It is really an automotive engineering marvel.  It closely replicated the styling of the late-1960s Mustang while adding a few aerodynamic cues, better fuel economy and better reliability.  This allowed the car to have mass appeal across generations of buyers and fans.  Men and women alike fell in love with this release of the Mustang.

That same year Chrysler released the 300 and the following year the Dodge brand released the Charger.  This was good for them because it helped boost sales within these brands, but was actually a little irrelevant considering the competition wasn’t promoting a retro styling movement in the full size sedan segment.  Think about it, did you see Cadillac taillight fins make a comeback?

It took until 2008 for another automaker to answer the call of the retro styled Mustang.  Dodge answered with the release of the Challenger, followed by GM finally reintroducing a retro styled Camaro in 2010.  All of these cars followed a similar retro styling philosophy to Ford with the Mustang.  Only issue here is that the Challenger and Camaro were three and five years too late, respectively.

Fast forward to the end of 2009 and we see that the Mustang was refreshed as a 2010 model, showing some curve while attempting to preserve the essence of the retro styling.  It is retro with a Euro-Japanese twist.  Clearly Ford starting transitioning out of the retro styling movement almost as quickly as it went in.

2015 Ford Mustang conceptualized

2015 Ford Mustang conceptualized, courtesy of Edmunds’ What’s Hot

The 2015 Ford Mustang has been conceptualized, and the departure from the retro styled late-1960s throwback is becoming even more evident.  Ford designers are taking the Mustang in a different direction, sleeker while keeping a strong presence.  It looks ready to go up against anything Europe has to throw at it, but the real question is whether the average buyer will be into it.  Regardless, if the Mustang defined the peak of the retro styling movement, then here in this case it is also marking the end.

This entry was first posted here on April 12, 2013.

Oct 192012
 

When I think retro styling, the 2005 Ford Mustang immediately comes to mind. It kicked off a new generation of coupes and sedans from the Chevrolet Camaro to the Dodge Charger. But if we really look back at the retro movement, another auto maker is responsible for really getting it started. This week’s Car of the Week pays tribute to that auto maker that comes from and is inspired by what’s going on across the pond. I give you this week’s Car of the Week:

2002 Mini Cooper

Why?

Retro Euro styling + BMW backing = Huge Success!! OK, enough with my math geek-ery, let’s talk about the car already. When the Mini Cooper was introduced, it was the hottest car going. And why not? It was retro sexy AND you could get it for under $17,000. Even 10 years later it still starts at under $20,000. Back then it turned so many heads that chiropractor billing was notably up in 2002! (OK, not really) If the price tag wasn’t enough, the base model got gas mileage in the upper 30′s. That may have not been as big a deal in 2002, but I’ll tell you I’m thinking about it these days with gas back at $4.00/gal. A pre-owned Mini Cooper is looking like a fun stylish daily driver for 2012.

About the Car

The 2002 Mini Cooper was available in one body style, the now iconic hatchback. Two engine configurations were available, a naturally aspirated 4-cylinder and a supercharged version that added approximately 50 hp. Three transmission configuration options were available, a 5-speed manual or a CVT automatic on the base model or a 6-speed manual on the supercharged model.

Whether you were looking for awesome fresh retro styling, utility or just some fun out-of-the-box, the Mini Cooper was, and continues to be an attractive (and affordable) option. I’m thinking about adding one to my “collection”. What about you?

Other Resources

Wikipedia: the original Mini (to be taken with a grain of salt, of course)
Wikipedia: Mini under BMW (to be taken with a grain of salt, of course)
Motoring Alliance: the friendly Mini Community 
Road & Track road test of the 2002 Mini Cooper
Motor Trend road test of the 2002 Mini Cooper

Chuck can be followed on Twitter @ChuckWhatTheF where he tweets about cars and other things “dudebros” are talking about.

Some photos in this article are freely sourced from Google. If you take issue with the usage of any image, please contact us and we will remove it.

Aug 172012
 

Some cars are lauded for their ability to produce raw power, while others are lauded for exceptional fuel economy or styling. I am taking a slightly different approach for praising this week’s Car of the Week by taking a look at specific output, which is a calculation of an engine’s power generation efficiency. I, along with others, calculate and compare this by looking at the horsepower to displacement ratio (in terms of HP/L). This week’s Car of the Week is not the absolute best in specific output, but it is best I found in the “under $100,000″ category. With this being said, we give you this week’s Car of the Week:

2000 Honda S2000

Why?

Well I guess I already started this discussion, so let’s jump into some details. The first generation Honda S2000 sported a “small” 2.0-liter engine —  so small you would think it is out of a Honda Civic. However, this engine surprised us with plenty of horsepower and a redline around 9000 rpm. If you have the room to rev, this engine delivers: its power peaked at 240 hp, giving it a specific output of 120 HP/L.

Now, we have to look at some other power packed cars to get a flavor for just how efficient this engine really is. I looked at every manufacturer selling cars in the USA, from A to V. What I found surprised me a bit. Some of the fastest, most powerful cars were also the most inefficient. Take a look at this list. I only found one car that beats the Honda S2000 in terms of specific output. (All specific output calculations given as HP/L)

  • 2010 Dodge Viper SRT-10 — 71
  • 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe — 90
  • 2005 Acura NSX 6-speed — 91
  • 2011 Ferrari 612 Scaglietti — 93
  • 2010 Bentley Continental GT Speed — 100
  • 2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 — 103
  • 2012 Mazda Mazdaspeed 3 — 114
  • 2011 Porsche 911 GT3 — 114
  • 2000 Honda S2000 — 120
  • 2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS — 172

Let’s talk about this list for a minute. I’ve put some pretty super cars on this list just to show how exceptional the Honda S2000 is, not only in its time but also when compared against today’s models. The S2000 was way ahead of its time in terms of specific output. Only the Porsche 911 GT2 model line (introduced in 2002) does better. Most surprising to me is just how inefficient the Dodge Viper is in generating its power. Now, of course if you’re simply looking for raw power and the ability to burn up some tires, the Viper does the job just fine.

The S2000, though, is in a class by itself.

About the Car

The 2000 Honda S2000 was offered in only one trim level with the one engine and transmission choice. The car was equipped with a 2.0 L I4 generating 240 hp @ 8300 rpm, which was mated to a 6-speed manual in a rear wheel drive configuration. That’s right, Honda actually made a second production RWD vehicle. All of it put together made for perfect 50/50 weight distribution.

The S2000 was Honda’s successful launch into the two seater roadster market, going against the likes of the BMW Z3 (69 HP/L), Mazda MX-5 Miata (78 HP/L), Porsche Boxster S (78 HP/L) and Mercedes-Benz SLK 280 (80 HP/L) being offered same year. With the S2000 falling right in the middle of the price range, it gave buyers a lot to think about in terms of what they were getting for their money. If only it was marketed using this argument…

I found only one model line that beats the S2000 in the specific output category. It took a turbocharger to achieve that feat. Now I challenge you…can you find another model line that matches up to the efficiency of the S2000?

Other Resources

Wikipedia: Honda S2000 (To be taken with a grain of salt, of course)
S2000 Owners Club of America
S2KI Owners Community
Edmunds.com road test of the 2000 Honda S2000 

Chuck can be followed on Twitter @ChuckWhatTheF where he tweets about cars and other things “dudebros” are talking about.

Some photos in this article are freely sourced from Google. If you take issue with the usage of any image, please contact us and we will remove it.

 

Apr 202012
 

If you have been paying attention, you will notice that this is the first COTW that isn’t a carryover from my old site. For the past several weeks I have been allowing the older cars to run in review while I worked on other areas and got the new, official site up and running. Now, though, we can get back down to business. For my triumphant return to COTW I wanted to pick something that would be interesting to a large number of people; something that is both powerful and economical; something that in some way represents the future. Why, then, did I pick a truck? Read on.

This weeks (brand new!) car of the week:

2012 Ford F-150 EcoBoost

Why?

My Uncle recently bought one of these and several aspects piqued my curiosity. First, he is a boat owner and uses his truck to tow his baby to and from the arena. His past several trucks have been Dodge Rams, but Dodge’s recent aversion to leasing drove him to the Ford brand. Despite the fact that this F-150 is a V6, the torque numbers and tow ratings are pretty impressive. According to Ford, the EcoBoost engine makes 420 lb-ft. of torque at a startling 2500 rpm. Not bad for only 3.5 liters.

In spite of its power, though, the truck is capable of fuel mileage as high as the low 20s on the highway and unlike the big V8 trucks, that mileage doesn’t drop off a cliff when you attach a load to the back. Ford’s boost management keeps the fuel consumption linear and manageable.

Finally, I just think it’s cool that there is a twin-turbo V6 in a truck. That may be sacrilege to some, but turbos have always provided a remarkably efficient way to make more power. It was only a matter of time before they became a true displacement alternative in the highly competitive gas-powered truck market.

About the Car

Ford debuted the EcoBoost concept in 2007, but it did not see production until the 2010 model year. That year it was used in the Ford Flex, several Lincoln models and, most notably, the Ford Taurus SHO. Ford used this last platform to tout its ability to make a high-performance sport sedan without using a large-displacement engine and without sacrificing fuel consumption. Models available with EcoBoost engines continue to increase each model year.

EcoBoost engines use a direct injection system that deposites fuel directly in to the combustion chamber. This enables very close control of the amount of fuel and the timing of injection. In combination with the additional air provided by the turbo system, this results in an extremely efficient mixture.

Although the V6 engine is the centerpiece of the program, Ford also builds several other EcoBoost engines, including a 1.3 liter 3-cylinder, a 1.6 liter 4-cylinder and a 2.0 liter 4-cylinder, available in various applications around the world. As manufacturers are forced to use turbochargers in order to make horsepower while meeting stringent fuel consumption guidelines, EcoBoost will take a more prominent role in Ford’s entire model line. Should be interesting to watch.

Other Resources

Ford F-150 home page
Wikipedia: Ford EcoBoost (to be taken with a grain of salt, of course)
Wikipedia: Ford F-series (to be taken with a grain of salt, of course)
Automobile Magazine F150 EcoBoost review

Some photos in this article were freely sourced from Google. If you take issue with usage of any image, please contact me and I will remove it.