Top Vehicles with Retro Styling – Part 1

Are we in love with the car, or our memories?

What is it about cars and nostalgia? Why do so many of our most vivid or cherished memories include a vehicle playing a starring or supporting role?

For me, those important vehicles and memories include a 1974 Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon, 1978 Mercury Zephyr, and my all-time favorite – a four door, five-speed, sunroof-equipped 1985 BMW 318i.

The work I did on all those vehicles is part of the memories each holds. The Zephyr in particular was my guinea pig. I remember replacing the starter, dashboard, back seat, radio, radiator, and a number of other parts through the years, all of which helped me build my mechanical knowledge and confidence.

A number of modern vehicles can trigger a drive down memory lane simply because they look like their iconic predecessors. Here are five on my list of contemporary vehicles with retro styling – in no particular order. What have I left off the list? What’s your favorite, and more importantly, why? I’ll explore five more in an upcoming installment.

2015 Ford Mustang

Ford Mustang

The 2015 Mustang comes with the model’s first ever EcoBoost® engine – a 2.3-liter power plant delivering 310 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. For the really performance-minded driver, the GT model features a 5.0 liter V-8 churning out 435 HP and 400 pound-feet of torque. This iconic sports car’s first model in 1964 pales in comparison when it comes to power as its 170 cubic-inch engine only cranked out 156 pound-feet of torque. And, it’s angular retro looks are nothing to sneeze at.

2005 Ford ThunderbirdFord Thunderbird

Ford’s more than four million Thunderbirds went through many different looks through the years. The 1955 debut saw classic lines and a hard-top or convertible version while the sixth generation from 1972 to 1976 model years were boxy and big, making this version the largest Thunderbird Ford had ever produced. The eleventh generation, from 2002 to 2005, would be its last and saw a return to a more classic look, similar to the earliest model years.

2006 Dodge ChargerDodge Charger

Seven generations of Chargers brought us from those first intimidating, wide-nose models of the ‘60s and ‘70s, through the embarrassingly compact fifth generation in the 80s, full circle to the sixth and seventh generations, available from ’06 through today. That evolution saw a return to looks that are more in line with those first Chargers, from the taillights to the hood and side panels.

2010 Chevy CamaroChevy Camaro

Debuting with the 1967 model as a competitor to Ford’s Mustang, four generations of Camaros prowled the streets until production ended in 2002, only to see the model revived for the 2010 model year with generation five. With today’s MSRP of $75,000, 505 HP, and a seven-liter V8, the 2015 Camaro Z-28 bears some resemblance to those first Camaros in looks only.

2015 VW BeetleVW Bug

The Beetle or “People’s Car” translated from the German “Volkswagen,” was officially called the “Type 1” when production began in 1938. Today, Volkswagen refers to its latest Bug model as, “a sleek twist on an iconic shape.” Out of all the retro-styled vehicles, the Beetle might bear the closest resemblance to its first ancestor.

A few of the cars on the list went through some “changes” or “growing pains” that left them looking nothing like their much-loved predecessors for several years before they came back around to today’s popular styles. The Ford Mustang is a case in point.

Those 80’s and 90’s-era Mustangs, for me at least, don’t conjure up memories of the tough-looking Mustangs I remember from the 60’s and 70’s. They were Mustangs in name only, unlike today’s Mustangs that look mean, powerful and menacing, just like their brothers from those first two decades of Mustang production.

Retro styling’s popularity could also be attributed to the timeless nature of certain style elements. Much the way some antiques, whether furniture or paintings, retain their value and popularity because of their classic style elements, perhaps the same can be said for certain classic vehicle lines and characteristics?

Or, maybe nostalgia and elements that never go out of style don’t have anything to do with retro styling’s popularity today. For some drivers, it could be that the vehicle’s good looks and solid reputation, built over several decades, leads them to equate today’s models with their popular classic ancestors. The Chevy Camaro has always conjured up the image of a street-savvy, aggressive performer, never straying too far from its original looks, even with the latest model.

Whatever the reason for our love affairs with cars, history and retro styling, two things are for sure – what’s old will someday be new again, and no one’s clamoring for a 2016 reintroduction of Mercury’s Zephyr, including me.

Editor’s note: Whether you’re restoring an original classic or working on vehicle based on a classic, Advance Auto Parts has the parts and tools you need. Buy online, pick up in store—in 30 minutes.

Top 7 car spoilers … epic downforce!

Toy Car SpoilersOne of the most polarizing automotive design choices any automotive designer can make is the inclusion of a rear wing.

Rear wings, or spoilers, are often added to race cars to spoil the flow of air across the vehicle and thus eliminate unwanted turbulence that could cause the vehicle to lose traction, become airborne or otherwise behave erratically on the track.

So if spoiler tech is designed for race cars, why have so many street machines become factory-equipped with huge rear wings?

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and, in this case, the old adage is true. Many factory-issued car spoilers are designed to make street-legal versions of race cars look more like race cars. And this usually sends brand enthusiasts to dealer showrooms by the thousands.

Here are a few of our favorite spoilers from years past … and if you read all the way to the end you’ll see that not all of our favorite car spoilers are affixed to the rear decklid like you might expect.

Dodge Charger Daytona

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.

You thought we were going to say Superbird, didn’t you? Well, truth is, the Daytona pre-dated the infamous Superbird by one year. The outrageously huge rear wing was added to keep the car glued to the high-banked NASCAR tracks it raced on, and for good reason. The Daytona was the first in NASCAR history to break the 200 mph barrier.

In 1970 its famous successor (the Superbird), caused officials to change the rule book. NASCAR told Plymouth they had to either run a smaller engine or add weight as the speed of car far exceeded the tire technology of the day.

Pictured above is one of the Daytonas used in the film Fast and Furious 6.

Subaru WRX STI

Subaru WRX STI

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.

Introduced to the United States market in 2004, the WRX STI from Subaru was a street legal WRC car minus the roll cage. Its 300 hp turbocharged 4 cylinder engine pushed the 3,000 lb. bruiser to 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds. Its giant ironing-board-sized wing was matched only by its stiffest competition, the Mitsubishi EVO.

Like the EVO, the STI lost its wing in subsequent model years. However the wing is back for 2015.

Porsche 930 911 Turbo

Porsche 930 911 Turbo

Porsche engineers needed a way to vent more air into the engine bay of the rear-mounted flat-six. Their solution? One of the most iconic spoilers of all time–the whale tail.

Being German means being precise, at least in the automotive world. The precision spoiler also created downforce that helped keep the notoriously tail-happy 911 pointed in the right direction. This combined with flared arches and wider wheels gave the 930 a distinctive stance, one whose roots can be seen in present day 911s.

Toyota Supra Turbo

Photo credit: BenRichardsFife.

Photo credit: BenRichardsFife.

Pretty much every car in the 90s had a wing, and we loved them all. From the Toyota Supra to the Mitsubishi 3000GT, several cars were available with big suitcase handles attached to their rears.

Whether or not the wing on the Supra is functional or not is up for debate. But like many cars in the 90s, the presence of a spoiler meant one thing–force-fed power under the hood. The addition of a huge wing set often set turbocharged models apart from their normally aspirated siblings. Heck, even the Mitsubishi Eclipse GS-T had a ridiculously oversized wing in the 90s.

Ferrari F40

Ferarri F40

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.

One of the most collectible classics of the modern era is the Ferrari F40–a stunning example of lightness, power and beauty. Most F40s go for well over $1 million these days, so let’s just say that you or I probably won’t ever own one. But, still, they are magnificent. We’re also impressed by how seamlessly the huge, carbon fiber rear wing molds into the rear decklid. The F40 is truly a work of art.

Buonissimo!

Lamborghini Countach (double winner!)

Lamborghini Countach

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.

We’ve saved the best for last. Our favorite car spoiler of all time is actually a pair of spoilers! Yes, not one, but two spoilers were affixed to the nose of the Countach by Lamborghini of North America during the 1980s. The reason? To get around U.S. laws that required all cars imported to North America to have 5 mph crash bumpers installed.

The most famous nose wing of all time has to be the one present on the Cannonball Run Countach, now owned by Jeff Ippoliti of Celebration, Florida.

 

Editor’s note: What’s your favorite car spoiler of all time? Let us know in the comments below! And make sure to hit up Advance Auto Parts for a wide selection of spoilers and car accessories. 

Lead graphic courtesy of ToysRUs.

American Car Culture: Up Close and Personal

Auto Repair pictureStunning new exhibit showcases the candid and personal work of photographer Justine Kurland.

For over three years, photographer Justine Kurland and her son Casper traveled the country documenting the daily happenings and culture of cars, mechanics and auto repair shops, as well as the open roads that guided their journey.

In a recent article on Slate.com, Kurland’s story and some of the unique photographs documenting it are displayed as part of her new exhibition series Sincere Auto Care, which is also showing at the Mitchell-Innes & Nash gallery in New York City.

Engine repair

For car guys, automotive enthusiasts and DIY’ers of all stripes, check out the candid shots that help to sum up the personal and soulful connections that Americans have with their cars.

Read the full story about Sincere Auto Care at Slate.com.

Auto shop

All photo credits: Justine Kurland, courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, NY.

Top Projects To Do While Your Car’s In Winter Storage

Car GarageWhen it’s time to put my pride and joy into winter storage, I can’t help but feel a little pang. You know how it goes — you spend all winter waiting to drive the thing, and then it’s winter again before you know it. But I realized long ago that winter car storage doesn’t have to mean total separation. The car’s right outside in the garage, you know; it’s not like you’ve sent it off to Siberia. In fact, winter’s a great time to catch up on all the little projects you haven’t found the time for yet. Here are a few of my favorites.

1. Paintless Dent Removal

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t do this one myself. I’m not exactly an artistic guy, let’s put it that way. But these paintless dent removal guys really are artists, and they don’t close up shop just because there’s snow on the ground. Since your car’s sitting around all day anyway, why not do an inventory of all the dings and dents on the door and body panels, then have your local dent specialist come by and pop them out? I don’t know about you, but I hate when I bring my car out of storage and notice a nasty little door ding while I’m washing it. If you take action now, a few hundred bucks at the most will buy you peace of mind come spring.

2. Full Hand Wash and Polish

This is definitely a DIY, and for me it’s an annual tradition. When it’s time to store the car, first I hose it down in the driveway to get the surface stuff off, and then I roll up my sleeves and get down to business. All you need is a jug of Turtle Wax Car Wash solution, a nice big sponge and a lot of elbow grease. You’ll want to go over every inch of the sheet metal with that sponge. Try to make it cleaner than it was on the first day of spring. Then wipe all the moisture off with a non-scratching water blade to avert streaks and water spots. For the grand finale, get a hold of an orbital polisher and some high-quality Meguiar’s polish. A whole winter is a long time for a car to sit still; it’s only proper to put it to bed with that like-new shine. Quick tip: Consider a one-step sealant to help prevent rust.

3. Clean and Deodorize Interior

There are countless approaches to cleaning your car’s interior, but when it’s time for winter storage, I focus on two aspects: upholstery and odors. For upholstery, I’ve got leather seats, so I start with Lexol leather cleaning spray, let it dry for an hour, and then finish with plenty of conditioner. If you do that every year, your leather should be good till kingdom come. As for odors, look, even if you’re as careful as I am about keeping food out of the car, things just start smelling musty over time. You can get in front of this problem by treating your interior with Eagle One E1 odor eliminator. I don’t understand how it works — they say the stuff actually changes the chemistry of odor molecules — but it keeps my car smelling fresh all winter long, and that’s all you need to know. Quick tip: Place a few dryer sheets in the cabin, and under the hood. This helps prevent mice from making their way into your car or engine bay and building nests over the winter.

4. Check your cooling system

Check your vehicle’s antifreeze to make sure it protects against even the coldest evenings. To help with this, pick up an antifreeze tester to ensure that your car’s cooling system does not freeze solid.  A cheap antifreeze tester may be the key to a smooth ride next spring. Mine was a lifesaver last year.

5. Fix What Needs Fixing (and maybe some other stuff, too)      

Last but definitely not least, winter is the perfect time to bust out your tool kit and get your hands dirty. Hey, it’s not like you’re going to be busy driving the car, right? Think about all the time you’re saving by not getting behind the wheel — and devote a few of those hours here and there to DIY projects of your choosing.

For instance, I know a lot of folks who put off replacing their spark plugs because the car’s running fine, but why wait for it to start getting rough? Get yourself one of these handy magnetic swivel sockets, if you don’t have one already, and give your engine a new spark for the spring. For those of you who have room to get a floor jack under there and raise your car up, there’s a bunch of sensible preventive maintenance you can do while you’re on your back, including fuel-filter replacement and retorquing all your suspension bolts to factory spec with a quality torque wrench.

A couple other projects worth considering are upholstery repair and chrome upkeep. For the upholstery repair, you’re gonna have to be handier with a sewing machine than I am, but it’s not a terribly difficult job if you’ve got the time. Plan on spending a few days, though, if you have to remove the seat covers for re-stitching — and plan on rejuvenating the foam underneath, too, because if you’ve got rips, you’ve also got cushion compression from years of butts.

As for chrome upkeep, whether you’re talking about wheels, bumpers and tailpipes or headers and such under the hood, you’re gonna want a bottle of Mothers California Gold. Go after any tarnished surfaces with that stuff first. If they don’t get shiny enough for you, I would consider calling in a professional, but you can also get a DIY chrome kit and try to do the job yourself. Be careful, though, because the process involves an acid bath and some pretty freaky chemicals. It’s one you can definitely brag about to the boys if you pull it off.

At the end of the day, you know better than anyone what kind of mechanical TLC your car could use this winter, and now’s the time to do those nagging repairs you’ve been putting off. My suggestion? Make a list of priorities, and check ‘em off one by one until it’s driving season again. Your future self will thank you next year when the car’s performing better than ever. Quick tip: Don’t get stressed out. With the proper prep, you’ll be surpised at how much you can get done before the cold sets in.

Spring’s Around the Corner!

Don’t let the chilly season get you down, my friends. Pass the time with some targeted DIY projects, and before you know it, it’ll be time to hit the road again. Any suggestions for some good projects this winter, by the way? Let us know in the comments.

Crucial Cars: The Chevy Corvette

2015 Corvette Stringray.png

2015 Corvette Stingray. Photo credit: Chevrolet.

From timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.

For this installment, we explore the amazing and iconic Chevy Corvette.

 

Fast, sporty, classic – even iconic. Not many cars can successfully make these claims, and still be within the reach of an average-sized American checkbook. The Chevy Corvette can, though – and, over the past 60-plus years, the sexy ‘vette has allowed many of us to grab our piece of the American dream though adrenaline-fueled car ownership.

As CNN writes, “Even for folks who don’t care about cars, the Corvette matters. It’s historic . . . The sleek silhouette has transformed into a pop culture icon across TV, films and advertising.” And, don’t forget Prince and his 1999 hit, “Little Red Corvette.”

Corvette’s appeal

Here’s the irony: no other car boasts the long-term continuous production as the Corvette. And yet, this classic car wasn’t intended for mass production at all.

In the 1950s, General Motors was the largest corporation in the world, twice as big as the second biggest – Standard Oil of New Jersey – manufacturing more than half of the cars driven in the entire US of A. None of the GM vehicles, though (Buicks, Cadillacs, Chevrolets, GMCs, Oldsmobiles or Pontiacs), were sports cars.

In the fall of 1951, GM’s chief designer, Harley J. Earl, began to brainstorm about an open sports car that would sell for the same price as a typical sedan, which was $2,000. He passed on this dream-car-on-a-budget idea to Robert F. McLean, who caused the notion to become a reality, using standard Chevy parts off the shelf.

According to Edmunds.com, “The chassis and suspension were for all intents and purposes the 1952 Chevy sedan’s, with the drivetrain and passenger compartment shoved rearward to achieve a 53/47 front-to-rear weight distribution over its 102-inch wheelbase. The engine was essentially the same dumpy inline-6 that powered all Chevys but with a higher compression ratio, triple Carter side-draft carbs and a more aggressive cam that hauled its output up to 150 horsepower. Fearful that no Chevy manual three-speed transmission could handle such extreme power (there were no four-speeds in GM’s inventory), a two-speed Powerglide automatic was bolted behind the hoary six.”

GM planned to showcase this vehicle at the Motorama exhibit of the 1953 New York Auto Show but didn’t intend for it to go into production. Then, GM’s chief engineer Ed Cole saw the sweet vehicle and recognized its huge potential – and production preparation began so quickly that it started before the New York show even began. Once the car was displayed to the public, show attendees also loved the car. Six months later, on June 30, 1953, the Corvette rolled down the assembly line in Flint, Michigan.

Urban legend says that Henry Ford offered his cars in any color, just as long as it was black. Well, if you’d wanted to buy one of the 300 Corvettes produced in 1953, you’d have had only one color choice: a white exterior with a red interior.

Production continued to rise to meet the demand. During the 1960s, production increased to about 27,000 cars per year, with multiple engine choices, including performance options.

1957 Chevrolet Corvette.png

1957 Chevrolet Corvette. Photo Credit: Automobile.com.

By the time the C5s rolled out (1997-2004), the ‘vette was racing at Le Mans and the American Le Mans Series. In these vehicles, the “transmission was relocated to the rear of the car to form an integrated, rear-mounted transaxle assembly, connected to the all-new LS1engine via a torque tube — an engine/transmission arrangement enabling a 50-50 (percentage, front-rear) weight distribution for improved handling. The LS1 engine initially produced 345 hp (257 kW), subsequently increased in 2001 to 350 hp (261 kW). The 4L60-E automatic transmission carried over from previous models, but the manual was replaced by a Borg-Warner T-56 6-speed capable of a 175 mph (282 km/h) top speed.”

ZR1 Corvettes of the 21st century can surpass 200 mph, with prices tags of $100,000-plus. And, if you pony up for a 2015 model, these vehicles include an HD video camera (720p resolution) behind the rearview mirror and an SD memory card in the glove box. The original intent: for racers to record laps. This device also records speed data, plus G-force, braking and stability-system data – along with a “secret valet-recording mode.” If you use valet parking, this is one way to make sure that drivers treat your ‘vette with tender loving care.

Heartbreak at the National Corvette Museum

Corvette museum.jpg

Photo credit: National Corvette Museum.

Unfortunately, the Corvette was in the news recently, not for its stealthy look, but rather for a catastrophe that badly damaged some of the finest specimens.

On February 12, 2014 at 5:44 a.m., the National Corvette Museum got a call from their security company, stating that motion detectors had gone off while no one was in the museum. Nobody could have anticipated what they’d see, which was a 40-foot-across and 60-foot-deep sinkhole, large enough to swallow up eight Corvettes worth an estimated $1 million.

These vehicles included two on loan from General Motors (first two bullet points) and six owned by the museum. Damage-wise, they have been placed into one of three categories: least damaged, significantly damaged or worst damaged:

  • 1993 ZR-1 Spyder:
    • fewer than 12 ever built
    • worst damaged
  • 2009 ZR1 “Blue Devil”:
    • least damaged
  • 1962 Black Corvette:
    • least damaged
  • 1984 PPG Pace Car:
    • one-of-a-kind car for Indy Car World Series
    • significantly damaged
  • 1992 White 1 Millionth Corvette:
    • millionth to come off the assembly line
    • significantly damaged
  • 1993 Ruby Red 40th Anniversary Corvette:
    • significantly damaged
  • 2001 Mallett Hammer Z06 Corvette:
    • one-of-a-kind
    • worst damaged
  • 2009 White 1.5 Millionth Corvette:
    • 1.5 millionth to come off assembly line
    • significantly damaged
Damaged Corvette.jpg

Photo credit: National Corvette Museum.

The rescue operation took exactly eight weeks, with two of the cars difficult to find in the rubble. To quote CNN, “One priceless car was crushed. Another, mashed; a third, pancaked. Now, Vette City faces a sinkhole summer.”

Here is footage of the devastation from a University of Western Kentucky’s Engineering Department’s drone helicopter.

Since the time of the collapse, increasing numbers of people are visiting the museum, with March 2014 attendance figures spiking by 56% and donations of more than $75,000 given. Attendance has continued to rise since the collapse, reaching 66% with revenue up 71% overall.

What’s next?

On April 26, CNN published an in-depth article on the progress of the rescue and restoration efforts, including thoughts on the main challenges:

  • Should the cars be restored?
  • If yes, to what degree?
  • If yes, who does the restoring?
  • What should the museum do about the giant sinkhole?

As far as the car restoration goes, there were probably as many opinions as there were people giving them. General Motor’s Tom Peters (director of exterior design for performance cars) shares this point of view: “Respect the vehicles. They have ‘souls.’ They have ‘character’ and ‘being.’ Replacing too many key original parts might result in ‘re-creations’ rather than restorations.”

In the meanwhile, the damaged cars are on display. As far as the hole, the museum considered keeping part or all of it intact, and transform it into an historic display of its own.

Damaged Corvette 2.jpg

Photo credit: National Corvette Museum.

In fact, board members were leaning that way as recently as late June. But, on August 30, 2014, they voted to fill in the hole because of the high costs of safety features needed to maintain the hole, which would have required 35-foot-tall retaining walls plus beams. Humidity-control devices would also be needed, skyrocketing the repair costs to an unattainable $1 million.

So, the hole will be filled in with rock. Workers will then drill into the rock to add steel casings and then cover all with concrete. Repairs will begin in November (so visit sooner if you want to see the sinkhole!) and will last approximately six months. The museum will be open during the construction period. If you visit, be sure to also schedule a tour of the Corvette manufacturing plant. And, if you can’t visit, then take advantage of the museum’s multiple live webcams.

Share your experiences

Despite the changing design trends, economic downturns and fantastic disasters, the Corvette thrives, more than sixty years after its invention.

Tell us your stories and experiences with the Corvette, in the comments below. And, feel free to check out our prior review of the 2015 Chevy Corvette Z06.

 

Editor’s note: If you’re a proud owner of one of the 1.4 million of these attention-grabbing monsters of acceleration, know that Advance Auto Parts has you covered. 

 

Can The 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI Be A Family Car?

2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI.pngOur DIY Mom gets an inside look at one of the most buzz-worthy cars of the season, and ponders its usability for the family.

I want to start this column by thinking critically about the concept of a “family car.” Cars like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry are traditionally considered to be family cars — yet the Environmental Protection Agency classifies them as large cars. And if you’ve driven them, you know the EPA’s not kidding. These sedans are big, no two ways about it.

So here’s my question:

Does a car have to be large in order to be suitable for family use?

Certainly, sedans like the Accord and Camry offer distinct advantages relative to cheaper, smaller alternatives like the Civic and Corolla. But what if there were a car that combined the refinement and versatility of a large car with the manageable dimensions of a small one? I drove the 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI recently, and as both a mom and a car enthusiast, I think it just might offer the best of both worlds. Let’s take a closer look at what makes this VW tick.

1. Deceptively Spacious Cabin

Most folks dismiss the Golf as just another small car, and let me tell you, they don’t know what they’re missing. The way I judge a car is by how well it can accommodate six-footers front and rear, because Lord knows my kids will hit six feet any day now — and the Golf can swallow four of ‘em for hours at a time. Rear legroom and headroom is superb; I bet Golf owners hardly ever find themselves wishing for more. Yet this VW is compact enough to squeeze into any urban parking spot, unlike the mainstream “family car” behemoths that are a chore to maneuver through tight spaces.

And don’t forget about the handy hatchback body style. The Golf can swallow 22.8 cubic feet of cargo behind its rear seats, which is about seven cubes more than the typical family sedan. Plus, you can fold the Golf’s rear seatbacks to open up more than 50 cubic feet of space, a figure that no family sedan can touch.

2. Awesome Powertrain

Whenever you see “TDI” on a Golf, it means there’s a turbodiesel engine under the hood, and that’s a very good thing. The latest generation of VW’s turbodiesel 2.0-liter four is rated at just 150 horsepower, but the figure you want to focus on is the 236 pound-feet of torque. All that torque is available at low rpm, so the Golf TDI launches effortlessly from stoplights and always has some extra punch in reserve. Of course, diesels are known for their fuel economy, and the 2015 VW Golf TDI doesn’t disappoint, returning up to 45 mpg — way more than the most efficient family sedan.

3. Premium Character

Here’s the other thing that prevents more Americans from buying small cars. There’s a perception out there that small equals cheap, and it drives a lot of folks to buy bigger cars than they really need. If that mindset sounds familiar, trust me, go drive a Golf and see what you think. I’m pretty sure you’ll be astonished by how nice everything is in this car, from the materials on the dashboard to the precise, expertly damped knobs and levers — not to mention the crisp, well-lit gauges and displays. The Golf presents as a more expensive car, and that’s a rare thing these days. Whereas most family cars feel built to a price, the Golf feels like the engineers had the leeway to get everything just right. It’s like having a little luxury car at no extra cost.

The Best Family Car Around $25,000?

I think the 2015 VW Golf TDI is a strong contender for this prize, all things considered, and I’m a mom — so I should know. But am I wrong? Have you experienced the new Golf TDI for yourself? Tell me what you think in the comments.Driving 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI.png

 

Editor’s note: Whether you’ve got a minivan, a muscle car or even a motorcycle, count on Advance Auto Parts to keep you running right all year long. Get back to work fast—buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

Don’t get no respect: wheel hub assemblies & wheel bearings

wheel-bearingTo paraphrase comedian Rodney Dangerfield, it’s tough being a hub assembly or wheel bearing. While their more famous cousins – the brakes, the batteries, the struts and shocks . . . okay, we’ll stop name dropping because you know who we mean – get lots of fuss and attention, the non-glamorous bearings work hard, day after day, repeating the same dreary job over and over again.

But when those drudgery cousins finally get worn out, you’ll probably know it. They’ll most likely squeak, they’ll grind, they’ll growl, they’ll whine and moan. Besides that, they may not hang on tightly to your tires any more, perhaps even letting go completely and/or causing a loss of steering control – and that goes beyond annoyance and becomes a significant safety issue.

Hub assemblies and wheel bearings

Located between the brake drums/discs and the drive axle, the hub assembly is mounted to the holding bracket of the chassis on the axle side. On the drum/disc side, the wheel is connected to the hub assembly via bolts. The wheel bearing itself is inside the hub unit.

These low-maintenance parts must take on the load of your vehicle, whether it’s in motion or standing still. Their importance rises even more when you’re driving over potholes and other rough patches – and, even though they are low maintenance, they certainly aren’t no maintenance.

Your goal is to minimize the amount of friction generated by the wheel bearing. This can be accomplished by the use of quality grease specifically intended for high temperatures. Be careful not to overdo how much grease you apply, though, as this can result in overheating because of friction that can’t appropriately be dissipated. With repeated overheating incidents, car parts damage can occur.

And, even though proper application of grease will help these parts last longer, they will eventually need replaced. Typically, you should check and maintain your wheel bearings every 25,000 to 30,000 miles. An average sealed wheel bearing lasts 85,000 to 100,000 miles although some can last as long as 150,000 miles.

Hear that noise?

Diagnosing car troubles by sound alone is an inexact science, but you should not ignore new or unusual car noises. According to an often-quoted study from Braxton Research, 51% of wheel bearing problems are found because of noise (24% are found during a brake job and 19% during an alignment).

Having said that, although noises from bad hub assemblies and/or wheel bearings come from the area of your wheels, not all strange sounds from the area of your wheels is assembly- or bearing-related. They could indicate a problem with your brakes or CV joints. And if the noise comes and goes with the application of your brakes, the problem is more likely brake-related.

Still, be sure to check your hub assembly and wheel bearings if you hear:

  • Chirping, squealing or grinding sounds with different intensities at different speeds; these noises may get louder or softer upon turning
  • Humming that exists when you drive and increases when you start to turn your steering wheel

 If you ever sense a vibration from your wheels or your wheels “wobble,” be sure to check your hub assembly and wheel bearings.

Hub assembly

Wheel speed sensor

Vehicles with antilock brakes may have a sensor built into the hub assembly. The sensor ring may move about as it rotates if there is a worn wheel bearing, which may trigger the appearance of an ABS warning light. Use a scanning tool that accesses your ABS to diagnose.

Meanwhile internal corrosion within the wheel assembly can send up a false alarm of worn parts. If your vehicle has a removable sensor, then simply remove and clean it and then add a zinc corrosion inhibitor to the hub before replacing. If the sensor is not removable, then the entire hub assembly will need replaced.

Check up

Jack up the car into the air and spin the wheel by hand. Can you feel any roughness or excessive drag? If so, you may have a bad wheel bearing. Check your car manual to see the maximum amount of movement that can be considered acceptable.

If you’re unsure whether or not there is too much movement, it’s better to be safe than sorry. You should replace your hub assembly and wheel bearings. Even if only one side is bad, it makes sense to replace them in pairs. The “good” side is likely to cause problems in a relatively short time.

Also, after driving the car, you can check the temperature of the hub assembly. Typically, a hub assembly that is worn out will be hotter than the other hub assemblies on the vehicle. This is due to excessive drag produced by the worn out bearings.

Gas mileage

If you surf around auto forums on the net, you’ll find conversations about whether or not bad hub assemblies and/or wheel bearings can have a negative effect on gas mileage. As on many car-related topics, there isn’t clear consensus, with some commenters noticing an improvement after hub assembly/wheel bearing repair.

Caution!

Hub and bearing assemblyBeware of cheap bearings constructed of low quality steel with poor heat-treating. These tend to fail prematurely, which only signals another repair job in the future when, in most instances, these parts need replaced only once at most during typical car ownership.

Cheaper hub assemblies might include bearings that are smaller than OEM, which is another factor that could lead to early part failure. Still other cheaper parts contain double ball bearings rather than one stronger bearing. If possible, avoid these choices.

Note that manufacturers recommend a torque wrench rather than an impact wrench when installing. That’s because an impact wrench can damage axle nut threads and CV joints. Plus, the impact wrench can prevent proper torqueing of nuts and bolts.

Bonus tips: don’t be penny smart and pound foolish. Replace axle nuts rather than attempting to reuse them, and invest in quality seal drivers to ensure a quality seal and therefore protect new wheel bearings.

Editor’s note: Advance Auto Parts carries the quality hub assemblies and wheel bearings that you need to ensure your ride control is in check.

 

Always consult your owner’s manual first. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure warranties are not voided.

 

Crucial Cars: The Ford F-150

From timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.

For this first installment, Rural Tales hitches a ride with the workhorse of the ages: The Ford F-150.

 

Ford F-150 232 consecutive years as the best-selling vehicle in the U.S.

37 years as the top-selling truck.

A major redesign for 2015 that has tongues wagging.

Why do so many truck buyers have a love affair with Ford’s F-150 and Ford trucks in general? Perhaps because like most F-150 drivers, these trucks just work. And that’s not to say that other trucks don’t, because I’m certainly not trying to start a war of words among my fellow truck drivers and loyal Ram, Silverado and Tundra enthusiasts.

The Ford F-150 is the workhorse of choice for countless professionals and weekend warriors alike who need dependable towing and hauling power for a reason. Consider the 2000 F-150 as an example. It’s 5.4-liter V-8, 16-valve, fuel-injected engine delivers 205 horsepower at 4,950 RPM and 255 foot pounds of torque at 3,700 RPM, for a maximum towing capacity of 7,500 pounds – more than enough to get most jobs done. Couple that power with its hefty size – a 3,923-pound curb weight and a 5,600-pound gross weight and a nearly 120-inch wheelbase – and you have a towing and hauling machine that can stand up to tough conditions and looks good doing it. Those good looks are courtesy of periodic F-150 body redesigns that refresh its image without losing the iconic body style that makes it instantly recognizable.

Ford’s continuing success with its F-150 can be traced, in part, to its experience designing and building trucks that drivers want. The F-150 wasn’t Ford’s first pickup. That honor falls to Ford’s 1925 Model T and the more than 33,000 Model T “runabouts” it built with a pickup truck body and sold for $281.The F-150 name didn’t arrive on the scene until 1975, following the F-100’s introduction in 1953 and the F-series creation in 1948 with the F-1 half-ton pickup. Those early F-series pickups were available with just two engine options – a 95-horsepower, 226 cubic-inch, inline six or a 100 horsepower, 239 V-8.

Changes in options through the years helped keep Ford’s  F-series fresh, with perhaps one of the biggest changes occurring in 1959 with the availability of four-wheel drive. That’s such an important feature because for many early pickup-truck drivers, they drove a truck for one reason – they had to. Whether they made their livelihood in farming, construction, or some other industry that required hauling or towing, those early trucks were, undoubtedly, work trucks.Ford F-150 1

Contrast that with today’s pickup owners. While many still choose the F-150 for work, countless others drive it because of the convenience and flexibility it offers – a car-like ride and interior with heated seats, 360-degree cameras, power moon roofs and LED lighting that can still haul and tow when needed, and do it in style. Yet another reason many drivers choose the F-150 and tend to hang onto them is that they’re easy to work on, particularly with a little guidance from the pros when you need it, and the continuing availability of parts and accessories for it.

What has people talking about the latest F-150, however, is Ford’s introduction of an all-aluminum cab, front-end, bed and tailgate. This aluminum body, still resting on plenty of high-strength steel in the frame and underbody, helps the F-150 shed 700 lbs. and increase its fuel efficiency. Anticipating truck drivers’ and F-150 lovers’ wariness about aluminum’s perceived strength in a truck that’s supposed to be Ford-tough, Ford’s been positioning the 2015 as being built with “military-grade aluminum alloy and high-strength steel,” and having undergone more than 10 million miles of brutal testing in real-world conditions before the first truck rolled off the assembly line.

The 2015 F-150’s new, 8-inch “productivity screen,” which provides a steady stream of data about the truck’s performance and driving conditions, is a far cry from early truck drivers’ understanding of productivity , but then again, they were more accustomed to throwing wood in their truck bed, instead of polishing it inside an air-conditioned cab.

2015 Ford F-150

2015 Ford F-150

Rest assured, Ford’s got it right with their new F-150. After all, they have the pickup truck experience as well as the incentive and pressure not to disappoint millions of die-hard Ford fans. No one at Ford really wants to be “that guy” responsible for breaking a 37-year tradition as the top-selling truck, even though there are probably an equal number of loyal Chevy and Dodge fans just waiting for that to happen.

Which truck do you use?

Are you an F-150 fan? Or, do you drive a Ram, Silverado or Tundra? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Editor’s note: You can lighten your load by shopping Advance Auto Parts for your Ford F-150 needs.  Choose parts, accessories and more—all at a superior value. Get your order fast—buy online, pick up in-store, in 30 minutes.

Artist Bruce Gray creates magic out of used vehicle parts

“I consider myself to be a visual scientist, relentlessly exploring as many forms of artistic expression as I can. Sculpture is not my career, it’s my life. I am obsessed with creating as many new sculptures as possible.”

So says Bruce Gray, renowned Los Angeles sculptor who uses discarded pieces of metal as the building blocks of his art. One of his most famous sculptures is Motorcycle 1 made out of recycled train and motorcycle parts.

Photo credit: Bruce Gray.

Photo credit: Bruce Gray.

This sculpture stands 55” tall, is 94” long and 33” wide, which is slightly larger than a genuine ride-able motorcycle. It weighs somewhere between 700 and 800 pounds. Parts, all of which were “found,” include:

  • “2 very heavy massive railroad equipment gears for wheels”
  • “train coupling link for the seat”
  • “giant train springs for shocks”
  • “BMW R75/5 motorcycle engine and tailpipes”

He’d like to create similar motorcycle sculptures, but “there is always the matter of getting enough free time. When creating art from found objects, there is a big time investment, plus a sculpture of this size takes up lots of storage space.” One of Bruce’s dreams is to also create a ride-able version of this piece of art.

This sculpture appeared on Discovery Channel’s Monster House and was featured in Angeleno magazine, Art Business News magazine, The Fabricator magazine and on the back cover of the Chic Eco directory.

In fact, if we were to list all of the movies, television programs, music videos and commercials that feature Bruce’s work, we’d literally need to add nearly 1,000 words of text to this blog post (Yes. We checked.). And, that doesn’t count the numerous articles written about him in magazines and newspapers, or the large numbers of museums and prestigious art shows that spotlight his talent–or the well-known people who commission him to create art for their homes and offices.

Here is just a taste:

  • Movies:
    • Starship Troopers
    • Rush Hour
    • Gone in 60 Seconds
  • Commercials:
    • Chevrolet
    • General Motors
    • Mercedes Benz
  • Music videos:
    • Madonna
    • Dr. Dre
    • Wu Tang Clan
  • Television shows:
    • Seinfeld
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation
    • How I Met Your Mother

“I’ve also been asked to play a part in about a dozen or so reality shows,” he adds. “One of the most recent involves a bar with motorcycles that is still in the early stages of production and may not have even been presented to a network yet.” Here are more of his accomplishments.

The story behind the story

Born in 1956 in Orange, New Jersey, Bruce and his family moved to Belgium for a few years, starting when he was in first grade. They lived in an old hotel with six floors, a bomb shelter and a wine cellar. “We lived in the hotel by ourselves,” he recalls, “and it was a great place to play hide and seek.”

There is only so much hide and seek that a young boy can play, though, so he also kept himself busy creating stuff from Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, Legos and the like. He took apart radios to see how they worked and so forth. He also got to see the Atomium building in Brussels, a structure created out of stainless steel spheres that, when connected together, represent a cell of an iron crystal cell magnified 165 billion times. Bruce says that this building influenced him later as an artist.

“I sketched a lot in school, too,” he says. “I doodled since people often didn’t speak English and I didn’t know what anyone was saying.”

After the stay in Belgium, Bruce and his family returned to New Jersey, although he seldom saw his father, an international banker from Scotland who spent most of his time in Europe. “I might not see him,” Bruce says, “for a period of ten years.” Shortly before Bruce entered high school, his family moved to Massachusetts.

After high school ended (Bridgewater Raynham Regional High School, class of 1975), he joined the Coast Guard for four years. He then applied to the University of Massachusetts–but his art portfolio didn’t meet the minimum requirements. In fact, the only “art portfolio” that he had consisted of pieces of art that he’d put together that day in 30 minutes . . . meaning 30 minutes, total.

“I’d never done anything in the arts,” Bruce explains, “except for shop class. I was fairly good in that class, making an electric guitar from scratch without instruction. But, that was all I’d done. So, when I think back at how bad the portfolio I’d submitted to the university was, it’s amusing.”

The university recommended that he take art courses for a year and then reapply. Shortly afterwards, though, he received a notice saying that he should meet with the dean of the design department to discuss admission possibilities. Bruce’s raw talent impressed the dean enough that he was permitted to start his education under probation. To stay in the school, he needed to maintain a B average. “I’d already been in the military, though,” Bruce says, “and I was used to hard work and long hours. So, if a teacher said that he needed two examples of a certain piece of art within a week, I’d have three ready by the next morning–which really annoyed my classmates.”

Bruce attended the university from 1979 to 1983, earning a BFA in design. He then worked in Boston as a photographer and graphic designer. Although he found logo design satisfying, he longed for something more.

Pivotal event

In 1989, his mother died unexpectedly and suddenly of a brain aneurysm. “After that happened–literally, right after–I decided to quit what I was doing and get on with life. I realized that nobody gets to make the call about how long you stay on Earth so I decided to do what I really wanted to do.”

What exactly that was, he didn’t yet know. As a kid, he’d thought about becoming a marine biologist. “Or,” he says, “maybe a spy like James Bond–or maybe I’d work for Mad magazine.” Unclear about what precisely awaited him in life after his mother’s death, he drove to North Carolina and windsurfed for a week to clear his mind. He then drove to Mexico City and remained there until he got himself back on track.

What he ultimately decided: to move to California to create three dimensional, permanent pieces of art out of wood and metal. He quickly realized that he didn’t want to conceptualize a piece of art and then have someone else weld it together, so he bought a cheap piece of welding equipment and taught himself how to use it, which allowed him to take complete control of his own art. “I no longer have any artistic limitations,” he explains on his web page. “I have let my imagination take over.”

When recalling his earlier days as an artist, Bruce says that he’d sell five pieces of art one day–and then he would hear nothing from prospective buyers for so long that he’d start calling his own number just to see if it worked. He recalls one day where he literally had nothing to eat–that is, until he remembered that he’d bought a jar of peanut butter in case calamity struck during Y2K (when the year 2000 was ushered in). Checking out the jar, he saw that it was three years past its expiration date–and then he ate the peanut butter.

More of Bruce Gray’s art

I create sculptures and functional art in welded steel, stainless steel, brass, copper, and aluminum. The works vary considerably and include swirl grinded bare metal intersecting geometric shapes sculptures, rusty found object assemblages, colorfully painted wall sculptures, mobiles, suspended magnetic sculptures, and powder coated bright colored sculptural tables and chairs. My work is usually fun, colorful, visually stimulating, and often conveys my sense of humor. My found object works may be people, animals, insects, or dinosaurs, and are stylized, simplified, and given their own unique personalities.”

Committed to protecting the environment, he is pleased that, overall, he puts less into dumpsters than he takes out. He also is amused that he can take something destined for the landfill and refashion it to hang on a “rich guy’s wall.”

Bruce has created fully functional chair sculptures from motorcycle parts, such as this EZ Rider Chair (30” x 65” x 24”).

Photo credit: Bruce Gray.

Photo credit: Bruce Gray.

Bruce is also well known for his rolling ball sculptures, where a steel ball starts at the top of the sculpture and, through gravity alone, travels a path to the ground. In Cheborgie #1 (79” x 33” x 27”), the steel ball “follows a rollercoaster track, does jumps, goes down stairs, through chimes, past a spinner and through a tube.”

Photo credit: Bruce Gray.

Photo credit: Bruce Gray.

(You have to wonder how much the Atomium building in Belgium influenced his fascination with this type of sculpture!)

He is also well known for his high heel sculptures, such as “High Heel Shoe #4.” These sculptures have appeared in multiple magazines and on television and this particular one is 39” x 27” x 16”, crafted out of steel and coated with ten layers of high quality automotive enamels.

Photo credit: Bruce Gray.

Photo credit: Bruce Gray.

Bruce shares the challenges of the artist’s life. “Most of us artists,” he says, “work alone every day. It can get tedious. It can drive you crazy, to the point where you absolutely have to get out of the house.” Here’s another challenge. “Most artists I know tend to be introverted to the point that it hurts their career. You need to promote your work one way or the other: hiring a PR person, getting an agent or being self-motivated enough to get attention for your work. Fortunately, I’d spent a lot of time in marketing because of my advertising background, so I know a bit about promotion. I don’t mind the work–and doing it myself is budget friendly.”

Another challenge faced by Bruce is that he is dyslexic, but he actually sees that as a blessing. “I grew up with dyslexia,” he shares, “but I was never diagnosed as a kid. It wasn’t until ten years ago that I was watching a show about dyslexia on the Discovery Channel and I thought, ‘Wait a minute. This is ridiculous. I have ALL of these symptoms.’”

He therefore did some research and found out that many household names, including some people considered geniuses, have been dyslexic. “It gives you a different way of thinking. You don’t piece together tiny parts of a problem. Instead, you see the big picture–and that sounds just like me. I rarely draw any piece of art out in advance. I just start making something. That’s how I work–and, in fact, how I prefer to work.”

In April of this year, Bruce had a surprise visit from the chancellor of the University of Massachusetts, where he’d earned his BFA. “He talked to me about commissioning a big sculpture for the school and about my flying back to give lectures. I’ve come a long way.”

When asked what the younger Bruce would have thought about today, he admits that he’d “be surprised at how hard the work is, and how much time I spend working,” adding that he’d like the following to be his legacy: “I would like to leave behind a great body of art, lots of really great friends, and also be known for my environmental work.”

Editor’s note: Automotive maintenance can be an art unto itself. Shop Advance Auto Parts for the best deals and selection to get the job done. Buy online, pick up in-store—in 30 minutes.

ATV motocross is alive and well: the 2014 Mountain Dew National Series

quad jump

We recap the latest season.

The 2014 Mountain Dew ATV Motocross National Championship season has recently hit its thrilling conclusion. The exciting season could be easily summed up by some sage words from reporter Rodney Tomblin: “there’s something a little different in the air this season. Confidence, hope or just plain crazy; I am not sure what it is but it seems very positive.”

The reporter had also predicted some surprises for the season, saying, “Don’t be surprised by the sleepers, late bloomers and those that just feel that switch click and rise to the next level before our very eyes.”

2014 Season Highlights

Two words: Chad Wienen. Wienen just completed a Winning ATVMX Season with his seventh victory at Loretta Lynn’s Finale on August 9, 2014. Congrats Chad!

Check out a few hot shots from the 2014 season:

“Winning in the brutal world of ATV racing requires more than just talent. It takes power, and a lot of it.” So says DirtWheelsMag.com, as it shares the comeback story of Wienen, who suffered from a broken back in a horrific crash in 2011, and who had to deal with being dropped from a major ATV racing team. Read the 2013 article, which says that “Chad Wienen’s 2012 racing season was made up of 50 percent confidence, 50 percent guts and 50 percent pay back.”

John Natalie            

“We’ve found a bit of speed over the winter, and I think we’re going to be a real contender for the championship this year.” That’s a direct quote from John Natalie in his March 2014 interview with ATVRiders.com. This article points out that, despite being one of the oldest racers in the Mountain Dew series, Natalie remains one of the top names in the competition. Natalie has ridden consistently and well in the  the 2014 Mountain Dew series, finishing second in the first two events.

Joel Hetrick

“I think I’m gonna come out and really push for a podium finish.” ATVRiders.com also interviewed one of the youngest competitors in this series: Joel Hetrick. Having finished fourth in the first event, Hetrick made it to the podium at the second, finishing third behind Wienen and Natalie.

Josh Upperman

“With his smooth riding style and ability to get of the gate quickly, you can usually count on Josh Upperman to be out front in any given race.” That’s what ATVRiders.com has to say about Upperman. Upperman scored a third place finish in the first event, struggling a bit with a seventh place finish in the second.

Atv Racer 3

Background of the ATV Motocross National Championships

This series began in 1985 and race officials report that rider entries and fan attendance are still climbing. National events are held at top racetracks across the country, with professional licensed drivers competing during the same weekend that amateur racers compete. Overall, national events will include anywhere from 500 to 800 racers from states around the country, as well as from Canada – and sometimes including racers from Europe, Australia or South America.

Stay tuned for more ATV motocross in 2015!

Editor’s note: Advance Auto Parts carries the best in ATV batteries and accessories to make summer maintenance quick and painless. Buy online, pick up in-store, in 30 minutes.