Gearhead's Garage - Muscle Cars and More - Advance Auto Parts Blog

Five surefire ways to get a traffic violation in 2013

Advance Auto PartsYeah, yeah, I know: with all the hybrids and electrics in the news these days, it’s hard to believe an old gearhead like me can find five new cars worth talking about. But you want the truth? Those battery-powered contraptions are still just a small slice of the market. That means most new vehicles sold in 2013 will run on good old-fashioned dino juice.

And I’ve got five of ‘em here that are guaranteed to get your motor running. Here are the best 2013 cars from one gearhead’s point of view.

2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500
Every gearhead appreciates the value of a tough truck, but the old Chevy Silverado 1500 had a problem: that’s all it was. Meanwhile, rivals like the Ram 1500 and Ford F-150 were taking their interiors uptown, creating mobile man caves full of luxury and technology. Fortunately, the redesigned 2014 Silverado finally brings Chevy up to speed. In particular, the boring old dashboard has been completely redone with new materials and an available iPad-like touchscreen interface. I’m fired up about the new family of engines, too—I’ve got my eye on the 6.2-liter V8.

2013 Ford Focus ST
Look, I’m not a front-wheel-drive kind of guy, so don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not going soft in my old age. The real story here is that Ford has brought neutral handling to this notoriously understeer-happy segment. My automotive blogger counterparts are referring to the ST as “the
best handling front-wheel drive car I’ve ever driven
.” I’m talking about hot hatches, and the turbocharged, 252-horsepower Focus ST is arguably the hottest one yet. It’s bound to be one of the top rated 2013 cars. Toss it into a corner and the clever brake-based front differential makes sure you stay right on your intended line instead of plowing wide. I got a chance to drive this thing on a road course, and I loved it. The Focus ST the only new Ford other than a Mustang V8 that I’d consider buying.

2014 SRT Viper
I’m gonna be in the minority here, but that’s never stopped me from speaking my mind: the new Viper’s front end looks a little too European for my taste. Fiat runs Chrysler nowadays, you see, and I just know some Italian designer in tight pants was behind the Viper’s dainty new headlights. But that’s nothing 640 horsepower can’t fix, is it? That’s right, the venerable 8.4-liter V10 has been reworked to pump out exactly two more horsepower than the swan-song-singing Corvette ZR1. Not too shabby, and neither is the all-new interior with fancy Sabelt sport seats and Chrysler’s excellent uConnect touch-screen. I wouldn’t kick this Viper out of the garage, if you know what I mean.

2014 Chevrolet Corvette
Speaking of Corvettes, there’s a new one of those, too. The redesigned C7 and upcoming C7 Z06 Corvette have pretty radical looks that show a little too much Japanese-style angularity, if you ask me. So the Viper’s not alone in borrowing from overseas. But I can’t wait to put the new 6.2-liter V8 through its paces. Dubbed “LT1,” the new V8 is bound to confuse car guys like me who remember the original LT1, a 5.7-liter V8 featured in the C4 Corvette of the 1990s, among others. (Hell, I even remember the hyphenated “LT-1” 350 V8 from the ‘70s.) But you know what, with an estimated 450 horsepower and about the same amount of torque, who cares? Plus, the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette has finally got an interior that cuts the mustard for a world-class sports car, or at least comes reasonably close. Any list of the best 2013 cars has got to include the new ‘Vette.

2013 Porsche Cayman
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve got a pro-Detroit bias, but when a car as good as the all-new 2013 Cayman comes along, a man’s gotta give credit where credit’s due. We’re talking about the best 2013 car models here, and the Cayman might just be the best of the best. I especially like the styling of this car: the Cayman used to look like the entry-level Porsche it was, but now it looks like a pint-sized supercar with those squarish headlights and beautiful taillights. Plus, a Cayman S with the 3.4-liter motor is every bit as fast as a 911 in a straight line, and probably faster around a track. This has yet to be conclusively proven, however. Hey Porsche, are you listening? Just give me a 911 and a Cayman S for the day, and I’ll test my theory at your earliest convenience.

Editor’s note: Our resident gearhead’s need for speed is almost as great as our need to get our DIY projects done. If you’ve got projects, look to Advance Auto Parts for the best selection—and even better deals.  

A New Year’s dream: the 2013 Corvette 427 Convertible

I’ll be honest with you: I’ve never known how to feel about the current C6-generation Chevrolet Corvette.

On paper (yeah, I still use the stuff), it’s got everything an old muscle-car guy like me could want. Right out of the box, this thing gives you a tried-and-true 6.2-liter pushrod V8 with 400-plus horsepower.

Corvette convertible But the motor I really want is the 505-horsepower, 7.0-liter V8 in the limited-production Z06 coupe. Seven liters is a newfangled way of saying 427 cubic inches, and that’s a special number in Corvette lore. Chevy put its first “big-block” 427 in the 1966 ‘Vette, see, and that ferocious V8 had already become a legend when the 454 replaced it a few years later. I’ve driven the Z06, and its 427 is as fierce as the original. Makes the standard 6.2-liter job feel a little too docile for its own good.

No problem, you’re thinking, just buy a Z06, right? Thankfully, I’m at a point in life where I could probably make that financial stretch, assuming the ol’ ball-and-chain didn’t find out till it was too late. But here’s the problem: I love the Corvette convertible’s lines. This is a car that was born to be topless. It just looks right as a roadster. And Chevy has never offered a Z06 Corvette convertible, no sirree Bob.

Never, that is, until model-year 2013.

One of a Kind

That’s right: for this year only, as the Corvette production team in Bowling Green, Kentucky prepares for the new C7 and C7 Z06 Corvette’s arrival, the C6 Z06 ragtop is a reality.

Oh, sure, the marketing types are calling it the 2013 Chevrolet Corvette 427 Convertible, but blah blah blah. To a man, this is a Z06 roadster. Same big brakes. Same race-inspired V8. Same dragstrip-proven, slam-it-home Tremec six-speed. And you get even more of that exuberant NASCAR-style soundtrack, since there’s no roof between your ears and the 427’s Z06-spec quad exhaust tips.

Yeah, I got to drive one. And, you’re probably a little jealous, as well you should be. The 7.0-liter “LS7” is one of the greatest V8s ever to grace an engine bay, using every bit of its 7,000-rpm operating range to plaster a terrified grin on each lucky driver’s face. It’s less powerful than the exclusive ZR1 coupe’s “LS9” supercharged 6.2-liter V8, of course, but whereas the LS9 makes basically the same broad-shouldered torque from idle to redline, the LS7 just keeps piling it on as engine speed rises. From where I sit, it’s the most thrilling motor under $150,000.

And now it’s available with the Corvette convertible’s alluring bodywork and fun-in-the-sun freedom, all for barely half that cost. 2013 Corvette 427 Convertible pricing starts at a very reasonable-for-what-you-get $76,900.

Personally, I think the jury’s still out on the C6 Corvette. If you’re looking at the base 6.2-liter version, I’d suggest waiting to see what the redesigned C7 is all about.

But I know exactly how I feel about the 2013 Corvette 427 Convertible. I’m a big believer in buying Christmas presents for myself, and as we close out 2012, next year’s wish list has a new number-one contender.

Attention ‘Vette Owners

If you’re already a member of the C6 Corvette club, I should add that the kind folks who allow me to write this column have a bunch of C6 Corvette accessories and C6 Corvette parts on offer right now. MagnaFlow exhausts, Covercraft car covers—you name it, they’ve got it. Check out the Advance Auto Parts site or just head to your local store for details.

Editor’s note: While I’ll leave the specs and such to our resident gearhead, I will add that you can get your order even faster when you select the “Store Availability” option as you shop at You certainly don’t want to keep a beauty like this waiting. —JK

Paintless Dent Removal: A Gearhead’s Best Friend

Car dent removal Look, there are two kinds of people in the world. You either pull in right next to the other cars in the parking lot without thinking twice, or you leave a nice buffer zone so that Soccer Mommy and her kids won’t assault your sheet metal with their humongous SUV doors.

You and I both know that the only reasonable approach is the second one. But sometimes a door ding shows up anyway, and you know you’re gonna die a little inside every time you see it.

Now, back in the day, we only had one option for removing car dents, right? Take it down to the local body shop and hope for the best.

But these days they got something called paintless dent removal, and let me tell you, it can be a gearhead’s best friend.

How Do They Do It?

I was wondering the same thing when I first heard about it, so I had a local fella come do a little surgery on my own ride. (He’s a “mobile” technician, so I got the work done right in my driveway.) He told me it’s all about understanding the shape of the dent. That’s why he uses these special lights and mirrors to get a real good look at what kind of dent he’s dealing with.

Then he pulls out the tools, and the whole thing turns into a real art form. The metal wants to go back to its original state, you see, but it needs some coaxing. My guy likes to tap around the perimeter of the dent with a special blunt hammer; your guy might use a different technique.

Just make sure he’s got experience and good customer reviews, because it’s a little unsettling to see someone hammering away at your pride and joy.

Does It Really Work?

I knew you’d ask, and the answer is yes. My goodness, yes. As long as the dent doesn’t have a big old crease in the middle or something like that, a skilled paintless dent repair man can make your metal look like new. A couple of my dents, I thought there was no way that one guy with a toolbox could fix ‘em, but now I can’t hardly remember where they were. That’s how good the results can be.

But How Much Does It Cost?

Paintless dent repair cost varies by contractor and region, but I can tell you that I had about ten dents removed all over the car, and my bill came to $300. Now that’s a pleasant surprise. And if you’ve just got one or two you want taken out, it could be as cheap as $50-100.

As for those body shops I used to go to, well, I think they charged me $500 just for walking through the door. Put it this way, I’ve never been pleasantly surprised by a body shop bill, and I bet you haven’t, either.

Bottom Line

Find a reputable paintless dent removal technician and make an appointment. It’s a game-changer for people like us. Mind you, I still give other cars a wide berth in the parking lot, but if that plan gets foiled, I know who to call.

Editor’s note: Once you’ve gotten your dents worked out, maintaining your car’s exterior is easy with quality auto parts, supplies and accessories from Advance Auto Parts. Buy online, pick up in store.

The great debate: Camaro vs. Mustang vs. Challenger

Let me cut right to the chase: the great thing about classic muscle cars was how damn honest they were. What you saw was what you got. These things were built for speed, but they weren’t trying to be all fancy about it like a Ferrari. Take a common man’s car, drop in a big ol’ V8, and lay some rubber. Then add some muscle car parts if you got bored. That’s all there was to it. I still can’t get enough of ‘em.

Now look at what we’re dealing with these days. You’ve got traction control to keep our tires from spinning. Computer screens in the dashboard, because God forbid we have to sit somewhere for a while without some gadget to stare at. And don’t get me started on all these safety standards that keep getting in the way. Hell, you can’t even hang your arm out the window anymore because the doorsill’s too high.

But stop the presses, because they got these so-called modern muscle cars nowadays, right? Chevrolet Camaro SS, Dodge Challenger R/T, Ford Mustang GT. All-American coupes with big V8s, just like the classic muscle cars we drove back in the day.

Well, I got to wondering whether they could make an old gearhead smile, so I went down to the dealerships to find the best muscle car on the market. Manual transmission, windows down, foot to the floor. Put these things through their paces. Not that anyone’s asking for my opinion, but here’s how I figure they stack up.

3. 2013 Chevrolet Camaro SS

Chevy CamaroTo me, there’s not much that’s “retro” about this Chevy. Yeah, you can get a four-pack of gauges inside like the old cars had, but from the outside, the 2013 Camaro looks like a Hot Wheels car my son played with growing up. The original ‘60s Camaro was beautiful. This one’s a cartoon character.

Don’t get me wrong, the power’s still there. Big time. Wood the throttle and you’ve got 426 horses to play with. The exhaust sounds like it can barely breathe, but you can still find plenty of muscle car parts in 2013. I’m thinking a nice cat-back Flowmaster would do the trick.

But you’d still have to crane your neck to see out of this thing. Visibility’s terrible, and the doorsill is at my shoulder. Wham bam, no thank you, ma’am.

2. 2013 Dodge Challenger R/T

Dodge Challenger Muscle CarNow we’re talkin’. This thing’s huge, just like Challengers used to be. It sounds great right from the factory; love that V8 burble out the back like old school muscle cars. The ride’s super smooth, unlike the overly stiff Camaro. You can even fit adults in the back, and there’s plenty of room for their stuff in the trunk.

So why isn’t it number one? Simple: I like a car that I can toss around a little. Just think about the movie Bullitt. Remember how McQueen was in a fastback Mustang, and the guys chasing him were in a Dodge that took up half the road? I don’t need to tell you which car had the upper hand. The new Challenger’s an honest muscle car, that’s for sure, but I want something that’s at home in tight corners, too.

1. 2013 Ford Mustang GT

Ford Mustang GTI keep telling people I’ll never buy a new car again, but tell you what, this modern Mustang muscle car had me thinking twice. You gotta hear the noises this V8 makes, first of all. They say that Ford did something funny with the intake to make it sound better, and you know what, I don’t even care. I could listen to this thing run toward redline all day.

But the best thing about the 2013 Mustang muscle car is that it’s a sports car, too. See, even the sportiest Mustang muscle car from the ‘60s was happiest when the road was straight. But this new one, my goodness, it’ll go around a corner with the best of ‘em. It’s smaller than the other two, so that helps, and the visibility’s better as well.

Truth is, the Mustang’s still got an electronic throttle, electric power steering, and a whole bunch of other unnecessary stuff that gets between me and the road. Those are rental car parts, not muscle car parts. I don’t think this Ford could ever really win my heart.

But if you ask me what’s the best muscle car today for getting an old car guy’s heart pumping, the answer’s clear. Now that I’ve driven one, I’ll always give a nod of respect when I see a new Mustang GT drive by.


Editor’s note: If your DIY routine includes maintaining muscle cars and other prime examples of American Steel, look to Advance Auto Parts for the best in tools, parts and accessories. Get your order fast—buy online, pick up in store.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

car tiresI’m a very simple guy. I like a cold beer and a bloody burger, and I love old muscle cars. Nothing sexier to me than a ‘66 GTO, although it’s hard to beat a fastback Mustang for classic American looks. And of course, AC/DC. It’s always a chore for me when I’m hauling down the highway to decide which I’d rather listen to: the opening riff of “Back in Black” or the rumble of an American V8.

Being a classic car guy, I’m always kinda unsatisfied. I can always upgrade to a higher-performance air filter or some lowering springs, maybe some adjustable shocks or an aftermarket exhaust system to add a few more horses. Some of these upgrades can be handled by anyone with a willingness to get their hands dirty, while others require some more specialized equipment and knowledge.

Let’s start with the basics: wheels and tires. They’re a snap to upgrade and you’ll immediately notice an improvement in handling.

When you drive, you only have four points of direct contact with the road (your car tires), and the information transmitted between them and your hands on the wheel makes all the difference in how connected you feel to the road, and how confident you feel going around corners. Think of a car like a band. You’ve got your steering, braking, handling and suspension, which work together as a team. Plus, each can be upgraded for more performance.

Most modern car manufacturers engineer car tires and wheels for three things: ride, comfort and — these days — fuel mileage. The only trick is that if you improve in one area, you’re likely to suffer in another. You want a sweet summer tire with a high sidewall? It’ll help your car handle better, but you’ll feel more of the road, you’ll have to be more careful when it rains and you may lose a few mpg’s in the process.

More road feel means exactly that: for better or worse. You’ll be more in tune to the road for driving, but you’ll also feel more of the bumps and imperfections. And since summer tires are designed differently from winter or all-season tires, they’re not designed to repel rain but rather stick better to a hot road.

The other good thing about wheels and tires is there are so many places that offer car tires online so you can really improve the look of your ride as well. Plus, many offer side-by-side comparisons, so when you shop for car tires online you can hopefully find top-rated tires.

We’re even seeing customization from original equipment manufacturers, where they’ll offer a new car with a couple different wheel and tire sizes and a variety of different wheel looks so you can customize it right from the factory.

Bear in mind that aftermarket tires will be anywhere from a little to a lot more expensive, but you’ll see noticeable differences in your handling and grip.

And once you get that going, you may suddenly find yourself looking into lowering springs, a suspension upgrade, or maybe even some adjustable shocks. The bottom line is your imagination and, of course, your wallet.

Editor’s note: Advance Auto Parts carries a wide selection of tire supplies and digital tire gauges,  performance quality brakes and suspension parts, plus tons of other quality auto parts to get your projects in gear. Get your order fast—buy online, pick up in store, in 30 minutes!

Graphic courtesy of Sven’s World of Wheels.

The importance of Engine Oil: the sweet fluid that keeps your car running smoothly

I work a lot of long hours. I start early and often finish late, and as anyone around me (particularly my wife) knows, I drink a lot of coffee. It’s the sweet black elixir that keeps me going and helps me through the day.

image of engine oil

Speaking of precious elixirs (You were waiting for that, weren’t you?), engine oil—commonly known as motor oil—is the same thing for cars. Your car’s engine is a series of complicated, hot, fast-moving parts, and engine oil is what keeps all those parts lubricated and running smoothly. As the parts heat up, so does the oil, so it’s very important to have the right type of motor oil, in the right amount, and keep it changed regularly.

The bottom line is, pay attention to the specifications in your owner’s manual and you’ll be happier than my wife during a sale at Macy’s. Buy the correct type of engine oil, in the correct weight. Some manufacturers specifically recommend synthetic motor oil, and if you use a different kind, it could void your warranty. Weight has to do with the temperatures in which you run your car (winter or summer) and also how thick the oil becomes when heated. Bear in mind that you don’t want it too thick when it’s cold or too thin when the engine heats up. This is particularly important in new cars, where the tolerances (gaps between moving parts) can be extremely thin, so you want to make sure the oil isn’t thicker than recommended.

If you’re committed to a lot of do-it-yourself jobs, changing your own engine oil is very easy and relatively painless (although it can get really messy) but even if your mechanic changes your engine oil as a part of your regular service, it’s never a bad idea to keep a quart in your car and do a quick check of your oil levels when you fill your tank up…just be careful, as your engine gets VERY hot and its really best to check oil when the engine is cooler. So make gassing up and checking oil your first stop.

Just make sure the motor oil quart has certification on it from whatever your manual recommends: likely the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) and preferably the API (American Petroleum Institute). They regulate and make sure the oil is of good quality and thickness.

The bottom line is, your car needs engine oil the way you need water (or I need coffee). It’s very easy to keep an eye on the engine oil and change it regularly for many years of happy, reliable engine life. Happy motoring.


Editor’s Note: Advance Auto Parts can assist you in finding the optimal engine oil, plus all of the right tools such as jacks, oil drain pans, gloves and more—to ensure the job goes smoothly. On top of that, Advance Auto Parts also recycles used motor oil.  So after you perform an oil change, bring your used oil back to the store for clean and easy recycling.