Crucial Cars: Continental Mark II

A blue 1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II f34

Lincoln Continental Mark II f34. Source | Wikimedia Commons

To fully appreciate the Continental Mark II, you have to look at what the automotive scene in mid-1950s America was like. The economy was booming, and with flashy styling complete with jet-aircraft-inspired shapes and plenty of chrome, the luxury cars of the era were nothing if not flamboyant symbols of the mighty USA. GM’s Cadillac was far and away the No. 1 luxury brand, with Chrysler’s Imperial and Ford’s Lincoln brands trailing behind. It was high time for Ford to step up its game.

So for 1956, Ford brought out its new “Continental” division, which was slotted above the Lincoln brand and intended to beat not just Lincoln’s age-old rivals, but to battle the best from Europe, as well. Yes, that means Rolls-Royce and Mercedes-Benz. Although there was previously a Lincoln Continental model, Ford decided to repurpose the evocative Continental moniker for this new super-premium brand.

The rear of a 1956 Mark II r34

1956 Mark II r34. Source | Wikimedia Commons

Running counter to the status quo

The first model out of the new Continental factory was the 1956 Mark II, which had Cadillac’s prestigious Eldorado series squarely in the crosshairs of its iconic hood ornament. Although the Eldo, introduced three years earlier, was available in both coupe and convertible body styles, the Mark II was offered as a coupe only.

Compared to the rocket tail-finned and chrome-bedecked Eldorado, the Mark II was an exercise in tasteful restraint, with simply elegant, flowing lines and, compared to the Caddy, a minimal use of chrome. Indeed, with its low sleek body, smoothly integrated bumpers and turn signals, the Mark II looked more like a car from the late-1960s than one from the mid-1950s.

Measuring 218.4 inches long over a 126-inch wheelbase and tipping the scales at around 5,000 pounds, this was a seriously big car. Yet the Mark II’s timeless styling managed to mask the car’s massive bulk.

The steering wheel of a 1956 Mark II

1956 Mark II interior cabin. Source | Wikimedia Commons

Classy cabin

Inside it was the same story, with biscuit-style upholstery (available in a choice of fabrics or Scottish leather) and a clean dash and door panel design. Two-tone interior color schemes were available, and as with the overall styling, were subdued rather than ostentatious.

One concession to the aviation-influenced themes dominating the era was the set of controls for the heater and optional air conditioner. These looked like miniature jet-engine throttle controls. Pretty much everything anyone could want in a luxury car, apart from A/C, was standard on the Mark II, including power windows, power seat, even power vent windows.

Horsepower and heft

Although it wasn’t a jet turbine, the Mark II’s 368-cubic-inch V8 cranked out 285 horsepower (300 for 1957). Running through a three-speed automatic and charged with propelling 2.5 tons of top-of-the-line American luxury, the Continental’s V8 quietly moved the Mark II with grace, if not a lot of gusto.

Although the engine was the same one used in Lincoln’s of the day, those used in the Mark II were blueprinted—that is, assembled with the parts that had the most precise tolerances. The engines were also subjected to six hours of testing before installation in the car.

A baby blue 1956 CadillacEldorado

1956 Cadillac Eldorado. Source | Creative Commons

Profits lost but prestige gained

Make no mistake: The Continental Mark II had it all—neatly tailored styling, a plush interior, all the latest luxury gizmos, and a very smooth powertrain. It also had a price tag of around $10,000 (around $90,000 today), which was some 50 percent higher than a comparable Eldorado coupe. And Ford reportedly still lost money on each one it built due to the cost of the high-quality materials and the extensive amount of man hours involved, the latter being double that required of a Lincoln.

That first year, 2,556 units left the factory. For 1957, changes were limited to increased engine output (as stated earlier) and the relocation of the air-conditioning air intakes from the top of the rear fenders to hidden behind the grille. Production for 1957 totaled just 444 units.

As it didn’t make much business sense to build a product that cost the company money, Ford dropped the Continental Mark II after just those two years in production. Although the Mark II didn’t contribute to Ford’s bottom line, it did give the company something arguably more valuable: the prestige of having produced a modern classic.

What do you think of the Continental Mark II? Share your thoughts in the comments.

5 of the Most-Coveted Classic Tuner Cars

Tuner cars are nothing new. Back in the ’60s, they were called third-party muscle cars, modified by the dealership or company to increase performance over what the factory offered. Some of them took it a step further and added exclusive wheels, body parts, or custom paint. They built what manufacturers didn’t offer, and a number of legends came out of that work.

Today, Yenko and Baldwin-Motion Chevys, Royal Oak Pontiacs, and Mustang Stallions and Shelby cars are some of the most sought-after vehicles in the classic muscle car market. Here’s a look at some of the fastest and most well-known classic tuners.

Ford

Shelby GT500

Shelby GT500, Source | GPS 56/Flickr

Shelby GT500

It doesn’t really get much bigger than this. From numerous race wins in the ’60s to Nicolas Cage drooling over one in “Gone in Sixty Seconds,” the GT500 is arguably the best-known tuner car of all time. Carroll Shelby knew the Ford Mustang could be more than a “secretary’s car” and totally changed its attitude by reworking the entire vehicle, including pulling the pedestrian 289ci V8 in favor of a 428ci. More than just turning up the horsepower knob, Shelby added a race-worthy suspension built from his Le Mans days (Shelby had been on the GT40 team), so it could tear up the corners as well as the drag strip. Stripes and custom parts helped the visual punch, contributing to the legend and making the GT500 one of today’s most expensive muscle cars.

Chevrolet

Baldwin-Motion Phase III Chevrolet Camaro

Baldwin-Motion Phase III Chevrolet Camaro, Source | mashleymorgan/Flickr

Baldwin-Motion Phase III Camaro

The Camaro was designed to fight the Mustang, so building a competitor to the GT500 was a natural conclusion. The Baldwin Chevrolet dealership teamed with a nearby speedshop, Motion Performance, to create a limited run of super-muscle cars. Baldwin-Motion would work on nearly anything, but it was famous for the Phase III Camaro (no, there wasn’t a phase I or II). This beast packed a 427 that had been heavily massaged with race-worthy parts. Advertising listed it as 500 horsepower and “unreal” torque. That’s not an exaggeration, as it could run 11.5 in the quarter mile. With optional bulging hoods, side pipes, and outrageous paint colors, these cars weren’t subtle, but they were fast.

Yenko SC427 Nova

Don Yenko’s dealership and performance shop had been building hot versions of the Camaro and Corvair for years by 1969. That experience allowed him to get the new Nova right the first time around. Pulling the top-of-the-line 427ci V8 from the big Chevelle SS, Yenko stuffed it, along with a four-speed manual, into the tiny Nova, making a hilariously fun and dangerous car. Four-hundred-and-fifty horsepower was good for 11 seconds in the quarter on slicks, and even zero-to-60 passed in just 5.1 seconds. It would be 30 years before the factory Camaro could do it that quickly, and for the ’60s it was very impressive. Yenko later reflected in Road & Track that the SC427 Nova was “barely legal at best” and was probably too dangerous for the street.

Pontiac

Royal Bobcat GTO

GM’s excitement division arguably created the muscle car in 1964, but by 1968, the 400ci-powered GTO was fading into the rearview. Mega-dealership Royal Pontiac decided to change things by swapping in a 428ci V8 with a fistful of upgrades. Loaded up with ram air and steeper gear ratios, the rebadged Bobcats were capable of daily driving but were a handful at the limit. Car and Driver called them dangerous in the wrong hands, as they were civil enough for grandma around town but just a gas pedal away from supercar firepower. Bobcats were good for 13-flat in the quarter, if you had tires that could grip all that torque. On regular street tires, they were good at turning rubber into smoke.

Dodge

Hurst/Spaulding Dart GTS 440

The Dart was an attractive but mild-looking compact, and it had acceptable performance with its 340ci V8. The late ’60s demanded more speed, so legendary aftermarket performance company Hurst and Chicago dealership Mr. Norm’s Grand Spaulding worked together to stuff Chrysler’s 440ci mountain motor in the compact Dart. Conservatively rated at 375 hp and 480 lb/ft, the repowered Dart weighed 3,600 pounds. The result was shenanigans, as the Dart GTS 440 was severely nose heavy, and lacked power steering or a warranty. It didn’t matter, though, as the overpowered compact could run low 13s in the quarter mile, beating Corvettes for half the price.

These tuned classics were performance bargains in their day but now sell for serious cash. Ever seen one at a car show or the strip? Let us know your favorite in the comments below.

A Look Back at the Truckcar

Lots of people love pickup trucks but don’t always have the need for a full-size truck. Way back in the ’50s, manufacturers developed a solution with the car-based truck, commonly called the truckcar, or coupe utility. Whatever you call ’em, the idea is the same. Take a car chassis and drivetrain, and drop a small pickup bed out back. While they’re the automotive equivalent of the mullet (business up front, party in the back), the classic truckcar has earned a place in the hearts of many.

Full-size legends

Ford Ranchero

The Ford Ranchero

While truck-ish cars have existed almost since the beginning of the car, Ford really kicked things off with the introduction of the 1957 Ranchero. Built on the full-size Ford sedan and coupe chassis, the Ranchero obviously differed from other cars with its body-integrated pickup bed. At a little over 5 feet long, the Ranchero bed offered light work potential in an easy-to-drive, car-like package.

The ’60s saw the Ranchero transition to the compact Falcon chassis, then the larger Torino, where giant engines like the 460 V8 were common. Cargo ratings hovered just over 1,000 pounds throughout the changes, making the Ranchero a true “half-ton truck.” While it sold well, light trucks were exempt from emissions and mileage requirements, so 1979 was the Ranchero’s last year, as it was replaced by the Ford Ranger compact truck.

The El Camino

The El Camino, Source | Allen Watkin

GM noticed early surging sales of the Ranchero and quickly developed its own competitor. The ’59 El Camino was based off the full-size Chevy sedan/wagon chassis but offered a variety of engines, from a weak inline six, to the fuel-injected 283 Ramjet. The second generation switched to the smaller Chevelle platform, and the El Camino mirrored the muscle car’s options and equipment, including the 396 V8.

The ’70s weren’t a great time for most car manufacturers, but the El Camino survived better than most. With a big-block 454 V8, manual trans, and rear-wheel drive under a lightweight rear, the El Camino was a groovy burnout machine that also delivered a respectable 5,000-pound tow rating when properly optioned.

Compact and odd

Subaru BRAT

The Subaru BRAT, Source | ilikewaffles

Around the time the Ranchero was disappearing in favor of light trucks, Subaru developed this odd little competitor. The BRAT differed from the American car-trucks with its 1.6-liter inline four cylinder making all of 67 horsepower, and driving all four wheels. While the bed was small, the weirdness continued there, with the option of two rear-facing jump seats. Alongside Van Halen’s best years, the BRAT was only available from 1978 to 1985.

Dodge Rampage

The Dodge Rampage, Source | John Lloyd

Apparently the coupe utility market was hot in the early ’80s, as Dodge felt the need to jump in with the Rampage. Despite the popularity of the K chassis, this little guy was built off the L platform (think Dodge Omni) and featured a 2.2-liter inline four powering the front wheels. That’s peak 1980s right there: a FWD truck with a tape player. It was even available in “Garnet Pearl Metallic,” which is ’80s-speak for neon pink. Rad.

Want one brand new?

Holden Ute

The Holden Ute, Source | FotoSleuth

Australia has a unique place in automotive history, as it never forgot how to build a muscle car, even during the 1970s and ’80s. The Aussie version of the El Camino is the Holden Ute. Like standard versions of the truckcar, the Ute features a modern chassis, suspension, and interior, with all the useful bed space you would likely need. If a standard V6 isn’t enough power, step up to the SS version, which features a 400+ horsepower 6.2-liter V8 and 6-speed manual transmission. With a 3,500-pound tow rating, it can haul your race car to the track, and then rip off a high 12-second quarter mile. Work and play in one great-looking package.

Volkswagen Saveiro

The Volkswagen Saveiro, Source | Wikipedia

While the 1980s mostly put an end to the rear-wheel drive truckcar, the Ute has held out until 2017. Now the closest comparable vehicles are small front-wheel drive truckcars like the VW Saveiro. This subcompact coupe utility drives the front wheels with a choice of four-cylinder engines, which is plenty of power when your truck is three-feet shorter than a Toyota Tacoma. Cheap and economical, the Saveiro meets the needs of many owners. Want one? You’ll have to move outside the US, as Volkswagen has no plans to sell them here.

While the truckcar doesn’t look to be returning to the USA anytime soon, we do have a lot of options if you don’t mind buying used. From a fun muscle project to a useful truck alternative, the truckcar style has a lot to offer.

Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.

The Tantalizing New Shelby Mustang Terlingua

Shelby Mustang Terlingua

What does Terlingua mean?
It’s pretty much common knowledge that Carroll Shelby was a fun-loving son-of-a-gun. Back in the 1960s, when he fielded a racing team with his buddies Bill Neale and Jerry Titus, Shelby and his Mustang mates would unwind at a large ranch in Terlingua, Texas. Hunting, riding dirt bikes and general hell-raising were the “R and R” activities of choice for these merrymaking men.

Jackrabbits were a common sight around the 200,000-acre ranch and gave rise to a mascot designed by Bill Neale for the racing team. And so the Jackrabbit logo, seemingly in a “Stop right there—you really don’t think you can beat us, do you?” pose, was born.

What’s a Shelby Mustang Terlingua?
In short, the Terlingua is the most track-focused Shelby Mustang you can get, that also pays tribute to that great 1960s racing team which won the 1967 Trans-Am championship. Sporting the iconic Jackrabbit on its fenders, the modern Terlingua is dressed in the black and yellow color scheme that the team primarily used back in the days when Sergeant Pepper and Pet Sounds were climbing the Billboard charts.

Shelby Mustang Terlingua Racing Team

Nostalgia aside, this ‘stang is chock-full of the latest race goodies. There are carbon fiber components aplenty, such as the hood, front splitter, rocker panels, rear spoiler, and rear diffuser.

Under that vented hood sits a supercharged, 5.0-liter V8, shared with the Shelby Super Snake Mustang, which sends “over 750 horsepower” to the pavement via either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Suspension tweaks include adjustable Eibach coil-overs, camber/caster plates, and lightweight 20-inch Weld wheels. Stopping power is adequately fortified with 6-piston front/4-piston rear Brembo brakes.

Shelby Mustang Terlingua
Interior highlights include added gauges for boost and oil pressure, unique headrests, and a plaque signed by Shelby, Neile, and Titus. Racing seats are optional.

Under that vented hood sits a supercharged, 5.0-liter V8, shared with the Shelby Super Snake Mustang, which sends “over 750 horsepower” to the pavement.

Track time
We put the Terlingua through its paces at Spring Mountain Ranch race track, which is about 60 miles west of Las Vegas. For comparison purposes (and to show off the rest of their fun-loving Mustang lineup), the Shelby folks also had a couple of Super Snake Mustangs on hand, on which the Terlingua is based, as well as a Shelby GT Mustang EcoBoost. Keep in mind these are all ultra-high performance versions of Ford’s already capable Mustang, with plenty of power underfoot and sharpened-up handling to go with it. And yet the Terlingua quickly showed itself to be the top track jock of the group.

Once we were comfortable with the circuit, the pace quickened, and we found that the Terlingua was very well-planted and confident when being caned around the track. The well-weighted, communicative steering and buttoned-down suspension allowed us to consistently pick off apexes with surgical precision. Even when running through a slight rise and dip in the track while approaching one of the first turns, this Shelby didn’t wiggle or waver off line.

Blasting out of the corners and down the straights in this well-behaved beast was effortless, thanks to the linear delivery of the tidal-wave of thrust on tap. Those brawny Brembos chipped in as well, allowing us to brake late and hard, time and again with no fade, as we dove aggressively into the turns.

Shelby Mustang Terlingua
Want one?
With a production run of just 75 total cars, of which 50 are slated for the U.S., the Shelby Terlingua Mustang will be a rare sight indeed. Pricing starts at $65,999, but that’s on top of the cost of a new 2015/2016 Mustang GT, meaning you’re at about $100 grand minimum.

For those lucky few who pony up (sorry) for a Mustang that can go head to head on a road course with European thoroughbreds that are three times the price, we salute you. The rest of us will be watching videos of your epic track days on YouTube.

Crucial Cars: Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta ST

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

In this installment, Street Talk puts the spotlight on a sporty American subcompact – the Ford Fiesta

Introduced for the 1977 model year, the Ford Fiesta brought European flair to the humdrum American small car marketplace. Unlike the clumsy, poorly built Vegas, Pintos and Gremlins of the day, the Fiesta was light, agile and better on gas to boot. But although the Fiesta is now in its sixth generation, the U.S. has only received the first and latest versions of this subcompact. But that’s fine with us, as the newest Fiesta, with its solid build quality and very likeable, fun to drive personality is so good that we’re almost tempted to chant “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.” whenever we drive one.

From Germany with love
The first Fiesta to hit U.S. Ford dealers arrived for 1977. Built in Cologne, Germany, ain, the Fiesta was truly tiny compared to American made small cars. Indeed, with an overall length of 140 inches, this two-door hatchback was nearly two feet shorter in length than a Ford Pinto (163 inches). Power came from a 1.6-liter inline four that made an earth-shaking 66 horsepower. Still, that was enough to move the lightweight (1,800-pound) Fiesta along adequately in city traffic and on the open highway while delivering close to 40 mpg.

Available in the U.S. through 1980, these first-gen Fiestas were typically offered in four trim levels: base, Décor, Sport and Ghia, with increasing standard features culminating in the Ghia with its fancier exterior trim accents and plush cloth upholstery. With the Escort replacing the Fiesta (and Pinto) for 1981, the Euro-flavored little Ford took the next 30 years off from the U.S. market. But it would return with a vengeance.1979 Ford Fiesta

Back and all grown up
For model year 2011 the Fiesta was back in fine, make that much finer form. Once again bred chiefly in Europe but built in Mexico for the U.S. market, the modern-era Fiesta was so good at debut it had hardened car critics lavishing praise upon it. Offered in four-door sedan and four-door hatchback body styles, the new-age Fiesta brought a winning combination of style, refinement and sporty driving dynamics, qualities previously about as foreign to the U.S. small car marketplace as Bratwurst would be on a hamburger joint’s menu.

With 120 horsepower on tap, these Fiestas had more power than one would typically see in the subcompact class (a 2011 Mazda 2 had but 100 hp). One could choose between a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, while one could choose between base S, midlevel SE and top of the line SEL (sedan) and SES (hatchback) trim levels. A few years later the top-dog trim for both body styles was changed to Titanium.

The Fiesta also offered small car buyers some rather unusual available luxuries such as voice command for phone and audio functions, keyless entry/ignition and heated leather seats. The few downsides for this Fiesta are its rather busy center stack audio controls and somewhat meager rear seat and cargo space.

That America now offered a more than competitive subcompact car was certainly noteworthy, but the big news arrived for 2014, with the introduction of the overtly sporty ST along with the debut of a fun yet frugal turbocharged three cylinder engine.

2011 Ford Fiesta sedanFirst the ST. This hot hatch (it’s not available in the sedan body) comes ready to rock with a turbocharged, 197-horse 1.6-liter powerhouse matched to a slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox. Rounding out this automotive athlete’s perks are a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch wheels shod with high-performance tires, quicker steering and upgraded brakes. Visual cues for the ST include unique styling tweaks (grille, rocker flairs, foglights) and dual exhaust outlets. Able to sprint to 60 mph in about 7 seconds flat, the Fiesta ST is one of the quickest small cars you can buy. Yet there’s more than straight-line thrills here, as a romp through a twisty mountain road will readily prove, thanks to the ST’s agile demeanor and quick, communicative steering.

Although the ST has hogged the Fiesta’s headlines, the 1.0-liter, “EcoBoost” turbocharged three cylinder engine (optional on the SE trim) deserves mention. Worked through a five-speed manual transmission (no automatic available), this little dynamo can pull the Fiesta to 60 mph in 8.9 seconds while also delivering impressive fuel economy to the tune of 36 mpg combined.

Regardless of which Ford Fiesta you own (or may end up with), you may want to check out a few of the enthusiast sites such as Fiesta Owners Club and Ford Fiesta Forum. And whether you go with a base version, an ST or something in between, you’re virtually guaranteed an enjoyable driving experience ranging from fine to fired-up.

No matter what you drive, Advance Auto Parts has the parts, tools and savings deals to ensure you get what you need—fast. Buy online, puck up in-store in 30 minutes.

 

Crucial Cars: Ford Super Duty F-250

2011 Ford F-250 Super Duty photoFrom timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.

In this installment, the Mechanic Next Door explores the unstoppable beast that is the Ford Super Duty F-250.

When it comes to geography and trucks, bigger is always better. Just ask the people of Texas, or Ford Super Duty F250 owners.

The Ford F150 pickup is enough muscle for most weekend warriors towing the occasional camper, horse trailer, or boat for a weekend getaway. The same holds true for drivers hauling a bed full of hay bales, mulch for the flower beds or a relative’s furniture.

But when the game shifts to towing bigger, heavier loads more frequently, that’s when truck drivers opt for the big guns – the Ford Super Duty F-250.

Super Duty – it wasn’t a truck first

Ford Super Duty F-250 photoThe Ford Super Duty F-250 debuted in 1998 with the ’99 model year. Those early models featured distinct styling – including unique headlamps and grilles – with countless Ford Super Duty F-250 accessories available today that help them stand out from their less powerful F-150 brethren. That first 250 featured a 5.4 liter V-8 delivering 255 horsepower and 350 pounds of torque, with available options including a 6.8 liter V-10 or a 7.3 liter turbodiesel.

Fittingly, since the 250’s branding and performance focus on power, the Super Duty moniker first appeared on the scene in 1958 not as a truck but rather as a big, weighty engine producing high torque at low RPMs. And this engine was never designed for the light-duty tasks of transporting kids to a Saturday morning soccer game or hauling a couple of bags of potting soil and some plants. No, this beast of an engine worked and was usually found only in industrial-type vehicles such as buses, dump trucks, garbage trucks and cement mixers.

Forty years later, the first Ford Super Duty F-250 model would seem a fitting way to honor an engine similarly designed for heavy lifting and hard work.

Towing capacity is what matters

Ford says, “90 percent of all Super duty trucks are purchased by customers who tow often.” That’s the main reason truck marketing, and particularly Ford Heavy Duty ads, emphasize towing capacity. But just how much can they tow? 12,500 pounds – and that’s just for starters.

Pretty much across the board, any 2015 Super Duty F250 sporting a 6.2 liter, gas, V-8 and a 3.73 gear ratio can tow 12,500 pounds using a standard hitch and ball setup, regardless of cab configuration . The only exceptions being the Super Cab 4×4 and Crew Cab 4×4 which max out at 12,400 pounds and 12,200 pounds, respectively.

Jump up to a 6.7 liter, Power Stroke Turbo Diesel V-8, however, and that towing capacity increases to 14,000 pounds for both the Super Cab and Crew Cab configurations. Add a 5th wheel gooseneck towing configuration and towing capacities climb higher still, topping out at 16,600 pounds for the Power Stroke Diesel, 4×2 with a 3.31 axle ratio.

Which one of these is not like the others?

The Ford Super Duty F250 differs from its truck family members on both ends of the scale mainly in towing capacity. For example, the 2015 F150 has a maximum towing capacity of 12,200 pounds, while a diesel F350 or 450 can tow north of 26,000 pounds or 31,000 pounds, respectively, as compared to the F250 topping out at close to 17,000 pounds.

The F250’s distinct chrome-bar style grille featuring a huge Ford emblem, big telescoping mirrors, available roof clearance lights also give the Ford Super Duty F250 a look that helps further distinguish it from its less-powerful sibling.Ford Super Duty F-250 2

This might not be the truck for you.

The Ford Super Duty F250 isn’t necessarily the right choice for every pickup truck driver out there. Its main attraction is power – for both towing and hauling. Before you make a purchase decision based solely on that enticing “more power” characteristic, make sure you actually need all the horsepower that comes with an F250. Maybe you, and your wallet, would be happier with an F150? Whatever you decide, know that you’re not going to be disappointed by the best-selling truck in America.

Editor’s note: If you’re searching for Ford Super Duty F250 parts or accessories, stop by Advance Auto Parts for everything your truck needs. Buy online, pick up in store, and get back to the garage.

 

 

 

Ford produces ultra-limited run of 2015 Shelby GT350 — 137 total!

2015 Shelby GT350 picture

Photo credit: Autoweek

 

According to the good folks at Autoweek:

It was reported last month that Ford was planning to limit production of the Shelby GT350 and GT350R in 2015 — a few thousand were rumored to be on the build schedule. Turns out this is going to be a far rarer machine, though: Just 100 examples of the GT350 will be built, 50 with the Technology Package and 50 with the Track Package. The 350R will be even more limited, with just 37 examples being produced.

Interestingly, the article points out how this ultra-limited production run ranks in terms of Shelby’s history: “Those production numbers would make the 2015 Shelby GT350 even more exclusive than the 1965 model, of which 562 units were built. The company is building the 37 Rs to pay homage to Shelby’s original run of competition versions of the car.”

The article also lays out some specs: “The 2015 Shelby GT350 debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show late last year with “more than 500 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque,” Ford says, from a 5.2-liter flat-plane-crank V8. We saw the racier GT350R a few months later when it premiered at the Detroit auto show next to the new Ford GT. The R is lighter, faster and stiffer all around.”

Pricing hasn’t been revealed, but Autoweek thinks that it will be: “somewhere near the Chevy Camaro Z/28’s starting price of $73,000 wouldn’t be out of the question … before your local dealer adds his 300 percent markup.”

The GT350 and GT350R go on sale this fall.

The article goes on to list these option pricing details, pulled from the Mustang 6g Forum:

2015 GT350 Option Pricing (MSRP):

Tech Package = $7,500

Track Package = $6,500

Navigation = $795

Painted Black Roof = $695

Triple Yellow = $495

Over the top stripes = $475

2015 GT350R Option Pricing (MSRP):

R Package (over base GT350) = $3,500

SVT Touring Package = $3,000

Navigation = $795

Read the full story at Autoweek.

Crucial Cars: Ford Explorer

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

In this installment, the Mechanic Next Door talks about the comeback kid of the SUV variety, the Ford Explorer.

The Ford Explorer is back. Not that it ever went anywhere, but Explorer sales were declining steadily from their peak of nearly 450,000 new vehicles sold in 2000 to a low of just 52,000 sold in 2009. That nearly 90 percent reduction in sales over nine years certainly gave credence to the observation that there just didn’t seem to be as many Explorers on the road, and the feeling that perhaps Explorer was slowly but surely fading from the automotive landscape into the annals of Ford’s highly successful truck history.

And then 2011 happened, when Explorer sales increased more than 100 percent from the previous year and marked the start of a sales rebound that’s continued every year through 2014 – the latest year for which full-year sales data is available.

So who or what is responsible for the sudden and dramatic resurgence in Ford Explorer’s popularity? Blame it on the fifth generation.

Debuting with the 2011 model year and based on the concept vehicle that Ford unveiled at the 2008 North America International Auto Show, the fifth-generation Explorer was conceived by the same design engineer who held a similar position at Land Rover. Notice any similarities between the Explorer and Land Rover’s Range Rover?

But before looking forward to the latest installment in the fifth generation – the 2016 Ford Explorer – one has to look back to understand the Explorer’s roots, and popularity right out of the gate.Ford Explorer tow picture

The Explorer placed third in truck sales in 1991 – the very first year it was available, and Ford knew instantly they had a clear winner on their hands. If you’re feeling nostalgic, check out this official Ford video explaining how to use the new 1991 Explorer’s features – if you can get past the talents’ “stylish” wardrobe that is. Explorer replaced Ford’s other entry in the sport utility segment, the Bronco II, and was designed to compete directly with Chevrolet’s S-10 Blazer, even though Explorer wasn’t the first compact four-door sport utility to market. That distinction belongs to both the Jeep Cherokee and Isuzu Trooper.

Explorer wasn’t a new name either. Just six years earlier it could be found on Ford’s F-Series Trucks, serving as a trim package designation stretching all the way back to the late ‘60s.

When it debuted, the 1991 Explorer was available as either a two- or four-door model with two- or four-wheel drive in one of three trim levels available on the four-door – the base XL, XLT, or Eddie Bauer. The two-tone green and beige paint scheme available with the Eddie Bauer edition became nearly synonymous with those early Explorers as it seemed they were everywhere.

On the four-wheel drive option, Ford also offered the choice of automatic locking front hubs that engaged with just the push of a dash button, or the traditional hubs that had to be locked manually and the system engaged via a floor lever. As anti-lock brakes were still in their infancy, only the Explorer’s rear brakes were equipped with ABS.

Towing capacity on the first Explorer came in at a hefty 5,600 pounds thanks to a four-liter, 155-horsepower V-6 paired with either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual. But perhaps one of the biggest reasons behind the Explorer’s instant popularity were its decidedly car-like luxuries, including leather seats and high-end audio, that drivers were not expecting to find in a truck-like vehicle. That power, performance and luxury came at a price – about $22,000 for the four-door model back in the day. Compare that to a price tag of approximately $30,000 for a base, entry-level Explorer today or jump up to the big daddy of them all, the 2016 Platinum Explorer, starting at $52,600.Ford Explorer interior picture

With four generations and five models in the current generation preceding it, Ford took its time arriving at the 2016 Explorer. Outside, the Platinum-level Explorer impresses with its platinum grille, dual-panel moonroof, hands-free, foot-activated liftgate, and LED lamps, all riding on bright aluminum 20’s featuring painted pockets. Inside, it’s all luxury, all the time, with wood accents and “Nirvana” (do they take you there?) leather-trimmed seats with “quilted inserts,” (what does that even mean?), USB charging ports, a command center with so much technology in its display that it looks more like the cockpit of a small plane, three rows of seating for seven, and Enhanced Active Park Assist to take the stress out of navigating virtually any type of parking space.

Under the hood, three engine choices are available with the Platinum – a 2.3 L EcoBoost I-4, a 3.5 L TI-VCT V6 (twin independent variable camshaft timing), or a 3.5 L EcoBoost V6. Getting all that power to the ground is a six-speed, SelectShift automatic transmission and front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.

Twenty five years later, Ford hasn’t forgotten their roots, or what’s behind the Explorer’s enduring popularity – luxury, car-like features, towing and cargo capacities you’d expect to find in a truck, and a revamped style that helps you look good doing it all.

Editor’s note: Got projects? Count on Advance Auto Parts for the right parts and tools. Buy online, pick up in-store in 3o minutes. 

Crucial Cars: Ford Ranger

Ford Ranger 1 photoFrom timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.

In this installment, our Mechanic Next Door tackles the mighty mid-sizer, the Ford Ranger.

If you’re in the market for a brand-new 2015 Ford Ranger, your choices are limited – very limited – as in you have one choice. You can buy one by visiting a Ford dealer in another country.

If the idea of traveling outside the U.S. just to purchase a vehicle doesn’t sound convenient or economical, you can set your sights on a compact truck from another manufacturer. Reason being? Ford stopped offering the Ranger to the U.S. market after the 2011 model year. (Before you diehard Ranger fans point out my perceived error, I know Ford did produce a limited number of 2012 models exclusively for the domestic fleet market.)

If you’re a long-time Ranger owner and this is new news to you, I’m sorry. If you want to see what you’re missing in the Ford Ranger 2014 or Ford Ranger 2015 that drivers in other countries are enjoying, feast your eyes on these models. Take comfort in the fact, however, that the decision to discontinue a model that at one time owned 25 percent of the compact truck market was strictly a business one. Two numbers tell the story behind that decision – 330,125 and 55,364. The former is the number of Rangers sold in the U.S. in 2000, the latter the number sold in 2010 – a stunning sales decline of nearly 275,000 Rangers or 83 percent annually over a decade.

Clearly the writing was on the wall, and what it read was that American truck buyers were shifting away from compact trucks, like the Ford Ranger, to full-size ones, like the F-150 or Chevy Silverado. Bolstering Ford’s belief that its decision to discontinue Ranger sales in the U.S. was a sound one, were industry sales figures that showed U.S. compact pickup sales declining from 1.2 million units in 1994 to just 264,000 units in 2012.Ford Ranger photo

Ford, understandably so, believed that discontinuing the Ranger wouldn’t have a significant impact on its bottom line, in part because they figured Ranger owners would simply upgrade to newer fuel-efficient F150s with a V-6. That reasoning looked good on paper, but in reality, many Ranger owners may have simply shifted loyalties as Toyota Tacoma’s market share in the compact truck segment jumped from 38% in 2011 to 54% in 2012 – the same time the Ranger was discontinued. Coincidence? Probably not. What it may indicate instead is that compact truck owners love their COMPACT trucks, and with good reason.

Fuel efficiency, maneuverability, parking ease, and lower cost all factor into the equation as to why drivers choose a compact over a full-size truck. Their reasoning seems sound – if you’re not towing or carrying big payloads, and you don’t need a big truck to make your ego happy, why not go compact? Since 1982, when the first 1983 model year Ranger rolled off the assembly line, that’s exactly what many truck owners did – chose compact. Planning for that first Ranger began in 1976 with Ford’s intention to build a compact pickup that was somewhat similar to its full-size offering, only more economical.

Those early Rangers came with a variety of engine choices, including a four cylinder 72 hp, 2.0 liter version or an 82 hp, 2.3 liter. It would be six years before the Ford Ranger received a facelift with the 1989 model’s modern-looking dash and steering column, new front fenders, grille and hood, and flush front lights.

Ford logo pictureContinued changes with the second-generation Ford Ranger – 1992 through 1997 models – saw some new styling elements, including redesigned seats and door panels, along with the discontinuation of the 2.9-liter engine, replaced by engine choices in the 2.3, 3.0 or 4.0 liter size.

The third, and final generation Ranger (at least in the U.S.), was from 1997 through 2012, with the 1998 model debuting a longer wheelbase and cab. As part of the Ford Ranger’s evolution, the later models had engines cranking out 143 hp from a 2.3-liter four-cylinder or 207 hp from the four-liter V-6 – a far cry from that first Ranger’s measly 72 hp.

The Ford Ranger is a trendsetter in more ways than one. Long before anyone heard of a Volt, Leaf, or Tesla, there was the Ford Ranger EV – yes, an electric Ranger. Produced from 1998 to 2002, this battery-powered electric vehicle looked just like its fossil-fuel powered brethren, with the exception of a small door covering a charging port on the front grille.

The Ford Ranger, it seems, is everywhere on the road today, thanks to its strong sales over several decades and the ready availability of parts to keep them on the road for decades to come. Further proof of the Ranger’s enduring popularity – it was featured on MTV’s hit series “Pimp My Ride” when they took a 1985 Ranger – featuring a broken grille and back window and paint scheme whose dominant color was primer gray – and tricked it out for its 18-year-old owner.

With a new Ford Ranger 2015 available outside the U.S., Ranger lovers still hold out hope that Ford one day will make the Ranger available again stateside. Until they do, what’s your reason for loving the Ford Ranger?

 

Editor’s note: Until Ford makes the Ranger available in the U.S. again, visit Advance Auto Parts for the parts you need to keep your older Ranger running. Buy online, pick up in-store, in 30 minutes.

Ford trademarks “EcoBeast”

Ford EcoBoost Logo

As recently reported by Motrolix, Ford has made formal moves to trademark the name “EcoBeast,” an obvious reference to its massively successful EcoBoost engine line.

Filed this past week with the US Patent and Trademark Office, the application falls under the “automobiles and automobile engines” category within Goods and Services.

Here are some more details:

Ford EcoBeast trademark applicationFor the uninitiated, Ford’s EcoBoost engine can be found in its ever-popular F-150 trucks, and is known for its unique combination of power and fuel economy. It’s no surprise that “EcoBeast” has been used for some time as a nick-name by Ford enthusiasts, but what makes this new move by the company even more interesting is what comes next. Will Ford use EcoBeast as the moniker for a new line of mammoth pick-ups? A concept car? A higher-end line of engines?

Or, will the Ford Motor Company just let the trademark languish into obscurity as so many other massive corporations have done before, just to ensure no one else can use it.

What do you think?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Read the full story at Motrolix.