Just for Fun #84


Rednecks are good people, but they don’t need a car inspection–they just fix it themselves. If you’re not a redneck, get your car inspected before you buy so you don’t overpay. TireKickers!

Until now, you didn’t know that getting a car inspection before buying will keep you from buying an unsafe car. Now you do. Tire Kickers come to you.

The Glory Days of AMC Cars

Pacer not a Pinto

Without a doubt, the golden era for AMC was the 1970’s, and we mean golden in more ways than one.

A report by the CAP-HPI around five years ago suggested that AMC seventies models with a copper bronze hue or even custard yellow were on the way up. Despite the car industry changing in the intervening years many cars of this vintage remain popular.

Side Note: CAP produces a black book analyses the used car market, similar to Kelley Blue Book only based on large scale market.

Setting Themselves Apart:

AMC, American Motor Corporation, looked to be different than other automakers and came up with an SUV style vehicle, the Eagle. It looked like a cross between an all-terrain vehicle and a passenger car, with a long hood but about the same size as a VW Beetle. They were manufactured by AMC & Chrysler between 1979 and 1987.

It had the alternate name of the Eagle Wagon which makes sense if you see one. According to an article written for Newsweek in 1979 it was the only four-wheel drive passenger vehicle made at the time. It could also be thought of as the first crossover.

Was this a gamble? Possibly, after all there was no established market for such a car. There doesn’t appear to be a genuine effort at market research on AMC’s part, only a prediction that “consumers would embrace a vehicle with the comfort of an automobile (sic) but with capabilities of an all-terrain vehicle.”

The design came from Ray Lunn who was the chief designer for the AMC Jeep. It was given the convoluted code name of “Project 8001 plus Four.” Having a uni-body was vital to the design; a unitized body means a vehicle frame or chassis is purpose made for the car in question. Unibody was not a common thing in ATV’s of the time, since people who like to take their cars off-road also like to pound out dents from going off road—not a strength of the unibody design.

Other AMC Oddities:

In perhaps the weirdest product crossover some Hornets and Gremlins could be ordered with denim interiors in the 1970s created by jean manufacturer Levi. It can’t be the best substance to keep clean though.

The AMC Hornet shouldn’t be confused with the Green Hornet or the Hudson Hornet. As with most of the cars referred to here, it was only produced in the ‘70s. A compact which came as either a sedan, or a station wagon. The Hornet had the same platform as the Gremlin, the Eagle and the Spirit, among others.

Gremlin

The Gremlin has a reputation as an ugly and therefore bad car. In fact, gremlins are mythical creatures that destroy machines so it’s a terrible name for a car line. The truth is the Gremlin was ahead of its time; a sub-compact manufactured in both the US and Mexico by AMC. It was produced a long time before the 1985 film of the same name.

What’s a Matador?

Today we might honestly ask that, but ironically an AMC 1970’s advertising campaign asked, “What’s a Matador?” The twist is that at the time AMC Matador was the car to have, superseding the AMC Rebel. A two-door hardtop, it had the export name “Rambler Matador.” They also became the car used by the LA Police Department for a while.

(Trivia section: What car did the AMC Matador replace? The answer is below.)

One way that the costs were kept down in AMC cars was having parts such as the distributor, starter and carburettor shared with companies like Ford. Not many people realise that AMC manufactured engines for other company’s cars when practical.

In the end, AMC was purchased in 1987 by Chrysler who continued some of the car lines for a few years and then phased them out.

Answer to the question above: The AMC Matador replaced the Plymouth Satellite as the car used by the LA PD.

Why Do We Say “Sports Car”?

What do we really mean when we say sports car? The obvious answer is a car optimized for performance, with a focus on focus on handling and a dynamic appearance. We seldom think about the factors that go into performance which in turn create an iconic look. For example, you may not know that a sports car needs to be low-built (or built low to the ground). A lower car is more has a lower center of gravity and is more aerodynamic. It also makes the car look more attractive.

Why are sports cars pricier than other cars?

One of the reasons is the engine. Another thing is supply and demand, only a few Ferrari f12 tdFs are made. Instead of being marketed to the masses they are sold by invitation only–in order to buy them you need to know the Ferrari family. It’s strange to think of a car as “handcrafted” but this is the way these cars built and sold.

Another reason is that Ferraris maintain their value. One reason they do is that they keep to the same design, a long hood and graceful lines which echo the Ferraris that come before. When you have something of this elegance you don’t change a winning formula. And since they don’t produce a lot of them, we don’t get tired of the look.

We associate sports car with the racetrack but taking something like a Ferrari out for a spin here could do more harm than good. If you ever find yourself in possession of one – if – the general advice is to drive it on the normal road.

As well as Italian cars like the Ferrari, there are a number of French models to watch out for, the Delage, the Bugatti and the Delahaye to name just three.

Classic Sports Cars

Delage D12

The Delage for instance are no longer being made and you probably only see them nowadays in period dramas and films. Created by a designer who worked for Peugeot, strangely the first car only had one cylinder.

Also a Delage D12

From a one-cylinder car in 1906 its founder Louis Delage soon moved on to two and as early as 1909 he had created a four cylinder car mainly used for racing purposes. A year later his factory started creating six-cylinder engines for the mass market.

Specialty Dealerships

Many dealerships specialise in sports cars in order to maximise their profits, though many also sell luxury cars and classic cars too.

Side Note: A classic car has varying descriptions, but people define it as more than twenty years old. More than forty years old with value worth preserving is a more accurate benchmark in our opinion, which is a little obvious if someone is looking to restore the thing.

While there is no easy profits in the car business one key component to a specialty to dealership is matching it to the right location. Okay location, location, location shouldn’t be listed as a surprise for any business, but it’s probably not the first thing you think of when building your dealership. Expensive cars sell better near expensive neighbourhoods. Classic cars sell better near parts of town that already cater to seniors with money.

The Final Surprise/Not Surprise

Because all cars are designed to run safely and smoothly while going fast and look good, it’s hard to list these things as hallmarks of a sports car. However, most cars have some other big priority they need to elevate, like number of passengers or fuel economy. Sports cars prioritize performance, speed, and looks. These types are built for racing and therefore designed to work at speed.

The category of car most difficult to distinguish from a sports car is the luxury car. Both tend to prioritize handling and performance, are often custom built, and come with a high price tag. However, the super high cost is not mandatory in a sports car and a luxury car will prioritize a smooth ride over top speed in a pinch, where sports cars prioritize performance and speed over driver comfort almost routinely.

With a cars as with any consumer good, the real question is, “is there market demand?” Sports cars sell well at every price point, making them a trend likely to continue long into the future.

Car Sale Problems.

Op-Ed by the Editors

2021 isn’t over but many people seem resigned to the fact that it won’t be a good year for car makers, and the way things are going 2020 could only be described as diabolical.

One way it might improve – and possibly the only way it can improve at the moment – is through online sales. At this time of crisis auto dealers can no longer rely on a friendly handshake (this is no time for cynicism so let’s just say it is a friendly handshake) to deliver on a deal. Studying the statistics, this old system will need to change drastically. J D Power’s figures measure the first 19 days of March verses previous years at the same time and demand has dropped 13%. Things are even more drastic in places such as LA and Seattle with a 22% drop in just a 19-day period.

So how do online services compare? Roadster, which serves US and Canadian dealers shows an increase in 6%. Tesla uses a similar system relying on internet deliveries and an app. Unfortunately, Tesla relies on signed paperwork being taken to a drop off point. How this would continue to work during these emergencies isn’t clear.

So, the most innovative way to do sales in the future could be an app but then again people are wary of parting with huge chunks of money online. Even a seller such as EBay recommends seeing the automobile before parting with cash.

It seems counter-intuitive to work this way but even when the covid restrictions lift fully, the recession will likely go into full swing and somehow business enterprises must carry on. Dealers haven’t embraced the online market as a major source of revenue but a recession could change that.

An idea being test marketed is trying the car for a week and seeing if they like it. How exactly this method works isn’t clear. Supposing a person doing the trial refuses to give it back? Surely there is workarounds for such things, but the adverts don’t spell those out.

We can’t just rely on the showroom. It’s an antiquated way of doing things which continued because “it seemed to work” or “it’s what the customers are used to.” Or most likely it’s highly lucrative for dealerships. At the moment however, it fails to work, customers just can’t use these methods in purchasing a car, they can’t get out of their home in many cases.

Some dealers like Chrysler are adapting to new ways of working. Prospective customers can explore the latest models on FaceTime as the sales agent walks around the lot.

It’s one way to keep money in circulation but maybe we can do more. After all, if not now when?

The Origin Of Trucks

Benz-Gaggenau BL 10 platform truck

Firstly, where does the word truck come from? It appears it was first used for the wheels on a ship’s cannon and was extended to carts carrying heavy loads. Before gas powered trucks were steam trucks, though they weren’t that widespread.

While vehicles remained expensive, luxury items, the truck wasn’t that popular either. There were many cheaper ways to transport goods – carts, canal boats, railways and so on.

The first trucks had wooden wheels clad in iron. The Phoenix was a later model, a converted car that ran on coal gas, lamp oil as well as gasoline.

Early Trucks

Karl Benz came up with the first truck in 1895 which was in turn altered to become an autobus. In 1896 Gottleib Daimler produced a horseless wagon with 4hp. Although it was said to carry 3300 pounds many disagreed – presumably this was too much for them?

Because of the lack of interest in Germany Gottleib Daimler tried selling the product in England, as coke and coal was cheaper than in Germany. There may have been a speed issue too. Up to 1896 the speed limit was 4mph. It was advertised as being able to transport 1500Kg but it wouldn’t be until 1901 that a truck could outdo the steam alternative as a test run between a motor truck and a steam truck in Liverpool proved.

They would also be promoted in Paris by the French Automobile Club in 1898. The wooden wheels referred to above were a hazard as they were liable to catch fire.

Süddendeutsche Automobilfabrik’s truck used a steel frame and steel wheels along with wheels and pistons. Before that German trucks had used a belt drive.

Other versions were created by Peugeot and Bussing. Only after the Second World War were things like pneumatic tires and power brakes introduced. The diesel engine was introduced in 1923. All of these were styled as large delivery vehicles, not pick ups as we think of them today.

The First American Truck!

Autocar created the first truck in the US with a choice of either 5 or 8hp and two-cylinder engine in 1899.

The first pickup truck was “vehicle no 42” in 1896. After that a modified Ford Model T called The Runabout had a similar design. The first Chevy truck was created in 1918 also using the Model T chassis. The chassis would continue for some time, in 1935 the same chassis would be used to create a station wagon for Chevy, though they did need to alter the load bearing capabilities of the vehicle and remove some of the body panels. These were open-cab vehicles and included such items as specialist hickory wood wheels.

EV Trucks?

There were a number of electric trucks being produced as early as 1907 with strong suspension and gears, such as a 5-ton truck produced in Indianapolis.

Model T Tow Truck

Tow Trucks

The tow truck was created in 1916, basically from necessity. Created by Ernest Holmes in Tennessee it hooked up cars (either broken or crashed ones) using chains and pulleys to take them to the wreckers. The tow truck company and the associated wrecking business was taken over by Miller Industries.

The Volvo’s first truck in 1928 had a four-cylinder engine and although it was said only to allow 1,500Kg many people overloaded it with little side-effect.

The truck, like all early vehicle styles, was only finding its way at that point since there were no huge freeways and has come a long way since.

Why Semi-Truck Turning Is So Hard

For trucks, turning can be one of the hardest things you can do. Why? Read on and find out.

If a truck wants to u-turn (180 degrees) for example, a truck park must allow for a minimum turn path, a truck of 18 wheels needs about 20’ to turn, the rear wheels follow a shorter path than the front wheels.

Because a truck cannot make a turn in a small radius, they need to swing wide, meaning they must start the turn in the second lane to the left. There is an increased risk of a tip over or roll over if a truck tries to turn in too small a radius.

During any turn there is an increased risk of accident, and if there are only two lanes, trucks should avoid turning left. A truck may collide with a vehicle heading toward it from the front or there may be a right turn squeeze play accident from a vehicle trying to turn alongside it.

Squeeze-play Accidents

Squeeze-play accidents can happen in two ways. First because the trailer turns tighter than the cab and cars tend to assume they are safe if the cab isn’t going to hit them. However, the rear tires on the trailer can strike and even climb over a small car that is overtaken on the inside of a turn. It’s never a good idea to attempt a turn at the same time as a truck even when there are two turn lanes.

The second type of squeeze-play happens when drivers are lured into it. Because trucks need to swing right in order to turn left the truck gives the illusion it is turning right. Car drivers see the left blinker on, but assume the driver really meant to go right.

Trucks also have a larger blind spot than cars which means if they put their left turn signal on a car may feel safe pulling up next to it on the right. When the truck driver turns right to begin his left turn any cars in the way would be crushed, generally at the roof but it can be squeezed against a barrier.

How to Turn a Truck:

If you’re driving the truck, it is important to use signals when turning. It’s important to use windows and mirrors to check what is happening and do not move too quickly. It’s vital that you not put yourself in a position to have to back up the vehicle in the middle of an intersection.

To enter into a right turn, ensure that you have enough space from the curb and do not swing into the far-right lane. Conversely, if a truck makes a left turn it needs to first move right.

Different truck turns can be performed in different gears, right turns should be done in third gear, while left can be done in fourth gear. If it is a big right-hand corner with a turning lane (also known as a slip lane) it may be done in fifth gear. A slower vehicle turns more sharply.

Turn signals need to be up-to-date, mirrors should be correct for the size of the vehicle. The driver needs an adequate level of experience, qualifications and training. Unfamiliarity, such as a new route and different conditions may change things. Or the driver could be distracted which includes being tired.

This is just a simple guide, and it should be noted that you need a considerable amount of training to drive a truck, fortunately for other users of the road!

Avoiding Accidents:

It is vital not to overtake a turning truck.

If you’re driving a vehicle near a truck, to prevent accidents always stay away from a truck’s blind spots, especially if it is an 18-wheel truck. Only pass one when there is a great deal of room and do not pass on the right. Should a truck be indicating, give it a wide berth.

Car drivers shouldn’t think of a truck operating like a regular vehicle and just be more patient.

11% of all crash deaths in 2019 involved trucks but 74% of them involved a large trailer, while 24% involved single unit trucks. It is vital as a car driver to stay a safe distance and only pass when there is a great deal of room, especially if it is indicating.

Altering the Car’s Interior

What can be altered about a car’s interior? Is it even worth it?

People do want their to personalize their car and to express their creativity but there are consequences if you go too far.

1st Reselling

Obviously if they car’s interior is in bad shape then there is nowhere to go but up, however it depends on how you intend to sell your car—should you be thinking of eventually doing so. In the second-hand market, yes, a consumer who looks at a nicely redone interior will prefer it to seeing an original interior with scuffs or holes, even if it’s not a factory color. You would need to do some research to find out what’s desirable based on your make and model.

If you try and sell the car in a mainstream way you may have difficulty selling the vehicle. A car lot will be able to spot customized interiors no matter how well it is done.

Other Factors

The layout of some interiors could mean that the comfort of passengers have been compromised and some changes may even be illegal – please don’t overdo your alterations!

It could make your insurance invalid depending on the changes made. You call it custom, your insurance calls it vandalism. That’s assuming you’ve done it well, which frankly a lot of people don’t. It is hard to do well and highly difficult to change back.

Ways to Customize.

Carpets

One place to start is the car’s carpets as most of them have a dull black or gray pattern and a bit of pattern might make a change.

An alternative is to buy some mats, the more expensive the better value it will give the car. If you bought your car used you might start by having the carpets shampooed. Don’t replace them if they’re simply dulled by soil.

PS grime ads wear to carpets so keeping them clean radically extends their life.

Seats

Moving on to the seats, you can buy what are known as aftermarket seats for instance bucket seats as replacement for the originals. As hinted to above, it is vital that you do this properly which means getting a professional in. You’ll need to inform your insurer in any case.

Alternately you can have the old seats reupholstered in leather or leatherette or just buy some seat covers. Look to see which fabrics you like. Maybe looking at massage seats, especially if you have back problems.

Steering Wheel & Dash

Back in the day one could unbolt a steering wheel from the column and replace it for a unique look that fit the owner…now there are air bags…

When it comes to altering the steering wheel and the dashboard the prices will escalate very quickly. But there are ways to do it without breaking the bank and also not damaging your insurance.

A simple way of improving the dashboard region is to look at under dash lighting using LED lights or to add vinyl to the steering wheel or dashboard or perhaps a colorful steering wheel cover. A dash kit will change the finish and is relatively easy to install.

Perhaps the most common car customization involves the dash and is the exception to the rules we’ve been talking about. You radio is virtually built to be replaced if you have the right tools and training. Many stereo stores offer instillation services, and you are wise to take advantage of them. An improved stereo won’t get you much in trade in value, but can make a big difference in the second-hand market, depending on the kind of car you are selling.

Other Changes

Another popular upgrade for young people are racing pedals instead of the regular sort. Maybe a trunk liner to make the most of this region of the car? Again, these are pretty inexpensive ways to improve your vehicle. 

For the music lover you might look into upgrading your speakers. There are car owners who alter the entire trunk by filling it with gigantic speakers, but it does render it unusable.

While you are making all these improvements you may as well add some video screens or a video game console. Depends on the amount of pressure from your children, really.

If your driving is a bit under par you may decide to invest in a collision avoidance kit, particularly if you drive at night. Even if you do drive well, it’s good for your piece of mind and helps your insurance premiums.

Your car is likely the second most costly thing you own after your house. Don’t take chances on totalling your car in the name of self-expression. Or do, the choice is yours.