Mustang Parts
   Carrying Saleen wheels and Bullitt wheels.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Chelli's Bentley

Yesterday, on Southfield Road, I pulled up next to a shiny black Bentley Azure convertible, like this one:

Driving it, slowly, and chatting on a cell phone was (if I recognized him correctly) Chris Chelios, the senior defenseman from the Red Wings, and owner of Chelli's Chilli Bar restaurants.

It doesn't really matter to me what our local celebrities drive, as I don't care much for celebrity one way or another, but it was neat to see a Red Wing and his wheels.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Spotted In Birmingham: Holden Crewman

I stopped by the Border's Books in Birmingham the other day, and found myself parked next to one of these, sporting an M-plate. Sorry for the stolen pics, I dont' have a cell phone camera.

It is a sharp looking car, outside and in. Some lucky engineer from GM probably got to drive it for evaluation purposes.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sometimes, We Need Big Brother

Today, I had a near miss because an idiot in front me of me had exactly one of three brake lamps working. He also had near-black tint on his front windows (technically illegal in MI) and non-functioning hood pins. On a battered Mercedes 200-series!

I would not advocate emissions testing to qualify for vehicle registration, but I am thinking now that mandatory safety inspections may be a good idea.

Should we let people drive with bald tires? Dead brake lamps? Dead headlights? Undamped, bouncing wheels? Worn out brakes? Ridiculously high lift kits that could result in decapitations in a collision with another vehicle?

I'm all for individual freedom, up to the point when people's poor maintenance or poseur engineering endanger the others on the road.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Slip-sliding away, slip-sliding away...

"Domestic" auto sales (Chrysler + Ford + GM) have fallen below 50% market share, and are not likely to recover any time soon, if ever.

But market share doesn't so much matter; the important thing is for the domestics to be sustainable, profitable businesses at the size they wind up at.

How likely is this? It is hard to say. I personally think that GM and Ford are large enough that they might pull itoff, with concessions from the UAW, product updates, and relocating production of low-margin vehicles to low cost countries.

Chrysler, I think, is a tough problem, because they aren't strong enough to stand on their own. Whoever winds up with Chrysler will have to join into alliances with other automakers to keep Chrysler's product pipeline full. If Chrysler's new owner is only interested in making a quick buck, there is a real chance that most of the company will simply evaporate, as the valuable pieces are sold off.

The "elephant in the room" is the massive legacy cost of the pension and retiree health care obligations. These costs mean that the domestics are significantly underwater--for each vehicle they build, they have less money available to put into content. The problem seems intractable, and at some point it will have to be dealt with. Either retirees will be thrown under the bus, or we will see some of the largest bankruptcies in American business history.

Either way, it will be excruciating.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Where I Buy Volvo Parts

Every now and then, my Volvo breaks in some annoying little way... like the wimpy cupholders that slide out from the console lid, packaged like origami and about as strong.

I have two places that I usually use to buy replacement parts from, and neither one is the local dealer, who has a healthy mark-up on his parts (although they do have nice free breath mints and chocolates at the service counter).

The first is an outfit called FCP Groton, at FCP has a good selection of tune-up and wear-out parts for Volvo and a number of other European nameplates. The prices are very good.

The other place I have been dealing with is, which is an e-commerce site for an auto dealership in Rhode Island called Tasca Automotive Group. When I needed a secondary air valve recently, Tasca had a great price, and very friendly service. If you need help, you can call or email them and they will support you. Tasca has a very nice online parts catalog, where you can find just about any part on your Volvo.

* I am not being compensated for this plug in any way, I am just a happy customer.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


I saw Grindhouse. Loved it. This is a typical Tarantino movie--vulgar, sharp dialog, well crafted. I think they just have used the m-----f---er about 1000 times. The fake movie trailers shown before each half are hilarious.

Tarantino's half of the double feature is "Death Proof", a car chase/revenge story about some stunt-girls who duel it out with a stunt man who gets his kicks stalking pretty girls in his big black muscle car. There is a lot of talking, which you don't mind much because there are four pretty girls doing the talking (interesting somewhat right-wing tangent on gun rights in one scene), followed by a pretty spectacular car chase. The car chase, supposedly was done with "real" cars, no CGI.

If you don't mind sitting through a (pretty funny) disgusting zombie movie to get to the car chase, and don't mind the word "m-----f---er", and understand Tarantino's idea of humor, then definitely go see it, you won't be disappointed.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Bob's $5,000

Bob Lutz recently said that dramatically increasing fuel economy standards could add $5,000 to the price of the average new car.

He's right. This isn't just auto industry doom-saying.

The efficiency of internal combustion engines has plateaued. Every relatively cheap trick that could be used is being used. This includes variable valve timing, high efficiency lubricants, lighter weight materials, higher precision machining, and complex sensor networks and computer controls. And these advancements have added hundreds if not thousands of dollars to the cost of your engine*.

Major leaps forward require large increases in complexity. For example, diesel engines are more expensive because they must be built to withstand high pressures, and need turbochargers for driveability. Hybrid electric drivetrains keep all of the complexity of the existing gas engine, and add in parallel batteries, electric motors, regenerative braking, etc. Even with high-volume production, adding more stuff will always cost more money.

So how can automakers meet high fuel economy standards, without raising the prices dramatically?

The most obvious way is to down-size engines. As recently as the early 1990's, the average family car was packing something like 150HP. Today, a mid-size car with 150HP is considered lame, and 200HP+ is the norm. 0-60 times have likewise been dropping, with 8 second minivans becoming commonplace. But, what will the public say, and especially the automotive press, when the V6 becomes an expensive option, and the I-4 becomes the standard engine?

The other way, which Lutz mentioned, is to pursue ethanol fueled vehicles. Ignoring the problems of producing enough ethanol, for a moment, it is true that E85 uses less fossil fuel because it is by definition 85% ethanol. And by tuning engines specifically to take advantage of ethanol's high knock resistance, by increasing the compression ratio, automakers can overcome the performance hit from the reduced energy content of E85. An example of this technology is Saab's Biopower powertrain.

There is no free lunch. Drastically higher fuel economy will require consumer and taxpayer pain, and compromises. There isn't a 100mpg carburetor sitting on a basement shelf, gathering dust, somewhere in Auburn Hills, Dearborn, or Detroit.

*Ever have to replace an O2 sensor or a secondary air pump? Ouch!

B-Class Cars?

Besides the Flex, the other vehicles that inerest me are the Chevrolet small-car triplet Beat/Trax/Groove. These are fresh and practical looking small cars, which would have as good a chance as any of being a success, if Americans would be willing to buy small cars. (Image courtesy of AutoBlog. Cutie not included)

Which they aren't.

Despite the current meme that Americans are dumping SUVs for cars (only partly true), there is not a groundswell of demand for very small cars. Americans don't want small, fuel efficient cars, they really want cheap gas. Absent cheap gas, they want large cars and mid-size SUVs to replace their large SUVs.

There are some small cars which do well because they fill a specific niche. The Mini, for example, or the upcoming Smart. Others, like the Yaris (son of the abominable Echo) only really appeal to people who can't afford something better, or rental car fleets. Smart, by the way, has not been profitable since its inception in its home market.

On the regulatory side, the new CAFE calculations, which use a vehicle's footprint to calculate fuel economy targets rather than an arbitrary number, should give manufacturers the flexibility to avoid b-cars and concentrate on improving the efficiency of their larger vehicles.

The Ford Flex in NY

One of the more interesting vehicles to come out of the New York Auto Show is the production intent version of the Ford Fairlane concept "people mover", renamed to Flex. I like it, but I do have the requisite "buts".

  • Distinct, clean, modern design. Cues from Land Rover, classic station wagons of old, and the "427" theme. I like the white roof. Nice wheel proportions.
  • Long wheelbase, lots of room for 2nd row passengers.
  • Decent interior design.
  • User programmable color lighting.
  • Standard electronic stability control and side curtain airbags
  • Capless fuel filler, which uses a rotating valve instead of a screw-off cap
  • Lock keypad hidden in black b-pillar, with backlit buttons. Slick.
  • Sync driver interface with a hard drive for storing MP3s onboard.
  • The new aluminum 3.5L V6, 260HP
  • The name. "Flex" doesn't strike me as very elegant. It may also confuse some people that the Flex is not a FFV (Flexible Fuel Vehicle). On the other hand, Ford could make a Funk Master Flex edition of the Flex.
  • The (predicted) price. Ford hasn't announced a price, but I doubt they will sell this for much less than the mid-range Edge or the Freestyle/Taurus X. I'm betting this will start at just below $30k and will probably option out north of $35,000. Not the most affordable people mover, compared to the basic minivans of yesteryear.
  • The optional refrigerator. The cooler is located in the 2nd row, and if purchased will remove the middle seat of the 2nd row. The driver can't reach the cooler in that location. I like Chrysler's cooled glovebox design better.
  • The 7th passenger (if the cooler is not installed) appears to sit on a very narrow bench seat, probably only suitable for a kid. This is not true three-across seating, like in a minivan, but more like 2-and-a-half across.
  • Suicide doors, like on the concept, would have been neat.
  • The center stack design looks rather plain.
  • Is this vehicle sufficiently different from a Taurus X (F.K.A. Freestyle)? Will Ford have two very similar vehicles competing for the same buyers?