N.D.B. Cars and Coffee 3rd Running - June 19th 2011 at 8am in Weston

Friday, August 28, 2009

Put Fisi in the Ferrari

The musical chairs continue at Ferrari in the wake of Massa's accident. First it was supposed to be Schumacher, but his neck injury precluded him from racing. Currently they are running their test driver Luca Badoer, who just isn't cutting the mustard and will likely be taken out of the car after the race in Belgium this weekend. Rumors are swirling that they will put Giancarlo Fisichella in the car. I love Fisi...he is nice guy who loves racing and is passionate about Ferrari. The guy has had a long F1 career and driven for half a dozen different teams, but never had a chance to drive for his "national" team. For him, driving a Ferrari would be like someone who grew up in Boston getting the chance to pitch for the Red Sox. Here's what he had to say:

“For sure, it’s a dream for all the drivers,” Fisichella said. “Especially for me, as an Italian driver, let’s say at the end of my career, so it’s a very good opportunity. It would be nice. I have 220 grands prix so far, it would be very good pressure for me. It’s not a big problem, it would be a very good opportunity but so far I can’t say anymore.”

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Saab needs this one...

Saab was saved from the automotive scrap heap by Koenigsegg but for it to be a viable long-term brand they need to update and expand their product line. The first effort on this front is the new 9-5. Although still leveraging GM underpinnings, Saab is working on getting more "Saabiness" (also known as quirkiness) back into its products. This is a good looking car that has some of the traditional Saab design elements and some interesting technology underneath. Let's hope the buyers haven't been scared off by the company's tenuous situation.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Arrivederci Clunkachino

So the cash-for-clunkers program is over already! I am biased, but I like any program that gets fuel-efficient, commute-appropriate vehicles on the road and stops people from driving unnecessarily in over-sized gas guzzlers. That said, there are plenty of folks, like my friend Jim, who think this is a waste of government cash. Fair enough, but I say compared to some of the places the government spends its (our) moolah, providing incentives for people to make smart decisions regarding their second-largest purchase, isn't a bad idea.

Anyway, to prove that this process worked as intended (i.e., taking clunkers off the road in favor of fuel-efficient vehicles), take a look at this list of vehicles "clunked" and purchased. I'd guesstimate about a 10-15MPG average improvement...

Top 10 New Vehicles Purchased
1. Toyota Corolla
2. Ford Focus FWD
3. Honda Civic
4. Toyota Prius
5. Toyota Camry
6. Hyundai Elantra
7. Ford Escape FWD
8. Dodge Caliber
9. Honda Fit
10. Chevrolet Cobalt

Top 10 Trade-in Vehicles
1. Ford Explorer 4WD
2. Ford F150 Pickup 2WD
3. Jeep Grand Cherokee 4WD
4. Jeep Cherokee 4WD
5. Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan 2WD
6. Ford Explorer 2WD
7. Chevrolet Blazer 4WD
8. Ford F150 Pickup 4WD
9. Chevrolet C1500 Pickup 2WD
10. Ford Windstar FWD Van

Bonus: Here's an interesting video of how they "kill" the engines on the clunkers with sodium silciate:

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mystery Car of the Week

This one isn't too hard. Leave your guesses in the comments. Good luck.

Update: This is the Ferrari Daytona-inspired Rover SD1. A real looker for a big saloon (that's British for sedan), but a mechanical nightmare.


By all accounts, the “Cash for Clunkers” program seems to be a success. Sales are up at dealerships to levels not seen in a couple of years. Plus low-MPG cars are being taken off the road and being replaced by more fuel-efficient models.

Unbeknownst to many, this program is based on programs launched in Germany (Strudel-for-Clunkers) and France (Crepes-for-Clunkers) late last year and earlier this year. Those programs were also wildly successful, although they offered much higher amounts for trade-ins and didn’t have as many restrictions as the US programs. Those programs were more about taking high-polluting cars off the road rather than reducing low-MPG cars (since cars in Europe have been much higher-MPG for a long time).

There were two criticisms of the European programs that we haven’t heard much here in the US. The first was from independent mechanics who complained that taking older cars off the road was affecting their livelihood. Fewer old crappy cars mean fewer trips to the local mechanic. The second criticism was from the enthusiast community. Folks were turning in cars that could be considered “future classics” which were then destroyed.

I am not sure why we are not hearing from mechanics in the US. Although, if my local mechanic is any indication, they have more business than they can handle and a few less clunkers probably isn’t affecting them at this point. As for the silence from US enthusiasts, I think they are largely silent due to the fact that the majority of clunkers being taken off the road are pick-ups and SUVs, which have little likelihood of becoming classics. Even so, I am sure there is the odd future classic that is being crushed. Too bad there is no flexibility in the government guidelines to allow a knowledgeable dealer/junk yard to exempt a vehicle if it has significant potential for parts or future collector status.

(Thanks to Scott Snyder for inspiring this post.)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Modest Proposal

From time to time I have to head to work on a Saturday morning to clear up some loose ends. I usually leave at about 6:30am when traffic is non-existent and enjoy blasting down Storrow drive. This experience has often led me to daydream about an actual car race on the streets of Boston. Monaco-on-the-Charles, if you will.

Before you dismiss the idea of the Grand Prix of Boston as half baked, think about it. Boston is a great spot…within hours of millions of people and plenty of accommodations. A course could be created down Storrow and Memorial Drives using the Mass Ave. Bridge and Museum of Science Way as connectors for a total of 3.8 miles. It would basically be two long curving straights broken up by a several sharp turns. Pits could be set up along the Memorial Drive access road in front of MIT with grandstands lining both sides of the Charles. There’s plenty of parking for motor homes and transporters in Kendall Square just behind the pits, and space for hospitality areas at Teddy Ebersol fields and in from of the Museum of Science. I see tie-ins with MIT and the MOS on the “science of F1.” Just imagine cars blasting down the banks of the Charles on a beautiful summer day with boats, yachts and Duck Boats plying the river. This would seriously be an awesome event.

Boston is a world-class city… let’s get a world-class event! All I need is approval from the Mayors of Boston and Cambridge, the Back Bay Preservation Society, Turnpike Authority, BRDA, Big Dig, Museum of Science, MIT, CambridgeSide Galleria, DEP, DOT, DCR, State Police, Boston Police, Cambridge Police, Chamber of Commerce…

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

DS Reborn

I was reading Top Gear magazine this weekend by the pool (thanks Melissa and Tobe for a kidless weekend). TG is one of those guilty pleasures I rarely indulge in these days due to its US cover price of over $10...I can get Automobile and Car and Driver for the same price. Anyway, it is a great magazine and allows me to keep up on all the cool European cars we don't get to see here in the US. There was a feature on the new Citroen DS Inside concept.

Citroen has chosen to resurrect its "DS" moniker not for a single model, but for a range of models that will sit above its basic line-up. Citroen has really been on a roll lately with its designs and the DS Inside (the smallest of the DS lineup) is no exception. It is intended as a Mini-fighter and has all the right design touches. Apparently it will drive less "go-karty" (my word not theirs) than the Mini and have slightly more space. The design is definitely compelling for a small hatchback with lots of unique touches like the shark fin B-pillar and gaping front end.

The French have really been designing and producing some great cars lately. It's a shame we can't find away to get some of these cars (Citroen C3 Picasso, C5 and C6; Renault Modus and Scenic; Peugeot 1007, 308, 407) to the US. Business plan, anyone?