DRIVEN: The VW ID.4 Electric Car

“Hey, how you doin’?” Jason exclaimed as I vaulted through the front door of Flemington Volkswagen. He recognized my masked face, even though he hadn’t seen me since 2017, when I returned the Jetta I had leased from him. Like the good salesperson he is, he remembers customers (and admittedly, he was expecting me since I had booked this test-drive with him last week). “I’m just finishing up with this customer and I’ll be with you in a few”. That was fine with me, and gave me a chance to do my own brief walk-around of the ID.4 on the showroom floor.

To bring you up to speed, Volkswagen, after the debacle that was Dieselgate, changed directions as a company. This was partly forced upon them as part of their governmental settlements, and partly done voluntarily as a way to reinvent their future. They have established an all-electric sub-brand called “ID”, with several models already available in Europe. Here in the States, the first of them, the ID.4, has been launched, with online ordering having started a few months ago. The “1st Edition” launch model is sold out.

Once Jason was free, I sat at his desk, we exchanged pleasantries, and I asked him a few questions about the ID.4. He quickly brought me up to speed from the dealer’s perspective: cars are trickling in very slowly; aside from demos, every unit that arrives is pre-sold; if I (or anyone else) want one, it’s best to simply go online and order one; expect to wait ‘about a year’ for it to arrive; and on the chance that someone cancels their order, you might get lucky and move up the line.

He fetched the key and a dealer plate, and gave me a choice to either wait a few more minutes for him to ride along, or take the car out on my own. I told him that I was comfortable doing a solo test drive, so once he showed me the most basics of basics, I was off. Actually, I drove the ID.4 into the back lot to spend a few non-distracted minutes familiarizing myself with the interior controls.

The dash layout doesn’t necessarily scream “EV!” but it is spartan by my standards. There are two screens: a small one directly in front of the driver (which moves along with the up-and-down adjustments of the steering wheel, a nice touch), and the larger, primary screen in the center console. There are very few physical controls. The steering column keeps the two conventional stalks for lights and wipers. On the right side of the smaller screen is the “shift quadrant” such as it is: a spring-loaded knob which can be rotated forward or back changes the gearing from P to R to D/B. What’s D/B? It’s your choice between conventional “D” for Drive, or “B” for Drive with regenerative braking. More on that later. A button in the side of the knob engages “P” for parking brake.

The interior, also spartan, is not unattractive, except for that bright white steering wheel. The white interior accents may be part of the launch edition cars, but I would need to see some other color choices in there. I don’t drive with dirty hands (most of the time) but cannot imagine that wheel staying white.

The center screen has all the controls for the HVAC system, sound system, phone, nav, apps, etc. At the bottom of the screen are “slide bars” that don’t physically move, but swiping one’s fingers left or right will raise or lower temperature, volume, etc. There are no conventional knobs. Considering I had no tutorial, I did ok with it, but did not find it as intuitive as other vehicles. However, learning the center screen was not my primary objective: I wanted to experience how the ID.4 drove as an EV.

Tip-in was like the other EVs I’ve driven: the torque is there with zero delay. I should mention right here that ALL 1st Edition ID.4 models are rear-wheel-dive only, with an electric motor only at the rear axle. According to Car & Driver magazine (VW’s website frustratingly hides the vehicle specs, and only presents marketing info with as little technical detail as possible), the RWD car makes 201 horsepower and 229 lb. ft. of torque. Acceleration was perfectly adequate, although it came nowhere near the neck-snapping jolt I experienced in the Polestar 2 (not an apples-to-apples comparison, with a 20 grand difference in prices).

The car was mostly quiet inside, but coast-down produced an annoying sound of a motor winding down. Intentional? Don’t know. The biggest surprise during the test-drive was reverting to “B” mode, and feeling very little in the way of regenerative braking. The only time the car brought itself to a complete stop was at parking lot speeds below 5 MPH. In every normal driving situation, I needed to use the brake pedal. Not a big deal compared to an ICE car, but the fabulous one-pedal driving in the Polestar is not to be had here.

I stopped for a bit, took some pictures, and opened all the cavities. The rear hatch is electrically-powered and opens wide. I did not fold down the rear seats, but the lack of a mechanical drivetrain might make for a smidgen more cargo room (the ID.4’s wheelbase beats its two competitors by several inches). There is no “frunk” storage, that space consumed by other stuff. So resign yourself to putting your shopping bags in the wayback.

Resuming the test-drive, the best I could muster was to tell myself that the driving experience was fine. After a few minutes to become acclimated to the lack of exhaust noise, it drove like many other cars. The touchscreen controls will require a learning curve (I couldn’t figure out how to pair my phone), but VW fans and really anyone looking at small crossovers who’s willing to also consider an EV should add the ID.4 to their shopping list.

I got back to the dealer and returned the key to Jason. We chatted a bit more about electric vehicles in general. He expressed some frustration about the lack of stock from which to sell, but acknowledged that with the sold-out status of the 1st Edition, this might not be a bad problem to have. Then Jason shocked me by stating that VW, as part of the sale price, is offering “free charging” for the first three years of ownership. Sure enough, I found this statement on VW’s website:

The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 comes with 3 years of unlimited charging at Electrify America DC Fast Chargers at no additional cost. Electrify America chargers can be found along most major highways.

Kudos to VW! That fact alone will go a long way toward alleviating some shoppers’ charging concerns. Jason stressed that the free charging offer also applies to the chargers installed at the dealership. Depending on your proximity to such things, this offer could sway someone on the fence about an EV.

The ID.4 is continuing the trend of building EVs that look normal. Is it new and stylish looking? Yes, somewhat. But it’s not different for the sake of it. As a CUV (compact utility vehicle), it’s sized to go head-to-head with two of the best-sellers in this segment as these specs bear out (figures courtesy of Car & Driver):

 VW ID.4Honda CR-VToyota RAV4
wheelbase (in.)108.9104.7105.9
overall length (in.)180.5182.1181.5
overall height (in.)64.466.567.0
passenger volume (cu.ft.)101103101

Looking at the Monroney, I think that the well-equipped 1st Edtion, at $42,995 plus $1,195 shipping, is a compelling offer. The car is eligible for the full $7,500 Federal tax incentive too. One issue with the 1st Edition is that RWD for most of us in the Northeast is a deal-breaker (the last time VW sold a RWD car here was the 1979 VW Beetle convertible). According to VW’s website, adding a 2nd electric motor to make it AWD adds $3,680 to the check you’re going to write, and the website states that the option isn’t available until “Oct-Dec 2021”. Oh well, you’re waiting for the car anyway.

Points in favor of the ID.4 include a ‘right-sized’ CUV, VW quality, a well-equipped car at this price point, and the bonus of 3 years’ worth of free juice. On the flip side, it’s RWD for now, the regen braking is poor for an EV, the AWD option adds almost four grand to the bottom line, and there’s a long wait for a car once you commit to placing an order. You also need to like that interior.

If price weren’t a factor, I’d jump at the Polestar in the time it takes an electron to (never mind). But price is almost always a factor. The Mustang Mach-E, with a starting price close to the ID.4, offers a nicer interior and (probably) a little less cargo capacity. I personally greatly prefer its looks versus the ID.4. The Mach-E’s AWD option is pricier than it is for the ID.4, and it also lacks the free recharging. The fun part is, more and more EVs are going to be introduced over the next 12-36 months. Competition makes everyone’s game better. If the VW ID.4’s size, shape, and cost hit your sweet spots, go for it. For me, I’m waiting to see what ‘s coming next. I’ll be ready to move into an EV in about two years. I’ll keep you posted.  

What the ID.4 wants to be when it grows up

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

First Day of Spring Brings First Car Show of the Season

A new entry on the collector car calendar has sprung up in 2021: the Neshanic Station Car Show, which held its inaugural event on Saturday March 20, nicely coinciding with the first day of spring. And a glorious day it was, with sunny blue skies, no wind, and moderate temperatures reaching close to 60F by midday. The clear air made for some stunning photography.

Side by side and as different as can be

The car show was combined with a general (not automotive) flea market, which deserves some background history. The tiny hamlet of Neshanic Station for decades held a flea market every Sunday during decent weather, with a wide range of vendors selling a great variety of new and used goods. It became quite well-known and would draw an audience from all parts of the Garden State. A few years ago, the private property which hosted the flea market was sold, and the lot was taken over by the county, merged with a local park. The old flea market was dead.

A nice show for a good cause

The Neshanic United Methodist Church resurrected the flea market, combining it with a car show to help draw a crowd. For 2021, it will a once-a-month-on-a-Saturday affair. To sign up, one only needed to send an email stating the desire to exhibit a car. There is no fee, but the church requests a voluntary donation to the food bank that it sponsors. The church has access to a spacious lot across the street from the original flea market location, a flat and grassy piece of property easily 5 or 6 times the size of what had previously been used.

I had registered my Miata a few weeks prior, and since the location is literally three miles from my house, I departed a few minutes before 9 a.m. and was still there in plenty of time. There were close to a dozen cars already in place as I motored past them, with a dozen or more yet to show up after me. This was a “run what you brung” kind of show: no limitations based on age, condition, restoration quality, or modifications, and sometimes that’s the best kind of show, because you truly get the largest variety of vehicles. It’s also a great way to make sure that anyone who owns what THEY consider an interesting car can feel included in a group that frankly might shun them at another type of show.

The new mid-engine C8 Corvette

Domestic iron from the 1960s comprised a large percentage of show cars, with two late-model Ferraris covering the exotic end of the spectrum. Not to be outdone, the Corvette contingent was out in full force, including a C8 mid-engine beauty in an eye-searing yellow. Late model cars included a Challenger, an Audi, and an Alfa 4C.

The flea market vendor turnout was smaller than I expected; the show cars dwarfed the vendors based on the amount of real estate taken. The crowd was a decent size, and the vast majority of folks walking the field outside adhered to the ‘masks on’ request except when eating or drinking something they bought from the on-site food truck. There is no doubt in my mind that for car owners and spectators alike, there was an overwhelming desire to get back to normal compared to 2020, and that helped account for the turnout.

As has been said many times before, after a certain amount of time in the hobby, it’s the people and their stories who become the real center of interest, and I met several fine folks whose stories are recounted below. The Neshanic Car Show organizers have already laid out their calendar through the remainder of the year, with the next two shows set for April 17 and May 15. My personal goal is to get that Alfa out of the garage where it’s been since 2019 in time for either the April or May event.

Twenty years later, another white over red Chrysler convertible…


1962 Lincoln Continental 4-door sedan

I approached the owner of this 1962 Lincoln and told him how refreshing it was to see a sedan since what I see at car shows are almost exclusively the four door convertibles. He told me that he was at a dealer in suburban Philly who had both the 4-door sedan and the 4-door convertible. Although he really wanted the droptop it was so outside his price range, he went with this green-on-green one. The car is all original, everything functions, and he named the car after his departed mother, calling it the “Queen Maryellen”. He went on: “Listen, I’m really not a car guy but I just love this thing, it’s so easy to drive and attracts so much attention no matter where I take it.” He also has an Olds Aurora at home and he hopes to come back next time with a friend so he can bring both cars.


2014 Audi A4

A young man in his mid-20s approached my Miata and struck up a conversation, telling me about a friend who has a Miata with an LS motor in it. I told him that I was familiar with the conversion and that kits are available to do just that. This got us both talking about cars in general. I could tell that he was a genuine enthusiast who seemed to harbor no prejudices when it came to interesting cars. He finally let it out that he was the owner of the 2014 Audi A4 at the other end of the aisle from me. It’s a four-cylinder stick shift car, and he’s done some “minor” modding as he called it, with a performance chip, cat-back exhaust, and some other tweaks. His car was spotless. I truly admired this young guy’s devotion and enthusiasm. The hobby needs to find a way to be inclusive to gals and guys like him who have a late model vehicle which is their pride and joy. ‘Our’ rules cannot be forced on them. They are the future of this hobby if it is to survive.


1965 Pontiac Bonneville 2-door hardtop

This 1965 Bonneville, at first blush, was a nice looking car without anything overtly special about it. I began a conversation with the owner, asking my usual first question: “how long have you owned it?” He answered by telling me “my grandmother bought this car new in Pasadena California”. This Bonneville is a one-family-owned car which resided in southern CA until he brought it to NJ when he married and relocated. The car was in a collision in the 1980 s and got a total repaint at that time; otherwise, it’s all original. This was my favorite car of the show.


1963 Studebaker Avanti

The Studebaker Avanti is an automotive enigma – born out of desperation as the company was going out of business, it was manufactured only for two model years, 1963 and 1964. Fewer than 5,000 were built as “Studebakers” before the factory shut down. (Don’t confuse these with the Avanti II, which is an almost-identical car manufactured when the tooling was bought by two Studebaker dealerships.) This owner has had this car for about 10 years, stating that he pulled it out of dry storage and got it roadworthy. It’s an unusually low-spec car, with a 3-speed manual floor shift, and lacking power steering, power windows, or A/C. This too was claimed to be a mostly original car, and I saw little reason to doubt it. Perhaps most convincingly, old-fashioned service stickers from 1967 and 1975 were still in the driver’s door jamb.

All photographs copyright © 2020 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

DRIVEN: My weekend with the Polestar 2 EV

Until the day arrives when we are ferried to and fro in anonymous autonomous pods, THIS is the future of human-piloted automotive transportation.

After 48 hours, I didn’t want to give it back. My extended test-drive of a Polestar 2 began when I signed up for a 30-minute drive, and the return text message asked: “would you like to take the car home for the weekend?” (It helps to be good friends with a former colleague who is a Polestar exec.) I didn’t need to be asked twice. I drove up to Volvo/Polestar HQ in Mahwah NJ on Friday afternoon, left my Volvo V60 in the lot, and returned home in the “2”. Sunday afternoon I reversed the process, putting about 200 miles on the vehicle during my time with it.

Picking up the Polestar 2
Kissing cousins

Polestar is a name which has had an ongoing connection to Volvo since the first decade of this century. Starting as Polestar Racing, the company prepped modified Volvos for competition. By 2009, Polestar was the official performance outlet for production cars, analogous to Mercedes-Benz’s AMG or BMW’s Dinan. As Volvo grew under ownership of China-based Geely, Polestar was designated to serve as an upscale, breakout brand for hybrid and fully electric vehicles (EVs). The first Polestar-branded vehicle, Polestar 1, is a two-door hybrid, built in very limited numbers (see Sidebar). The next model to be released, and the first with some volume aspirations, is the Polestar 2, a five-door hatchback sedan.

It simply is not going to be possible to cover everything there is to say about this automobile. I’ve broken down my observations and comments as: the vehicle as an upscale brand, the vehicle as transportation, and the vehicle as an EV.

AS A BRAND

While the desire to project an image of Polestar as a notch above Volvo is understandable, the car has Volvo genes, and that’s a good thing. This isn’t some unknown startup launching its first-ever automobile. (It’s not been widely publicized, but Volvo has been working with EVs at the concept level for at least a decade.) It is comforting to think of this vehicle as “Volvo+”.

Polestar shares space with Volvo’s NJ HQ

These attributes include quality, attractive minimalist (Scandinavian) design, and safety. An exterior walk-around assures the viewer that fit and finish are top-notch. Doors and front and rear lids open and close with authority. Interior components are well-trimmed and operate like precision machinery. It was very easy to find a comfortable seating position and adjust everything to the driver’s needs. Anyone who has spent any time behind the wheel of a late-model Volvo, or indeed any European luxury car will quickly feel right at home.

Volvo has owned “safety” for its entire time in the U.S. market, and although the competition keeps threatening to catch up, Volvo, and now Polestar, work at staying ahead of the pack. There are no optional safety features on the Polestar 2: a full suite of air bags, front and rear collision mitigation, run-off mitigation, cross traffic alert, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, 360 camera, and more, are all standard.

AS A CAR

Eric greeted me at the Polestar pod, informed me that he was expecting me, and told me that my car was ready. The model I was given had two major options: an all-leather interior upgrade, and the Performance Package. My car, finished in black (Polestar calls the color “Void”) was offset by an interior trimmed in gorgeous tan leather with birch-looking wood trim. The most eye-catching accents are the gold calipers (Brembo in front) and matching gold seatbelts. It’s just enough bling to let you know you’re in something special.

Masked Eric in the Polestar pod

Controls were easy to find and intuitive to operate. I set the power seat and mirrors, and adjusted the wheel for reach and rake (it’s manual, which may irk some, but a power-adjustable steering column is overkill).

Gold Brembos behind 20″ wheels, both part of Performance Package

The vertically-oriented center screen uses large-font typeface and large icons, a boon for operating while driving. I didn’t want to be too distracted while driving a car that didn’t belong to me, but I was pleasantly surprised by its ease of use. Polestar uses Google as its screen Operating System, and once your phone is paired, using the various features (navigation, phone calls, plus any app that’s on your phone) is a snap. Voice commands were especially reliable (“Hey Google, navigate me to 777 MacArthur Boulevard in Mahwah New Jersey” was correctly understood on first try each time). This stuff is far from my area of expertise; I’m convinced that if this were my car, I’d learn a lot more about it the more time I spent with it.

There is no “ignition” – with key in proximity, once the driver is seated and belted, the gearshift can be moved from P into either R or D, and a tap on the accelerator (can’t say gas!) starts it rolling. At first, the quiet is eerie. Once you’re at or above 30 mph, tire noise is the predominant sound, but is not obtrusive. The car is so much quieter than an ICE vehicle, and it’s a quiet that you quickly accept, then appreciate.

The Performance Package concerned me, with its 20-inch wheels shod with Continental high-performance summer tires. I expected a harsh ride as a tradeoff for good handling. My concerns were assuaged within the first five minutes of driving. The suspension tuning provided both a quiet and comfortable ride along with rail-like handling.

Once I pulled out of the parking lot, with Nav set for “home”, I was on local roads for about 15 minutes before reaching the Interstate on-ramp. I rounded the curved ramp at about 35, and a quick glance in the mirrors showed that both middle and right lanes of the highway were empty. I said to myself ‘what the hell’, and floored it. The acceleration caught me by such surprise that I slammed the back of my head into the head restraint. The car jumped from about 35 to about 75 in 2.5 seconds. I have never experienced automotive acceleration like that in my life. The problem is it’s addictive: it happens so quickly and so quietly, with so little drama (aside from the self-induced headache) that you’re only discouraged from this behavior by its effect on battery life (and the threat of summonses).

Forward and side visibility are very good to excellent; to the rear, the fixed rear seat head restraints and blocky rear pillars limit your view (which is where the 360 mirror comes in handy). Braking is superb, but really deserves to be discussed as an EV-attribute.

Some final comments about styling: from the front, it looks like a mid-size 4-door car, although you will also notice it sits a little higher than a typical 2021 sedan (the matte black wheel-well trim provides an accent for its slightly higher ride height). From the rear, the hatchback is not obvious (the long sloping rear has become a styling cliché on late model sedans). Opening the hatch and folding the rear seat backs forward reveals a generous cargo hold that it limited only by its lack of a vertical tailgate.

Rear hatch open, rear seats folded, charging cables on the left

Some of you may be thinking “sedans are dead; EVERYONE wants an SUV”. Yes, well, maybe most, but certainly not everyone. It’s time to bring up that T word for the first time (5 letters, ends in A, last name of electrical engineer Nikola, company founded by that guy Elon something….). If sedans are dead, how is Tesla doing so well with its Model 3 sedan, the best-selling EV vehicle in America? “Oh that’s different” you might say. How so? I don’t know Polestar’s future model aspirations, but I think the Polestar 2 neatly splits the difference between “sedan” and “SUV”.

Another view of the folded seats

AS AN EV

Aside from a 10-minute test drive in a BMW i3, and several rides in EVs (most recently, a long test-ride in a Mustang Mach-E), I have not driven a pure EV long enough to get some sense of what day-to-day living with one might encompass. I had that chance this weekend, and I am a convert.

Starting with the driving experience, the quiet, the acceleration, and yet the normalcy of cruising down the highway brings you to the understanding that it’s still a car, and as long as it’s a good car (which the Polestar 2 is), it could be your daily driver.

Earlier, I mentioned braking and said that my comments will fit better under the EV discussion. The “2” has adjustable regenerative braking. The screen calls it One Pedal Drive, and the 3 modes are “off”, “low”, and “standard” (which is full regenerative). When turned off, releasing the ‘go’ pedal will allow the car to coast for as long as momentum and gravity will let it, just like an ICE car. At “full”, the accelerator is like an on/off switch. As soon as it’s released, the car starts to slow down. If you’re at very low speeds, the car stops almost immediately; at higher speeds, it will roll for a few yards, but you’ll sense that the brakes have been applied. If this sounds weird, I gotta tell you: I got used to it in about 30 minutes. One pedal driving. It’s easy. It’s safer. It’s fantastic. I wish all my cars had it!

Center screen, One Pedal Drive options on lower left

I tried the “low” mode and frankly didn’t see the point. It’s an unnecessary compromise. I suspect drivers will either get used to and enjoy “full” or will want it to be as much like an ICE car and turn it off. When you do need to quickly get on that brake pedal, those front Brembos haul this 4,700 lb mass to a stop quickly and quietly. Those batteries are heavy, but the car does not have a heavy feel when driving.

I was provided with charging cables for home use, both 120V and 240V. I do not have a 240 setup at home, so I plugged into a 120 outlet in my garage, snaked the cable under the garage door, and let it charge overnight. Admittedly, the battery was only 25% depleted when I started, but I had a full charge in the morning. I was told that at 120V, a full charge from 0 to 100% would take 24 hours. The 240V charge would happen much more quickly. Owning this vehicle would really require the one-time investment of a dedicated home charger – figure roughly a grand for that.

I cruised by two public charging stations, both within a 15-20 minute ride from my home. Spots were available, but I did not take the time to top off the battery. At one (Charge Point) juice can only be purchased if the app is downloaded to your phone. The other, Electrify America, offers the option of an app or will take a credit card at the charging station.

Don’t even think of parking your ICE car here!

The following comments are true for all EVs, not just Polestars: not enough has been made of the savings in repair and maintenance costs. Starting from the moment of purchase, you will never need to be concerned with spark plugs, engine oil, oil filters, transmission or gear oil, oxygen sensors, charcoal canisters, exhaust systems, radiator coolant, belts, or hoses. There’s nothing to leak. I’m having a difficult time imagining what happens at a dealer service visit: check your tire pressure and fill your washer solvent bottle? Your “consumables” are reduced to tires, brakes, suspension bits like shocks and bushings, wiper blades, light bulbs (less and less of an issue with LEDs), and…what, THE BATTERY? By that time you’ll be trading in for a new one.

 

Even the funnel, Sta-Bil, and drain pan become obsolete

TO THE NAYSAYERS

I know that some of you, including friends and colleagues of mine, don’t agree that the advantages of an EV outweigh the disadvantages. Listen, I get it. You should drive what you want to drive. However, living with this Polestar 2 for 48 hours also brought me to the conclusion that many of the stated opinions why EVs won’t replace ICE cars are excuses. Let’s address some of the commonly-cited issues about EVs:

“Range is too short”

Three factors influence range: the size of the fuel tank (or for EV, energy supply, i.e., the battery); the fuel economy of the engine (for an EV, its ability to efficiently consume that energy as motive power); and finally, the driver’s influence (local vs highway driving, frequent stops, idling, heavy accelerator usage, etc.).

The range on the Polestar 2 with 100% battery is 230 miles. Some critics have knocked that as not up to Tesla standards, and it’s not. But how large a factor is that in the purchase decision? It’s never been for me; fuel economy, yes, but my earliest car purchases were vehicles with 10-gallon tanks, so 30MPG still only netted a range of 300 miles, and that’s if I drove it dry, which I never did. Realistic range was 250-275 miles (and that’s what it is in my Miata, also with a 10-gallon tank).

Committing to a purchase of an EV, I now realize, requires a mental shift and a mindset change. Some planning ahead will help ensure that you’ll get there and back. You do the same thing now with gasoline: if you’re leaving early in the a.m. on a 300-mile trip, you’ll likely fill up the evening before. Why wouldn’t you do the same with an EV? Yes, with an ICE, you’ll always find gas stations to refuel, no waiting. The Polestar 2 has tools to overcome “range anxiety”.

“Range anxiety means I’m nervous about venturing far from home”

Google Maps very happily responds to the voice command “Hey Google, where are the nearest charging stations?” by displaying a list of EV chargers within sight on the map. Amazingly to me, this list includes information about the total number of chargers at the site, and how many are presently occupied.

Choice #1 has 1 of 2 medium-speed chargers open, and both slow chargers open

Wouldn’t that be neat to do for the local Exxon station? “Hey Google, how many Exxon stations are nearby?” and you not only get a map of them, you see that “Ed’s Exxon” has 6 pumps, and 4 are being used at present.

“Ha!” You laugh at this notion. “Who needs that? There’s never a wait at a gas station!”

Above: gas lines, 1979. Photo courtesy of https://www.federalreservehistory.org/essays/oil-shock-of-1978-79

I’m convinced you have short memories. Many of you were driving in 1979, when we had our 2nd fuel crisis of the decade, with OPEC turning off the taps, leading to oil shortages, and eventually, rationing. At that time, I was making an 80-mile round-trip to work, and I could only purchase fuel on “even days” based on my license plate. I could do no extra driving outside of my commute during the week. In 1979, I had range anxiety, although we didn’t call it that.

How stable is the Middle East today compared to 40 years ago? Let’s see: Iran’s nuclear buildup, the wobbly Iraqi government, civil unrest in Syria, the Khashoggi murder by Saudi Arabia; I guess we can expect unlimited oil supplies to continue from the region …. The truth is we don’t know what could happen in one, five, or ten years down the road. I would not bet against another large price jump or oil shortage.

“I can’t charge my car if there’s a power failure”

This is very true. Actually, there are a lot of things you can’t do if there’s a power failure. At my house, loss of power means we can’t charge our phones, keep our refrigerated food cold, wash dishes, take showers, flush toilets, light up rooms after sundown, use the microwave, or watch TV. The last time we had a lengthy, large scale power outage was during Superstorm Sandy in 2011, when the neighborhood lost power for four days. At least we weren’t alone in our misery: a quarter-mile away from me is a Shell gas station. They lost power too. You know what they couldn’t do?

They couldn’t pump gasoline.

“I can’t fill up my car with gas if there’s a power failure”. What WE did, based on the forecast, was fill both cars before the storm arrived. Then we didn’t go anywhere anyway. True, we don’t always know when the power will go out. But if I had an EV and we were expecting a major outage, I’d top up. And probably not go anywhere anyway.

“I’ll miss that incredible thrust from that massive V-8”

Anyone who says that has not driven an EV like the Polestar 2 with its instantaneous 487 lb-ft of torque. End of that discussion.

NITS TO PICK

Trying my best to be objective, there is nothing I found that would be a deal-breaker if I were in the market for an EV in this price range. Like so many other vehicles today, the exterior and interior color palette is limited. To my eye, the “2” looks better in lighter colors. I wish there were interior options between the basic grey/black synthetic and the full-zoot tan leather. My V60 has power-folding rear seat head restraints; I miss them here only because I have them already. The buttons on the side of the little black key fob are ridiculously small for my old eyes (yet admittedly I didn’t need to touch them once). That’s all I can think of.

Basic grey interior; functional and un-fancy
Yeah, at 3x magnification I can see ’em!

HOW DOES IT COMPARE?

I would spec it out in white with the tan leather (I would spring for the upscale interior and skip the $5,000 Performance Package). All Polestars are eligible for the $7,500 Federal Tax Credit. $59,900 plus destination, metallic paint, and leather interior, minus the credit, puts me right at $59,000.  Don’t forget to factor in the fuel and maintenance savings.

I’m hard pressed to think of another $60,000 sedan, ICE or EV, that beats this car in equipment, safety, driving dynamics, and environmental care. Teslas have their advantages, including a dedicated charging network, and extensive range. The Model 3 is smaller and has less equipment than the “2”. The Model S is closer in size, yet is priced starting at $10,000 above the “2”, is no longer eligible for any Federal Tax Credit (no Tesla is), and have you seen that yoke of a wheel? How is that thing even legal? A close competitor might be the Volvo S90; I’d hate to suggest that Polestar would cannibalize its own sibling, and the choice might come down to preferences over things like colors and motive power.

When I was checking out one of the charging stations, a guy in a pickup truck stopped and yelled out the window: “Nice car! What is it?” When I responded “a Polestar”, he asked “where do I get one?” I told him NYC. Hope I made a sale.


SIDEBAR: THE POLESTAR 1

There were seven of these beauties lined up in the same lot where I picked up my loaner. This was my first time seeing this car in person. It’s lower than I expected; at first glance, I called it the “Swedish Camaro” – it has that pony car stance.

On closer examination, I began to see hints of the P1800 coupe from the 1960s. Make note of the jutting grille and the sweep of the roof’s rear pillar. The taillights are current Volvo design language. Hoping for a drive in one of these on my next visit.

All photographs copyright © 2020 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

The Mustang GT/CS at Fords at Carlisle, 2008

Perusing some older photos, I’ve realized that there are some gaps in my coverage of events which were attended with my 1968 Ford Mustang GT/CS, aka California Special. One such event is Fords at Carlisle, where my green machine and I made an appearance in June 2008.

“Carlisle” as a hobbyist destination should need no introduction here: the organizers have been hosting Spring & Fall Carlisle since 1974, and in the ensuing years, have expanded the number of events via marque-specific weekends, including Corvettes at Carlisle, Chryslers at Carlisle, the Carlisle Import Show, and so on. The Ford event is traditionally scheduled in June, and having attended many of the other smaller mid-year shows, the All-Ford (and Mercury, Lincoln, Edsel, Merkur, etc.) National is one of the larger ones in the series.

The previous month, we had been to the Carlisle Import show with the Isetta in tow. Although not mentioned in my coverage, that particular May day was brisk, with daytime temps in the low-to-mid 50s. Typical for the Northeast, the weather can change on a dime, and two weeks later, on the day of my 5-hour round trip, the thermometer hit 100F (38C for those of you in the rest of the world). It was HOT! The A/C, factory-equipped in my car, remained non-functional during my entire ownership. My deepest regrets for failing to fix it were reserved for this particular day. At the same time, my 390 big block never pushed the temperature gauge past its mid-point. The car ran strong and cool all day.

My Lime Gold GT/CS and me; note the late-model Mustangs in background

At least I had company for the ride. A family friend with whom I had recently become acquainted, Mike Larkin, was more than willing to ride shotgun. Mike wasn’t a traditional car guy but said he was always up for an adventure. The heat seemed to bother him less than it did me as we cruised with our 260 air at full blast.

Mike Larkin relaxes behind his ride home (photo taken with 120 roll film camera)

Arriving at the fairgrounds, the number of Mustangs on the grounds was overwhelming! Carlisle could probably host “Mustangs at Carlisle” and have a large enough turnout for a standalone show. To my surprise and delight, the “Specials” (California Special and its Colorado cousin, the High Country Special) were afforded their own display area. We pulled in, found a spot, and climbed out of our steaming hot car to bask in the even steamier fairground air.

All CS (California Specials) & HCS (High Country Specials) were in their own group

The photos can tell the rest of the story from here, although I must confess that there were many other interesting Fords which did not get photographed. Someday, whether there’s a Ford in my future or not, I’ll work my way back to Fords at Carlisle.

A striking ’68; note wheels and model car on air cleaner
A modern GT/CS sandwiched by two 1968s
Yes, there is a Yellow Mustang Club, and the word went out to show up in force
Difficult to tell, but this is a High Country Special, lacking “California Special” script on rear quarters

Above: flippin’ for Ford’s Flip-Tops! The Ford Skyliner Retractable Hardtop was made only for 3 years: 1957, 1958, and 1959. The top photo shows a ’57; note the front plate, “NON SCRIPT”, referring to the earliest production cars which lacked the “Skyliner” script on the roof’s C-pillar. The bottom photo shows two ’59s side-by-side, both with the garage-challenging Continental kits added.

Yes, people collect Mavericks….
Long gone, but far from forgotten: the 1958 (first year) Edsel with its infamous grille
Full-size Fords were on plentiful display too
The Breezeway window on a mid-60s Mercury
The Ford GT, made in ’05-’06, was “just” a used car here

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

Car Spotting: Winter 2020/2021 Edition

Just because a global pandemic has shut down almost all our car hobby-related group activities doesn’t mean that car owners aren’t taking their prized possessions out for solo spins. Shutdown or not, while many of us (your humble author included) salt away the collector machines every winter, there are many others who continue to pilot their cars during the colder months, as long as the roads are dry and the skies are clear.

Below are snaps of a few of the older vehicles I’ve spotted out and about these last few months, at least before the Northeast snows descended upon us. One car was spotted in a hardware store parking lot; another was dropping off an offspring at a sporting event; and a few were seen in the relatively balmy climate of Cape May NJ. In all cases, the vehicles were either moving under their own power or were legally parked, with license plates attached – these were not project-cars-in-waiting.

1965 MERCURY COMET

This 2-door hardtop was in the parking lot of my local Home Depot on a Sunday afternoon. While far from a show car (note the heavily worn paint on hood and roof), it’s obviously owned by an enthusiast, based on the wheels and the license plate. I trust that his planned hardware purchase will fit in the trunk or back seat. This is what you drive to the store when the ’49 woodie wagon is in the shop.

1965 Mercury Comet

‘60s VW KARMANN GHIA

An end-of-year visit to Cape May rewarded me with a VW two-fer. This Karmann Ghia was parked downtown and gave the impression that it had recently been driven. While the paint was dull and the bumpers were rusty, there were no body issues from corrosion or collision, and with bumper overriders, wheel covers, lights, mirror, and antenna all accounted for, this Ghia was reasonably complete! Make special note of the undented NOSE. It fit the casual funky vibe of Cape May perfectly.

VW Karmann Ghia

‘60s VW BUG

A few miles away from downtown Cape May is a United States Coast Guard Receiving Station, complete with barracks. Parked in front of one of the housing units was this Bug, with Texas plates if I recall correctly. The driver’s side running board was missing, and the bumpers didn’t look original, but like the Ghia, it looked like you could hop in it and take it for a day-long ride if you so desired. Was it driven up from Texas? I for one would not wager that it didn’t make its way up here in that manner.

VW Beetle

1966 FORD MUSTANG

This Mustang was parked at my local gas station. The paint looked recent, and aside from what appear to be incorrect wheel covers, it looked bone stock. Maybe it had been dropped off for some service work. I think that these first-generation hardtops have aged well, and compared to the more expensive Mustang convertibles and fastbacks, continue to be affordable collector cars that make for an ideal way to enter the hobby.

1966 Ford Mustang

‘70s VW TRANSPORTER

I’m no VW expert, but I believe that this vehicle is a 2nd-generation Transporter (T2), produced from 1968 to 1979 (and if I’m wrong, the Vee-Dub air-cooled authorities will be sure to respond). I spotted this “bus” in the parking lot of a local playing field, as a parent was dropping off a child for sports practice. What a cool way to get shuttled to soccer! This one must be a camper; note the pop-up roof and the duct vent just aft of the driver’s door. It’s also wearing the ultimate VW bus accessory, a peace sign decal.

VW Transporter T2

Three of the five vehicles I spotted were air-cooled Volkswagens. Are these cars, which lack liquid cooling systems, the ultimate winter collector car because they can’t freeze? What if you need heat inside? They’re notorious for lacking good interior heating systems (my dad’s ’57 Bug had no heater installed, and he kept blankets inside it for passengers). Perhaps it’s coincidence to see three of the same make, but it’s still a treat to stumble across the occasional old car on the road, especially in a season that has been devoid of normal car shows.

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

The 1977 NY “Auto Expo” at the Coliseum

Scanning and posting my photos from the 1969 New York Auto Show resulted in my flipping through other photographs of mine from the ‘60s and ‘70s. To my surprise, I rediscovered photos that I had frankly forgotten about: pictures from the 1977 New York Auto Show (or so I thought). One reason that these pictures hadn’t resonated with me was their poor quality. Taken with a Kodak 110 Instamatic camera, the flash was barely powerful enough to illuminate the subjects. Thankfully, digital photo-editing software goes a long way toward making them halfway presentable. These photos also verify what was seen in my 1969 event pictures: the claustrophobic nature of the Coliseum’s exhibit halls.

As I did some Googling about the show, I came across a 2nd surprise: these pictures were in fact NOT taken at the “official” NY show, but at an event held a few months later called “Auto Expo”. Still held in the Coliseum, Auto Expo was all imported cars. I’m not sure if that’s because the funny furrin’ ones didn’t get enough exposure at the main event, or if promoters/dealers wanted to give the imports a chance to shine on their own.

One website I stumbled across lists the details of every NY Auto Show from 1900 to 2020, by date, sponsor, official title, and location. Presuming that this data is accurate, I note that I was incorrect in my earlier post when I stated that the NY Show has been held “continuously” since 1900; the show was on hiatus during the war years 1941-1947. The new Coliseum first hosted in 1956, and that show carried the title of New York’s “1st International Automobile Show”. The next year was the “2nd” and so on. This title structure remained until the GNYADA (Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association) assumed sponsorship in 1972.

In 1977, the GNYADA show ran from January 29 through February 6. But two men, Robert Topaz and Raymond Geddes, sponsored the first all-import Auto Expo, held that year from April 3 to April 10. I’m certain that’s the show I attended, as I was in college in ’77, way out in eastern Long Island, and would not have traveled into Manhattan in January. But I would have been home on Staten Island for Easter break, when Auto Expo was held, and it would have been a breeze to take public transport up to the Coliseum.

Auto Expo lasted all of three years; perhaps Gotham City couldn’t generate enough traffic to viably support two new car shows spaced just a few months apart. After 1979, the only NY auto show was hosted by the GNYADA, and that continues to this day.

This NY Times article points out some attractions my camera missed, and also helpfully advises that “free parking (is) nonexistent within three blocks before 6 P.M on weekdays”. I only took five photographs, and they are arranged below in alphabetical order by manufacturer. I’ve compiled some basic engine and price data sourced from The Standard Catalog of Imported Cars 1946-1990, published by Krause Publications. Some of these prices shock me, even today. For comparison, five months after attending this show, I bought my first new car, a 1977 VW Rabbit, for $3,599. And to think I could have had a Le Car.

1977 Alfa Romeo 2000 Spider Veloce

Alfa Romeo introduced a new 2-seat convertible, the Duetto, to the world in 1966. Although the little roadster got semi-frequent styling and engine upgrades, the same basic shell was still on offer 11 years later as the 2000 Spider Veloce. Let’s break that down: 2000 as in engine size (2.0L); Spider as in Italian for “convertible”; and Veloce as in “fast” (a relative term). The 1977 version of the fabled Alfa twin-cam four-cylinder put out 110 HP; entry into the topless Alfa club started at $8,795 in ’77.

In 1977, could Alfa have imagined that this Spider would last another 17 years?

1977 Aston Martin V-8

An Aston Martin showroom in 1977 presented two choices: the 4-door Lagonda, and the 2-door V-8. The car pictured, the V-8, was also available in Vantage (high-performance) and Volante (drop-top) versions. The base non-Vantage V-8, with 4 dual-choke Webers, pushed out 350 horsepower and started at $33,950. Can you put a price on exclusivity? The company built a total of 262 V-8 models in 1977.

The great DB4, DB5, and DB6 behind them, this was brutish British performance

1977 BMW 630CSi

BMW introduced its new 6-series coupes to the world halfway through the 1976 model year, but didn’t bring this 630CSi stateside until 1977. BMW didn’t have a large presence in the U.S. yet: showrooms held this car, the 2-door 320i, and the 4-door 530i, and that was it. (But the front plate already proclaims “The Ultimate Driving Machine”.) The 630CSi’s 3L inline-six churned out 176 HP, and its starting price of $23,600 was $9,000 higher than the 1976 3.0Si coupe it replaced! 

BMW’s version of long-legged luxury and performance

1977 Porsche Turbo Carrera Coupe

For a photo that only captures one hind quarter, the details are telling: the wide flared rear fenders and whale-tail spoiler are dead giveaways that this is the Porsche 911 Turbo, officially known as the Turbo Carrera Coupe. Introduced to the U.S. market the year before, Porsche brought it back in ’77 with almost no changes for its sophomore year. The 3-liter engine produced 234 HP in Federal trim, with a list price of $28,000. (By comparison, a 1977 Porsche 911S Coupe started at $13,845, a 50% discount.)

The Turbo looks mighty menacing, even in ’70’s brown.

1977 Renault Le Car

Like the Porsche Turbo Carrera, Renault’s two-door microcar was in its 2nd model year in the states. That’s about where the similarities end. Starting price was $3,345 for the 58-horsepower 2-door. A fact of which I was unaware: when introduced here in 1976, the vehicle was called the “R-5”; the name change to “Le Car” happened in in ’77. The Le Car hung around in the U.S. market through the 1983 model year, by which time its base price had risen to $4,795 (that’s a lot of French bread).

In case you missed the car’s name, it’s on the front AND the side.

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

My Dream Car: Seven Essential Elements

My recent piece on EVs and the introduction of a number of EV pickup trucks within the next 6 to 18 months drew more comments than almost any blog post I’ve previously written! Actually, all the comments were sincere, insightful, and worthy of entering into the dialogue. I intend to write an EV follow-up piece later in the year, specifically waiting for the production version of the Tesla CyberTruck to hit the market….

That EV piece was written while wearing my daytime hat. As part of that gig, I’ve also contributed several articles to the website medium.com, and in scrolling through that content over the weekend, I found another piece that might generate some feedback, if not quite as controversial as the gas-vs-electric situation. I had been challenged by a colleague to write a piece on my “dream vehicle”; if money were no object, what would I drive? I quickly realized that there is no one all-around best car, and instead, I tackled the assignment by thinking about which automotive attributes are most important to me, and then selecting the cars which fulfilled those attributes.

You can read my selections below, and feel free to let the rest of us know which vehicular features are most important to you and which cars or trucks satisfy them. You can find the original article here: My Dream Car: Seven Essential Elements.

My Dream Car: Seven Essential Elements

Do you have a “dream car?” Is there one vehicle that is your dream machine? With an unlimited budget, which singular vehicle would you make your own? It’s fun to fantasize about such a choice. It’s likely that you’ve seen a car parked on the street, or in a new car showroom, and said to yourself, “if only I had the funds!” Or maybe it’s a car you’ve only gazed at in a photograph, some valuable classic from many years ago.

Even if finances allowed it, that dream car would probably not suffice for everyday use. It might be too cramped, too noisy, or too fuel-inefficient to drive regularly. This is why each of us drives a (insert your make and model here) for commuting to work, dragging home supplies from the home improvement center, and taking the family on vacation.

In spite of those necessities, it’s fun to think about that dream car. For me, a Ferrari from the 1960s with a big V12 engine in the front driving the rear wheels has been a dream for decades. But drive such a beast all the time? It would have no traction in the snow, would get about 9 miles per gallon, and where do I put the 2x4s from Home Depot?

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(Above: Ferrari Daytona)

What if I could build a fantasy car, taking all the best attributes from all my favorite vehicles, and combine them into one super-duper dream machine? Now that’s what dreams are made of! The best way to start is with a list of the features most important to me. Here are my top seven attributes, ranked in order. If I can identify a vehicle that embodies the attribute, I’ll include it in the description.

#1: Driver positioning. I love to drive, and typically put over 20,000 miles a year on my vehicles. I know what it’s like to be behind the wheel for an entire day, sometimes over multiple days. Nothing is more important to me than feeling both comfortable and in control. The seat must be supportive without being too hard; the steering wheel, pedals, and shifter must all be within comfortable reach; and the instrument panel must be legible without taking my eyes off the road but for a nanosecond.

For seat comfort, every Volvo I’ve owned, including my current 2016 V60, has excelled in this area. For overall positioning, a Mazda Miata comes close to perfection, provided you can fit in its rather tight passenger compartment.

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(Above: Mazda Miata)

#2: Outward visibility. Driving involves all kinds of lighting conditions in all kinds of weather, so I need to be able to see out of the car. Too many cars fail in this regard. Narrow windows, wide roof pillars, and thick rear quarter panels create blind spots. I think stylists sometimes forget that function must take precedence over form.

Admittedly, safety comes into play here, as a car that has an airy “greenhouse” (the term for all the glass) may not offer great crash protection. But to me, a Fiat 124 Sport Coupe (which I once owned) has a greenhouse that is aesthetically pleasing while providing expansive outward vision.

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(Above: Fiat 124 Sport Coupe)

#3: Vehicle responsiveness. Being in control when driving extends to knowing that the vehicle will respond to driver inputs in an expected way, while also providing a level of sportiness. Steering should be precise, with no freeplay. Braking should be firm and easily modulated. The car should ‘hold the road’ and take curves with no body lean or tire squeal, yet without harshness delivered through the suspension and into the passenger compartment.

Since their introduction, the Porsche Boxster/Cayman twins have gotten consistently rave reviews from the automotive press for their responsiveness on the road. I got the chance to drive a Cayman a few years back and I would concur!

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(Above: Porsche Boxster)

#4: Comfort and convenience features. I may be showing my age, but after years of only affording no-frills cars, then tolerating noisy, drafty, bare-bones sports cars because “that’s how sports cars are,” I can’t live without certain creature comforts. At a minimum, air conditioning, cruise control, heated seats, and a basic stereo must be in the dream car. At best, climate control, adaptive cruise, a heated steering wheel, and SiriusXM (along with a backup camera) will all add to my ability to remain comfortably ensconced all day long.

My boss’s Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG, which I got to ride in once, fit the bill nicely and then some!

#5: Powerplant (type, placement, and power output). The gearheads among you are rejoicing because I’m finally getting to the heart of the matter: the motor that provides the “go” to the dream. The recent surge in hybrids and pure electric vehicles means I should at least consider those powerplant options. If I really want to be all-inclusive, I should include diesel and even steam as considerations.

While hybrids have advantages, and EVs are definitely the future, my dream car will stick to good old gasoline. That’s based on both the type of power delivery I desire, as well as the availability and convenience of replenishment (pumping gas versus finding a recharging station).

The dream machine should be a mid-engine design, and that’s very related to my desire for responsiveness. It’s been proven that the best handling car is a mid-engine car. Be sure to make the distinction between “mid” (like Porsche Boxster) and “rear” (like Porsche 911). Rear engine cars, with the weight behind the rear axle, are too tail-heavy. A mid-engine placement puts that weight behind the front seats, but ahead of the rear axle, for near perfect weight distribution. Look no further than the new mid-engine C8 Corvette to see the latest embracement of this feature.

Modern engineering has given us four-cylinder turbocharged engines that kick out copious amounts of horsepower yet still enable us to whiz past gas stations. My favorite engine currently fitted to a new car is the 2.0-liter inline-four in the Alfa Romeo Giulia sedan. This engine makes 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque, yet delivers a combined EPA rating of 28 mpg (33 mpg highway). This fuel economy rating is especially impressive given the Giulia’s curb weight of 3,500 pounds. This Alfa’s engine outshines almost all the competition in its specs when compared to similar engines.

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(Above: Alfa Romeo Giulia sedan)

#6: Carrying capacity. This one is simple. I need two seats, one for me and one for my passenger. And I need room for the occasional hauling job. The simple answer is your basic, regular cab full-size American pickup truck. Is it any wonder that the pickup is the #1-selling body style in the country today? A lot of guys and gals will tell you that they’re already driving their dream machine when pointing to their Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, or Ram 1500.

#7: Exterior design. I’ve ranked this attribute last but still felt it important to include, because my dream car’s design should be something that stirs my emotions and gives me pride of ownership. Although I can’t see the car’s styling from the driver’s seat, others can, and who doesn’t enjoy admiring glances!

There have been many beautifully-designed cars through the decades, and everyone has their favorite. From a pure design standpoint, I think the Jaguar E-Type, also known as the XKE, is the most beautiful car ever built. And while I didn’t pick a Ferrari, you should know that Enzo Ferrari himself said the same thing about that Jaguar!

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(Above: Jaguar E-Type)

The car aficionados among you may be shocked that I did not mention the dream car’s transmission, to wit, “you didn’t say it should have a six-speed manual.” You are correct in your observation. While I own two older vehicles with stick shifts, my daily driver has an automatic, and I’ve discovered that I’m less fussy about transmission choice. To me, the attributes I have chosen all override the choice of a gearbox.

Is there a vehicle available today that encompasses all of my dream car’s features? I want a command cockpit with excellent outward visibility. The car should have a mid-mounted gas engine that makes around 250–300 horsepower yet still delivers fuel economy in the 25–30 mpg range. Steering, braking, and handling should all provide precise control, good feedback, sticky handling, and on-road comfort. Speaking of comfort, my interior must have AC, cruise, and a decent sound system to blast the tunes. It’s got to look great on the outside, and be able to make those hardware store runs….

If not for that last point, a car like the Porsche Boxster comes close to fulfilling my dream car fantasy. For visibility, I’d need to drop the top, which I’d do whenever weather allows anyway. Could I attach a hitch and pull a trailer to the store? It’s worth a try! This was a fun exercise, and I hope that this encourages you to assemble your own “dream car,” if only in your dreams.

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

The 1969 New York Auto Show

The New York Auto Show is the longest continually-running automobile show in the United States. New York was the first city in the country to host such a show, which it did in 1900. The show has been an annual tradition ever since, the only exception being the 2020 pandemic cancellation.

During the first half of the 20th century, the show was held within various exhibition halls throughout Manhattan. When the New York Coliseum at Columbus Circle (W 59th St.) opened in 1956, the show was moved there and remained until 1987 when the brand new Jacob Javits Convention Center took over host duties. The Javits Center continues to be the show’s location.

In 1969, as a car-crazed teen, my father took me to the Coliseum to see the show for the first time. He wanted to see the show too, but it wasn’t his first visit, as he had brought home show programs from previous years (which I wish I still had). I grabbed my camera and off we went. It’s likely we drove into the city; both of us at that time were commuting into Manhattan from our Staten Island home, he for work, and I for high school, so perhaps we wanted a break from the subway.

The exact day of our attendance is lost to history, but it must have been a weekend. The internet informs me that the 1969 show was held from Saturday April 5 through Sunday April 13. Easter was Sunday April 6 that year, and amazingly, this plan of holding the public show during Easter week is still the plan today.

Here’s a brief video overview of that 1969 show, and you can see a few of the vehicles that are among the photos below.

I took 12 photographs at the show, which means I shot an entire roll of film with my Kodak 127 Brownie. My photographic skills in 1969 needed a lot of work, and to be fair, the photos document how crowded it was, so getting a clear line of sight to any vehicle was a challenge. Looking at these pictures 51 years later provides some insight into my young automotive mind. In general, the production cars I chose to snap are still of interest today. The concept cars I chose are quite humorous in retrospect, and maybe not surprisingly what a young boy would find funny.

Here are the 12, with a brief blurb under each.

PRODUCTION CARS
Chevrolet Corvette

I liked all of the C2 Corvettes (of course, we didn’t call them that in the ‘60s), and liked the new-for-’68 C3 Corvette even more (not an opinion I still hold). The Mako Shark-inspired styling, with its incredibly low front end, peaked front fenders, pinched waist, and flying buttress rear pillars on the coupe was so racy to me. There was a crowd around this car all day, and I felt lucky to capture the left front fender and hood.

Dodge Super Bee

I don’t recall being a big fan of this styling (and am still not), but it was probably  the blacked-out hood, hood scoop, factory ‘mags’, and redline tires that appealed to me.

Oldsmobile Toronado

By 1969, the big front-driver from Olds was in its 4th model year, and although the overall body shape hadn’t changed, the front and rear ends had a heavier look, losing some of initial lightness of the ’66. I’m struck by this typical late ‘60s color combo: a dark metallic hue with white vinyl roof, white pinstripe, white wall tires, and white interior! Note the F-85 sign in the background, which seems odd now because I would have expected Olds to more likely market the Cutlass nameplate.

Cadillac Eldorado

General Motors’ other FWD luxury car was in its 3rd year, with exposed headlights (after two years of concealed ones) as one of the few styling changes. This paint color looks identical to the Olds! Note the Mercury/Lincoln sign and the very low ceiling.

Avanti II

It’s interesting to me that I would even be aware of this car. I doubt I saw any on the streets of Staten Island. In case you don’t know it, the brief backstory is that the original Avanti was a model produced by Studebaker for only two years, 1963 and 1964. When Studebaker ended production, the car’s tooling was purchased by two men who ran Studebaker dealerships. They reintroduced the car as the “Avanti II” in 1965, so this little-changed 1969 version was in its 5th model year. I wish my photo had captured more of the sign to the right.

Jeep Wagoneer

My father, who rarely expressed his opinion about anything out loud, let it be known to me that he liked the Jeep Wagoneer. There’s no doubt that his admiration for it extended back to the Jeep Station Wagon he owned when he first married my mom. Something this large and truck-like held no interest for me, although this photo reveals that Jeep did its best to market this to the masses, with chrome bumpers, a full-width bright grille, roof rack, full wheel covers, white wall tires, and exterior wood-grain applique. Yet you can see the front leaf springs (!) peeking out below the bumper.

Pontiac Firebird

I loved the ’69 Firebirds when they were introduced, and I still find them among the best-looking Firebirds ever. I’m including this under “Production Cars” even though this one appears to be slightly customized. The yellow-and-white seats and door panels, along with the yellow color-keyed wheels, don’t look factory, yet on the other hand, are probably slight cosmetic changes, possibly done by a local dealer. And can someone tell me why the three people behind the passenger-side A-pillar are all wearing sunglasses?

CONCEPT CARS
The Pink Panther mobile

There’s nothing I can say in my defense, except, I wasn’t alone in wanting to see this car – look at the crowd behind it! Also note the sign in the lower right, which reads “Petersen Publishing”. What was their involvement? Where is this car today?

Plymouth Road Runner X-1

With help from the Internet, I identified this car as the X-1. The euro headlights, hood pins, cut-down windshield, and rear roll hoop were undoubtedly attractive to me. Look at the mob behind it, as well as the Pirelli sign.

Model T-Bucket Outhouse

Bathroom humor was still funny to me. Just watch out for that hot exhaust when entering and exiting.

The Bob Reisner Bathtub

Speaking of bathroom humor, it doesn’t get crazier than this (or if it does, I don’t want to see it). Like the X-1, I only know this builder’s name thanks to Google.

Buick Century Cruiser Concept

This is one of the vehicles featured in the short video clip; yet in the movie, the car is blue, and here it’s white. An internet search for photos shows the car in both colors, as well as gold. Perhaps Buick was trying out different colors to gauge audience reaction, or borrowing a trick from ol’ Shelby, they wanted to give the impression that there was more than one Cruiser Concept. Note the Ford Cortina sign and British flag in the background.

 

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

Back to Print: 1990 AutoWeek issue predicts the collector car future

It’s obvious from all my blog posts covering automotive auctions from Mecum, Carlisle, RM Sotheby’s, and others, that I enjoy the collector car auction experience. Unlike classified ads, auction results provide an in-the-moment, real-world snapshot of what cars sell for. Part of the auction education is to learn about values. Price guides are great, but they’re numbers on a page or a screen. One can argue that a car at auction sold for too much or too little, but one can’t argue that a seller was willing to let it go at a certain price, or that a buyer was willing to pay a certain price.

Several friends of mine who are interested in the old car hobby have asked me about values rising over time, or put another way, “what can I buy today that I’ll make money on tomorrow?” They expect me to gaze into my crystal ball and spit out an answer. It might be possible to make the general statement that “all special interest cars appreciate over time”. However, it you’ve been at this long enough, and I know that many of my readers have, we’ve learned some hard lessons about vehicles and values.

Values of cars from the decade of the 1950s have peaked and have slid back, because the generation which grew up with them is dying off. Cars which are purchased as 100-point show cars and are then driven or allowed to deteriorate will decline in value. Sometimes, what’s hot today has simply cooled off by next month.

Conversely, we baby boomers have watched in amazement as cars from the ‘80s and ‘90s (which to us are “just used cars”) are being snapped up, some at surprisingly high prices, by the next generation of collectors. One famous scribe, who shall not be cited by name, proclaimed 20 years ago that “Japanese cars will NEVER become collectible!” He’s eating his words today as 1st gen Datsun Z cars, 4th gen Toyota Supras, and Acura NSXs trade for prices approaching or exceeding six figures.

My answer to my colleagues about my crystal ball? I tell them that my crystal ball shattered when the Ouija board fell off its shelf and knocked it to the ground.

Instead of a crystal ball, it’s more fun to travel back in time and see what was predicted about collector car values. I have the May 21, 1990 issue of AutoWeek magazine, its headline blaring “1990 Old Car Issue: Bring ‘em Back To Drive; A users’ guide to finding, buying and enjoying collectible cars”. I believe this 1990 edition was the first in what would become an annual series for AutoWeek, at least for most of the rest of the decade (I have two later examples in my collection). Let peruse the pages and see how right and how wrong they were.

The lead article, “Get ‘Em While They’re Cold”, suggests taking a long hard look at cars from the 1980s, buying them while they’re cheap, and then riding the wave of escalating values. By the way, this concept of buying cars which are 10 to 20 years old, at the bottom of their depreciation cycle, and then (hopefully) watching their values rise has really grown legs in recent decades.

A sample of the featured cars and their 1990 values, include:

  • 1986 Corvette Roadster, for about $25,000
  • 1982-1985 Buick Riviera convertible, many at less than $10,000
  • 1985-1988 Fiero, at anywhere from $6,000 to $16,000 depending on equipment
  • 1981-1983 Imperial, and I quote: “Current prices are in the $4,000 to $6,000 range, so it doesn’t take a Donald Trump to see the profit potential….”
  • 1984-1986 Mustang SVO, with “prices all over the map”

The featured story and cover car, about one man’s obsession with obtaining and restoring the 1938 BMW328 which won the 1940 Mille Miglia, is a delightful human interest tale of overcoming many setbacks before eventually triumphing. But there’s no mention of actual dollars spent. To his credit, even with the article implying that this BMW might be worth $2 million (remember, this was written in 1990), the owner said “Of course I’ll drive it, ‘cause that’s what it is – a car…. I just can’t understand the way some people think. The thought of turning a car into a $2-million floor lamp makes me sick”.

The final series of articles in this issue highlight 3 popular collectibles: the MGA, the Porsche 356, and the Jaguar XKE, also known as the E-Type. For two of these, I’ve captured AutoWeek’s pricing for a 90-point car. Just to keep things in perspective, Google reports that the 1990 average new-car price was $15,500, and the median household income was $35,400.

 

My January 2021 edition of CPI (Cars of Particular Interest) Price Guide shows a 1960 Porsche 356B S-90 Roadster worth $198,000 in excellent condition, and a 1967 Jaguar XKE roadster (OTS) worth $302,000 in excellent condition. Now that’s what I call appreciation!

Will 2021 be the Year of the Electric Pickup Truck?

Happy 2021! After a longer-than-expected break from blogging during this holiday season, I’m back! It’s too obvious to state that my fellow car hobbyists and I are all hoping for better things this year, but I’ll say it anyway. With fingers crossed (and with planned vaccines in my arm), I’ve begun to make plans to attend various shows and events in the next few months, provided that they’re still on the calendar. These events include:

If even just two out of five of these events manage to happen AND if I feel safe enough to attend, it will be a win. Right now, I’m practicing patience and hoping for the best, as it’s all I can do.

In the meantime, I’m going to use this blog in a way that I haven’t done before, which is to promote some of the ‘professional’ writing that I’ve been doing these past few years. A current auto industry topic which I’ve been closely following and which I personally find fascinating is electric vehicles (EVs). I published a blog post a few months back about my in-person experiences with the Ford Mustang Mach-E. Since then, the Ford Motor Company has revealed that their annual production supply of 50,000 is “spoken for”. That doesn’t mean that there’s a retail name attached to every unit, as many may have been ordered by dealers for stock. Still, this is a tremendous achievement, given how reluctant the American public has been to embrace EVs (except for Tesla).

The year 2021 may be “the year of the electric pickup truck”. Most folks know how popular full-size pickups are in the U.S., with the Ford, Chevrolet, and Ram trucks occupying the #1, #2, and #3 sales slots for years now. With only months to go before the Tesla CyberTruck, Rivian R1T pickup, and GMC Hummer EV pickup are launched, the perfect storm may be brewing as traditional truck buyers check out the EV competition. (And don’t downplay the competition: the Launch Editions of both the Rivian and the Hummer are sold out.)

This article below was penned by me on behalf of my employer, and was published on the excellent website www.automoblog.net. Give it a read-through, and add a comment. I’d be more than happy to entertain your opinion, even if (especially if) you completely disagree.

https://www.automoblog.net/2021/01/22/will-2021-be-the-year-of-the-ev/

New Truck Launches & Big Business Partnerships Indicate a Strong Year Ahead for EV Adoption

According to Allied Market Research, the global vehicle electrification market is projected to reach $140.29 billion by 2027. Consumer interest in electric vehicles (EVs) has grown steadily since the Nissan Leaf, the longest-selling EV nameplate still available today (the Leaf was launched just over 10 years ago). The current EV market is much more diverse, with offerings available from legacy manufacturers, industry disruptors (like Tesla), and start-ups.

Flashy new model launches have sent pre-sale orders through the roof. Transportation and utility companies that own thousands of fleet vehicles have begun shifting to electrified platforms. Governments worldwide have engaged in legislative and regulatory actions that could boost EV manufacturing and clean transportation infrastructure. With all this activity, how does widespread EV adoption look in 2021? Let’s take a closer look.

Table of Contents

Trucks & SUVs: The Exciting & Unexpected

Will Fuel Prices Impact EV Sales?

Commercial & Industrial Adoption

Shifting Political Factors

Looking Ahead

Trucks & SUVs: The Exciting & Unexpected

In the United States currently, 22 out of 38 major auto brands offer at least one EV model. Up to 50 new models are anticipated to enter the market in the next two to three years. In recent months, EV launches have generated big headlines, particularly truck and SUV models based on ground-up designs. These launches have broken the mold of compact EVs based on existing internal combustion engine (ICE) platforms.

Pickups will see a lot of attention this year. While met with mockery upon launch, Tesla’s CyberTruck is set to begin production in late 2021. Rivian, which has received investment from Ford and Amazon, is showcasing its R1T EV pickup, including a sold-out Launch Edition due in June. And GMC made a splash with the Hummer’s return as an EV. The Edition 1 (starting at a whopping $112,595!) has sold out of its first-year production run of 10,000, although lower-priced models will be introduced from now through spring 2024.

In a turn of events that shocked many car enthusiasts, Ford’s Mustang Mach-E, an all-electric SUV that’s giving Tesla a run for its money, was awarded the North American Utility Vehicle of the Year for 2021. What’s more, the New York Times recently reported that Ford has already taken orders for all 50,000 of the Mach-Es it plans to produce in 2021. Another notable mention: the pre-orders for the launch edition of Volkswagen’s ID.4 electric SUV have already sold out.

Will Fuel Prices Impact EV Sales?

Even with popular models generating buzz and selling out quickly, a few things need to change to tip the EV sales scale more significantly in the coming years, starting with fuel prices.

Since 2014, fuel prices have been on a gradual decline, averaging between $2.00 and 2.50 per gallon between 2016 and 2019. They are presently at a 30-year national low, meaning buyers don’t necessarily have to consider fuel economy a top factor when shopping for a new vehicle. Nothing illustrates this point better than how full-size trucks from the domestic Big Three continue to hold the first, second, and third positions in the sales race. Mid- and full-size SUVs, many with large six- and eight-cylinder engines, are also selling well.

Battery technology has improved by leaps and bounds, with many newer EVs boasting 200- and 300-mile driving ranges. But for drivers unfamiliar with EVs, the concept of “range anxiety” weighs heavily on any purchase decision. Yes, your vehicle will be able to support your daily commute with its battery capacity and an overnight recharge at home. But will you have adequate access to charging stations during a multi-state road trip? In many parts of the country, the lack of charging infrastructure poses a significant challenge that might push consumers away from fully electric models.

Commercial & Industrial Adoption

Regardless of how many consumers are willing to take their own EV on a family road trip, many of the world’s largest companies are already integrating EVs into their business models. Unsurprisingly, Amazon is among the first to make moves in this direction. Amazon announced a plan to bring custom electric delivery vehicles, manufactured by Rivian, to the roads by the thousands over the next decade. The first of these are expected to roll out this year.

Everyone shops for everything online these days. This became even more true when COVID-19 cut off access to brick-and-mortar retail for many. So, it should come as no surprise that major automakers, including GM and Ford, are looking to expand their commercial delivery solutions. Potential partners, such as FedEx, have expressed a desire to migrate to electric fleets for moving consumer goods. As of this writing, GM is working on a pilot program with FedEX to introduce lightweight, electric vans complete with the latest safety, diagnostics, and route optimization technology.

Moving away from fleet management and the supply chain, a new commercial market for EVs has emerged that could tip the scales in favor of these technologies. That new and emerging market is utility and construction management. For instance, Lordstown Motors, an EV startup, recently announced it has more than 100,000 orders for its Endurance electric truck. Lordstown is targeting utility companies and other commercial entities, rather than individual consumers, with this rollout.

With more companies and municipalities working toward ambitious emissions goals, we can expect to see more EV vans, trucks, and SUVs pop up for commercial use in the coming years.

Shifting Political Factors

We can’t have a discussion of EVs or any clean energy technologies in 2021 without mentioning the changing political landscape. President Joe Biden entered office with an ambitious climate plan that could enable broader adoption of EVs in the coming years. It’s still far too early to tell how these actions will play out but there are already a few notable storylines the automotive industry has its eye on.

This includes a plan to install 50,000 EV charging stations, capable of covering an estimated 57 percent of charging needs by 2030. Additionally, Jennifer Granholm, President Biden’s nominee for Energy Secretary who secured $1.35 billion in federal funding for EV and battery development as governor of Michigan, is expected to help lead U.S. efforts to compete with China in the EV sector.

Looking Ahead

Following the unpredictability of 2020, many have started 2021 with high hopes. Even without knowing how the political and economic landscape might boost these technologies, there’s no doubt that EVs have gained serious momentum. More models are available than ever before and manufacturers are working hard to expand the market into the lucrative pickup and SUV categories, making it possible to find an EV that suits any lifestyle.

Elsewhere, corporations and commercial entities recognize that pivoting to electric transportation solutions is a crucial piece in broader clean energy and low-emissions initiatives. Of course, other factors and market forces could change things at the drop of a hat. While it’s too soon to declare 2021 a breakout year for EVs, there will be plenty for consumers and industry experts to keep an eye on in the coming months!