Tuesday, December 13, 2011 08:22
Former co-worker and now friend John Huffman recently wrote a spectacular story called “The 100 Worst Cars of All Time.” In response, I wrote the following note to him.
John, loved your article. Work like that is why the New York Times picked you and not me to be a contributor. Not that I’m bitter or anything. Tell NYT Senior Editor Greg Brock, and former co-worker at the Daily Mississippian I said “Hey.”
However, beating up on cars from dead brands (and non-advertisers)—Trabant, Geo, Eagle, Austin, Pontiac—is like having a top Southeastern Conference college football team play, well, any other school. (The only way an SEC team will lose a BCS Championship Game is when it plays another SEC school. Do California schools still play football?)
Allow me to add some big boys to John's list:
Ferrari 348: This was an evil-handling witch thanks to bumpsteer caused by poor suspension design. It was the only car I've driven that snapped sideways on a (ever so slightly bumpy) straightaway. That was disconcerting because I was going 140 mph. (I caught it, or else we wouldn’t be talking.)
Ferrari F355: This was a slightly less evil-handling evolution of the 348. Either Ferrari put so much anti-lift in the rear suspension that it picked the rear tires off the ground when cornering forces caused the car to slow slightly, or its Bridgestones’ belt package was so stiff that their tread wouldn’t conform to the pavement during hard cornering. Or both. In a right-hander on the Las Vegas road course, the F355 snapped from a near-perfect free (fronts sliding only slightly more than rears) condition to “Oh Fudge” loose. When I cranked in opposite lock to catch the sliding tail, the car slowed enough to allow the rears to regain traction. Since I had the wheel turned left to catch the slide, the Ferrari darted toward the concrete wall. No, I don’t know how I caught that one. More...
Monday, May 9, 2011 06:00
For many years now, the closest a customer could get to customizing a production car from the factory was to choose the car’s paint color. Even exotic car owners, who could have their cars tailored to their exact specifications and loaded with all manner of expensive goodies, were still unable to see anything more than snippets of what the finished product would look like. But now, thanks to the magic of technology and graphic design, anyone, regardless of the number of banks, oil fields, and Super Bowl rings they may own, can now create and customize a life like version of their dream car online.
Mini has, for a long time, had one of the best company websites when it came to being able to build and create a custom vehicle right on your home computer. Their car configurator not only allowed the user to choose options such as color, trim levels, body kits, and wheels, but actually updated the car’s image with the chosen selections. This, aside from being immensely fun and entertaining, helps give the user and potential customer the ability to make their dream Mini come to life right before their eyes. More...
Monday, April 11, 2011 06:00
My nomination for the Ugliest Ferrari Ever is the 512TR. I’m pretty sure that a requirement for ownership was that the buyer had to wear a largely unbuttoned shirt above an overly large paunch and a pawn shop-worth of gold chains dangling in graying chest hair.
Tasteless doesn’t being to describe the 512TR.
The over-the-top styling, highlighted by cheese-grater side strakes, was the epitome of the decadent 1980s. It’s surprising that it didn’t come with double-knit seat covers and a mini-disco ball hanging from the rearview mirror. The car debuted as the 512 Testarossa in the mid-1980s, was renamed the TR in the early ‘90s before being mericifully euthanized in the mid-‘90s.
Part of my prejudice is that the 512TR was the first Ferrari I drove. I was shocked at the poor fit and finish, the useless radio controls, the Renault Alliance-style ergonomics, its farm-tractor-like gearshift, and its imprecise handling. More...
Monday, March 21, 2011 08:13
By now you’ve probably heard or read about the new Ferrari FF, the Italian supercar manufacturer’s first all-wheel-drive model. You’ve probably also already realized you can’t afford one. Well, join the club. But that doesn’t stop you from seeing exactly what the car of your dreams might look like if you got the chance to wade through the options list with a bottomless checkbook, thanks to a new feature of Ferrari’s website—the configurator.
The FF has just been added to the list of cars you can customize on the configurator. Once you log on you can choose from a wide selection of exterior and interior colors, wheels and tires, brake-caliper colors, seats, infotainment gadgets, even seatbelt colors. Other options include cruise control, an anti-theft system (probably a good idea), a fire extinguisher (wait...does Ferrari think I’ll need one?), and carbon-fiber trim.
After you’ve spec’d out the FF to your liking, you can take it for a “spin” in the configurator––drag the cursor left or right and the image rotates, giving you a look at the car you’ll never own from every angle. Another mouse click lets you see the gloriously appointed interior you’ll never sit in. More...
Thursday, February 17, 2011 05:00
On February 9, Ford Motor Company filed suit in federal court against Ferrari for trademark infringement after Ferrari named its 2011 Formula 1 car the F150. Ford has been using the F-150 designation for its full-size pickup trucks since 1975, and claimed in the complaint that “Ferrari has misappropriated the F-150 trademark in naming its new racing vehicle the 'F150' in order to capitalize on and profit from the substantial goodwill that Ford has developed in the F-150 trademark.”
As you might imagine, the automotive world was shaken—mostly with laughter—by news of the suit. Even the least car-savvy person in the world could look at a Ford pickup and a Ferrari Formula 1 car and know that, except for both having four wheels and an engine, they’re not remotely like each other (see for yourself at ferrari150thitalia.ferrari.com and www.ford.com/trucks/f150).
And yet Ford seemed to worry that potential pickup buyers might instead wander into Ferrari dealerships and try to buy a million-dollar racecar to haul firewood and tow a bass boat.
Ferrari, to its credit, is unconcerned about the possibility that its F1 team might mistakenly load a Ford F-150 onto its transporter and attempt to put it on the grid in Bahrain in March. More...