Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Question: When was salt used first on the roads during the winter?

Hi folks -- We had our snow threat(!) last evening. No accumulation in the south suburbs of Dayton, but as I drove back in the snow/rain mix the ODOT trucks were all around I-675. I wonder if they put salt down, because if they did my driving of the Porsche has to stop.

When was salt first used? I wonder if it was in part urged on by the manufacturers, who only gain by decreasing the desirability of used cars and thereby the corrosion speeding up the replacement process.

Yes, salt results in safer roads. But what are other alternatives? Use of mass transit? Non-corrosive substitutes? Stay home? Slow down?

Is there a conspiracy here?

From the National Snow and Ice Data Center:

It was in fact the popularity of the motorcar that would create a whole new set of problems for snow removal crews. By 1925, over seventeen million cars were registered, vastly increasing the demand for dry, safe streets. As motorcars took to the streets in force, public safety demanded snow removal efforts even for snowfalls less than four inches. Due to increased dependence on the automobile, not only main thoroughfares needed clearing, but residential streets as well. Scenic snowfalls once reminiscent of winter merrymaking became unbearable, and the freezing weather once welcomed by sleigh parties create hazardous driving conditions. Automobile accidents were rapidly rising due to weather-related conditions.
Slick layers of ice left behind by snow plowing, renewed demands for salt and sand use. No longer concerned about protests, city public works officials used salt by the ton to ease road conditions, and also experimented with cinders and sand. Motorized salt spreaders became the primary tool in fighting snowy roads, and businesses and private citizens as well used tons of salt to keep driveways, sidewalks and access routes clear of snow and ice. However, several cities in the Great Lakes region were unable to use salt due to the extremely frigid weather that rendered salt almost ineffective. In any city, while salt works well on icy roads or minimal snowfall, it does little good against deep snow.
Parked and abandoned vehicles posed the other great problem faced by snow removal crews. Urban streets now provided parking places, which in winter months hampered snowplowing efforts. Desperately needing to clear the streets, plows ended up packing huge, compacted drifts against parked cars, forcing unwary owners to dig them out. Realizing there was a conflict, city ordinances were created, banning overnight parking for certain city areas, or posting signs marking snow plow routes, where parking would be banned when plows were in use. Many of these ordinances are still in effect throughout major cities, increasing the efficiency and thoroughness of plowing efforts.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Promising Auto History Topic -- The Used Car Problem during the 1930s

During the Depression, auto manufacturers and other interests kept pointing to the issue of used cars and how that market was dragging down the numbers of potential new car buyers. It was labeled the "used car problem," and the subject of a considerable body of literature. This topic might be a good term paper or scholarly essay.

Here is one plan posed at the time, taken from a 1938 report on the Automobile Manufacturers' Association in a National Archives file:

"Typical of proposed plans for foreign disposal was one advanced by Lawrence R. Rich, Attorney, Cleveland, Ohio, in February 1938. Mr. Rich proposed that manufacturers purchase from dealers a million used cars of the more recent models. The manufacturers were to turn these over, at loss, to a government-owned or controlled corporation which should sell them at a loss (as the Government's contribution to the plan) to the Russian Government. It was pointed out that then manufacturers would be able to recoup their loss through sales of parts for the cars. The plan was presented to the Export Committee meeting in March at Mr. Rich's insistence but Mr. Bauer said it was not seriously considered because of he many obstacles to such a plan, namely the fact that freight on a used car is the same as that on a new car which makes it high in relation to value, difficulties in connection with valuation for tariff purposes, etc."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Electric Cars from the mid-1970s: Not very good

Reference: Consumer Reports, 41 (October, 1976), 572ff.

The two electric cars available to the American consumer during the mid-1970s were the Vanguard Citicar and the Elcar 2000. Consumers Union judged both cars unacceptable in 1975, and then retested a Citicar after improvements were made in 1976. Again, the Citicar failed, in part due to braking and other workmanship issues that were deemed hazardous. The Citicar's performance was abysmal: 0-30 mph in 19 seconds, top speed 32 mph, and a range of 32.6 miles. It had no safety belts, and the car's ride was very poor. The Citicar jumped and jolted over irregular roads, and lost directional stability.

In conclusion, Consumer Reports stated

"Unfortunately, electric-car technology has made little progress in nearly a century. Congress recently passed a bill that would provide $160 million in research money in the next 6 years....The Citicar is useful mainly of a demonstration of how far electric-car technology has yet to go, not how far it has come."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cult Cars -- Cars Worshiped in America Through the Decades

Definition of Cult from the Oxford English Dictionary

†1. Worship; reverential homage rendered to a divine being or beings. Obs. (exc. as in sense 2).

2a. A particular form or system of religious worship; esp. in reference to its external rites and ceremonies.

Hi folks -- so today I was asked by a MSNBC reporter about cult cars. In thinking about it, many many cars from our past are worship by small numbers of collectors and enthusiasts, and you can see this particualrly by going to car club functions or cruise-ins. But some cars are worshipped more than others, some are on a high alter (like a Duesenberg), while others are bowed down to on a low alter (sorry, Studebaker fans!). To some degree, cult status is reflected in cultural outpourings, like film, music, and literature. For example, there are more songs written about a Cadillac (1000+) than a Nissan. But the correlation is far from exact; for example, the Subaru has only 1 song written about (I think!), but has a tremendous cult following in the U.S., especially in New England.

Here are some of my top car cult picks:


1. Ford Model T -- poems, stories, and far more. A deity with humble origins.

2. Packard -- especially open models, worshipped by the rich and want-to-be rich before WWII. Abandoned by the same class after WWII, often for Cadillacs.

3. Duesenberg/Auburn/Cord -- maybe the grandest cars ever made in America -- worshipped every August in Auburn, Indiana. The ACD Museum there is one of the best in the U.S. Rolling sculpture at its best.

4. Cadillac -- "Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac." Most everyone takes his or her last ride in a Cadillac.


5. 1955 Chevy -- the quinessential everyman's car at th peak of the Golden AGe of America's love affair with the automobile.

6. Corvette -- after 1957, when muscle is added to the car. TV's "Route 66" deosn't help the brand either.

7. Thunderbird -- 1955-57 -- the banker's sports car, it made beautiful women look even more beautiful behind the wheel.

8. GTO -- 1964-5. Light, powerful, compact, and powerful.

9. VW Beetle -- OK, sometimes ugly Betty appears to be beautiful to a demented soul.

10. Porsche 911 -- as an owner, and a restorer of a 1971 911 targa, I ahve often wondered if I had sold my soul to a false god.

11. Ferrari -- what needs to be said?

12. Lamborghini -- ditto, even moreso.

13. Mercedes 300 SL -- I almost forgot this iconic cult car from the 1950s, but who can think of a more beautiful thing?

Painting a Honda CRX -- Tony's Project Completed!

So here we are, at the final stage of paint, where all the hard work begins to pay off.... Well, I can tell you, it didn't turn out perfect, although few paint jobs are ever "perfect" straight out of the paint booth, even new cars have imperfections in their paint, albeit not on the scale that this car has now, but I think it turned out pretty good nonetheless. There are several areas that I can specifically spot that I know where to look, and there is some considerable orange peel; however, after some wet sanding with 1000 grit, then 1500 grit, then polishing I think the majority of the imperfections should be gone. I took a few photos of a test area I did on the roof looked like and you can see the orange peel goes away, hopefully some of the other areas will look better as well. Unfortunately, I didn't have 1500 grit paper when I did that area, only 1000 and polishing compound, sso I wasn't able to get a true look at what it will be like, but it will be better than in the pictures, which is more than good enough for a car such as this. I think in hindsight, if this car had been the Cougar, I would have done several things differently. First, I would have used a waterborne paint system. I can honestly tell you, 3.5 VOC paint (the primer) isn't fun to be in when it is as dense as it gets in a booth with messed up ventilation like mine had and your mask starts failing because there isn't enough oxygen in the room. That said, 4.2 VOC paint (the color and clear I used) is even worse. Therefore, the next time (read: Cougar) I will be using thicker mil rating plastic for the booth walls (so I can use all 4 fans that I had intended on using), twice as many exhaust filters as intake filters (also part of the problem because 2 exhaust per 4 intake doesn't even make sense now that I actually apply logic to it) and make the booth a bit longer. Waterborne paint also will prevent the house from getting stinky with fumes as well. Moving the access door to the other side of the garage will keep this from happening as well. As far as getting a better paint job is concerned, I think the best approach is to ensure that I use a darker primer next time. The darker the primer, the more imperfections you can see, and the primer stage is the last phase that you want to be finding imperfections in. For the Cougar, block sanding is going to be a necessity, and lots of it. I don't mind sanding though, especially when I get to concentrate in an area and getting it perfect, it is kind of relaxing, and much like polishing your boots in the Army, I enjoy it, plus you get to work on your guns the more you sand. Haha. Additionally, wet sanding seems to be the method to get a ultra smooth layout when shooting the next coat. I can immediately confirm that the areas I spent wet sanding the primer and color coats prior to going to the next layer, turned out much better than those areas I did not. Also, the fewer the coats the better, as long as you are getting the correct coverage and flowout from the coats you have. The fewer coats you have, the less buildup there is on the areas where you do have imperfections The last couple things I wouldn't have changed on the CRX, but I will definitely ensure are different for the Cougar. First, a better quality color and clear thatn I used on the CRX. The ones I used on the CRX were excellent for the price I paid, but, it is for a daily driver, which, although I hope it is a daily driver, the Cougar is a higher standard of car than the CRX is or could ever hope to be. The second, is a better quality gun, with multiple tips that meet the specifications of the paint that I shoot with. I think a large part of the orange peel issue that I had was first, with the quality of the gun I used ($30 Harbor Freight special), and second because I used a middle of the range tip, not specifically designed for the coating I was putting on. The tip was too small for primer (causing to much dry overspray), a little too big for the color (causing some orange peel) and almost right for the clear (which actually shot pretty well). Unfortunately, painting a car is like building a house, everything builds on top of the foundation. If the foundation is off, everything else will be as well. The same goes for the body. Things to look forward on the Cougar: 1. Less trim and taping nightmares like the hatchback, plastic bumpers, parts to get int eh way. Everything on the Cougar is pretty much all removed2. Thicker body steel. I have a few spots where I need to address rust on, much the same as the CRX surprisingly enough despite the 22 year difference. This means welding in new steel is much easier because I don't end up burning through the metal as easy, making the job much easier, faster, and better looking requireing less filler in the end.3. More time. With the CRX, the longer it takes me to get this car back on the road, the longer I have to wait to get 44mpg vs. 20mpg, with a $0.30 difference in price per gallon. This car will pay for iteself within 6 months just in gas prices alone, not even considering the costs of wear and tear on a vehicle that costs more to maintain and is more valuable as well.4. More experience ... less frustration. With more experience comes less frustration and more accurate estimations of what can be reasonably done in a given amount of time. Less frustration = better quality and more experience = better quality. Given all other things being the same (which they won't since I'll be using a better gun and paint and ventilation) the ob should come out better just due to the experience and decreased frustration.5.5. No body work on the hood. I bought a NOS (New Old Stock) hood back in January, that has no issues whatsoever, so all I have to do to it is scuff the original paint prior to painting it. This is a supreme time saver compered to the CRX, as I spent nearly 20-30 hours on the hood alone, just fixing the hareas where the previous owner thought taking metal shears to the top and underside was a good idea to install hood pins. Things to not look forward in the Cougar: 1. Greater expectation. It is entirely possible (although not hopeful), that the Cougar turns out worse than the CRX. This would simply not be Kosher, for reasons which need not be explained.2. Time. Even though I have more time, I would like to finish this car in time for the start (or at least a good portion) of this year's Cruisin' Grand. Painting the car, coupled with the installation of the remainder of everthing that needs to go into this car, then the tuning, and working out of the bugs, means I am under a soft deadline. Couple that with the fact that I amstarting back classes in January means that I am going to continue to be busy for the foreseeable future.3. Cowl replacement. Almost all 1964 1/2 - 1969 Mustangs and 1967 - 1969 Cougars have rust issues in the cowl area in front oft the windshield. Mine is no exception, and unfortunately this is nearly a 40 hour job (or so I've heard) in itself. It has to be replaced prior to painting, and although I know I have to do the upper cowl, I dont know whether I'll have to do the whole lower cowl, or just the outer corners. I am cheating a bit here though, becasue I already have an original cowl (that was carefully removed)which has no rust to go in where I remove the old rusted one. This is extremely important, because they don't sell new ones, you have to adapt a Mustang one to fit on a Cougar if you can't find a good one (which 99% of the originals are bad). This will save me untold hours in prepping this, so I might get lucky and only end up spending 15-20 hours. We'll see. Anyways, I need to wrap this up, get packed and scoot on up to LA to catch a flight. If you want any specific pictures let me know John, I do have more, and can always take more if you like. I'll be taking pictures of the next process of removing the imperfections (called "color sanding") as well, for those of you interested.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

When Car Salesman Were Really Honored -- Uncle Damon, Ford Motor Company, and his 1954 Award

Uncle Damon and his Ford Ranchero (1957)

Thanks to Ed Garten for this story.

Visiting with my first cousin in Florida last week he shared with me the attached photo and letter when his father won a top salesman award from Ford Motor Company in 1954. Uncle Damon won a "Trip Around the World" from FMC -- one of the six similar awards given that year to salesmen across the six Ford regional districts. The letter announcing his award is attached. Because he was so busy selling cars, according to my cousin, he declined the free trip around the world and took the cash instead. Then two years later he used part of the cash prize to buy one of the first Ford Rancheros that were produced. See attached photo of Uncle Damon and his Ranchero (and with him dressed as a cowboy).

Tony's CRX Paint Project: Progress but also Challenges!

The re-primer went well, the car looked better after it back to one color again, and I was able to primer the hood for the first time, since in all the confusion with the gun failing me, I completely forgot to shoot the first coat of primer. After primering it, I made the mistake of shooting color over it before sanding it again. I did go back and wet sand the color to eliminate as much as I could. I then re-shot another coat of color on this and the other spots I wet sanded to get the metallic to look uniform. The light blue streaks you see in the pictures on top of the car baffled me for several coats. This was after about 3 coats on the whole car and 4-5 coats on the areas I wet sanded and the light streaks weren't going away, until I finally realized that it was overspray dust, which easily wipes off. Once I allowed the car to dry the light areas (dust) simply wiped off with a clean microfiber towel I had. Also, as I was referring to the body issues I discovered, you can see on the passenger fender that there are several small dings that I missed. These would have been found if I had been able to block sand, but since I did many coats of color, it was too late to fix it now because I only got 1 gallon of paint (which I thought was surely enough for such a small car). All told, I probably have a pint or less of paint left over, not enough to shoot 1 coat. We'll see how this thing looks with clear on it in the next email. Tony

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thank You GM! Saab files for bankruptcy, now history!

A 1960 Saab 96, GT 750

a Saab 93 ad

A Saab 93

Inside a Saab 92

a 1950 Saab 92, note the suicide doors!

Hi folks -- I never owned a Saab, but from childhood was always curious about them and admired the brand. Growing up in Kenmore, NY, I often walked by a quirky little dealer on Kenmore Avenue, Checkpoint Saab. These were cars for individualists, and in high school I was more of a joiner looking for peer approval, and so never bit. They were cars for a select few, it seemed especially during the 1950s and 1960s, and not for a socially insecure teenager.

The Saabs of those days were model 92s or 93s. Many were two cycle, 3 cylinder powered, although later a more conventional V-4 was the standard engine. Saab was an innovator -- not just with aero shaped vehicles, but with production vehicle turbo charging during the 1970s.

What other car has an ignition switch on the console?

Whatever the fate of Saab, a select group of collectors will keep the brand alive, driving the 92s, 93s, 900s, 9000s, and ensure that cars are not always appliances.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Car Painting -- Tony's 1989 Honda CRX Project

Bumper fixed

Bumper side fixed

Hood body work

Hood close up

Hood line fixed

Passenger door on

Passenger fender on

Passenger front body work

Passenger rear body work

Hi folks -- photos are from son-in-law Tony's car paint project. This is the first of two cars to be painted -- the CRX is sort of practice for the 1967 Cougar that will follow. Tony has learned a lot about how much time it takes to do a good job, and also the many skills that can only be learned by doing. Now we are waiting for that final result!

Meant to get this off last night, but I was pretty tired and ended up not being able to finish it. Well, so far I was able to get all the panels back on, putting me one step away from primering the whole car. That step, masking off everything, I learned takes much longer than you would think, at least if you do it right, which I didn't do exactly right last time (I had a couple areas that weren't perfectly straight and one area where a little paint got on a window, no big deal though, it should wipe off with some Acetone). I am hoping between tomorrow and Thursday evenings I can mask it off, last time I did it in one night...err, well it took me till 4:30 A.M. but I finished it. Anyhow, if all goes as planned, I'll spray the 3 coats of primer surfacer (primer that can be sanded to "surface" or smooth everything out) on Friday night, spend some time Saturday block sanding and then washing the car, and then spraying the color and clear on Sunday. That assuming everything goes as planned, lets cross our fingers. Also, for any interested, I am attaching the pictures of the car reassembled, as you can see there was quite a few areas that required some body work. Quite a few panels required some work to get them straight, and both bumpers took me half a day with some JB Weld, a file and some sandpaper to reform, reshape and make them fit as they should. In the two front bumper pictures, the lighter gray areas (on the lower part they are all the way on the left and right sides of the big opening in front of the radiator and on the left of the other bumper picture there are two blotches in the area right under the hole where the blinkers go) are JB Weld, filed down, then sanded. They turned out pretty smooth, its pretty likely they won't be noticeable after the primer gets sprayed and then sanded. Anyhow, off to start taping it all off, hopefully between tonight and tomorrow night I can get it ready enough to spray on Friday night.

Dangerous Toxins Found in Classic Cars -- a guest post from Brian Turner

Hi folks -- Brian asked me to post this on my blog. The key to any discussion of toxicology is amount of exposure to the material in question and also time of exposure. Many substances are poisonous, but they become a poison to your body when thresholds are exceeded.

Dangerous Toxins Found in Classic Cars
Whether a professional mechanic or simply an enthusiast, there is no greater pleasure than restoring a classic car to its former glory. Although car restoration is a great career or hobby, it does come with several health risks that many people are completely unaware of. Many old cars were built with materials that are now known to be hazardous, such as lead and asbestos, which can cause such health issues as nerve disorders and mesothelioma. Though there are numerous problems that can arise from reviving an old car, one must plan ahead and take precautions. There are also many ways mechanics can prevent these problems, such as wearing protective clothing, masks and goggles, working in a well-ventilated area, and thoroughly cleaning your shop or garage after you have finished working on the car. One of the most hazardous materials on classic cars is paint. Much of the paint used on older cars contain such materials as lead chromate, cadmium, and lead. Lead chromate is a chemical compound that was once used to create a shocking yellow hue. Mild exposure can cause symptoms like a sore throat and coughing, muscle weakness and dizziness, while chronic exposure can lead to cancer, kidney damage, coma, and death. Cadmium can often be found in red paints, and is easily absorbed by the lungs. Regular exposure to this toxic material can result in damage to the lungs, kidneys, liver, and even bones. While lead can be found in paint, it is also present in batteries, radiators, wiring, and traces of old gasoline. If swallowed, inhaled, or even touched for an extended period, this chemical can cause such issues as increased blood pressure, memory loss, nerve disorders, seizures, and death. Though paint can be a major issue, the materials found inside many classic cars can be just as hazardous. For instance, dashboards, seat belts, and seats may contain a chemical known as bromine, while asbestos can be found in brake pads, and sometimes in clutches. Excessive exposure to bromine can lead to kidney damage, as well as memory and lung issues. Asbestos exposure can be especially problematic, sometimes leading to chronic lung inflammation and cancer, eye irritation, and skin growths. Although chemically related complications are the most common issue when it comes to classic car restoration, there are also complications that can arise from natural substances. For instance, when repairing a car that has been left out in the elements, you will often be exposed to the fungi, mold, and bacteria that can grow on seat upholstery. If the car has been left out in wet weather, you may also come in contact with rust, which can lead to tetanus if you should cut yourself on a sharp edge.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The "Rain Man," auto theft, and his 1949 Buick Roadmaster

“Rain Man,” like "Breathless" and "No Man's Land" centered on the theme of the empty man. Tom Cruise plays a superficial, slick, hard driving, but quasi-legitimate importer of luxury performance automobiles named Charlie Babbitt. Caught in the middle of a financial crises involving four grey-market Lamborghinis, Charlie seems posed to either attain success he desperately craves, or lose his shirt. Scenes between Charlie and his loving girlfriend reveal he is boorish and emotionally dysfunctional. The story thickens with news of his father death in Cincinnati. Returning home to see to the estate, the secrets of Charlie’s past begin to come to light. We learn the source of his troubled personality lay in his youthful theft of this father’s classic Buick Road Master convertible. That joy ride, prompted by paternal callousness, has shaped the rest of his life. Angered at his father, Charlie ran away from home and in the intervening years it seems Charlie has worked to prove he was his father’s equal. Not surprisingly, given the nature of their conflict he seeks to achieve it with automobiles. In one final sign of abandonment, Charlie is left nothing in his father’s multi-million dollar will except, in a final parting shot, his father bequeaths him the aforementioned Road Master and several prized rosebushes.
But here the story takes another turn. Charlie learns the estate was left to autistic brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) that he never knew he had. Hoping to squeeze half the money out of his brother's executor, Charlie kidnaps Raymond. Forced by the peculiarity of his brother’s conditions to drive cross-country to California in the Road Master, Charlie is inadvertently put on the road to deeper level of self-discovery and masculine redemption. As the trip unfolds, we learn that the callousness of Charlie’s father toward him resulted from the role inadvertently played in Raymond’s institutionalization: Raymond accidently injured Charlie by scalding him. It might also be the case that because both brothers shared their father’s love of the Road Master—and here we see again the automobile as women, in this case the missing mother—his is father’s latent anger with Charlie was deepened then by an Oedipal conflict over the car. As Charlie rediscovers love for his brother and need to responsibility, the audience realizes that his attempt to achieve autonomous manliness selling exotic but soulless European vehicles was always doomed to failure. His salvation lay in a return to the classic American car, and key to his own salvation. By the end of their journey together, Charlie realizes he must put Raymond’s needs before his own but this evolution in sober manly responsibility reconciles him with his girlfriend and brings put him on the road to a happy future.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Korean Panther Automobile for Sale

1986Panther Kallista

Colleague Larry Schweikart has a Korean-built Panther for sale. It is a 1980s model with the 2.3 liter Ford engine. If interested, contact me and I will contact Larry.

Do not confuse with Panther J72, in production between 1972 and 1980. Some 426 J72s were assembled. They were styled after the Jaguar SS 100. This car had an aluminum body.

Friday, December 9, 2011

China, the WTO, and the automoible exports

Hi folks -- Recently I have been listening to the English language "China Drive" radio show in the morning before I go to school. This morning there was a report that contained an interesting statistic: in 2000, when China joined the World Trade Organization, it exported a total of 15,000 cars; last year that number was 556,000 vehicles! Certainly by joining the WTO, the country was not hurt in terms of its automobile industry. In terms of imports, it has a 25% tariff, pretty high in terms of protectionism. So you just have to make your cars for that market in China!

Top ten destination countries of China 2008 automotive exports by value:
Country Value
U.S. $9.406 billion

Japan $4.533 billion

Russia $2.133 billion

Korea $1.916 billion

Germany $1.490 billion

Iran $1.220 billion

UAE $1.219 billion

Nigeria $1.165 billion

Brazil $1.113 billion

Italy $1.013 billion

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The New 2012 Dodge Dart and A 1961 Dodge Dart from my past!

Hi Folks -- below is a post about the all new Italian-influenced Dodge Dart that will be shown at the Detroit auto show. The post brings back memories from my childhood of cousin Freddy's 1962 Dodge Dart. I was 12 at the time, and Freddy, 17 years older than I, had a wonderful Thunderbird-powered 1957 Ford. On a whim, he decided to trade it in on a blue 1962 Dodge Dart with a 361 cubic inch engine. I remember him trying to set the dual points on the "fart, " as well as carburation. It never really ran right, and in early 1964 Freddy traded the disappointing car in a part of a deal on a new 1964 Pontiac GTO convertible in Midnight Blue. I don't miss the Dart, but would give anything for that GTO!

Dodge brings back the Dart, with an Italian flair

By Justin Hyde
Senior Editor of Motoramic
Dodge's newest small car replacing the woebegone Caliber next year will carry the name "Dart" -- the first time Dodge has used that name on these shores in 36 years. This is not grandma's Slant-Six lead sled.
Based on the European-only Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the new compact hatch (shown here in the only frontal shot Dodge released) is the first true mechanical combination born of the Fiat-Chrysler merger. Chrysler says the 2013 Dodge Dart will arrive with a choice of three engines, two of which are updated Chrysler four-cylinders suddenly renamed "Tigershark," because it's cool to get nicknames in middle age. To be competitive with the all-new fleet of compact cars in America, at least one model will need to hit 40 mpg on the highway.
For those unfamiliar with the proud history of the name, the first Dodge Dart arrived in 1960 as a nod to the Space Age, and persevered as a stoic, low-cost compact car until 1976, often powered by the ancient but bulletproof Chrysler straight-six engine tilted at a 30-degree angle. True Dart fans pay respect to the GTS muscle version of the late '60s, but thanks to its low cost and ubiquity in TV shows of the late '70s -- and even "That '70s Show" -- it became known as grandma's car. For the new Dart, Dodge plans to skip ahead at least a couple of generations.
We'll see the real thing at the Detroit Auto Show in January.