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About David Drucker

In 1971 an automotive journalist described David Drucker to an editor/publisher as having "a debilitating passion for cars." Alas, nothing came of that recommendation. Still during a 30+ year career in consumer electronics journalism Drucker seized the occasional opportunity to contribute to Automobile Magazine, Autoweek, American Iron, and other publications. Blogging for Car Lust allows him to fulfill a lifelong dream of writing about cars for no money, and with no deadline.

Posts by David Drucker

Car Lust: A Look Back at Automobile Magazine’s 1994 All-Stars

The other day I happened to be leafing through the All-Stars story in Automobile Magazine’s Feb. 1994 issue. While doing so it struck me that I’d rather have a pristine example of many of the chosen vehicles than those models' new replacements. This has to do with my impression that today’s cars have become little more than complex collections of electronic gadgetry enclosed in a structure that, when pressed, can be made to move from place to place. With that in mind, here’s my take on each all-star, presented in the order they appeared back in ’94. When researching current value in each case I used’s “suggested retail value” for an excellent 100,000 mile example.

BMW 325is 

1404799011_0cd861ec0f_m In 1994 the 325is coupe deserved its “ultimate driving machine” appellation. Its sublime 2.5-liter inline six delivered a modest (by today’s standards) 189 horsepower, but its variable valve timing spread that power over a broad rpm range. Electronic nannies didn’t get between the driver and the steering and suspension, and the result was a car that responded predictably and rewarded skillful driving. It was a wonderful car for $35K. It’s an even more wonderful car today, when pristine examples change hands in the $5K range. The usual caveats apply when looking at a 15-year-old car, but you’d be hard-pressed to get more bang for the buck for your five grand.

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1986-1995 Mercedes-Benz E-Class (W124)

W1241 Over the past few months, while other commitments have kept me from venting in this venue, my far-flung colleagues have heaped much praise on a succession of flimsy econoboxes. I take comfort in knowing that most of these objects of their misguided car lust have long since been consigned to junkyards, landfill, and recycling plants. I take even more comfort in knowing that a representative sampling of these turkeys have found homes in the garages of borderline fanatical owners, and that those owners gladly spend non-trivial sums to keep the objects of their obsession in what passed for tip-top condition when they were new. To see a “Cadillac” Cimarron in the wild, so to speak, can serve as a reminder of the kind of thinking that led GM to its current state. Similarly, to see a Datsun B210 with an intact body shell, and in any kind of drivable shape at all, serves as proof that rust is no match for a big pile of money.

I wasn't a fan of these sad little vehicles when they were new, and time hasn't caused me to change that opinion. Indeed, I prefer my tin foil to be wrapped around leftover pizza, rather than turned into a car’s body panels. With that in mind, I’d like to heap some well-deserved praise on a car that belongs on any list of the best, and most important, cars ever built. That car is the Mercedes-Benz E-Class of the W124 generation, which was introduced in 1986 and remained in production through 1995. Given the huge success of the model that it replaced, the W124 needed to bring something very special to the table. Fortunately, in those pre-Lexus days “something very special” was nothing more than “business as usual” at Daimler-Benz AG.

<rant>When Lexus hit the scene it seemed as though Daimler-Benz lost the formula. The models developed in the post-Lexus environment overtly skimped on overall quality in order to accommodate ever more complex gadgets and subsystems. And, taking a page from the GM playbook, they used paying customers as the test bed for those gadgets. Rumor has it that, after a couple of decades in the wilderness, the company is back on track. We’ll see. </rant>

The W124 debuted to worldwide acclaim, receiving accolades for its ride, handling, and bank vault solidity. Over the course of its lifetime, the W124 was available as a four-door sedan or wagon, a two-door pillarless hardtop, and a convertible. Worldwide, the W124 was equipped with gas and Diesel engines ranging from 2.0 to 6.0 liters, and between 1989 and 1993 the car could be had with 4Matic all-wheel drive. Through 1993, the model names consisted of a number (roughly indicating engine size) followed by a letter code whose meaning sometimes described the body style, and sometimes didn’t. In 1994 the letter/number position was reversed, and the letter described the position of the platform in the Mercedes-Benz line. So for 1994, the 300E became the E320.

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1992 Mercury Grand Marquis, Take Two

Some of you might recall my paean, last August, to the 1992 Mercury Grand Marquis that has served me so faithfully over the years. As was, in retrospect, inevitable, it didn't take long before that same Grand Marquis chose to test my own faith, making me an unwilling player in the age-old game of Repair-or-Abandon.

All was well until a month or so ago, when I dropped the GM off at the shop for an oil change and tire rotation. About an hour later, I got a call from the service manager. They would, he reported, be unable to change the oil because the oil pan was so badly rusted that attempting to unscrew the drain plug would lead to a full-on disaster. In fact, oil was beginning to seep through the metal. Then he gave me the bad news: the oil pan was spanned by an immovable chassis crossmember and various other components. Replacing the pan would require them to lift the engine high enough to allow it to be slipped past the offending hardware. The cost, including parts, labor, and tax would be in the $700 range. Then, just by way of truly testing my resolve, he added that the car needed a water pump and serpentine belt. 

Merc-b6 The cost of these repairs approached the market value of the car, which meant that I had to do some serious thinking. The obvious alternatives were to a) dump a grand into the Grand Marquis, or 2) cut my losses and walk away from it. But there turned out to be a third, less obvious option, and to see how I arrived at it you'll need a bit more background. You see, a couple of years ago I noticed that the Check Engine light would come on for a brief period soon after I hit the gas hard, say to pass someone quickly on a two-lane. My local shop ran a scan, and found "two fuel lean codes, one EGR code, and a pass. system code." (Uh-oh!) They estimated that the needed repairs would run somewhere in the $4-600, depending on what was found when various components were examined more closely. The estimate also included the news that "none of the codes at this time will make the vehicle unsafe to drive." (Aah!) Thus reassured, I declined the repairs and opted instead to place a square of electrical tape over the offending light.

Continue reading "1992 Mercury Grand Marquis, Take Two" »

A Minivan is Better Than What You're Driving

Odysseyext(Note from Chris: We've touched on this subject in the past, but this bears repeating. Besides, David's is better--and it's fun to watch him rant.)

I don't care what your current ride--or even pie-in-the-sky dream ride--might be. A minivan is better. "But wait!" (I can hear you say)... "A minivan will make me look, well, like a minivan-driving loser." Get over yourself. If your self-image is based on what you drive, just put a Ferrari Owners Club license plate frame on the minivan. Awestruck onlookers will assume that your Ferrari is in the shop, which it probably would be anyway.

Continue reading "A Minivan is Better Than What You're Driving" »

1992 Mercury Grand Marquis

According to Click & Clack, the cheapest car to run is the car you already own. Lucky for me, the car I already own--as opposed to the one I lease for the lovely and talented Mrs. Drucker--is a 1992 Mercury Grand Marquis LS, and I flat-out love it. I'll begin expounding on its wonderfulness a paragraph or two further on; first, though, I'd like to explain how a dashingly youthful 59-year-old came to be driving a geezermobile in the first place.

Gm92b_2 Actually, the whole story begins in 1967, the year I convinced my parents that my college experience would be greatly enhanced if I didn't have to walk to campus from my in-town lodging. Rather than recount the entire tale, I'll skip forward a few decades, to 1999, when those very same parents came into possession, almost by chance, of the subject Grand Marquis. At the time, it had 30K on the clock, and because it was their second car, the mileage had jumped by only 7K when they passed it on to me in mid-2001. I drove it for three years, bumping the mileage to 75K, and then sold it to a buddy who used it to commute between his home on Long Island and his offices in Brooklyn and Queens. Two years later he was offered a real deal on a 2002 Grand Marquis, and in early 2006 I jumped at the chance to buy the ‘92 – now with 99K showing – back from him for small money. Since then, I've bumped the mileage to 126K.

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1998-2002 Lincoln Navigator

Navigator1 In today's brave new world of five-buck gas and energy-related panic, it borders on dangerous to admit to lusting after a three-ton station wagon. In fact, the desirability of such a vehicle would never have occurred to me but for the 10,000 miles I spent behind the wheel of, first a 1998, and then a 2002 Lincoln Navigator.

Most of those--95 percent--were long-haul miles, with the goal of getting a large enclosed trailer filled with 3,000 pounds of motorcycle from one edge of the country to the other. The rest were in around-town stop-and-go traffic in various cities, towns, and villages.

Those Navigators belonged to one of my riding buddies, and when he allowed as how he'd rather fly, and have someone else haul the trailer to Daytona Bike Week in February of 1998, I volunteered without a moment's hesitation. (Yeah, we trailered our bikes. Sometimes in a blizzard. Get over it.) That first trip, behind the wheel of what could be viewed as nothing more than a tarted-up Ford Expedition (which, itself, was a roofed-in Ford F-150 pickup) was a revelation.

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Pictured above: This is a forlorn Chevy Vega photographed by reader Gary Sinar. (Share yours)

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