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Test Drive--Volkswagen Passat SE V-6 & TDI

Over the course of a week or so this past month, I had the opportunity to drive three different examples of the current-production "Tennessee Passat," two with VW's unique narrow-angle V-6, and a TDI diesel.  Here's what I found.

VW publicity photo

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2014 Mazda 3 5-Door Hatch: Something Just Clicked

You know that moment, with a car that's been around for a few years, when the automaker finally works out all the kinks and puts out a car that is perfectly dialed? Like what Dodge did with the 392 Challenger for 2011: suddenly, with the right amount of power and the right amount of handling, everything just falls into place, and you can finally say that they got that car right. That seems to be what's happened with the all-new Mazda 3, the bread-and-butter compact that's been paying Mazda's bills since 2004. Now on the cusp of its third generation, the Mazda 3 is indeed dialed—it hits all the right notes in power, handling, and appearance. Let's take it for a spin...

DSC_0048

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Citroën DS

The idiom "outside the box" or "thinking outside the box" is (over)used so much these days that the meaning has become diluted. It's reached the point where something's referred to as being "outside the box" when it's no more than mildly atypical.

Not so the topic of today's discussion. It's atypical, but there's nothing mild about it. It's so far outside the box that you can't see the box from there. It's something from an alternate universe, a bizarro world where boxes have been outlawed, where Ryan Leaf has been voted into the Hall of Fame, lobsters grow on trees, and mountain lions can teleport.

A 1956 DS at the Autostadt Museum in Wolfsburg, Germany

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2013 Studebaker Drivers Club Ohio Chapter Meet, Tallmadge, Ohio

Late August means it's time once again for the SDC's Ohio Chapter meet, the largest one-day Studebaker show in the world.

Avanti Row -- two Youngstown-built "Avanti Carlos" and a '64 in stunning pastel turquoise.

An exaltation of Larks.Here's a little of what I saw at this year's show last Saturday:

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Arkansas Valley Fair Car Show, Rocky Ford, Colorado

Contributed by Norman Kincaide.

The dust has settled from Saturday night’s demolition derby at the Arkansas Valley Fair. The aroma of teriyaki chicken, pulled pork sandwiches, turkey drum sticks, and cotton candy has all but dissipated with the sunrise.

An eclectic mix: everything from a Chevy SSR to a Studebaker Lark taxicabSunday morning at the Arkansas Valley Fair did entertain another automobile event.

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1950-51 Studebakers

The appearance of the Studebaker causes an immediate reaction in the minds of most persons: They either like it or have a positive distaste for it. It is not for us to state whether or not the lines are good or bad from an esthetic point of view; however, they do possess strong originality.

--Walter Woron, Motor Trend (June 1951).     

The topic of today's presentation is the most popular Studebaker in the company's entire history. More of these cars were sold in just two model years--343,164 in 1950 and another 268,565 in '51--than any other design of wheeled vehicle produced in the company's entire 112-year history, from the first six ox-power 1854 Conestoga convertible to the last 1966 Cruiser sedan. It played a starring role in one of the most beloved family films of all time, and because of this it's the car most people who aren't car buffs think of when they hear the word "Studebaker." It's also a perennial favorite of every flavor of car nerd, from hot-rodders to restorationists. You could say that this Studebaker is number one on the charts--with a bullet.

Bullet nose, that is.

"Big old jet Studebaker/Don't carry me too far away...."

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1962-1970 Buick Wildcat, or One That (Kind of) Got Away

WildCat01I'm tempted to file this one under "One That Got Away"; I haven't exactly been kicking myself for not going for it at the time I came across it (July 2012) because, had I done so, I probably would have ended up in the divorce courts by now or perhaps even pushing up daisies (such are spouses who don't share our devotion to the Car Lust LifestyleTM). On the other hand, I've kept opening up the photo files on this wonderful Buick Wildcat and gazing wistfully at its deep green contours and asking myself "What if. . . . ."

I came across this magnificent beast last summer while visiting my mom in our ancestral homeland of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Astute readers may recall this little midwestern 'burgh for the small rhapsody I penned to one of its local drive-ins last year. I guess you could say it was an eventful trip, Car Lust-wise.

Two factors induced me to write about this particular automobile: One, it's way cool and I'd never seen one like it before; and Two, my family had its 4-door big brother when I was a kid. Ours wasn't anything to write home (or to Car Lust) about, although I do have some rose-tinted memories of it; but having this one to hand lets me reminisce a bit about some youthful Car Lust memories and put out there for general consumption what is undoubtedly a fairly little-known or appreciated car.

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Some Cars Just Should NOT Have 4 Doors

"You're travelling through another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. At the signpost up ahead, your next stop... the twilight zone." --Rod Serling

Dodge Charger 2006Yes, folks, some cars just should not be 4-doors. A lot of folks felt this way when the Dodge Charger was reintroduced in the 2006 model year, but we did get used to it. For the most part. I know the cops sure did.

And usually, if a car has a back seat, I'd like back doors there. I learned my lesson in a 2-door Chevette about leaning forward to let folks in the back.

But there are some cars that no amount of time will ever pass to let them be. They are surely from, or should go to, the twilight zone.

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1971-1973 Buick Centurion vs. 1971-1973 Buick LeSabre

Buicks fighting

"Uh-LLLLadies... and... Gen-tle-men! On the left, weighing 4,329 lbs. and standing 54 inches in height with a wheelbase of 124 inches, we have the 1973 Buick Centurion. And on the right, also weighing 4,329 lbs. and standing 54 inches and with a wheelbase of 124 inches, we have the 1973 Buick LeSabre."

"So, from the Car Lust home office here in the great United States of America..."

"... Uh-Let's get ready to rum-bullllllll!"

Quite a while back in a discussion here at Car Lust, we swapped stories comparing the similarities and differences of Buick's Wildcat/Centurion vs. their LeSabre. If memory serves, the outcome more or less stated that the Wildcat/Centurion was Buick's "sporty" full-sized car while the LeSabre was the more practical one. Of course, the Electra 225, Buick's flagship luxury model, had enough differences to not be included in the discussion.

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David's Greatest Hit: The 1992 Mercury Marquis

DD Grand MarquisNathan of Brainfertilizer Fame:  I never met David. We didn't spend extra time talking via emails, and I never once heard his voice.  We never shared a special friendship above all others.  But we shared something: a silly love for cars that didn't always deserve the passion.

John Donne said, "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

Do not ask for whom the car horn honks; it honks for thee.

I hope that my alteration of the quote isn't taken as a lack of respect.  It is my first reaction to try to lighten serious moods, to make it easier to carry the burden.

At times, as I've participated in various online communities, I've wondered what would happen if I died.  How would anyone know?  How would I be remembered?  Would I be missed?  Would my absence even be noticed?

David, you are remembered.  You are missed.  This man, whom I have never met...his friendship, the bond created through a common love, touched me in ways I never realized until he was gone.

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

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