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Carspotters’ Challenge #129: Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

The year isn’t mentioned. I’m guessing 1959-1960. Aside from the year, what cars can you specify?





The Sneaky Hot 1974-1983 Volkswagen Rabbit (aka VW Golf Mk1)

"Sneaky Hot".

For the uninitiated, the term is somewhat au courant these days and refers to people (okay, almost always female) who are "not usually in the conversation of being among the hottest of their group, but when mentioned or seen you remember that they are rather attractive." 

It could, in my view, have a temporal component as well, describing someone you've seen or perhaps known for a while, who didn't initially strike you as being all that, but one day you look at them and see a certain attractiveness that you didn't notice before. Not really the "homely librarian" type of thing where a new outfit, hair style, Volkswagen_Rabbit_5-Door_(Hudson)and ditching the thick glasses transforms the ugly duckling into a graceful swan; we've all seen that schtick before, it's been the plot line of hundreds, probably thousands, of movies, TV episodes, and romance novels.

Not like the cinematic  treatments are all that believeable, of course; you can't just slap a pair of thick glasses on a smokin' hot actress and make her appear plain to anyone blessed with the gift of sight. No, this is more a function of a different, shall we say, perspective of the viewer rather than a different look for the viewee; and it can often take a long time for that perspective to change.

In the case of me and the VW Rabbit, it has taken most of my adult life. But I finally got there.

I honestly never gave the Rabbit/Golf a second look, except perhaps as this odd-looking "hatchback" thingie that I would never, ever Lust over, let alone want to drive and/or own. Even the famed GTI didn't blow my youthful skirt up, weaned as I was on ground-pounding American muscle cars as my performance icons. Nah, that goofy little square-looking front-drive Beetle-wanna-be wasn't my cup of tea and never, I assumed, would be. Oddly enough, however, it wasn't even a Mk1 that first piqued my interest: it was a plain, white four-door late model Golf that used to drive by every morning while I was waiting for the bus. For whatever reason, it began to strike me as a subtly sexy little thing; not supermodel hot, but more, well, sneaky hot. And I began to think "Hey, maybe those old Rabbits weren't too shabby after all. . . ."

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Feb. 23 Weekly Open Thread--The rarity of nice, original AMC Gremlins

7When was the last time you saw an AMC Gremlin on the road? And when you saw that Gremlin trundling around, what sort of shape was it in? Speaking personally, outside a car show context I haven't seen a Gremlin in at least a decade, and even back then the Gremlins I saw were hopelessly bedraggled--fade paint, missing glass, blowing smoke, and just generally neglected.

Unfortunately, owners tend not to care for cars they perceive as cheap and disposable, and so they tend not to survive in good condition. As a result, vintage economy and entry-level cars now seem rarer to me than their performance and luxury counterparts. I'd bet, for example, there are many more 1981 Chevrolet Corvettes still around than 1981 Chevrolet Citations, despite Chevrolet manufacturing more than 400K Citations that year compared to 40K Corvettes.

I go through all this to explain just how astonished and pleased I was to find this listing for a pristine 1972 AMC Gremlin that looks for all the world as if it just rolled off the assembly line in Kenosha. The Gremlin inspires strong emotions--for me, affection and even lust--but love it or hate it, it's hard to deny that an original Gremlin in this shape is a rare beast indeed and worth revering.

I'll include more photos after the jump, but since this is an Open Thread, feel free to discuss anything that's on your mind, or engage in your own musings about now-rare cars that were once ubiquitous.

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Carspotters’ Challenge #128: Popular Mechanics Magazine, 1960

I need to cleanse my palate from all the new-car taste:

Tumblr_nhkg7aPIsS1r9qhhio1_1280That’s better.

The pic comes from a Popular Mechanics magazine, circa January 1960. Like a previous animation-based Carspotters’ Challenge, what can you make out?





The 2015 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited: Fun for Dad, Fun for the Family

There are at least three levels of family vehicle: 1) Can I run the kids around and do errands in this car? 2) Can I take the kids out to the mountains for a day hike in this car? and 3) Can I run the kids around and do errands in this car and take the kids out to the mountains for a day hike all in the same trip in this car? The All-new 2015 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited answers every one of these questions with a resounding yes. It's a powerful, nimble, and roomy sport wagon with all the bells and whistles you need to make carting the kids around through the city or into the mountains easy, convenient, and man...FUN.

SteffCam 2.7.14 149

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2015 Nissan Pathfinder: Perfect for Paths Already Found

Sunrise BeautyIn my one-week test of the 2015 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4X4, I found it a revelation--quick, quiet, smooth, spacious, surprisingly efficient, and thus completely unlike any previous Pathfinder 4X4. This doesn't mean I dislike previous Pathfinders--quite the opposite, actually--but it does mean the current generation is a more radical departure from its predecessors than one might expect. To explain why, we need to step back in time three decades.

When it debuted in 1985, the Nissan Pathfinder quickly established itself as a popular SUV in the classic mold. It shared its square-jawed good looks and toughness with Nissan's Hardbody pickup, and its rough-and-tumble go-anywhere capabilities lived up to its frontiersman name. It had everything you'd expect from a traditional off-roader: body-on-frame construction, rear-wheel drive, part-time 4WD with locking differentials, low-range for really ugly conditions, and, eventually, four doors to handle family hauler duties in a pinch.

Old PathfinderThis is what SUVs used to be; go-anywhere trucks suitable for both off-road fun and load-hauling utility, with some nascent ability to serve as a family passenger vehicle in a pinch. Blazer, Ramcharger, Trooper, Scout, Cherokee, Bronco, and Pathfinder--in both capabilities and name, these were the vehicular equivalents of a mountaineer setting off on an expedition into pristine but unknown wilderness.

As a case in point, a close friend of mine has owned a maroon first-generation Pathfinder for nearly 20 years now, and it has faithfully carried us to countless trailheads and snow camps, shrugging aside ice and mud, swallowing all of our gear, and towing trailers full of firewood and supplies. That Pathfinder has more than 300,000 miles on it and is still running strong in limited duty. Despite its four doors, however, it has never been a great around-town driver. Sure, it can carry people and cargo, but the compromises forced by its genuine toughness and off-road ability mean it's cramped, noisy, and jouncy compared to, say, a Nissan Maxima from the same time period. An early Pathfinder relegated to in-town duties is like Davy Crockett trying to hold down an office job.

Rear 34 ClosedBut just as civilization inevitably reaches the frontier, so too has it reached the Pathfinder. As of the 2013 redesign, the tough truck-like body-on-frame construction has given way to a car-like unibody construction. Rear-wheel-drive with part-time 4X4 has been replaced with front-wheel-drive and electronically selectable AWD. The off-road-friendly low range has been replaced by electronic ascent and descent modes. As a result, the new Pathfinder is less well-suited than its predecessors for actually finding paths, but much improved at hauling families comfortably along those paths once found and paved.

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Al Bundy's... "Dodge"?

Al Bundy's gold Dodge"Married... With Children'"s Al Bundy (Ed O'Neill) had it rough. He was a struggling women's shoe salesman, his wife was a couch potato, his daughter was, well... "fast," and as the song goes, his son tried, but just couldn't do it. However, Al could always (Well, usually) rely on one thing... his trusted car, frequently referred to as "The Dodge."

But it turns out that poor Al's car wasn't a Dodge at all. It was, in fact, a 1972 Plymouth Duster. Why, in at least one scene, you can even see the Gold Duster decal on the "Dodge"'s front fender.

The car uses a screwdriver as the ignition key, and music is piped in via a period-correct 8-Track tape player. And in addition to many memories, some going back to his high school glory days, the "Dodge"'s trunk also held Al's collection of "Big 'Uns," a magazine dedicated to the finest of adult male entertainment.

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Carspotters’ Challenge #127: None Of The Above

I’ve heard or the 1980s movie Brewster’s Millions, but it was only recently that I’ve watched it. Boy, was I glad I did! Aside from the fact that it was one of the cleverest movies I’ve seen in recent memory, it had the following camera shot:

Brewsters Millions None Of The AboveI just had to pause and laugh. It’s a metaphor to the main protagonist’s political campaign strategy –that ALL of them, himself included, were bad choices- which was genius. The lack of the printscreen’s definition makes the license plates, with all of the candidates’ last names, unreadable. Still funny, though.

That shot was reason enough to hunt the clip down. I’m pretty sure that there are some people out there who wouldn’t consider ANY of the following vehicles on the billboard, or those parked behind it. Regardless if you’re one of them, can you tell said vehicles?





It’s a video printscreen.

The Ford Fiesta EcoBoost 1.0L: Tiny Boost, Put to the Test

I find there's something about a small cheap honest subcompact with a manual shift that's hard not to love. Done properly, basic transportation doesn't have to be an exercise in miserable austerity, and the dollars you save at the gas pump will sweeten the deal no matter what. But what if we took the four-wheels-and-a-motor formula—one that brands like Honda and Mazda have all but perfected—and kicked it up a notch? What if you could dial up power output while keeping fuel economy basically steady or even improving it? What would that look like? Would a three-cylinder motor scare people away, and what if you added turbo, and made a 5-speed manual the only choice for a transmission? With the Fiesta EcoBoost, actually a fuel-savings option package on the middle-of-the-line Fiesta SE, Ford is taking some pretty bold risks. Read on to see how they worked out.


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Carspotters’ Challenge #126: TJ Hooker in Hot Pursuit

I love being an ‘80s retro nut. I get a thrill of finding stuff related to the decade. It’s the reason why I found out about the track whose music video was used for a successful Carspotters’ Challenge. The beauty of it all is that while making that post, a recommended video listed on the website’s sidebar had a certain Chevrolet pony-car as its icon. I’ve always had a soft spot for those cars, so of course I clicked. Thank goodness that I did, because it was good. Good enough to do another Carspotters’ Challenge video in the same vein as the one featuring the final chase scene of The Driver.


The clips are from the TV show TJ Hooker, a show that I’ve never seen re-runs of. The track is called Thrasher, from Dance With The Dead, from the Out Of Body album.

As we join in hot pursuit, what vehicles are we narrowly missing?

I must also ask: was the TV series good? What other TV series would you compare it to?



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

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