Note: This article is reprinted from the April 2013 issue of Collectible Automobile.
If Frank Sinatra had been a Ford man, he might have sang about how 1963 was a very good year. In Dearborn, it certainly was.
At the start of the model run, Ford’s four passenger-car lines wore freshened styling. For the midsized Fairlanes, the most obvious change was a restyled front end along the lines of the year’s full-sized Fords. The rear fenders still wore small fins, though.
Fairlane offered only two- and four-door-sedan bodies when it was introduced in 1962. For its sophomore season, it added four-door station wagons and two-door hardtops.
The latter was limited to the tonier Fairlane 500 series, and was offered in two versions. For a base price of $2,324, it was possible to get a Fairlane hardtop with a front bench seat.
Then there was the Sports Coupe, which added front bucket seats, a console, spinner wheel covers, and Sports Coupe script on the decklid. It was the only ’63 Fairlane to wear three Buick-style “ventiports” on each front fender.
The year 1963 was an exceptionally good one as far as car debuts go. John Biel has already looked at the Porsche 911 and Jeep Wagoneer, and of course there was the Buick Riviera and the original Corvette Sting Ray.
There was also another interesting debut, especially if you’re the type of person who focuses attention to Indianapolis as the calendar turns to May. It’s been 50 years since the Lotus 29—commonly known as the Lotus-Ford—took the “Brickyard” by storm.
American racer Dan Gurney convinced British racecar builder Colin Chapman to build a Lotus racer specifically for Indianapolis, and the pair talked Ford into supplying engines for the effort. The Indy-bound Lotus 29 followed the design concepts of the successful Lotus 25 Formula 1 car, though it was longer, taller, and wider. The Indy Lotus used an offset suspension system that mounted the tub closer to the left wheels than the rights to help the car get around Indy’s banked left-hand turns.
American Motors entered 1975 as a company in transition. The top-of-the-line Ambassador and sporty Javelin were both discontinued at the end of the 1974 model run. The company’s plan was to concentrate on small cars, including its compact Hornet and subcompact Gremlin. During the year, the wide-yet-small Pacer was introduced. The last car in the line was AMC’s largest, the intermediate-sized Matador.
The Matador line had been updated for 1974. The sedan and wagon received fresh front and rear styling and some other tweaks, but in reality they were heavily based on the 1967 Rambler Rebel under the skin. The big news was the all-new 2-door coupe. It rode a wheelbase that was 4 inches shorter than the 4-doors and had completely different styling.
The coupe had a fastback roofline, fixed quarter windows, and large doors with frameless glass. Signature styling touches included headlamps set into round housings that extended back into the hood. The leading edge of the hood also formed the start of a crease that ran around the middle of the entire car. Freestanding chrome bumpers and a quartet of round taillamps were other touches.
The surprise introduction of the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 was the big news from Chevy at the 2013 New York Auto Show. This track-focused Camaro joins the refreshed 2014 Camaro lineup. (See Consumer Guide’s review of the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro.)
The Z/28 uses Chevrolet’s LS7 engine, a 7.0-liter (427 cubic inch) V8 that will be good for at least 500 horsepower. It’s similar to the naturally aspirated engine used in the Corvette Z06. It is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. The Z/28 comes with carbon-ceramic brakes, quick-ratio steering, and specific chassis tuning.
The Z/28’s exterior starts with the freshened 2014 Camaro’s new look. The front and rear fascias are redesigned, and the car also gets a new grille and fresh taillights. Specific Z/28 body parts include a full aerodynamic package that includes a front splitter, underbody panels that reduce lift, an aggressive rear spoiler, and a rear diffuser. There are also front and rear fender flares and extended rocker panels.
At the 2013 Chicago Auto Show, Chevrolet introduced the newest variant of its compact sedan, the 2014 Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel. This car, which will be available in the United States and Canada, uses a 148-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission. The company is projecting 42 mpg on the highway and claims that the car will offer best-in-class driving range.
The engine is based on the diesel unit Chevrolet uses in European-market Cruzes. But according to the company, the engine has been modified to suit driving conditions on this continent and to adhere to America’s stricter emissions standards.
Cruze will be the first diesel car offered by General Motors since 1986. It is expected to be available for purchase by the second quarter of 2013.
Chevy says the car’s chief competitor in the States is Volkswagen’s Jetta TDI. Unlike the VW, though, the Cruze’s diesel engine uses urea injection to help control its emissions. This system uses a 4.5-gallon tank of solution, which should be good for 10,000 miles of driving before requiring a refill.
While the badge may say your new car is a Buick or a BMW, there’s an excellent chance that many of its parts, or even entire assemblies, were built by a completely different company. I’d guess that most consumers are aware that many of their car’s parts are made by outside suppliers through the relatively recent phenomena of branded audio systems. Think of some of the brands that appear on new car stereos today: Bose, Sony, and Fender to name a few.
Beyond tire companies, suppliers of other components aren’t usually as well known as the brands mentioned in the audio system example, and some of these firms don’t sell their products directly to consumers. German supplier ZF, which is nearing its 100th anniversary, is one of these relative unknowns.
ZF traces its history to 1915, when it was founded to develop and produce transmissions for airships and other vehicles. The airships in question were the famous machines of Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin. Yeah, like the Hindenburg. Today ZF is a privately held company that is largely owned by the Zeppelin Foundation. It remains the largest company to evolve from the Zeppelin airship project.
Below are the test drive notes of Consumer Guide Automotive Editor Don Sikora. Also check out Consumer Guide Automotive’s complete review of the 2013 BMW X1.
Acceleration: X1 is rather quick from a stop, but ECO PRO really dulls the throttle dramatically. Stop-start system seems slightly better than in the new 3-Series, but that doesn’t mean it is seamless.
Fuel Economy: 27.93 mpg over 125 miles on premium. Rick Cotta drove approximately 20 miles of city, and I drove approximately 105 miles of nearly all highway.
Ride Quality: Mixed bag for this M Sport with sport suspension and 18-inch tires. It’s pretty comfortable most of the time, but at highway speed the car goes over some bumps rather than really absorbing them. It’s not really harsh, but it isn’t cushy either. Worst condition was on rippled concrete section of Edens Spur before tollbooth. There the X1 rocked front-to-back with more vertical motion than I’d like. Kinda like a 1-Series or a Fiat 500 Abarth.
Steering/Handling/Braking: Nice feel and seems reasonably sporty.
Quietness: Maybe a 7 [out of 10]? Seemed reasonably quiet on the highway for the little time I drove it when it wasn’t raining hard.
At last week’s Los Angeles Auto Show, Volkswagen introduced the redesigned 2013 Beetle convertible. When I was done with my show duties, I attended the international media drive event for the Beetle convertible in nearby Santa Monica. In addition to numerous variations of the new Beetle drop-top we were there to experience, VW had some classic models on display. I was able to get behind the wheel of an air-cooled Beetle, a German-market 1980 convertible.
While I finish up the full review of the 2013 Beetle convertible, please check out these snapshots of the one-off 1960 Jolly prototype that VW had on display.
Chrysler used the 2012 Los Angeles Auto show to introduce a couple of new variants of two of the company’s best-known models.
First is the 2013 Chrysler Town & Country S. This luxury-themed version of the brand’s minivan adds specific interior and exterior styling touches, as well as some extra standard equipment.
The exterior can be painted in one of four colors: Brilliant Black, Deep Cherry Red, Stone, White, or Billet Silver. Trim includes a black-tinted chrome grille, “S” model insignias, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The interior is trimmed in black leather with cloth seat inserts and gray stitch detailing. Piano Black trim and a black headliner are also included.
The other is the 2013 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 10th Anniversary Edition. This special version of the off-road ready Rubicon includes steel bumpers with removable end caps, increased ground clearance, a dual-intake “Power Dome” hood, side rails, and unique trim. The interior can be finished in available red-leather upholstery.
The limited-production Rubicon 10th Anniversary Edition will be available as a 2-door Wrangler and a 4-door Wrangler Unlimited. Both versions will go on sale in spring 2013.
Mitsubishi is celebrating 30 years in the U.S. auto market. To help mark the occasion, the Japanese automaker introduced a limited-edition version of the 2013 Outlander Sport compact SUV—along with an all-new 2014 Outlander compact SUV—at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show.
The big news is the redesigned 2014 Outlander that goes on sale in July 2013. It remains a 7-passenger crossover, and the new version is about 200 pounds lighter than the model it replaces. Three powertrains will be offered. Two are conventional gasoline engines: a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and a 3.0-liter V6 with a 6-speed automatic.
The third powertrain option is a plug-in hybrid electric system that’s offered in the Outlander PHEV. It joins front- and rear-mounted electric motors with a conventional gasoline engine, and it offers all-wheel drive. Mitsubishi says the Outlander PHEV can function in an electric-only mode or in parallel- or series-hybrid modes depending on several factors related to battery charge level and vehicle speed. More details on the Outlander PHEV will be released closer to its calendar 2014 on-sale date.