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Friday
Jul032015

Fiat Chrysler Needs Clear Thinking, Not a Merger

By Christopher A. Sawyer

Alfa Romeo’s new Giulia sedan could lead to a new start for Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat

Alfa Romeo's new Giulia sedan has had many false starts, but could lead to a new dawn for Chrysler.After years of false starts, promises and delays, Alfa Romeo finally introduced its new small sedan to the world. Known in eternally as the 159, the menacingly aggressive red sedan rolled onto the stage at the Alfa Romeo Museum on the 105th anniversary of the founding of A.L.F.A. (Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili) as Andrea Bocelli sang an aria from Turandot. Low key this introduction was not. Then again, how could it be? The 159 project has moved in fits and starts, shifted from a transverse front-drive platform to a (sort of) Maserati Ghibli-derived rear-drive architecture, and was developed in secret by a group of about 600 engineers working in a nondescript building in Modena located between Ferrari and Maserati.

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Friday
Jun192015

Michael Johnson: The Will to Win

By Christopher A. Sawyer

We were standing on the patio behind the Detroit Athletic Club around a 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata waiting for the festivities to begin. Behind us was Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers. On the other side of the Miata stood a tent filled with tables, and a stage where the latest inductees for the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America would be introduced after lunch. As I stood around sipping water in the muggy afternoon air, a young man wearing a black sport coat and black shorts rolled his also black wheelchair into our midst. The PR person from Mazda — it sponsored the luncheon — introduced him as Michael Johnson, a racer in the Pro Mazda single seater series who had been involved in a serious accident during qualifying for the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, FL, earlier this year. It’s unclear exactly why his JDC Motorsports entry did not respond to his steering inputs in the street course’s fast right-hand third turn, but the aftermath were very clear. The accident destroyed the carbon fiber tub of his racer, and left Johnson with multiple hip and pelvis fractures, as well as severe damage to his lungs.

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Friday
Jun052015

Notes of Note: 6/5/15

News, facts, and other stuff clogging our e-mail system.

Audi and TOMS are offering a limited-edition Alpargata shoe to customers who purchase or lease a new or Certified Pre-owned Audi vehicle during its Summer of Audi Sales Event (June 3 through August 4, 2015). Available in both adult and children’s sizes, the slip-on is made of ash gray coated canvas with red stitch detail. The Audi rings appear on the inner lining and outer side tag. As a result of this program, 55,000 shoes will be donated to children in need by TOMS.

In mid June, the Mitsuoka Roadster will launch in the U.K. showrooms of T.W. White & Sons located across Surrey, South London and Kent. Looking like a Japanese take on a Morgan, the rear-drive Mitsuoka Roadster is powered by a 2.0-liter inline four mated to either a six-speed manual or Powershift automatic. Heated leather seat and automatic climate control are standard, as is a power retractable hardtop that can open or close in just 12 seconds. With VAT, the cost of ownership — manual or automatic — is £53,800 ($82,197) with the metallic or pearlescent paint adding a further £620 ($947). 

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Friday
May222015

Notes of Note

News, facts, and other stuff clogging our e-mail system.

According to Toyota GB, British birds (the fowl, not women) prefer Toyota vehicles. Dave Merchant from Henley in Somerset found that a family of robins built a nest in the engine compartment of his 80,000-mile 2008 Land Cruiser. He traveled more than 250 miles before discovering the nest, and parked the SUV once he made the discovery. The eggs have produced five healthy chicks who will remain with the parked Land Cruiser until they have left mom and dad’s place.

Driving America premiers Monday May 25th at 9 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel, and looks at the political, economic and social impact the automobile has had on America. According to the show: architect Arthur Heinemann added a new word and a new idea when he opened a “motor hotel” or “motel” outside San Luis Obispo, CA., and when the British took control of the Volkswagen factory after World War II they found both the Beetle and an unexploded bomb that — thankfully — turned out to be a dud. But the contention that President Eisenhower initiated the Interstate Highway System based on the fact that the U.S. Army’s first transcontinental motor convoy in 1919 stretched on for 62 days on impassable roads is rubbish. Like any astute student of war, Eisenhower saw how the autobahn allowed the Nazis to move men and materiel across Germany quickly. The memories of 1919 may have stuck in the back of Ike’s mind, but the still-fresh memories of WWII certainly held much more sway.

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Friday
May082015

Denise McCluggage: 1927-2015

By Christopher A. Sawyer

Top row, left to right: Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Denise McCluggage, Pedro Rodriguez, Innes Ireland, Ronnie Bucknam. Lower row, left to right: Rodger Ward, unknown, Dan Gurney.It came as something of a surprise that Denise McCluggage passed away Wednesday March 6 at the age of 88. Not because she was immortal or even ever-present; like McArthur’s old soldier she had faded away over the past decade, and was not present on many new car launches. It was, in fact, her absence that caused each of us in this business to file her away in our memories only to dredge them up when someone would mention that they had seen or talked to her. In no time, the stories would flow, each not a maudlin recollection of someone no longer with us, but a retelling of the fables surrounding a person still in the present. As long as she was alive and safe in New Mexico, they would remain fresh, and there was the possibility that new tales would be added to those already told.

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