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Cruising Down Memory Lane

Detroit’s Woodward Dream Cruise turns 20.

by on Aug.16, 2014

A "flamed" hot rod, one of from 40,000 to 60,000 classic muscle cars, hot rods, sports cars and other collectibles expected at the Woodward Dream Cruise.

For Bob Wissman, standing on the corner of Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak, Michigan is a trip down Memory Lane. As a teenager in the 1960s, even before he was old enough to drive, he’d hitchhike along Metro Detroit’s main drag, hoping to catch a ride in a Ford Mustang, a Pontiac GTO or, if he was lucky, a Chevrolet Corvette.

Woodward Ave. was Ground Zero for muscle car fans and, back then, you’d even catch some executives, like General Motors’ legendary maverick John DeLorean, showing up late at night to street test a new performance car against their competitors.

The Last Word!

The days of cruising are long past – well, not entirely. As summer enters its dog days, the echoes of screeching tires and the resonant roar of big V-8s can be heard up and down Woodward Avenue, a crescendo building by the day as the Motor City gets set to celebrate its heritage with the annual Woodward Dream Cruise.


All in the Family: The Ford’s Get Back World’s Oldest Ford

Third car off the line returns home after 109 years.

by on Dec.17, 2012

Henry Ford's great-grandson Ford Chairman Bill Ford with a 1903 Ford Model A.

While the Model T is perhaps the best-known product ever built by the Ford Motor Co. – and voted the “Car of the Century” by a group of automotive media and experts from around the world, it was actually the Model A that put the company in gear.

And a 1903 Model A Rear Entry Tonneau recently returned home after a circuitous, 109-year journey. Purchased at auction last October but only being displayed by the maker, it’s the oldest known surviving Ford vehicle.

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“The timing was perfect to bring this key part of Ford heritage back to the family as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of my great-grandfather’s birth and his vision to improve people’s lives by making cars affordable for the average family,” said Bill Ford, the great-grandson of Henry Ford and the family firm’s current chairman. “His vision to build cars that are reasonably priced, reliable and efficient still resonates and defines our vision today as well.”


Owners Waiting Longer than Ever to Trade In

10 years, 150,000 miles the new norm?

by on Jul.30, 2012

Drive it til it drops?

American motorists are waiting longer than ever to trade in their cars, trucks and crossovers – with 10 years and 150,000 miles becoming the new norm, rather than the exception, according to a pair of new reports.

In the golden era of planned obsolescence, it became common for American new car buyers to trade in as often as every two to three years.  Perhaps that was no surprise in an era when quality and reliability were secondary to styling and automotive one-upsmanship.  But as quality and reliability become essential requirements for automakers consumers can be comfortable a car will last longer – something that has become a requirement as prices rise and the economy falters, analysts suggest.

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Nearly eight in 10 owners will now hold their vehicle for a decade or longer before trading in, according to a survey by, while a Black Book survey finds that the majority of owners will not trade in until their vehicles have at least 125,00 to 150,000 miles on the odometer – with 200,000-mile trade-ins being anything but rare these days.


Americans Keeping Cars Longer Than Ever

But that could depress new car sales.

by on Feb.21, 2012

Gotta make the old jalopy run just a little bit longer.

Credit better quality – or blame a bad economy, if you prefer – what’s hard to disagree with is that Americans are keeping their cars longer, according to a new report by automotive research firm R.L. Polk.

The typical owner will hold onto their new car, truck or crossover for just less than six years, according to the report.  For those who purchased a previously-owned vehicle, the typical length of ownership is just over four years.  That works out to an average, for both new and used vehicles, of 57 months, a figure that has increased 23% since the third quarter of 2008.

In the Know!

On the downside, longer ownership cycles translate into fewer cars sold.  The flipside is that this could be translating into a significant bubble of pent-up demand that could fuel a surge in sales over the next several years.  Indeed, dealers suggest they’ve already begun seeing many buyers return to their showrooms in recent months as the economy has begun to improve.


U.S Auto Fleet Older than Ever

Nearly quarter-billion vehicles on U.S. roads.

by on Jan.18, 2012

Americans are keeping their old cars longer, says a new study.

Blame rising prices, a weak economy, improved quality or simply the desire to add more vehicles to the household fleet.  Whatever the reason, the typical vehicle on U.S. roads is now older than ever  – and the number of vehicle has grown by more than 35 million since the start of the Millennium.

If the car, truck or crossover parked in your driveway is typical, it’s now 10.8 years old, according to a new study by the suburban Detroit-based research firm Polk.  That’s up a full year compared to 2007, just before the U.S. economy spun into the ditch.  At the same time, the data tracking firm reports that there are now 240.5 million vehicles in operation in the country, down about a half percent since the start of the Great Recession.

Your Auto Source!

“The increasing age of the vehicle fleet, together with the increasing length of ownership, offers significant business growth opportunity for the automotive aftermarket,” said Mark Seng, global aftermarket practice leader at Polk. “Dealer service departments and independent repair facilities, as well as aftermarket parts suppliers, will see increased business opportunity with customers in need of vehicle service.”


Blasts From the Past: The “Orphan” Car Show

Sponsored by the world's last Hudson dealer.

by on Oct.07, 2011

A 1947 Hudson Convertible welcomes visitors to the annual Orphan Car Show.

Jack Miller is a persistent man.  You would expect that of a man who claims to be “the world’s last Hudson dealer.”  For those who don’t recognize the name – brought back by the character Paul Newman voiced in the original animated Pixar film, Cars – Hudson was a once popular automotive brand that vanished in 1954, subsumed by the forever-struggling American Motors.

Miller’s showroom sits in a back corner of Ypsilanti, itself a backwoods suburb of Detroit.  But it has become the anchor of an annual pilgrimage by some of the world’s most serious car-nuts, folks who don’t really concede that brands like Hudson or DeSoto, Packard or Plymouth are gone.  And they’re not during the yearly Orphan Car Show Miller inaugurated in 1997 — just before several of the latest brands, including Oldsmobile and Plymouth, headed for that rust heap in the sky.


It is said that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and for my money there is nothing more appealing than this offbeat gathering, held this year on the last Sunday in September.

This show isn’t the stuff of Social Register types who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars – sometimes millions — acquiring rare classics from the likes of Bugatti or Talbot Lago and then investing still more big bucks having them restored to flawless perfection for display at a Concours d’Elegance like the ones in Pebble Beach and Amelia Island.

Studebaker had a strange way with names, chosing to pair the President (r) with the pre-war Dictator.


In Search of the Best: 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance

"Great people...and the best cars in the world."

by on Aug.22, 2011

Peter Mullins' Voisin Aerodyn takes Best-in-Show.

Parked on the lawn, the motor of his 1934 Avian Voisin C-25 Aerodyne idling, Peter Mullin had no idea what to expect.  The next couple minutes might bring the biggest surprise of his life or the biggest disappointment.

There was no question he’d delivered a showstopper with the French sedan he’d entered into the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.  It took a full three years to restore the Voisin – “And I had already been planning it for seven years,” he recalled.  But there were two other striking examples of pre-war automotive elegance sitting alongside, anyone of which might grab the most coveted trophy in the world of classic cars.

Suddenly, like angels calling, the trumpets began their fanfare, fireworks bursting into the air as Mullin got the signal he was hoping for.  Yet it wasn’t until he had the Aerodyne parked on the center stage that the long-time collector finally allowed the reality to set in. After 30 years of trying, he had just won the Concours’ Best-in-Show.

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“I just can’t believe it,” Mullins repeated, still in shock, confetti now covering the dark grey and black Voisin, which was one of only six C-25s built by French aeronautical pioneer Gabriel Voisin after he decided to switch to automotive manufacturing in the wake of World War I.  “I thought I’d finished third.  This is the most rewarding thing that ever happened to me in the car world,” said Mullin.


Off to the Junkyard: Vehicle Scrappage Rates Soar

Biggest jump since Cash for Clunkers program.

by on Mar.10, 2011

Auto scrappage rates are rising fast as the nation's vehicle fleet ages.

While car sales may be on the mend, demand is still substantially below the 17-million peak the U.S. market saw a decade ago.  And a substantial number of the vehicles sold during the last industry boom are going bust, which means a big jump in business for America’s junkyards.

The number of vehicles scrapped during the fourth quarter of 2010 spiked to the highest level seen since the brief Cash for Clunkers program – which was specifically intended to get old products off the road – reports Experian Automotive, an Illinois firm that tracks vehicle sales and registration data.

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The number of passenger cars sent to scrapyards or otherwise pulled from operation rose by 28.3% during the fourth quarter compared to the previous quarter.  For SUVs, pickups and other light trucks, the increase was an astounding 58.2%.

To put things into perspective, the annual scrappage rate was 5.3% for passenger cars, last year, and 3.5% for light trucks.  The vehicles most often junked were built between 1983 and 1992.


Pebble Beach Concours Pits Millionaires Against The Billionaires

Classic car show a Woodstock for the upper class.

by on Aug.16, 2010

This 1933 Delage D8S De Villars Roadster from the Patterson Collection took Best-of-Show honors at the 2010 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

Bill Tanner was at a rare loss for words.  He was running down a list of his car collection and got through the Bentleys, the Ferraris and the new Mercedes-Benz SLS.  But he couldn’t quite remember what the rest of them were.  So goes life when you’ve got some of the most exclusive automobiles in the world vying for space in your 14-car garage.

The Los Angeles investor was just one of the many affluent car collectors gathered in Pebble Beach, the tony Central California community, over the weekend, for the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, an event generally conceded to be the most elegant and exclusive classic car show in the world.

A Classic!

Celebrating its 60th anniversary, the Concours was crowded with more than 180 rare collector cars, hot rods, motorcycles and even some historic camper trailers, all competing for the Best-in-Show award that can turn the rare automobile into one of the world’s most sought-after and expensive vehicles.

Clunkers Reportedly Drove Strong July Sales

But dealers on hold waiting for Senate to OK more cash.

by on Aug.03, 2009

Ford expects to report a jump in July sales, its first since November 2007, in part due to demand for vehicles like the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, shown during its unveiling, at the L.A. Auto Show

Ford expects to report a jump in July sales, its first since November 2007, in part due to demand for vehicles like the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, shown during its unveiling, at the L.A. Auto Show

With several automakers, including Ford and Subaru signaling they will report strong sales gains for July, industry analysts are largely declaring the Cash-for-Clunkers program a success, at least for the short-term.  But dealers around the country are approaching the panic level as they wait to see if the U.S. Senate will approve a $2 billion cash infusion to keep the program going.

Originally expected to post a modest 4% year-over-year sales decline, Ford’s chief analyst George Pipas hinted that July sales will, in fact, bring the automaker its first monthly increase since November 2007.  Subaru also signaled it would see a July sales increase, though like Ford, it won’t release formal figures until later in the day.

Don't Wait for Frankfurt!

Don't Wait for Frankfurt!

The website,, is projecting an overall 16% decline for the month, compared with July 2008 – compared with a year-to-date plunge of 35% — but Edmunds also predicted a decline for Ford, so its forecast could prove conservative.  And, even so, the dealer referral site is projecting that the industry’s July 2009 figures will be up 11% compared to June of this year.

Whatever the actual figures for July, most analysts are crediting the so-called Cash-for-Clunkers program for the industry’s newfound momentum.  The measure, formally known as the Cash Allowance Rebate System, provides up to $4500 in vouchers to those trading in an old, low-mileage vehicle for a new, more fuel-efficient model.

Congress set aside $1 billion to fund the program, but by last Friday, barely a week after it had officially gone into effect, there were indications the pot had already run dry, leaving dealers across the country trying to figure out how to proceed as potential customers flooded their showrooms.

On Friday, with the backing of the White House, the U.S. House of Representatives approved another $2 billion for Clunkers – still leaving the combined total $1 billion short of the $4 billion sponsors originally asked for.  But the new funds would triple, to around 750,000, the number of vehicles CARS could handle.

It’s unclear if and when the Senate would act on the funding request, but it could happen this week.  While House has already packed up for the annual August recess, the Senate remains in session to handle the planned vote on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. But there is less support on that side of Capitol Hill, so the outcome remains uncertain.

Hoping to ensure they don’t lose potential sales, many U.S. dealers are proceeding as if the extension of the CARS bill will happen.  But some have also begun requiring customers to sign waivers that would force them to return the $4,500 should the Senate vote down the additional $2 billion request.