Friday, February 27, 2009

First Drive: 2010 Ford Focus RS

This Focus isn't Subtle, but Boy is it Ever Exhilarating

By Paul Horrell

Rear Three Quarters View

A car like Ford Focus RS would never have been conceived in these times. It's an overhang of the years of optimism that suddenly terminated last fall. Look at the size of the RS's twin tailpipes, exhaling like storm drains from the rear bumper. See the giant gills gulping air to the intercooler below the front license plate. Check the swollen wheel arches, the ground-hugging stance, the 19-inch wheels and the rear spoiler like a bomber's wingspan.

So let us, the car-lovers of the world, offer collective thanksgivings that Ford has made the very apex of hot hatches into such a life-affirmingly brilliant machine as its Focus RS.

Front Three Quarters View

We've covered the engineering before, so let's jump-cut to the way it feels down the road. We're in a second-gear corner, a tight mountain uphill 90-right. We throw the car in, its stability reassuring under the wheel-filling brakes, and feel the high-geared steering take a bite out of the curve. The tire grip is way beyond conventional hot-hatchback levels, but that's not the really astonishing part. The really special part is what comes next, on the exit of the curve.

We squeeze the aluminum throttle pedal and the engine takes a giant lungful, hurling us under the impulsion of the 305-hp, 2.5L five-cylinder motor's 325 lb-ft of torque, available with little lag from well below 3000 rpm. The limited-slip differential does its job of keeping both tires biting, and the patented front suspension geometry suppresses the torque steer. The little Focus just careers out of the bend with startling fairground-ride physicality. As the revs climb to the sound of an intense five-cylinder thrum we grab the next gear and loose off an explosion of waste-gate flutter. Honestly the way it gets its power down, you could almost swear there's AWD at work here.

RS Rear Spoiler

Fast driving in the Focus RS isn't subtle, but boy is it exhilarating. The combination of comparatively narrow body, upright seating position, brutal traction, low gear ratios and accessible turbo-boosted torque means you can demolish a narrow mountain road with a kind of confidence that would leave most supercars and their drivers in your dust.

Your confidence comes from the simply amazing handling. Even with such a pointy turn-in, all four tires share the workload mid-bend. At full lateral g, if the ESP's off, you can back off and get a beautifully progressive and catchable loosening of the tail. With the ESP switched on, throttle-steering games are still there to be played.

So much for the curves. Even in a straight line, the performance is pretty wild for a hatch. The boost starts at little over 2000 rpm and by 3000 lag isn't an issue. The management allows 7000 rpm for a three-second burst, but actually the gears are closely enough stacked that you have no need to go there except for the mad joy of it. The trick is to change up early and flow on the torque curve - at high revs the throttle resoponse, especially to a lift, is almost too brutal.

From rest you can hit 62 mph in 5.9 seconds, and that's a conservative European figure, measured with no drag-strip one-foot rollout. Top speed is a claimed 164 mph, and remember, this isn't a low-drag slipstreamer: Ford says it's a high 0.38Cd, for zero lift.

RS Interior

You're clamped by the bolsters of a near-race-style Recaro bucket seat, and you in turn are obliged to keep a tight grip of the steering wheel. The patent front suspension uses a pivoted hub to try to reduce the rotational leverage imposed by the tire contact patches on the steering axis, and thereby lowers the torque-steer force. It does a good job, reducing but definitely not eliminating the fight of the steering wheel as you accelerate on non-smooth roads. With so much torque available, any better than that would need magic. But the RS has better steering manners than a MazdaSpeed3 while generating performance and grip in another league.

RS Side View

As a full-on crazymobile then, the RS hits the mark perfectly. But here's another surprise. You can live with it too. Its ride is no more rugged than, say, a sports-suspended Audi A3. None of the control efforts is high, and tire and wind noise are properly suppressed. No, the cabin material quality isn't as satisfying as a Volkswagen GTI, but it's a league ahead of the Imprezas and Evos of this world. The huge front seats don't cut into rear-seat space or visibility much. It runs 12,000-mile oil changes.

Of course it will not have escaped your notice that this is the European Focus, and as such is unsupported by Ford for sale or use in the United States. And the tragedy is there's unlikely to be anything like it when the European and American divisions converge upon a common next-gen Focus from 2010.

We don't yet know whether any European hire fleets will have the Focus RS, but if they do, you should get yourself on the first plane out.

Monday, February 9, 2009

No Rear-Drive for You: Ford Shelves Next-Generation RWD Sedan Plans

Posted January 12 2009 09:30 AM by Carlos Lago
Category: Industry News, Manufacturing, Ford, Detroit Auto Show, Ford Crown Victoria, Sedans, Midsize

Calling the Panther platform long in the tooth is like Pompeii residents calling the eruption of Mount Vesuvius circa AD 79 a slight inconvenience. This year, the platform celebrates its 30th birthday, and holds the record for the oldest platform employed in North America. Ford had signaled that a new, RWD sedan platform was in the works at the 2007 NAIAS with its well-recieved Interceptor concept. That new platform was rumored to make its way into production in 2012, and we all crossed our fingers.

Yesterday, citing a change in the company’s direction, Ford announced the program was shelved, Automotive News reports.

J Mays, Ford design chief, told Automotive News, "We're going down a path right now that is all about fuel efficiency, and we've got a lot to do about that. So we're not talking about rear-wheel drive."

"I was very excited about [the platform]," he said. "I'll be darned if times didn't just change right before our eyes."

At the 2009 Detroit Show (click for's complete coverage), Ford's changing direction has been obvious with its focus on FWD vehicles powered by V-6 and I-4 EcoBoost offerings such as the new Taurus and the Lincoln C Concept.

And what about the Panther platform? Well, it’s not like the Crown Vics and Town Cars are breaking the bank. Combined, the models accounted for about 64,000 sales over the last year, and that’s enough to allow the platform to stick around a little while longer.

Source: Automotive News (subscription required)

Thread of the Day: What Car Did You Want to Drive When You Were 16?

Posted January 20 2009 06:15 PM by Rory Jurnecka
Category: Miscellaneous, Ford, Ford Mustang, Coupes, Sports

For most gearheads, the love of automobiles came at an early, impressionable age. Throughout our youth we admired the cars that surrounded our neighborhoods along with the ones that seemed to only be found in the fantasy pages of Motor Trend, copies of which we'd hide behind our textbooks in class. Finally, we all reached an age where we were old enough to take the wheel for ourselves, and that dream car seemed more of a possibility than ever. Today's Thread of the Day takes us back to that innocent age when we first got our license to drive, 16-years old.

MT Forums user Harvey asks: What car came out when you were 16 that you wanted to drive? For our TOTD author, it would have been the 2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1 after seeing a schoolmate's parent driving one. "The sound of the 300-hp dual-cam V-8 and the view was excellent. I have a huge soft spot for it."

So do a little time traveling in your mind and let us know what car you wanted to drive most when you were 16-years old.

Classic Design Concepts and Equus Road Trip Classic Mustangs Across India

Posted January 23 2009 05:00 PM by Scott_Evans
Category: Events, India, Ford, Ford Mustang, Coupes, Sports

This time last year, Ferrari was preparing to let journalists drive a pair of 612 Scagliettis on a round-trip tour of India to promote the brand. Ferrari fans certainly found it interesting, but fans of classic muscle may not have been as amused. Well, now it's their turn, as Classic Design Concepts has joined with Equus for the The Maharajah Road trip across India in a set of classic Ford Mustangs.

"Working with Tjaarda and his team at EQUUS gives us an opportunity to make a significant footprint in the international automotive market," said David Hakim, director of sales & marketing for CDC. "While we've developed a strong international customer base in recent years, our work on the EQUUS Mustang and involvement in the rally will move our sales program into the fast lane."

For the trip, aftermarket parts supplier Classic Design Concepts teamed up with designer Tom Tjaarda at Equus and Paris-based businessman and car collector Bassam Abdallah to take in a road trip from Mumbai to Jodhpur, India, to promote the Mustang designs that the CDC-Equus partnership has come up with. Abdallah supplied 10classic Mustangs from his personal collection, including two CDC-Equus prototypes, for the trip and a Hollywood film crew is going along to shoot a documentary of the trip. Also joining them is Rob Kinnan from our sister publication, Hot Rod, who is reporting from the road.

So far, the group is eight days into the trip, which is expected to take about two weeks. Kinnan is keeping a daily blog over at you can follow and Ford designer Michael Chetcuti, who's also along for the ride, is keeping a video blog on YouTube. You can also follow their progress at the official site. The purpose of the trip is to advertise the Mustangs that CDC and Equus have come up with and plan to produce primarily for the Indian market.

Source: Classic Design Concepts

2010 Ford Transit Connect Details, Photos Released in Advance of Chicago Debut

Posted Yesterday 09:01 PM by motortrend_online
Category: Auto Shows, Ford, Chicago Auto Show, Ford , Minivans/Vans, Minivan/Van

Not all businesses need a delivery vehicle as large as a Dodge Sprinter. With the HHR Panel, Chevy realized this, but that converted compact five-door offers only 62.7 cu. ft. of cargo volume. For those who need more room, Ford presents the "just-right" 2010 Ford Transit Connect, which is making its debut in U.S.-spec trim at this week's 2009 Chicago Auto Show.

The 2010 Transit Connect, set to hit Ford dealerships this summer, offers 135 cu. ft. of space, yet it costs just $21,475 including the destination charge. To get that much covered cargo space in Ford's lineup, you'd need to step up to the Expedition.

The Transit Connect, first shown at last year's Chicago show, is new to the U.S., but not to Europe, where it won the International Van of the Year award in 2003. Ford says it has sold more than 600,000 Transit Connects to customers in 58 countries.

With a 2.0L Duratec four-cylinder delivering an estimated 136 horsepower @ 6300 rpm and 128 lb-ft of torque @ 4750 rpm mated to a four-speed automatic transmission (with overdrive), the Transit Connect takes its time. We imagine buyers might be more interested in maximizing fuel economy -- estimated by Ford to be 20 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. A final-drive ratio of 4.20 to 1 is designed to give Transit Connect additional pulling power, and it rolls on 15-in. steel rims wrapped in P205/65R-15 rubber.

Like the Ford E-Series commercial vehicle family, Transit Connects will come with the option of various bulkheads, racks, and bins. As you might expect, the Transit Connect will be available...

- With no windows in the sliding side doors
- With no windows in the side or rear cargo area
- With side and rear door windows

That last configuration can be paired with a folding second-row bench seating two or three people. Ford's Work Solutions, which debuted last year, will also be available on the Transit Connect. When properly equipped, owners benefit from a touch screen in-dash computer that has Internet access, productivity software, and optional printing capabilities. Tool Link will help owners keep track of tools and other items while Crew Chief is a telematics service that can monitor a fleet of Transit Connects.

Other cargo features of the Transit Connect include:

- A cargo payload of 1600 lbs
- Split rear cargo doors open at a standard 180 degrees, or an optionally available 255 degrees. The doors provide access to 52.1 in. of available load height when open
- Lift-over height is less than two feet when unloaded
- The cargo area opens up to 59.1 in. of floor to ceiling load height
- The load width is 47.8 inches, between the wheel arches
- Load length is just over six feet at 72.6 in.

If you like the idea of the Transit Connect but want better fuel economy, you'll want to wait for the Transit Connect BEV, a battery electric vehicle with a 100-mile range Ford says it will send to select dealerships in 2010. Otherwise, we think Ford sums up its intended audience best with this description: "...[a] small business proprietor currently over-taxing the capabilities of an aging minivan with the passenger seats removed.

As long as Ford doesn't get its hopes (and sales projections) up too high, the Transit Connect could be a success that steals more than a few Chevy HHR Panel intenders.

Stay tuned to this week for all the latest on the Transit Connect and the other stars of the 2009 Chicago Show.

-By Zach Gale

Source: Ford

Shelby Unveils 800+ HP Prudhomme Edition Super Snake Drag Car

Posted February 6 2009 05:15 PM by Scott_Evans
Category: Aftermarket, Ford, Ford Mustang, Coupes, Sports

Say you wanted to pay tribute to a legendary drag racer, how would you do it? If you're Carroll Shelby and the racer in question is long time friend Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, you build a monster Mustang that will run 10-second quarter-miles on the way to the drug store.

"Don is an exceptional drag racer and I'm proud that he drove my first Top Fuel car in 1968," said Carroll Shelby. "By leveraging Don's experience, we turned a really good car into a great drag racer that will beat up on the MOPAR and bow-tie brigade right out of the box."
The Prudhomme Edition Shelby Super Snake pays homage to the top fuel dragster that Prudhomme drove for Shelby in the late 1960's. The street-legal dragster features Ford's 5.4L V-8 wearing a Kenny Bell supercharger and custom ram air intake that pokes through the hood. For everyday shenanigans, this combination is good for 750 hp on 93 octane, but drop by the dragstrip, slap on the slicks and top off the tank with race gas and you'll run sub-10 second quarter-miles with over 800 hp on tap.

Putting that kind of power down and keeping the car straight are difficult tasks, but the team at Shelby was up to the challenge. They fitted the 2007-2009 style Mustang GT500 with a Ford Racing 3.73 rear end, a big rear wing, a short-throw shifter, a Borla side-exhaust kit, a strut tower brace, a caster/camber kit, adjustable front struts, a custom rear lower control arm with a solid third link, six-piston brake calipers up front, Bogart custom wheels and a set of boost, fuel pressure and oil pressure gauges to keep track of it all. Inside, Shelby ditched the rear seats, installed an eight-point roll cage and replaced the front seats with racing units.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Shelby Mustang if it didn't have a little show with its go. The Super Snake gets a special tilt front end, a new rear fascia, new rockers, aluminum quarter window inserts and special paint and graphics. All said and done, a turn-key car will set you back $145,995, though if you already have a GT500 you'd like converted, you can have it made-over for just $99,995. You'd better hurry, though, because Shelby is only planning to make 100 of these cars.

"It's been a great opportunity to work with Carroll and the Shelby Autos team on this amazing program," said Prudhomme. "I'm honored that Carroll gave me this honor to build a car that's true to his legacy and my efforts to move them across the finish line first. The car can be tuned to deliver over 800 horsepower on race gas, which should pretty fast. It's a well sorted out package that is capable of dusting the competition in the Shelby way. The thing I really think is cool about this car is that you can drive it both on the track and on the street. It reminds me of how drag racing used to be back in the day when we would drive our cars to the drag strip, race them, and drive them home at the end of the day. That's maybe the neatest thing about this car."

The Road To Paradise

Friday, February 6, 2009

New Rules to Car Buying

You've seen the headlines: automakers on the brink, sales slowing to a crawl, credit tighter than ever. Yet amid all of this gloom there's a silver lining: deals of a lifetime. But to snag one, you have to learn how to navigate today's uncharted market.

Rule 1 - You Can Find a Deal Anywhere,
and We Mean Anywhere

You can hardly escape the grim news surrounding the car industry: an 11th-hour federal loan package to help General Motors and Chrysler survive to the new year, frugal consumers shying away from big-ticket purchases - especially four-wheeled ones - and tighter credit making it tougher for the few willing buyers to borrow. November auto sales plunged 37% from a year earlier, according to Autodata, a sales tracking firm. Even after production cutbacks, ports are stacked high with new cars that can't fit on dealer lots.

Where there's an inventory glut, there's a fire sale, and that's great news for you. Desperate car makers are begging you to buy with extraordinary deals, from 0% loans to more than $7,000 cash back. "The level of incentives is unprecedented," says Jack Nerad, a market analyst at car-price publisher Kelley Blue Book. "It is almost mind boggling."

Rebates and low-interest loans are nothing new, of course. What's different today is how large they are - and how widespread. Last summer, with gas at $4 a gallon, the incentives were limited mainly to gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks. Now you'll find deals on small cars too.

Even foreign car makers that rarely, if ever, offer such sweeteners have jumped in, although their discounts aren't as deep as Detroit's. You could recently get $1,750 cash back on a Nissan Altima and 1% financing on virtually any Acura. "Toyota just hasn't had to use incentives, but in November they had record incentives," says Philip Reed of, a car information website. Want a fuel-efficient Corolla, one of the best-selling cars in America? Toyota has been knocking as much as $1,500 off the price.

Today's deals aren't limited merely to incentives. You can and should negotiate hard. Before you shop, go to or to see what the car is really going for. And find out what loan rate you qualify for at a bank or credit union. With good credit you wield vast power in the negotiations, says analyst Tom Libby of J.D. Power & Associates.

Finally, when deciding between cash back or a low-rate loan, consider your time frame. Cash will usually beat cheap interest if you plan to get rid of the car or pay off the loan within three years. To do the math, use the calculator at

Rule 2 - Lenders Are Playing Tough, But Only With Some Borrowers (hint: not you)

The credit crisis has hit auto loans too. "The availability of credit is worse than it was six months ago," says Libby. GMAC, for example, no longer lends to borrowers with subprime credit.

But as long as you have good credit, you can still borrow to buy a car. Today's median credit score is 720, and the auto-loan world looks different depending on which side of that line you're on. With a score below 720, you'll find that no-money-down deals are hard to come by. You'll likely need to pony up at least 10% to 20% of the price, says Jesse Toprak of

But with a score above 720, tighter lending rules simply mean that you could end up in a shorter loan than you might have a year ago. Lenders are pushing loans no longer than five years. Six- and seven-year loans are now tougher for all borrowers to find - and more expensive if you do get one (you'll pay as much as a percentage point more vs. the five-year rate). The upside: You'll pay less interest overall, and you're less likely to owe more than the car is worth when you sell.

Finally, as a good credit risk, you'll qualify for an interest rate as low as 6% on a five-year bank loan and less than 5% at some credit unions.

Rule 3 - Cheap Leases Are Disappearing

The ridiculously low-cost leases of the past decade let Americans drive far more expensive vehicles than they could have afforded to buy. Those days are over. Lease payments are closing in on loan payments for the same model, wiping out leasing's biggest advantage.

What's killing the market is that the cars coming off of leases are worth far less than car makers had originally estimated (your lease payments cover expected depreciation plus interest). To stem their losses, Chrysler Financial and GMAC have cut back or even suspended leasing programs. At the banks and car makers that still offer leases, including Toyota and Honda, you'll need good credit to qualify and your payments will likely be significantly higher than in recent years, says James Bell, editor and publisher of, a car information website.

Luxury brands such as BMW and Audi are the exception. Because so much of their business hinges on leasing, luxury-car makers haven't raised prices as much and probably won't, says Richard Apicella, an auto finance industry consultant at Benchmark Consulting International.

Rule 4 - But You Can Still Profit From Their Glory Days

Leasing had none of these troubles a few years back. Now the contracts on the thousands of cars, trucks and SUVs leased in 2006 and 2007 are up, and two- and three-year-old models are returning to packed dealer lots, giving you yet another chance to score a deal.

Because cars lose most of their value in the first or second year, these gently used vehicles are among the best values you can find. For the price of a new Toyota Camry, for example, you can drive a 2007 Volvo S40.

Typically, the dealer will inspect a formerly leased car, tune it up, slap on an extra warranty and market it as certified pre-owned (CPO). Every major brand now has such a program, and CPO sales are up 30% since 2002, according to Autodata. "It lets you know that you don't have to be concerned about buying a lemon," says Lenny Sims of, a car information website.

That peace of mind isn't free: On average you'll pay about $1,000 more for a CPO than for a plain-vanilla used car, and $2,500 more for high-end models, according to's Bell. Before you pay this premium, make sure it's a manufacturer CPO program, not one run by the dealer. And check how much longer the warranty extends beyond the original factory one. You want another few years, not a few months.

Finally, push to lower the price enough to cover this added cost. In today's beaten-up car market, you have the power to negotiate on everything.

Rule 5 - Buyers Need to Read the Business Pages too

The future of Detroit is anything but certain. GM (GM, Fortune 500) and Chrysler are on the ropes. Ford (F, Fortune 500), in better shape than its rivals, has warned that it might need federal aid if another car maker fails. And because U.S. manufacturers and foreign automakers with U.S. plants all rely on the same parts makers, a Big Three bankruptcy could push suppliers under, further damaging the industry.

So would you be crazy to buy a domestic model, even if it's a steal? No, but you'd better know the risks. The first is that you'll run into trouble when your car breaks down. That risk is small. Car makers will likely do everything possible, even in a bankruptcy reorganization, to continue to honor warranties and provide parts, says Kelley Blue Book's Nerad. If they are trying to stay in business, they can't afford to lose consumer confidence.

Even in the case of an outright failure, whoever buys the bankrupt firm's assets will likely stand behind the warranties and continue to stock parts, Nerad adds. Do you have a guarantee? No. Today's crisis is unprecedented. In the end, you have to decide whether the deal is good enough to outweigh even a small chance of repair woes later.

The bigger risk is to your car's value. No matter what, a few brands may be killed off, and if that happens, experts predict, those orphan vehicles will depreciate faster than usual. So if you tend to hold on to a car for only a few years, stick with a brand with a more certain future or a top seller that is unlikely to disappear, like a Cadillac CTS.

Monday, February 2, 2009

10 Classic American Rides


When Hugh Hefner first asked out singer Barbi Benton, she supposedly said, "I've never been out with anyone over 24." "Neither have I," Hef replied.

We should all be so lucky.

When it comes to cars, however, it's easier to get fired up over mature curves. Contemporary rides are obviously miles ahead in terms of power, handling, gas mileage, and technology. But they lack the intangible mojo that made these landmark vehicles timeless. Here are 10 classic American cars that left a permanent mark on the automotive industry.

1953 Chevrolet Corvette #1 - 1953 Chevrolet Corvette

The Corvette was America's first two-seat sports car. To some, it's still the only sports car worth owning. What began in 1953 as a slow performer in the showrooms and on the street soon gained momentum and V8 power, and it evolved into an American icon. To desire a 'Vette is only human. To own one is to belong to a family as passionate for their cars as any you'll find. Each generation of Corvette has been better than the last, and all represent passion molded in fiberglass.

Cool Fact: Red is the color we usually associate with the 'Vette, but in 1953, white was the only color offered.

1955 Chevrolet Belair #2 - 1955-1957 Chevrolets

By the end of 1954, the Corvette was on financial shaky ground, but it still had style and showed promise. The same couldn't be said for the rest of Chevy's lineup, the members of which all looked much the same as the 1949 model and loped along on six cylinders. That all changed in 1955.

Chevrolet's redesign was modern yet tasteful. The best part of it was the debut of the small-block V8. From there, the '56 got a nose job. And lightning struck a third time with the legendary '57. The tri-five cars each have their own unique look and loyal fans, but together they embody cruising like nothing else.

Cool Fact: If the "regular" versions weren't exclusive enough for you, there was always the Chevy Nomad, a rare two-door wagon.

Ford GT40 #3 - 1966 Ford GT40

Who says that great things don't come from hard feelings? When talks broke down regarding Ford's prospective acquisition of Ferrari in the '60s, the Blue Oval guys became fixated on humbling Enzo at Le Mans. With the dedication of Carroll Shelby and his crew, they did just that with the GT40, beginning in 1966. This mid-engine car was equally brutal and beautiful, and the new Ford GT's lines look almost tame by comparison.

Cool Fact: You gotta love the "Gurney Bubble," that little raised roof section first installed over the driver's seat to accommodate team racer Dan Gurney's height.

1948 Tucker Sedan #4 - 1948 Tucker

The Tucker is a great underdog story and an even better car. In the late 1940s, Preston Tucker decided to build a better car, and the Big Three took notice (some say they did more than take notice, but that's another discussion). Tucker clearly succeeded in his goal to develop a better, safer car. It rode on a four-wheel independent suspension. The innovative safety features continued inside with a padded dash and the "crash cowl," an area for the front passengers to duck into before an impending collision. Furthermore, a Cyclops-esque center headlight rotated with the front wheels.

To the rear, the Tucker's horizontally-opposed six-cylinder pushed the car to an impressive 120 mph. Too bad Tucker's dream came to a halt after just 51 models had been built.

Cool Fact: If you've seen Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith, you may notice that Senator Bail Organa's (Jimmy Smits) ride was inspired by the Tucker.

Jeep CJ #5 - 1948-1986 Jeep CJ

It's tougher than a car, more nimble than a truck, and it helped win World War II. How freaking cool is that? For decades, the Jeep CJ represented rugged individuality and a sense of adventure. It wasn't known for its speed, and even less so for comfort. But that wasn't the point. "It's a Jeep thing... you wouldn't understand," as the saying goes.

With the Jeep CJ, you could ditch the top and doors, fold the windshield and go for it. When you were done playing, you could hose the exterior and the interior. Try that with your Navigator.

Cool Fact: Without Jeep, it's debatable whether or not SUVs would have ever caught on.

1970 Plymouth Superbird #6 - 1969 Dodge Daytona/1970 Plymouth Superbird

Not many guys can claim their car was too hot for NASCAR, but you can if you own a Dodge Daytona or a Plymouth Superbird. They were even wilder than the original models form which they evolved -- the Charger and Road Runner. The Daytona and the Superbird could really fly, but their elongated snouts and sky-high rear wings kept them planted. No one really knew it at the time, but they were the apex of the muscle car era; and like that period, they were gone too soon after NASCAR rule changes made them obsolete.

Cool Fact: Buddy Baker took his Daytona just over the 200-mph barrier at Talladega, a record that stood for 13 years.

Bullit Ford Mustang GT #7 - 1964-1970 Ford Mustang

We can forgive Lee Iacocca for the Mopar K-cars. He's the father of the Mustang. When it debuted in 1964, everybody -- really, everybody -- wanted one. Huge lines formed at dealers just to see one. Equally big lines formed to actually buy one. Dozens of options allowed the driver to equip it from mild to wild without breaking the bank.

And it wasn't long before Carroll Shelby lent his magic touch to some truly special editions. Oh, and can you say Bullitt without thinking Mustang?

Cool Fact: The earliest Mustangs, known as 1964 models, didn't have adjustable passenger seats.

1966 Pontiac GTO #8 - 1964-1970 Pontiac GTO

Years before he crafted Michael J. Fox's Back to the Future wheels, John DeLorean quietly created what many consider to be the first serious muscle car. It may have been a Tempest on steroids with a name lifted from Ferrari, but the GTO was like nothing else. Its looks alone made you think twice about trying to outgun it. If that didn't do it, the Goat's unruly horsepower would give you ample opportunity to check out the back end as it pulled further ahead of you.

Cool Fact: The GTO clearly violated General Motors' restrictions on racing and power-to-weight ratios at the time of its development.

1959 Cadillac Eldorado #9 - 1959 Cadillac

Here's a car that can be described in just three words: tailfins, tailfins and tailfins. No doubt the resulting huge blind spots caused some VWs to be swatted aside during lane changes. Maybe that's why tailfins simmered down in the following years -- or maybe it was a secret Big Three treaty that was responsible. Whatever it was, this car marked the end of an era in automotive design.

A gaudy way to go out? Sure. But today, it's a huge part of this car's timeless appeal. When you have a car as unapologetically big and bold as a '50s Caddy, why be modest?

Cool Fact: If you can force yourself to quit staring at the tailfins, move your eyes a little lower. The '59 had another unique design element: The front grille design was mimicked in the rear.

1949 Mercury Coupe #10 - 1949-1951 Mercury Coupe

What other car looked like a chopped-top, lead sled straight from the factory? While the other guys' cars looked more liked warmed-over pre-war models, Mercury cut down the greenhouse and smoothed the sides of theirs. It's one of the earliest designs that gave the illusion of speed even while at a standstill. A few years later, its popularity grew even more when it becomes the ride of choice for James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause.

Cool Fact: The slightly-modified Merc in Rebel is rumored to have been an early project of famed Hollywood customizer George Barris.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

1952 Ford F-1 - Fun Burn

Willy & Teresa Huff's '52 F-1
By Grant Peterson

What's the best way to try something new? If you ask Willy Huff, he'd probably say, "just do it," which is a familiar phrase these days, and for good reason. Willy had been around traditional hot rods for many years before deciding he wanted a truck-a classic truck. As luck would have it, a good friend by the name of Mike Bragg (whose truck shares the cover with Willy's) had a '52 Ford F-1 project, and after brief negotiations it was dropped off in Willy's Canton, Ohio, driveway. This was exciting and a bit nerve-racking at the same time because Willy had yet to take on a build of this magnitude. His vision for the truck was low, low, low, without the use of altitudinal aids, and to keep the lovely paintjob that was the product of years of sun and Mother Nature's touch.

1952 F1 Drivers Side

Things got rolling when another friend brought by an old Fenton Tri-power intake manifold for a small-block Chevy, complete with Rochester carbs and linkage. This was a blessing, because after that, the motor choice was obvious, and it just so happened Willy's dad had recently picked up a decent little '67 283-BINGO! Word traveled fast, and someone else brought by a set of old E.T. five-spoke mag wheels, which would suit the truck perfectly. Now he had to make it all work.

1952 Ford F100 and Ford F1

Over the next nine months, along with help from friends, Willy carefully thrashed on the truck to get it back on the road where it belonged. Willy bought and installed a Mustang II IFS with dropped spindles, disc brakes, and coil springs-no airbags. He was determined to have the '52 sit next to the asphalt using static suspension, so out back the Ford 9-inch was flipped as well as the spring hangers, the main leaf eyes were reversed, and the frame was C-notched in order to hopefully achieve his goal.

1952 F1 Tailgate

The aforementioned 283 Chevy motor was freshened up since it had sat for over 10 years, but it was soon good to go with a new COMP Cams bumpstick, the three deuces, a set of vintage Cal Custom finned valve covers, and a trick set of air cleaners. Willy admits that setting up the motor and Turbo 350 tranny in the Ford chassis was one of the more tricky situations encountered during the build, but he got it nailed in place after some research and guidance from friends.

1952 F1 Backside View

By now you have surely noticed the paintjob, or lack thereof, which is exactly what Willy wanted. The truck was covered in what many have been trying to replicate over the last few years-perfect patina, a well-worn finish, a barn find-whatever you want to call it, the truck has it. Willy didn't do a stitch of bodywork on the old truck, and it came out just like he wanted-lucky guy! The F-1's interior is basically stock except for the Dodge Caravan seat, auxiliary Sun water temp and oil pressure gauges, and a long Lokar shifter. The OEM steering wheel and column still hang under the dash, and the repop rubber floor mat rounds out the inside of the cab quite dutifully.

1952 F1 Rear Fender

After the truck's gestation period was over and it hit the streets, Willy and Teresa were very proud of their first complete build and have happily driven the E.T.'s off the '52 every chance they could get, including long trips to shows such as the F-100 Supernationals in Tennessee. Willy has the classic truck fever now, and we've even seen him cruising an old '57 Ford truck around this year-look out!

1952 F1 Rusty Grill

1952 F1 Rear Fender

Dodge Caravan Seat

1952 F1 Stock Steering Wheel

Xhevy Small Block Engine

Facts & Figures

Willy & Teresa Huff Canton, Ohio

1952 Ford F-1


Frame: stock
Modifications: owner
Rearend / Ratio: Ford 9" / 3.50:1 posi
Rear suspension: parallel leaf, reversed eye, flipped hangers, C-notch
Rear brakes: Ford drum
Front suspension: RB's IFS, 2" dropped spindles
Front brakes: Ford disc
Steering box: rack-and-pinion
Front wheels: E.T., 14x7
Rear wheels: E.T., 15x7
Front tires: BFGoodrich 205/70R14
Rear tires: BFGoodrich 275/60R15


Engine: '67 Chevy 283 ci
Heads: stock
Valve covers: Cal Custom
Manifold / Induction: vintage Fenton 3x2 / Rochester 2Gs
Ignition: Mallory Unilite
Headers: Summit block hugger
Exhaust / Mufflers: custom 2 1/4" / Flowmaster 40-Series
Transmission: Turbo 350 w/TCI converter


Style: F-1
Fenders front / rear: stock
Hood: stock
Grille: stock
Bed: stock
Bodywork and paint by: FoMoCo & Mother Nature
Paint type / Color: old / assorted
Headlights / Taillights: stock
Bumpers: stock


Gauges: stock w/auxiliary oil and water
Air conditioning: nada
Steering wheel: stock
Steering column: stock
Seat: Dodge Caravan
Upholstery by: owner
Material / Color: cloth / tan
Carpet: stock rubber mat