Monthly Archives: April 2010

The APA Complete Canadian Used Car Guide 2004

Enveloping dash and large centre console make for an intimate environment. The front seats are large and comfortable. The rear seat offers reasonable space for a sports coupe. The coupe’s trunk is adequate.

Powered by the same engine found in the old Cirrus, the Sebring four-cylinder is a tame performer. The 2.7L 200-hp Chrylser engine is lacklustre from a stop, but has good mid-range power and works well with the smooth automatic. Despite premium specifications like twin-overhead-camshafts and 24 valves, the Sebring V6 sounds rough at high revs, and doesn’t deliver the kind of grunt 200-rated horsepower would lead you to expect. The Sebring sedan’s structure feels quite stout, and few bumps upset the car. The car rides well, and feels very composed for a conservative family sedan. Braking is effective. The convertible drives much like the sedan. The 3.0L Mitsubishi V6 in the Sebring Coupe is smoother, quieter and better off the line than Chrysler’s 2.7L, and works well with either transmission. Ride, handling and steering are all nicely balanced for a luxury sport coupe.

Those seeking a used Sebring sedan will be happy to learn that they are worth half of less of their original value by the time they are three years old. The V6 sells in far bigger numbers, and is more in demand used. As with many domestic used cars, luxury comes cheap. The price gap of $3000 between a plain LX and a loaded LXi when they were new shrinks to about $1500 after three years. The convertibles lose their value more slowly, and can sell for up to $10,000 more than a sedan of the same year. In good condition, a coupe will appeal to the right buyer, but that person is rare.

Reliability: Predicted weak points include the automatic transmission and A/C. Some reports of water infiltrating into the cabin because of missed welds where the firewall meets the floorpan. Some reports of head gasket failures and valvetrain problems starting between 100,000 km and 130,000 km on the 2.7L V6. Chrysler added a 5 year/100,000 km powertrain warranty to the basic 3/60 coverage for the 2001 model year.

Rust: Insufficient data. Brake lines and the ABS junction box located under the car appear vulnerable to corrosion.

Safety: Standard dual front airbags, optional side airbags. The sedan earned five-star ratings for the driver and front passenger in the NHTSA’s frontal crash test and a three-star rating for outboard occupants in the NHTSA’s side impact test. Initially rated “good” by the IIHS, the Sebring sedan was reclassified as “acceptable”. Optional ABS.

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Compact and Mid-size Cars

The Galant/Eclipse platform, featured Mitsubishi engines, a single-overhead cam 2.4L four-cylinder with 142 horsepower, and a single-overhead-cam V6 with 200 horsepower. The sedan and convertible featured a four-speed automatic exclusively, with an optional SportShift manumatic self-shifting feature. The Sebring coupe offered a four-speed automatic, an automatic with AutoStick, and a rare five-speed manual transmission.

Though the three body styles resemble each other, there are significant differences under the skin. The sedan and convertible are Chrysler products, with Chrysler bodies and drive trains. They are fundamentally the same in front of the windshield, but the convertible is built on a shorter wheelbase and is longer and taller than the sedan. The sedan has a clean shape, but followed the styling trend towards blockier, edgier looks. All models display the ersatz-1960s Ferrari grille Chrysler first showed on the 1998 Concorde. The coupe is the same length as the sedan, but unrelated mechanically. The Sebring coupe is the fraternal twin of the Mitsubishi Eclipse but has a longer wheelbase and is a foot longer overall. The coupe shares the Ferrari-esque nose but little else with the Chrysler-produced Sebrings. With its chic grille and clean flanks, the Sebring coupe is less sporty but arguably more elegant than the Eclipse.

The Sebring sedan and convertible interiors are more carefully assembled from better components than their predecessors. The dashboard has clear, legible instrumentation and simple, logical controls, except for the optional CD changer that is hung from below the dash and is difficult to load on the move. The rest of the cabin is conservative, with serviceable fittings and upholstery. The sedan has enough room and acceptable seats; the rear seat cushion is mounted too low for optimum comfort, but if it were higher, headroom would be tighter than it is. The rear seat isn’t as spacious as on the new Japanese rivals. The large trunk is easily accessed, and its lid is supported by gas struts, not luggage-mauling gooseneck hinges.  The convertible shares the sedan’s dash and overall interior style. The cabin of the Limited convertible model manages to look plush. Interior room is good, but the shorter wheelbase and the need to move the rear seat forward to clear the folded top eat into legroom. The top fits well and has a defroster-equipped glass rear window. The trunk is roomy, considering it shares space with the folded top. The Sebring coupe’s interior is derived from the Mitsubishi Eclipse, and is very similar in style. A low roof line makes ingress-egress awkward, and headroom is tight.

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1963 Buick Riviera

GM’s head of design, Bill Mitchell, was angry. He wanted to put some salt on the tail of the 1958 Ford Thunderbird, the new and very successful four-seat model. But what kind of car would do it? The answer came while Mitchell was in Europe, gazing upon a Rolls-Royce. He decided that his car would blend Rolls elegance and Ferrari fierceness.

Management wasn’t buying, but Mitchell kept his team on the project anyway. He yearned for the return of the La Salle marque, so his crisply creased prototype had a miniature La Salle grille grafted onto the leading edge of each front fender. The clay model looked so good, the GM brass approved it for production before anyone knew which division would sell it.

What Mitchell and company had done was to produce the definitive personal luxury car. The Riv’s, clean lines, sharp angles, and delicate brightwork broke with the chromey, finned style of the time, and it looked both racier and more elegant than other two-door sedans. The Riviera’s proportions and air of upmarket restraint spawned cars like the Toronado and the Eldorado. Those cars begat the wildly successful class of more affordable glitzy two-doors that included the original Cutlass Supreme, the Grand Prix, the Monte Carlo, the Regal, and the Chrysler Cordoba. Ford was forced to follow suit with up-sized versions of the T-Bird and the Cougar.

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1953 Studebaker Starliner

The sensational Stude Starliner is the American heir to the design legacy left behind by the short-lived Cisitalia Pininfarina coupe. It’s hard to imagine how advanced this low, lithe sporty car must have looked as it cruised streets packed with the bulbous American iron of 37 years ago.

Originally designed as a show car by Bob Bourke – a member of the great Raymond Loewy’s Studebaker design team – the Starliner was rushed into production to boost the struggling company’s fortunes. Little was changed from Bourke’s original clay model; indeed, the design was good enough to remain in production – albeit with several face lifts – for eleven seasons.

If the Starliner seems a little too familiar for a car 26 years out of production, that may be because several of its design elements resurfaced on later models. Its basic shape says “pony car,” which may explain why the original Mustang borrowed the Starliner’s distinctive bodyside indents for its own flanks eleven years later. Bourke’s sleek wraparound rear-window and C-pillar forms showed up on 1970-81 Camaros and Firebirds, and the Starliner’s swept-back nose appeared on the 1979 Mustang.

The Starliner was not only an automotive Venus – it inspired some of the most memorable and successful cars ever sold. That’s influence.

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1948 Cadillac

This year, 1990, marks the 43rd year of the Cadillac tail fin. We almost lost it a while back: since its zenith in 1959, it shrank annually until it was a mere suggestion in the rear-end sheetmetal. The Sevilles of the past decade abandoned fins completely. In 1989, however, de Villes and Fleetwoods were treated to tail-fin enlargement surgery. Sales picked up.

No single design element has lasted as long or has been associated as closely with one marque as the tail fin. And it was the 1948 Cadillac that started the great American design trend of the fifties. The appearance of vestigial humps on the rear fenders of the 1948 Caddy marked the first time that a manufacturer attempted to make a car’s rear end as distinctive as its front. It worked. “There was no mistaking a Cadillac for anything else,” recalls Dave Holls, GM’s director of design, “even if all you saw of the car was the rear end.”

It was the twin-boom tail of the P-38 fighter plane that inspired the Cadillac tail fin. GM’s head of styling, Harley Earl, had taken his troops to see the still-secret fighter before the U.S. entered World War II, and the aircraft influence took root in the design studios immediately. After the war, the Cadillac stylists, headed by Frank Hershey, refined it for production.

Who could have known that the 1948 Cadillac’s tail fins would lead to a whole generation of cars that looked as if they were capable of manned space flight? Who would have predicted that the mutant appendages would blight the rear fenders of chromium-laden American barges until the early 1960s? And who would have guessed that the most outrageous finned apparition of them all, the 1959 Cadillac, would one day become a valuable icon that represented a golden, innocent age in American history? Such is the power and mystery of the tail fin, and it all began with the 1948 Cadillac.

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1947 Cisitalia

No two-seater cast a larger shadow over automotive design than the 1947 Cisitalia Pininfarina coupe. Following almost a decade of war-induced stagnation, the Cisitalia burst unto the scene as the first thrilling automotive expression of postwar modernism. At the same time, it confirmed the direction being picked up by America’s leading stylists.

Until 1946, when Pininfarina unveiled the prototype of the coupe it had designed for Cisitalia, the worldwide influence of European designers had been minimal; America had been the undisputed design leader for most of the first half of the century. But the Cisitalia’s lines were so seductive, they attracted the attention of automotive designers from around the globe.

The Pininfarina coupe was the first postwar car with full-envelope body; the fenders were fully integrated and the sheetmetal seemed as if it had been stretched over the mechanicals like a metal body stocking. The Cisitalia was also the first production car that could boast a hood that was lower than its front fenders. Indeed, its long hood/short deck proportions and rear fender kickup could be seen in dozens of sports cars that followed, ranging from the 1948 Jaguar XK120 to the 1962 Corvette.

By the time the 1949 Fords rocked America with their all-new envelope bodies, Cisitalia was out of the car business. The firm’s president, racer-entrepreneur Piero Dusio, had drained his company’s coffers in the pursuit of Grand Prix glory. The GP car he commissioned from Dr. Ferdinand Porsche never came to fruition, but the influence of the Pininfarina coupe is legacy enough.

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1938 Lincoln Zephyr

If you think the words “aerodynamically designed” apply only to cars manufactured during the last several years, we respectfully submit Exhibit A, the 1938 Lincoln Zephyr. The Zephyr proves once again that few of today’s ideas are truly new. It was considered the slickest of the sleek back in the late 1930s, and no one even knew  its drag coefficient.

What people did know is that it looked as if it had been shaped by the wind and that it was beautiful sculpture. That was enough to make it an instant tough guy in the upper-medium price class.

The Zephyr wasn’t the first streamlined sedan to hit the market in the 1930s- that distinction went to the 1934 Chrysler and De Soto Airflows. But the look of those cars was controversial, and problems encountered in their production made buyers suspicious of aerodynamic cars in general. The Zephyr won them back.

Lincoln introduced the first Zephyr in 1936, but it was the 1938 version that captured the public’s heart. Penned by the internationally acclaimed John Tjaarda and fine-tuned by Ford stylists, the Zephyr’s shape was a combination of intuition and aerodynamic principles. No wind-tunnel testing was ever conducted, however, so we don’t know how slippery it really was.

Not that it mattered to buyers. After a few tweaks for 1938, consumers and designers alike agreed that the Zephyr had matured into the first truly beautiful example of aerodynamic design. The 1938 model’s head-turning details included a low, split-grille; flush headlamps; flowing hood contours; skirted rear fenders; and integral taillights. Most of the Zephyr’s competitors looked like inverted bathtubs by comparison.

The Zephyr look was so powerful that it set the theme for Ford products for more than a decade. More important, it proved that aerodynamics and aesthetics could live happily together a half-century before the world ever heard of the Taurus/Sable.

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