Monthly Archives: October 2011

Mazda Protege’ LX

Highs: Solidly built, sporty quickness of the controls, great driving position.

Lows: Hard ride, abrupt clutch engagement, fairly noisy inside.

The Verdict: A four-door Miata.

The correct answer is none of the above. We may say that we have your transportation interests in mind, but when it’s time to vote, the winner is always the one that’s most fun for us to drive. The Protege’ has the right stuff for car cuckoos on a budget. The clutch grabs right-now quick, the five-speed lever moves through a crisp track, handling is athletic with tight control of roll angle, and this car has an agreeable fit about its cockpit that makes us feel right at home. The wheel rim is a fat handful. The dead pedal is located wisely far to the left, allowing us to brace against it for side support (the Toyota, for all its carefully honed goodness, gets that part wrong). A car guy can go to work in this box without feeling as though he’s put the good life on hold.

The Protege’ doesn’t score badly in any measure except gas mileage, where it’s neck and neck with the Kia for last place. Clearly, this car is strongest on the intangibles, however. Acceleration is resolutely average. Skidpad grip is average. The brakes are exceptional, stopping from 70 mph in only 195 feet. The Mazda also performed near the top in our lane-change test.

As a passenger hauler, it’s fair. The taut suspension, which feels so responsive to the involved driver, is actually pretty stiff, more so than all the others. This car hits the bumps hard, and it’s not silent about it, either, although the solid structure is notably free of shake. The engine puts out a happy sound, but it’s loud at full power. The coach section is among the most spacious for two occupants. The seat is park-bench hard, and footroom under the front seats is on the tight side. With three across, the outer occupants will find headroom closing in on zero over bigger bumps.

Our advice: Don’t sit back there. It’s the Protege’s driver seat that always treats you right.

 

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Maserati Ghibli: The Upstart Meets the Benchmark

If our expectations for the new Maserati seem unduly high, blame the Ghibli. In fact, blame the Ghibli for completely warping our standards for automotive aesthetics since most cars sitting next to one look like cinder blocks.

It isn’t their fault.The Italians routinely get away with design murder because they can’t be bothered with temporal issues such as how to get Grandma Edna out or where to fit the tire chains. When it debuted at the 1966 Turin show, the Ghibli flouted so many of the design rules in Detroit that it was considered a rolling felony. Of course, that didn’t stop Henry Ford II from famously buying the first one off the boat. Priced at $19,000, it cost him the equivalent of four new Thunderbirds.

Named after a North African windstorm, Ghibli production began in 1967 on Maserati’s 41st anniversary as independent company. The founding Maserati brothers – Bindo, Alfieri, Ettore, and Ernesto – were gone from the company, the great racing years were a fading memory, and the workforce at the factory in downtown Modena was spread thin, building 11 separate models of road cars. These were the halcyon days of the front-engined Italian. Orders with checks stapled to them poured into the exotic-car epicenter around Bologna, where the big-three nameplates and some tiny cottage firms were all building competing models and rushing more though development.

Like a lot of young designers, Giorgetto, was busy trying to out-wow his competitors at Bertone and Pininfarina and win body supply contracts for his employer. He penned the two-seat Ghibli coupe in only three months and in 1969 the Ghibli spyder. Ghia took orders for a total of 1150 coupes between 1967 and 1972 and 125 convertibles.

As pretty as it was, the 3583 pound coupe was, even by the standards of the day, a technical has been. To the rear of a typical body-integrated frame of welded steel tubes and flat panels was an ancient live axle riding on leaf springs. Independently sprung control arms carried the nose, but Lamborghini had introduced all-independent coil-over-damper suspensions to the class in 1964, and magazine reviewers (including ours) were beginning to expect them.

The cast aluminum DOHC 4.7 liter V-8 was a dry-sump variation on a racing or dating to the 1950′s. The 85mm stroke, a country compared with the 60-to-70mm throws Ferrari and Lamborghini employed to make their V-12s sing to 8000 helped cap the Ghibli’s redline 5500. The platoon of Weber carburetors standing at attention the vee had throats enough for cylinder, and they were key to claimed 330-hp rating.

The V-8′s link to the track dent when you open the hood. Each spark-plug hole twin blank next to it where a plug resided in the racing vent. What the 4.7 lacked in cylinder twist, or easily serviced component, it compensated for with low torque: 340 pound-feet at 3500.

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Top Pony

Shelby Mustangs have always been a desirable collector car. With only 562 units produced, hard-core Shelby enthusiasts found the 1965 GT350 the most desirable. Thirty-seven of those are factory-built race cars, which, because of their uniqueness and racing history, always sell for premium prices. Today the ’65s still remain high on the collector car list. However, the Shelbys attracting the most attention lately are the’68 Shelby GT500KR convertibles. Only 318 were built and every car collector in the country wants one. With the supply low and the demand high, the price of these cars has soared, making them a recognized investment.

In February, 1990, car enthusiast David Yanoff was attending a classic car auction in Atlantic City, New Jersey, when he spotted and exceptional Shelby GT500KR convertible. Yanoff talked to his friend (Shelby expert Bill Collins) about the car and both felt confident that, with a little work, the Shelby could be a concours show winner. Although Yanoff wasn’t planning on buying a car at that auction, he couldn’t resist this one. After some negotiating, he became its new owner and set out to make it the finest KR convertible in the country.

Before beginning restoration, Yanoff found out that the car was entered in the concours class of the SAAC-14 (National Shelby Convention) show in 1989 where it won the third place trophy. After reviewing the judging sheets, he found that the car lost points in authenticity, not workmanship. With help from his friend, Adam Scheps, Yanoff started to work on locating NOS parts. This turned out to be tougher than expected, but persistence and several long distance phone calls, Yanoff managed to find all of the items he wanted. In order to transform this car into the best Shelby in the country, he enlisted some help from the two people.

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Original Tires

78 Series tire – meaning that the height of the sidewall was exactly 78 percent of the width. “It gave the public a chance to buy a very high-mileage tire,” says Kelsey. “The belts were probably the mitigating factor.” It was not uncommon for Polyglas tires to last 40,000 to 60,000 miles. According to Kelsey, the belts reduced “tire squirm,” a phenomenon inherent in 2- and 4-ply tires, whereby the tread would close, causing a scrubbing effect, greatly reducing the life of the tire.

“The belts also eliminated a certain amount of rolling resistance,” he says, which also added to tread life. So, while the question of what brand might indeed be moot, getting the right size and an authentic version on your car is not. But experts say, before you run out and spend your hard-earned cash on a set, know this: How was your car used during its lifetime; and how was the suspension geometry, ride height and weight distribution altered? Then, return it to original. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of handling, ride and clearance problems. Finally, don’t install your tires until your restoration is done.

 

 

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Willies Antique Tires

Willies claims to have the largest inventory of antique and classic tires in the country, and who would doubt them. They list among their manufacturers BFGoodrich, Commander, Goodyear, Firestone, Mickey Thompson, Supreme Classic and Uniroyal. So numerous is it that there is not enough room to list all the sizes and styles they offer.

So, the following is an overview by size: 695/14 – Firestone, Commander, BFGoodrich, Goodyear; 700/14 – BF – Goodrich; 750/14 – Firestone, Goodyear, BFGoodrich; 775/14 – Firestone; 800/14 – Supreme Classic, BF Goodrich; 850/14 and 900/14 – BFGoodrich; 670/15 – BFGoodrich and Goodyear; 775/15 BFGoodrich.

For later muscle, Willies has the Firestone Wide Oval in sizes D70/14, E70/14, F70/14, G70/14, G60/14, F70/15 and G60/15 – in addition to the full line of Indy Profile and Indy Profile S/S RWL tires.

 

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Universal Tire Company

In addition to its own line of tires, Universal sells a complete compliment of Firestone tires and U.S. Royal Safety 800 tires for automobiles through 1960. In that group, there is the 750/14 (1- and 2 1/4 – inch WW) and the 670/15 (1- and 2 1/2 – inch WW). Universal’s Wide Track comes in sizes E70/14, F70/14, G70/14, F70/15, G70/15. Also of interest to musclecar enthusiasts is the Universal 775/14 blackwall. Among the Firestone tires, there is the 670/15 with 1-inch WW, the 695/14, and the 750/14 WW. Universal offers the full line of Firestone Wide Ovals with RWL, whitewall or redline. No sense of the Waverly auto mall here.

 

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Mickey Thompson Performance Tires

Mickey Thompson Performance Tires offers redline performance tires in both 70-series and 60-series sizes. They have an aggressive tread design and a bright red stripe making them a perfect addition to any muscle car. They are DOT approved and are well constructed. The tire compound used provides excellent traction for the people who want to exercise their muscle-car. For more information contact: Mickey Thompson Performance Tires, P.O. Box, 227, Dept. MCC, Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44222; 800/222-9092.

 

Mazda3 Dealerships

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Lucas Automotive

Antique and classic tire seller, Lucas Automotive, provides the enthusiast with several brands including Firestone, Wide Trac and Goodyear. For late- ’50s/early- ’60s automobiles, it has the Firestone 670/15 (1- and 2 1/4-inch WW), 775/14 Firestone redline and 775/15 and goldline. They also offer the F70/14 and G70/14 Wide Trac redline. Headlining its list of early- ’60s Goodyear tires are the 670/15 (with 1- and 2 1/4-inch whitewalls), 695/14 with 7/8-inch WW, and 800/14 (with 1- and 2 1/4-inch WW). And the kings of the lineup: the E70/14, F70/14, F60/15 and F70/15 whiteline. Lucas Automotive, 2141 W. Main, Springfield, Dept. MCC, OH 45504; 513/324-1773, and 2850 Temple Ave., Long Beach, CA 90806; 213/595-6721.

 

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Used Honda Accord Winnipeg