Sunday, September 30, 2012

What’s Wrong With This Picture? Valiantly Different in Canada

Photo credit: Cars In Depth

If you're an average Mopar enthusiast you may be wondering what the front of a Plymouth Valiant is doing on a 1963 Dodge Dart. Unlike urban legends about cars with front ends from one brand and rear ends from another of that automaker's brands that was being built on the same assembly line, and unlike custom car mashups, this was factory built and sold by authorized dealers.

If you were born after the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show you can be excused for not knowing this, but  Dodge Darts and Plymouth Valiants weren't always badge engineered twins. In 1963 they were more like bigger and smaller brothers, with an odd Canadian cousin in the family.

The Dart brand had previously been used by Dodge for both full size and intermediate cars but by the early 1960s compact cars were a growing segment of the market. AMC was selling record numbers of Ramblers, VW was on it's way to importing a half million Beetles a year, and GM and Ford were both introducing compact cars like the Pontiac Tempest, the Chevy II and the Falcon. When Plymouth dealers got the compact Valiant, Dodge dealers got a more luxurious version and it was decided to use the Lancer nameplate. For whatever reason, the 1961-62 Lancer didn't thrive, perhaps because it was just a badge engineered Valiant. Today it's hard to realize it, what with Hyundai Genesis trying to compete with Mercedes Benz, but in the late '50s and early '60s there were fairly rigid class distinctions between car brands. Ford, Chevrolet and Plymouth were not embarrassed to reference themselves as the "low priced three" and if you could afford to drive something more aspirational (though they didn't use that term back then) you didn't want your ride confused with an economy car. Alfred Sloan's business model reigned supreme, and not just at General Motors. For the 1963 model year, Dodge's compact was renamed the Dart and to distinguish it from the Valiant it was given a 5″ longer wheelbase, 111 inches, a different roofline and unique rear passenger windows. So an average Mopar fan would notice that this is a long wheelbase 1963 car with a Dart's sheet metal from the cowl back but it's wearing the front clip of a Valiant. Is it a Dodge or is it a Plymouth?

1963 Plymouth Valiant Signet 200 Convertible. Photo: Affordable Classics1963 Plymouth Valiant Convertible (U.S. Market)

An average Mopar fan might notice the difference and scratch his head, but a serious Mopar fan, or one located in the Great White North, would know that actually it's not either a Dodge or a Plymouth, it's a "Valiant", made exclusively for the Canadian market and sold at both Chrysler-Plymouth and Dodge dealers in Canada. Chrysler had previously marketed the Valiant as it's own brand in Canada, so it could sell it through both Chrysler-Plymouth-Fargo and DeSoto-Dodge sales channels. It's not unusual for the American car companies to use slightly different branding in Canada. Beaumonts may look like Pontiacs and even carry the arrowhead logo, but you won't find the word Pontiac anywhere on those cars. There are Canadian Ford Monarchs that don't say Mercury anywhere on the cars. So this is a Valiant.

1963 Dodge Dart GT Convertible - Barrett Jackson Photo1963 Dodge Dart Convertible

With the Valiant brand established in Canada, it made sense to continue with that nameplate. They were already selling the identical car in both Canadian sales channels, so it didn't make sense to sell two different wheelbase variants. Since it was sold in Chrysler-Plymouth dealers the Valiant name was identified somewhat by Canadian consumers with Chrysler, an upscale brand. In the 1960s larger equated to more luxurious so using the  longer wheelbase car made sense. Using the longer wheelbase Dart necessarily meant using its rear end sheet metal. Swapping out front clips is a simple process, everything bolts on. Changing the rear end of a car's sheet meta, though,l means welding on different quarter panels and other panels plus labor to finish the seams. That's assuming the stock Valiant rear panels would mate up to the Dart midsection without modifications.  They might have had to stamp completely different rear "Valiant" panels for everything to go together properly.  The Dart wasn't being sold in Canada so why spend the money if nobody would notice the difference? The Canadian Valiant also had a Valiant instrument cluster, which was different from the Dart's, Valiant hubcaps, Valiant trim on the interior door panels, and seats embossed with the Valiant crest. On the rear deck lid, instead of a plastic insert inscribed with"Dodge GT", on the stainless steel panel between the backup lights there's a black plastic insert with "Signet" flanked by two Valiant crests.

Of course, making a unique model for Canadians, a relatively small market, costs more money than selling them a car identical to the American model, so the unique Canadian Valiant was fairly short lived. Also, in 1965, the United States and Canada signed the U.S.-Canada Automotive Trade Pact, a precursor to NAFTA, which was the death knell for unique Canadian variants of American cars. When the compact Mopars were restyled with the "fuselage" look for 1967, the wheelbases of Darts and Valiants were rationalized and Canadians got Valiants that were identical, save for no Plymouth logos, to what Americans were buying.

This 1963 Valiant Signet 200 was photographed at the 2012 Orphan Car Show, in Ypsilanti, Michigan. It's owned by Terry and Marge Metcalf of Ontario. The Signet trim line was equivalent to a Dart GT in the States so this is as fancy as a Canadian Valiant got. If I understand the story correctly, Terry's family had one when he was a kid and he resolved to find one to own. After searching high and low across Canada and the US for one, his wife spotted this car parked in a driveway not far from their own home and they bought it and restored it. The restoration was easier than with some Canada only cars. With the exception of that trim on the back of the car, you can find parts – what isn't identical to a '63 Dart you can retrieve from a '63 American market Valiant.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don't worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading– RJS

1963 Dodge Dart GT Convertible - Barrett Jackson Photo 1963 Plymouth Valiant Signet 200 Convertible. Photo: Affordable Classics IMG_0272 IMG_0255 Photo credit: Cars In Depth IMG_0262 IMG_0268 IMG_0269 IMG_0270

from The Truth About Cars

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Junkyard Find: 1987 Isuzu I-Mark

North Americans bought the post-Chevette Isuzu Gemini under several marques. There was the Spectrum, sold as a Chevrolet, a Geo, and a confusing Chevrolet/Geo. In Canada, you could get a Gemini badged as a Pontiac Sunburst. And, of course, there was the Isuzu I-Mark, a destined-for-China's-steel-industry example of which I've found in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service wrecking yard.
These things were cheaper than a Corolla, had front-wheel-drive, and… they were cheaper than a Corolla.
The 1.5 liter four delivered 90 horsepower, which wasn't so bad in 1987, and the I-Mark proved more reliable than, uh, the Hyundai Excel?
All in all, a forgotten commuter appliance that now serves as a reminder of The General's musical-marques efforts of the 1980s and 1990s.

Who can forget the "Joe Isuzu" ads of the 1980s? Let's watch a few for the I-Mark.

11 - 1987 Isuzu I-Mark Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1987 Isuzu I-Mark Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1987 Isuzu I-Mark Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1987 Isuzu I-Mark Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1987 Isuzu I-Mark Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1987 Isuzu I-Mark Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1987 Isuzu I-Mark Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1987 Isuzu I-Mark Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1987 Isuzu I-Mark Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1987 Isuzu I-Mark Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1987 Isuzu I-Mark Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

from The Truth About Cars

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Most-Read Car Reviews of the Week


The new 2013 Ford Fusion is far more stylish and fun to drive compared to is competitors, including the Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry, says reviewer David Thomas. The new front seats and driver's controls leave something to be desired, though. Read more about the new Fusion, and our other most-read reviews of the week, with the links below:

1.  2013 Ford Fusion
2.  2013 Nissan Altima
3.  2012 Toyota Camry
4.  2013 Honda Accord
5.  2013 Ford Escape
6.  2013 Hyundai Elantra GT
7.  2013 Toyota Highlander
8.  2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
9.  2013 Acura RDX
10. 2013 Cadillac XTS

from KickingTires

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Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: What Europe Buys Right Now

While the European car market is slowly but surely falling into another recession that could well last much longer than the previous one, let's take the opportunity to have a look at what cars sell best there – if they sell.

Couldn't care less about Europe and you just want to know which cars sell best in your own backyard? Easy. You can visit 168 countries and territories in my blog, one by one, in the comfort of your own lounge. That's right!

Back to Europe.

And there's one French newcomer pointing its bonnet up at the top of the ranking…

New car sales in Europe are down a worrying 8 percent year-on-year in July to 970,271 registrations, bringing the year-to-date total to 8,035,439 units, down 5 percent on 2011. (August data is available but July has more detail so far which is why I'm focusing on it) Most analysts predict an 8 percent year-on-year overall fall by the end of the 2012, but it could get worse. And no one predicts the market to rebound in 2013, on the contrary it could fall further down.

There are only two models in the Top 10 losing less than 10 percent year-on-year so not a good look this month… The VW Golf keeps the lead by far but is at down 17 percent on July 2011 to 32,403 sales, followed by the VW Polo at -23 percent and the Ford Fiesta at -11 percent. Year-to-date, the Golf is #1 at -5 percent ahead of the Fiesta (-8 percent) and Polo (-13 percent).

In spite of sales down 20 percent on July 2011 to 18,124, the Opel/Vauxhall Astra is up to #4, its best European ranking since… September 2010!

But the big event this month in Europe is the arrival of the Peugeot 208 in the Top 10 for the very first time, only 4 months after its predecessor the 207′s last Top 10 showing in March. It sells 17,986 units this month, adding up to 55,598 year-to-date and is already the best-selling French car on the continent. For reference, the 206-207 changeover took one less month back in 2006, with the 206 last appearing in the European Top 10 in April and the 207 breaking into it for the first time in July.

Another great performer this month is the Nissan Qashqai, reaching its highest-ever ranking in Europe at #6 with 16,750 sales, down 6 percent year-on-year. The Qashqai is now #8 year-to-date with 134,166 units, up 2 percent and the only model in the 2012 Year-to-date Top 10 to see its sales increase on 2011. It is the 6th time the Qashqai ever ranks within the European Top 10 after July 2010 (#9), September 2011 (#10), January 2012 (#9), March 2012 (#7) and June 2012 (#9). This is potentially the highest monthly ranking ever reached by a Japanese model in Europe.

Europe July 2012 Top 10

Pos Model July /11 Jun 2012 /11 Pos 2011
1 VW Golf 32,403 -17% 1 278,470 -5% 1 1
2 VW Polo 23,512 -23% 3 192,469 -13% 3 2
3 Ford Fiesta 21,902 -11% 4 204,247 -8% 2 3
4 Opel Astra 18,124 -20% 6 153,342 -18% 6 6
5 Peugeot 208 17,986 new n/a 55,598 new   44  -
6 Opel Corsa 17,739 -18% 2 176,153 -9% 4 4
7 Nissan Qashqai 16,750 -6% 9 134,166 2% 8 12
8 Ford Focus 16,711 -32% 8 160,225 -9% 5 7
9 Renault Clio 16,490 -23% 7 150,413 -19% 7 5
10 Renault Megane 16,287 -14% 5 130,219 -13% 9 9

Outside the Top 10, let's have a closer look at the year-to-date ranking. The Fiat Panda is up to #11 thanks to its outstanding performance in Italy, but is still a good 13,000 units away from a spot in the Top 10 most popular cars in Europe. The Skoda Octavia is #12 while the BMW 3 Series is #14 and the VW Tiguan up one to a best-ever #17 vs. #35 in 2011!

You can check out the entire Top 325 best-selling models in Europe over 7 months 2012 here

The Mercedes B-Class is up  to #30, the Nissan Juke up to a record #34 and the Opel Zafira up to #39 thanks to the new Zafira Tourer. The VW Up! is one of the two newcomers in the Top 50 (with the Peugeot 208), landing at #45 with 59,328 units. Further down, notice the Kia Cee'd up to #59, the Audi Q3 up to #63 and the Mercedes M-Class up to #108.

Among other new models for 2012, the Mazda CX-5 is up to #136, the VW Beetle up to #142, the Dacia Lodgy up to #163 with 9,200 sales, the Skoda Citigo up to #168, the Seat Mii up to #185, the Kia Optima up to #233, the Peugeot 4008 up to #251 and the Toyota GT86 up to #257.

The Toyota Prius has now a little more room to breathe in the hybrid/electric cars ranking, pointing its bonnet at #138 with 13,552 sales while the Lexus CT is down to #155 at 10,520 units. The Opel Ampera is up to #221 ahead of the Nissan Leaf down to #231 but passing the Honda Insight, down to #236 while the Toyota Prius+ makes its first appearance in the European ranking at #243 with 1,640 sales, followed by the Honda CR-Z down to #250. Note overall European sales of Chevrolet Volt are unavailable at this stage.

A few other models show themselves for the first time: the Volvo V40 lands directly at #246 with 1,588 sales, the Chevrolet Camaro ranks #248 with 1,586 units, the Lexus GS is #258 with 1,187 sales, the Lancia Flavia is #286, the Ford B-Max is #298, the Peugeot 301 #314, the Citroen C-Elysee #316, the Dacia Dokker #319 and the Renault Zoe #324 with 11 units sold.

The second half of the ranking still features a good number of luxury cars totally unaffected by the gloomy European sales context. The Porsche Cayenne is up to #143, the Mercedes CLS at #177, the Porsche Panamera at #201, the Bentley Continental GT/GTC is #261, the Ferrari 458 Italia #262, the Mercedes SLS AMG #271, the Audi R8 #277, the Aston Martin V8/V12 Vantage #283, the Ferrari California #284, the Maserati GranTurismo #290, the Rolls Royce Ghost #299 and the Lamborghini Aventador at #304.

You can check out the entire Top 325 best-selling models in Europe over 7 months 2012 here

Note: The Top 325 ranking include sales in Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the UK.

Matt Gasnier, based in Sydney, Australia, runs a blog named Best Selling Cars, dedicated to counting cars all over the world.

from The Truth About Cars

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

LeMons Texas Day 1: 280ZX Leads, Audi Quattro Likes Rain, LeMons EV Makes Debut

After seeing some very promising machinery during the Friday prerace inspections, we were geared up for an exciting Saturday race session. However, things got a little more exciting than we'd hoped for, with blinding sheets of rain gushing down for much of the day and legions of race cars spinning off into the swampy muck surrounding the racing surface at MSR Houston. When the checkered flag finally came out, a dominating Datsun stood in the lead.

The Z-Wrecks '81 280ZX took the win on laps at the Yee-Haw It's Texas LeMons race at Texas World Speedway in February, and the ancient Datsun has contended at most Texas races during the couple of years. As of Saturday night, this car held a three-lap lead over its closest rival. The formula remains the same as ever: reliable car, quick laps, no black flags.

In P2 is another Nissan Z, this time the '87 300ZX of Back To The Past Racing. Z cars haven't done so well in LeMons racing (given their large representation in the series), so to have them in the first two spots (plus another in seventh) is unprecedented.

On the same lap as the 300ZX, we have the '93 Ford Taurus SHO of Team Redneck Debacle. LeMons racers in Texas love the SHO, and we've seen a few of the Yamaha-engined Fords take overall wins here in the past.

The team that was hoping for rain all day instead of just three-quarters of the day is the Blue Goose '84 Audi 4000S Quattro. This team is just one lap behind the P2 and P3 cars and leading Class B by a commanding five laps. If the downpour continues on Sunday, the Audi has a shot at being the first example of its marque to take an overall LeMons win.

Class C is turning out to be a real slog for the teams involved. At the moment, the Team Sensory Assault Mazda RX-2 holds a one-lap lead over the Apex Vinyl six-wheeled Toyota Hilux.

This Datsun B210 with exquisitely 1980s body kit still isn't running, but we're hoping that it will hit the track first thing on Sunday. Just look at it!

We've been waiting for years to get the first electric-powered 24 Hours of LeMons car, and it finally happened on Saturday. The Hoonatic Racing Datsun Sports 2000 Roadster, equipped with forklift motor and bank of lead-acid batteries, hummed onto the track and brought LeMons into the EV era.

The batteries came from Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans, and they seemed to offer enough power reserve to allow a fair number of laps for the Datsun

Unfortunately, the car ran out of electrons earlier than expected, and the car was creeping along at about 5 MPH by the time it had navigated three-quarters of the course. Things Will Be Different at the next race!

After residents of Lubbock fretted about the United Nations invading Texas, the LeMons Supreme Court felt it had no choice but to have a United Nations Texas Occupation Force penalty for bad drivers, complete with goose-stepping blue-helmeted stormtroopers and Texans filling out UN Tax Form 666. They'll think twice before going four-wheels-off next time!

Read full story »

from Car and Driver Blog

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