The Sun is Setting

A Road & Track article was recently released saying that Ford has filed for the name “Skyline” to their trademark list. While Ford did have trim levels with the name Skyline in the past, and there was a concept with the name Skyliner in it, Ford is not the manufacturer most notable for the name.

In the automotive enthusiast world, Nissan is the manufacturer that comes to mind when the name Skyline is said. While the newest Nissan flagship sports car is called the GT-R, it used to carry the name Skyline, but never has in the United States officially. That is because up until the R35, the car was never officially sold here in the States. However, if it had, up until the R35, the cars had the name of Nissan Skyline GT-R. The R35 that was sold in the America did not have the Skyline name, and I’m not really sure if it did anywhere else except Japan, if it even did there either.

While you might be thinking to yourself, gosh, why is Ford encroaching on Nissan territory and how much more could Ford ruin good names? I am going to approach this from a different angle. My beef is with Nissan. Why doesn’t Nissan care enough to keep that name? Nissan has an upcoming new Z car that will launch soon, but goodness gracious, they have a lineup that is long in the tooth and they have for a number of years now, been staying in business by fleet sales. Nissan tends to be the punch line of many jokes. They are not helping themselves by neglecting to keep the Skyline name in their library just in case. It is sad to say, but the sun is setting on the Skyline name and possibly even Nissan itself.

Why I think E-ZPass is Useless

Back in July 2020, my wife and I finally decided to get an E-ZPass. We do frequent trips where we cross bridges, tunnels, and roads that utilize it and with the world wide condition, we were thinking it would be faster, easier, and cheaper just to get an E-ZPass for all of our future travels.

To make a very long story short, it really did not do what we thought it would. When we pulled up to booth after booth, the device would not register. At one point, we stopped at an E-ZPass station in Delaware, and they said that while they felt bad for me, they could not help me because they can only assist customers with a Delaware issued E-ZPass. Mine was Virginia issued. I was absolutely livid.

Upon returning home, I decided to look into a tip my brother in-law shared with me during our travels. He remembered reading somewhere that certain vehicles, and more specifically, my 2003 Buick Rendezvous has been known to have a windshield that does not work well, or at all, with E-ZPass. I researched into that more and in fact found that to be true. There is a list of vehicles that I found on a document from the E-ZPass website that listed the Buick Rendezvous as a “Special Vehicle.”

There is apparently something in the windshield of a Buick Rendezvous that prevents the E-ZPass transponder from being read by the booths. That is really weird, because I do believe before I owned the Rendezvous, my dad replaced the windshield. I guess even replacement windshields have that same issue?

My biggest beef with all of this is the following. When I walked into the E-ZPass store (I didn’t buy online), WHY DID THEY NOT TELL ME MY CAR WAS ON THE SPECIAL VEHCILES LIST? They knew what vehicle I had because they manually entered it into the computer. The system should have red flagged that immediately. It is very frustrating.

To add insult to injury, the E-ZPass rate for the Cheasapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, which we travel across frequently, is no cheaper than if you were to pay by cash or card at the booth. Yes, they take card. But the rates are all the same. The only advantage to E-ZPass is you don’t have to stop for the length of time to exchange money. Not much of a real time saving if I’m honest. I do find it humorous that on the CBBT website they use the silhouette of a Nissan GT-R as the reference vehicle and they show it can apparently tow a three axle trailer.

Overall, I do like when we use our Ford Focus to go on trips. The E-ZPass makes traveling in that car a breeze. But, 50% is a fail. E-ZPass, you really should let people know.

Thankfully, most of the time the booths just run the plate and charge me through the E-ZPass that way, so I still get the possible discounts, if applicable. Which leads to a whole new point. Why is the device needed at all? Just scan plates and bill. And at that point, E-ZPass is just the middle man. Stupid E-ZPass. Absolutely useless.

The next big car thing

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What could be the next big automotive trend? There are so many out there and there can be so many ahead of us. Some might transition into something different, some might go away, and some new things might spring up. Here are two quick things that I think might happen within the next 3 years.

Safari outfitting seems to be picking up in popularity. Having that process done to the most normal of cars, like a Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, or Ford Fusion, that would be something that might happen, but it isn’t an every person common thing to do, so if it were big, it would be only within the automotive community enthusiasts. Similar to that, the YouTube channel B is for Build is creating an off-road Lamborghini. That reminds me of the battle cars/baja/safari movement that is around and seems to come and go. But as customization pushes its limits in downforce and speed, a whole new door is opening up in the off road segment.

The other trend that might go big, as crazy as this sounds, is retro micro car comeback. Swapping high horsepower motor cycle engines or just straight up beastly car engines into 1990s Ford Tempos, Geo Metros, and other insanely small cars from the 80s, 90s and early 00s. I just get that inclination from seeing not one, but two Ford Festivas and a Geo Metro lately. It makes me think that these will come back around again. Then people will give them high horsepower, combined with retro charm, and light weight, it is a recipe for insanity, which is exactly what the internet thrives on.

Should Models be Brands?

 

The subject of should models become brands has been relevant and important lately. I have had conversations with family and friends about the subject since some have texted me wondering why certain car manufacturers are doing certain business decisions. So, here is my take on should car models become brands.

In 2009, Dodge/Chrysler/Daimler/FCA split off the Ram pickup truck from Dodge and created their own brand from that model. That has been a very successful decision. Hyundai has split Genesis off into its own luxury brand, copying a page from Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti recipe, but also making a brand from a model. Chevrolet has rumored that they might consider making the Corvette a brand in itself. Manufacturers have split models into brands in the past, some have success and some were a failure.

Now, Ford wants to make a Mustang a brand, starting with the all-electric SUV, the Mach E. There is also a rumor that they want to make the Bronco a brand as well. Although, what doesn’t make sense is how they use the Raptor nameplate. They utilize that name for the F-150 Raptor, and Ranger Raptor, but apparently that name will not be utilized to distinguish a more powerful Bronco. A beefy Bronco is rumored to be called a Warthog. Confusing, but whatever.

What Ford should learn though, is they have almost been in this situation before. They had Mercury, that they closed because they couldn’t seem to explain to buyers why they should pay more for a car that is identical to the Ford equivalent. Lincoln almost had the same fate. Hopefully, they have learned from those experiences and don’t mess up a new Mustang or Bronco brand. Toyota and Subaru are also the same boat. They had the Toyota 86, the Subaru BRZ, and the Scion FRS all on the market at one time. And now they are almost doing the same thing, but instead of the Scion available, the Supra has taken that slot. We will have to see how this goes. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if Nissan does this with their Z car. Especially with the launch of the new 400Z. The Z name is known by people both with and without automotive knowledge so that would be a good start for them.

What do you think? Should auto manufacturers start making separate brands from their successful models?

Panther Popularity

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My parents in law have recently purchased a 2004 Lincoln Town Car. In reality, that “recent” was actually back in May. That is how long it has taken me to get to finishing this blog. Since that time, I have been noticing the rise of the Panther platform popularity.

The Panther platform is a frame that the Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis, and Lincoln Town Car are all attached to. It has been around for a long time and has been produced in the millions. It is somewhat easy to work on and parts are plentiful. Since they are easily found for cheap at public auctions after their public service has come to an end, these cars are an inexpensive, reliable vehicle to add to your garage.

I recently watched one of Cleetus McFarlands YouTube about preparing for the 2.4 hours of LeMullets. They have over 20 Ford Crown Victorias competing and over 50 in inventory. They have even have a full time Crown Vic mechanic. The internet has complained to him that he is single handedly causing the prices of these cars to increase. Cleetus says he is not and I believe him. These cars are just becoming popular in general and finding really clean examples is becoming difficult. YouTubers are using these cars left and right. A long while back on Hot Rod Garage, they took an old F150 and put it on a panther platform Crown Victoria.

I have grown to really like these cars. Especially for the straight up utilitarian use that they were made for. Those raw, simple characteristics, along with the sheer amount of them that were produced at a current, relatively cheap price are what attract me to the Panther platform vehicles.

While they are cheap, I still can’t quite afford one. I have resorted buying diecast versions. They are cheap and fun. Maybe someday I’ll be able to afford a real one. Owning a big cat sounds fun. For the time being, I’ll just have to take my in-laws Town Car for a spin when I visit

The Byron Bet

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I wish I had gone to a university that sponsored a NASCAR team.

After Jeff Gordon departed from NASCAR, the number 24 car was left open in the Rick Hendrick stable. While Chase Elliott was chosen to fill that seat immediately, everyone knew Chase would go on to pilot the 9, like his dad, so everyone wondered who would eventually take the wheel of the 24. When the dust settled and the ink dried, William Byron, at the age of 20, was going to be driving the iconic number 24 Chevrolet Camaro.

Now, after 2 years, he has no wins, only 22 top 10 finishes, and 5 poles. Sadly, he has not been all that successful even though he has Chad Knaus as his crew chief. Chad helped another driver at Hendrick, Jimmie Johnson, win seven championships. William has the best racing equipment money can buy with one of the best crew chiefs and yet he can’t seem to put it all together to get the car to victory lane.

William reminds me of the third Cars movie. He is very good at virtual racing and training on simulators. We saw during the hiatus that he is clearly good at iRacing. He won twice during the break for the pandemic. But, he isn’t quite like the Cars movie in regard to the digital talent translating to the real-life track. Maybe he should simply stick to virtual racing? NASCAR might be branching off in that direction someday sooner rather than later, and he could be a star that transitions from real life to virtual.

I don’t want to speak ill of him though. He might simply be in a situation like Joey Lagano was. Even though Joey had top tier equipment at JGR in his first few years, he certainly wasn’t showing the results of having it. Once he moved to Penske, he has won numerous times and even has a championship to his name. Could Byron still be getting his legs in the sport, and need to move to a different team to experience success? Only time will tell with that. but I do think that this might be the case. I think he still needs time and potentially a new team or manufacturer in order to start experiencing success. That is what I am betting on. The real question will be if he will ever leave Hendrick?

Lastly, but more of a side note. Byron attends Liberty University, that also sponsors him. I wonder if he pays tuition? I am also somewhat jealous because I went to Regent University, a rival to Liberty. Regent is not anywhere near Liberty in regard to campus size, student population, sports, or anything else, except maybe the televangelists that founded each of them, and they are both in Virginia. I would have loved to have gone to a school that sponsored a NASCAR team, even if it was a non-winning driver.

Bronco Launch: Boom or Bust?

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Ford introduced the Bronco on Monday night and it was met with great fanfare and rejoicing. I have been incredibly excited for it to debut and would love to have put down a deposit on one. The website to reserve one crashed almost immediately. It will be a very successful and popular vehicle. But for as hyped as the Bronco was, the launch, especially being all virtual, did not go as well as it could have in my opinion, and here is why.

Ford teamed up with Disney Creativeworks to create three short films about the Bronco directed by Jimmy Chin. You can watch each film here, here, and here. They were shown around the 8 o’clock hour on Monday, July 13th. One on ABC, one on ESPN, and the last National Geographic. Ford also did a virtual launch on their YouTube channel.

After watching all three, I now see what Ford was trying to do and where they were trying to go. They are trying to say get off your butt and go out in nature. Stop watching it on TV, get in a Bronco, and go live. They want to show they are going back to their roots, ready to tackle the tough terrain and take on Jeep. It is showing that Ford has climbed up out of there old ways because each film has climbing in it. Jimmy is not just an award-winning film director, he is also a climber. That is evident in all three short films that he made. The climbing aspect was much better in Jimmy’s own film than it was in the other two.

Jimmy’s own film was just much better overall. He did better at making the Bronco a part of his story, sort of like a supporting role, rather than just a vehicle being driven by a celebrity. I do not want to belittle those celebrities either. Their stories were amazing and they are awesome people. I just don’t think Jimmy could incorporate the Bronco into them as well and it seemed more forced and less natural. But that is simply my opinion.

The main issue I have is this. For as much hype that had been put into these films and the Bronco launch in general, it was insanely overrated. It is also ridiculously hard to find where they said they said they were going to place these films. They said they would be available on Hulu starting July 14th, the day after the launch. Maybe they were there. I wasn’t able to check. But, I did check on July 16th and did not find them. I searched, but I didn’t see anything Ford or Bronco related. Therefore, I went to YouTube. All three films are there but they have so few views in my opinion. Ford really dropped the ball on these films, I think. The most views one of the films has is 272,000. You might think that is a lot, but when you look at the live launch they debuted on YouTube, that video has over 2.8 million views. The films to me were a total dud and a total distraction.

Ford has had issues with launches in the past, especially the Explorer. If you want to hand Ford a pass because of the pandemic, that is fine. I will cut them a little slack. But really, they have rumored the Bronco for YEARS. Ford kept changing the date because the first launch date was set to be in the spring of 2020. Then the pandemic hit and caused them to set a new date. That date was July 9th, which was OJ Simpson’s birthday. How did they not know that? When your vehicle is associated with something like that, one would think a simple Google search would tell you a birthday? Not intentionally doing that, and wanting to not cause controversy, they moved it to July 13th and said all 3 films would come out across 3 Disney network of channels. Then there would also be something on YouTube. Yet, in none of these did a CEO get up and say anything about the vehicle, or show one in action in real life. Everything was staged and filmed prior. Nothing was live. There were hardly any facts given that we didn’t already know.

If it seems like I am ranting and long-winded it is because I can’t seem to articulate how confusing this launch was. My point is this. It should have been a very simple, inspiring, and proud event. In reality, it had very few of those things.

Let me be clear though. The Bronco launch did not fail. There was so much hype about it to begin with that it really couldn’t fail. It just wasn’t as amazing as it could or should have been in my journalism degree, automotive enthusiast opinion.

Crossing the Country Really Fast

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The subject of Cannonball has been incredibly popular in the last few weeks. Prior to that, it had been somewhat of a novel automotive hobby that was starting to gain popularity again thanks to Ed Bolian and VINwiki and the “fraternity of lunatics.”

Recently, the solo cannonball record fell, which, surprisingly enough, beat Ed’s record run that had lasted up until November 2019. Then during the pandemic, many attempts were made and the record just kept getting lower and lower. A point could be made that the pandemic made it easier to cross the country from the Red Ball parking garage in New York City to the Portofino Hotel in Redondo Beach, California. Maybe there should be a separate record category for the pandemic runs? I was curious to know what Ed would think, since he seems to be the face of all of this. He described in a video that the situation is different than it was before the pandemic and there is some controversy among those in the activity, but this isn’t exactly an activity with defined rules.

With that said, back to the solo cannonball run. It was done in a rented Ford Mustang that was modified to hold 3 fuel tanks in the cabin of the car. The driver only had to stop for 8 minutes to get fuel. And this is what I started to ponder, could those 8 minutes be eliminated with on the move refueling?

BMW created a system to refuel a car while moving when they attempted the longest drift record. It looks similar to the way aircraft refuel in flight. If this system was applied to cannonball, where you could get a lighter, faster, (electronic speed limiter turned off), and covert car that gobbles up ground quickly, it would be a very serious record breaking run.

Wrangler Raptor Bronco Battle

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A few weeks ago, I commented on a Ford Bronco post on social media that was about how Ford thinks the new Bronco will eat the Jeep Wrangler for lunch (I’m not really sure where the exact quote about that is). My comment was, that on paper, the new Bronco looks to be a superior off-road vehicle to the Jeep. Many people quickly commented back saying that being able to make a prediction like that is not sound and that there is one crippling feature the Bronco does not have which will always make the Jeep superior.

That feature is a solid front axle. Jeeps always reign supreme because of having a solid front axle. The Bronco will be coming with independent front suspension. While I completely agree, that my opinion about the Bronco on paper is premature to call it superior to the Jeep without actually physically being able to compare them yet, I had to really think about the solid front axle issue.

After thinking long and hard about it, I concluded that I believe the Bronco is intended to be a different kind of off-road vehicle. I am not saying that the Bronco should not be compared to the Jeep, but I think the type of off-roading each vehicle is good at is slightly different. Jeep is intended for mountainous trails with steep inclines and jagged rocks. The Raptor and soon to be Bronco are created for desert trails and speed. That conclusion was solidified when I watched one of Doug DeMuros recent videos about the Jeep Mojave. I think Jeep built the new Mojave to specifically go head to head with the new Bronco in desert speed. The Fox shocks installed on the Mojave is almost the sole reason I think this.

What vehicle are Fox shocks famously found on? Oh yeah, the Ford Raptor. While no one is exactly comparing a Raptor to a Jeep, the Raptor is an insane desert off-roader. That is the type of driving I believe that the Bronco will fulfill to an even greater degree, but also tackle mountainous trails in an above-average way than what the Raptor currently does. This is why I think Jeep is installing Fox shocks, increasing the speed in low gear via the transfer case, and raising the ride height of the Mojave to prepare to compete with the Bronco on desert trail running. They know the Bronco is a threat and they are preparing for it. On the flip side, one could wonder why Jeep is moving away from “Trail Rated” and now placing “Desert Rated” badges on the Mojave? I think they want to show dominance in all areas first.

All of this makes sense when you look at the type of vehicles most popularly used for desert rally and endurance racing. Trophy trucks and the H1 Hummer are not exactly solid axle. The rear axle of a trophy truck is solid, but the front is independent and Hummers are portal. Looking at those vehicles and knowing that the Raptor is built to be with those vehicles, I believe it is safe to assume that the Bronco, with its independent suspension, is intended to join those vehicles playing in the sandbox.

One last side point is the modification capability of each vehicle. A point I made in my comment on social media was that the Jeep culture is vast and strong, and the aftermarket modification parts, capability, and customization is enormous. The Bronco out of the box will not have that. It will take some time for the aftermarket accessories to increase and bugs to be ironed out.

Even with all of this, I am incredibly excited for the Bronco to come on the market. Choices and competition are amazing and this will only make the off-road segment even more popular. Although, most of these will probably never leave the asphalt.

Did Kyle Really Wreck Chase?

Last Wednesday we saw towards the end of the race at Darlington, Kyle Busch slide up and bump the left rear of Chase Elliott causing him to slide into the inside wall and take him out of the race. That has since exploded into the headlines and has caused quite a stir among fans and non fans alike.

It is understandable that Chase was not a happy camper. Kyle claimed it was a mistake on his end. Even though he owned up to it, it didn’t make Chase or his crew chief feel much better. Many people believe Kyle intentionally wrecked Chase. While I am a fan of Kyle, and I’m not going to defend him exactly, I want to look at the situation and point out a few things

First, no matter how professional someone is, they are human and can still and do make mistakes.

Second, it has been a while since they have been in the cars. They have been doing iRacing, which is vastly different than real life.

Thirdly, the spotters are not in their normal positions. If you’ve ever stood in the top row at one of the tracks, it’s very hard to see the front stretch when the cars are up against the wall. Considering that is where the incident occurred, it makes sense the spotters might not have been much help there.

Fourth and lastly, really look and watch the footage. If you watch, when Chase and Denny pass Kyle who goes to the inside in/off turn four, they are bumper to bumper and cruising. Since Chase was so close to Denny coming off turn four, then as they went down the front stretch, Chase does not seem to stay connected to Denny. He slows down and begins to put a full car length gap in between them. At that point I think Kyle is mirror driving to make sure Kevin Harvick is not coming up too fast to prevent him from going up and getting in line. The problem really is that it seems that the entire top line slows down at the same pace. Kyle continues the pace he was holding and simply moved up into a gap he thought was there. You might see it differently, but I have simply shared my view and opinion of the situation.

Look closely at the shadow gap between Denny and Chase. It gets much larger as it goes down the front stretch.

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I find it interesting that probably the most controversial drivers, Kyle Busch, has created a huge ripple with the sports most popular driver, Chase Elliott. It makes for great entertainment and a YouTuber that I follow, David Land, sums it up well in his video. I’m so glad NASCAR is back and this situation, regardless of which side you are on, has elevated the sport into everyday conversation. That type of marketing is priceless.

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You can’t quite see Chase’s left headlight.

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Now you can see the left headlight. Kyle is now moving up.

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Look at the gap! That is a whole car length behind Denny.

Let me know below what you think.