Automotive Name Game

Lately the automotive manufacturers seem to think that old names of cars should be revived. Some are putting their old car names on EV’s, some on SUV’s, and some are considering making entire brands out of them. No matter which way it happens to go, an automotive enthusiast is going to have something to say about it. The general public is going to have something to say about it too. Those two opinions might not be aligned.

The most recent, and potentially the most pivotal in terms of future unaffordable super/exotic/hyper cars, is that Lamborghini is reviving the Countach name. The Countach came out in 1974 as a wedge shaped, futuristic, made for speed vehicle. It was incredibly polarizing. By the end of its run in 1990 it grew to be an absolutely iconic, obnoxious, and completely impractical vehicle. But that was the point. Contrary to what most modern supercar owners do today, which is daily drive their quarter of a million dollar or more cars, the 1990 Countach was a loud 12 cylinder, painful cockpit, with brandishing looks that would gobble up miles on weekends in short bursts then be put away for 99.9% of the week, or more.

With styling, performance, and function all vital to understanding of what we know of as a specifically named vehicle, the Countach has a lot to live up to. It makes me wonder why they brought it back? Lamborghini has had no trouble coming up with names for vehicles. In my opinion, there was no need to bring back the Countach name. Ford has already shown how when you murky the water, you cause confusion. The Mustang Mach E and the Bronco Sport are prime examples.

I thought Lamborghini was smarter than that. A poster car of so many is now being brought back to life, but with a modern twist. If this is a production vehicle, which is unclear yet at the time of writing, it will really change the game for what these exclusive manufacturers might do. Granted, a lot of them already still have their legacy name plates or have brought back vehicles similar to them, without the old names. But the EV transformation could easily usher in a new Mercedes 300 SL (probably with slight change to EL), Ferrari F40 (probably to E40), Aston Martin DB5, even a McLaren F1. If you think I’m wrong or crazy, I get it, but I didn’t think the Countach would come back, yet here we are.

Consumers crazed with nostalgia are feeding the manufacturers with ideas that they want old cars. While that is true, we don’t actually want old car names. We want the idea of what old cars with iconic names have become. We want the limited edition, exclusive, fast, loud, and glorious looking vehicles that we grew up fantasizing about as kids. If the companies want to play games to see what works, fine, but to me a name is important. I’ll play. But, they should know, my bar is high.

The next big car thing

nbt

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.

Need For Speed

My brother and I were recently talking about the game Need for Speed, and how after many iterations, it has lost out fans because of one specific game in the franchise. Apparently, that game, required internet to play. There was no way to play offline, which would be a huge deterrent. Since then, the franchise has struggled to get into gamers good graces.

As my brother pointed out, Forza and Grand Turismo are basically simulators rather than play for fun games.

So what would a new Need for Speed look like? Both gamers and car guys are, I think, the overlap in a venn diagram.

Right now, from a car guy standpoint, you have to put cars that are super popular in real life on the cover. A Datsun 510 would turn enough heads. If you want to really throw in a spark, put a GMC Syclone or a Porsche 944. Of course exotic cars are always a draw, but hyper cars tend to be the real show stopper now days. Cars like a McLaren Senna, Pagani Huayra, Koenigsegg Regera, are a bit more attention grabbing to enthusiasts, and still just as appealing to non enthusiasts.

Although, mentioning the GMC and the Porsche got me thinking that an expansion DLC for a Radwood edition would be REALLY popular.

I also recently read an article about how Road & Track had a hand in the original Need for Speed game. Back then, they pioneered the driving connection to the car. As the games increased, Road & Track parted ways. But ever since 2005 when Need for Speed Most Wanted came out, the game has gone down hill. I started to ask myself why.

I think that the game needs to get back to two anchors that made the game what it was. First, as debuted in Underground, they need to allow major modifications to the cars. For example, 2JZ swap a Lamborghini or safari a 94 Acura Legend. Let people get really creative with body kits, engine swaps, colors, lighting, interior, etc. A computer can swap out interiors and engines on a whim. Make it happen.

Second, and most importantly, is to have the ability to race and/or be pursued, at any time, anywhere in the game, in a semi realistic way. The original game was all about fast racing. Hot Pursuit was all about being chased. Suspension of disbelief is hard to achieve in a racing video game, especially if you are not making a simulator. But if there are options, like turning on and off damage, having a speed ratio to what is equipped on the car, and factoring in environmental effects like weather, are all things that have to have a delicate balance to give game players an extremely fun experience, but also have it be somewhat believable. To accomplish this, get a small group of strictly gamers, strictly car people, and people who know both, to accomplish the right balance for the game. If those things could be accomplished, Need for Speed can make an awesome comeback.

Bronco Launch: Boom or Bust?

bronco-launch

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.

Automotive Literature

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It was during a study hall my junior year of high school that a huge aspect of my automotive passion grew into something far larger than just being a kid who liked cars. I wanted to do something with that passion. The pivotal moment was seeing the January 2007 Automobile magazine with the Nissan GT-R concept on the cover. After picking it up and soaking in every bit of information about that car, along with all of Ezra Dyer and Jean Jennings article, I made up my mind. I wanted to be an automotive journalist.

Upon going into my senior year, I took all the journalism classes in high school I could. I was late to the party on most, being that many were designed to be taken as a freshman so you could write for the school paper by your senior year. So, I didn’t get to do that. But every class assignment I wrote was car related some how.

I wasn’t keen on going to college but my parents wanted me to, so I went. I was accepted into Regent University, the first and only college I applied for. They didn’t have a journalism program for undergrad when I arrived, but by my sophomore year a bachelors journalism program was created and I immediately declared that my major. All throughout college I wrote about cars for every assignment that was students choice to write about. The school had no newspaper, and was pioneering the digital media segment. I wasn’t on any of those teams or classes, so there was not a lot of potential from my school to really get a solid foundation towards a career in journalism.

Even though the internet was becoming a large source for up to date automotive content, automotive magazines were some of my favorite things to get information from. It was also a lot of fun to get things in the mail. Plus they could be had for so cheap, that even as a college kid, I could afford them. Automobile, Road & Track, Car and Driver, Motor Trend, and Hot Rod, showed up on my doorstep faithfully every month. Flipping through the pages, seeing the wonderful images of cars in hand, smelling the paper that was freshly printed, it was wonderful.

Sadly, I never took the necessary steps to get into the automotive community. My passion was still primarily a dream. I didn’t own a cool car, I never applied for internships (the economy was really sucky from 07-11 while I was in college), and sadly, I didn’t utilize the internet to my advantage. I blame myself for a lot of missed opportunities and not working hard enough to become an automotive journalist. I never really believed in myself to achieve my dream.

Regardless of what happened in the past, automotive literature has kept my spark alive. I was able to write for Barn Finds for a while, which was an awesome opportunity. Now, I am taking my automotive passion and actually applying myself. These blogs will hopefully keep coming. I appreciate all of you who read them.

The Concept that keeps on Giving

1999_Dodge_ChargerRTConcept1

I’ll never forget being in 5th grade, 1999, sitting in the computer lab at school on one of those shiny, new, colorful Mac computers. We were accessing the internet, which was still a fascinating thing, and a page loaded displaying the image above. The glorious Dodge Charger R/T concept.

I had always been a fan of Dodge products, even at that age. The Dodge Ram, especially the one driven by Walker Texas Ranger, was my favorite truck. Maybe I’ll write a blog about that later. But, back to this Charger concept. It has stuck with me ever since. Not long after seeing it, I was able to by it in as a Hot Wheel. That car is still one of the highlights of my collection.

Now, 21 years later, it is absolutely awesome to see the design elements live on in the current generation Dodge Charger. Sure, the style elements didn’t fully come into effect until the Charger name came back in 2006, and many of them were missing on the production model. But, as time has shown, the newest Chargers, especially from the side and back, take many elements from that 1999 concept.

I applaud FCA for making the absolute most out of a design that was drawn up over 20 years ago. They found a secret recipe and know what customers like and want. Plus they have saved lots of money over the years by not having to retool for new styles. My wife and I have agreed that a Charger would defiantly be a car we both would like to own and drive.

Fun fact, I had this blog drafted up 8 years ago, with the title being 12 Years Ago. It is awesome that even after that amount of time, the Charger is still going strong and has only gotten better looking based off that original concept.

The 411 of the 944

porsche 944

Being an automotive enthusiast, I know I should have some crazy obsession with Porsche, but I have never found them to be appealing. It is not that I dislike them, and no, I have not driven one. Their styling has never caught my eye and I tend to like things that everyone else doesn’t. Porsche doesn’t fit that mold. I have sat in a few. My 6’4″ height makes the ergonomics of the ones I’ve sat in less comfortable than a shorter person might find.

However, there is one Porsche that I have always had a fascination with ever since high school, and that was back in 2007. That Porsche is a 944. It has not always had the love and admiration as other models. The front-engine layout does not give it the performance capabilities that the most iconic Porsche cars have either. Those are exactly the qualities that drew me to it. That and the price, especially over 13 years ago. Although, I couldn’t afford one then and sadly, I can’t yet now either, even though I  wish I could. It would be a good investment and a great car, especially and entry Porsche, to drive.

Now, in 2020, the 944 is becoming a star. The prices are going up, the popularity is increasing, and it is finally becoming a Porsche that people appreciate. One of the coolest ways to acquire one at the moment without breaking the bank is by buying the new casting for 2020 by Hot Wheels. I currently have one in red, which is the launch color for the casting and a gold one is on the way. While it would be nice to own one in real life, I can at least be satisfied in this one for the time being.