Monthly Archives: September 2015

VW’s dirty house of lies collapses

Dear Volkswagen,

You’re dead to us.

Not a clean machine but we weren't told otherwise

Not a clean machine but we weren’t told otherwise

When you write about cars it’s natural that friends and family ask you for advice when they’re in the market for something new.  Over the past few years, we haven’t hesitated to heartily recommend any and all diesel-powered Volkswagens because our experience with the current generation VW TDI diesel has been a very happy one since an ’09 Jetta SportWagen found its way to our driveway.

Dirty trucker

Dirty little trucker

That all ended a day or so ago when news broke that we’ve been duped in no uncertain terms. VW (and Audi) admitted that TDI-equipped cars (this so-called ‘clean diesel’ motor is available, for a premium, across many model lines including Beetle, Golf, Jetta, Passat, A3) have been fitted with software to deliberately violate Clean Air Act emissions laws.  

Oil burning bunny

Oil burning bunny

That’s right, VW TDIs passed emissions tests because “defeat” software was programmed to stifle emissions when the cars were tested but allowed them to emit up to 40 times the legally allowed amount of potential carcinogens into the environment under normal use. This is a literal “dirty trick,” if ever there was. We’re painfully aware that at least three people took our solicited advice and bought or leased a “Clean Diesel” VW.

When they were honest

When they were honest

Volkswagen was a pioneer in equipping passenger cars with diesels for quite some time as photos of surviving diesel Rabbits, an appliance white sedan and beige pick up, attest.  After some quiet years, VW’s US diesel program roared back to life for the 2009 model year with the launch of the TDI “Clean Diesel.”  While, perhaps, not as polluting as the superannuated Rabbits seen here, we’ve found out they’re far from “clean.”

Pre-clean but honest

Pre-clean but honest

We are disappointed that VW engaged in egregious deception and fear that the “fix,” once vehicles are recalled and software is recalibrated,  will diminish performance and fuel economy.  Overnight, we’ve gone from fanboy status to major haters, a consequence of VW’s cheating, snookering consumers and despoiling the environment.   It all makes us yearn for the “good old days” when diesels weren’t marketed as “clean” by a campaign of overt lies.

If you’d like to drive down memory lane, we suggest “the highest mileage car in America,” the Volkswagen diesel for ’81 when they, perhaps, told some semblance of truth.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

Savoring aged ‘burbans

Three's company

Three’s company. We’re pretty sure this is a ’71

It’s a fact, Suburban is the automotive nameplate that’s been in continuous use longer than any other model designation.  The name debuted more than 80 years ago with the introduction of the Chevy Carryall Suburban.  Ultimately, “Carryall” was dispensed with but the Suburban name was also applied to a GMC badge-engineered clone that became known as Yukon XL back in 2000.

Nobody forgot to close the barn doors. Note: Yukon plates

Nobody forgot to close the barn doors. Note: Yukon plates but it’s not a Yukon. (photo by Feral Cars Field Scout Tim Merlis)

In recent years, with the explosion of SUV sales, these behemoths have been transformed from the utilitarian vehicles they had been to luxury barges that are used in lieu of limousines and have supplanted minivans as the vehicles of choice for soccer moms.  The current, squared-off Suburban could easily double as a hearse and weighs almost three tons and manages to squeeze 16 paltry miles out of gallon of gas in city driving.  So much for sustainability!

Three to go

Just one for the road (side).

The point of this post is not to disparage the current Suburban (and Yukon XL) — which we kind of just did — but to celebrate earlier iterations which were, admittedly, huge but, somehow, more appropriate sans all the luxury accoutrements — like multiple doors.

Barn doors or tail gate? The choice was yours.

Barn doors or tail gate? The choice was yours. Note: iconic midcentury Eichler house in b.g.

Yes, earlier generation Suburbans came with one door on the driver’s side and two on the passenger side, the logic being that you didn’t need a door to get into the back because the vehicle is typically loaded from the right side.  This format lasted for 38 years plausibly,  because nobody cared all that much.  By the middle ’70s the idea of truck-based SUVs used as private passenger vehicles started to take hold and GM saw fit to cut another door into the driver’s side.

Pre-Yukon GMC

Pre-Yukon GMC

Speaking of doors, there was a time when you had a choice of a tailgate or panel doors (we like to call them “barn doors”) in the back.  That era of choice ended ten years ago with current models equipped only with tailgates.  Talk about bait and switch:  “Look, here’s that door you wanted. Oh, the ones in the back?  We don’t have those anymore.”

"Charp!"

“Charp!”

While we don’t, typically, do many posts about trucks we’ve decided to make an exception in the case of the Suburban in a salute to its ultra tenured status and the fact that we think old ones are much cooler than current ones.

Brick house on wheels

Brick house on wheels

Suburbans have been sold in many parts of the world including Australia where they wore Holden badges, the Middle East and Mexico.  Here’s a great commercial for the ’87 Suburban from our not yet walled-in neighbor to the south. “!Si, es lo más práctico!”

There are lots of older Suburbans out there that can be yours for the right price but not all that many with 3-doors for people and barn doors for cargo.  This one in nearby Seattle WA is offered for a buck under $17K and has been “pimped” to some extent.  Not sure what it would take to de-pimpify it but whatever the figure would be money well spent because we like to “keep it real.”

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

Nova: GM’s UAW-built Japanese car made in California

Bowtie in front, Japanese guts

Chevy bow tie up front, Toyota parts everywhere else

Let’s give an almost-Labor Day shout out to the UAW members who worked at NUMMI in Freemont, California between 1984 and 2010.  New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. was a joint venture of GM and Toyota on the site on an old GM plant.  The idea was for GM to learn the ways of Japanese manufacturing efficiencies and for Toyota to put together pick ups without having to pay the famous “chicken tax” on imported trucks.

A Corolla by any other name..

A Corolla by any other name..

GM revived the Nova name for its badge-engineered version of Toyota’s home market Sprinter, which was, essentially, a Corolla variant.  From 1985 to 1988 Americans could buy a Chevrolet that was designed by Toyota and built in California by 4,700 UAW workers.

Profilin' but not stylin'

Profilin’ but not stylin’

It’s axiomatic that cars that were expensive to begin with have more longevity than those that were cheap to buy in the first place.  We’re guessing that a combination of factors contribute to this phenomenon.  A cheap car is usually not cherished as an indicator of success; if anything, it’s a marker of disappointment to those for whom upward mobility is only theoretical.  With this notion in mind we found it surprising to come across quite a number of superannuated NUMMI-built Novas in recent days.

Toyota guts!

Union made

While they’re dull as dishwater, lacking that “wow factor” in just about every regard, we salute these survivors of a noble experiment.

Alternate spelling of "Corolla"

Alternate spelling of “Corolla”

In some ways, that experiment continues. After the plant closed following the dissolution of the GM-Toyota joint venture, it was acquired by Tesla Motors and was gutted, rebuilt and renamed ‘The Tesla Factory,’ and is where every all-electric Tesla Model S is built with the aid of the most advanced robotics in the business..  While GM and Toyota produced nearly 8 million cars and trucks over that span of 25 years, Tesla projects it will have produced 100,000 cars by the end of the year.  The question remains if we’ll spot any Teslas a quarter century from now and write do post about them for Robot Day 2045.

Newly registered!

Newly registered!

“Absolutely right!” was Nova’s introductory slogan as seen in this commercial from ’85.  Nice perm, too.

Cush!

Yes, it reclines, just like in the Toyota version.

Novas from this generation, unlike their US-designed predecessors which are likely to have been turned into hot rods, were far from aspirational objects at the time of introduction. For the most part, that still holds true but we kind of think that this not-so-perfect ’88 Nova offered on Ebay Motors for a mind-blowing $1000 buy-it-now price is worthy of consideration.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.