Editor-In-Chief's Note: I have received a bunch of emails concerning the massive fine and the take-them-to-the-woodshed consequences that FCA faces because of its laissez-fair attitude about recalls in general. You can read all the gory details here in an excellent piece by David Shepardson of The Detroit News Washington Bureau. I received the emails predicting that I was going to do a rant and roll on Sergio's head for FCA's numerous transgressions. But after being the voice in the wilderness about Marchionne and his espresso-swilling minions for many years now, I decided that yet another column about Sergio The Great was unnecessary. But I will say this: After seeing the attitude that came with Marchionne and his posse, the attitude that suggested, no, make that emphatically insisted that he was the smartest guy in the room - any room - and that he would set the automobile business as practiced here in the Motor City straight once and for all, I am not surprised. In fact it was a fait accompli that FCA would end up where they are today. Why? Because the fog of arrogance that permeates Auburn Hills is palpable. It's as if these Italians have no time for the "stilted" ways of Detroit, even though the inside word in this business is that the processes and approaches they brought with them were so antiquated when they showed up on the scene in Auburn Hills that the True Believers were in shock at first. And then they understood immediately why Fiat was in a constant shit storm for the last four decades. The Marchionne arrogance has worked in other ways, too, especially for suppliers. It was not uncommon for suppliers to bid on a project, present their numbers, and then have a member of Sergio's posse say, "That's nice, now cut that number in half and we'll talk." So is it any real surprise that Marchionne viewed the piss-ants at NHTSA in Washington as a mere annoyance, something that he could swat away and stonewall until this whole mess blew over? Right? Wrong. The fact of the matter is that the willful arrogance displayed by Marchionne and his henchmen cost them dearly. Make no mistake, Marchionne believes that he is damn-near invincible, and that Americans in general worry too much about such things as product defects and recalls. (And given Fiat's time-honored and woefully piss-poor record of reliability and durability, this whole thing is even less of a surprise.) I am not happy for the True Believers in Auburn Hills who have to put up with that Unctuous Prick masquerading as industry savior every day, but I have to say that I am thrilled Marchionne and his espresso-swilling minions got burned, because they got exactly what they deserved. Now, maybe some of the lesser lights in the automotive media will stop handing Marchionne a free pass, stop doing his bidding and start painting a far more accurate picture of him. As if and what am I thinking? That's notgonnahappen.com. I, on the other hand will keep hammering away at this deal-making scoundrel because, well, someone has to do it. -PMD
Hot on the heels of the launch of its 488GTB, Ferrari is announcing the launch of the 488 Spider, calling it "a car that is aimed squarely at clients seeking open-air motoring pleasure in a high-performance sports car with an unmistakable Ferrari engine sound." Duh. Every area of the car has been designed to set new technological benchmarks for the sector, according to Ferrari, "from the aluminium space frame chassis and body shell to the new turbo-charged V8, aerodynamics that reconcile the need for greater downforce with reduced drag along with the specific cabin air flow demands of an open-top car, and vehicle dynamics that render it fast, agile and instantly responsive." The world premier of the 488 Spider will be at the Frankfurt International Motor Show in September, but it can be seen finished in the new Blu Corsa livery at www.ferrari.com.
Editor's Note: Now that we are officially in the Dog Days of Summer – with car shows and car memories running on overdrive (the supreme examples of this being next month's Woodward Dream Cruise and the Monterey Car Week extravaganza) – we thought we’d re-run an excerpt from one of our favorite pieces of automotive prose, which poet, critic and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, James Agee wrote for the September 1934 issue of Fortune. - WG
The characters in our story are five: this American continent; this American people; the automobile; the Great American Road, and the Great American Roadside. As an American, of course, you know these characters. This continent, an open palm spread frank before the sky against the bulk of the world. This curious people. The automobile you know as well as you know the slouch of the accustomed body at the wheel and the small stench of gas and hot metal. You know the sweat and the steady throes of the motor and the copious and thoughtless silence and the almost lack of hunger and the spreaded swell and swim of the hard highway toward and beneath and behind and gone and the parted roadside swarming past. This great road, too; you know that well. How it is scraggled and twisted along the coast of Maine, high-crowned and weak-shouldered in honor of long winter, how like a blacksnake in the sun it takes the ridges, the green and dim ravines which are the Cumberlands, and lolls loose into the hot Alabama valleys . . . Oh yes, you know this road….All such things you know….God and the conjunction of confused bloods, history and the bullying of this tough continent to heel, did something to the American people -- worked up in their blood a species of restiveness unlike any that any race before has known. Whatever we may think, we move for no better reason than for the plain unvarnished hell of it. And there is no better reason. So God made the American restive. The American in turn and in due time got into the automobile and found it good. The automobile became a hypnosis, the opium of the American people...
"Whatever we may think, we move for no better reason than for the plain unvarnished hell of it. And there is no better reason.” Amen.
This gorgeous, Bobby Alloway-built 1937 Chevy coupe has won the 2015 Classic Instruments Street Rod of the Year award at the 18th annual PPG Goodguys Nationals held July 10-12 at the Ohio Expo Center in Columbus, Ohio. The gleaming machine - owned by Chuck Rowe of Millington, Tenn. - features Alloway’s signature deep black PPG finish and rakish stance. Celebrated as “the master of black,” Alloway almost always paints his custom builds black. The Chevy was built at Alloway’s Hot Rod Shop where he uses PPG products exclusively. Alloway's latest masterpiece was painted in DELTRON® DBU 9700 Basecoat and DCU 2002 CONCEPT® Clearcoat. It was Alloway’s third time winning the award; in 2001 he took the honors with a ’33 Ford and in 2012 with a ’32 Ford. But multiple wins don’t make the experience any easier. “The whole thing is nerve-wracking,” said Alloway. “It’s an honor to win, but you’re competing with the top builders in the world, so you can’t relax or get overconfident. You do the best you can, make the car look great and hope the judges recognize your work. I’m thankful they did.” Alloway has been building timeless street rods since 1978, and his shop in Louisville, Tenn., has consistently produced award-winning vehicles. He is well respected for cars that sport an aggressive presence obtained through a blend of color, proportion and pure power - in this case an all-aluminum McLaren Chevrolet Big Block V8 is stuffed in the '37. Earlier this year, the Chevy was named Best Hot Rod at the 2015 Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, Calif. In recognition of his work, Alloway was inducted into the Grand National Roadster Hall of Fame this year and the Rod & Custom Hall of Fame in 2004. The Goodguys Rod & Custom Association is one of the largest rod and custom associations, with nearly 70,000 members around the world. The Goodguys Columbus Nationals is the organization’s biggest show of the year, with some of the top cars in the country competing for major awards. PPG is the official paint supplier to the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association.
Editor-In-Chief's Note: Our "Quick Take" this week finds us in a 2015 Chevrolet SS Sedan. Our "Regal Peacock Green Metallic" tester (sort of like British Racing Green 3.0) was low key but surprisingly handsome, even though it is an ultra-conservative design. We actually liked the low-key look of the SS because well, truth be told, if you drive around with your foot in it an awful lot like we did, the black-green was understated and not showy at all, which was perfect for the task at hand. And who's kidding whom, here? The whole point of the SS is having a rear-wheel-drive sport sedan with big V8 power and in this case, a six-speed manual gearbox, and it all works beautifully together in this package. You find yourself hammering it if only just to hear that big V8 bark. Not that the SS is a 0-60 mph meathead special by any stretch, because the Magnetic Ride Control makes this 3960 lb. sedan feel composed and sophisticated, and you can hustle it around at - ahem - remarkable speeds over any kind of driver's road, particularly high-speed sweepers, where it absolutely shines. It's no secret that the Chevrolet SS is the last of a vanishing breed (the only other large performance sedan available with a manual gearbox is the BMW M5). In fact GM is going to stop selling it here by 2017, when the plant in Australia that builds it fades away. But the SS is the last of a vanishing breed for other reasons too. With emissions and fuel economy restrictions growing more stringent by the model year, you simply won't be able to buy something like the SS. There is an unmistakable, visceral thrill that comes with a big V8, rear-wheel-drive and a manual gearbox. Some in the anti-car intelligentsia would love to see cars like the SS go away in favor of autonomous cars and the rigid controls that go with them. Hell, even some enthusiasts would love to see manual gearboxes go by the wayside altogether in favor of performance automatics, because they're quicker in maximum testing and they find the whole notion of a manual quaint and superfluous. A manual gearbox can be eminently satisfying, however - certainly not in the stop-and-go urban slog, we get that - but for weekend jaunts and fun driving we'd take a manual over a super automatic any day. So, we liked the SS. A lot. And frankly, for around $46,000 (we'd delete the sunroof) it's a damn good deal too. -PMD
2015 Chevrolet SS Sedan: $47,640 ($45,745 Base Price; Regal Peacock Green Metallic; Jet Black Interior; 6.2L V8 with Sequential Fuel Injection, 415HP and 415lbs-ft of torque; Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual transmission; rear-wheel drive; Stabilitrak stability control with traction control; Magnetic Ride Control suspension with three control modes; electric power-assisted rack and pinion steering; Brembo performance four-wheel disc brakes with power assist; Limited slip differential; Auxiliary engine oil cooler; 3.70 rear axle ratio; Forged aluminum wheels with ultra-high-performance Bridgestone tires, 19 x 8.5-inch with 245/40ZR19 tires in front, 19 x 9-inch wheels with 275/35ZR19 tires in the rear; Aluminum hood and rear deck; HID headlamps and LED daytime running lights; Driver and front passenger 8-way power adjustable front bucket seats with power lumbar; Memory settings for driver seat and mirrors; Heated and cooled driver and front passenger seats; Dual-zone automatic climate control; Leather-wrapped, heated steering wheel with radio controls; Leather-wrapped shifter; Chevrolet Mylink with Navigation and Bluetooth streaming audio and music; 8-inch touch screen; USB port; 6-month OnStar directions and connections with automatic crash response and turn-by-turn navigation plus 5-year OnStar basic plan; OnStar 4G LTE with built-in Wi-Fi hotspot (3GB/three month data trial); SiriusXM Radio; Power sunroof, $900; Destination Charge, $995)
Adherence to Brand Image: When it comes to high-performance cars, generations of True Believers in Design, Engineering and Product Development have managed to keep the flame alive at Chevrolet for a long, long time. Yes, they do mainstream cars and trucks, but Chevy's performance offerings have been the division's most distinctive calling card ever since the early days of the Duntov-massaged Corvettes and the 409s. Even though the SS is sourced from Australia it doesn't really matter. In fact the Aussies have a keen sense of what makes cars fun as well, especially given the fact that they love their V8 Super Cars. The Chevrolet SS is every bit consistent with the proud tradition of Chevrolet's performance cars, and that is not an insignificant measure of solace in this day and age. -PMD