A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird:
Finders-keepers doesn’t work on Corvette convertible
Ever own or rent a convertible with a top that’s a pain to put up? You might be tempted just to leave it down while you run into the store. As long as you lock the car and don’t leave anything valuable within reach, what’s the worst that could happen?
Well, for the driver of a white Chevrolet Corvette in Vancouver’s West End, the worst thing that could happen was coming back to find somebody else in your car. It wasn’t so much a case of grand theft auto, as it was just vehicular trespass – except that the squatter claimed that the car was now his.
When summoned, local police were not convinced by the man’s antics, and dragged the sorta-thief out of the car and off to jail. Finders-keepers doesn’t apply in the real world. Losers-weepers does.
Industry titan Lee Iacocca dies at age 94
With July 4 just past, it’s time to pay homage to one of the best-known champions of the American Dream. Lee Iacocca’s parents were hard-working immigrants – they ran a hotdog business, if you can believe it – and their son took his higher education and aimed straight for the top.
Iacocca died this week, 94 years old, from complications owing to Parkinson’s disease. Those are long innings, and Lee made the most of them.
He was hired on by Ford in 1946, fresh out of college. He worked briefly in their engineering department, but soon moved over to marketing, where he drummed up a couple of winning national sales slogans.
Iacocca was a risk taker, gambling on the automotive trends he saw coming down the pipeline. He was involved with Ford’s successful Le Mans endurance racing campaign, and midwifed the Mustang into existence. Sometimes his guesses weren’t so great – he was also responsible for the Pinto.
Still, there was a bit of a Midas touch about Iacocca. When he moved over to Chrysler in the late 1970s, the company was on the brink of bankruptcy. Iacocca came up with the K-car and the minivan, two icons that saved the company.
Responsible for everything from minivans to Mustangs, Iacocca will be missed. These days, many cars feel designed by committee, and are the worse for it. Long live the risk takers.
Camaro faces uncertain future
Chevrolet’s counterpunch to the Mustang was, of course, the Camaro. You can’t have a pony car race without a second pony, and even Mustang fans have to give a begrudging nod to their hated rival, as competition from the Camaro ultimately made Ford up their game as the years went along.
The current Camaro trumps the Mustang in performance (by a hair), at the expense of being a little less livable. It’s harder to see out of, the rear seats are practically vestigial, and it’s got a face only a Philishave executive could love.
Still, it’s a very likable car to drive, and offers plenty of bang for your buck right from the base models. Unfortunately, once this sixth-generation Camaro runs the course, Chevrolet might put the badge out to pasture.
The problem is Chevy’s new vehicle architecture strategy, which is based around four main platforms that’ll underpin every Chevrolet made. The rear-drive variant that could tuck under a new Camaro won’t debut until 2025, while the Camaro is scheduled to run out its line in 2022. We could be looking at a hiatus of a few years.
Or more. Crossovers are already the major profit centre for any manufacturer, and Chevrolet already has the Corvette as their halo sports car. Ordinary enthusiasts might be left out in the cold, no matter whether they’re team Camaro or team Mustang.
Dodge Charger Widebody is really big
If Iacocca transformed Chrysler with fresh, new ideas, then Dodge seems to be going strong by reheating old ones. We’ve seen the Challenger and Charger platforms trundle along with ever more power added, but without really deviating from the recipe of Big Car, Big Engine.
Now, the Charger follows in the big-booted footsteps of the Challenger with its own Widebody variant. Thanks to some fender flares, the new Charger Widebody is now almost 90 millimetres wider, with fat 305-mm tires at all four corners.
Two engines are available, either the 6.4-litre V-8 from the Scat Pack, or the supercharged 6.2-litre of the Hellcat, with its 707 h.p. Like the Challenger, the Charger is assembled in Ontario.
Now obviously, the frontal part of your brain might want to react by getting those eyeballs rolling. On the other hand, with hybridization in the plans for most vehicle platforms, this really is a last hurrah for the old board-with-a-nail-through-it muscle car.
Making your V-8 sedan really wide isn’t innovative in any way. It is, however, big dumb fun.
Watch this space for all the week’s best and worst of automotive news, or submit your own auto oddities to firstname.lastname@example.org.