Sunday, February 26, 2012

FIAT is back in the US. A history to consider before you plunk your hard earned money on one of those cute little 500 Abarths.

1962 Fiat 500, surrounded by a 2012 Fiat 500 Pop (left) and 2012 500c Lounge (right)
Editor's Note: This post was written by Cliff, who has guest-written for this blog before. Cliff is a fellow automotive enthusiast and has spent time employed in the automotive industry. Like me, he enjoys writing in his spare time. Unlike me, he was around during Fiat's original run in the States. Enjoy!

By now, I know all of you have seen that fantastic commercial for the Fiat 500 Abarth. The one with the stunningly beautiful Italian model with the scorpion tattooed on the back of her neck. She goes from spitting venom to a seductress in seconds, leaving her victim only with a momentary memory of what might have been. I can’t tell you how absolutely perfect this commercial is for the Fiat brand, and anyone who appreciated Fiat cars from the 60’s on up to the 80’s when Fiat stopped importing into this country. The smell of the wine, the whiff of her perfume, and the sting of that damned scorpion and another memory of what might have been . . . . . gone unfulfilled. But, somehow the memory of when it all came together for those precious moments made it all worth-while. And who knows, with the 500 Abarth, maybe it finally did. God save Fiat if it hasn’t.

While I was fully of age during those years when Fiat last was here, I never owned one. They were called “the poor man’s Ferrari”, but being a college student in those days, I was even poorer. Looking at them, touching them and sitting in a few was as close as I got. Then, in 1975, my father did something to this day I still don’t believe, given he was the cheapest man on the face of the fucking planet. Dad bought a brand new Alfa Romeo, known as “the rich man’s Fiat”. It was supposed to be better: better engineered, better designed, faster, sleeker, more wow, more dare I say, Ferrari than the lowly Fiat. It is from this frame of reference that I can argue I have a pretty damned good idea of what owning a Fiat was like back then.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

"It lives once again!" Volvo D24t timing belt replacement update

Almost a year ago, I wrote about a somewhat obscure project car I rescued/bought.  My 1985 Volvo 740 turbodiesel - powered by a Volkswagen-made 2.4 liter engine which Volvo called the D24t - drove fairly well when I bought it, but was way overdue for a timing belt. The belt had over 100,000 miles on it and was over fifteen years old, which is a recipe for failure. When timing belts fail in these engines, they become scrap metal: the valves will hit the pistons and the party is definitely over.

Over the next few months, I bought the parts I would need:
  • Volvo OEM timing belt which I ordered through Tasca.
  • Bosch water pump: these are preferred by enthusiasts over the more widely available GMB pumps, but can be tough to find. Oddly, I found it at (link opens to product.)
  • Gates T082 timing belt, for injection pump. I also found this at They have a lot of very hard to find parts for these cars.
  • Valve cover gasket set, again at I have since read that the updated rubber design is much preferred over this cork style, but I have not experienced leaks yet, possibly because I used a film of Hylomar sealant on the gasket.
  • Oil seals for the camshaft. These were leaking profusely on my engine. NAPA and other parts stores list the wrong parts; they will sell you the seals for a redblock/gasoline Volvo, which can be incredibly frustrating. I finally found the seals at a local import shop; you can use the seals for a Volkswagen diesel engine. The part number is 026 103 085 D - same for front and back of camshaft.

Click "read more" to continue after the jump.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Craigslist "For Sale By Owner" fails

Remember "back in the day" when you wanted to get a cheap car so you looked in the Saturday classifieds of your local newspaper? Spread across your dining room table were hundreds of cars for sale by owner, described in cryptic language like "92 Frd F-150, V6, PS, PL, A/T, VGC, nds engine, great trk" or something along those lines.

Then Craigslist happened.

Craigslist is basically the mecca of shady used car sale ads. You can find anything on that site: newer cars, older cars, cheap cars, expensive cars, wrecked cars, previously "barely wrecked cars," and everything in between. I've bought several cars off of Craigslist, and I peruse the ads on a near-daily basis just to see if there's anything out there that I can "rescue." I don't always find cars worth buying, but I always find something that's good for a laugh or three.

Click after the jump to continue reading this article.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Chrysler Super Bowl Ad: Political?

Chances are you've seen Chrysler's hit Super Bowl Commercial, "It's Halftime in America." It's a pretty cool commercial; I don't think anyone can deny that Clint Eastwood is a quintessential badass. We can ignore that maybe Chrysler forgot about Gran Torino- you know, that film in which a Ford is kind of one of the central symbols. My primary issue with their $12.8 million spot isn't the narrator, or the message it sends about our nation.

In fact, I'm writing this with some hesitation. Regular readers of this blog will remember that I wrote a little rant about Chrysler's advertising fallacies not too long ago. It was one of the most popular articles in this blog's history. So, let me be clear that this is not being written just to recreate something that was popular before, or to recirculate my old views on Chrysler's marketing tactics.

An article was just published  (for tomorrow's February 7 edition) by the New York Times- "Republicans See Politics in Chrysler Super Bowl Ad." I try to keep my political views off this website, since they aren't really relevant to the automotive world. And I won't name any of my personal political views in this article, because I do not agree with the assertion that the commercial was political. The article got me thinking for a different reason.

Click "read more" to continue with this post...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Does America Finally Have a Hot Hatch? 2013 Ford Focus ST

"That thing is really badass!" "I want one of those!" "I'd rather have that than a GTI!" "That's... awesome!"

Never before have any of these phrases been uttered in the presence of a Ford Focus, unless you were standing in a crowd of hopelessly boring people... or you were in Europe.

The Focus has always been a pretty good economy car since it was introduced as a replacement for the Escort in 1999; nothing fancy or exciting, but good in its own right. Consumer Reports recommended it, which basically means that it was a boring, mundane car that no auto enthusiast should ever drive.

Puzzingly, however, Ford chose to sell a different Focus in Europe than they sold in the United States. This was quite a shame, because the "European Focus," as it has come to be affectionately known, has received rave reviews in Europe for being a blast to drive- moreso than its European-made counterparts, in fact. More importantly, we Americans missed out on the high-performance Focus ST, which also was very well-received in the parts of the world where it was actually sold.

Click after the jump to continue reading this article.