GM's Pseudo GTO

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Just returned from a local auto show where the new Pontiac GTO was on display. There was even a factory guy who was letting people climb in, fire it up, and goose the throttle (nice exhaust note).
In the "flesh", this car (blue) was singularly uninteresting outside and pretty nice inside. It has, other than the add-on grill, no resemblance to the Pontiac "look" and absolutely no resemblance to the classic Goats of the '70's and '70's. The exterior styling is extremely bland. Why they decided to call it a GTO is a mystery. The people who remember the old GTO's just shake their heads in disgust at GM's lack of respect for heritage while the young people who don't remember the old GTO's would have been just as happy if they had called it something new.
This was a pilot car, but I noted that fit and finish were not great. Some weather-stripping was coming off. The exhaust tip looks nice, but it's chrome and so it will rust. Should be stainless. (The rep agreed.) The partial engine cover looks really cheap. The sticker is right at $33,000. Walked over and to a look at the Lexus IS300 on display that costs about the same. No comparison in terms if fit/finish. Even the G35 looked better at similar price.
GM, why do you keep doing this?
- GRL
" It's good to want things. "
- Steve Barr (philosopher, poet, humorist, graphic artist, Visual Basic programmer)
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Hope you took a good look at the rear, since that is the only thing you will see if you are driving a Lexus IS300 or G35 ;)
mike hunt
GRL wrote:

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I'm not. Acceleration is not everything. Even from that regard it would be a close race with a WRX STI or an Evo...until the first turn and then it would be all over.
Point is, GM wanted desperately to give Pontiac something sporty to sell after killing off the Firebird. I question the choice of a bland looking Holden named after the very non-bland looking Goats of old. A company ought to have some respect for its own history...or why will anyone else? And importing an Aussie car (never known for quality) when you already have an iffy quality reputation that you are working hard to overcome?
Well, as a stockholder, I wish them (us) well.
--



- GRL


" It's good to want things. "
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a
would
ought
I'm personally happy that GM has a sports car that's priced closer to my price range then the Corvette or CTS-V, but I think that they could have done it differently. Like the Solstice would be a good one for them to get selling, it's affordable to more younger people yet people that were around when the GTO was have this "if it doesn't have 8 cylinders it's not a sports car" mentality (I must admit that I share that with them). I think that it was a dumb move on GMs part to stop F-Body production. I've heard that some problems with the F-Body were that it was to low, to hard to see out the back windshield, to hard of a ride, yet all those could have been fixed with some money. Maybe the GTO is a temporary holdover until the new F-Body comes out ? (I'd love for that to happen)
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On Sat, 11 Oct 2003 18:18:49 -0500, "Phillip Schmid"

I too am in the "No replacement for displacement" camp, but it's a damn shame that poor styling or not (and I am not impressed with the styling of Hondas/Acuras, but have to admit they are good cars), this Monaro is not coming to Canada.
GM: When will you learn that not all Canadians are sheep, and some of us actually like the RWD platforms. My 87 Regal runs (yes, deliberately) circles around just about any FWD car out there in the snow, so don't give that excuse.
As for the older goats.... well, someone tell me what a 2004 Grand Prix shares with a 1956 Grand Prix. Except maybe the split grill.
Vuarra
Quid quid latine dictum sit altum videtur. (That which is said in Latin sounds profound.)
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says...

I think the reason Canada isn't getting any this year is because with 50,000 potential buyers in the US GM will sell all 18,000 imported. I read somewhere that the damn UAW auto union has something to do with them only importing 18,000 for '04.

Saw what? I'm pretty sure the first year for the GP was 1962.
--
_________________________________________________________________
Dennis Smith
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On Sun, 12 Oct 2003 16:47:51 +0000 (UTC), snipped-for-privacy@REMOVETHISyahoo.com (Dennis Smith) wrote:

I do stand corrected... it was my math at error (esp since I wasn't around in either 56 or 62). My corrected statement should be:
"Someone tell me what a 2004 Grand Prix shares with a 1966 Grand Prix."
Vuarra
Quid quid latine dictum sit altum videtur. (That which is said in Latin sounds profound.)
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The GM factory guy watching over the Aussie GTO said that GM's importing 18,000 into the U.S. will be 3X what they sell in Australia. I don't think the plant can make more. That's kind of bad because it means they will be running the plant hard and that does not bode well for quality.
--

- GRL

"It's good to want things."
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GM Thinks the same of Americans too, some of my best memories are going with my uncle in his Caprice and doing donuts, then driving with my aunt in her Z28 and doing burnouts. At least Chrysler's jumping back onto the RWD bandwagon, maybe GM is soon to follow. I myself have often wondered about the names, I think that if they don't share a single thing in common that they shouldn't be sharing the name.
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The IS, you're right. The G35, maybe, maybe not. It's pretty quick.
Besides, if all you want is to go fast you can pick up a turbo Neon or WRX STI that will leave the new GTO for dead for less or a LOT less, and the latter will even get you to work after a heavy snowfall. And both will look like what the purport to be.
The point is that this GTO, ain't. Hopefully enough will sell so that next time around GM will make a real GTO that looks like a GTO and then everyone will be happy.
- GRL
"It's good to want things."
Steve Barr (philosopher, poet, humorist, chemist, Visual Basic programmer)

fire
to
the
decided
just
the
happy
Some
$33,000.
the
at
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The problem with the SRT-4 neon is that its just that, still a neon, so poor interior. Your paying for the motor, drivetrain and suspension.
WRX's are about $25K out here, and the GTO's are 30K MSRP. I'd rather spend the extra $5-10K and get something with a nice interior and a fast ass motor.

and
resemblance
of
while
about
Basic
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GM seems to like recycling names more than other automakers. In the 1960's, Dodge had the Lancer (now made by Mitsubishi), Ford has recycled the Thunderbird name numerous times (always unsuccessful) and GM has done the Monza (i.e. Corvair Monza), and numerous other nameplates. One would have to believe that the people at GM just can't come up with new names. I remember the Plymouth Volare and the Mercury Comet. Why not merge the names and come up with something like the Vomit?
As for RWD vs FWD, I have an interesting article that says the auto companies admit that FWD has never lived up to their expectations. It also says that RWD is a far better system than FWD overall. I thought that the big 3 had made a commitment to bring out more RWD cars. I guess not!
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You obviously don't live in the snow belt. FWD is VASTLY better than RWD on snow in the absence of traction control and significantly better even with traction control. U.S. sedans are traditionally nose heavy making RWD types bad news on snow. FWD makes the nose heaviness an advantage on snow. As for towing or fun-to-drive, that's a different story.
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- GRL

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on
types
for
I live in Wisconsin, there were a few times where having FWD during wintertime did NOT end up being better. Last year or 2 years ago there was ice and snow on the road and I either could stay still and get hit by a car, or try to turn from a dead stop. So I pushed on the gas and lost ALL traction where I should have been turning all that happened is I slid in a diagonal line. With RWD you can at least give it gas and still be able to turn since the non-driven wheels do the steering and the non-driven wheels may still have a little traction.
"As for RWD vs FWD, I have an interesting article that says the auto companies admit that FWD has never lived up to their expectations. It also says that RWD is a far better system than FWD overall. I thought that the big 3 had made a commitment to bring out more RWD cars. I guess not!"
I know DC is, and I'm pretty sure that GM has some in the works, no idea about Ford though. And I'm pretty sure that it was Dieter Zitsche (I think that's how it's spelt) that said something about FWD not living up to expectations. If not then I'm pretty sure I read something similar to the article or maybe the article.
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Subject: FWD vs RWD Ford's Humiliation Is "Retrofuturism" a thing of the past? By Mickey Kaus Posted Wednesday, April 23, 2003, at 12:18 AM PT
Ford kills the T-Bird--and not on a Friday: Ford announced today it would cease production of its much-hyped Thunderbird in the "2005 or 2006 model year," according to an AP report on MSNBC. This should be a humiliating announcement for Ford. The Thunderbird got a huge wave of press when it was introduced in 2001, but then took forever to actually hit the streets, thanks in part to the discovery of cooling-system problems. Cynically, Ford expected buyers to pay $39,000 for a car that recycled the dreary, budget interior from the Lincoln LS, on which the T-Bird was based. The car handles flabbily, according to the car mags. I thought the chrome wheels looked cheap, too. More important is the failure of the concept behind the T-Bird. I have in my hand a fancy $35 coffee table book called RETROFUTURISM, produced for an exhibit at L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art. It's a pretentious tribute to J Mays, Ford's celebrity design chief (who also sketched the far more successful, retro-comical VW New Beetle). The future of Ford, the book says, is a "melding of the iconic past with a vision of the future." The new Thunderbird is a good example of retrofuturism in car design. While it evokes the classic Thunderbird, it also possesses a very contemporary and individual identity. "It's not retro," insists Mays. "While the Thunderbird concept is loaded with heritage cues, it is a decidedly modern machine." Mays' incorporation of retrofuturism into his creative process has enabled him to draw from the past and design for the future, while remaining firmly grounded in the present.
The book charts out the course for Ford's future "Living Legends" cars. There is upcoming Ford GT40, based on the 1965 race car, and the Ford Forty-Nine, based loosely on the late-'40s model that revived the company. At this year's auto shows Ford has displayed its apparently soon-to-be produced Mustang GT concept--a giant four-wheeled "heritage cue," being basically an updated '60s Mustang. The obvious question: If the first "living legend"--the T-Bird--has now flopped, what does it say about Ford's grand strategy of building its brand with a succession of similarly nostalgic Boomer Retro-Cartoons? Instead of producing a parade of warmed-over updates of new car ideas people fondly remember from 40 years ago, why not come up with some new car ideas people will fondly remember 40 years from now? Keep in mind that Ford only began producing the Thunderbird in June 2001, but (thanks to those production glitches) it really wasn't available in large numbers until much later that year. So it's being effectively euthanized after not all that much more than a year on the market. Ford predicted sales of 25,000 annually, but only about 19,000 were sold in 2002 and about 4,000 through March of this year. "The demand is nonexistent right now," a Georgia Ford dealer told the Detroit News. That 2005-2006 phase-out date is suspicious, though. The car will now apparently spend more time dying than it did living. Combined with the failure of Ford to announce the T-Bird's demise on a Friday during the Iraq war--which is the day you'd choose if you wished to bury bad news--it suggests Ford actually wanted the world to know the T-Bird was doomed. Why? One explanation: It's a pathetic attempt to promote a wave of buying by collectors who now know the production run is limited--but who have a couple of years to spend thousands on one of the "last" Thunderbirds. Boomers weren't big enough fools to fall for the half-rebaked T-Bird in large numbers. Will they fall for that trick too? I'd have buried the announcement on Friday. 10:51 P.M. Friday, April 11, 2003 Why Front-Wheel Drive Sucks: Car/sex metaphors are unavoidable, so let's get right to today's: Front-wheel drive cars are like bad sex. Rear-wheel drive cars are like good sex. Let me explain! Sometime in the early 1980s, I asked my friend Paul why he drove a crass Chevy Camaro. He said he liked the "balance" of a rear-wheel drive car. I nodded but secretly sneered at him. Everyone knew that front-wheel drive cars were the efficient, sophisticated wave of the future. Audis were front-wheel drive. Saabs were front-drive. GM, Ford, and Chrysler were about to embark on a massive shift to front-drive, resulting in the current Detroit product lineup, in which even the venerable Caddy DeVille is a front-drive car. The advantages of front-wheel drive (FWD) seem self evident: By avoiding the need for a driveshaft connecting the engine in front with the rear wheels, front-drive cars save space. The entire drivetrain can be packed into a neat compartment in the front, leaving the rest of the car's volume for passengers and cargo. Plus, front-drive cars have better traction in slippery conditions (in part because the weight of the engine is on top of the wheels that are providing the power). I should have realized the grim truth decades ago when I borrowed a friend's Audi 100 - the first front-drive car I'd ever driven -- and took it out on Sunset Boulevard. In one of the curves leaving Beverly Hills, near the pink house that used to be owned by Jayne Mansfield, I mashed the throttle, expecting the satisfying "lock in" effect I got in my old rear-drive Volvo the nose turning in, the car seeming to stop slipping, tightening its grip on the road even as it went around the corner faster. But that's not what happened. What happened is the front tires went all gooey and the car started to head for the living room of a nearby mansion. Only panicked braking calmed things down. Naturally, my brain did what the human brain tends to do with a bit of aberrant data: I ignored it. All during the '80s and '90s the car magazines assured me, seemingly continually, that in sophisticated front-drive designs you couldn't even tell which set of tires was providing the power. Weren't front-drive Hondas the hippest cars around? Wasn't even Volvo switching, belatedly, to front drive? I also blamed the victim! I must just be a lousy or unsophisticated driver, I figured. Then, a bit over a year ago, I conducted an abortive test drive of five convertibles. The idea was to sample cars that had at least a semblance of a rear seat. The entrants were Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro, VW Cabriolet, Chrysler Sebring, and Toyota Solara. And that was the order of finishing (though the test was interrupted by 9/11 before I could drive a final production version of the Toyota). None of the cars was very good you give up a lot in chassis stability when you chop off the roof, I discovered. But the old, junky, rear-drive Ford and Chevy pony cars were by far the most enjoyable they rattled and guzzled, but at least they were a blast to drive around corners. The other three cars, all front-drive, were simply pleasant forms of transportation. Why are rear-drive cars more fun? Every enthusiast may know the answer, but I didn't. So I called up a helpful GM suspension expert, Vehicle Chief Engineer Ed Zellner. There are, I learned, five basic reasons: 1) "Balance": The car rides on four patches of rubber, each about as big as your hand. An ideal car would distribute its weight evenly, so each tire had to bear the same load, and none would give way earlier than all the others. The ideal weight distribution, then, would be split about 50/50 between front and rear (actually, 48/52 to help with forward pitch during braking). "A rear-drive car can typically approach that," says Zellner. Engineers can move the front wheels forward, so that the engine which doesn't have to be connected to those wheels -- sits behind the front axle. Meanwhile, the driveshaft and rear differential (necessary to send power to the rear tires) add weight in the rear. Front-drive cars, which must connect the engine and transmission to the front axle, typically have their engines mounted way forward and can't do much better than a 60/40 front/rear weight distribution. 2) Center of Gravity: This is the point the car wants to "rotate around" in a turn. On a rear-drive car, it's "about where the driver sits," says Zellner. In a turn, in other words, the car seems to be rotating around you you're at the center. It's a natural pleasant effect, suggesting you're in control, the way you're in control when you're walking or running around a corner and your weight is centered inside you. (Analogy No. 2: It's like wearing stereo headphones and having the sound centered between your ears!) A front-drive car, in contrast, with its massive front weight bias, wants to rotate around a point in front of the driver. So in a corner, the driver isn't just rotating around his spine. He's moving sideways, as if he were a tether ball on the end of a rope, or Linus being dragged when Snoopy gets hold of his blanket. Not such a pleasant feeling, or a feeling that gives you a sense of natural control. 3) "Torque Steer": One of the most annoying habits of many powerful front-drive cars is that they don't go straight when you step on the accelerator! Instead, they pull to one side, requiring you to steer in the other direction to compensate, like on a damn boat. This "torque steer" usually happens because the drive shafts that connect the engine to the front wheels aren't the same length. Under power, the shafts wind up like springs. The longer shaft -- typically on the right -- winds up a bit more, while the shorter left shaft winds up less and transmits its power to the ground more quickly, which has the effect of pulling the car to the left. (This winding-up phenomenon occurs the moment you step on the pedal. After that, the wind-up relaxes, but "torque steer" can still be produced by the angles of the joints in the drive axles as the whole drivetrain twists on its rubber mounts.)
Veer madness?
Engineers try various strategies to control this veering tendency, but even designing shafts of equal length (as in all Cadillacs) doesn't completely solve the problem because the engine still twists a bit in its mounts and alters the angles of the drive shafts. True, some manufacturers -- Audi, for example -- are said to do a particularly good job of repressing torque steer . But even a top-rank company such as Nissan has problems -- its otherwise appealing new front-drive Maxima is said to be plagued by big-time, uninhibited torque steer. Rear-drive cars, meanwhile, don't really have a torque-steer problem that needs repressing. Their power goes to the rear through one driveshaft to a center differential that can a) have equal-length shafts coming out from it and b) be more firmly mounted. 4) Weight Shift: Suppose you just want to go in a straight line. What's the best way to get traction? Answer: Have as much weight over the driving wheels as possible. Front-drive cars start with an advantage -- but when any car accelerates, the front end tips up, and the rear end squats down. This transfers weight to the rear wheels -- away from the driving wheels in a FWD car but toward the driving wheels in a rear-drive car, where it adds to available traction. In effect, the laws of physics conspire to give RWD cars a bit more grip where they need it when they need it. (This salutary effect is more than canceled out in slippery, wet conditions, where you aren't going to stomp on the accelerator. Then, FWD cars have the edge, in part, because they start out with so much more of their weight over both the driving and the turning wheels. Also, it's simply more stable to pull a heavy wheeled object than to push it -- as any hotel bellhop steering a loaded luggage cart knows. In snow, FWD cars have a third advantage in that they pull the car through the path the front tires create, instead of turning the front tires into mini-snowplows.) 5) "Oversteer" and the Semi-Orgasmic Lock-In Effect: In a rear-drive car, there's a division of labor -- the front tires basically steer the car, and the rear tires push the car down the road. In a FWD car, the front tires do all the work both steering and applying the power to the road while the rears are largely along for the ride. That, it turns out, is asking a lot of the front tires. Since the driving wheels tend to lose traction first, the front tires of front-drive cars invariably start slipping in a corner before the lightly loaded rear tires do -- a phenomenon known as "understeer." If you go too fast into a curve -- I mean really too fast -- the car will plow off the road front end first. In rear-drive cars, the rear wheels tend to lose traction first, and the rear of the car threatens to swing around and pass the front end -- "oversteer." If you go too fast into a corner in an oversteering car, the car will tend to spin and fly off the road rear end first. What's the best way to fly off the road? Safety types prefer frontwards -- understeer. Why? To control an oversteering skid, where the rear wheels are heading for the weeds, you have to both slow down and counterintuitively turn the wheel in the opposite of the direction you're turning. In a front-drive car, with the front wheels slipping, you slow down and keep turning the way you'd been turning to get around the corner in the first place -- a more natural maneuver, since you're pointing the car in the direction you want to go. This is why, for safety reasons, even rear-drive cars sold to average consumers tend to have their springs and other suspension bits set up to make them understeer -- to make the front tires slip first, despite the car's innate oversteering tendency. Only by applying lots of power in a corner can you actually break the rear end of a bread-and-butter rear-drive car like the Mustang loose -- a maneuver favored by sports car freaks, but one you try at your own peril. Big American manufacturers (all heavily invested in front drive) like to say that for 99 percent of drivers, driving at normal speeds, FWD's inherent understeer and better traction in the wet makes it preferable -- both safer and easier to drive quickly. It's only the 1 percent of speed freaks who enjoy breaking the rear end loose and then catching it with a bit of "reverse lock." Here's where I emphatically dissent. It's pretty clear to me, after driving hundreds of different vehicles over several decades, that rear drive offers a big aesthetic advantage to ordinary drivers at ordinary speeds in ordinary conditions. Why? The lock-in effect I mentioned earlier. Suppose you go into a corner in a rear-drive car at a reasonable, safe, legal speed. Nothing's about to skid. But you can still feel the front end starting to plow wide a bit. What to do? Step on the gas! Don't stomp on it -- but add a bit of power, and a miraculous thing happens. The front end swings back in, the car tightens its line. Cornering traction seems to increase. And the car feels locked into a groove, balanced between the motive power from the rear and the turning power in the front. Hit the brake?
You don't have to be a race driver to feel this. You can be a defensive driver and feel it. You can be driving a 1973 Ford Maverick with leaking shocks and you'll feel it. Accountants feel it on the way to the office and housewives feel it on the way to the Safeway. Even Ralph Nader probably feels it. It's a good part of what makes driving a car a sensual act. (What's happening, technically? None of the tires is at its limit of adhesion. But the added speed is making the front tires --which [since they are undriven] have plenty of surplus traction -- apply more force to the road surface to change direction. Meanwhile, the rear of the car is shifting outward, ever so slightly -- not a Bullitt-style power slide, but a subtle attitude adjustment that cancels the plowing effect. The power "helps you through the corner," as Zellner puts it.) This doesn't happen in a front-drive car. The best an ordinary driver can hope for in a FWD car is that it "corners as if on rails" -- no slippage at all. No plowing -- but also no semi-orgasmic "lock in." More typically, if you hit the accelerator in a fast corner, things get mushy up front (as they did that evening near Jayne Mansfield's house). The lesson the FWD car seems to be teaching is: Try to go faster, and you're punished. Front-drive cars are Puritans! In a rear-drive car, you hit the accelerator and things get better! Rear-drive cars are hedonists. (This is assuming you don't hit the accelerator too hard.) No front-drive here
I'm not saying there aren't sophisticated techniques that allow FWD cars to do better. A recent issue of Grassroots Motorsports tested a humble FWD Acura RSX against a classy rear-drive BMW. The Acura actually turned laps a bit more quickly. How'd that happen? The Grassroots people realized that by stepping on the brake hard enough on entering a turn, the rear of the Acura could be made to swing wide, canceling out its inherent understeer. (This is the same effect you get by stepping on the gas in a rear-drive car.) But normal drivers aren't going to mash the brakes and go sliding through turns like a rally champion. Nor does braking to achieve "lock-in" seem as satisfying as accelerating to achieve lock in. I suppose I shouldn't knock it until I've tried it -- but I'm not going to try it! That's the point. Housewives heading to the Safeway aren't going to try it either. The joys of rear-drive are accessible to them -- it's the joys of FWD that are reserved for the skilled Grassroots Motorsport elite. Explaining SUVs: Now that the goo-goo bien pensant scales have fallen from my eyes, and I recognize the front-drive-for-the-masses movement as the Carter-era energy crisis con it is, several previously inexplicable things become explicable. Why did truck-based SUVs suddenly become popular just as Detroit shifted to front-wheel drive for its passenger cars? Was it (as anti-SUV activists claim) because the SUV's were exempt from various safety and economy standards -- or because the SUV's still had rear-wheel drive, with all its subtle satisfactions? Why do all BMWs (and virtually all Mercedes-Benzes) persist in using rear-wheel drive? Why do my friends, who aren't fast drivers, say that BMWs just feel better? It's also now clear to me why Acura is in trouble (it only offers FWD sedans), why GM is busy working on a new "Tubular" rear-drive chassis, why the Infiniti G-35 and Lexus IS-300 (both rear drive) are so popular, and why the RWD Cadillac CTS and Lincoln LS are so refreshing to drive. I'm not saying that any rear-wheel-drive car is better than any front-wheel-drive car, the way, say, any car with plain black tires looks better than any car with whitewalls. But it's close! Front-drive cars can be fun. Even bad sex is fun. But why choose it?
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Subject: FWD vs RWD Ford's Humiliation Is "Retrofuturism" a thing of the past? By Mickey Kaus Posted Wednesday, April 23, 2003, at 12:18 AM PT
Ford kills the T-Bird--and not on a Friday: Ford announced today it would cease production of its much-hyped Thunderbird in the "2005 or 2006 model year," according to an AP report on MSNBC. This should be a humiliating announcement for Ford. The Thunderbird got a huge wave of press when it was introduced in 2001, but then took forever to actually hit the streets, thanks in part to the discovery of cooling-system problems. Cynically, Ford expected buyers to pay $39,000 for a car that recycled the dreary, budget interior from the Lincoln LS, on which the T-Bird was based. The car handles flabbily, according to the car mags. I thought the chrome wheels looked cheap, too.
More important is the failure of the concept behind the T-Bird. I have in my hand a fancy $35 coffee table book called RETROFUTURISM, produced for an exhibit at L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art. It's a pretentious tribute to J Mays, Ford's celebrity design chief (who also sketched the far more successful, retro-comical VW New Beetle). The future of Ford, the book says, is a "melding of the iconic past with a vision of the future."
The new Thunderbird is a good example of retrofuturism in car design. While it evokes the classic Thunderbird, it also possesses a very contemporary and individual identity. "It's not retro," insists Mays. "While the Thunderbird concept is loaded with heritage cues, it is a decidedly modern machine." Mays' incorporation of retrofuturism into his creative process has enabled him to draw from the past and design for the future, while remaining firmly grounded in the present.
The book charts out the course for Ford's future "Living Legends" cars. There is upcoming Ford GT40, based on the 1965 race car, and the Ford Forty-Nine, based loosely on the late-'40s model that revived the company. At this year's auto shows Ford has displayed its apparently soon-to-be produced Mustang GT concept--a giant four-wheeled "heritage cue," being basically an updated '60s Mustang.
The obvious question: If the first "living legend"--the T-Bird--has now flopped, what does it say about Ford's grand strategy of building its brand with a succession of similarly nostalgic Boomer Retro-Cartoons? Instead of producing a parade of warmed-over updates of new car ideas people fondly remember from 40 years ago, why not come up with some new car ideas people will fondly remember 40 years from now?
Keep in mind that Ford only began producing the Thunderbird in June 2001, but (thanks to those production glitches) it really wasn't available in large numbers until much later that year. So it's being effectively euthanized after not all that much more than a year on the market. Ford predicted sales of 25,000 annually, but only about 19,000 were sold in 2002 and about 4,000 through March of this year. "The demand is nonexistent right now," a Georgia Ford dealer told the Detroit News.
That 2005-2006 phase-out date is suspicious, though. The car will now apparently spend more time dying than it did living. Combined with the failure of Ford to announce the T-Bird's demise on a Friday during the Iraq war--which is the day you'd choose if you wished to bury bad news--it suggests Ford actually wanted the world to know the T-Bird was doomed. Why? One explanation: It's a pathetic attempt to promote a wave of buying by collectors who now know the production run is limited--but who have a couple of years to spend thousands on one of the "last" Thunderbirds.
Boomers weren't big enough fools to fall for the half-rebaked T-Bird in large numbers. Will they fall for that trick too? I'd have buried the announcement on Friday. 10:51 P.M.
Friday, April 11, 2003
Why Front-Wheel Drive Sucks: Car/sex metaphors are unavoidable, so let's get right to today's: Front-wheel drive cars are like bad sex. Rear-wheel drive cars are like good sex.
Let me explain!
Sometime in the early 1980s, I asked my friend Paul why he drove a crass Chevy Camaro. He said he liked the "balance" of a rear-wheel drive car. I nodded but secretly sneered at him. Everyone knew that front-wheel drive cars were the efficient, sophisticated wave of the future. Audis were front-wheel drive. Saabs were front-drive. GM, Ford, and Chrysler were about to embark on a massive shift to front-drive, resulting in the current Detroit product lineup, in which even the venerable Caddy DeVille is a front-drive car.
The advantages of front-wheel drive (FWD) seem self evident: By avoiding the need for a driveshaft connecting the engine in front with the rear wheels, front-drive cars save space. The entire drivetrain can be packed into a neat compartment in the front, leaving the rest of the car's volume for passengers and cargo. Plus, front-drive cars have better traction in slippery conditions (in part because the weight of the engine is on top of the wheels that are providing the power).
I should have realized the grim truth decades ago when I borrowed a friend's Audi 100 -- the first front-drive car I'd ever driven -- and took it out on Sunset Boulevard. In one of the curves leaving Beverly Hills, near the pink house that used to be owned by Jayne Mansfield, I mashed the throttle, expecting the satisfying "lock in" effect I got in my old rear-drive Volvo - the nose turning in, the car seeming to stop slipping, tightening its grip on the road even as it went around the corner faster. But that's not what happened. What happened is the front tires went all gooey and the car started to head for the living room of a nearby mansion. Only panicked braking calmed things down.
Naturally, my brain did what the human brain tends to do with a bit of aberrant data: I ignored it. All during the '80s and '90s the car magazines assured me, seemingly continually, that in sophisticated front-drive designs you couldn't even tell which set of tires was providing the power. Weren't front-drive Hondas the hippest cars around? Wasn't even Volvo switching, belatedly, to front drive? I also blamed the victim! I must just be a lousy or unsophisticated driver, I figured.
Then, a bit over a year ago, I conducted an abortive test drive of five convertibles. The idea was to sample cars that had at least a semblance of a rear seat. The entrants were Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro, VW Cabriolet, Chrysler Sebring, and Toyota Solara. And that was the order of finishing (though the test was interrupted by 9/11 before I could drive a final production version of the Toyota). None of the cars was very good - you give up a lot in chassis stability when you chop off the roof, I discovered. But the old, junky, rear-drive Ford and Chevy pony cars were by far the most enjoyable - they rattled and guzzled, but at least they were a blast to drive around corners. The other three cars, all front-drive, were simply pleasant forms of transportation.
Why are rear-drive cars more fun? Every enthusiast may know the answer, but I didn't. So I called up a helpful GM suspension expert, Vehicle Chief Engineer Ed Zellner. There are, I learned, five basic reasons:
1) "Balance": The car rides on four patches of rubber, each about as big as your hand. An ideal car would distribute its weight evenly, so each tire had to bear the same load, and none would give way earlier than all the others. The ideal weight distribution, then, would be split about 50/50 between front and rear (actually, 48/52 to help with forward pitch during braking). "A rear-drive car can typically approach that," says Zellner. Engineers can move the front wheels forward, so that the engine - which doesn't have to be connected to those wheels -- sits behind the front axle. Meanwhile, the driveshaft and rear differential (necessary to send power to the rear tires) add weight in the rear. Front-drive cars, which must connect the engine and transmission to the front axle, typically have their engines mounted way forward and can't do much better than a 60/40 front/rear weight distribution.
2) Center of Gravity: This is the point the car wants to "rotate around" in a turn. On a rear-drive car, it's "about where the driver sits," says Zellner. In a turn, in other words, the car seems to be rotating around you - you're at the center. It's a natural pleasant effect, suggesting you're in control, the way you're in control when you're walking or running around a corner and your weight is centered inside you. (Analogy No. 2: It's like wearing stereo headphones and having the sound centered between your ears!) A front-drive car, in contrast, with its massive front weight bias, wants to rotate around a point in front of the driver. So in a corner, the driver isn't just rotating around his spine. He's moving sideways, as if he were a tether ball on the end of a rope, or Linus being dragged when Snoopy gets hold of his blanket. Not such a pleasant feeling, or a feeling that gives you a sense of natural control.
3) "Torque Steer": One of the most annoying habits of many powerful front-drive cars is that they don't go straight when you step on the accelerator! Instead, they pull to one side, requiring you to steer in the other direction to compensate, like on a damn boat. This "torque steer" usually happens because the drive shafts that connect the engine to the front wheels aren't the same length. Under power, the shafts wind up like springs. The longer shaft -- typically on the right -- winds up a bit more, while the shorter left shaft winds up less and transmits its power to the ground more quickly, which has the effect of pulling the car to the left. (This winding-up phenomenon occurs the moment you step on the pedal. After that, the wind-up relaxes, but "torque steer" can still be produced by the angles of the joints in the drive axles as the whole drivetrain twists on its rubber mounts.)
Veer madness?
Engineers try various strategies to control this veering tendency, but even designing shafts of equal length (as in all Cadillacs) doesn't completely solve the problem because the engine still twists a bit in its mounts and alters the angles of the drive shafts. True, some manufacturers -- Audi, for example -- are said to do a particularly good job of repressing torque steer . But even a top-rank company such as Nissan has problems -- its otherwise appealing new front-drive Maxima is said to be plagued by big-time, uninhibited torque steer. Rear-drive cars, meanwhile, don't really have a torque-steer problem that needs repressing. Their power goes to the rear through one driveshaft to a center differential that can a) have equal-length shafts coming out from it and b) be more firmly mounted.
4) Weight Shift: Suppose you just want to go in a straight line. What's the best way to get traction? Answer: Have as much weight over the driving wheels as possible. Front-drive cars start with an advantage -- but when any car accelerates, the front end tips up, and the rear end squats down. This transfers weight to the rear wheels -- away from the driving wheels in a FWD car but toward the driving wheels in a rear-drive car, where it adds to available traction. In effect, the laws of physics conspire to give RWD cars a bit more grip where they need it when they need it. (This salutary effect is more than canceled out in slippery, wet conditions, where you aren't going to stomp on the accelerator. Then, FWD cars have the edge, in part, because they start out with so much more of their weight over both the driving and the turning wheels. Also, it's simply more stable to pull a heavy wheeled object than to push it -- as any hotel bellhop steering a loaded luggage cart knows. In snow, FWD cars have a third advantage in that they pull the car through the path the front tires create, instead of turning the front tires into mini-snowplows.)
5) "Oversteer" and the Semi-Orgasmic Lock-In Effect: In a rear-drive car, there's a division of labor -- the front tires basically steer the car, and the rear tires push the car down the road. In a FWD car, the front tires do all the work - both steering and applying the power to the road - while the rears are largely along for the ride. That, it turns out, is asking a lot of the front tires. Since the driving wheels tend to lose traction first, the front tires of front-drive cars invariably start slipping in a corner before the lightly loaded rear tires do -- a phenomenon known as "understeer." If you go too fast into a curve -- I mean really too fast -- the car will plow off the road front end first. In rear-drive cars, the rear wheels tend to lose traction first, and the rear of the car threatens to swing around and pass the front end -- "oversteer." If you go too fast into a corner in an oversteering car, the car will tend to spin and fly off the road rear end first.
What's the best way to fly off the road? Safety types prefer frontwards -- understeer. Why? To control an oversteering skid, where the rear wheels are heading for the weeds, you have to both slow down and counterintuitively turn the wheel in the opposite of the direction you're turning. In a front-drive car, with the front wheels slipping, you slow down and keep turning the way you'd been turning to get around the corner in the first place -- a more natural maneuver, since you're pointing the car in the direction you want to go. This is why, for safety reasons, even rear-drive cars sold to average consumers tend to have their springs and other suspension bits set up to make them understeer -- to make the front tires slip first, despite the car's innate oversteering tendency. Only by applying lots of power in a corner can you actually break the rear end of a bread-and-butter rear-drive car like the Mustang loose -- a maneuver favored by sports car freaks, but one you try at your own peril.
Big American manufacturers (all heavily invested in front drive) like to say that for 99 percent of drivers, driving at normal speeds, FWD's inherent understeer and better traction in the wet makes it preferable -- both safer and easier to drive quickly. It's only the 1 percent of speed freaks who enjoy breaking the rear end loose and then catching it with a bit of "reverse lock." Here's where I emphatically dissent.
It's pretty clear to me, after driving hundreds of different vehicles over several decades, that rear drive offers a big aesthetic advantage to ordinary drivers at ordinary speeds in ordinary conditions. Why? The lock-in effect I mentioned earlier. Suppose you go into a corner in a rear-drive car at a reasonable, safe, legal speed. Nothing's about to skid. But you can still feel the front end starting to plow wide a bit. What to do? Step on the gas! Don't stomp on it -- but add a bit of power, and a miraculous thing happens. The front end swings back in, the car tightens its line. Cornering traction seems to increase. And the car feels locked into a groove, balanced between the motive power from the rear and the turning power in the front.
Hit the brake?
You don't have to be a race driver to feel this. You can be a defensive driver and feel it. You can be driving a 1973 Ford Maverick with leaking shocks and you'll feel it. Accountants feel it on the way to the office and housewives feel it on the way to the Safeway. Even Ralph Nader probably feels it. It's a good part of what makes driving a car a sensual act. (What's happening, technically? None of the tires is at its limit of adhesion. But the added speed is making the front tires --which [since they are undriven] have plenty of surplus traction -- apply more force to the road surface to change direction. Meanwhile, the rear of the car is shifting outward, ever so slightly -- not a Bullitt-style power slide, but a subtle attitude adjustment that cancels the plowing effect. The power "helps you through the corner," as Zellner puts it.)
This doesn't happen in a front-drive car. The best an ordinary driver can hope for in a FWD car is that it "corners as if on rails" -- no slippage at all. No plowing -- but also no semi-orgasmic "lock in." More typically, if you hit the accelerator in a fast corner, things get mushy up front (as they did that evening near Jayne Mansfield's house). The lesson the FWD car seems to be teaching is: Try to go faster, and you're punished. Front-drive cars are Puritans! In a rear-drive car, you hit the accelerator and things get better! Rear-drive cars are hedonists. (This is assuming you don't hit the accelerator too hard.)
No front-drive here
I'm not saying there aren't sophisticated techniques that allow FWD cars to do better. A recent issue of Grassroots Motorsports tested a humble FWD Acura RSX against a classy rear-drive BMW. The Acura actually turned laps a bit more quickly. How'd that happen? The Grassroots people realized that by stepping on the brake hard enough on entering a turn, the rear of the Acura could be made to swing wide, canceling out its inherent understeer. (This is the same effect you get by stepping on the gas in a rear-drive car.) But normal drivers aren't going to mash the brakes and go sliding through turns like a rally champion. Nor does braking to achieve "lock-in" seem as satisfying as accelerating to achieve lock in. I suppose I shouldn't knock it until I've tried it -- but I'm not going to try it! That's the point. Housewives heading to the Safeway aren't going to try it either. The joys of rear-drive are accessible to them -- it's the joys of FWD that are reserved for the skilled Grassroots Motorsport elite.
Explaining SUVs: Now that the goo-goo bien pensant scales have fallen from my eyes, and I recognize the front-drive-for-the-masses movement as the Carter-era energy crisis con it is, several previously inexplicable things become explicable. Why did truck-based SUVs suddenly become popular just as Detroit shifted to front-wheel drive for its passenger cars? Was it (as anti-SUV activists claim) because the SUV's were exempt from various safety and economy standards -- or because the SUV's still had rear-wheel drive, with all its subtle satisfactions? Why do all BMWs (and virtually all Mercedes-Benzes) persist in using rear-wheel drive? Why do my friends, who aren't fast drivers, say that BMWs just feel better?
It's also now clear to me why Acura is in trouble (it only offers FWD sedans), why GM is busy working on a new "Tubular" rear-drive chassis, why the Infiniti G-35 and Lexus IS-300 (both rear drive) are so popular, and why the RWD Cadillac CTS and Lincoln LS are so refreshing to drive.
I'm not saying that any rear-wheel-drive car is better than any front-wheel-drive car, the way, say, any car with plain black tires looks better than any car with whitewalls. But it's close! Front-drive cars can be fun. Even bad sex is fun. But why choose it?
Not the article I read but it was still a good read.
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Old news!! Ford dealers knew before the T-Bird was even introduce that it would only be built for four or five years, depending on sales. There was never a 'next model' ever planed. The chassis for the 4 seat 2005 Mustang is the stretched version of the 2 seat T-Bird, use by Jaguar, with a new 3.5 V6 and the new three valve 4.6 V8 at 300 HP in the GT. It comes to market in May 2004 starting below 30K
mike hunt
Rich B wrote:

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I thought that the 2005 Mustang was a shortened version of the LS platform (I forgot the designation of it) from which the TB was based also.
"01 May 03 Matt Joseph "We have always planned to build it for four model years, and that's what we are going to do. It would be wrong to keep building it and erode its value. It's a collectors [sic] vehicle."
Ford Division President, Steve Lyons, announcing that Ford would stop making the new Thunderbird in 2005 or 2006
Quoted from an interview with the Detroit News, 4-22-03
It never ceases to amaze me, the penchant that some political and industrial leaders have for enhancing their failures by dissembling ridiculous explanations to avoid blame for the bad situations hatched by their blunders.
I am absolutely certain that the reasons for ending production of Ford's failing new Thunderbird, after one model iteration, have entirely nothing to do with "doing the right thing" by car collectors, to prevent the erosion of the values of their collector car investments.
Or is that why Lincoln built the short-lived and ill-fated Blackwood? Was that marketing disaster intended to create instant collector cars? Get serious..
The day that a top official of a major car company earnestly entertains such a consideration is the day that its shareholders have some responsibility to come after him or her, mumbling by torchlight and brandishing hatchets and burlap bags.
A more plausible reason for ceasing production of the new T-Bird, after only four or five years, may be that it is selling way below expectations.
Inventories this year have bulged as high as a 183-day supply, and now stand around 130-days. That is more than two times the "ideal" 55-day supply, and despite Ford applying large cash incentives to coax consumers to buy the Bird.
Attempted exculpatory fictions aside, there are three reasons that the new Thunderbird is failing in the marketplace. Almost all "retro cars" enjoy very short half-lives of success. Besides, the new Thunderbird is far from a great car, and its recent marketing was botched. That one-two-three punch is proving fatal.
Around the turn-of-the-millennium, some form of bizarre corporate vanity seems to have overcome common sense and experience, causing car company executives to approve the production of numerous retro cars that hearken back to vehicles or themes from their companies' salad days.
At or near the turn-of-this-century, the New Beetle, Audi TT, PT-Cruiser, new Mini and new Ford Thunderbird tumbled out of this retro car-new-copia.
With the exception of the PT-Cruiser and the new Mini, each of these has failed badly enough in the marketplace that none of them is likely see a second generation.
Consider the present state of things.
The Puebla, Mexico line that builds the New Beetle is shut down, due to what is rapidly becoming chronic excess inventory.
The T-Bird is in serious oversupply, and will engender a second iteration.
Audi's Bauhaus-inspired TT is in huge supply, and now requires heavy incentives to sell. TT is unlikely to see a revision.
Only the PT-Cruiser and new Mini have avoided market failure, to date. While PT-Cruiser sales have cooled, they remain respectable. The new Mini is too new on the market to predict its sales durability.
Two conclusions flow from this. The less expensive a mass-produced retro car is, the better seem its chances of success. PT-Cruiser and new Mini are low on the automotive price scale, while TT and Thunderbird are upscale.
The New Beetle is such a wretched automobile that even its low price cannot save it.
Its very concept, building a front-engine, front-wheel-drive, liquid-cooled automobile to do homage to a rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive, air-cooled car openly assaults sensitivity, not to mention defying reason.
Retro cars are a fad market. They are not "hot, gotta have" products for very long after arrival. Each one assumes center stage under the hot white spotlight of fame and impulse buying. After six months, or so, it is pushed off the stage to cool, and the next retro car arrives under that white, center stage spotlight.
Despite the apparent love that auto company executives have for building retro cars, the market reality is that relatively few car buyers want to express themselves that way. When you mass produce the things, you tend, quickly, to saturate the market for them. Pretty soon, everyone who wanted and could afford one has taken the plunge.
The second coming of the Thunderbird suffered from all of those structural marketing problems, introduction in a weakening economy and added a few issues of its own.
It is terribly cramped inside. That is a serious concern, since at between $35,000 and $40,000, it is designed to appeal to well-heeled baby boomers. The problem is, many in that now affluent group are well-girthed, in addition to being well-heeled.
Then there was a production botch which delayed T-Bird's new, electronic throttle engine by months. Reviewers noted that the early new T-Birds were deficient in off-the-mark performance.
Ford remedied that with a 10% torque and power upgrade for 2003. But delays in producing the improved engine created a glut of '02s last fall and winter, when people were demanding the improved '03s. That tarnished T-Bird's image as a "hot item," and resulted in Ford putting incentives on the car. That further degraded its image.
However, in the best tradition of car company hyperbole, after announcing the 2005 or 2006 demise of the new T-Bird, Ford Division President, Steve Lyons, promises, "We could bring it back."
Against which I advise, and to which I add, "Give it a (very long) rest." "
http://www.blueovalnews.com/2003/tbird/reduxundone_joseph.050103.htm
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GRL wrote:

I live in the snow belt and have driven both. FWD is slightly better for an inexperianced driver, but for people who actully know how to pay attention to their driving rwd can do so much better. FWD and rack and pinion steering have few parts, are lighter, and cheaper so that is what gets marketed the most. I had an AWD car and the front wheels would spin around a couple times before the rear engaged and puched it forward when on a slick surface. Now I have a 2wd S-10 and plow through snow just fine.
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I agree with you Eugene. When I lived in Utica, NY, I drove a 1962 Ford Fairlane and it was great in the snow (and we had plenty of it). I now live in PA and until 1986 I owned no FWD cars. I've never had any trouble getting around in the snow with any car (except for some of the other drivers). I had a dealer once tell me that FWD was better than 4WD - boy was he wrong!
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