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Driving a (monster) show truck on the street

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It left me laughing, smiling, and terrified. That says it all.

A group of high school guys came running over to the truck as I gingerly navigated it through the parking lot, doing my best to act as if I’d done this before. They were feet away from my intended path, but that was still close enough to make them seem as if they were directly in the line of fire. Driver window down, their questions began to fly at me faster than I could process; on top of not running the group over, it was all I could to keep repeating, “Not mine. Friend’s.”

After parking the behemoth Ford, I took a moment to reflect: minutes earlier, with smoke erupting from the stacks, I had driven what has a good chance of permanently maintaining the position of most insane vehicle I’ve ever driven. It’s a truck so outrageous and insane that what you’re about to read, despite my best efforts, will in no way do justice to the experience.

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Loaner Review: 2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

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I had high hopes going into my few days with the 2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. I knew that on one hand, the KL Cherokee fits my wants and needs perfectly: 4WD with low range, safe, comfortable, room for a vacation’s worth of stuff, large automaker backing, go almost-everywhere capability, and it’s a Jeep. But then the other hand slapped me in the face when it came to actually driving and spending time with the Cherokee, as that’s where things went wrong.

While the Jeep was a seriously nice loaner, for me it’s not necessarily a nice long-term-ownership vehicle. I was hoping to love it to the point of considering placing an order for one, but there were so many things “wrong” that I couldn’t do so without my soul being ripped out. It’s not that the Cherokee is bad, because it’s certainly a good vehicle all-around, it’s just that it’s entirely devoid of all feeling and sensation and as such is boring and unexciting to drive as well as to spend time.

Do I like the Cherokee? Sure. Do I like the Trailhawk? Definitely. Would it be a “perfect” vehicle for my needs? Abso-frickin’-lutely. Do I want to own one?

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A lineup to make Mitsubishi great again

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Source: Mitsubishi

Last week, as you probably know by now, Nissan bought a majority stake in Mitsubishi, marking what will hopefully be the end of a long and painful slide for the automaker. The last few years have been tough for the Japanese manufacturer, but this could be a turning point. As is the case for many of us gearheads, Mitsubishi was a “cool” company when I was growing up — or at least an exciting one.

With aftermarket-friendly vehicles, they had a bit of a hand in the explosion of the tuning world and also were responsible for classic early-2000s product placement in which an Evo and a couple Eclipses took on near-character like roles in some of the Fast and the Furious franchise movies. That’s just a small snapshot of a brand that is made of so much more.

Mitsubishi built cars that were fun and offered owners the ability to tailor the cars to their liking, something that cannot be said of the company today. Mitsubishi seems to be lost, riddled with a lineup as in need of revamping as it is a kick of adrenaline. What models would help the company get back on track, find its 1990’s excitement and win back the fan base it once had? I have some ideas…

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The Isuzu VehiCROSS: Minor upgrades and strange happenings

Ross Ballot May 13, 2016 Project Cars

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Where lies the cutoff at which a vehicle is no longer “new” and becomes “old”? I’ve always been curious about this, and after beginning to work on my recently-acquired VehiCROSS I can say for certain that even though fifteen years may not constitute “old” it can definitely bring some quirks along with it. It didn’t take long for me to realize how and why working on an “older” vehicle is more…of everything. It’s more labor intensive, more thinking, more strategizing, more frustrating, and more satisfying.

Monday the fourth was a snowy fluke to the start of the first full week in April, and it was then that I was hit head-on by the new-found awareness that working on the VehiCROSS may be a bit tricky. While the VX was basking in its last few days of peace and quiet, I was researching, planning, and preparing. I had waited long enough already; it was time to get my act together and then got rolling with Project VX.

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Dear Jeep: I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed

CNN Money

Source: CNN Money

Jeep and the 2016 NYIAS: from WK2 to JL and everything in-between

Let me be clear from the start: I love Jeep. I love that they have heritage built-in. I love that the names all have historical relevance. I love that the vehicles are so off-road capable. I love that there are Easter Eggs hidden in each new model, and I love that the vehicles themselves ooze encouragement for outdoor activities. But what I don’t love is the ensuing letdown following an event at which you had hoped to see the unveiling of an important and exciting future product, with the mention of such entirely absent.

Specifically, I’m referring to the rumors of the so-called Trackhawk Grand Cherokee. I’m also referring to the upcoming “JL” Wrangler and the pickup on which it’s based, and how if there was likely an event at which this could have debuted it was the 2016 New York International Auto Show. Yet it simply didn’t happen.

This is going to sound very “dad” of me (which is weird, since I don’t have kids), but it has to be said: hey, Jeep—I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.

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Spring 2016 Caffeine & Carburetors: An Overwhelming Morning of Car Show Perfection

Ross Ballot April 21, 2016 All Things Hoon

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I’ve been very lucky to experience some incredible car shows over the last few years. From Lime Rock’s Sunday Royals to a private to local Cars & Coffee Sunday morning meetups to a cameras-forbidden event at an undisclosed location with more exotics, rarities, and one-of-one’s than I can possibly remember, I’ve witnessed some truly amazing exhibits of speed and style that were as shocking in the moment as they are to remember. Even the NYIAS is a spectacle in itself, with the show consuming the entirety of the Javits Centers, but it wasn’t until this past Sunday that I went to a show that wholly overwhelmed me. I’d heard about it, read about it, and seen pictures of it, but it truly is something that needs to be seen to be believed.

Nestled into the small town of New Canaan, Connecticut, twice a year happens a car show so big that it takes up the majority of the downtown, forces road closures, and requires police to direct traffic, both foot and vehicular. With thousands of people enjoying the scenery, the absurdity of Caffeine & Carburetors is something that put me in a full state of shock and awe from the minute we arrived. Hundreds, if not thousands of cars, from exotics to sports cars to rat rods to muscle and imports and off-roaders and everything you can possibly imagine in-between, it’s what I can only describe in one word as overwhelming.

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Colorado: the cars, the culture, and the roads

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Colorado: my glimpse at the cars, trucks, roads, and automotive culture in the Denver/Boulder region

4Runners. 4Runners everywhere. I must have laid eyes on more of these Toyota SUVs in ninety-six hours than the rest of my life combined. They’re everywhere in Colorado, and the best part is that about half are lightly modified and sit on fairly aggressive tires, the kind best suited to the mountains and less so to basic civilian chores. A fairly clear representation of the vehicular populous in itself, the dirt-covered, not-washed-in-a-while 4Runner handily describes the function over form mentality maintained by most drivers.

People out in the Denver/Boulder region thoroughly enjoy outdoors activities and vehicles are the means to their madness. And while I expected this, it was something that struck an entirely different chord in person rather than in my feeble little imagination. I’m being too narrow-scoped though; this doesn’t start and end with the 4Runner, it’s just the tip of the iceberg and what I’m using as a symbol for Colorado’s automotive culture as a whole, or at least the slice of what I saw.

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Loaner Review: 2016 Chrysler 200S AWD

Ross Ballot April 7, 2016 Quick Spin, Reviews

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“I’ll borrow the Viper for a few days!” The puppy-dog lips and eyes I had just thrown on had no chance of changing the inevitable response, but at least it took a slightly different form: “you’re the third person to ask that today.” I laughed and mumbled something to the effect of the joke having run its course, but shockingly the very kind lady at the service desk that I’d been dealing with said that she actually found it funny and that it was acceptable *just* one more time. Joke was on me though: instead of the orange beast I was drooling over, my time sans Challenger would be in a loaner car that initially induced thoughts of pure sadness but proved to be unwarranted. And yet, it took everything in me not to roll my eyes when the lady at the service counter said my loaner would be a white Chrysler 200 (unfortunately not a white Chrysler LeBaron). Oh, and that Viper? Sitting dormant and very light in the front end, waiting for a new motor larger than most Manhattan apartments.

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A day at the 2016 NYIAS

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I’ve been going to the New York International Auto Show on-and-off for the the last ten years. Of those 10, some were better than others; this year fell right in the middle. The automakers brought some really exciting vehicles, but many more were just background scenery.

That said, I went to this year’s NYIAS and snapped photos of anything and everything that caught my eye or that I thought would be of interest here. A quick disclaimer: I’m by no means an expert photographer, and mediocre may even be a stretch. Without further ado, come with me as we take a look at what New York’s premiere new car show had to offer…

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2001 Isuzu VehiCROSS: Intro and History

Ross Ballot March 25, 2016 All Things Hoon

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A few months ago I found myself digging through a toolbox full of Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars from my childhood, reminiscing, thinking back on simpler days, and laughing inwardly at how little I’ve changed in regards to my love for cars.  The collection was largely nothing special, but there were a few exceptions among them in the miniature forms of a Viper, Corvette, 911 Targa, R33 Skyline, and CJ Scrambler.  All had a place in my heart back then, just as they still do now in their full-size forms.

Mixed in with the others were two oddball SUVs, one yellow and the other bright shining silver, both with plastic cladding adorning their lower portions, a spare tire molded into rear gate, and a black insert on the hood just behind the pulled-back headlights.  Both of the Isuzu VehiCROSS toys lived in one of my desk drawers ever since I found them that day, while thoughts of the quirky little Japanese 4×4 lived in the back of my mind.  Mere months later I’d be signing my name on the title of a real one.

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