Project Car SOTU 2016: 2001 Isuzu VehiCROSS


Project VehiCROSS Update II – Wheels and tires and quirks, oh my

Quick note: as with Update I, the VX has progressed since this publishing but the written updates are lagging behind real life. Such is what happens when you move…

When we last left off my 2001 Isuzu VehiCROSS was sitting atop three shouldn’t-be-driven-on OEM wheels/tires and one laughably wimpy (and very yellow) space-saver. As the VX waited to be worthy of a “drivable” designation, I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of my new wheels. With a bit of time to spare and the UPS shipment’s progress still not showing “Out for delivery,” I took a stab at fixing some of the VX’s persistent issues. As I mentioned last time, it’s become immediately apparent that working on a not-so-brand-new vehicle is significantly more complicated than anticipated. Not that I predicted all to be smooth sailing, but those little gremlins continue to rear their heads every time I work on the damn thing. All that said…I still love the VehiCROSS. Even looking at it puts a smile on my face. Frustration aside, happiness with one’s vehicle is what matters in the world of projects, right?

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Do they make one like they used to? The search for a modern-day VehiCROSS

VX - TruckTrend

Source: Truck Trend

Often I find myself thinking about long-dead vehicles, wondering what their contemporary equivalents would be. Recently I was staring at my VehiCROSS, pondering its issues and problems, and wishing there was a modern version of the VX on sale today. It’s flawed, yes, but it’s a unique little truck that has some genuine charm to it. Look at it as a whole, and finding its current version becomes a bit of a puzzle: two doors, four-wheel-drive, fixed roof, off-road chops, on-road decency, and a design like nothing else. Ahead-of-its-time tech, an intelligent 4WD system, and a body that takes appearance as its priority, ditching usefulness and practicality in the sake of dropping jaws. But is there such thing as 2016’s equivalent of the VehiCROSS? And if so, what is it? It took a few minutes, but finally I reached my somewhat convoluted answer: maybe.

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A Focus ST and a test drive gone awry (UPDATE: NOW WITH THE WHOLE STORY)


You’re not supposed to be parked on the side of a residential street in a car you don’t own, and especially not so on a drive for which you’re supposed to be pitched reasons why you should buy exact said car. But there we were, the salesman and me, on our hands and knees looking beneath a brand-new, just-off-the-truck 2016 Focus ST. If you only get one first impression it’s a sure good thing the first few minutes of my drive went smoothly, because I really wanted to like the FoST. But there we were… on our hands and knees.

[We had a little technical snafu yesterday; click through for the whole thing – Ed]

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Driving a (monster) show truck on the street


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


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


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


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


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


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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