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Hooniverse Asks- Are Backup Cameras a Good Idea?


This time we mean it! That’s what the Feds here in the U.S. are saying concerning the upcoming automotive backup camera mandate. That requirement is supposed to go into effect with the 2015 model year, but it has to date been postponed four times. Some safety regulations make a lot of sense – seat belts, and steering columns that won’t impale you being notable examples – while others can be real head scratchers.

I’ve always wondered if the stats ever really proved that the center high-mounted brake light that was required starting in 1985 has made that much difference as far as accidents are concerned. Likely they do. Usually when the government oversteps its bounds in the name of car safety – say like with the 85 MPH speedo reg – saner heads eventually prevail. That brings us to the question of backup cameras, which as we all know are quite expensive bits of kit and could conceivably end up causing more harm than good, training people to rely on a dash-mounted TV screen rather than checking the view out the windows.

Still, according to some government statistic somewhere these back-end video devices do save lives. Have you had much experience with these things, and if so, do you find them valuable? Or, do you think this is yet another nanny that’s going to do little more than dull drivers’ senses to what’s really going on around them? What’s your take, are backup cameras really a good idea?

Image source: Imgur

Hooniverse Asks- How Slow is Too Slow?


The picture above shows part of the May 1975 Road & Track cover, and teases an article within the issue that’s a grand-mal test of nine small cars available in the U.S. that year. Why was R&T, noted for their affinity for string-back driving gloves and European sports cars, lowering themselves to such depths? Well, at the time the U.S. was facing a crude oil supply constrained by certain members of OPEC for our country’s support of Israel.

That ‘Gas Crisis’ as it was known made fuel economy a far more important attribute than acceleration, and while many of these cars get decent gas mileage, their zero to sixty times are jaw-droppingly slow when compared to even the most lethargic of modern rides. The quickest of the bunch, the VW Rabbit was timed by the magazine to make that dash in 12.7 seconds, which is snail-like by today’s standards. At the other end of the spectrum the Beetle, coming from the same company, took a glacial 18.1 seconds. Less than a second ahead of that at 17.3 and 17.7 were the Datsun B210 and Renault 12.

Now you’ll have to keep in mind that even sports cars were slower back then. The 49-state Triumph TR7 tested in the same issue could only manage 11.3 seconds to reach sixty, and a contemporary Ferrari 308 GT4 could barely break 8 seconds. The point of all this is that the cars of today are hugely more competent than those of the past, but are they too much more competent? If a modern Fit or Spark can hit sixty in around 11 seconds, is that too slow? Alternatively, if most cars are able to knock off freeway speed in under 8 seconds, is that too fast and would they be more efficient with a few fewer ponies (hearsay, I know) at the gain of a few more MPG and a cheaper price tag? Would they then become more dangerous to drive in modern traffic, or would traffic benefit from the more languid pace? What do you think, how slow is too slow?

Image source: May 1975 Road & Track Magazine

Hooniverse Asks- What Forbidden Fruit Do You Most Wish You Could Sample?


It’s a sad truth that many car makers don’t sell their entire product line in every country in which they ply their wares. That has meant situations like Lotus keeping the hottest editions of their Elise and Evora models from U.S. buyers, and whole lines of cars from certain makers left in their home market while eager buyers elsewhere are denied. 

Check out the Ford Everest concept above. It’s debuting at the Bejing Auto Show this week, along with a small Ford that resurrects the Escort nameplate. Both the 7-passenger Everest, and the cheap seats Escort are good looking cars, and both will most likely be constrained to the Chinese market. And those aren’t all! Did you know that in South Africa you could get the modern equivalent of the Eurovan Westfalia Synchro called the California Beach? Who wouldn’t want do drive a minivan called the California Beach?

There are so many cars and trucks out there that whose makers have decided that you should be denied. And they didn’t even ask you! Oh sure, they may be completely terrible, and wholly inappropriate for your particular market and use, but shouldn’t you be the one to decide that? Which car or truck do you see as the most desirable forbidden fruit?

Image source: Ford Media

Hooniverse Asks- What’s Your Favorite NYIAS Debut?


Today kicks off the public days for the New York International Auto Show and for the first time that I can remember the show floor at the Jacob Javits Center has become awash with both domestic and international debuts. I mean NY typically had a few in the past, but this is plain nuts.

By now you’ve no doubt seen most of these as the orgy of press days has resulted in most of the major car blogs  - and us – posting endless shots paired with breathless descriptions pulled straight from corporate press releases. You can see our show coverage here, and maybe a little bit here. Matt & the team over at my other home, Jalopnik have had some excellent coverage, as too did the crew at AutoBlog. If your predilections lean toward the obscure, NY has something for you. Or, if you roll more mainstream, then the show’s right up your alley too. It’s a show for everyone, just like the city in which it is being held.

A new Dodge Charger, refreshed Challenger, the U.S. debut of the McLaren 650s, a new Hyundai Sonata, Kia Minivan, and – fistpumpfistpumpfistpump – a freakin’ new Camry, it’s hard to keep up with all the cool stuff on the floor there. Oh but keep up we must, and keeping with the exciting nature of this week’s events and today’s public opening, I want to know which one of these new automotive arrivals most piques your interest. Which do you think is your favorite NYIAS debut? 

Image source: NYIAS

Hooniverse Asks- What Places in the World have the Reputation For the Worst Drivers?


Do you know who the worst drivers in the world are? They’re almost always the folks who happen to be driving along the same stretch of road that you happen to be occupying, am I right? Yeah, bad drivers are, in dribs and drabs, pretty much everywhere, but what we want to know today – sort of as a PSA – is where they tend to clot up.

Here in the U.S., getting a driver’s license is about as easy as getting a prize at the bottom of your Crackerjack. I recall once going to a neighborhood DMV to make a title transfer and witnessing an old man be handed the written exam from an employee at the counter only to then surreptitiously hand it to a far younger man to fill in at the standing desks that were provided for the test taking. When it was my turn at the counter I pointed out this deceit to the person taking my money and justice was served. I doubt that anyone asked who was that polo shirt wearing stranger upon my leaving the office, but I felt vindicated and perhaps I kept my neck of the woods from becoming branded as one of driving’s dour spots.

Of course I can’t be everywhere and hence there are places – Italy for example – that have gained a reputation for having drivers whose either skill level or attitude has resulted in the region being known as a locale where  should you be behind the wheel, you’re going to have a bad time. Do you also live in one of those areas? If so, let us know. What places do you think have the reputation for the worst drivers?

Image source: OldJunkCar

Hooniverse asks- What do you Think is the World’s Most Famous Car?



I’ve never wanted to be rich and famous, I’d rather be rich and anonymous. Truth be told, I have so many ne’er-do-well relations that any financial windfall would be followed by a tsunami of requests for loans never to be repaid, much like the situation faced by Bruce Dern’s character in the movie Nebraska. Sometimes however, fame – or perhaps in those instances it’s just plain notoriety – is offered without the asking, and there’s not much that can be done about that.

In the automotive world there have been more famous cars and marques than your can shake a dipstick at, although their growth in number seems to have slowed in the past couple of decades or so. Still, even today, a full century and change after the birth of the automobile, cars like the Tesla continue to make a name for themselves.

Which of those – across all the decades of the automobile’s venerated days – do you think is the world’s most famous? Is is Ford’s Model T, which put America behind the, albeit spindly, wheel? Or maybe it’s the Volkswagen Type 1, engineered by Ferdinand Porsche and intended to do for Germany what the Ford did for the U.S.? Yesterday we wanted your take on the world’s most famous motorcycle, and as logic would have it, today we want your take on the same question involving four-wheeled transport. What do you think is the world’s most famous car?

Image source: Clipart Queen

Hooniverse Asks- What do you Think is the World’s Most Famous Motorcycle?


They say that fame is fleeting. As coincidence would have it, so are many motorcycles. Of course being fleet of foot, er tire, isn’t a necessity when it comes to motorcycle fame. Significance however, is.

Today being Two Wheel Tuesday what we’d like to know is which motorcycle – whether a specific bike or a model run of them – do you think is that most significant and hence the one to garner the claim of world’s greatest fame. I’d say you’ve got plenty from which to choose – Evel Kenevel’s rocket bike, the chopper Peter Fonda rode in Easy Rider, or maybe the Triumph TT masquerading as a German bike used by Steve McQueen in The Great Escape being just a few.

Of course there are probably others, separated from the movie bikes and the stunt rides, that could be considered even more significant and hence could hold the crown. Whichever the source, what do you think is the most famous motorcycle… in the world?

Image source: canosaurus

Hooniverse Asks- Has Your Level of Trust in GM Products Diminished?


Mary Barra has an unenviable job at the moment. The newly installed CEO of General Motors – the first woman ever to hold the seat – has had to try and explain to a Congressional subcommittee, and more importantly to the world’s car-buying public, why it has taken the company more than a decade to address the issue with their seemingly endemic faulty ignition switches. The fact that GM could get something as basic and ubiquitous as an ignition switch so wrong – for so long – is pretty bad. The fact that they seemingly ignored the issue which is now blamed as a partial factor in at least 13 deaths borders on corporate criminality.

Still, there’s that new Chevrolet Corvette ZO6 droptop that just hit the Interwebs and man does that look like it’d be more fun than barrel of whiskey-chugging party monkeys. There’s also the new SS which is top of its class, and the diminutive Spark which was the top contender in the recent IIHS tiny tot car crash tests. Those are all  in their own ways cars that are highly desirable – and that’s just some of the stuff from Chevy.

If you’re a glass half full kind of individual then you might say that’s enough and that each of those cars – and many others in GM’s portfolio – are safe and sound purchases. If on the other hand your glasses are presently half full of news stories about column switches failing and the company sweeping the issue under the rug, you might be thinking about what will go wrong with these cars a year or more down the road. That’s the question for today, has GM’s extremely poor handling of a problem that just shouldn’t have happened dimmed your opinion of them? And more importantly, has it affected your likelihood of ever buying a car with the GM badge?

Image source: Business Insider

Hooniverse Asks- What Rotary Engine’d Car, Truck, or Motorcycle Would You Most Like to Own?


Felix Wankel never possessed a driver’s license. That means that he never experienced the road manners of an NSU Prinz, Ro80, Mazda Cosmo, Repu, RX2, 3, 4, or 7 (and a few others not sold in the U.S.), nor a Citroën GS Birotor. Oh, he did own an Ro80, but he was chauffeured around in that and I’d bet that it was hard to get a feel for his namesake engine from the back seat.

The list above – to the best of my meager memory  -  is the extent of the production cars that were offered to the public with Wankel’s rotary engine during his life time. Oh sure there was the RX-8, but that Mazda model was introduced 15 years after the German engineer’s passing. There have also been a pretty substantial number of non-production cars that have carried the triangular piston’d motor, including the above Mercedes C111, and what was likely an amazingly thirsty 4-rotor Corvette back in the ’70s. Wankel’s engine wasn’t confined to four-wheel conveyances either, there was the IFA/MZ KKM 175 and Suzuki RE5 production bikes that put it on two wheels as well.

That’s a small but substantial corral of cars and bikes, many of which are not only easily obtainable today – although good luck with the Citroën, Ro80, or any of the one-offs – but can be appreciably cheap. We like the rotary, because it’s different and it revs all kinds of ways ’til Tuesday. If you you do too let us know, which one would you most like to have? 

Hooniverse Asks- What’s the Coolest Mini-Pickup?


We have, on many an occasion, lamented the fact that there just aren’t any real mini-pickups offered any more, at least not in the home of the pickup, the U.S.of A.. Oh sure there’s the Toyota Tacoma and a few others, but all of that current crop of small trucks are pretty dang big by traditional measures. Fortunately, pickups are by nature pretty simple machines and hence tend to last a long time as there’s little to really go wrong. And because of that, today we want your opinion as to which of those old trucks would be the most Jack Nicholson of the bunch.

Traditionally, mini-pickups were pretty utilitarian affairs, and it’s kind of hard to spot the specific moment when they transitioned from suburban gardner staple to sports car replacement, but I think it was about the time that Toyota introduced the SR-5 edition of the Hilux. Maybe it was even before that as the Mazda rotary pickup, while not very popular when in production, gained a cult-like following in later years.

If you’re like the us then you love little trucks – small enough to be of little use to leeches who want help in moving, but not too small to be useful bringing home important stuff like beer kegs and big screen TVs right before the Superbowl. Of course utility is only part of the game here, and so today, we want you take on which trucks are also da bomb.

Image source: MazdaRepu Forums


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