Booster Masthead

Restoration Blvd.
February 2001

Columnist — Allen Wright

The L.A. Auto Show — How the New Cars Measure Up to the Classics

Happy New Year! We have started off this New Year with a bang. Here in California two of our power companies have suddenly gone broke. We have a new President of the United States in George W. Bush and ex-President Bill Clinton is moving down the road to his new residence as a Senator’s spouse. Jesse Jackson is having family problems. But what can you do? Bill and Jesse haven’t figured out that affairs never seem to go away.

The L.A. Auto Show was, as usual, a first-class event on Media Day. I went on Friday and attended the presentations of Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Kia, and Suzuki. Looks like the manufacturers are moving toward mid-size SUVs and family cargo vans.

The Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Suburbans that appeared to heavily impact the California market in 1999 and 2000 now are competing with the smaller and cheaper versions that are slipping in (can you say ‘import’).

Suzuki introduced their small Explorer-like model and I was impressed with both the presentation and options. Suzuki President Rick Suzuki made some interesting comments about his company’s feelings about the Consumer’s Union testing of his company’s products.

The trouble that I still have with most of the family-style 4-door cars at the L.A. Auto Show is that, with some small exceptions, they all look the same.

Mazda, however, has broken the code on their family sedans. They have figured out that many of their passenger cars are customized by young owners after purchase. Stereos, exhaust systems, custom gauges, wheel options and other popular aftermarket stuff can now be purchased as a complete package from Mazda.

For some unknown reason, I went from hot to cold on the redesigned Thunderbird. The design still looks great but it just doesn’t move me anymore.

Ford, in an interesting move, will be building the Bullit Mustang in 2001. The Bullit Mustang has a lot of horsepower in a light car that is tastefully done. I could easily picture myself tear-assing around L.A. in that beauty.

Now my review of the cars that I would purchase if I needed a new car and had the money to spend. Inexpensive (cheap price): Kia Sophia, the car for the people. This car has everything you need to get around and a 10-year warranty. With a Kia you would just blend into the freeway crowd. It has almost no styling at all. This vehicle would be perfect for drug dealers and gang members. Get rid of those high visibility vehicles and just blend in.

For fun: the Ford Mustang Bullit. A complete 2001 muscle car.

Number one pick/top choice: Porsche Carrera GT. Sales price $350,000. The Porsche Carrera GT is a 10-cylinder roadster that produces 558 horsepower and 444 foot pounds of torque. The Porsche folks say it will go from 0-60 miles per hour in 4 seconds and 0-100 in less than 10 seconds. These impressive numbers are achieved by using an extremely light car (2800 pounds) with giant horsepower and favorable gears.

Let’s take a trip back in time to 1963 and see what Porsche has really accomplished. In 1963, American car manufacturers were in a horsepower war. Everyone was putting out high horsepower machines that were incredibly fast. Ford had a 426 cubic inch motor. Chrysler Corporation had 413 and 426 cubic inch motors. And the mighty General had the historic Chevrolet 409.

The plain-Jane Chevrolet 409 Biscayne 2-door sedan with a high performance package had a posted horsepower of 425 with a torque figure of about 490. Posted times at the drag strips for the 409 were in the 12.5 second, 112 mile-per-hour vicinity right off the dealer’s floor.

These cars really hauled ass and some of these cars are still being raced in nostalgia racing.

I did a basic calculation on my current restoration of a 1963 Plymouth Super Stock versus the purchase of a new Porsche Carrera GT. The Plymouth is 90% cheaper and will have approximately 500 horsepower and 490 pounds of torque to enjoy. So if you feel the need for speed and you want to save $300,000-plus dollars, I recommend the restoration of a 1960s muscle car.

Make no mistake about it, in total, the Porsche GT is a high-tech, all-around world-class performance vehicle that is probably the standard for all other performance manufacturers in 2001.

There are plenty of cars out there to restore and enjoy for those 4-6 second blasts. I have a twisted enjoyment in pulling up next to a Kia, letting him leave the light first, and then giving old reliable the gas and blasting by them.

There is, however, a downside to purchasing, maintaining, modifying, and restoring cars: spouses, significant others, family and friends really don’t get it. Spending hours in the garage, contracting with restoration suppliers, rooting through junkyards, swearing at inanimate objects and spending piles of money in the process doesn’t always seem rational.

On the plus-side, I’m always happy in my discussions with family and friends about auto restorations. It is hard to imagine the discussions that ex-President Bill and Jesse have with their family and friends. I’ll bet they’d rather be taking the heat about spending their money on cars. With all the expenses it is reported they both have, I am confident they could afford the new Porsche Carrera GT.

Originally published in the February 2001 Automotive Booster Magazine.
Copyright February 2001 by KAL Publications Inc.

Covering the California auto parts aftermarket since 1928.