The 2014 Greenwich Concours d’Elegance: Part I

2014 Greenwich Concours d'Elegance

The 19th Greenwich Concours d’ Elegance: A Festival of Speed and Style was held over the weekend of May 31 – June 1 in Roger Sherman Baldwin Park by the Greenwich Harbor. The Connecticut Concours is just the right size – big enough for an incredible selection of cars, yet small enough so that every car on the field has a chance to parade by the stand at the end of the day. Concours organizers annually assemble a show of unique cars which can apply to show once every three years. Concours proceeds benefit AmeriCares programs.

Saturday is the Concours Americana where domestic antique automobiles share the lawn with 70’s muscle cars. It was a warm but cloudy day, but the passing rain ended just in time for the parade and awards, while the clouds hung around for dramatic photos. [Read more...]

Review: 2014 Chevrolet Silverado

2014 Chevrolet Silverado High CountryStereotyping. It’s an ugly habit of us humans, and as much as we show disdain when we see others engaging in this behavior, we’re all guilty of the same. A couple of weeks ago my family was sitting outside a four star restaurant in Florida waiting for our table. We got up for a minute to take a selfie of the three of us, my wife’s purse and bag still on the bench we had just gotten up from. In an instant, an impeccably dressed family of four descends upon our bench, with our belongings on it. I hear them talking to each other. They were French. My reaction? I thought to myself “Typical French arrogant bastards. They think they are so much better than us.”

That was not very nice of me. I personally do not know any French people. I just buy into the stereotype. To flip that around, I often hear ‘Oh, typical American’, which usually means lazy and stupid, or a myriad of things. It’s never meant as a compliment. And if you judge Americans by what cars we buy, well, the numbers tell a story. Of the top ten best selling vehicles in America in 2013, three of them were full-size pick-up trucks. So, yes, we are as a nation, collectively in love with the pick-up truck.

It’s almost strange that in the five years I have been reviewing cars for The Garage, this is only the second pick up truck I have ever had. The trunk in question is the all-new 2014 Chevy Silverado. The competition is cut-throat for full-size trucks, and with its F-150, Ford has owned the sales crown for years, with Chevy’s Silverado coming in at second place. The highlights for the new Silverado are a lighter curb weight, new base V-6 engine, and an improved interior. The aesthetics of the Silverado definitely look up to date, but this is first and foremost a vehicle designed with utility in mind.
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Classic Player’s Challenge Racing in the rain

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Few who were around to experience the Player’s GM Challenge will argue that there has never been a more exciting racing series in North America. The cars were stout, fast and came out of a showroom. The drivers were talented, fast and tenacious. The fans were drunk and rabid.

As the series took place from the late Eighties to early Nineties, before the age of digital cameras, there is a sad lack of media material available from the series. Hopefully, more fans will start scanning their old photos soon.

Through a friend on Facebook, I just came across this fantastic (for the era) in car video from a race at Shannonville in the rain. The driver is not identified. Do you know who is driving this machine?

Update: Canadian racing legend and top competitor in the series, Ron Fellows, has weighed in on the video. Ron believes that this is one of the Motomaster cars, which he drove himself at Shannonville in 1987. That was a dry race, so Fellows thinks this is David Empringham in the ’88 race.

Impatient Camaro driver clips oncoming Volvo

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A number of years ago, I remember reading a Q & A with then Sgt. Cam Woolley, when someone asked when it was ok to pass on a rural road. The not so obvious answer was that on a single yellow line, one can pass provided it is safe to do so. Then there were the obvious dotted line discussions and the fact that you may never, ever pass on a double yellow line. Common sense that one.

When that double yellow is on a twisty canyon road, it shouldn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that you should stay in your own lane, even if there is a local turtle ahead of you. Last weekend in California, a current generation Chevy Camaro driver felt that the law and common sense didn’t apply to him. #becausecamara ya know.

Reddit user humanwire was out for a drive and had a couple of cameras on board.

Went out this Saturday to hit up my favorite canyon road with some friends, but it ended up being closed once we got there. Hesitantly, we decided to give a Malibu canyon road (Decker Canyon, aka Route 23) a try on the way back, so the whole day wasn’t a complete waste.
I was quickly reminded why I don’t like driving on Malibu canyon roads, and why I head out much further away from Los Angeles for some frisky driving.
A group of three cars came barreling up behind us; a black Comaro, a red Mazdaspeed 3, and a black M3, unable to wait a second for a turnout.

Completely ruined the fun mood of the trip, and my friends and I turned around almost immediately so we wouldn’t be associated with that group. Wouldn’t want a CHP call to go out including us with that group.
Too many dickhead drivers. Too much traffic. Too many police patrols. Less than stellar roads (not all of them).

Pony car boy gets fed up with idling along behind a slowpoke in a Ford Explorer, and decides to pull out and pass, on a blind corner. He actually clips a Volvo that was headed in the opposite direction. Things could have very easily been a deadly incident, so everyone involved were very lucky.

Here’s to hoping that the local police get hold of this and track the moron down.

Source: YouTube via Reddit

On board at Interlagos in a V8 powered Chevy Sonic

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When most North Americans think of the term stock cars, we tend to think of NASCAR style taxi cab racing. In Brazil however, the cars used for the Stock Car racing series are V8 powered silhouette racers that are more like Aussie V8 Supercars.

Likewise, when we think of a Chevrolet Sonic, what comes to mind is a diminutive five door sub-compact car.

Things in Brazil are just a bit different than they are here.

Ozz Negri, usually a driver for Michael Shank Racing in the Tudor United SportsCar Championship, made a trip to his home country over the weekend to take part in a race at the Interlagos Formula 1 track. Negri, at the wheel of a beastly sounding Sonic, finished in P14 out of 33 starters. Mid-pack may not be so bad when you consider that the field contained names like Rubens Barichello, Nelson Piquet Jr., Raphael Matos, Bruno Senna, Antonio Pizzonia and Ricardo Zonta among others.

The folks at RACER set up a GoPro in Negri’s Chevy for a lap.

Source: RACER via YouTube
Image Source: Vickie Miller via Twitter

15 Seconds With: 2014 Chevrolet Trax

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We all have certain needs when choosing a new car. Some need space, while others need something that sips fuel. Then of course there are those of us who just want to go fast. The Chevy Trax offers those a bit of utility for those who need it, but want it in a package that is easy to manage around town. While I prefer something with a manual transmission and with a bit more power, I found myself grinning like a fool just about every time I drove Chevrolet’s tiny tripper.

The biggest shame is that our U.S. readers can’t buy one, as this puppy is Canada only.

How To Buy a New Car, Part I

2013 Chevrolet Cruze RS

If you are here at The Garage, chances are you love cars. And we share your passion for them. As a car journalist, I consider myself a pretty lucky guy. I have a brand new car at my disposal every week. But that’s me. My wife’s 2010 VW Jetta’s lease was coming to an end, and we needed to find a replacement. I won’t mince words-I do not like the new Jetta, which has been cheapened and dumbed down for the American market. Needless to say, the current Jetta, which is selling well, was off the list.

 

Shopping for a new car is a daunting experience. Apart from your house, or your child’s college education, it is one of the largest financial commitments you will make in your lifetime. Personally, I prefer to lease. Yes, you can argue that I never actually own the car, and you are right. But, like most people, I do not have $25,000 under my mattress to buy a new car.

 

My requirements were simple. A 36 month lease, 12,000 miles a year, nothing down. Also, I had two things working in my favor. I sold new and used Hondas before I went away to college, so I know how the system works. But the biggest weapon I brought to the table was you, our readers. And I made it perfectly clear that I would be naming names, and fully documenting my car shopping experience. You might think this would have them scared straight, right? Think again.

 

My wife loves the TV series Hawaii 5-0, and on that show one of the lead characters drives a Chevy Cruze, in a pretty Crytal Red paint job. She fell for the car, and the Cruze was one of our early candidates. I’d driven a Cruze Eco, and came away impressed. I have never owned an American car, but I deemed the Cruze good enough to be the first.

 

As a member of the auto media, I do have access to employee pricing. Yes, it is a perk of being in the business, but when you are a car journalist, people do ask what car sits in my driveway. And that answer has enough gravity that the car companies are willing to extend that discount to me.

 

And so, I contacted General Motors offices in New York City, asked, and received, the discount. Authorization code in hand from my printed e-mail, I marched down to Chevrolet of Milford at the end of July. I was given pricing. I said I was not ready to buy, since my lease did not terminate until the end of August. Come August, I requested new pricing. Amazingly, with the 2014’s on their way, Chevy of Milford added $500 to the price originally quoted days before.

 

The story gets better. Because of my employee pricing, GM gave me a link to see what my discounts would be. For a 2013 Chevy Cruze, I was entitled to a $2,000 discount. Also, since I am a member of USAA, I was eligible for an additional $500 discount, for a total of $2,500 off sticker price. I study the paperwork from Chevy of Milford. My discount is nowhere near that amount.

 

Frustrated, and feeling like I am being jerked around, I e-mail my contact at Chevy of Milford. I tell him I have physical proof of the discounts I am entitled to, and ask why he is not honoring them. He asks if I can e-mail him the documentation, which I was more than happy to provide. I scanned and e-mailed seven pages of print outs showing the pricing I was qualified for. A day passes. His boss e-mails me, wanting to talk about the benefits of buying a car over leasing one. Not a word of honoring the discount GM promised me. And nevermind the fact I never wanted to buy, I wanted to lease.

 

Since I was having trouble at Chevy of Milford, I contacted McDermott Chevrolet just outside of New Haven, CT. They had a Crystal Red Cruze like we wanted, and I had requested pricing, again explaining that I would be writing about my buying experience. As with Chevy of Milford, I provided McDermott Chevrolet pages of documentation of the discounts I was entitled to, but the dealer was not allowing. After sending McDermott the documents, three days pass without a word, until the sales guy asks if I am still interested in the car. The answer was a curt ‘no’.

 

So, Chevrolet of Milford and McDermott Chevrolet refused to honor the pricing General Motors promised me. And I warned both dealers if they did not cooperate, I would call them out. Which is exactly what I did. And, this is the part that breaks my heart. Chevy has never built a compact car I would ever consider owning, until now, with the Cruze. It’s that good a car.

 

But this is where my world meets your world-in the showroom. I am not at a fancy catered event in Manhattan, or a car show, where the car company has total control over their message. It is the dealership that for the car buying public is the face of the company.Yes, Chevy likely spent a few hundred million dollars developing the Cruze, with thousands of hours of development to make it as good a car as it is. All that money, and all that work was for nothing, because Chevy of Milford and McDermott Chevrolet failed to agree to the terms General Motors themselves had offered me.

I threatened to rat both dealers out to General Motors, and I gave them clear warning. It made no difference. So I followed through with my promise. I let GM’s corporate communications office in New York City know exactly what happened. Horrified, my contact asked if it would be ok if one of her superiors were to contact me. I said that would be fine, and within hours I get a call from the head of Northeast Chevy dealers, stating that the dealers must have misunderstood the discounts. Excuse me? SEVEN PAGES of documents show I was owed $2,500 off of list price. And GM tells me that two dealers did not understand? Do they really think I am that stupid?

Knowing that I am about to disclose these two dealerships and how they were screwing me over, I continued to get phone calls from GM, begging me to reconsider. I think the unreturned phone calls said enough. This could have been very simple, but over the matter of a few hundred dollars profit, both dealers shot themselves in the foot. And the crazy thing is, I told them if they did not honor the discount and screw me over, I would tell my thousands of readers, and the corporate leaders at General Motors about it. And, sadly enough, both dealers proved to be so arrogant and ignorant, they simply did not give a damn.

Fast forward a couple weeks later, and I am sitting on a sky top lounge overlooking Chelsea Piers in New York City. On my right is the Hudson River, to my left, the Manhattan skyline. In front of me is the drop dead gorgeous Cadillac Elmiraj concept car, fresh from its Pebble Beach Concours debut. But GM brass wants to talk to me about the Cruze disaster. I am frank, and honest, and explained that as a journalist, this is my story, and I am sticking to it. In GM’s defense, I said I would mention that the company tried to do good, but in reality, is that only because they knew I was a car journalist? With connections to their superiors?

Thanks for reading, and be sure to tune in for Part II for the conclusion of my car buying experience.

Review: 2013 Chevy Spark

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Let’s face facts-Chevy has been very awkward about sub-compact cars since the 1980′s, when they started importing Korean cars badged as Chevy’s. There was a total disconnect from the brand with these little cars, and it did not help that the cars themselves were, at best, average. But with a post-bailout GM, the light bulb seems to have been lit. An entry level subcompact needs to be offered in a mainstream brand like Chevy, but it has to, in simple terms, be a Chevy. The Spark comes to us via South Korea, but does it have enough of an American accent to give the Spark an identity the car’s that followed it lacked?

The Spark is tiny, narrow, and quite tall. Practicality is the name of the game here, but that doesn’t mean Chevy designers were not allowed some fun. The headlight bezels that stretch nearly to the edge of the windshield is pretty outrageous. The flared fenders offset by handsome 15″ machine faced alloy wheels gives a sporty look. Nice details like blacked out integrated rear door handles is a clever trick. But most important, the Spark is instantly recognizable as a Chevy, something it’s ancestors cannot claim.

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In a radical departure from the past, the Spark offers a colorful and fun interior. Yes, hard plastics abound but you never feel like you are sitting in a penalty box. The black and red leatherette seats with red stitching work to add a warmth not often seen in this class of car. The high seating position makes you feel as if you are sitting on, not in the Spark. The Spark features Chevy’s MyLink smartphone integration for navigation, and Pandora radio. Unfortunately, I found the sound quality of the six-speaker audio system to be sub-par, which is critical to the Spark’s target market. Otherwise, the Spark is a fairly pleasant place.

The Spark is available only as a five-door hatchback, with one engine on offer. That engine is a 1.2L four cylinder rated at 84hp. Buyers can choose from a five speed manual or four speed automatic. The Spark is less powerful than its competition, and the 32/38 EPA City/Highway fuel economy figures are decent, but not stellar. Thankfully, The Garage’s Spark was blessed with the five speed manual, which Chevy claims can go 0-60mph in 10.5 seconds. Opt for the automatic, and 0-60mph goes to a lazy 12.2 seconds. Around town, the Spark had plenty of pep, the handling was docile and the manual tranny was a breeze to operate. The Spark is a city car, not a long distance highway cruiser.

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Our Spark was the top of the line 2LT, and to Chevy’s credit, it comes well equipped. GM’s OnStar, XM radio, Bluetooth, heated seats, remote keyless entry, rear spoiler, fog lamps and chrome exhaust tip tally’s up with an as delivered price of $15,795USD. This represents a fantastic value for the content provided.

Chevy sees the Spark competing against the stylish Fiat 500 ,the Scion iQ and Smart. I do not. These cars are more fashion statements, while the Spark distinguishes itself as a useful, four door car, and far more practical. The Spark is Chevy’s best effort yet for a sub-compact car, and it meshes perfectly with Chevy’s brand image.

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Danica goes green for St Pattie’s Day

In case you live under a rock, today is St. Patrick’s day. Today is also Saturday, which means there is a NASCAR Nationwide Series race this afternoon. Combine the two and there will be a lot of green beer being consumed at Bristol. The marketing team at JR Motorsports decided to have a bit of fun with Danica Patrick‘s Go Daddy Chevy in honour of the day too.

The #7 Impala has been sprayed with the same metallic green as the 2010 Camaro, and adorned with shamrocks and a Happy St. Patrick’s Day message. Obviously, the team is hoping the luck of the Irish will rub off on their St Patrick.

We’ve got video and images of the car after the break.

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