Historiography: A Personal History of Mopar

The love for Mopar began with something similar to this. All Photos by Randy Stern

How can one be an enthusiast for a company, if they only witnessed its history briefly?

Perhaps there was a singular memory that never left the soul. It was triggered by a moment when true enthusiasm took over from logic, want, need and curiosity. From a young age, that memory would continue to find a permanent place in your heart that would remain until your final breath.

That moment came when my father bought an off-lease 1970 Plymouth Barracuda from the Chrysler dealership in Canoga Park, California. For the few years we had that car, it provided some of the deepest points of education of the automobile in my youth.

That Barracuda kept me in tune with the Pentastar, though never owning any of its products. Despite being an Oldsmobile, Ford, Mazda, Nissan, Acura, Audi and Chevrolet owner, Chrysler had always been the one to root for. In my writing years, Chrysler had always been the one to go to for perspective and, later, opportunities to advance this craft.

A recent conversation with one of my contacts at Chrysler about my content on their new portal Chrysler On Demand prompted me to retrace my steps with the Pentastar. This is to discover the meandering that led to my working with some great connections at Auburn Hills today.

In other words, this is to finally answer why Chrysler makes a great story today?

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Playing Big

2014 Kia Cadenza
2014 Kia Cadenza. All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda Review of the 2014 Kia Cadenza

How does a company remake a full-sized sedan?

Consider what Kia started with. At a time when the design language had many dialects, our market was offered the Amanti, also known as Opirus in other countries. It is hard to describe this effort – front-wheel drive, V6-powered and room for five adults. It was competent underneath the skin, but what we actually saw was not pretty.

For the sake of bandwidth, I will not describe the Amanti to you.

I have never driven one. Understanding its competency underneath its body and interior, there was a bit of hesitancy in wanting to drive one. Perhaps a feeling of embarrassment knowing that I would actually be younger than the average age of an Amanti owner.

Let us just forget about the Amanti. Kia replaced it with something even better looking, more spacious and more competent under the skin. Peter Schreyer’s design language translated perfectly here, as this car will now face a growing and more significant segment.

The new Kia Cadenza is large and in charge. It is as Kia decided to reset its big car program and erased the memory of anything before it.

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Quickies: The Porsche Experience

2014 Porsche Cayman S
All Photos by Randy Stern

Name one of the greatest brands in automobile today?

You can name a few. You can name a lot. However, we would all agree upon one particular name due to its cache, history and image. That name alone evokes performance, excitement, and a legacy of track victories that stretch several decades.

Let us not beat around the bush – everyone knows what a Porsche is all about.

Porsche is not an elusive brand. Continue reading

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Historiography: The Hard Climb of The Japanese in America

1959 Toyopet Crown
What the Japanese car used to be – 1959 Toyopet Crown. All Photos by Randy Stern

There was a time when we did not think of Japanese cars as we do today.

Translation: Japanese cars were thought of as cheap tin boxes that would never make it through a Minnesota winter. That was the mentality of the American consumer until the last couple of decades. It does help that several Japanese automakers set up shop building vehicles on our soil to change our collective minds.

We are at the point of maturation with respect to the Japanese car. The mainstream automakers have made their presence known globally with production facilities practically everywhere you find them. Smaller manufacturers found success elsewhere to leverage what they can on our shores.

A lot have changed over the past six decades of the Japanese. Looking back would reveal a world where anti-Asian sentiment limited the arrival of the first products sold in the USA.

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The Gofer On Wheels

2014 Hyundai Elantra SE sedan
2014 Hyundai Elantra SE sedan. All Photos by Randy Stern

All things must come full circle.

When working with vehicles to review, the focus is usually turned onto the singular subject. If one works to review every vehicle in a singular segment, mental comparisons come into play. In this case, you choose a benchmark – or a few. These benchmarks do not have to point to being the best, but they are good at above the competition.

Compact cars became this kind of segment for me. I have driven every model and, yes, there are some benchmarks that I look to for measurement. The newest Mazda3 represent performance and driving dynamics. The Nissan Sentra is noted for space utilization and rear seat room. The Ford Focus has the engine/transmission and the ride quality part of the compact car equation. The list can go on to identify every little benchmark in the class.

Benchmarks are great, but what if someone wants a little bit of everything? Continue reading

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My First Cruise

Southwest Cruise Group Inaugural Drive
See something that somehow does not belong in a cruise? All Photos by Randy Stern

Remember when cruising was an innocent form of group automobile travel?

Every town had a cruise spot. Young people with their machines would do a loop – or, go back-and-forth on the main street – and hang out with their rides at some drive-in restaurant. Back home, that was Van Nuys Boulevard. Whether they were welcomed or not, the entire San Fernando Valley converged on that street to cruise.

In today’s carmmunity-driven world, the definition of cruising has changed for the most part. Some places have the old stand-by cruise of up-and-down the main drag and hanging out somewhere for food and loitering. Or, you get creative.

The part of being creative is bridging the love of the automobile, the art of driving and a sense of exploration beyond a singular route. The new cruising still attracts young motorists and some modified machines, but not all the time.

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St. Cloud 2014: A View From The Center

2014 Central MN Car Show
Honda’s gone Hollywood! All Photos by Randy Stern

Not all auto shows are created equal.

Not all auto shows are as important as the upcoming one in New York. Nor are they as big as the one in Minneapolis last month. In almost every metropolitan area in North America – big and small – a convention center would open up its space to show off the latest in automotive wares to the general public. And, they certainly come!

However, the general public wants a chance to look at new vehicles and consider what to do in the time ahead when it is time to trade in the old one. This is truly the purpose of auto shows.

For the second time in three years, I found myself on the floor of the River’s Edge Convention Center in downtown St. Cloud to walk the floor of the Central Minnesota Car Show. It is good to see there has been some progress with its inaugural event in 2012.

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Commentary: The Lessons LJK Setright Taught Me

Image courtesy of Car Magazine from the author

Image courtesy of Car Magazine – from the author

The past couple of days, I had this bit of AWOLNATION’s “Kill Your Heroes” playing in my head,

“I say ya kill your heroes and fly, fly, baby don’t cry.”

This was sparked by an article talking about the prolific British automotive writer LJK Setright. The author reflected on the times he talked with Setright and about his traits such as the Pioneer cassette player taking the place of a CD player. But towards the end of this piece, a line made me stop dead in my place. The line was,

“In a way I wish I hadn’t met LJK Setright – or even ever read him – because he exposed so many of today’s car journalists for the one-dimensional pretenders that they are.”

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The Prize Fighter

2014 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport
2014 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport. All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2014 Lexus IS

This car did what?!?

Comparisons are a tough thing to do. You jump from one subject to another to find a conclusion as to which one is best. In-between are the arguments – for and against a specific vehicle. Comparisons and contrasts are tested with theories on a specific advantage one subject has over another.

When Car & Driver compared three small premium sports sedans last summer, no one expected the actual winner. With the BMW 335i M Sport and the reigning V&R Vehicle of The Year Cadillac ATS 3.6 going into battle, it would the third of the group that would take the crown by one point.

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Spring Around The Corner: Upcoming Twin Cities Carmmunity Events

Coming soon… Photo by Randy Stern

The itching has been intense. Winter must now go away…

It has been a long winter. Here in Minnesota, we experienced more days below freezing than any winter in a good period of time. Air temperatures challenged braved souls as we only could pine for warmer days. The reminders of this blasted winter still exist with melted snow still clinging onto lawns waiting to burst into green.

Driving had been tough. Testing vehicles this winter may be beneficial for you on some level, but it certainly challenged the best of them. Icy, caked roads gave traction control systems a workout and tires a good excuse for scrutiny. Premium features, such as heated seats and steering wheels, provided relief from temperatures no human would want to be outside for.

Spring may be upon us here in Minnesota. It took a long time to get there, but we hope it would stick this time.

As we mentioned several times on here, V&R loves attending carmmunity events. It always happens when one car show season end while another one begins.

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