V&R Stories: The Last Ride of The Taurus

2005 Ford Taurus at Wasafarm
2006 Ford Taurus SEL. Photo by Randy Stern

In 1986, I had the opportunity to drive my first Ford Taurus. It came as I rented the car for the weekend as I had tickets for a San Diego Chargers game down at Jack Murphy (now Qualcomm) Stadium and my employer’s holiday party. It was a daunting task to drive from Reseda to San Diego and back in time for the party in Woodland Hills, but I was up for a challenge. Besides, this would be the first time I would drive between two major cities.

After piling up the miles on that first trip, I was impressed with Ford’s breakthrough family sedan. Impress enough to welcome it again a couple of months later when I had to drive up to the Bay Area to retrieve some items from my late father’s estate. For the amount of travel I have done between both Northern and Southern California, a Taurus helped me achieve my first ever trip between the two areas from behind the wheel. Interstate 5 through the Central Valley can be a lonely highway, but that 1987 Taurus GL was a true traveling companion.

During these past two decades, the Ford Taurus became the car that was my ticket to adventure. I never owned a Taurus to get the full experience of the car, but I had driven more of my share of them to rack up some wonderful times behind the wheel. With the exception of the SHO, I may have driven every version of one of the best products Ford created.

The “jellybean” shape struck a chord with consumers looking for a family sedan that stood and performed admirably. On December 26, 1985, the Taurus, along with its twin the Mercury Sable, arrived at dealerships to a hungry public. In turn, they had one of the best new car introductions in Ford history selling as many Tauruses as they did in the first year of the Mustang in 1964.

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Commentary: The Challenge of Mobility…and Then Some

A temporary mobility fix – All Photos by Randy Stern

Let’s talk about mobility…again

I spent the week of the North American International Auto Show without working with a vehicle for publication. I figured I would utilize the entire spectrum of alternative mobility to fulfill my commute to my day job and other things I might have to do in the meantime. This involved the use of local public transit, shared ride services, car sharing and rental cars.

Obviously, each mode of transport offered their own set of challenges. The three-bus commute relies on meeting transfers within short layovers. Lyft, Uber and taxicabs rely on making sure drivers are available locally for a short pickup time. Zipcar is not just about availability of a certain vehicle at a location, but in matching the promised rate for that rental time.

However, there was a larger challenge that was made last week’s use of mobility interesting. The week had a mix of weather that ranged from ice storms to snow accumulations to sub-zero temperatures. It made for some adjustments and pratfalls in accomplishing two things: getting to my day job and going home.

To summarize the week: with all of the stress in my day job, one does not need further stress in the commute.

At the end of the day job’s work week, I was itching to drive. Continue reading

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When Imaginations Run Wild…

2016 Volkswagen 1.8T SE (2)
A possible project? – All Photos by Randy Stern

The things we think about when our imaginations run free.

My imagination can be off the chain. The things I think about – especially with automobiles – could either make me a wealthy person or locked up at a state institution.

However, there is a solid basis when it comes to the imagination. It is rooted in reality, through experience and knowledge of the currents in the universe. I always try to ask “what if” without trying to know what I’m talking about. The vision becomes clearer with every light bulb snapping in my synapse.

What am I on about? I asked myself if I were to take any vehicle sold in this marketplace and try to modify it, which one and how would I do so?

Good question. You may be surprised by what I came up with within this context. These are really ordinary automobiles with more power, better suspensions and even greater comfort and convenience.

Welcome to the world of Victory & Reseda’s imaginary special operations division!

Who says a mind is a terrible thing to waste? Here’s some of my crazy ideas…

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V&R Stories: The Homecoming

Reseda Theater
All Photos by Randy Stern

Thomas Wolfe was absolutely wrong.

This V&R Story explains why the famous author was wrong in “coming home again.” It takes place in April and May of 2006 with what I considered an epic voyage in my post-California life.

Being a native Losangelino, I had a love-hate relationship with the place I was born into. I officially left my native state for new pastures on December 1, 1996. I boarded a red-eye American Airlines flight out of Los Angeles International Airport – and never looked back.

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Detroit 2017: “Wow” Moments and Hidden Vehicle Tricks

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors America

It has been a few years since I last attended the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. I have been credentialed, but never attended since 2013. It could be disappointing on one hand, but getting all the news one needs from afar is truly advantageous.

There had been some major introductions in Detroit this year. Without further ado, let me dive into the ones I think will be resonant with you – the readership of Victory & Reseda!

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Crossing Into Snocross

Snocross at Canterbury Park
All Photos by Randy Stern

It is winter in Minnesota. That will never stop anyone from participating in any winter sport.

Of course, we have to have something with a motor to play during the winter in Minnesota. That is why we love snowmobiles.

Just like cars and motorcycles, snowmobiles are used in competition. One such circuit allows snowmobiles to run through a course unlike motocross with turns, hills and moguls to make for some exciting racing. They call it snocross.

The AMSOIL Championship Snocross circuit stopped by Canterbury Park in nearby Shakopee this past weekend. Having never been to a snocross event, I was invited by Ram Trucks to go check out the Pirtek Snocross Nationals event presented by Jimmy John’s. Why Ram? They just happen to be one of sponsors of the series.

Canterbury Park is a familiar venue for me. Continue reading

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Commentary: Tweet and Ye Shall Respond

Ford CEO Mark Fields and UAW vice president Jimmy Settles ready to make an announcement at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant on January 3, 2017 – Photo courtesy of the Ford Motor Company

The first few business days of the year has already yielded some weighty headlines.

For one, I was greeted by an e-mail from General Motors reiterating something that those of us who cover industry already know. GM clarified that the popular Chevrolet Cruze sedan is produced is Lordstown, Ohio with their newly hot hatchback models built at a plant in Ramos Arizpe, Coahuila in Mexico. The latter was designed for consumption throughout the Western Hemisphere, with a small number of units designed for USA sale.

The other was a continuation of a story that broke out during the Presidential campaign. Ford made an announcement that it would move production of the compact Focus and C-Max MPV from the Michigan Assembly facility to a new facility under construction in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. The plan was to transfer production of these two vehicles for a wider export market beyond North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) zone to other countries within the Western Hemisphere.

However, Ford did a turn on production plans by cancelling the $1.6 billion facility in North Central Mexico to invest $700 million in expanding the Flat Rock plant outside of Detroit for electrification of several popular Ford vehicles. In addition, Ford CEO Mark Fields announced that the next generation Focus will be built at an existing plant Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. The move is similar to GM’s strategy, as the next Focus is being considered for export into NAFTA and other countries within the Western Hemisphere.

If we look as to why these announcements were made, one clue have already been stated in one of these previous paragraphs.

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2016 in Sales Numbers

2017 Nissan Rogue SV AWD
This is one of the auto sales trends in 2016. All Photos by Randy Stern

The 2016 annual automotive sales figures were released today or the USA. There were actually no surprises among the numbers and percentages. Even the trends matched up.

Story over? Not quite. We have numbers and trends to parse out.

First off, the total volume of sales reached a record of 17.54 million units in the USA. This number includes all cars, trucks, SUVs, minivans, etc. This number topped 2015’s 17.48 million total sales number. In all, it was a net increase of 56,411 units. It was projected that not only we would see over 17 million total light vehicle deliveries in 2016, but 10 million of them would be trucks/SUVs in this country. No figure has been confirmed whether the 10 million unit “magic number” had been achieved or not.

With that “magic number” looming, it was obvious that the main trend in USA auto sales have been the rise in trucks and SUVs. At almost every OEM, you will find that truck models and brands have been leading the way. Continue reading

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An Icy Commercial Gone Viral

Video provided by White Bear Autos via YouTube

At any given local television market, we are often entertained by commercials representing the region’s market. In particular, we love commercials for automobile dealerships.

Here in the Twin Cities, our local automotive dealerships can get really creative – with a local focus, of course. We are Minnesotans – all year round. We support our sports franchises and communities – through thick and thin.

You have been introduced to a friend on here several years ago by the name of Richard Herod III. He is the General Manager of White Bear Mitsubishi in White Bear Lake. Having worked with him on several projects over the years, I know of his wit and his personality. His shtick is a mascot of a cute white bear – taller than Herod’s frame, round and fun-loving. The mascot appears on every marketing material inside and beyond the dealership property.

With help from White Bear Mitsubishi’s advertising and marketing agencies, they will do localized commercials, including touting their sponsorships of community and sports entities. Continue reading

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Starting The New Year “Sweet”

2017 Lexus CT 200h F Sport
2017 Lexus CT 200h F Sport – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2017 Lexus CT 200h F Sport

How do you end one year and start a new one?

In my world, it would be a car. Though it has never been the case over the years. For those moments, I found solace in driving on New Year’s Day. It is usually the reboot of the Gregorian Calendar – a time for renewal and a fresh start.

There are plenty of traditions that denote the New Year. For example, the Dutch would make Oliebollen – New Year’s donuts – as a way to make it a fresh start. Americans would try to catch the Tournament of Roses parade pre-show on KTLA-TV. This year, the parade is on Monday due to an ages-old tradition of “never on Sunday.”

A long time ago, I began a new tradition. If I had a vehicle with me on New Year’s Day, I would take a drive. That is, of course, if I was sober from the night before and found myself not around people that day. One such drive was in my 1991 Acura Integra RS Coupe as I found myself somewhere out in Eastern Contra Costa County, in the outskirts of the Bay Area. It would be a nice, long drive to clear the head and celebrate the renewal of life.

The last time I took a drive on New Year’s Day, it was to join my friends at Dakota County Technical College for some racing on a mixed surface of snow, ice and dry tarmac. The New Year was celebrated from the cab of the 2016 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro, though I did ride shotgun with some friends who took to the track. That certainly rung in the New Year.

How would I ring in 2017? It may be different than most, because it is an anomaly in itself. Let me ask you: What car do you know is a compact hatchback with a gasoline-electric hybrid driveline? There are plenty of answers – mostly from Toyota. Let me make this a bit more difficult: How about such a car from a premium brand?

That question is no longer difficult to answer. Continue reading

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