Commentary: The Love of Three Cars (And The Work Behind Each One)

2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack
Photo by BobbiLe N’Diaye/BobbiLe Ba Photography

I have been told various times how lucky I am.

Maybe. My humility gets in the way. Sometimes, I just smile and enjoy that light shining upon my soul. No, wait, that is the sun in my eyes…

Luck would have it that I reviewed three amazing vehicles within a short proximity of time from each other. They are as divergent from each other as one could get. Consider each vehicle’s country of origin, performance roots, design and price. It certainly adds the spice of variety in life.

These divergent vehicles? Continue reading

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#LongLiveTheRoadster

2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PHRT
2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring. All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Twenty-five years later, this car defined what a roadster should be.

When Mazda unveiled the next generation MX-5 Miata, a few bullet points popped up that solidified this car’s legacy. It is the best selling roadster ever. Mazda sold more MX-5 Miatas than any single model British Leyland could muster – in particular, the MGB. Clearly Mazda outsold the Alfa Romeo Spider and the Fiat 124 Spider.

Mazda also claimed that the MX-5 yielded more race entries than any roadster ever. In the current context, my morning at Brainerd International Raceway was evidence of this claim. No matter if you were a SCCA Pro Racing team or a club racer, the MX-5 was present as a weapon against all comers.

There is a claim I did not see. Continue reading

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Carmmunity: Once Again in Paul Walker’s Name

ROWW Cruise 2014 258
Photo by Randy Stern

Almost a year ago, a group of automotive enthusiasts gathered to create a carmmunity in the aftermath of actor Paul Walker’s tragic death. Over a couple of hundred cars encircled the Twin Cities in snowy conditions to benefit Walker’s charity, Reach Out Worldwide.

This year, In Car Nation and their friends gathered for another drive for Walker’s charity again. This time, it was timed to celebrate the actor’s birthday. Walker would have been 41 years old.

Still, over a hundred cars began their trek from White Bear Lake, Minnesota through downtown Minneapolis to the Mall of America, the end point of last year’s cruise. Instead of snow, we had bright sunshine and temperatures in the sixties.

Instead of a treatise on the event, it is better to show about a couple of hundred photos in celebration of Sunday’s cruise. This is a way to thank In Car Nation and all of the participants for their time to celebrate the life, work and philanthropy of Paul Walker.

Enjoy the photos here.

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Commentary: The Real Art of (Automotive) Writing

Muscle Car Weekend at BIR
The answer is not here. Photo by Randy Stern

“So, Randy, what do I need to become a successful automotive writer?”

The key to doing this art is to write well. Even that is not enough. Writing in a subject matter takes skill and knowledge of the language. It also takes understanding the voice you want to convey towards which audience you want to read your stuff.

End of lesson? Not even close. I just only scratched the surface.

Let me go back before this site became Victory & Reseda. Continue reading

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The Greatest Car Ever Made?

2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG 4matic
2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG 4Matic. All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class

This is the greatest car ever made.

You may argue otherwise, but consider how much this lofty title was earned by the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. It shifted the luxury market when luxury became too grandiose and out of scale. Instead of the fattest car becoming the fattest cat amongst the grand automobiles, there was scale to be considered. Things were scalable by quality, efficiency and attaining the right size for a luxury car.

That was in 1972 when the W116 made its debut in North America. All of the sudden we embraced the Mercedes-Benz as the ultimate gift to the luxury car buyer. Namely, the S-Class was the car to get when you made it to the top.

Over four decades on, a new S-Class debuts. Granted, the flagship had its ups and downs when finding the right combination of excellence. Yet, no one would deny its place on the pantheon of luxury cars. The W222 may have taken the S-Class onto a new level.

The S-Class may have jumped into a new paradigm. One reserved for more bespoke brands. Perhaps it was time for such a quantum leap.

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Historiography: Der Sonderklasse

Wheels of Italy 2014
All Photos by Randy Stern

For Mercedes-Benz, the S-Class represents all that is powerful and successful.

For as long as I have been alive, this had always been the position of Daimler AG’s most prominent product. To make it otherwise is to disrespect it. If one product signifies Gottlieb Daimler’s sage words “the best or nothing,” look no further than the S-Class.

The Sonderklasse (Special Class in German) is supposed to the best car in the Mercedes-Benz lineup. In 1972, it was christened as the S-Class as the common lexicon for such a car. Yet, the origins of the Sonderklasse goes back a bit further.

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Commentary: The Determination To Be Here

2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack
Photo by BobbiLe Marie N’Diaye (c) BobbiLe Ba Photography

This thing I am involved with – covering the automotive industry and its products – could be one helluva game.

This is a reflection of how the circle of employment in this field serves as a reality check. In light of recent events, it began to affect me personally. Because of those events, I walked away with the determination to move forward.

From April to just recently, I sat as an interim content person at a locally-based automotive resource site. Not to get into details, I was up for the permanent position. I did not get that position. The decision on their part was tough, but they went with a person with much more experience than I. That explanation I accepted with professional grace.

The site still wants my services at a latter date. My former supervisor thinks the work I provided them was “excellent.” I look forward to further collaboration with them in the near future.

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Quickies: A Charming New Proposition

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class. Photos Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz USA

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class. All Photos Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz USA

It is a charming idea.

Until the arrival of the CLA-Class, Mercedes-Benz had a tough time convincing consumers in the USA that they could sell small cars. Case in point: the 190E. Though it was successful, it still did not convince a huge number of Mercedes-Benz customers that smaller was better. It did convince it was indeed a Mercedes-Benz. The 190E’s lineage continues as the C-Class.

The front-drive CLA is somewhat of a tough sell. You could advertise the price, but the consumer does not see the part about the “four-door coupe” body. All they see is the price. The idea of a relatively inexpensive Mercedes-Benz is attractive, if the car exudes the brand’s luxury tenets and provide enough room for those of us coming out of larger models.

There are two alternatives. You could get the B-Class Electric Drive, which is a front-drive small wagon powered only by an electric motor. Or, you could settle for Mercedes-Benz’s small crossover, the GLA.

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Commentary: Duran Duran? What a Great Idea!

"Baby, you could drive my car! - Simon Le Bon - Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

“Baby, you could drive my car!” – Simon Le Bon – Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

I do not go to a lot of new car reveal events, but when I do…

The problem with reveals is the show. How much show can you incorporate into the launch event. Budget be damned, you have to have the show.

Chrysler made a show out of their reveals from the 1980s onward. They smashed new vehicles through windows, had them climb “rocks” on stage and other shenanigans. As an offshoot of his time managing the “Merger of Equals,” Dr. Dieter Zetsche had no qualms including celebrities as part of recent Mercedes-Benz pressers. In 2013, Infiniti hired Cirque de Soleil to help reveal the Q50 in Detroit. The night before, I was amongst those witnessing the birth of the C7 Corvette Stingray to the tune of a piped in brand with a single unplugged guitarist.

Sometimes you have to ask “where’s the show?” We certainly got one just recently…

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Quickies: What Else Was New?

2015 Ram 1500 w/EcoDiesel

2015 Ram 1500 w/EcoDiesel – All Photos Courtesy of Chrysler Group LLC

What else is new at Chrysler?

Other than the Chrysler 200, Jeep Renegade, Ram ProMaster City, Alfa Romeo 4C, Dodge Challenger and Charger, everything else is simply gravy. You could say “carry over,” but why? Fiat and Chrysler will offer some new variants, options and other details across the lines. It was part of the program attended back in June at their Chelsea Proving Grounds.

This event gave me an opportunity not only to drive the new 4C and the Fiat 500 Abarth with the new automatic transmission; it was a chance to catch up on other products that have not been covered on here. Some may be redundant, while others may be of interest based on prior material. Some might even surprise you.

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