Color Wars!

2017 Volvo V60 Cross Country
All Photos by Randy Stern

What color speaks to you?

It depends on your mood really. Your personality, above all. How you view the world – or how the world views you. But, ultimately, color comes from your life – from the clothes you wear, the colors you choose for your home, etc.

There are arguments over colors – and the psychology of them. Perhaps if you’re into the Green Lantern series, where there is a battle amongst the colors of Lanterns or factions, then you probably understand these arguments over the importance of color in our lives.

When it comes to automobiles, we often think in two terms about colors: How individual we are and how much we care about or car. An individual thinker would rather pick a color that speaks to them. If it looks great on a car – and both the car and color reflects the personality of the owner – then, you can see where the relationship between car and owner will go for the term of the car loan.

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Throwback Review: 4DSC

2009 Nissan Maxima 8
2009 Nissan Maxima 3.5S – Photo by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda “Throwback Review” of the 2009 Nissan Maxima

What does 4DSC stands for? If the photo above was not obvious, a history lesson is called for.

About twenty years ago, Nissan decided to change the game on Asian four-door sedans. When they introduced the 1989 Maxima, they continued the front engine/front-wheel-drive format and concentrated on massaging the 3.0 liter V6 for performance instead of tepid luxury. Thus with the sporty SE sedan, the 4DSC was born: The four-door sports car.

Since then, the Maxima had slipped away from being the 4DSC. The last Maxima were curious mix of California-penned origami and hideous details that detracted from the 4DSC first foisted upon the market back in 1989. Nissan knew it had to compete distinctively in the entry-level premium sedan market by bringing its own sexy back.

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Throwback Review: Wanting to Be Everything to Everyone

2007 Hyundai Elantra
2007 Hyundai Elantra GLS – Photo by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda “Throwback Review” of the 2007 Hyundai Elantra

At the 2007 New York Auto Show, Hyundai’s rolled out its latest global attempt at a prestige-class automobile. To coincide with its debut, Hyundai Motors America began a new marketing campaign comparing its models to other prestige brands. For example, to compare a Sonata V6 to a BMW is a stretch. If it works to bring consumers wanting a BMW without paying Bavarian prices into Hyundai showrooms, maybe the guys in Fountain Valley are the smartest people in the room.

With a new 2007 Hyundai Elantra GLS at my disposal, I hoped to test this theory. Yet, I also wonder what cars would an Elantra compare to upmarket. If I find that it fails to compare with anything other than a Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 or Honda Civic, then whom am I fooling?

After a few miles in the Elantra, I began to compute Hyundai’s new marketing strategy in my head. How does this compare to a Volvo C30, S40, MINI Cooper, Audi A3, Volkswagen Rabbit or Jetta? Does it need to be compared to these vehicles for the sake of its eminent move further upscale? Rather, does it matter at all since the Elantra is designed for the middle-of-the-road consumer looking for a compact sedan to commute in?

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Throwback Review: Reconsidering the Ford Escape

2008 Ford Escape
2008 Ford Escape XLT – Photo by Randy Stern

In honor of our upcoming 300th vehicle review, Victory & Reseda will be reposting our older reviews for your reading pleasure. This way, we can show you our work when Randy had to rent cars and write about them, just to cut his teeth in this business. If one thing was true about this work – things have certainly got better in the automotive business, in terms of product, engineering, safety and technology.

We have to start somewhere. Without further ado, here is Randy’s first published vehicle review ever – the 2008 Ford Escape

Over the past several years, I had the displeasure of driving a couple of Ford Escapes. Why would I describe my experience with one of the best selling small SUVs as “displeasure?” There is an old adage that goes: “if it quacks like a duck, it is a duck.” Now, replace the word “duck” with “SUV.” You can tell where this going.

It is not that I dislike SUVs. With only one exception, every SUV I’ve driven would be best described as a modern version of the Conestoga wagon. As you site high up above the traffic, you feel the suspension shake you along even the smoothest of tarmac. Let’s not forget the lack of fuel efficiency these buckets employ. Shall I talk about the comfort a SUV lacks even around town?

So, why did we go crazy over these beasts of burden a decade ago? Continue reading

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V&R Stories: Licensed for Adventure

Thirty-seven years later… –
Photo by Randy Stern

It has been 37 years since I first obtained my driver’s license. This laminated card with my photo, stats, restrictions and endorsements has been my passport to the world. Well, maybe just one country – albeit one huge one. Nonetheless, my relationship with the road and the automobile has been forged by a single event of passing the driver’s test in a car that is not of my own.

What was it like getting to that day in April of 1980? Continue reading

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A Change In Plans

September 2012 MN Cars & Coffee
Photo by Randy Stern

No Cars & Coffee?

For the first time in over nine seasons that one of the premier car meets in America – let alone the state of Minnesota – will not take place at their usual location. On Tuesday, Minnesota Cars & Coffee announced the cancellation of the May 6 edition of their monthly event slated for AutoMotorPlex in Chanhassen.

According to their Facebook page, the primary reason given was based on a meeting with Lieutenant Eric Kittelson of the Carver County Sheriff’s Department and other officials from the City of Chanhassen. The city and county presented a set of new guidelines regarding future Cars & Coffee events at AutoMotorPlex. Chanhassen’s City Manager asked Minnesota Cars & Coffee to seek a 80% reduction of attendance, do a resale of tickets to participants and spectators, eliminate all street parking and utilize park & ride facilities with shuttles to AutoMotorPlex. The city of Chanhassen cited issues with traffic and safety concerns as their primary reasons towards asking Minnesota Cars & Coffee to agree to these changes before the May 6 event.

Instead of going through with the requests of the city of Chanhassen and Carver County, Minnesota Cars & Coffee wound up canceling the May event. In some way, it gave them incentive to reinvent the largest such car event in the country, currently attracting 10,000-plus people per month.

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Alonso at Indy

Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The Brickyard is no stranger to World Champion drivers.

Jack Clark won in 1965, followed by Graham Hill the next year. Mario Andretti returned to USAC/IndyCar duty after he won his Formula One crown with Colin Chapman and Lotus. Emerson Fittapaldi won twice, once beating Nigel Mansell for the carafe of milk.

There is a certain buzz coming from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week. Not because it is the month of May and that the 101st running of the 500 is just a few weeks away. It is because of another Formula One champion arriving at The Brickyard for his turn at one of the greatest motorsport venues in the world.

The arrival of two-time World Champion driver Fernando Alonso has become the focus at Indy this month. Continue reading

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V&R Stories: The Last Train Home

Light Rail Crossing near US Bank Stadium
NOT the last train home… – Photo by Randy Stern

Nine years of living in the San Francisco Bay Area taught me a lot.

Among the lessons I learned being a Northern Californian involved making the right call when “going out” at night without a car. Keep in mind that driving a car in San Francisco required a sense of insanity even the sanest of people acutely have. It had been said that finding someone to have a nightcap with was easier than finding a parking spot in San Francisco.

There were nights when I did not find someone to nightcap with. Roaming the South of Market bars in the early-to-mid 1990’s, I was out there attempting to meet people and have a good time. Some nights, I did. Other nights, I just felt I shouldn’t have gone out at all. If I did not have a friend put me up for the night, I had no choice but to head back to the East Bay suburb of Concord, where I lived during the last three years of my Bay Area existence.

Here’s the dilemma: the bars close at 2:00AM. The last BART train back to Concord leaves the Civic Center station at 12:18AM. If it’s on a Saturday night, the first train to leave the next morning was after 8:00AM. If you did not have anyone to go home with, which “walk of shame” should you choose?

“Walk of shame?” In my case, it’s either take that last train home and walk home from the station, or find something “healthy” to do in the eight hours between trains.

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Travelogue: Lamenting The Lonely Highway

Downtown Des Moines at Dusk
Des Moines on a Saturday night. Photo by Randy Stern

Sometimes, the romance of the open highway may not be as romantic as I once envisioned.

When I was younger, I found myself driving between Southern and Northern California on several occasions. Most likely, I found myself on Interstate 5 running along the western edge of the San Joaquin Valley. This is not your lonely piece of highway as you are joined by many of your fellow motorists at all hours of the day and night at high rates of speed. Forget the 70MPH speed limit as you go with the flow of traffic. In this case, the flow normally averages 80MPH.

Sometimes, I found myself alone. For miles, I would become the only car on the road going in my direction. It would be 3:00AM, somewhere west of Fresno or Tulare…on a lonely highway. The radio or tape player would be blasting to keep me awake. The cruise control would be on and I would find a comfortable spot to rest my feet as I kept my fingers on the wheel. On summer nights, the windows would be open to let the valley air in. Some manure would seep through the wind, but it did keep me going.

This past weekend, I took the plunge into a quick weekend getaway into Iowa. Say what you will about the state, but I have some friends there that I was able to visit during my time in Des Moines and Iowa City. When I driving along Interstates 35, 80 and US Highway 218, there were plenty of moments that evoked the memory of the overnight drives back home in California.

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Historiography: The American Compact Car

Back To The 50s 2015
Ford Falcon – All Photos by Randy Stern

By the Fall of 1959, the North American automotive industry came to their senses. The rise of Volkswagen ushered in a period where the domestic automotive industry had to respond to a swath of smaller imported automobiles penetrating sales. Not to mention the loss of several nameplates in the process after World War II.

When the Big Three introduced their compact cars for 1960, it was in response to several greater challenges to Postwar America. A recession in 1958 reset the national economy and culled the domestic automakers to tone their vehicles for a new decade. The Eisenhower era was about to close with the coming elections in 1960. The rest of the industrialized world has been catching up to the USA, years after the Marshall Plan. That included Japan.

The introduction of the 1960 Chevrolet Corvair, Chrysler Valiant and Ford Falcon was a pivotal event for the automotive industry. But, we often forget that the idea of building a domestic compact car was not a new thing in America. It is just that we simply ignored our own efforts to provide a new class of car for a growing economy.

After World War II, returning members of the armed forces took up new lives, they went back to school, bought homes, started families – all thanks to the G.I. Bill. Jobs were coming on line, too. The economy was about to boom and the USA was ready to help the rest of the word out.

Some of these returning soldiers, sailors and Marines recalled a genre of automobile that floated around their former battlefields of Europe. Continue reading

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