Today in History: Six Millionth Honda Civic


The word “ubiquitous” might have been coined specifically for the Honda Civic. Civics are so common, such an everyday sight that you don’t even notice them anymore…until you actually pay attention and realize that there are a LOT of Honda Civics on the road.

On July 23, 2007, the six millionth Civic rolled off of Honda’s production lines; the Civic was introduced in 1972 and has been through numerous generations and nine separate design iterations along the way. The tiny two-door first-generation Civic couldn’t have come along at a better time; in ’72, the American auto industry was being shaken up by the first oil crunch as the Middle East turned off the spigot. Big, wasteful cars were suddenly on the outs, American companies were scrambling to introduce (very mediocre) small cars, and in no time the ...[more]

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Caring for New Tires


Tires are something that most people just do not give a lot of thought to until something goes wrong and it’s time to replace them. The good news is, they don’t really need a lot of maintenance (certainly not as much as your car’s mechanical systems do), and it’s pretty easy to take care of them and get a long service life from them. Ther e are a few things, though, that you do need to keep in mind with your new tires.

  • Watch your driving habits. Obviously, if you regularly mash the gas pedal hard enough to break traction and burn rubber, that will take a lot of life off your tires. Besides that, though, be careful about your braking and cornering habits, and go easy over potholes and railroad tracks; they will all take a toll on your tires.
  • Check your ...[more]

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Performance Tire Roundup


Performance cars need performance tires. But what’s the difference between performance tires and ordinary touring tires?

Performance tires are usually made with a softer tread compound for “stickiness” and improved grip, reaction and handling on dry pavement – the compromise is in shorter tread life. Many true performance tires also don’t do well in colder weather, and many drivers switch over to all-season or winter tires in colder months.

Tires with H or V speed ratings are typically considered “performance touring” tires, and many are designed for all-season wear. Tires with the W, Y or Z rating (and an aspect ratio of less than 55) are ultra-high-performance tires, designed for high-speed handling.

We rounded up a few of our best- ...[more]

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Today in History: Ford's First Order


Henry Ford wasn’t the first out of the gate with automobiles and the internal-combustion engine – Daimler had a jump on that in the late 19th century – but Ford was definitely the first to see the potential of mass production, mass marketing, and the economy of scale that could make cars affordable for the middle class.

On July 15, 1903, Ford Motor Company took its first order, for an $850 two-cylinder Model A with a “tonneau,” or back seat. Manufactured at Ford’s early Mack Street plant in Detroit, the car was delivered to its new owner, a Chicago dentist, about a week later.

Ford had been working as chief engineer at Detroit’s Edison Illuminating Company plant when he designed and built his first car, the Quadricycle, in 1896. By 1903, he had lined up the investors and financing to fo ...[more]

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Today in History: The Dymaxion Car


Engineer/architect Buckminster Fuller was a true early-20th-century eccentric, perhaps best known for his geodesic dome and semi-prefab Dymaxion House, which could be assembled on-site almost anywhere.

In the 1920s, Fuller began drawing up his Dymaxion Car (the name  is a mashup of “dynamic,” “maximum” and “ion”). The first sketches were pure left-field stuff, with a teardrop design, a single tail fin and a third wheel that was intended to lift off the ground at speed. After some redesigns, Fuller set up a production facility for the Dymaxion in an old Locomobile automotive factory in Connecticut. The first Dymaxion was produced on July 12, 1933, with a steel frame and a body made of curved ash wood panels with an aluminum skin and painted canvas roof.

The Dymaxion was projected to to ...[more]

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Today in History: First 3-Point Seatbelt


If you’ve ever seen pictures of collisions from the 40s or 50s, you might have been surprised at how well the cars would hold up in a fairly serious accident. Even with collisions at 30 or 40 mph, the cars would look only slightly banged-up…the passengers, on the other hand, usually fared much worse. In those days before ‘crumple zone’ designs, the passengers would be the ones absorbing the energy of an impact. In fact, the prevailing wisdom in those days was that a passenger’s chances were much better if he was “thrown clear” of the wreck.

Today, of course, we know better.

By the mid 50s, padded dashboards were starting to appear in some cars, dashboards were being redesigned to get rid of protruding knobs and switches, safety glass was improving and so ...[more]

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Today in History: First 3-Point Seatbelt


If you’ve ever seen pictures of collisions from the 40s or 50s, you might have been surprised at how well the cars would hold up in a fairly serious accident. Even with collisions at 30 or 40 mph, the cars would look only slightly banged-up…the passengers, on the other hand, usually fared much worse. In those days before ‘crumple zone’ designs, the passengers would be the ones absorbing the energy of an impact. In fact, the prevailing wisdom in those days was that a passenger’s chances were much better if he was “thrown clear” of the wreck.

Today, of course, we know better.

By the mid 50s, padded dashboards were starting to appear in some cars, dashboards were being redesigned to get rid of protruding knobs and switches, safety glass was improving and som ...[more]

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TBT: 5 Movie Cars We Want


Let’s get right to it here, shall we? 

  • The DeLorean from “Back to the Future” – The DeLorean was as much a product of the 80s as anything you can think of. With its brushed-stainless skin, angular body lines, gullwing doors and complicated backstory involving the flamboyant John Z. DeLorean himself, the car wasn’t an especially strong performer…but it sure does sum up a point in time nicely.
  • The green Dodge Charger from “Bullitt” – Yes, everyone loves Steve McQueen’s Mustang from the movie…but we kinda prefer the 440-powered Dodge Charger that met a spectacular end. Something about the Charger is more menacing and brutal than the Mustang. May ...[more]

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How Tires Can Vastly Improve Your Fuel Economy


When you think of enhanced fuel economy, you probably think of the usual things…aerodynamics, engine size, rear end gear ratio, vehicle weight, driving style and speed, and your engine’s state of tune (clean air filter, good spark plugs, etc). Did you know, though, that your tires can have a huge bearing on gas mileage as well? 

  • Tire Size – The bigger, wider and heavier a tire is, the more rolling resistance it presents. Don’t believe me? Go for a ride on a skinny-tire racing bike, then go for a ride on a fat balloon-tire beach cruiser and see the difference. You shouldn’t go for a narrower tire than original equipment, as engineers tune suspensions and steering for a given tire size, but also remember that wider tires can cut into your fuel economy (even if th ...[more]

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Throwback Thursday: 1970 Datson 240Z


 

With the introduction of the 240Z, Datsun changed the sports-car world by introducing a serious, good-looking true sports car with Japanese reliability and practicality. Sold in Japan as the Nissan Fairlady, the 240Z was an instant hit in the US, with a 2.4 liter single-overhead-cam inline 6 that put out 151 horsepower. Equipped with a four-speed manual transmission, the 240Z could sprint to 60 mph in 8.0 seconds and top out at 125 mph, while getting 21 mpg on the highway.

The two-seater 240Z was fairly sophisticated mechanically, with MacPherson struts in front and 4-wheel independent suspension and twin Hitachi side-draft carburetors. It also undercut the prices of its competitors from Jaguar, Porsche and BMW, making it a popular seller in the US, and was a solid performer on the rally and ...[more]

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