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Mopar v. Honda Minivan...not a surprise ending

Discussion in 'American Muscle' started by CornersWell, May 14, 2005.

  1. CornersWell

    CornersWell F1 Rookie

    Nov 24, 2004
    4,650
    This morning on SpeedTV's Sports Car Revolution, they did a comparison of an early-1970's Dodge Roadrunner (the "iconic" musclecar) and a modern Honda minivan around the SCCA's Solo timetrial roadcourse. Guess which vehicle won?

    Just to make it fair, they loaded the minivan down with 4 "exotic" dancers (although, they looked pretty average to me except for their names: Trixie and Mercedes, for example).

    Brilliant! Hilarious! Ridiculous! I loved every second of it. It wasn't as amusing or polished as a Top Gear episode, but maybe these guys are taking a page out of the Brits playbook.

    BTW, the Honda won! 60.2 v. 62.7 (or something like that).

    Admittedly, it's not really a fair comparison. Much older technology (tires and suspension), and the course doesn't allow the Dodge to use the horsepower advantage. So, before all you musclecar fans get in a huff, it's just plain funny as all get out that an average daily minivan can outperform a hundred-thousand dollar "iconic" classic musclecar.

    Now, I don't think you could say the same if you put the same minivan against period correct Ferrari Daytona or 365BB. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to bash American cars, although I have always maintained that they were, are and probably will be inferior to other marques (average domestic v. average import). Ok, ok. Maybe it's not a totally fair comparison I'm making, either. After all, a 365BB or Daytona probably cost 10 times what the Roadrunner cost. But, domestic manufacturers put more money into horsepower than they did into suspension, braking and aerodynamics. They spent money on tacked-on hood scoops and trim packages than they did on getting quickly around a track. I guess that's the difference between straight-line performance and circuit-performance engineering!

    Thoughts, anyone?

    CW
     
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  3. Mojo

    Mojo Formula 3

    Sep 24, 2002
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    Joseph

    Did someone forget about the FORD GT40 in the sixties.
    I know not average,
    the new FORD GT also beat the 430 in the new motor trend.
    I also wonder about the new Z06 coming out.
     
  4. sampson

    sampson Karting

    Dec 22, 2004
    201
    near Detroit, MI
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    Matt
    Well, the Ford GT, Z06, and Viper are able to smack around just about any Ferrari. Most Ferrari guys get all defensive when the GT40 is mentioned, as it kicked Ferrari's ass in the 60s. It is stupid to compare a musclecar in anything other than a straight line. They were meant to drag, that's what they do. Us musclecar guys don't need them to do anything else, so long as they make a lot of noise and fly off the line.

    Not trying to start a fight at all, so don't flame me here. I love Ferraris (obviously since I'm a member here), so I'm not bashing them by mentioning the GT40.
     
  5. Mr Payne

    Mr Payne F1 Rookie

    Jan 8, 2004
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    Payne
    Yes, American consumers wanted straightline speed so that's obviously what the carmakers developed.

    I'm not sure why it's funny. About as funny as taking a modern day FBody and raping a 308 around a track.
     
  6. CornersWell

    CornersWell F1 Rookie

    Nov 24, 2004
    4,650
    Admittedly, there are cars like the GT40 and the 289/427 Cobras that were "special" runs. These examples had to be great handling cars, too. Horsepower on the track alone isn't enough. And, Ford went "all-in" on the GT40 project, committing whatever resources Shelby et al required. It would have been an embarassing "F U" backfire if the GT40s had not won.

    The modern GT40, while semi-interesting, is not a new concept, and the concept is 40+ years old. Big HP. I'm not even going to get into the already annoying recalls and rumors/claims that the prooject head has been sacked.

    The modern production Z06 Corvettes are also semi-interesting. They do give a huge bang-for-the-buck factor. Their race program (Pratt & Miller, right?) is hugely funded and will always be at the front of the pack in ALMS. However, the Corvette has had success in Grand Am, TransAm, ALMS, ELMS and SCCA.

    The Viper has had some success with Team Oreca in ELMS and some success in SCCA. Not as good bang-for-the-buck factor as the Corvette. Again, big hp concept. Everybody likes to drag race. Step on the gas hard, modulate the wheel spin with clutch and throttle, and away we go! Sure, it's cool to be the fastest in a straight line. Why not? And, sure, there is some talent in the launch and car control.

    I'm certainly not defensive about the Z06, Viper, GT40 (modern or classic) or 289/427s. They are all more affordable, possibly more reliable and close, equal or, in some cases, better in performance. The GT40 may be a faster car 0-60 than a 360 in a straight line at roughly equivalent prices (depending on the market price). But, the 360 has much greater ... "balance" as a car.

    I've always maintained that there may be faster cars than a Ferrari. There may be quicker cars. But, you'd have to convince me that Ferraris aren't, in sum, the better car. Performance, aesthetics, and cost all have to be considered.

    And, of course, to each his own. That's why Ford makes Fords, Chevy makes Corvettes and Ferrari makes...well, Art. Granted, sometimes they miss the mark, but I can't think of anything more iconic than a Ferrari. Lamborghinis have their "wow-look-at-me-I'm-a-rap/sports-star" image. They have steadily improved their performance and reliability, though, under VW/Audi's ownership. Same, too, for American cars. Corvettes and Vipers are significantly better handling cars today than their comparables back in the musclecar era. I do give the American manufacturers credit, but I think they've stopped short a bit.

    Also, I agree that American manufacturers give the public what the public wants. We've ended up with some great cars, too: the Ford Pinto, Chevy Nova, gas guzzling SUVs and so on. I would love to know what opinion Ferry Porsche or Enzo Ferrari had about the American "philosophy" of marketing and building cars. It's probably memorialized somewhere, if I had the time to research it.

    Sorry, everyone, I'll pick this up later. Not running out, just gotta go, for now. I think this is an interesting discussion, though. And, I'm not trying to raise anyone's hackles. It's your money, spend it how you want. If you want to buy a GT40, then do so. If you want to buy a Camaro, Z06, or classic muscle car, do so. Life's too short to not enjoy yourself, and we can't take it with us.

    Cheers,

    CW
     
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  8. Vibrant_5oh

    Vibrant_5oh Karting

    Apr 18, 2004
    196
    Minneapolis, MN
    Just look at that era, and america in general. Dirt cheap gasoline (allows for larger engines), and roads that were long straightaways for the most part. Not the more expensive gasoline and small windy twisty roads of Europe or anything. Not to mention America's love of hp. So most of the cars of that era were the way they were for a reason. They were different than the typical Euro offering because of the differences in things like environmental influences. We had bigger cars, bigger engines, and performance was geared towards acceleration suited for our straight roads, and so on.
     
  9. C. Losito

    C. Losito Formula Junior

    Dec 12, 2003
    908
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    Full Name:
    Chris Losito
    Stock for stock I'm not surprised either, although I think maybe an E-body would have been a better choice. Anyway...one can buy all the parts necessary to make a corner-carver out of even the most humble of 60's-70's American muscle:

    http://www.onelapofamerica.com/History/2002/results/OVL_CUM.HTM

    Check out the 15th place car, then check out what it beat.
     
  10. Prugna 328

    Prugna 328 Formula 3

    Sep 10, 2003
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    No such thing as a Dodge Roadrunner
     
  11. CornersWell

    CornersWell F1 Rookie

    Nov 24, 2004
    4,650
    It was a Plymouth Superbird. I'm a little rusty, but weren't Plymouth and Dodge divisions within the same company? Or, maybe Plymouth was a division of Dodge? If anyone cares to clarify, feel free. Regardless, same issues apply.

    And, yes, there are many upgrades that are available in the after market. New wheels, tires, brakes and suspension would be a great start to making these older cars handle significantly better, I'm sure.

    Now, I'm not sure how different the street versions were from the stock cars. I have heard numerous stories about being able to purchase a track-ready race car from your local dealer. In fact, dealers were large participants in the early days of stock car racing, if I'm not mistaken. But, I'd be interested in knowing just how different the two were.

    What I find so interesting and haven't maybe made myself clear on this is just how different the engineering principles were between European and Domestic manufacturers. When you consider which cars were fast around the circuits in the 1950's in the burgeoning US Sportscar scene, you had marques like Porsche, Jaguar, Ferrari, Allard, and MG to name a few. Pretty much all of these had smaller displacement engines and handled quite well (with a few exceptions, I'm sure). The first US cars on the scene were probably modified street cars which, in comparison, were heavier and didn't have the handling or braking characteristics. While domestic manufacturers have had their share of innovations over the years, it seems to me that the most important innovations came out of Europe. Disk brakes. Suspensions. Tires. Far more useful performance enhancements.

    Don't get me wrong, going fast in a straight line is fine, I guess. But, what happens when you need to slow down or turn? Driving an older muscle car is probably something like going from "Wow" under acceleration to "Oh, sh_t" under braking and cornering. It's just not a "total" package.

    And, look at where the most advanced automotive work is being done today: arguably, F1. That's mainly Europe, and to a lesser extent, Japan. One could argue that Ford has played a significant role in engine technology through Cosworth, but while Cosworth may be owned by Ford, I still view it as a European company.

    Could American manufacturers compete in F1? If they committed 100% to it, I suspect it could. If they spent hundreds of millions, if not billions, on it, I believe they could. Ford lost its appetite with Jaguar. Chevy has never been there. Dodge/Chrysler hasn't either (Mercedes Benz carries the torch). We have plenty of racing venues: Indycar, CART, NASCAR, ALMS, Grand Am, dirt track, SCCA, and so on. So, maybe our manufacturers are so busy focusing here, they've decided to pass on the more presitigous, in my opinion, F1 and other International series (although, I think, Opels and Fords do compete in international BTCC and DTM). Is our sandbox so big that we can ignore everything else? If competition is good for the company, and ultimately the consumer, why aren't they pushing themselves harder?

    Granted, domestic automobile manufacturers are having tough times. Ford's debt rating was downgraded to the lowest investment grade status (read that as "a hair above Junk"). Chevrolet isn't doing so well, either. Chrysler has supportive parentage...maybe (they've produced a bunch of new cars, but I'm not sure their quality is really any better). Although, Kirk Kerkorian isn't too happy with the Daimler folks. Domestic manufacturer profits are coming from their finance divisions, not their manufacturing. Trucks, too, I suppose are accounting for sales and profits, but I've heard of many people who have parked their trucks given the high price of fuel.

    All of this indicates a more troubling problem. Is is that American manufacturers are totally out of touch? Boards are so focused on internal problems that they're not even watching the automotive trends and comparing themselves? There is no reason why American designers and manufactuers can't produce good quality designs and execution on a par with European or higher-end Japanese cars.

    I realize that cost is ultimately what drives domestic manufacturers. But, Japan produces some good cars at same or lower prices. Germany does, too. So, then, explain Cadillac? Arguably one of the higher priced domestic cars. Up until the past 3-5 years, Cadillac was stuck in the 1980's design-wise. They added a few bells and whistles, but for the "premier" domestic luxury brand, they weren't much more than a gussied up Buick. They handled like a wet sponge. Cadillac finally realized that they needed to develop vehicles that performed, too. Their core market was getting so old that they were dying off, and there was nobody interested in those ridiculous Sedan de Villes. Hence, the too-short entrance into ALMS with an LMP car.

    Now, we've got some interesting cars: the CTS, for example. I probably won't buy one, but competition IS good. It yields benefits through choice and pushes manufacturers to produce better products. I'm reminded of the post WWII-era song "How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm once they've seen Paris". The point of that is if you've driven a high-end luxury or performance car, you know how good the experience can be. We then look for that experience from other places and compare. While a Corvette and Viper might be fast and might even handle reasonably well, they rattle and creak. They've got plastic parts that look like plastic. Yes, you spend less on a Corvette than you do on a new BMW M3, probably. But, I'd rather have the M3 because it brakes and turns so much better and has plenty of usable power.

    I realize I've meandered all over the place in this post. The whole point of the thread was really just calling everyone's attention to the SpeedTV program. Vehicles today are safer, better handling, plenty powerful and hopefully there's more in store. Comparing a 30-something-year-old car to a modern economy minivan is useless for anything other than purpose. I made the point that I don't think comparing a high-end European exotic of the same age to the modern econobox would result in such a result. But, it's something of an academic argument. In the end, there's wonder in all internal combustion driven machines.

    Cheers and Happy Monday,

    CW
     
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  13. Cajun

    Cajun Formula 3

    Mar 20, 2004
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    CornersWell,

    If you don't like American cars because of your personal experience, that's cool. There are a lot of people who simply prefer foreign cars for personal reasons, be it status, or perceived quality.

    I respect your opinion. You are obviously a car guy, and I respect the opinion of any fellow motorhead. But man, go out and DRIVE a new Vette and then go out and DRIVE a new M3...True they are different cars, but go into the experience with a clean, unbiased slate and see what you think. I really do think that you will be surprised.

    I know that there are a lot of reasons not to buy a Vette, many of them are stereotypes, however, I think that you will be more than plesantly surprised by just how well the Vette stops, corners, and accellerates compared to just about anything else on the road. Taking everything into consideration, $$$, maintenance, reliability, and outright performance, there really isn't anything better.
     
  14. CornersWell

    CornersWell F1 Rookie

    Nov 24, 2004
    4,650
    I'll see if I can't find some time to go out and do an unscientific comparison test drive and report back.

    I've owned only a few domestic vehicles (Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Wagoneer, and such), so I'm not an expert on them and certainly not at the high performance level. My only experience with high-performance domestics is at the track in competition where they are certainly competitive (Grand Am, mainly). But, then again, track cars aren't street cars. And, only driving against them.

    Corvette and Vipers have come a long way. No question, and it's good to see. Yes, status is one consideration that many owners consider in addition to styling, cost, performance, etc.. So is servicability. If I lived in Kansas, Oklahoma or Montana, it might not be so easy to find service for my Porsche, Ferrari, MB, BMW, Audi or other exotic/semi-exotic brand. However, I bet there's a Chevy, Ford or Dodge dealer within a stone's throw that can service my Corvette, GT40 or Viper conveniently. And, I admit that our Country's road systems are distinguishable from Europe's. Once you get out of the congested Cities you have vast, often straight distances to travel. And, we do have the phenomenon of drag racing. Born on the streets, it grew into a highly competitive racing series. Top Fuel dragsters are FAST. Europe never really embraced drag racing. They do have competitions now, but I'm not sure how prevalent street drag racing ever became. Sure it's pretty neat to pull up to a red light and have a go with the guy next to you, but I don't think I've ever been in a street drag race in Europe. On the other hand, I've seen some of the absolute craziest driving in Europe. Mostly by motorcyclists (and I ride a Ducati), though.

    And, I can probably get a vastly superior performance:dollar ratio in a basic Corvette or Ford 5.0 than I can get in any new Ferrari. There are plenty of tuners that can give you bhp and acceleration figures that exceed a Ferrari's. Fewer that can give equal or better track times (but it can be done).

    I enjoy the discussion, and I, too, respect everyone else's opinion. We may ultimately disagree, but that's what makes us great. Personal choice.

    CW
     
  15. Cajun

    Cajun Formula 3

    Mar 20, 2004
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    CornersWell,

    You know that I was simply trying to give you an excuse to go and get a couple of test drives in!!!!

    Personally, I am a big fan of seeing first hand what all the fuss is about. Although I would not buy an M3 (notice I was smart enough not to say never), I have driven a couple simply to see what makes them so great in other people's eyes. I don't have anything against them, it is just that when I think of all the other things I would rather have with the same 50k it gets bumped further and further down the list - and to be fair, the same is true with the new Corvette and I have been a Corvette fan since I was three. The newer ones may perform better than any past Vettes, but they simply don't "move" me the way the older ones do.

    I do agree with several of your points. I have an older 911 that I simply cannot part with because the driving experience is so pure and personal. I have not ridden/driven in a Corvette or any other "Muscle" car made after 1972 that offered the same feel...yet everytime I jump into any Ferrari or any air cooled 911, the feeling is there.

    I would be interested in hearing what you think about the latest generation of American Sports Cars, so please, post your impressions!!!!

    Cheers,

    Cajun
     
  16. Mr Payne

    Mr Payne F1 Rookie

    Jan 8, 2004
    2,870
    Bakersfield, CA
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    Payne
    What's up with these page long tirades that raise 5 different issues? You're hijacking your own thread.

    I'll respond to some choice sentences though. :)

    Those two final sentences imply (in my mind) that American cars can only compete after having been modified for wheel to wheel track racing, that they can't perform well on the street(being stock). In my mind, the opposite is more than true! The *current* Z06 lays waste to virtually everything in it's price range in stock form. Only after going upmarket can it be beaten...Vipers, 360s, GT3s, 911 Turbos, etc. In my mind that is vindication enough that it is an *awesome* car. (BTW, Z06s *are* even with 911 Turbos in track performance.) What else needs to be proven? That car is a great car.

    In fact, American performance cars are the highlight of the current lineups. They have inspired designs, they compete well against much more expensive competition and they annihilate equal priced competition.

    The F430's CD player/radio head unit was a big let down for me! Oh, and the Z06 brakes better than the M3. It goes *much* faster through the corners too.

    Have you read *any* press release given out by Bob Lutz? Do you even know who Bob Lutz is?

    Do you like to here yourself talk? That entire paragraph just looked like you were pontificating.

    BTW, you do know GM has to deal with 1300+ legacy costs associated with each vehicle it builds, that *automatically* affects the quality of each vehicle it makes. Imagine if if you could simply subtract 1300 from each vehicle GM sold + *all the current rebates you get*. Some deals would just be too good to pass up.

    This comparison is flawed to begin with. A 70's exotic *should* be faster than a 70's musclecar, solely based on price. When it comes to performance vehicles, more money should obviously get you more performance. This time travel comparison really made had no point. Why not take a 2002 Camaro SS and compare it to a 308, the same exact point will have been made. Things have gotten faster over time.
     
  17. tbakowsky

    tbakowsky F1 World Champ
    Professional Ferrari Technician Consultant

    Sep 18, 2002
    15,615
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    OOOHHHHH my aching head....
     
  18. Rifledriver

    Rifledriver Two Time F1 World Champ

    Apr 29, 2004
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    If you had ever driven a 1970 Daytona you would know that the minivan with all the recent technology would probably have beaten it in an autocross course too. So what does it prove. The Roadrunner and the Daytona are fish out of water on an autocross course. One could argue that is exactly the driving qualities the minivan was designed for. Why didn't they test it against a fork lift? Would have been just as valid a comparison.
     
  19. CornersWell

    CornersWell F1 Rookie

    Nov 24, 2004
    4,650
    I'll try to keep my posts more reader-friendly: shorter, sweeter and narrower in scope. However, the points I tried to make require numerous qualifiers, exceptions and explanations. So, I'm trying to to make general blanket statements that could be construed as offensive. If I make a disparaging remark about Corvettes, someone who like Corvettes will jump on it. Same for just about every vehicle as there are fans of just about everything.

    I will concede that, bang for the buck, the Corvette goes a long way. Again, I will concede that I have not driven the Z06. Each successive generation released is an opportunity to refine and improve. To polish the rough edges. It should be better than the previous generation Corvettes. Just as the 430 should be better than the 360. Occasionally, I see a comparison between new cars and old cars from the same manufacturer, but I view those as mainly foregone conclusions. The newer cars are faster, safer, better handling, better stopping, more comfortable and more efficient. But, they also lose some of the characteristics that make them so ...endearing.

    I cited a BMW M3 only because it is such a high-performance car in the $50K range. I don't own one (although I owned one of the first generation M3s...couldn't stand the service organization and dumped it almost immediately). However, the M3 has previously been voted, if I'm not mistaken, as the best all-round car in at least one (if not more than one) of the Auto magazines. It may not be the "gold" standard of "affordable" performance, but it's a good car to use as a comparison.

    CW
     
  20. CornersWell

    CornersWell F1 Rookie

    Nov 24, 2004
    4,650
    Should have read: I'm trying to NOT make general blanket statements that could be construed as offensive.

    Sorry. Freudian slip?

    CW
     
  21. CornersWell

    CornersWell F1 Rookie

    Nov 24, 2004
    4,650
    I've had numerous "issues" with my Ferraris. Over the years, I've owned about 10. I still own several. But, my issues aren't with performance-related matters. The radio is a good example, but it doesn't impact the car's peformance. It may make the driving experience a little less enjoyable. And, for those who say, "why do you need a radio? The engine produces all the music you need", well, that's kind of like sweeping the flaws under the rug. I'm more than willing to point out the flaws in any vehicle. And there are flaws (real or perceived) in everything. For example, would you not buy a Lamborghini just because of a negative stereotypical image (gold chains and chest hair crowd)? We certainly buy cars for positive imagery. So, to buy a car with flaws, one looks past them to the positives.

    Yes, of course I know who Bob Lutz is. And, I respect what he's trying to do. He's gotten himself in some hot water speaking the truth about "damaged brands" lately. And, I certainly hope that the domestic manufacturers can improve their line up for purely America-centric reasons. Yes, GM has to deal with legacy health and pension costs. As harsh as this sounds, GM created its own problem, though, so I don't feel too sorry for them. Ford has its own problems, and so does Chrysler. Good management may not be enough to save these manfucturers. With the rising interest rate environment, rising fuel cost, and personal-debt-to-income ratios at all time highs, even huge discounting may fail to bring out the buyers for the next round of purchasing. We'll see.

    CW
     
  22. CornersWell

    CornersWell F1 Rookie

    Nov 24, 2004
    4,650
    Remember Car & Driver does some unique comparisons. I know they "drove" a nuclear submarine and an earth mover. Why not submit it and see what happens? I'd enjoy the read.

    CW
     
  23. CornersWell

    CornersWell F1 Rookie

    Nov 24, 2004
    4,650
    Take two aspirins and call us in the morning.
     
  24. wcelliot

    wcelliot Formula Junior

    May 7, 2004
    577
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    Full Name:
    Bill
    GM built a European-style car in the 60's... the Corvair. GM marketing didn't know what to do with it (though they inadvertently invented the "pony car" with the Monza trim package in late 1960) and American consumers preferred straight line power and forgiving handling to sporting handling and braking performance. It's understandable that American car manufacturers never really got it right afterwards...the market wasn't there for it.

    Consequently, I've never been a huge fan of American cars (other than Corvairs).

    With the right suspension options, the Cadillacs of the 90's were actually very capalbe (if not in the BMW class of handling.) My daily driver is a Northstar Allante...

    I've owned Corvettes and have always been disappointed. However, a few drives in a C5 Z06 have convinced me that Chevy finally has it on the right track. I think an M3 will still come very very close to the same performance
    levels while providing for 5, but this is the closest to European perfomance and driving charactersitics that an American manufacturer has gotten in 40 years...

    Too bad everything else GM builds is so darn ugly... including the very capable CTS-V.

    Bill
     

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