When Honda decided to update the original Acura NSX, they took what had been a rather tidy design with hidden headlights and turned it into something that to my eyes looks a bit like an insect. Still, from a performance and technology standpoint, the NSXs from the first decade of the 21st century are rather impressive.
This red Acura NSX was spotted at the same car show as the Ferrari 360 and Acura NSX featured in the last post. Those cars were driven by folks coming to see the weekly cruise-in car show at Baker’s of Milford, MI. This NSX, though was actually in the show. People often think that car enthusiasts around Detroit are only into muscle cars or other vintage American iron, but the truth is that Detroiters love cars of all sorts.
I came across these two cars last Fourth of July weekend at the cruise-in car show held every Sunday during the summer at Baker’s in Milford, Michigan, just a hop, skip and jump from General Motors’ proving grounds. Over at The Truth About Cars I ask the question, if you could only drive one, would it be the Ferrari 360, not considered one of Ferrari’s great cars, or the original Acura NSX, which has less prestige but is likely to be held in higher regard by people who know cars.
It’s been a few years now since Acura first introduced the revived NSX in concept form. The 2015 North American International Auto Show was the production version’s coming out party. Despite the fact that the hybrid NSX will have many of the technological features of hypercars like the Porsche 918, McLaren P1 and the La Ferrari, like torque vectoring, at a fraction of their prices, the reaction of the gathered auto journalists was “meh”. Maybe it’s the 2nd gen NSX’s long gestation period, but I think much of that reaction was due to the presence, just across the aisle, of the new Ford GT. While the GT might not be the tech tour de force that the NSX is, the Ford supercar is stunning from just about every angle.
The original NSX embarrassed Ferrari. Some say that Ferrari benchmarked the 360 against the NSX, tacitly acknowledging that Honda built a better supercar than the 348/355.
Alfa Romeo is an automotive brand that’s so poorly known in America that some folks think it’s named after a guy named Alfred Romero, so to a casual observer it probably seems odd that Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne keeps insisting that he wants to revive the brand in the United States. The passion that car enthusiasts have for a brand that has had, at best, minimal market penetration in North America, seems out of proportion. If you want to know why the Alfa brand evokes such passion, look no further than the Alfa Romeo Montreal. Even if you’re not into Italian cars in general or Alfa Romeos in particular, if your heart doesn’t start beating just a little bit faster when you see a Montreal, you’re not a car enthusiast at all. The Montreal is sexy on wheels.
Fargo was started by Walter Chrysler in 1928, the same year he formed the Chrysler Corp and bought the Dodge Brothers company. The brand was used to sell commercial trucks but eventually it was eclipsed by Dodge’s line of trucks, later to be revived as a Canada only brand. In 1958, the Fargo pickup, identical to the Dodge D100, received the “Sweptside” styling that its sibling received a year earlier to match the “Forward Look” cars that Virgil Exner had styled. This is a very rare vehicle, as only 11 were produced.
By 1957, not only had Ford and Chevy brought modern styling to their traditional pickup truck lines but Ford had also introduced the Ranchero car based pickup and Chevy featured the Cameo Carrier, a conventional pickup that sported many automobile styling trends. Dodge’s trucks, in comparison, were starting to look a bit dowdy. The solution was to create the Sweptside pickup, with tailfins that emulated Chrysler design chief Virgil Exner Sr’s “Forward Look”, which fully flowered in the ’57 model year. One could be forgiven for assuming that the Sweptside Dodge and the nearly identical Fargo trucks sold in Canada were the product of Exner’s design studio. That wasn’t the case. Supposedly “Ex” wasn’t even interested in restyling the trucks. In fact the Sweptside pickups had nothing to do with Chrysler’s design team. They were the result of a parts-bin project of Joe Berr, the head of Dodge’s Special Equipment Group.
Would you miss a parade of 50 Ford Pintos (well, 47 at least)? The cute little subcompact, oft demeaned as a fiery death trap due to lawsuits and controversy over how and where it mounted the fuel tank, does have its enthusiasts and for the past three years they’ve gathered for the Pinto Stampede, a car meet and fund raiser for the Wounded Warrior Project. This year the Stampede was held in Dearborn, Michigan and the proud Pinto pilots (alliteration is my friend) were reserved a special place of honor at the Ford Product Development Center employees’ annual car show on the lawn in front of the PDC.
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When Chrysler brass told Virgil Exner that they wanted a concept for a personal sporting car, Exner took them at their word and designed the XNR, named after himself. After the car was retired from the show circuit, though Exner wanted to buy it from the company, the company had to ship it back to Italy, where Ghia had built it, or else it would have paid prohibitive customs fees. Ghia sold it and eventually it passed through the collection of the Shah of Iran and on to Lebanon, where it was hidden in an underground garage to protect it during Lebanon’s civil war. The owner, Karim Edde, had it restored a couple of years ago prior to putting it on the auction block and it sold for over $900 million in 2011.
Rummaging around some of my photos from earlier this year, I stumbled on images of a car that was parked outside the hotel I was staying at in Dearborn during the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise. I always had a soft spot for big Mercurys like this one but on closer inspection I discovered that it wasn’t a Mercury at all—well, not exactly.