Karl on Cars

Let's Talk Cars, Motorcycles and Other Life-Changing Events

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The Dodge Challenger: America’s Porsche 911?

Dodge Challenger Porsche 911 Auto Show Girl

These two models share timeless styling that hasn’t changed, and hopefully never does

Few cars posses a style that can hold up over a single decade, let alone multiple decades. One of those cars is the Porsche 911. The 911 has certainly evolved since its introduction in 1963, but the sports car’s basic profile and proportions remain unchanged after more than 50 years. I’d argue that at this point Porsche can’t change the 911 without risking a massive revolt from the car’s dedicated fanbase.

Porsche 911 Vintage Show Monterey

The Porsche 911’s basic shape and proportions have aged gracefully

I’d make the same argument about the Dodge Challenger. Unlike the Porsche 911, the Dodge Challenger doesn’t have 5 decades of uninterrupted production. Dodge’s muscle car was only in production for 5 years before it vanished for 35 years (and no, the Mitsubishi “Challenger” from the 1980s doesn’t count…).

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Flash Back Friday: 1973 Saab Sonett III

Saab Sonett Willow Springs Track

The Saab Sonett III was more track capable than I’d have believed before trying it

My two older brothers influenced my car enthusiasm. They both owned multiple vehicles before they had their driver’s licenses, and by the time I got my license they were well into their lifelong odyssey of owning old, odd, eclectic models. One of those cars was a 1973 Saab Sonett III. This front-wheel drive, two-seat sports car was made from 1966 to 1974, and considered a Porsche 911 competitor at the time. Saab actually made the first Sonett in 1955, but only 6 units of the fiberglass convertible were built, utilizing a three-cylinder, two-stroke engine.

Saab Sonett Driving

With a modified engine my Saab Sonett was quicker than a Porsche Boxster

The Sonett returned in 1966 as the Sonett II. This time it was a fiberglass 2-door coupe, but it still used a two-stroke engine until 1967, when it switched to a 1.5-liter Ford-of-Europe sourced V4 engine. The Sonett was revised again in 1970, with a more effective rear hatch and flip-up headlights, plus a name change to Sonett III. This version went unchanged until 1974, though it gained the same unsightly oversized bumpers many small European cars suffered in the U.S. starting in 1973. The Saab Sonett III ended production in 1974

Saab Sonett Interior

Everything from the body to the interior was original and clean in this Saab Sonett

I drove my brother’s Saab Sonett several times when I was still a teenager. At the time I was a dedicated V8 muscle car fan, but the Sonett surprised me with how much fun a four-cylinder, front-wheel drive sports car could be. Fourteen years later, in June of 2000, I was at a Barrett-Jackson auction at the Petersen Publishing Museum where this particular red 1973 Saab Sonett was going up for auction. I didn’t plan on buying it, but I looked the Saab over closely and confirmed it was clean and original…

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The New Ford GT: How to Fully Appreciate Its Capabilities

New Ford GT Black Orange Comparison Shoot

The new Ford GT is more capable than most drivers will ever know

I’ve driven a new Ford GT on multiple occasions, including its press introduction in April of 2017 and during the Kelley Blue Book Ford GT comparison test in May of 2018. During that comparison test we took all three generations of Ford GT to Lake Elsinore on Ortega Highway in South Orange County.

New Ford GT Overlook Roadhouse Comparison Shoot

Our shooting location took us out along Ortega Highway for 2 days in a row

Ortega Highway, also known as State Route 74, is like many roadways in Southern California. It’s a twisting two-lane ribbon of pavement that could, theoretically, offer an amazing sports car (or motorcycle) experience. I say theoretically because Ortega Highway, like most California roads, is overrun with traffic congestion most of the day. And night. But after the final day of shooting the Ford GT comparison I drove the new Ford GT back to Irvine on Ortega Highway, and the roadway was uncharacteristically useful…

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What Superhero Should Drive a Ford GT? Captain America!

Ford GT Captain America

Does any car better fit Captain America’s mojo better than a Ford GT?

As a Halloween “treat” I’m willing to post an image I normally wouldn’t share widely. But this shot turned out really well, mostly because the Ford GT diverts attention from me, so here you go.

When I dressed as Captain America for Halloween a couple years ago I had no plan to drive the Ford GT. In fact, I was going to drive the used 2009 Porsche 911 Carrera S I owned at the time. Then it occurred to me: “Captain American in a Porsche 911, while a Ford GT sits in the garage?!” I quickly broke out GT and captured this shot before hopping in the American supercar.

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The Ford GT Carbon Series: Also Known as…MY CAR!

Ford GT Carbon Series Leadfoot Top

This Ford GT is painted Leadfoot, a factory Ford color not officially offered on the GT

Ford unveiled the new Ford GT Carbon Series today at the SEMA show in Las Vegas. I was there, watching the press conference in person, though I already saw this car in Detroit a couple weeks ago. As often happens with automotive world debuts, Ford let some members of the press see the Ford GT Carbon Series early so they could prepare their stories ahead of time.

Ford GT Carbon Series Leadfoot Curving

Like its the predecessor, the Carbon Series has a weight advantage over standard Ford GTs

I’ll get into the specifics about the Ford GT Carbon Series in a moment, but the biggest news about this car is that, well…it’s MY car. I don’t mean this car specifically, which looks great painted in Ford’s factory shade of Leadfoot Gray (a popular Raptor color, but not officially offered on the new GT). No, I mean my Ford GT will also be a Carbon Series model, with all the unique mechanical and cosmetic features that go with it.

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Ford GT: A Comparison of Three Generations

Ford GT Generations Lookout Comparison Test

Bringing together three generations of Ford GT is a rare opportunity

In May of 2017 Kelley Blue Book performed a comparison of the three generations of Ford GT, meaning the original Ford GT40, the second-generation 2005-2006 Ford GT, and the new Ford GT. I arranged the comparison test using the black-and-orange West Coast Ford GT press car, plus my 2005 Midnight Blue Ford GT and a Gulf livery Superformance Ford GT40 from their local offices here in Irvine, California.

This wasn’t the most original idea — it’s been done a couple times by other publications — but just because something has been done doesn’t mean it can’t be done again, and better.

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Flash Back Friday: 1991 Dodge Stealth R/T Twin Turbo

1991 Dodge Stealth RT Twin Turbo

My 1991 Dodge Stealth R/T Twin Turbo made the perfect project vehicle while working at Super Street magazine

From 1992 to 1996 I drove two turbocharged Dodge’s as my primary transportation. They were both front-wheel-drive models with four-cylinder engines, and in the fall of 1996 I graduated to a new turbo Dodge with a tad more performance — a 1991 Dodge Stealth R/T Twin Turbo. I had loved the Dodge Stealth since it first debuted. The performance specs were impressive in the early 1990s: twin turbos, 300 horsepower, all-wheel drive and an adjustable suspension. Of course the Stealth was really just a re-bodied Mitsubishi 3000GT, and I liked both cars’ performance specs and loved their proportions. Even 27 years later I still think they look great.

1991 Dodge Stealth RT Twin Turob Rear

The 1991 Stealth R/T Twin Turbo made 300 horsepower and featured all-wheel drive

I bought my 1991 Dodge Stealth R/T Twin Turbo from a used car dealer in Santa Monica. It had 58,000 miles and I paid $12,000. For a 5-year-old performance car with the Stealth’s technical specs I thought it was a pretty good deal. What I didn’t know at the time was that Stealth R/T Twin Turbo maintenance calls for a timing belt change around 55,000 miles. Mine hadn’t been done, and less than a week after buying it the belt let go and the pistons crashed into the valves, destroying the top of the engine.

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Ford GT in Liquid Red: A Study in Dramatic Color

New Ford GT Liquid Red VMAX Mode

The glowing shimmer of Liquid Red on a Ford GT is not a Photo Shop filter

As I’ve stated many times, the Ford GT’s design is dramatic, making it capable of looking great in just about any color. With that said, I’ve decided Liquid Red is the Ford GT’s most dramatic color. If you go on the Ford GT Configurator you can see the car in all eight factory-offered colors. And not surprisingly, the Ford GT looks dramatic in every one of those colors — on the configurator.

New Ford GT Liquid Red Rear End

The Ford GT’s dramatic styling perfectly syncs with the the drama of Liquid Red

But I’ve seen multiple Ford GT’s in every factory color, and several non-factory colors, in person over the past 3 years. I can now say with full confidence that Liquid Red translates from the configurator to real life better than any other standard color. There’s a “shimmer” in the paint that almost doesn’t seem real.

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My Ford GT Approaches: I’ve Got a VIN and Estimated Build Date

New Ford GT Red White Blue Rear

Ford GT’s have been rolling off the assembly line since December 2016

I’ve done my best to not bug my Ford GT Concierge. In the 2 years since I was approved to buy a new Ford GT I’ve called the concierge exactly 4 times, with three of them happening in the past 4 months as part of my ordering process. While I know many Ford GT buyers have been calling their concierge on a regular basis, even if their order window was months or years away, I’ve avoided that.

New Ford GT Red White Blue

It looks like my Ford GT is about to begin production

I can’t even claim amazing self control because, honestly, I haven’t had an urge to contact my Ford GT Concierge. From my perspective, if there’s important information to convey they’ll call me, right? While that’s been my approach for the past 2 years I did breakdown and call my concierge last week. With my vehicle order locked in late August it seemed likely they’d have my VIN, and maybe even a scheduled build date by now.

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Two-Wheel Tuesday: 1991 Ducati 851 Superbike

1991 Ducati 851 Superbike

The Ducati 851 Superbike was among the most advanced bikes sold in the U.S. in 1991

On July 15th, 1992 I bought a 1991 Ducati 851 Superbike. This was my second Ducati, after selling my 1987 Ducati Paso a few days earlier. I had graduated from CU Boulder a couple months earlier and couldn’t normally afford a near-new Italian motorcycle, but I sold the Paso for $4,600 (a nice profit after buying it for $3,200) and the same dealer in Fort Collins, Colorado, offered me this bike for $8,700. A 1991 Ducati 851 Superbike cost over $12,000 new, and only a couple hundred were imported to the U.S. Getting a year-old 851, with 1,800 miles on the odometer, for $8,700 seemed like a deal I couldn’t pass up.

1991 Ducati 851 Superbike Gauges

The 851’s gauge cluster, controls and riding position were designed for aggressive performance

These Ducatis had an impressive spec sheet for the era. In 1991 there were only about four bikes offering fuel injection, two were Ducatis and two were BMWs. The 851 Superbike’s 90-degree V-twin also featured four valves per cylinder and water cooling. Horsepower was rated at 93 and weight was about 460 pounds. The Ducati 851 Superbike’s technology and performance was a big step up from my 1975 Triumph Trident and 1987 Ducati Paso. It’s capabilities on Colorado’s twisting mountain roads were, quite honestly, above my skill level at the time, though I slowly expanded my riding prowess. It’s red paint and Italian styling were also quite exotic in 1990s Colorado.

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