Q. What is the most important vehicle in automobile history? — E.J. (via Internet) 

A. The authoritative Sports Car Market (SCM) magazine says the French 1914 Peugeot L45 Grand Prix/Indianapolis racer is “the most important surviving vehicle in automotive history.” Why? “This is the car where it all began,” writes SCM. Mainly because it had the first overhead-camshaft engine design with four valves per cylinder and pent-roof pistons. Overhead valves in other engine combustion chambers had complicated pushrods activated by rocker arms. Suddenly, the Peugeot engine made other auto engines look antiquated and not nearly as efficient. A Peugeot with the overhead camshaft engine even won the Indianapolis race. “Virtually every automobile engine built in the past hundred years owes a debt” to this (Peugeot racer), SCM writes. “This is the paradigm that changed the world of automotive design, and as such, is arguably the most important automotive artifact that exists.” 

Q. I read that the rare 1958 Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet (convertible) Series 1 recently sold for $5,691,114 at an RM Sotheby’s auction in Italy. Come on now! Do you have to have to be incredibly rich to buy a gorgeous, rare collector car these days? — P.S. (via Internet)

A. Only 40 of that model Ferrari were built, so that makes it ultra-rare. Also, it’s drop-dead gorgeous and fast—and a very, very classic Ferrari. However, the answer to your question is “no.” For instance, the fast, gorgeous 2000-2003 BMW Z8 convertible sports car is valued at $198,00, although there was a top bid of $175,000 for one with low miles at a recent GAA Classic Cars auction in America. A total of 5,703 were made. Still way too much money? How about a wild, fast Lotus Elise convertible sports car, built from 2005-11. A total of 3,500 were made, and one in good shape with low mileage sold at $33,170 at that GAA Classic Cars auction.

Q. Why are domestic and foreign automakers spending billions of dollars on future electric and self-driving cars when there are no assurances that a sufficient number of people will buy them?  — M.S. (via Internet)

A.  They are being prodded by countries wth future stricter emissions regulations. Your words “no assurances” are on target. As the veteran Automotive News publication puts it, “Countries and automakers are not just betting their farms, but lots of farms they don’t even own.” 

Q. I keep hearing that the mid-size sedan — for decades the best-selling type of car in America — is slowly disappearing because an increasing number people are buying smaller SUVs and crossover vehicles. Is this true? — J.G.  (via Internet)

A. Nobody is giving up on the mid-size car market, which is still quite large. For instance, look at the new, redesigned Toyota Camry and Honda Accord mid-size sedans. And don’t forget the redesigned Chevrolet Malibu mid-size sedan or alluring Ford Fusion sedan.

Q. Women are said to influence a large percentage of vehicle sales. So why aren’t there more women working at car dealerships?  — E.N. (via Internet)

A. Many women have been quite successful working at dealerships, but dealership hours and work weeks are very long and many women have families to care for. A 9-5 job with weekends off thus is more attractive. Also, most dealerships are male-oriented, although there are some successful women auto dealership owners.

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