Q. Newspapers often put annoying headlines over car-related articles by using words generally associated with autos, such as "Sales Are Accelerating," "Car Industry Hits Pothole" or "Buyers Steer Toward Smaller Cars."  Why?-- J.B., Highland Park

A. Because that's a lazy way to quickly write an auto-related  headline. I found during decades of working for newspapers that most headline writers (and editors) know virtually nothing--and care little--about cars. They put far more effort into writing headlines about such topics as politics, celebrities and sports events.

Q. It's often said in collector car circles that "When the top goes down, the price goes up."  Are there exceptions to that "rule?" -- G.H., Evanston

A. The 1954-57 Mercedes-Benz 300SL "Gullwing" coupe with its flip-up doors is an excellent exception. The similar 1957-1963 300SL convertible, which has conventional doors, draws lower prices. In some ways, the convertible was superior to the coupe, but lacks the race-car-derived coupe's flair.

Q. I read about a guy named Dave Schaub who drove his 1932 Ford through all 49 of the Continental United States on a charity run and arrived at Hyder, Alaska this past September 17. It supposedly took him eight days, 16 hours and 48 minutes at an average speed of about 66 mph. I find that hard to believe, considering the age of the car he drove -- G.R., Berwyn

A. It wasn't just a stock 1932 Ford. Schaub, a former Army drill instructor, drove a 1932 Ford street rod (commonly known as a hot rod) with a 362-horsepower Edelbrock V-8 with a modified suspension. He made the 9,800-plus mile drive to benefit the Ronald McDonald House. So far, he's said to have raised $76,000, with another $20,000 in donation pledges. Schaub told me that a typical day on the trip reportedly included 5-6 hours sleep in a hotel after an average of 1,100 road miles. He departed early morning just after midnight and drive throughout the early morning to make the most of wide-open freeways and cooler temperatures, then trudged on until early evening. He stopped in each state to get a receipt with a time date on it from such places as filling stations and restaurants to authenticate his journey. "I began asking for just a penny per mile, but many people put a lot more in the hat," Schaub said. Throughout the trip, people could track him on his web site, using the link to a satellite device. 

Q. Will the power steering unit from a 1955 or 1956 Ford  fit the Ford Thunderbird from those years? -- R.H., Chicago area

A. The classic 1955-57 Thunderbird two-seater shared many parts with conventional Fords to keep "T-Bird" costs down. But check with the many suppliers of old Ford parts in Hemmings Motor News--sold with car magazines in stores-- for a definitive answer.

Q. I own a 1970s Pontiac Grand Am coupe, which has rakish styling and a big V-8. Is this a collector car? I see only a few-sometimes none--annually in the Chicago area  What's it worth? -- P.G., Skokie

A. Alas, most have rusted away, at least in the Midwest. The low-production 1973-75 Grand Am coupe and sedan was a pioneering American European-style model based on Pontiac's regular mid-size LeMans model. Its name was derived from its combination of Pontiac Trans Am performance and Grand Prix luxury. Created by Pontiac high-performance aces Bill Collins and John Seaton, it had distinctive styling, with such items as a pointed front end made from Endura deformable plastic. It was designed to approach capabilities of far costlier BMW and Mercedes-Benz models and had a European-style interior, good roadability and strong performance. It's been largely overlooked by Pontiac collectors, who mainly are interested in Trans Am models of the 1970s. The NADA Classic and Collectible Car Appraisal Guide says the Grand Am coupe's high values range from $11,050 to $12,800. High values for the less sporty sedan are $9,300 to $9,800. That's pocket change in today's collector car market, so keep your car, if possible, because it may be worth a lot more in a few years.

Q. Why does the 1965-69 Porsche 911 have a higher value than a Porsche 912 of the same years? The only major difference between the two, which look identical, is that the 911 has a six-cylinder, while the 912 has a four-cylinder, which made the reasonably fast car slower. But the 912 is lighter, with better weight distribution and handling than the tail-heavy 911 with its heftier "six." -- L.D., Oak Park

A. The Porsche crowd is generally snobbish, and publications such as  "Sports Car Market" downgrade the 912 because it had a proven four-cylinder, rather than the  troublesome six-cylinder in the faster 1960s 911.The 912 cost less than the 911 and outsold it in 1965 and 1966 because it was more affordable to prospective Porsche buyers and owners of Porsche's famous 1950-65 356 models, which had a four-cylinder. Most  Porsche magazines feature only the 911, although the comprehensive Porsche magazine "Excellence" has articles about the 912. And the "Import Car Collector's Guide" says 912s "are more usable (than the 1960s 911) and have that old 356 spirit." The Porsche Illustrated Buyer's Guide says, ""Used 912 buyers get most of the attributes used 911 buyers get: the same general appearance, utility, comfort, accommodation, cargo capacity, steering and brakes, and nearly the same handling." While the 912 was no fireball, neither were virtually all 1960s 911 models.

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