Q. Why does everyone
so fascinated, or at least familiar with, the DeLorean sports car? Did
you ever drive one? What did you think of it? -- E.H. (via Internet)
A. By now, almost everyone has seen the "Back to the Future" movies, which features the DeLorean car-- fully named the "DeLorean DMC-12." It came from former top General Motors executive and talented auto engineer John DeLorean, who helped turn Pontiac into one of GM's raciest car divisions in the 1960s. (Remember the Pontiac GTO and Pontiac Firebirds?) I suspect that the "Back to the Future" producers picked the $25,000 DeLorean for the movie partly because of its then-unusual flip-up doors. I drove one of the first DeLoreans sent to America. It had a conventional 2.8-liter V-6, also used by Volvo, and thus was rather slow. It also had lots of quality bugs because it lacked adequate development time. A good one now is valued at $22,000 by the Sports Car Market price guide.
Q. I'm looking for a Porsche from the late 1960s, either a (six-cylinder) 911 or (four-cylinder) 912 model. I'm not interested in the dated 1950-65 Porsche "bathtub body" models. -- W.G. (via Internet)
A. Find a decent 1965-73 Porsche 911 or 912 model. After that, Porsches were saddled with government-mandated performance-robbing smog equipment and ungainly "safety bumpers." But act fast because those models had the original new Porsche body style, introduced to America in 1965, and their prices are rising rapidly. One good bet is the 1969 Porsche 912 Targa with its lift-off roof panel and shiny brushed metal wraparound bar behind the seats. It's identical to the 1969 911 but doesn't have that car's troublesome six-cylinder engine. Beware that Porsche will charge you an arm and a leg for replacement parts.
Q. I hear that famous auto
George Barris died. Didn't he build the Batmobile? -- J.N. (via
A. Baris died this month at age 89. He and his brother Sam created a bunch of famous custom, show, TV and movie cars. George was essentially the promoter, and Sam, who died in 1967, was more skilled at building the actual cars. But Barris had the showmanship and contacts to get many vehicles into TV shows and such. His most famous car, the Batmobile, used in the 1960s "Batman" TV series, was derived from the 1950s Lincoln Futura concept car. It sold for $4.62 million in 2013. I spent an afternoon with Barris at a Chicago custom car show years ago and found him to be a smart, nice guy who could give a strong sales pitch.
Q. What do you think of Volkwagen's current problems related to its "fixing" emission controls for its diesel-engine cars? -- j.A., (via Internet)
A. Of course it's bad news for Volkswagen's reputation and bank account, although VW sells relatively few diesel-engine cars in America. I really liked the diesel-engine Volkswagens I tested--plenty of torque for lively performance, quiet "no-smoke" engines with none of the old diesel smell and impressive fuel economy. In fact, one of the best used cars you can get is a diesel-engine Volkswagen.