Q.What do you think of the Chevrolet Volt fire issue? – E.H., Phoenix

A. It’s too early to tell if a few fires will affect the reputation of the battery-powered Volt, and its creator General Motors. But “fire” is a scary word to the general public and it will be interesting to see how far the issue goes. I found while driving a Volt that it’s a generally nice, if rather boring, car and feel a $40,000 price for it is too much for a Chevy family sedan, no matter what the power source. GM built the Volt partly to show its technical prowess. But it should have given the Volt a Cadillac badge. In any case, more battery development  is needed for all automakers. 

Q. Do you think that $895,014 was too much to pay for a 1954 Alfa Romeo TZ coupe sports/race/road car sold at the fairly recent RM Villa d’Este auction? — E.B., Dallas

A. No, because the fast, exotic and race-dependable Alfa Romeo Tubolare Zagato (TZ) is one of the most spectacular Alfas, and this one was an unusual version of only about 112 TZs built between (dates vary) 1963-4 and 1965-67. Putting things in perspective, look at sky-high prices paid for the mass-produced art junk that Andy Warhol “created.” The TZ competed in important races, driven by some of the best drivers, against top Ferrari, Shelby Cobra and Porsche sports race/road cars. The  Sports Car Market price guide puts values for most TZs in good condition at $520,000-$675,000, although the very best have been selling privately in the low $800,000 range. The one sold at the RM auction was unusual because it was one of the first TZs and had special items.  

Q. I read that many young folks would rather get a cell phone than a car? Can that be true? Has the world changed that much? — C.W., Los Angeles

A. Perhaps. A recent study says a multi-purpose cell phone is more desirable than a “first car” for many teens. Also, it’s more difficult than it once was for teens to get a driver’s license, and the cost of insurance is very high for them.

Q. Are trucks such as SUVs and pickups outselling cars again, now that gasoline prices have reached lower levels? —E. M., Harrisburg, Pa.

A. Trucks again are outselling cars and capturing slightly more than half the market, although the picture may change again if gas prices shoot up. However, today’s trucks are far more fuel-efficient than the old ones, and people want the space they provide.

Q. What are the ten most noteworthy modern muscle cars? A good number of baby boomers such as myself would love to buy one.—M.S., Arlington, Va.

A. The highly informative Hemmings Muscle Machines magazine says the 10 “of the most definitive muscle cars of the original era” are the 1962 Chevy Impala/Bel Air/Biscayne 409; 1962 Dodge/Plymouth 413 “Max Wedge;” 1964 Pontiac GTO; 1965 Shelby GT350; 1965 Chevy Chevelle SS Z16; 1968 Plymouth Road Runner; 1968 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet; 1968 American Motors AMX 390; 1968 Hurst/Olds, and 1970 Buick GSX Stage 1.

Q. Should I hold the steering wheel with my hands at the “3 and 9” position or at the “2 and 10 position? — C.L., Milwaukee

A. Use the “3 and 10” position. That allows you to react faster to avoid an accident.

Q. I’m buying a large car but don’t want one with a small temporary spare tire or one without even such a tire and just a tire-inflator kit. What do I do? — F.H., Houston

A. You can get a full-size spare, if one is available in your car’s tire size , or a run-flat tire. Of course, the spare will add weight to the car and use up lots of trunk space. Run-flats tend to provide a stiffer ride than a conventional tire.

Q. Why is the new Honda Civic getting so much criticism? It’s always been highly regarded. —E.N., Cedar Rapids, Ia.

A. The Civic is offered in a wide range of models. I recently tested the new Civic Si and found it to be lots of fun to drive. Other Civic models are less sporty than the Si, although some are more fuel-efficient and luxurious. Major consumer publications feel that, for instance, the new Civic isn’t, as one magazine put it, “a dramatic leap forward.” Honda reportedly is making changes to the 2013 or 2014 Civics because it feels it must must respond to such criticisms—although latest reports say the 2012 Civic is selling well.

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