Q. Why did Ford Motor Co.
Henry Ford II badly want to win the famous 24-hour sports car race at
Le Mans, France, in the mid-1960s? — G.A., San Francisco
A. Because he wanted to impress his new Italian wife and also beat Ferrari autos in the race. Henry was still mad at Enzo Ferrari because Ferrari had refused to sell his small-but-prestigious auto company to Ford in the early 1960s.
Q. What do you think of allegedly inflated fuel economy claims of some Ford, Hyundai and Kia vehicles? — G.N., Manhattan
A. Not much, although Hyundai and Kia said ratings for 13 of its nameplates in the 2011-13 model years were inflated, apologized and promised to reimburse owners for the extra gasoline they buy. I think that’s just a nice public relations gesture. As of this writing, no comment from Ford. But consumers have been warned for years by the EPA and automakers that EPA ratings are just fuel economy estimates, not what they’ll actually get, written in stone. Fuel economy results depend on driving habits, traffic congestion, weather, vehicle condition—many factors. I’ve beaten EPA highway fuel economy ratings by a few miles per gallon with some manual-transmission cars with six or more gears by shifting to a higher gear without lugging the engine. That slowed engine revs, allowing less fuel to be used.
Q. After testing a car, have you ever given one all “pros” and no “cons.” — F.W., Glenview, Illinois
A. I don’t recall I ever did because the perfect car has yet to be produced.
Q. I’ve got a bet. I say the best-handling 1960s muscle car was the Pontiac GTO. Do you agree? — E.H., Dallas
A. Hope you don’t have much riding on the bet. The best-handling muscle car of that decade was the Oldsmobile 4-4-2. Curiously, that fast Olds only has been commanding lots of respect in recent years, while the 1960s GTO long has been highly popular.
Q. Do many drivers still get
first car when they’re 16? A decent used car still
doesn’t cost all that much if it’s not an elaborate
model. — G.R., Urbana, Illinois
A. According to a national survey by Automotive.com, billed as an “Online buyers guide to new and used cars,” respondents said the most common age for getting a first car is 16. Some 15 percent said they’ve never owned a car, and 61 percent of respondents said they’ve given their car a name. Some 17 percent said they’re OK if someone smokes in their car, and 92 percent said they “always” or “usually” wear seat belts. Some 80 percent of parents said they expect passengers to buckle up.
Q. I hear that Suzuki is pulling out of the vehicle business in America? How so? I’ve owned and liked their vehicles. — E. H., Denver
A. It’s a shame. I especially like the smooth, sporty Kizashi mid-size sedan. But Suzuki lacks the product range, dealer network and advertising bucks to combat larger rivals here in an increasingly tough market.
Q. While it was no longer the wild 1960s, what American automaker continued to mass produce reasonably high-performance cars during the 1970s, when new government emissions and safety regulations strangled virtually all performance autos. — M.H., Cincinnati
A. It was Pontiac. Chevrolet might also qualify with its Corvette, but that always has been a limited-production two-seat car.