Q. What's the best time to
the morning for a long driving trip? -- E.H. (via Internet)
A. At 5 a.m. Leave an hour or so later and you likely will be in rush-hour traffic. But check the weather.
Q. What is one of the worst things you can say when advertising a car? -- C.R. (via Internet)
A. Never use the words "best offer." It brings out all the jerks who would waste your time by giving you ridiculously low prices for your car.
Q. What's the most important thing you can do to sell a car? -- J.W., (via Internet
A. Make it look as good as possible, inside and out. Veteran auto salesmen have told me that people mainly buy a car based on its appearance.
Q. I was too young to see General Motors auto show cars of the 1950s, but have seen pictures of them. They're fantastic! No wonder some have sold for more than $1 million. I'm sure you're familiar with them. Which is your favorite?-- F.K., Indianapolis
A. Called "dream cars" then, most looked like works of art and reflected America's unbridled optimism. The majority were built by giant GM and illustrated its design prowess. Most were ordered destroyed by GM after their show car days were over because they weren't built for the street and GM lawyers feared the automaker would get sued if someone had an accident with them on public roads. It's hard to pick a favorite, but I tend to go with the 1954 Pontiac Bonneville. Only two were built, and one sold for over $3 million, says dream car collector Joe Bortz, who has rescued and restored key 1950s GM dream cars. The Bonneville's features included a transparent roof with swing-up doors, aviation-style interior and a powerful inline eight cylinder engine. Design elements of the Bonneville were used on the 1967 Pontiac Firebird and 1968 Pontiac GTO.
Q. What's the best-selling
roadster of all time? I say it's the Chevrolet Corvette, but my brother
says I'm wrong. -- J.M. (via Internet)
A. It's the Mazda Miata sports car, introduced for 1990. More than 900,000 have been sold. The Corvette was introduced in 1953 but always has been more expensive than the Miata. Also, the user-friendly Miata always has been far more popular with female drivers than the Corvette.
Q. I read that the 1954-57 Mercedes-Benz 300SL "Gullwing" sports car coupe with flip-up doors is selling for $900,000 to more than $1 million. Why? And have you driven one? -- C.L. (via Internet)
A. It's sensational looking and rare, with only 1,400 built. But getting in and out is awkward, especially if you're not nimble or a woman with a short skirt because it has extra-wide, high door sills and its seats are set low. I drove one on rural roads during a hot Illinois summer day and nearly roasted because the 300SL Gullwing lacks air conditioning or roll-down windows. Its "fixed" windows are an absolute pain to remove.(After all, it's derived from an early 1950s winning race car.) Its acceleration was rather disappointing, partly because it only has a 3-liter engine rated at 220-240 horsepower and it isn't all that light. Acceleration and top speed depend much on its gearing. Also, it's got a tricky swing-axle rear suspension that can get you into trouble. Only 1,400 were built. Replacing it was a better car--the 1957-63 300SL roadster that looked like the Gullwing but had conventional doors and an improved rear suspension. A total of 1,856 roadsters were built, but despite the lack of the coupe's sexy flip-up doors, the roadster is valued at $860,000 to $975,000, says the Sport Car Market price guide.
Q. I understand the importance of superior tires, but why is tire pressure so important? -- E.M., New York City
A. Because tires don't carry your vehicle's weight, the pressure inside them does.