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Q. When is the Chicago Auto Show being held this month. What do you think its biggest attraction will be?  — G.R., Berwyn, Illinois

A. The show will be held February 9-18 at McCormick Place. The brand-new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray promises to be the main attraction, but the show has numerous attractions for the entire family. It’s mainly held annually to kick off the Chicago area spring vehicle buying season. 

Q. I’m confused by all the 2013 vehicle awards. Which are the most important awards? — D.M., Detroit

A. They’re the Car of the Year and Truck of the Year awards given by Motor Trend magazine, which was the first outfit to give a Car of the Year award, starting in 1949. The Tesla Model S—an all-electric sedan—won the magazine’s 2013 car award, and the Ram pickup with a conventional gasoline engine won the 2013 truck award. The Model S is Motor Trend’s first Car of the Year winner not powered by an internal combustion engine.  

Q. What do you think of the new Corvette Stingray? — E.H., Hollywood, Calif.

A. It looks pretty good, although some critics object to its rear-end styling, and is the first all-new ‘Vette in years. Highlights also include its new V-8 and upgraded interior. It has the same performance as a Porsche 911 at approximately half the price. And, being a Chevrolet, promises to be less costly to maintain.

Q. What is the wildest classic car you can drive on the street, but that also has a history of winning during those wild World Rally Championships of the 1970s, which were much tougher than road or track races? Bet it’s a Ferrari, right? — E.H., Milwaukee, Wis.

A. You’re partly right. It’s the Ferrari-powered 1973-76 Lancia Stratos, which was backed by Italy’s giant Fiat, which absorbed Ferrari and Lancia in 1969. The Stratos looks like a small atomic doorstop and won the incredibly tough World Rally Championship three times in the 1970s. Sports Car Market magazine said of the car in its February, 2013, issue: “From looks to performance to handling characteristics, there is nothing about the Stratos that is normal, rational or arguably even sane, but they’ve got exuberance and excitement packaged like few other cars of the past 50 years.”  Production totaled only 495 cars. It’s hard to find a Stratos because many crashed during a rally. One sold for $456,984 at a Paris auction last November, although the Sports Car Market price guide for this car begins at $375,000.  

Q. Didn’t Lamborghini build a wild, powerful sport-utility vehicle? I hear it might build another one.  — F.K., Westchester, Illinois

A. Lamborghini built the awesome four-door, four-wheel-drive LM002 SUV from 1987-90, but only 300 were produced. One story says it was conceived as a military vehicle. Another is that it was built for rich Middle Easterners who wanted something that could handle sand dunes and oil fields but still have a luxurious leather interior and blazing performance. Although the tough-looking LM002 was big and heavy, it had a 580–horsepower Lamborghini V-12 sports car engine that made it very fast. And, yes, there are rumors that Lamborghini will build another SUV, although it will be more civilized than the LM002. Price guides say this “Lambo” is valued at $50,000 to $66,000—without $15,000 added for the American version.

Q. Who sold the most vehicles on a worldwide basis in 2012? — J.K., New York City.

A. The answer is Toyota, despite Japan’s major earthquake and embarrassing recalls. General Motors finished second.

Q. How does the European car situation look for General Motors and Ford? I have GM and Ford stocks, and both stocks are said to be adversely affected because those automakers have major sales problems in Europe — W.V., Phoenix, Ariz.
A. Ford seems to be in better shape in Europe than GM, but the European outlook for both looks as if it will be dismal for quite awhile.

Q. I’ve heard of an attractive early 1950s economy car called the “Henry J” that was far  ahead of its time. What the heck is a “Henry J.”—W.S., Charlotte, North Carolina

A. It was a pioneer 1951-54 American compact car named after major American industrialist Henry J. Kaiser, who revolutionized shipbuilding during World War II and then entered the car business. The two-door Henry J, which could seat four and swallow lots of luggage, made its debut in 1951. It was meant to be for less-affluent folks. It had good handling and came with a fuel-thrifty four-cylinder engine and a six-cylinder, which made it a bit of a hot rod. In fact, the “six” made it faster than an automatic transmission Ford V-8. While it had nifty styling, the Henry J was rather spartan and cost approximately as much as a full-size Chevrolet, Ford or Plymouth. Also, the Henry J was sold when an increasing number of Americans wanted larger, flashier, more-powerful cars. A 1952-54 six-cylinder Henry J Corsair Deluxe model in good condition is valued at $5,000-$10,000, says Collectible Automobile magazine. 

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