Q. Is it true that gasoline
are becoming so efficient that electric cars will always occupy a niche
market?— D.M., Chicago
A. Mass-produced electric cars still need a battery breakthrough. Meanwhile, gas engines are retaining good performance while delivering higher fuel economy, and the Obama administration’s proposal for low-sulfur gas would make engines more fuel-stingy. That’s because low-sulfur fuel would let automakers develop lean-burn direct-injection gas engines with even higher fuel economy and no performance loss. Ford, BMW and Daimler (Mercedes) are developing such engines, but early models sold in Europe have allowed more tailpipe emissions than permitted here. Automakers hope low-sulfur fuel will help make such engines viable in America. The oil industry opposes the proposal. It would need to refit refineries to remove more sulfur.
Q. Is Hyundai thinking about building a pickup truck? — H.C., Denver
A. I wouldn’t doubt it because Hyundai is building nearly every other kind of vehicle. However, I’m sure it’s aware that America doesn’t need another full-size (half-ton) pickup—as Toyota, Nissan and Honda have found out. But a mini pickup likely would do well on a world-wide basis.
Q. Why isn’t the fantastic Acura NSX sports car from Honda selling for far more than it is? — D.M., Dallas
A. Largely because it was from Honda, which isn’t known as an exotic automaker.The 1991-2005 mid-engine Acura NSX thus lacks the snob appeal of, say, a Ferrari. But never mind. The NSX was sophisticated, sleek, fast and reliable. It also was reasonably affordable ($60,000 in 1991). Curiously, its only major fault was rapid tire wear, at least on early versions. Its distinctive body design remained largely unchanged, and it still looks great. It had features even a Ferrari lacked, such as an all-aluminum engine, body and suspension. The engine even had titanium connecting rods. The NSX initially was in great demand, and many dealers charged $15,000 or so over its list price. A 1991-99 NSX in top condition is valued at $34,000, and the 2000-05 model in the same condition is at $42,000, says the Sports Car Market price guide. But you might be able to get an average-condition early 1990s NSX in the low $20,000 range, which makes it a steal. Avoid the automatic transmission and get an NSX with its slick manual gearbox. The early manual version had more horsepower—270 vs. 252.
Q. I had a now-retired friend
wasn’t a car buff, but bought a 1955 Jaguar XK-140 roadster
in good shape in the early 1960s. He paid about $1,800 for the car and
drove it a lot. His son phoned me and said his father was bored being
retired and was thinking about buying an XK-140 “like the one
he had.” The son said he wanted to get his father the Jaguar
as a “surprise present” and wondered how much it
would cost. What would he pay for a decent XK-140 today? —
A. From approximately $65,000 to $95,000. Some really nice ones top $100,000.
Q. What’s the big deal about the small 1969-74 Ferrari Dino 246 GT? I can’t imagine why it now costs so much. For years, it was hardly in great demand as a used Ferrari and sold for a lot less. — E.H., Irvine, California
A. Every few years another older Ferrari becomes desirable and prices escalate.The Dino 246 GT has a small V-6 and just oddly attractive styling. Any number of small, fairly cheap, modern performance-oriented cars can easily outrun it. I’m six feet tall and never could get comfortable in a Dino 246 GT. It wasn’t rare (for a Ferrari), so low volume doesn’t enhance its value. A total of 2,609 Dino coupes were built from 1969-74, and they’re valued at $150,000-$240,000. Ferrari also built 1,274 open top (Spyder) versions from 1972-74, now valued at $210,000-$400,000. (Add $25,000 for sportier seats and flared fenders!) The 1974-79 Ferrari 308 GT4, which had a strong V-8 and was a better, more comfortable car, is valued at only $22,500 to $37,000. Most Ferrari buffs look down on the 308 GT4, preferring the sexier-looking Pininfarina-styled 308 model that arrived for 1975. However, Ferrari built 2,826 308 GT4s, and it was popular with the public. Buying one now might be a good deal, financially, because the 308 GT4 is becoming more popular.
Q. Will I be able to get the all-new Chevrolet Corvette Stingray when it arrives late this summer? — E.S., Tinley Park, Illinois
A. You’ve got a fairly good chance because you live in the Chicago area, where there are large Chevy dealers who sell Corvettes. But note that less than one in three Chevrolet dealers will be eligible to sell the 2014 Corvette when production begins. General Motors is limiting allocation to its highest-volume Corvette dealers because it anticipates great demand for the new, redesigned ‘Vette. Only 900 of Chevrolet’s approximately 3,000 dealers have met requirements to sell the car. Other Chevy dealers reportedly won’t be given the car until at least six to nine months after its launch, says Automotive News, a trade publication.