Q. The late famous Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert wrote that the 1950s sporty   Studebaker Golden Hawk was the best car ever built and was faster than a Chevrolet Corvette in its day. I don't know much about Golden Hawks, but is that correct? -- R.H. (via Internet)
A. It's not correct. The smaller, considerably lighter two-seat Corvette sports car was much faster than the four-seat 1956-58 Golden Hawk, which wasn't a sports car, but you could never convince Ebert of that because he was very opinionated and argumentative. Ebert knew  nothing about cars, but loved his 1957 Golden Hawk. To my knowledge, he never showed any interest in autos--except the Golden Hawk, which he fell in love with as a kid. How do I know? Because I went to college with him, and we worked many years for the Chicago Sun-Times, where I was the auto writer and he was the movie critic. I actually bought Ebert's Golden Hawk when he tired of it. The car had good paint, chrome, a decent interior, no rust  and just a little body damage. I turned it over to my Chicago-area classic car mechanic, Larry Claypool, who said its "tires are junk and the (power-producing) supercharger for its V-8 needs rebuilding, just for starters. We also need to trash those added-on old radio speakers." It really wasn't my kind of car, but was generally fast with a rebuilt supercharger and its three-speed manual overdrive transmission and rode well on modern radial tires. My mechanic got it to its original condition, and I then sold it to a guy who really wanted it. Too bad Ebert never owned his Golden Hawk when all the sorely needed improvements  were made. 

Q. I know that actor Steve McQueen was a real car buff and good auto racer, but what about the recently  deceased actor James Garner? -- P.S., (via Internet)

A. Garner, who starred in the 1966 hit movie "Grand Prix," was very much a car fan and a pretty good race driver. In fact, he did most of his own driving for that movie. Garner had his own racing team and drove the Indianapolis 500 pace car three times. 

Q. I'm shopping for a new car but find to my dismay that few have full-size spare tires. Instead you get a laughably small inflatable spare tire or, worse, just some sort of inflation kit for a damaged tire. -- E.H., (via Internet)

A. Automakers are under the government gun to make increasingly fuel-efficient, lighter, smaller-but-roomy cars, so they dislike full-size spares because they add fuel-robbing weight and consume cargo space. It was different when fuel was dirt cheap and big cars had huge trunks that could easily accommodate a full-size spare. Also, modern tires have far better construction than the old ones, and inflatable spares are efficient in helping you reach a tire sale outlet.

Q. What's the highest reported price paid for a Ferrari at an auction?

A. The top price reportedly was $53 million for a Ferrari 250 GTO in the U.K. in October, 2013. But the 250 GTO never has been publicly sold in the modern era of classic-car auctions.  The 250 GTO (Pontiac put the "GTO" name on its 1960s muscle car) was a gorgeous, race-winning auto that could be driven on the street, although not very comfortably,  Only 39 (some say just 36) 250 GTOs were  built between 1962 and 1964, and the Sports Car Market price guide values the car at $30 million (low estimate) to $50 million (high estimate). Sound like too much, even for a rare Ferrari? Autoweek magazine says of the 250 GT0 pricing, "Why the hell not when works of contemporary art can fetch three times as much?" I totally agree.

Q. I'm thinking about buying an original fuel-injected 1957 Chevrolet Corvette with a four-speed manual transmission because it's fast and sensational-looking. Have you driven one? --  T.S., Los Angeles

A. Yes, and, although quite costly, that year Corvette with fuel injection and a four-speed manual is hard to find in original shape. The slick-looking 1957 Corvette was the first 'Vette to offer fuel injection and a four-speed manual. But I found that it's a noisy, loose-feeling car with a harsh ride. Still, it's very fast and handling was good for its day. Original-style tires, instead of modern radials, really hurt its cornering ability, and it wasn't offered with power steering, brakes or air conditioning. Fuel injection gave that 'Vette its highest horsepower rating (283), but the injection unit had a troublesome design. The car's V-8 is the most reliable with carburetors, but never pass up a '57 Corvette originally equipped with fuel injection. Keep the fuel-injection unit in a safe place. It adds considerable value to the car because relatively few 1957 Corvettes were ordered with it. Many buyers of the car soon stashed it in the trunk or discarded it and put carburetors on the engine.

Back to Q & A main section