Q. Is a backup camera a good
a new car I’m considering? Vision out the rear window is poor
because of the car’s sleek styling. — L. W., Detroit
A. A backup camera is an excellent item for such a car. It adds a good margin of safety. But a driver should still take as good a look as possible when backing up to avoid hitting an object behind the car and not rely solely on the camera. Advanced auto electronic gizmos now provide a warning if an unseen vehicle is approaching from the left or right when you’re backing up from a parking spot and have side vision blocked by other parked vehicles. In any case, backing up should always be done slowly so you have time to quickly hit the brakes, if necessary.
Q. What was the last great, affordable discontinued “traditional British” sports car sold in America? Was it the Triumph? Austin-Healey? – F.K., Cicero, Ill.
A. It was the 1955 MG TF “1500.” It was the last of MG’s iconic “T-Series” sports cars, which included the TC and TD after World War II. The TF 1500 was a visual delight, with swooping fenders, raked radiator shell, reprofiled fenders with faired-in headlights, running boards and cut-down doors. It resembled the TC and TD, and MG fans initially disliked it because it didn’t have the more upright lines of its predecessors and free-standing chromed headlights. But the TF 1500 now is the most desirable T-Series MG. It’s the fastest because it had a larger, more-powerful 1,466 c.c. four-cylinder engine (which MG rounded off to “1500”). MG built an identical-looking TF with a 1,250 c.c. engine, but it’s too slow for anything but side roads. MG only built 3,400 TF 1500 models. Promising ones have been advertised for about $30,000. Many have been restored. The rugged TF 1500 was the first sports car, new or used, for many mostly young Americans and usually was driven hard. It’s mechanically simple, but remember that it’s now nearly 60 years old.
Q. I don’t get it.
I’ve got a high-performance European sedan, and the
owner’s manual recommends premium (92-plus-octane) gasoline
for it. Yet, the manual also says I can use a lower octane gas, which
is much less costly these days. What should I do? — E.B.,
A. Your car will have lower performance unless you use high-octane gas. But its engine’s electronic controls will compensate for the use of lower-octane fuel without any damage being done. You likely won’t notice the difference in performance when using a lower-octane gas unless you drive your car hard or accelerate quickly to pass on highways or merge into fast traffic. Before today’s elaborate electronic controls, a car with a high-compression-ratio engine would be reluctant to start easily and would continue to “run on” and “cough” when the ignition was turned off if you used low-octane gas.
Q. I’ve read mostly good reviews by experts about the new made-in-Illinois Dodge Dart family car, although an auto ignoramus with an early morning talk show on WGN-radio in Chicago recently blasted the car. I see that the Dart’s sales are slow. What’s the problem? — P.S., Chicago
A. Chrysler began in June and July to ship the first 2013 Darts to showrooms with manual transmissions, not the automatics most Americans understandably want for a family car because they don’t want to shift gears. Chrysler reportedly used manual-transmissions for Darts to maintain quality while building the first ones, but reportedly said most Darts now being built have an automatic. Chrysler’s majority owner is Italy’s Fiat, and the Dart is an “Americanized” version of Fiat’s sexy Alfa Romeo Giulietta. I’ve read the reviews but can’t comment on the Dart because Chrysler has yet to make one available for testing. Maybe it should also lend one to the radio “auto ignoramus.”