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Yes, it’s January and that means the 2012 auction season officially begins with a bevy of auctions this week in Arizona.  The most famous—or, for some collectors, infamous—of the auctions is the Barrett-Jackson auction, which can also be viewed on the Speed channel.  Amazing as it may seem, a total of six auctions will be held!  In addition to the Barrett-Jackson sale, auctions will be held by Gooding & Company, RM Auctions, Russo & Steele, Silver Auctions and newcomer this year, Bonhams.  It’s estimated that approximately 2,100 vehicles will be offered by the six companies.  Looking through the lists of vehicles offered for sale, it’s safe to say that there is truly something for everyone. Five of the auctions will be held in Scottsdale.  One company will hold its auction elsewhere—Silver Auctions is held in Fort McDowell.  Most of the high dollar cars will appear at the RM, Gooding and Bonham’s sale, although several big Classics will be sold by Barrett-Jackson this year.  If you can’t make it Arizona (or, if you go to Arizona and have some money left over)  you can attend the Classic Motorcar auction on Saturday, March 31 at the John S. Knight Center in Akron.

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I just received a notice announcing that Classic Motorcar Auctions will be returning to the John S. Knight Center on March 31 for another collector car auction. With the big auctions coming up in Scottsdale this week, it’s great that we’ll have a taste of that right here in town. CMA always has a wonderful variety of offerings at their auctions and the downtown Akron event always has cars for every taste and budget. Overall, it will be a great way to spend a March day and, hopefully, find your new cruiser the nice weather just around the corner!

Consignments seem to be coming in nicely. Go to www.classicmotorcarauctions.com to see the inventory thus far. The '57 Lincoln Premier has gotten my attention with those giant, lemon yellow tailfins. Which car will you be bidding on?

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The North American International Auto Show, held annually in Detroit in early January, has become the premier event in the world for debut of new cars from American manufacturers and U.S. market cars from foreign builders. With the sluggish economy over the past several years, excitement was down, but last year showed a bit of a resurgence. With record sales in 2011, everyone was back in full force for the 2012 event, which was loaded with experimental concepts and new model introductions.

 Of the American manufacturers, Cadillac struck a cord with their new ATS sedan, which is targeted directly at the BMW 3 series and the Audi A4. The new Dodge Dart was announced to fill the compact car spot vacated by the unloved Calibre. Calling upon Chrysler’s affiliation with Fiat, the Dart is based on an Alfa Romeo designed platform. The American car which really stole the show was, believe it or not, the new Ford Fusion. Based on a European Ford designed chassis, the body design is truly forward thinking and exciting. Adding to the excitement is the fact that it will be available with the choice of five engines, two of which are turbocharged plus a traditional hybrid and a plug in hybrid. Ford is confident that it will be the most efficient car in its segment by a wide margin.

The most exciting news from a foreign manufacturer was Honda’s announcement that there will be a new NSX supercar. The original NSX was the company’s halo model from 1990 until production ended in 2005. Honda has since been criticized for introducing one bland model after another. That talk has ended with the debut of the new NSX concept. Besides its striking looks, it will have cutting edge hybrid technology, which is almost unheard of in this segment. Another big surprise was the announcement that the NSX will be developed and built solely in their Ohio facilities. Truly great news for our area and a tribute to the great American worker.

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Overall, 2011 was a good year for the auto industry. Ford had huge profits, Volkswagen opened a billion dollar plant in Tennessee and the government got paid back some of the money it put out to save GM and Chrysler. Lots of good news all around but that doesn’t mean everything was rosie.

Fiat’s great return to the US market with widely heralded 500 was generally regarded as a flop. Americans didn’t take to it like they did to the Mini, which was the 500’s target. Fiat had an initial sales target of 50,000 units in 2011. As of the end of November, barely 20,000 had been sold.

 Honda’s halo lost a bit of its glow in 2011 also. With the elimination of the sport S2000 and Acura’s NSX, the company no longer had any high performance cars in its line-up. They came under fire for corporate complacency and offering boring cars throughout their range. Add reduced parts availability due to the tsunami into the mix and 2011 is a year that Honda would like to forget.

 My vote for the biggest automotive failure for 2011 is the Chevrolet Volt. I know corporate hired guns and government moles have been touting it since its announcement a few years ago but, in reality, it's just a mild evolutionary step up from a hybrid. On top of that, there was a whole fiasco about the possibility of them catching on fire in the event of a side impact. All in all, Chevy out-Priused Toyota, and that’s not a good thing.

 What do you think was the biggest automotive failure of 2011?

 

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OK, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted to this blog, which is the basis for this post.  I have two major automotive resolutions for the upcoming year. First, I am committed to posting more regularly. Maybe not every day, but at least several times a week.

My second New Year’s resolution is to buy fewer “rescue cars”. I’m a sucker for a car that has an interesting story which, despite its former glory, would bury Warren Buffet in restoration costs. I have a garage full of these right now, and they really don’t need any more company. Time  to get some fixed, let some go  and  focus on buying better cars.

There, now you have my two resolutions. One is achievable, one is questionable but I’ll give them both a shot. What’s your car related New Year’s resolution?

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A friend from Texas just called to say that he just acquired the car he always dreamed of when he was a kid in Illinois, over fifty years ago. It was a Ford with a custom German body that sat in a persnickety neighbor's garage from the time of his earliest memory until he went away to college. At that point, he lost track of it until he saw it buried in a Utah estate auction listing. Yes, the miracle of the internet struck again and he was able to finally acquire the car of his childhood dreams.

 Not all of us are this lucky, but we all had a car we wanted as tikes. Mine was a red Duesenberg. What was yours?

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There was an article in the paper the other day that new car and truck sales are up significantly in our region. The big increase was in medium duty trucks, primarily used by small businesses, but new car sales were up a bit also.

Anyway you slice it, it's good news but it raises a question. With continued high levels of unemployemnt and all government indicators showing annual decreases in middle class salaries, who is forking out the cash for new cars? Even entry level family cars now are approaching the $20,000 price range which is a strain when prices of all other necessities are climbing at record levels. Who can help me with this quandry?

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All summer, I've been driving a great looking 1979 Lincoln Continental Town Coupe. It has performed flawlessly, I have been surrounded by a luxurious tufted leather interior and it elicits compliments everywhere I go. The best thing about the car is that I only paid $2,000 for it at the Classic Motorcar Auctions event held at the John S. Knight Center early this spring. There were several great values at that auction but, fortunately for me, the rest of the room was sleeping when this car came up to the podium.

 Now that you've heard me gloat about my great car deal, I'd really like to hear your best car deal story.

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Heading into the second week of October in Northeast Ohio usually means getting the snow shovels ready and breaking up last year's leftover ice-melt. But wait, it's 2011 and it's over seventy degrees with sunny skies! Don't let the golfers have all the fun; break out your collector cars and motorcycles and get the most driving/riding fun you can from the most perfect weather of the year. We all know what's coming soon…

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Felix Wankel is one of my heroes. The longtime chief engineer of the extinct auto manufacturer NSU was an amazing automotive pioneer. His greatest contribution to the the industry is the invention of the rotary internal combustion engine, appropriately called the Wankel.

 The very first rotary engine car produced was the NSU Wankel Spyder. This interesting little convertible was made between 1965 and 1967, with a total of 2500 examples being built. Unfortunately, the rear mounted, single rotor, 500cc engine suffered from reliability problems, including many engine failures at under 10,000 miles. NSU reworked the engine and introduced a new rotary sedan, the Ro80, in 1967. Despite modern styling and many advanced features, the problems with the initial cars did terminal damage to NSU and they were soon absorbed by Volkswagen.

 In the United States, when we talk about rotary engine cars we automatically think of Mazda. Toyo Kogyo, the maker of Mazda automobiles, became a Wankel licensee in the early sixties. Their first rotary car, the Cosmo Sport 110S, was introduced in 1965 and went into very limited production in 1967. These cars were basically hand built and only about 1200 were made in their production run between 1967 and 1971. They are extremely rare and highly coveted by collectors today, with only six known in to be in our country.

 Since then, Mazda has continually developed the rotary engine and produced numerous models featuring it. The modern rotary engines have two and three rotors and make prodigious power for their size. Reliability issues are a thing of the past but poor fuel mileage has always plagued the Wankel. As a result, sales have never met Mazda's expectations. They just announced that they will not be selling anymore rotary engine cars in the United States once the current stock of RX8's (estiamted at 200 cars) have been sold off the dealer's lots. As a Wankel fan, it's sad to see but I'm obvioulsy in the minority. Do you have any rotary experiences to share?

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