Category Archives: Ford

2011 Ford F350 Super Duty Crew Cab (1132)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2011 Ford F350 Super Duty Crew Cab Actually I’m reviewing my personal vehicle because I didn’t schedule a press car for that week. In any case Ford doesn’t like reviews from Journalists and has changed their marketing. I’m guessing they don’t want fair and balanced reporting. This look at my truck is real world five years later reporting. I’ll try to keep my bias out and objectively report on the facts alone.

Yep, this is a pretty imposing truck and although I’m partial to RAM trucks, some folks are conversely “died-in-the-Wool” Ford guys who have their own bias. But with all the problems Ford has had one has to wonder why those Ford guys continue to defend the brand even when they shouldn’t.

The first Ford I had was wonderful – it was a 1955 half ton pickup truck. Two doors, of course, because no truck company built a 4-door back then. That 1955 Ford was easy to work on and tried and true for the day. But fast forward to my 2007 Ford F350 Super Duty Crew Cab but as I got into the issues with that truck with 175,000 miles on it at the time, the nightmare began. Sure most issues are reparable and then you should have years of good life remaining. This particular truck was a company vehicle that was well cared for before I got it. I felt I was safe because it had new injectors and some other repairs before I got it at a cost of $4-5,000.

But this Ford was the 6.0 liter engine and notorious for another problem involving the Intercooler. A Ford diesel shop and friend of mine said get rid of it. But I didn’t. Soon after there was leakage and Ford was not giving any assistance to its unwary customers. It took an outside of Ford Aftermarket Company that came to the rescue with a fix to Ford’s stupid problem.  The “Bullet Proof” fix was available and parts and installation cost totaled right at $4,000. After that expense I figured I’m surely safe now, but for how long who knows?

Even further forward, a couple of years after selling the 2007 repaired pickup truck, I travelled to my next encounter with yet another F350 that was nearly a twin of the ‘07. Seems I was blessed with being the recipient of the next generation of essentially the same truck albeit 4 years newer. It was a 2011 model but now I was assured with a new 6.7 liter diesel engine it was promised to be without blemish.

Not so as I was soon to learn. These new Fords are so “New Age” that they simply have continued to be too smart for their own good. “OK Hal I give up. Tell me with your computer brain why this Ford F350 just flashes a message on the dash display “pull over safely” blah blah blah. It was a random problem that finally forced its driver to find a good place to pull off the road with just enough momentum to coast (without brakes) and stop off the side of the road. I say coast because the thing just dies. Okay so now you miss your appointment and are thrust into a survival mode. Even in the most ideal of conditions I still have to get replacement transportation for myself and have this big useless “Berg” towed to a Ford dealership.

Simple problem,.. ? if $400 for a relay or whatever failed then it’s a simple problem. “On the road again…” Can you hear Willie Nelson singing that tune? But now after all the hassles my confidence in Ford is shattered. Can I really trust this bucket of bolts?

I’m not a happy camper if you didn’t notice.

Handling & Performance:

Very difficult to drive around town. It takes at least two parking spaces when you go shopping. In short it is not made for normal or should I say easy city driving. On the bright side, it IS, I repeat it IS made to tow a big 5th Wheel trailer. It is equipped with a factory built in Goose Neck Ball hitch receptacle in the middle of the bed as well as a factory 5thWheel setup. It does that okay I’m told. I’ll let you know.

Styling:

For a very BIG truck it is rather nice looking. Not as pretty as the Dodge / Ram 3500 but nice looking.

Fit and Finish:

Very good assembly but not as good as the Ram I tested recently in my opinion.

Cost:

Trucks today are terribly expensive. Purchased new this 2011 sold for $58,000.

Conveniences and comfort:

This Ford came with a Nav system, but for such a big truck it has a tiny map display. Really, Garman’s portable version is bigger. Worse yet it is horrible. I have Nav systems in most of the test cars I drive, but the one on this F350 is as bad as they get.

Consumer Recommendations:

By all means, test drive the Ford, but be sure to test drive the Ram if it is a very big truck you need.

Recognized Competition:

Ford F350 Super Duty Crew Cab $56,000, Ram 3500 Crew Cab long box $56,000, Chevrolet Silverado 3500 HD $49,000, GMC Sierra 3500 HD $50,000.

Good News:

Big, capable for big jobs, Comfortable ride, fast.

Bad News:

Expensive to own, poor fuel economy, not good for around town driving.

Gas Stats:

$2.19/ Gal of Diesel avg. March 15, 2016

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

Combined City and Highway is 16 MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $ 54,980.

2001 Ford Explorer Sport Trac 4X4 (333)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the Ford Explorer Sport Trac 4X4. This is essentially an Explorer with a pickup bed rather than its SUV cousin with the cargo area inside. Size wise I see it a lot like the Ford F150 Super Crew. This Sport Trac however, has a shorter wheelbase by 13-inchs. I didn’t measure the bed of the truck but the inside legroom is almost identical between the two, so my sense is that the bed is about a foot shorter too.

The extender device used with the tailgate down gives additional length, but if your cargo is small it could be a problem because things could slip through the back that is not solidly enclosed. That of course is the limitation of its use. This Explorer will have lots of application for those who prefer a smaller pickup but also want to transport more people.

Handling & Performance:

The small size makes this a delight to run around in and also is quite responsive with the 205 horsepower V6.

Styling:

The styling is “Today” and I believe it will appeal to those active outdoors people who might be looking at the Xterra, for example. I question the addition of the rail type running board step on both of these vehicles that seem to be more of a styling statement than a useful feature of a real running board.

Fit and Finish:

For a pickup truck, likely to see extra dirty duty, this Explorer is more like a passenger car in its detailing. I have to point out that American manufacturers are simply getting better in this area. They must be acutely aware of how the Japanese have kicked our butts for years in workmanship and attention to detail. Their workers have a work ethic that is still unspoiled by success. This Ford shows that disparity between workers has changed now and we’re in another fight for our economic lives and we’ve proved that war unites us and “we’re back”. We can thank the Japanese for that wakeup call.

Conveniences:

You get all the comforts of home and this Ford left me wanting for nothing. I got a lot of use from the rear power window with three positions and it’s amazing how the little things count in making the driving experience more enjoyable.

Cost:

Sticker shock hit me right off the bat. I like to have the four doors, but I don’t want to pay for them. Does that sound familiar?

Consumer Recommendation:

I liked all the competition in this class and they are competitively priced, even if all a little too much. You should drive all three, as I did and you’ll find the one that feels best to you. It would be tough for me to choose. Brother John and I owned an auto repair shop for years and for the tough jobs around his ranch, he feels Dodge is the way to go. All things being equal, I’d have to buy American too.

The Competition:

Dodge Dakota 13,910-22,370, Nissan Frontier $11,699-24,399.

Good News:

Good size option, plenty of power, utility pickup bed for a thousand and one uses.

Bad News:

None with the exception of the poor gas consumption. I heard it said that if we got just one mpg better on our cars we wouldn’t need to use the oil reserve in Alaska. Can that be true? If you know, email me and I’ll share your comments with other readers. It’s about time we demanded better from a product that has become a necessity to us all.

Standard Equipment:

4.0 liter V6 engine, 5-speed auto trans, remote power mirrors, rear split folding bench seat, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, power rear window, stereo with cassette and CD, front disc and rear drum antilock brakes, locking tailgate.

Gas Stats:

15 City and 19 Highway MPG.

Pricing

MSRP $24,435

2011 Ford Fiesta (835)

Overview: 
This week we’re looking at the 2011 Ford Fiesta. Wow, what happened to 2010? And what happened to the Fiesta since the one I bought in 1978. Daughter Jenny got a hand-me-down when she turned 16, with all confidence that it was a great first car for her to finish through high school.

The Fiesta is Ford’s all-new small car that comes to the North American market for the first time after success in other markets around the world – so says Ford. I’m yet to find out how my 1978 Fiesta relates to this NEW 2011 version.

It is offered in 4-door and 5-door hatchback versions, Ford claims 15 class-exclusive technologies for the Fiesta, resulting in luxury and convenience typically expected in more expensive models. I’m with ‘em on this. Fiesta is included in what they call ONE Ford plan, which is to design and develop vehicles for customers in markets around the world. More than 500,000 Fiestas have been sold in Europe and Asia, and I expect it will be a popular car here in the US.

Opinion:

Changing lanes – beware and alert when you change lanes. Avoid moving into the blind spot of the car in the lane you intend moving into, because they won’t see you and if they too make a move it too often results in a collision.

Posted Speed laws – unreasonably low posted speeds make law breakers of us all. Shame on the State of California posted speeds haven’t changed since your grandpa was driving a Model T. Many will tell you it is more about revenue generation than anything else. California already is known for having the highest fines for traffic violations than any other state. Shame, Shame, Shame on law makers!

We could get rid of hidden taxes in the form of traffic citations if we would simply fire some of those free loading bureaucrats.

But, in the meantime you will find the following link useful as a refresher on the rules of the road. Watch some of these DMV driving videos and I think you’ll agree it is an invaluable yet easy to watch visual explanation of driving etiquette for new or younger drivers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrycG2Qzpy4

Handling & Performance:

Powered by a 1.6-liter 119 horsepower 4-cylinder engine, the Fiesta is expected to achieve 40 mpg highway when equipped with the PowerShift six-speed automatic transmission and Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS). I tested the manual transmission model and it is geared well to overcome the low power so you will notice that on those long uphill inclines you must continue to downshift until you find the gear that will pull the grade. The 5-speed manual transmission handled everything well including starting out from a stop even on an uphill position.

Styling:

The ‘Fiesta’ was very basic in the ‘70s and still is, but the design is deceptive in that it looks like a more expensive class automobile. It has matured and has a more streamlined look. Inside it is also more sophisticated looking and has features that add to the feel that you are in a more expensive brand / model. However it is the little things that bug us and for me it is the sun visors that I will complain about if they do not extend to cover more of the side window.

Fit and Finish:

Very good in class.

Cost:

Average in this class.

Conveniences and comfort:

The years that have passed since I owned the 1978 Fiesta have allowed a lot of features and for the money Ford has included much more than I expected. For example, it is comfortable even on a long drive which I found out on a quick trip up to Santa Barbara and Buellton / Solvang areas in California. It was for a golf outing and that required two men with large Pro – size golf bags and luggage. It was very comfy but I think, in a pinch, we could have taken one more without much trouble. Four would be pushing it for trips of more than an hour.

The AC is very good and the Cruise Control works fabulously especially since it is married to a manual transmission. A small feature I like is the cap-less gas filler that is more common most recently. I believe they will be standard equipment on all cars in time.

Recognized Competition:

Ford Fiesta $13-17,000, Chevrolet Aveo $12-15,000 Chevrolet Aveo5 $12-15,000, Honda CR-Z $19-23,000, Honda Fit $15-19,000, Hyundai Accent $10-15,000, Kia Rio $12-15,000, Kia Rio5 $14-15,000, Mazda 2 $14-15,000, Nissan Versa $10-17,000, Scion xD $15-16,000, Smart fortwo $12-21,000, Suzuki SX4 Crossover $16-20,000, Suzuki SX4 Sport $13-19,000, Toyota Yaris $13-14,000.

Good News:

Affordable transportation that also looks more stylish than the price would imply, great fuel economy for a family commuter.

Bad News:

A bit underpowered pulling the hills, sun visors could bug you too.

Standard Equipment:

1.6 liter 119 horsepower inline 4 cylinder engine, 5 speed manual transmission, 16’ aluminum wheels, cap-less gas filler, power heated mirrors with inserts to expand rear view of other lanes, power windows and locks, audio input jack with USB, SIRIUS satellite radio, 12v Power outlet, leather wrapped steering wheel with cruise and audio controls, air conditioning, remote keyless entry with security anti-theft system and engine immobilizer, child safety rear door locks, trip computer, front disc and rear drum ABS brakes, front, side and side curtain and driver knee air bags.

Gas Stats:

$3.05/ Gal avg. October 20, 2010

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

29 City and 38 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $13-17,000.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2010 – An Automotive Love Affair

2010 Ford Mustang GT Premium Convertible (801)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2010 Ford Mustang GT Premium Convertible. What a flashback to the past when Muscle cars were the thing and it’s not so hard to understand why. They are flat fun to drive. Sit in one and your heart begins to beat a little faster and the sound of a big V8 brings back a lot of memories. The convertible reminds us this is a “Sunbelt” car and although it would be great in the North it would pretty much have to be parked in the winter in spite of what Al Gore is trying to convince us of. In fact Al baby, if we all drove Mustangs with big V8’s we could warm up the globe and then be able put the top down even in Detroit in winter.

But I wonder where Al is now. Did he go into hiding until the ICE melts? BS Al – but it’s worked out pretty good for you. Nobel prize and $100,000,000 added to your personal wealth. Hell you can buy another jet for your stable – warm up the globe a little more and make even more money. Talk about corruption in high places. What’s it like at 30,000 feet Al? Bet you make a few deals up there to bilk the people out of the money they make the old fashioned way – They EARN it.

General Info:

Parts – .

Assembly – USA

Class:  – Subcompacts

Cars: – Edge, Escape, Escape Hybrid, E-Series Van, E-Series Wagon, Expedition, Explorer, Explorer Sport Trac, F-150, F-250, F-350, F-450, Fiesta, Flex Focus, Fusion, Fusion Hyrid, Mustang, Ranger, Shelby GT500, Taurus and Transit Connect.

Opinion:

There is a growing concern in all quarters now that the CHP is instructed to ticket, ticket, ticket. I caution you again – Slow down and don’t give these bad guys the opportunity to TAX you even more than you are. Don’t you think we’re taxed enough already. Join a TEA party and let government know we’re ‘mad as hell and won’t take it any longer’. U-rah!

The sad part is that such taxes only keep more of those tax collectors on the highway where that’s about all they do – fill the STATE coffers with money to perpetuate their KIND. What Kind are they – Leaches on the system. They produce NO goods or services and instead of instructing them to protect their jobs, our elected and appointed officials should be laying off government employees. We simply can’t afford those questionable services.

I was admonished by one public employee reader that we need fire and police. I have news for government employees – WE Can’t afford you. We can take care of ourselves and ultimately do.

Handling & Performance:

Well it’s not as fast as Al Gore’s Jet, but this Mustang is more fun. IT’s fast and sounds great. The ride will be a little rough which of course comes with the territory. It also reminds you of what raw power used to be and can still be if that’s your thing.

Styling:

Some things are best left alone and that’s the case with Retro cars like this Mustang. Good job Ford. One of the new hot items in many cars today is the Ambient Lighting feature – the house of blue lights – Nice.

Fit and Finish:

Pretty much the same as always – a little loosey goosey but that also goes with the territory. Compared to the older Mustangs and Camaro’s of the past, today’s muscle cars are much more refined because of vastly improved assembly techniques.

Cost:

Well, it ain’t cheap.

Conveniences and comfort:

Seating is much better than yesteryear Mustangs, but the ride is still a little bumpy. I really like the new Easy Fuel Capless Filler system concept on new Fords. Very cool, but I have some security concerns since with the high cost of fuel, siphoning would be too easy. Some applications have security built into the outer locking door, so check it out.

Cars are rapidly adopting SYNC / Bluetooth features that are really handy. You just sync to your cell and communication uses the radio and speaker system for hands free operation. It’s the law most places anyway.

Consumer Recommendation:

There aren’t many of this breed remaining and if you are a Retro kinda guy or gal, your search is rather limited. The Mustang just happens to be tried and true in all respects. When I was a kid a rock and roll 28 Ford Model A Sedan was a dream come true – rattles and all. To my parents a 28 Ford was new, but to me it was an opportunity to modify, drop in a big Corvette V8 for a really fun and fast car of the day. It was however more temptation than a 17 year old can handle. Makes it tough to avoid the black and white bad guys. I suspect that’s what driving Retro cars today means to our kids. Son Michael has the first year Camaro (1967), and it was his first car. He lovingly restored it and so it goes.

If you want a piece of the past – ‘just do it’ and buy a Mustang and have a ball. The cars listed below only have a few real competitors in class. Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger. The rest are really ‘wanna-bees’ or simply out of place.

Recognized Competition:

Ford Mustang $21-36,000, Audi TT $29-38,000, BMW 1 Series $29-40,000, BMW Z4 $46-52,000, Chevrolet Camaro $23-34,000, Dodge Challenger $23-41,000, Hyundai Genesis Coupe $22-32,000, Infiniti G Convertible $44,000, Mazda RX-8 $26-32,000, Mercedes SLK $47-67,000, Mitsubishi Eclipse $21-33,000, Nissan Z $30-41,000, Volkswagen Eos $32-36,000, Volkswagen New Beetle $19-26,000.

Good News:

Fast, fun, Retro with far better fuel economy than the past.

Bad News:

The empty warning on the gas tank comes on just after the needle crosses over the ¼ full mark. That should be just enough time to stop for more fuel. In other words you won’t pass a lot of gas stations even though better than the flash back to the past… but gas was 25 cents a gallon.

Standard Equipment:

4.6 liter 315 hp V8 engine, 5-speed manual trans, electronic stability control, front & side airbags, post crash alert system, tire pressure monitor, remote keyless entry & anti-theft, LATCH child safety system, power windows, locks and mirrors, leather seating and leather wrapped tilt steering wheel, cruise control, power driver 6-way seat, manual 2-way front passenger seat, air conditioning, Shaker 500 audio system with in dash 6-CD/MP3 player, SYNC voice activated system, auto headlights, fog lights, stainless steel dual exhaust, rear window defroster, rear decklid spoiler, power cloth convertible top, easy fuel capless filler.

Gas Stats:

$2.91/ Gal avg. March 3 ‘10

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

16 City and 24 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $35,995.

2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid (800)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid Sedan. There are some subtle  differences from the conventional gas model but they are worth noting. The most important is a big difference in fuel economy in this Hybrid. The power behind the Electric Motor is the Nickel Metal Hydride battery under the rear seat.

With 41 City Highway MPG fuel economy coupled with a stylish Sedan you have difficulty telling the difference from other non-Hybrid sedans. Toyota Prius of recent fame and then “Infamous” notoriety is quickly identifiable in its unusual styling. This Ford doesn’t broadcast its Green-ness by looking different from a commonly styled sedan.

It is not hard to understand this Fusion was named 2010 Motor Trend Car of the Year. It simply is larger and more comfortable than the early hybrids but also delivers great fuel numbers.

When I stepped into the next review vehicle – Mustang – for a return to the past, I was quickly reminded of gas stations. I don’t think I’ll invest in Exxon or Mobil or any other oil stock. We don’t have crystal balls – well maybe you do, but I wish I could look into the future for real and see if the rest of the Gas Stations are removed from street corners. Remember when there used to be one on every corner at every major intersection? Then in the mid 1970s half of them disappeared as motoring changes were taking their toll on the industry.

General Info:

Parts – .

Assembly – Mexico

Class:  – Midsize

Cars: – Edge, Escape, Escape Hybrid, E-Series Van, E-Series Wagon, Expedition, Explorer, Explorer Sport Trac, F-150, F-250, F-350, F-450, Fiesta, Flex Focus, Fusion, Fusion Hyrid, Mustang, Ranger, Shelby GT500, Taurus and Transit Connect.

 Fusion Conventional gas engine

Opinion:

One has to wonder where all electric will be taking us. The big hype is that this somehow will use less fossil fuel. But electricity is generated using coal and other fossil fuels. Further, if everyone plugged in their cars into the electric grid will the system handle the added use.

In summer when everyone turns on their air conditioners – Zap ! So what will happen when everyone plugs in their cars? From all the things I read it would appear ‘all electric’ is the trend. Ford will introduce the Focus All Electric next year that gets about a hundred miles per full charge. Great commuter but the direction seems to be happening without any discussion of how all this electricity is going to be produced.

Hello Nuclear power plants sprouting up like mushrooms. That will be met by those opposing that kind of power generation, so a bunch of “Brown Outs” should silence those nay sayers. Problem is that it take 20 years for each to come on line. Oh well, I guess we have a lot of “Bail out” money left in Obama’s “Stash”.

Handling & Performance:

Up to 47 miles per hour in the EV (Electric Vehicle) mode. More importantly you will be able to drive 700 miles on one gas fill up. Although the 2.5 liter engine produces 156 horsepower, when combined with the electric motor you have 191 hp to give great performance.

Styling:

This is a sedan that looks like any that provides a roomy and comfortable ride while providing the economical operation. Some hate the distinctive chrome grill, like friend and auto designer and professor Merkel, but I’m sorry Merkel, I like it and suspect many agree. And the overall look is to my liking as well. I particularly like that it doesn’t have to look like a Prius or Honda Insight or very early GM Saturn divisions EV1. Well, we’ve come a long way baby and I like the fact that Fusion doesn’t have to be an Ugly Betty to be Green. Nice job Ford.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

Very competitive. The unknown is what cost will be attached to the Electric part of the equation. The good news is that there has been no Bad press on repair costs after nearly a decade of playing around with Electric and Hybrid cars and trucks. That would be pretty hard to suppress if the results are bad. If you work in the auto repair business and have experience with EV’s please share with other readers.  Email me with your thoughts and experience.

Conveniences and comfort:

The instrument cluster is a neat tool to know how you are using energy. You catch yourself “Running Silent” and it feels really good – even ‘responsible’, know what I mean?

Recognized Competition:

Ford Fusion $20-28,000, Acura TSX $29-38,000, Buick La Crosse $27-33,000, Chevrolet Malibu $22-27,000, Chrysler 300 $27-45,000, Chrysler Sebring $20-35,000, Dodge Avenger $20-22,000, Dodge Charger $24-38,000, Honda Accord $21-31,000, Hyundai Sonata $19-27,000, Kia Optima $18-23,000, Mazda 6 $18-28,000, Mercury Milan $22-28,000, Mitsubishi Galant $22-24,000, Nissan Altima $20-30,000, Pontiac G6 $19-32,000, Saturn Aura $23-27,000, Subaru Legacy $20-30,000, Suzuki Kizashi $19-27,000, Toyota Camry $19-29,000, Volkswagen Jetta $18-25,000, Volkswagen Passat $27,915.

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter 4-cylinder 156 hp engine, E-CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) automatic transmission, 17” aluminum wheels, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, traction control, electronic stability control, front, side and side curtain air bags, SOS post crash alert system, perimeter alarm, tire pressure monitor system, power windows & locks, tilt and telescopic leather wrapped wheel with cruise and audio controls, leather trimmed heated front seats, 8-way power driver seat, 60/40 split rear seat, power windows and locks, Audio with CD/MP3 with Sirius satellite, SYNC voice activated system, fog lights, power heated mirrors, keyless entry, climate control and LATCH child safety system.

Gas Stats:

$2.85/ Gal avg. February 16 ‘10

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

41 City and 36 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $27,270.

2010 Ford Fusion SEL (799)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2010 Ford Fusion SEL. It has been a long time since I featured a series of Ford Product in my column. Stepping back into Ford has dusted off some memories of the past. The current automotive crisis in the 21st Century takes us back over 100 years ago. I believe Henry Ford would be proud of the company he founded to deal with current conditions and with the guts to reject government bail out money. His influence is paying dividends even today. People are NOT buying GM (Government Motors) cars but instead are moving back to basics and to Ford products. The character inherent in Free Market principles is shining through.

At the same time the new king of the car world, Toyota, is finding they have a chink in their armor. It just proves they too are human. It also points out how fragile the leader can be and how a change of fortunes can happen and does just that when least expected.

Car of the year says Motor Trend of this 2010 Ford Fusion. The momentum appears to be shifting back to the past for the future.

 

General Info:

 

Parts – .

Assembly – Mexico

Class:  – Midsize

Cars: – Edge, Escape, Escape Hybrid, E-Series Van, E-Series Wagon, Expedition, Explorer, Explorer Sport Trac, F-150, F-250, F-350, F-450, Fiesta, Flex Focus, Fusion, Fusion Hyrid, Mustang, Ranger, Shelby GT500, Taurus and Transit Connect.

       1956 Ford Sunliner

Opinion:

As my column implies I believe we all have a love affair with our automobiles. . . always have. For me I’m reminded of my third car – actually a truck. A 1955 Ford half ton Pick up truck to be exact. I was a senior in High School and it was near new. It didn’t come easy however as I would be reminded every morning at 4AM as I drove to fold and deliver 420 LA Times newspapers. Ergo the need for a truck. Then I’d get back in time for a bowl of Wheaties and off to classes. The energy of youth would run out in my 2PM class when I would doze off. I’d catch a few winks to get me ready for my job at the Natural Food Mill where I’d wash the pots and pans and cookie sheets John the baker would need at 2AM the following morning. Those jobs and others would give me the money to pay for the privileged of owning my own car. At least I didn’t have to walk to school – up hill – both ways…. In the snow like dad had to. Yep I had it easy because I had a passion to drive and be a member of the Little Rascals car club. We were all gear heads back then and turning a wrench was a part of the passion of the automobile.

Do kids do that today? Do they work hard and have the boundless energy we did when we were kids? Do they tinker with mechanical things? Or do they busy themselves texting unseen kids as we would spend time on a party line talking with several strangers in search of a connection to the outside world? We still hadn’t figured out ‘what it’s all about – Alfie’.

Handling & Performance:

Well, things have reached a level of perfection in today’s Ford’s we didn’t enjoy a generation ago. Smooth performance has replaced raw unsophisticated power coupled with suspensions that did little more than keep the frame up off the road. In today’s world it doesn’t get any better than the handling of this new Ford Fusion. What’s not to love?

Styling:

Fact of the matter is that cars today not only handle like a dream, they are sexy too. Ok, so it’s more like a uni-sexy… not like the early days of cars that resembled each other only by having 4 wheels, an engine and roll up windows in common. Designers uniquely crafted cars with paper and pencil so imagination reigned supreme. Today the cars’ look and feel is embellished by CAD systems where computer aided design has an influence that make all cars look pretty much the same… and the word Generic was born.

Fit and Finish:

Generic – definition: something that is general, common, or inclusive rather than specific, unique, or selective. That pretty much describes today’s cars in contrast to those of yesteryear. Early cars were distinguishable as much by different gadgets and features inside and out so the ‘badge’ was incidental to identification of who made the car.

Cost:

Henry Ford had more to do with value for the buck than any car maker ever. It is fitting that today’s Ford automobiles are as competitive as they are in spite of Union’s who have had more to do with nearly sinking the US Auto Industry.

Conveniences and comfort:

Wow. What can I say – you’ve come a long way baby. We expect all the fluff and creature comforts possible. Daughter Jenny learned the hard lesson of why you don’t text while driving. It is a clear reason why Nav systems won’t allow input while the car is moving. Our need for more convenience and comfort has made it clear to me that we CAN’T really Multi-task. We’re simply not wired that way… or that well.

One new convenience on this Ford is what they call an Easyfuel capless filler. Pretty cool.

Another interesting new feature is the SOS post crash alert system which unlocks the vehicle doors and activates the horn and emergency flashers in the event air bags are deployed. What’ll they think of next?

Consumer Recommendation:

Ford is said to be having some electrical problems with Fusion. Ford Customer Service Relationship Center can be reached at 800-392-3673. I was unable to find any general broad electrical recall problems. Ford says there are often specific issues that are handled as is customary in the industry generally. You can also go to NHTSA.gov (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for more information).

A specific link is: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/portal/site/nhtsa/template.MAXIMIZE/menuitem.f2217bee37fb302f6d7c121046108a0c/?javax.portlet.tpst=1e51531b2220b0f8ea14201046108a0c_ws_MX&javax.portlet.prp_1e51531b2220b0f8ea14201046108a0c_viewID=detail_view&itemID=1cd18bb66d24c110VgnVCM1000002fd17898RCRD&pressReleaseYearSelect=2008

Recognized Competition:

Ford Fusion $20-28,000, Acura TSX $29-38,000, Buick La Crosse $27-33,000, Chevrolet Malibu $22-27,000, Chrysler 300 $27-45,000, Chrysler Sebring $20-35,000, Dodge Avenger $20-22,000, Dodge Charger $24-38,000, Honda Accord $21-31,000, Hyundai Sonata $19-27,000, Kia Optima $18-23,000, Mazda 6 $18-28,000, Mercury Milan $22-28,000, Mitsubishi Galant $22-24,000, Nissan Altima $20-30,000, Pontiac G6 $19-32,000, Saturn Aura $23-27,000, Subaru Legacy $20-30,000, Suzuki Kizashi $19-27,000, Toyota Camry $19-29,000, Volkswagen Jetta $18-25,000, Volkswagen Passat $27,915.

Good News:

It’s a Fooorrrrrd, neat ambient lighting, really good fuel economy.

Bad News:

Some word on the street that Ford products may be having recall problems.

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter 4-cylinder 175 hp engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, 17” aluminum wheels, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, traction control, electronic stability control, front, side and side curtain air bags, SOS post crash alert system, perimeter alarm, tire pressure monitor system, power windows & locks, tilt and telescopic leather wrapped wheel with cruise and audio controls, leather trimmed heated front seats, 8-way power driver seat, 60/40 split rear seat, power windows and locks, Audio with CD/MP3 with Sirius satellite, SYNC voice activated system, fog lights, power heated mirrors, keyless entry, climate control and LATCH child safety system.

Gas Stats:

$2.85/ Gal avg. February 16 ‘10

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

22 City and 31 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $23,975.

Ford F150 (681)

Overview:
This is the city. Los Angeles, California. It was a warm day and I was working the story desk out of Pasadena when I got the call from the boss to get the story on a young car designer. My name is Joe and it’s Friday.

The story you are about to read is true and not even the names have been changed. It was 11 AM and I was early for my lunch meeting with Jason Hulst. As I got into my press car I wondered about what kind of young man I’d be meeting. The freeway traffic was uncharacteristically light. The sky was clear blue with patches of white clouds. One of the nicer days in LA. It was noon when I arrived at the Disney Studios in Burbank and I was to meet Mr. Hulst in the parking lot. Me, I’m 5′ foot 9” and Jason towers over me. I wondered if he noticed me being uncomfortable looking up all the time. We walked to the Riverside Commissary where we sat down to lunch and some conversation with this California born kid.

“Son I need the facts, just the facts,” I told him, as we enjoyed a pleasant lunch. The commissary setting instantly launches you back in time. The décor and photos on the walls speak of the 1950s. That’s when Walt Disney’s dream exploded when he displaced orange groves to build Disneyland in Anaheim.

Jason works in animation for Disney where he does Prop Designs. The Story is written, the Story Board department does the Layout of set background, Characters are designed and then Jason designs all the moving stuff that interfaces with those Characters. I couldn’t help but think, what an appropriate place this is for an aspiring car designer to work his day job. Art is, after all, a perfect way to actually see what the mind conceives.

A custom rod is really a caricature of the original from the “good old days.” Icons like Bob’s Big Boy, carhops and countless other images of the 50s, 60s and 70s pop out from the dusty corners of your mind. That’s when mostly older guys, like me, with money have a dream to restore a favorite car from their youth.

The dream necessarily is where it all starts. But making that dream come true takes a few ingredients, including several talented people, money (and generally lots of it) and about nine months. But what’s a dream worth, right?

Finding the right team of professionals to make it all happen the way you envision is not all that easy. And once you find the right team, it is still kinda like having a baby, and the birthing process includes a lot of labor. But the finished product is unbelievably beautiful.

Anyway, Jason shared how he had grown up, like many of us, with a dad to look up to and influence his life. Jason credits his drive to his dad who never sat still in his quest to become a custom rod builder. After 15 years as a motorcycle cop in Torrance (they rode Harley’s back then, which is why we call them the good old days), Paul Hulst packed up his young family and moved to Merlin, Oregon (a suburb of Grants Pass). That move gave birth to his dream of setting up a business to help others realize their dreams of owning a custom rod.

Jason was ten, and the years that followed would shape his desire to work with his dad doing what they both had learned to love. After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Graphic Design from Oregon State, Jason attended the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Transportation Design. Perched high above the famous Rose Bowl in the Arroyo Seco, it is a setting that has inspired great designers like: Bryan Nesbitt (PT Cruiser), recently promoted from head designer at Chevrolet to Executive Director Opel Design in Germany; Grant Larson (Porsche Boxster); Freeman Thomas, Chrysler design V.P. and co-designer with J Mays of the Audi TT and new Beetle (J Mays is now V.P. of Ford Design); Ken Okyama of Pininfarina (2003 Enzo Ferrari); Frank Stephenson, head designer for Ferrari; and Chris Bangle, head designer for BMW, just to name a few.

I learned that Jason and I have a few things in common. He lives on a street in Pasadena where I grew up. He has a Harley Davidson motorcycle. One of his professors at Art Center, Merkel Weiss, is a colleague of mine. Both men speak highly of each other.

After graduation from Art Center, Jason took a job in Tokyo – but after a few months he learned, like Dorothy, that “There’s no place like home.” He returned to the States and says, “I started working for Disney Imagineering and did that for over three years. While there I designed the “Rocket Rod” ride at the park. Not long after I designed the New “Autopia Cars” that consisted of three totally new designs.” I’m impressed Jason, go on, what else did you do for them? “Well” Jason continued, “on each of the projects I was responsible to develop all presentation sketches, 1/5 scale models, direction of the full size mock-up all the way to the final opening of each ride.” Jason then learned about the job in Animation from his good friend and another of his professors at Art Center, Bruce Berky.

Jason is a part of the new generation blessed with unique technology to make the impossible possible. Today’s movies are examples of what can be done because of computer art and animation. And let’s face it; Jason’s generation cut their teeth on all kinds of computers. From games and joysticks to serious business computers and computer aided design programs. His dad’s generation did things by the seat of their pants. Jason says, “just nine years ago when I walked into class at Art Center, layout was done the old fashioned way, by hand.” Today Jason scans his hand-made drawings into his computer where they will be digitally enhanced. I bring a pen and paper to our meeting; he brings his laptop. Know what I mean?

The process of building a custom rod goes from the customer approving Jason’s design drawings – (a 4-6 week process) to the bank and then back again with lots of money to get the show on the road. Then Paul (his dad) gets the rest of his team together, including chief fabricator, Andy Peterman. Unlike having a baby, the process can take more than nine months depending on the extent of the restoration and the problems they run into … like a rusty floor that falls out in the cleaning process.

Merlin would be impressed with these guys, not because their shop is in Merlin, Oregon but because they too are magicians. The finished product is simply a beautiful work of art and truly magic to those who have a love affair with cars.

Well, this story has many happy endings counted one custom car at a time. And this generation of young men and women were born to take the art of their parents to the next level. Paul’s legacy to his son was to instill a sense of the value of hard work and the resultant benefits. By example Jason learned to appreciate the joy of a job well done. I told him, “son this could be a life sentence, and I expect to watch his progress closely.” He walked me to my car and we shared pleasantries and said our farewells. I looked at my watch – it was three PM. I didn’t look forward to the rush hour drive back to Pasadena, but that’s Los Angeles and you’ve got to take the good with the bad.

Jason pleaded guilty to several counts of “passion for automotive design.” He and his dad agree the fruits of their labor will live on well beyond them, because their finished product is…

… just the beginning.

The Truck is a 2004 Ford F-150 SuperCrew Titled \”SuperWagons F-150\” By Hulst Customs and designs by Paul and Jason Hulst, Merlin, OR 541-474-1980 hulstdesign@earthlink.net

5.4 liter v-8, 2×4 5.5\’ bed

Custom changes and components: Shaved Door Handles with Electric solenoids, shaved tailgate handle with power actuator to operate gate, custom body trim, Motorized SuperWagon in bed  (www.superwagons.com). Body paint mixed by X-otic Colours, Custom Bed insert, Brushed Aluminum with clear anodizing, shaved gas door and re-located in bed insert. Air-Ride Technologies Suspension with New Inteli-ride system.

Wheels/Tires:  Cyclos designer Wheels by Oasis Jason Hulst – 22×9 Front and Rear

Pirelli tires. P-Zero Scorpions Front 265/35-22 rear 305/40-22

Brakes: Stainless Steel Brake Corporation, Custom 3 piston High-performance Calipers, with custom Milled stock rotors, (www.stainlesssteelbrakes.com)

Engine: CGS MotorSports Air Intake

Interior: Katzkin Leather interiors, Willow Green Leather with Burnt Orange Stitching.

Floor: Vinyl Diamond plate material by Haartz Corp.

Door Panels: Smoothed and painted to match exterior color

Dash: Painted Black, with combo smooth and texture surfacing

Interior plastic: smoothed and painted Black.

Exhaust: Flowmaster 3 Chamber exhaust System relocated exhaust to come straight out rear. Dummy Lake pipes installed to visually bring the truck to the ground.

SuperWagon tie down: Highland Products ratcheting tie-downs, custom receiver to lock down SuperWagon in bed

Truck Debuted at the 2003 SEMA Show in the Ford Motor Company Exhibit and was awarded the Ford Design Achievement Award – Ford press conference. Also showed at the Chicago and Cleveland auto shows in the Ford exhibit.

Hulst Ford F150 Profile

2007 Ford Mustang GT Convertible Premium (638)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2007 Ford Mustang GT Convertible Premium. This 4-passenger sports car is one of those exciting pieces of history preserved for generations. Thanks to Ford Motor Company.

As I proceeded up the highway in the desert the words Yee Haa came to mind. Giddy up cowboy. This Mustang is fun and exciting. One of Steve Martin’s lines in LA Story comes to mind when driving this Mustang – “I feel young again”.

I don’t know if Muscle Cars ever lost favor totally, but there is a re-birth of the nostalgia of the breed. Mustang has been one of those to retain the look, feel and sound of those performers from yesteryear, in contrast to the newer high performance sports cars that make much less noise with improved performance. Cars like the Nissan Z and Lexus SC. Corvette has also maintained its historical look and feel. Pontiac GTO struggles to be counted in the big V8 performers while Camaro gave up the ghost.

Friend Richard bought his dream car cruiser Corvette that will turn you every way but lose… but what about the Porsche, says I? “Ah, that’s just a VW, powerful VW but VW none-the-less. To many men, the Vette is a real mans muscle car.

The Mustang is half the money of the Vette and is a daily driver that is a great value for the money in the muscle car arena – small as it is. But if you asked me what is the most important reason to buy a car like this Mustang it would have to be said in one word – “Funeral”. You can’t take it with you and if you’ve ever wanted a performance car – Just do it (as Nike says).

Two baseball fanatics were talking about whether there is baseball in heaven. Soon after one man died and not long after he appeared to his friend in a dream. He told his earthly friend there is good news and bad news. The good news is, there IS baseball in heaven. The Bad News is … you’re pitching tomorrow.

Public Service:

Suggestion to Cal Trans and the Highway Patrol – You can help smooth out the flow of traffic. Push the use of current technology to post the average speed of the flow (miles per hour) of traffic and then enforce that “Safe” flow. This pounding on the gas and breaking hard is stressful and dangerous. Knowing that traffic is flowing at 40 mph means all of us are best served by setting our cruise control at 39 mph and be assured we’ll get there in exactly the same amount of time and avoid quick starts and hard stops. It will reduce accidents and traffic will be much less stressful.

This is a band aid approach to help us all until government gets off its ass and solves the gridlock so common on our highways.

Handling & Performance:

Rear wheel drive is consistent with what muscle cars have always been – and the 4.6 liter V8 at 300 horsepower takes you from 0-60 in a quick 5 seconds. That will get your day started with heart pounding excitement. Subtle handling qualities found in steering feel is excellent. Some are just “Too Lose” as I noticed, for example, in the new Chrysler Nitro SUV.

I slipped into my Navy flight Jacket and got behind the wheel and felt like the “Red Baron”. Verrry coooool even if I couldn’t reach the clouds.

Styling:

Retro is the look most Mustang lovers are drawn to. The convertible top is excellent reflecting the evolving technology available. You can hardly tell it IS a convertible rag top. Tops this good eliminate the need for “Hard Top” versions that take up so much trunk space when the top is tucked away.

Rear seat leg room is sparse which doesn’t speak well of creativity. There must be a way to provide a better rear seat without sacrificing outer design. Long doors are also a part of the design required for access to the rear seat and still retain 2-doors.

Perhaps the most important benefit for American car makers is there is no competition, particularly from the Japanese. This is American Heritage supported by sentimental people who gravitate to such designs that revisit the past. One only need look at the popularity of such reintroduced cars like the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chevrolet SSR and HHR and Ford Thunderbird. And if you think only old fogies buy them for the memories you’d be wrong since young macho guys also appreciate such all American icons. In any case it reflects the cars they grew up with when mom and dad bought them. Son Mike has a restored 1967 Camaro that was his first car.

Fit and Finish:

Solid feel with the quiet of a hard top. Assembly is very noticeably good.

Cost:

Affordable performance sports car.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you like the retro look and feel of the all American cars of the past 50 years this Mustang is truly an American icon. Great car.

Recognized Competition:

Ford Mustang $19-32,000, Pontiac GTO $31,290, Mitsubishi Eclipse $20-28,000, Mazda RX-8 $26-31,000, Hyundai Tiburon $17-22,000, Nissan 350Z $28-40,000.

Good News:

Great retro styling, fun to drive, powerful and sounds great.

Bad News:

Tight rear seat leg room.

Standard Equipment:

4.6 liter 300 hp V8 engine, 5-speet auto trans, power convertible top, rear spoiler, fog lights, stainless dual exhaust, dual power mirrors, rear window defroster, Shaker 500 audio with 6 CD changer and MP3, air conditioning, leather sport seats, 6-way power driver seat, cruise control, tilt wheel, power door locks and windows, power 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, traction control, dual air bags, power rack and pinion steering and remote keyless entry.

Gas Stats:

$2.59/ Gal avg. Feb. 20, ‘07

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

17 City and 23 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $31,280.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – Chicago , Ill. USA

Class:  – Subcompact

Cars: – Crown Victoria, Edge, Escape, Escape Hybrid, E-Series Van and Wagon, Expedition, Explorer & Sport Trac, F150,250 & 350, Five Hundred, Focus & Wagon, Freestar, Freestyle, Fusion, GT, Mustang, Ranger and Shelby GT500.

2007 Ford Five Hundred Limited FWD (637)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2007 Ford Five Hundred Limited front wheel drive 4-door sedan. Competitors that instantly come to mind are the Chevrolet Impala and the Toyota Camry.

Although I am quick to point out the plain Jane styling it’s important to note that in a family sedan that is common to all the top sedans in this class. Consider the most popular – Toyota Camry followed close behind is the Honda Accord and Chevrolet Impala.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – Chicago, Ill. USA

Class: – Midsize

Cars: – Crown Victoria, Edge, Escape, Escape Hybrid, E-Series Van and Wagon, Expedition, Explorer & Sport Trac, F150,250 & 350, Five Hundred, Focus & Wagon, Freestar, Freestyle, Fusion, GT, Mustang, Ranger and Shelby GT500.

Public Service :

Being a good example on the highways is a conscious commitment you need to consider.

You can be a good example by avoiding the instinct to be a traffic cop.

• Move over when others are traveling faster than you are. It doesn’t matter why they are         traveling faster – what’s important is that you shouldn’t really care why.

• It is enough to know that if those exceeding the speed of the flow of traffic will be                 encouraged by the Highway Patrol to slow down or escort them if the speeder is rushing his     wife to the hospital.

• Don’t be a reason for road rage in others because that can cause accidents.

Handling & Performance:

The Five Hundred is a comfy sedan and that comfort means you will need to slow on dips, because the suspension is a little soft and the car will bottom out easily. The 203 hp V6 is very responsive to your foot and it won’t cost a lot in gas – which by the way only calls for 87 octane regular. In all speed ranges the car is perfectly responsive for a heavy car approaching 2 tons.

Styling:

Ok so it looks like an FBI car. Not that it isn’t nice but think about it – what brand car does your local police department drive. Bet you don’t really know for sure. That’s because they are simply “Plain Wrap” kind of cars.

Designers of this Five Hundred have used the platform of its sister company Volvo to share like good siblings.

Fit and Finish:

Very good. And that could be in part due to the Five Hundred being assembled in a state of the art newly equipped plant in Chicago.

Cost:

There is a lot of value for the money Ford asks. In keeping with Henry’s original idea to make money was to mass produce Ford automobiles and price them so most people could afford to buy one. In the early days of the first few decades of the 20th century you could buy a Ford in any color you wanted as long as it was black. But for that small condition you could buy a copy for $600-800.

Conveniences and comfort:

Adequate gadgets and good with the options packages. The seats are comfortable but marginal on those long trips.

Consumer Recommendation:

This is a definite contender in the midsize class sedan. Camry has a more popular design reflective of its #1 sales ranking. I’m sure that has a lot to do with the quality reputation Toyota has earned over the past few decades. American cars that set the standards are not dog food however and this Ford will stand up strong to any of the competition in this class. Test it and I think you’ll be impressed as well.

Recognized Competition:

Ford Five Hundred $23-28,000, Chevrolet Impala $21-28,000, Honda Accord $19-30,000, Pontiac Grand Prix $22-29,000, Buick LaCrosse $22-27,000, Subaru Legacy $20-34,000, Dodge Charger $21-36,000, Toyota Camry $18-28,000, Chrysler 300 $24-40,000, Mazda 6 $19-27,000, Hyundai Azera $25-27,000, Nissan Altima $18-28,000, Volkswagen Jetta $16-24,000, Mitsubishi Galant $20-27,000.

Good News:

Decent fuel economy, lots of room, good size trunk, nice comfy ride.

Bad News:

Plain Jane styling inside and out.

Standard Equipment:

3.0 liter 203 horsepower V6 engine, 6-speed auto trans, front wheel drive, fog lights, auto headlight, heated folding power mirrors, 8-way heated power driver’s seat, audio with 6 CD player, dual auto climate control, o/s temp and compass display, wood grain accents, leather,  4-way power heated passenger seat, power windows and locks, cruise control, power steering, antilock braking system, child latch safety system and rear door locks, anti theft, remote keyless entry.

Options: rear safety canopy, driver and passenger side air bags, memory adjustable pedals, reverse sensing system, power moon roof, Navigation system. ($3,860).

Gas Stats:

$2.45/ Gal avg. Feb. 10, ‘07

www.fueleconomy.gov  for more information.

21 City and 29 Highway MPG unstated

Pricing:

MSRP $26,280 – With options $30,940.

2007 Ford F-150 Lariat Supercab 4X4 Pick up (635)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2007 Ford F 150 Lariat Supercab 4X4 pick up truck.  The F Series has a rich history that began in 1948. As a new driver I owned arguably the most popular model year 1955. That year, like all pickups of the day, was a two door, one bench seat with practically no useable space behind the seat.

Today, for Ford, all models of the F Series are 4-door – either full or half rear doors. If you need to carry passengers or gear in the cab I found the smaller rear half door cumbersome to use.

My Dodge Ram 3500 has a rear half door and I’ve been unable to warm up to it in light of the more convenient Crew Cabs. Unless the cargo area is secured with a hard cover, as was the case with the recently tested Ford Explorer Sport Trac, pickups are a pain if you must leave them for even the shortest time. You can be parked at Home Depot or Lowes and you are literally unable to leave anything in the bed or someone will find a use for your stuff. I suppose when you drive a truck you learn to live with the inconvenience. In fact it must not be considered too troublesome because buyers continue to have a love of trucks. And Fords F Series trucks have earned the spot as number one sales leader for over 20 years.

Handling & Performance:

Excellent for a truck. The wheel base seems to be long enough to eliminate much of the bounce, bounce you feel when driving them empty on some highways. 300 horsepower is great and some buyers will even use the 4X4 capability. Steering is sure and perfectly geared for comfortable steering. The overall feel is solid and sure, and the feel extends to the large door handles in and out that are easy to grasp. I hate it when design is more important than function. You know, like door handles that slip out of your hand as you pull up. In any case Ford appears to deliver on its slogan that their trucks are built “Ford Tough”.

Styling:

Very attractive with clean lines and no nonsense style. The bed extender is becoming more popular as it provides for longer loads on demand, yet allows for a smaller bed for generally smaller loads. The extender also works great inside the bed to separate cargo and makes for a convenient space for hauling smaller loads with easy tie down.

Most macho guys will not mention the high step up into the cab but the ladies will appreciate the (albeit too small) running boards on some models.

Fit and Finish:

Car like interior but exterior seams must be wide for needed movement between the bed and cab.

Cost:

Pricey which, as I’ve said before, is one of the reasons trucks are profitable and why every manufacturer is in the truck market. They are simply the most profitable vehicles to make and sell. Believe it or not Ford’s Lincoln division sells a Lincoln LT.

Conveniences and comfort:

Nearly as well endowed as passenger cars and far from the “good old days” just 40 and 50 years ago when 4 wheels, hydraulic brakes, a radio and heater were about as much as you’d expect from a truck. Roll up windows were common, and power anything was rare to non-existent.

Consumer Recommendation:

There are approximately 31 model configurations to select from and only 6 car makers in this segment of the truck market. That means you can find just about any configuration to fit your specific need. You may also want to consider looking at the Avalanche or Escalade EXT if your use will be more recreational than dirty work. That truly gives you two vehicles for the price of one.

Recognized Competition:

Ford F150 Lariat $18-36,000, Lincoln Mark LT $38-41,000, Dodge Ram 1500 $21-41,000, Nissan Titan $24-36,000, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 $18-38,000, Toyota Tundra $16-34,000, GMC Sierra 1500 $18-38,000, Honda Ridgeline $28-35,000.

Good News:

Powerful, smooth long wheel base ride, car-like comfort in seating and ride suspension.

Bad News:

Half rear door is cumbersome, very poor fuel economy and bed extender should be standard on all short bed models – the option price is $195.

Standard Equipment:

5.4 liter 300 horsepower V8 engine, 4-speed auto trans, shift on the fly 4 wheel drive, 2-speed transfer case, 4-pin trailer wiring, front tow hooks, fog lights, stereo with CD changer, cruise control, tilt leather wrapped steering wheel, auto temp control, compass, outside temp, power driver seat, power heated mirrors, power windows and locks, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, dual air bags and keyless entry and keypad.

Options: special metallic paint, Navigation system, power adjustable pedals, skid plates, power sliding rear window, overhead storage system, trailer tow package, bed extender, reverse sensing system, leather seats, power driver seat and satellite radio. ($6,800).

Gas Stats:

$2.45/ Gal avg. Jan 25, ‘07

14 City and 18 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $32,765.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – USA

Class:  – Standard Pickup

Cars: – Crown Victoria, Edge, Escape & Hybrid, E-series Van & Wagon, Expedition, Explorer & Sport Trac, F150, 250 &350, Five Hundred, focus & Wagon, Freestar, Freestyle, Fusion, GT, Mustang, Ranger and Shelby GT500.