ABS Mazda Grille





Car Buying Tips

1. Do Your Homework. Look at consumer guides, look at new car guides, check out

insurance costs, check to see what dealers are offering for rebates.

2. Choose Your Dealer Well. Look for someone reputable. Check the service center; are

they friendly, fast and efficient? What is your first impression? Remember you will be

dealing with the service center long after your sale is completed.

3. Be Willing To Walk Away. If you feel overwhelmed or pressured, walk away. Have

several models in mind. Your chances of a better deal increase when you can negotiate

on several vehicle models. (If the dealer knows you have your heart set on a specific

vehicle, negotiations are over.)

4. Stay Calm When Negotiating. Remember the dealer does this everyday, the average

person does it once every four years. The dealer will be better at the negotiation

process. Keep your wits about you, keep the salesman on the subject of cost, and don’t

sign anything until you have time to think about it.

5. Get Dealer Promises In Writing. If the dealer promises to give you future add-ons at

cost, change a spare tire, upgrade a CD player, include floor mats, etc. – get it in writing.

Have them put it on the sales contract. After the sale anything not in writing could be

subject to interpretation.

6. Negotiate The Price Of Your New Car Based On “Cash Price”. If you are trading in a

vehicle make the deal on the new vehicle first, then bring up your trade-in. Some dealers

inflate the price of your new vehicle to incorporate the trade-in.

7. Be Honest About The Condition Of Your Trade-In. You want the dealer to be honest

with you, reciprocate in kind. A good honest relationship is the best place to start.

8. When A Rebate vs. Low Interest Rate Is Offered, Consider The Rebate. The rebate

reduces the amount financed and reduces the amount of sales tax paid. If you are in an

accident or decide the vehicle is not for you, taking the rebate allows more equity in the


9. Consider “Add-Ons” Carefully Before Agreeing. Do you already have AAA that will

help you with roadside assistance? Have you had under-carriage rust before where you

needed additional coverage? Do you need the fabric guard or is that something you

could do with a product yourself? Do you need the floor mats or could you buy some

after? All these items add up, that is why they are add-ons. Don’t let the excitement of a

new vehicle cloud your basic judgment.

10. Be Nice But Not A Push-Over. Dealers are counting on making you feel embarrassed if

you negotiate. So what if the dealer thinks you are trying to save money? They work on

commission and are conditioned to get the highest price, you want on the lowest. You

hope to meet in the middle.

Good luck! Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail




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A LITTLE MORE than a year after its $90 million renovation began, the new Petersen Automotive Museum is ready. There are 100 automobiles, 23 motorcycles, four scooters, one bobsled and a full-sized Lightning McQueen. You can see it all for just 15 bucks.

What a renovation: The 20year-old museum was completely gutted inside and scraped clean outside. What you can’t help but notice outside is the wild-looking stainless-steel ribbon assembly, making Disney’s Concert Hall look Greco-Roman. The ribbon is made from 100 tons of 14-gauge type 304 stainless steel in 308 sections with 25 tubular steel supports and 140,000 custom-designed stainless-steel screws holding it to the side of the building.

The 130 or so vehicles parked inside are scattered over 133,380 square feet, considerably more than before. An underground vault holds up to 150 more cars.

The new museum celebrates the automobile’s history, industry and artistry. Let’s start with the artistry: “Precious Metal” in the Bruce Meyer Family Gallery features 10 beautiful silver cars on silver stands in a silver room with a silver backdrop. It includes two Pebble Beach winners—John Shirley’s coachbuilt Ferrari and Bob Lee’s Horch— as well as Corvette and Mercedes race cars and several others. One floor down is the Peter and Merle Mullin Artistry Floor, featuring “the most artfully designed vehicles ever built.” And they ain’t kidding: The Mullins’ Pebble-winning Voisin is in one corner—other Voisins are scattered about— while Bugattis, Delages and Delahayes make you forget every other car ever made.

The museum is also about education. To that end, there are two main entities. First is the Disney/Pixar Mechanical Institute, which uses a mechanical reproduction of the parts that make up Lightning McQueen to teach what makes a car go.

Visitors can check out the Cars Pad, like an iPad but with the “Cars” characters taking you through the museum and through a car’s mechanics. Mater helps you build a race car, Flo talks design, Luigi tells you about chassis and tires, and Ramone guides you through customizing.

Then, on the north side of the second floor, Maserati brings you the “Production Gallery,” showing in four displays how a car is designed, engineered and built, ending with a finished Quattroporte.

Around the corner from that is the Art Center’s College of Design Studios, where Art Center transportation design students design real cars.

Overall, there are more cars and more exhibits, reminding museum-goers how greater LA built itself around the automobile, from Model Ts to Teslas. While other metropolises abandoned cars and built skyscrapers, Angelenos clung to the car and went for freeway-connected urban sprawl. “Southern California grew out, not up, and the car is the reason,” said Peter Mullin.

Now LA has one of the world’s best car museums to celebrate that feat.





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Fiat fantasy camper

Fiat fantasy camper

Not perhaps your obvious expedition motorhome manufacturer, but our columnist is much taken by this concept camper from the Italians

Every year more and more appear from abroad and owners treat it is as an annual get together with some trade stands thrown in. It’s incredible how much money is spent on these vehicles and how much tender love and care goes into the business of overland prep.

One vehicle that would have made a big impression on the Show and cause plenty of discussion would have been the latest concept from the Fiat factory. Yes, I know Fiat isn’t terribly well known for its concepts in the general motoring sector, but recently one of its subsidiaries has come up with a cracker for the overland community.

The Fiat Ducato 4×4 Expedition Camper Show ‘van’ (wrong choice of description surely?!) is a true one-off – more’s the pity – that has been doing the rounds of some big shows – including the Motorhome and Caravan show at the NEC Birmingham. We don’t tend to frequent this event, naturally, as it tends not to cater for us hardy 4×4 types, but this year was obviously an exception with this more robust and impressive adventure overland truck on display. I wish I had bowled on up there to take a closer look. It appears far more aggressive and fi t for purpose than some examples at the recent Adventure Overland Show – a highly appropriate place to be admired methinks.

The NEC show was the last stop for the Ducato 4×4, which has been doing the rounds of Europe visiting specialist Caravan shows in Dusseldorf, Parma in Italy and Bourget in France. It has been designed and produced by Fiat Professional, and, as its name suggests, is built on the Fiat Ducato standard camper base, which is a top seller and leader in this sector and the fi rst choice for all European motorhome manufacturers.  Fiat tells us that 25 per cent of Europe’s motorhome market is accounted for by the camper van segment, so perhaps we can have more tough and impressive 4×4 options please manufacturers.

The Ducato 4×4 is powered by a 2.3-litre 150bhp MultiJet II engine which isn’t going to produce any fi reworks, but that’s not the point is it? It has an extended overhang and higher roof than the standard model, as well as higher ride height, bigger off-road spec tyres and wheels, widened track plus front skid plate and smart LED DRLs, roof rack with sand ladders attached and ample fuel storage area.

The 4WD system is supplied by Dangel and is permanent with viscous coupling – no low range, sadly. The exterior shell is courtesy of Olmedo, which specialises in adapting vehicles including for off-road use.

Inside it looks immaculate and classy with Technoform design, which also supplies the yachting industry. This concept arrives on Technoform’s 50th anniversary – fi tting landmark. We love the smart, luxurious driving seat that swivels to become a lounging and dining chair.

In the meantime, just enjoy these pictures and hope that we may see it as a production 4×4 camper down the line…






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Volvo’s radar crusade to save motorcyclists

Volvo’s radar crusade to save motorcyclists

The innovations transforming our driving world

Collision-avoidance tech enters its next phase as Euro NCAP gears up to include it in crash testing by 2018. How will it work?

MOTORCYCLISTS ONLY account for a small percentage of traffic yet have a disproportionately high fatality rate. Now Volvo is working to dramatically reduce that situation. The challenge is pushing collision-avoidance technology to its limits, with laser detection, more responsive sensors, and systems that work at far greater angles to the car’s direction of travel all under evaluation.

‘You have a high level of reduction of in-car fatalities, but you don’t see that trend on cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians,’ says Jan Ivarsson, deputy director of safety systems. ‘In young economies, this is really the problem, and from a governmental perspective it will be a focus for the future.’

Pedestrian and cyclist detection systems already exist. The new Volvo XC90 uses a Delphi radar and camera system integrated at the top of the windscreen. Should it detect pedestrians stepping into the vehicle’s path, it automatically applies full braking between 1 and 1.5 seconds ahead of impact if the driver fails to react. The system also stops the car if  a cyclist travelling in the same direction swerves into its path, or the car fails to stop  at a T-junction.

The next challenge is motorcyclists travelling at higher speeds. Closest to production is a system that builds on today’s blind-spot recognition technology (BLIS), which flashes a warning in the relevant A-pillar base when a car or motorbike is in or entering the vehicle’s blind spot. Early BLIS systems used cameras, but today’s tech uses radar sensors mounted behind the rear wheels giving a longer range outside of the blindspot area. With faster-acting, more sophisticated sensors, next-generation systems will detect motorcyclists approaching at higher speeds from behind, such as when filtering between lanes of traffic. Plans include combining BLIS with Lane-Keep Assist systems to automatically brake and steer the car away from the biker, averting disaster if a frustrated motorist suddenly swerves to a faster-flowing lane.

Research conducted in Europe suggests that failure of drivers to stop at junctions is one of the four major causes of motorcyclist fatalities. Currently, Volvo’s The collision-avoidance tech features a field of view of +/- 25 degrees. This means today’s XC90 can approach a junction and detect a motorcyclist approaching side-on when the relative speed of the two is less than 40kph, and the motorcyclist is travelling at less than half the speed of the XC90. To process higher speeds and for the motorcyclist to be spotted while travelling at an equal speed to the car, Volvo is exploring options to broaden the field of view to at least +/- 45 degrees. Insiders say that while today’s radar and camera system could be evolved, cameras have limitations in tracking objects while the vehicle is moving. More powerful radar sensors mounted at the front of the vehicle have greater potential, while a LIDAR system is also under evaluation – as used by Google’s autonomous car – which illuminates a moving target with a laser to calculate its distance.

Today’s computers are already powerful enough, and sensors will continue to monitor conditions 40-times-persecond, but the algorithms will become more complex. Full auto braking won’t be necessary – the processors must instead instantly calculate how much braking force is required to allow the biker to safely clear the junction.

Volvo won’t be drawn on timescales, but Euro NCAP is considering implementing scenarios with a minimum field of vision of +/- 45 degrees by 2018, and such systems are sure to make production.

With so many tragic motorcycle fatalities, you can see why.





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Weight of expectation

Weight of expectation

Merc’s pared down GT S is now sufficiently weighty to threaten Porsche’s 911

T HE MEGA-Merc, the SLS AMG, was the baddest Benz ever to snort up the white lines of the road and next to it the AMG GT looks compact, almost like a retro racer. My take is Affalterbach clearly styled it this way in response to the 50-year-old 911 – to give it heritage, make it look more established than it actually is. Fair play, but don’t misjudge its calculated façade – this is a hi-tech and supremely well-packaged car. Thanks to dry sump lubrication, AMG has sunk a 4.0-litre V8 into that platypus-low bonnet. Downsized it may be but twin-turbos inside the hot V means a blitz to 100kph in 3.8sec; on to 200kph just 8sec after that. And it’ll do those numbers time after time, thanks to an improved Race Start function.

The front-midship layout with transaxle means the dual-clutch gearbox sits at the rear and this provides a delicate 47/53% weight distribution. You sense this sitting in the close-fitting cabin – the high transmission tunnel, loaded with go-faster buttons, features the stubby gear selector that sits almost underneath your armpit. You’re just off-centre from the steering wheel too, a further reminder of the V8’s presence just millimetres ahead of your right toe. Our launch route took in short liaisons on the motorway, high-speed runs at the banked oval of Gerotek as well as hot laps around Zwartkops Raceway.

This variety showed off the supreme versatility of the GT S, unlocked by the four, massively stepped personalities of AMG Drive Select. In Comfort ride quality is excellent but the steering feels as if it’ll be hopeless when the road’s radius tightens. But flick it into Sport or Sport+ and all preconceptions are immediately eclipsed as the steering comes to life, transmission sharpens and most importantly, the engine note brawns up. At partial throttle the sound rumbles throughout the cabin. With the throttle pinned wide open it graduates to full AMG Gatling gun; and forward shove never diminishes despite the dual-clutch’s millisecond shifts – only the noise subsides a fraction. The AMG GT S’s pièce de résistance undoubtedly comes on the race track. With a lightish kerbweight, low centre of gravity, big power and near-perfect weight distribution as your key ingredients, the finished product is always going to impress, but the GT S exceeds all expectations.

In Race and Sport Handling mode the dialogue between input and response is perfectly honed. A skittish, oversteery AMG this certainly is not. An ultra-responsive front end and excellent drop-off visibility helps you place the car inch-perfectly, the brakes have superb feel and bite, and you carry massive momentum through high-speed corners thanks to the balance the chassis communicates in a thoroughly intuitive, second-skin kind of way. Having driven the highly talented 911 GTS I can say my allegiance lies with the brawnier Merc – for now (let’s see what the new turbocharged 991.2 era produces).

As charismatic as the 911 may be, the GT S is a match in the handing and razor-sharp double-clutch shifts stakes but I doubt anything less than a Turbo or GT3 will out-pace this beast’s magnificent V8. Mind you, I’m totally open to being proven wrong… Bring on the local group test.  tc





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Australia’s muscle car is long and illustrious Encouraged by thee 1960s race class regu that stipulated showr cars be raced, our vehicle manufac began adding special performance equipment to ‘showroom’ cars.

Holden was first from the start-l this muscle car race with its EHS option on the Holden Specialfitte the then-new 179ci Red six-cylinde engine. It was homologated forthe Armstrong 500 endurance race(th to be held at Bathurst) and feature different carburettor, a larger fuelt stronger brakes, wider wheelsand durable cogs in the transmissiona

Ford, guided by racing legendH Firth, responded with the FordCo GT500. It too had more power,alarger fuel tank and attention to gearingtoallow the car to show its best at Bathurstand take advantage of the ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ mantra that Holden and Ford regarded as important for grabbing the attention of Mr and Mrs Car Buyer.

These two cars were the first in a near three-decade era of high-performance Australian made cars. These two cars – one Holden and one Ford – established the Holden/Ford rivalry.

Australia’s muscle car era had begun. Since then there have been many legends. Chrysler arrived with its own hard-charging factory specials – Valiant Pacers and later, Chargers. These days, there’s plenty of reflected glory in even a plain-jane original Commodore, Falcon or Torana out for a Sunday cruise. After all, that’s what the manufacturers wanted…

With the Australian car manufacturing drawing to a close, the team here at Unique Cars has been paying plenty of attention to our awesome indigenous car industry recently. Some of it you’ve already seen – some are article ideas we’re yet to publish. That’s not about to stop, by the way, but it did get us thinking about the factory racing specials our ‘Big Three’ have produced over the years… and eventually to the idea of the greatest Australian Muscle Car ever.


How will we decide?

Choosing the greatest muscle car of all time… Crikey, that’s a big ask. How do we work that out?

Do you look at racetrack success? Championship wins? What about how well the cars sold in showrooms – which is, of course, why the car companies put the effort into building race cars – to sell on Monday, after winning on Sunday? How about the extra hardware that went into these mostly four-door sedan based track cars: should an extensively upgraded car with fresh technology for the track – such as the 1988 Holden Commodore SS Group A SV, with its incredible aero package and fuel injected engine – out-gun a simpler car that had more race wins – for
example the A9X Torana?

Maybe it’s a question that can never be answered… or maybe it already has. Many enthusiasts regard the XY Falcon GTHO Phase III as the greatest Australian muscle car ever. It certainly carried the biggestcapacity engine and of course it has a Bathurst win to its credit.

But is it more worthy than Holden’s arguably more successful Toranas?

These discussions and justifications can carry on forever!

But first, some guidelines – and some boundaries. As we’ve just mentioned, the Australian car industry has a long and rich heritage of producing high-performance versions of its home-grown Aussie product. To keep things neat and fair, we reckon our list of Australian muscle cars should end around 1992 with the introduction of the V8 Supercars formula.

We’re not saying later stuff from Holden/HSV and Ford/Tickford isn’t worthy of any performance car enthusiasts’ attention, but without the requirement to actually develop and fit the racing hardware for, and on, the production line after the introduction of the V8 Supercars era in racing, we reckon it’s the close of the ‘showroom special’ era of Aussie car development.

So with all these many factors at play, and some simple – and we reckon justified – guidelines in place, we thought we’d turn it over to some Australian racing legends and Unique Cars’ car-crazy staffers and contributors to put some calm into the chaos.

Let the arguments begin!


How to Check the Tire Pressure

In order to check tire pressure you’ll need a tire pressure gauge. Gauges can be purchased at auto parts stores and service stations (sometimes a little as $1, but could be $3-$7). They are usually about the size of a large pen, but can come in other forms. Sometimes a gauge is included with the air hose of the air dispensing stand at the gas station.

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Follow these steps to check and correct the tire pressure:

  •  Remove the valve cap of each tire
  • Align the gauge up to the valve
  • Press the gauge onto the valve with firm direct pressure and then release. Youll see the measuring stick get pushed out of the other side of the gauge (on a pen gauge).
  • Fill the tire with air, recheck the pressure, then repeat as needed until the desired pressure is obtained.
  • Replace the valve cap

Tire pressure is measured in PSI (pounds per square inch) or KPA (Kilopascals) which are simply units of measurement for pressure. (Pressure is a force distributed over surface area)

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