Archive for October, 2012

The Palm Spring car club, Great Autos of Yesteryear, held its fourth annual Casual Concours this past Saturday October 20, 2012.  Past events were held at the Indian Canyons Golf Club in south Palm Springs; however, this year, it moved to the aptly-named Desert Princess Country Club in Cathedral City.

The sun was shining and a nice breeze cooled down the 90 degree weather.  While light wasn’t optimal for pictures, everyone was snapping away at the gorgeous, graceful dinosaurs, most from the glory days of the Big 3 Detroit automakers. The paint was flawless and the chrome was polished like within an inch of its last layer.

The lovely new Palm Springs Animal Shelter. Like any municipal animal shelter, it needs volunteers and donations (both cash and in-kind) to fulfill its mission.

Proceeds from the show ($10 general admission) went to benefit the Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter, which supports the shelter, and are dedicated to building a community for responsible pet stewardship and the humane treatment of animals. The City of Palm Springs built a beautiful new animal shelter and now the City doesn’t have the money to run it properly.  Big surprise, huh? It’s nice to be able to help our furry friends in need.

Below are pictures I took at the event. I arranged them by year, just for simplicity. Enjoy!

1941 Lincoln Continental Convertible. If you look at he grille of this Lincoln, it is the inspiration for the all-new grille and face of Lincoln on the 2013 Lincoln MKZ.

1941 Studebaker Starlite.

1953 Bentley R-Type

This lovely 1955 Buick Roadmaster certainly has presence.

The portholes on each side of this Buick Roadmaster tells us there is a V8 under the hood – four portholes on each side for the eight cylinders. In 1955 this detail really stood out. Today, Buick still uses portholes, but they look fairly lame in plastic chrome and are non-functional.

The rear of the 1955 Buick Roadmaster.

A lemon yellow 1956 Lincoln Premier

I love the interior dash of the 1955 Lincoln Premiere. It was common to match the exterior color inside.

Fins were a distinctive styling cue in the 1950s and early 1960s. 1956 Lincoln Premier.

I think this was the only wagon at the show. This 1957 Ford Del Rio Ranch Wagon was lovingly restored and just fabulous.

As with other cars of the era, the exterior color carried into the interior. 1957 Ford Del Rio Ranch Wagon.

I’m old enough to remember family trips in our station wagon with a cooler and Thermos. The owners of this 1957 Ford Del Rio went all out with the accessories.

This is the first generation of the Chevrolet Impala. This turquoise 1958 Impala Convertible sure makes a statement.

Interior of the 1958 Chevy Impala Convertible. Turquoise everywhere – get out the sunglasses.

This is a model you don’t see often. It’s a 1959 DeSoto Adventura. At this time, DeSoto was part of Chrysler and shared many parts, drivetrains and styling similarities with stablemates Dodge and Plymouth.

Interior of the 1959 DeSoto Adventura.

1959 Plymouth Fury. Christine, anyone?

Interior of the 1959 Plymouth Fury. Love the push button transmission.

Ford didn’t make the Skyliner for very long. This lovely 1959 Ford Skyliner shows how its hard top retracts into the trunk. Fast forward five decades and the retractable hardtop is back again on cars like the BMW 3-Series convertible and the Volkswagen Eos.

This is a 1961 Buick Electra 225. It was really two hundred and twenty five inches long. Try fitting this into a modern garage!

The owner of this 1961 Buick LeSabre Convertible was very proud of his engine bay.

A 1961 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron. It looks very upright and proper, doesn’t it?

This was my favorite car of the show and it didn’t photograph well because of the shadows. It’s a 1961 Chrysler Newport with a cream body and deep burgundy top.

Here’s a side view of the 1961 Chrysler Newport.

The rear of the 1961 Chrysler Newport sports fins AND a spare tire relief. 

Check out this detailed chrome and paint Chrysler badge.

My favorite interior color is red and this 1961 Chrysler Newport interior was very red – everywhere – and the detail of the instruments as well as the other driver controls was just exquisite.

1963 Studebaker Avanti. It was designed in Palm Springs by Raymond Lowe. It still looks futuristic today. Fantastic design.

The interior of the 1963 Studebaker Avanti is light, airy and sporty. High quality materials were used. It was meant to be a halo car for the dying Studebaker brand.

I love this sticker that still exists on the rear window of this Avanti. In those days, air conditioning was a luxury feature. Today, it’s standard.

The rear of the Studebaker Avanti.

This 1965 Buick Wildcat Convertible was just majestic and wide. Great proportions.

The interior of the 1965 Buick Wildcat was very sporty for the day. Great steering wheel.

I particularly liked this 1965 Chevrolet Malibu SS. It’s small by 1965 standards and you rarely see it in black with the white interior. It still wears its original California black plates — always a plus for collectors.

Chevrolet was the entry level brand for GM, and this 1965 Malibu SS is spartan by Buick, Oldsmobile or Cadillac standard, but I think it really works in this car.

There was only one Mustang at the show, but this1965 Ford Mustang GT Fastback in bright orange was nice to see. I’ve always like the fastbacks best, possibly because of their rarity.

I think this is a 1965 Buick Riviera. The first generation (1963-1965) has always been my favorite.

What a fantastic interior on this 1965 Buick Riviera. That wood in the center console was real wood and it was very expensive to build. It still looks sharp.

This 1965 Cadillac Coupe de Ville Convertible has presence. Cadillac was the king of the road in the 1960s.

This 1966 Chrysler New Yorker still wears its original paint and interior.

Interior of the 1966 Chrysler New Yorker.

This 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado has great fastback, futuristic styling. This car was meant for a wealthy executive.

Interior of the 1966 Olds Toronado. Check out that scrolling speedometer and flat floor. The Toronado, like the Cadillac Eldorado of the same era, was a front drive car. Front drive was very rare in the 1960s.

A “humble” 1968 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible. There weren’t a lot of pony or muscle cars at the event.

This 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible outshines the red 1968 Camaro above. The SS Convertible is among the most collectible of the muscle cars of the 1960s.

1969 Pontiac Grand Prix Model J. It has a 400 cubic inch engine with 350 horsepower. You don’t see many cars this color any longer.

This 1970 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler is fairly rare. Yellow must have been a popular color in those years, as yellow cars seemed to be in abundance at the show. This muscle car looks menacing with the gigantic hood scoop.

The interior of this 1970 Mercury Cyclone looks a bit drab, but the Hurst 4-on-the-floor shifter is a signal that it’s ready for a race – but only in a straight line.

The rear of the 1970 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler.

This is a clean example of the landmark BMW 2002 sedan. It became the benchmark for all sports sedans and it is the forerunner of the modern BMW 3-series. This 1972 2002 looked a bit lonely as it was the only BMW and one of only a few imported cars at the show.

I don’t think the later half of the 1970s were great years for GM. But you have to love this very green 1976 Chevrolet Monte Carlo with that lovely white vinyl opera roof.

And if the green exterior of the 1976 Chevy Monte Carlo wasn’t enough, you got to look at a sea of pea green inside too. Wow. Also note the really cheap-looking fake plastic wood inserts. GM wouldn’t have done that even a decade earlier.

I couldn’t resist including a picture of this 1979 Pontiac Trans Am. That’s a decal on the hood, not paint, so most didn’t last well after years of washing, sun, rain and snow.
Smokey and the Bandit anyone?

What may be a future classic is this 1990 Buick Reatta. It was meant to be a personal luxury roadster for an executive. It’s not bad – but check out the picture below of its original sticker.

This is the original window sticker for this 1990 Buick Reatta Convertible. No wonder so few were sold. $36,641 – wow. Over its 4 model year run (1988-1991) only 21,751 units were sold. GM had hoped for 20,000 PER YEAR. The convertible was only sold in 1990 and 1991 and was done by an outside firm (ACS) so the price got jacked up beyond what most people would pay for a Buick.


Since the BMW 2012 (internal code F30) BMW 328i arrived on our shores earlier this year, it’s been tested and written about endlessly by every car magazine, enthusiast website, TV show and blogger on the planet. Whenever a new generation BMW 3er arrives, there is much hand wringing as to whether it’s still the benchmark by which all other sports sedans are measured.

The near unanimous consensus is: Yes, the BMW 3er is still The One.

The 2012 BMW 328i Sport Line in Melbourne Red Metallic.

There are many competitors, including the Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4, Cadillac ATS, Volvo S60 and Infiniti G. Each has admirable qualities and often one or the other beats the BMW in one or more statistics or test categories. Yet none quite add up to the BMW 3er. At least not yet.

The 2012 BMW 328i in Luxury Line in Imperial Blue Metallic, a new color.

Here’s what you will like:

  • Fantastic new 2.0L inline TwinPower Turbo 4-cylinder direct injected engine making 240 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque – easily more than the old six. And you won’t find any turbo-lag with BMW’s excellent twin-scroll turbocharger. Why pay thousands extra for the thirsty 335i when you have this delightful, powerful and fun unit as the base engine?

    The engine bay of the 2012 BMW 328i. Note the TwinPower logo next to the BMW badge.

  • Empathic ZF 8-speed automatic transmission that always finds the sweet spot for the engine with overdrive gears that help the new drivetrain achieve impressive EPA numbers of 23 city, 33 highway 26 combined.
  • High-performance, lightweight, 4-wheel ventilated disc brakes with anti-lock braking system (ABS), Dynamic Brake Control (DBC) and Cornering Brake Control (CBC)
  • Dynamic chassis with a sophisticated 5-link rear suspension and double-pivot type front suspension with spring struts and anti-roll bar
  • It’s bigger than the last 3er, but still only weighs 3,485 pounds – a weight gain of 133 pounds. You’ll never notice it with all the extra power.
  • Zero to 60 mph at 5.6 seconds according to Car & Driver.
  • Sporty, small-diameter, meaty, three-spoke multifunction steering wheel.

    The cockpit of the 2012 328i Sport Line is a great place to spend time. I love the new steering wheel and the Coral Red Dakota leather is outstanding.

  • Higher quality interior materials, even as it retains its aura of Germanic austerity.

    The interior is nicely appointed. Materials are mostly soft-touch plastics or leather. I like the new horizontal dash layout too. Fit and finish is excellent.

  • Terrific 10-way power memory sports seats. The standard 8-way power memory seats are good too.
  • Latest iDrive with navigation has terrific graphics, all on display in a lovely 8.8 inch full-color TFT screen. In addition to the 2-D view, it now has night view, height mode and 3-D perspective. A switch from DVD-based to a hard-drive make it all faster.

    I love the gigantic 8.8 inch iDrive navigation screen. Analog controls for HVAC and seat heating as well as some radio controls are nice to have.

  • Increased 1.9 inch longer wheelbase means a slightly better ride. Quieter too.
  • More interior colors and choices. I have a particular fondness for the available Fine-wood “Fineline Pure” textured, matte-finished wood trim available as part of the $2,100 Modern Line package. Many will find it too odd-looking, but it is unique in this class.

    A 2012 BMW 328i Modern Line with the Fine-wood trim ‘Fineline Pure’ textured. The interior is Oyster Dakota Leather.

  • Great new colors including my favorite, Mineral White Metallic (a $550 option).
  • New options not previously available on a 3er. Heated steering wheel, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, rear-, side- and top-view cameras, adaptive light control, park assistant (parallel parks for you) and automatic high beams. Just don’t ask the price.
  • Automatic headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control and rain-sensing wipers are still standard equipment.
  • Tons of standard passive and active safety features, including air bags, electronic nannies and wizards, which all work behind the scenes, mostly completely unnoticed.
  • Handsome new, if evolutionary sheet metal. I find it hard to distinguish it from the last 3er and it looks eerily like a shrunken 5-series – which most consider a good thing.
  • Still the best warranty around. BMW’s Ultimate Care package includes no-cost maintenance for 4 years or 50,000 miles. You only pay for gas and tires.
  • Same prestigious blue and white badge – which is a representation of the flag of Bavaria, not the urban legend that it represents an aircraft propeller.

What you won’t like:

  • The low-rolling-resistance run-flat rubber all around. I hate the run-flats as the ride quality suffers significantly and road noise increases. But all new BMWs get them, so unless you want to spend the money to swap out the original equipment tires, it’s something you live with.

    The wheels look great and the low-profile tires are sporty. However, the cement-like firmness of the run-flat tires add to a harsh ride and more road noise.

  • All new automatic 3ers gets BMW’s electronic shifter. It’s sensitive and fiddly and it makes fast shifts between reverse and drive – something you try to do in tight parking spots while blocking angry traffic – difficult and frustrating.

    BMW’s electronic shifter looks good and functions well when going from Park to Drive. But rocking back and forth between Reverse and Drive is tricky and can be frustrating.
    Note the new iDrive controller with a bunch of dedicated short cut buttons. Much better.

  • The new electric power steering doesn’t have the precise on-center feel or quite as snappy feedback as the old hydraulic unit. But EPS isn’t going away as hydraulic units sap fuel economy. Even the new Porsche 911 has EPS. I think BMW will refine its system as time marches on, so this isn’t a fatal flaw. The sad fact is that most BMW drivers don’t know the difference and won’t notice. They only drive the car for its badge.
  • No cooled seats option.
  • The 2001 Space Odyssey-like obelisk iDrive screen (the standard 6.5 inch screen or the 8.8 inch unit included with navigation) is fixed in the center of the dash. It looks like it should retract when not in use.
  • Some of the switchgear looks cheap.
  • Terrible cup holders that are too small – still.
  • No diesel engine option – at least  not yet; Bi-Xenon headlights should be standard.
  • Price. The base MSRP, including freight, is $37,395 and you don’t get much for your money. The alarming German trend, pioneered by greedy executives at Porsche, to make just about everything optional, has accelerated. Even just a few option packages push the price well beyond $50,000. The base 528i sedan starts at $48,395 (of course, that is stripped too).

The 2012 BMW 328i in new color (and very handsome) Sparkling Bronze Metallic.

Now for the really important question that everyone is asking: When my 3-year lease is up, should I get a new BMW 3er or look elsewhere? My advice is to check out the competition, but I think you’ll feel as connected with this new F30 328i as with any in the past.

I’ve owned two 3ers over the years. First there was a 2003 (E46) 325i Touring then a 2007 (E90) 335i Coupe. Both were great cars that I remember fondly (except for those run-flats on the 335i). I’d buy or lease a new 328i in a heartbeat if – and that’s an important “if” – BMW discounts its interest rates or sub-vents its leases enough to soften the blow of the inflated sticker. The redesigned 2012 3er is the still Ultimate Driving Machine and the most pure expression of  BMW’s heart and soul. And I’m still in love.