Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Hummer: A Missed Opportunity / 2010 H3

On April 27, 2009, GM announced that it was discontinuing the Pontiac, Saab, Hummer and Saturn brands. I posted a Pontiac a few days ago. Today I'm dealing with Hummer...

Talk about missing out on a golden opportunity.

At the end of World War II Americans started noticing the little boxy vehicles used by the United States Armed Forces. During the war they gained a well deserved reputation as rugged, go everywhere vehicles. Willys-Overland, who was building these vehicles, thought that there might be a market for a civilian version. The created the CJ (Civilian Jeep) and the rest is history.

Jeep now has a full line of SUVs, but when you think "Jeep" a version of the CJ or the later Wrangler model usually comes to mind.

Fast forward to the early 1990s and the United States is involved in the "Gulf War." Every night we would see videos from the war on TV. Often in those videos were Humvees, the Armed Forces latest go-anywhere vehicle. They were being dropped from airplanes, cruising across sand dunes and rumbling through city streets.

In 1992, AM General, who was manufacturing the Humvee, saw an opportunity to sell a civilian version of the Humvee (later called the H1). The created the Hummer brand. In 1999, AM General sold the brand name to General Motors. GM eventually developed the H2 and H3. (The H2 was built be AM General, the H3 by GM.)

So where was the missed opportunity I mentioned in the first sentence? Think about the Jeep CJ / Wrangler. Nothing has ever competed with it. (In terms of style and ruggedness, you could say the series Land Rovers were competition, but Land Rover never made any real effort to sell them in North America.) The CJ / Wrangler sells so well because it's a Jeep. Chevy, Ford, Dodge, etc., could have built a Jeep-like vehicle, but it wouldn't have done well. Not without the Jeep name and pedigree.

Hummer had that pedigree. Why GM didn't capitalize on that is a mystery to me. The H1 through H3 were decent vehicles - they could go off road like few others - but they were big expensive trucks. Their price and sheer size put them out of reach or made them impractical for the average car buyer. A Wrangler style Hummer would have been a hit. Hummer vs. Jeep, like Camaro vs. Mustang. GM blew it.

The H3 is the smallest and the most refined of the Hummer vehicles. It came with a 3.7-liter 5 cylinder engine. (A V8 was available.) With the 5 cylinder engine it got to 60 MPH in 10 -12 seconds., depending on the transmission and whose testing you look at. Gas mileage was fair, around 14 MPG in the city and 18 on the highway. If you like its almost cartoonish looks, the H3 is not a bad vehicle. This is a 2010 H3 (the last year for Hummer) By the time this one was built GM had solved many of the problems that plagued the early trucks.

Located in Battle Creek, MI, click here to see the Craigslist ad.

Monday, April 29, 2019

1969 Pontiac Grand Prix

On April 27, 2009, GM announced that it was discontinuing the Pontiac, Saab, Hummer and Saturn brands. Over the next week or so I will post something about each of those brands...

There was a time when Pontiac ranked third in overall U.S. sales, just behind Chevy and Ford. Throughout the 1960s Pontiac was on a roll. The GTO ushered in the muscle car era. The Firebird. while sharing its platform with the Camaro, was a little more upscale and - in my opinion - sportier and better looking than the Chevy. The Bonneville and Catalina also shared their underpinnings with other GM models, but were sportier and again - in my eyes - better looking.

In 1969, when I was 12, Pontiac introduced the second generation Grand Prix. It knocked me out. I had never seen anything like it... Long hood. Short deck. Pointy grill. "cockpit-style" dashboard. It was gorgeous.

My dad worked for GM. One of the perks of his job was being able to take home cars from the GM "pool". I asked him to bring home a Grand Prix. He did. I spent that weekend in the driveway just staring at it in awe.

The Pontiac division lost its way starting in the 1980s. The Firebrid was axed. The T1000 was a Chevette with a bit more chrome. The legendary LeMans name was tacked on to a Daewoo. (I hope the person who signed off on that idea was forced to actually drive a Daewoo for the rest of his or her life.) The Bonneville, Grand Prix and Catalina became dull and went in and out of production.

In the 2000s Pontiac started to offer some interesting cars again. The G8 was a rebadged Holden Commodore. If you ordered it in GXP trim it was a truly spectacular car. The GTO badge came back on a rebadged Holden Monaro. Its performance made it worthy of the GTO name. The Solstice was a nice sports car. None of that mattered, GM killed Pontiac anyway.

Seeing this Grand Prix brought back some of the same feelings I had when I was 12. It's still a gorgeous car. This one appears to be in really nice shape.

Located in Maryville, TN, click here to see the eBay listing.

I posted this picture in an earlier post, but I thought I'd post it again. I took this picture at the New York Auto show in 1969. It was an event my dad took me to every year. I don't know who is sitting in the car, but that's my dad standing on the right.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

1993 Acura Vigor - 5 Cylinders / 5 Speeds

Remember the Vigor? You might remember it now after seeing the picture, but I bet you haven't thought about one - or seen one - in a very long time.

Accura introduced the Vigor in 1991 as a 1992 model. In price and equipment, it slotted between the Integra and the Legend. It was also in between those two cars in cylinders. The Integra had a four cylinder engine, the Legend had a six, and the Vigor... it had a five cylinder engine. Yes, a Honda 5 cylinder engine.

The engine was a 20-valve, SOHC engine with an aluminum block and head. It produced 176 horsepower. The Vigor was FWD, but the engine was mounted longitudinally.

The Vigor came reasonably equipped, handled well and had the great build quality that Honda is known for, but the body styling let it down. There was really nothing distinguishing about it.

The Vigor was only sold in the U.S. through 1994. Sales were mediocre at best.

It sometimes doesn't seem like it, but even old Honda products eventually die. The Vigor's age, combined with its limited sales numbers make this a relatively rare car today.

This Vigor looks to be in nice shape. It has a 5 speed manual transmission. It has been lowered and has JDM headlights and cornering lights. Other than those mods, it looks to be (thankfully) stock. If you're looking for an older, reliable, unique (the 5 cylinder was only found in the Vigoe in the U.S.), daily driver, this car might be worth checking out.

Located in Pasadena, CA, click here to see the Craigslist ad.

Click here to see the Acura Vigor Club website.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

1991 Sterling 827SL

I really like Rover's sedans. I even owned an SD1 (called the 3500 in the U.S.). It was comfortable, fast, well equipped, and, believe it or not, reliable.

My experience wasn't typical, though. Rover cars were not known for their reliability. So, when I heard that Rover was going to sell a car based in part on the Acura Legend, I was psyched. It would have the traditional style and class of a British sedan and the reliability of a Honda. How could they fail?

But, fail they did. They somehow managed to build a car that - as a JaCG reader once put it - had the build quality of a British car and the soul of a Japanese appliance.

Introduced in 1987 as the 825, it used Honda's 2.5 liter 6 cylinder engine. In 1989 Sterling started using Honda's 2.7 liter version of the engine and the car was renamed the 827.

Sterling sales started off pretty sterling (sorry) with over 14,000 finding homes in the U.S. when it debuted in 1987. By 1991 sales had dropped to 2745 and Rover / Sterling left the U.S. market. Ironically, Sterling's build quality improved each model year and by the time Rover pulled the plug on the car it was a fairly well built automobile. (In 1989 Sterling started offering a hatchback version of the car which looked a lot like an updated SD1. Personally, I prefer that over the sedan.)

This car is one of the 2745 that found homes in Sterling's last year. The ad is vague, the seller only saying that it runs good and the body is good, but it "needs upholstery work." That's a little scary, as the Sterling came with Connolly leather seats, which would not be cheap to reupholster. Unfortunately, the seller shows no pictures of the interior. Most of the Sterling's mechanical parts are shared with the Legend and are still very easy to find. The parts that are not made by Honda are getting tough to find, but not impossible. There is a Rover 800 (which is what this car was called in the rest of the world) owners club, that can be helpful in locating Rover / Sterling specific parts. Also, Sterling Fixer here in the U.S. seems to still have quite a bit of parts for sale.

The asking price of $1000.00. If it runs and looks like the seller says it does, that's a bit of a bargain for a cool and somewhat rare car. Throw a set of seat covers on it drive it everyday.

Located in Bronx, NY, click here to see the Facebook Marketplace ad.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

1975 Audi 100 LS - Barn Find - A Restoration Project For The Brave, Or A Parts Car?

By no means is this a "get in and drive it" type of car. But, with so few 100 LS' still around, it might be worth saving. Certainly it would make a decent parts car.

VW introduced the 100 to the United States in 1970. On paper it a really good car. Unfortunately, we don't drive cars on paper. The Audi 100 LS had tons of problems. The electrical systems were nightmares, overheating was common, the inboard brakes tended to cook and, as they got older, they rusted in an almost old Fiat-like fashion... The list goes on and on.

Let's face it, many of the cars we now covet were not great cars when they were new. When companies like British Leyland, Fiat, Renault, Peugeot, et al, found their cars unsuitable for the US market, they just left the country. Audi, to their credit, persevered.

The seller is calling this a barn find. Based on the pictures, it seems like it really did come out of a barn. ("Barn find" is an over used term these days. It seems like any car that was stored in some sort of building - no matter where - is now called a "barn find.")

I remember these cars when they were new. A few of my parent's friends bought them. Theirs were 4 door cars. This is a somewhat uncommon 2 door. (Not to be confused with the gorgeous 100 coupe, a car we never got on the United States.) At the very least, it needs a total restoration. The seller mentions that the car has rust, but does not elaborate on it, or show any pictures.

The asking price is just $500.00 Blow the dust off and see how bad the rust is. Maybe it will start with a little work and fresh gas. Who knows? Maybe it's too far gone. Still it has parts that will help keep another 100 LS on the road. The bottom line is, this is a car that belongs somewhere other than a scrap yard.

Located in La Salle, MI, click here to see the Facebook Marketplace ad.