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Valentine One Radar Detector

Eric
10-21-2010, 10:01 AM
America's Big Three have had more than their share of bad ideas over the past 20 years.

Let's look at Ford's flops first.

* Lincoln Mark VIII (1993-1998) -

This car snuffed what had been a successful franchise for Ford. In the '80s, the Mark VII (http://www.lincolnsofdistinction.com/images/lincoln-mark-viincoln-mark-vii-02.jpg) was thought of by many as an American take on the Mercedes-Benz SL500. Like the big Benz, it had the substantial look of a lead ingot carved with the precision of a laser beam. It was powerful, too. The car shared the same basic drivetrain used in the same-era Ford Mustang GT, including its High Output 5.0 V-8. It also had an air-adjustable suspension, bolstered euro-style sport buckets, a full gauge package and was one of the first American-brand cars to come with high-capacity four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS. The thing sold very well ... until Ford restyled it for the 1993 model year and christened the result the Mark VIII.

This car looked like a Mark VII that had been left in the oven too long. *
Even though it had a much more powerful engine (Ford's new 4.6 liter "cammer" V-8 with 290 hp in the top-of-the-line LSC) its pulling power with buyers was far weaker than the old 5.0 powered Mark VII. After five listless years and ever-declining sales, Ford dropped the Mark - and dropped out of the luxury sport coupe market completely.

Ford said the market for high-end coupes just wasn't there. But it would have been more accurate to say the market for Ford-built high-end coupes wasn't there.

Which brings us to our next contestant.... .

* Ford Thunderbird (2002-2005) -

An icon was revived (briefly) that was greeted (initially) with lots of enthusiasm but which quickly became a horrendous money-loser for Ford - mainly because most people simply weren't willing to spend nearly $40k for a car that was "just" a Ford. Dealer gouging for the first cars off the line made it even worse. http://www.ridelust.com/wp-content/uploads/2002-ford-thunderbird-blue-top-off.jpg

Most of them ended up just sitting there. And sitting there... .

Some industry analysts argued in their post mortems that the car might have done better had it been sold through Lincoln dealers. The thinking being that high-end customers expect a high-end dealership experience and the status that comes with a perceived "luxury" brand - which of course, Ford was not. And there was probably something to that. Of all the big bucks coupes out there, only Chevy gets away with selling $50k Corvettes through the same outlets that also sell $11,000 Aveos. But the Corvette can get away with it because it's an icon with a strong market presence that's largely the result of an unbroken history going back to the 1954.*The 'Vette never went away. *

By the time Ford brought back the T-Bird, no one - or at least not enough people to make the nut - cared anymore.

But probably even more lethal than trying to rebuild a long-dead franchise was the latter-day 'Bird's personality. While other modern cars have dabbled with "retro" design, the T-Bird really was retro all over. It seemed to be built for laid-back cruising - something almost no one does anymore. We live in a frantic, aggressive, stressful world. Few of us take our time doing anything - let alone driving. The latter-day T-Bird* was a joy to take out on the Blue Ridge Parkway or Skyline drive and amble along at 45 mph enjoying the scenery.

But it didn't feel right anyplace else.

As a time machine, it was brilliant. Unfortunately for Ford, most buyers weren't looking for a $40k trip down memory lane.*

* Lincoln Blackwood (2002-2002) -*

Who needs a $50k pick-up with a functionally useless bed? http://www.seriouswheels.com/pics-jkl/Lincoln-Blackwood-Concept-bed.jpg

Apparently, next to no one.

Lincoln's uber-luxury pick-up fell through the thin ice faster than a jumping up and down Oprah. It lasted just one year in production - a measure of the disastrous decision to build the thing in the first place.

The problem wasn't price; after all, Ford had no trouble selling Navigator SuVs for just as much. But unlike the Navigator, which could so some things, the Blackwood was useless for anything other than proving that rich people can be just as dumb as everyone else.

Or maybe not - because this time, even the rich said no thanks.

The short bed was never intended to carry any of the stuff that pick-ups usually carry. Carpet, fine wood paneling, LED track lighting abd brushed metal trim don't exactly mix with stacks of 2x4s or bags of cement - or even a wet Labrador Retriever. That's if you could access the bed at all. To do that, you had to raise a clumsy, power-activated tonneau cover that further limited the already minimal usefulness of this "truck."

The piece de resistance? The Blackwood was sold as a 2WD only - making it the only full-frame, full-size truck which couldn't even be ordered with 4WD.

Nothing like a 15 mpg, 2WD truck that can't carry (or even tow) much of anything and which is more skittery in snow than a '78 Caprice Classic with bald tires and an open rear end.*

(See also: Mark LT.)

* Mercury Cougar (1999-2002) -

Just keeping Mercury around is arguably one of Ford's biggest mistakes of the past 20 years.

Thirty or forty years ago, it made sense for Ford to have a "mid-level" brand - just as GM had Buick and Pontiac. Buyers often spent their entire car-buying lives within the Ford Family of Fine Cars, moving from Joe Sixpack Fords to almost-luxury Mercurys - and from Mercury to Lincoln, if they became successful enough. But that was before the flood of Japanese imports reduced Ford Motor Co.'s share of the American car market by more than half - and before buyers routinely switched brands if they found a better car somewhere else.

The last Cougar (http://www.wildlifephotohunts.elikirk.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/2000_mercury_cougar.jpg) was at least a unique model - unlike the previous versions, which began life in the '60s as tarted up Mustangs and went through the '80s as rebadged Thunderbirds. It actually wasn't a bad car; it's just that it wasn't an especially great one. Many saw it as a girl's car; others weren't sure about its iffy styling.

Even Ford seemed unsure what to do with it.

In V-6 form, it offered decent get up and go, but Ford never developed it further. A performance-themed "S" version with a high-output engine and sport suspension was considered - and might have given the car some bona fides - but it never got released. So the Cougar just sat there, unsure of itself and without a real reason for its existence.

A hugely successful automaker such as Toyota can get away with some soggy offerings (for example, the ungainly Camry Solara) by dint of the vast pool of loyalists who just want a "Toyota" ... any Toyota.

But Mercury hasn't got that kind of pull - and the cat that no one wanted was put to sleep after the 2002 model run.

* Lincoln LS (2000-2006)-

This one's upsetting because the LS* had real potential. It might even have saved the brand - which today (late 2010) is on the verge of total collapse.

Arguably, the LS (http://www.stangbangers.com/02_LincolnLS_Pic.jpg) was the best sedan Lincoln put out in 25 years. But the management eggheads decided to drop it instead of correcting the few relatively little (and easily fixable) things that were actually wrong with it.

The LS sedan was Ford's attempt to build a credible rear-wheel-drive luxury-performance sedan comparable to a BMW 3-Series. And it was credible - right down to its available manual transmission and trunk-mounted battery. Handling was excellent; ride quality very close to the best German sport sedans. Buyers could choose a punchy 252 hp V-8 if they sought more power than the 210 hp 3 liter V-6 offered. This engine was sourced from Jaguar's "AJ" series V-8 and had both the power and the sophisticated demeanor to stack itself up against the very best Euro powerplants of the era.*

As a driver's car, there was little to fault. The LS could corner; it had high-speed legs. It felt good when pushed. Motor Trend gave it "Car of the Year" honors its first year out. And yet, it failed.

Que pasa?

Partially, a clash of car and brand - and buyer. Lincoln, as a brand, was not BMW - even if the LS, itself, was a credible BMW in training. Lincoln buyers were (and still are) mostly Blue Hairs and Bob Dole types who want soft seats, wire wheels and automatic transmissions. The typical Lincoln customer had about as much interest in a sport sedan like the LS as* Clay Aiken has in Pamela Anderson.

And BMW buyers weren't crossing over, either.

The LS did have some flaws, too - in the cabin department especially. The layout and materials rose to the mediocre. While the handling/driving dynamics were good enough to play with the Bavarians, the interior was Wal Mart all the way.

Still, it was a damn good first effort - and given persistence and fixes where needed, Lincoln could have made a go of it. That's what a Japanese car company would have done (Lexus too was laughed at initially; no one's laughing now - least of all Ford shareholders). But as is usual practice for an American car company, Ford just gave up. Lincoln went back to selling overstuffed old man's cars - including the Zephry and MKS.

And those may turn out to the last cars Lincoln ever sells, too.

grouch
10-22-2010, 12:19 AM
If Mercury even gets halfway through the 2011 year, it'll be doing good. Mercury is pretty much history already. The local Mercury dealer is even talking about it going away "so get yours today".

Mustang_Boy
10-22-2010, 12:50 AM
I'm nominaly what you would could consider a Ford "guy", but yeah they have a couple of real embarassments.......

How about the Ford 500 of a few years back? While it wasn't a bad car quality wise, it replaced (for the time being) the Taurus which Ford starved into little more then a rental "fleet" car. The 500 was improved over the Taurus, but that was it. It was bland and extremely underpowered with just a 3.0 DOHC Duratec V6 (which by the way feels somewhat lethargic in my '06 Ford Fusion and that's a much smaller car) though what doomed the car was the name, the Taurus was a household name (remember when it was America's #1 selling car, even over the Camry) the 500 was an unknown and nobody cared about finding out. Eventually Ford renamed the car as a Taurus and added a bigger 3.5 V6 as well as giving car a little more personality. Eventually this "Taurus" was replaced by the all new current version which seems to be doing well.

Speaking of the Taurus, there was a version that was a failure... though time has healed that wound and technically you couldn't buy it.... unless if you were a police department. In the 90's Ford released a true heavy duty police package Taurus and performance wise it compared favorably against the Crown Victoria (then again the Crown Vic's cop engine was Windsor 351 with a 2 barrel "variable venturi" carb and all of 190 hp) the Taurus used the 3.8 V6 with 155-160 hp. Also FWD was an oddity for a police car (and it still is) especially since all that was offered before was the Mopar K-car..... yes it was offered as a "scout" package for police use.... also Chevrolet released a police version of the Celebrity as well. Neither one caught on. The Taurus was the first FWD car that was designed for heavy duty police use, except the transaxle didn't hold up and it was extremely commonplace for it to fail. Eventually Ford quit trying and relinquished the police duty for the Crown Victoria.

Eric
10-22-2010, 07:43 AM
I'm nominaly what you would could consider a Ford "guy", but yeah they have a couple of real embarassments.......

How about the Ford 500 of a few years back? While it wasn't a bad car quality wise, it replaced (for the time being) the Taurus which Ford starved into little more then a rental "fleet" car. The 500 was improved over the Taurus, but that was it. It was bland and extremely underpowered with just a 3.0 DOHC Duratec V6 (which by the way feels somewhat lethargic in my '06 Ford Fusion and that's a much smaller car) though what doomed the car was the name, the Taurus was a household name (remember when it was America's #1 selling car, even over the Camry) the 500 was an unknown and nobody cared about finding out. Eventually Ford renamed the car as a Taurus and added a bigger 3.5 V6 as well as giving car a little more personality. Eventually this "Taurus" was replaced by the all new current version which seems to be doing well.

Speaking of the Taurus, there was a version that was a failure... though time has healed that wound and technically you couldn't buy it.... unless if you were a police department. In the 90's Ford released a true heavy duty police package Taurus and performance wise it compared favorably against the Crown Victoria (then again the Crown Vic's cop engine was Windsor 351 with a 2 barrel "variable venturi" carb and all of 190 hp) the Taurus used the 3.8 V6 with 155-160 hp. Also FWD was an oddity for a police car (and it still is) especially since all that was offered before was the Mopar K-car..... yes it was offered as a "scout" package for police use.... also Chevrolet released a police version of the Celebrity as well. Neither one caught on. The Taurus was the first FWD car that was designed for heavy duty police use, except the transaxle didn't hold up and it was extremely commonplace for it to fail. Eventually Ford quit trying and relinquished the police duty for the Crown Victoria.


Yep; I remember when the Taurus ruled (1980s, my college years; they were everywhere) and also the police-spec Taurus (you can still see 'em in '80s-era cop/action movies).

I agree, the 500 was not a bad car - in the same way that a generic-brand loaf of bread is ok. If you bought it, and made a sandwich with it, it wouldn't make you sick or anything - but you wouldn't say, "damn! That was the best bread I ever tasted," either.

Same with the 500. Unobjectionable, but nothing special - so easy to not notice (and forget).

Not that the Taurus was spectacular, but it was a franchise. A household name, like Camry. That's one of the reasons why it was so successful. Then Ford just dropped it. Crazy.

The Japanese rarely make such mistakes, but American car companies are famous for them.

Ford appears to be doing really well, though, these days. It has a number of excellent products (Mustang and Fiesta are standouts).

I just worry about the company's future because I think Americans are tapped out and regardless of how good the cars are, fewer and fewer people are in a position to buy a new car, or feel comfortable doing so.

Have you checked out used car prices lately?

Mustang_Boy
10-23-2010, 06:10 PM
This one might be a suprise to most, but this one has an interesting side story that few know (with the possible exception of Eric) that would have been a major disaster for Ford had they followed their original plan.... thankfully they didn't.

The Ford Probe.

Yes, the Probe. Again not a bad car, in fact it was actually not bad by any means (in fact I remember from my childhood drinking Dr. Pepper soda to try to win a Probe and then before that a Ford Explorer) the Probe was a sporty compact car that was a shared platform between Ford and Mazda and thusly compared quite well against the import competition, in fact Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear gave the car a glowing review when it was released in Europe. So why am I putting the car here? Why..... it was concieved to wear the chrome running horse badge. Yes, the Probe was supposed to be the new Mustang for the 90's. A FWD pony car with a 4 or 6 cylinder engine. CAFE laws loomed large back then and Ford was looking for ways to cut it's corporate gas mileage. In the 80's the Mustang 5.0 regained the Mustang's credibility as a bonafide muscle car, it still was a niche product, Ford's bread and butter was it's Taurus sedan. So Ford figured that the Mustang RWD was expendible and was planning to phase it in the 90's and replace it with the new FWD version.... in fact Ford was planning to sell the RWD as the "Mustang Classic" along with the new one until the classic was phased out. One thing though, Ford underestimated it's consumers. When the plans came out, Mustang fans were incensed, Ford was beseiged with angry letters and calls, the "Mustangers" didn't like the fact that their beloved icon was to be affixed on a FWD platform, another thing altogether was that the car wasn't even an American car, it was completely Japanese. That and no V8 of course.

Even people within Ford hated the idea, there were prototype cars ready at the Auto Alliance plant in Michigan..... Ford factory workers actually removed the horse emblems in a show of protest! All this was enough to let Ford know that this was a huge mistake, even bigger then the Edsel disaster. Ford left the Mustang alone and authorized a redesign that occured in '94... albiet with RWD and 5.0 until the 4.6 modular V8 was ready. Since Ford already invested heavily in the FWD platform, Ford renamed it the Probe and it did do well, though it later on it began to falter and Ford later killed it off, the Mustang obviously still lives on, thanks to it fans no doubt!

One could only imagine what would have happened if Ford chose to ignore it's customers, it would have been disasterous......

chiph
10-23-2010, 06:20 PM
The Probe was known for it's high repair bills. To get to anything important in the engine bay, you pretty much had to disassemble everything in the way.

Chip H.

Eric
10-23-2010, 06:26 PM
Boy, that brings back memories!

Ford came so close to pulling the trigger, too.

Which would have killed the Mustang, of course.

Part of what saved the day was the someone within the company spilled the beans early - and there was such an upwelling of abuse and protest that it made Ford management reconsider.

The Probe itself was not a half-bad car; but as you and everyone else with any love for cars knows, it wasn't and never could be a Mustang.

misterdecibel
10-23-2010, 09:14 PM
Probe wasn't a unique platform, it was just a coupe style body version of the Mazda 626, although they did manage to squeeze the Vulcan V6 in there.

Similarly, the last Cougar was a coupe version of the Contour/Mystique.

Eric
10-25-2010, 09:15 AM
Probe wasn't a unique platform, it was just a coupe style body version of the Mazda 626, although they did manage to squeeze the Vulcan V6 in there.

Similarly, the last Cougar was a coupe version of the Contour/Mystique.

I had a chance to test drive both when they were new.

The Probe (GT) was a fun car and could run, too. I (in my younger, dumb-ass days) raced a Mustang GT on I-95. Topping out around 135, the V-8 Mustang just barely edged me out.

The Cougar was forgettable. Not a bad car (few modern cars really are). Just forgettable. It didn't seem to know what it was supposed to be...

misterdecibel
10-25-2010, 08:53 PM
I seem to recall that Ford had at least one Probe prototype running with the Taurus SHO engine. The V6 one, that is.

grouch
10-27-2010, 12:22 AM
I'm nominaly what you would could consider a Ford "guy", but yeah they have a couple of real embarassments.......

How about the Ford 500 of a few years back? While it wasn't a bad car quality wise, it replaced (for the time being) the Taurus which Ford starved into little more then a rental "fleet" car. The 500 was improved over the Taurus, but that was it. It was bland and extremely underpowered with just a 3.0 DOHC Duratec V6 (which by the way feels somewhat lethargic in my '06 Ford Fusion and that's a much smaller car) though what doomed the car was the name, the Taurus was a household name (remember when it was America's #1 selling car, even over the Camry) the 500 was an unknown and nobody cared about finding out. Eventually Ford renamed the car as a Taurus and added a bigger 3.5 V6 as well as giving car a little more personality. Eventually this "Taurus" was replaced by the all new current version which seems to be doing well.

Speaking of the Taurus, there was a version that was a failure... though time has healed that wound and technically you couldn't buy it.... unless if you were a police department. In the 90's Ford released a true heavy duty police package Taurus and performance wise it compared favorably against the Crown Victoria (then again the Crown Vic's cop engine was Windsor 351 with a 2 barrel "variable venturi" carb and all of 190 hp) the Taurus used the 3.8 V6 with 155-160 hp. Also FWD was an oddity for a police car (and it still is) especially since all that was offered before was the Mopar K-car..... yes it was offered as a "scout" package for police use.... also Chevrolet released a police version of the Celebrity as well. Neither one caught on. The Taurus was the first FWD car that was designed for heavy duty police use, except the transaxle didn't hold up and it was extremely commonplace for it to fail. Eventually Ford quit trying and relinquished the police duty for the Crown Victoria.



The 500 was a rebadged Volvo. Decent car but nothing all that great. As for the 351 variable venturi engines, those were phased out in the mid 80's. The cars in the late 80's were fuel injected and in '92 the 4.6 was put in the Crown Victoria.

I've got a '98 Taurus and rather like the car. It's big enough for my fa.....er....well proportioned behind, gets decent fuel mileage, is easy to find parts for and will carry a full load of adults (6 of them) with no trouble and is small enough to be handy in traffic.

Mustang_Boy
10-27-2010, 01:06 AM
The 500 was a rebadged Volvo. Decent car but nothing all that great. As for the 351 variable venturi engines, those were phased out in the mid 80's. The cars in the late 80's were fuel injected and in '92 the 4.6 was put in the Crown Victoria.

I've got a '98 Taurus and rather like the car. It's big enough for my fa.....er....well proportioned behind, gets decent fuel mileage, is easy to find parts for and will carry a full load of adults (6 of them) with no trouble and is small enough to be handy in traffic.
Actually, were both right.... the 351 "variable venturi" engine was phased out in the mid 80's- on the civillian model Crown Vics, all you could get from the dealership new was the EFI 302 with 160 hp, my dad had this engine in his '85 Lincoln Town Car, it was by no means a powerhouse, but it did the job for years and never gave use any trouble. However the police Crown Vics kept the 351 as an option until '91 when the new for '92 "aero" Crown Vic debuted with the modular 4.6 SOHC. The 351 was OK for the times, until Chevy improved the Caprice to the point where it would mop the floor with the Crown Vic performance wise. The '91 9C1 police package 350 Caprice would power it's way up to 130 MPH, where the Ford would wheeze it's way up to 119 MPH. Big difference.