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Thread: Top Gear Bashes Old Big American Cars

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    Top Gear Bashes Old Big American Cars

    Here's a clip of the show Top Gear where the host just can't get enough of bashing our American cars. However he keeps referring to 1970s cars in this clip while he's driving a 1980s Lincoln Towncar:


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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Disco Man View Post
    Here's a clip of the show Top Gear where the host just can't get enough of bashing our American cars. However he keeps referring to 1970s cars in this clip while he's driving a 1980s Lincoln Towncar:

    The guy's a douche. Look at his 'fro. And Vidal Sassoon-style jeans. He's in no position to make fun of that Town Car.

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    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    That clip's gotta be more than ten years old, I've never seen Clarkson that young before.

    He is a douche, but American cars were rubbish, an easy target.

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel View Post
    That clip's gotta be more than ten years old, I've never seen Clarkson that young before.

    He is a douche, but American cars were rubbish, an easy target.
    So were most of the cars of that era, period - regardless of brand. By today's standards, anyhow. That includes the Japanese. Yes, their engines were generally better-built/longer-lived. But the bodies and frames were made of inferior/poorly protected materials and often rusted to dangerous levels within five years - and unsightly levels in as little as three.

    As far as abuse of the Town Car and cars like it:

    In those days, "luxury" meant something very different than it does today. American luxury cars were built not for handling and high-performance driving. They were built to be as smooth and quiet as a nice living room sofa. No one gave a shit how they cornered. If you did, you bought a sports car. Today, all cars are trying to be sports cars - even minivans. It's ridiculous; the extreme in the other direction. Think: 17-inch alloy rims and "sport" suspensions on huge SUVs, crossovers and yes, even minivans. Ridiculous.

    Meanwhile, it is virtually impossible to find a big, stately cruiser without those silly bucket seats (silly in this context) and the rest of it.

    Maybe a '79 Olds 98 would lurch like an old milk truck around a slalom. But it was far more comfortable to drive than a new BMW 5-Series.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    The guy's a douche. Look at his 'fro. And Vidal Sassoon-style jeans. He's in no position to make fun of that Town Car.

    Good point.

    And you'd think a big guy like him would appreciate a big comfortable car. Instead he must like cramming his body into a small car.

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    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post

    Maybe a '79 Olds 98 would lurch like an old milk truck around a slalom. But it was far more comfortable to drive than a new BMW 5-Series.
    Until you go over a bump.

    Those old barges were never luxurious by any standard, it was nothing more than a bad illusion for suckers. You can't have luxury without quality.

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel View Post
    Until you go over a bump.

    Those old barges were never luxurious by any standard, it was nothing more than a bad illusion for suckers. You can't have luxury without quality.
    I've driven dozens of those cars, as well as imports from the era. The American cars were much more solid-feeling (and rode far better) than the typical Japanese car of the era. As far as brands like Benz and BMW, etc. it is grossly unfair to compare as these cars cost much more and were in altogether different league. it's like comparing a '70s Camaro with a Ferrari or Porsche.

    For the money, the American cars offered a great deal, including spacious and comfortable interiors, outstanding AC, big V-8s and great style.

    I understand that big boats are not your cup of tea and that's fine. But many people liked them and their opinions are just as valid as those who prefer the same-period Japanese stuff.

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    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    A Renault Le Car rode as well, or better, than any American tanks short of a Fleetwood Brougham. And any hydropneumatic Citroen would beat that, including an 1100cc GS.

    American driving conditions haven't changed much since the 1970s, I don't see any driving situation or need that the big tanks would be acceptable for today, and they were no more acceptable back then. It's just all that most people knew. It was just a crass joke on the motoring public.

    Show me one '70s US tank that would pass the test in this video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgnnoAhni-M

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    "A Renault Le Car rode as well, or better, than any American tanks short of a Fleetwood Brougham."

    I hope you're not serious!

    "And any hydropneumatic Citroen would beat that, including an 1100cc GS."

    Maybe. Those Citroens did have nice rides. But they were also very complex and trouble-prone, too.

    "American driving conditions haven't changed much since the 1970s, I don't see any driving situation or need that the big tanks would be acceptable for today...."

    Languid cruising is what they were built for. Plenty of opportunities for that. Remember: Most of the country is not the crammed-up suburbs of major cities like DC or Apelanta, where everyone's on edge and you want a car that can move adroitly and quickly, etc.

    "... and they were no more acceptable back then. It's just all that most people knew. It was just a crass joke on the motoring public."

    I'd counter that the downsized, FWD cars of the '80s and '90s were the crass joke. Nothing more pitiful than a FWD Caddy that's smaller than a '70s-era Nova.

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    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    "A Renault Le Car rode as well, or better, than any American tanks short of a Fleetwood Brougham."

    I hope you're not serious!

    "And any hydropneumatic Citroen would beat that, including an 1100cc GS."

    Maybe. Those Citroens did have nice rides. But they were also very complex and trouble-prone, too.

    "American driving conditions haven't changed much since the 1970s, I don't see any driving situation or need that the big tanks would be acceptable for today...."

    Languid cruising is what they were built for. Plenty of opportunities for that. Remember: Most of the country is not the crammed-up suburbs of major cities like DC or Apelanta, where everyone's on edge and you want a car that can move adroitly and quickly, etc.

    "... and they were no more acceptable back then. It's just all that most people knew. It was just a crass joke on the motoring public."

    I'd counter that the downsized, FWD cars of the '80s and '90s were the crass joke. Nothing more pitiful than a FWD Caddy that's smaller than a '70s-era Nova.
    I agree that the Big Three's half-assed attempts at downsizing were every bit as pitiful as their half assed attempts at luxury.

    I think that the model for how an American car should have been able to perform would be the Jaguar XJ6, introduced in 1968. There's really no reason why that level of chassis development couldn't have been accomplished in a mid-priced American car. It was as smooth as any Caddy, but wasn't upset by bumps and corners. It doesn't cost any more to tune spring rates, shocks, bushings, and anti-roll bars properly than it does to make them sloppy.

    But instead the powers that be seem to think that everything needs to be dumbed down for Americans. It's insulting.

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    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel View Post
    That clip's gotta be more than ten years old, I've never seen Clarkson that young before.

    He is a douche, but American cars were rubbish, an easy target.


    Hmmm....how about the average British car? Not cars like the Rolls Royce but the MG's, Coopers, and all the cars with the wonderful products from the "Prince of Darkness", Lucas? I ran a salvage yard in the early 80's. I got some fairly nice and pristine britsh cars in and all of them had electrical problems. An XKE came in after a small engine fire. I went through the electrical system and scraped each connector clean and coated it with dielectric grease. The aluminum they used to make the car lighter was also in the electrical system and it would corrode. The grease kept it from failing and that car was running around town for a long time after we sold it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel View Post
    I agree that the Big Three's half-assed attempts at downsizing were every bit as pitiful as their half assed attempts at luxury.

    I think that the model for how an American car should have been able to perform would be the Jaguar XJ6, introduced in 1968. There's really no reason why that level of chassis development couldn't have been accomplished in a mid-priced American car. It was as smooth as any Caddy, but wasn't upset by bumps and corners. It doesn't cost any more to tune spring rates, shocks, bushings, and anti-roll bars properly than it does to make them sloppy.

    But instead the powers that be seem to think that everything needs to be dumbed down for Americans. It's insulting.
    Agreed about the Jaguar XJ6. That was a respectable handling and performing automobile. People used to put V8s in them to boost performance and probably fuel efficiency, too. The XK in line 6 was kind of a gas hog. Hence, you got the best of both worlds (supposedly).

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    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grouch View Post
    Hmmm....how about the average British car? Not cars like the Rolls Royce but the MG's, Coopers, and all the cars with the wonderful products from the "Prince of Darkness", Lucas? I ran a salvage yard in the early 80's. I got some fairly nice and pristine britsh cars in and all of them had electrical problems. An XKE came in after a small engine fire. I went through the electrical system and scraped each connector clean and coated it with dielectric grease. The aluminum they used to make the car lighter was also in the electrical system and it would corrode. The grease kept it from failing and that car was running around town for a long time after we sold it.
    It's true that our crude stuff mostly worked, and their crude stuff mostly broke. Their motor industry paid the price for that, too, with near extinction.

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    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by swamprat View Post
    Agreed about the Jaguar XJ6. That was a respectable handling and performing automobile. People used to put V8s in them to boost performance and probably fuel efficiency, too. The XK in line 6 was kind of a gas hog. Hence, you got the best of both worlds (supposedly).
    I'm not holding up the XJ6 as some sort of model for perfection, they were built like crap, broke, and rotted. But I do believe that what that car did well, the balance between performance and comfort, should have been a huge influence on all the world's luxury car makers. By the early 1970s there was no excuse for cars to still be as bad as they were.

    I used to have a 1974 Chevy Van with a three-on-the-tree. One time I got to drive a friend's all-original 1951 Chevy truck, and my impression was that if you put a 350 and power steering in the 1951, the driving experience of the two vehicles would be exactly the same.

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    " But I do believe that what that car did well, the balance between performance and comfort, should have been a huge influence on all the world's luxury car makers."

    This is very subjective. At the time, "performance" and "luxury" were (for the most part) kept separately. If you wanted a performance car, you bought Mustang or GTO (or similar). If you wanted a luxury car, you bought a Coupe de Ville or Electra 225. Today, there is little difference between "luxury" and "performance" cars other than price (you pay a premium for the luxury nameplate). They almost all have the same "tight" suspensions, consoles, "sport" gauges with tachometers, bucket seats, "sport" gauges, etc.

    But back in the day, luxury cars had sofa-like bench seats that you could lounge in. There was no attempt made to turn these cars into "handlers." They were for smooth, quiet cruising along - and at this they excelled.

    CAFE and downsizing killed these kinds of cars and force-fed the public the Euro-sporty stuff that is now ubiquitous. I like sporty/good handling cars, too - but I also miss the different feel of a real, American-style luxury cruiser. We have lost that, and it's a shame.

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    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post

    But back in the day, luxury cars had sofa-like bench seats that you could lounge in. There was no attempt made to turn these cars into "handlers." They were for smooth, quiet cruising along - and at this they excelled.

    CAFE and downsizing killed these kinds of cars and force-fed the public the Euro-sporty stuff that is now ubiquitous. I like sporty/good handling cars, too - but I also miss the different feel of a real, American-style luxury cruiser. We have lost that, and it's a shame.
    I disagree. They were horrid. They couldn't cope with simple bumps in the road, between the wallowing and the live axle tramp.

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel View Post
    I disagree. They were horrid. They couldn't cope with simple bumps in the road, between the wallowing and the live axle tramp.
    Opinions will vary. One man's "too soft" is another's "just right."

    I personally think modern luxury cars (most of them) try way too hard to be "sporty." They're too firm-riding and their seats are too snug. Bucket seats and consoles; floor shifters and sport bike-like gauge clusters in "pods"... Even minivans offer "sport" packages - the apogee of absurdity.

    At least the old barges never claimed to offer let alone tried to deliver "sporty" driving characteristics. They were thus clearly a different experience than the sport-intended cars of the time. Today's cars are (mostly) a homogenous lot that pretty much all feel the same.

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