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Tesla Model S marks phase two of ambitious electric plans

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  March 26, 2009 04:26 PM

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Tesla Model S(Tesla Motors)

Tesla took the cover off its curvaceous Model S sedan Thursday, the second phase of the Silicon Valley automaker's lofty plan to sell electric cars for the masses.

If the $109,000 carbon fiber Roadster signified the new company's cocksure stardom against Porsche and the Italians - after all, celebrities and rich enthusiasts are on minimum one-year waiting lists - consider the Model S a detente with Tesla's exotic rivals.

The production version of the electric sedan, absent a $350 million loan from the Department of Energy and a manufacturing plant, will be tamer in performance but no less striking in its respective segment when it arrives in late 2011. Hours after embargoed studio photos of the concept car, above, were posted to a Flickr account, Tesla revealed the specifications at the official California launch: a 300-mile range, 45-minute charging, and zero to 60 miles per hour in 5.6 seconds.

Seven people can cram into the Model S - five adults and two children in a rear-facing seat under the hatch. The entire center console is one massive 17-inch touchscreen LCD, which wasn't demonstrated at the launch. Tesla's bold 300-mile claim, however, will only be met by its longest-range battery (two others will offer 160 and 230 miles). It's likely the 160-mile battery will be standard, and the others will be very pricey options that will see the car soar past the $57,400 base price.

That puts the Model S in the range of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series, Jaguar XF, and other premium sedans. But Tesla buyers can now claim a $7,500 federal tax credit for electric and plug-in hybrid cars, which President Obama announced last week in addition to $2.4 billion in federal grants for electric car and battery manufacturers.

Tesla's grand plan to produce an electric car under $30,000 is no secret, but little more than a dream that's at least four years away, if that early. With the promised 100-mile-per-gallon Chevrolet Volt next year and Ford's 2012 roll out of plug-in hybrids, Tesla will have to compete with a slew of moderately priced EVs (and the 2013 Toyota Prius, which surely will have no less than a big fat "80" on its EPA window sticker).

According to CEO Elon Musk, Tesla is on its way to becoming profitable by mid-year after gathering $40 million in additional financing in December. That bodes well for the young automaker, but as old-timers General Motors and Chrysler can attest, a lot can go wrong in a short span of time. Hopefully nothing does until after April, when the Globe takes the Roadster for an exclusive, exhaustive three-day test in California. Check Boston Overdrive in the coming weeks for more details.

All photos copyright Tesla Motors.

TeslaModelS-609-front.jpg

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TeslaModelS-609-top.jpg

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62 comments so far...
  1. will not make an impact at 109 thousand for the average person to afford

    Posted by Anonymous March 26, 09 05:19 PM
  1. This is truly the car of the future. While nothing in the near future will rid us of our dependency on fossil fuels, electric will decrease our dependency on foreign oil. Now lets ramp up those wind and solar panel farms so we can plug in all these new electric vehicles.

    Posted by golus March 26, 09 05:38 PM
  1. I'm happy to see the development of such vehicles, but how about making cars that the average person can afford??? Even the Volt is suppose to cost $40,000. That leaves the average person out of luck..........

    Posted by abby0802 March 26, 09 06:11 PM
  1. Toyota was promising to unvail a plug-in Prius for years and no doubt they've had the technology to do it for quite a while. But in a side by side performance test, the Tesla's Roadster would make the Prius look like it's going backwards while getting the equivalent of nearly 260 miles to the gallon - light years ahead of the volt, karma and any other plug-in on earth. With the Model S now in the works, it's very exciting to see price of this technology drop by over 50% in just a few years, exactly like Tesla said it would back in 2006. Impressive.

    Posted by Art March 26, 09 06:15 PM
  1. If you guys would read further you'd see that this car is priced at $57k -- the roadster is $109. The company's goal is to produce an electric car under $30k. Give them a break until we subsidize them with our tax money, just like we did with Detroit for the last century.

    Posted by Alex Foley March 26, 09 09:54 PM
  1. @Anonymous Apparently, you didn't read the entire article. The Roadster model is $109,000; this one is

    Posted by Darren Woodley March 26, 09 10:23 PM
  1. Perhaps they will be able to pick up a Chrysler or GM plant cheap with government financing for their production of the Tesla.

    Posted by Irwin Shapiro March 27, 09 12:05 AM
  1. If this car can be recharged using Solar... what a hot car.... so it will cost the same as a 7 series BMW... lots of folks will be buying them.... strip out all of the extra gear for main street. Make it bare bones for the price of a hybrid ford and guess what, it will sell.

    Posted by jack martin March 27, 09 08:05 AM
  1. Why can't one of the large automakers make a car that looks this attractive. Instead we get a Prius that looks like crap. The Ford Fusion Hybrid has pretty nice styling but ....its a Ford.

    Posted by Don Ablone March 27, 09 08:29 AM
  1. Unofficially the Ferrari of electrics, $57k sounds decent. The looks are on par with Lexus and you know how much those boring cars cost.

    Posted by Andy March 27, 09 08:35 AM
  1. It's gorgeous. They clearly have an eye for design. Let's hope the garden variety people-car is as beautiful. I love the idea of a non-polluting electric car. My only caution is that we still have to generate the electricity and that hasn't been non-polluting, for the most part. As we get away from using coal and oil to produce electricity and move toward wind, water, solar and thermal power, we will find electric cars are THE answer. Meanwhile I'll live with my Prius for a bit. And whatever happened to fuel cell cars? I used to think that would be the answer. I guess all these technologies are evolving and the world power profile will slowly improve.

    Posted by euonymous March 27, 09 08:36 AM
  1. nice car & very grace full

    Posted by sadysady March 27, 09 09:16 AM
  1. It is "light years ahead", because it is VAPORWARE.

    Google concept cars, you'll find Turbines, Flying, etc., etc. Toyota hasn't done it, because it cannot be done...yet.

    Stop blindly following the quacks (including the reporters at most major papers, whose science education seems limited to HS Physics (no even Chemistry), and ask yourself, if this could have been done, why hasn't it?

    S

    Posted by LuF March 27, 09 09:20 AM
  1. LuF is correct. These cars are vaporware..in terms of producing them for the masses. If they can funding from our government like the big 3 over their history, they have a chance to succeed. But look out, current car makers continue to improve and be price competitive with what they already sell. Basically, Telsa will become the luxury car for EV.

    Posted by GordonGekko March 27, 09 09:56 AM
  1. Hmmm, I'll be turning 40 soon. The Tesla S is on my shortlist for a mid-life crisis.

    Posted by Paula March 27, 09 10:02 AM
  1. I'll never own one. I'm too busy trying to feed my family, pay bills, and keep a roof over our heads. This car is wayy too much money.
    At least our country watches out for the rich. Sheesh.

    Posted by Thomas March 27, 09 10:43 AM
  1. Vaporware, but it is pretty. Then again, if you take some Maserati, some Lexus, and a little Aston-Martin & Jaguar, you're probably going to produce a good-looking automobile.

    Posted by jchristian March 27, 09 10:59 AM
  1. These first models are a little pricey but as more vehicles become available costs will come down. Once this happens these cars will fall into the affordable range and maybe one day I will be able to afford one. I say kudos to those producing these next generation cars.

    Posted by Mel March 27, 09 11:12 AM
  1. You guys are completely missing the point. It doesn't matter that the average American can't afford this car. What matters is that a viable electric car makes it to market. As a first generation product, it will be expensive, have glitches and bugs, and be impractical. But with time, it will improve. Who could afford a cell phone when they first came out? They were huge, expensive, dropped calls, and the sound quality was worse than a walkie talkie. Ten years later, every man, woman, and child around the world has a cell phone. This car, while imperfect, is a great first step.

    Posted by Mark March 27, 09 11:16 AM
  1. Tesla shows enormous promise, but also a lot of their stuff is still in the vaporware/development phase.

    Last week's TopGear tested the Tesla. On the track, it did perform well -- full torque, even from 0 RPM and one gear means quick performance anywhere along the rev band, unlike a gasoline-powered car. However, the battery ran out after 55 miles (under track conditions), and the motor overheated, as well. Other things like the battery weight made the car have more trouble in the corners than a gas-powered model.

    So they do show promise, but this technology is still being developed -- and we need a breakthough in battery technology to not only allow better range, but also quicker recharging and saving weight. I'd really like to see an American company make that breakthrough, it would definitely be a huge financial breakthrough, as well.

    Until that happens (which could be tomorrow, 10 or 20 years from now), we will be continuing to need to use the IC engine, and if we want to operate more efficiently, technologies like hybrid drivetrains, diesel, lessening weight (plastics/carbon fiber/other composites), skinnier tires, smarter transmissions, etc.

    Posted by J March 27, 09 11:25 AM
  1. This car is absolutely stunning! It looks like a cross between the 2009 audi A4 (which I am currently leasing) and the Jaguar XF. If Tesla drops the price below 40K and adds an all wheel drive option, I would seriously consider buying or leasing the Model S these when Audi lease is up. GO TELSA!

    Posted by Jordan March 27, 09 11:32 AM
  1. @ J - Actually last year (just finally aired in the US just last week). From what's been said on the interwebs, the TG crew used some creative license to make things appear worse then they were. Tesla even wrote a response - http://jalopnik.com/5112828/tesla-issues-response-to-top-gear-review

    While I love the boys of TopGear, I woulnd't call them the most unbiased of 'reporters'.

    Posted by miko March 27, 09 11:49 AM
  1. Another green vehicle I can't afford - great. And, what of those of us who need larger vehicles for our businesses, or lifestyles (if you don't think there's a war on lifestyles, just wait)? I would love to have one of these, plus a hybrid or electric SUV. I make less than $40,000 per year and my retirement savings are now decimated. I can afford a car payment of less than $150 per month. So, I'll keep driving the '90's Yukon for now...so much for helping the masses.

    Posted by ATS March 27, 09 12:20 PM
  1. It'll be great fun watching former Escalade owners humming out to the country club, deliberately ignoring us low life Prius people.

    Posted by Richard B. Cheney March 27, 09 01:05 PM
  1. No one should be put off by the price tag of this car or the roadster. Both are simply "proof of concept" cars. The reality is that these cars were produced by a small independent car company. Imagine the possibilities if Detroit had begun looking into electric in the early 90's. Electric cars would be cheap and everywhere. Also, it's the battery that really punches up the price. With President Obama's desire to fund new and improved battery research, those prices will naturally drop.

    Posted by dan March 27, 09 01:16 PM
  1. jchristian is right, after seeing a few more pics I see a lot of Aston in the front. And I am really liking that.

    GM should really focus on companies like these. They currently have several house brands. Why not trade up to some upcoming brands that will sell well and be a positive influence in their portfolio.

    Ford too, same thing like 4 house brands.

    Who needs Hummer when you could have Tesla. But I can almost guaranty Tesla isn't interested, the are living comfortably being a niche brand at the moment.


    Posted by Andy March 27, 09 01:16 PM
  1. This car was test drove on last weeks episode of Top Gear on BBC America - did not fare well - after 50 miles it stopped - they liked the design but had all sorts of problems with it. They also drove other electric cars - see if you can get the eposide on demand, it is well worth watching. However, after test driving a hydrogen car in California (can not remember the name) it was deemed to be the car of the future - it was slated as the most important car in 100 years and it seems that hydrogen cars are the way forward.

    Posted by fridaycat March 27, 09 01:26 PM
  1. Beautiful car! Finally a group which has figured out that green doesn't have to be slow or butt ugly. Put me on the waiting list!

    Posted by Mike March 27, 09 01:30 PM
  1. How about taking a billion out of the GM/Chrystler bailout and handing it to Tesla?

    For christ's sake, Tesla has an awesome car and the federal government is competing against them!

    Posted by Moses Calouro March 27, 09 01:45 PM
  1. Beautiful car, great execution of the all electric concept. Unfortunately, destined to fill only a micro part of the total car market for a long time. Why not step up domestic low sulfur diesel production as well as biodiesel, get many more high mileage diesel ( and a bit later hybrid diesel) cars on the road, and thus obtain a viable near term solution to automotive fuel consumption problems?

    Posted by normanson March 27, 09 02:20 PM
  1. Very nice!!!!

    Posted by Anonymous March 27, 09 02:31 PM
  1. Wichita, Kansas company already converts front wheeled cars into electric ones for $10,000. You guys are way behind!

    Posted by tim6119 March 27, 09 03:46 PM
  1. The car Top Gear drove on BBC America was NOT this car - it was the roadster. And yes, the Tesla roadster ran out of juice after 50 miles, but they were beating on it on a test track...

    Posted by GreenTech March 27, 09 03:58 PM
  1. GreenTech -- not only did it run out of juice, it overheated, as well. But it was very quick and held it's own with a lot of the world's other sports cars when the Stig took it out for a spin. So they are definitely onto something.

    Posted by J March 27, 09 04:52 PM
  1. GreenTech & J -- The Roadsster did not run out of Juice on Top Gear, watch it again. Tesla gave them two cars and according to their computers neither car got below 20% charge. Top Gear never stated that they run out of juice, they said that 53 (or 55) miles is all they would have got if it did run out of juice. My understanding is that Top Gear has since had to retract that. Also they showed a Roadster being pushed into the hanger as they are not allowed to drive them into the hanger. Do not trust Top Gear when it comes to alternate vehicles, they have their own agenda.

    Posted by yoda5 March 27, 09 06:39 PM
  1. People are eating Kraft macaroni and cheese and these FOOLS think their going to sell these - Fat Chance - these will go the way of the DeLorean ...

    Posted by Anonymous March 27, 09 07:08 PM
  1. Unfortunately this car cannot be made for the masses at this point. Tesla has had trouble getting its current orders out to its customers. Their production capabilities just arent there yet. ATB- If the car was more reasonably priced, what kind of trouble do you think that would cause normal americans who have to drop lets just say 30k, and then have to wait 2 years before they actualy get the car. Its clear to me the this company is trying to stay small so that they can concentrate on creating the best product possible, and improving on it. Its one thing to demand, say the best best price for a common product like cable, but when this company is offering something that noone else is, you cant expect them to write a check everytime they sell one. You and most of us are just going to have to wait a few years before this technology reaches main street.

    Oh and anonymous just above me... Maybe people should have been eating the store brand mac'n cheese. tastes the same and its like $0.10 cheaper.


    Posted by kikr25 March 28, 09 08:21 AM
  1. Why be negative. I think their strategy of coming in at the high end of the luxury car market is the way to go. They have back orders, what could be bad about that? Go Tesla!! I'm rooting for you.

    Posted by LittleFoot Energy March 28, 09 09:31 AM
  1. Why does it have a gas tank port on its side?

    Posted by TimBaltimore March 28, 09 10:16 AM
  1. Patience people, the automakers blew it by giving up on this idea 10 years ago, its going to take a bit for the price of the battery technology to come down

    Posted by Alex Smith March 28, 09 11:54 AM
  1. its $57,400 not $109,000. $109,000 is for the older version, Tesla Roadster, not model S. Plus you get the $7,500 credit for buying the electric car... so it is really $50,000

    Posted by Johny Jo March 28, 09 03:22 PM
  1. good design....

    Posted by K H AHN March 28, 09 03:26 PM
  1. I see $50K cars on the road around me all the time in So Fla. So many writers whining here about it being expensive. Same as the term "rich," affordability is dependent on the viewpoint of the consumer. There's a market for everyone and this Tesla S is not seeking the Toyota Camry or Chevy Impala consumer but rather the BMW 5 series, Jags, Porsches, etc. If I were going to lay out $50K for a car that looked nice and performed well, why not do it for one that gets 100mpg equivalent on electric? ...All the while feeling better that I have done something positive for our national security in diminishing our dependence on foreign oil.

    Posted by JR March 29, 09 12:31 AM
  1. Wow people. Of course it would be nice to have a vehicle like this affordable right now. This is the way technology works. 15 years ago, home computers were much more expensive. Laptops even more so.

    What is important to realize is that this technology is becoming a reality, and as it's perfected - costs will come down to the "normal consumer" price points. Then we don't have to send back the oil tankers to countries that hate us full of money.

    Yeah, I'd like to be able to afford one of these too, and maybe I will in 10 years. Look at the big picture. This is an exciting time.

    Posted by Andy K. March 29, 09 05:53 AM
  1. its AMAZINGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG,,,,,,

    Posted by faymooooooo March 29, 09 07:08 AM
  1. You still need fossil fuels to make electricity. We probably should build 25 nuclear power plants while we wait for the affordable electric car.

    Posted by Ed March 29, 09 10:19 AM
  1. mark: unlike the cell phone, their aren't and won't be "points" of transmission (towers to forward the signal) that are relatively inexpensive to construct. These rely on batteries to operate. There will need to be "new" fuel stations where one can trade out the batteries until the next stop. Who will make the batteries? At what cost? At any given "fuel" station, how many batteries will need to be stored? How many "fuel" stations does it take in a 5 square mile area to keep 10,000 electric cars running? What do you do with the batteries when they're no longer any good? What materials are they made from? How long will they last (hours, days, weeks, months, years)?

    These cars are not like the cars of today and will take a total revamping of our current mode of traveling. We are 20 to 30 years out before these questions are answered. I think that making the car is the simple part. It's these other problems that require solving first.

    Posted by FredN March 29, 09 01:52 PM
  1. A seven passenger car that runs on electricity, get's a 300 Mile range and charges in 45 min? Wow. I'll start saving my pennies now!

    Posted by Abe March 29, 09 07:16 PM
  1. Tesla's efforts must be applauded here for developing an electric vehicle from scratch, that looks this good, and performs the way it does, and for only $109K! (not to mention $57K). Especially durring these less than ideal financial times.
    Having a manufacturing (Engineering and Costing) background, I find it amazing that this vehicle is so inexpensive considering the initial low volume it will be produced in. Just imagine the costs involved in producing the very first (current technology), say, Toyota Prius, in your garage out back. I dare say it would come close to being a million dollar car, considering the cost of the stamping and casting / mold tooling required alone. Not to mention the cost of all the little and not so little components that make up our vehicles we all take for granted when we roll along in our daily rides.
    I hope our administration recognizes Tesla's potential and throws a few billion their way. It would be money well spent (comparatively speaking) and would allow the company to invest in manufacturing equipment and technology that ultimately would bring down the price of their product, enabling more of the masses the ability to afford a Tesla automobile.

    Posted by GBB March 30, 09 08:22 AM
  1. yoda5

    I watched the episode. I understand that this was not the car they were testing. I think everyone has their own agenda, and that TopGear gave the car a fair shake -- as I've mentioned I think these cars have promise, although it's surrounded by a lot of hype and vaporware. So if you take the TopGear test and the hype surrounding anything Tesla and look in the middle, you'll likely get something like the truth. I think this is very promising technology, to be sure, but it's only the glimmer of a fully functional battery powered electric car. It still has a lot of issues to be worked out and still to be sorted out -- price, durability, reliability, cold weather performance, battery charge time, etc. These are not small issues to deal with and some require a significant technological breakthrough.

    I want Tesla to succeed, don't get me wrong, but there are real technical hurdles that must be overcome. And TopGear is more entertainment than anything else, anyway.

    Posted by J March 30, 09 09:10 AM
  1. Even within existing manufacturers it is common to offer a feature first on the luxury cars due to cost and the tendency for enlightened owners of some cars to be more willing to accept the problems with cutting edge technology. Then as the technology improves we see the features offered on less expensive cars. There are lots of examples that include power windows and door locks, A/C, starter motors, anti-lock brakes, vehical stability control, navigation systems, communcation links for cell phones. This is the same idea, but done with a whole car. This is really unusual either, especially when you go back to early years when the techology was being sorted out in the early part of the century when there were many different makers and ideas on what a car should be (gas?, electric?, steam?).

    Re: "Why does it have a gas tank port on its side? Posted by TimBaltimore " I am willing to bet that is where the car is plugged in to recharge it. People don't like different, so they make the plug-in port look like the gas cap. Same funtion. Same feature. It may also explain why the car has a grille. Do electric cars need grilles? Maybe it needs more cooling air flow than can come from under the car - but I wonder if that is true - or they want it to look more conventional so it has broader appeal?

    Posted by Marie March 30, 09 09:13 AM
  1. Electricity rates are due to triple in the near future, so we're simply playing an energy shell game.

    Posted by Marc March 30, 09 11:23 AM
  1. I have owned SUVs since the 1970's but I think that I would try one of these next.

    Posted by exitseven March 30, 09 01:42 PM
  1. Guillotine the CEOs, they had the means to produce these cars all along, instead they went along with the oil companies and made SUVs. Now because Obama dropped Bushs lawsuit against California, the car companies have no choice and they should all fire and guillotine their CEOs.

    Posted by GuillotineCEOs April 1, 09 05:44 PM
  1. LuF and GordonGecko articulate the short-sightedness and lack or imagination that has plagued Detroit for the last 30 years.... why so pessimistic?

    The Tesla Roadster has already been built and blows the doors of any Porsche currently made. The Model S WILL be built in some form Stop dragging your feet. The green revolution is a reality not a marketing gimmick. There has been a legitimate market for the electric car since the early '90s even before the technological advancements made by Tesla. Check out the documentary "Who Killed The Electric Car." I contend GM would not be in the predicament they are in now if they would have had the foresight and courage to stick with the EV1.

    Imagine millions of electric cars returning to their suburban garages to recharge their batteries from electricity harvested from the roof top (solar).... the technology exist right now. And this scenario should be a reality in 2015.

    Posted by Dr.J April 2, 09 12:39 AM
  1. Not Vaporware..... the difference is Tesla's construction style to save weight (Thanks Lotus engineering), battery technology, and willingness to put in a HUGE battery. There is a bigger battery in Tesla cars than any other EV (to the best of my knowledge). Li-ion ploymer helps with power / energy density, but really, they have simply shoved ALLOT of cells into these. Some of the claims are a bit of a trick though. Can only imagine a 45 minute charge time with 240V system. That much power in that little time would have to limit battery life, then you get to replace big battery (with BIG price-tag) in a year or so.

    Posted by Third_Degree April 2, 09 02:08 PM
  1. it's all about starting somewhere, and these look great, why not start with beauty and work our way down to ugly common people cars like Camry's and Taurus' . That price is dirt cheap, those of you complaining about not being able to afford it, when was the last time you bought a luxury automobile? probably never, and most likely never will, this car is meant to be a luxury, but the tech can carry over to other segments and trickle down.
    The "gas tank" on the port side is most likely the electric plug in, although, in reality, this car does not actually exist, so it's just a computer drawing that someone felt needed a hole on the driver side

    Posted by Scottydoo April 3, 09 01:43 AM
  1. These videos show the first owner getting his first ride in a model S. Looks to me like a real car, not a drawing or vaporware.

    http://www.leftlanenews.com/tesla-model-s.html

    Posted by Rreed April 11, 09 11:03 AM
  1. ScottyDoo,
    The car DOES exist and was shown at an auto show and driven around:

    http://jalopnik.com/5185907/tesla-model-s-sedan-concept-first-live-driving-shots
    http://jalopnik.com/5185844/tesla-model-s-sedan-concept-49900-seven+seater-electric-to-hit-streets-in-2011

    While it is not IN PRODUCTION YET (and won't be, unless the gov't shells out some moolah), the prototype is very much there. No computer trickery here.

    Posted by Blackpriester April 13, 09 10:25 AM
  1. If it had been up to many of you, the automobile as it is now wouldn't have been made, as cars didn't spring to current form overnight, and neither did the infrastructure to fuel them. Look at what cars looked like in 1900 and look at what they looked like in 1930. 30 years separating the first cars from the '30s and there wasn't much difference. But move a mere 20 years ahead of that, into the '50s, and there was massive change.

    Compare the Tesla Model S to the typical electric car of the '70s and there is huge improvement. Now think about what it'll be like in a short period of time from now. But these HAVE to get out there first or ther ewill BE no improvement (or reduction in price)

    New tech ALWAYS costs money to develop. No one will give that development time and effort away for free. But as demand goes up, and mass production kicks in, prices will come down.

    If this basic version has a 150+ mile range, I could commute to work for a couple weeks on a single charge. Out of the 100+million registered drivers, I'd bet a good case could be made that 1% of them could get by without ever having to go to a quick charge "refueling" (or battery swap) station. And that would be a million cars, quite a good sales figure to shoot for. it would take years to deliver that many cars, and be a very viable buisenss model. Is it perfect for everyone? No. But we don't require every car made now to be perfect for every driver in every possible driving situation as it is... So why demand it of electric cars?

    Posted by CAV May 28, 09 04:32 PM
  1. awesome car......

    Posted by Anonymous August 30, 09 10:28 AM
 

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
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