(Photo: Herb Chambers of Norwell)
If you blink hard enough, Herb Chambers will have opened up another dealership before your eyes open.
At least that's what it feels like. Chambers, 71, has purchased his first Volvo franchise, formerly known as Dalzell Volvo on Route 1 in Dedham. The new Volvo of Norwood is his 52nd dealership across Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
“We’re extremely excited to add this luxury brand to our family of dealerships,” Chambers said in a press release. “We have aspired to offer our customers the Volvo name for quite some time and are thrilled to bring the very best and most comprehensive quality brands to our clients."
Within 18 months, Chambers will move the dealership to Norwood on the "Automile." The Dalzell Brothers still own a used Volvo dealership in Foxboro.
With his Maybach store shuttered in Somerville -- at best, he sold only a handful of the $300,000 luxury sedans before Daimler pulled the plug -- Chambers had been down one. The addition of Volvo, which has been clashing with its Chinese owners over product strategy and faces disappointing U.S. sales, is a surprise. Volvo is still popular in New England, but Ray Ciccolo, owner of two Volvo Village stores in Norwell and Brighton, reaps most of the Boston-area sales.
We'll have to wait and see how this battle plays out.
Donning a fire suit and full face helmet does something to your state of mind. Do it at City Hall, where you've just swapped drivers in an actual pit lane, and the effect is astronautical. Government Center isn't the moon, but for four hours, with Cambridge Street walled off so two dozen go-karts could skid and slam into each other, this was alien territory.
That's what I felt like three years ago. Two Saturdays from now, the 5th Boston PAL Grand Prix will close part of Seaport Boulevard so racers can duke it out near the Moakley courthouse, without fearing any reprisal from police. The event, sponsored and led in part by F1 Boston owner RJ Valentine, supports the Boston Police Athletic League, which organizes sports teams and after-school programs for city kids. But really, it's here so Mayor Menino (and whomever succeeds him) can get comfortable with street circuit racing and one day, invite national race teams with full-size cars to blow through our beautiful downtown.
After donning a fire suit at the Baltimore Grand Prix over Labor Day Weekend, I'm convinced Boston needs to host its own race. We've got the Marathon and the Santa Speedo run -- there's no shortage of foot-friendly rallies all year long -- but no race where a Corvette blitzes past the Commons at 100 mph. Granted, the American Le Mans Series and IndyCar are not charitable organizations, but then again, none of Boston's professional sports teams are. Hearing and seeing a field of race cars up close, where you usually walk the dog or booze with friends, brings the city into a brand new light. Just as if you were a visiting alien.FULL ENTRY
Before vinyl wraps took the craft away from custom-painted car bodies, there were "art cars." Specifically, BMW's art cars, a series of post-modern, abstract paintings draped on its coupes, sedans and race cars. After BMW racing driver Herve Poulain had Alexander Calder paint his 3.0 CSL in 1975, the automaker began commissioning other artists on a semi-regular basis. One of them was pop art icon Andy Warhol.
His creation, a 1979 M1 that finished second-in-class during that year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, regularly appears in museums and shows across the globe. And on Oct. 5, it'll be on display in Boston at the Park Plaza Castle as part of ARTcetera 2013, a local artist gathering that raises money for HIV/AIDS research and prevention.
Warhol, himself openly gay before the AIDS epidemic hit the 1980s, had gained plenty of fame through his posterized images of Marilyn Monroe and Campbell's soup cans by the time BMW asked him to paint over its midengine M1 race car. After working up a scale mockup, Warhol took a brush and painted the entire car -- including his trademark signature on the back bumper -- in a reported 23 minutes. Up close, the brush strokes and rough edges wouldn't pass muster in a BMW paint shop, but the effect is well, Warhol.FULL ENTRY
Friday’s final drive takes us 812 miles from Denver to Las Vegas, with a few snags along the way.
9:00 a.m. We
drive south of downtown Denver to pretend we’re back in college. I’m dressed
like a frat boy with a fresh O’s cap and mesh shorts. First, we visit the
University of Denver (where my 20-year-old brother-in-law Scot attends) and
then trek back northeast to the satellite campus of Johnson & Wales
University, the hospitality school Mike attended in Providence.
Thursday's 629-mile drive takes us from Kansas City, Mo. to Denver.
10:00 a.m. Leave downtown Marriott for I-70.
10:30 a.m. Once
past the Kansas border, we stop at the official tourism office rest stop. The woman
behind the counter admits there is nothing to see until we reach Colorado (“It’s
as flat as that floor,” she says, pointing to the linoleum.) Later, we pass Abilene, the hometown of Dwight Eisenhower, who pushed to create the coast-to-coast network of high-speed interstate highways we're driving on today.
Wednesday’s 508-mile ride took us from Louisville to Kansas City.
11:15 a.m. The Belgian waffles at the Louisville Fairfield Inn and Suites are dynamite. It’s time to leave.
12:40 p.m. Central time zone enters soon after entering Indiana.
2:30 p.m. Meet me in St. Louis. The Gateway Arch is extremely imposing in the flesh as the sun glints off the stainless steel and creates a monolithic, otherworldly impression. Minutes later, I’m playing Nelly’s “Country Grammar” in my head.
3:00 p.m. We head up the 630 feet in a claustrophobic capsule from the 1960s. The chain drive is ingenious in that you never feel the arc.
4:00 p.m. We search for Budweiser on tap, but all we find is Bud Light. Apparently, even with the Anheuser-Busch brewery, St. Louis only stocks bottles. Not cool. I mail two postcards to good friends back home. I haven’t sent a postcard since elementary school, and I’m glad they still exist.FULL ENTRY
Tuesday's 616-mile leg has us leaving Baltimore through western Maryland, cutting down to Charleston, and stopping overnight in Louisville, Ky.
8:30 a.m. This is when we were supposed to leave my apartment. But I can't wake up for anything on time.
10:36 a.m. This is when we actually roll out, and Bates-- extremely patient as he is -- doesn't show how much he wants to hit me. But everything's packed, and after a fill-up and a 20-ounce Red Bull, Bates starts the drive off right. We've got Utz sour cream potato chips, beef jerky and Reese's peanut butter cups.
Noon Western Maryland is beautiful, and it's amazing how thin the state's borders are when I check the map.
1 p.m. We're in West Virginia. A woman at the rest stop tries to pass out Jesus flyers. Declined.FULL ENTRY
Michael Bates has worked 16 jobs since he was 16. He's made pizzas, Subway sandwiches, operated rollercoasters, stood on security watch at Gillette Stadium, sold fan merchandise for the Providence Bruins, managed a dental practice in Connecticut, managed a restaurant in Walt Disney World and worked nights at a Florida gasoline station. He's 28 years old.
His 17th job -- an usher at a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas -- starts next week. And because I don't have a real job that makes me punch time clocks, I've joined him on the 2,400-mile drive to Sin City.
Minor problem: By commuting like hell across Connecticut, he's put more than two years worth of mileage onto his leased 2012 Chevrolet Cruze in just 13 months. By the time we reach Vegas, he says he'd rather light the car on fire in the desert than return it to the dealer back home.
We're starting in Bennington, Vt., at a lake house my friends rent each summer. But after we help down some 200 beer cans, it's time to get serious. We set off last weekend for the 138-mile drive to my hometown, Cheshire, Conn., and then another 282 miles across the deadpan New Jersey Turnpike to Baltimore, my new city. Also: I'm newly married, and because my wife had to start school at Johns Hopkins the day after our wedding, this road trip is effectively my honeymoon. He's one of my very best friends. So that's not a complaint.
Follow along this week as we ride across middle America.
A former Buick-GMC dealership will soon show off the latest Mercedes-Benz models in Hanover as part of the Prime Motor Group.
The new $10 million facility, co-designed by Mercedes-Benz, is part of the automaker's $250 million investment to renovate 300 of its 350 U.S. dealerships. Mercedes-Benz dealers like Prime, which already owns one dealer at its Westwood headquarters, are spending nearly $1.4 billion.
Prime president David Rosenberg bought the old Columbia Buick-GMC dealership on Route 53 in 2012 and plans to open the new Mercedes-Benz dealer at the same site in early 2014 and bring 40 new jobs. Like other dealers run by rival Herb Chambers, the new dealer will have covered valet parking, free loaner vehicles, free Wi-Fi in customer lounges, children's play areas, and other amenities designed to take the edge off a service visit.
The dealership group owns 18 shops throughout the Greater Boston area and has 1,000 employees.
A few months ago, I was driving an Audi S4 wagon through beautiful South Africa. But those riches didn't last long.
For two days, I strapped myself into seven terrible cars that were too unsafe and shoddy to ever be sold here. I visited dealerships under the guise of a prospective buyer, and wasn't at all prepared for what these low-tier car brands had to offer.
I drove cars without working speedometers, talked with salesmen too lazy to lift a finger and almost downed a beer in the showroom with some very happy sales guys on a Friday afternoon. I had to love and laugh at the country's lackadaisical work ethic, at least compared to the nonstop work work work mentality of the U.S. I could really fit in.
Have a look at my detailed report for Car and Driver magazine -- and you'll soon see that even the worst cars have their good qualities.
Winter's never over in northern Sweden, and that simple fact makes this sparsely populated region a worldwide destination for automotive engineers. For durability testing, tiny towns like Arjeplog offer them year-round, pummeling cold, just the sort of recipe McLaren needs to finish its upcoming P1 supercar, of which just 375 will be made.
We've already seen the car unmasked at the Geneva Auto Show in March, so unless there's some radical design change, we're not sure why McLaren continues to cover it like a zebra. Here, somewhere further north on a frozen lake in the Arctic Circle, McLaren test drivers slid the P1 -- with a hybrid powertrain in excess of 900 horsepower -- on slick powder.
Despite what looks like a fun time, I can tell you I wouldn't trade places with those drivers, at least not in Sweden. A year ago in February, on assignment for Car and Driver, I had my fingers nearly pried off by the 10-degree chill -- and that was in the country's southerly parts. So unless this P1 is hopping the next flight to Dubai, I'll gladly enjoy the video below from Boston.
Mark your digital calendars: The cheapest, tiniest and most roofless electric car on sale is coming to Boston on May 13.
Three years ago, the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive came here as limited-production European prototype and was offered to a handful of Boston-area residents and businesses on a pricey four-year lease. When I drove one in 2010, the acceleration and measly 60-mph top speed were a painful chore.
Smart has wised up. The new ForTwo ED promises real-world performance -- and at $25,000 before tax credits, the best price among all new electric cars. When equipped with a soft top, this short two-seater can also claim title as the only electric convertible on the market.
As Massachusetts is one of 14 "CARB" states -- those which follow the stricter emissions laws of the California Air Resources Board, designed to promote electric vehicles -- we'll see this little ForTwo months before the rest of the country, said Terry Wei, Smart's U.S. marketing manager.
"We cannot build them fast enough," she said.FULL ENTRY
How Red Bull manages to plaster its primary colors on everything from a Formula One racing team to supersonic human skydiving is an incredible marketing exercise. Especially for a company that crafts an exceptionally disgusting yellow beverage that speeds your heart rate and doesn't break down, even when you've thrown it up the next morning after drinking "Jager bombs" or whatever awful mess college kids are drinking these days.
Red Bull isn't the Coca-Cola company, which is revered and loved around the world for its iconic taste and shapely bottles. But somehow, it too can afford to sponsor everything. Every month, Red Bull is burning its cash on extreme sports and outrageous stunts, and unlike the drink, the results are usually awesome.
On Friday, Red Bull closed a section of Mount Snow in West Dover, Vt., and set loose a 900-horsepower pickup truck both up and down a 30-degree black diamond trail. This is a jacked-up, dirt buggy-style race truck plucked from the TORC series (The Off-Road Championship, a small U.S.-based competition in the mud and sand). All Red Bull needed was to slap on some giant snow tires with half-inch long spikes, set up a few jumps and queue up the cameras.
It's a little terrifying considering driver Ricky Johnson has to tilt the truck in mid-air to avoid the ski lift poles. And unlike movie chase scenes, Johnson was certainly not doing 25 mph and made to appear like 75 mph in post-production. He probably hit 75. Uphill.
The video below says it all. Just don't drink Red Bull.FULL ENTRY
John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England and the "Car Doctor" columnist for The Boston Globe, Providence Journal, Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and AAA Horizons. A certified mechanic, Paul tests dozens of new cars each year and also hosts a radio show on AM 950.
Thank goodness we were chosen.
By the month's end, you'll be able to lease a Honda Fit EV, the electrified version of the popular subcompact hatchback, at three dealers in the Boston metro area. Honda has selected just six areas on the entire East Coast to carry its little plug-in, including New York City and the Hartford and Fairfield areas of Connecticut.
Other than a closed front grill with a chrome strip, smaller wheels and some new gauges, the Fit EV is nearly indistinguishable from its miserly gasoline counterpart. The only noticeable change is the missing "Magic Seat," the rear cushions that fold up and let the owner carry obscenely tall things in a tiny car. In its place is a 20-kilowatt-hour battery mounted underneath. You'll need to borrow another car to deliver those big house plants from Home Depot.
I drove the Fit EV in California last summer during a Honda-sponsored press event and came away impressed with the acceleration, quietness and eager handling. Honda even invited me to race it on an autocross course -- that's how much fun this car is to drive.FULL ENTRY
With Boston about to be buried under Blizzard Nemo last Friday, Greg Baracchi needed to act fast. So he fired up his rare Italian supercar, and drove.
In the still hours before Gov. Deval Patrick declared a statewide driving ban, Baracchi was cruising the city's empty streets in his 2009 Alfa Romeo 8C, the snow melting off its fiery red paint and low-slung, hand-built body.
You might expect Baracchi to have slid into a lamppost and written off a $200,000 car -- the 8C has rear-wheel-drive and a ferociously-revving engine -- but he did no such thing. With snow tires and proper respect, the 8C is quite the docile stormtrooper, as his video above shows.FULL ENTRY
David Rosenberg is a manager and co-founder of Prime Motor Group, a collection of 14 car dealers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. He started working in the car business with his father, Ira Rosenberg -- who started the Ira Motor Group and the first Hyundai dealer in Massachusetts -- since he was 10 years old.
Herb Chambers, a self-made billionaire who grew up in Dorchester and built an empire of 50 car dealers, joins Boston.com on Wednesday, Feb. 13. Ask him about new cars, his impressive car collection (he owns a McLaren F1), and anything else.
Quietly, at its small offices in West Springfield and research labs in San Antonio, Scuderi is building a completely new internal combustion engine it hopes will power everything from cars to portable generators.
The Globe ran a detailed overview on the company in September 2011. Scuderi has been testing a new engine design for more than a decade that it claims will lower emissions and fuel consumption while adding more power in a smaller package. Company engineers even went so far to design an air hybrid system, whereby a compressed air tank could be directly attached to the engine's intake. The promise: Superior fuel economy from a lighter, cheaper hybrid system that eschews heavy, expensive batteries.
This might seem a bit far-fetched, if not impossible for mainstream automakers to accept, had not Peugeot-Citroen introduced its own air hybrid system that will arrive in 2016. Automakers, clamped by emissions laws that tighten every year and faced with a market wary of expensive electric cars, need to advance the traditional engine.
That's where Scuderi could come rushing in.
Residents in our western suburbs are suffering from an endemic problem: Too many Range Rovers that can't be told apart.
Imagine taking your 11-mpg Range Rover Sport to the Chestnut Hill mall, only to lose it next to a row of other Range Rover Sports. Or picture weaving in rush hour traffic along Route 9 with your clear, towering view of the road, and then some other Range Rover cuts in front of you, blocking everything. Suddenly, your mind blanks. You can't tell if that's your wife's Range Rover, or whether the Range Rover you're driving is the one you borrowed from your teenage son.
This is not any way to live.
You won't see the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee at the New England International Auto Show. It was here for a few hours during the Thursday media preview, and then Chrysler shipped it back to Detroit where it debuted Tuesday at the North American International Auto Show. The black 2013 model, at right, is on display.
We love the Grand Cherokee so much that the New England Motor Press Association awarded it -- twice -- as its official Winter Vehicle of New England. This refreshed model makes a lot of improvements that make the Mercedes ML-Class (which shares its basic chassis) appear very overpriced.
Beyond new dressings at the front and rear -- including body-colored grill surrounds, more chrome, and LED accent lighting on the loaded Overland Summit pictured above -- is a big Jeep that's very serious on saving fuel. That has never happened in the company's history.
Nine times out of ten, car furniture will ruin a room.
Not this time. This slate pool table fashioned like a flattened Ford Mustang has me wishing I had a basement. Is it overwrought? Too tacky? Maybe so. But like the fishnet leg lamp from "A Christmas Story," it's just perfect. That's why it's officially licensed by Ford.
At the New England International Auto Show, you can walk over to the Ford stand and play a round on this 1965 replica, which comes equipped with original wheels, working lights and the full assortment of factory chrome trim pieces. It's the actual width and height of the genuine car, almost as if a real Mustang was packed in the dry cycle and squished and chopped by hand.
As you sit and complain about how cold it's gotten, wondering when the next snowfall will arrive and how much it will wreck your commute, I could not care less.
It's not that I don't care about you, even though I don't know you. We're fellow New Englanders, after all. I'm just in a much warmer, happier place.
Above is Cape Town's Kalk Bay from atop the hills that surround the turquoise seas below. You could be driving on these roads, some of the windiest and most thrilling roads in all of Africa, and indeed, the world. You could be tackling elevation changes and watching the earth curve nearly 270 degrees at the Cape of Good Hope.
All I had was a tinny Nissan Versa, but hey, great roads are great roads no matter what you're driving.
Pack your bags and get on the 20-hour flight. Everyone speaks English. You can eat fresh fruits and vegetables. You won't complain anymore. Just get here -- and grab the best-handling car you can.
The supercharged six-cylinder engine is velvety smooth and full of torque, the quattro all-wheel-drive keeps the the chassis stable and safe at high limits, and both 6-speed manual and 7-speed dual-clutch gearboxes are flawless. Combine that with decent fuel economy (18 city/28 highway) and a crisply tailored, high-quality design in and out, decent room, great steering ... gosh, the only things I don't like about the S4 are the tricky HVAC knobs and silly radio controls. Give me the rest.
Or rather, give me the station wagon. Drop 19-inch rims off the hot-and-heavy RS5 coupe and paint it Ferrari red. God almighty Father, give it to me.
Since I can't order an S4 like that in America, I had to drive one in South Africa some 9,000 miles away. (That's not why I came here, of course, but it ended up being a good bonus.)FULL ENTRY
Despite a Superior Court judge denying an injunction against Tesla Motors, the Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association says it will not drop its month-old lawsuit against the electric automaker.
At issue is Tesla's small store in the Natick Mall. Well before it opened next to Victoria's Secret in late September, MSADA and its national arm, the National Automobile Dealers Association, had threatened to sue Tesla for running company-owned dealerships, rather than using independently-owned franchises. Massachusetts law, for example, outright bans automakers from owning their own dealerships.
MSADA and NADA both contend that Tesla is deliberately skirting dealership franchise laws, which require dealerships to hold special licenses and guarantee repair work for the cars they sell, among other rules. Tesla, by opening showrooms in shopping malls and other traditional retail areas, says it is merely doing what Apple has done. Since the company doesn't have the production capacity to stock any of its 22 U.S. stores with inventory, customers can only get on a wait list. They can't buy a Tesla on the spot and drive off like at a regular dealership.
None of that has satisfied the dealer associations. In mid-October, MSADA filed suit against Tesla for illegal trade practices. The Natick store backed off, refusing customers reservations or test drives like at some of its other stores.
About Boston Overdrive
|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)
|Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
|John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
|Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
|Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
|George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee