I’m Jim Donnelly, and thanks for stopping by my new website, Jim Donnelly On Wheels. Some of you already know who I am. I was previously the senior editor of Hemmings Motor News in Bennington, Vermont, and before that, I held a bunch of positions at a daily newspaper in the Philadelphia area, including automotive and motorsport writer. I hold more than 50 journalism awards and have been in this life for more than 40 years. My home base now is Daytona Beach, Florida, down the road from the House that Bill France Built. My current list of writing clients, besides Hemmings, includes Speed Sport, PRI Magazine and Crankshaft, where I serve as senior editor. I’ve written books about my friend Don Miller, the former president of Penske Racing and a mega car guy; and one on the history of automotive advertising. What I hope to accomplish here is to share some of the stuff that I consider so worthy, inspiring and, really, life-changing. The automobile unhitched us all from the pieces of dirt we once called home. Going fast brought us thrills. Watching others compete in cars made us marvel at people with such limitless skills, determination and fortitude. Cars upended our whole existence totally and irreversibly, the same way that computers are doing today, so it’s entirely appropriate to marry the two of them here. What you’re going to find here is fresh info on what’s going on in the world of cars, what’s innovative, history that’s worth remembering, roads worth driving, races worth attending, books worth reading, cars worth buying, and maybe even some places to dine that are worth a stop when you’re out on the highways. No politics. I’ll leave that sordid topic to those who claim to know it. Let’s get rolling, because this is going to be a hell of a ride we’re going on together.
When the first Ford Mustang was introduced midway through 1964, it took Ford barely 18 months to zoom all the way to 1 million Mustang sales. You can’t help but be reminded of that factoid when contemplating the run that the all-electric Mustang Mach-E, a totally different kind of Mustang, has enjoyed since reaching the marketplace barely two years ago. Ford announced this week that it has produced 150,000 copies of the Mach-E since its 2020 rollout, with the EV now sold in 37 countries, with more markets expected to be announced soon. So much for the naysayers who insisted that an electric Mustang would never gallop.
The Ford image shows employees at Dearborn’s Cuautitlán Stamping and Assembly Plant in Mexico saluting the landmark Mach-E as it rolls off the line this week. Ford is now in the process of scaling up Mach-E production toward an annual goal of 270,000 units, part of Ford;s plan to sell 600,000 EVs annually the end of 2023, a number it expects will grow to 2 million EV units per year by the close of 2026. More than eight in 10 Mach-E buyers in the United States have used to to replace an internal-combustion vehicle, a statistic that grows to more than nine in 10 in Europe. The marketplace vigor of the Mach-E has made Ford the second-largest seller of EVs in the United States.
Auto manufacturers spend an inordinate amount of time, and money, brainstorming about future products. Most of these design studies never make it to the showroom, at least not intact. But looking them over after the passage of 20 years of more reveals ideas that were more broadly applied in years to come across vehicle choices that really did make it to the marketplace. Nissan unveiled one such concept more than 30 years ago, the Gobi compact all-activity pickup, which made its debut at that year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Named for the endless expanse of Chinese desert, the Gobi made the rounds of other major auto shows that year and then disappeared – almost. Read on.
If the basic shape of the Gobi rings any bells, that’s because both its exterior lines and interior layout were inspired by light helicopters, such as the U.S. Army’s Little Bird gunship, with rounded shapes and a control-laden cabin environment. Created by former Nissan designers late Jerry Hirshberg, Bruce Campbell and Diane Allen at Nissan Design International, which today is known as Nissan Design America, the Gobi featured storage binnacles labeled “stuff” and “things,” plus a detachable glove compartment that could be transformed into a backpack. Today, the Gobi is part of the Nissan Heritage Collection, which is maintained at the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, where Nissan now has its base of North American operations.
Depending on where you live, you may have experienced the offshoot of the old car hobby that focuses around restoring and collecting tractors and other agricultural implements, the relics of farming’s imprint on American society. As you might guess, the people who do this tend to live in rural areas and had farm equipment as an integral part of their lives. Just for example, we know of a collector who lives in Salem, New York, not far from the Vermont border, whose front yard is dotted with unrestored Farmall tractors of the past. Arguably, no auction house more tightly embraces the nuances of this market than Wisconsin-based Mecum Auctions, which recently concluded its 2022 Gone Farmin’ Fall Premier Auction at the Bend XPO in East Moline, Illinois. How big is tractor collecting? Enough that Mecum rang up more than $6.5 million in sales during the three-day auction.
This hugely unusual piece does not pull planes around an airport, but it can still cruise credibly down the highway in its top gear, which makes the tractor’s streamlined, nearly Art Deco bodywork all the more appropriate. What is it? It’s a 1938 Minneapolis-Moline UDLX, described as one of the finest examples of this rare and unusual farm tractor in existence. When the bidding was concluded, the UDLX had a winning high bid of $210,000, which is astronomical for a restored tractor, regardless of rarity. By comparison, the auction’s second-highest sale was the $154,350 hammered for a one-of-one International Harvester HT 340 tractor prototype, with gas turbine power. This was a major event in the world of collectible farming memorabilia, with Mecum finding new homes for 1,302 lots of all types at a very strong 94 percent sell-through rate.
We rightly view Hyundai, the industrial giant from South Korea, as an integral part of the automotive marketplace, and industry, in North America. It’s hard to grasp today that nearly 50 years ago, most Americans didn’t know how to produce the company’s name, much less have a firm understanding of what it produced. In fact, it would be years before Hyundai vehicles would be sold in the United States at all. The car that truly launched Hyundai as an auto manufacturer, and led us where we are today, was the 1974 Hyundai Pony Coupe, the first car built by Hyundai that wasn’t a knockoff of somebody else’s car and the first true mass-produced automobile in the history of South Korea. A lot of history flows from this one car, so it’s fitting that it’s being re-created as a celebration of Hyundai heritage.
Hyundai has announced that it will work with the design firm GFG Style to rebuild the Pony Coupe as a retro concept to mark the firm’s half-century of producing its own automobiles. GFG Style is the successor to Ital Design, whose founder, Giorgetto Giugiaro, penned the wedge-shaped, very 1970s design before going on to achieve design immortality by drafting the look of the original Volkswagen Golf and Scirocco, among many other vehicles. Guigiaro’s son, Fabrizio, is now part of GFG Style and will be working on the Pony Coupe resurrection. Hyundai has hinted that the concept project could lead to more cooperation with GFG Style on future production models, a lofty prospect given the dramatic looks for which Hyundai is already well known.
If you’re one of the buyers who likes to boogie to the max when it comes to your vehicle selection, the huge, luxury-bedecked Nissan Armada SUV is likely to land on your shopping list at some point. The 2023 edition of Nissan’s maximum-sized land cruiser – sorry, that was irresistible – comes in four trim levels, S, SV, SL and Platinum, following a moderate refreshing for the 2021 model year. Nissan’s 2023 Armada lineup takes an already thoroughly equipped premium SUV and adds Amazon Alexa voice command across all the SV, SL and Platinum ranges. Alexa will give the Armada the capability to place phone calls, select music and more, based solely on your vocal inputs.
Pricing for the 2023 Armada range begins at $50,400 for a two-wheel-drive example in the base S trim level. The price of this large SUV grows to $69,720 when you select a Platinum version with all-wheel drive. Sales start immediately.
Believe the copy, not your eyes, because this very trick British EV known simply as the ’67 is most assuredly not a product of the Ford Motor Company, no matter how it looks. Instead, the ’67 is the creation of Charge Cars, based in London, and which despite its retro looks is a smorgasbord of the latest in both vehicle architecture and electrified propulsion. The ’67 is making its debut, fittingly enough, at the ongoing Los Angeles Auto Show, which runs through the end of the month. It’s the ’67’s first public showing after it was first rolled out to selected media last month.
Note that Charge Cars uses a Maltese cross-style emblem in place of the chromed pony you’d ordinarily expect to find at both ends of the car. With production limited to a run of 499 vehicles worldwide, the ’67 utilizes a carbon-fiber body shell with a battery pack underneath the floorboards. Four electric motors give the car AWD with vectoring, plus more than 1,100 claimed lbs.-ft. of torque, enough to wake anyone up. Total peak power comes to 400kW. According to the manufacturer, the ’67 will see 60 MPH in 3.9 seconds, with an operating range estimated at 200 miles.
It probably didn’t get grear notice but it’s still a milestone in the world of ultra-performance sporting cars, as the final second-generation example of the mid-engine Acura NSX Type S was completed this week at the Honda-operated Performance Manufacturing Center in Marysville, Ohio, where Honda has a major U.S. production presence. The last of the hybrid-electric mid-engine supercars, bearing serial number 350 out of 350 units in the production run, was finished in Gotham Gray and closed out a build cycle that dated to 2016.
That’s an instant collectible if one ever existed. As to the PMC in Marysville, it’s already underway on its next job, the assembly and rollout of the limited-run 2023 Acura TLX Type S PMC Edition. To be offered in three NSX-exclusive colors, reservations for the first two series, in Curva Red and 130R White, were booked solid within minutes after being announced. Total production of the PMC Edition will be limited to 100 units in each color.
One of the world’s truly great automotive happenings, The Amelia pays equal tribute to cars for the road and the speedway, along with the people who make them notable. Seminars with the luminaries of global motorsport are a standard part of every concours weekend at The Amelia. With next year’s event set for March 2nd through 5th, 2023, The Amelia was looking for a different kind of racing hero to salute, and it settled on Jeff Gordon, the NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee and current vice chairman of Hendrick Motorsports. As the Amelia’s 2023 honoree, Gordon’s seminar will be conducted by another NASCAR hall of famer, the former crew chief and team owner Ray Evernham, a frequent Amelia visitor who, as Gordon’s longtime crew chief, marshaled him to multiple titles in the NASCAR Cup Series.
This image from Hagerty, which now conducts The Amelia, shows the NASCAR legend in his element, figuring out how to make race cars go fast. Besides gorgeous concours cars in multiple categories, The Amelia will also feature a premium sale of desirable automobiles by its new auction partner, Broad Arrow Auctions, which is in the early stages of lining vehicles up for the sale. Gordon joins a long list of racing greats to be designated as The Amelia’s honoree, a list that runs from Roger Penske to the late Sir Stirling Moss.
Especially in Florida, this is a very big deal: You won’t wait long around here before you encounter a news report about some doofus facing criminal charges because he or she left a child or pet unattended in the sun-blasted interior of a parked car. It’s the kind of stupidity or carelessness that can get somebody killed. Last week, Hyundai marked an oft-overlooked milestone in its own quest to improve occupant safety in its vehicles by meeting its voluntary goal to install rear-seat occupant protection, which it calls Rear Occupant Alert, as standard equipment in the bulk of its U.S. model lineup.
Upon engine shutdown, an ROA-fitted Hyundai kicks out a digital warning at the front of the instrument display warning drivers to check the rear seat before exiting the vehicle. The ROA system is standard across all U.S. Hyundai models except for the NEXO. A more advanced, ultrasonic version of the ROA system is standard equipment in the Santa Fe range and optionally offered across other Hyundai model lines, with the goal of preventing pediatic or veterinary heat stroke for those who ride in back. This deserves positive recognition.
We just marked Veterans Day – remember, it always falls on the day of, not the following Monday – which salutes the patriotism and sacrifice of the millions who have proudly worn the uniform of the United States. We shouldn’t be grateful to veterans just one day a year, a notion that Jeep is advancing by extending its incentive to veterans through the end of this month.
Jeep’s deal is to offer new or recently retired members of the U.S. armed forces a special $1,000 military cash bonus on each copy of the Wrangler or Gladiator optioned with the limited-edition, military-themed Freedom appearance package through November. The Freedom package includes both external and interior visual cues that people who served are certain to enjoy. With each Freedom-fitted Jeep sold, the manufacturer will make a $250 donation to support charities that serve the people who’ve served us so proudly.