(Last) Weekly Roundup: Chrome Camry Edition

Let’s all laugh at the Chrome Camry, this jumped-up Kentucky prole-mobile with toothy delusions of grandeur. Let’s all take a moment to chuckle at the idea that this could be an upscale car in other markets. The idea that one would pay extra to ride in it, as was probably the case with this particular Camry spotted by me on the way back from yet another McDonald’s lunch in yet another foreign country. Isn’t that hilarious?

It’s definitely hilarious, as long as you don’t think too much or too hard.

During my time working at Honda Marysville, the plant developed a separate-and-unequal paint process for Asian-and-Middle-Eastern-bound Accords. The line would be stopped, a special variant of white paint would be loaded, the cars would be run through as a group, and then they would be sent to a special inspection line. You see, Hondas destined for North American consumption will not be “failed” for paint defects below the middle of the door. Americans (and Canadians) are too tall and too undiscerning.

The Accords driven in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and elsewhere, however, receive special scrutiny both above and below that Mason-Dixon door line, plus a special paint-correction process where necessary. As a result, they’re shinier and nicer-looking. The paint on that chrome Camry shone in such a way that made me suspect a similar process in Georgetown, where the Camry is usually built. Or maybe this one is a Japanese Camry, which as I recall is run on the same line as the Lexus ES and can therefore be painted with the same additional attention to detail.

A Camry with special paint and upgraded interior and additional brightwork is still a Camry, of course. It’s definitely not a luxury car. Unless it’s a Lexus, which is definitely a luxury car. The Mercedes 240D sedans which littered the suburbs of my childhood had vinyl seats and roll-up windows but they were absolutely luxury cars in the United States, even if they were just taxicabs back home in Germany.

As the auto world moves towards common platforms and shared engineering we are going to see a lot more situations where generally similar automobiles are targeted at vastly different buyers through cosmetic or stylistic flourishes. Consider, if you will, that the Bentayga, Urus, Cayenne, and Q7 are all basically the same vehicle under the skin. So you can spend $53,500 on a base Q7, or you can spend $300k on a loaded Bentayga. This makes the spread in the Sloan Plan between an Impala and a Fleetwood Talisman look like the proverbial small potatoes.

It also makes the Chrome Camry seem like a pretty honest device. It’s a Camry with more chrome. You have a pretty good idea what you’re getting for the money, unlike the mark who buys a Urus or a Bentayga. Who’s laughing now?

* * *

For Hagerty, I covered the changes to the Cadillac XT5, drove the slightly larger version of that car, and griped about 0-60.

Brother Bark wrote about leftover deals on new cars.

This isn’t something we’ve done before in a Weekly Roundup, but it’s my site so I can break the rules. Last week marked the Hagerty debut of some fellow named Patrick Bedard. It would be difficult for me to overstate my satisfaction in finding him and getting him on board. In a perfect world, I would have Setright and Baxter writing for me as well. They’re long gone from this earth but the twelve-year-old C/D reader in me is absolutely thrilled to have brought Patrick back into the game. How many people can say they “rediscovered” a childhood hero?

49 Replies to “(Last) Weekly Roundup: Chrome Camry Edition”

  1. AvatarShrug

    My most recent purchase was a leftover. Found a 2018 Mustang GT Premium with a stick that had been sitting on my local Ford dealer’s lot for about a year. Walked out with it for a tick under $30k out the door. Best purchase I’ve ever made.

    Reply
  2. AvatarDavid Florida

    Having searched the web for new work repeatedly since he left C/D, I can only say that the addition of Patrick Bedard means that should we ever meet I owe you two drinks, Jack.

    Reply
  3. AvatarFred Lee

    My last couple cars have been last-model-year specials. I bought my 2017 Focus RS for just over invoice, while 2018s were still going for well over MSRP. I flew about 2000 miles to do it, but honestly I think a 2-day marathon road trip is a great way to get to know your new car.

    More recently I bought a 2018 Nissan Leaf for about $10K off MSRP. Leafs of course depreciate by that much or more in their first year, but after $10K off retail and $10K in rebates, I wound up with a very nice 150-mile EV beater for $18K. I’d guess I could sell it today for more than that.

    But what I’m really waiting for are the Corvettes. I’m hopeful the C7s will get even better pricing as the year progresses. 20% off MSRP is easy right now. If the base hits $40K, Grandsport hits $50K, or ZO6 hits $60K I’m probably a buyer of any of those three at that level.

    Reply
    • AvatarFred Lee

      Oh, I forgot the 2007 (I think? Maybe 2008?) Chevy 3500. Crewcab, Long bed 4WD, Diesel, fully loaded that I found when everyone thought GM was going bankrupt. It was a previous model year to boot, and if I remember correctly stickered for mid-high 50s. The dealer was happy to let it go for high 30s, and even happier to pay me over KBB for my Mazda6 trade-in.

      I think at that time, used cars were selling a lot better than big trucks.

      Reply
  4. AvatarHarry

    When looking on cars.com for a new old stock car, and there is 2017 model year listed at MSRP, is that a red flag to not even bother calling, or is it just laziness about updating the ad?

    Reply
  5. Avatarrambo furum

    The Camry of today objectively would be ultraluxury if transported to the 70’s or 80’s and the 240D spartan compared to all but the lowliest of economy cars.
    The “perception” of branding is another thing altogether. The gullibility of many for those baubles springs almost eternally.

    Reply
    • AvatarJohn C.

      This really is nothing new, if now perpetrated by our Japanese friends with their designed for America cars. Remember when it was Darts, Valiants, and Larks in places like South Africa and Spain marketed as luxury vehicles. Why not with the big enough engines and roomy interiors, compared some kit made last generation Renault or Fiat otherwise available in those markets and the inherent 1 liter engines, a Valiant sure would have seemed sturdy and smooth.

      Reply
  6. AvatarJohn C.

    On the great Bedard piece. Interesting that in maturity Bedard can point to so many of the little things that Jaguar did so well all those years ago that made it such a standout of the day even beyond the styling. I happened a few days ago to reread his piece from the January 1976 issue on the then new Jaguar XJS. Instead of all the hidden genius in a car that remember lasted over 20 years with it’s best sales at the end of the line after word of mouth from owners told of it’s specialness. Bedard instead just gave the usual anti British strikes against it, followed by isn’t it dated to have a V12 or go 140mph after the oil embargo. You would think he could have worked up a little enthusiasm for the last car influenced by Lyons or how exciting it was that Jaguar was out there with something new in a difficult environment for cars with breeding. No, in the day Bedard was a reliable writer that stuck to the talking points.

    Reply
    • AvatarCJinSD

      People hated the English ’68 Charger when it attempted to replace the E-type. It wasn’t remotely as special as the E-type seemed fifteen years earlier, but it was built much worse. They sold at the end because the economy was booming, fuel supply had been stable for years, and they were essentially neoclassics sold to gaudy old people instead of sports cars sold to sexy young sharps. Nobody needed talking points to reject the XJ-S in the mid-’70s.

      It is funny to learn that Patrick Bedard likes an old car. This is the guy that didn’t seem like he could care any less about being reunited with the Mazda RX3 and Ford Pinto that he drove in Reader Beater competitions. He usually is a combination of the racer’s lack of nostalgia with obsolete tools and a bit of bitterness over how his racing career ended. He’s one of the great automotive writers and a fascinating man though, and I’m glad he’s writing for Hagerty.

      Reply
      • AvatarJohn C.

        I didn’t know the British did a fake Charger, I do remember Sunbeam doing the 67 Barracuda, but by then they were slaves/money pit of Chrysler.

        You may have a good point about the racers disdain for obsolete tools. Remember when that attitude nearly killed the Corvette circa 74 with dreams of mid engine rotaries subtracting a few tenths off lap times and showing the seriousness that somehow was not earned with the 65 additions of irs and discs. Lucky that folly was avoided by high sales of the traditional offering. Somehow, I fear we are about to repeat with the upcoming mid engine Corvette. Perhaps racers should be careful about what they declare obsolete because without heritage they will soon enough be left with nothing.

        Reply
          • AvatarCJinSD

            How many are they going to make for 2020? That anyone let a GM PR flack make this meaningless statement without asking the obvious follow-up question is pathetic. Was it 30,000 orders? 40,000 orders? 3,000?

          • AvatarCarmine

            Whatever number it is, you’re just going to shit on it anyway, so you find out…….

  7. AvatarJohn C.

    On the 0-60 piece. Jack zigged where I was expecting a zag. I too am coming around to 0-60 times are not meaningful any more. Jack’s argument is completely different than mine talking up the speed possibilities of used Japanese superbikes. Instead I would put forward that once you get under 5 seconds to 60, which a very long list of cars can do, you are really talking about more launch control electronics trying to get a some sliver of the bizarre amount of horsepower to the road rather than a meaningful measure of road ready, useable horsepower possible on public roads. Probably inevitable when everything has more than enough and one is left trying to fit the new situation into the old paradigm. What does Mr. Musk call the Tesla go fast mode, Ludicrous?

    Reply
  8. AvatarCJinSD

    0-60 may not seem important, but elapsed time has won roughly 100% of races while trap speed is a footnote. Sure, you can make assumptions about power to weight and total drag based on trap speed, but that’s it. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the NHRA or Formula 1.

    Reply
  9. AvatarSteve Ulfelder

    Pat Bedard? Now THAT’S cool. In C/D’s glory years, I always read his column first, then letters to the ed, then the TOC to see if PJ O’Rourke was in the issue.

    Reply
  10. AvatarJustPassinThru

    I remember Bedard writing about his purchase of that Jag. It was 1979 or 1980, and he was remarking on how in 1966, the year it was made…safety stickers were unknown and real-wood steering wheels were what separated gentlemen from clots.

    He talked briefly of how he had to learn the hard way, on an Ohio Interstate rest area, that you had to give the shift lever a decided >smack< to get it past the safety detent. No instructions, much less a shift pattern, offered. Nor was it in the Jaguar Driver's Handbook – real drivers just know those things.

    Interesting that that story got taken the whole way to fruition. And that Bedard outlasted Setright, Weith, Baxter, Mandel senior…and without selling out, as did Ceppos.

    Remarkable writer and personality. Interesting, too, that when he appeared as a young engineer-turned-writer at C/D, he was a pudgy kid. Who became a lanky senior citizen, and this after surviving a number of rolls, including an Indianapolis Speedway crash-victim.

    Reply
  11. Avatar-Nate

    I’d be well pleased if any new vehicle came with the quality of the Glasurit white paint ion my battered but un bowed 1981 Mercedes 240D stripper…..

    (looks out the window at it) .

    No cherry but dead nuts reliable and as i was thinking about waxing it soon a guy stopped me yesterday and said how nice it looked and sounded .

    I wonder if the cheaper cars you alls distain so much would sell better of they had shiny paint instead of the orange peel crap all new cars seem to have ? .

    -Nate

    Reply
    • AvatarNostrathomas

      Speaking of paint, I happened to be at the Mercedes dealership last week helping my dad test out a new Sprinter. Having arrived early, I was looking around the showroom, and apart from the overdone styling and melting faces of much of their cars, the one thing that jumped out was the noticeably bad orange peel across the entire lineup. And we’re not just talking a cargo Sprinter or me-too CLA. It was just as bad on the $150K+ S-class coupe. I know much of this is mandated due to environmental regs, but woof.

      On the way out an old W126 pulled in. Slightly weathered, but that thing still had more elegance and gravitas than anything inside.

      Reply
      • AvatarCarmine

        Same here, I was looking at a new black GLABLTQTG 456 or something and it had enough orange peel to keep the Tropicana Orange Juice factory open……..

        Reply
        • Avatar-Nate

          Sad, isn’t it ? .

          The last vehicle I had painted, the guy said ‘oh by the way ~ I only use single stage Acrylic Enamels, I hope you don’t mind’

          No, of _course_ not ~ two stage paints are shyte for lazy and incompetent painters .

          -Nate

          Reply
          • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

            They may not be the same skills, but having sprayed a fair amount of two stage metallics as a refinish tech in a DuPont lab, properly applying two-stage and three-stage paints probably require just as much skill as single stage enamels. In any case, the polyurethane based clearcoat on modern cars will keep it’s gloss and hardness long after that acrylic enamel has oxidized in the sun.

          • Avatar-Nate

            Wrong but why waste time with facts, right ? .

            Clear coats begin to peel after 5 years or so, I’m still waxing 40 + year old Acrylic Enamel paint jobs, cheap ones as well as the better quality ones .

            The two stage allows you to lay down a crappy base coat then hide it under the clear .

            -Nate

  12. AvatarPaul M.

    If memory serves, Patrick Bedard tried his luck at Indy 500. First lap, he couldn’t handle it. The car swung wide, and he crashed. He would not be one I recommend using as a reference for anything driving at 10/10th. All Patrick Bedard proved, is journalists don’t make good race drivers. They talk the talk, but can’t walk the …

    Reply
    • AvatarJustPassinThru

      First, Bedard was an engineer. Out of university, he went to work for Chrysler. In the Townsend-era internal panic, a whole phalanx of engineers were furloughed. Bedard had only worked there a few years at that point.

      He later wrote how disgusted he was, that they’d cut PRODUCT people when their products were not selling. So he was uninterested in returning.

      I forget how he drifted into C/D, but it took some years and he had a bit of a learning curve. I first started reading C/D in my school library in 1973. Later, 1978 or so, I subscribed. Bedard was slowly burnishing his wordsmithing talent.

      He also wrote about his fascination with Indy, many years before actually trying it. He was familiar with dirt-track racing; he’d been part of a family team in Iowa; but he wanted to try the big time. And…part luck and part lack-of-skill, he managed to pile up.

      Usually, one is all it takes to drain the enthusiasm. True of David E. Davis, who at the same time, was saying he never wanted to try a race again, after his 1950s wreck. Later true of Bedard, who finished his career at C/D in gentlemanly fashion.

      Reply
    • AvatarCJinSD

      Memory doesn’t serve. Bedard qualified for the Indy 500 twice, and ahead of guys like Emmerson Fittipaldi, A.J. Foyt, and Danny Ongais. He completed a total of 80 laps between 1983 and 1984. He also won quite a bit in sedans. You not recommending someone would appear to be an endorsement in actuality.

      Reply
      • AvatarPaul M.

        Here is link to accident:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXxr-cRBjL0

        Also, he finished 30th twice.

        I remember reading him in Car and Driver sing praises of junk Buick Regal. He would talk about its smooth steering, even though no one could get the alignment correct. The accident should speak to itself, the rest is just words.

        Reply
        • AvatarCJinSD

          I’ve been watching auto racing for more than forty years. I’ve seen plenty of men crash ill-handling cars in that time. None of those crashes has inspired me to want to make a fool of myself in print thirty-five years after the fact.

          Reply
        • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

          So, having a bad crash makes someone a bad racecar driver?

          That would make Jim Clark, Ken Miles, Mark Donohue, and Ayrton Senna bad drivers.

          Reply
  13. AvatarJeff S

    I’ve personally run my blackbird down the drag strip hitting 11.1 @ 133 mph. Giving up about a second to the pros. Still, I can’t wipe the smile off my face.

    Reply
  14. AvatarCrancast

    The Hagerty feature writers need their own section, to be pinned up top, or something to be highlighted from news rewrites and auto-stock-market/insurance pieces. I have been checking Hagerty more regularly but totally missed Bedard without your note here. Fantastic get, but how will anyone find his work a week later buried 4 pages deep? Search and commenting need help also as has been mentioned by others.

    Comment catchup.

    * A super affordable FWD small truck will not be the vehicle to bring the ‘yutes’ back. It will be the next Honda Element, an active retiree beater, and it will sell very well. A Chevy Nomad body style with Ford Probe FWD styling / performance and a Jeep Wrangler soft top over the back that can be optioned/customized to individual tastes. Practical, not too practical – It is close to a FWD truck but not. Not an SUV that their parents hauled them around in (minivan effect) and are everywhere. Sporty enough. And doesn’t matter, a ‘yute-catcher’ is not gonna happen, lack of interest both ways.

    * Crossfire was an hour long bit show years go. Now it’s 4-5 networks against one, all strictly staying to their deeply entrenched story line. The Republicans used to have a Tea Party and Religious Right problem, but Trump being Trump that never gets mentioned now since he’s ratings gold on both sides. The Democrats clearly have a Squad and Liberal Left problem, but again Trump being Trump the story line is racist Trump and racist Republicans, those who do not tweet out against Trumps unorthodox attacks. And come general election time, the Democrats will still have a Squad and Liberal Left problem in the states that matter.

    * The Wall. Medicare for all. Foreign Policy. Much like abortion as a dividing topic along party lines in years past, those and nearly every other buzz topic will matter little when moving those in the middle.. It is the economy, STUPID. Overstated? Relative to coverage? Nope. Which Presidential candidate has the most traditional, mainstream Democratic approach to the economy? Debatable. Among the front runners? He’s not a Democrat.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      There are changes coming to the site to produce exactly that effect… making it easy to track writers.

      Reply
      • AvatarCrancast

        Figured you had something in work. Perhaps in the short term repurposing the ‘Popular’ filter? Focusing the development on the changes vs. tweak /repurpose, probably no point.

        Reply
  15. AvatarJeff S

    You found Bedard!? Growing up Bedard made me think and Phillips made me laugh. And I could not pronounce Csaba Csere until the invention of youtube.

    I don’t think its an overstatement to say that you have single handedly turned Hagerty around.

    Reply
    • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

      I’m obviously biased on the topic, but I’d like to think that the writers Jack has brought on have also had something to do with the site’s growing success.

      Reply
  16. AvatarAthos

    Isn’t that hilarious? Would you laugh harder if I told you that in my previous life a Corolla was marketed as an aspiration and premium vehicle? And after people couldn’t afford a Camry anymore (few actually could), it was proper “luxury”. I told that story in this new life, and the person listening to me almost sprayed its drink on the windscreen. I’m pretty familiar with this, but most people in the 1st world hasn’t got a clue on the workings of the industry in less fortunate parts of the globe.

    Back to the chrome fridge in your picture… that’s a facelift on the PREVIOUS gen Camry, like the one you tested on track and not the current TNGA based car. It may be even be built using the tooling from the factory they closed here.

    Regarding the Accords, on top of the better paint, I reckon they also tossed in there some more content: sound deadening, stronger cooling system and AC. Not talking hundred of $$$ here but single or double digit tops. Have I worked in that plant, I would have either grabbed a build sheet from one of the operators or gone straight into the system to see how they were configured.

    Reply
  17. AvatarRonnie Schreiber

    When I worked at DuPont, which supplied Honda’s Marysville operations with paint, there was some kind of contamination issue that resulted in many cars coming out of the paint shop with “fisheye” defects, that look like a hole in the topcoat through to the primer. I think it was about a thousand cars that had the issue. Rather than sand and respray the entire cars or even try to do spot repair, the solution the two companies came up with was to use syringes to inject a tiny amount of basecoat and then clear into each of the flaws.

    If it was the guitar industry, maybe they’d crush them instead. Yes, I know there were probably accounting reasons for destroying the Firebird Xs, but Gibson missed an opportunity for some good publicity by donating them – there are charities that distribute musical instruments to kids who need them.

    Reply
    • Avatardejal

      My bet is because of the shear # of guitars they had a fear the guitars would have ended up on the secondary market at a deeply discounted price. Those would have competed with their flawless ones.

      Also, guitar shops may also have had those same ideas.

      I would have branded into the body on the front and on the neck, “Cosmetically flawed, donated for educational purposes to schools” so deep that attempting to cover it over would destroy its’ functionality .

      Reply
  18. AvatarRonnie Schreiber

    even if they were just taxicabs back home in Germany.

    My first ride in a Mercedes-Benz was in a shared red 240D taxi in Israel. I distinctly remember the driver reading and commenting on the newspaper the front passenger was reading as he drove. It’s also where I learned the Hebrew curse couplet, “Ben zonah, y’mach shimcha,” [son of a whore, may your name be erased], from the driver’s reaction to others on the road.

    Reply
  19. AvatarRonnie Schreiber

    As the auto world moves towards common platforms and shared engineering we are going to see a lot more situations where generally similar automobiles are targeted at vastly different buyers through cosmetic or stylistic flourishes.

    My cousin, who lives in Los Angeles, indignantly protested when I told her that her “Porsh Macan” was pretty much an Audi Q5 with a different motor. I didn’t have the heart to show her the four ring Audi logo on the front end parts (which you can see without crawling under the car because the trick suspension has a ball joint cantilevered over the tire).

    While I was shooting video of the cars leaving the show field of the Concours of America, the new Rolls Royce Cullinan just happened to follow a Bentayga. The Cullinan is massive, but it’s actually rather attractive, I think, contrasting with the absolutely hideous Bentayga, a turnaround from when the original BMW R-R Phantom was vulgar and nowhere near as attractive as VW’s Bentleys.

    Reply
  20. AvatarDaniel J

    I really liked Mark’s article.

    I was looking at a regal sportback essence last year but dealers in the area had limited and wanted too much for them. The same with the TourX. I couldn’t see spending more on the Buick when some of the competition had more features. All the add-ons GM/Buick had were ridiculous. LED headlights and other items were like 4k added on. Ended up with a Mazda 6 Reserve which had more features and costed less.

    I will say IMHO the TourX wagon drives much better than an outback without losing much in cargo.

    Reply
  21. Avatargtem

    On the Russian used market where Camrys are very well loved for their durability (I have a cousin in Biysk with an original Russian-market ’02 with an honest-to-god 1M KM on it), among the grey-market imports, the American cars are known for their spartan and basic interiors. The European-market K platform cars (’02 and up) all came with basically an XLE-minus-leather grade trim and up. That general rule of thumb continues to the present day, where the XV50/55 cars have interiors that are somewhere inbetween our XLE and a Lexus ES300, more expensive headlight/taillight design, optitron gauges as standard. They are also vastly more expensive, thing ES300 prices. In general, instead of the staid Wonderbread image they have here, in Russia they are in a segment called “business class.” And instead of the slow plodding old people sitting in the left lane in their baby blue LE-V6 that they idle along in, from what I’ve observed on highways in Siberia, Russian Camry drivers are on the more aggressive side of the scale (think BMW drivers).

    Reply

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