(Last) Weekly Roundup: Crash Into Me Edition

If you read the Hagerty website everyday:

0. thank you, thank you, thank God for you, the wind beneath my wings
1. You’ll have already seen that we rolled a vintage Tatra T87 at NCM Motorsports Park.

“We”, in this case, means my Editor-At-Large and boon companion, Sam Smith, who rose with the Nashville dawn and had the Tatra on its side before I made it completely through my habitual morning run to the McDonald’s down the street from the Corvette Museum. Sam’s call to me had the unmistakable tone of someone who expects to be keelhauled for his actions, and perhaps rightly so: isn’t your humble author the fellow who has made a habit out of calling out the industry’s most overprivileged mistakes, from the time Aaron Gold somehow managed to knock the nose off a Camaro ZL1 at about 30mph to the recent incident of buffoonery from some buffoon who, after a year or so of riding an Indian motorcycle provided to him at no charge, promptly managed to crash the same model of Indian motorcycle into a rock at the speed of the brisk run with which he is probably entirely unfamiliar?

The crashing of cars is an apparently unavoidable part of automotive journalism, particularly at the magazines. One of the more prominent rags has destroyed so many cars in recent years, including a $500,000 carbon-fiber specialty Porsche, that they are supposedly no longer allowed to have their writers on any kind of racetrack whatsoever, being forced instead to use a “hired gun” for any closed-course work at above school-zone speeds. I’m not immune from this, having managed to harm two press vehicles. The first incident happened when I drove a kit car out onto a racetrack (GingerMan) that still had ice in its banked first turn; the car basically slid down the bank at about 15mph and shattered the lower part of the fiberglass nose against the “chiclet” curb. The second bashup happened when I used a compact crossover to push an old Chevy van across a parking lot; the collision-warning system, activated, the crossover slowed, the blanket I’d placed between the bumpers slid off, and the nose got scratched when I recontacted the van.

In Sam’s case, however, the Tatra rollover wasn’t due to laziness, lack of talent, bad luck, or even just plain not giving a damn. It was part of a test to see… well… what it would take to make the car roll over. We didn’t actually want to roll the Tatra, but we knew it was a possibility, and so did the car’s owner. I’d argue that there are certain times it’s totally fine to damage a press car — but there’s a certain litmus test that needs to be applied in order to determine whether now is one of those times.

Let’s start with this: there is driving a car, and there is testing a car. The majority of manufacturer-sponsored interaction with new cars is nothing but driving. You’re given an example of the car (or motorcycle), you drive it, and you report your impressions of the vehicle to your readers. Every mommyblogger experience is a drive, every European vacation masquerading as a new-car introduction is a drive. What’s less obvious is that all the coned-off, instructor-provided, stability-control-on track events for new cars are also just drives.

The purpose of a drive is to give you an idea of how the car behaves in general-purpose, light-duty use. There’s nothing wrong with drives. Most of the time that’s all you can get.

Okay, so what’s a test? A test is any time you are actively determining the limits of a vehicle. Obviously a timed racetrack session using a skilled driver is a test, but towing a serious load or hauling a serious payload with a truck is also a test. If the car is making unpleasant mechanical noises, and you expected them, it’s probably a test. If you are knowingly driving the car at the limit of its handling or braking, with the intent of reporting the car’s behavior to the reader, that’s a test. (Absent the reporting to the reader, you’re just joyriding.) The suite of instrumented results found in some car magazines, if it is done with ethical attention to detail, is obviously the outcome of a test.

One of my readers told me that his younger son reads this website, so I’ll paraphrase the old slogan a bit: “Every zoo is a petting zoo, if you aren’t a coward.” Well, every drive can be a test, if you aren’t stymied by a sense of decency and/or humanity. In my late thirties and early forties, I was a bit notorious for testing during drives, occasionally producing violent nausea and/or panic attacks in my co-drivers. When the second-generation SRT-8 came out, I had a co-driver at the intro event who told me, “I’ve never been scared in a car, go as fast as you want, I just don’t have that fear in my blood.” As my readers know, I tend to take people at their word. The second or third time I approached a coastal corner of California Highway 1 at over 140mph, he said, in this oddly controlled voice, “I have a family and I want to live to see them, please please please stop and let me out.”

“You can drive if you like,” I said.

“What I’d like best,” he responded, “would be if we could just stop the car and sit until my hands stop shaking, then I’d like to drive right to the hotel and be done with the day.”

When I took my current job, it was explained to me that I would be setting the example for my writers to follow, so as a result I have adjusted my behavior to suit and I no longer drive on public roads with anything like that kind of energy. If one of my writers crashed a car or motorcycle due to inattention, carelessness, or an arrogant belief that they are better drivers or riders than is truly the case, I would discipline them to the limit of my corporate ability. To use a currently popular phrase, that’s not who we are.

Sam’s rollover, on the other hand, occurred under controlled conditions, on a private parking lot, overseen by the car’s owner and a technician assigned to the car. A change made to tire pressure caused the Tatra to go from “lifting a wheel” to “rubbing a doorhandle” at more or less the same speed in a cone-defined corner. The purpose of his test was to determine if the Tatra was truly as rollover-prone as history would have us believe. Well, now we know.

This sort of thing is important, and not just because it makes for great photos. There is always value to be had in confirming or disproving conventional wisdom or historical recollection, because it helps us truly understand history better than we would otherwise. Sam’s article discusses the story, widely told in certain circles, that Tatras were notorious for killing German officers during the Second World War. According to this story, “the Nazis” eventually forbade their officers from using Tatras.

Is this true? Probably not the way it’s told. There’s precisely one photo out there that claims to show SS officers with a Tatra staff car; if “hundreds of Nazis” had confiscated them, we’d have a lot more photos available, as we do for Mercedes-Benzes, KdF-wagens, and other vehicles. The SS itself didn’t have hundreds of officers in Czecho or anywhere else until the Waffen-SS got up to strength after the “Phony War”; those officers were in the trenches with their soldiers, not sporting around Eastern Europe in luxury cars.

It’s more likely that the idea of “killer Tatras” was spread as part of Communist propaganda lionizing the Czech Resistance after the war. It’s a fun story and it makes people happy to hear it; like most “tales of the Resistance” from WW2, it helps in some way to promote the comforting myth that there was widespread, wholehearted, and effective resistance to German occupation. No doubt there were plenty of people in Czechoslovakia after 1948 who wished their Soviet komissars would take a fast ride in a slow Tatra.

Sam’s test strongly indicates that Tatras were, in fact, inherently roll-prone, but also suggests that this tendency was ameliorated somewhat by the low-grip, bias-ply tires of the day. We learned something from it. We understand history a tiny bit better. The litmus test of increasing our understanding has been satisfied. It’s a nice article, and deserves your attention. We have two more episodes of “The Death Eaters” coming your way; I will spoil them a tiny bit and say that we didn’t roll anything else. I did, however, manage to spin a Renault Clio V6 a few times. What’s my excuse? Well, I was testing!

* * *

Last week, for Hagerty, I took aim at the politicization of pickup-truck ownership.

53 Replies to “(Last) Weekly Roundup: Crash Into Me Edition”

  1. Tomko

    Csaba Csere cried.

    Bradley Bronwell shrugged.

    Amanda Korendyke ovulated.

    Dutch Mandel’s shoe is pregnant.

  2. Newbie Jeff

    “One of the more prominent rags has destroyed so many cars in recent years, including a $500,000 carbon-fiber specialty Porsche, that they are supposedly no longer allowed to have their writers on any kind of racetrack whatsoever, being forced instead to use a “hired gun” for any closed-course work at above school-zone speeds”

    Without a doubt in my mind, the publication is MotorTrend. I’m not an automotive journalism insider, and most likely Jack will be unable to confirm nor deny, but make no mistake… it’s MT.

    • Disinterested-Observer

      One thing I have learned/realized as a long time reader of the Baruths is just how loathsome the vast, and I mean vast, majority of automotive “journalists” are.

      I look at it like this: if a video game reviewer is corrupt and gives some shit game 11/10 stars! I might be out as much as $60; if the obviously corrupt 87 journalists who decide who wins the Golden Globes I might waste two hours of my life watching some boring period piece (doubtful, but roll with it); on the other hand, automotive writers accept free cars and junkets in exchange for invariably praising the product, and only ever criticize products that are already on their way out.

      For the low information buyer, say a single parent who has neither the time nor inclination to look into the quality and safety of the five or so cars they can barely afford and then compare them, reading a positive review from a so-called expert in a major newspaper (or MT) might sway them to drop thousands of dollars on a dangerous, poorly made shitbox.

      • Daniel J

        0. Well, someone buying that type of car is probably buying used. If that’s the case, a 5 year old review from an auto rag doesn’t mean a whole lot in buying a 5 year old used Camry or Accord, for example.
        1. If they are buying new, most car being sold today, except a few outliers, are pretty good cars. New car reviews aren’t going to have any information on reliability.

        I occasionally read Car and Driver. I haven’t read Motor Trend in years, especially when they went to doing more video and lifestyle type reviews.

        • CJinSD

          0. People reading car magazines at purchase time are likely to be new car buyers, and the ‘enthusiast’
          car magazine readers end up with worse cars than the consumer magazine readers.
          1. If you think cars have suddenly gotten semi-uniformly good in the last five years, there is probably no end to what you will believe. At this point it is as misplaced a belief as that we are 13 years from ecological collapse for the 53rd consecutive year.

          • Daniel J

            I’ve test driven 20+ brand new cars from 2018 to 2020. All of them were competent cars or SUVs. I believe what I’ve driven. Again, I did say there were exceptions. Mitsubishi comes to mind. Even as much as the Altima is hated, the midlevel trim I test drove was competent. I’d take it over the 2020 Toyota RAV4 hybrid I test drove. The atkinson engine was awful and the interior just felt cheap, but more than competent for what it was designed for.

            As far as enthusiast bias goes, this really depends on what type of car is getting reviewed, who is doing the review, and the automobile magazine. I know over the last 10 years Car and Driver has put enthusiast to the backseat in most sedan and SUV reviews. I remember a few years ago a few of the auto magazines loved the CX-9 over how much better it handled and how quiet it was compared to the competition. If everyone was reading these reviews were uninformed and basing decisions on these magazines, then why was this SUV typically down on the list in sales? The simple fact is that it’s small compared to it’s competition and at the time, it’s infotainment was a generation behind.

            Putting it bluntly, the uninformed aren’t reading enthusiast car magazines. The general buying public is reading Consumer Reports or CNET or something that reviews cars as appliances. They are not reading Road and Track or Car and Driver.

          • CJinSD

            You call people who read consumer magazines before making new car purchases uninformed, but the alternative is being misinformed by the car magazines. I’m not suggesting there are dangerous new cars on the market today, but there are still cars that can bite you financially and not serve you reliably. My friend’s independent shop only sees new cars with problems once their owners have given up on getting satisfaction from the dealers, and he is seeing more fatally-flawed new cars now then at any other time in his thirty-year career. They aren’t all 1.5 liter turbocharged GM Malibus and Equinoxes with imploded and ingested vacuum pumps or Audis that overheat within seconds of turning off their heaters on forty-degree days either. Pretty much anything ‘optimized’ for the ever-tightening CAFE noose is a good candidate for problems that cause field reps to stop returning phone calls.

          • Disinterested-Observer

            I am not only talking about enthusiast magazines, I am talking about newspapers and their websites, and bloggers, mommy or otherwise. They are all corrupt as a politician. If you don’t think that does real harm to people then I don’t know what else to say. Maybe our host can get Hagerty to fund a study on how much money people have lost to MotorTrend’s manufacturer who paid us the most money this year Car of the Year.

          • Daniel J


            I didn’t word my thoughts as clear as I want. I didn’t mean to imply those who read Consumer Reports as uninformed. I just meant to say that most of the buying public who want to be more informed is going to go to Consumer Reports than say an enthusiast magazine.

            I think the point I was trying to make is that if a “low information” buyer picks up a newspaper or magazine for a review, are they low information at this point? Chances are, that anybody that is reading a review on a car is going to check out multiple sources and multiple reviews.

            If some buyer picks up the NYT and sees an auto review and goes and buys that vehicle based on that review, that’s on them.

            Sure, if everyone under the sun agrees that a particular car is just the most awesome thing in the world and the car is a turd, then sure, I could see the complaint. I can’t say I’ve ever actually seen this, though.

            In regards to the issues that your friend sees, that sort of information won’t be in a new car review. It might not even be in a long term review, either.

          • Daniel J


            While I tend to agree on principal, can you cite, in the last couple of years, where a new car reviewed by a blog or newspaper was highly rated and was really a turd? I personally hold buyers accountable as there is just so much information cars these days. Reliability isn’t something that can be presented in a new car review, plain and simple. If we only had two or 3 auto rags and maybe a news paper review here or there, I might agree with you more.

            I can go on youtube right now and check out dozens of reviews on the same car. The information is there. Are they all being dishonest?

      • Sigivald

        Poorly made, yes, lots of that around, for various values of the term.

        But dangerous?

        Is any new car in America actually “dangerous” in any realistic sense?

        (Compared with even the safest car on the market in, say, 1990?)

        I don’t think so, though I’m open to correction if there’s some sort of Radically Unsafe Deathtrap being sold now that I’ve just never heard of.

        • Disinterested-Observer

          That is very true. However, as a relatively high information buyer, you are undoubtedly aware of what is and is not tested. If I have two kids I might be more interested in how a given car does in passenger side impacts than how well a car does at protecting the driver and make a decision based on that. Regardless the rags and especially the papers are crooked as Hollis Brown.

    • David Florida

      I have watched and enjoyed their video of Mr. Pobst driving the GT500 at Laguna Seca. Neither confirmed nor denied…

      • Newbie Jeff

        …Pobst is undoubtedly the “hired gun” Jack was talking about. I’m sure I would enjoy meeting Pobst if I ever got the chance. He seems like a nice guy, very enthusiastic about cars… which is refreshing, I get the feeling a lot of pro drivers are either reluctant to show enthusiasm towards a particular make or model, or they generally just don’t care…

        • Eric H

          Pobst is an awesome guy.
          He’s driven our race car twice at Lucy Dog Racing League events.
          Here’s the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHD1nnCcYFg

          He is a bit hard on the car. The first time he killed a transmission. The second time he knocked the alignment out by dropping a tire off the track and hitting a curb.

          • Jack Baruth Post author

            Frankly you’re lucky that’s all he did. I’ve been on three teams with him where he has damaged the car. In one case he killed the car then begged a ride with the team that had been running 2nd place behind us.

          • Eric H

            We did tell him to go drive the hell out of it.
            It was a good test to see how far off the pace our drivers are. Our fastest guy was a second off his lap times at ORP, the rest of us about two.
            Now we know.

          • Jack Baruth Post author

            See, that’s better than my experience, where he typically doesn’t lead the team *and* he damages the car.

          • Eric H

            Someday you’ll have to “Guest Drive” the Fox.
            The motor is apart but going back together soon and the engine will be broken in next month.
            A 2100lb VW Fox with 170whp/190tq is a lot of fun.

  3. Ryan

    A GLS-based pickup would probably sell, which is why you’ll never see them rolling out of Alabama. If it ever happens, I’ll be the first in line.

  4. Dirty Dingus McGee

    Read the article early this morning, kinda figured it wouldn’t have a happy ending. Wasn’t wrong.

    End result reminded me of the escapades of a friend of mine when I was a teen. He had watched another friend with an MGB execute an emergency brake slide to make a rolling left turn at an intersection and was CERTAIN he could do the same in his dad’s mid 50’s VW bug. He got the rolling part down, but not in the way he had hoped. That puppy hoped over just as quick as a blink of the eye. Not sure how he explained it to his dad, but I never did see him drive either of his parents cars for a good long while.

  5. PaulyG

    Reminds me of my favorite Bob Lutz story about his rolling an Opel Kadette after the engineers told him it was not possible.

    • PaulyG

      and of the time in 1968 when a VW Beetle flipped right in front of us on the Schuylkill Expressway in some heavy crosswinds.

      I would say the most impressive sight was my dad getting out of the car to stop traffic on the highway so that he and several other men could rescue the young woman and her infant from the car and then flip the bug right side up again.

  6. KoR

    A Gunther Werks bit the bullet? Shame. Those are very neat looking cars. Given the, like, six people that have driven them, and given which one of those people writes for a household mag, AND given that particular mag’s tendency to lean on one guy to do all of their testing… well I suppose that’s a very easy person to identify. A pity no one has told that story.

  7. John C.

    It is interesting how hazardous pre multilink/strut/twist beam irs was and yet it is is used as some sort of proof of sophistication. I always understood more to do with engine mounting spacing on rear engine cars.

    It is also interesting that it wasn’t attacked as hazardous until there was a deep pocketed political foe for the plaintiff’s bar to target with the Corvair.

  8. ScottS

    Looking at the post rollover pics there is enough Bondo in the left side of the Tatra to bias the weight to one side likely contributing if not causing the roll 🙂

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Exactly! I think that was part of the reason Mr. Lane wasn’t that broken up about the idea of fixing it.

        • Sobro

          All of Jeff Lane’s museum pieces on display are driveable. He also has an annual fundraiser in which normies can caravan to Murfreesboro and back in them. That Tatra may have had an incident at the McDonald’s drive through during one of those events.

          It was probably full of Nazi officers at the time.

  9. -Nate

    My experiences with vintage swing axles was : the rear tires would break away and slide long before they tucked under when fitted with Bias Ply tires, not so much when fitted with radials .

    VW’s and Corvairs .

    God knows I spun more than a few vintage VW’s long before they were considered vintage, when I rolled my VW split window Beetle it was my fault and not the car’s in any way, IIRC it was riding on Bis Ply recaps then .

    By the time I bought a 1961 Corvair base coupe I knew better than to test it’s rear suspension with my skills .

    Good to see no one was hurt ! .

    Suicide doors tend to pop open and eject occupants, being on the low side of this could have been fatal .


    • John C.

      Nate, I am glad you were okay when your VW rolled. Do you think a conventional same size, same period. same tire car would have rolled or just boring, safe, understeer?

    • CJinSD

      My experience with rolling cars is that it isn’t the sliding the saves you from the rollover. It’s the sliding that lets you hit a curb, or a ditch, or gravel, or dirt; which stops the slide and puts you on your roof. This is one reason that stability controls are programmed to make you hit everything head-on.

      • stingray65

        In the good old days of bubble tops, solid steering columns, and missing or unused seat belts, a roll over would collapse the roof and perhaps eject you out opened door, while a head-on collision would send the steering column into the driver’s chest and send the passenger flying through the windshield. Of course you could be minding your own business and driving safely only to have someone rear-end your vehicle and tearing open the the unprotected fuel tank and causing the car to ignite. So many wonderful ways to die or be severely maimed.

          • -Nate

            As CJ mentions, smacking the curb at 70 + MPH was what caused the car to flip, the skinny 5.20X15″ rear tires just made the rollover easier .

            Even old pickups of the period had 6.50 or 7.00 width tires….

            I’ve seen lots of cars hit curbs when sliding, one has to be going quite fast vs. the vehicle’s curb weight to make it flip….

            That was the very last vintage car I failed to drill and install seat belts in .

            We (wife and I) were lucky to survive, it came to rest lying down hill on the driver’s side, I had to get us out via the passenger side door .

            Interestingly, although the passneger side door was badly bent, no glass cracked nor broke .

            This being an early 1953 VW Beetle, it still had the kill-O-matic door latches that didn’t hold the doors shut if the body deformed even a little bit .

            VW dropped those unsafe door latches for the 1956 model year .

            As it turns out, when you lay a VW Van on it’s side and slide it along a dirt of gravel road, if the sliding door windows are open, they’ll scoop up an amazing amount of gravel, dirt, twigs leaves etc. and spray the front seat passengers with same…

            I’ve had several seriously bad frontal impacts in older (pre 1960 when the fuel tank design changed) Beetles and none ever spewed/leaked gasoline nor caught fire .

            Early Beetles were pretty good in collisions as long as nothing hit _you_ ~ then all bets were off .

            I really need to do an engine swap in my ’59 #113 DeLuxe Beetle so I can drive it daily before I get too damn old .


          • -Nate

            OBTW :

            Fiberglass is the primary reason not to build any kit cars ~ my buddy wrecked his ’68 ‘Vette a few times, he said ‘one moment I was driving inside then a big bang and i was outside with confetti falling around me’ .

            Sobering , that .

            Many here will remember the S/B i605 to the E/B i10 freeway interchange, many many wrecked and died there, CalTrans finally closed it and made a modern high speed overpass, the old underpass tunnel is still there, I remember losing friends to that damned incompetently engineered decreasing radius blide curve .

            On that one when you went wide/spun out/slid you’d hit the curb and roll up the concrete embankment under the bridge, those who were going fast enough to get pinched under the bridge at the top, died .

            IIRC Snakpit’s ‘Vette wrecked there twice, once with him driving and once when he let a new girlfriend drive…


    • hank chinaski

      Thank you Nate for another reminder not to build a Beck 550 (or clone).

      Re: AC97
      Was the photo of the NC Club an inside joke, being a class agnostic yet largely valid reason to hate huge pickups?

  10. stingray65

    It would have been fun to do a skidpad comparison between the Tatra and a Bronco II to determine if swing axles in the front (Bronco) or back (Tatra) would kill a Nazi first. I suspect that if the modern overly masculine pickups that Angie Schmitt decries had swing axles and were rolling over and killing their Trump voting Nazi occupants she would be encouraging more families in “flyover” country to buy them and really test them out so that the Democrats don’t need to resort to so much obvious fraud in 2024.

    • John C.

      I think “Twin I Beams” were the best euphemism for we have finally tried to fix the crappy suspension. Though Triumph’s “Swing Spring” has a certain 60s period flare.

  11. Ronnie Schreiber

    I’ve only damaged one press car, a Fiat 500 Abarth. I was a little inattentive on a street that I’ve driven on thousands of times. There’s a short S curve and I clipped a curb, scarring one of the aluminum wheels.

  12. One Leg at a Time

    The Hagerty article and the comment stream were excellent. I was hoping for a little more fisking, but it was a really enjoyable read. I laughed out loud at the “garage sale flyer” font line.

    Two questions (for Jack, or for the commentariat)

    – Does Brand matter, when looking at a pickup truck? I have no preference for any of the five makers. I am leaning toward the Nissan Titan or Ram… Ram(?), due to the fact that those are the least popular in my area, and therefore, the lowest cost.

    – If I have no interest in re-selling (my current two-vehicle ‘fleet’ has an average age of 15 years), do I need to go with the biggest engine? Are the big V6s sufficient for the hauling needs of a person who won’t tow a boat or race car?

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      I think each of the trucks has a brand image that closely reflects reality: Chevrolets are reliable but outdated, Rams are cutting-edge but prone to misbehavior, Fords are the gold standard but not always to everyone’s taste, full-size Toyotas are the red-headed stepchildren of the company lineup that don’t get the care lavished on their SUVs, and Nissans are the bargain-basement trucks that fall apart while the others are still going strong.

      If you’re not going to resell the vehicle and if you’re tolerant of a little repair, I think the V8 Titan is a good bet. They can be had cheaper than the competition and from what I hear are kinda-sorta decent. If you’re not going to resell the vehicle and you’re tolerant of major repairs, the Ram is by far the best truck to drive and operate.

    • stingray65

      The obvious correct answer to what truck should I buy is: “none of the above”. I mean do you really want to run over a child, bicyclist, or automotive journalist with your battering ram front end? Do you really want to destroy the environment with your 15 mpg 20 foot long vehicle that is never going to be used for more than a grocery store run? Furthermore, your purchase will also help destroy the Veblen good aspects of a large prominent vehicle that only the truly rich and important people should be able to afford and show off, and thus make it more difficult for the deplorables to identify the important people whom they should bow down to. Why do you need a vehicle anyway? Are you living in one of those outlaw states that is allowing deplorable types to actually leave their homes and spread Covid germs when they aren’t running down people (especially women and minorities) with their stupid pickups?

    • gtem

      I recently went through this exercise, fairly quickly honed in on half-tons, and mostly the domestic options (have driven 1st gen Titans but not current, which looks decent to be honest).

      GM: newest gen is just too ugly and regressive in more ways than one to even consider IMO. 5.3 is a relative fuel miser (although they lost an MPG due to that stupid blocky front end on the new gen), but it’s very softly tuned from the factory to achieve that impressive real world mpg. If you can get past the ugly exterior and cheap interior, I guess they have a somewhat tried and true powertrain to offer.

      F150: I test drove a 2020 truck, not this newest gen. Typical XLT 2.7EB 4WD Supercrew +302A or whatever popular equipment package, listed for $41k-ish. 2.7 pulls like a freight train once it gets past the initial bit of lag/delay from the turbos/transmission/whatever. Impressive but that bit of delay, as well as the un-interesting noises from the engine kind of put a damper on my enthusiasm for the power it put down. Wife and I didn’t care for the interior. For whatever reason we could not get the rear of the cab to cool down on our ~15 minute test drive, could not get the HVAC to blow from the rear vents in the console no matter the setting(?). Rode like you would expect a leaf sprung truck to.

      Ram 1500: 19+ Bodystyle, Crew cab short bed 4WD Hemi Tradesman with the offroad package and 3.92 gears. This was hands down my favorite. The Hemi+8spd were married up perfectly, smooth immediate response with a great sound, just super satisfying and well sorted. Incredible ride/handling with the coil sprung rear, although I believe you inherently sacrifice some payload to achieve this. Even in cheapo tradesman trim with lower grade interior surfaces, I thought this was much better and more livable than the F150. Last summer one of these was listed for right around 40k locally, apparently elsewhere in the Midwest you could buy them for mid 30s with the right incentives. Jack says to expect problems, but this is a carryover drivetrain, aside from potential FCA build quality issues (are they still worse than Ford/GM?), I wouldn’t worry too much here.

      Tundra: feels bigger to drive, thirsty but good motor. Basically halfway to a 3/4 ton and set up from towing by default, which explains in large part the poor MPG. Super reliable, insane resale.

      Like I said I never tried the newest Titans, on paper they seemed like a decent option, 4WD SV crewcabs were being listed for mid-upper 30s locally, which undercut most of the domestics slightly, to say nothing of the Tundra.

      After all that, I ended up buying an old Suburban for $3000, ie the sales tax on a new truck.

      • TL

        Different regions of the country have slightly different brand perceptions, so here’s a pacific northwest view. I went through this process in 2016. YMMV

        GM: The least visible brand in this area, for a reason. They don’t stick out in styling or features. I eliminated the GM products from consideration because of quality concerns. The two people I knew who had gone the GM truck route in the last 10 years had their trucks spend as much time at the dealership as their driveway over the first couple of years of ownership. Small sample size but that was the experience of people near to me.

        F150: Really the default. There is a reason why Ford sells as many of these as they do. I passed. The big issue for me here was the aluminum body. That can make small fender bender accidents absurdly expensive or hard to fix. We don’t salt roads here so body rust isn’t a thing.

        RAM: My second choice. Huge value for money as they always seem to have $7k+ in factory incentives. Downside of that is that they depreciate faster than the others. My friends (four of them) who have gone the Dodge route all have been happy with them. The quality issues they have seen kept me from joining the Dodge ranks. None of those issues were major things (engine, transmission, etc), just annoyances. Early failure of a tailgate latch, interior knobs falling off, failing electronic accessories, and fast wearing interior surfaces. The sort of things which make the truck feel older than it is.

        Titan: I’ve heard they have gotten better, but this was never a serious consideration for me. Even my diehard Nissan loving cousin got a Ram instead when it was time for a truck.

        Tundra: This is what I bought. The northwest loves Toyota trucks. I’ve never seen regional sales numbers, but based on observations an outsized percentage of Tundra production ends up here. Upside of the Tundra love is the high resale value. Downside is you will pay pretty close to MSRP which makes them real world more expensive. Lower MPG than the others, but that is relative. I get a steady 15.5MPG which isn’t any worse than the truck it replaced.

        • gtem

          I think the truck market is so competitive, it’s an ever-moving target, for example your 2016 test driving obviously was of the prior bodystyle Ram, which is not a bad rig, but IMO the current gen made meaningful improvements in a number of ways. GM is the opposite, I personally am actually a fan of that 2014-2018 generation, yes there were some quality concerns with them, even well into the production run. Then again, Ford has had some issues, not-insignificant ones with the new 10spd and even stuff like the 5.0L V8, supposedly the low-risk option, suddenly having oil consumption issues. The only truck that hasn’t changed in all of this time is the Tundra, for better or for worse. Still the same old stalwart with its known pluses and minuses.

  13. Tom Klockau

    Wonder if one of the future tests is the ’80s Suzuki Samurai that was totally nuked by Consumer Reports?

  14. Carmine

    They tried a similar test a few years ago on a 1st gen Corvair sedan and to it’s credit at least, they didn’t flip it over.

  15. John Marks

    Jack, I read that article, and was very impressed. I am glad there were no injuries.

    But just thinking out loud…

    In prewar Czechoslovakia, what was the average public road like?

    My mental image is of one-lane country roads, high crowned, perhaps cobble-stoned rather than Tar MacAdam. I suppose that the vehicle density was low enough that one car usually had the road to itself, and that it drove down the middle.

    If that was the case, and that the usual road was not a flat skid pad, would not the rear suspension work “with” the high-crowned one-lane road, rather than “against” it?

    Of course, Prague traffic is another story.

    I will take this opportunity to respond to John C.

    Ralph Nader was living out of a suitcase when he wrote Unsafe at Any Speed. Please read Carroll Shelby’s autobiography.

    As a test driver for Ford, Shelby rolled a Corvair at under 30 miles an hour.

    Nobody was hurt, and they laughed themselves silly.

    But of the people who died in Corvair accidents (for God’s sake, didn’t I write about this for TTAC, and it got more than 150 replies?), IIRC, 19 of the deaths were family members of Chevy dealers.

    Immer essen,


    • John C.

      So Tatra wasn’t really a problem because they were hand made with low production totals so fewer died on uncrowded Czech roads. A mass market GM car with higher limits, deserves what it gets. I know guys like you loath GM yet want to deify Ledwinka and Dr. Porsche, but somewhere deep, you must understand this is inconsistent and coming out of your politics. I will freely admit that my loathing of the plaintiffs bar that Nader fronted and that it comes from my politics.

  16. bluebarchetta

    Surprised to see so many people in the Hagerty comments slagging on Sam Smith for “driving like an idiot.” Did they not read the article? Do they not understand what swing axles can do? (Full disclosure: the only swing-axle car I’ve ever driven was a ’64 Triumph Spitfire, and its owner said “Hit the brakes and turn and see what happens!” and it spun me right round baby right round like a record baby right round round round.)

    I’ve slagged on Smith for expressing anti-internal-combustion political views, but never for his driving or his writing.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.