Spotter’s Guide To Issue #69 of Hagerty Drivers Club

Let’s face it: we live in an era where almost all of the internet “autojournalism” is done by people who have little to no understanding of how to design, build, sell, drive, or repair an automobile. Does it matter? Maybe not — but my three-Viper drive in this month’s issue of HDC, coupled with Don Sherman’s outstanding and detailed technical explainer, should serve as the most cogent case I can make for the idea that it does.

Three weeks ago, we were invited to a press event for a brand-new sports car. I didn’t have the ability to travel on those days, so I suggested a left-field alternative: someone who had owned the last three generations of this car and who had put over 75,000 miles on a genre of vehicle that typically spends its life in a pressurized plastic bubble. Who better to put this new car in context? Who better to say if you, the typa dude who usually buys these things, should make the $200,000 commitment to the 2022 model?

The automaker flat out rejected my candidate. “We know who he is,” they said, “and we don’t want him. We want an experienced autowriter.” Imagine my surprise when I saw the list of people who had been chosen to attend. Very few of them had ever driven a car of this nature at even lead-follow trackday pace. One particularly egregious choice for attendance had never driven any car from the manufacturer. As in… not ever. As in… this person has never driven anything faster than a Camry.

Why would you turn down a qualified driver/owner while rolling out the red carpet for people who are, ah, not exactly high-quality candidates? The same reason that all three of the “sales systems” I learned as a new-car salesman in the Nineties emphasized getting the “up” in a car, ANY new car, as soon as possible in the process. You see, the average mark on the street is driving a car that is between three and thirteen years old, with:

* bad alignment
* worn bushings
* out of balance tires
* any number of squeaks and rattles

It doesn’t matter if it’s a “nice car”. A new Honda Civic feels significantly tighter and fresher than a five-year-old Mercedes S-Class. Almost nobody puts in the kind of maintenance effort that’s required to make a car feel “like new”. Most people would see a major difference in their car’s street behavior just from a new set of properly mounted and balanced tires.

So when you put the customer in your new car, he’s impressed. Because it’s not old. This sounds obvious but it’s not obvious to customers, who blithely compare the new Ford Escape on even ground with their eight-year-old CR-V on Chinese tires and the shriveled remains of the original suspension bushings. At that point, for most people the only question is whether or not they can get a bank to accept their 620 beacon score.

Press events work the same way. You want your reviewers to be daily drivers of genuinely crummy vehicles. You’re thrilled when you find out they daily-drive a 1998-whatever, because this person is not going to have the ability to determine if your new Gorgonzola 982TSi is actually quieter or quicker than the competition. They’re just pathetically grateful to be driving something that doesn’t smell like a dead dog.

Oh, and did I mention that you’ve also pulled them out of a shack somewhere and put them up at a four-star hotel?

This is why “mommybloggers” and “influencers” have no trouble getting access to new cars: they don’t have the context from which to be properly critical, or even properly informed. They’re just thrilled to be going on a trip somewhere. The “journosaurs” who populated this business head-to-tail when I did my first press-trip review may have been largely corrupt, corpulent, and contemptible, but they had a lot of context. They knew when a car was louder or slower or more cramped than the competition. Today’s crowd would be authentically impressed by a brand-new 1980 Citation. Why not? They’re driving cars with mismatched wheels at home.

When they get back, they write a bunch of meandering pop-culture drivel, sprinkled heavily with efforts to publicly align themselves with whatever political positions Mondelez and Pepsi-Cola are currently endorsing, and they call that a review. When in doubt, they read the press release — and that’s how the launch of the 2011 Mustang GT was peppered with praise for the limited-slip differential, even though the entire fleet of cars at that event had been mis-built with open diffs.

With this Viper test, I wanted to do everything truthfully, in context, and without much dabbling in dilettante politics. We rented a decent track, secured permission to drive all three cars at a pace that was safe but not tepid, and then hired Don Sherman to supply plenty of context in the form of a detailed technical companion article.

Having been lucky enough to drive every major Viper release at time-trial pace since 2008, and having worked with the Gen V ACR’s test driver to understand the car better, I felt that I was adequately positioned to drive and understand these cars, both as they appeared when new and as classic (meaning used) cars in 2021. As a result, I’m able in this article to explain how the cars differ on the move, something you can’t get from even contemporaneous first-line reviews.

It’s not a perfect article; I wrote it in a hurry and didn’t have as much space as I’d have taken in an online equivalent. No matter. I hope you enjoy it. If not, I’d like to hear why. As much distaste as I have for the hopeless bottom-feeders who do so much of today’s autowriting, I’d have even more self-contempt if I couldn’t listen to and incorporate feedback from the people who actually read this stuff. As always, thanks for your time.

70 Replies to “Spotter’s Guide To Issue #69 of Hagerty Drivers Club

  1. Reader of a few years' standing

    “…they write a bunch of meandering pop-culture drivel, sprinkled heavily with efforts to publicly align themselves with whatever political positions Mondelez and Pepsi-Cola are currently endorsing, and they call that a review.”

    This reminds me, I’d really like to read an analysis of Dan Neill’s columns in the Wall Street Journal over the last few years. His self-indulgent, sanctimonious style seems to get worse with each passing year, as does his sermonizing about electric cars.

    Reply
    • stingray65

      Sermonizing about electric cars is right: “Electric cars are the future”, “Electric cars are faster, quieter, cheaper to service, cheaper to manufacture (once battery prices come down further), and of course more environmentally friendly”, “GM, Genesis, Mercedes, Volvo, VW, etc., etc. announce that they will be all electric by 2025-30 and have stopped development of conventional vehicles”.

      Its almost as if none of these automotive “journalists” are aware of the flickering grid in EV friendly California, or the fact that coal is the dominant source of electricity in much of the US, China, India, Africa, Germany, Poland, Japan, and the UK, or that renewably generated electricity is already more expensive than heavily taxed gasoline in solar heavy Australia. It’s almost as if none of these automotive “journalists” are aware of the fact that most of the raw materials for batteries come from repressive, unstable, child labor heavy countries and require lots of dirty mining and processing, or that there are no known process for recycling the materials out of old batteries that is both environmentally friendly and economic, or that the world will soon be awash from which will millions of dead battery packs from 10+ year old Teslas, Leafs, Volts, etc. as they reach scrap value with no safe place to put them. Its almost as if the automotive “journalists” are unaware the EVs don’t sell in significant quantities in any market that doesn’t heavily subsidize them, which means that taxpayers are helping rich people buy fancy new EVs and propping up billionaire investors who continue to lose money manufacturing and selling them. Hey, I guess we can’t let some inconvenient facts get in the way of “the future” or invitations to attend future EV launches at 4 star hotels.

      Reply
      • Ronnie Schreiber

        I have nothing against EVs but their biggest obstacle is not energy density, charging time, or grid capacity (we waste a lot of electricity that literally goes to ground just to keep the generators spinning at night) but rather that they are competing against what is likely the best liquid fuel humans have ever developed. The combination of benzenes and napthas that we call gasoline has so much energy that we can afford to waste 65% of it as waste heat and still get economically practical use out of the remaining 35%. Also, being a liquid fuel it is easy to transport and dispense.

        As for the rare earths that are needed for the batteries and the motors (neodymium magnets don’t just get made out of thin air), I recently read that the United States has some of the richest deposits of rare earths on the planet but current environmental regulations prevent them from being developed. That’s a bit surprising as the extractive industries get a pretty wide latitude when it comes to Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations, where most federal environmental law is codified.

        Reply
        • stingray65

          I have nothing against EVs either, but the motoring press cheerleading is painful to read/see if you know anything at all about the industry or technology, and as a fiscal conservative I positively hate any industry that is built entirely on subsidies and government mandates. It will be very interesting to see if the “save the world” green new dealers will allow rare earth mining and processing right here in the USA rather than have all those “green” jobs go to China or Afghanistan.

          Reply
          • Ronnie Schreiber

            Regarding subsidies and government mandates, they can be useful if applied well. I’m currently reading William Rosen’s The Most Powerful Idea in the World, about the development of steam power which took place in England and Scotland in the 16th and 17th centuries and Rosen makes the point that steam power was developed in the UK (and not in 2nd century Alexandria, or imperial China, which had both experimented with steam) because of specific cultural, economic, and political conditions there at the time. To begin with, Britain was apparently the first country to treat novel ideas as intellectual property, protecting the interests of inventors. Thomas Savery, whose condensed steam water lifting device immediately preceded Newcomen’s first practical engine, worked for the Royal Office of Ordinance. The British aristocracy had both political and personal interests in the development of mining for coal (needed to refine iron ore before it was used as a fuel for heating buildings) and iron. Without effective pumping engines, you can only mine so deep before you start having to remove water.
            By the way, if you want to see the largest steam engine in North America, it’s at the Iron Mining Museum in Iron Mountain, Michigan. The flywheel is 40 feet in diameter and weighs 160 tons. The engine was made by the Edward Allis company of Milwaukee, predecessor to the Allis-Chalmers company. The Michigan Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee also owns “Yankee”, one of the oldest surviving steam powered locomotives in the U.S., which is currently undergoing a restoration.

          • stingray65

            When have government subsidies and mandates ever been applied well (especially by a Democrat led government)? I certainly do not recall in my history lessons the British government announcing a ban on horses and sailing ships when steam engines came on the scene, or offering coal producers above market rates for their output, or offering tax breaks and loan guarantees to steam engine developers or adopters. I don’t recall oil companies getting government money to build gas stations or any government paying wealthy people to buy gasoline cars (or electrics or steam powered ones) 120 years ago. It seems to me that if a technology is truly ready for prime time it should already be attractive enough for investors and adopters without needing government mandates or subsidies.

          • Ronnie Schreiber

            I wasn’t talking about loan guarantees or tax breaks. The simple historical truth in some cases is that direct government funding of technology, usually for military reasons, has resulted in the practical development of those technologies for non-military purposes. I’m not saying that’s a good model to follow in general but in the case of steam power, nuclear power, and ARPANET it’s been a net positive.

          • hank chinaski

            I would agree with Ronnie in a historical context of a demographically homgenous, high trust American society relative to today’s. Hell, even the robber barons built schools, libraries and museums.
            Today? Not so much. It’s ideology and graft all the way down.

        • Mike Schaeffer

          > (we waste a lot of electricity that literally goes to ground just to keep the generators spinning at night)

          This is an interesting claim. What do you mean by it, specifically? How much electricity are you talking about? When does this occur? How is the wasted energy dissipated?

          It’s true that the grid must stay in a state of continual balance, and it’s also true that there are reasons that prices (very occasionally) go negative to keep base load generation running. Despite that, the notion that there’s large scale wastage for the express purpose of keeping generation running is dubious at best.

          Reply
    • Colin

      So would I! I recently purchased a subscription to the Journal, primarily because it was 50% off and secondarily because they still seem to have a modicum of journalistic integrity… Thus I encountered, for the first time, Dan Neill. He can obviously write and has solid grasp of the English language, but I find myself asking… Does this guy even like cars? He’s so condescending that I feel sorry for the parade of unlucky vehicles served up for his gratuitous consumption and subsequent displeasured, multi-orifical expulsion. He strikes me as a petulant, entitled Jaba who’s never had to try hard and for whom nothing is ever good enough. Even his headshot is saturated with disdain; he couldn’t even be bothered to adjust his collar. For his professional picture. For the Wall Street Journal.

      Reply
  2. NoID

    The Viper, and the people who engineered and built it, are the epitome of automotive enthusiasm unleashed. I was so dismayed when it went out of production for what is likely the final time.

    Reply
    • stingray65

      I’m sure Chrysler, Fiat, Peugeot or who ever is hell in charge these days would be more than happy to be making new Vipers if more people had shown enough interest to actually buy them. It is interesting to note that the original Shelby Cobras didn’t exactly fly off the showroom floors as it seems that few people wanted an uncomfortable, noisy, impractical, relatively expensive, 8 mpg rocket even in the sports car crazy 1960s. Sadly, I suspect the next Viper will come in the form of some new “sporty” CUV or pickup from Stellantis, especially if the Mustang Mach-E turns out to be successful.

      Reply
      • NoID

        The primary failure of the 5th Gen, if you look at historic sales figures,is that they designed the hardtop before the convertible, and sales of the hardtop failed to justify the additional expense to engineer a convertible. Had they gone the other way around I wonder what the future would have been. At the very least, the existence of a convertible would have prevented the side curtain airbag requirement from killing the car entirely.

        Reply
        • Jack Baruth Post author

          As with the Corvette there is a rather staggering difference between the Viper the engineers wanted to build – think ACR Extreme – and the one the owners wanted – think convertible with Nappa leather and killer A/C. But unlike the Corvette you don’t always have the volume to build both.

          Reply
          • Carmine

            I always thought just offering an automatic, even if it hurt the Vipers street cred, would have done wonders for sales……

          • NoID

            Rumor has it they built the hardtop first because Ralph Gilles wanted to get back into racing ASAP. And to his credit the racecar fared well, but it was not a good long term strategy for the production model.

            And don’t think for a moment they didn’t consider throwing the ZF 8-speed in the car. It, like most effective compromise solutions shoehorned into a no-compromise sporting car, was simply too large and expensive to integrate without killing the low volume business case.

            Another rumor from late in the Daimler era has it that the next iteration of the Viper was to share its bones with the contemporary M-B SLS AMG. How well that car would have lived up to the Viper legacy I’m not so sure, but it certainly would have allowed for less hardcore versions with higher sales volume over which to amortize program costs. And you can’t knock for a second how well this formula worked for their E-segment cars and SUVs, so it certainly makes sense from that angle.

          • CJinSD

            Carmine,

            I have a sincere question. How did the C7 Z06 sell relative to the C6 and C5 Z06s? The first two were legitimate drivers’ cars that earned a reputation for purposefulness and having owners that weren’t posers. Also, the C6s liked to blow up. The C7 Z06 was all about cashing in on the credibility of the earlier cars by making a two-pedal supercharged car for exactly the people whose absence made the C6 Z06 desirable. Did it work? I don’t see anything like as many new Corvettes at track days as I once did, so I’m under the impression that it didn’t. At the same time, the track days I attended were never full of social media influencers, so what I think probably doesn’t matter to GM.

          • Jack Baruth Post author

            Answering for Carmine… C7 Z06 sold better than C6 Z06 as far as I know, and by some distance.

          • Ronnie Schreiber

            NoID, we’ll never know just how many clever ideas that originated in Auburn Hills during Chrysler’s Daimler era died stillborn because “Ve haff engineers in Stuttgart.”

          • John C.

            When I visited Bowling Green in 2015, a big percentage of the cars on the line were Z06s, more surprising was how many had the export only door mirrors. You don’t think much about exporting Corvettes but they were. The factory was only on one eight hour shift a day but there was a mandatory 10 hours a week of overtime to meet demand for line workers. Really a very impressive operation.

  3. John C.

    A three car Viper comparo would have been extra neat if you could have got a Bristol Fighter along to offer a little counterbalance in so much as what that engine could do in a small package. It would be an effort of course for the lazy writers biases against traditionally British names getting them distracted in a way they never would in a million years with say the unpronounceable name of the Acura NSX designers.

    Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      I doubt there is a single Fighter in the United States. From what I have heard, Bristol made very few, as in fewer than ten.

      Reply
      • John C.

        I did not say it would be easy to arrange, but it was probably not that easy to arrange the services of Mr. Sherman. It would however have made the article unique and so historic.. Remember the situation you are in. The Hagerty organization is about to sell out before you are credited with any turnaround. After the sale the bloodsuckers will drain whatever life there ever was. Meanwhile you must have a CV that gets you where you belong in the final stage of your career. The missing Peter Egan or Tom Mccahill help you but you must have something to show.

        Reply
        • stingray65

          Yes I’m sure the 10 Bristol Fighter owners and the 6 other people in the world who remember what a Bristol is would have been thrilled to see a Viper vs. Fighter comparison – no doubt the increase in readership and clicks would have doubled the valuation of Hagerty and launched Jack’s career into superstardom. Heck, why not also throw in a 2 seater V-10 power Ram pickup to really offer a unique take on a sports car track test.

          Reply
        • Ronnie Schreiber

          All I know is what I’ve read in the press releases but I believe the plan is to take Hagerty public. If that’s the case, and if the IPO is reasonably priced, I’ll use some of the money the company has paid me to buy some shares. Makes more sense to me than investing in Dogecoin.

          Reply
          • John C.

            It may well be a good investment, insurance usually is and this would seem like a fairly low risk area. It would be fun to think there are expert gangs of car thieves trolling car storage areas on the hunt for bubble wrapped Talismans, but I doubt it.

            Often times the new management will look for things like sidelines to self off to reduce the debt load taken on to cash out previous owners. Like say a magazine operation with high production values. Jack Welch at GE was a pioneer of this strategy, justifying by saying if you are not 1 or 2 in a category, get out.

          • Ronnie Schreiber

            Jack Welch at GE was a pioneer of this strategy, justifying by saying if you are not 1 or 2 in a category, get out.

            By that standard, Apple should have left the personal computer business a long time ago. In some industries you can thrive as a niche player, if you dominate that niche.

  4. Ryan

    How did you manage to fit in the thing? I went to look at a 99 GTS a few years back and could barely fold myself into it. Between the wide tunnel and my knee hitting the dashboard, there’s no way I could make it work.

    Apparently there’s some sort of seat lowering kit, but even then I don’t know if it would make enough of a difference.

    Reply
  5. CJinSD

    Does everyone else know who is about to introduce their fourth generation super car? I don’t really follow the car magazines anymore, so I’m curious who is introducing their new car via influencers.

    Reply
  6. Burgersandbeer

    The rant about everyone running around with mis-matched Chinese tires on bent rims was funny. I’ve had to fix something related to wheels and tires on every used car I’ve purchased.

    I had a tire shop tell me they don’t bother to stock the good stuff because customers think they are getting ripped off. Is the enthusiast market really big enough to keep Michelin and Continental afloat, or is most of their business supplying tires for new cars?

    Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Continental is doing a really good job with affordable tires made in the USA or Germany. We have Contis as the replacement tires on both my Silverado and my MKT.

      Reply
      • CJinSD

        I remember when Continentals were the tires that came on your new Porsche or BMW so that you could be surprised and delighted when you replaced them with something good. Now they offer excellent tires in a number of segments, often combined with value pricing. I recently put a set of Continental’s best touring tires on my parents’ CUV. I’ve also got their General Altimax RT43s on a car whose last set of premium-priced tires aged out instead of wearing out, and a set of the General G-Max AS-05s on a car that used to be about carving mountain roads on DWS-06s, but now resides in a city that’s basically a flat grid.

        Reply
        • gtem

          I’ve bounced around the decent-value brand price sector for a while now, have owned a large number of (Continental owned) Generals over the past few years. Grabber HTS, Grabber AT2, Altimax Artic on my old 4Runner, Altimax RT43 on my Civic and wife’s Camry, now have a set of studded Altimax Arctics on my Suburban. AS-03s on my briefly-owned B5 A4 Quattro. Generally very pleased, especially good wet weather performance. The RT43s are about as good as it gets in the winter with a traditional all season (not counting the newer hybrid type “four season” tires). More recently I put a set of Continental TrueContact Tours on our Town&Country, the price was the same as Generals in that case, likewise very pleased with them. My most recent tire purchase was replacing the RT43s on the 2012 Camry SE. I always thought it had a bit of a busy, stiff ride, surprising for a Camry. I put made-in-USA Mastercraft LSR Grand Tourings on it, got my local Belle Tire to do a price-match on what Wal Mart had them listed for. Wow what a transformation. This 102k mile Camry that I was suspecting maybe was going to be due for struts is back to riding and driving like a brand new car. My lesson from this is that going for the “high end” tire of a quality value brand is not a bad way to go. I suspect the Mastercrafts aren’t as good in the winter, but we have two other cars on snow tires in the family fleet to use then so it wasn’t as high of a priority this time around.

          Reply
          • Burgersandbeer

            Continental is my first stop in some categories – DWS-06 for the SUV that doesn’t necessarily need winter tires. ExtremeContact Sport for sportier cars. I’m looking for a competitor to Michelin’s PA4 for the winter; I don’t think Continental has anything in that category ☹️.

            I think Continental’s pricing is great. Their tires under the General brand are also tempting. I only stuck with Continental over road noise concerns. I think the crowd Jack refers to would still consider Continental and maybe General too expensive. For them, all tires are just round rubber and the only thing that matters is price. They are only tire shopping in the first place because their car failed inspection or their mechanic refused to fix the car unless they also agreed to new tires.

  7. Ronnie Schreiber

    Most people would see a major difference in their car’s street behavior just from a new set of properly mounted and balanced tires.

    I run Dunlop Direzzas in the summer and Bridgestone Blizzaks the rest of the time and even though the Blizzaks work just fine in the dry (and have better grip than the OEM all-seasons that came on the car and wear like iron), every time I switch from one set to the other, the change is dramatic, in both handling and ride. I won’t say it’s like two different cars, but the difference is very noticeable. I’ll likely replace the Direzzas next year as they are almost down to the wear indicator strips – it’s interesting how the more tread wears away the better the grip is in dry weather.

    Reply
  8. Ronnie Schreiber

    I was at a Toyota press event for a new Corolla in Minneapolis trying to stay awake at an early morning video and Powerpoint presentation and one of the attendees said something like, “As a representative of the LGBT community….” Since I have poor impulse control it took a lot of effort not to raise my hand and say, “As a representative of the short, fat, redheaded Jewish community…”

    FWIW, the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed (on my own or anyone else’s dime) at was at a Toyota press event for the Highlander in Charleston, South Carolina. It was a boutique hotel in the middle of historic Charleston and was pretty luxurious. The bathroom for my room had a double bathtub with a Jacuzzi. The mattress was so tall I literally had to climb up into bed. They fed us at a nice restaurant down the street and after I did some legwork for them before the trip the automaker even made arrangements for a local kosher caterer to provide my meal. There was an ice storm so they kept us over for an extra day and at dinner they were serving wine and provided me with my own bottle of cabernet from one of the Herzog labels. I’m not much of a drinker but since they went out of their way to get it for me I felt obligated to drink about half the bottle during my meal, just to be polite of course.

    Reply
    • CJinSD

      I really hope the suite I had at the Charleston Omni on a college spring break won’t end up being the best hotel room I ever had, but it seems increasingly likely with every additional effort I expend avoiding travel. Do other people’s hotel rooms where you spent the night count?

      Reply
  9. CitationMan

    Your 1980 Citation line made me laugh, it’s so true. I always tell people that the Citations I owned (4 of them!) are the reason for the nice cars in my garage. Sort of like growing up in a slum and doing everything in your power to get away from it.

    Reply
    • bluebarchetta

      I went to Goodguys in Columbus, OH three or four years ago and there was a family there showing FOUR X-11 Citations: a stock 1980 with the 4-sp and Iron Duke (I thought all X-11s had the 2.8 V6 – guess I was wrong), a stock 1981 with the 2.8, one with a 3500 LX9 swap, and one that had the running gear from a 6000STE AWD (!) swapped into it. Were these Citations nicer cars than a tri-five Chevy or a C2 Corvette? Of course not…but they were so much more interesting.

      Reply
  10. Jim

    Just curious, how did your Citations die? The floor rusted out on mine.

    A neighbor’s Citation disappeared one night from the street, and he found it around the corner, unlocked, with the keys in the ignition. The poor thing has stalled out before the car thief could drive off with it.

    Still have to admire the amount of space inside though.

    Reply
    • CitationMan

      I only bought 1 new, a 1980 notchback coupe, I inherited the others from family. They all rusted and/or leaked water into the passenger compartment.
      I could see asphalt through the rusty floorboard when driving with the carpets up. One thing I learned, leave a leaky car outside on a cold Chicago winter night, and the next day it’s easy just to remove the chunks of ice from the flooded frozen footwell!
      Amazingly they all had 150000-200,000+ miles when I got rid of them. The last one I donated to a charity because by that time you never saw them anymore, even though many were sold. I used to park in some rough neighborhoods, and no one was ever going to steal it or even break in, because it had the funky vertical radio. Also, Citations were absolute sled dogs in Chicago winters. The Iron Duke 4 cylinder put something like 65% of the weight over the front wheels. I can remember plowing through bumper high snowdrifts with no problem. The back end would swing around on you, but it was a fun way to reverse direction in the snow.
      I love that stolen Citation story!

      Reply
  11. jc

    I had a similar problem at an internship testing cars for an OEM R&D group. I daily a truck that’s older than I am so a car with 4 wheel disc brakes and AC is a good experience. Cool job though. Got paid to drive and talk shit on cars

    Reply
  12. TL

    “eight-year-old CR-V on Chinese tires and the shriveled remains of the original suspension bushings”

    So how long should suspension bushings last on a modern car? It’s a rubber part and rubber parts wear out due to use and just time passing. Makes sense, but I’ve never seen any manufacturer list them as a maintenance item or put an expiration date on them. Is it one of those things that will depend heavily on the local climate?

    Reply
    • gtem

      Depends heavily on road quality and a particular car’s suspension design, the car’s weight, etc. Now, even as a bushing ages and might not be “bad” in the sense of being torn/worn out critically, I’m sure there are degrees of wear like a loss of elasticity that could contribute to elevated NVH over time. My 2006 Suburban has its original, greasable balljoints and boots intact at 300k miles. It lived most of its life in Colorado with smooth roads. No way a Central Indiana truck would have a front end last to 300k miles.

      Reply
        • gtem

          That’s great! I just wish I lived closer to him, we could do some interesting collaborations on some of my cheap car “flips.”

          Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Depends on the car and how they’re loaded. I’ve taken some very decent looking bushings out of Neons. Seen a lot of newish Hondas where a replacement was clearly indicated.

      Reply
      • CJinSD

        I ran a shop less than three years ago. I did the opposite of noticing Honda suspension bushings perishing prematurely. I can’t imagine that the central Virginia climate is too different from much of Ohio. BMW suspension bushings are just about down to being replaced every other oil change, but Honda’s tend to last a long, long time. Mazdas can make it to 70,000 miles. Not many other brands are driven by people who care at all whether or not their wheels are where they belong relative to their cars.

        Reply
      • CJinSD

        Until COVID, Virginia had comprehensive state inspections. I’ve ordered lots of sway bar links for Toyotas and Fords, the Toyotas with intergalactic mileages typically. I’m trying to remember needing any Honda suspension parts for state inspections over a span of four years. I just can’t. I remember a day when a tech inspected a 270,000 mile 1999 CRV that needed nothing and a two year old row-of-urinals Cherokee that required everything rubber in the rear suspension to pass. These days inspections are a roll of the dice.

        A friend with an inspection license is about to have it suspended. He was getting pressured by his employer to put stickers on used cars for some islamic refugees who are enjoying having the blue finger on the balance of economic opportunities. It turns out that they weren’t holding up their end of the deal by making the sure the cars on their lot weren’t death traps, so my buddy is paying the price for not standing up to his lefty boss. The state trooper administering the program tried scaring him by saying he was going to lose his license for 45 or 90 days. He told the trooper that he wanted it to be taken away for 90 days, since he’d rather spend his time fixing cars then getting involved in the state racket. The trooper then told him that he would definitely recommend a 45 day suspension. I guess he is lucky to get suspended at all, but it hasn’t actually happened yet.

        Reply
        • gtem

          Old (double wishbone) Hondas in my experience will need balljoints before they need control arm bushings. I see a lot of old Hondas with folded up wheels around here during pothole season. The one bushing that does go bad is the rear trailing arm bushing. Old Toyota sedans have got to be the all around champs for suspension durability. Struts/mounts might start getting noisy or swaybar bushings/links, but the balljoints seem to be overbuilt relative to the weight of the cars.

          Reply
          • CJinSD

            I do recall seeing some wishbone Civic/Integra cars with blown ball-joints back when kids were fast and furious. Those cars have been out of production for 20 years though, so I don’t consider anything going wrong with them now to be a quality of component issue.

          • gtem

            No I definitely don’t mean to imply that it’s Honda’s fault in any way shape or form, these are all roached out beaters that I’m sure gave the owner fair warning before letting go. Just that other brands running simpler single balljoint mac struts seem to not suffer that failure mode as frequently. Actually Toyota’s first gen double wishbone IFS on 4Runners/Tacomas/Tundras/Sequoias has a similar issue, typically happens on lifted/larger-tired/offroaded trucks. Lower balljoint is under tension rather than compression, so it will stay “tight” feeling longer, and then lets go suddenly.

    • TL

      Thanks for the replies. Seems to be a case where “it depends” is the only answer to that question. So here’s a slightly different one: how do you know from looking at them if they are in need of replacement?

      Reply
      • TL

        And in case anybody is wondering, my concern mostly involves a 2003 MR2 Spyder with a whopping 50K miles on it that has spent it’s entire life in the pacific northwest where temps are moderate and roads are never salted.

        Reply
        • CJinSD

          Get it up on a lift and do a visual inspection. Shake things like sway bars and tie rods. If all else fails, use a crow bar or claw hammer to try and move control arms relative to subframes and to compress ball joints. If you can’t, then everything is still fine.

          Reply
  13. Burgersandbeer

    Besides all the variables gtem listed, putting bushings on the maintenance schedule would be marketing suicide.

    Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Video clowns can always get press cars. The automakers are in love with video and nobody takes any mild criticism uttered in the videos seriously; they’re advertorials, either for the manufacturer or the video channel.

      Reply

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