Saturday, November 10, 2012

The $15,000 Question: Buick Grand National

Ludicrous.  That's the only way to describe the Buick Grand National. Made from 1983 to 1987, this GM sedan packed a turbo charged V6 that humbled Corvettes of the same era at the drag strip.

It seems crazy now because of Buick's recent history of producing couches on wheels, but in it's heyday, the Regal and Skylark were known as gentleman's musclecars.  And they were on to something by turbo charging their stalwart 3.8 liter V6.  In the 80s turbocharging was the rage, much like it is today.  Just about every car manufacturer was turbo charging engines, or pasting TURBO graphics on their cars in digital computer font.  But Buick went the opposite direction with black or grey paint, blackout trim and tiny badges on the trunk and fenders.  Today the Grand National looks clean, uncluttered, not garish like some of its contemporaries.  Because of its performance and restrained looks, its become a classic.  There's even a documentary coming out in a few weeks about it titled The Black Air.

You can't buy a GNX, the ultimate Grand National for anywhere close to $15K, but there are a number of low mileage Grand Nationals for sale near that price.  Or for less money you could buy a T-Type which is essentially a de-tuned Grand National.  Either way, if you're looking for something that combines classic muscle car prowess with a turbo twist, the Grand National is hard to beat.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

There Are No Good Convertibles Anymore

In high school, I fell in love with literature through a book I thought was about a car.  Titled "The Last Convertible" it is an epic story, spanning more than thirty five years, from the innocence of the pre-war years, lost youth and lives interrupted by the war, to coming home, settling down and raising kids, dealing with love and loss, the scare of polio, JFK, to Vietnam.  All of it told through the eyes of George Virdon, a nostalgic, steady, every-man, who is the keeper of the flame for the friends of his youth and caretaker of a magnificent, emerald green, 1938 Packard Convertible.

I can't do Anton Myrer's prose justice, and I won't even try.  I will just say it is a great read and easily my favorite book of all time.  I've come back to it several times since high school, when I was a young man fresh out of college, and again recently, almost twenty years later.  Each time I read it, I see the book and its characters in a different light, relating to them in a new way.

The title comes from the opening of the book, when GM announces the 1976 Cadillac Eldorado will be the last convertible.  To which George mutters, "You are wrong. All of you are wrong.  This is the last convertible." This came to light again for me recently, when in my own fit of nostalgia, it occurred to me George was on to something.  There have been many convertibles since the book.  Six years after GM stopped production of convertibles, the auto industry began making them again.  But somewhere between that '38 Packard and today, the car industry stopped making true convertibles.

I'm not talking about roadsters like the Miata, or cabriolets like the ones made in Germany.  There are a number of drop-top cars.  It's just no one makes a big luxury land yacht like the old Packards, Cadillac Eldorados, Chrysler/Imperials or the Lincoln Continental.  Or a cruiser like a Chevy Impala, Ford Galaxy, Buick, Pontiac or Oldsmobile.  A car you can ride in with four or five of your friends on the last warm fall days, or the first days of spring and glide in comfort to a football game or a drive-in movie.

A good convertible prompts adventure and spontaneity.  The summer after college, I owned a LeBaron convertible.  It wasn't a particularly great car, but it was a memorable one because it led to many nights cruising the back roads under open skies and top down runs halfway across the state of Missouri, to see a Cardinals game or eat at White Castle.  It was easy to pack three friends and just go.  You might be able to do the same thing in a modern Mustang or Camaro, but it would be a tight fit.

The closest thing made to a big convertible today is a Toyota Camry Solara.  That's a shame.

There are no good convertibles anymore.  Nothing like an Oldsmobile Cutlass or Pontiac Bonneville or Tempest, Plymouth Satellite or Dodge Coronet.  I know it's not a question of how to make a one, it's why.  The demand isn't there to justify it.  For now, the big convertible has gone away.  If I sound nostalgic like old George Virdon, so be it.  Like George, I try to live in the present.  But if what comes around goes around, I hope the big drop top has its moment again.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The $15,000 Question: Lexus LS

In the US, the average person spends an hour a day commuting to and from work and travels a distance of between 25 and 50 miles.  That adds up to around 264 hours a year or 11 full 24 hour days spent on the road, most of it in stop and go traffic.  The time spent between commutes is filled with meetings, deadlines, short lunch breaks, and bad coffee.  At home it's a quick dinner, kids activities, and if your're lucky, 8 hours of sleep before the cycle starts over again.  

We're a nation of weary, over stimulated, multitasking, people and the trend is increasing.  According to recent studies, the time and distance of our commutes is only expected to grow longer and our roads more congested.  As our precious free time evaporates, we're doing more in our cars.  We guzzle fast food and large amounts of cola, talk on cell phones, shave or put on makeup, all while we creep along in rush hour traffic.  

One time on my drive to work, I looked over and saw a girl doing her nails... on her toes. 

It's no wonder our cars are growing larger and have more amenities.  We want to be coddled, comforted, isolated from the outside world and the full catastrophe of our everyday lives.  This is why, if you have $15,000 to spend, a Lexus LS is a compelling buy. 

Most gearheads I know would rather drive a track ready car like a Lotus Elise, Porsche 911 GT3, Shelby Mustang, or BMW M3.  But drive any of those cars within the torturous confines of stop and go traffic and you'll go mad.  The Lexus LS is quiet, comfortable, soothing.  It's less about driving than sitting in your den, listening to Beethoven or Miles Davis.  The bottom line is a car like the LS turns a stressful drive home into quite time, a break so the stress at the office doesn't collide with the mayhem at home.  

There are other cars that achieve this tranquility.  Certainly the BMW 7 series, Mercedes S Class, and Jaguar XJ come to mind.  They are the targets Toyota aimed for when they launched Lexus in 1989.  There's also a smattering of Buicks, Lincolns, and Cadillacs, or at least Cadillacs made before GM discovered the Nurburgring.  

But the Lexus has something those cars do not--unflappable reliability.  It was engineered to be the best car in the world and for an unprecedented 22 years it has topped both Consumer Reports and JD Power's list as the most reliable car ever.  It's not uncommon for the LS to go 200,000 or 300,000 before major repair work needs to be done.  And if Irv Gordon didn't have a 2.7 million mile head start with his Volvo P1800, I would expect a Lexus LS to be in the Guinness Book with the record for highest mileage.  

The only real drawbacks to the car are that maintenance can be pricey, especially on a car that was not properly maintained.  It's comes with a V8, which is not especially fuel efficient, and is rear wheel drive, making it tricky to drive in the snow.  Finally, because it is at heart a Toyota product, people sometimes confuse it for a Camry.  

Right now across town, there is 2003 LS 430 with 83,000 miles for $15,000.  Or for less money you can find earlier models in good condition from as little as $4,000.  The thing to consider when buying these cars is not the mileage but the service history.  Find one that has been well taken care of and you'll be motoring serenely for years to come.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Carroll Shelby

I would say Rest in Peace, Carroll Shelby, but it wouldn't suit the man's style.  More likely he's doing burnouts in heaven, generating copious amounts of cloud smoke from one of his legendary Cobras.  

Before he became known for the cars that bare his name, he was a flight instructor in World War II and a successful race car driver for most of the 1950s, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans and competing in Formula One.  

Heart problems forced his retirement and from there the legendary cars were born.  The Shelby Cobra, Mustang GT 350 and GT 500 made him a household name.  But he didn't rest there, instead he moved on to create hot hatches like the Dodge Omni GLH, which stood for "Goes Like Hell", helped develop the concept for the Dodge Viper, and then returned to Ford to build a new generation of GT500 Mustangs.  

Whether it was his health or his zest for life, Shelby lived like he was on borrowed time and remained active, running his company up until the day he died.  Time unfortunately caught up with him at 89 on Friday.  He will be missed, but his name and the cars he built live on.  

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Buick's Riviera

When I think of the "Mad Men" or Camelot era of the early 1960's several cars come to mind.  First and foremost are the Jaguar E-Type and Corvette Stingray, two cars that need no introduction.  

The other car is a Buick.

The Buick Riviera was originally styled by Bill Mitchell, the designer who also created the Corvette Stingray and oversaw most of GM's design work of that era.

The 1963 to 1965 model is a high watermark of automotive design.  It's clean, well-proportioned, and projects an aura of confidence.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The $15,000 Question: W210 E55 AMG

Twenty years ago there were two phenomenons known as "Hammer Time".  The first was a flamboyant rapper who sounded suspiciously like Rick James.  The second, more entertaining Hammer was created by Mercedes Benz's in house tuner, AMG, which shoehorned a 6.0 liter V8 into mild mannered E Class sedans.

The result was a Honda Accord sized sedan that could glide up to supercars on the autobahn, proclaim "U Can't Touch This" and vanish quicker than Vanilla Ice.

But unlike MC Hammer, the AMG breathed E Class has remained "Too Legit to Quit".  It is more like the Dr. Dre of supercars.  Understated most of the time with the ability to drop bombs on a moments notice and go back to his business.  And like Dr. Dre, it's given rise to other talent like the smaller AMG C-Class and CLK class.  

The E55 pictured in this post is the W210 version built from 1995 to 2003.  While it is possible to pick up the newer W211 series for $15,000, they generally have high mileage, are likely to have led hard lives and be in need of expensive repairs.  Better to find a pampered older model with lower miles and a complete service record.

What you'll get is the typical vault like, Teutonic sedan that dispenses mere Porsches and Corvettes at the drop of your right foot.  It is the ultimate Q-ship, not unlike Usain Bolt wearing a Tom Ford grey flannel suit.  And like any other Mercedes, it will stand the test of time and mileage as long as you maintain it.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

34 MPG in a Chevy Traverse

Okay, in all fairness I stacked the deck in my favor.  My commute to work includes a ten mile stretch of flat, slightly downhill highway.  Last week on my way to work, I set the cruise for 55 MPH to see what would happen.  At the halfway point I was up to 34 MPG.  By the time I exited the highway, my average increased to 34.7 MPG.

The Chevy Traverse is a 5,000 pound crossover, just over 17 feet long, that can tow it's own weight while carrying eight people.  The EPA fuel economy numbers are 16/24 for city and highway driving, which falls in the range of what we've been averaging.  It is no Prius.

But I was able to break into the low 30s on a flat road going just under the speed limit.  And it illustrates a point on how to get better fuel economy when gas prices skyrocket in the $4 range.  Drive slower.

For every 5 miles an hour slower you drive, you can increase your fuel economy 10-20%.  If gas is at $4 a gallon, that's like paying $3.60 or even $3.20 a gallon.  Speed junkie that I am, it's hard to do.  But the result is worth it, and unless I'm driving across country, it doesn't take more than a minute longer to get where I'm going.

The other way to save on gas is to drive less.  Combine trips, stick close to home, walk or bike more.  Instead of driving one place, going home, then driving somewhere else, plan errands that are in the same area.  No, you don't get better gas mileage, but you use less gas, which equates to the same thing.  Cutting your trips in half is like doubling your gas mileage.

Bottom line, you don't have to buy a hybrid or be a hyper-miler to save at the pump.            

Saturday, February 25, 2012

New Year's Day Road Trips - Part III: Des Moines

Things have a habit of working out for the best.  My friends and I joke about screwing up in reverse, which is to say, the unintended consequences of your actions work out to your benefit.  This is the case with my road trip to Florida--I did not get any beach time or buy a car, but it worked out better than I could have hoped.

I had driven my in-laws' Kia Sedona to Florida so they could fly back to Tampa, and to buy a 2008 Saturn Outlook my wife and I had seen on  We have been car shopping off and on for the better part of a year and had decided on the Outlook because we liked the way it looked and we like the features it offered as a family vehicle.  It's one of the GM Lambda quadruplets, which also include the Buick Enclave, Chevy Traverse and GMC Acadia.  Both my wife and I like the looks of the Outlook the best, but since Saturn was discontinued when GM filed for bankruptcy in 2009, finding one with the features we want has been next to impossible.  We wanted AWD, the dual sunroofs, and quad seating, but every Outlook we looked at with those features was either out of our price range or had too many miles on the odometer.

Then we found a 2008 model in Port Richey, FL.  It was my wife's favorite color, White Diamond Tri-coat, with the quad seats and sunroof.  It didn't have AWD, but it had less than 50K, and the price was under $20 grand.

Close enough.

I called the dealer and talked to one of the sales people.  In hindsight, I could have put a deposit on it, but I was reluctant because I didn't want to fight to get my money back, if I didn't like the car.  Plus, I thought I had a reasonable shot at getting to Florida and buying it on December 31.  After all, who buys a car the week after Christmas?

Lots of people.  Or at least enough people, which is why the Outlook was sold two hours before I got there and why I ended up buying a ticket to fly out of Tampa the next day.  I landed back in KC 48 hours after I left, tired and dejected.

We stayed in on New Year's Eve and I went to bed about 10:00.  The next day, we looked at other Saturn Outlooks online. Other than a gold 2009 model with 70K miles, there was nothing out there.

"I think we should look at the Chevy Traverse again," I said.  "It's the same vehicle and there's lots of them out there.  Plus it's easy to find one that's GM Certified, with a good warranty, special financing, and in our price range."

We spent New Year's day driving around to Chevy dealerships.  I maintain the best time to car shop is when the dealers are closed.  That way you can look and narrow down the field before you start test driving.  We narrowed the field down to zero pretty quickly.  Again, there were no cars in our price range with the features we wanted, in a color we liked.

"I really like the Black Granite Metallic color," my wife said.  "The White Diamond is still my favorite, but the Black Granite looks better on the Traverse.  Maybe if we searched outside Kansas City we could find one."

We went home and looked online again, entering all of our preferences and expanding the search radius out to 250 miles.  At the top of the list was a 2009 Chevy Traverse with 23K miles in Black Granite Metallic, with AWD, quad seating, and dual sunroofs.

"How do you feel about a day trip to Des Moines?" She asked me.

The next day after breakfast, we drove my 1997 Oldsmobile Cutlass to the dealership in Des Moines, Iowa.  We had called ahead and the sales manager agreed to hold the Traverse for us.  It turns out they do a lot of their business on the internet, from people who travel from as far away as Chicago.  Buyers from Kansas City were not that unusual.

The Cutlass easily made the 200 mile trip to the dealership, cruising quietly at 75 miles an hour without complaint.  I was glad to get it out on the highway for our last trip together.  It had served me faithfully and cheaply for over a year and a half.  In that time I had driven it 16,000 miles, averaged 23 miles to the gallon, and spent less than $1000 on maintenance and repairs.

The 1997 Cutlass Supreme is not a remarkable car.  It doesn't have great road manners or handle that well.  It doesn't surround you in luxury like a Lincoln Town Car or Cadillac.  When it came out it wasn't as well rated as a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry or even a Ford Taurus at the time.  As a brand, the Cutlass and Oldsmobile were long past their heyday by 1997, but there was a time when the Cutlass nameplate was iconic.

When I was a kid, if you drove down any street in my neighborhood, you'd find a Cutlass of some sort parked in just about every driveway.  Everything from coupes and sedans to Vista Cruiser wagons and 442 fastbacks and convertibles.  For a time, the Cutlass was THE top selling nameplate in America.  But its popularity went into a slow decline starting around 1985.  Twenty years later, the Cutlass and the Oldsmobile nameplate would be history.

My Cutlass was on the tail end of the decline.  1997 was the last year you could buy a Cutlass Supreme.  And for good reason--for the money, there were much better choices.  But as cheap, reliable, daily transportation in the time I owned it, it was unbeatable.

We stopped at an Arby's outside Bethany, Missouri for lunch and pulled into the Chevy dealership less than an hour later.  Three hours later, we drove home in the Chevy Traverse, pulling into the driveway just before the kid's bedtime.  The Traverse, like it's other GM siblings, is a big vehicle the size of a Chevy Tahoe, but it has more room inside and gets much better gas mileage.  Short of a minivan, it's almost impossible to beat its mixture of practicality.  Plus instead of driving like a truck or a minivan, it handles much more like a big car.   

As I pulled into our neighborhood, I noticed there were two other Traverses parked on our street, and a GMC Acadia around the corner.  I doubt GM will ever dominate the automobile landscape like they did when I was a kid, but I can't help wonder if the Traverse is the modern equivalent of the Oldsmobile Cutlass Vista Cruiser, or in Chevrolet terms, a Caprice station wagon.  It's the kind of vehicle you use to haul your kids and their friends to Cub Scouts, basketball, or ballet lessons.  Or take family road trips to Colorado or Florida.  

Speaking of road trips, I see another one coming soon.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

New Year's Day Road Trips - Part II: The Drive

When you're driving, you can feel the minutes click by with the mile markers.  There's a sense of progress, and for me, serenity.  I left the Kansas City area just before 1:00 heading east.  The drive along I-70 brings back many memories of my college years at the University of Missouri twenty years ago.  Most of the cities and towns along the way have expanded their limits since I graduated, but I-70 remains the same.  It's a ribbon of four lane blacktop that rolls through the hills of central Missouri, with the state's namesake river twisting beside it.

Just before Columbia, MO is the small town of Rocheport, home of Les Bourgeois Vineyards, a number of small bed and breakfast inns, and the Katy Trail, a crushed limestone path stretching across Missouri from Clinton to St. Charles along the old line of the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad.  As you cross the I-70 bridge at Rocheport, you can just make out the Katy Trail at the base of the limestone cliffs.  It's as good of way as any to lose a day, biking along between small towns like Booneville and New Franklin before sharing a bottle of wine at the vineyard and watching the sunset from the cliffs of the Missouri river.  It's not Sonoma or the Loire Valley, but Rocheport and Hermann, another small town about an hour east of Columbia also known for its wines, make a pretty good substitute if you live in the Midwest.

By 4:30 I was in St. Louis and crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois.  I-70 gave way to I-64 and then I-57 as nightfall hit.  Just south of Marion, I picked up I-24 which would take me into Tennessee.  The Kia has proven to be all day comfortable, cruising steadily at 75 miles an hour and returning 22 MPG.  It had an USB port for my i-Pod, and plenty of room for Sonny, my in-law's golden retriever, to stretch out behind me.  Given the choice, I'd drive a Jaguar XK or some other GT car, but compared to the other cars I'd used to make this trip, a Olds Cutlass made during the Reagan Administration, a VW Fox made out of left over Audi parts, and a Penske truck, the Kia was a four-wheeled cloud nine.

South of Nashville, I stopped for the night.  It was close to 10:00 and I was ready to grab some sleep.  I also wanted to make the drive through Chattanooga during the day time.  Eight hours later I was showered, fed, had gassed the Kia, walked Sonny, and tanked up on coffee.  Palm Harbor, FL was 700 miles distant and I wanted to get there before 8:00 PM to look at the Saturn Outlook.

The most scenic part of the drive is around Chattanooga, which lies on the western tip of the Appalachian Mountains.  The area is surrounded by scenic valleys and lakes.  I-24 climbs slowly towards Monteagle before depositing you in the lush green gorges and canyons, dipping into north Georgia, before revealing Chattanooga itself.  I dropped into the city, picked up I-75 and entered Georgia for a second, final time, where the mountains give way to rolling hills of pine.  Atlanta is two hours away at this point, and beyond it is my destination, 450 miles distant.

The drive though Georgia is dispensed in six hours, bookended by potty stops for Sonny and punctuated by a stop near Macon for gas and a quick sandwich.  Progress through Florida is just as brisk, with nightfall coming around Gainesville.  Rather than stop for dinner, I push on.  I want to get to the dealership first.  The Kia stays planted in the left lane of I-75, pacing traffic.  Sonny seems to know we're close to his home and begins to get restless again.  Finally I hit the exit for Wesley Chapel.  My destination is 30 minutes away.

As I turn west on Highway 54 towards Port Richey, I am amazed at how much the area has changed.  What used to be an empty two lane road between Zephyrhills and Tarpon Springs is now developed land.  Strip malls and chain restaurants blanket both sides of the road, with occasional gaps in progress, either with undeveloped land or empty new buildings that were never completed or occupied when the Great Recession hit.  Unlike the greater Kansas City area, which was largely spared, Florida was severely impacted.  Real estate in this area cratered in 2008-2009 and is still 50% off its peak highs.

Finally I hit Highway 19.  The dealership is two blocks away and I can see its sign.  I pull in, park next to the used car lot, get out and walk around.  Even at night, the lot is lit up like daylight with the harsh white light cast from the halogen lights.  There are rows of cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs, but no Saturn Outlook.  

I learn from a salesperson the Outlook sold two hours before I got there.  Defeated, I head to my in-laws house to unpack the Kia, walk Sonny, and grab dinner.

Plan B is to spend Saturday in Florida, run some errands for my in-laws and get their house ready for their arrival, spend some time at the beach, and fly out on Sunday.  I can fly standby, since my wife works as a flight attendant for Continental.  Only when I call my wife, the plan has changed.  All the flights on Sunday are overbooked, so standby on Continental is out of the question.

"I can't get you out," she says.  "The best I can do is an American flight with a layover in Dallas, that leaves first thing in the morning."

Midnight comes before I fall asleep.  At 5:00 I'm up again and heading to the airport.  I've been in Florida for about twelve hours, all of it at night.  The sun rises as the American MD-80 climbs off the tarmac and banks over the Gulf of Mexico.  From above, I can make out Honeymoon Island at the end of the Dunedin Causeway, and lament the Saturn Outlook and lost beach time.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

New Year's Day Road Trips - Part I: The Plan

I love road trips.  It's the idea of going somewhere I'm not.  The open road, changing scenery, the mystery of what's around the next bend.  Anywhere is fine.  The destination is unimportant as long as I can get in the car and go.  I've long admired/envied Peter Egan, who writes for Road and Track.  Long before I could drive, he was writing about road trips in interesting cars, including Austin Healeys, MGs, a Porsche 356, Ford Model A, and a couple of old Cadillacs.  Given the chance, a reliable mode of transportation, and the right music, I'll take a road trip at the drop of of a hat.  Over the years, I've made half a dozen runs to and from Florida, a pilgrimage to Dyersville, Iowa to see the Field of Dreams, and wandered across northeast Oklahoma along Route 66.  Unlike Peter Egan, my most interesting steeds were a LeBaron convertible, a rented Hertz yellow Mustang, and a Penske truck.  But given the keys and the time, I'll drive anything anywhere.

Which is how I found myself taking back to back road trips around New Year's Day.

The first trip was a run from Kansas City, Missouri to Palm Harbor, Florida in thirty-one hours.  There was no Smoky, no Snowman driving a truck full of Coors beer, and no black Trans-Am.  Instead, it was my in-laws' Kia Sedona mini-van and their gentle-giant golden retriever named Sunny.  They had driven up for the holidays and decided to fly back rather than drive.  At about this same time, my wife and I were car shopping and found a 2008 Saturn Outlook for sale just a few miles from their house.  The plan was for me to drive the Kia to Florida, buy the Saturn Outlook, and drive it home in four days, stopping just long enough to sleep, eat, and grab some quick beach time in nearby Dunedin.

Dunedin is a town of about thirty-five thousand people, just north of Clearwater and south of Palm Harbor on the Gulf Coast.  It's known for three things, Scottish heritage, the home of the Blue Jays spring training camp, and some of the best white sand beaches in the U.S.  Any day I could walk or bike along the Dunedin Causeway or watch the sunset from Caledesi island while my kids play on the beach to the sound track of laughter and gentle waves lapping the shore, is a day well spent.

Since my in-laws were flying back in a few days, we packed most of their luggage in the van.  The Kia's rear seats fold flat into the floor and the middle captain's chairs can be folded or removed.  It's amazing, the amount of space in a modern mini-van.  You could almost park an original, 1984 Plymouth Voyager inside the back of the Kia and have room to spare.  I'm also impressed with Kia's 3.8 V6.  I don't know if it's the same engine Hyundai puts in the Genesis, but it's buttery smooth and powerful.  No question it would outrun my old Infiniti, or just about any muscle car made before 1990.  Plus it burns regular gas and gets around 22 MPG on the highway, fully loaded, with a motorized wheelchair and lift on the back.

I spent Thursday morning, December 29 running errands to get ready for my trip.  I lined up financing at my credit union, called my insurance agent, and stock up on Diet Dr. Pepper.  By 12:30 the Kia was loaded and I was heading towards St. Louis.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Guest Post - Dangers of Toxins Found in Automobiles

This post is by Brian Turner.  I thought I'd share it since it provides good information on some of the chemicals that can be dangerous when working on cars.

Dangerous Toxins Found in Automobiles

For many people, an automobile is more than just a means of transportation; it's an investment that sometimes has sentimental value. Beyond that, many individuals and families spend a lot of time in their vehicles, whether it's driving to and from work and school or taking road trips across the country. In fact, it's estimated that the average American spends anywhere from one to three hours per day in an automobile or vehicle of some kind.

Now imagine all those hours adding up over the course of months and years and take into consideration the fact that much of this time may be spend exposed to dangerous toxins such lead, bromine, asbestos, polyvinyl chlorine and ethyl benzene. These materials and chemicals aren't found in the exhaust fumes your car releases when you drive; they're found directly in interior components, including interior carpeting, dashboards, vinyl and cloth seats, and steering wheels.


The dangers of
lead are well known to most people. Lead poisoning can lead to a variety of problems, including fertility problems, joint and muscle pain, learning impairment in children, kidney problems and chronic headaches. Lead is especially common in classic cars since many car manufacturers used lead based paint in past decades. For people who keep or work on classic cars, being aware of the fact there may be lead particles released during paint stripping or other bodywork is essential in keeping safe.


Asbestos has been linked to many health problems and cancer types, including mesothelioma. It's estimated that over 9500 people die each year from asbestos related health issues. While regulations have tightened over the years, asbestos can still be found in some cars, especially classic and foreign models. It is most often present in hood liners,
brake pads, valves and gaskets and clutch linings. Asbestos is especially dangerous when breathed into the lungs, so protection for mechanics working on these areas of a vehicle is very important.

Bromine, Polyvinyl Chlorine and Other Fire Resistant Chemicals:

Other dangerous chemicals are found in carpets, dashboards, shifters and armrests. These chemicals include bromine, polyvinyl chlorine (PVC),
benzene and others. Most of these are fire resistant and applied either as an unsealed coating to interior vinyl and plastics or mixed into plastic material during manufacturing. Many of these materials, chemicals and metals are known to cause a variety of health problems, including neurological damage, anemia, respiratory problems, learning impairment and birth defects. They may be breathed in or absorbed through prolonged contact with the skin.

Always wear a facemask and eye protection while cleaning the interior of your car, and be sure to research which makes and models have the lowest amount of toxins in exterior and interior parts.