Tag Archives: Ford Motor Company

2015 Ford Focus Electric: no gas, no problem?

Yes, the Ford Focus Electric literally turned heads when out on the town.

Yes, the Ford Focus Electric literally turned heads when out on the town.

Range anxiety is real, but so are an EV’s advantages

If you’re a good and honourable person, you’ve already read the review of the 2015 Ford Focus Titanium in these pages.

Imagine now, for a second, that the engine from that competent tester was stripped out and replaced by a 107 kWh electric motor, and the trunk partially filled with a 23 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Add in the Focus’ 5-door hatch body style, and that’s what you have here.

A 107 kWh electric motor generates 143 horsepower and gobs of torque.

A 107 kWh electric motor generates 143 horsepower and gobs of torque.

The Ford Focus Electric has been on the market since 2012, and represents one of the few all-electric models available today – certainly, a rarity in the North American scene.

This model does away with the range-extending on-board generators seen in more popular plug-ins, including those made by Ford (C-Max Energi, Fusion Energi), appealing instead to urban car buyers seeking a zero emission runabout.

A long weekend in the city seemed as good an opportunity as any to put the Focus Electric through its paces while keeping a few gallons of oil in the ground.

With an EPA-certified factory range of 76 miles (122 km), there was no doubt that range anxiety was going to join sunshine on the weekend’s forecast. More on that later.

Inside the cabin, the gasless Focus doesn't give away its special secret.

Inside the cabin, the gasless Focus doesn’t give away its special secret.

The test of the gas-powered Focus showed the compact to be a comfortable and put-together little vehicle with pleasant road manners.

Those qualities don’t disappear just because a battery has replaced the fuel tank – the Focus Electric, with its mid-level trim and gadgetry, performed (and coddled) just fine.

A rear-mounted battery adds about 300 kilograms to the vehicle’s curb weight, while the lack of internal combustion engine up front alters the weight distribution, moving it rearward.

You’d likely only feel the difference if you took the car on the track – the taught steering and compliant suspension does a good job at covering up any differences between the two.

The Focus Electric boasts 143 horsepower and 184 lb-ft. of torque from its powerplant, seamlessly applied through a 1-speed automatic transmission.

Patiently waiting its turn at the public hydro spigot.

Patiently waiting its turn at the public hydro spigot.

All that torque is available from a standstill – one of the great benefits of an electric motor – making the vehicle feel powerful and buttery smooth.

Electron-based power really shines when pulling a passing manoeuvre or merging, as the Focus Electric rockets to its desired speed with enough authority to push you back in your seat.

It’s tempting to drive the car in a manner that would wring the most fun out of this torquey motor, but hard acceleration comes at a price.

In this case, it gobbles up precious range from a limited supply.


White knuckles: living with a battery life indicator

Though the EPA says 122 km marks the end of the road, the Focus Electric showed a 148 and 155 km range, respectively, following two recharging breaks. That’s a little better, but nothing near the nearly 500 km range offered by more expensive EVs like the Tesla Model S.

That said, the price of a Focus Electric ($32,505 Canadian, before applicable rebates) undercuts a base Model S by more than half.

Everything you need to become a better EV driver is on display.

Everything you need to become a better EV driver is on display.

To make the most of the vehicle’s range, Ford employs an on-board ‘energy coach’ that monitors the braking, acceleration and cruising habits of the driver and rates them via an electronic display to the left of the speedometer.

The amount of power recaptured through coasting and regenerative braking is also displayed next to a thermometer-style battery life indicator.

While gas-powered vehicles shine on the highway when it comes to mileage, the manners of an EV are the complete opposite – highway trips sap range, while stoplight-to-stoplight motoring in the city sees plenty of juice returned to the battery.

It’s a shift in popular wisdom, but keeping to the busier streets helps the Focus Electric go the distance. With the battery indicator always counting down like sand through an hourglass, and with public charging stations still scarce, you’ll want to score high marks with the energy coach on an ongoing basis.

17-inch aluminum wheels lend a sporty look to the Ford Focus Electric.

17-inch aluminum wheels lend a sporty look to the Ford Focus Electric.

Range anxiety – that psychological affliction born of full-electric vehicles – creeps in during moments when the vehicle consumes more power than budgeted for a trip.

For example, on one 26 km trip from downtown to the suburbs by way of uncrowded parkways and open space, the Focus Electric consumed 44 km of range, despite gentle acceleration and a light foot at cruising speed.

A partial trip back of 16 km, through denser parts of the city that required more braking action, saw just 3 km of range bleed off the battery indicator.

A driver who previously though “I’m about to be stranded!” would now think “I can drive all night on this charge.”

The car's charging plug lies behind the battery hump in the rear hatch.

The car’s charging plug lies behind the battery hump in the rear hatch.

Though seemingly fickle, this behaviour is par for the course for an EV – little changes on the road can make big differences in range, so it’s important to plan ahead and anticipate them.

Charging the Focus Electric is a breeze if you have a 240-volt connection at home, as a full charge takes about four hours. Otherwise, you’ll be spending the whole night plugged into a regular 120-volt wall outlet.

This driver took advantage of a couple of 240-volt civic and institutional plug-in sites to keep the Focus on the road, though a few top-ups were accomplished via 120-volt plugs. The plug, which connects to a nifty glowing charging port on the driver’s side front fender, stows away in the hatch area of the car.

The Focus Electric doesn't care about inflated gas prices.

The Focus Electric doesn’t care about inflated gas prices.

Because of the location of the battery behind the rear seats, cargo capacity inside that hatch is severely hampered in this model.

It’s hard to say whether that would be a deal breaker with some buyers, though in its defence, the car’s rear seats do fold down to make a flat cargo surface.

In terms of viability, the Focus Electric exists to fill certain niches. Whether serving as a second car or a primary urban runabout, the vehicle works so long as the buyer is prepared to live within its limitations.

In Canada, where gasoline prices seem perpetually higher than oil prices would dictate, it gives a driver some satisfaction to be able drive past the pumps without a care as to the price on the sign.

If your can live with its range limitations, The Focus Electric will keep you comfortable... and green.

If you can live with its range limitations, the Focus Electric will keep you comfortable… and green.

2015 Ford Focus: new face, familiar ride

Ford wasn't prepared to let the Focus fade from the compact car scene. For 2015 it receives a major refresh.

Ford wasn’t prepared to let the Focus fade from the compact car scene. For 2015, it receives a significant refresh.

Subtle improvements keep restyled compact in the game

No car model wants to end up going the Marlon Brando route, lamenting “I coulda been a contender” to their friends over a beer.

That can happen when models are left to wither on the vine by an uncaring parent company. Like a retiree passed by a teenager on the highway, the model with the oldest hardware and least attention can soon find themselves in last place.

Ford’s perennially popular Focus has been a reliable seller for the company since its introduction in the late 1990s.

The current generation debuted for the 2012 model year, arriving in sedan and 5-door hatch form with an edgy European design that highlighted its global architecture, and packed with the latest technology aimed at safety and comfort.

However, the recent increase of standout compact offerings – including those from resurgent North American brands – saw the Focus run the risk of being overlooked in a crowded marketplace.

New year, new face: The Focus now shares front-end traits with its bigger brother Fusion.

About face: the Focus now shares front-end traits with its big brother, Fusion.


The refreshed 2015 Focus arrives with a new face and a longer list of available equipment. Incremental improvements have been made throughout the vehicle to keep the model fresh, but nothing radical simply for change’s sake.

Up front, a wide, horizontal slat grille with chrome accents brings the Focus’ design more in line with the larger Fusion.

Unlike some mid-cycle design tweaks, this significant makeover (which also includes the lower fascia, hood, taillights and trunklid) represents an improvement, not just a change. The cleaner lines and chrome, plus the new LED accent strips above the headlights (which double as daytime running lights), adds an upscale element to the Focus.

The Focus Titanium comes with an 8-inch screen to display SYNC information and the standard back-up camera.

The Focus Titanium comes with an 8-inch screen to display SYNC information and the standard back-up camera.

The standard engine remains a 2.0-litre direct injection four-cylinder, generating 160 horsepower and 146 foot-pounds of torque. A five-speed manual transmission comes standard, with Ford’s six-speed dual clutch PowerShift automatic optional on lower end models and standard on the top-line Titanium.

For 2015, economy-minded buyers can option their Focus with a 1.0-litre EcoBoost three-cylinder previously found only in the subcompact Fiesta. That tiny engine makes a respectable 123 horsepower and 125 foot-pounds of torque, and comes mated to a six-speed manual transmission.

Also available in the Focus lineup is the hot ST hatch, with a 2.0-litre EcoBoost making 252 horsepower, and the Focus Electric, an all-EV model. Diversity of options seems to be Ford’s game for its volume compact.

Inside the vehicle, minor but meaningful changes have been made to the dash layout and steering wheel to reduce the sense of clutter and enhance user friendliness. The parking brake has also been moved further aft, now located discreetly between the seats.

On the tech front, Ford offers a host of standard equipment in the Focus, including its SYNC infotainment system (featuring voice activation, hands-free calling, and USB and mobile device connectivity), and a rear-view camera. A number of additional high-tech features can be optioned.

A little more black, a little less busy. That's what Ford accomplished with the dash of the Focus during its makeover.

A little more black, a little less busy. That’s what Ford accomplished with the dash of the Focus during its makeover.


Driving impressions

Our Focus tester was a top-line Titanium model decked out with all the options Ford could muster.

Inside, the leather-trimmed seating looked stylish and matched the soft plastics of the dash. Though flat in appearance, the 8-way power driver’s seat (with lumbar support) proved extremely comfortable.

A nice touch in the cabin is the ambient nighttime lighting, which bathes door handles, map pockets, cup holders and foot wells in a soft, cool blue. Outside, parking lamps mounted in the side mirrors illuminate the ground beneath the front doors for entry and egress.

The 6-speed dual-clutch automatic unfortunately doesn't have its own gate for manual shifting. A shallow, thumb-actuated shifter is offered, but is easily ignored.

The 6-speed dual-clutch automatic unfortunately doesn’t have its own gate for manual shifting. A shallow, thumb-actuated shifter is offered, and is easily ignored.

Though it’s a feature that few buyers would demand in a compact, domestic sedan, it’s nevertheless a classy touch.

Our tester’s PowerShift automatic made good use of the standard 2.0-litre engine’s power, but the drivetrain was sometimes ‘buzzy’ at low speeds, as the tranny would hold on to lower gears in preparation for acceleration. Under normal or vigorous acceleration, shifts were quick and smooth – hallmarks of a dual clutch transmission.

Geared for economy (upshifts are enthusiastic, downshifts hesitant), the transmission, teamed with the high-compression engine, makes for great fuel economy.

The 2.0-litre/PowerShift combination is rated at 8.9 litres/100km in the city and 6.2 litres/100km on the highway, which translates into 31.7 mpg (Imp.) city and 45.6 mpg highway. The city numbers were easy to match in real life, and one two-hour drive on rural secondary highways returned a figure of 5.3 litres/100km (53.3 mpg).

Models with the five-speed manual are a little thirstier, going by factory mileage numbers, but would deliver a livelier driving experience.

In rural and urban driving, the Focus shone in the handling department. The optional 18-inch painted aluminum wheels on our tester (17-inchers come standard on Titanium models) came wrapped in low-profile rubber, which allowed the Focus to hold the road with authority.

Heavily weighted steering with no hint of play added to the sporty feel of the car.

Low profile tires can sometimes deliver a jarring ride in areas prone to road cracks and frost heaves, but the pliable suspension of the Focus soaked up the imperfections surprisingly well. A lack of body or suspension rattles made the Focus feel taught and put-together.

Active Park Assist and BLIS with cross-traffic alert are two two options you won't want to be without.

Active Park Assist and BLIS with cross-traffic alert are two two options you won’t want to be without.

Open roads are fun, but eventually everyone has to navigate a parking lot. The available safety features in the Focus helped tame parking paranoia, thanks to a rear-view camera (displayed on the Titanium’s 8-inch monitor) and Ford’s BLIS system.

The system alerts the driver to fixed obstacles around the vehicle, and monitors for approaching vehicles when the driver is backing out of a spot. This electronic nanny takes a car with already good rearward visibility and makes it almost clairvoyant.

If your parking spot of choice is of the parallel variety, available Active Park Assist allows the driver press a button and follow directions, as the Focus eventually takes over and parks itself (with some driver inputs). It works, but it’s creepy at first.

Other high-tech safety aids included blind spot warnings (via an amber LED light in the side mirrors), and lane departure warnings. Drift too close to the centre line or adjacent lane and the Focus will shake the steering wheel to grab your attention. Drift too close to the shoulder, and you could get a fatigue warning, complete with a chime and an illuminated warning in the gauge cluster.

Yes, the Ford Focus is spying on you, but it’s for your own good. And, presumably, you paid for it.

While the loaded Titanium model came in over $31,000 with all options and fees factored, a base S sedan begins at $16,799. Sure, you won’t be able to wow your friends with Knight Rider-like levels of gizmos, but the body and engine will be the same.

With the 2015 Focus, Ford has made meaningful improvements to an already competent vehicle. There are newer ‘all new’ compacts out there, but the Focus shouldn’t be overlooked just for that – especially when you consider the sum of its contents.

A comfortable yet sporty ride, laundry list of high-tech features and new face makes the Focus a worthy compact to consider.

A comfortable yet sporty ride, laundry list of high-tech features and new face makes the Focus a worthy compact to consider.

Torch bearer

This is it: the Lincoln Continental. And yes, it will be built (Image: Ford Motor Company)

This is it: the Lincoln Continental. And yes, it will be built (Image: Ford Motor Company)

As predicted (and anticipated), Lincoln took the wraps off a resurrected Continental at the New York International Auto Show this week, a few days after an eager Ford Motor Company introduced the model online.

Described as a concept, the new Lincoln flagship is apparently very close to what buyers can expect when it goes into production next year.

Big, stalely and modern, the new Continental made a big impression, garnering accolades from journos and the public alike, though Bentley insists the sedan is a rip-off of its own Flying Spur (an accusation made on Facebook, no less. How catty.)

Attractive lower-body chrome trim accentuates the Continental's lines, length, and perceived luxury (Image: Ford Motor Company)

Attractive lower-body chrome trim accentuates the Continental’s lines, length, and perceived luxury (Image: Ford Motor Company)

Mechanical details are fairly scarce, as Ford choose to talk about luxury, history and the design process during and after the introduction. We do know that the Continental will be powered by a Lincoln-exclusive 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6, but what wheels will do the driving is still a mystery. Many have speculated that it will be an all-wheel-drive vehicle.

Ford president and CEO Mark Fields said work on the new model began in 2013, while design teams were working on a replacement for the MKS. The proposed designs were lacklustre, so they decided to start fresh by introducing the Continental name into the process.

Cocoon yourself in luxury, says Lincoln. I wouldn't be calling shotgun with this ride (Image: Ford Motor Company)

Cocoon yourself in luxury, says Lincoln. I wouldn’t be calling shotgun with this ride (Image: Ford Motor Company)

Unlike ‘MKS’, the word ‘Continental’ does stir something inside people, and it helped nudge the designers in the direction of ‘classic, full-figured American luxury’.

Overall, the concept is very good.

Clean lines, the right proportions, nothing too busy, gaudy or chintzy.

Maybe this humble blogger is asking for too much, but I can’t help but wish for more when it comes to the front. There’s nothing wrong with the front facia and grille – they’re as clean and understated as the rest of the vehicle – but I was hoping for something that cried ‘Lincoln!’ a little louder.

Not necessarily a knock-off of classic Lincoln grilles from the 60s and 70s, but a stronger design statement. I’m not even sure what that would look like.

As it is right now, I see more Ford in that front than Lincoln. Minus the rest of the vehicle, I can see the front end belonging to a modern-day Ford Galaxie or LTD.

But, this is hardly important given the overall impressiveness of the effort, and the earth-shaking realization that Lincoln Is Bringing Back The Continental!

Plenty of glass above the driver; plenty of steel below (Image: Ford Motor Company)

Plenty of glass above the driver; plenty of steel below (Image: Ford Motor Company)


We got the beat(er)

1967 Ford Falcon, spotted in Savannah, Georgia. 1960s beaters are nonexistent in Canada, but live on in the Deep South.

1967 Ford Falcon, spotted in Savannah, Georgia. 1960s beaters are nonexistent in Canada, but live on in the Deep South.

The great thing about temperate winters (besides not getting frostbite, slipping on ice, or having to pray for vehicle ignition on cold mornings) is the lack of salt.

Road salt is to cars the way Father Karras was to the demon inside Linda Blair. It destroys them, dissolves them, and sends them back to nature in their elemental state – in this case, iron oxide (rust).

Because of this, you rarely see any classic cars operating as daily drivers in northern climes. In the south, it’s a different story – if you’ve got the patience and the cash, your road-going classic can also be your grocery getter.

There’s also more to choose from, thanks to the preservation qualities of a warm, dry climate.

The ’67 Ford Falcon isn’t anyone’s idea of a ‘classic’, but it is a historic vehicle that saw many buyers back in the day. And this example, parked under hanging moss on the sultry streets of Savannah, sure has seen some use since the Summer of Love.

The Falcon carried Ford's round taillight motif until 1967, but no further.

The Falcon carried Ford’s round taillight motif until 1967, but no further.

Dents and dings adorn the bumpers and body panels of this cream-coloured Falcon, with the rear fender displaying what is probably a do-it-yourself Bondo job.

It’s a beater, but unlike the rusty Civics and Cavaliers we see up in the Great White North, it’s got history and character backing it up. Think of the tumultuous events occurring in America in 1967 (few of them non-violent).

The deadly Detroit Riots took place that tension-filled summer, along with smaller riots in Buffalo, Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Washington, DC. The Vietnam War escalated amid a growing anti-war movement, while America’s space program recorded its first deaths – the three-man crew of Apollo 1 lost in a launch pad fire.

In Georgia, Democrat Lester Maddox – a staunch segregationist – took office as the state’s governor. Despite his controversial views, the state soon embarked on an economic development strategy that included the hiring of African-Americans to public positions, as well reforming the state’s health care, education and prison systems.

Future Georgia governor Lester Maddox, seen here chasing black restaurant patrons with a gun, 1964.

Future Georgia governor Lester Maddox, seen here chasing black restaurant patrons with a gun, 1964.

Culturally, 1967 saw an explosion of counterculture that steadily progressed over the next few years. Jimi Hendrix and The Doors released their debut albums, and overseas The Beatles released what many consider one of the most influential albums of all time – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

It, like the rest of their material, was hit-and-miss.*

*Says this Stones fan

The Ford Falcon was not new, or all that exciting, in 1967. It was, however, competent and – as always – offered good value to the car buyer.

The simple, unibody Falcon was born in 1960 amid the ‘compact craze’ that afflicted the American auto industry following the dismal sales year of 1958 and the subsequent success of the Rambler American.

Oddly, the architect of the Falcon – Ford Motor Company ‘Whiz Kid’ Robert McNamara – was also the architect of the Vietnam War (he served as U.S. Secretary of Defence from 1961 to 1968).

Former U.S. Secretary of Defence (and creator of the Ford Falcon) Robert McNamara on the cover of Time, 1963.

Former U.S. Secretary of Defence (and creator of the Ford Falcon) Robert McNamara on the cover of Time, 1963.

Designed to be roomy, easy to live with and easy on the pocketbook, the Falcon – though bland – outsold its competition handily. Powered by two economical and reliable straight-sixes (144 and 170 c.i.d.), it could be optioned with Ford’s smallest V-8 (260 c.i.d.) for more spirited performance.

The Falcon platform came in handy when then-exec Lee Iacocca was hunting for a cost-effective way to create an all-new sporty car to help shake up the company’s stodgy image. In 1964, the bones of the staid and sensible Falcon made way for the sexy and seductive Mustang.

The Falcon soon became available in a wide variety of body styles – sedan, coupe, convertible, and wagon – and served as the underpinnings of the Ranchero pickup.

More style and a longer list of engine options were on tap for 1964, in a bid to tap into the growing youth market. The third generation Falcon was introduced in 1966, this time based on a shortened Fairlane platform.

Ford Falcon - the vehicle of choice for Flower Children everywhere.

Ford Falcon – the vehicle of choice for Flower Children everywhere.

Signature round taillights continued to be used on the Falcon for ’66 and ’67, changing to a square setup from ’68 to the end of the model line in 1970.

Engine options for the third generation were many, ranging from the 144, 170 and 200 c.i.d. Thriftpower Six, to the 260, 289 and 302 c.i.d. Windsor V-8.

The Falcone name was retired from the American automotive landscape at the dawn of the 1970s, as Ford continued in the compact market with the Maverick and the Pinto. Overseas, the model name had longer legs – it continued in Argentina-built Fords until 1991, and is still in use in Australia.

An upmarket version of the Australian Falcon was sold from 1965 to 2008 under the equally familiar name Fairmont.

So, while this beater of a Georgia Falcon didn’t initially seem that significant, its history and the culture of its era say otherwise. For all we know, Lester Maddox or Jim Morrison once drove in it.



2016 Ford Explorer: a blast from the past? (Image: Ford)

2016 Ford Explorer: a blast from the past? (Image: Ford)

In November, Ford pulled the wraps off a facelifted 2016 Explorer at the L.A. Auto Show – an event that caused little fanfare.

After all, a mid-cycle update of an SUV unchanged since 2011 isn’t the sexiest thing, especially when there’s a MUSTANG OVER THERE!

Still, the Explorer is a storied nameplate, and a highly visible model for Ford. And changes can make a good vehicle better or worse than before.

I quite liked the look of the newly unibody Explorer when it was released in 2011. Exterior design elements were reminiscent of the Land Rover-Range Rover stable, and gave the utility vehicle a visual sense of luxury and class it didn’t have before.

Driving it revealed remarkably agile handling for such a heavy vehicle, with precise steering, a smooth powertrain, compliant suspension, and every creature comfort a motorist could want. All of this remains for 2016, save for some new engine choices, and a refreshed front end.

The front end is the problem.

Circa-2007 Ford Freestyle (Image: IFCAR/Wikimedia Commons)

Circa-2007 Ford Freestyle (Image: IFCAR/Wikimedia Commons)

Most mid-cycle styling refreshes serve to make an aging vehicle look newer, or at least ‘different’, lest the consumer grow bored. The 2016 Explorer’s new front end – featuring a normally inoffensive chrome mesh grille – actually makes the vehicle look older.

On the night of the reveal, I wasn’t the only commenter remarking on the new Explorer’s resemblance to the 2003-2009 Ford Freestyle (aka the Taurus X). And we all remember (if we brush the cobwebs away) what a forgettable vehicle that was.

In this instance, I think making the ‘safe choice’ for the restyle was the wrong choice. The Explorer’s body still looks good, and the grille was hardly the best part of the 2011-2015 models, but at least it ‘fit’.

The blacked-out grilles on the Explorer Sport looked the best, in my opinion, especially when coupled with those black rims. Outfitted with that trim, it resembled a police pursuit vehicle.

2015 Ford Explorer Sport. Now, isn't that better? (Image: Ford)

2015 Ford Explorer Sport. Now, isn’t that better? (Image: Ford)

Besides the throw-back grille, the 2016 Explorer brings the new 2.3-litre Ecoboost engine into the fold.

Available in the Lincoln MKC and Ford Mustang, the 2.3 (unlike the previous 2.0) will be offered in 4-wheel-drive models, including those with towing packages.

While the 3.5-litre V-6 remains the standard engine, a 3.5-litre Ecoboost now comes standard on Explorer Sport and Platinum models.

The 2016 Explorer goes on sale in mid-2015.

Green energy

Call me, please: 1971-72 Ford Mustang Mach 1, spotted in L' Ange-Gardien, Quebec.

Call me, please: 1971-72 Ford Mustang Mach 1 (L’ Ange-Gardien, Quebec).

It would be great if a person could live vicariously through a parked car.

I mean, think of the boosted levels of personal satisfaction and contentment that could come from lifestyle redistribution. A society’s collective frown would be turned upside down!

Sailing... in your new Mach 1. This '72 ad looks like it should come with a Carly Simon record.

Sailing… in your new Mach 1. This ’72 ad looks like it should come with a Carly Simon record.

In the real world, however, I was forced to just stand there and drool as a spotless early-70s Mustang Mach 1 rested driverless on the roadside. Of course, it had to be a warm, sunny weekend, with nearby autumn-tinged roads – twisty ones, no less – beckoning nearby.

An unfortunate moment for yours truly, but a dream come true for the lucky owner. This fastback was a real gem, too – almost too flawless. As for power under the hood, that’s anyone’s guess, as the Mach 1 told few tales via its exterior.

’71 and ’72 Mach 1’s are visually identical, but the powertrain options differ greatly. The ’71 (a year sometimes viewed as ‘the last good year’ amongst horsepower enthusiasts) could be had in more flavours than Baskin Robbins, starting at a base 302 Windsor V-8 and moving up through FOUR 351 Clevelands before topping out with two 429s (Cobra Jet and Super Cobra Jet).

Sean Connery (the life of any party) in 'Diamonds Are Forever'.

Sean Connery (the life of any party) in ‘Diamonds Are Forever’.

The U.S. government let some of the air out of the high-compression fun in ’72, when the 429s were dropped in favour of just the base 302 and three 351s (in either 2-barrel, 4-barrel or 4-barrel High Output designations).

So wild was the ’71 Mach 1 that even Seam Connery got behind the wheel of one in the campy Bond flick Diamonds Are Forever, outwitting both bad guys and cops on the streets and alleyways of Las Vegas.

Solid, man.

While the Mach 1 soldiered on as a Mustang  trim level until 1978, the latter four years of its run saw the famous moniker applied to the unappreciated and wimpy Mustang II.

For Mach 1 enthusiasts, the name will always bring to mind the glory days of 1969-71, an era that was (at least for car lovers) a gas, gas, gas.

I am the resurrection

Will a $5 billion investment from Ford boost Lincoln's sagging fortunes? Time will tell.

Will a $5 billion investment from Ford boost Lincoln’s sagging fortunes? Time will tell.

There’s been no shortage of spilled ink when it comes to debating the (seemingly) age-old question, ‘What are we to do with Lincoln?’

The iconic 92-year-old brand, once the pinnacle of American luxury, has meandered along on a rudderless path for years, churning out forgettable vehicles while whispers of its impending demise grew ever louder.

Well, it seems that Ford is finally deciding to do something about the wayward marque. New CEO Mark Fields clearly believes in the ‘go big or go home’ mantra, and late last month announced plans to pump piles of money into the Lincoln Motor Company.

Like gasoline through the carb of a 460 V-8, this copious cash infusion is aimed at jump-starting the brand into renewed relevancy.

How much cash, exactly? At least $5 billion over the next five years, according to Reuters:


To compete, you need to offer a variety of things that people want, and do it as good or better than the other guys. Like any company with two brain cells to rub together, Lincoln knows this, and the 2014 MKC small crossover is a good example of a move in a more competitive direction.

But one new vehicle doesn’t save a company. The $5 billion will be allocated to freshening up the existing lineup while adding new goodies to the shelf.

The creation of a new, highly-configurable platform to underpin several new models is at the centre of the rebuilding plan. The platform will reportedly be able to accommodate drivetrains utilizing the front or rear wheels (or all of them).

Now that there’s fuel being added to the fire, it should be interesting to watch Lincoln attempt to rise from the ashes.

Lincoln Mk. III (1969-1971) spotted in Prince George, British Columbia.

Lincoln Mk. III (1969-1971) spotted in Prince George, British Columbia.

Whether it will attain past levels of glory remains to be seen, but I’ve got my fingers crossed – like always – for a new flagship Continental sedan, ideally with suicide doors.

I’m never backing down on that wish. And if that’s too much to ask, can we please get a personal luxury coupe?

Breeze life away

1963 Mercury Monterey 'Breezeway' sedan, spotted in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan.

1963 Mercury Monterey ‘Breezeway’ sedan, spotted in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan.

There was so much happening in the early 1960s, one can be forgiven for not noticing the roofline on a mid-range Ford Motor Company product.

The Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Space Race and the JFK assassination all competed for national attention in that era. But behind all the drama (not to mention the drinking and smoking), there was a movement afoot to set the often wayward middle child of the Ford family (Mercury… we’re talking Mercury) on a new and distinctive path.

While the Fords of the late 1950s were understated and didn’t go in for the styling excesses of the higher end GM and Chrysler models of the time, Mercury and Lincoln embraced them.

Fast-forward to the early 60s. Fords remained relatively conservative in appearance (read: safe) thanks to lessons learned from their short-lived 1960 styling experiment, while Lincoln had scrapped its former gargantuan and gaudy 1958-1960 body to create a timeless classic – the 1961 Continental.

The Mercury division was left somewhere in the middle, unsure of whether to appear as an uplevel Ford or a stripped Lincoln. In preparing for the 1963model year, Mercury seized on a styling cue originally marketed in their ’57 Turnpike Cruiser as a way of setting themselves apart from the other divisions.

It was impossible not to smoke ALL THE TIME in the Mad Men era, and this 1963 ad showed how the Breezeway could change your life.

It was impossible not to smoke ALL THE TIME in the Mad Men era, and this 1963 ad showed how the Breezeway could change your life.

The reverse-slanted, retractable rear window was just one neat-o, futuristic gimmick on a car now semi-infamous for being full of them. The Turnpike Cruiser was the ultimate Space Age dream car, but that era has now passed.

The rear window idea, however, had legs. Not only was there comfort and convenience attributes in having a back window that could open up, out of the rain, but it would make for a noticeably different roofline – something that would help set Mercury apart from both Ford and Lincoln.

For 1963, the ‘Breezeway’ roof (as it was marketed) became available on the Monterey. In addition to the distinctive roof, the ’63 Merc set itself apart from its other stablemates by way of a strong beltline and slightly concave side panels, as well as a set of triple taillights. A big 390-cubic inch V-8 came standard and provided plenty of muscle to move the large sedan around. A 427-cubic inch V-8 was optional.

Advertising at the time called attention to the new roof, depicting pleasant scenes brought about by that overhanging roofline and retractable window. One ad showed a bird taking shelter from a rainstorm under the rear lip, while others showed happy people venting their cigarette smoke out the back of the passenger cabin.

The Breezeway roof treatment set Mercury vehicles apart from their Ford siblings from 1963 to 1968.

The Breezeway roof treatment set Mercury vehicles apart from their Ford siblings from 1963 to 1968.

For 1964, Mercury resurrected the higher-end Montclair and Park Lane nameplates and applied the Breezeway roof treatment to them. In ’65, designers tried to bring the model line even more upscale by giving the Mercs a Lincoln-like front end, while reducing the number of models with Breezeway roofs.

Buyers liked the Lincoln front end (offered at a much lower price than the actual luxury division) but preferred a formal roofline for sedans. This trend carried over into the similar-styled ’66 models.

For the last two years the Breezeway roof was offered (1967 and ’68), the design changed completely in order for the car to adopt the sloping beltline with ‘shoulder’ over the rear fenders that was so popular at the time. The Breezeway roof now sloped  towards the front of the car like a conventional roof, except with a slight overhang that allowed the rear window to be rolled down a couple of inches.

While the ventilation effect could still be achieved, air conditioning was now becoming commonplace, and features like the Breezeway were no longer needed, or marketable.

Though it disappeared after just six model years, the Breezeway represented an interesting and successful attempt to get noticed in a turbulent and confusing time for the auto industry. Still distinctive after all these years, well-preserved models like the mint example I found in rural Saskatchewan really stand out.

It’s easy to see the appeal in a Breezeway.

Southern belle

1930 Ford Model A Town Sedan, spotted in Charleston, South Carolina.

1930 Ford Model A Town Sedan, spotted in Charleston, South Carolina.

Anything with Henry Ford’s name stamped on it commands respect in America, even today.

That titan of industrialization, efficiency and ingenuity continues to hover over the western world with his ephemeral presence, like a spiritual elder still capable of instilling lessons in the youngest generation.

Everything Henry touched remains steeped in glowing, historical reverence, which is why it was such a treat to come across this pristine antique Ford in the warm gaslight of Charleston, South Carolina.

A mild breeze was blowing that night, as I strolled through the polite, temperate city that started the Civil War. And there she was – parked under a streetlight, her yellow wheel hubs and spokes matching the painted limestone of a nearby home and the crushed leaves underfoot.

The 1930 Ford Model A Town Sedan was a classy model for its era, but this example didn’t have the sidemounts that would really complete the package. Still, who can complain?

History collided that night. An 84-year-old car parking in the heart of a city 260 years its elder. If the country’s history was a stage play, both the car and the city would play larger-than-average roles.

Lookin' civilized in the South.

Lookin’ civilized in the South.

The Ford Model A – Henry’s second runaway hit – is not a rare classic car. In fact, it’s one of the most common.

Between October 20, 1927 and March, 1932, Ford produced 4,849,340 Model A’s in a limitless variety of styles. So many were produced that parts are still plentiful, all these years later.

The Model A was conceived to replace the once phenomenally popular (but now rapidly aging) Model T, amid newfound competition from other automakers. The new model, like its predecessor, was designed to be durable, affordable, and easy to manufacture, but now boasted modern features and a dash of style.

The rock-solid, 201-cubic inch 4-cylinder under the Model A’s hood made 40 horsepower, and was mated to a 3-speed unsynchronized gearbox. Unlike the Model T, the Model A used the 3-pedal setup American drivers were becoming accustomed to.

Innovation was a Ford hallmark, and the new car didn’t disappoint – the Model A was the first vehicle to use windshield safety glass.

Henry Ford (1863-1947) was getting long in the tooth by the late Twenties, and didn’t feel like bothering to have a hand in the design of the car. This was likely for the best, as by that time, the Model T – which Ford still saw as adequate – was looking awfully primitive and stodgy.

Henry Ford, left, and his long-suffering only son Edsel are seen in this archive pic.

Henry Ford, left, and his long-suffering only son Edsel are seen in this archive pic.

A design team headed up by Henry’s son (and Ford Motor Company president) Edsel Ford came up with a proper style for the new vehicle. And, unlike before, they made sure buyers of a new Model A could pick from a choice of colours.

Tough, versatile, and cheap (the starting price undercut $400), Model A’s continued to fly out of showrooms even after the stock market crash and subsequent onset of the Great Depression. Good thing they were built Ford tough, as many drivers were forced to keep them a lot longer than expected (or even live in them) due to the financial conditions of the time.

Edsel Ford didn’t outlive his father (he died of stomach cancer in 1943 at age 49), but the Model A will outlive all of us.

Thousands of examples of the relatively affordable classic roam the roadways of North America each summer (never quite reaching their claimed to speed of 65 mph), and new parts for the simplistic drivetrain are as close as a visit to Google.

Hybrid theory

Some kind of Ford hybrid will be doing battle with Toyota's Prius starting in late 2018.

Some kind of Ford hybrid will be doing battle with Toyota’s Prius starting in late 2018.

War clouds are gathering, and for once they’re figurative.

If media reports are true (and when are they not?), Ford Motor Company is gearing up to wage battle with… the eco-friendly Toyota Prius.

The Prius remains the ever-popular darling of the green crowd, and is still the first name that comes to mind when the topic of hybrids is brought up. Toyota sells piles of them, and apparently Ford isn’t happy about that.

A shadowy person told Reuters last week that the automaker – which is reasonably good financial shape – plans to introduce a standalone hybrid model in late 2018. A Ford spokesperson then got all cagey when asked about it.

ShadowMan claims the model will be based on Ford’s new global C2 platform, which will underpin the future Focus and Escape. Naturally, every bit of technology (some of which probably can’t even be imagined in 2014) will be employed to wring every last bit of range out of the future ShadowVehicle.


Know thy enemy

The Prius family is a big one, having grown to include the regular Prius, a plug-in version, the compact C, and the larger, wagon-like V. All that’s missing from the lineup is a drop-top, a large SUV, and an El Camino-type ‘Ute’.

Still, the Prius clan isn’t immune to market forces – among them, cheaper gasoline and diesel vehicles that return increasingly impressive fuel economy (not to mention competing hybrids). The devilishly handsome folks at goodcarbadcar.net report an 11.2% drop in Prius family sales between July of 2013 and July of this year in the U.S. Year to date, the Prius family is down 11% in U.S. sales.

In Canada, the Prius situation is worse, with July sales showing a 21.4% drop over the previous year, and year-to-date sales down 14.3%.

While these numbers are discouraging, they’re not dire. Over 86,000 Prius models have still found their way into American driveways so far this year.

"Don't you want me, baby?"

“Don’t you want me, baby?”

As for Ford, which is currently pushing the hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of its popular Fusion sedan (and offering the hybrid drivetrain as a no-cost option on their Lincoln MKZ), a certain vehicle seems to have been abandoned in a basket at the neighbour’s front door.

The Ford C-Max went on sale in North America in September, 2012, following years of sales in Europe. The upright, Kia Rondo-ish hatch runs solely on hybrid power (normal or plug-in), but if the goal was to challenge Prius for the hybrid crown, that ball missed the basket by a nautical mile.

Nearly invisible in the marketplace, and tainted by fudged mileage figures that left drivers expecting more, the C-Max saw its total U.S. sales fall by 40.1% year-to-date.

Cracking the 3,000 vehicle mark seems a near impossible task for the C-Max this year. Contrast that with the Prius’ numbers, and you can clearly see a need for a Plan ‘B’.

What this new vehicle will look like when it debuts four long years from now is anyone’s guess, but if it’s designed to beat the Prius at its own game, expect similar body styles and every scrap of technology Ford can lay its hands on.