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Sports Cars - The Definitive Discussion

merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
edited March 2014 in Porsche
I'm reading in the March issue of EVO about the development process of the Aston-Martin V8 Vantage. This article like the on Motor Trend and other publications really gives you an insight into what goes in developing a modern car, but also what goes into developing a sports car. Very interesting reading, got me to wanting to talk about sports cars.

What current sports car defines to breed in your opinion?

What sports cars seems to be the most pure?

What is your definition of a "sports car"?

Last, but not least which is your favorite at this moment?

Any thoughts in general about sports cars are also welcome.

I think personally we're living a grand era for the type. I mean you have a new Corvette, 911, F430, and even Aston-Martin is about to launch an all-new sports car, not a GT like the DB9, but a 911 chaser - the V8 Vantage. Sounds delicious to me. Lotus is even back on the scene with a car (Elise) that is according to everything I've see about it - about as much fun as you can have on 4 wheels. To think how many times the sports car was said to be on its way out.

Mr Shiftright, is it possible to have this discussion stradle this board and the News and Views board?



  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    I'm particularly intrigued by the F430, 911 Carrera S, and this new Aston-Martin V8 Vantage.

    Maybe I'me overstating this here, but think about it: tiny Aston-Martin building a 911 beater? Has it happened before as I haven't been around as long as some who post here, but in recent years Aston wasn't even on the map in true sports car, let alone a Porsche competitor. To quote Dr. Ulrich Bez Aston's chief: "You know, its funny, when I was at Porsche we never even thought about Aston-Martin."

    I finally got to see a Lotus Elise on the road - what a small car, definitely should be for track use only. The poor driver was so bunched up in the car - but he appeared to relish it.

    I see why the very definition of a sports car varies so much. I mean is the Lotus Elise a sports car or is something like a Corvette a sports car? Or is it something like a Carrera GT, Miata, Viper, Boxster S, Zonda, 350Z, Murcielago?

    I think I have a clear defintion of what a "GT" is: A sporty car that is capable of running with sports cars to a point, but with much better comfort and practicality, imo. Supercar: Outrageous performance, styling all uncompromised by real world demands. Does a "sports car" fit in the middle? I think so. You?

  • starrow68starrow68 Posts: 1,142
    Interesting views and yes we have it real good right now. I read a lot of car and sports car mags and am just getting to the C6 review in Grassrootsmotorsports but I read from front to back and have to get past the helmet and harness articles first. As to what is a sports car I also think it is partly an age and economic thing. When I was 20 something I did a dozen years in an MGB (72 - before the rubber bumpers) and was a very happy camper, it was what I could afford and was much more fun than the 280SL that I couldn't afford at the time. Also I fit and didn't have any issues getting in and out or driving long trips.
    As I got to 50 something and was looking for some fun I wanted the XK8, until I found out at 6' 3" I didn't come close to fitting in the door or riding in the car. That led to lots of test drives, Boxster, S2000, M3, Z3, Z350, ZX300 (used), Miata and even a Prelude. Didn't think much of the TT or the SC430, sorry, a looks thing. Nothing really impressed me until I was encouraged to try a Corvette, most dealers don't test drive new ones. Test drove a couple used ones and it fit the bill, fun, comfortable and I admit more a GT than a true sports car which I was looking for at the time.
    Then the neighbor with the M3 wanted to do a driving school so we went to Russell Racing at Sears Point and I've been on the track for a couple years now. The Vette is a sports car even in plain vanilla coupe form. It's really fun with an instructor getting a particular turn down and then they say, 'stay wide and when the M5 stays on line you should be in good position to pass, now nail it'.

    So, why do the sports car mags rave about the Boxster? I was underwhelmed by the power and it was too tight for comfort, I'm only 195# so not a bulk issue. At the track I pass most 911's and the Boxsters don't even come close even in the twisty sections like the esses at Sears Point. Running up on one in the esses and then blowing by in turn 9 only gets hairy when you have to decide how fast you want to take turn 10, takes some working up to. To get a Porsche that performs as well as a $40k to $45k Vette(02) you need to get well past $100k, say $125k. And for a $50k Z06, which I don't have, it can usually run with GT3's. Passing a GT3 by the way is really fun :), and lapping one in a 25 minutes session at Laguna Seca is just gravey, ok he was a rookie but I'm not far past that myself ;).

    In two weeks, off to Reno-Fernley, newly expanded road course for my sixth track in the past two years. All Corvette weekend, no Porsches to pass :(. If you have a sports car and you are not getting out on road courses for High Performance Driving Events (HPDE) you are really missing most of the fun! IMHO
  • tsaupe1tsaupe1 Posts: 166
    I'm not really sure what constitutes a sportscar anymore. When I was younger I thought of my Lotus Elan as a sports car and the Elan plus 2S as a GT. I guess I always thought of "sportscars" as open roadsters with two seats that were light and "tossable."

    Now that I'm driving a 328 Ferrari, I think of it as a sportscar. I'm wondering if the change in attitude happened with a lot of people with the introduction of the 240Z.

    Going by the old definition, I'd have to vote for the Elise. At least, I sure wouldn't mind having one!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    We might link this discussion if it remains civilized. The "what is a sports car" forums in the past have gotten rowdy, so we'll see.

    I'm going to take the position that if you can't track the car from the showroom floor without making a fool of it and you, then it's not a sports car. If you can, that doesn't mean it IS a sports car, as some 4-door sedans might track very well.

    Let's just say that multiple hot laps, performed respectably without brakes on fire and suspension begging for mercy and pig-squealing tires and an exhausted driver, takes you at least to the semi-finals of "what is a sports car".

    "Sport" implies a serious weapon for the job, not some marketing device IMO.
  • tsaupe1tsaupe1 Posts: 166
    "I'm going to take the position that if you can't track the car from the showroom floor without making a fool of it and you, then it's not a sports car."

    I don't know, Mr Shiftright, I've had some awfully good cars make a fool out of me on the track. But yes, I think being trackable should be in the equation.
  • starrow68starrow68 Posts: 1,142
    After two years on track I've seen everything from Suburbans to a Pontiac Sunbird and Volvo wagons to one Elise and everything inbetween. BTW, the Suburban was being driven by an old instructor and passing many in the entry level group. Some of the M and AGM sedans seem to track pretty well but none have passed my Vette yet, not that any high end unit with a good driver couldn't. There is just too much capability in most cars today to let it off that easy, and face it I see vintage NASCARs at the track all the time, not sports cars for sure.

    So, from the dozen years in the MGB, which I did enjoy greatly, is it as simple as having the top down and taking the long way home through a canyon? I would like to think the track would some how make a distinction but what's the next factor? I'm not into the sun so top down is no longer a draw, track performance on the other hand keeps me very happy in the Vette.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Well I did specify "off the showroom floor" so that eliminates the highly modified NASCAR automobile that is not even streetable...

    As for a Suburban on the track, that's fine for a couple laps driven by an expert but soon enough its brakes would fail completely if it were driven hard, ditto Volvo wagons, Sunbirds or whatever. They simply cannot endure 100+ mph speeds on the track with the brakes and suspension they have. Shoot, anybody with some skill can beat a couple raw rookies on a track for one or two laps without even breathing hard.

    So I think the track test is very valid for openers if you really try to drive the "sports car" seriously and seriously fast around the course. You really think a Sebring convertible is going to do ten ferocious laps at Sears? Don't think so myself unless you got a lotta heart and a lotta guts.
  • starrow68starrow68 Posts: 1,142
    That does bring down the limits, but I wonder how bad the brakes are on stuff off the showroom floor. Since the last two new cars we bought were Corvettes my most recent prior experience is the Excursion and it's hopeless, even compared to the Sub. So, I get your point. What I do see at the track currently is Evo's and WRX's, lots of 'em, S2000's interestingly most with race rubber and not street cars, Miata's in all forms but mostly modified, Porsche mostly 911 or older stuff like 944's, hardly ever see Boxsters, several BMW, mostly 3 series, Mustang's and F Body's and surprising to me not a lot of Corvettes. But I guess less than 35k per year with 16 million car sales isn't going to be much of a percentage. I've seen very few Z3's, a few G35's and a few mini Cooper's, they look like fun. Now older stuff like NSX's, RX7's and turbo Supra's show up every so often. Pick what you like, it's really not a long list.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    You think Mustangs and F bodies are running stock brakes and tires? I doubt it. Evos are pretty awesome right out of the box as long as you don't hit anything. 944s are great handling cars, very under-rated.
  • starrow68starrow68 Posts: 1,142
    I guess since I'm running stock brakes I think it can be done more widely. True that most of the Stangs and F-body's are modified to some extent and the brakes seem to be one of the simplist things to be done.
    On the 944 there seems to be a good series for them in NASA, I think, just like American Iron for pony cars. Too bad I don't have the interest in keeping up my own or the money to have one kept up for me, doing some racing might be interesting. OTOH, for just a few dates a year seems like lots of work, which I get the impression is why many like it, a hobby. Running on track for the fun of it takes less time and allows more dates, any one with a performance sports car is really missing out. There is a group running at Sears Point Sunday the 3rd that I may try to catch a session with after returning from Reno-Fernley that day. Addicted, no way!
  • starrow68starrow68 Posts: 1,142

    Of course I like the result, except for the Boxster and just wish the Elise would fit for a few laps. Oh well!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Those results seem really logical to me, and I would have guessed pretty much the same order without even running the cars. I was a little surprised the Viper didn't do better, but it is an animal and you need a GREAT driver. The poseur cars got nailed, so I'm pleased.

    You can pooh-pooh Corvette and Boxster for this or that failing, or for the grossly stereotypical buyer who is brought forth into the media spotlight for a cheap shot (Corvette drivers wear gold chains, Boxster drivers are incompetent show-offs, blah blah), but these two cars are purpose built and can walk their talk, so 'nuff said.
  • xkssxkss Posts: 722
    Sports car racing will gain even more popularity this year. So why doesn't Ferrari back the new F430 in racing?
  • Not sure what the theme of this discussion really is. There hasn't been any real attempt to define a sports car, which is probably a good thing. As Shifty points out, that discussion has not gone well in the past.
    I have to say that from my perspective, the Elise is the quintessential sports car available today. It lost a lot of points in that R&T comparison for things like exterior styling, interior styling, ergonomics, seats and trunk space - none of which have anything to do with being a great sports car in my mind. Well, ergonomics might come into play from the standpoint that at 6'1" and 220 lbs, I probably wouldn't fit in an Elise. Only that and the fact that I don't have $45K lying around for a fun car, prevent me from running down to the Lotus dealer.
  • starrow68starrow68 Posts: 1,142
    I too would probably consider one if at 6' 3" and 195#s I'd come even close to fitting into one. I'd love to get into something that had similar performance to the Vette, not a rally car, and could do road events at a slightly lower cost to maintain. Oh well, the new Vette is getting lots of good reviews by both those wanting it for touring and those who see it as a real performance ride.
  • I like corvettes, their cool. I like the design of the 2005, it looks alot sharper. I really hope that the corvettes performance keep's improving as well as it's market in years to come.
    I dont really agree about comparing a corvette to a porsche boxter or 911. these cars are not quite a match. First, corvette has never proven itself in any of the 24hr le mans race, or perhaps in any other endurance race ever!!!
    Second corvette is barely becoming world class sports car, When Porsche has been recognized as a world class spots car for the last 2 decades.
    I, on the other hand feel that a "viper" would be a better contender. I have seen vipers quick some major but in enduro races all over europe and the world.
    Yes, vipers are more expensive but you truly get what you pay for (just like buying a porsche for example). Porsche has proven their engineering so many times at races.(for the last 50 years) Corvette if I'm not mistaking, has entered the 24hr of le mans and it has flopped so many times. I do alot of autocrossing and i have been to track meets and i have seen corvettes perform plenty of times @ laguna seca. (never impressed)
    Comparing a ZO6 to a boxter? well,the boxter has a mild 240 hp engine while corvette has an easy 120 more ponies under its hood. Maybe they are both the same price but you have to consider the fact that porsche is a foreign car therefore it has to be an expensive car. The point!!!! would be that a boxter its not comparable to a vette. A 911s or a 911 turbo are more equal to a vette (in hp THAT IS because in handling porsche would out perform it 100%) Im not speaking for the ZO7
    My first porsche was a 86' 930 turbo. And this car embarrassed vettes that were a full decade newer in the late 90's. :cry: :cry: (honestly)

    ' Im 6'1 in height and I feel good driving my 1959 356a.
  • starrow68starrow68 Posts: 1,142
    As for Corvette being a flop at LeMans:
    Three out of the last four is fairly recent news so maybe you missed it?

    As for comparing the boxster to the coupe or Z06, you're right, not very comparable except at the price level, too bad you're getting so much less performance for the same or greater money. I'd go back if I were you and update some of your beliefs with current info rather than relying on some history that at this point isn't very well founded in fact. JOMO

    I'd be interested in somebody else's take on the ZR1 being embarrased in the mid 90's by mid 80's 930 turbos. I have a friend whos been in Porsche's for many decades and I'll track him down for some input.
    Enjoy what you drive, I spent last weekend at Reno-Fernley Raceway averaging close to 85mph, but it was an all corvette event except for instructors, none of which had a Porsche, I did pass the Miatas. :) Passing any instructor is fun! I'll let you know if any Porsche's pass me this weekend at Sears Point ;). I only passed one GT3 at Laguna Seca last January, and yes he was new to tracking, third event.
    Stock engine '02 coupe with stock Z51 suspension on Z06 wheels and tires. If they get what they pay for, shouldn't they be getting more?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    You are talking about two different animals. Corvettes are faster than plenty of expensive cars but they are still Corvettes. Which is fine, but a car is a total experience combining performance, looks, build quality, heritage, endurance, resale value, exclusivity, prestige...all these weigh in and on some of those factors, a Porsche or a Ferrari is ahead of a Corvette and therefore worth the money to the buyer.

    A Corvette is worth $45,000 and a Porsche 911 is worth $80,000, definitely. You get what you pay for...well....USUALLY...we could quibble $10K here or there on certain models...

    But to argue another couldn't sell a Corvette for $80,000 to anyone, so there you go...Cadillac is learning this lesson with the XLR. Don't discount the more subtle characteristics of what a car is and is not, is what I'm suggesting.

    All that being said, a Corvette is just as much a sports car as a Porsche, but a different type of sports car.
  • starrow68starrow68 Posts: 1,142
    But, when those extra $'s are buying mostly, ' ... build quality, heritage, endurance, resale value, exclusivity, prestige... ' is the person buying the car or just the image? I'm driving the car and I guess image is a very much smaller part of the equation. I wasn't somebody who always wanted a Corvette, far from it. I admit that for many years Corvette was mostly just a go fast in a straight line kind of vehicle, times change. When with minimal skill I can consistently pass, 'sports cars' that cost more and in some cases twice as much as a $45k fully loaded coupe, what are they getting for the $'s? If it is mostly image, I'll take performance!

    Just another thought, what were the last of the ZR1's going for? I seem to have heard that it was in the mid $70's as long ago as the early '90's. They did sell a few and I got to see one screaming around Reno-Fernley Raceway last weekend for a couple days, love that sound. :)
  • xkssxkss Posts: 722
    They price for a ZR-1 back in 1990 was around $60,000 or so. I've heard some paid over $100,000 when they first came out. A 1990 ZR-1 would cost over $100,000 in today's money and the new Z06 will out-perform it and is an all-around better car.

    Nothing under $100,000 will touch the new Z06. Sure there is the Lotus Elise, but it is won't be as comforable or practical as the Z06.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Again, that's just numbers on paper. When you drive real cars there are all kinds of other considerations. In the same way that an Elise may not be as "good as" a Corvette in certain areas (let's say comfort or reliability), so too the Corvette may not be as good as the Boxster S.

    Corvette has at least 3 things that will keep it uninteresting to Ferrari or Porsche owners: 1) it is made of fiberglass 2) it is a Chevrolet and 3) it has no record in international racing, only domestic. And while GM can't really do much about the first two---it could compete internationally however I think, since they finallly have a car that is competitive. Prior to that, Corvettes did not have the endurance for European racing. Basicallyl they blew up before 24 hours or fried their brakes or some such.

    To YOU (or me perhaps), no big deal these 3 things--I shop bargains, not snobbery--, but to buyers with deep pockets, those are significant things that affect their buying decisions.

    Add to those 3 above the issues of build quality or size or interior or styling or exclusivity, and you have a complex set of circumstances that determine who buys what.

    Last of all, these various cars have amazingly different personalities. A Corvette is NOTHING like a Porsche which is NOTHING like a Ferrari. It's not like we are jumping from Toyota to Nissan to Honda, where you can hardly tell the difference in how they drive or sound or even look.

    So you'd expect wild variations in buyer preferences. You like redheads, I like blondes, like that......

    Case in point: The Porsche I drive, a 928, is much like a Corvette in drivetrain, sound and size---and most Porsche buyers hated it.
  • xkssxkss Posts: 722
    1) Fiberglass weighs less than metals and is more resistant to dents.

    2) Not to be rude, but do you have facts to support your assumption that Ferrari and Porsche owners won't consider the 2006 Corvette Z06?

    3) Has no record in international racing? The Corvette doesn't have the racing heritage of a 911, but Porsche doesn't back the new 997 in racing.

    The following is from

    "[On July 10th, 1994] At the four-hour endurance GT Championship race at Vallelunga, Italy, A Callaway SuperNatural Corvette LM driven by Andreas Fuchs and Enrico Bertaggia finishes first in GT-2 class and second overall, behind a Ferrari F40."

    Two Corvette C5-Rs went 1-2 in the GTS class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2001, 2002 and again in 2004.

    Porsche has had a few RMS leaks (rear main seal) in its new 2005 911. The previous 996 suffered from them too along with the previous Boxster which first came out in 1997!

    I'm sorry to say it, but Porsche sold out when they made the Cayenne. Anyone with a driver's license can drive a 996 Turbo with an automatic transmission. The 911 Turbo used to be the wild 911, but is it with an automatic transmission?

    Not to be rude, but have you driven the 2006 Corvette Z06?
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    1. I believe that shifty was talking about the Corvette from a historical perspective. Which is why, when he talked about competition in international racing, he said that "they finally have a car that is competitive."

    2. Check historical records for international racing for the Porsche vs. the Corvette. Yes, the current Corvette does the job but HISTORICALLY, you simply can't compare them. Does this impact the current performance of the two cars? Not a bit.

    3. As far as I know, no one here (unless we've got some Chevy engineers/test drivers lurking) has driven an '06 Z06. Have you?

    4. I'm not sure why this has turned into a Porsche vs. Corvette pissing match. They are both sports cars and I'm fairly certain that no one here has tried to say the Corvette is anything but. Do Corvettes go like stink? Yes. Do they offer in many ways better performance for less money than Porsches? Yes. Does this mean that one would have to be an poseur to buy a Porsche? No. All that is being said is that they drive differently and appeal to different types of drivers. If you want to take offense at that observation, well, sorry..
  • designmandesignman Posts: 2,129

    This "purist" notion of a sports car is funny. It’s like a bull-riding rodeo cowboy criticizing people who own and ride horses, or a Cigarette racer criticizing those who sail.

    None of us will be playing at Augusta National this weekend. I guess anyone else who swings a golf club is not a golfer. Elise, Boxster, Corvette, 911 and Ferrari owners are all 10-15-20-handicap golfers.

    As far as this Vette/Boxster thing, there is a reason why 5 out of 9 R&T editors chose the Boxster over nine other sports cars as their favorite, and it’s the same reason why you prefer wearing bluejeans.

    See it as you care to. As far as I am concerned a Miata is a sports car and I’m not ready to stop going to the gym because I am not Michael Jordan.
  • starrow68starrow68 Posts: 1,142
    Guess that's why I'm satisfied with the Corvette. I don't have any history in performance cars and a dozen years in an MG was fun but never gave me the illusion that it was anything but cheap fun. Then again I have always tried to get value when I expend hard earned $'s and don't understand most impulse buyers, I'm still a wage slave like the vast majority, so I have limits on what I can do. But with the kid out of college the Corvette seemed tame, $ wise, compared to the XK8 that I was thinking about, just glad I didn't go that route ;). I agree with designman in that we are all wannabe's in a world that only hears about world class.
    As for the Porsche thing with Vettes I'll defer to a buddy that used to race them, be a PCA instructor and has owned several performance ones, currently has a TT, in that he noted that he is a porcupine. Seems to be a Porsche inside joke. That leads me to believe that even in the Porsche camp there is some difference in attitude. That may be why it got to be so much fun passing Porsche's when I go to the track, some take it so badly. OTOH I've given rides to some Porsche drivers to discuss line and taken rides from others as well. Hey, people are different!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    I don't think anyone said that a Corvette wasn't a sports car, did they? I sure didn't.

    I think we were talking about why Porsche and Ferrari owners don't want Corvettes as a rule, and our general topic of conversation was preferences among sportscars and why there are preferences.

    We spoke of performance, history, style, heritage, prestige, resale value, "feel" of the car and exclusivity as all being factors in a buying decision, not just 0-60 and skidpad numbers.

    These are REAL THINGS, not "snobbery" or whatever. These are tangibles and people pull out their checkbooks for them.

    If people just bought numbers, the fastest car would always sell the best, but it doesn't.

    RE: Racing History

    Yes historically is the fairest way to factor the current impact of Corvette's past international racing history, because history is one of the reasons people buy Ferraris and Porsches. Couple wins here and there doesn't equal 60 years -----60 YEARS! of international victories!

    And even IF Corvette were to start winning really serious international races quite regularly, they'd pull out as soon as they won. American car companies never stick it out through thick and thin in racing, which is another reason people buy the heritage of Porsche and Ferrari. The cars are "winners" and everybody wants a winner, right? Americans race for marketing, Europeans race for love, is what I think anyway (not the drivers, I mean the factories).

    As for the fiberglass issue, people spending $100K and up want real metal. It's not a criticism of fiberglass, it's just making a point about why some people prefer Ferraris and Porsches to Corvettes. Maybe they are DUMB for wanting metal, I don't know.

    Aluminum siding is also a LOT better than redwood for old houses, but.....

    Last of all, being on a track is only one place a sportscar does its job...the sportscars we drive off showroom floors have to live in a variety of environments, and track work, while important, is only one of many levels of achievement a true sports car should be tested on.

    I don't want to get into where Corvette falls down but it isn't a perfect car and we all know that---nor is any car perfect.

    So we look at the whole picture and different buyers find different areas of importance to them.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    "Aluminum siding is also a LOT better than redwood for old houses, but..... "

    oh, that was just brutal.... :D
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Now now that wasn't my intention....I was only pointing out that not every buying decision is fact I wonder if with sports cars ANY buying decision is rational....

    I remember one guy driving me around in Car X and his head was like scrunched up against the sunroof (I TOLD him not to buy one with a sunroof) and I commented on how uncomfortable that must be for him, and he downshifted, punched the gas and said "Yeah, but....."
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    ...sounded like you were making a left handed comparison of Corvettes to aluminum siding. You know, redwood has so much more "history, style, heritage, prestige, resale value, "feel".....and exclusivity".

    I was kinda kidding with my last post, but the more I think about, the more I can see GM fans drawing that conclusion.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    I was only comparing the benefits of fiberglass vs. metal and the benefits of aluminum siding vs. redwood---because somebody else was saying that glass might be a selling point for a car, not a turnoff.

    Metal is traditional for a car and Wood is traditional for a house, yes?

    If you deviate from tradition you are going to a) attract people who like new materials and b) turn off people who like traditional materials. The B people don't CARE about wood rot and re-painting and all the rest. They WANT WOOD.

    So in other words, materials have aesthetics attached to them. They aren't neutral. And they have value judgements attached to them, right or wrong.

    Forget this kind of thing and you can go broke in the auto business.
This discussion has been closed.