Then and Now: Fiat 500

With the recent partnership between Chrysler and Fiat, a quirky little car has been introduced to American soil. You may have seen the commercials for the Fiat 500 or even seen a few on the streets. Chances are, when you saw it you were shocked by its appearance and wondered what it was. Well the recent Fiat 500 is actually a re-inCARnation of a previous version from the Italian carmaker. The design cues are remarkably similar, but the modern version of the 500 is considerably larger, heavier and undoubtedly more comfortable than the old version. While it was reintroduced in 2007 (the 50th anniversary of the original 500) this car was not introduced to Americans until 2010 at the Chicago Auto Show.

Originally produced between 1957 and 1975, the 500 was designed to keep up with the demand for economy cars in post-war Europe. Matching the common demands of the day, it was a small, rear-engine, rear wheel drive car that was lightweight, reliable and good on gas; much like the Volkswagen Beetle. The original was so small in fact (only 10 feet long), that it really defined what a small car should be at the time. It is now remembered as one of the first of the “city cars,” used mainly for short jaunts around town. Even though it was so small, people loved the car and it was one of the most popular small cars in Italy. The original Fiat 500 was powered by a 479 cc (about 0.5 liter), two-cylinder, air cooled engine putting out less than 20 horsepower. Luckily, it only weighed a little over 1,000 lbs!

The new Fiat 500 is a great technological improvement over the post-war 500s. While the styling and look of the newer version are clearly based on the original, it has lots of modern amenities to make sure passengers are comfortable and safe. The North American version of the Fiat 500 comes with a 1.4 liter engine in the more common front-engine, front wheel drive layout of modern cars. While the car has put on a few pounds (now weighing closer to 2,000 lbs) it has also gotten a bit more buff; putting out over 100 hp and 98 lb-ft of torque. Customers can get the Abarth version if that isn’t quite enough power; bumping output to around 160 hp and 170 lb-ft, not too shabby for a little car like the 500. Features for the modern driver include: hardware to reduce noise and vibration; projector headlights; four-wheel disk brakes; comfortable interior seats and technology and a 6-speed auto or 5-speed manual gearbox. If you are interested in learning more about the Fiat 500, check it out online or stop by Cumberland Chrysler Center to see it in person.


Then and Now: Jeep Wrangler

Everybody loves the iconic Jeep Wrangler! It’s about as American as apple pie and the Fourth of July, as the saying goes. But the vehicle plays a larger role in American history than some may think. Not only is the Wrangler great for beach parties, off-roading, and Sunday drives; it played a crucial role in WWII! The Jeep was originally designed as a troop carrier and light utility vehicle. The Willys-Overland design eventually won favor with the troops and the War Department and was chosen over Bantam and Ford troop carriers. Some design elements of the other vehicles were incorporated, but the main mechanics and chassis were unchanged. Eventually, the Willys MB came to be known as “Jeep” by the troops that used it. Some say that jeep was a term, used by the military mechanics, for unproven vehicles. Others think that it comes from Eugene the Jeep, a character from Popeye at the time. One other idea is that the name comes from the Ford vehicle of the time, the GP (GeeP). Either way, the name has stuck to this day.

The modern Jeep Wrangler is a much different beast than its WWII ancestor, but still a very capable and well liked vehicle. It is still a four-wheel drive vehicle designed for off-road use. It is still produced by an American company and most are still built in Toledo, Ohio. But the modern Jeep Wrangler is just as comfortable on the road as it is off! It has become an SUV just as capable of cruising along a scenic highway as it is climbing the trails in places like Moab, Utah. With the 3.5 liter Pentastar V-6, it has 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque to put through its selectable 4- or 2-wheel drive system. If you like the modern incarnation of the Jeep, stop by Cumberland Chrysler Center to see one online or in person!

Then and Now: Dodge Dart

Now on the off chance you haven’t heard, Dodge has recently re-introduced the Dart as a production model for the 2013 model year. The company has been hyping it up pretty strong in the past few months and is very excited to have their first 40 mpg car on the market. For those of you who aren’t even interested in a compact car, you should be happy since it allows Chrysler to continue making big powerful trucks and sports cars while still meeting the C.A.F.E. requirements of 34.1 mpg fleet-wide. But hang on a minute, the Dart is not only awesome in that it gets good gas mileage; it also has a classic counterpart from the 60’s.

While the Dodge Dart actually goes back to 1960, perhaps the best known iteration (before 2013) is the fourth generation that lasted from 1967 – 1976. The very first generation in 1960 and 61 was a typical car of the period, all sheet metal, fins and whitewalls. However, the first three generations only lasted a few years each. The fourth generation, however, was a largely popular staple of the Dodge Motor Company. Available as a coupe, convertible or sedan and with many different engine and transmission options, the original was almost as customizable as the current Dart. Drivers could have anywhere from a 2.8 liter “slant” six up to a 440 V-8 or the 426 Hemi V-8. This car drips of the early 70’s and it looks like you could travel back in time with it a-la Austin Powers.

The new Dodge Dart is a completely different beast. This car is all about fun, efficiency, technology and personality. Dodge touts that the Dart will have over 100,000 ways to make it unique, including 11 colors, 3 engine choices, interior packages and options, wheel choices, and countless Mopar accessories.  While the engines are smaller in dimension, they still have some spunk; with the 1.4 liter turbo making 160 hp and 184 lb-ft torque and the 2.4 liter making 184 hp and 171 lb-ft! Don’t be surprised if you see these on the road soon, they look like great little cars. Check it out online or at Cumberland Auto Center when they come out later this year.

Then and Now: Dodge Charger

For this installment of Then and Now, we will be taking a quick look at the Dodge Charger. This is another muscle car that Dodge has recently brought back to life with the recent interest in restoro-mod muscle cars and cruisers. By creating a modern car, with all of the technology and comforts we expect nowadays, that uses the name and branding of a classic American icon, Dodge has yet another instant hit.

Perhaps the most recognizable iteration of the Dodge Charger is the 1969 model used by Bo and Luke Duke in the 80’s TV show The Duke’s of Hazzard. This was a Hemi Orange Charger that had been modified to handle the trouble they always found themselves in. It had a Confederate battle flag on the roof, “General Lee” script over the doors and the number 01 painted on the side. All shenanigans aside, the Charger was no joke! Customers had the choice of several engines ranging from a 3.7 liter six-cylinder all the way up to the 440 cu-in V-8 and the 426 Hemi V-8 that was rated at 425 horsepower. As usual with Dodge muscle cars of the era, it was available in a variety of crazy colors including Hemi Orange, Bright Red, Bright Turquoise Metallic and many others.

Much like the classic Chargers of days gone by, the modern charger, which was reintroduced in 2006, is all about power and boldness. The modern Charger, however, two extra doors to make it a good car for anyone, including families! With the latest model, drivers can choose between two powerful engines. The 3.6 liter V-6 that puts down 292 hp is Chrysler’s highly successful Pentastar engine that is used in many other vehicles and has more than proven itself. If you are a little more on the crazy side, there is also the 5.7 liter Hemi V-8 that produces 370 horsepower and 395 lb-ft of torque! The Charger can even have with an 8-speed automatic transmission and all wheel drive to help with putting all that power to the road. And for those true performance enthusiasts, there is even an SRT8 version with sport tuned suspension, brake upgrades and a 6.4 liter Hemi V8 that makes 470 hp and 470 lb-ft.

If you like the modern look of this classic American icon, check it out online or stop by the Cumberland Auto Center to see one in person or go for a test drive.

Then and Now: Dodge Challenger

“Then and Now” will be a short series comparing vehicles that have either come back into production in the past few years or that have continued to be core products for a long period of time. For the first blog entry of this series, I will be taking a look at the Dodge Challenger, one of the original Dodge muscle cars that has been reinvented for modern drivers.

In 1970, the Dodge Challenger was introduced and intended to compete against many of the pony cars out there, specifically the Ford Mustang and the Chevy Camaro. The Challengers were known for their wide variety of trim levels and options. The performance oriented Callenger R/T (Road and Track) came with a 383 (roughly 6.25 liters) V8 that put out around 335 horsepower. Optional however, was the 425 horsepower 426 (7 liters) Hemi V8 that made the standard engine look puny. The 426 could do the quarter mile in just around 13.2 seconds at 108mph. Remember, that’s an engine that was offered straight from the factory… pretty impressive if you ask me.

In 2008, Dodge decided to reintroduce the Challenger as a modern muscle car with all of the comforts and technology that modern drivers have come to expect. Again, the Challenger seems to have been in response to the Mustang and the Camaro which had both undergone “retro” makeovers. This modern two-door coupe is very similar in design to the original Challenger even though its dimensions are larger all around. For the 2008 model year and the reintroduction of the Challenger, all models were SRT8 trim meaning that they were performance oriented only. Later on, base models of the challenger were introduced along with multiple trim levels. These Challenger SRT8s came with a 6.1 Liter (370 cu. in.) Hemi V8 putting down 425 horsepower and capable of running a quarter mile in 13.3 seconds and 0 – 60 in 4.8. If you’ll notice, the modern Challenger has about 1 Liter less engine but is almost exactly the same in terms of horsepower and acceleration times. This is all due to some impressive modern technology that makes the new Challenger just as comfortable to drive as it is a beast!