America’s Auto Loan Debt Is Truly Out Of Control

When you go to buy a new car, how long do you really expect to make payments on it? Three years? Four? Maybe five? Lately, there’s a good chance it’s more than six years, which is an increasingly troubling sign for buyers, the auto industry and the economy as a whole.

The Wall Street Journal has a new story out that’s a kind of overview of something we’ve covered extensively around these parts—that super-long car loans, often with very high interest rates, are the new normal in car buying. And buyers are having a hell of a time keeping up. It means that car loans stick around well into when some of these models need pricey repairs, or past their original owners, and they eat into more and more of our incomes.

Again, this trend is probably nothing new if you’re steeped in automotive news, or go out of your way to be a savvy buyer. But these trends keep ensnaring new car shoppers, and there’s seemingly no end in sight.

Here’s a few highlights from this story:

About a third of auto loans for new vehicles taken in the first half of 2019 had terms of longer than six years, according to credit-reporting firm Experian PLC. A decade ago, that number was less than 10%.

And this:

But the size of the average auto loan has grown by about a third over the past decade to $32,119 for a new car, according to Experian. To keep payments manageable, the car industry has taken to adding more months to the end of the loan.

The average loan stretches for roughly 69 months, a record. Some last much longer. In the first half of the year, 1.5% of auto loans for new vehicles had terms of 85 months or longer, according to Experian. Five years ago, these eight- and nine-year loans were practically nonexistent.

Also this:

A third of new-car buyers who trade in their cars roll debt from old vehicles into their new loans, according to car-shopping site Edmunds. That is up from about a quarter before the financial crisis.

Finally, this:

Even a conservative car loan often won’t do it. The median-income U.S. household with a four-year loan, 20% down and a payment under 10% of gross income—a standard budget—could afford a car worth $18,390, excluding taxes, according to an analysis by personal-finance website Bankrate.com.

All of which is pretty concerning, and out of step with how car financing worked for many decades—people either paid cash outright or had their vehicles paid off in full within a few years. Now, instead of becoming an asset, it’s just a never-ending money pit, and one that often gets rolled over into the next car when that becomes necessary. It’s a wealth-killer, a savings-killer.

So how did this happen? As that story notes, it’s a kind of consequence of the Great Recession and its aftermath. As the economy recovered following the late 2000s, people had pent-up demand for new cars, and interest rates happened to hover around zero, so car shoppers went on a buying blitz that lasted years. A few other factors are crucial too: the rise of bigger, more expensive crossovers and pickup trucks as gas stayed cheap, new and highly in-demand safety tech that pushed car prices up, and the fact that household incomes have risen just incrementally since the 1970s when adjusted for inflation.

All of that was a perfect storm that “served as a bailout for the entire auto industry,” as the WSJ astutely puts it. Dealers, their finance departments and the sales-hungry industry as a whole were happy to oblige. (Hell, how many automakers are getting rid of small and affordable cars entirely?)

But it meant buyers were suddenly spending $35,000 or more on normal family cars, shoving hefty payments into their monthly budgets and getting stuck in loans that lasted into perpetuity. Delinquincies and repossessions are on the rise as well.

And it’s a scary situation if, in fact, we face some kind of economic downturn in the next year or so, whether it be a full-blown recession or just the kind of natural contraction that happens after a decade of unfettered growth. Lost income and lost jobs makes it a lot harder for people to make the $500 a month payment they’re locked into for six years on a Honda Accord, like one guy in that story is.

So what can you, as a new car shopper, do to avoid these mistakes? Figuring out your exact budget is crucial, as is committing to not go over that. There are tons of calculators and other online tools that can help you determine exactly what you can afford. Don’t buy more features or size than you actually need.

If you’re looking to own long-term, maybe look at slightly used or even CPO cars with proven reliability—let someone else take the initial depreciation hit and you keep a dependable machine long-term. Shop around for different sources of financing, too. Look at credit unions in addition to what the dealer is offering. Don’t get tricked into too many add-ons, either. (One poor guy in this story got an extended warranty on a new Toyota RAV4. Look, you probably don’t need an extended warranty on that, it’s not an Alfa Romeo Giulia or something. A RAV4 is going to hold together just fine. It’s the entire point of buying a RAV4. Driving excitement sure as hell isn’t.)

Finally, I’d advise keeping in mind what having a car payment for 72 months really means. You might be able to fit that payment into your budget now, but what if something changes for you drastically down the line? How will you afford it if you face a job loss or an illness or a cross-country move? You want to get that car paid off as quickly as possible instead of making payments for the rest of your life.

There are some extremely predatory aspects to new car buying—to say nothing of the loans that are legitimately, purposefully predatory, and almost always aimed at people with bad credit or lower incomes—but shopping smart is your best defense.

Ford Ranger Raptor With V8 Engine Allegedly In The Works

We’ve all heard the rumors about Ford’s plans to cram in a V8 inside the F-150 Raptor’s engine bay, and it now looks like the smaller Ranger Raptor will be going down the same road. A forbidden fruit in the United States, the performance truck is available in several parts of the world with a four-cylinder diesel engine producing a healthy 210 horsepower and 369 pound-feet (500 Newton-meters) of torque. A new report published by Wheels magazine states Ford’s Australian arm will swap out that 2.0-liter bi-turbodiesel for a much larger 5.0-liter V8.

Because making it work would require a lot of effort for a model that is unlikely to generate massive sales, Ford is allegedly farming out the project to an external engineering company. The V8-powered variant will start off in life as a regular diesel Ranger Raptor before heading to Australia where it’ll be blessed with the Mustang GT’s heart as well as other upgrades required following the engine transplant.

Output numbers are a mystery at the moment of writing, but it is believed the engine will produce just about the same power as it does in the Aussie-spec Mustang GT, so look for something along the lines of 455 hp and 410 lb-ft (556 Nm). That would more than double the diesel Ranger Raptor’s horsepower count and also boost torque by a significant 41 lb-ft (56 Nm).

Expected to go on sale in Australia next year, the V8 Ranger Raptor will be sold through Ford dealers and is going to be backed by a full five-year warranty. If the report turns out to be legit, the beefier version of the pickup truck will join another performance vehicle developed for the Australian market with the help of an external engineering firm. We’re talking about the supercharged V8 Mustang R-Spec created with Herrod Performance, the largest distributor of Ford Performance Parts outside of North America.

Bosozoku 1970 Hemi Cuda Convertible Is Here to Offend With Japanese-American Mix

The Hemi Cuda is one of the quintessential American muscle car. There’s a convertible version too, and although it preserves the powerful V8 engine, it also diverts from the Plymouth design norm, interrupting the flow of the lines.

One designer looked at the 1970 Cuda Convertible and thought it looked a lot like his favorite Japanese tuning specials from the next decade. And so, this monster machine was born, offering a mix between classic American values and a lack of respect for the establishment from the Land of the Rising Sun. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Bosozoku used to be this obscure part of Japanese car culture, but now the west knows all about it. It’s a rebellious movement, kind of like the early American motorcycle gangs with a splash of hot rod. Rebellious teens ended up finding weird and nonconformist ways to customize their cars, and these are still in use today, many decades later.

For the Cuda, this means weirdly mounted parts taken from a TA40 Toyota Celica. Also, any good Kaido Racer needs an externally mounted oil cooler, and perhaps a chin spoiler. The muscle convertible boasts a widebody kit bolted into its body and double wings at the back.

If we’re honest, the main thing that makes this a bosozoku conversion are the four “bamboo spear” exhaust pipes coming out the back. Combined with the shaker Hemi hood, it’s like two opposing worlds have collided; like Romeo and Juliet… or a wasabi hotdog.

The 1970 Cuda is a very popular model year, not to mention quite expensive. Nobody in their right mind would make something like that, especially not the younger bozo builders on a tight budget. So this will remain a strictly digital build. The only upside to that is that nobody can complain a perfectly good muscle car has been ruined.

1968 Plymouth Barracuda “Cherry” Is Supercharged and Then Some

1968 was a good year for the Plymouth Barracuda. Sure, this model year only brought limited visual changes, but the engine range revamp it involved made for something that muscle car lovers could truly appreciate. So how about taking such a classic and dialing it up to eleven? Of course, this would require a restomod, the type of process certain aficionados don’t agree with. Nevertheless, the stunt mentioned above can always be achieved thanks to a rendering. And this is precisely what brought us here.

We’re looking at a pixel painting that showcases a 68 Barracuda in one of the fiercest forms possible. As your eyes will let you know, the body of the muscle hero has been left mostly untouched, but we can’t say the same about the tech side of the vehicle – in a way, this rendering is a bit like the factory transformation mentioned in the intro.

And while I’m not sure about the exact nature of the V8 that now occupies the engine compartment, one thing is certain: the motor comes with the kind of blower that dominates the entire setup.

At the other end of the combustion chain, we find a pair of exhaust tips that sit just before the rear wheels, albeit with these being of regular size.

Of course, such a transformation requires the kind of rubber that can put the extra muscle down. And it looks like the drag radials fitted to this Plymouth can easily cover that task. As for the newfound wheels of the toy, their design is obviously a subjective matter.

We can thank digital artist Timothy Adry Emmanuel for this work. Oh, and make sure to use the swipe feature of the social media post below to enjoy multiple angles of the digitally remastered Barracuda, especially the no-tailpipe posterior of the American machine.

Tesla Truck And The Million-Mile Battery: A Perfect Pickup Match?

Trucks are expected to last a very long time, so is the million-mile battery a perfect fit for the Tesla Truck?

The million-mile electric car battery has been making headlines of late and it would be perfect in the upcoming Tesla pickup truck. Is it actually being designed for the Tesla Truck?

Back in April of this year, Elon Musk said that a new battery pack designed to last at least one million miles would be available next year. This pack, likely the result of work by Tesla battery researcher Jeff Dahn and possibly connected to Tesla’s acquisition of Maxwell Technologies, would take the Tesla Truck to the next level.

Trucks are known for reliability and dependability. In fact, reliability often tops the list for truck buyers. Performance and other aspects generally rank much lower. How can Tesla assure electric truck buyers that the Tesla Truck will be reliable? Quite simply by offering a million-mile battery with a warranty to back it up.

The Tesla Truck reveal has been pushed back a bit until November or so now. Perhaps the delay is for waiting on the battery tech to be ready for the reveal too? Tesla’s much, anticipated Battery Day has been delayed too, with it likely occurring in early 2020. However, the truck doesn’t have to debut with the million-mile battery, but rather Tesla has to be certain it’s possible to even make suh a battery.

If Tesla were to put this million-mile battery into a vehicle, then our bet is that it would first appear in the Tesla truck. It just makes sense to put such a breakthrough battery into what will surely be a super exciting product with loads of demand.

However it all works out, in the end, remains to be known, but if we were to place bets on which Tesla is first to get the million-mile battery, then our money would be on the upcoming Tesla Truck.

BMW X7 Gets A 680-HP Makeover

This is one mean-looking SUV.

As BMW’s largest SUV ever, the massive X7 is already a mean-looking machine. But that hasn’t stopped aftermarket tuners from making it even more aggressive We already know that Alpina is developing a more extreme version of the X7, and now aftermarket specialist Lumma Design has previewed its new X7-based tuning project.

Dubbed the Lumma CLR X7, this is essentially the X7 M BMW refuses to make, boasting a more aggressive exterior and more significantly more power.

Starting with the exterior, Lumma’s BMW X7 has a more musulcar body thanks to an assortment of aero upgrades. The front of the three-row SUV has been completely redesigned with larger air intakes in the front apron and the addition of a front splitter. Lumma has also added a carbon fiber hood to optimize the air supply to the engine.

Compared to the standard SUV, Lumma’s modified X7 has been widened by 1.9 inches at each side, giving the SUV a more aggressive appearance. To reduce the lift forces on the rear axle, Lumma has fitted a rear spoiler lip and roof spoiler finished in visible carbon fiber. A new rear apron with an integrated diffuser, and a set of new 24- or 23-inch alloy wheels wrapped in high-performance tires round off the exterior enhancements. The new rear apron also makes room for a sports exhaust system with four 3.9-inch stainless steel tailpipes that make the X7 sound angrier.

Under the hood, Lumma has extracted more power from the X7, too. While the standard X7 produces 456 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque, Lumma is aiming to increase the output to around 680 hp thanks to electronic optimization and the new exhaust system. The X7’s 155-mph top speed limited has also been lifted, but Lumma hasn’t quoted the new top speed figure.

Inside, the interior has been upgraded with aluminum pedals, Lumma-branded floor and trunk mats, and lots of leather. Lumma says the interior can be transformed into an “elegant VIP lounge” or “a cockpit with motorsport flair” depending on customer preferences. Pricing details haven’t been announced, but the standard BMW X7 starts at $73,900.

Tesla Pickup Truck To Be Priced Below $50,000, Makes Ram Seem Puny

The target starting price is even lower.

This is a real shocker. In fact, it’s a bit hard to believe.

According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the upcoming Tesla truck will have a target price of under $50,000. This seems an impossible figure given the fact that other Tesla products (aside from the Model 3) start at a price that’s much higher. However, Musk stated this in a recent Ride The Lightning Podcast:

You should be able to buy a really great truck for $49k or less.

Musk added that the capabilities of the Tesla truck will be unmatched, though its appearance might be a bit over-the-top for a typical truck buyer.

If that price turns out to be true, then yes indeed the Tesla truck will beat the Rivian R1T and electric trucks from Ford and others, too.

In the past, Musk commented on the abilities of the Ram truck, stating that it’ll be more or less toy-like compared to the Tesla truck. Range of the Tesla truck is expected to be around 500 miles. The unveiling is set for sometime later this year.

In top-level trim, it should boast a range of between 400 and 500 miles, possibly more. As one might suspect, it will be all-wheel drive with a motor for each axle. Musk also noted that the suspension will dynamically adjust according to its load. Being electric and a truck means it will have lots of torque. While we can’t say how much, exactly, we can point out that Musk once tweeted that it could tow 300,000 pounds.

Regarding the look, there’s been any number of renders of a possible Tesla truck produced over the past couple of years, but we’ve yet to see the actual truck to really have an idea of what it will look like, though Musk does say it’ll have a certain sort of sci-fi appearance.

This Is The DeLorean Restomod Of Our Dreams

What if the DeLorean was given the Singer-style restomod treatment?

Singer is renowned for its stunning Porsche 911 restomods, but there are plenty of other iconic cars that deserve to receive the restomod treatment. Take the DeLorean DMC 12, for example. It’s one of the most famous movie cars of all time thanks to its appearance in the Back to the Future series as a time-traveling machine, so it’s perhaps surprising there haven’t been any attempts to modernize it for the 21st century.

To rectify this, Brazilian artist thiagod3signhas presented their vision of a DeLorean restomod with the same level of quality and attention to detail as Singer’s Porsches.

Whereas the original DeLorean was famous for its unpainted stainless-steel body that would never rust, the Brazilian artist has finished the car in all-black and added significantly wider fenders, larger wheels, a dual exhaust system, and front and rear spoilers, giving the DeLorean a more aggressive look compared to the original. LED headlights and taillights also help modernize the DeLorean.

The render artist hasn’t considered what an interior could look like, but we imagine it would be updated with a high-tech, futuristic cabin dominated by touchscreens.

Another aspect that would need to be modernized is the powertrain as the DeLorean left a lot to be desired in the performance department. In the original DeLorean, power was provided by a 2.85-liter V6 engine developing a modest 130 horsepower. This setup enabled the DeLorean to hit 0-62 mph in 8.8 seconds with a manual transmission or 10.5 seconds with an automatic. An old-school V8 or even an all-electric powertrain would give this DeLorean restomod the power it deserves. Sadly, this modernized DeLorean will have to remain a fantasy for now.

Modified DeLorean’s do exist in the real world, however. One example was fitted with a 5.7-liter LS1 V8 developing 425 horsepower, and someone recently converted one into a full-size remote-control car.

THOR 24 Is a 24-Cylinder, 12-Blower God of Thunder in Peterbilt Form

If you thought the Transformers were only in the movies, then you’ve never been to Lake Havasu City on the California-Arizona border. The Colorado River cuts through the desert tourist spot, but up on the north end of town, an airport hangar holds what looks like Optimus Prime’s bigger and more bad-ass older brother: “THOR 24.”

Dreamt up by Southern California land developer Mike Harrah and built over a seven-year period by Mike with Tim Spinks and Paul Abram, the truck has so much going on it’s hard to focus on just one facet. It’s safe to say, however, each one is as impressive as the next right down the line. “Big Mike,” as he’s called, stands 6 feet, 5 inches and has a larger-than-life personality that is personified in this truck where even the smallest detail has been amplified to 11. Add all those hundreds of wild parts and immensely creative pieces together and you get, well, THOR.

The engines are what you see first and they command the majority of your attention. That’s because no one has ever seen twin 12V-71 (24 cylinders total) two-stroke Detroit Diesel engines mated nose-to-nose and topped with eight BDS 8-71 superchargers. The Detroit Diesels have a long and important history in industrial use as well in naval vessels, and the 12V-71 comes “stock” with twin Roots-type blowers located between the cylinder banks (so THOR has a total of 12 blowers). The build team figured out how to butt the engines together with a splined shaft, giving the new dual engine layout a final displacement of 1,704 cubic inches (or 27.9 liters).

After constructing a wooden buck to help work out the design of the massive intake manifold, it was eventually remade in thick aluminum plate and then configured to hold the eight superchargers that are all driven off a single custom driveshaft that is 103 inches long and weighing some 263 pounds that runs longitudinally inside the manifold’s air box and above the in-line engines. The top of the manifold is also the base for eight NOS nitrous bottles.

Exhaust exits through 24 zoomie-type headers, and Mike says that, at 2,500 rpm, the engines produce 3,424 hp. In the high-performance world of blowers and big engines, that might not sound like a lot but, with this setup in this 44-foot-long, 30,000-pound truck, it looks amazing, and the sound is out of this world. The engine combo attaches to a chromed Allison HT740 transmission underneath the 1979 359 Peterbilt cab that runs out to a locker-type rear axle, which has been completely ground smooth, filled, and chromed. To be honest, nearly everything on this truck is either chromed or covered in a wild paint job.

A stock Peterbilt semi-truck front suspension and steering wouldn’t work in this application (Mike wanted to be able to turn and steer it in a smaller radius), so they installed a VanHool A-arm type suspension system usually used in buses and coaches. The chassis itself is made up of twin 4 x 14-inch sections of rectangular tubing (3/8-inch thick) that are 40 feet long and uses Peterbilt Air Leaf suspension while it rolls on Alcoa aluminum wheels wrapped in 315/30R22.5 front tires and 11R24.5 rears.

The cab, which is more of a command center for the truck’s whole operation, is equally crowded with things to see, switches to throw, and gauges to watch. There are no less than 24 Autometer gauges in the polished aluminum panel (with Big Mike’s profile engraved in the center) forward of the four-spoke Steering Creations steering wheel—among them a 200-mph speedo, a 6,000-rpm tach, and a handful of pressure and blower gauges, with six more blower pressure gauges mounted mid-dash.

Dual MOON footprint aluminum pedals are also used, and Lake Havasu’s Main Stitch got the call to cover the interior with black diamond material for the headliner, dark gray industrial carpeting below, and black leather on the bucket seats as well as the bench seating in the back. Multi-point Simpson Platinum racing belts are outfitted for both driver and passenger. Big Mike loves his cigars, and a special pocket in the driver’s door frame allows him to carry a box of his favorite Padron 1926 Series No.9 Natural stogies. Between the buckets is a sword (one of many found in and around the truck, along with dozens of chromed skulls), with this one being a double-edged broadsword (think: Conan the Barbarian) that serves as the truck’s shifter.

The forward passenger door of the stretched and widened aluminum cab opens in a clockwise rotation motion off a pin mounted behind a broadaxe (you read that right) mounted on the cab’s exterior. Another broadsword mounted between the front and rear doors is just for decoration. Looking forward around the rows of blowers is a bit of a trick, but in the cab and above the driver are four 4×6 video screens that are used to see what’s on the road ahead of THOR.

Entertainment is available in the “crew” section of the cab with a 40-inch TV screen to watch videos, or a 1,500-watt stereo system mounted in a special exterior compartment that would have no problem providing the soundtrack to whatever you and 100 of your friends wanted to do in your garage. Mounted behind the cab is a Hawker Jet helicopter engine that is the power auxiliary generator for the truck (and it sounds awesome when lit).

Another custom addition is the massively oversized and stylized ’33 Ford aluminum grille, fabricated in California by Marcel’s Custom Metal. The whole semi was covered with PPG Envirobase waterborne Candy Red paint (applied by Glenn Bohannon at Brothers Auto Body in Lake Havasu City) that was followed up with multi-colored flames and an amazing graphics scheme that included murals (from SKC Customz) and old-school pinstriping (by Havasu’s Chris Snead).

Seeing this truck on the road must evoke the same feeling folks had when Howard Hughes flew his H-4 Hercules (aka Spruce Goose) in Southern California’s Long Beach Harbor in 1947—it is so strange to see something so massive moving under its own power, bouncing a bit to the rhythm of the idling blowers and the 40-foot chassis gently torquing up and down as it rolls on by. But, as Big Mike says, “The problem isn’t getting it up above 100 mph, it’s stopping it once you do!” We imagine it would be like trying to stop a freight train, only without the railroad tracks. But it does have four 12-foot Simpson drag parachutes packed across the rear bumper just in case!

And, as if this build isn’t astonishing enough, back in the hanger where Mike parks this beast is another similarly sized stretched semi going together! This one, already nicknamed Medusa, is a mid-engine (with another twin 12V-71 layout) drag racing version of THOR. To all those folks who said the original concept couldn’t actually work or drive, we believe they’ve never spent any time with Mike Harrah. He definitely dreams really big, and we can’t wait to see this and his new ride parked together someday.

A Quartet Of Stunning Handbuilt Kirkham Cobras Are Headed To Auction

When it comes to classic American race cars, few are quite as impressive and iconic as Carroll Shelby’s Cobras. They’re so legendary, in fact, that a man by the name of David Kirkham — whose obsession started in 1994 when he restored an original Shelby 427 Cobra — began building his own tribute “continuation” models. And now four of Kirkman’s most unique offerings are headed to the Barrett-Jackson auction block.

While most continuation cars don’t quite measure up to the originals, Kirkman’s creations have a leg up, as his company actually presently supplies Shelby with car bodies, lending to the company’s impressive craftsmanship — which is only furthered by the quality of the cars you see here. This particular quartet, from legendary Texas-based Ford dealer Sam Pack, is comprised of a 2013 Kirkham Daytona Coupe, bronze-bodied 2011 Kirkham 427 S/C Cobra, copper 2010 Kirkham 427 S/C Cobra, and aluminum 2009 Kirkham 427 S/C Cobra.

And all of them are in exceptional, ready-to-drive condition and are looking for new owners that will appreciate their stunning good looks and racing pedigree. If you’re interested, these four racers hit the auction block in Scottsdale from January 11th-19th.