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Cars 'n' Stars: Chrysler Dead Serious About Neon Potential, Fangio Deuce Hangs It Up, Your Car and El Nino, Larry Shinoda Passes Away

20 November 1997

Chrysler took a bunch of auto media scribes to several race tracks across the U.S. recently and, with the aid of the Skip Barber instructors, showed the journalists just how much fun Neon R/T 2-door or 4-door could be.

Chrysler's Neon program manager, Joe Caddell discussed the rationale behind these junkets and the market position for the car. He pointed out that Chrysler makes vehicles other than trucks and jeeps and has BIG plans for small Neon sized cars, presently and in the future. The customer is not necessarily a young-un, but in many cases this car is the 3rd or 4th car in a household--the everyday "beater". The number three automaker is going to make the car easy to purchase and has held the price line on the 1998 models to a point where most '98 models are $300 less than a 1993,first year edition. The MSRP starts at $1364 and you can get a style package that makes the car, in Caddell's words, "socially acceptable". There is a 1.9% APR and a $1500 rebate in effect already that will allow qualified buyers to drive away without any downstroke.

The Southern California press junket included a few hours at Willow Springs Raceway where the troops drove around a chicaine laced 2.5 mile 9 turn circuit at moderate speeds. Moderate not because the ACR/race ready cars weren't capable of more steam (they will run around 125 mph), but moderate to soothe the frazzled nerves of the instructors. Part of the event took place on the "streets of Willow"--a 36 second slalom bore.

Fun car, and it comes with every option you can dream up. It may look like last year's model, but it has 30% new content and is quieter.

Toyota Racing and Dan Gurney have announced that Juan Manuel Fangio, their Gurney Eagle CART driver, is calling it quits. The nephew of worlds greatest race driver, Juan Manuel Fangio has racked up an impressive U.S. racing record: 21 IMSA/GTP victories, 10 pole positions, back-to-back Sebring 12 hour wins, and three top ten finishes with the down-on-power Gurney Toyota CART effort.

World leader in car care products--Meguiar's, Inc, the 96 year old polish/wax company--has some ideas for motorists concerned about what El Nino may do to their automobile. According to weathermen, the worst weather (if old El ever gets here) will be the west coast and Gulf coast. Company Prexy, Barry Meguiar--the most dapper exec in car care-dom--has created a 10 tip guideline to fending off El Nino and keeping your car finish bright and shiny. The list is yours by calling Leslie Kennedy at 800 854 8073.

Larry Shinoda, celebrity designer of the Chevrolet 1963 Split Window coupe and Ford Mustang died from a heart attack last week in Detroit. He was 67.

What's coming from Honda for 1998? The Accord has more interior room than the Toyota Camry and Ford Taurus. It has a new 2.3 four cylinder engine, redesigned rear suspension, transmission, brakes and firmer shocks.

More on the Mercedes A Class problem due to the Swedish "moose avoidance" test. MB has had 200 orders for the small car canceled. Moose avoidance roll over test? In the states we should have a "low rider" avoidance test.

Mazda has cut the price of its 626 sedan for 1998 by $145 to $755, depending on how you want the car equipped.

Dodge van prices go up $1,371.

Rolls Royce is still looking for a buyer; the newest rumor is that VW may take a shot at making a bid. There's a combination. Bentley Azure. $319.000 and VW Golf $12,000.

Bill Maloney -- The Auto Channel