Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Book's For Sale!

It's official - I've sent in the copy, photos and captions to the publisher, and Rapid Transit Series Buses: General Motors and Beyond is on its way to print!

I've still yet to see the test print which, according to plan, should arrive in the next few weeks. Once that's okayed, it's off to public printing! I'm currently hearing timeframes between January and March of 2008.

That said, the book's showing up on Amazon - and they're currently accepting pre-orders. I'm not trying to be glib, but I think there's some neat historical content within the publication. I'm not calling it perfect, but if you're a fan of transit, bus or GM history, you may really enjoy this publication.

Click here for the RTS book!

I'd also be appreciative in those willing to convince their local booksellers into stocking the book, too. If you're interested, pass on ISBN number 978-1583882092. I'd be willing to autograph copies lying on bookshelves, too. I'd be willing to speak with any stockists and answer any questions, provided they contact me at:

RTSHistory (at) gmail.com
(remove the spaces and replace the (at) with @)

Thanks for all the support and interest!


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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Cadillac SRX - Wrapup

Goodbyes are always bittersweet, but it's hard to place what our departure from Cadillac's SRX was - was it more bitter or sweet?

Certainly, our time with the sporty car wagon crossover-utility had its sweet moments. Like we said in the beginning, Cadillac's done quite a bit up in front to revise an otherwise dreary interior. Trim materials felt solid, and the overall appearance of the IP was quite impressive.

Tick the $1,400 option box for the luxury seating pacakge, and front passengers will find themselves coddled by the most comfortable seats GM's ever purchased from a supplier. They're bolstered in just the right spaces but remain plush enough to provide occupants (provided they're not driving, mind you) the perfect space for a cat nap.

But then there's the bitter. Those front seats are great, but the second-row is a cement slab rolled in leather. That giant moonroof was great for open-weather cruising or for navigating safari-style, but it was also prone to enter into resonance while closed. Not so much so that it rattled, but enough so to create an annoying high-pitched sqeak.

That wasn't the only noise issue; in fact, Cadillac seemed to drop the ball in terms of NVH engineering. Sure, window seals kept road noise to a minimum, but engineers seemed to forget about placing insulation on the firewall: every noise that occured underhood poured into the cabin with little, if any, abatement.

This wouldn't have been a problem, but the valvetrain on this particular example of the 3.6-liter V6 amplified engine noise to a new level. Some praise the motor for being relatively smooth (which it is), but we fail to see where this engine sets new records for NVH. Hopefully the new 3.9-liter with direct-injection improves on this; perhaps it too will rectify the occasional starting issues we had with the mill. On some cold starts (by cold we mean engine temperature; it was actually in 70-90 degree farenheit climates), the motor rocked side to side on its mounts, shuddering the entire vehicle. It almost felt as if it was missing or timed improperly, but the tachometer read a constant speed. No engine codes were triggered, but it would have been interesting to read the OBD-II output to see what was going on.

Even more dissapointing is the SRX's fuel economy. The 3.6-liter V6, coupled through a 5-speed automatic and an all-wheel drive system delivered a combined economy of around 14.8 mpg - 17.4 if we put it on a long stretch of highway. Not as horrible as a Hummer H1, mind you, but in comparison, the '07 Silverado 4x4 with a 5.3-liter V8 averaged a combined fuel economy of around 16 mpg. You do the math while we craft an adjective for the SRX's performance: poor.

So, given the money, would the GMT Blog buy an SRX?

Perhaps, so long as we opted for these few options:

-Northstar V8, 6-speed automatic and no all-wheel drive. With Stabilitrak and traction control mitigating virtually all slip-n'-slide situations, why deal with the extra weight and fuel consumption of a transfer case and an extra differential?

-Magnetic Ride Control - the SRX doesn't ride all that bad, so long as you're not crossing pavement sections that lift above others. Magnetic ride control helps levy that, and if you live in a northern state, it's a must-buy.

Are there other doo-dads that we'd like? Sure, what techophile wouldn't love the sunroof or the DVD-based sat-nav? Ultimately, we prefer mechanical competence over technological sophistication, and we hope Cadillac can improve on this point for future crossovers.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Divorce Is (almost) Final: Isuzu Leaves GM Commercial Truck Partnership

If you've carefully read the news or regularly Googled "Isuzu" (I'll admit it; I haven't), you may have caught wind of the fact that, as of Wednesday, the GM-Isuzu Commercial Truck partnership is no more.

This isn't at all surprising. Since the sale of GM's stake of Isuzu to Toyota, steps have been made that hinted such a divorce was waiting in the wings. First, there's the new factory Isuzu's building in the South, followed closely with rumblings that the next Duramax V8 won't be Isuzu-engineered (that much's true). News followed soon after that Isuzu would be working briskly on putting diesel engines into Toyota's European lineup - something GM did quite frequently in order to offer oil-burning Opels on the continent.

But, the announcement that Isuzu's CV sales (isn't that all they have left?) in the U.S. will now be handled by their own organization out of California.

Well, not exactly. According to the Janesville Gazette, assembly of gas-powered W-series trucks isn't affected. A factory spokesperson claims the dissolved partnership involves only the sale, not the manufacture, of commercial vehicles.

So what's with the new plant then? No word as of yet, but we can look at it as one of two likely scenarios:

1. Isuzu intends on dissolving the manufacturing liason with GM, and moving all W-series and F(T)-Series assembly to the new factory


2. This is something totally unrelated to GM but relevant to Toyota. We've heard rumblings of diesel-powered Toyota Tundras in the pipeline; what if instead of having Hino or Caterpillar (on odd rumor, for sure) building the motors Isuzu's placed in charge?

We're waiting on follow-ups with GM and Isuzu representatives to see what impact this will have on the sale of W- and T-series trucks through GM dealers, but one early report claims Isuzu will still offer the "class 3-5" trucks (re: W-Series) through a limited number of Chevrolet and GMC outlets.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

2008 Isuzu Forward - A Look at the GM T-Series To Come?

When Isuzu launched the new 'Hexacube' (designer speak for 'hella boxy') N-Series six to eight months back, they promised that the next Forward (F-Series/T-Series) would utilize a modified version of the square cabin.

Boy, they weren't kidding.

The new Forward launched on Isuzu's website last week, and it looks almost identical to the the N-/W-Series. Identical. If there's any change, it's slighty beefier, particuarly on the 11-ton FSR model. For whatever reason, the added size, weight and sight glass make the cab actually seem truck-worthy.

The interior's almost carry over from the N-/W-Series, meaning operators will now have a refined interior with plastic-trimmed surfaces, an ergonomic dash, and - a new first - a passenger-side airbag.
But forget about the rest of Isuzu's jubilant press release. Why? Because should this cab make it to North America as the next GM T-Series, the rest of the underpinnings won't. Which is a shame; instead of featuring a clutchless manual transmission and 4-bag air suspension, the cab will lie on top of a modified GM medium duty frame. I'll guarantee you that chassis will be the epitomy of the word 'conservative'.

Even that's a risky bet. The medium-duty cabover market (particuarly in the class 6-8 segment) is a quickly shrinking one, and with low production and sales of the T-Series, it wouldn't be surprising for GM to drop it altogether. There's also the possibility of Isuzu suddenly dropping its GM alliance for that of its new owner (re: Toyota), and the new questions stemming from Navistar's talks to purchase GM's medium duty operations.

In the meantime, we sit and wait to see what happens. If nothing else, maybe we'll see revisions to the Giga (other than this horrid rhinoplasty) that brings it in line with the rest of Isuzu's COEs.

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