Frankly Frankl, Prince Albert, Edsel, Jackie, Tom, Stefano, Fiat, Cadillac And a Beetle In This Month's Letter from Europe


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Frankly Frankl- life, luck, love and automobiles

Yes, folks after several months of 18 hour days and nights my book : Frankly Frankl- life, luck, love and automobiles will be available by early November. Where to look for it? Right here. From me. Let me be brutally honest -as I wrote it and I am paying for it as a one man band I cannot send two copies here and three copies there and I certainly cannot afford a full time secretary. So, this is the story.

I am only printing 499 copies, just as Ferrari only make 499 cars at times to preserve exclusivity. It will be a coffee table book selling for $44.95. Printed on high quality paper with color throughout it has had some pretty powerful recommendations.

Up front the foreword is by triple world champion Sir Jackie Stewart. On the outside back cover there are kind words from five people most of you will have heard of. Firstly His Serene Highness Prince Albert of Monaco who needs little introduction. He is followed by Bob Lutz, one of the most famous captains of the automobile industry. Then there is Edsel Ford, grandson of the founder of this giant automaker. The next name will be familiar to owners of BMWs as Tom Purves was CEO of BNW North America for years and with huge success I hasten to add. He is currently Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club of Great Britain. Last, but definitely not least is Ferrari’s team manager Stefano Domenicali. They’ve all said very nice things about me, I just hope I’ve delivered. The readers will decide.

Before you say what about The Auto Channel.Com.- yes, of course I tell the story of how I was recruited back in 1995/6. Happy days.

So if after all this you would like to express an interest why not drop me an email to andrewfrankl@me.com without any obligation of course.

What would you be paying for? Well, there are Ferraris, Lambos, Pagani, Formula One, a love story stretching over 40 years, an escape from the Communists under fire, life in Britain and in America, oh, even an arrest in a Rolls Royce.

And now back to what I am paid for-testing automobiles for The Auto Channel.Com.

Last time I had a Fiat Abarth for test I wasn’t very complimentary as it was too fussy, too noisy and too expensive. This time round for 10 thousand dollars less {!}

I had a lovely time in the cheapest (the company would say least expensive) model. At under 17 thousand dollars it is tremendous value and for those who know how to use a stick shift lots of fun as well. I got 35 miles per gallon which was reasonable. The A/C worked brilliantly in Marin County’s 95 degree heat and the little Fiat never missed a beat. I did find the seat adjustments pretty grim, I hate those levers and it took forever to become comfortable. Nobody could pretend that it is a comfortable four seater but for two people with the folding backseat there is tons of room for luggage.

Would I like to drive across America in it? Well, it would not be my first choice but I could do it if I had to. Cruising at 60 miles per hour, uphill with two plus lot of luggage would be a bit of chore. But as a runaround it is just fine.

The Beetle Turbo which followed it was a taste I never acquired. Don’t get me wrong-the build quality, the sheer strength of the car was amazing. I’ve been driving Beetles since 1961 and the changes are of course just amazing. The suspension is rock solid so if you have any kidney stones this could be the car for you, especially if you can find some cobbled stones.

My problem with the Turbo was the same as with the Fiat Abarth. Too much fuss, too far away from the basic concept of an economical, reliable automobile for not too much money. Then there are silly thing such as the handbrake which clashes with the center armrest. It is either or. The convertible version is probably more fun but I would be tempted to forget the Turbo and go for a basic model which would still have the amazing build quality. Just like I would not buy a Fiat Abarth the same reasons apply for not buying the Beetle Turbo either. We do have a Jetta TDI in the family and we love it. We also had another Jetta for about 10 years. It just got traded in for a Hyundai, a big mistake.

Now the following car is something very different. For a start it is different by a good 35-40 thousand dollars. It also goes like smoke. And it is-truth be told- a little bit silly. An engineering tour de force for sure but why? Yes, the 6.2 liter 556 V8 is amazing but with reservations. For a start rivals have 7 or 8 speed gear boxes which help to improve the 12-14 miles per gallon fuel consumption. When there are several serious automobiles doing 5-600 miles on a tank the CTS “V” Wagon simply could not do it. Even the most parsimonious road tester in America regularly doing better than the official figures but this time I was watching the fuel gauge moving rapidly downwards. Don’t get me wrong, the CTS looks amazing, handles well and is certainly a flagship to Caddy but even though at 70 thousand dollars it is good value compared to its German rivals I would put it into the nearly there category. Also, with smaller engine but with many of the features of the “V” the “basic” CTS becomes a very attractive proposition at 42 thousand dollars with a 2 liter turbo engine offering 272 hp and up to 30 miles per gallon. Even so the fuel tank is just too small and needs fixing. Now.

My real problem with the CTS V wagon was the car that came after it. In case you haven’t driven it before the Caddy ATS is an absolute delight. Cheap is most certainly isn’t at a whopping 50 thousand dollars. Whether you can get away with a 2 liter turbo at this price as opposed to a straight 6 as in rival BMW’s 3 series I am not certain of.

Still, it looks good, feels good, handles well and I was sorry to see it leave. The 272 HP was plenty when I was on my own but with three large and somewhat squashed passengers I could have used a bit more, especially on the hills of San Francisco. For oldies-golden or otherwise-the 8 inch full-color display was a bit of a challenge, for younger owners who grew up on iPhones it is of course second nature. Cadillac have certainly thrown the kitchen sink at it, especially for the “premium collection” edition which I was testing. Fuel economy was fine rather than exceptional even though I’ve managed to beat the company’s 24 mpg combined city/highway figure by 3 miles per gallon. As always it is a matter of the how one drives these cars.

All in all a very nice luxurious automobile which I would have liked even more with a 6 cylinder engine. Definitely a viable alternative to small BMWs and Infiniti-s. It is very gratifying to see a great American company bounce back from the brink of disaster and I have no doubt that it was and is product led. Otherwise we would be talking about an another Edsel.

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