Monthly Archives: November 2022

Back then . . . ’98 Chev Blazer in snow

The 1998 Blazer rests near Tamarac Square. (Bud Wells photo/1997)

By Bud Wells

(About this time 25 years ago, just before Thanksgiving 1997, I drove a 1998 Chevrolet Blazer four-door in a heavy snowstorm. Following are excerpts from the review:)

When I picked up a ’98 Blazer on a Friday morning from Luby Chevrolet, it had begun to snow. The snow was soon measured in feet, rather than inches. Who could have guessed the severity with which the storm would sock us?

The Blazer’s long been (since going to the compact size in the ‘80s) a great-handling sport utility, and its snow capabilities have impressed me on a couple of occasions. This was its biggest test.

An electronic push-button makes it easy-shifting into and out of four-wheel-drive mode. Insta-Trac’s 4-Lo got us away from the house Saturday, through the 2 ½-foot-deep snow and into the middle of the street. 4-Hi got us through the 1 ½-foot-deep snow in the driving lane in the middle of the streets.

The push-button immediately puts the Blazer in and out of 4-Hi. For shifting into 4-Lo’s “crawl through the snow” mode, the vehicle must be stopped and in neutral.

Reduce by a foot or two the Blazer’s relatively wide (39 ½ feet) turning circle and it would be ideal for getting about the city in heavy snow. It has smooth power from the long-dependable Vortec 4300 V-6 engine (190 horsepower).

The Blazer was the upgraded LT model, with sticker price of $31,446. New power remote sideview mirrors with defogger are an LT feature, an electronically tuned AM/FM/CD system highlighted other options. The redesigned instrument panel has turned air-heat and sound controls15 degrees toward the driver for easier access.

The automatic transmission shift lever has been relocated to the steering column from the floor console, increasing footroom for front-seat occupants, though the hump from the transfer case still intrudes on foot space for the passenger. The vehicle has easy step-in height.

I averaged 12.8 miles per gallon in four days of deep-snow driving (EPA rating is 16-20). The  4.3-liter V-6 is the only engine available for the Blazer. The four-door specifications include 107-inch wheelbase, 183.3 length, 4,050-pound curb weight and 18-gallon fuel tank.

In picking up the new vehicle from Lisa Fleischman, I got a look at the finishing touches of a remodeling project at Luby Chevrolet on South Wadsworth Boulevard, where the business moved in the 1970s after operating in downtown Denver since 1920.

Blazer competes with Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota 4Runner and Isuzu Rodeo.

3.0-liter Raptor enhances full-sized Ford Bronco

The Raptor edition of the 2022 Ford Bronco. (Bud Wells photos)

Ford casts a huge shadow with its new Bronco Raptor.

It’s big and wide. How wide? A fraction short of 86 inches; that’s 10 inches wider than a standard Bronco.

And it stands 6 ½ feet tall.

It rides on 37-inch tires ‑ 37X12.50R17LT B.F.Goodrich All-Terrains.

A competitor of the Bronco Raptor is the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392.

The Raptor is a ground-gainer for Ford in the newly revived Jeep/Bronco rivalry. A challenger to the Bronco Raptor is the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392, lifted 2 inches with upgraded shocks, topped off with a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 squeezed under the hood.

The 5,730-pound Raptor is equipped with a 3.0-liter V-6, tied to a 10-speed automatic transmission, putting out 418 horsepower and 415 lb.-ft. of torque. Derived from Ford’s 2.7-liter EcoBoost, it’s a V-6 twin-turbocharged, direct-injection engine created by increasing the 2.7’s cylinder bore from 83 millimeters to 85.3 and by lengthening piston stroke by 3 millimeters to 86.

Smoothness seems most dominant and satisfactory with the Ford 3.0-liter, particularly in midrange power, until a deep push into the throttle offers a surprisingly strong, quick response.

Atop the center console, convenient for the driver, is a terrain management system dial G.O.A.T. (goes over any type of terrain) which selects drive modes from Normal/Sport/TowHaul/Slippery/Offroad/Baja/ Rock Crawl. Magnesium paddle shifters add to the fun experience of manual-mode performance. Sport mode, for instance, increases pedal response and steering feel; Slippery lowers throttle response and optimizes shifting for the conditions.

The Raptor’s ground clearance of 13 inches and long-travel suspension lend it traction over passages in the back woods that may turn back competitors. Ford claims the vehicle is capable of fording stream depth up to 3 feet (don’t try this).

In addition to a relatively short, offroad climb and some in-town maneuvers, we drove to Sterling for a visit with sister Norma Wagner, recuperating from a fractured hip. A niece, Jana Lock, who drives a Ford Expedition, saw what we were driving, climbed into the driver’s seat, proclaimed it an immediate favorite.

That 200-mile highway drive and another 100 miles from roundtrip to Denver, brought fuel-mileage readings of 17-plus mpg. The slower times, offroad and about town, were in the 14 to 15-mpg range.

Mounted to a swing gate at the rear is a spare wheel/tire and brake light which extend into the back-glass area, hindering view directly behind. A 360-degree camera is handy, and when backing the rearview camera turns on automatically.

Its exterior finish in eruption green metallic with Raptor graphics makes the big vehicle stand out among others. Amber daytime running lights emphasize the large FORD lettering at the grille.

Raptor fender flares, equipment and graphics added $3,770 to the $68,500 base price of the 2022 Bronco four-door Advanced 4X4. Sticker total reached $78,090, with other options beadlock wheels, interior carbon fiber pack, orange seatbelts and keyless entry.

Chevy runs great with 70th-year Corvette

The sleekly styled 2023 Chevy Corvette Stingray Coupe. (Bud Wells)

In its 70th year, the Chevy Corvette defies the combination of aging, on the one hand, and the rush to electrics, at the other.

The opportunity to drive the 2023 Corvette Stingray Coupe 2LT reminded me of the excellent job of refinement Chevrolet has accomplished with the iconic sports car.

Note the long string of controls along the right side of driver space. (Chevrolet)

Sporting a Z51 performance package, the new Vette is beautifully sculpted with finely finished interior, is very quick, its roof panel can be removed, and, it is, perhaps, the most comfortable of this class of swift cars.

Roaring performance comes from a 495-horsepower/470-torque, 6.2-liter mid-engine V-8, mated to an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. Power direction runs from the driver rearward to the engine, conveniently situated at the rear-drive axle.

Z51 firms up suspension, with Brembo brakes and Michelin Pilot Sport 20s at the rear, 19s in front. No need to angle into the driveway to avoid scraping bottom of air dam; push a button and the Vette’s front is lifted several inches for clearance.

Today’s super performance is a contrast with the very slow launch the Corvette experienced 70 years ago. I remember, for I was a high schooler when it was introduced in ’53. Production didn’t begin until June; that was kind of late for a ’53 model, and only 300 were built.

The following year, after production was moved from Flint, Mich., to St. Louis, only 3,600 ‘54s were built, and many sat unsold on dealer lots by year’s end. For all its racy looks, the Vette had little under the hood – a 150-horsepower, 6-cylinder engine and 2-speed Powerglide automatic transmission.

Ford in 1955, with its new two-seater sports car, the Thunderbird, with sales of 16,000 nearly blew away the Corvette. But Ford was concerned with other models, such as the Edsel and a retractable hardtop, and let the T-Bird two-seater grow into a four-passenger auto, and, you know the rest of that story. There is no T-Bird today.

In the meantime, Chevy stayed the course, installing a V-8 in the Vette in ’55, adding a Stingray style a few years later, and was on its way to creating “the American sports car.”

I was one of 1,200 persons who filed in out of the rain at the old Russell Industrial Center in Detroit on the night of Jan. 13, 2013, for the unveiling of the new 2014 Corvette, and revival of the use of the Stingray name. It was the eve of the North American International Auto Show. Such a crowd, shoulder to shoulder much of the evening.

The 2023 Corvette drew attention in Johnstown parked at the home of Dale and Sandy Wells following a golf tourney earlier in the day. Among attendees, Steve Chmelka asked at the right time and enjoyed a ride, proclaiming it “a brilliant sports car and priced somewhat below most others.”

Absorbing $6,345 for the Z51 performance package and $2,260 for the front-lift adjustable height raised sticker price to $83,965 from a base of $69,200.

Among sidelights: Minda Carmann, a friend and former workmate of mine, and her parents-in-law Ken and Kathy Carmann liked the looks of the new Vette in a short session with Jan and me in Brighton; EPA estimate is 16/24, my overall average was 17.3; the Stingray won’t shift into gear until driver seat belt is engaged; the rear trunk area is large enough for a set of golf clubs, up-front in the frunk is room for a couple of travel bags.