Awarding a Best of Show

2018 Ballyshaners Car ShowWith the car show season just about to tip off, we were invited to be “The Judge” for the Ballyshaners Old Town Alexandria St. Patricks Day Parade Car show in March.

Rollin in StyleOriginally scheduled the first weekend of the month, a storm blew into town. Thus it was postponed until the St. Paddy’s Day weekend. While the original show had quite a long list of interesting cars, getting them to make a reappearance was not so easy, so only a dozen or so showed up for the rescheduled judging.


Chevrolet Chevelle SSThe dozen that came out under a bright but chilly Sunday were mainly American Muscle droptops of the 1970’s, and a convertible is great for a parade because that way the celebrities can ride and wave from the deck lid of the back.


Hotrods, Boulevard Cruisers, and Rat rods


Always fun to see what shows up at such a display, and there were a couple of what I consider rat rods, anomalies built on one chassis and powered by something from another brand.


Dogs and Soldiers


Part of a good car show is the people watching, and any good car show allows dogs, kids, and soldiers. While a car show is all about the cars, it attracts young and old. People remembering what was, and some learning what they may never have known before. Like the little girl who could not keep her hands off anything, and the car’s owner had to ask, nicely, not to touch.

Alexandria VA Honor Guard

And the Winner Is

1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442While none of the entrants were garage queens and none of these cars would have even been thought of for Pebble Beach.  I took a look at how each car was presented. While one was nothing more than a sales promotion, and a couple were cobbled together.

2018 Ballyshaners Car Show Winner



The 1970 Oldsmobile 442 was well turned out, nothing flashy, nothing more than what it would have been when it rolled the streets the first year with it’s top down and all of the classic American Iron Glory.



Words and photos by William West Hopper


Kia Stinger

Red Kia Stinger

The Kia Stinger has been the topic of many auto review writer’s posts over the last year. We all saw mock-ups of it well over a year ago, and now that it is on dealer’s showroom floors, we are just now getting the chance to drive it.

Trim Levels of the Stinger vary widely, but the basics are all there, the sports sedan body styling, the transmission, tire sizes and more. What changes is the powertrain and how detailed the inside is, which may not be as easily noticed by everyone.

The Stinger Concept

West Coast Customs Kia Stinger
West Coast Customs Kia Stinger

Luxury Sports sedans have dominated the market for more than thirty years. People like cars that are both sporty looking, functional, and fun to drive. It is that driving experience that really defines them. Add on practicality, the touch, and feel of a more upscale branded vehicle, then put on a reasonable price tag and you have the Kia Stinger.



Queer4Cars Kia StingerKia has given the Stinger muscle and graceful lines, though in our minds there are a few hiccups in the exterior design, those disappear once you get your hands on the vehicle. Outside the car has a wide stance and a low roofline giving it a fast look, even parked. Inside, both luxury and sports car touches give it a fun to be in the car feeling. So much so that you want to turn the key and hit the open road and drive it.




Brembo Brakes on the Kia StingerThe Stinger is well equipped even in the most basic configuration. You get the look and feel of a more expensive car than it really is. Which is what Kia does so well. The driver centric cockpit complete with leather seats are upgradeable to Nappa Leather with heated and cooled seats. The Stinger provides a spacious interior with easy egress for passengers and driver. What one may not notice is the trunk is actually a hatchback, which adds to the functionality in many ways. Guages and controls that are within easy reach of the driver and switches that feel good to the touch. All of this provides for the perfect long distance road car or short hall daily driver.

Two Powertrain Choices

20180310_120224While the body style, eight-speed automatic gearbox, and rear-wheel drive stay the same no matter the model. You can choose between a 2.0 liter 4 cylinder and 3.3-liter 6-cyl engine and add all-wheel-drive.

2.0 Liter twin-scroll turbocharged direct injection gasoline engine puts out 255 horsepower, and provides 22 miles per gallon city, 29, highway and 25 combined.

3.3-liter twin-scroll turbocharged direct injection gasoline engine provides 365 horsepower, 19 mpg city, 25 highway and 21 combined. The addition of Brembo brakes does provide for additional stopping power, and those RED brake calipers do make a statement.

Many Model Options

Two models with the 2.0-liter engine: A base Stinger and the upgraded premium model. What you get in the Premium is a tad more technology in the way of a premium Harman Kardon audio with surround sound, voice command activation and a larger 7″ display screen as well as a power sunroof, and tilt & Telescopic steering wheel.

20171012_120526The optional list of safety items is long; from the Blind Spot and Rear Cross Traffic to Forward Collision Avoidance and Warning systems. Smart Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keep Assist, Driver Attention Warning, High Beam Assist and Rain-Sensing Wipers, as well as the Heated Steering wheel, are all extra charge options. Well worth the price even as an add-on, for both use and if you were to resell the Stinger at a later date.

Three models options come with the 3.3-liter engine. GT, GT1, & GT2, with each adding on standard features. At the GT2 level, there are only two real options; All-Wheel Drive and a Heated Steering wheel.

Kia Full LineupKia’s ten-year, 100K mile warranty is still one of the best in the industry, add to that the value that the Kia Stinger provides, at a price tag from $31,900 for the base 2.0 liter to $49,200 for the top of the line 3.0 liter powered GT2. With current incentives and added discounts, you can be driving one of these off the dealership lot at a tremendous price. While it is too early yet to determine resale values, once the car is out about a year, we should see how they price out on the second-hand market.


Our Overall Thoughts

Not quite Kia Stinger CompetitorsThis is a great value car, as it seems all Kia products are between all you get in the base model, the added options, the selling price and the vehicle warranty. It is hard to go wrong. Driving the vehicle was nice to experience in both the 2.0 liter four and the 3.3 six-cylinder versions. The weight and balance of the vehicle and the handling were all excellent. While this vehicle was being compared to, in the drive experience, we took to much higher market positioned vehicles. It really belongs dead in the center of the mass market: Alfa-Romero Gulia, BMW 4-series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the others that dominate today’s roads.

Kia Dealership WallDealership experience is going to be key for buyers of the Stinger, as most buyers of premium sports sedans are used to a very customer service oriented experience. In the few times, we have visited a Kia dealership, the overall feel has not been what one might expect from a car selling in this market segment.



Kia Ride and DriveWe only got to drive the Stinger around a short autocross track at a recent Kia Experience Tour event. We hope to spend more time in one very soon.

We paid for our transportation to and from the event, and were given no compensation to produce this post, other than a swag box from, which had some great items in it.

Words and Pictures by William West Hopper


William West Hopper and the Kia Stinger
William West Hopper and the Kia Stinger



Kia Forte – Inexpensive does not mean Cheap!

Kia Forte
Kia Forte

A family trip jet-setted us to HOT-Atlanta for a weekend with the kids, grandkids (other people’s not ours,) and extended members of the family. We needed basic cheap transportation for the four-day weekend trip to get us from the ATL metroplex out to the ‘burbs, and something to get us around what seems to be endless strip malls and traffic-packed interstates. Did I say we did not want to pay a lot for a rental car?

20171016_140657-ANIMATIONBooking a mid-size car through Priceline’s Autoslash we ended up with a Kia Forte from Avis. The Forte was a simple high-milage rental car in Rent-Me-White. I like to review cars with a few miles on them, as they represent what the car will be like in the hands of a consumer well after it rolls off the showroom floor. The only cars that have a rougher life than a rental car are the cars that have been used by members of the media.

West Coast Customs Kia Stinger
West Coast Customs Kia Stinger

Just the day before this rental, I had been in Kia’s performance sedan the Stinger. Yes, the two cars are different but in many ways quite similar. Kia builds a well-made vehicle no matter if it is their top of the line, middle of the road, family van, or the most basic of transportation.  The Forte is that middle of the road vehicle, and it performed well for our southern family weekend.


The Kia Forte

Kia Forte

This small four-door sedan is easy to get in and out of, has plenty of trunk space and gets very decent fuel economy. Plus it is easy to drive. The downside was that it sounded tinny when you closed the door and that the center dash display screen was small and did not give a clear view of the backup camera when in reverse.




Kia Forte EngineThe small exterior size gave it great maneuverability, especially in Atlanta’s never-ending traffic. While the 2.0 liter, DOHC, 16-valve I-4, Atkinson Cycle engine was adequate, putting out 147 hp @ 6,200 rpm mated to an Electronically Controlled 6-Speed Automatic Transmission w/ Sportmatic® front wheel drive provided, it was not a gas guzzler providing just under 30 mpg in normal driving.

The large interior size was comfortable for 2 adults and our luggage. While we did not use the back seat for passengers, things got tossed in there, and if need be there was adequate space for a short trip guest.

Four-wheel disc brakes, 15-inch wheels, and projector beam headlamps all provided for a good command of the road. While the base Forte is not loaded, it has plenty of standard features like heated rear mirrors, that make driving safer and more comfortable.



Kia Forte GrillActually, the only real low for me was the small size of the center console screen where the backup camera display showed.  Other low though at this price point it is negated as it was an entry-level vehicle, is the sound when the door closed and that if you needed power you had to plan on flooring it at the right time knowing the powertrains limitations.



Kia Forte Rear SeatWhile the interior is basic, the tough fabric was easy to clean and appeared durable. Interior plastics were pleasant to the touch, knobs and controls were well placed and felt as if they would not break off when you used them repeatedly. The rear seating area is complete with a fold-down center armrest with cupholders. The trunk space was easy to get items in and out of and had plenty of space.



Kia Forte Right SideFor a clean looking, well-designed four-door sedan at an entry of sub $17K price point this vehicle had all the safety features and driveability one could ask for. With Kia’s Ten Year, 100K Mile Warranty this purchase is a no-brainer for basic reliable transportation.

We vote UP on this Rental Rodeo Ride as a contender.


William West Hopper and the Kia Stinger
William West Hopper and the Kia Stinger

Words and photos by William West Hopper


National Mustang Day 4.17.18 – The Love Affair Continues Today As it Did 54 Years Ago.

Fifty-four years ago we were on the verge of a new revolution in automobiles. No longer was there going to be boring cars, no longer would you have to buy a sports car from a foreign car company, or be limited to one American brand. Ford Motor Company was about to change everything.  With the Ford Mustang, they did change everything and started a whole new “Pony Car” craze, which is as strong today as it was then.


That one car was the Mustang, the first of the pony cars was the first real modern car for America. Ushering in the sports car fad of the 1960’s.  And the car that took America by storm, and becomes the desired car to have, as well as a heartthrob in movies and on the street.

Global demand for the Ford Mustang has made it the best selling Sports Coupe for the third straight year running in the world. Mustang registrations worldwide in 2017 totaled 125,809 cars, according to Ford analysis of the most recent new light vehicle registration data from IHS Markit from data compiled capturing 95 percent of new vehicle volumes in more than 80 countries.

Need For Green Mustang
This time of year, green is on everyone’s mind. With spring just around the corner, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and rivers of green – everyone feels the need for green. Now, there’s one more green cause to celebrate – the all-new Need for Green hue available on the 2019 Mustang.

“The world is falling in love with Mustang,” says Erich Merkle, Ford sales analyst. “Mustang represents the best of American design, performance, and freedom, with an unmistakable personality that’s appeals – regardless of your postcode.”

Of the nearly 126,000 vehicles registered worldwide, Ford reported 81,866 of those were sold in the United States, meaning just over one-third of all Mustang registrations are occurring in export markets. Demand remains particularly strong in China, where Mustang was the bestselling sports coupe last year based on 7,125 registrations.
The most popular configuration worldwide is the Mustang GT with the 5.0-liter V8.

While sports cars have traditionally skewed toward male buyers in the United States, Mustang is increasingly finding favor with women. In an environment of relatively flat sports car sales to women. Ford research shows a 10 percent gain in women buying Mustang in the last five years.

Since global exports began in 2015, through December 2017, Ford has sold 418,000 Mustangs around the world.

Original 1968 Bullitt Mustang

Content for this piece came from the National Mustang Day press release from Ford.

William West Hopper.



Volkswagen’s new 2019 Jetta

The Volkswagen Jetta has been the class-leading four-door sedan and it just got better, and be ready for this, cheaper than the model it replaces.

2019 VW Jetta SEL
2019 VW Jetta SEL

VW is well known for long-lasting models with designs that improve over time. Almost every model in VW’s line up has a long history of dependability and roadworthiness. The 2019 Jetta is no different, while the exterior design of the new may not grab your attention, we saw it displayed at the Washington Auto Show in January and barely took notice of it. It is worth taking a look at it if you are looking for a four-door sedan in the mid-level model market segment.


1980 Volkswagen Jetta 2-door sedan
1980 Volkswagen Jetta 2-door sedan

The Jetta is an icon that began back when it morphed from what was the staple of the 1970’s modern Volkswagen, the Rabbit, also known as the Golf. The Jetta became the version with four doors and an actual trunk, though there were two-door and wagon versions. The Rabbit/Golf was a two or four-door hatchback.  Since that time, the Jetta has been considered a solid choice for an economical while not extravagant sedan. Very much in the Volkswagen mantra of “The Peoples Car,” a dependable and economical vehicle for every person.

Turn the clock ahead forty years to 2019 and the seventh-generation model comes to market with all of that plus safety and technology that was unheard of at the beginning of the model run.

2019 VW Jetta R-Line Interior
2019 VW Jetta R-Line Interior

For 2019, the Volkswagen Jetta comes in S, SE, R-Line®, SEL and SEL Premium trim levels. Jetta continues to be powered by VW’s 1.4-Litre turbocharged direct-injection TSI® engine, making 147 Horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque with front-wheel drive. Jetta has either a new standard six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic, all Jetta’s (as do so many other models,) come with Start/Stop system designed to improve fuel efficiency by turning off the engine at idle when the brake is held, staring up again upon pedal release.


2019 VW Jetta Interior Cockpit
2019 VW Jetta Interior Cockpit

All Jetta models offer standard Driver Personalization for up to four drivers. Depending on the trim, the features will include: driver seat, drive mode, driver assistance preferences as well as climate control, Volkswagens Digital Cockpit arrangement, ambient lighting color, radio presets, navigation view and more. Safety is key with the combination of passive and active safety systems that meet or exceed crash regulations, including class exclusive automatic Post-Collision Braking system.

Jetta S – Basic and everything a VW is known to be.

2019 VW Jetta
2019 VW Jetta

The Jetta S is the entry level at $18.545 with standard features including a six-speed transmission, 16-inch silver “Rama” aluminum-alloy wheels; standard LED headlights, daytime driving lights (DRL) and taillights; chrome grille; multi-function steering wheel; rearview camera; automatic headlights; electric parking brake; cloth seats; Eco driving mode selection; and 6.5-inch Composition Color touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth® connectivity for compatible devices, one USB port, four speakers, and Volkswagen Car-Net® App-Connect for compatible devices, enabling integration with the three major smartphone platforms—Apple CarPlay™, Android Auto™ and MirrorLink®.  For an additional $800 you can upgrade to the Automatic Transmission.

Jetta SE – Stepping up the model to the next level

2019_Jetta-Large-8155Jetta SE starts at $22,155 with a standard eight-speed automatic transmission, 16-inch two-tone “Rama Black” aluminum-alloy wheels; panoramic sunroof; dual-zone Climatronic® automatic climate control; leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; KESSY keyless access and push-button start; leatherette seating surfaces; and heated front seats. Standard driver assist features to include Front Assist; and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert.

Jetta R-Line® – Putting some sportiness into a sedan

2019 VW Jetta R-Line
2019 VW Jetta R-Line

Jetta R-Line® starts at $22,995 and is the sportier version. Adding to the SE trim with standard 17-inch dark gray “Trenton” aluminum-alloy wheels; a gloss-black front grille; R-Line rear bumper with dual exhaust; foglights; black mirror caps; R-Line badging inside and out; black roof liner; R-Line multi-function steering wheel with contrast stitching; two-tone black and grey seating surfaces with contrast stitching; and the XDS® electronic differential.

Jetta SEL – Luxury in a great package

2019 VW Jetta SEL
2019 VW Jetta SEL

Jetta SEL starts at $24,415 and brings luxury into the model line up. With all the features of the SE trim it include LED Projector headlights with signature LED DRLs; rain-sensing wipers; Auto-dimming rearview mirror; Drive Mode Selection; 10-color customizable wrap-around ambient lighting; 10.25-inch Volkswagen Digital Cockpit display, allowing drivers to reconfigure how they view vehicle information; Volkswagen Car-Net® connected vehicle services; 400 Watt BeatsAudio® system with eight speakers plus a subwoofer; and 8.0-inch Composition Media touchscreen infotainment system with SiriusXM® Satellite Radio with three-month trial subscription, voice control, and two USB ports. Standard driver assist features to include Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC); High Beam Control (Light Assist); and Active Lane Keeping System (Lane Assist).

Jetta SEL Premium – Top Of The Line Luxury

2019_Jetta_-_SEL_Premium-Large-8146The top-of-the-line Jetta SEL Premium has a starting price of $26,945. With all that comes with the SEL trim, add on 17-inch two-tone “Tornado Metallic” aluminum-alloy wheels; R-Line rear bumper; fog lights; side mirrors with integrated turn signals;  sport comfort seats; leather seating surfaces; ventilated front seats; power driver’s seat with memory functionality and power lumbar; 8-inch Discover Media infotainment system with navigation and alarm system. The Cold Weather Package, including a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, heated windshield wiper park and washer nozzles, and remote start, will be added as standard equipment during the upcoming year.

2019 Jetta Options – Simple and to the point.

 Driver Assistance Package. Available on S trims. Includes Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist) and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert and heated side mirrors for $450.

Cold Weather Package. Available mid-model year on SE, R-Line and SEL trims. Includes heated steering wheel; heated rear seats; heated windshield wiper park and washer nozzles; and remote start for $495.

Destination Fee for all models is $850.

People First Warranty, America’s Best Bumper-To-Bumper New Vehicle Limited Warranty. 

2019 VW Jetta SEL
2019 VW Jetta SEL

Volkswagen offers a 6 years/72,000 miles (whichever occurs first) New Vehicle Limited Warranty on MY2018 and newer VW vehicles, excluding e-Golf.  Claim based on manufacturers’ published data on length and transferability of the car and SUV Bumper-to-bumper/Basic warranty only.  Not based on other separate warranties.  The remainder of warranty coverage transfers to the subsequent vehicle owner.  See owner’s literature or dealer for warranty exclusions and limitations.


The 2019 Jetta is built on VW’s MQB platform offering bolder design, more interior space than the outgoing model and new technology. Look for the new Jetta to arrive at U.S. Volkswagen dealers in the second quarter of 2018.


This report and the photos have come from VW’s recent press release and the recent 2019 Jetta press drive.

William West Hopper