All posts by David Bruno

Former club archivist as well as lead SOEC creative director, 2005-2018.


By: HUBBLE SMITH on November 23, 2006

Nov. 23–Southern Nevada automobile dealers could use a push. Maybe they’ll get it from the Motor Trend International Auto Show that runs Friday through Sunday at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

It gives consumers the opportunity to compare hundreds of new models from 30 manufacturers at one location without feeling the pressure to buy, show spokeswoman Lauren Holzman said.

Sales of new cars, trucks and vans depend on changing consumer tastes, popularity of the manufacturer’s vehicle models and the intensity of competition with other dealers.

At the auto show, prospective buyers can feel the performance and handling of new Ford models, such as the Ford Edge and Expedition EL, at the Ride and Drive sponsored by Southern Nevada Ford dealers. Ford is also bringing two concept vehicles — the F-250 Super Chief and Ford Mustang GT-R.

“This show is for people who are either in the market for a new car or they want to see the concepts and exotics. They’re really the crowd-pleasers,” Holzman said.

The exotic car collection, displayed by Lamborghini Las Vegas and valued at more than $1 million, features the $600,000 Saleen S-7, Lamborghini and Spyker.

Another popular component of Motor Trend International Auto Show is Aftermarket Alley, a mix of power, performance, parts and accessories vendors. On Saturday, a team of automotive specialists will spend six hours tricking out a 2007 Mustang GT convertible, transforming it from “stock to ‘Stang,” Holzman said.

“It’s cool because nobody is driving stock any more. There’s such a trend for cars really to say who you are,” she said.

Sales of new vehicles declined 2.4 percent in the 12-month period through June, the U.S. Census Bureau reported. Automobile manufacturing product shipment fell from $93.2 billion in 1997 to $85.8 billion in 2002, according to the latest bureau statistics.

Automobile sales are certainly affected by economic cycles, increasing when consumers feel financially secure and decreasing when the economy softens and buyers postpone purchases, said Keith Schwer, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research. Still, automobile production accounts for less than 4 percent of gross domestic product, he said.

Consumers are highly sensitive to prices, Schwer said. Automotive dealers are more likely to offer generous incentives, rebates and financing deals during slow periods to maintain high sales volumes and to reduce inventories.

“I heard a guy in Michigan talk about price concessions and excess capacity in the industry. You’ve got a problem between domestic and foreign (imports). And the labor market challenge … what percentage of that is to pick up health care costs? That’s part of the bigger issue,” Schwer said.

According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, new vehicle sales account for more than half of total sales revenue at franchised new vehicle dealers. These sales generate additional revenue in other departments of new car dealers. By putting new vehicles on the road, dealers can count on aftermarket additions, repair and service customers and future trade-ins of used vehicles.

Justin Findlay, general manager of Findlay Volkswagen, said he usually goes to the Motor Trend International Auto Show to check out the competition.

“We don’t see a ton of immediate sales from it, but we do see some,” Findlay said. “A lot of times, it gives people a chance to look at all of our models.”

Findlay will be moving to general manager of Findlay Automotive Group’s new Chevrolet dealership opening in December at Las Vegas Beltway and South Rainbow Boulevard, one of several new dealerships in Las Vegas. He said Las Vegas has always had fewer dealerships per capita than other major cities around the nation.

Automobile dealers provided about 1.3 million wage and salary jobs in 2004, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Sales, installation, maintenance and repair workers accounted for 63 percent of wage and salary employment. Management, office and administrative support and transportation and material moving occupations made up another 35 percent.

Average weekly earnings of nonsupervisory workers in automobile dealers were $634 in 2004, substantially higher than the average for retail trade ($371), as well as that for all private industry ($529).

Earnings vary depending on occupation, experience and the dealer’s geographic location and size. Average wages range from $9 an hour for a cleaner of vehicles and equipment to $31 an hour for first-line supervisors and managers, according to the BLS.

Wage and salary jobs in automobile dealers are projected to increase 12 percent from 2004 to 2014, compared with projected growth of 14 percent for all industries combined.

Motor Trend International Auto Show hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for senior citizens, $4 for active and retired military and children ages 7-12.


By: PEDRO ARRAIS on November 17, 2006
Original Article: WINNIPEG FREE PRESS (MB)

In variations from mild to wild, this retro Ford delivers fun, value

The venerable Ford Mustang is an unusual car — a throwback to the simpler ’60s’, when gas prices were low and horsepower high. It has endured, even prospered, virtually unchallenged domestically — arch-rivals Chevrolet and Dodge have nothing that competes with this icon.

You can get it from mild to wild — a 210-h.p V-6 or a ground-pounding 550- h.p supercharged V-8. There is one for every budget, from $24,099 for a base coupe to $83,000 for a Saleen Mustang.

I drove a relatively bare-bones Mustang coupe, to see what sort of value you get when your budget comes up against your desire for fun.

For $24,099, the 2007 Mustang comes equipped with a four-litre V-6 engine that produces 210 h.p and 240 lb-ft of torque. This engine is mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Power steering, keyless entry, air-conditioning, four-wheel disc brakes, power windows and cruise control rounds out the standard equipment you get at this price.

The fun starts when you turn the key. The burble from the engine is music to the ears of anybody who has driven an honest-to-goodness muscle car. Sure, the engine is two cylinders and 100 horsepower shy for most power-hungry drivers, but it makes the most wonderful sounds. It is smooth, too, going up to 5,000 r.p.m without complaint. Drop the clutch and the tires either chirp or squeal — your right foot controls the volume and length of the sound.

Straight-line acceleration is the Mustang’s forte. Cornering should be taken with a bit more thought. The Mustang’s centre of gravity feels higher than most sporty models, imparting greater lean in a corner. The tester was shod with optional 235/55R17 tires and gave good road feel. Still, caution should be exercised as the solid rear end shows its lack of sophistication by losing traction at higher cornering speeds.

The Mustang has traction control, a feature that allows drivers to put the pedal to the metal while the car’s computers work to keep the vehicle going in a straight line. The car detects loss of traction in a wheel and will reduce power, apply brakes or both to keep the rubber rolling.

The benefit is that it will try to keep you from sliding into the weeds. Feeling brave? You can turn the system off — a nice touch for the enthusiast driver who still likes to hear the squealing of tires and feel the back end sliding out under full throttle acceleration. Did I say it was fun?

The anti-lock brakes are up to the task of halting the Mustang, with secure stops and no drama.

The manual transmission is the Achilles heel of the Mustang. It’s the clunkiest manual I have driven in a long time. It takes a hard push to get it into first gear and reverse is no better. Shifts were decent but I can’t see any but the most macho drivers liking it.

The transmission gearing is good for both acceleration and leisurely cruising, with 100 km on the highway seeing the engine loafing at low 1,800 r.p.m.

Driven moderately the Mustang’s fuel economy numbers are decent and comparable with conventional people movers, at 12.3 litres per 100 kilometres in the city and 7.7 on the highway.

Occupants with larger frames will be happy in the Mustang’s power seats. Generous arm room, adjustable seat height and a long seat travel all serve to make happy front occupants — even tall and wide ones. The rear seats are really meant for occasional use by youngsters. A 50/50 fold-down rear seat allows access to the modest trunk. The interior fit and finish is as good as I have seen in a North American car. The imports seem to be able to make a piece of plastic look better but Ford is catching up in this field. The optional leather seats added an up-market feel.

Visibility is very good all round, surprisingly so out the back despite the rear spoiler. The instruments are tucked in twin binnacles. They are dimly lit and made worse when wearing sunglasses. The optional chrome bezels around them and the dash air outlets are attractive in the otherwise matte black dashboard.

Retained accessory power and one-touch power windows are nice items at this price.

Twin airbags are standard but side air-bags are a $500 option. The front seatbelts are a long reach over the shoulder. Rear seat headrests are low.

The new Mustang, going on its 43rd year, shows how a sports car can age gracefully. While the V-6 model might pale in comparison — performance wise — to its more powerful brethren, it more than makes it up by an affordable price, decent fuel mileage and a high fun quotient, especially with the manual transmission.

–CanWest News Service


By: DAVE DEWITTE on November 10, 2006

Nov. 10–Rob Bertling, the new owner of Tires Plus in Coralville, has never doubted the conventional business wisdom that you have to believe in yourself, and “keep the vision.”

“You stay the course, and no matter what comes you have to do that,” says the 37-year-old automobile fanatic, who met the previous owner through a mutual love of high performance Saleen Mustangs.

Even so, Bertling turned to an unlikely source of help, the Women’s Business Center of Iowa, when he had the chance to buy the retail tire and automotive service franchise from his former boss.

While the Women’s Business Center of Iowa was itself on the verge of closing last year, President Joni Thornton guided Bertling through preparation of a two-year business plan, financial projections, and a verbal presentation to lenders for financing.

“Joni took it out of my head and put it into words, to where it was presentable to the Tires Plus franchise, the tire distributors and the bankers,” Bertling said.

Bertling said Thornton even got him to control his usual habit of conversational rambling, so that bankers got the information they needed without the sales pitch.

The outcome was a loan that enabled Bertling in March to convert the opportunity into his longtime dream of owning an automotive business. He hopes to open at least one or two more Tires Plus stores in the future.

Thornton and the Women’s Business Center have taken the same advice — “believe in yourself” and “keep the vision” — to heart in recent months.

Struggling financially, the center closed its office at 136 36th St. Dr. NE in September.

Thornton, who’d overseen the center since 1998, had been paying some of the non-profit operation’s bills from her own pocket for years just to keep the doors open.

Thornton planned to find another job in the lending or startup assistance area. Eventually, she could not give up the center.

After seeing clients at her home for a month or two, Thornton reopened the center this month in a much smaller space at the APAC Building, 425 Second St. SE. She plans to redouble efforts to secure funds for the center from the state and federal government.

Thornton is working with two startups in Iowa City and two in Cedar Rapids, hoping they too will find the satisfaction that Bertling has found.

Bertling was impressed that Thornton could see the potential in his business ideas without even visiting the business he planned to buy.

“She goes by her instincts,” said Bertling, whose mother connected him with the center.

“Her compassion is wonderful.”

Despite its name, the center is not limited to assisting female entrepreneurs, a fact Thornton plans to emphasize more clearly in the future. She says the center got its start at a time when it was harder for entrepreneurial women to get lenders to take them seriously.

The center now answers its phone with “Business Center of Iowa,” a name it has registered with the state.

Bertling says that making a success of the Coralville Tires Plus, which has been trailing its peers in nearby cities, will help him leave behind a transient life of operating other people’s automotive businesses and settle down.

“When a customer comes in, I want them to feel they are entering my house,” he said. “I don’t even have ‘owner’ on my business card,” Bertling said. “I would rather have, ‘head of the house.'”


Platinum Television Group is pleased to announce the selection of Texas Hot Rods for its innovative, educational television series, Competitive Edge. The company will be featured in a segment on “The Ultimate Mustang Experience” as part of the American Muscle Car Series. The show will be aired nationally on Spike TV as well as on regional cable stations.


Deerfield Beach, FL (PRWEB) May 4, 2006

Platinum Television Group is pleased to announce the selection of Texas Hot Rods for its innovative, educational television series, Competitive Edge. The company will be featured in a segment on “The Ultimate Mustang Experience” as part of the American Muscle Car Series. The show will be aired nationally on Spike TV as well as on regional cable stations.

Texas Hot Rods (THR) specializes in customizing Mustangs and fulfilling dreams without breaking the bank. Employing professional installation and using the best parts are their hallmarks. “We race what we build,” is their motto. Texas Hot Rods offers a full line of parts and services–ranging from a simple part to complete rebuilds or custom vehicles.

Brian Metzger, owner of Texas Hot Rods, based in El Paso, TX, has had a long-time passion for Mustangs. He planned his company to be a one-stop shop for all Mustang car-related issues–from technical support to installation to custom vehicles. THR reaches a worldwide market through the THR online store ( ) and toll-free ordering line (877-50-STANG).

THR is the only Mustang Performance company that also creates custom vehicles for the Mustang enthusiast. These custom numbered vehicles come in three lines, the Rolling Chassis, Turn Key Car, and the newest Saleen Conversion.

What sets THR apart is its value and quality. Unlike other companies that just broker parts, THR specialists are always available to provide expertise to the customer. THR ships throughout the US and internationally, and deals directly through manufacturers for the best price.

Fast isn’t always easy–that’s why THR is always there for the customer. From technical advice to complete installation, THR helps customers achieve their dreams. The THR Difference – Real Experience, Best Service, at The Right Price. For more information, please visit or contact THR toll free at 877-50-STANG (877-507-8264).

Platinum Television Group is an industry leader in consumer lifestyle educational shows.

# # #

Liz Metzger


By: N.A. on April 29, 2006
Original Article: MERCURY, THE (HOBART)

Car To Watch

Victorian Craig Dean lost faith in the Mustang for more than two decades until Ford went back to the drawing board and released the latest version of the revered coupe.

Dean imported a 2006 Mustang Saleen S281SC and converted it to right-hand-drive for Targa Tasmania.

The way he is throwing the black beauty around on Tasmania’s roads this week, he is loving every second of it.

“It’s an awesome car to drive,” said Dean, who is competing with son Ben.

Dean’s Mustang is the only ’06 model racing in Australia.

His Mustang packs a 4.6-litre engine (281 cubic inches, as the name suggests) with a supercharger to add extra bang for your bucks.

It pumps out an impressive 435 horsepower to move the 1614kg car around at 25 litres per 100km in Targa competition mode.

“It’s been souped up for Targa,” Dean said.

“It’s the most high-performance model you can buy.”


THR Texas Hot Rods, the leader in Mustang Performance, is debuting the brand new Saleen 2006 Aftermarket Conversion at Fun Ford Weekend in Houston April 28-30. As an introduction for the Saleen line, THR will also raffle a $6000 Series VI supercharger to be given away at the end of the weekend.


El Paso, TX (PRWEB) April 25, 2006

THR Texas Hot Rods (, the leader in Mustang Performance, is debuting the brand new Saleen 2006 Aftermarket Conversion at Fun Ford Weekend in Houston April 28-30. As an introduction for the Saleen line, THR will also raffle a $6000 Series VI supercharger to be given away at the end of the weekend.

THR completed the first All Aftermarket Saleen 2006 Conversion (THR SC-01) in April 2006. These vehicles feature the complete line of aftermarket parts available from Saleen, and can be purchased as a parts only package or converted as a numbered THR.

As an introduction to this line and as part of the debut of the THR 2006 SC-01 Mustang, THR will raffle away a $6000 supercharger at the upcoming show in Houston. The Supercharger will be given away at the end of the weekend.

THR will have the complete line of Saleen parts available in stock at the show. It was also have available Saleen & THR apparel, THR’s new line of wheels, and a THR vehicle for sale at the show.

For more information on THR products & Saleen aftermarket parts, see the complete selection at

For more information on the event, see the show schedule at

# # #

Liz Metzger


By: N.A. on April 15, 2006


LEXUS has unveiled its LS 600h hybrid – which combines a 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine and a pair of electric motors – at the New York International Automobile Show.

Billed as a high-performance car with extra electric boost rather than a fuel-sipping eco-warrior, it has a total output of about 324kW.

No fuel consumption figures have been released as yet, but Lexus promises ‘power and performance on a par with modern 12-cylinder engines, with fuel efficiency that matches a conventional V8 unit’.

Also flying in the face of higher oil prices are two higher performance versions of the Ford Mustang which went on show in New York.

Saleen dished up its Saleen/Parnelli Jones Limited Edition Mustang, named after the legendary US race car driver. Its V8 engine produces 275kW.

The Shelby GT-H version of the same was unveiled with a promise it will be available for rental at some US Hertz locations.

Named after another racer, Carroll Shelby, it has 25 per cent more power than the Mustang GT.


Saleen, the premier automotive brand for the Ford Mustang, has chosen to sponsor Texas Hot Rods in creating an all-Saleen aftermarket parts enhanced 2006 Mustang. This vehicle will begin as an all stock vehicle and will be transformed to showcase Saleen’s complete line of aftermarket parts.


El Paso, TX (PRWEB) March 9, 2006

Saleen, the premier automotive lifestyle brand for the Ford Mustang, has chosen to sponsor Texas Hot Rods in creating an all-Saleen aftermarket parts enhanced 2006 Mustang. This vehicle, a Screaming Yellow 2006 Mustang, will begin as an all stock vehicle and will be transformed to showcase Saleen’s complete line of aftermarket parts.

The vehicle will showcase the following items. Body kit and wing, Supercharger, Supercharger hood, Suspension, Exhaust, Graphics- all badges on vehicle, Saleen seats, Chrome Wheels and Tires, Brakes, HID Light Package.

It will be dynoed before the transformation and after to showcase the power difference with the upgrades. Once complete, the THR Saleen 06 will be featured in Saleen and THR advertising, as well as taken throughout the US to various events including Fun Ford Weekend and NMRA shows. The project is scheduled to begin March 10th and to be completed by March 20th. All modifications will be by Saleen personnel at the Saleen plant in California.

Saleen Inc. has been the premier specialty automotive manufacturer for over 20 years. With its superior quality products, its aftermarket parts have always been a staple to Saleen owners. Now every Mustang owner can have the same quality and artistry of the complete Saleen parts line.

Saleen has carefully chosen a select few to market its complete line of products. Texas Hot Rods was the first private dealer chosen to represent Saleen’s aftermarket line of products. Texas Hot Rods is quickly becoming the leader in Mustang performance parts, and like Saleen strives for both quality and performance in all the lines it represents.

The complete Saleen product line is available at Texas Hot Rods through the toll free order line 877-50-STANG (877-507-8264) or via the website at

Texas Hot Rods is the premier retailer of Ford Mustang aftermarket performance parts and cars. For further information, please contact us at 915-593-6225.

# # #

Liz Metzger



DETROIT, Jan. 18 /PRNewswire/ — More than 40 production and concept vehicles on display at the 2006 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) tout laminated glass in side and rear windows, as well as roof applications, as reported by the Enhanced Protective Glass Automotive Association (EPGAA). Laminated glass has become a mainstream technology in the automotive industry, with approximately 1.3 million vehicles produced annually with laminated glass.

“It is the goal of the EPGAA to educate the industry and consumers on using laminated glass in applications other than windshields,” said Mike Sanders, EPGAA President and director for DuPont Automotive Safety Systems. “We are pleased to see the continued increase in adoption of laminated glass; it shows that automakers and consumers alike are realizing the extended benefits of this technology.”

Laminated glass is a high-impact resistant glass technology that automakers and car buyers have trusted for use in windshields for more than 60 years. In addition to windshield applications, laminated glass is being developed specifically for use in side and rear window, and roof applications. Laminated glass provides four key benefits, to help protect vehicle occupants:

In addition to meeting global automotive safety standards, laminated glass could help save up to 1,300 lives annually and reduce occupant ejection — according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

With a tough plastic interlayer or film composite, laminated glass provides significant increases to intrusion resistance — enough to deter most would-be thieves.

Sound Reduction
The interlayer in laminated glass helps provide protection from outside wind and road noises, keeping the car interior quieter and more comfortable. This benefit allows automakers to offer consumers a vehicle with additional value without significantly increasing the cost of the vehicle. Acoustic studies note that laminated glass reduces interior noise by three to four decibels, allowing for better conversation and use of entertainment equipment.

Solar Protection
With the help of an available infrared (IR) reflective coating, laminated glass provides several benefits to the interior of vehicles. Testing has shown vehicles equipped with laminated glass parked in the sun with the windows closed may reduce the effects of solar heat by up to 18 degrees F (10 degrees C) compared to standard tempered glass.

Laminated glass also offers several benefits from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays to protect vehicle occupants and interiors from the damaging effects of the sun. UV rays cause interior vehicle fabrics to fade and degrade, leather to age, and plastic and vinyl to crack, which laminated glass can help to prevent. According to the Australian Radiation protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPNSA), the laminated glass interlayer also screens up to 95 percent of damaging UV rays, providing a UV protection factor of 50+ SPF.

About the EPGAA
The Enhanced Protective Glass Automotive Association (EPGAA) is composed of laminate and glass providers to provide information and overall education on the development of laminated glass for added vehicle security, occupant comfort and safety. Currently, DuPont Automotive; Glasstech, Inc.; Guardian Industries Corp.; PPG Industries, Inc.; Saint-Gobain Sekurit; Sekisui America Corporation and Solutia Automotive are members of the EPGAA. For more information on the EPGAA, visit .

[SOURCE Enhanced Protective Glass Automotive Association]


By: JOHN GITTELSOHN on January 5, 2006

Jan. 5–Henrik Fisker, a designer of BMWs and Aston Martins, has introduced his first car under his own name, the Fisker Tramonto, a $234,000 sport coupe designed at his Orange County studio.

Steve Saleen, the Irvine builder of racecars and customized Mustangs, unveiled his newest venture Wednesday: a high-performance pickup truck.

Both the Fisker and Saleen vehicles are debuting at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show, which opens to the public Friday. Both auto designers embody the emergence of Orange County, long a home to auto design, as a budding center of auto production.

Saleen made more than 5,000 cars in 2005, half at his factory in Irvine and half at his plant in Troy, Mich. Fisker plans to build his first 150 Tramontos at a factory in Europe, before opening a facility somewhere near his Irvine studio.

“Saleen and Fisker are further along than others, but they’re not the only ones,” said George Peterson, president of Auto Pacific, a Tustin consulting and marketing firm.

For years, Orange County has been an international magnet for auto design studios: Volvo, Land Rover, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz among the Europeans; Mazda and Hyundai representing Asia.

It also hosts numerous world-renowned auto customizers and craftsmen, ranging from hot rod king Boyd Coddington of La Habra to the Gaffoglio Family Metalcrafters Inc. of Fountain Valley.

What’s new is the growth of auto production, a trend enabled by advances in design technology and a growing market for specialized cars. Eric Noble, president of The CarLab, an independent auto research studio in Orange, compared the growth of companies like Saleen and Fisker to the recent proliferation of microbreweries to compete with mega-brewers such as Miller and Anheuser-Busch.

“If you’re going to brew a beer for a community, why not do it there?” Noble asked. “If the technology allows you to design, build and manufacture in proximity to the market, why wouldn’t you? If you’re going to build cars for Southern California, why not do it here?”

Fisker Coachbuild, as the company is formally called, derives its name from the early 20th-century European tradition of creating one-of-a-kind bodies with handcrafted appointments on top of factory-built chassis. But the company logo — a blue and orange circle pierced by two bars — was inspired by Southern California’s car culture.

The bars represent the auto designer’s pen and carving tool. The orange represents the sun setting over the blue Pacific “Southern California is the largest luxury car market in the world,” said Fisker, 42, a native of Denmark who settled in Orange County in 2003. “I live in Newport Beach because I think you need to live and breathe it.”

Beyond their shared Orange County origins, the new Saleen truck and Fisker sports car both represent customization of mass produced vehicles. The Fisker Tramonto is built on a Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG chassis while the Saleen S331 Supercharged truck rests on a Ford F-150 Lariat chassis.

Saleen is introducing his model at a time when truck sales have been hit by high fuel prices. But it doesn’t faze him or officials at Ford, which sold more than 900,000 F-series pickups in 2005.

“Having somebody like a Saleen take the F-150 and add his level of performance enhances our product,” said Doug Scott, Ford’s manager of truck group marketing.

“It’s a much bigger pie than the one for high performance sports cars,” said Saleen, a native of Whittier and former auto racer who designed his first car in 1984. “Where the trend is really going from the automotive standpoint is toward niche marketed, segmented vehicles. We’re speaking to individuals.” Saleen’s supercharged truck boosted the engine’s power by almost 50 percent to 450 horsepower, improved the suspension and enlarged the brakes to accommodate the truck’s 23-inch wheels — compared to 18-inches on the standard F-150.

Saleen also left his fingerprints all over his truck’s styling. He swelled the front bumper and grille to help the bigger engine inhale more air. The truck’s sides taper aerodynamically, like a woman’s waist. Tailpipes vent in front of the rear wheels, creating the truck’s rumble, leading to its nickname: Thunder.

The first trucks, 2007 models, are scheduled to be in about 170 dealer showrooms this summer, including Santa Margarita Ford, Sunset Ford and Villa Ford in Orange County.

Saleen has not set a price, but expects to charge at least $5,000 more than the F-150 Lariat’s $31,180 manufacturer’s suggested retail price. The truck still costs — and looks — like a Ford.

In Fisker’s case, it’s hard to see the Mercedes inside the Tramonto. He and his partner, Bernhard Koehler, enlarged the SL55’s wheels, enhanced the suspension, added horsepower and redesigned the interiors. They kept the SL55’s convertible hardtop, which folds into the trunk like an elaborate piece of origami.

But they completely transformed the Mercedes’ body — substituting 60 percent of the original steel and aluminum shell with carbon fiber to lighten the vehicle’s weight. They designed narrow slits for taillights and a grinning mesh-covered front grille inspired by the silhouette of the F-22A “Raptor” fighter plane.

Fisker and Koehler announced their company’s formation in January 2005 and put the first Tramonto on the road seven months later, a tribute, they said, to their design methods, details of which they said are proprietary.

The obsidian-black coupe and a second Fisker model, called the Latigo CS, have clocked almost 7,000 miles on their odometers as they travel to car shows.

“Our idea was to build a real car that works,” Fisker said.

Neither Saleen nor Fisker would disclose their privately-held companies’ financial data. They raised capital from investors and car enthusiasts around the nation. One of them, Dag Wilkinson, a Dana Point real estate developer, said he hopes to recoup his money in three years, although he’s not interested in buying a Fisker.

“My Puritan streak tells me I shouldn’t spend that much on a car,” Wilkinson said.