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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Scans of the cover and article are in the next post...

http://mph-online.com/

Cover declares:
American Heroes! ~ Ones cheap. One isn't. ~ Both Rule.

Artice in October mph (a mag that seems to aim at the same group that might read Maxim) set as the 3rd review following the Dodge Stealth and Corvette Z06 under the all encompassing lead;

American Heroes
To read the newspapers, you'd think that America's riches are being squanderd in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, and Texas. But we don't read those traitorous Commie rags. Instead we journeyed across this great nation to celebrate some true American greats, like the asphalt-melting Dodge Viper coupe, the bodacious Pontiac Solstice, the mind blowing Corvette Z06, and the hard-bowling Sam Hornish, Jr. So the next time someone asks, "Oh, say...does the star-spangled banner yet wave?" you can look them in the eyes and say, "You bet your sweet ass it does!"

Northern Exposure
The Pontiac Solstice in the Land of the Midnight Sun
By David Merline ~ Photos by Joe Vaughn

As the Solstice emerges from the mouth of he Splash 'n' Dash car wash, the two teenage boys working the towel-dry area are on break. When one of the two catches sight of the Solstice's bright red nose, his expression brightens - he looks like a kid on Christmas morning. As the car reveals itself fully he calls to his coworker: "Dude, you are going to want to dry off this one!" His coworker doesn't come - but this kind of excited reaction is typical.

The 2006 Pontiac Solstice attracts gawkers the way that one friend of yours attracts psycho girlfriends. Heads turn, fingers point, families want to pose with it, and even amidst the awe-inspireing landscape of the Denali National Forest, people turn away from the scenery and take pictures of the car.

It's the kind of rubber-necking you'd expect if you were driving an Italian sports car, or a $240,000 Bentley, not the kind of thing you'd expect to get in a $20,000 Pontiac.

But outgunning the expectations is precisely why this car was created. The brainchild of Bob Lutz, who shepherded it from concept to creation in a mere 27 months, thwarting naysayers and olr-school GM bureaucracy at every step, the Solstice is an impressive achievement on many levels. First, it's a roadster that doesn't look like it needs to match your girlfriend's shoes. Second, it's a small production-run vehicle (expect no more than 15,000 to 20,000 per year), something GM has typically shunned. Third' and most impressively, well, just look at the thing.

One onlooker compares it to a Jaguear D-Type, another likens it to an old Ferrari. And indeed, this car is a sexpot, with supple curves and lithe lines. The body and chassis rails are made of hydroformed steel, a process that allows for shapes and angles that would be impossible to achieve through traditional stamping.

We're driving the car in Fairbanks, Alaska, in part because it's one of the few places in the Union where everyone knows what the word solstice means. And even though the actuall Summer Solstice happened a month before we got here' there are still 19 hours of daylight at this altitude - ideal conditions for prolonged convertable flogging.

Fairbanks is a small town that looks as if it once had ambitions of big-cityhood. It's got all the trappin - a central business district with big hotels, banks, restaurants, and theaters, all ringed by ecpressways - but its character is uniquely Alaskan. It seems to hace been built with a begrudging reluctance, a concession to modernity its residents would rather not have made.

Although not the quirky-but -lovable oddballs depicted in that quirky-0but-unlovable TV show Northern Exposure, Alaskans are nonetheless different. Thy have a kind of ruggedness and pride earned by living in a city 2000 miles north of the lower 48 that endures six dark months with temperatures in the zero-to-negative-20 range and an annual snowfall of 68 inches. These are outdoorsy folk, which, considering how great the fishing, hunting, ATVing, and snowmobiling are, is hardly surprising. But that doesn't mean they don't love cars.

There is a bigger car culture in Fairbanks than any of us expect, with cool rides everywhere - an Opel coupe here, a Ford Model A there, even what appears to be a '60's-era Cadillac pickup. Some are clearly collector-owned, but many are just old family cars that have retained much of their showroom luster. This seems odd, until you realize that they don't salt the roads in wintertime, as that would be an exercise in futility. Studded snow tires are the best defense against Fairbanks's frozen winter roads.

We take the Solstice to see all the sights of Alaska's interior. Our first destination is North Pole, Alaska, which, true to Alaskan form, is southeast of Fairbanks. As you might expect, Christmas runs all year long in North Pole. Which, of course, means gift shops. What is it about the birth of the Christian savior, we wonder, that can only be celebrated through the purchase of chintz, tchotchkes, and the fruits of Chinese labor? Were the prophecies fulfilled merely as a reason for the Alaska Welding Works to hang its sign atop two 30-foot candy canes? We have no idea, but here, too, the Solstice is a hit, even with the Fat Elf himself and his long-suffering wife.

The traffic-stopping looks of the Solstice are obvious, but things ain’t too crappy behind the wheel, either. The cockpit is more comfortable than it looks. The leather seats hug you firmly without violating you, and the interior is simple and ergonomically correct. The plastic is a step up from the typical Fisher Price stuff in most domestics, and although the company saved money by raiding GMC Envoy, Fiat, and Chevy Cobalt parts bins, the Solstice doesn’t look cheap. When asked, most onlookers guess at an MSRP anywhere between $35,000 and $50,000. “As cool as a Mercedes and only half the price,” opines one citizen who is not, it turns out, a GM spokesperson.

Our next agenda item is the 190-mile journey north to the Arctic Circle, and along the way we see small plumes of smoke rising off the forest floor. It looks exactly like the smoke from a small bonfire, but there are no campers – it’s merely forest-fire season. We chastise ourselves for not having marshmallows on board.

Highway 2 follows the trail of the Trans Alaska Pipeline, which although smaller than it looks in pictures, is, much like us, stunning in its length. But it’s nothing compared with the amazing attraction we are about to witness. No, not the endless miles of birch and black spruce forests, not the endless hills nor the ubiquitous wildlife, and certainly not the Circle itself, which is nothing more than a turnoff with a sign and two outhouses. Those were good, but we’re talking about something really impressive: one of the best, least talked about roads in the world. Forty miles of pristine paved perfection. The stuff of auto journalists’ dreams. An immaculate two-lane highway devoid of traffic and seemingly unpatrolled. Twisties, switchbacks, straightaways, and other automotive clichés – you name it. Even stunning views, if you can be bothered to look at them. This is where the Solstice really shines.

The Solstice has one serious flaw, which is its lack of immediate thrust at takeoff. This 177-hp car lacks the go-fast-now launch gearing of the Mazda MX-5m which has much quicker initial throttle response, but once the Solstice is up and running, there’s very little to complain about.

At speed, the Solstice is tight, smooth, and relaxed. The steering is as confident as Mark Hamill at a Star Wars Convention. Even at triple digits over uneven pavement, we seldom move the wheel. Placing the car in turns is a no-brainer: Think “make it so,” and it becomes so. The chassis is amazingly rigid for a convertible, thanks to the frame rails, which, by virtue of being hydroformed, are made of one long piece of steel. The body panels on the Solstice are non-structural – the frame was built to handle everything – so in theory, the car could be re-skinned for future model years without having to re-engineer much.

Highway 2 gives us ample opportunities to take this car to the limit of its tires’ adhesion, but we never get that sinking feeling that we’re approaching that limit. Gm claims a top speed of 123, and we can attest to 118 of those, and even at this speed the chassis is firm – no shakes, rattles, pitches, or rolls. Steering remains tight and predictable, and the extra-fat 18-inch Goodyear Eagle RSAs never lose their tight grasp on the pavement.

Following this amazing drive are 20 frustrating miles of gravel road, which is a challenge the Solstice faxes unflinchingly. This car rides better on a gravel road than the BMW M3 rides on the freeway – the car’s expensive Bilstein coil-over dampers work with the short/long-arm suspension to keep the car pitch-free and controlled. There’s also a goodly amount of wheel travel here to help soak up the most imperfect of surface imperfections. The main problem we encounter is dust. Without a cabin filter, the interior of the Solstice becomes a minor sandstorm. The smell of crisp Alaskan air is masked by the gritty taste of sand and that old familiar feeling of rapid lung deterioration.

We drive top-up over the gravel, which makes the car only slightly less loud than it is with its top down. The airflow, whirling through the cabin could be seen as another annoyance – this is not a quiet convertible. But that only serves to reinforce the car’s personality. This car is no shrinking violet, no Japanese-style roadster in harmony with all in and around it. It’s American – rooky, loud, and proud. In spirit, it’s less a Miata competitor than a baby Corvette, so we forgive the environmental intrusions. Besides, the Monsoon sound system is loud enough to drown out even the shouts of “where the hell are they?” coming through the walkie-talkie from our chase vehicle. Which brings us to another of our favorite things about this car. The stereo has an auxiliary input – that simple but elusive hole in the faceplate that lets you plug an iPod straight into your sound system. It seems like a trifle, but if you drive a car that lacks one and you own an MP3 player, you no doubt have felt our pain.

As our trip reaches its end, we go out in search of nightlife. We head to the Silver Spur, one of the most popular watering holes in Fairbanks. But it’s Tuesday night, and there are only about 30 people in the joint. Six of them are women. Three of them are attractive. That might have something to do with the karaoke. Clearly, this bar does good business overall, as the prize for tonight’s karaoke contest is a trip for two to Las Vegas. There are four contestants, all of them regulars. Our money is on the bug guy with the mullet and the Puberty Blues mustache, who sings the most sincere version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” we’ve ever heard. His heartfelt delivery, complete with falsetto, nearly reduces us to tears, especially his ad-lib on the chorus: “I don’t know what to do and I’m always in the dark/We’re living in a powder keg and giving off sparks/I really ****in’ need you tonight/Forever’s gonna start tonight”

Inexplicably the crowd thins, and we head back to the hotel, past the turning heads, pointed fingers, and excited expressions of passerby. We’re half expecting a parade down Main Street, but a couple of homeless natives will do for now. And as the sun begins to disappear below the horizon (it’s midnight now), one thing remains perfectly clear: Even in the bright Alaskan night, Solstice is a star. mph :willy:
 

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Discussion Starter #2

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Saw this magazine in the news stands last week. I love the Viper vs Solstice cover shot. They make them look very similar in a way in that image.
 

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That cover demonstrates how big the Solstice is, I was correct when I guessed it's as large as a vipor.......

I'm speaking of vertical height, hoodline, windshield header.........
 

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Fortimir said:
One of the best articles I've read... and damn, that is ONE dirty Solstice.
Gee, even Santa got a Sol before most of us.
I would like to have seen that car up close after they were finished. I drove a new car to Alaska about 15 years ago and the roads left permanent damage to the paint (front, sides and back).
 

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Easily, my favorite quote from the article...

theartfuldodger said:
This car rides better on a gravel road than the BMW M3 rides on the freeway
:cheers:
 
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