Bugly Trucks Wanted
Beauty may be skin deep, but ugly goes clear to the bone. What disgusted Red Foxx is still revolting to the folks at the Vehicle Donation Center. But, that's OK. The masochists behind www.DonateCarUSA.com are searching for the bugliest (that's "butt-ugliest!") trucks, SUVs, and cars on the face of the planet.

The standards for the lowest of the low are high. "Some cars are so hideous and disgusting they bring down the real estate values in the neighborhood...We want those," says Pete Palmer, spokesman for the Vehicle Donation Center. That's bugly.

So, go grab the shovel from the shed, dig out that jalopy you have buried in the backyard, and strut your bugly stuff. The First Place winner gets The Gold Pinto Award, Second Place walks away with the Silver Pacer Award. The least-coveted-but, ironically, least-embarrassing-Third Place position gets the Bronze Gremlin Award. Everyone has the opportunity to donate their beaters to the Vehicle Donation Processing Center, which, in turn, sells the vehicles and gives the money to the participating charity of your choice.

If you think your car has what it takes, submit your digital photos to Contest@donatecarusa.com. For more information on the Vehicle Donation Processing Center and the search for the Ugliest Car in America, call the (800) 269-6814, or go to www.donatecarusa.com. Reach for the top-the top of the heap.

News Briefs
Who knew that one of the best benchmarks for gauging the popularity of pickup trucks in the United States would be the scrap yard. According to RL Polk & Company as reported by SEMA, the number of vehicles scrapped as a percentage of vehicles in use has declined, while the number of trucks may soon overtake cars in the crusher. The median age of scrapped cars increased to 8.9 years, an all-time high. For trucks, the median age fell to 6.6 years, due mainly to a record 9.8 million new trucks registered in 2004, with 9.3 million of those being light trucks. Last year, 59 percent of scrapped vehicles were cars, but Polk predicts that trucks will claim 46 percent of the scrap heap.

Toyota aims to double its U.S. sales of fullsize pickup trucks in three years by bringing production at its planned San Antonio, Texas, plant up to full capacity by 2008, according to SEMA. Reuters says Toyota now sells about 100,000 to 110,000 units in the segment a year with the Tundra and is constructing the new 120,000-units-a-year San Antonio plant to go online in late 2006.

Ford will be building an all-new V-8 powerplant code-named Hurricane at its plant in Romeo, Michigan, according to WardsAuto.com and reported by SEMA. The Hurricane's displacement and timetable are unclear, but reports indicate the engine could be a 6.2L engine initially that will first rest under the hood of the F-Series pickup lineup, with output trumping anything in Ford's domestic light-duty V-8 family today.

Hybrid vehicles may become exempt to the laws governing carpool lanes. California has already passed a law allowing hybrids occupied by only the driver to drive in HOV lanes but can't allow it to take effect until conflicting Federal law tows the line. Two members of California's Congressional delegation have sponsored a bill that would align the Feds with the Golden State on this matter, opening the door for other states-particularly Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia-to push forward their own pending legislation. Should these bills be ratified, then drivers of the GMC Sierra, Chevy Silverado, Ford Escape, and Lexus RX 400h-all hybrids-might have another reason to reach for the alt-drive solution.

If you're ready to buy a midsize SUV, then GM might just have the deal for you. Sluggish sales at the beginning of the year convinced the execs at General Motors to slash as much as $2,000 from the suggested retail price of the Chevy TrailBazer, GMC Envoy, and Buick Rainier, according to The Detroit News, on top of the enticing rebates that already exist for those models.

Goodbye Everest. Hello Mons Vitruvius. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, SUV drivers in this country drove nearly 315 billion miles in 2002. That's more than 650,000 round trips to the moon-a road trip that would require 105 million oil changes and 1.2 billion potty breaks.

AIM Ind.
260 S. Hibbert