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1st Gear: AAA is estimating 39 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this Fourth of July holiday weekend, a 2.5 percent decline from the 40 million who traveled in 2010. This small decrease is being attributed to sustained higher gas prices. However, the Independence Day long weekend continues to be the busiest travel holiday of the year as children are out of school and families head to favorite vacation spots. "Travelers are being smart with their travel budgets by finding the best deals, eating out less and traveling shorter distances" said Kathy Combs, district office supervisor at AAA. "This is a strong indicator that Americans remain determined to visit friends and family even though gas prices are higher than last year at this time."

2nd Gear: Chrysler is evaluating a return to international GT competition with the next generation of Viper, Autosport magazine has revealed this week. The U.S. automaker, which took a hat-trick of GTS class wins at the Le Mans 24 Hours from 1998-2000 with the original Viper Coupe, has began to look at the possibility of taking on BMW, Ferrari, Chevrolet and Porsche in the GTE category. Riley Technologies, which has produced the title-winning Grand-Am chassis for the past eight years, has been commissioned to undertake a technical analysis of the new road car, which will be available in 2013.


3rd Gear: Land Rover revealed yesterday that the all-new 2012 Range Rover Evoque will have a starting price of $43,995 for the five-door, and $44,995 for the coupe (including destination & delivery) and will achieve 28 MPG EPA highway and 19 MPG EPA city.


4th Gear: MW Group France will provide a fleet of 200 BMW Series 7 limousines for the wedding of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco. So, although Prince Albert will not be in a can, he is in a very large German car produced with a high percentage of aluminum.


5th Gear: General Motor's Holden Special Vehicles unit in Australia is following in the footsteps of Mercedes-Benz's AMG division as well as more recently, Porsche, with the presentation of a black-themed special edition series based on the E Series 3 range launched last September. Making its world debut at the 2011 Australian motorshow in Melbourne, the SV Black Edition package is offered in the ClubSport R8, Maloo R8 and ClubSport R8 Tourer, the sports versions of the Commodore sedan, ute, and station wagon models respectively. Despite the name, the SV Black Editions are available in four more colors other than Phantom black — Alto Grey, Nitrate, Sting and Heron. Sadly, there are no upgrades under the hood. But whatever, Holden's already stolen our hearts with HSV's 425 HP 6.2-liter LS3 V8 engine. And you know what they say about once you go black. That's right, you never go back to Chevy. Sigh.


6th Gear: Longtime Teamsters president James Hoffa, one of the most influential players in American labor, is facing a re-election fight from a former truck driver vying to become the first female leader in the union's 108-year history. Sandy Pope, a longtime steel hauler who heads a small New York City local, claims her groundbreaking candidacy is a nonissue. Although I'm all for "chicks in charge," I'm pulling for Hoffa, because one time, he and Bill Black, the Teamsters governmental affairs chief, gave me a leather Teamsters varsity jacket with my name stitched on it. Really, they did. And that was friggin' cool. Just sayin'...


⏎ Consumer Reports backs 62 mpg by 2025. Ugh. [Detroit News]

⏎ Car dealers spruce up in hopes of sales gains. [AP via]

⏎ Time to see how serious Detroit 3, UAW are about recovery. [Detroit Free Press]


⏎ Ford workers offered to bid on new jobs. [The Morning Journal]

⏎ GPS units stolen — many from Chrysler cars. [Detroit Free Press]

⏎ American Axle to close plant in Detroit. [Detroit News]

⏎ Toyota leads drop in Japan car sales. [Bloomberg]

⏎ Quick programming note: We're running at normal speed today, tomorrow and Sunday — and even have our very own Bill Caswell, Jalopnik's $500 Craigslist rally car driver, reporting for us at the Goodwood Festival of Speed all weekend. Monday, however, we'll be celebrating our nation's Independence Day, so we'll be running at half speed — but fear not, we'll still have all sorts of great stories.


Today in Automotive History:

The last Thunderbird, Ford Motor Company's iconic cruiser, emerges from a Ford factory in Wixom, Michigan on this day in 2005. [History]


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