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DRIVE BRIEFS - Must have been quite a wild ride

From wire service reports

A hundred years ago last month, an intrepid Vermont doctor, Horatio Nelson Jackson, embarked on a cross-country odyssey that marked the dawn of something really big in American history -- driving.

Two months and 5,600 miles after he left San Francisco on a $50 bet, Jackson, his mechanic and a bulldog named Bud rolled into New York in a two-cylinder, open-top Winton touring car. They reached New York on July 22, 1903. The trip had lasted 63 days, 12 hours and 30 minutes.It was the first time anyone had crossed the country in a motor car.

When Jackson began his trip, the country had 150 miles of paved roads. Dayton Duncan, author of seven books about American history, has written a book,"Horatio's Drive," to be published by Alfred A. Knopf in July. A public television documentary on the journey will air later this year.

A bigger threat

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says a crash test of the 2003 Lincoln Navigator sport utility indicated that it had become more of a threat to people riding in passenger cars than the 1999 model.

The finding was significant because the Navigator, a large luxury sport utility vehicle, has been marketed by the Ford Motor Co. as a vehicle redesigned in ways that made it less dangerous to passenger car occupants in two-vehicle collisions.

Ford lowered both the bumper and the internal structure of the Navigator in an effort to make it match up better with the design of cars, which ride closer to the ground than sport utilities. But the '03 Navigator is heavier and more stiff than the 1999 Navigator, which could have an offsetting effect.

Price difference hit

Automobile manufacturers conspired to inflate prices of vehicles sold in the U.S. and tried to prevent less costly cars from Canada from entering the U.S. market, according to a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court.

The suit is similar to others filed this year in several jurisdictions.

The filings allege U.S. purchasers paid about 30 percent more than Canadian buyers for the same vehicles, an average over-charge of $10,000 to $20,000. Defendants named in the suit are General Motors, Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, BMW and the National Automobile Dealers Association.

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