Cliff Leppke, Contributor

Cliff is a Milwaukee-based automotive writer and American studies scholar who works as an electronic journalist for a TV station. Born in 1958, he's originally from St. Louis but has lived in Chicago, Minneapolis, Rockford and Indianapolis. After completing an electrical engineering degree with an emphasis on TV broadcast technology, he went back to graduate school and studied mass communication at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Since then he did further graduate work in the history of American technology at the University of Minnesota and American Studies at St. Louis University. His specialty is American postwar material culture. He has received several awards including one from the American Advertising Federation for a public service campaign and two for his work in preserving roadside architecture. His wheels: a Team Mercier road bike, a Team Miyata track bike, a 1938 Ford, and a 1974 VW Karmann Ghia.


Magic Bus: VW's Bulli or Barbie's Rolling Boutique?
Magic Bus: VW's Bulli or Barbie's Rolling Boutique?

Back in 2001, VW's Microbus Concept stole the show-car category at the North American International Auto Show. Its winsome combination of heritage design cues and advanced technological features transformed the minivan from frumpy to cool. Overwhelmed by the public's positive reaction, Volkswagen...Read More»

2011 Kia Optima, Chicago's vintage metal bridge
2011 Kia Optima EX Review: It Hits The Hot Spot

Kia's 2011 sedan de grace ends Optima's dowdy image In broadcast TV, network "up fronts" preview new fall shows. By mid-winter, networks revamp their lineups. An alternative: drop in a blockbuster such as American Idol. Hyundai and its Kia affiliate offer their own twists on TV land practices...Read More»

Tradesman on Chicago Stage
2011 Chicago Auto Show: Ram 1500 Tradesman

Dodge's CEO Fred Diaz proclaimed in Chicago that, "2011 was the year of the Ram." Ram truck, that is. He says Ram understands "loud and proud" truck buyers and, perhaps, a little Italian too. According to Diaz, there's a "famiglia" of Ram trucks. To that end, he introduced a new Ram family member...Read More»

2011 Kia Sorento SX
2011 Kia Sorento Review: Yo Gabba, A Toy Story?

Kia's 2010 Super Bowl TV spot "Joy, Ride, Dream" starred much-wanted kids toys (one's from cable TV show Yo Gabba Gabba) coming to life and living it up in Las Vegas. Add an infectious music bed by Heavy ("How You Like Me Now") and you've got a must-see TV ad. It's an adult antidote for...Read More»

Foul-Weather Friend:  Bridgestone's WS60 Blizzak Tire
Snow Advisory: Winter Tires Up Motoring Safety

According the Bridgestone's Norris (TJ) Tennant, "your life rides on four contact patches, the equivalent of one letter-size sheet of paper." This sobering rubber-meets-the-road image makes winter road conditions an additional reason to evaluate your car's tires. The tire industry markets products...Read More»

2011 Ford F-150 STX
Ford's F150 Info: Small Screen, Big Thing at Detroit Show

Raj Sarkar, Ford's F150 marketing manager, knows figures. In order to get them on the go, he says Ford's "class-exclusive" 4.2-inch LCD productivity screen provides oodles of numerals and pictographs so its drivers can stay connected with how they're driving, and what's happening in the cabin...Read More»

Ralph Gilles and the revamped Charger
2011 Dodge Charger: Ralph Gilles Talks Freshening

Dodge's Ralph Gilles wants to win you over. His game plan: new or freshened Dodges. For example, the 2011 Durango gets a Jeep's unit-body platform. Meanwhile, the Charger undergoes a significant makeover. Gilles describes this as "waking up and doing what we can do." Gilles told Chicago's motoring...Read More»

Volvo's S60
2011 Volvo S60: Pedestrian-Protector, Kill Bob Vol(vo) One?

Kill Bob:  Vol(vo) One Kurt Wallander, (Kenneth Branagh in the BBC's adaptation of Henning Mankell's popular detective fiction), plows through the Swedish slit-illuminated landscape.  His blur-inducing conveyance: a Volvo wagon.  Wallander's rumbled exterior and frayed mind find tranquility...Read More»

2011 Nissan Leaf
2011 Nissan Leaf: Unplugged, it Tours

2011 Nissan Leaf:  Unplugged On Tour At the Midwest Automotive Media Association's 2010 Fall Rally, Nissan introduced its no-tailpipe emissions Leaf.  This 100-mile range electric vehicle has a lithium-ion battery pack down its center tunnel, underneath the stadium-style rear seat and between the...Read More»

2011 Nissan Juke Review: Wurlitzer or Seeburg?

Wurlitzer or Seeburg?  Nissan's Juke Plays for Pint-Size SUV Market With a nod to the Happy Day's infamous Seeburg, Nissan's Juke is part malt-shop wonder topped by a dollop of 50's lizard thriller Godzilla.  Under its front lid resides a 1.6-liter direct-injection turbocharged I-4.  With 188...Read More»

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