About Me

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Toronto, Ontario, Canada
My passion is also my business, as I am with the Toronto based Hav-A-Kar Auto Group. I sell or lease any make of car, van or truck available in Canada. My interest in all things "car" has helped me with my many clients in Ontario over the past 20+ years. Please give me the opportunity to assist you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Aug 19: The Dream Cruise


Nothing says cruisin' like this classic 1959 Cadillac Eldorado coupe, low and slow, well maybe not so slow, as this old beast had a pretty big motor for its day. What got me thinking about the old car cruises, is that the most famous and biggest of them all, the Woodward Ave Dream Cruise was held last week in the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. Each year, cars come from all over to cruise Woodward Ave for several days in the middle of August. 

So why Woodward Ave? Interesting story.........Woodward is a long stretch of road, that back in the heyday of the muscle car, all the hot cars cruised this strip looking to challenge a likely target for bragging rights. From time to time, even the manufacturers would sent a pre-production car out to Woodward to test its mettle. Heck, this road became so famous that it was featured in a Pontiac GTO ad........


Whether this ad ran in Michigan, California or New Brunswick, we all knew its meaning......this GTO was out looking for blood. Everyone knew about Woodward Avenue's reputation. Twenty years ago, someone got the bright idea that there should be a commemorative gathering of a few old cars to celebrate the glory days. Well, that idea grew and grew into what it is today, a happening, that draws over one million people to the Motor City for this week of car heaven and nostalgia

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 When you read that anything car related will show up for the Dream Cruise, well you aren't far wrong, from this '57 Chevy limo to the Monkeemobile.........



All the new car and parts manufacturers set up displays and once in a while, an upcoming model joins the cruise to gauge the public's enthusiasm or lack of it. This street has even been written about, so having the Dream Cruise on its hallowed asphalt makes so much sense........


And of course, people being people in our capitalistic society, some folks try to generate a little extra spending money.......


Any wonder why you've never seen your blogger in Detroit in mid August?

The neat thing about these car cruises, is that anything goes in terms of cars. Sure they are based on nostalgia for old American iron, but if you show up in any interesting old or new car, you are welcome to join the party........



Talk about an inclusive event. So next time someone mentions Woodward Ave (you mean this doesn't happen to you?) or you hear about the Dream Cruise, you'll know a little bit more about it. 


Time to buy a neat old (or new car) and head for Michigan?

Until next time........



Friday, August 15, 2014

Aug 15: What a surprise, Buick


Now this is a brochure we don't see very often (or at all), even in the extreme multicultural city of Toronto. But if you were living in China, it would be a rather common sight. I believe General Motors' sales in China are second only to VW and the car line that drives those sales is Buick. Why you ask? That's a very good question and like many things, the answer is routed in history.


Way back in the 1930's, one in six cars sold in China were Buicks. The leaders, whether they were the emperor or head of the Communist party drove the very prestigious Buick brand. The old one in this pic cruised the streets of Peking (Beijing) in the '40's. Their last emperor, their first president and their first premier all had Buicks, so no wonder the Buick name resonates with China's citizens all these many years later.


Recognize this car? Sure you do, it's the Verano, but in China you can see it uses a different name and also comes in a variety of body styles........


In North America, Buick sold about 220,000 cars in 2013, but in China they sold 254,000 Excelle models alone! The total number of Buicks sold worldwide last year was 1,032,000 and China contributed 810,000 sales to that total. Is it any wonder back in 2008, when GM restructured, that they disco'd the better selling (in North America) Pontiac line, but kept Buick alive?


Another winner for Buick in China is the Honda Odyssey look alike, GL8 Luxury Business Edition van. This has sold near the 100,000 mark. Compare that to Buick van sales in North America. Oops, you can't, since the Terraza van was dropped from the line years ago due to dismal sales. Just try to even find one today  -  good luck.



When was the last time you saw a single brand Buick store in your area? Might be tough trying to make a living without at least adding GMC trucks or Cadillac or Chevrolet. Of course, in China, a single line Buick dealership is not an issue as those sales keep mounting up. Expected to be over the 1 million mark by 2016.


This Holden derived model is the Buick Park Avenue, interesting since the only way to drive one of these stateside is to be a cop. This is what we see as the Chevy Caprice police car. After Holden shuts down production in Australia, the Chinese will be building these cars and shipping them back to Aussieland. Bet ya the Australians will love that fact. By the way, since many Chinese cars are chauffeur driven, the manufacturers design their Chinese market cars with better rear leg room and in many cases the same spacious car is sold over here (thank you, China).


So the next time that you are in China and are surrounded by Buicks (a rather surreal experience), don't be surprised, as this is our reality in the 21st century.

Until next time.......



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Aug 12: Presenting the NKCP


Why is it that someone sees this this innocuous looking 1979 Mercury Cougar and envisions something else entirely? While most of us see a late '70's coupe, adorned with all the styling cliches of its time, someone else sees the basis for an over the top "classic", that can be sold to an over the top entertainer.


Liberace was anything but subtle in (apparently) everything he did. A few months back, I showed a custom Rolls, that belonged to the pianist and like him, it stood out, for maybe the wrong reasons. But then again, maybe not. So let's go back to the '79 Cougar and now let's add Ernst Kanzler to the mix, the result.....


Presenting the NKCP..........the Newport Kanzler Coupe Phantom. I actually didn't think that the Cougar was so bad (for its time), but I wonder how Kanzler thought that his creation was an improvement? More photos, please........



The Kanzler Coupe was designed and built in a time that was rampant with what were called neo classics. But seriously folks, take a look at this car and tell me that it is an improvement over the Cougar. Hey, don't get me wrong, I sure think that the Cougar could be improved, but why the heck not do it with a good design. Kanzler traded one set of cliches for another, but to me, there is nothing on this car that works in harmony.

Two of these dream (nightmare?) machines were built and not surprisingly one found its way into the garage of that flamboyant pianist Liberace. Since only two were ever built (you find that surprising?), this would have been a very rare ride and the odds are astronomical that you'd ever park beside another one. Back in 2006, Liberace's silver one found its way on to eBay and generated a top bid of about $23,500. No record of whether it actually was sold (sanity prevailed). Time for Barrett-Jackson to step into the mix?

So now you all know about the NKCP........another public service of the "Wheel to Wheel" blog.

Until next time.......



Friday, August 8, 2014

Aug 8: Wally & the Airstream

 Way back in my youth (oh no, another "those were the days" story?), when I lived in the lunch bucket town of Saint John, New Brunswick, an occasional event was the visit of the Wally Byam Caravan Club. The what? Let me step back a bit and explain. Being an industrial city, there were very few fancy cars, even the local multimillionaire drove a rather plain, dark blue Mercury sedan. I think that the Cadillac dealer sold maybe two cars a year in a busy year, but thankfully for him, Pontiacs and Buicks also shared his showroom floor. So back to Wally Byam.

In 1936 Wally founded the Airstream Trailer company and started to build those iconic and very recognizable, rounded and expensive, aluminum trailers. Everyone knew an Airstream when they saw it. Top quality, but lighter for "relatively" easy hauling. You saw an Airstream and you usually saw rolling wealth.......


What better way to see the USA and later, the world, than in your very own Airstream. These trailers were and are extremely popular, so a club was started, where the members could travel together in huge convoys. When they visited a community they were welcomed with open arms and cash registers, since they brought money. Unusual that the actual Wally Byam Caravan Club was started in Canada in 1955 in Kentville, Nova Scotia (go figure).


 These clubs went everywhere, but please don't ask me how they ended up in Egypt (that is what the internet is for). You can see from these pics, that hosting one of these visiting caravans was no small task. Just pray that on the highway, you were not the first car behind these trailers and that your hotel reservation was going to run out in an hour.



 Different from these days of the big suvs and fancy pick-up trucks, back in the day, even though the Airstream was relatively light, the only thing that would work effortlessly, was a big V8 American car. Since these Airstream owners had money, their tow vehicles were more often than not luxury cars..........



Note that in both of these pics, Cadillac was the tow vehicle of choice. So that when the Wally Byam Caravan visited fancy car deprived Saint John, this was a real event for a car focused little guy. Row upon row of all sorts of the luxury cars, that we seldom got to see, unless they were tourists passing thru (like the caravaners).


Great family events, even if your family was the size of a small town (note another Caddy in the row behind). Obviously the Newcombs enjoyed each others company. And here is another pic showing the type of car that pulled those Airstreams, back in the days before the luxury trucks took over........


So much has changed over the years, but the Wally Byam Caravan Club still rides the highways and bi-ways of the world, looking for new sights and experiences. But what hasn't changed much at all? You guessed, it the classic Airstream.........


One doesn't change perfection. What would Wally say if he were alive today? Probably, "Hook her up and let's hit the road!".

Until next time......



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Aug 5: Lagonda - you're kidding, right?

Lagonda. A classic name that has its origins back in the early 1900's (actually 1906). Big, powerful cars that only the wealthy could afford. You know those folks, the Downton Abbey crowd........


In 1947 Lagonda was acquired by the relative new comer, Aston Martin, the British builder of high end sports cars. To most of us, the name Aston Martin is synonymous with the movie James Bond and his ride of choice (sure, all secret agents drive high profile, very visible cars). Eventually the Lagonda name was dropped, but Aston would occasionally use it on a high end sporting sedan, like this Rapide from the early '60's.......


Exclusive due to its low production numbers and high price  -  always a good combination. Probably the most famous Lagonda was this very unusual for it's time model, brought out in 1976.......


I liked this car, but the design was very controversial and the car itself, very problematic. Not a great combo for a high end luxury car, but not the first and it won't be the last to have these issues. After this, the Lagonda name was quietly put aside until rumours of its resurrection started in the last year or so........


Disguised cars hit the roads, but enough of the design could be seen, to ensure that again Lagonda would be a classy looking ride. Now last week, Aston Martin showed us the real deal........


.......and positioned it next to an older model, so that by comparison it would look great. But, hey, it looks great without the comparison. A super saloon built and priced to compete with Rolls, Bentley and the higher end Mercedes. Ok, so here is the deal. Apparently this car will be sold by invitation only and only to those folks from the middle east (dam, there's that oil money again). So Aston, you've got to be kidding, right? You mean that I'm your average Russian, American or European billionaire and I can't get one? Do I have to have the Sultan of Brunei buy a couple and deal me one under the table? Hardly seems fair, but I guess by selling it this way, they don't have the chance that it will languish on dealers' lots ("You want a Lagonda? What colour, as we have a few dozen sitting out back.").

So you've got the money, but don't live in Dubai? Better start writing letters to Aston Martin and make sure you include plenty of begging. Good luck!

Until next time.......




Friday, August 1, 2014

Aug 1: Smart? smart?

What is it? Guess again.........yes sir, you got it right this time, this is a disguised version of the very latest smart car. One can tell by looking at this camo'd car, that the design changes will be absolutely earth shattering. Not really, it still looks like a smart car poorly wrapped for Christmas giving. So what's with this little car anyway?

Way back in the '90's, Swatch and Mercedes decided to work together on a new and innovative car. Swatch was known for the changeability of their watch cases, one to match every mood. So why not a similar concept for a car? There are probably a ton of reasons, but they went ahead with it anyway and in late 1998, the smart car was unveiled to the European market. With Europe's crowded cities and narrow streets, little cars are the perfect solution. Easy to park? It sure is..........


.......a smart will fit in just about anywhere. A natural, right? So how did the market respond to this new arrival? Well, to say they were underwhelmed about sums it up. Even when the famous German tuner Brabus injected some additional power and character into a smart model, the sales still lingered........


After losing millions and millions (or much more), Mercedes decided to send it to North America, Canada to be specific. After an initial surge, the sales languished and it was eventually eased into the USA (thank you, distributor Roger Penske). It was also the heart of Mercedes "hourly rental/drop it anywhere" concept, the car2go. Started in major European cities and then brought to Canada, Benz was thinking of any way to use up production of their under performing brand.

So back to the disguised little number at the beginning of this blog. After losing what has been said to be billions on the smart, why is Benz investing even more in a brand new one? Now, that is a really good question.


As you can see, it looks much the same as the current one, but better proportioned. Also it will be available in a four door......


.........similar to the current smartforfour, which will still be available only in Europe. So, back to the question of why. Obviously Mercedes has had the money and determination to wait for the market to come around to the smart. Or maybe it is being just plain, old stubborn. Whatever, they are convinced that the world's crowded cities will create a hotbed of desire for the smart. A car whose time will finally come or maybe not, but you sure have to give them points for hanging in there.

This will be Mercedes' dream of the very near future........


.........row upon row of smarts in every city, patrolled by the latest in high tech smart police cruisers........


What do I think? Mercedes has way too much money. Why not simply give their AMG division more cash and tell them to add 100 HP more to all their performance models. A really good, if not a bit shortsighted solution.

Until next time..........



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

July 29: Little Deuce Coupe


Those of us of a certain age remember. We remember the hot rod songs of the early '60's. We remember the Beach Boys and one of their best know car songs, Little Deuce Coupe ("......if she had a set of wings, I know she could fly......"). They even named the album after that song and featured it on the album cover. But what about that car? Did you think it was just some old stock photo of a generic hot rodded '32 Ford? Not a chance and this brings us to the reason for today's blog.

On July 18th, Mike, the remaining half of the famed Alexander Brothers car customizers, died in his home town of Detroit. Mike and Larry Alexander were well know for their very clean looking customs, as opposed to the gaudy work of California's George Barris. The Alexanders did much of the custom work on the Silver Sapphire, the actual Little Deuce Coupe, a car owned by Chili Catallo and featured in many of the magazines of the day, such as Hot Rod.........


 Chili made the cover along with his famous ride. But Larry and Mike did many more famous customs, like the Deora Dodge........



The top pic shows the starting truck and the result, while the bottom is the glamour shot. Very clean, very classy. Both of these vehicles are still around, having been restored, and are featured at many of the prestigious auto shows and concours (how things change).

I met Mike Alexander about six years ago at a custom car show, that featured a few of his famous creations. It was interesting chatting with him and telling him how much I had liked he and his brother's work.


Amazing what came out of this innocuous little shop in Detroit.........

The Golden Indian

Adonis
And the interiors always had to be as striking as the outside........

Interior of the Golden Indian
Among the most famous of the Alexander Brothers work was the El Matador (not to be confused with the later American Motors car of the same name)........


Who would have thought that these custom cars of he '50's and '60's would remain with us today? And who would have thought that a blogger in 2014, would be moved to write a tribute about a couple of customizers from fifty years ago? And who would have thought that the Little Deuce Coupe was anything other than a throw away lyric in a song?


RIP, Larry and Mike, you gave us a lot to enjoy.

Until next time.......