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.

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 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.......



Friday, July 25, 2014

July 25: A sneak peek?

  I know what you are thinking...........what the heck is a Dasher? It surprised me when I originally saw the name, since I had forgotten this forgettable car (not surprising). Ever see one around these days? Ever see one back in the day? Well, maybe, but those days are long gone. So, what happened to the Dasher? Simple  -  it became the Passat. An underwhelming, but nice car that sold poorly and made little dent in the mid-size sedan market.


Even now, with nostalgia running rampant, I don't think too many folks are checking used car lots and back alleys for any remaining Dashers or Passats to restore to their former glory(?). But way back in '73 VW needed a car for the mid-size sedan market and since this was before the Camry and Accord were introduced, they were a bit ahead of their time. First in Europe and then a year later in North America, the Dasher was excitedly unveiled to a populace who couldn't have cared less.

Sometime along the way, the Dasher became the Passat. Uninspiring name, until one realizes that it means "trade wind" in German (not the last VW to be named after a weather system). Thankfully, the design improved.......


.........and this car became somewhat of a low end Audi. German engineering and features in a bargain basement priced package. That last fact is a bit incorrect, since the top package landed your cheque in the high $40k range, right in the mix with an A4 or a BMW 3 series. No wonder they sold like month old bread.


The years went by and VW kept updating this sedan, but there was always a bank busting high end model for whatever reason. Sales were stationary, until...............


..........a few short years ago, when VW redesigned the Passat for the North American market, but more importantly, they completely revamped its pricing structure. Initially I was lukewarm towards this redesign, but it has grown on me and now I think that it is rather classy. And the value for the money is outstanding. When pricing one for a client, I invariably have to recheck my pricing just to be sure.

Redesigned for us, but Europe got a warmed over redo of the older design, that was nothing special as you can see from this pic........


Surprising that we beat Europe to a great redesign, when it is almost always the reverse. Well things are about to go back to the status quo, with this 2015 Passat for the European market.........



Look a little familiar? To me it is a great looking evolution of the current North American Passat. The buff books say that it hints at what the North American 2016 Passat will look like. Hints? I'll go several steps further and say this is exactly what our next Passat will look like. Finally Europe and us will be in sync with our Passat designs and typical for VW, we'll get it a year after it goes on sale in Europe.

A sneak peek? More like a full on reveal and it sure looks like it will be worth waiting for. Wonder if they should change the name back to the Dasher?

Until next time.......



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

July 22: The gift


The gift. My wife and I don't buy our niece and nephew gifts as such, we buy them experiences. Teen Adam (on the left in this pic) and I have gone to a few drag races, monster trucks and this year we chose the Toronto Honda Indy. I used to go every year, but over time lost interest in these cars, preferring to stick to F1, NASCAR and the NHRA. So, not having attended for over ten years, this was going to be an experience for me as well. How did it turn out?


Well, this pic says it all. We went on Saturday to take in the first race of a weekend double header. If you've read any of the papers, you'll know that the Indy cars did a few pace laps under extremely wet conditions, until it was decided to postpone the race until Sunday. Were we disappointed? I can't speak for Adam, but for me, I had been looking forward to races in a couple of other series, which I saw, so it was a good day.


Here we go! This is Robbie Gordon's Stadium Truck Series race. Robbie is a very versatile racer, having run off road trucks, NASCAR stockers, Indy cars and won in them all. Obviously a sharp businessman, he saw an opportunity to run his stadium truck series at some of the bigger tracks on the Indy Car weekends. Fun to watch these things get big air, as they negotiate the ramps on the front stretch. An observation......there were only seven trucks running, so after they passed the front stretch, you sat there watching nothing for another minute until they appeared once again. Probably better suited to a larger field or a shorter track. Anyway, I was looking forward to seeing them run and thoroughly enjoyed their race (a damp track sure didn't hurt).


Although I enjoy a variety of racing, my preference is always for cars that bear some sort or relationship to what we see on the street. Yeah, I know, NASCAR's are far removed, but at least they look like a car, opposed to a bug with wheels and tires. So the other series, I was anticipating was the Pirelli World Challenge........


Somewhat real cars, like this Bentley Continental GT..........


or these Porsches caught in the garage area.........


The variety of exotic iron was exciting........apart from Bentley and Porsche, there were cars from Aston Martin, McLaren, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mercedes, Dodge, Audi, Corvette and Cadillac. Cars that I recognize and don't often see. Interesting chatting with crew members after the race, when they had some time to spare. I met a McLaren crew member, who had been flown in from England for the weekend, just to help with the race car setups.

Since I am partial to American iron........



.........I liked watching them work on the Cadillacs and actually got to say a few words to Andy Pilgrim, one of the top GM drivers, who had also driven Corvettes to numerous victories at LeMans and elsewhere.

The other class in the World Challenge had more cars from Porsche, but also had Camaros, an Aston, Mustangs and a very fast, race winning Kia Optima (not too excited about that one). 

I believe this was the first time Adam had been exposed to a big time race with all the trimmings  -  the numerous and fancy race car haulers, the displays, the special features, the food and the blatant displays of cubic money. Sure it's better on TV (and dryer), but nothing beats having the real race experience at least once.

So was it a good gift? I think so and I enjoy spending time with Adam and showing him things that excite me (not a bad use of a damp Saturday).

And finally, what better way to leave this blog, than with a pic of yours truly with good, ol' American iron?


Until next time.......



Friday, July 18, 2014

July 18: Have a Seat


Have a Seat? What the heck does that mean? Well, try pronouncing it "see it". Make sense now? Probably not if you are reading this in North America, but anywhere else and you know exactly what I'm talking about. Seat is the Spanish car line owned by VW. Volkswagen is a huge car company, with many brands under their corporate wing  -  Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley, Skoda, Bugatti and Seat (did I miss any?). No wonder VW has eyes on being the world's largest car manufacturer by, I believe, 2017.

So now back to Seat. What I find interesting is that in Europe VW has a very comprehensive line of cars, covering pretty much every market niche. And yet, they have built up companies, that compete in many of the same areas with similar cars with similar underpinnings. Take for example that Ibiza SC in the pic above. Hot looking little hatch, that competes directly with the Golf. Now there is confidence. VW has let their other companies come up with great looking products for the same market. We don't see them over here, so let's run thru a few of their other cars offered in Europe and around the world........

Seat Leon ST
Seat Altea XL
Seat Leon 
To my eyes these are all interesting looking cars and arguably better looking than the VW products that they compete against, but then again I like surface interest in cars and these Seats have it in spades. So does one buy a Seat or a VW or maybe a Skoda?

Skoda was an Iron Curtain standard, made in what is now the Czech Republic. Whereas most communist countries produced cars that were junk, the Skoda was always well respected. A few even made their way to North America, when Skoda tried to make it in our market. Their cars might have been well made, but they were rather out of date. When the Iron Curtain came down, Skoda needed a strong partner, if it were to succeed against the influx of thoroughly modern European cars, so they went into partnership with VW in 1990, becoming wholly owned in 2000. Now take a look at what they are turning out to compete with their owner's name brand products.......

Skoda Roomster (gotta love that name)

Skoda Yeti

Skoda Rapid Spaceback
 Interesting names, but more interesting vehicles. The Rapid is based on the Jetta, but VW hasn't anything like the Spaceback version or the Yeti or the Roomster, but then again, no one has anything like the Roomster.

So by becoming part of the VW empire, Skoda has been able to produce up to date, interesting products, that can compete anywhere. Speaking of Skoda, I'd published the pic below a few years ago, taken on the Danube when I was passing thru the Czech Republic...........


.......these Skoda cars are up to date, but their shipping method is definitely old school. I find it interesting that they still ship some of their cars by river barges. Maybe it is more direct this way.

So have a Seat. Or have a Skoda. Or possibly a VW. Whichever way you go, you have very competent and interesting products from the same company, competing for the same customer (in most cases), in the same market. Quite a strategy. Is it working? Well look at Volkswagen's sales. They recently bumped General Motors out of second place worldwide and are gaining on number one, Toyota. Should be an interesting race to watch.

So sit back and have a Seat and enjoy the ride.

Until next time.......



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

July 15: What's next Bentley?

Franay Bentley
Back in its golden years (some would argue that they are right now), Bentley was embraced by many of the top coachbuilders of the day. They would design custom one off cars for those with discerning tastes, those who wanted something different and of course, those with money money money. So it was interesting to read a story a couple of days ago in AutoWeek (a great bi-weekly magazine, by the way), that Bentley is considering a bespoke division, that would provide their clients with their own special car. How far would the term "special" extend is not clear, but interesting that they would be looking to make their exclusive cars even more so.


Over the years, there have been a number of unusual Bentley's made for someone's specific taste, like this Buccaneer coupe. But often times, the designs are questionable, as is someone's taste, like this Empress II by Hooper........


A few were built and regardless of the angle, graceful or beautiful are not words one would use to describe this ultra expensive ride. But then again in the case of the shooting brake below, a design house, in this case Touring, will come up with a beauty and mass produce it for general consumption to the very, very rich.........


By the way, "mass production" in the case of this Bentley Flying Star means a grand total of nineteen max. Not sure of the price, but if you have to ask.......


Or a coach builder like Zagato will do a one off for a special show or event, like this beauty based on the current Continental GT. A very nice rendition of a great design and a great car.

So what does the current Bentley Motor Cars have in mind? Full on custom body work or more subtle things, like an interior redesign or a very special exterior colour.


Something relatively subtle like this black and cream example or something more over the top, like this in your face job done for a middle eastern oil prince.......


I 100% guarantee you that no one, absolutely no one, will get into this Bentley without commenting on its interior. Like it? Well it is different and depending on the outside colour, maybe. Who cares, though, since I can't afford to buy the back seat let alone the front and the car to go with it.

So what will Bentley decide to do if anything at all, which is unlikely as this sort of work is a real cash cow.

Let me finish off today's blog with one more exclusive custom, done by Pininfarina a few years back. Typical of this company, it is tasteful and not overdone (except for the price). Production model? Nope, but you can bet that it now resides in the middle east somewhere, the beneficiary of oil money changing hands.


So readers, start saving and be the first on your block with a different Bentley!

Until next time.......