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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, October 9, 2015

Oct 9: China: what do their leaders drive?

China. What do their leaders drive? Now, that's a very good question, but since they are probably always being driven, a moot point. But hey, that won't stop us from looking at what constitutes their 'long black limousines". Every leader of every country has to make an impression on their citizens. Small countries, with no auto manufacturing, tend towards one of the big three German luxury brands, with most going with a Mercedes. But some countries, like the People's Republic of China, are big enough to whip up a few specials for their dear leaders. Specials like this Red Flag L5 limo by Hongqi........

Some of the styling cues go way back to the '50's, like that front end, while others mimic the current Rolls Phantom. Regardless, this car stands out. Notice something unusual, better seen in this pic below?

If you said the row of microphones in front of the big guy, then you win a free trip to the next big parade. Not sure why they are there, but they seem to have been a feature for many years.......

As you can see, this older Red Flag limo also has them, but only three, so obviously the new leaders have a little more to say or a few more people to say it to. This must be the case, as the oldest Red Flag's don't feature any.......

And notice that this is a cabrio limo. We don't seem to chop the top of our big presidential limos in North America, but this pic was taken in a different time and in a very different country.

The leaders' car of choice has recently been shown with this Rolls type grille, but with no indication of how many microphones it will come with.

By the way, Hongqi is not exactly a huge car manufacturer, having built only 2772 cars in 2014. This makes them the 72nd largest car maker in the republic. Obviously, just cars for the top guns, so I guess there must 2772 of them.

The design of these cars have not always been right up to date........

......with some of the older ones being a touch derivative. Seems strange to use that as a critique, since so many cars today, regardless of who makes them are a "touch" derivative, as well. That red corner flag must be standard equipment.

But if the Chinese officials don't rate a Red Flag limo, then what other car might work? How about an Audi knock off? Available in a variety of models, this car is actually the old Audi 5000, built under licence, but with a slightly different front end and in one case it has been lengthened.


Not a bad alternative to the big guy's L5.

And if home grown is not your thing, then what about a new Audi A6? You can see from this pic, that the Audi is the car of choice among the lesser officials, who appreciate German cars and German quality and if their Audi is a diesel, then they must also appreciate the low emissions. Oops, I guess since it's an Audi that's, not exactly the case, but with all the pollution in China, would anyone notice?

Recently Geely has stepped into the upper echelon politico market and shown their new Emgrand GE limo. Impressive looking, but with a very unusual feature.

The concepts (there have been two), have both had only one seat in the back (a throne the The Donald?). Unusual even for a Chinese car and there have been plenty of unusual cars from that country. The first concept in 2010 mimicked a Rolls Royce. Held up for ridicule, this was redesigned to look more like a Mercedes, but an all together more attractive look.

But being a mere citizen of this huge country, one of these up market rides is beyond your wildest dreams and besides, you have no political aspirations. But there is a way that, you too can possess the unattainable.

Yes, folks, a nice 1/24th scale model kit of the Red Flag limo, complete with the microphones and the corner flags. No word on whether a great leader is included and if so, which one.

China. So now you have the answer to that nagging question, of what do their leaders drive. Glad I could be of service.

Until next time.....

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Oct 6: Car thrill shows - where are they now?

Remember when? Probably not, since I lived in a smaller city and I hardly remember those days and those shows. What am I talking about? Of course, if you see the hard to miss ad on the left, you know. I'm referring to the good, ol' auto thrill show, the thrillcade, the auto dare devils, the hell drivers. Any of those phrases could describe the show that rolled into town once a year, like the circus, and set up shop at the local raceway or possibly the horse racing track.

Just look at what one of these shows offered......28 hair raising and death defying stunts. Now I wouldn't be too worried about any deaths, but hair raising? Now, that would be a concern. Also, see a new convertible shot out of a cannon. Who wouldn't line up for that sight? But, the thing that would really rope me in would be the funny clowns. I mean, aren't clowns supposed to be funny? Ah, the good old days!

Note the name in the title "Joie Chitwood". For over forty years, Joie had the most famous of these travelling thrill shows, so famous in fact, that a family member still runs these shows today (trivia - Joie Chitwood III is the pres of Daytona International Speedway). But, I guess that they frequent the small towns, since I had to do some research to find out that they still existed.

These shows have been around since almost the first automobiles. Someone had the brain wave to do things with a car that, most of us (all of us?) could or would never do. Neat to see others perform those risky feats, though. Shows like the Lucky Teter Hell Drivers. Did Evil Knievel get his ideas from these guys?

The world might have been edging towards the next war at the time, but as long as cars could jump over trucks, all was a-ok.

Another use for a convertible, besides being shot out of a cannon. Safety first? Maybe, but not all of these drivers wore helmets. Wonder if any had tire marks on them after the show?

And speaking of funny clowns........

......it might take more than a little good humour, not to flinch, when those two Dodges swept by at a fairly good speed. By the way, the car manufacturers usually supplied the cars, as this was excellent advertising and showed how tough their cars were, in case you planned to do any of these stunts with the neighbourhood kids.

Just a man's sport? Not according to the Rotroff International Auto Thrill Show.......

This was equal opportunity territory.

And if you liked a bit of the circus, with your car stunts, then the Swenson Thrillcade was your cup of tea......

"Suicide stunts"........I guess that sums it up. Suicide for the drivers or that poor pachyderm, suckered into holding that American flag, as a high flying Ford takes flight over top of him. I'm not sure that would work today.

Ok, let's be real here, obviously there was some risk of injury, whether to the car or the driver. In this case, the car seems to have taken the biggest beating, at least until the thrill show owner got hold of the driver after the show.

But, just possibly you like a little more skill in your slam bang auto thrill show action? Look no further than this death defying "ride the car on two wheels" stunt. Take a photo, otherwise no one back home will believe you.

And, just in case you thought that those funny clowns were a thing of the past, check out this more recent thrill show poster.......

........note clowning amongst all the exciting things that would be taking place. Sure, it's not right up there with the human cannonball, but it gets better billing than the fire and pyrotechnics. Some things never get old(?).

Being in the big city, one never sees these thrill shows anymore, but I know that they are still travelling around the county fairs, putting on the shows that keep the crowds filling the stands for those death defying stunts. Maybe, in the big cities, we see enough of these strange things our the expressways everyday, so that watching a group of new Mustangs tailgating, just doesn't have the same thrill as it used to........

But surely, seeing a car shot out of a cannon over a big truck would still be thrilling?

What do you think?

Until next time.......

Friday, October 2, 2015

Oct 2: From France with love, the finale

Amazing how many blogs one can get from one trip to Europe. But in my defense, there are just so many interesting and new to us vehicles that, I could have been taking car pics non stop for the entire two and a half weeks. Good thing I didn't, though, as my lovely wife and I might have had a few words of disagreement. That's now out of the way, so let's look at a few luxury brands that almost go economy car low in price, across the pond.

Alfa Romeo is trying to re-establish themselves over here. So far what they have brought us are cars that play to their sporting heritage. In Europe, though, the Alfa name is put on a variety of "regular" type cars, like this red MiTo, which I saw in Aix-en-Provence. Please don't hold your breath for this little number, as it will take years for Alfa to make such an impression that, a full line up is required in North America.

The big three German luxury brands keep adding to the entry level part of their product line. We've seen the Benz GLA, the Audi A3 and the BMW 2 series. The idea being to get the customer while they are young and hold on to them as they get older and more able to buy your more expensive stuff.

How low can they go? Check these out.......

Seen in Lyon, this BMW 1 series is an entry level hatchback, which comes in two and four door versions. Since any company struggles to sell the very practical hatchback style on our shores, don't start saving your pennies (or dollars, after all it is a Bimmer) for this one. BMW tried it once before, with a two door 3 series. Strange looking and a hatchback, it was destined to fail (which it did).

Mercedes has the CLA over here, but in Europe they go even lower with the Class A.......

......yes, I know it sure looks like the GLA that, we get here, but it isn't. It's smaller and not all wheel drive. Thinking of a VW Golf, but don't trust the brand anymore, so get a Benz (Janis Joplin would approve).

Or maybe the station wagon version of the more costly (but still relatively reasonable) CLA.......

.......regular readers will know that I really like wagons, so this one has great appeal.

Not to be left out, Audi sells the A1 in a variety of versions, including this S Line seen in gay Paree........

Great looking little hot hatch. Think it would sell over here? I wonder. But of course, it would compete with the more expensive versions of the Golf, so maybe not a great idea. On the other hand, it competes with the Golf in Europe.

Is the S Line a bit too sporty for you?

Then how about this tidy little A1 four door? Sure, I know, the hatch is a sales killer over here, no matter how many doors it has. Appropriate that our North American favorite the Q5 is seen in the background. Even Audi couldn't have planned it better.

So let me put France behind me, but keep those great memories churning away in my mind throughout the winter months. But, before I leave it, here is one of the last pics that I took. No cars granted, but just a nice view of a resort town on the Mediterranean...........

Until next time.......

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sept 29: Just another Saturday?

So, here I was on the first Saturday of Fall, spending an hour at the office, showing a young couple a used car. I don't work Saturday's, but if someone wants to see a car and hopefully, give me their money, well, heck, who am I to argue? While waiting for them, I noticed a couple of very throaty sounding old cars rumble by. Then on the test drive, I noticed a whole lot full of old stuff, sort of like a pop up car show, just up the street from my office. Ok, now my Saturday had even more purpose. Not a big show, but an interesting one. One fellow trailered in this 1969 Yenko Camaro replica. See that motor (how could you miss it?)? Pumping out about 1500 HP, this was one fast ride. Streetable? Good question, but I'd guess unlikely.

Rat rods? They sure don't appeal to me, but they certainly have their following. Just put together the parts to make an interesting end result, purposeful, but not pretty. Touch it? Scratch it? Who cares? Appreciate it? Absolutely.

Old VW buses took on a life of their own after the nutty numbers at the Barrett-Jackson Auction a few years back. So, now every old bus, has the chance to look at a possible show car future. Maybe even be fixed up, like this one.......

If not for those auction results, would anyone have really cared?

Like old commercial vehicles?

I do and there is a Professional Car Society and its members, that collect and restore these old working vehicles. In this case a couple of ambulances, a Packard from the '50's and a Pontiac Bonneville from 1965, the latter belonging to the Toronto EMS (emergency medical service).

Add a few of the cars from the '50's and '60's to the mix, like the '62 Dodge on the right. All tarted up with mags and custom paint. The power plant? A lowly slant six. Go figure. The centre shot car here got my vote for the most interesting. Why? Several reasons.......one, it was a '58 Edsel, two, it was a top of the line four door hardtop and three, it had power windows (not so common back then). I think that I'd lose the fender skirts though, if she were mine. But, then again, maybe not.

How often does one see a restored station wagon, like this '71 or '72 Chevelle? Not so much, as all the interest seems to be in the two doors and convertibles. There is a trend (however slight) towards these forgotten and non sexy cars. I like them, because, like the Edsel, this body style is unusual nowadays. This one wasn't exactly stock, but very nicely modified.

Recognize this one? One of the great drag cars, a 1930's Willy's. Whenever you find one of these cars, there is a very good chance, that it will have that flip up front end and a monster motor. Although you can't see it, the pinstripping was done in a barbed wire motif. Interesting.

One of my favorite cars of all time is the 1965 Chevrolet and this two door hardtop was a nicely done example, although not seen at the old car show, but at my next stop.

This next stop was the annual Fall model car show held by the Group 25 modelers. This car was in the parking lot, but on the contest table was its twin, but in that lovely Butternut Yellow colour, so popular back in the '60's......

Lots of vendors as always.........

One might get lucky and find a long lost desired model, but I've always bought the ones that I wanted, so I already had everything on offer.

Now three shots showing the variety of models being shown.........a garage diorama, a Mickey Thompson Pontiac Grand Am Funny Car, detailed to the hilt and of course, since models replicate real life trends, there were rat rods..........


So a good car guy Saturday morning.......a bit of business, a car show and a model car show. And yes, I did sell the used car.

Until next time.......

Friday, September 25, 2015

Sept 25: VW, what were you thinking?

Not exactly a smoking gun, but just as deadly to the beloved Volkswagen brand. In this case that gun was aimed by VW itself at its own foot, and with a steady hand, the trigger was pulled, many thousands of times. What were they thinking?

Let's go back in time and check out a a little history. How did this company so endear itself to us? Maybe it was because, Das Auto had a sense of humour, which made us feel that, they were different from the others.

Way back in the late '30's (that's 1930's), that monster, Adolf Hitler, engaged Ferdinand Porsche (yes, that Porsche) to design a "people's car", the original Beetle. An inexpensive and easy to maintain little car that, would enable the masses to have reliable transportation, as portrayed in this idyllic ad from 1939...........

But, we all know what happened next and this idea fell by the wayside, as the factories geared up to produce the machines of war. But in post war Germany, VW needed something to kick start their production lines and their sales. The answer was Porsche's Beetle. These ads show how this little car endeared itself to us..........

The tongue in check ads that, brought this little car into our hearts and driveways........

North America and just about everywhere else, loved their VW Beetles. Sales went wild and the war ravaged German industrial machine climbed out of the abyss. This product led to others that, became equally loved, such as the Golf or Rabbit, if you prefer. Same car, just different names at different times.

Not quite taking the place of the Beetle in folks' hearts, but becoming an extremely important car for Volkswagen, the Golf led to the first, of what would become known as "hot hatches", the GTI.......

........ a model that is still held up, decades later, as the benchmark for the category.

VW endeared themselves to us, with strange and whimsical versions of the Golf, like the unusual(?) Harlequin.........

I mean, think about it, what other company would have the nerve to produce a car painted like this one? A body shop's dream? And who in their right mind would drive such a car? Well, the answer, was not too many people, as they languished on dealers' lots. But VW took the risk.

From those post WW 2 ashes, arose a powerhouse that eventually encompassed Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, Seat and Skoda. A company that strove to pass GM and Toyota to be the biggest car company in the world. Goal achieved, as so far this year they have edged out Toyota for that number one spot.

Diesels became a backbone of the brand. Sure, this motor only accounted for about 20-25% of VW's sales in North America, but the words VW and diesel went together hand in hand. And after building thousands upon thousands of "dirty" diesels, in 2009 VW touted their new TDI as the clean diesel, even slapped this brag on the side of their 2009 Golf World Car of the Year..........

So what went wrong? How did this image and so called new technology, end up as this editorial cartoon published earlier this week?

Very good question. The obvious answer is that VW couldn't make a clean diesel motor, no matter how hard they tried. But, they could develop a computer program that, would sense if it was being tested (smart little computer) and lower the emissions. When it was not being tested, it spewed noxious fumes into the atmosphere like a factory in China. Well, maybe not that bad, but you get my drift. Big gamble, screwing with the US EPA. They bare their very long and sharp teeth quickly, if they perceive someone is obviously trying to cheat and deceive them and the American public. So, VW, stepped up to the plate and for a few years accomplished just that. Until an independent test saw that something was a foul.

Why, why, why? In my opinion, this type of decision was being made at the top echelons of VW corporate. This isn't the work of some anonymous little techie toiling away in the basement.

So the beloved VW brand has fallen on their sword. All that good will, gone in an instant. Along with billions of dollars and thousands of sales. Hurts everyone right down to the dealer level. A story like this has "legs", so it will besmirch the VW brand for years to come or forever (whatever that means).

Looking back, this VW ad from the early '60's was prophetic........

Let's see if they can use those humorous ads to get them out of this mess.

Until next time......