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, September 19, 2014

Sept 19: A belated, but fond farewell



Who would have thought? I mean, everything has to come to an end, doesn't it? Nothing can go on forever can it (sure, tell Jeep owners that)? But production has finally stopped (actually a couple of years back) for the most familiar of all airport limos. Yes, the ubiquitous Lincoln Town Car has reached the end of its long life. Limo drivers the world over paused for a moment's silence and dabbed the wet spots below each eye. Ford probably could have continued building this car for the livery services and sold several thousand money making cars, year after year, after all the tooling must have been paid off years ago. About the only redesign this model had was to make the trunk bigger after numerous complaints from the limo services. But everything has its time, I guess, so the production line closed, the lights were turned out and everyone went home.

These were amazing cars, tough as nails or whatever metaphor you'd like to use. I saw one the other day with about 300k kms on it, so obviously it hadn't been in service very long. Seriously, I've ridden in Town Cars which were approaching 800,000 kms and hadn't had an engine or transmission rebuild! Try that with just about any other car. Unlikely that would happen or will ever happen again. There was a lot to be said for these tough, old technology, rear wheel drive behemoths. Rode like mush, but lasted forever.


Go to any major airport in the recent past and you'll have seen parking lots full of these black Lincolns, just waiting for their turn at the arrivals exits. Always very clean, with also clean and extremely courteous drivers. Nothing like the city taxis, which are a whole other breed. Since these TC's last so long, there are still many on the road and will be for some time to come.

And when I say, any major airport, that is exactly what I mean and not just in North America. Check out this slightly stretched one in Prague........


........and I've seen them in Moscow, Rome, London and numerous other venues. Like spotting an old friend, "Hey, good to see you, but what are you doing here?".

Ok, so the obvious question now is, what will the livery services use to replace their much loved Town Cars? That's a great question and I was very curious to see what they would fall back on. Turns out that this is the $64 question. What vehicle could possibly provide the longevity that the TC's were and are famous for?

Lincoln would like you to turn to their ugly MKT........


.......and they now offer a version specifically made for the livery services. I spoke to a driver of one and he really liked the luggage room out back. When I asked about its life span, he just shrugged his shoulders and said, "Who knows?". Of course, he was bang on, who does know? Me? I can't see how they'd possibly be as strong.

Right now in Toronto, there are a variety of vehicles trying out for the role of the arrivals area queen. Some that I've seen are the Chrysler 300 (good choice), Lexus ES350 (unusual choice), Lincoln MKS, Ford Expedition and Chevy Suburban or Tahoe.


Personally, I think that the Chevy cousins are the best bets, since I believe that they'll also have the long life span of the Town Cars and they are actually pretty good on gas, all things considered. Their downside? Maybe they are a bit pricey, but if Chevy wants them in the airport fleets, then their pricing will be made to fit. Hey, they use them as police cars (trucks?) and those versions aren't exactly cheap, but almost every force has a few.

So now we watch the beloved Town Car drive off into the sunset after giving years and years of dependable service.........


.......like an old soldier whose time to rest has finally come. You did well, old girl!

Until next time.......



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sept 16: Power to burn

Happy Birthday, Dodge!

As I blogged back in July, 2014 is the 100th year that Dodge has been in business. After a year of celebrating, those fun loving folks at Dodge have decided to give back and offer their loyal clientele a new vehicular treat to salivate over for (probably) years to come. Take a closer look at the car on the left..........those with knowledge of drag racing's "golden era" will know that this is a 1970 Dodge Challenger Funny Car. Why show you this? Easy, just look at that long smokey burnout. Power to burn, folks. Back then about 1500 horsepower's worth. A pure race car. Ok, so now take a look at this 2015 Challenger........


This one also has power to burn. Those wild and crazy engineers at Dodge have put a little high octane using bonbon under this Challenger's hood, so that in 2015, we too will be able to replicate those long smokies, that the purpose built race cars did so long ago.


Ah, the pure joy of melting rubber to impress the adoring hoards, as the traffic light turns green in front of that crowded bus stop. What gives? How about a very cool 707 horsepower in a motor appropriately named, "Hellcat". What a sincere way for those Dodge Boys to show their gratitude to us for 100 years of patronage.

The Hellcat Challenger is very simply the least expensive way on the planet earth, to buy a regular production coupe with that much power for so little money. So sad, that you really, really want one, but since you have a family, there is no way that this Challenger is even halfway practical. Well, rejoice folks, as you see what else those folks at Dodge have conjured up with you in mind........


Breathe a sigh of relief, as you now know that you can get that hellacious Hellcat in a full size family sedan. This Charger is the most powerful production sedan on the planet at any price. No more taking a back seat to that snotty neighbour's kid with his (used to be) hot, slammed Civic coupe with the stovepipe exhaust. No sir, you are now the king of your street and more than likely a few others. Christmas has come early.

Set aside a few hundred bucks for tires each year and you are good to go. Show up at church on Sunday with a car guy's or gal's version of the Almighty. Amaze the neighbours as you leave for work in the morning. Sneak off to the drag strip on Sunday, instead of going to that detested gathering with the in-laws. Use your imagination and your Hellcat to add excitement to your formerly humdrum existence.

Yes folks, Dodge has certainly paid us back in full. All hail the Hellcat with its power to burn........


Until next time.......



Friday, September 12, 2014

Sept 12: Road trip - 2014

Saturday night racing NASCAR style. Forty three "stock" cars with upwards of 900 horsepower each, going round and round the short track at Richmond, Virginia. This was the last race before the ten race stretch to determine the Sprint Cup champion. Big money, big prestige. If you are a fan, you already know who won, so let me try to describe the experience........

.........for the past 18 years, my very good friend, SB and I have done a road trip in the Fall to one of the NASCAR Sprint Cup races (formerly Nextel Cup, formerly Winston Cup). It's always fun to see a big league race, but this extended weekend (usually four days), is more about taking a trip with a good friend. Relax, chat when we want to, share thoughts or simply enjoy the experience. And we were not the only ones who thought Richmond would be a good place to be on September 6th.......


 .......tons of cars, loads of people. Being seasoned veterans, SB and I know the best way to attend the race and it sure is not driving to the track and parking in that humongous lot.......


 ........no way, we take the free shuttle bus from downtown right to the track, no fuss, no stress. Once it took me over two hours to get out of the parking lot at Michigan International Speedway. No thank you, we'll ride the bus.

These races are big events with all sorts of displays.......

Clint Bowyer's sponsor
A Ford Fusion cutaway
Chevy's display of their drivers' cars
 Lots of excitement, as we wait for the moment when the pace car finally takes to the track to lead the cars to the race's green flag........


 .....ah, the pace car and also the other thing, that every event bringing in around eighty thousand people needs, plenty of police presence, from the locals to the state police (race fans are wild and crazy and out of control - right?). Race fans also bring $, so what better way to relieve them of it, than with souvenirs of their favorite driver.......


Forty five foot trailers, which are painted up like the race car haulers, but which have opening sides, revealing a store featuring every manner of way to relieve an enthusiastic fan of a few (or a lot of) hard earned bucks. Just check out the stands and add up the ways a fan can support their favorite driver, from t's, to hats, to coolers to butt supports. You name it.


A few years back, there used to be even more trailers, but this year NASCAR's most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr, still had three identical trailers dishing out his wears. And yes, they willingly took some of my money as well.

So another road trip under our belts. What better way to finish off the Summer, than a hot September night under the stars with thousands of like minded people, watching the colourful spectacle called NASCAR Sprint Cup racing?


Until next time.......



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sept 9: Time for a change


 So this is how it all started way back in the mid '80's. Toyota introduced a new model to North America, the Camry in hatchback and sedan versions. Nothing special, just a new mid-sized car from the Japanese steamroller, that was slowly, but steadily pushing aside the domestic makes. I remember a good ol' boy, friend of mine, driving up to my place with his new Camry hatchback....... "Look, Barry, this is so practical and easy to load." Frankly, I couldn't see what he was so excited about, just another Toyota. And not a particularly good looking one either.

 A few short years after this, Toyota introduced their new luxury brand, Lexus (we all know how that turned out). The first model was the ultra lux, LS. As you can see from this pic, it was Mercedes similar in design, solid looking and imposing. Sold very well, even with an initial quality glitch, that Toyota handled like a casebook study, so no harm done.


Now comes the 1992 Camry........


 ........gee, it sure looks like a junior version of the Lexus. No problem, as folks snapped them up, many experiencing a Toyota for the very first time. Quality? Just like the LS that it so resembled. This was the best Camry for many years, as the next ones never quite lived up to this one's reputation. You still see them around and often times in not bad shape.

The Americans grew to love their Camrys, eventually making it their best selling car, year after year, passing first the Ford Taurus, then the beloved Honda Accord in the process. Funny, as the Camry was absent in most other markets in the world. Go to Europe and you'd be lucky to see one. At one time, Camry was selling in the hundreds per year in England. Everywhere else, the similarly sized Carina was Toyota's mid-sized standard bearer.......


Not sure why Toyota had both models, as the were very similar looking and similarly rather boring to drive. I rented one in Ireland and had to make sure I was fueled with coffee every time I got behind the wheel. But year after year, the Camry was numero uno in the American market, putting out over 400,000 units year after year. The buff books knocked Toyota, but the regular folks continued to line up.

But then there was a distinct change in the market place, as first Nissan, then Hyundai brought attractive and even cutting edge style to the mid-sized bread 'n butter market. Camry kept selling, but those previous bottom feeders were moving up the sales charts. Writing on the wall? Maybe, but this is how Toyota will be responding in 2015.........


Now don't let this pic fool you. Toyota is not making a track capable car of its venerable Camry, but like the plain Jane Corolla, they are giving this winner a thorough restyling, in the process making it a little more, dare I say, cutting edge? But no question, this is the best looking Camry in years, no longer just a great selling blob.

Toyota is trying to add more style across their entire line (check out Lexus), no matter the market. Below is the European Avensis, a Camry sized car not sold in North America, just as the Camry is not sold in Europe. Why not use the same car? Who knows, but as you can see, this new Avensis, also has character built into its lines, character that was missing from the previous model.


So, the good old Camry, so familiar and so safe, will enter 2015 with more character, but not so much that it will alienate Toyota's loyal following. Just enough so that folks like me, will no longer have to worry about falling asleep whenever we see one. Way to go, Toyota, it's about time.


Until next time........



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sept 2: Back to school, kiddies



Thankfully I'm long over my fear of seeing the iconic yellow school bus in early September, a chrome yellow reminder that my Summer of carefree fun was over and ten months of oftentimes uninteresting school work was about to begin. These days, they just remind me that Summer is over, a melancholy thought, but hey, there will be another one next year and the Fall/Winter/Spring seasons bring other enjoyable things to do. Ever wonder if all school buses are like the ones we see everyday? Ever wonder if there are different models from different school districts that serve different tasks? Of course, you don't, that's why I'm here to inform and educate you, my reader.

Even the smallest school districts require a school bus to round up the four or five kids, who aren't within easy walking distance of their one room school house. Who said every school bus has to accommodate lots of students? Why have all those empty seats...........


And what about those schools in rugged mountain districts, that have roads a normal school bus couldn't easily traverse, trying to pick up all those eager for learning little beavers? Yes, there is a school bus for those areas as well.........


Nothing would stop this baby from picking up every last "yearn to learn" student. A little blizzard? Not a problem. Not very many school districts face those geographic challenges, but others like to challenge and confuse the young minds put in their charge. What better way than this creative bus........


.......now wouldn't this get you to thinking, as you walked to its front door first thing in the morning?

Other districts like to have their students spend much less time enroute and more time at their studies, so some have slightly modified their buses for a little extra speed. Probably a very good idea not to tailgate one of these quicker school buses.


Another variety of the school bus has been developed, so that it can avoid a youngster, who absent mindedly runs in front of the big yellow machine. What better way, than to quickly apply the throttle to lift the front end and avoid a life threatening person/bus collision.......


.........and what bus wouldn't have an audience at every cross walk to watch this fun?

Most of us living in North America are familiar with the buses that I've shown above. Do you think that almost everywhere else in the world would need some sort of variation of these yellow machines? Of course, even in the poorest areas, the powers that be, strive to bring those inquiring little minds to the old school house. Here are a couple of examples.........


Not at all like those "fancy" buses that do their duty around most of our country, but they hopefully get the job done none the less. I'd rather have our yellow buses remind me of Fall, than one of these creations any year.

So next time, when you see one of these big yellow buses..........well, just remember, no matter what it looks like, don't pass it when its lights are flashing.

It's that time of year again, time for my annual NASCAR road trip, so no blog until next Tuesday, the 9th (just reread some of the old ones).

Until next time........



Friday, August 29, 2014

Aug 29: Who'd of thought?


Who'd of thought? Who ever would have thought, when BMW brought out their X6 a few years back that it would sell? I remember seeing it at the Detroit show and chatting with a BMW salesperson about it. They felt it was designed to answer a question that no one asked (there are a few other cars like that). I guess in a way, that is exactly what makes a niche product a success. My feeling was if a person wanted a sport ute, then they would buy the excellent X5. Want a sedan? Then buy the equally excellent 5 series with xDrive. But when BMW mangled the two together, I couldn't figure whose need it filled. Years pass and opinions change (or mellow?), but whenever I see an X6, I still shudder.

But apparently there were and are enough buyers out there, that BMW can add to this strange amalgamation with their upcoming X4.......


BMW is becoming expert at filling every possible niche in their line up, even creating those niches to fill. Stll not a handsome design, but it improves upon the X6, like the 3 series GT has improved upon the 5 series GT (but only just). A comparison of the X models, please.........


The X4 on top, just might be a little less lumpy. But then again why this car, since the very excellent 3 series can be had in a wagon version, that is every bit as practical and looks so much better.........


.......and of course, having a matching sweater certainly adds to the appeal of your chic set of wheels.

Who would have thought that the X6 would be a success? But even more of a mystery is, who would have thought that it would generate a copycat model from their toughest competitor? Sure surprised the heck out of me, when Mercedes-Benz announced this upcoming model, the GLC Coupe(?).......


Now, I typically favor Benz designs, although I must admit that BMW's 6 series looks great, whether it has two or four doors (an anomaly?). When I heard that Mercedes was doing their own version, I had hopes for a much better design, but as you can see, whether this is actually better looking is debatable........


Personally, I'll need to see it in person, but from these pics, the only thing that is good about it, is that wonderful back drop in the bottom pic. Who wouldn't want to be driving along beside the Rhine or the Danube, with those mountains in the background? Suggestion? Close your eyes as you are walking up to your ride, get inside and now open them to the panorama thru the windscreen (you're welcome).

Who'd of thought?

Until next time.......



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Aug 26: A local cruise



After reading about the Woodward Dream Cruise, I had to get my yearly cruise fix. I had planned to go to June's Fleetwood Cruise in London Ontario, but family plans put a stop to that. Also couldn't make the Autofest in Oshawa, but thank goodness, there was one in the city and as a bonus it was not too far from my home (what's 15 minutes on a beautiful Summer Saturday AM?). The thing about a good cruise is that it is all encompassing, old, new, exotic and unusual. They all play a part. Sure there are the classics, like this beautiful early '60's Lincoln above, but it is counter balanced by a rod like this '30's Ford......


.......satin finish, tough and simply done. Check out those wheels, home grown but very effective. And from there to the fast 'n furious crowd pleasers........

 

.......nothing like a '70's Challenger tastefully, but radically done up. Down side? Owner wouldn't start it up for me. Bummer. And of course, once of my favorite rides of all time.......


........a 1968 Dodge Charger, very much like what my older brother bought new, with a 383 4 barrel and a Hurst shifter. His was dark green with the Magnum 500 wheels. This R/T was nicely done, with only the addition of a good looking set of period correct mag wheels.

Variety?


.........a very neat looking, traditional hot rod next to a contemporary Ferrari. Which one would you chose?

And to the unusual........

 
........vintage, bright yellow Toronto police cars from the '50's and from the '80's, along with a 1966 Pontiac ambulance. Unusual, since most ambulances were Cadillacs back in the day.


And of course, a make believe classic from the 1980's. GM or Ford reliability (please don't laugh) with what is called a neo-classic body. Would you drive this or the '57 Chevy next door?

And a rare 1959 Ford Ranchero, the last full size version of this car, before Ford made this style part of the small Falcon line up for 1960. Again, a very tastefully done mild custom.........



And to end this blog, the reason many of us go to these cruise shows, which is to see the cars we lusted after back in the day. Sometimes we slap ourselves and question what we ever saw in a particular car and other times, we stand quietly and let the memories flow. Possibly share a few stories with the owner, if they are nearby. For me, I don't care whether they are old, new or whatever, this car guy, just likes and (usually) appreciates all the cars at a cruise. 

Which ones turn your crank?

Until next time.......