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.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

July 2: Pikes Peak - a hill to climb

Pikes Peak. This is one big hill. Why, one might even call it a mountain, one that is almost three miles (or for us Canadians, nearly 5 kms) high. Every year since 1916, Pikes Peak has been the sight of a yearly hill climb event. Now, I don't mean folks climbing up this impressive "hill", I mean drivers racing to the top, trying to beat the other cars in their categories. Since 1916, these crazy competitors have been courting disaster in order to win the Pikes Peak laurels. Formerly dirt from top to bottom, the hill is now paved, but that hasn't taken away from the danger involved.

How dangerous? How close to the edge?


This pic shows you some of the peak's 156 torturous curves and notice something else that is missing........yep, there is no guard rail. Doesn't help if you go over the edge. Just last week, a regular motorcycle competitor did go over the edge to his death, so it is not impossible.

For some reason, this hill climb has become very important and some hugely exotic vehicles are put together to race their way to the clouds. Why to the clouds? A picture is worth a lot of words, so take a look at this one.......


.......notice that this hot new Jag F-Type's driver can look down upon the clouds in the distance. And what a nice feature at this point on the mountain, guard rails!

How important is this event? Well, just take a look at the pace car........


......isn't that the brand new, not even in the showrooms yet, Acura NSX? Why sure it is, and you know Acura wouldn't waste one of these on something that didn't generate mucho publicity.

What makes Pikes Peak, so much more interesting is the wild variety of vehicles that careen up its slopes in search of the lowest times. Everything from.......


........this open wheeled beast driven by eventual winner, Rhys Millen (he and other family members are there every year and have held many records) to this relatively stock looking new Mercedes C250 diesel parked in the snow at the end of its run (remember this was just last week).......


or to this heavily modified Japanese sedan.......


......or this vintage 1963 Ford Falcon..........


 .........of course, the only thing on this one that is 1963 is the body, all else including the driver is much newer. Or this new Lexus RC-F (note the huge wing)........


Want some numbers? The hill climb starts at the 9390 foot mark and runs to 14,115 feet (no conversion for us Canadians). The record set a couple of years back is 8:13 minutes. The course is 12.12 miles or almost twenty kms long. Think about it, that means that the average speed is close to 90 miles per hour and a sheer drop if you sneeze while going around a corner. Omigod!

Just about every time of vehicle has made its way up Pikes Peaks at one time or another. One of my favorite pics is of this old Mercury stock car driven by famed Indy racer, Parnelli Jones, making a spectacle in 1963, before the road was completely paved.......


And what I really like about this pic is the proximity of that spectator. There is probably a memorial plaque to this fellow on that very spot.

So, Pikes Peak. A race to the clouds. Balls out with no safe barriers. No ambulance on duty at every corner. Just pure testosterone and lots of skill. Want to give it a try, but at sensible speeds? The road to the top is open year around in good weather. Have fun and amaze your family.

Until next time.......



Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June 30: Scion - time to move on?

Scion? Scion? What comes to your mind, if anything, when you hear this word. Probably you are thinking, "How do I pronounce it?". But being a car blog, obviously I'm referring to that poor little offspring of Toyota. Originally started in the US way back in 2003, to get the attention and the dollars of the hip younger demographic. Yeah, those folks who wouldn't normally give Toyota a second look or a first one. Toyota figured a funky little car with unique marketing would get them into the showroom. The result?


This Japanese market mini-mini van, with a style that was all the rage in its homeland, landed here as one of Scion's first products (the second was a forgettable also ran). Cool in an unusual way, this model begged to be individualized (note the wheels above) in a multitude of ways.........


For awhile this little bread box was red hot and selling to that longed for, hip younger crowd, but like everything it eventually had to be redesigned, so what did Toyota do?


Yep, this lump was their follow up. Sure, it also had its buyers, but much less than the original, so Scion's original consumer went elsewhere. The brand languished, until the joint Toyota/Subaru sports coupe hit the market with the Scion FR-S name......


No problem selling this model, but it had nothing to do with their preferred demographic and had everything to do with value for the dollar. This is a great little car.

But back to the original idea: get the younger folks into a Scion and eventually move them up to a (more responsible?) Toyota. Try to re-energize the brand. So on the brand awareness created by the sporty FR-S, Scion will soon be releasing two brand new models.

The first is the iM, a Matrix like hatchback, that looks way too much like the last Mazda3 Sport. In fact, in side view, it is almost identical. So much so that, I had to re-check my pics to make sure that I was actually showing both cars. Notice the similarity, even down to those curvy rims (the blue one is the Scion)........

And as a companion model, Scion will introduce the iA.........



Of course, this doesn't look familiar to my US and Canadian readers, but it is the Mazda2 sedan that, is sold elsewhere and in fact is being built in Mexico for those hoped for Scion buyers. The red pic shows the Mazda version. To differentiate it, Scion has added that strange looking snout. Want to see the family resemblance to the iM?


No, I don't see it either. 

You want to know what I call this? Desparation. Let's try to invigorate the Scion brand by introducing two "new" models, but let's not invest too heavily, in case the whole thing doesn't fly. My opinion? I think that the Mazda3 clone will find some success with those folks who miss the Matrix hatchback, while the Mazda2 clone will languish along side it in the showrooms, before being quietly discontinued within a couple of years.

Come on, Scion, surely you can do better than this.

Until next time........



Friday, June 26, 2015

June 26: "Welcome back, Alfa"

 When I see this symbol, the Alfa Romeo's that come to my mind, are the ones I've seen in old racing pics. The Alfa I think of is an Italian race car with a great and proud heritage. Racing cars, like the one depicted in the painting below, by Roy Nickolds. Italian racing red with the green four leaf clover symbol on its side. See that and you know that you are in the presence of greatness. Interesting that this Italian company began in France with some Italian investors (I didn't know that either), but shortly after its inception, it became all Italian.


So why do I say, "Welcome back, Alfa."? This company has never gone, except from our North American shores and now it is coming back, so hence my title. When the name Alfa Romeo really meant something, they produced some beautiful cars and some that were, well interesting. Ones like the famous batmobile.......

 

Nothing a little bit unusual about this car, but lots of really big unusual. Designed back in the '50's, even before the tail fin had reached its zenith in North America. But this was Alfa, standing out from the crowd for a variety of reasons.

Alfa had its heyday and produced some very memorable cars. Seen Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate"? Remember this little red sportscar, he drove to his liaissons with the famous Mrs. Robinson........


Doesn't Dustin look carefree and dashing in his red Italian steed? This became such a favorite with Alfa lovers, that many years later, they introduced an updated version and called it the Graduate. Kind of what Ford eventually did with its Bullitt Mustangs.

Alfa Romeo even named one of their famous cars the Montreal (thank you for thinking of us, Alfa) and showed it as a concept car at Expo 67 (held, of course, in Montreal)..........


Eventually though, Alfa became nothing special in our market.........


.......with the 164 line being the last ones to dribble out of the Alfa dealership's doors in the very early '90's. For years, there has been talk about bringing this famous nameplate back to North America, the second biggest car market in the world. But the car had to be "right" and it had to be in the "right" dealerships. Sure, you could throw it into the Chrysler showrooms along side the Fiat 500. That would have been a recipe for for a quick withdrawal and Fiat knew it.

Ok, so let's test the waters with something extra special........


.......and that would be this one, the 8C Competizione, sold at a very high price (slightly above $250k) and in very limited numbers. Now, about where to sell it? Well, Fiat owns those two other Italian thoroughbreds, Ferrari and Maserati, so there must be room for one more lone model in their showrooms. It worked, but the numbers were so small, as not to prove anything, except maybe the right place from which to sell Alfa Romeo's. Pitch it as premium brand and use salespeople who know this type of clientele.

So one more try with a lower priced, but volume sportscar, the 4C (imaginative name?), which got great reviews and made the Alfa name a little more commonplace. Now here is where the, "Welcome back, Alfa.", line comes in. Sportscars are great, but to really re-establish one needs a volume sedan and earlier this week, it was introduced.......


.......using the famous name, Giulia, this performance model, the QV, will use a Ferrari inspired motor (ask them, not me), putting out around 500 hp. This hot new follow up to their sportscars, will haul its aggressive looking body to 60 mph in a mere 3.9 seconds. Not a bad way to get your name spread around (on a few traffic tickets).

It will be interesting to see whether Alfa Romeo can get enough volume out of the Giulia, to warrant bringing in a fuller line up. And will they stick to performance models or drop a few "tame" cars into their showrooms? Time and Mr. Marchionne will tell.

But for the time being........"Welcome back, Alfa.".

Until next time.......




Tuesday, June 23, 2015

June 23: Great ideas for your car?

Great ideas for your car? Maybe yes, maybe no, I think that it depends on the times. What does that mean? It means that those great ads, we used to see at the back of the comic books, often seemed like a great idea and they seemed to make sense at the time. For instance, one for a full size cardboard tank...."Amaze your friends, scare the neighbours for only $4.99 plus shipping." (glue and imagination were extra). Think that would fly these days? Once we got older, we looked to the ads and articles in such mags as Popular Mechanics or Mechanics Illustrated for those flights of fantasy. So this being a blog on car stuff, lets reminisce.

In these days of every car having a multitude of safety features, it's good to look back at what might have saved us from harm way back when..........


I wonder how many lives were saved by this simple little and probably very ineffective device? And what the heck was a "built-in crash panel" anyway?

Not too long ago, Germany mandated that cars have lower hood lines, so as not to injure pedestrians, when those inevitable person/auto accidents occurred.


But look at what was conceived years ago (many, many years). As the car hits you, the mesh framework below the bumper scoops you up, protecting you from being swept under the car with likely unpleasant results. But with this invention, you are not only saved, but also probably gives you a nice, comfy ride home. Oh, if life were only like that.

But the inevitable does happen, you get hit by a car and the driver doesn't stop.......


.........no problem as the car bumper dispenses an identifying disc, so that the offender can easily be traced. Try that idea today and see how fast the courts gets crowded with civil liberties lawsuits. Interesting idea though.

Find that even multiple cups of coffee don't keep you awake behind the wheel?


Simply slap on this practical and fashionable little device and you no longer have to fear a catastrophic result from an inadvertent snooze. Wonder how many of these little wonders were ever sold? I can just see this on Shark Tank.

Not everything had to be safety related. Maybe you just want your BMW to be a little more distinctive and stand out from the crowd...........


Here's a great idea.........since Lamborghini names all their cars after famous fighting bulls, maybe they should contact this company and buy the rights, so they alone can make their cars "bellow like a bull".

You want practical? Ok, so here is practical........


.........multiple small jets attached to your truck, so that they can be used to power you out of any muddy road situation. Stuck? Well, just ignite those jets and hang on mister, since you are getting out of the slop and doing it in one big hurry.

And just in case you think that all these ideas are from the past, here is the newest one........the toilet car seat. Great for those epic journeys in your Prius or VW diesel, when you only have to stop for fill ups every thousand or so kilometres. Well, someone thought it would be a great idea.


And now to wrap up this blog on ideas that, were great for their times, my favorite and sure to be yours, the dog carrier........











No longer does Fido have to have the window down, while you and your family freeze, simply so that he can catch a breeze and a few bugs. Great for dogs, but probably could be adapted to fit any pet. Cats? Guinea pigs? Iguanas? Wonder why this one didn't take off?

In looking back, I wonder why almost all of these great ideas seem to be from the past? Where are today's innovators? Maybe I should pick up the latest Popular Science (is it still around?) and do some checking.

Until next time......



Thursday, June 18, 2015

June 19: Mercedes GLC - now that's better

The Mercedes GLK. One of the best selling smaller luxury suv's, but it always disappointed me, as I thought it looked like the box,  it should have come in. Think about it......Mercedes has for several years been putting out some very swoopy designs. Even their larger ML looks like a wind tunnel might have been used in its styling. But the GLK was just plain square, a step back for sure.


But I feel that everything is now right with the world, as its replacement, the 2016 GLC (I could do an entire blog on M-B's new letter system), shows the styling that Benz is know for and has done so well........


.......now finally, this is a good design and one that is in line with their very smart looking cars.

Aside from the design, Mercedes sure should know about all wheel drive or 4x4 vehicles. Going way back to those dark days of the '40's, even then M-B had big trucks and also what might have been called a crossover in its day......


What better way to get thru those battle scared roads, fields and deserts, than this touring car decked out with dual wheels in the rear. Nothing would stop this thing, except the Allies. But Benz does know off road vehicles. Here's one we seldom see in North America, but is very well respected everywhere else........














The ultra tough, little Unimog. Used for all sorts of jobs needing a basic, but extremely capable little truck. Farms, construction sites, war zones. You name it and this Mercedes will stand up and be counted. The name is a shortening of the term "universal motor machine", which this toughy certainly is. Go anywhere......


......and by the looks of this publicity shot, it may have been the first truck to single handily climb Mt. Everest or maybe it was K2? Either way, it is a real trooper. For a while, it was sold as the Freightliner Unimog in North America, but not for very long and no longer. Strange, as it does so well everywhere else.


 Not one to stand on their laurels, Benz has updated the basic design, which had been around since the early '50's (1951 to be exact).

But I digress (not unusual in this blog), let's get back to the soon to be released GLC......


......a great design, with all the capabilities need by an "off road lite" vehicle. Great for those tricky driveways of the not so rich and famous and for driving over leaf covered roads. Capabilities learned from years of experience, with those other very good Mercedes Benz trucks,,,,,,,


Let us no longer fear those treks to the beach and with the new for 2016 GLC, we can arrive in grand style. Beach blanket bingo, anyone?

Until next time......



Tuesday, June 16, 2015

June 16: Le Mans - all out!

Le Mans! Way back in 1923 it all started. Some insane individual thought that, running a variety of cars all out for twenty four continuous hours would be a great idea for a race. Give folks their money's worth and to help them while away those very long hours, throw in an amusement park to help keep them occupied. Sure, you might have driven to Florida from Toronto over that same time frame, but at a reasonable pace and nothing close to what would stress your car to its limits.

Think about it.......the fastest cars have averaged 225 kph (140 mph) for every hour of those twenty four. Every hour! Now there is a test of endurance. And of course, that is exactly the point. Check out that vintage poster and see that it is spelled out for those folks who might not understand..

For me, Le Mans holds nothing but a passing interest. As an aside, I work out with a fellow who won his class there, back in 2000 and is doing developmental work for the new Ford GT, which will return to Le Mans in 2016. My passing interest includes seeing if the Corvettes won their class this past weekend........


.........and I'm pleased to tell you that they did. Time to move on.

There are some amazing facts about this race. The one that astounds me, is the few deaths that have occurred during those twenty four hours over the years. Surprising, since you have several classes of cars running on the same track and at substantial speed differences. Judgement errors are not unusual in this type of racing, but it speaks to the calibre of the drivers that, more carnage hasn't occurred.

That being said...........


.......these two pics show the start and the outcome of the worst, most horrific crash in motor sports history. An unexpected move by a slower Austin Healey driver, caused a Mercedes to literally fly off the track and into the spectators (at a time when they lined the track with little protection from the cars). The result, a reported 84 dead, 130 injured. "Reported", since some sources say the number of deaths was over 100. Either way, it was terrible, but the race continued that day to see Mike Hawthorn win.

There have been many other, but not fatal accidents, due to the speeds attained. For instance, during practice, the famous flying Mercedes........


........no one hurt, but the aero engineers had some work to do and the cars were withdrawn before the actual race. Or this Audi disindegration......


 But, let's move on to some interesting facts.........for years this race was started by having the drivers line up on the track opposite their cars.......


.......and at the signal, they would sprint across the track, buckle themselves in and rocket off into the afternoon. As you can see, some drivers were quicker than others, so it caused a bit of a traffic jam as the various cars pulled away. Another issue was that, in an effort to get a head start, a driver might not fully fasten his seat belt. Can't see that happening today.

With a lap of just over thirteen kilometres, this race is unusual, in that part is run on an actual race track and part on the country roads surrounding Le Mans. Try running those speeds on some of the roads around your hometown (and maybe very late at night).

Whether it interests you or not, Le Mans is a very special race. Important enough to have the overall winner, Porsche, ran full page ads in the next day's papers. Important enough to have Ford announce one year in advance that, they would run their new GT at Le Mans in 2016. Important enough that the car manufacturers spend millions developing a winning combination (the win on Sunday, sell on Monday philosophy).


And of course, important enough to have the Michelin man represented in a variety of ways.

Le Mans  -  twenty four hours - all out!

Until next time......