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, May 31, 2013

May 31: Another history lesson: the Bricklin SV-1

Coming at you, the former pride of New Brunswick, Canada, is the 1974 to 76 Bricklin SV-1. Is there anyone reading this, who doesn't look back fondly at this financial debacle? What, you say, you've never even heard of this car? For shame. Well, maybe I have more of an interest, since I lived in N.B. A little background, please......

Malcom Bricklin loved cars and initially he tried to distribute the
the mini Subaru 360. This met with minimal sales, so I believe he created demo derbies with the remaining inventory (look it up). Give a man an ego, some $ and a love of cars and he'll try to make his own automobile. History is littered with these guys (does Fisker come to mind?). So Bricklin had the idea for a revolutionary (aren't they all) new safety sports car, the Bricklin SV-1.

He shopped this idea around, but big ideas require big capital, which usually means somebody needs to fuel the idea with highly combustible cash (money to burn?). Not sure how this happened, but he ended up talking to the government of New Brunswick. Always open to an opportunity, the gov't decided to help fund this venture. And Saint John, also always looking for an opportunity, became the home of the main plant.


Saint John, now on the automotive map as a car producer, had no where to go but up. I had left my hometown of Saint John by this time, but visiting in the Summer of '74, my dad and I stopped by the plant on their family day. The were showing the place off to family members, but with a little begging, we were let in to roam around. Very interesting facility, if not a bit rough, like the cars.

The Bricklin's claim to fame? It was a safety car, so it had a strong frame, a very forgiving front end and since it was not a sportscar, didn't come with a manual trans (apart from a short run of 155). Not a sportscar? Well it sure looked like one and was priced right up against the Corvette, it also had similar performance. 


I always thought it looked a bit strange, but hey, this was the '70's. There was one feature though, that really set the Bricklin SV-1 apart from any other cars of its time.......


Yes, it was those gullwing doors. And not just the fact that they were unique, they were also power operated - push a button and up they went. See any problems here? Of course and the Bricklin experienced every single one of them.

Was it a success? Not a chance. After building about 3000 SV-1's, the money tap was turned off by the New Brunswick gov't. They took their big hit (the money, not the car) and quickly tried to change the topic. Bad stories never seem to die and in 2010, Bricklin: The Musical was staged........


........so it took 35 years before the public could sing about this misadventure. Even the play never made it to Broadway or even out of New Brunswick.

So, over the past 40 years, whatever has Malcolm Bricklin been up to? In the '80's he brought the Yugo to our shores (one of the worse cars ever made) and after about 160,000 sales, quality issues sunk that boat. In 2004 he was signed to be the distributor of the Chery line, the first Chinese cars to be sold in North America. That never got off the ground and lawsuits ensued. You just can't keep a good man down!

I have a good idea. If you have tons of $ and love cars, buy a Rolls-Royce, a Ferrari, a collector car, whatever and save yourself a lot of pain. Just don't put your name on a new automobile.

Until next time......

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

May 28: A history lesson - the Hofmeister Kink

A bit of history  -  the Hofmeister Kink. The what??? The Hofmeister Kink. Whether you like cars or not, you can't help but see this design feature many times every day. Named after its originator, BMW designer Wilhelm Hofmeister, the kink was first shown in 1961 on the BMW 1500. So what is it? Take a look.........


Originally it was a mild little forward slanting feature at the front base of the C pillar, but it gave the car a unique look. So distinctive was Wilhelm's little design, that BMW incorporated it into all their cars.


This composite shows the feature on 3 series models over the years, up to the present day convertible. Over 50 years later, you won't find a BMW model without the Hofmeister Kink. But just not on BMW's, this neat little feature has become ubiquitous and is featured on many other manufacturer's cars, for example......

 Honda Accord
Infinti G37X

Hyundai Genesis
The kink is so distinctive that cars with it, start to look the same. For example this Acura TL........


A great looking design element, but don't you think all the world's designers could come up with a new feature with which to adorn their new models? But hey, it really does look good and creates a tension in the design that is hard to get without the kink. Even this mid 1990's "bathtub" Chevy benefitted from the Hofmeister Kink.........


But on the other hand, check out any Mercedes, Cadillac or Audi  -  not a kink to be found. So obviously, it is not the only way to design a car, just one of the most popular and distinctive.

So ends today's design feature history lesson. What other blog has stuff like this? Stay tuned.

Until next time.......




Friday, May 24, 2013

May 24: Pick-up trucks and evolution


Remember the old days when pick-up trucks like the one above were used almost exclusively for their ultility? Of course, you don't, since that was eons ago. Over time the traditional American pick-up has evolved into a "statement" vehicle, you know, you drive one to show that you are a real man. Now you can get every conceivable feature in one of these "work" trucks. How about the Ford we just sold for $75K! Now that was equipped. But, hey this is my blog, and I talk performance.

As these trucks became personal statements, it made sense to do a muscle truck, so Chevy obliged.......


In the early '90's they made the powerful (for the day) 454 SS with, now get this, 230 HP! Sounds like four cylinder power these days, but twenty years ago, it was a strong performer. And with a light pick-up truck back end, these babies would smoke for miles. But things evolve........


.........and around 2000, Ford introduced the Lightening (for the second time). Power was up to 380 hp and this thing would fly. I think I saw once that one hit 154 miles/hour or if you prefer, 246 kms/hour. That's pushing a lot of air, as these pick-ups aren't exactly low aero. But again things evolve and they get even better, behold this toy from Dodge........


Burn down those tires, baby! Tough and mean with a V10 Viper motor putting out over 500 HP  -  now that is making a statement. I remember seeing one in England back in 2005 and thinking there goes real money, after all the price of gas on that island was similar to that of gold. Thumb your nose at those environmentalists.

See a problem here? Of course you do. These hot rod trucks only carry a couple of people and if you have an extended cab, maybe four. Hard to impress your fans one or two or three at a time. The solution? Call the friendly folks at Hennessey Performance (1-979-885-1302). These Texas tuners have taken this type of truck one step further. The already potent Ford Raptor was the starting point for their eight seater........


.......the Hennessey Velociraptor. All Hennessey did was add a closed back to this four door and viola', instant suv. Well almost, they also went under the hood and added a 600 HP monster motor. Now you can load up all your friends (and with a truck like this, you'll have quite a few) and show them what it can do. Price? If you have to ask......... My guess is they are already packaging up a few to ship to the Middle East. Just a wild guess.

From a workaday vehicle to hell on wheels, what a way to go! Show up at Home Depot in one of these and smoke across the parking lot as you leave (and leave quite a impression over and above the tire marks).

Evolution. Don't you just love it?

Until next time........


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May 21: Where did it go?


What a beautiful car. The Mercedes-Benz SL, with its retractable hardtop, is a great looking car with "just right" proportions. But where did its top go? For years, even very attractive cars like this Jaguar had an unsightly lump on their back ends when their top was down..........


Then someone had a better idea  -  hide the roof in the trunk. Companies have now been retracting hardtops off and on for years with mixed results. The idea is great, you have a retractable roof that gives you the security of a hardtop with the sportiness of a convertible ("cabrio" if you really want to be snooty). Who came up with this idea first? Take a trip back to 1957........


Ya man, the 1957 Ford Skyliner was the first car to make this style of roof popular. Now popularity is a relative term, as they only sold this for three years and then dropped it. No one else followed for years, probably due to the highly complex workings of all the motors Ford used to hid the roof.

Interesting footnote..........a Ford first? Not really. Let's go back even further to this 1938 Peugeot 402........


This was the first example of this great idea that I could find. But there are downsides to innovation, as you can see from this Ford pic......


All that metal had to go somewhere and you can see from the Skyliner's enormous rear end, where it all went. This is a problem that has plagued most retractable hardtop designs to this day. It was years after Ford discontinued theirs before another manufacturer tried it again (might have been Benz), but the results have been hit and miss. Even Ferrari missed the design boat when dropping the roof of their California.....


Great show when you drop the top in front of the patrons at your favorite sidewalk cafe', but the bulbous rear end is not attractive, even when you are spending $300k+ large. The little Mazda MX5 is also design challenged......


A much prettier car when it had a fabric top. And you only have room for a toothbrush (buy the toothpaste at each stop).

The retractable hardtop is a very good idea, but not always successful from a design point of view. Think of the cars that still have a fabric roof   -  BMW on some models, Corvette, Aston Martin and the list goes on. So when you wonder, where did it go, take a look at the back end. You know where it went, but was the design successful when it got there?

Until next time.....

Friday, May 17, 2013

May 17: Dare to be different?

Dare to be different? Take a chance? Why not, after all it will only cost your company a few hundred million bucks. Go for it! Easy to say, hard to do, but some companies actually took the leap. Take for example that PT Cruiser concept in bright metallic orange, it hit the auto show circuit and got great interest. This unlikely late 1930's gangster type car knockoff, evolved into the PT Cruiser. Love it or hate it, Chrysler sold a ton of them over the several years that it was produced. Took a chance and it worked.


Chevrolet was really late to the nostalgia party with their HHR (heritage high roof  -  go figure).......


This was an almost exact knock off of an early '50's Chevy Suburban done in 2/3 size. Using a nothing special Cobalt chassis and drive train, it was quite forgetable in everything but its looks. I loved it, short comings and all. My wife has had two of them and it has been become our "golf cart", since my last two cars have been short of space for two sets of clubs and two carts.

Dare to be different? What happens when a company really steps out on a limb and pulls a very unlikely car out of their corporate hat? Could you ever imagine anyone ever producing this wild ride........


The Plymouth Prowler. Who would have thought a ride like this would emerge from the home of the Grand Caravan and the K car? But they did make it and they made it almost exactly like the auto show concept. A very ballsy move. Looked great like a real hot rod and drove like it had no suspension, but who cared. One big problem however  -  it had a V6 motor. If you are going to do it, do it right, put in the Hemi. That 6 cylinder motor kind of doomed it from the start. But hey, it was still an awfully bold move.

Chevy once again was late to this wave of nostalgia, but they "almost" did it up right.......



Dare to be different! What a great looking ride complete with a retractable hardtop. Apparently the detail work on the SSR was incredible. What could possibly be wrong with this beauty? How about a price tag of $70k  -  now that's breath taking. Same price as a Corvette with way less power, but that price. Only 300 HP and no manual trans on a hot rod! Well that sealed the SSR's fate. Granted Chevy did drop the price by $20k over the following couple of years (good way to make your original buyers feel good), while adding a stick and giving it a 395 HP engine. Making things right a couple of years later seldom makes a success story, so this wild ride quietly went the way of the Prowler. Both are now guaranteed collectors' pieces.

Unlikely cars from conservative companies. Millions and millions spent and in a couple of cases money was made. You can guess which ones. Missed opportunities to be sure, but still give them a round of applause for at least trying.

Dared to be different!

Until next time......


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

May 14: What the Elio?

A bicycle built for two was a popular idea back in the late 1800's, but something called an automobile came along and relegated this idea to novelty status. But every once in a while someone comes up with an idea that will be ground breaking and might even save the world. The latest one?


The Elio. Part motorcycle and part car. It has three wheels like a trike, but has features like airbags and power windows like a car. According to Elio Motors, this little (that's probably over stating it) car-lette will seat two normal sized people, one behind the other. What is normal you ask? Well they say 6'1" and 220 pounds, although larger people have apparently also fit in the Elio.

A fun concept for city and highway driving, that will come in a variety of light up your life colours. Just look at this promo material......
Of course if I was driving the Elio, I'd sure want it as bright as possible, so that everyone could see me. As you can see from the pic below, this is not exactly a, well shall I say, a "big" small car.


Selling features? The price is #1 at a proposed $6800 and the mileage at an estimated 84 mpg highway using US gallons and an 8 gallon tank. Fill it up every couple of months?

This feel good little car-lette is scheduled to hit the highways and biways in July, 2014. You can reserve one right now if you live in the US. Canadians will have to wait a bit before they can Elio their way across the country. Elio Motors predicts sales of 250,000/year. That sounds perfectly reasonable for a dreamer.

We in North America haven't seen much in this type of vehicle, but in Europe there are quite a few of these little wee cars running around the big cities, but seldom on the motorways. Here's an example.......


Why park it when you can take it with you?

My thoughts? Well, I'm usually a sceptic, especially when a company starts throwing out big production numbers and lacks some hard facts (see their website). So, I'm a sceptic in this case as well. Does the Elio have a future? Sure, as a novelty type vehicle with small yearly sales. Producing a new car or trike or whatever takes big bucks, so usually the dreamer wakes up before it becomes a nightmare (nicely put Barry).

We shall see. Stay tuned.

Until next time.......

Thursday, May 9, 2013

May 9: Dubai what are you thinking?

Dubai what are you thinking?

It's only money? Sometimes you just have to shake your head when you see how some people spend their money. In this case, the "some people" is the government of Dubai.

Ever pity the poor police officers who have to ride around Dubai in cruisers like this one.........


.........a fairly quick, but quite common Dodge Charger Hemi Pursuit. But Dubai is wealthy beyond the dreams of mere mortal cities, so surely something a little better than this Charger is in order. So let's start with this Camaro SS.........


Sure, that's more like it. Quick and stylish. Perfect for a city that has money to burn. Still not good enough for the folks in Dubai, well ok, then try this one on for size.......


Almost absolutely perfect. A nice and relatively unassuming Bentley Continental. Quick and stylish and expensive  -  roughly the price of six Chargers. Can't let the citizens down, when they expect so much of their local constabulary. But is this fast Bentley really fast enough? What to do, what to do?


Sure, a Mercedes-Benz SLS. Make an impression on those crooks, as you bound out from under those gullwing doors to make your arrest. But hey, Dubai has $ to burn and we are only talking about police cruisers that are around $200k Canadian. Come on, show some imagination.


A Ferrari FF. Again, almost absolutely perfect. The FF is very practical with that hatchback design, so all the police gear is easily stowed. Now you are talking real money in around the $350k mark. But if Dubai has a Ferrari, shouldn't they also be trying out a Lambo? Yessir, no question about about it.........


A shining new Aventador should do the trick nicely. Now Dubai is showing real class and very good use of their citizens' money. Forget the fact that you could give all the citizens their very own police cars with what these babies cost. Money to burn remember? Still some left in the bank? Ok, let's try one more time.......


Finally, a car for the chief? A relatively uncommon (77 worldwide) Aston Martin One 77, approximate cost $1.4 million -  roughly the price of 40 Chargers  -  now we're talking, baby. Don't ever let it be said that Dubai doesn't know how to spend their money.

Absolutely nuts! Just because you can Dubai, should you? Not saying your $ can save the world, but surely there has to be a better way to piss away your oil money than with good blog material (and for that I thank you).

Dubai what are you thinking?

Until next time.......

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

May 7: Will.i.am's wild rides


William. Will.i.am. William Adams. Whatever. This music star and a member of the famous Black Eyed Peas sure does love his cars. There are all sorts of pics of him cruising around LA in a variety of very expensive rides. He has even had some cars custom built for his driving pleasure.


This one is based on a late '50's Corvette and is a real lesson in restraint. It's been smoothed out, some chrome removed, has bigger rims/tires and I would imagine that it has had its engine breathed on.

So much for good taste. Next..........


Imaginatively named "Iamauto", this creation was supposed to cost at least $700k and was supposedly built from scratch. Probably it would have cost that much, if that were truly the case. There are certain hard bits that give away the original car, although hard to see in this photo, the windshield and back glass identify this beauty(?) as a DeLorean. One has to start somewhere and hopefully the end result will be a thing of beauty. A DeLorean is not much of a starting point and Iamauto is not much of a finishing point. In the eyes of the beholder for sure.

Will.i.am's most recent showpiece is even stranger.........


A West Coast Customs creation which harkens back to the classics of the 1930's. Its lines are actually not too bad, although rather bizarre from some angles. Wonder what lies underneath that baby blue body? Maybe a Corvette or a Ferrari chassis and engine? Again a very expensive ride, pegged to cost at least $900k and again built from scratch. Wait a minute......built from scratch? Well at least an extremely heavily modified something. What could it be, what could it be?

Well folks, here it is under construction.......


No kidding, this ultra expensive ride started out as this 1958 VW Beetle. Apparently the idea of what to do with this old Bug changed several times during the build and was removed from the original body shop, so that West Coast Customs could finish it off. Consider it finished off! Money well wasted, indeed.

I've said it before, tons of money and good taste do not go hand in hand. Will.i.am should stick with off the floor models or at least go back to the designer responsible for the Vette. On the other hand, what is a couple of mill when you have so many of them?

Until next time........



Friday, May 3, 2013

May 3: Rad Rides by Troy

"Custom" has a couple of meanings, but in my blog it can only mean one thing. Please read on.......
 
Troy Trepanier and some of his work
A real "Car Guy" is interested in just about anything with four (or more?) wheels, hence the "Wheel to Wheel" name of this blog. Always been interested in custom cars, but to a point -  I don't like the super wild, questionable taste works of art(?), never have. But today's focus is on a subtler approach. Every generation has had their pre-eminent customizer, one who stands out. Currently there are two who are at the top of their game  -  Chip Foose and Troy Trepanier. The later from Illinois, has been creating for the past 25 years. Take a look at his "Sniper".......


Hard to tell exactly how this beaut started life, but it was actually an early '50's Dodge or Plymouth, that has been massaged into the 21st century. Great body and to move it, how about a Viper motor? Saw it at a Toronto show a few years back and it looks just as good today.

"300"

"Chicayne"
Unlike the Sniper, Trepanier's cars are usually recognizable, but they have been subtely massaged on the surface. What's happening underneath? Now that's a whole other story  -  possibly a Corvette suspension, definitely a huge motor. So the subtely ends with the body. Even a plain Jane old Chevy sedan, looks like a thing of beauty when it is transformed into Chicayne.


Troy's cars have even been made into toys, like this Johnny Lighting "Rumbler". Funny that they would show the original and then produce a blue model. A pricing issue? Who would ever think of doing a makeover on an innocent little Rambler?

Or this Buick.........


Looks stock, but look closely. Easy to see that it's lowered, but check out those custom wheels, which hint at a re-done suspension and we haven't opened the hood yet. An old car updated and moderized.

By the way, nothing is sacroscant..........


Toyota asked Trepanier to come up with a Camry concept for the show circuit, viola, the "Cam Rod". You know that someone, somewhere is cruising their hood with a similar ride - who knows, maybe they saw Troy's work before tackling their own project.


And finally we finish off with the award winning "First Love". Subtle and beautiful. Price? Don't ask, but you should expect to pay way over $500k (and people do).

Nothing on the showroom floor that catches your eye and you have the big bucks to commission something exciting? Well then, give Troy Trepanier a blank cheque and then sit back and watch it happen. Be a hit on your Summer drives.

Until next time.......