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, June 27, 2014

June 27: Dune!

Dune? What the heck is a Dune? Well, it's easy to see from the pic, that it is a VW Beetle, specifically the Dune Concept, that was shown at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show. Just a concept said VW. Now according to the latest AutoWeek, VW has it planned for production, although the official word is not yet on the street. So what is a Dune? How about an all wheel drive Beetle with a turbo 2 litre under the hood (the front one).

A neat look that suits the body style of the latest chopped roof Beetle  - tough and kind of like a hot rod, less of a girls' car. But what is the Dune?

It is a Beetle version of the "we don't get it here" Cross Polo. I've seen many of these in Europe and they are rather neat little suv type vehicles. The Polo is a size below the Golf and it comes in two and four door hatches. So, it was easy to slide the Cross Polo platform under the Beetle to come up with the Dune.


The VW Beetle cut its chops in the famous Mexico road and off road race, the Baja 1000. Heavily modified to withstand the wicked conditions, these light weight cars handled the roughly 1000 km trek rather well. The Baja Bugs became famous as racing VW's. So almost 50 years later, VW is doing what amounts to more or less a tribute edition.

You can see that the upcoming Dune has all the design cues that made a Baja Bug instantly recognizable. Well, no it doesn't have the cut off fenders, but I think you get my drift.

My thoughts? I like it. The New Beetle sold successfully for several years, before it was updated to make it more manly. Not sure how the newer version is selling, but I hardly ever see them around ( I see many more Tesla's), so I think that tells you something. Will the Dune help? The cliched answer would be, that it can't hurt. Actually, I think that it will do well in a limited kind of way (hedging your bets, Barry?). Not sure when the planned release date is, but I'm sure any VW dealer will happily accept your deposit.

Until next time.......

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

June 24: Shed a tear

What went wrong? Where did we North Americans veer off the track of station wagon goodness and end up in the clutches of the ubiquitous sport utility? Why is it, that if we want to buy a station wagon (or sport wagon or whatever), we either have to be economy minded and look towards a VW Golf or be rather well off and look towards Volvo, BMW or Mercedes? There ain't nothing in between, folks. At least for us in Canada or the United States. I say shed a tear, since if we look to other parts of the world, not only is the station wagon embraced, but the supply of beautifully designed wagons are almost endless. So let's take a little tour around and see what is on offer elsewhere........

Yes, this is my favorite, the Mercedes CLS wagon and is there a better looking example anywhere? Not in my mind and it even comes in an AMG version. Love the car, hate the price, so let's look at something more bank account friendly, like this Honda Civic........

Surprised? Sure doesn't look like anything at our Honda stores. Too bad we live in North America (at least as far as cars are concerned). Or how about something a little larger, but still not a bank account breaker......

Now here is the Mazda6, which I think we almost had a chance of getting. To my eye it competes with the CLS for wagon beauty. Mazda showed it in early North American press releases, but I believe until the 6 starts selling like it should, this gorgeous, rolling sculpture will be kept from our shores.

Back to the higher end models with this Jaguar, again nothing short of great looking. Wonder what an XJ version would look like?

Not a chance of ever seeing a Renault on these shores ever again, but this Megane graces their showrooms in other parts of the world, along with the more budget minded Clio in the pic below it.......

A little funky looking, but hey, who says practicality has to be boring, after all, check out those other pics again (and this blog isn't focusing on the boring stuff).

I think the Ford Fusion, with its copy cat Aston Martin grille, is one of the best looking cars on our roads, but go to Europe, call it a Mondeo and this is one of the models that we'll probably never see, but which they love..........

......but think of the possibilities. You don't need an Explorer and don't want an Escape, then this is the perfect compromise. Oh, I know, the deal........it has to have fender flares and be raised up a few inches to at least look like a sport ute. Sigh!

But you need something a bit bigger, but want it to be a Ford and still be great looking........

..........here it is, the Taurus station wagon and so sad, that we can't even get it on our shores. I'd say it's a natural for North America and it comes in an all wheel drive version.

Shed a tear. Yeah, I know, I know, there are only a few of us who think this way, but why is it that VW and Mercedes can exploit this niche successfully? Sure, one doesn't see tons of Benz wagons, but at least they are on the showroom floor.

Unfortunately, I don't see a trend towards a few more wagons coming our way anytime soon. Shed a tear.

Until next time..........

PS.......did you spot any errors in today's blog?

Friday, June 20, 2014

June 20: When was your car built?

My last car was a 2009 Acura TL AWD. I really liked it, but strange, that it being my first Japanese car and one from Honda, that I should have had so many problems with it. Typical? Not by a long shot. Just one of those things. Once when I was telling someone about it, they said, "Must have been a Monday or a Friday car." What were they talking about?

They were talking about the old days and those old days are not too far back in the car manufacturers' pasts. Look at these guys working on this old car assembly line. They were in a huge complex like this one.......

......the Ford Motor Company's River Rouge assembly plant. You want stats? It took ten years to build, comprised of 93 buildings, 16 million square feet, 2.4 by 1.6 kms. Biggest manufacturing building in the world. My point? The assembly workers' jobs were sheer drudgery and because of this, many took Mondays or Fridays off, by calling in sick or whatever. Hard to fire a hard working union member for being "sick". With so many people off on those days, the work had to be done by fewer workers and so some things weren't done, meaning a car would leave the plant not quite ready for prime time. A Monday or a Friday car.

Things change, although that River Rouge plant still pumps out Fords, the assembly line has a different look these days......

Think any of these robots care whether it is Monday, Wednesday or even Sunday? Probably not, at least not yet, but who knows what will happen in the future (HAL 9000 are you reading this)? So the old idea of a Monday or Friday car has gone by the wayside, although that thought still comes up from time to time.

But apart from those robots, the assembly process has been made more humane or at least a little more interesting. Sometimes the workers follow one car from start to finish, so that they are not always installing the same five nuts minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day. Great job? Not sure, but definitely better than before and nowadays, with much better quality.

Camaro's Oshawa, Ontario plant
Speaking of quality........our Canadian plants have just been named leaders in global quality rankings by JD Power  -  yeaaaaa!!!

So, if you ever hear a Monday or Friday car comment, you can speak with authority, that Barry has said there is no such thing anymore. Makes you feel better, doesn't it?

Until next time........

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

June 17: 24 hours!!!

Yep, this past weekend was the one in Le Mans, France where the famous, annual 24 hour race was held. Twenty four hours! Just imagine driving a race car at its limit for 24 solid hours (of course, there are driver changes). Stressing the motor, the transmission and all those suspension parts for one full day and night at top speed. Pretty amazing, when one thinks about it. And to top it off, there are various classes of cars on the track with huge speed differences. Talk about trusting your fellow driver to see you in their rearview, as you approach at over 200 MPH. Talk about stress. But most of these drivers are pros, so the catastrophic crashes are not frequent.

Ever hear of the term "Le Mans start"?

Originally, the cars were lined up on one side of the track, the drivers on the other. At the wave of the French flag, they ran for their cars. Good idea? Well, just take a look at the pic above. Not everyone gets to their cars at the same time, some cars pull out quickly, some don't start immediately and some drivers have a problem with their seat belts, maybe not even fastening them or not tightly enough. Big problems. Not a smart idea, so eventually it was abandoned in 1970.

This pic from the late '50's shows the front straightaway at the start of the race. Interesting how close the fans and pit crews were to the track. Good idea? Think it's the same today? Not likely, and actually they used to be even closer. In 1955 a horrific crash (close to where this photo was taken) occurred as a fast car overtook a slower one. The faster car went into the crowd, killing 89 fans and injuring many more. After that very sad day, the audience was moved back bit by bit. Have an accident like that today and it's unlikely that race or maybe even the sport would survive.

Le Mans is named after the town where this race is held, running over the local roads. Bistros and bars are alongside the track, so that you can sip your wine and munch your baguette, as the cars roar past. I love that idea, although it has its drawbacks. Again the safety issues. Want to see a flying car?

Mercedes Benz was the first to perfect a flying race car in 1999, when their CLR was found to have slightly less down force than expected. Thankfully no driver was hurt, but the cars were withdrawn from the race. Like to be sitting in a cafe' as this went by? Great story to tell the folks back home - "Did you get a picture, Andre?".

Hands up all of you who like to drive in the rain and at night and at race speeds? Ok, so there are a few, but this would be a "no go" for most sane folks. At Le Mans, if it rains, it rains and you keep racing. Add in the different speed scenarios and you have a rather challenging situation. I guess that is why, I sell cars and sit here in a nice office with a roof over my head.

Ah, Le Mans, even with all its issues, it is a great test and a great race. Imagine running for 24 hours and beating another car by seconds. Or have the chance to see something weird, like this Nissan creation......

Yup, it's a great race. Will you ever see me there? Probably not, as I like my French countryside taken at a more leisurely pace. But what a show!

Until next time.......

Friday, June 13, 2014

June 13: Strange wheels?

Hey, buddy, got a light?

Of course, you do, if you are driving one of the two Zippo mobiles from many years past. I guess they are the Trivial Pursuit answer to what is the biggest lighter in the world. Originally done in the late '40's to publicize (ok, get ready for a skill testing question) Zippo lighters, the top one has been restored to its well lit glory. What do you say, if a cop pulls you over and asks, "Where is the fire?"? The puns are endless.

Seeing this got me thinking about what other unusual (ie: strange) promotional vehicles are out there bringing smiles to millions of faces? What might be the most famous of them all?

Correct, if you said the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile. This well known promo vehicle first hit the road in 1936 (above with Little Oscar) and has been continually updated since then. Dropping in on special events or just touring promoting the Oscar Meyer brand, this vehicle sure makes an impression. I still remember the one I saw in Toronto a few years back. Ask an Oscar Meyer employee what they do........"I drive a hot dog."

I never knew that Meyer also did cocktail sausages, but it must be so, since here are two vehicles from their current fleet.........

They have six of the full size mobile weiners and two of these Mini based ones. Which one would you rather be seen in? Yes, I agree, the little guy doesn't stand out in a crowd (yeah, right!).

Any other ones come to mind? I think you'll get a kick (I warned you about the puns) out of this next one........

This is the LL Bean boot truck......"Lace 'er up, boys, we're hittin' the road."

Or what about a Cadbury creme egg (I thought you'd never ask).........

Or the Goldfish Cracker car, truck or whatever (note the cool sunglasses)........

My favorite is a rather unusual way to promote a flea market, but it's a tasty looking looking vehicle regardless.........

The Burgermobile........and is that three(!!!) all beef patties between those enormous buns? And how come only cheese on the front one?

Interesting collection of interesting promotional vehicles, but my all time favorite doesn't promote a product, it promotes goodwill, but it still cracks me up when I think of what it is and its name. Here is Blinky the talking Toronto police car.......

Is there a great sense of humour here, when a police department uses a talking pig to help their brand? Strange wheels indeed.

Until next time.........

Monday, June 9, 2014

June 9: What's a rocker drive?

Sure, we've all heard the question, "What would Jesus drive?", but you know he doesn't exist, or I should say, doesn't exist in flesh and blood and driving around in a flash car (did I get out of that comment ok?). Funny, though that people always put Him in an earth friendly car, but how do we know he wouldn't drive around in a R-R Phantom limo? A question for the ages, obviously. But let's take a look at those other "gods", those guitar god rockers, who have money to burn, or at least spend on some very nice ride(s).

We could talk about Rihanna and her Lamborghini, but which one? The one with blood stains from where her boyfriend beat her? I think not, so let's move on........

Now this is more like it, Steven Tyler lounging against his nicely personalized Challenger. From the background, you can see he is at some sort of cruise, so it goes without saying that Steven is definitely a car guy. And not just with American iron.......

Here he is with his new Hennessey Venom GT Spyder. This is a Lotus based super car with 1244 HP!! Walk this way? Dam right!

Another true car guy is Brian Johnson of AC/DC. A decent racer in his own right, Brian likes to cruise his hood in something a little less frantic than his track day racer.......

Nothing wrong with the lap of luxury, when you are not hot lapping, is there? And besides, when you have all those millions to spend, what better way is there to spend them, than on road going trinkets?

It seems like the older rockers have more of an appreciation for cars than the younger ones, but maybe that's just my own bias and lack of knowledge. Take for example this very cool customized Chrysler 300 cabrio belonging to Alice Cooper. This is just one of Alice's neat rides and you always see him hanging around the Scottsdale Barrett-Jackson auction, selling or buying. Another true car guy (and avid golfer).

But the ultimate car guy in my opinion is the super rocker, Eric Clapton. Why? Well, not only does Clapton collect Ferrari's, but he has enough of a standing with the factory, that he commissioned them to do a one off for him......

Like a true car guy, here he is sizing up his beautiful new ride, like we all do when we get our new wheels. Just sit there and take it all in, appreciating a true thing of beauty. Or meeting with the designers to select exactly the right shade of leather for the new ride.

Ah, the good life and as I've quoted in another blog recently (courtesy of Dire Straits), "money for nothing and chicks for free". And speaking of Mark Knopfler, here is his famous old Austin-Healey 100S, just before he heads out on the track........

So, what does a rocker drive? Anything they darn well want to!

Until next time............

Friday, June 6, 2014

June 6: Going forward by looking back

 Ok, so what the heck does that blog title mean? Of course, all of you muscle car fans will instantly recognize this as a 1969 Camaro ZL1, the rarest of all Camaro's, with only 69 leaving the factory and a few subsequently sitting unsold on the dealers' lots for up to three years. This special order car came with an aluminum 427, originally destined for Can-Am racing. Priced at roughly double the cost of a regular Camaro and barely driveable on the street, it was a quarter miler's dream car (if they could afford it). This was the stuff of legends and at current collector car auctions, these cars have touched half a million in today's dollars. Nice appreciation, but who knew?

So from the past to the present day..........

 ......the current day ZL1 has much more power than the original, but has the added bonus of being able to turn corners at speed. Not quite as good as today's Z28, but still impressive. You know of course, that the intrepid modeller and his assistant, the Car Modelling Cat, have been at it again and this is the result of their handy work. Although an easy model to put together, the fussy detail paintwork was a pain, so that's why you won't see many clear close ups in this blog.

Sharp eyes will notice the Michigan plates on our model, so it only makes sense that the police car pulling it over be a Michigan State Police cruiser. Don't we strive for accuracy in our back yard pics?

The CMC diligently working on our modern day ZL1
 Strange that of the nine Camaro models that we've built over the years, I would only classify three as really good ones, that we'd be proud to show. What is it about Camaro's that seem to defy our car modelling skills? Even the adorable little CMC doesn't have an answer.

So, going forward by looking back. Maybe we should use the same mantra in building our next Camaro model?

Until next time......

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

June 3: What a way to go!

At some time or other, each one of us will probably end up in a wooden box or an attractive urn or simply be scattered to the winds. It is a fact, that people in North America are more afraid of public speaking than of dying, so as Jerry Seinfeld once said, if you are at a funeral, you'd rather be in the box than giving the eulogy. Well, I'm a past Toastmaster and enjoy giving speeches, but where I'd rather be is riding in the funeral coach and definitely up front as opposed to the back. And so to the point of today's blog........

Used to be that it was easy to convert a Cadillac into a hearse  -  take one big square Cadillac commercial platform and add on a very decorative box to its back end, like on the older version above. Easy, right? So now all those old style Caddy's have gone by the wayside, with the last of the old style XTS's. So now the designers have had to become more imaginative.

Take a new XTS and add a very swoopy back end. These things look fast standing still, so it stands to reason that funeral processions should move a little quicker. And who wouldn't want to be seen in this S & S hearse, whether it was in the front or back ("Too bad about Uncle Charlie, but did you see that cool hearse?").

All those old styles (another one from the S&S Coach Company), that fit the square Caddy's so well, have taken some work to add to the new ones. And not always successfully in my opinion, but the funeral car business in North America at least, is steeped in tradition. So, if there has always been a landau model, then there must be one for the new body style. Same as the Forest Lawn type design above, with its back side window. Awkward to say the least, but a good way to verify that Uncle Charlie is actually in there.

And every funeral procession needs an accompanying six door limousine for the immediate family. Not quite as stately as the older models, but it stills works and the design flows.

This more traditional landau, an Eagle XTS Ultimate, has the expected squared off side windows, so no attempt to bend and blend this design into the very contemporary lines of the XTS. And as one of the hearse manufacturers states, it ".......imparts a respected presence to the procession......". Ah, that it does, my friend, that it does.

So rest assured, that no matter how different the new car styles become, the hearse designers will be able to adapt those old and traditional funeral coach styles to the new car designs. They might even come up with a style, in which you'd be proud to ride, even if it was in the back.

Until next time.......