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, March 28, 2014

March 28th: What's in a name - Von Dutch?

Sure, this makes sense, show a picture of a pink ladies T as the lead in to a blog about car stuff. So where are you going with this, Barry? Well, recently, I saw a guy at our office wearing a Von Dutch t-shirt (I know, they have been around for years) and I asked him if he knew the significance of the name "Von Dutch"? Not surprisingly he didn't. Well, pour yourself a tasty beverage, get a snack and read on......

Know who Kenneth Howard was? Again, I'm not surprised, but here is a pic of him at work in the '50's......


Ken Howard was Von Dutch. Back in the '40's and '50's he was famous around the California custom car scene as the guy who could work magic with a small brush and paint. As you can see from the pic above and below, his free hand work was extremely detailed and even close up, was smooth and free of any errors.


Although he also did single pinstrips, his forte was the very delicate and intricate designs for which he became famous. You had the Von Dutch touch on your car, you had arrived. Folks would line up at Barris Kustoms to have Von Dutch work his magic. Apparently he had perfected the art of pinstipping at the early age of 10. The name? Again, apparently as a youngster he was told he was "stubborn as a Dutchman".


You can see an example on this '32 Ford of the fine lined pinstripping that he became famous for. Do you suppose, he had 30 cups of coffee a day?

So what about the t-shirt? In 1992 Ken passed away and his family sold the rights to his name, which ended up on those T's. Seems a few Hollywood types were seen wearing them and so the sales took off. All those cool types wearing the Von Dutch name and they had no idea of who or what he was.

A controversial character in his time, one of his most unusual subjects and one for which he and the car owner were given a lot of grief is this 1955 300 SL........


Painted in a shade of bronze, which the California sun wreaked havoc on, so the owner, came to Von Dutch and asked him to "flame it", in order to cover up the bad spots. Viola'! The result stopped traffic (and not in a good way). Accused of bad taste for this paint job on such a famous car, Von Dutch probably shrugged it off. A controversial character who didn't care what people thought.

Wonder what he'd think about those t-shirts?

Until next time.......



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

March 25: Welcome back, Jaguar

Of course Jaguar hasn't gone anywhere and has been a player in the luxury market for years. The welcome back is for their sports cars. Way back in the '30's and no, I don't speak from first hand experience, Jaguar introduced the hot, for its time, SS100.......


........a real wind in your face, pedal to the metal ride. It was this car that cemented Jag's reputation in the higher end sports car market. Further enhanced in the '50's by these two beautiful XK models.......


Beauty and brawn, but as always with Jaguar, they were true sports cars. But later on in the '50's, the famous D Type arrived on the scene and with it Jaguar successfully assaulted Le Mans and assured itself a place in sports car history.......


Hot in the extreme, if you were fortunate enough to have a street version of the D today, well, let's just say that your money worries are over. It was from this beautiful beast that Jaguar once again stunned the sports car world with the XKE.......


Considered to be one of the most beautiful cars of all time, it made it into the New York Museum of Modern Art. Not a bad line on this car and it had the performance to match. Featured in several songs, including Jan and Dean's Deadman's Curve. Probably not the best example, but you get the point (don't you?). Now here is where Jag started to go off track. As the XKE aged, it morphed into a luxury cruiser and was followed up by other grand touring Jags, which lost their sporting heritage along the way.

Until the past year. Now Jaguar has introduced both models of the F Type and instantly have gone back to their good old days of pedal to the metal, balls out sports cars.........


Once again, Jaguar means performance and street cred. Cars that stand proud with the Jaguar heritage and to top it off, who ever would have thought that this new ride would come from India. Well, not exactly, but its new owners are the Indian company Tata. Colonialists are rolling in their graves!

So welcome back, Jaguar, you were missed.

Until next time.......



Friday, March 21, 2014

March 21: Barn find extraordinaire?


What might one find in an old barn? A few old tools, some hay, maybe some bones of an old nag and lots of dust. These days there is a strong interest in what might be hidden away for years and years in those old barns (check out www.barnfinds.com). A strong interest by car folks, who dream of finding some gem, that was parked long ago by an eccentric farmer, a grieving spouse or just someone who lost interest. Well, as they say, here is one for the history books.

The pic above is of a 1962 Facel Vega. A what, you might ask? Back in the late '50's and early '60's (specifically from 1958 to 1963), a French company built a gorgeous and rare luxury car called the Facel Vega. Gorgeous is in personal taste, luxury is in the quality of the fittings and rare is in the total of about 2900 cars. All of this means Facel Vega met the definition of a rare exotic. Powered by a big Chrysler motor (funny, but most of these hybrid type cars seemed to use Chrysler power), back in the day, the Facel Vega was little Barry's ultimate dream machine. But dam, I couldn't even buy a Dinky Toy of one.


They came in a two or four door, but my favorite was the Excellance hardtop, shown in this old pic. Now, I've been to a lot of car shows over the years, but never ever have come across one of these (keep looking, Barry).


Big and expensive. Well, not so big for the times, but about that price. How about $12,800? Let's adjust for inflation and that would be the equivalent of what a Rolls would sell for today, but, hey, the FV was much more exclusive.

Now back to that barn find story. The coupe at the beginning of this blog was bought new in New York in 1962, sold eventually to a chap in Minnesota (seeing this parked in Fargo, must have blown their minds) and for some unknown reason put in his barn in 1973. Are folks like that nuts? Anyway, this beauty sat hidden away and forgotten about until recently. Dusty and a little rusty, but see how it did look and I'm sure will eventually look like again.......


Forgotten and neglected, is pedigree shines thru. Even now this Facel Vega is not inexpensive, since at auction it just sold for $209,509 (I guess the buyer beat the lower bid of $209,500).


So next time you are driving thru Minnesota or past any old barn, why not stop and look thru the cracks (make sure that there are no "Beware of Owner" signs). What might rise up from the barn floor and present itself to you? At the very least, you may have a story for my blog.

Until next time........




Tuesday, March 18, 2014

March 18: Another birthday

What I think is strange (well, there are a lot of things) is when a birthday is announced for someone or thing, that is no longer around. If the person or thing is long gone, then it is simply a commemorative date, nothing more, nothing less. That said, I read last week that the Plymouth Barracuda is having its 50th birthday shortly. A commemorative date for sure, since the old Barracuda was discontinued in 1974. But this fish is well worth remembering, since it was the first of what were to be known as "pony cars". The first? Say what? You think it was the Mustang, but no, the Barracuda beat it to market by a couple of weeks. You know what they say about something that is first to market. Well, it didn't quite work out for the Barracuda, since the Ford Mustang blew it into the weeds and from there, way back into the trees.

Problem with the Barracuda (or 'cuda for short) was that it was a hastily redone Valiant compact and everybody knew it. So when the Mustang was introduced, as an all new car and with a stunning design, well, so long Barracuda. Even the new one in 1967 was derivative of the Valiant. Not until 1970 did the 'cuda come into its own, just as the sun was setting on this market segment. Timing is everything.

But let's look at some famous Barracudas..........


NASCAR banned the Hemi in 1965, so Richard Petty took his #43 to the dragstrips (see the "Outlawed" name on the side). Called 43 Jr, this venture ended tragically, when his car left the strip and ran into the crowd, killing a young boy and injuring several others (actually, just after the pic above was taken). This car was never raced again.

Future star and multi race team owner, Don Schumacher, started out with a Barracuda, the famous Stardust (named for the sponsoring Vegas casino)........


But probably the most famous Cuda of all was the dragstrip scene stealer, the Hemi Under Glass.......


Powered by a huge Hemi motor in the back, it only took a little throttle to lift this car's front end skyward. A window under the dash let driver Bob Riggle see where his wheelstander was headed. I believe this car is still around today and I also have a model of it in my office.

For a short lived car, the Barracuda certainly made an impression, but not until 1970-71 did it cement it's name in the history books. Go to any collector car auction today, with an authentic '70 or '71 Hemi 'cuda and plan your retirement with the sale's proceeds.

So it surprised many, including me, when Chrysler came out with the Challenger a few years back. Sure, it was known back in the day, but nothing like the Barracuda, the iconic muscled up pony car. But not all is lost, as there are plenty of rumours that a new 'cuda will come to market within the next couple of years........


Not as retro looking as the Challenger, but beautiful in its own right. Will it happen? I guess we'll have to wait until the 2015 Detroit Auto Show for the answer. In the meantime, raise a glass in a Happy Birthday, or should I say "commemorative" toast, to the very first pony car  -  the Barracuda!

Until next time.......



Friday, March 14, 2014

March 14: Strange but true

Strange but true. The weird looking animal to your right is the duck billed platypus. I mean, why call it "duck billed"? Are there any others around without this bill? Strange, but this isn't the only unusual species from down under, i.e. the kangaroo and probably others. Now that we have the nature talk out of the way, let's look at the Aussie cars and have a minute of silence out of respect for a dying breed (read on).............

Australia is rather small in terms of people at approximately 24M and in terms of their car market, I believe it is less than 1.5M new cars sold annually. So my question is, how have they been able to develop their own unique vehicles and sell them basically only on their island, with a few going to the middle east? Products which are more than just a slight sheet metal change (they have them as well). Take this classic Aussie ute for example......


You'll never see this vehicle anywhere else and it is based on the completely unique Australian Falcon.........


This is Ford's big car down under and as such, its top model, the XR8, is a tough muscle machine with the graphics and big motor to match. Nothing else in Ford's worldwide portfolio resembles this car.

So the question is again, how do they do it? And the answer is that they can't anymore. Both Ford of Australia and GM's Holden brand have indicated that they will stop making vehicles in Australia by 2017. Sad news for their home grown products. Or does this mean they'll just be built somewhere else? Not clear at this time, but with such a limited market and in today's economy, something will have to give.

Let's take a look at what Holden has been doing..........


This is their big rear wheel drive Caprice sedan. In order to justify its continued production, other markets had to be found. So far one of those markets is the USA, where this car is sold only as a dedicated police car. Still rather limited to maybe 20 thousand vehicles yearly. Hardly enough to keep it around and the US won't need to sell it to civilians, since they already have the remarkably good Impala.

Or what about the Holden Commodore, which also uses the Caprice platform......

 Great looking, but where will it go? To help the costs, GM uses this chassis to underpin the current Camaro (but not the next generation) and if you read this blog regularly, you'll know that this car's performance model is being sold around the world under different names........Vauxhall and Chevrolet. But is this enough?

I think that the kangaroo and platypus (the duck billed model) are safe for now, but don't hold your breath that those basically only Aussie cars will make the cut. So now for that minute of silence.........

Until next time.......



Monday, March 10, 2014

March 11: Hey Jeep, you are just so cute.

No not you. You are the original down and dirty, go anywhere, take abuse and keep coming back for more, World War II development, that eventually created a world wide sensation. But, oh how things have changed over the past 70+ years. Could you ever have imagined at the time, that these little toughies, would end up as a recreational rock climber or in some cases a full time social climber? The "General Purpose Vehicle" or "GP" or eventually "Jeep", proved itself time and time again.

Stack them like cord wood on their way to stellar battlefield use across the Atlantic or across the Pacific, but get them to the front lines asap.........


Ah, the old days. But what was, has now become what is..........


........a 2014 Grand Cherokee SRT8. Who would have thought that the old GP could possibly be the ancestor of this track and strip monster? So where exactly is this blog going? To the very latest, coming to a dealership near you later this year, the shiny new offroader, the Renegade......


This oh so cute little toughie (there's that word again) has charmer written all over it. The Renegade was just introduced at last week's Geneva show. Why Geneva? Simple, Fiat Chrysler expects to build them in Europe and eventually have the bulk of its sales over there as well. This little tyke has some very neat features like roof panels that lift off. Also some hidden things, that don't really do anything, but are interesting quirks. Like what? How about a map of the Moab Desert hidden in the interior. Or this on the alloy wheel.........


See the little red outline of the original warhorse Jeep? There are several other anomalies that Jeep is keeping to themselves, so that it will be a surprise when the customer finds them. I might buy one, just so I'll have something to do between models or books.

How things change over the years. Jeep though, has always remained true to its roots, tough vehicles for rough trails. Who cares that the most offroad that many will be seeing is a dirt driveway.

All hail the rugged Jeeps and welcome their cute new arrival to the world.

Until next time......


Friday, March 7, 2014

March 7: Alfa Romeo "Flying Saucer"

This is one of the original James Bond movies and this pic shows JB, along with a luscious Bond girl, on the bad guy's yacht. Check out that name, Disco Volante. Best I can find, is that it means flying saucer in Italian. What that has to do with a boat I have no idea. But to a car guy, this name relates to a very famous automobile, by a very famous marque. Way back in the early '50's, Alfa Romeo made a coupe and an open sportscar, called the Disco Volante and in its time, it did kind of resemble something from outer space. Take a look........


Unusual looking at any time, but they sure stood out back then. And it became quite famous. A name that deserved to be resurrected..........


First shown a couple of years ago as a concept, Alfa has trotted it out again and announced a very limited production run. Limited? Well, they have built one for a client in dark green and will build others, if requested to (by Arab sheiks?) at something over $500k per (where does that line start?).

Alfa, a very famous name in Europe and of course Italy, has struggled whether to rejoin the fray in the North American market place for several years (they left in the early '90's). Fiat, its owner, has now promised they will be back this year. But back with what? A half million dollar custom? Unlikely.

2007-2010 Competizione
Or another high priced and exclusive ride like the Competizione (1000 built), which was sold here a few years back in extremely limited numbers  -  a couple of dozen? No, the new Alfa will land at selected Maserati dealers (aren't all Maser dealers "selected"?), highlighting the new 4c n both coupe and cabrio versions.......


Ok, so still a higher end and relatively exclusive ride. Fiat has also promised that the much more mainstream Giuletta compact sedans will come to our shores in 2015. I don't see them selling at "selected" Maserati dealerships. Maybe at selected Chrysler stores, as a step up from the boutique like Fiat 500? But then that would put them up against the Dodge Dart, which is based on the Guiletta.


Tough questions for a brand that is trying to re-establish itself in one of the biggest world markets. Do you open new dealerships or piggy back on an existing franchise without undermining either brand? It will be very interesting to see how they do it and whether we will embrace them like we didn't before (excluding Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate). As always time and sales will tell.

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

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

March 4: Riviera love

Hey, what have you been up to cat? Specifically the Car Modeling Cat (CMC), that is. Of course, you can tell by this pic, that it's that time again. Time to share with my readers the latest exploits of the CMC and her helper, me (or is it the other way around?). Skeptics will accuse me of setting up these frequent pics of my helper, but they aren't there to see the efforts she puts into each and every build. Some furballs are just more talented than others and the CMC is a case in point.

Enough said. Let's move on.........

I always liked the Buick Riviera (to a point), Competition for the Ford Thunderbird, but in a more sporty vein. Ok, so it's a big luxo yacht, but in the spirit of the times, it was a sporty, luxury mobile. The CMC and I have just completed a 1969 Riv model. Tough subject as it had a ton of chrome trim, which had to be very painstakingly applied. I use a very thin chrome foil and then carefully, oh so carefully trim it to fit. Maddening sometimes, but the end result is the reward.


Back in university, one of the professors drove a new '69 Riviera. This was in a small New Brunswick city (Fredericton), which had few expensive cars of this ilk, so Prof McNutt's car really stood out. Besides, weren't teachers supposed to drive practical, boring machines? Well, in my town, most did.


Not as smooth as the very attractive '66/'67 models, the '69 has grown on me over the years and I quite like it, when I look at our finished model. This was a tough build, though, since the first dark red paint job had to be removed, as it started to chip when I applied the chrome. Talk about maddening, the CMC almost coughed up a hairball.


Can't you almost hear that 430 cubic inch - 7 litre - motor purring away, as it quietly guzzled premium fuel to the tune of about 15-18 miles per gallon (you can work out the metric equivalent)? The good ol' days, or at least the days of cheap gas.

Another model built and a short history lesson. What's next? Stay tuned, please, as always.

Until next time.......