On the last Friday of June, bike month in the city of Vancouver, I was on my way home at around seven p.m., travelling through Stanley Park on the way over the bridge and back to the North Shore. I distinctly remember noticing that things were proceeding suspiciously smoothly for a Friday evening trek, especially with all the people headed out of town for the long weekend.
“At this rate,” I thought to myself, “I’ll be home in ten minutes; time enough to grab a beer and watch the sunset.”
Sadly, ’twas not to be. Continue reading
First, the bad news. The 2009 JD Power and Associates Initial Quality Survey results are in, and at the bottom of the heap, it’s poor old MINI. Dead last. Are they cutting corners to meet demand? Or perhaps BMW is getting a little TOO good at emulating British Leyland. Either way, it’s not much of a birthday present, seeing as this is MINI’s fiftieth anniversary, or at least the fiftieth anniversary of the original Austin Mini.
Not to worry though, here comes MINI USA vice-president Jim McDowell to smooth over customer concerns by telling CNBC that MINIs are like wives: you love them even though they aren’t perfect from day one, and can take some getting used to. Er… seeing as my wife occasionally stumbles across this column, I’ve no idea what he’s talking about. None whatsoever. Continue reading
Some dear friends of ours have a pair of twin boys that are just entering their latter teens. I have seen them grow from precocious eleven-year-old scamps to lofty, sullen, intimidating goons. Actually, just joking, they’re both about as sullen and intimidating as a basket-full of labrador retriever puppies.
However, they’re allowed to drive now. Eeep! Continue reading
One of my favorite games (and I know I’m not alone in this) is to pick up a copy of the classic car version of the Buy&Sell and go through the various ads with an imaginary budget, trying to pick out the diamonds in the rough. A low-mileage AMC Gremlin? I don’t think so. A Buick Grand National GNX clone with fresh paint? Don’t mind if I do!
But there’s a problem. Everybody already knows that these cars are classics, or collectibles, or at the bare minimum, just weird enough to consider holding on to. As such, people might not be asking big money for them, but they’re certainly fetching prices high enough to keep the idea of having a collector car in the garage strictly in the imaginary Jay Leno budget zone. However, looking through ICBC’s rules for collector plate status the other day, I realized something: within 5 years, you’ll be able to put collector’s plates on a car as new as 1990. Continue reading
Consider the goldfish.
As a pet, it’s fairly useless. In fact, the only thing a goldfish has going for it is that when it dies you can flush it down the toilet, which would be impossible with, for instance, a golden retriever. Well, nearly impossibly anyway. I suppose you could always cut it up into flushable-sized pieces. Or use a blender.
This past Sunday was of course Father’s Day, and I know there are some of out there now saying, “Was it really? Whoops! Got to make a quick call!” Well, shame on you.
As for myself, while I didn’t manage to get out to the family manse to see dear old Dad, I did manage to remember to call him on my telephone machine. Did we reminisce about the salad days, or wax poetic on the deep and oft unspoken bond forged between father and son? Or do you imagine that we talked at length about the speed at which life changes, with retirement and children moving away and the hinted potentiality of future grandchildren?
Well, no actually. We talked (for a good hour) about how he’d finally fixed the brakes on his 1967 MGB.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Question — How do you get a bunch of Canadians out of a pool? Answer — Say, “Please get out of the pool.”
Yes, happy Canada Day to all, and a tip of the hat to a country that’s got a big heart, big dreams and huge tracts of land. It’s nice to live in a place where the worst stereotype we’re saddled with is maybe Canadians are a bit overly polite, and perhaps just slightly too interested in hockey . . . . and toques.
So, in the eyes of the world, we’re a nation of genteel lumberjacks, fringe-coated coureurs de bois and “I’se-the-byes” in silly yellow hats. You and I, of course, know better. . . eh?
The Yanks may also be labouring under the misapprehension that we all get about via dogsled and snowmobile, but to be fair, we do transportation a little differently up here. What better day than July 1 to take a peek at the motoring habits of Canadians and see how what we drive reflects our national character?
In a happy coincidence, this week, my colleague David Chao is reviewing the best-selling vehicle in Canada: the Ford F-150. I hope he’s having fun finding parking downtown in that thing. It’s beyond my abilities and I was born in Chilliwack and probably have a pair of bib-overalls around somewhere.
Over the years, my father’s garage has become an elephant’s graveyard of corroded metal, faded wiring diagrams, desiccated gaskets and other relics of a lifetime of Land Rover ownership. Buried deep somewhere in that automotive salmagundi: an old Punch magazine. Within its yellowed pages, a cartoon shows three British Leyland workers clustered around the company magazine, contemplating a picture of an Austin Mini with its speedometer mounted on the hubcap. The caption reads: “Cock-up of The Month.” Amen. The Land Rover was the far best four by four by far ever built by lazy English Communists.
It’s a beautiful evening. The sun is inches from the horizon, and in the City of Glass, that means a thousand sunsets reflecting and re-reflecting the yolk-and-gold light into a burnished megalopolis version of Versailles. I am crossing the best bridge in town, a divided boulevard that suddenly elevates the driver into a vista encompassing the entire gold-leafed waterfront, stretching out and out to the long, low freighters twisting idly at anchor in the marble-smooth bay.
Unfortunately, none of the sumptuous visual feast is doing any good because of the car I’m driving. It’s a Lancer Sportback with the base engine and — oh dear.
Oh dearie me indeed.
The Mazda3 has been a favourite with Canadians ever since it launched in ’04, but it’s always been one of the pricier small car options. Now Mazda is willing to sell you a piece of its sporty ethos for bargain basement pricing. The question is: how much zoom-zoom do you actually get in the cheapest Mazda you can buy, the Mazda2?
Honda’s CR-Z is a surprising mix of practicality and sporty styling. It’s a two-seater, but also a capacious hatchback. It’s a hybrid, but you can get it in a manual-transmission. Could this futuristic-looking hatch be the modern version of the classic CRX?