Monthly Archives: May 2014

A new breed of pinko

Practicality in Pink.

Practicality in Pink.

I’ve been seeing pink lately, and I’m not talking about a form of subdued rage.

Hot pink rims seem to be a growing automotive phenomenon this year, but it’s hard to tell who’s doing the upgrading. Is this strictly the domain of female drivers, or would that be buying in to an outdated stereotype?

So hot were these pink rims, I failed to notice the driver of the vehicle.

In some cases, the ‘rims’ in question were simply wheel covers that had been spray-painted Barbie’s favourite colour, which brings to mind the Painted Yellow Everything era of the early 2000’s. That era saw the wheel covers, side-view mirrors and decklid spoilers of so many Camrys and Accords slathered in canary yellow, because yellow = speed.

Is hot pink the new performance colour?

What is the compelling force that turns sensible-but-bland subcompacts into the Yaris la Femme seen above?

Further research is needed to sort out this mystery.

Leaving a Mark

1969-71 Lincoln Continental Mk. III, spotted near Leamington, Ontario.

1969-71 Lincoln Continental Mk. III, spotted near Leamington, Ontario.

Perhaps the most quintessential American ‘personal luxury’ coupe ever, the 1969-1971 Lincoln Continental Mk. III was a rolling statement that you’d arrived.

Arrived at a high income, that is.

With this model, the Ford Motor Company seized upon a growing marketplace niche and cut a big chunk out for itself. A competitor to Cadillac’s Eldorado (and to a lesser extent, the cheaper Olds Toronado and Buick Riviera), the Mk. III was a high point in Lincoln’s history.

Like many other standouts in the automotive world, we have Lee Iacocca to thank for this iconic model. Then serving as president of Ford, Iacocca had the new Lincoln built on the existing frame of the four-door Ford Thunderbird, which, while not a sales success, provided a solid platform on which to rest a higher-end vehicle.

And there was a lot of resting.

Tipping the scales (or crushing them) at 4,866 pounds, the Mk. III fitted Lincoln’s new 460 cubic inch (7.5-litre) V-8 under its mile-long hood. With cheap Middle East oil flowing unchecked across the Atlantic and little concern for emissions controls, the Continental could be as big and thirsty as the car-buying public wanted.

Inside the imposing beast, optional leather upholstery and multiple electronic conveniences awaited the lucky motorist. Air conditioning was a must-have, and anti-lock front disc brakes was an option worth bragging about in advertisements.

The Mk. III turned into a huge money-maker for Ford and Iacocca, not just because of strong sales, but also because of the reduced manufacturing costs made possible by utilizing existing parts. The styling also set the tone for Lincoln in the 1970s – a style the Thunderbird quickly adopted after shedding its rear doors in the early 70s.

Car buffs and movie aficionados alike will remember the Mk. III as being the ride of choice for the bad guy in  The French Connection (1971), with the Lincoln serving as a very classy container for piles of smuggled heroin.

Just as the earlier 1961-64 Continentals had defined American luxury in the early 60s, the Mk. III brought that same feel and presence into the 70s.

For sure, the sheer size and thirst of this vehicle would be hard to comprehend (or afford) for modern-day motorists long accustomed to stratospheric gas prices and tiny parking spaces, but that doesn’t mean the allure has faded.

If anything, the desire for this car – and the nostalgia for the era it came from – is only getting bigger.

A big, big love: 2

DEFINITELY your father's Oldsmobile.                      (IFCAR/Wikimedia Commons)

DEFINITELY your father’s Oldsmobile. (IFCAR/Wikimedia Commons)

Pulling into the future

In the proceeding blog post there was much waxing poetic over boats from the 1970s and 80s – a real gush-fest, if you will, over the big land yachts of yesteryear.

But was this bygone era really all that long ago?

The lineage of these vehicle pushed further into the modern day than most people give them credit for. Take the brawny Caprice/Fleetwood/Roadmaster cousins of the mid 1990s.

The full-size, V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive era pushed into the 21st Century with the Panther platform  triplets – the Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car. Popular with cops, livery companies and the geriatric set, this platform underpinned Ford Motor Company’s full-sizers from 1978 to September 15, 2011.

Many people are still mourning the loss.

While all this was going on, however, there were other respectable large-car platforms toiling away on the highways and back roads of America – and selling in much larger numbers to boot. These sedans had most of the trappings of traditional full-size cars (soft suspension, front bench seats…SIZE) but with a key difference – they came equipped with dreaded, unsexy front-wheel-drive.

Their names are familiar, as they were taken from their renowned rear-wheel-drive predecessors – Oldsmobile 88 and 98, Pontiac Bonneville, Buick LeSabre and Park Avenue, Cadillac DeVille. From the mid-80s until the turn of the century, these vehicles occupied the upper tier of their respective marques.

Typically found with GM’s ubiquitous 3.8-litre V-6 under the hood, these lengthy front-drivers put the power to the road though a column-shifted 4-speed Hydra-Matic. I have fond memories of many youthful adventures involving  a friend’s ’86 and ’94 Olds 88.

Powerful, smooth and seemingly indestructible, cruising in either Olds was like taking to the road in your living room – comfortable, spacious, and familiar.

1994 Oldsmobile 88, aka, The Invisible Steed. (IFCAR/Wikimedia Commons)

1994 Oldsmobile 88, aka, The Invisible Steed. (IFCAR/Wikimedia Commons)

Some of those models were given the hot treatment, though I sadly never got the chance to drive one. The understated Olds LSS and Buick Park Avenue Ultra were real sleepers in their time, powered by supercharged 3.8’s that could easily challenge unsuspecting Camaro drivers.

When a new century dawned, those tired, dusty nameplates of the past were soon replaced with new models of similar dimensions, containing similar drivetrains. Well, the same drivetrain.

The Olds 88 and 98 didn’t get to see the 21st Century (Oldsmobile would soon be unceremoniously killed off, anyway), but the other stablemates did, soldiering on until 2005. Pontiac later met the same unfortunate fate as Olds when bankruptcy loomed for the General and all unnecessary overhead (and nameplates) had to be jettisoned like human waste in outer space.

The late, great Buick Lucerne (some would just say 'late').  (IFCAR/Wikimedia Commons)

The late, great Buick Lucerne (some would just say ‘late’). (IFCAR/Wikimedia Commons)

With Chevrolet flogging hyper-bland (yet spacious and uber-traditional) Impalas starting in 2000, Buick was left to tempt traditional large-car buyers with its Park Avenue/LeSabre replacement, the Lucerne. During its five year run (2006-2011), the archaic Lucerne set few hearts on fire, but it did do an admirable job of carrying the torch in a race with few remaining competitors.

With a standard pushrod V-6 whose architecture dated from the Cretaceous Era, the Lucerne was built on the high-strength GM G-Body that underpinned the late Buick Riviera coupe. It was long, with big overhangs (like the Riviera), looked heavy (it was), and featured tell-tale Buick Ventiports on the front fenders.

A ‘Super’ edition powered by a Cadillac-sourced 4.6-litre V-8 added horsepower and a dash of style over the base Lucerne. The chrome waterfall grille of the Lucerne Super (which became the standard look in later years), coupled with the wide and rakish C-pillars was enough to catch my eye.

Sure, it was a lumbering dinosaur that didn’t reflect the new, post-bankruptcy GM, but I liked it all the same. I knew, at the time, that the Lucerne was among the last of a nearly extinct breed – one that had once been so plentiful.

(Note: the Chevy Impala soldiered on from its 2006 redesign until 2013, so it REALLY represents the end of the old-school full-size front-driver era. This was also the last time a car could be bought with a optional front bench seat.)

The Lucerne is now gone, replaced by the far more modern Lacrosse, while the Impala has finally entered the 21st Century with a handsome redesign and upgraded technology top to bottom. No more pushrods, 4-speed automatics, or bench seats, which could be seen as a good thing by those lacking nostalgia.

A big, big love

Swing low (and long and wide), sweet chariot...

Swing low (and long and wide), sweet chariot…

I’m not ashamed – I’ll proudly admit to having a fetish for large American cars.

Even as a kid, when the other boys drooled solely over Mustangs and Z-28s, I gave equal eye time to the old 1970s and 80s barges that plied the highways and byways of my corner of small-town Ontario. Oldsmobile 88s and Ford LTDs were everywhere; so too was the Grand Marquis and deVille.

Yes, these baroque land yachts sure temped me, flaunting their landau roofs, opera windows, sagging springs, pillowed velour bench seats and faux wood grain trim. Like rolling bordellos, they were – the kind that the bad guy would try and get away in before Jim Rockford headed them off in his Firebird Esprit.

When driving age rolled around I was tempted by cheap Crown Vics that seemed to populate the back of every used car lot, but their appeal always lost out to my more pressing need for economy and gas mileage. School, you know.

Since then, prices have only risen higher into the stratosphere, so the dream of land yacht ownership remains just that – a dream. A big, hulking, wallowing dream.

Growing up, not many people close to me shared my passion – something that changed when I entered adulthood. I then encountered other people with an equal interest in square-rigged, city-block-long Detroit steel. Sometimes we talk over drinks, musing about how much smog-strangled horsepower a Lincoln 460 puts out, or what TV show/movie had the best shots of these Earth-bound Queen Marys in action (hint: Kojak).

Finances and market forces are against it, but that dream won’t ever die, nor does my appreciation of the new crop of large American cars. The Charger/300 siblings were just the thing society needed to get over the XXL-sized SUV craze of the late-90s and early 2000s (gas prices helped in that regard, too), and I find the new 2014 Impala to be a shapely, desirable beast.

Hell, I liked the anachronistic Impala that came before it. There were retro sensibilities to be had there, and without a hint of irony.

I’m fully convinced that if a new car as large and excessive as a 70s-era Chrysler was produced and was somehow able to achieve 50 mpg, there’d be a respectable lineup of buyers wanting to berth the thing in their driveways.

For a long time, those big cars commanded respect through presence and panache, and I can be forgiven for wanting to return to that era.




I want your sex…kitten

"Are you MAN enough to slip behind THIS wheel, big boy?"

“Are you MAN enough to slip behind THIS wheel, big boy?”

Yumminah humminah!

No car in history exudes raw sex appeal like the Jaguar E-Type.

This lithe, curvaceous vehicle was to the British automotive landscape what the eradication of the censorship code was to British films.

When it appeared on the scene in 1961 with a hood 18 miles long, wire knock-off wheels, sumptuous leather interior and a throbbing, triple-carb straight-six making 265 horses and gobs of torque, mothers must have covered their children’s eyes.

No wonder it was chosen as Austin Powers’ ride (the ‘Shaguar’).

The spotless model seen here enjoying the sun in small-town Ontario is a Type 2 model, produced from 1968 to 1971. The dainty bumpers seen here were tossed aside as crash regulations came into effect in the early 70s, ruining the lines of many a vehicle.

Offered with a V-12 engine before its demise in 1975, the E-Type was always good looking, always fast (0-60 mph in 7.1 seconds in base 3.8-litre form, 6.7 seconds with the 4.2-litre) and remains desirable to this day.

The E-Type’s speed, refinement and unmistakable style led The Daily Telegraph to declare it the most beautiful car of all time in 2008, topping a list of 100 competitors.

Yup, I wouldn’t kick it out of my driveway for eating chips.

Call me Matte


"What do you suggest? It's an 328i coupe."

“What do you suggest? It’s an 328i coupe.”

You see a shape pass by. A shadow, really. It’s emitting a growl, a throb – a throaty exhaust note that signifies raw power and precision. Not something to be messed with.

The presence of this beast stirs something in you – your head swivels. What is this blacktop warrior?

You see it. Under the sun, your eyes narrow into a squint. It’s high-end, all right – oh yes, it takes drugs or a law degree to get into that.

The blacked out rims, the quad tailpipes, the sun glinting off of….nothing.

The car’s coated in coal soot – it’s a friggin briquette. I could light a kitchen match off any surface.

The Bimmer I see (it’s usually a Bimmer… when it isn’t a Civic) has a matte paint job. No swimming-pool-deep laquer on this baby, no siree!

I really don’t get the rust primer/Tremclad look. Is it a Mad Max thing? Is this because of Mel Gibson in some way? Why paint over good factory paint on a $60-70,000 car?

A quick Google search will return countless hits about the best (or cheapest) way to get into a matte paint job or wrap. I doubt the people searching for this are looking to cover up the rust on a 1986 Bronco II.

Sure, if you have the cash and the will, go right ahead – I just don’t understand why anyone would want to do this. That said, the spoiler/wing/painted side mirror craze of the turn of the century taught me that there are scores of tasteless people everywhere.

Maybe that’s being harsh. Maybe my hatred for chalkboards is clouding my objectivity.

Regardless, if I ever found myself in the Brown Beauty Bimmer that rolled past me this morning, I would hope that –

(1) I hadn’t just lost my mind and,

(2) I wasn’t at gunpoint.



1972 Dodge Charger, Yellowknife, NWT.

1972 Dodge Charger, Yellowknife, NWT.

I’ll have what he’s having…

The Canadian subarctic is an unlikely place to find red-hot American muscle, but that’s where this brawny ’72 Charger found itself.

Gas in the summer of 2012 was $1.41/litre in the ‘Knife, a figure that doesn’t change much in either direction, so filling the tank on this beast would be a direct hit to the wallet. Still, any driver’s options for cruising are as limited as the northern road network, so this thing likely stays parked for most of the time.

The ’68-70 Chargers get most of the drool action in popular culture, but I really dig the ’71-72’s as well. Their hulking, wide-stance and curvaceous fuselage shape are everything I love about early-70s American cars.

Vehicles from this era simply look indestructible.

The body on this black beauty looks pretty unblemished and straight, though the hidden headlamp doors are way out of alignment. I’ll blame the harsh, northern climate and the failure-prone nature of this feature (on any make or model) for this imperfection. As well, the hood seems to me missing its tie-downs, though the anchors remain.

Horsepower figures has started to slip by ’72 as compression ratios dropped, but the Charger could still be optioned with several tons of iron under the hood. I have no idea what motor beats within this example – ’72 Charger engine choices ran the gamut from the 225 Slant-Six, to the 318, 340, 400, and 426 V8’s, maxing out with the range-topping 440.

I hate to think what it would cost to feed a 440 muscle car making 8-10 miles per gallon – especially in Yellowknife. However, I have no doubt this owner turns a lot of heads during the 1.5-kilometre trip to the local watering hole.

That’s a stretch…

VW Beetle super-stretch limo, because why not? Spotted in Sturgeon Falls, Ontario.

VW Beetle super-stretch limo, because why not? Spotted in Sturgeon Falls, Ontario.

Arriving in a Town Car or Hummer H2 limo is sooooo 2001.

Not so if you pull up in this beauty.

I have no story behind this particular conversion – clearly, someone wanted to arrive in style in something that returned respectable mileage. This cigarette of a car obviously started out as an early-to-mid 70s Super Beetle before being subjected to some sort of Medieval torture.

Along the way this lengthy German benefited from a wheel upgrade, and while I couldn’t tell from the outside, I can only hope an engine upgrade was also part of the deal. No word on whether it floats, but if it does, it would make one groovy party boat.

I’d be curious to see whether this white whale sags under a full load of loaded revellers, or whether it can reach 100 km/h in such a state. The windows were heavily tinted (of course), so it was difficult to discern the interior amenities. Dark red velour was spotted in the front seat, and I can only assume that motif carries on in the back.

Whether your see this ride as gracious or grotesque, it’s uniqueness is undeniable. As such, it definitely deserves to be documented.

Flash your badge


When you’re driving a Mustang with this badge on it, no one needs to ask if the thing goes fast.

Badges are a car’s subtle way of sending the message that its trim level – and the experience that comes with it – is something special (‘Sport’), something really special (AMG, SHO), or something perfect for a rental lot (LS, LT).

In the case of the Mustang, that badge signifies that an awful lot of muscle lies dormant under the hood, just waiting to impress. Never was that badge more significant than in the 80s, when having anything other than this symbol on your fender meant you were the proud owner of 88 Fairmont-worthy horses.

Unfortunately, the enduring tradition of automotive badges has given rise to an unusual phenomenon that is inexplicable, confusing, and incredibly lame.

I’m talking about badges that don’t match the car.

"Yeah, it's the Echo TRD - it goes faster than a regular Echo. Don't act like you're not impressed."

“Yeah, it’s the Echo TRD – it goes faster than a regular Echo. Don’t act like you’re not impressed.”

The rolling lie seen above is a perfect example. With the simple addition of a Toyota Racing Department badge pried off a much more capable vehicle, this driver is deceitfully declaring to the world that his vehicle is something more than a numb, 108-horsepower sub-compact.

Anyone with a basic knowledge of cars knows that this claim is a complete crock, so why go through with it? Why does the owner of any Pontiac Sunfire GTO or Ford Focus 5.0 mystery car do what they do?

Then again, how can we explain the explosive fad of Spoilers On Everything that plagued the automotive landscape around the turn of the century – an era that also saw hubcaps and sideview mirrors on Camrys and Accords painted yellow, because yellow = speed (?!)

Both phenomena are identical in theory – dress up an underperforming car to give the illusion of hidden performance. A 3 dressed up as a 9, if you will.

Sure, badge swapping is more subtle than mounting a sky-high wing on a ’97 Crown Vic LX, but it’s no less lame. If your car can’t cash the cheque your new badge writes, you’re just a moron.

And your friends aren’t impressed.


Get high with me

"Let me unfurl that stepladder for you..."

“Let me unfurl that stepladder for you…”

This driver either possesses the world’s smallest manhood or has a deep-seated phobia of being near the ground.

Whatever the psychology behind the motorist, this vehicular abomination deserves to be heaped with scorn wherever it goes. Clearly the most obnoxious, unnecessary vehicle since the Hummer H2, this jackass’ jacked Ford could roll over Corollas at stoplights without trading paint.

Sure, lift kits are fun, but at what point does it just become impractical? I have to imagine that driving this F-250 would like wearing platform shoes with 12 storeys of goldfish in the heel.

Parking garages? Off limits.

Overhanging tree branches? A serious concern.

Spitting rocks into the windshields of nearby motorists? A near certainty.

Risk of injury while boarding/exiting the vehicle? High.

Rumours of overcompensation? Unavoidable.

Ability to blend in/hide from cops? Impossible.

Maybe I’m being uncharitable, though. This visitor (student?) to the University of Western Ontario might have no choice but to traverse water four feet deep in order to pursue a quality post-secondary education.

Roll onwards, you glorious, depraved monster.