Monthly Archives: July 2014

In the land of giants

2014 Mazda 2 proves a surprisingly liveable road trip companion*

*too bad about the transmission

The Mazda 2 beams with joy after reaching the Rockies...all by itself!

The Mazda 2 beams with joy after reaching the Rockies…all by itself!

Like Texas of the North, it just seems that everything’s bigger in the province of Alberta.

Personal wealth, population growth and the proportions of private vehicles all outstrip the national median. Oh, and there are big mountains, too.

The only thing not in oversupply after landing in a hot, sunny Edmonton two weeks ago was rental car choice – the airport cupboard was as bare as supermarket shelves before a hurricane. A cab took me to an off-site agency, where I waged a bloody battle for the last four-wheeled machine that didn’t possess a half-ton carrying capacity.

Beggars can’t be choosers, so fate and circumstance left me holding the keys to a diminutive Mazda 2 – a zygote of a vehicle by Alberta standards, but one that would ultimately carry me for several thousand kilometres over two weeks.

As a 6’4″ man with a sensitive back and (maybe) a similar ego, I was a little worried. Would Mazda’s smallest offering ultimately break me like an adolescent’s heart?

My initial fears proved unfounded. After two weeks of driving across picturesque landscapes both urban and rural, mountainous and endlessly flat, the Mazda 2 proved itself to be a comfortable, roomy, and compliant driver, albeit one with a few qualms.

The nitty-gritty

First off, the car’s drivetrain is more likely to inspire flashbacks to the 90s than get pulses racing. With a 1.5-litre four-cylinder (the only available engine), making 100 horsepower and 98 foot-pounds of torque, the hatchback’s power numbers fail to impress when viewed on paper.

Transmission choices are also archaic – a five-speed manual and four-speed automatic rounded out the gearbox menu.

"You think you're pretty tall, huh? Let's dance."

“You think you’re pretty tall, huh? Let’s dance.”

Venturing inside the silver 4-door rental tester, the base-level interior matched the drive train for sheer minimalism. A tachometer and CD player with radio presets joined power windows and door locks in the luxury item category, though the door locks were inconveniently placed on the centre console and the exiting door had to be locked via a key.

Air conditioning came in handy on the hottest of days, and when acrid forest fire smoke encroached from faraway blazes. However, being a windows-down kind of guy (and wanting to maximize mileage), AC usage was kept to a minimum during the trip.

The Mazda’s spartan instrumentation didn’t leave much room for computing power. A trip meter was provided, but on a long road journey through vast stretches of wilderness, a miles-till empty display would have provided piece-of-mind (especially given the car’s less-than-exact eight-bar digital fuel gauge and tiny gas tank).

These little details proved an annoying yet minor distraction from an otherwise compliant vehicle.

The drive

The first few days of the test involved inner-city and highway driving in and around the rapidly growing city of Edmonton, as well as a trip to Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies – about three-and-a-half hours each way.

The base Mazda 2 didn’t come equipped with a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, but I found the wheel was already optimally placed for my stature.

So too was the cushy-yet-supportive seat, which provided proper back support and was the right height for the wheel.

Headroom and legroom was surprisingly abundant in the Mazda 2’s cabin, and the armrests never once caused elbow soreness (a common complain on long-haul drives). Amazingly, I had lucked into a very comfy subcompact for this journey.

On the road,  the car’s light weight (about 2,300 pounds), tight turning radius and 55-series tires (mounted on 15-inch rims) made for a taught feel and nimble road manners. At all speeds, the steering remained weighted and on centre, with no play or need for minor corrections at high speed.

"Finally, a field as cheerful as I am!"

“Finally, a field as cheerful as I am!”

These mannerisms came in handy not just on the streets of downtown Edmonton (clogged with menacing mountains of moving steel) but also on hair-raising hairpin mountain roads where the car’s handling and precision was an asset.

In a straight line, the cog-challenged automatic was happy to revv close to redline under moderate acceleration, making the most of the engine’s meager horsepower, but was reluctant to leave the comfort of overdrive at speed unless the accelerator was nearly floored. With no cruise control (another gripe), this meant a falloff in speed before a looming monster in the rear-view necessitated a throttle jab and the desired downshift.

An overdrive lockout button was located on the shifter, which ended up being used regularly in loftier elevations. Equipped with the manual transmission, I could see this car coming alive and being a fun little runabout, not unlike older Honda Civic hatches from the late 80s and early 90s.

The front disc/rear drum anti-lock brakes reliably brought the featherweight car to a halt in short order, and exhibited a firm, consistent brake pedal feel that didn’t go unappreciated.

With double-trailer transport trucks regularly plying area highways, mingling with the standard single-occupant commuter vehicle favoured by Edmontonians (A Ford F-350 or Ram 3500 crew cab 4×4, often with lift kit), the wee Mazda seemed to be in a perpetual state of menace.

However, absent from the driving experience – on 110km/h highways as well as on windy mountain passes – was the buffeting normally encountered by small cars traveling fast outside of a vacuum. The little Mazda must have all the right curves, as it stayed planted in its lane as crosswinds slipped around it.

I’ll admit to feeling a little emasculated by my losing hand in the automotive size contest, but not having to spend more than $40 at the gas pump was a bonus that gave me just a little feeling of smug satisfaction.

Mazda lists the automatic’s fuel consumption at 7.1 litres/100km in the city and 5.8 on the highway, while the 5-speed returns slightly better numbers. Even with the automatic, these numbers are better than those returned by, say, the Nissan Micra, and pretty much identical to those of a base Chevy Sonic.

What next?

A lack of interior refinement and available features is a handicap for the 2 that could affect sales, though a replacement looms on the horizon. Recently, Mazda announced it will be introducing the subcompact’s successor sometime in 2015 as a 2016 model.

The new model is expected to incorporate the ‘Kodo’ design language currently seen on the Mazda 3 and 6 (thus banishing the last of the demented clown faces to the scrap heap of history), while also piling on the technology.

It's not the size that matters; it's where you go with it.

It’s not the size that matters; it’s where you go with it.

A fuel-efficient Skyactiv engine of an undetermined small displacement will likely be found under the hood, and it should be safe to say goodbye to the 4-speed automatic, and possibly the 5-speed stick as well.

Despite being modestly endowed with power and saddled with a museum artifact for a transmission, the Mazda 2 held up well during two weeks of extensive driving under very diverse conditions.

From the endless fields of Saskatchewan to the towering peaks of British Columbia, in rain, heat and forest fire smoke, the tiny hatchback proved easy to like and held its own against Alberta’s road-going battlecruisers.

If the next generation of Mazda 2 keeps the current model’s nimble, roomy attributes – and low price – while bringing the technology up to date and boosting mileage, Mazda will have a very competitive vehicle on its hands.

Load me up

Now with bacon, cheese, and a slice of tomato!

Now with bacon, cheese, and a slice of tomato!

Earlier today, I found myself driving past a Nissan dealership’s overflow lot and was suddenly seized by a strange compulsion.

Pulling over,  I hopped out to take an impromptu stock of their inventory.

Nissan’s been going great guns lately, aggressively taking to the airwaves in an attempt to boost its sales and market share. The spring introduction of the tiny, bargain-priced Micra into the Canadian car market was a gamble that seems to be paying off, with early sales figures showing much interest from the car-buying public.

I could easily see Canada being a test case for an eventual entry into the lucrative U.S. market, which Nissan seems to be counting on to get that bigger slice of the pie. Nissan’s second-quarter 2014 revenues were up a very substantial 37% from the same period a year before, driven by surging North American sales. Total sales were up 10.4% during the second quarter, despite stagnating demand in Nissan’s home country of Japan.

Nissan brass seem optimistic about the company’s fortunes in the foreseeable future, as well.

(Read more dollars and cents talk here:

Now, back to my sleuthing.

Noticing a good number of Micras in the overflow lot, I was curious to record the ratio of trim levels for little hatch, which starts at a tantalizing advertised price of $9,998 for a stripped-down ‘S’ model. Overflow lots are generally filled with dealers’ best guesses as to what will be big sellers, so there is some unscientific value in taking stock of their stock.

Early reviews of the Micra noted that Nissan didn’t expect to sell tons of the base model, given that young people are now used to creature comforts like air conditioning and power windows, but having that four-figure starting price was invaluable as an attention-grabbing marketing tool.

(More on that here:

The Micras on the lot took that assertion and ran with it – in fact, there wasn’t a single real base model on the lot. Not one Micra, despite many being the ‘S’ model, stickered for less than the neighbourhood of $14,000, with the many ‘SR’ models going in the $16,000 + range.

Room at the top: the mighty Nissan Micra RS.

Room at the top: the mighty Nissan Micra RS.

The reason? All the base models came with a creature comforts package that added automatic transmission, air and power goodies. That optional factory equipment adds $3,435 to the base price, which, when coupled with freight and PDI (and an almost unavoidable extra-cost metallic paint), brought the cost to $14,833.

Not stratospheric by any means, but still a nearly 50% increase over the much-touted entry price. However, if your jar of rainy day pennies doesn’t runneth over, I’m sure a dealer would be happy to order a stripped ‘S’ for your motoring pleasure.

With 109-horsepower on tap for a light, nimble little car, you’d think Nissan would have offered an upgrade package that omitted the automatic transmission, thus allowing drivers to maximize their car’s sportiness while still enjoying comfort and convenience (and saving a possible $1,500 or so).

Now that the car’s success in Canada seems a sure thing, perhaps Nissan will loosen up and increase the range of options and trim packages for the coming model year. I think it would serve to make an already appealing subcompact even more worthy of consideration.


“At the tone, leave your name and message…”

The Rockford Files, starring the late James Garner, ran from 1974 to 1980, causing much Firebird and beach trailer envy.

The Rockford Files, starring the late James Garner, ran from 1974 to 1980, causing much Firebird and beach trailer envy.

Rest in peace, Jimbo.

The world lost a great actor and – by all accounts – a hell of a good guy on July 14, as screen legend James Garner passed away at age 86.

Growing up, I thought Garner’s Jim Rockford character in  The Rockford Files (1974-80) was just the coolest guy ever. I mean, he lived in a trailer on the beach, tussled with bad guys on a weekly basis, knew how to rock a polyester sport coat and slacks, and tooled around in a gold Firebird.

The perfect life! (minus the scrapes and bruising)

Oh yeah, and the theme song rocked…. but back to that Firebird for a minute:

Jim Rockford drove a Pontiac Firebird Esprit for the duration of the show, always in the same  distinctive gold (Denver Poly Gold) that mingled well with the various brown and beige polyesters and vinyls of the era – the Landau Era.

I’ve always had a thing for the curvaceous 2nd generation Firebird/Camaro twins – one could spend many happy minutes just staring at that wraparound rear window and low-slung body. And, while Burt Reynolds made the Firebird Formula and Trans Ams a hot (and cheesy) commodity in the late 70s, I have to applaud Garner’s choice of the Esprit model for his low-rent private eye character, as it provided some flash and class to go with the car’s respectable dash.

Jim Rockford races to the rescue (or the bar) in his trusty Pontiac Firebird Esprit.

Jim Rockford races to the rescue (or the bar) in his trusty Pontiac Firebird Esprit.

A guy like Rockford liked the appearance of luxury and of getting the most out of his hard-earned paycheque, so the Esprit seemed like a natural fit for him. A decent (not base) engine, upgraded interior trim, and a five-spoke sport rim/low-profile whitewall combination was a good compromise for a guy who couldn’t snare maid service for his trailer home/office.

The Esprit engine for the first chunk of the decade was the revered small-block 350 Chevy V-8. Starting in 1977, however, the trustworthy-but-unglamorous Buick 231 V-6 became the standard engine in base models as well as the Esprit.

Never fear – higher-output engines were just a tick of the option box away.

The series ran until 1980, but TV viewers will notice that that final makeover of the 2nd-generation Firebirds – the 1979-1981 model – never made it into Rockford’s sand driveway. There’s a simple reason why the show’s producers capped it at the ’78 model year – car aficionado Garner didn’t dig the front ends on those later rides, and likely didn’t approve of the performance either (the Pontiac 265 and 301-cubic inch V-8’s are rarely spoken of in rapturous tones).

And so, a ’78 model carried the show and its protagonist till the dawn of the glorious 1980s (the final episode aired January 10, 1980). Had the series stayed on, Rockford might have been forced to chase/escape baddies in an Iron Duke-powered 3rd generation Firebird (not a sexy or successful-sounding prospect).

The Final Facelift. James Garner wasn't too enamored by the front end treatment given to the 1979-81 Firebirds. (image: Bull-Doser, Wikimedia Commons)

The Final Facelift. James Garner wasn’t too enamored by the front end treatment given to the 1979-81 Firebirds. (image: Bull-Doser, Wikimedia Commons)

The Rockford Firebird is now something of a cultural icon, which goes to show the impact the popular series had on the collective American psyche. Here’s an interesting link that details one man’s quest to make himself a Rockford Firebird, thus (hopefully) cementing his image as the king of affable, laid-back cool.

Farewell, Mr. Garner. After 86 years of acting, driving, campaigning for civil rights, and being a hero to many kids like myself, you can rest assured knowing your legacy is a good one.

What’s old is new again…

1979 or 1980 R-body Chrysler New Yorker, spotted in Gatineau, Quebec.

1979 or 1980 R-body Chrysler New Yorker, spotted in Gatineau, Quebec.

1979 was a turbulent year in America.

Gasoline had suddenly became expensive again thanks to the Iranian Revolution, interest rates were rising like mercury in a noonday Texas thermometer (as was inflation), and disco seemed poised to take over the world…and our kids.

On the automotive front, the Big Three automakers were struggling against economic pressures and the sudden appearance of a new competition – fuel-efficient Japanese compacts that tempted buyers with savings at the pump and low starting prices.

Nowhere in Detroit was the financial pressure greater than in the headquarters of Chrysler Corporation, which was desperately trying to avoid bankruptcy following a decade of non-stop punches that shook the industry to its core.

In addition to trying to secure bailout money from the federal government (while wooing eventual savior Lee Iacocca into their top-floor office), Chrysler was trying to compete against new, downsized models from GM (1977) and Ford (1979). And, given its dire situation, it had to create something competitive using little money and mostly off-the shelf parts.

As a rule, the downsized full-sizers introduced in the late-70s needed to appear fresh and new, have as much interior room (or more) than their land-barge predecessors, weight less, while consuming less precious, endangered gasoline.

For Chrysler, that meant the creation of the ‘new’ 1979 R-body line of vehicles – the Chrysler New Yorker and Newport, Dodge St. Regis, and (eventually) Plymouth Fury. The R-bodies have long fascinated me, as they really represent the end of the traditional full-size lineage of Chrysler vehicles – a slapped-together vehicle created in desperation to bridge the gap between the excessive 1970s and the lean, modern 1980s.

As a result of the rapidly changing era – one advanced by Chrysler itself following Iacocca’s appearance – the R-bodies (produced from 1979 to 1981) quickly became rolling dinosaurs, and faded from both roadways and the public consciousness in a hurry.


A ’62 dressed up as a ’79


The word ‘new’ appears here with quotation marks because the R-platform wasn’t new at all. Rather, Chrysler had simply taken the old B-platform that  underpinned the previous Dodge Monaco and Plymouth Fury (and dated from 1962), and created a new, yet traditionally-styled body atop it, while doing everything possible to shed weight.

The old, big-block 400 and 440-cubic inch engines were put out to pasture, replaced by the venerable 225-cid Slant-Six, as well as the trustworthy 318 and 360-cid V-8s. So extreme was the need for weight loss, Chrysler fielded the ‘new’ line of sedans with stamped aluminum, chrome-plated bumpers, aluminum radiators and brake cylinders with plastic components. The weight loss, totalling several hundred pounds, helped the car’s lineup of aging engines (strangled of horsepower by government-mandated emission controls) haul the lengthy sedans around town.

Once on the market, the R-bodies represented the most traditional of the Big Three’s big sedans. Big on the outside as well as the inside, the Chrysler stablemates could be had with all the baroque trappings a late-70s driver could desire – vinyl top, pillowed velour interior in gaudy colours, and the classic fake wire wheel hupcap/whitewall tire combination. The New Yorker, which was available in top-shelf ‘Fifth Avenue’ trim, continued the hidden-headlamp motif popularized by its predecessors, as well as offerings from Lincoln.

"Do you park your 1979 Chrysler New Yorker here often?" (Chrysler promotional photo)

“Do you park your 1979 Chrysler New Yorker here often?” (Chrysler promotional photo)

Sales of the R-body ‘pillared hardtops’ (ie – no window frames) started off brisk, helped by commercials that searched high and low for fiscal bright spots in an R-body purchase, but soon tanked once the effects of the Iranian Revolution began to impact people’s wallets. 1980 saw an exponential decrease in units sold, and the same for 1981.

Police fleets snapped up the Newport, Fury and St. Regis in fairly large numbers, given their imposing size and sturdy platform, but none were ever regarded as performers. Most pursuit vehicles were bought with a decent 195-horsepower 360 under the hood (for 1979), mated to the ubiquitous and bulletproof 3-speed Torqueflight automatic transmission, though California fleets made do with less (190 horsepower), and Canadian fleets with more (200 hp), thanks to better exhaust systems and boosted engine compression.

In 1980, California’s air pollution regulations mandated that all police R-Bodies come equipped with a 165-horsepower 318, which caused “a monumental firefight” between Dodge and the officers and management of the California Highway Patrol, who complained of embarrassment when the car performed dismally in real-life applications.*

(Apparently, one of the requirements of a police vehicle is the ability to catch fleeing suspects)

By 1981, the jig was up for the R-body. Sales of the big Chryslers were circling the bowl, and the company had already bled so much cash that CEO Iacocca was forced (starting in ’79) to slash all unnecessary overhead in a bid to save the company. Iacocca’s ‘triage’ approach meant that the company’s attention was primarily focused on keeping costs down while it produced and aggressively marketed a revenue-generating vehicle tailored for the economic climate America found itself in.

That vehicular saviour was the K-car line of compact, front-wheel drive vehicles that first appeared as Dodges and Plymouths in 1981 and branched out to the Chrysler brand in 1982. After ’81, with the R-body gone, Chrysler’s full-size spot was filled by the (formerly) intermediate-sized M-body Chrysler New Yorker, Plymouth Gran Fury, and Dodge Diplomat.

The real, honest-to-goodness full-size Chrysler was dead.


Adios, big guy…


Today, 33 years after the last R-bodies rolled unceremoniously off Chrysler’s embattled Detroit assembly line, seeing one in the flesh is a rare occurrence. The 1979 or 1980 New Yorker pictured at the top of the post was such an uncommon sight, it needed to be documented. These cars do look better in black, though this example is suffering from sagging lower body trim, missing front bumper guards, and an absent wheel cover.

However, under the hood there likely lies a 318 that can be nursed back to life without too much trouble, if it isn’t already serviceable.

Hopefully, the owner of the New Yorker will ensure this relic of a largely-ignored chapter in American automotive history stays alive, and on the road.

1979 Chrysler Newport, the less-flashy brother of the New Yorker. (Image: Bull-Doser, Wikimedia Commons)

1979 Chrysler Newport, the less-flashy brother of the New Yorker. (Image: Bull-Doser, Wikimedia Commons)



Orient express

Big in China.

Big in China.

While General Motors executives might be suffering through some sleepless nights thanks to the ongoing ignition switch/recall fiasco, the news these days isn’t all bad.

Bloomberg News is reporting skyrocketing GM sales in that exotic and lucrative market that all automakers lust over – China.

Yes, the eastern superpower is hungry for vehicles – especially high end vehicles with foreign cache, of which GM is only too happy to provide. Total GM vehicle sales are up 9.1% this June, year over year.

(See article here:

It’s been reported for some time that Chinese car buyers fancy the Buick brand, and sales of those models certainly make up a fair share of the growing volume, but it’s Cadillac that’s now seeing the biggest sales bump.

Sales of Cadillacs rose 46% year over year in June, with the first half of 2014 showing a 72% overall increase. In contrast, Buick sales in June were 14% higher than in 2013. GM expects even greater sales in the second half of this year, and plans to do everything possible to ensure the trend continues.

Much cash is slated for spending in the coming years to boost production for the Chinese market.

Clearly, China is quite enamoured with the 111-year-old luxury brand, despite being far removed from much of Cadillac’s storied history. Clearly, they’re playing catch-up, though no word if there’s an online demand for imports of these:

Grab the technicolour dreamcoat - your ride just pulled up.

Grab the technicolour dreamcoat – your ride just pulled up.


Status update

"Do you mind not parking your Cobalt so close? I'm kind of a big deal."

“Do you mind not parking your Cobalt so close? I’m kind of a big deal.”

No one ever says, “Hey, jerk – you scratched my Kia Rondo!”

There’s a reason for this, something understood by pretty much everybody.

That is: it isn’t worth mentioning the specific make and model of your ride if it isn’t something special. Something prestigious.

Now, by association, that swanky ride makes the driver something special as well. But beware – with status comes stigma, meaning to some people, the arrival of your hood ornament heralds the appearance of a Grade A prick.

Sure, this isn’t really fair – and the rationale behind it is fallible at best – but our human nature insists that different makes and models of vehicle MUST imply a specific kind of driver lifestyle and mentality. In a world driven by emotion and identity politics, we’re all guilty of this to some degree.

I realized the lasting power of these thoughts the other night while on a Quebec highway. Humming along in the slow lane, I watched a 1980s-vintage Porche 911 Targa blast past. A nice ride on a summer night, for sure, but all I could picture was old money, tennis whites, and the jerk son of a local bigwig.

Have I ever met anyone like that? Nope, but I saw a hell of a lot of them on TV over the years.

Porsche 911... or is it 90210? (photo: Bull-Doser, Wikimedia Commons)

Porsche 911… or is it 90210? (photo: Bull-Doser, Wikimedia Commons)

Recently I was reading a news story out loud to colleagues. It concerned some bad judgement by a BMW driver, and was (of course) accompanied by a video of the incident, which involved the police and quite a bit of destruction.

After taking a peek at my monitor, a co-worker said he’s noticed that BMW’s are only mentioned in a news headline if the owner of that Bimmer is somehow being a jerk. With no evidence to back this up other than my hazy memory, this seemed to ring true.

Is the BMW brand being pigeonholed and stigmatized – even by the media? Are all BMW drivers – even those who don’t act naughty in public – being ‘vehicle-shamed’? Are we jealous of what they’ve attained, or is it something else? Am I a social scientist holding a fistful of studies?

Well, I know the answer to the last question.

Even former Chrysler chairman and all-around automotive guru Lee Iacocca can be heard going down this road in the following clip, where he describes (to the world’s media) BMW and Mercedez-Benz as “boutique cars…bought for snob appeal.”

True, I’ve seem some drivers behind the wheel of a 3-series that needed a slap upside the head, but the same is true for Honda Civics and a laundry list of other vehicles.

I will say this, though. I can’t recall seeing half as many Mercedes-Benz’s driven in a manner worthy of a one-finger salute as those wearing the blue-and-white propeller. Maybe Benz has a more reserved clientele. Maybe the brand’s offerings don’t appeal to the drive-it-like-you-stole-it crowd (“Hoon that diesel E-class, man!”).

Whatever the reason, I will make a valiant attempt to ignore my unscientific findings, suppress my knee-jerk emotions, and go forward in life harbouring no stereotypes – or ill will – towards other drivers.

Let’s see if old habits die hard.


Imported from obscurity

Something non-generic this way comes...

Something non-generic this way comes…

Auto reviews in the New York Times can sometimes generate their own news stories, so I’ve started paying closer attention to the road-going scribes at that lofty publication.

(For evidence of my claim, please see Exhibit A:

Anyhoo, the Times has just come out with their take on the vastly-improved Chrysler 200, which replaces a forgettable car that couldn’t avoid being mentioned in the same sentence as ‘rental lot’.

And they like it!*

*with some quibbles

The 2015 model went on sale at the beginning of June with new everything, minus the top-level Pentastar engine (which everyone agrees was the only flawless element of the new 200’s flawed predecessor). Classy-looking on the outside (with vaguely Audi-inspired lines), the interior of the 200 wowed me when I first sat in one at a March auto show.

We’re talking comfort, luxury, and nice trim that was pleasing to both the eye and the touch.

Reviewer Lawrence Ulrich (I’m putting that name near the top of my alias list) was clearly smitten with the car’s interior, though I can’t agree that the 200 has a “distinctly American design.”

The car’s new 9-speed automatic – actuated via a novelty rotary shift knob – does get called out for gear-hunting and roughness (possibly an early production problem that can be corrected with a software tweak), as well as a soft suspension seemingly calibrated for comfort rather than handling.

Props are given to the vehicle’s design, materials, and the availability of both class-leading fuel efficiency and raw power.

(Read the full write-up here:

"You will forget about the Sebring..... You will forget about the Sebring..."

“You will forget about the Sebring….. You will forget about the Sebring…”

At first, I didn’t know how to feel about the Chrysler’s new body, but it has grown on me since. Obviously, it’s better in every way than its bulbous, boring predecessor, with lines and curves that convey both length, strength and heft (hallmarks for any luxury sedan).

I wish to drive this alluring beast.

The old 200 sold in fairly good numbers in its last couple of years, thanks to a low, low starting price and upgrade packages that didn’t break the bank. It very well could have been the cheapest way to get into a midsize sedan with V-6 power.

Commercials aired in all mediums flogged the previous 200 to such a degree that Chrysler will have its work cut out for it as it tries to alert the buying public to the presence of this all-new vehicle with an old name.

Carefree highway

"Check it out - we're nearly hitting 12 miles per gallon!"

“Check it out – we’re nearly hitting 12 miles per gallon!”

Who’d like to trade places with the driver of this 1972 Mercury Marquis and ply the rural highways of Prince Edward County, Ontario?


Given the ample evidence of my land yacht fetish splashed across this blog, it’s clear I’d risk my life trying.

Think of it: V-8 engine purring, windows down to let in the warm, fragrant breezes of a late June evening, maybe some classic rock on the radio.

Heaven… (if you can ignore the economic realities of a thirsty 429-cubic inch V-8 hauling a 4,500-pound car and $1.41/litre at the local gas pump)

Just for kicks, take this scene and run wild with the possibilities.

Young lovers filled with passion and ambition but barely a buck’s worth of change in their pockets? An elderly man reunited with his long-lost granddaughter after making amends with his estranged son?

You decide who inhabits this classic Merc. And may that carefree highway always be with you.

*Cue music montage*


Lost and found

Here’s a little bit of heartwarming automotive news for all to enjoy.

George Talley, 71, of Detroit was recently reunited with his 1979 Chevrolet Corvette, which was stolen from outside his Jefferson Avenue apartment building in 1981. The car, discovered in Mississippi, was returned to the ex-GM worker thanks to some helpful General Motors executives, who made sure cameras were rolling when Mr. Talley fired up his long-lost steed.

As the Detroit Free Press stated,  the (opportunistic?) feel-good moment comes at a stressful time for GM, which is now operating at DEFCON 5 due to the faulty ignition/bazillion vehicle recall crisis currently gripping the company.

Cynicism comes easy in times like these, but if we can shove that aside (plus public relations maneuvering) for just a second, there’s happiness to be felt in seeing a hard-working elderly man experience a moment of belated joy.

Watch as he tests the ‘Vette’s dodgy retractable headlamps and wipers, and retrieves a cassette tape from the deck.