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Memorable Driving Moments

Have you ever noticed that some driving moments even after countless years remain fresh and crisp in your memory bank. Often these moments lasted for a few minutes, which at the time seemed much longer.

If you are of a certain age, you perhaps remember that Renault had a modest assembly line in St.Bruno on the south shore of Montreal. If by chance back then you were commuting to the south shore of Montreal the 30 (autoroute 30) was in the process of being constructed. But the stretch heading west from the 20 to St.Bruno and Chemin Chambly was completed at the time.

Stretch of highway going nowhere, hardly any traffic at any time, and no urgency to clear snow in winter.

On winter mornings that it had snowed, going from the 20 to the 30 was an interesting experience, of finding the 30 not cleared yet, with literally a tire trail in the snow and a wide expanse of white. It was simple, follow the single tire trail in the snow, and stay a good distance from the vehicle in front of you, while driving in a cautious, safe fashion.

Driving a GM product the tire trail was right sized, driving a Renault the tire trail was slightly wider than the Renault.

There is an appealing aspect to driving in a good amount of fresh, fluffy snow at a reasonable speed, some will blow over the hood, while there is a cloud of snow behind the car.

This particular morning...with fresh unplowed snow on the 30.

There is a Renault in the 30 on ramp in front of the GM car, on the 30 as the cloud of snow behind the Renault is distancing itself from the GM car. The individual in the Renault is gaining speed perhaps to increase the momentum to overcome the narrower track of the Renault or just to have fun.

The Colonel in the GM car gathers more speed to keep up with the cloud of snow of the Renault in front of him in the tire trail.

The thought process:

Going reasonably fast in a tire trail, no other vehicles on the road, stay a distance from the cloud. If anything happens to that narrow tracked Renault in front of you that you can't see, ideally you don;t want to hit it.

As this thought process is evolving, suddenly the cloud of snow in front of The Colonel gets appreciably bigger.

Something happened to the Renault in front of you, get off the gas, don't even think of braking, you have no clue what is under this snow, stuck on a deserted highway in the middle of fields is not much fun.

Whatever happened...the Renault is no longer on the road, in the tire trail, its in the median. The reason for the bigger cloud of snow as it flew off the road.

Back then cellular phones were a figment of the imagination. The Colonel reaching his office called Renault in St.Bruno to advise them that probably one of their employee was in the median of the 30 a few kilometers from the plant.

Keep in mind that bias belted tires of the day were incredibly slippery on snow compared to radial tires of today.





If you are of a certain age, and can rewind 50 years. You perhaps remember the Corvair, Ralph Nader, vehicle safety.

This was a time when for whatever reason safety did not sell, in the late 1950's Ford to its chagrin discovered that safety was not an added value feature that was embraced by the consumer at the time.

Safety at the time was a padded dash, non protruding knobs, that sort of stuff; while keeping in mind that cars did not have seat belts, or collapsible steering columns. were positively lethal 50 years ago.

In the early 1960's engineers at GM were on a small car creative binge, today it would be innovative, disruptive, back then call it a creative binge. Chevrolet had the rear engine, air cooled, swing axle Corvair. Pontiac had the Tempest with half of a 389 under the hood, transmission in the back, and a flexible driveshaft. Oldsmobile had the F85, with a turbocharged V8, and alcohol injection. Buick had the Skylark with the aluminum nailhead that subsequently powered a myriad of English cars and SUV's.

That level of innovation and disruption over 50 years ago unleashed a myriad of shockwaves all over the industry, and garnered attention from onlookers (pundits).

Here is the Corvair with a swing axle reaar suspension, similar to a VW Beetle of the time. Here is GM the biggest corporation on the planet at the time with very deep pockets.

A swing axle rear suspension is a great cost saving exercise, but not a great suspension set up, in certain situations a swing axle rear suspension will cause a car to get out of control and flip (roll over).

An obscure Ralph Nader points a finger at the Corvair that its not safe, it has swing axles, can roll over, and already caused several deaths. Imagine rolling over in any car 50 years ago, no seat belts, hard surfaces, knobs, window cranks on doors.

GM the biggest corporation on the planet, is totally slighted that an obscure individual would point a finger at one of its product. GM has Ralph Nader followed by private investigators to uncover any personal flaw. Once Ralph Nader discovers that he is being followed by GM investigators, even 50 years ago this affair takes on a life of its own.

Obvious there was an exchange of money from GM to Ralph Nader who by now was almost famous.

The upside...vehicle safety became an issue that garnered increased awareness from the public at large, and manufacturers.

A few years later there was the muscle car movement, with massive horsepower, no suspensions, no brakes, poor tires on all these muscle cars.

Today there are millions of air bags that can perhaps potentially grenade in a vehicle, and other vehicles that emit/pollute more than they should.

 Swing axles from 50 years ago, pale in comparison.




Corvette's at Lemans in 1960

From 55 years ago...totally cool video.



Connecting Dots

This morning we have The Colonel with us, we are going to pick his knowledge base on "connecting dots" lets get going.

Q: Colonel Good Morning, you are looking invigorated this morning, how is the coffee.

A: Guys, good morning, the cappuccino is good, invigorated is complementary makes me feel a little younger.

Q: What is it with connecting dots.

A: Although the car business is about product, vehicles, and a bunch of other stuff, especially with the myriad of pundits that share their thoughts/opinions. Its also about connecting dots, especially if you have been in the business a few years/decades.

Q: Do you have some examples of connecting dots, and perhaps epiphanies too.

A: Decades ago on the 401 with a 5 cylinder diesel, I had an epiphany that diesel engines are good for trucks not cars. It endures to today, the VW thing flies under our radar.

Q: People...

A: You can connect a ton of dots, we are in the people business through cars. The dots still connect like decades ago, its all changed and nothing has changed. The change is that we focus on technology, instead of people. We should connect the same dots...resonating with 2015.

Q: Luxury...

A: Its a sedan with a V8...that simple. Connect all the dots you want for decades, its still a sedan with a V8 with waftability. An SUV is a truck.

Q: Utility...

A: Its the family kicker, everyone goes through a stage in life where you need a family kicker, very useful, gets kicked around, and with AWD is even more versatile.

Q: Performance...

A: If you are a gear head performance is paramount, and you have your own preference for what performance is all about. Its enduring through the decades.

Q: How do you understand performance...

A: In my case its a V8, its Chevrolet...

Q: Sounds old school...

A: It is old school performance that connects a ton of dots, memories, emotions, experiences, learning curves, bruised knuckles, drag racing, Trans Am and Can Am racing, to name a few. As well as mechanical cars...

Q: How about trucks...

A: Working trucks are performance machines, you quickly connect performance dots between a working truck and old school performance. Its a fascinating intellectual exercise.

Q: Technology...

A: Has made obscene horsepower possible in cars from a performance perspective. Vehicles are dramatically safer with technology. From punch cards to hand held smart devices...its truly impressive.

Q: Technology has democratized horsepower...connect more dots please.

A: Back in the day it was a wild camshaft, ported heads, a monster carburetor. The catalytic converter in the early 1970's killed all of that, the fun was gone. Technology enabled horsepower again. Back in the day performance cars were in their own way "lethal weapons" when used foolishly, not the case today.

Q: Massive horsepower is safe today...

A: Precisely, back in the day it was safe with select individuals, not the masses. The reason that back in the day everyone stopped at 425 HP. Its the same dots reconnected with technology.

Q: Connect dots with Chevrolet...

A: I grew up with GM, at a time when GM ruled the automotive world in North America. Its been a lasting, enduring influence. Chevrolet is the small block which is still around today, it was easy to get small blocks, and increase the power. Think about rodding still exists.

Q: The 1979 Camaro connects a bunch of dots for you...

A: Absolutely, its a mechanical car, warmed over small block, carburetor, 4 speed, a clutch pedal, positraction, miserable brakes. Its my own barn find that I have owned since new. It connects a gazillion dots from another time, and to today. The rumble from the small block is as timely today as in 1979.

Q: Care to connect a few dots with Mercedes-Benz...

A: By the early 1980's GM had absolutely lost its way, a ride in a 450SEL (116) was a complete revelation as to what a proper sedan should be back then. Experiencing a 6.9 for a few days was a mind altering experience. The cars had archaic features compared to a Cadillac, but the performance was on another level.

We will continue...




Vroom Room

Good Morning,

Caring is human and provocative.Its Friday, its the Vroom Room, enjoy the cappuccino and biscotti, join the conversation.

Yes...the Dog Days of Summer...quiet, relaxing...really, not this year.

In case you always missed it, and possibly want to share your thoughts on the future of the auto business, take a look at Vision 2020.

Think about this...we feel that in 2015 with the inexorable progress of various technologies, the disruptions created by technological applications. You need to be engaged in provocative thinking. Agreed folks around you might think that you are a shit disturber, but keep it up just the same.

Just like  you need to be your own editor, you need to provoke your thought process. Agreed...discretion is a competitive advantage when being provocative.

Especially if you are in the auto business, provoke yourself.

Everyone has an opinion, everyone can quickly publish their thoughts, everyone can embellish their brand, and everyone can massage their egoes. How many truly engage in provoking? What do you think?

The General Motors Tech Center in Warren Michigan has been recognised as a National Historic Landmark. What is the big deal? Way back in the day the Tech Center was the equivalent of buildings/campuses that are going up in Silicon Valley today.

A few decades back The Colonel had the unique opportunity to visit the Tech Center, back then being in the auto business it was a totally cool informative experience.

On a different note, its gratifying to see the level of participation in the Parapan Am Games in Toronto. While raising the awreness towards folks that have various limitations.

Pebble Beach...peruse the RMSotheby Digital Catalog...some extremely interesting cars.

Our usual old cars from the Carmel Concours on the Avenue 2015...enjoy.




Assembling Cars

You have surely noticed that every manufacturer is on a constant search and quest to save money in one fashion or another. From increased common platforms, and components, to a variety of alliances to share more components.

Finally comes the time to put all this stuff together and turn it into a car (vehicle), obvious that finding the least expensive area/jurisdiction on the planet that makes sense is always on the agenda. Part of being competitive is emulating the other guy that seems to have an advantage, and then the other guy too...and so on.

Lets look back a few decades or even longer...

Back then when manufacturers made a decision to open an assembly plant in Canada, the lower value of the CDN dollar was always a factor, as well as health care, and probably a bunch of subsidies too. Lets also keep in mind that from the auto pact onward there has always been car free trade between Canada and the US.

For decades it made sense to assemble vehicles in Canada, and ship them to the US.

Going even further back...Henry Ford quickly understood that paying a decent wage enabled his employees to afford his product.


With the increased prominence of Mexico as a cheaper jurisdiction to initially assemble components, and now vehicles. Lately it seems all wrong to assemble vehicles in Canada.

You have to wonder what sort of spreadsheet Ford is using to justify investing additional money at their Oakville plant, while other are finding Canada too expensive for one reason or another. Toyota has the same spreadsheet as Ford for their Cambridge plant.

Operating a robot in various jurisdictions must be close to the same cost...reflect on this for a moment.

Imagine for a moment Mercedes-Benz shutting their Sindelfingen plant, or BMW the Munich plant, or Porsche Zuffenhausen, or VW Wolfsburg.

In Canada, GM is synonymous with Oshawa, Ford Oakville, Chrysler Windsor....




Canadian Sales - First Half 2015 

Our thoughts on Canadian Sales for the First Half of 2015.

Want to see photos and reviews click on the links.




Pick Up Battles Revisited

We have been mentioning for some time the continued Canadian love affair with full size pick ups. Especially pick ups from the Detroit 3 who have the lion's share of the market.

As you know today's pick ups are big, yes...really big compared to the same trucks of a few years ago. While the most popular configuration is the crew cab with the short box. Agreed these pick ups mimics full size cars of a few decades ago, especially luxury cars from back in the day.

If you have looked at pick up prices they are certainly in the luxury territory, you can get a mid size car from MerBimAu (Mercedes-BMW-Audi) for the same price. Not fair to call them them luxury vehicles, although the features are comparable to luxury cars. Its still a truck, and they still drive like a truck, they are not sport sedans.

Its also the classic layout of body on frame, a 2 speed transfer case with a low range on the 4x4 version (the majority). They can still carry a load, or pull a substantial trailer.

Although they are huge, with parking sensors, blind spot monitors (you cannot see a car on the side of the truck) and back up camera. These truck are easy to maneuver in tight spaces or park.

Fuel economy is not spectacular, but reasonable considering the size and especially the frontal area which pushes a good amount of air on the highway. Yes...the Ram has the Eco Diesel which is quite economical for a pick up. Similar to luxury cars from back in the day, the gas tanks are substantial in size.

How do pick ups from the Detroit 3 compare as of year to date May?


YTD May...........................2015.............2014

Ford F Series.....................46,868..........48,060




Total..............................123,689.........117,884   a 5% increase

Ford has been having supply challenges with the F150, yes dealers are not happy.

GM has benefitted from the Ford supply challenges.

Ram keeps on going.

Is it the presumed lower price of gas, or the expanding love affair with pick ups that encourages more sales?

What do you think?




Buick Riviera

Some cars are enduring, and the 63-65 Buick Riviera has been capturing The Colonel's attention for a few decades.

This morning The Colonel is with us, lets see what it is about the Riviera.

Q: Good Morning, you look well tanned.

A: Yes...working outside on week ends will do that.

Q: What is it about the 63-65 Riviera?

A: Lets start with Buicks of that vintage that have always fascinated me for a myriad of reason.

Q: Do you have a few reasons.

A: The nail head engine with the spark plug covers, and marine green was always of interest.

Q: The Dynaflow transmission

A: Not so much, it was hideous at the time compared to an Hydra Matic in Oldsmobile or Cadillac.

Q: Back to the Riviera

A: The 63-65 Riviera's were totally cool in their day, and they still are. Brilliant styling, with a European look about them.

Q: The styling was the first thing.

A: Absolutely, those cars were cool, they looked cool, European, flowing lines, a luxury coupe by today's perspectives. The grille, hidden headlamps, small tailights.

Q: The nailhead

A: Obvious the nailhead, ideally with dual quads merely enhanced the coolness of the car. Remember that 50 years ago nailheads had a hot rodding history too.

Q: The interior

A: The dash for its day was stunning with the center of the dash and console, wood paneling, and an almost 4 bucket seat layout.

Q: You could almost put a center screen like today's cars.

A: Precisely...really cool dash for the day.

Q: Its was not a sports coupe.

A: Buicks by their DNA were cruisers, and the Riviera was the ultimate cruising coupe.

Q: We heard rumours that at one time you were looking for a Riviera.

A: Yes...casually looking, and never landing on the right car, the right opportunity, the right deal. Its like the pieces of the puzzle never wanted to fit.

Q: Then life progresses, and other priorities take center stage.

A: Yes...and just imagine old Rivieras in Montreal, and corrosion, need I say more.

Q: But its still a cool car

A: Absolutely, a 63-65 Riviera from my perspective is still a a very desirable cool car.




Dare Greatly

A compelling Cadillac video...Dare Greatly.

With quotes from "The Man in the Arena"

Is this the "reset" moment for Cadillac?

We sure hope it is...