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August 5, 2010
  Classic Lemon of the Week: Bricklin SV-1 (1974-'75)
By David Menzies

With the arrival of summer and in honour of that beloved bittersweet beverage, lemonade, from now until fall, we shall present a look back at some of the most memorable lemons of yesteryear on a weekly basis. We're talking design disasters, marketing misfits, engineering errors and aesthetic abominations. In short, a car owner's nightmare but a technician's dream come true.
This week, let's all collectively hold our noses as we present that all-Canadian stinker: the Bricklin SV-1.

The best thing one can say about the Bricklin is that aesthetically-speaking, the sports coupe still has a futuristic vibe to it some 35 years after the last one rolled off a New Brunswick assembly line.
Alas, looking back in the rear-view mirror of 20/20 hindsight, good looks are all the Bricklin had going for it. By any other measure - from structural integrity to return on investment - the Bricklin was a made-in-Canada disaster.
According to the Bricklin International Owners Club, company founder Malcolm Bricklin made his initial fortune in hardware/plumbing supply franchising in Florida before he was 25. He should have stuck to two-by-fours and toilets. Instead, the smooth-talking entrepreneur somehow convinced the New Brunswick government to put up the lion's share of a multi-million dollar investment to build the SV-1. Two Bricklin plants were opened in Minto and Saint John and hope abounded that a Canadian sports car would soon emerge as a world-beater.
But problems soon emerged. For starters, there was the price. The idea was to have the Bricklin sell for $4,000, but cost overruns caused the price to spike to $7,490 by the time the first 1974 model rolled off the line. By 1975, the price tag further inflated to $9,980. This made the Bricklin uncompetitive on a price basis versus competition such as the Chevrolet Corvette.
But even those who had enough scratch to purchase a Bricklin were soon full of buyer's remorse.
The fibreglass body panels were notoriously poor in quality and had a tendency to warp and crack. The whiz-bang electro-hydraulic gull-wing door system was prone to failure (sometimes trapping the Bricklin's occupants inside - in an age before cell phones.) Even the door weather-stripping would tend to leak.
The Bricklin was no terror under the hood, either. The 780 cars produced in 1974 featured a 220-horsepower AMC V8. Because of supply problems, in 1975 a switch was made to the 175-horsepower Ford 351V8 for the 2,062 cars produced that year.
Alas, by September of '75, the New Brunswick government had had enough and pulled the plug on further funding. The company promptly fell into receivership, and so ended the Bricklin saga - a Canuck car fiasco from start to finish.

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    Posted By: CT Admin @ 08/05/2010 10:17 AM     General Topics     Comments (2)  

July 29, 2010
  Classic Lemon of the Week: 1982 Chevrolet Camaro Iron Duke
With the arrival of summer and in honour of that beloved bittersweet beverage, lemonade, from now until fall, we shall present a look back at some of the most memorable lemons of yesteryear on a weekly basis. Yes, we missed a week, but give us a break, will ya? We're talking design disasters, marketing misfits, engineering errors and aesthetic abominations. In short, a car owner's nightmare but a technician's dream come true.
Without further ado, let's all collectively hold our noses as we present the wimpiest Camaro ever conceived: the 1982 Chevrolet Camaro Iron Duke.

These days, the resurrected Camaro is receiving reams of favourable publicity as Chevy's iconic pony car once again rolls off the assembly line after being unceremoniously axed in 2002.
Over the course of the Camaro's original 35-year run, there were superb models in terms of power and style as well as a few lame ducks. But surely the most embarrassing Camaro of all time has to be the 1982 Iron Duke.
With such a powerful and royal moniker, you'd think something called the Iron Duke would be a fire-breathing performance Camaro along the lines of a Z28 or an SS. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Rather, in 1982, GM did the unthinkable: it produced a Camaro with a 2.5-litre, 4-cylinder engine mated to an anaemic three-speed transmission.
Bad enough this generation of the Camaro (1982-'92) will forever remain the least appealing model run thanks to a bland design that hasn't aged well. But with such a wimpy four-banger under the hood generating just 90-horsepower, the Iron Duke had about as much gusto and pizzazz as an iron lung.
Oh, the shame of it all. An '82 Iron Duke owner would never dare take on the Mustangs of the day - even the six-cylinder ones. Instead, he'd have to set his sights on more manageable prey such as a Chrysler K-car. "Eat my dust, grandma!" the Iron Duke owner would yell as his emasculated Camaro would zoom from 0 to 60 mph in 20 seconds.
Today, would-be owners of the gorgeously retro 2010 Camaro must choose between an exhilarating V6 that generates 304-horsepower and a fearsome V8 that delivers 426 ponies. Thankfully, the Iron Duke remains deader than disco.

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    Posted By: CT Admin @ 07/29/2010 11:27 AM     General Topics     Comments (0)  

July 15, 2010
  '67 Camaro Named Goodguys 2010 Ridetech Street Machine of the Year
By David Menzies

Columbus, Ohio - A lady came first at the Goodguys 13th PPG Nationals presented by Bridgestone. At least when it came to picking the country's top Street Machine.
Karen Leisinger's radical all-steel first-generation 1967 Camaro "Scar", built by Lakeside Rods & Rides in Rockwell City, Iowa, took home the Goodguys 2010 Ridetech Street Machine of the Year award.
Leisinger, a first-gen Camaro lover, wanted a car that featured extreme performance while combining the looks of a 1967 with some of the design and style elements of the new 2010 Camaros.
Working from an Eric Brockmeyer sketch, builders Roger Burman, Marshall Starrett and the entire Lakeside Rods & Rides team created the PPG hyper orange Camaro nicknamed "Scar" (seen here) from all the cuts and modifications required to get the desired look. Lakeside completely redesigned the cars aesthetics by extending the wheelbase 2 inches. They then grafted a 2010 Camaro roof skin, raised the rear quarters 2.5 inches, added a custom carbon fiber hood, handmade the front and rear faces and flared the fenders on all four corners.
Scar's drive train features a carbureted 600hp LS-X mated to a Gearstar 200R4. The custom Lakeside-built chassis features Detroit Speed front and rear suspension, big brake kit from Baer and Boze 18" & 20" wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport rubber. Weber's Custom Interiors stitched the black leather with orange threads.
Karen and her entire family are devout Camaro enthusiasts. Over the years they've restored and given the hot rod treatment to dozens of first-gen Camaros, including a pearl white '67 Grumpy Jenkins tribute car that was chosen as a finalist for the Goodguys 2009 Muscle Machine of the Year award.
Karen, her husband Dave and their two sons Josh and Jared are already planning next year's Street Machine of the Year candidate - a 1970 Camaro which will again be hand built by lakeside Rods & Rides.
Meanwhile, Jerry Magnuson's sleek and stylish '32 Muroc roadster (named "Magnatude", seen here) was crowned Goodguys 2010 Classic Instruments Street Rod of the Year. Hand-formed by Marcel and designed by Chip Foose, Magnitude also won the Street Rod d'Elegance Crown this spring at the Goodguys Del Mar Nationals.
Magnuson is well known throughout the automotive aftermarket for his "Magnacharger" super charger kits. "Magnatude" features an LS-1 Chevy with a intercooled Magnacharger (of course!), Tremec 6 speed with polished Kugel 9", Kugel I.F.S & I.R.S., custom Kugel chassis, chopped Carson top, DuVall windshield, hidden headlights, custom dash by Magnuson, Jim Griffin upholstery, tunneled seats and countless other subtle tricks. The paint is two-tone butterscotch pearl with champagne metallic.
In traditional So-Cal hot rod fashion, the car features one off Foose designed "bigs and littles" - 17x7" in front and 20x10" out back wrapped in Scorpion Zero rubber.

Edited: 07/15/2010 at 10:18 AM by CTAdmin

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    Posted By: CT Admin @ 07/15/2010 10:13 AM     General Topics     Comments (0)  

July 8, 2010
  Classic Lemon of the Week: Amphicar ('61-'68)
By David Menzies
With the arrival of summer and in honour of that beloved bittersweet beverage, lemonade, from now until fall, we shall present a look back at some of the most memorable lemons of yesteryear on a weekly basis. We're talking design disasters, marketing misfits, engineering errors and aesthetic abominations. In short, a car owner's nightmare but a technician's dream come true.
This week, a vehicle only Aquaman would pine for: the Amphicar.

Is it just me, or is the Amphicar (a half car/half boat contraption) a dead-ringer for the vehicles driven along the byways of Bikini Bottom, the fictional underwater urban metropolis that is home to Spongebob Squarepants?
Alas, the Amphicar turned out to be a bit of a cartoon comedy, too - albeit the Amphicar's humour was unintentionally funny.
Indeed, everything about the Amphicar - a vehicle that could be driven on the road and or piloted across a body of water - was a tad inexplicable. For starters, just consider the Amphicar's place of origin, Germany - a country that has precious little coastline.
Secondly, one must question the ostensible need for manufacturing such a dual-purpose vehicle in the first place. Yes, it's an engineering wonder. But has there ever been pent-up demand for such a vessel? Granted, an Amphicar might be handy for a resident of New Orleans whenever a Katrina-like hurricane blows in for an unwelcome visit. But if one is simply into boating as a hobby, how's this for a concept: buy a boat.
Design-wise, one would think that any car that's meant to spend prolonged periods submerged in water would be properly rust-proofed and undercoated. The Amphicar wasn't. Can you possibly guess what went wrong? Alas, many an Amphicar sprung a leak and sank when corrosion took lease.
Even when it stayed buoyant, it wasn't unusual for an Amphicar to sputter to a halt once water got into its engine, forcing a mechanical seizure.
As you'd imagine, making a vehicle that would do double-duty as both a car and a boat meant several "compromises" had to be made. Translation: the Amphicar wasn't exactly the Bluenose when it came to sailing the ocean blue nor was it a speedster at the track. (In 1967, Car and Driver clocked the Amphicar's 0 to 60 mph time at a less-than-scintillating 43 seconds.)
Today, the Amphicar lives on as a head-turning curiosity - and a cautionary tale for anyone still obsessed with the notion of a flying car.

Edited: 08/05/2010 at 10:18 AM by CTAdmin

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    Posted By: CT Admin @ 07/08/2010 02:13 PM     General Topics     Comments (0)  

July 1, 2010
  In Quest of the All-Canadian Car
By David Menzies

A question to ponder on Dominion Day: what is the ultimate Canadian car?
Answers might be found at an exhibition entitled, "In Search of the Canadian Car" a - new interactive exhibit that has just opened at Ottawa's Canada Science and Technology Museum. Although please keep in mind that "In Search of the Canadian Car" isn't SEMA.
"This [exhibit] is about the culture of the automobile, not the technology," says Garth Wilson, the museum's Curator of Transportation. "We [museum] are trying to engage visitors by asking them what makes a car Canadian."
Wilson says there are four different criteria being offered in terms of how to define a Canuck car:
1. Is the designer of a particular car Canadian - even if he happens to be working for, say, Volvo?
2. Is the car made in Canada? (Quite a varied selection these days, ranging from the Lincoln MKT and Dodge Challenger to the Chevrolet Camaro and Lexus RX350.)
3. Is the vehicle uniquely promoted to Canadians (as the Mercury Meteor Montcalm was back in the 1960s?)
4. Is the car "loved" by Canadians? (In other words, is the vehicle in question the car most Canadians purchase?)
There's plenty of time to weigh-in as Wilson notes the exhibit is slated to run for five years. And Wilson notes the automobile is "very important" to Canadians and to Canada itself.
"Many people don't realize that Canada was the second-largest manufacturer of automobiles in the 1920s," he says, noting Canada currently ranks as the world's ninth-biggest producer.
My selection for "most Canadian vehicle"? Step forward, Dodge Grand Caravan.
For starters, Chrysler minivans have been manufactured in Windsor, Ont. for almost 30 years. In keeping with the Canadian character, a minivan compared to, say, a SUV, is surely more pragmatic and less flashy. And according to DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, the Canadian marketshare for small vans is larger than the U.S. marketshare (5.9% in Canada versus 4.4% Stateside.)
Little wonder Chrysler markets the Grand Caravan SE with a "Canada Value Package."
Besides, has there ever been a vehicle more perfectly suited for swallowing one's big, bulky hockey bag?
O' Canada; O Caravan. A perfect fit.

* * * *
What do you consider to be the quintessential Canadian car? Please send your selections to

Edited: 07/01/2010 at 02:19 AM by CTAdmin

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    Posted By: CT Admin @ 07/01/2010 02:15 AM     General Topics     Comments (2)  

June 29, 2010
  Why motorized vehicles shouldn't be used to kill rats
By David Menzies
Everyone in the automotive industry surely agrees that the internal combustion engine has wondrously enriched our lives. Indeed, let it be said that this magnificent mechanical device certainly ranks as one of the greatest inventions in the history of mankind... when used properly, that is.
Put another way, a motorized vehicle is a very efficient and fun way to get around town or drive coast to coast. But a motorized vehicle is a very inefficient and unsafe way to eradicate vermin from one's house.
Case in point: according to Pravda, a Ukrainian grandfather accidentally fatally gassed himself and two family members when his attempt to rid his basement of rats went horrifically awry.
The root of the problem: the 72-year-old decided to use his old car, a Soviet-built Zaporozhets, to tackle the rodent infestation. The man carefully affixed a hose to the tailpipe of his not-so-snazzy sedan and then fed the pipe through a window that led to the basement. The wannabe pest control expert then cranked the ignition and let the car idle for several minutes. The idea was to terminate those rascally rodents via carbon monoxide.
Eventually, the dopey DIY exterminator ventured downstairs to see if his scheme was working. Unfortunately, his scheme was working all too well: grandpa was promptly overcome by carbon monoxide fumes and died.
Suspecting something wasn't quite right, the deceased man's 77-year-old-wife also ventured into the basement. She, too, lost consciousness and perished.
Next up: the couple's 29-year-old granddaughter. She also went downstairs to investigate. The woman, like her grandparents before her, fell unconscious and succumbed to the noxious fumes.
About two hours later, a second granddaughter also ventured into the increasingly fume-filled basement. But upon spotting the lifeless bodies of her family members and detecting the carbon monoxide, she did an abrupt about-face. Luckily, she emerged from the subterranean death trap in the nick of time.
While the traumatized woman raised the alarm, it was too late for her family members: her grandparents and sister had all succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning.
It is unknown if any rats perished.

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    Posted By: CT Admin @ 06/29/2010 01:41 PM     General Topics     Comments (0)  

April 13, 2010
  Hit-and-run driver foiled by a nose
By David Menzies

They say dead men tell no tales. But as fans of hit TV shows such as CSI and Dexter know all too well, bits and pieces of human remains can speak volumes...

Case in point: Polish police recently arrested a 29-year-old woman on suspicion that she is responsible for a fatal hit-and-run accident involving a pedestrian.

According to a report in Agence France-Presse, she might've gotten away with the crime had she not taken her Bimmer in for servicing. Once her car was upon the hoist, the shop's mechanic found parts of a human body jammed into the undercarriage.

"Many traces, including human tissue, were found in the undercarriage of the BMW," Warsaw Police said in a statement.

A source close to the investigation says the mechanic actually found a human nose jammed in the frame of the woman's car.

Police confirmed a 28-year-old male victim was killed in a hit-and-run accident on a small road in the Warsaw area. The man died after a female motorist fled the scene without offering assistance.

As for the damage to the BMW, the owner told the mechanics at the garage she had hit a deer.

Edited: 04/13/2010 at 11:25 AM by CTAdmin

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February 18, 2010
  Audi A3 ad equal parts hilarious and horrifying
By David Menzies

In addition to a half decent football game, the Super Bowl is also known for its brilliant and lavishly-produced commercials (assuming Canadians can manage to circumvent CRTC rules and receive a U.S. feed of the game, that is. Otherwise, us Canucks are subjected to the lurid lameness that is CTV promo ads.)

Luckily, we now live in the age of YouTube. And by visiting this precious portal, one can watch Super Bowl LXIV's best ad. Namely, Audi's "Green Police" spot - a brilliant send-up of the inconvenient goofs who comprise the overbearing enviro-weenie movement.

Set to the tune of Cheap Trick's 1979 hit, Dream Police, the Green Police spot depicts a near-future wherein environmental cops (many of whom wear short pants and get around in Segways) consistently invade our personal lives by spying, sifting through our trash, and setting up dragnets looking for environmental misbehaviour.

The first citizen arrested is a supermarket customer who has the temerity to ask for a plastic bag. "You picked the wrong day to mess with the eco system, plastic boy," a Green Cop barks as the shell-shocked shopper is cuffed and hustled out the store.

Another man is arrested in his house for not composting an orange peel properly while another hapless fellow is manhandled into the back of a Green Police golf cart for "possession of an incandescent light bulb."

Next up is a fellow relaxing in his hot tub who's arrested because the water temperature is set at 105 F.

The ad ends with an imposing roadblock - an "Eco Check" - set up by the Green Police, who use anteaters to sniff out any environmental vehicular infractions. The only individual waved through the logjam of vehicles is a fellow behind the wheel of a 2010 Audi A3 TDI clean diesel. "You're good to go, sir," a Green Policeman tells him.

The spot concludes with the ivory-hued Audi A3 zooming down the highway, its engine lustily revving. "Green has never felt so right," notes the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too copy superimposed upon the screen.

While the Audi spot is laugh out loud funny, it also serves as a cautionary tale given we reside in an age of environmental fanaticism. Surely the likes of David Suzuki, Al Gore, Stephane Dion et al would love to see Green Police officers cracking down on everything that makes our lives enjoyable - be it incandescent light bulbs or kickass V8 motors.

Let's hope such a vision never comes to pass. And in the meantime, let's praise Audi's humourous/horrifying wake-up call, which so adroitly skewers those who comprise the Green Gestapo.

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    Posted By: CT Admin @ 02/18/2010 11:43 AM     General Topics     Comments (0)  

January 20, 2010
  Crash Test Child Seats
By David Menzies

It's conventional wisdom - not to mention the law in most jurisdictions - that if you plan on hitting the road with a kid in the car, then Junior better be strapped into a child car seat.

Yet, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner appear to have compelling evidence suggesting that child car seats don't really do as much good as we've been led to believe.

Levitt and Dubner, authors of the recently-published Super Freakonomics, examined decades' worth of data and even conducted their own experiments to debunk the premise that child car seats are a safety panacea when it comes to collisions.

The duo examined data amassed by the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, a compilation of police reports from all fatal crashes in the United States since 1975. As the authors note in Super Freakonomics: "A quick look at the FARS data from nearly 30 years of crashes reveals a surprising result. For children two and older, the rate of death in crashes involving at least one fatality is almost identical for those riding in car seats and those wearing seat belts."

Indeed, Levitt and Dubner found that in certain types of crashes - rear-enders, for instance - car seats actually performed worse than seat belts.

Could it be the data is skewed by the number of child car seats that are improperly installed? Perhaps. But to address this valid concern, the authors decided to commission two crash tests: one with a three-year-old sized dummy in a child car seat versus an identical dummy in a lap and shoulder belt. The second test involved a comparison of a six-year-old sized dummy in a booster seat versus the same dummy in a lap and shoulder belt. (Of note, simply conducting these tests was problematic: almost every crash-test facility in the U.S. refused to partake in the experiment for fear of offending their biggest customer base - the manufacturers of child car seats.)

But after conducting the experiments, the authors had their smoking gun.

"The adult seat belts passed the crash test with flying colors. Based on the head- and chest-impact data, neither the children in the safety seats nor those in the seat belts would likely have been injured in this crash. So, how well did the old-fashioned seat belts work? They exceeded every requirement for how a child safety seat should perform."

Compelling food for thought for those parents thinking about investing more money into pricey devices that apparently aren't as safe as they're cracked up to be.

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    Posted By: CT Admin @ 01/20/2010 08:01 AM     General Topics     Comments (0)  

January 7, 2010
  DesRosiers to release The Best of Observations
By: David Menzies

Dennis DesRosiers has been studying the automotive sector for 40 years, publishing his monthly Observations column for 16 years and building a national reputation as Canada's leading auto analyst.

Next up for the renowned auto industry analyst: the release of a hardcover compendium of his best Observations columns in commemoration of his four decades of providing insights into the automotive industry.

The Best of Observations, which will retail for $200 ($45 for subsequent copies), will be approximately 250 pages in length and will feature DesRosiers' most insightful and relevant articles.

As well, this compilation volume will be quite different from DesRosiers' annual yearbook in that it won't focus on data but rather on explaining the inner workings of the automotive sector.

All proceeds over and above the cost of publishing will go towards funding the DesRosiers Endowment for the Advancement of Automotive Studies which provides scholarships for students studying the automotive sector at the college and university level.

To order a copy, contact Jill McConnell at (905) 881-0400 or

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    Posted By: CT Admin @ 01/07/2010 08:49 AM     General Topics     Comments (0)  

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