2012 Spring Mudfest at Gopher Dunes

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to spend a beautiful afternoon at Gopher Dunes in Courtland, Ontario attending the 2012 Spring Mudfest event. With over 400 trucks competing in three different mudbogs and trail sections it was a sight to see and hear. As spectators, you are able to get very close to the action which is not for the faint of heart as experiencing these trucks first hand is truly a very visceral experience.

Who says a Pontiac Fiero and Chevy Camaro are not suitable for the mud?

20120430-203740.jpg

20120430-203959.jpg

From the pint sized, four cylinder Suzuki Samurai’s, through to Jeeps of all kinds, Toyota 4Runners, Hummers and full size 4 x 4’s from decades ago, Mudfest attracts all types of enthusiasts to test their skill in the muddy farmland of Southwestern Ontario.

Here is an assortment of the machines at this year’s event.

1980s K5 Chevy Blazer

Chevy and Ford lined up and ready to go –

Heavily modified purpose built mudder

And don’t forget the Rednecks…

Having attended twice now, the one thing that still surprises me is the broad appeal of Mudfest. For example, some people roll up in their shiny new daily drivers while others bring their well used SUV’s and there are also the folks who come with their fire breathing custom fabricated mud slingers on trailers to be thrashed about for the afternoon.

20120430-204155.jpg

It really is a special event and worth experiencing if you are interested in trucks of any kind. Although trucks and 4×4’s are designed to be used and abused in the mud the reality is only 15% of them ever experience any type of off-road use so to witness them in action doing what engineers designed them for is enlightening. For more information about Mudfest, be sure to check out the Gopher Dunes page on Facebook.

20120430-204324.jpg

20120430-204416.jpg

20120430-204651.jpg

Advertisements

Volkswagen Westfalia

The Volkswagen Westfalia Camper is a camper conversion of the VW bus. The name originates from the company Westfalia-Werke which began converting Volkswagen buses way back in 1951. Originally, the conversions were quite spartan in style but as time went on their famous “pop-top” package was added which provided additional headroom to the van. This became very popular on the second-generation VW Bus from 1968–1979 and is part of its iconic appearance.   In the 1980s the model was called the Vanagon, and the final design was the T4 EuroVan which was discontinued in 2003.  Here are some generational photos of the iconic VW Westfalia in all its different variations.

Like many people I have a great memory about the Westfalia. I vividly remember being about 12ish and learning how to ski with my school chums as we would be shuttled back and forth to the local ski hill on Friday nights in a 1980s era VW Westfalia.  That van had more character than a vintage Rolls Royce and I’m not sure how my friend who is now a Sea King helicopter pilot in the Canadian Navy would always fall asleep on those rides home as the suspension was always working overtime carrying the load of at least 5 teenagers.  That VW bus criss-crossed Canada a few times and took all the abuse two extremely active twin boys as well as an older sister could throw at it. It ended up as a reliable people mover surviving well into our high school years until their old man sold it to another local family who vowed to keep the VW tradition going. It was a shade lighter than this one but similar model.

As the Wesfalia has not been built since 2003, the supply is limited and here in North America they are even more scare and as a result, prices are quite high today.  With many top quality examples being imported from the US there are some more available now than in years past but you better have a thick wallet because they are not cheap.

Vintage Ford Broncos

It does seem like a bit of an anomaly with all the hype around going “green” and getting better gas mileage but let’s be honest there is nothing quite like the smell and sound from a 1970s V8 gas guzzling engine.  That is likely one of the factors contributing to the rise in popularity and value of 1970s Ford Broncos.

The Bronco was initially introduced by Ford in 1966 as a competitor to the small four-wheel-drive compact SUVs of the day which were the Jeep CJ-5 and International Harvester Scout.  It was based on its own platform and was built and sold by Ford until 1996.  Broncos can be divided into two categories: early Broncos (1966–77) and full-size Broncos (1978–96). The early Ford Broncos are now collectors items sought by enthusiasts around the world and can be very valuable if they are in original condition.

With the rise in popularity of these vintage Ford Broncos, one trend becoming popular with the enthusiast community is building an essentially new vintage Ford Bronco to all the original size specifications but with all the bells and whistles of modern auto technology.  This is a recent video courtesy of Adam Carolla’s CarCast where California based builder ICON shows off their latest beautiful handmade Ford Bronco model which comes complete with LED lights, Nike designed front grill and a brand new 5.0 Litre V8 pumping out a whopping 420 HP and 390 lbs of torque.  An incredible machine for the man or woman that has it all.

One celebrity fan of the Ford Bronco is Michigan music legend and outdoorsman, the infamous Ted Nugent.  Check out a video of him ripping it up in his classic 1974 Ford Bronco.

Another beautiful 1976 Ford Bronco for sale in Oklahoma.

If you are interested in checking out more information about Ford Broncos here are some solid websites regarding Ford Broncos.

The roots of Japanese Touge Drifting

Tōge or Touge (峠) is a Japanese word literally meaning “pass.” It refers to a mountain pass or any narrow, winding road that can be found throughout the mountainous regions of Japan.  Historically, road engineers in Japan created a series of S bends in steep roads that provided access to and from high mountain elevations in order to decrease the incline, thereby making them easier for commercial trucks to pass on the two lane roads. Around twenty five years ago, these same roads became the hallowed grounds to which the sport of “Drifting” was born. Japanese, motorcycling legend turned driver, Kunimitsu Takahashi, was the foremost creator of drifting techniques in the 1970s. He is noted for hitting the apex (the point where the car is closest to the inside of a turn) at high speed and then drifting through the corner, preserving a high exit speed. As professional racers in Japan drove this way, so did local street racers “hashiriya”  and over the years, these passes have become mythical locations for auto enthusiasts as they provide a challenging and thrilling course to test the limits of cars. Although the J-Pop soundtrack is a bit dated, the video provides a flavour of the Japanese drifting culture in Osaka region.

Keiichi Tsuchiya (known as the Dorikin/Drift King) became particularly interested by Takahashi’s early drift techniques and began honing his drifting skills on these same mountain roads and quickly gained a reputation amongst the racing crowd as he took them to the next level. In 1987, several popular car magazines and tuning garages agreed to produce a video of Tsuchiya’s drifting skills in his Toyota AE86 (Corolla).The grainy low budget video, known as Pluspy, became an international hit and inspired many of the professional drifting drivers on the circuits today. The video certainly mirrors the “Land of the Rising Sun” with its contradictions as the mood transforms from intense to melodic around 4 minutes 30 seconds while as a viewer you are wondering why someone left the slow motion button on.

The combination of Japan’s immense affluence in the late 1980s and early 1990s along with the rise in the aftermarket modifications available for their domestic car models resulted in a dramatic rise of the sport across Japan.  Drifting has since exploded into a massively popular form of motorsport in North America, Australia, Asia and Europe. Most recently, with the box office success of films such as Fast and Furious – Tokyo Drift the whole World is now familiar with the Japanese car scene. This is the iconic heavily tuned Mazda RX-7 from the film.

Here are some other famous Japanese modified models widely used for “Drifting” – Toyota A86 Corolla, Honda NSX, Nissan Skyline R32, Nissan Skyline R34, Nissan Silva and Toyota Supra.

What is a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle?

With all the press recently around Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), one technology that has perhaps been overlooked is fuel cells. Vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells are actually a type of electric vehicle. Instead of carrying around a lot of heavy batteries to draw electricity from, it creates its own electricity from a chemical reaction. This article provides a good overview of the technology. Major automobile manufacturers are still investing in fuel cell technology, such as Mercedes Benz, Hyundai, and GM.

While vehicle powered by fuel cells won’t be mass produced for a number of years, and there are still a number of significant barriers to overcome, they have the potential to become a very attractive alternative fuel vehicle.

20120421-200717.jpg

Toronto Spring Classic Car Auction

I recently had the opportunity to check out the Toronto Spring Classic Car Auction held at the International Centre. Over the years, I have come to this show to experience the sights and sounds of the classic car scene in action and to keep informed on local prices. Attending in person, is quite the visceral experience as being up close with these vintage machines as they fire up their V8 engines to go up on the block is as close to Barrett- Jackson’s as you can get in Toronto.

I vividly remember the auction in the early 2000s and seeing top quality cars including; matching number Chevelles, 60s Corvettes and Mopar’s such as Chargers, Challengers and Javelins all rolling off the block in the range of 75K-80K and for the trailer queens you would see upwards of 100K bids. Well, those days are definitely over, and the new era is far more realistic and more interesting as there are now bargains to be had for anyone with cash.  Overall, prices of classic cars and trucks are down significantly since the peak in the Fall of 2007 before the global recession really took hold. For the full details of what things sold for check out final sales data. And with the added meltdown of the US economy and housing market over the past few years, far less US buyers are attending these types of Canadian events which has dramatically lowered overall values.

One local dealer who sells a tonne of cars at the auction is Segal Motorcar Company. They always bring some of the cleanest and most pristine high end exotics to the auction block including Porsches, Ferraris, Aston Martins, Maseratis and the odd Bentley.

Here are some of the highlights from the auction.

The next one is scheduled for October and is a must attend event if you are into classic cars.  And if you are lucky enough to be in a position to purchase one, just remember to bring your chequebook because for sure, there’s something for sale that would look great in your driveway.

Mercedes Benz Launches Furniture Line

20120418-112249.jpg

Yes, that’s right Ikea is now making TVs and Mercedes is making furniture. The style division of Mercedes Benz has teamed up with an Italian furniture maker to come out with a new collection of furniture.

The press release from Mercedes indicates the initial collection will include one sofa, chaise longue, sideboard, dining room table with chairs, shelf unit with integrated home theatre system, bed and chest of drawers.

If you happen to be in Milan, Italy from April 17th to 22nd check it out at the Milan Furniture Fair.

2012 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 – Super Car Killer

The days of Chevrolet Corvettes being the vehicle your grandfather would drive to a cruise night are long gone with the rise in power and speed of the new models.  According to the GM website, the 2012 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 is the fastest, most powerful car GM has ever produced. It was also the overall winner of the 2010 Car and Driver Lightning Lap competition, which pitted the ZR1 against the fastest cars in the world.

Specs are as follows:

  • Handcrafted LS9 supercharged V8
  • 638 horsepower
  • 604 lb.-ft. of torque
  • Test track top speed of 205 mph
  • 0-60 mph in 3.4 seconds
  • 103-foot stopping distance at 60 mph

With more horsepower than an Enzo Ferrari and about 1/5 of the price it really is the ultimate bang for your buck sports car. See it in action as it hits the Nürburgring.

Built and assembled in Bowling Green, Kentucky, with the engine being created at GM’s Performance Build Center in Wixom, Michigan, the ZR1 really is America’s most powerful sports car.

I personally love this ad  – bring on the Americana!!

Bentleys….The Ultimate in Luxury

Bentley Motors Limited is a British manufacturer of automobiles which was founded in 1919 by Walter Owen Bentley. The company originally built a range of airplane engines in World War I, the most famous being the Bentley BR1 which was used in the famous British fighter Sopwith Camel. After the war, Bentley designed and made production cars that won the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1924  and repeated that success with victories in 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930. Purchased by Rolls-Royce in 1931, production was moved from London to Derby and later to Crewe, England.  In 1998, the Volkswagen Group of Germany purchased Bentley, and have kept the production facilities in the UK so the car is still classified as British built.

Historically, it has always been the ultimate gentleman’s car as a faster more performance focused automobile than its cousin, the Rolls Royce.  It still remains the ultimate luxury automobile for society’s 1% however, it now also reigns supreme as the defacto purchase for the biggest names in pro sports and entrepreneurs who have “made it”.  I recently had the opportunity to take some photos of a local 2009 Bentley GTC Convertible. What a machine is all I can say…

Specs are impressive to say the least…

  • 600 HP
  • Top speed of 325 kilometres per hour (201.9 mph)
  • 0-60 mph time of 4.3 seconds
  • Acceleration to 200 km/h (124 mph) from 0 in 12.8.
  • First production Bentley officially capable of reaching 325 km/h (201.9 mph), despite the fact the car weighs over 2,400 kilograms (5,291 lb)

Deals Gap and “The Dragon”

Deals Gap is an internationally famous destination for driving enthusiasts located in North Carolina along a stretch of two-lane road known as “The Dragon“. The 11-mile stretch is said to have 318 curves and crosses the border into Tennessee. Some of the Dragon’s sharpest curves have names like Copperhead Corner, Hog Pen Bend, Wheelie Hell, Shade Tree Corner, Mud Corner, Sunset Corner, Gravity Cavity, Beginner’s End, and Brake or Bust Bend. The road earned its name from its curves being said to resemble a dragon’s tail. Since part of the road is also the southwestern border of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there is no development along the 11-mile stretch, resulting in no danger of vehicles pulling out in front of those in the right of way. It mostly travels through forested area and there are a few scenic overlooks and pull-off points along the route. However, saying all this there are several deaths annually on the road that result from the technical aspect of so many curves and usually car and motorcycle enthusiasts travelling at high speeds.  If you see the map below it outlines the recent fatalities.

To get a real perspective for the seriousness of the “Dragon” the following video shows what it is really like to cruise its path.