Calgary Herald, Rocker Kim Mitchell Dreams of Cars and Motorcycles, by Greg Williams

published in the Calgary Herald July 13, 2007

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photo courtesy Kim Mitchell

Canadian musician Kim Mitchell is responsible for some of this country?s most memorable rock anthems. Songs such as Go For Soda (surprisingly, there is no ‘A’ in the song title), Patio Lanterns and Rock n Roll Duty have helped define his style.
His career, which includes fronting the band Max Webster, has spanned close to 40 years. He went solo in 1982, and he?s set to release his eighth album, Ain?t Life Amazing, on July 17.
While Mitchell, 55, is all about music, it turns out he?s also got a bit of gasoline in his veins. He likes cars, motorcycles and boats ? but he doesn?t have a garage full of toys. In fact, at the moment, he doesn?t even have a garage. Mitchell?s remedying that later this summer when he moves from his Toronto apartment to a house ? with a garage.
?An American artist who has had a hit record is probably going to have a Ferrari, or at least a couple of new ?Benz?s,? Mitchell said in a phone interview. ?Well, I?m a musician who?s done okay in Canada, and I don?t have a garage full of stuff.?
Turns out Mitchell?s current rides are a 1988 Mercedes-Benz 260E and a 2002 Nissan Altima. He loves the old Benz, but is planning on selling the Nissan.
?Mercedes-Benz cars have always blown me away,? Mitchell said. ?They?re a pretty cool luxury car, they?re so solid, like a tank. My 260E drives like a dream, I love the ride and it rocks down the highway pretty good. I got the thing about 13 years ago; I bought it from my ex-wife in our divorce settlement.?
At one time Mitchell lived in Collingwood, about two hours north of Toronto, and commuting back and forth added a lot of miles to whatever vehicle he was driving. He says he still ?slams a lot of miles? on his vehicles.
Which, traditionally, have been full size passenger vans.
And that?s probably because his first vehicle was a white Ford cargo van, which he found handy to carry band equipment.
?There were two seats in the front and that was it; it was like driving a loaf of bread around on four wheels.?
He?s since owned several vans.
?I had 435,000 miles on my Ford Chateau and I had 375,000 on my old Chevy Beauville van. Those vans are underrated. You can throw an amp, a bicycle (or just about anything else) in there and slam down the highway at 120 km/h?they were my dressing room, my bedroom, my vehicle.
?In fact, one year I drove down to the Juno Awards wearing my jeans and T-shirt, and I had my suit in the back. When I got in the parking lot I changed into my nighttime gear.?
He thinks he?d like another full-size passenger van.
?I keep driving by dealerships and looking for vans, but you don?t see them very often,? Mitchell said.
In the early 1970s Mitchell was playing guitar in a country group called Dick Dixon and the Stone Mountain Band. He bought himself a Honda CB750-4 to ride back and forth to the club.
?When we broke off around 1 a.m. we?d go ride, and we?d ride until the sun came up,? Mitchell says. One of his band mates rode a Triumph Trident, and the other a Ducati.
?The noise of that Ducati, he?d just pour it on, and it was like music,? Mitchell said.
While he doesn?t have a motorcycle at the moment, Mitchell?s had his eye on the Victory line of machines ? and likes both the 2007 Hammer and Vegas models.
While growing up, Mitchell says his dad didn?t have any serious brand loyalty, and bought a new car every two years. But it was a powder blue Oldsmobile 442 that Mitchell liked best.
?My dad used to let me sit on his lap and I?d drive; that thing had some serious power, I loved that car,? he said.
The other car he remembers is his sister?s 1967 Camaro.
?My dad bought me guitars, so when it came time for her to drive he bought her the Camaro, I guess he was just trying to keep it equal. But I remember washing that car, and seeing the ?327? emblem on the front fender, it was so cool.?
The weirdest vehicle Mitchell ever owned was a late model VW Beetle.
?Not that the car was weird, but every time I stopped at a light or a stop sign I?d get swarmed by bees. It was like a strange dream, I had to sell it.?
In the garage of the mind, Mitchell would love to have a Maserati GranSport and a family-friendly Mercedes-Benz, perhaps an E55 or S55 with the AMG package.
And a van, of course.

Calgary Herald, Toyota’s Hybrid Technology, by Greg Williams

published in the Calgary Herald, July 6, 2007

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photo courtesy Toyota Canada Inc., the 2007 Toyota Prius energy monitor

What does the future hold for the automobile?
If Toyota Canada Inc.?s managing director Stephen Beatty were in Las Vegas, he?d put his money on some form of liquid fuel and electricity.
Toyota is at the forefront of producing hybrid vehicles, and has just reached a milestone with the product. Worldwide, more than one million Toyota hybrids have been sold, and Canadians have helped Toyota reach that number ? they?ve bought 16,000 of the environmentally friendly vehicles.
?It seems the No. 1 issue in the public mind is the environment, and the auto sector is front and centre,? Beatty said during a phone interview. ?We?ve been actively engaged for a number of years, talking to the public about what (technological) alternatives are available.?
Toyota?s push is, of course, hybrid technology and their own Hybrid Synergy Drive. The automaker now offers six hybrids, including Camry, Prius and Highlander, plus the Lexus RX 400h, GS 450h, and LS 600h.
Beatty remembers the early days when Toyota Canada got seven right hand drive Prius cars from Japan, and he says, ?There was a metaphoric sticky note on the steering wheel that said, ?See if anyone is interested?.?
They visited shopping malls and auto shows, wanting to talk to people about clean air and what kind of commitment Toyota was willing to make to reduce tailpipe emissions.
?It was a new and different looking car, and people like to come over and kick tires,? Beatty said of his time spent gauging public interest in the first hybrid Prius.
He says he?d enter into a lengthy description about the technology involved, including the patents and the fact that the Prius has more computing power than it took to put a man on the moon.
?People?s eyes would glaze over,? Beatty said.
But then they were given the chance to drive a Prius. After the drive, ?We asked ?What did you think??, and most said, ?I was surprised, it was just a car?,? Beatty said.
That?s what the whole experience was about.
Beatty said Toyota wasn?t out to radically change the car driving experience; they simply wanted to produce a product that could move seamlessly into the lifestyle of the consumer, all the while reducing tail pipe emissions.
It doesn?t hurt in the U.S. to have Hollywood advocates of Toyota?s hybrid technology, including Leonardo DeCaprio and Julia Roberts. Here in Canada, Victoria and Vancouver taxicab drivers have championed the cause of the hybrid Toyota Camry and Prius, accumulating several hundred thousand kilometres in the cars.
A recent survey out of the U.S. by the Topline Strategy Group indicated that most buyers of the Toyota Prius were not traditional ?early adopters? of new technology. Early adopters are those willing to pay a premium to have the latest technology.
?Only 27 per cent of Prius buyers could be considered classic early adopters,? said Jonathan Klein, founder and general partner of Topline Strategy Group in a news release. ?The Prius has been successful because it represents a low-cost, stylish, practical car with a strong environmental image — a combination of attributes that tapped into a broad market of environmentally conscious people who saw it as an opportunity to do the right thing, save money, and buy an appealing car all at the same time.?
There are other environmentally friendly technologies that could be seen as viable options, including bio-fuel, hydrogen fuel cells and clean diesel power. And, the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine isn?t going to go away any time soon, either. Incredible efficiencies have been found lurking within the internal combustion engine, and fuel economy is rising while tailpipe emissions are decreasing.
But, according to Beatty, ?Hybrid has been the most successful alternative in auto technology so far.?
The problem Beatty sees with any of the other options is infrastructure and distribution that will support the average driver. And clean diesel fuel, similar to what is available in some European countries, doesn?t seem to be coming to Canada.
?If you go back just over the last 100 years there was electricity, steam, kerosene ? all these technologies were slugging it out (early in the automobile?s history), and this isn?t new in any respect,? Beatty says. ?After a period of intense competition there will be some consolidation.
?(Toyota) does do research in every major technology, but we see the hybrid as a foundation technology.?
Toyota is pleased to have sold 16,000 hybrids, and Beatty says that number needs to be put into perspective.
?We?ve sold 16,000 hybrids (in Canada) over the last 10 years,? he said. ?But 1,000 of those were sold just in May of this year.?

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photo courtesy Toyota Canada Inc.

Calgary Herald, 2007 VW Eos Convertible, by Greg Williams

2007 VOLKSWAGEN EOS

Volkswagen named their new convertible the Eos.
Heck of a good name, considering Eos is the Greek goddess of the dawn, responsible for bringing the sun to each new day.
But the sun didn?t shine much for Stacey Savage, our Calgary test driver who was behind the wheel of the 2007 VW Eos for a week. In fact, she only got the top down for a couple of trips ? and one of those was down Deerfoot Trail ? a noisy, dusty and busy drive at the best of times.
?I managed to drive down Deerfoot with the top down,? Savage, 35, says. ?And it wasn’t too bad. With the windows up it’s not windy at all.?
Savage is an operations manager for Shaw Communications, who was born and raised in Calgary. Her current vehicle is a 1996 Acura Integra equipped with a manual transmission, and she also rides a 1999 Suzuki 1400 c.c. Intruder, a cruiser-style motorcycle. Her first car was a 1980 Dodge Colt, and then she drove a 1986 Buick Century sedan. She bought her Acura in 1999. Savage spends most of her time behind the wheel commuting from her northwest home to her northeast office. When she?s not commuting, she?s driving to a park to play ball or to golf.
Savage took up motorcycling when she was 29. ?I kept seeing them zip down the road, and I figured I should give it a go.?
She likes the out-in-the-elements feel of riding the bike, and wanted to test a convertible to compare the experiences. However, Savage expects a large degree of utility and functionality from her vehicle, and the Eos didn?t quite meet her expectations.

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photo courtesy Volkswagen Canada

?I don?t think you could carry any kind of larger object, like a new TV set from Costco, or a chair or side table,? Savage says. ?At least, I wouldn?t want to damage the interior by sitting something in the back seat.?
One gets the feeling she?s pretty comfortable with her Acura hatchback; she reports moving a barbeque and other large items in her car.
That said, though, she did end up liking the Eos.
Introduced late in 2006 as a 2007 model, Volkswagen?s Eos is not a cut-up and remade Jetta, Rabbit or GTI; it is a standalone design and doesn?t look at all like any other VW offerings. It does however share some underpinning components, including rear suspension from the Passat and the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine found in the GTI.
The Eos is a hardtop convertible coupe, and the retractable top was designed by OASYS (Open Air SYStems). Not only is the top retractable, but it also features a large sliding glass panel sunroof. At the push of a button the five-piece top articulates in a very complicated manner and stows away in the trunk in just a hair over 25 seconds.
?The roof line is what really characterizes the car,? Savage says of the exterior appearance of the Eos. ?And to see the convertible top go up or down; it?s really nifty, there are so many different moves it makes.
?When I was showing off the car (and how the top works) people who were walking by would just stop and watch the demonstration.?
While she might not have been able to enjoy too much top-down- wind-in-her hair-driving Savage did experience the performance potential of the Eos.
?It had a lot of get up and go,? she says. ?It was a speedy car.? The turbocharged four-cylinder makes 200 horsepower and 207 lb.-ft. of torque.
A good long highway excursion wasn?t in her cards, but she managed to accumulate just over 500 kilometres running around the city. Savage?s Eos was equipped with the optional six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. She experimented with the Tiptronic feature, but in the end preferred to let the gearbox shift for itself. A six-speed manual is standard fare in the Eos.

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photo courtesy Volkswagen Canada

Savage?s Eos sported the $3,835 Sport Leather Package, and it was loaded with features that met with her approval. The leather seating surfaces were heated, and the 12-way power adjustable driver?s seat was a dream, she says.
?The seat moved up, forward, down, back, tilt, lumbar ? I really liked the seat.?
The Sport package also included dual zone automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers, premium stereo with eight speakers, and a multi-function trip computer and compass.
Savage liked the way the Eos handled. ?Going around corners it really hugged the road — very little body roll — and it just seemed very solid and well-planted,? she says. ?The car?s suspension was great, it was like driving on a cloud or like you?re on brand new pavement; the suspension really took the bumps out of the road.?
The car also had a very tight turning radius, and Savage says the Eos had great parking lot manners and was a cinch to parallel park.
Would Savage purchase an Eos?
?In a word, no. I need one vehicle that will do everything for me, and I just felt the Eos had limited space.
?I mean, you can carry a couple of bags in the trunk when the top is down, but I just didn?t see it having a lot of trunk room for a lot of stuff.?
So, just who would best suit the Eos?
?I think it would be an excellent second family vehicle, where there?s an option to carry other stuff in a van or a truck if need be. And the Eos would be good for a couple of small kids to sit in the back seat.
?I guess if I pictured myself living with my boyfriend, or in a family situation, the Eos would be kick ass.?
As she was returning the Eos, Savage says the VW GTI caught her eye. ?Now, that might work better for me.?

NOTES FROM STACEY SAVAGE?S DRIVING JOURNAL
–Feels awkward to be driving an automatic. Tried using the manual/auto stick, but don’t really see the use of the manual so kept it on automatic.
–Silver? Doesn’t do the car justice. A convertible needs to be a bright colour.
–Awesome that there is still a bit of trunk room when you have the top down.
–Has lots of giddyup and corners really well.
–Washed the car today to keep it pretty. Unfortunately, the window seal let water get into the car and it dripped on the seat. Even when you open the car door and close it again water keeps dripping because it’s stuck in the seal. Something they need to work on.
–Played with the convertible mechanism — a definite eye catcher. I don’t mind the look of it when the top is up; it still looks more sporty than the sedan look I expected. Looks hot with the top down however!
–Am really enjoying the SMOOTH and QUIET ride, it’s really nice.
–This car is not good with the rain. (Is it just this car?) Once rain gets into the track when you open the door, it gets trapped and drips on you.
–No issues with the sunroof — and it’s awesome to have the sunroof/convertible combination.

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photo courtesy Volkswagen Canada

IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL
Denise Blakely is a 46-year old Calgary driver. She bought a 2007 VW Eos from Northland VW, and in just two weeks of driving has accumulated 1,271 kilometres. Blakely is a freelance photographer, and has been shooting numerous sports events and professional athletes ? most recently quarterback Henry Burris of the Calgary Stampeders. She commutes around town and is frequently on the highway going to her Canmore summer home. As a photographer Blakely regularly carries numerous video and camera bags.

Q: Why the VW Eos?
A: I saw an article in a magazine about the Eos, and it caught my eye. My husband and I talked about it, and decided that with the kids all grown up ? I don?t have to worry about baby seats at the moment ? it would be a great car for me. This is my first convertible, but the selling point for me was that it?s a hard top. With our winters, a soft top doesn?t seem sensible. But really, it?s a sports car, it?s red, and it?s a fun car to drive. And I do plan on driving it year round.

Q: Top up or top down?
A: Oh, I definitely prefer to drive it with the top down. If the top?s up, then the sunroof is open. And there?s plenty of room in the Eos. Last weekend I had four people in the car and two camera bags, an overnight bag and two backpacks in the boot, and that was with the top down. There is a huge amount of trunk space there.

Q: How long do you plan on keeping your Eos?
A: I plan to keep it until it falls apart, so I guess forever.

2007 VW Eos Specs
Engine: 2.0-L DOHC I-4 w/turbo
Horsepower: 200 @ 5,100 r.p.m.
Torque: 207 lb.-ft. @ 1,800 r.p.m.
Wheelbase: 2,578 mm
Overall length: 4,407 mm
Curb weight: 1,590 kg
Price as tested: $48,442 (including PDI and GST)

Calgary Herald, Discovery House Hotrod for Hope, by Greg Williams

Ford Coupe fuelling fundraising efforts

Greg Williams, For The Calgary Herald, published June 15, 2007

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photo courtesy Discovery House — 1932 Ford “Deuce” Coupe available to be won.

Dreaming of building a classic hotrod? You’d have to have the budget, the tools, the talent, and the space in which to work.

Doesn’t sound too easy.

It’s probably a whole lot simpler to purchase a raffle ticket on the Hot Rod for Hope, a 1932 Ford “Deuce” Coupe.

This is the second year for the unique fundraising initiative of the Discovery House Family Violence Prevention Society, a Calgary-based emergency shelter.

Last year’s draw — for a 1937 Ford Coupe — was deemed a success with 2,400 tickets sold. The goal this year is to sell 3,500 tickets; there are only 4,000 printed.

“I’d really like to sell out this year,” says Lisa Barrett, Discovery House manager of community relations.

Established in 1980, Discovery House is a second-stage shelter that offers protective and supportive housing for women with children who have left an environment of family violence.

“Our core funding is only 60 per cent,” Barrett says. “The rest of our funds must come through fundraising, so Hot Rod for Hope is an important event for us.”

Hot Rods and Cool Cars of Airdrie built this year’s 1932 Ford Coupe.

Finished in a burnt orange paint scheme, Barrett says the car attracts attention wherever it goes.

Ticket sales for the Sept. 28 draw started this spring at the Spring Thaw show and shine, and the vehicle has been on display at various events and festivals around the city and surrounding area.

Next appearance for the “Deuce” is this weekend at Race City Motorsport Park, which is hosting the 20th anniversary Father’s Day Funny Car Classic, a popular event with nitro-burning funny cars and jet cars running the length of the quarter mile drag strip.

“What a great Father’s Day gift — take him to the track for the races, and purchase a raffle ticket at the same time,” Barrett says.

Tickets are $50 each, and are available online at www.discoveryhouse.ca, or by phone at 204-6836.

Calgary Herald Saturn Aura People’s Test Drive, by Greg Williams

People’s Test Drive of the 2007 Saturn Aura, originally published in the Calgary Herald, June 1, by Greg Williams

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photo courtesy Laurie Andrews

Saturn Aura

It?s a rare occasion when a vehicle looks more expensive than it is.
But such is the case with the brand-new for 2007 Saturn Aura.
Wayne Andrews, a 45-year old software product manager, is a Calgary driver with a penchant for high-performance rear wheel or all wheel drive sports sedans. He spent a week behind the wheel of an Aura XR, and he figures the car really does look rather posh.
Upon picking up the vehicle, Andrews says: ?I was immediately struck by its taut, graceful shape. It looks nothing like its Pontiac G6 and Chevy Malibu stablemates, nor for that matter any of its North American or Asian competition.?

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photo courtesy GM

He figures that fact alone should attract buyers in the rather staid mid-size sedan segment that includes the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and Hyundai Sonata. ?And, in my opinion, only the new Altima can compete with the Aura in sheer sporty good looks,? he says.
And the Aura is receiving critical acclaim. The Saturn Aura was voted the 2007 North American Car of the Year, beating out other finalists including the Infiniti G35, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the redesigned Toyota Camry.
In 2005 thanks to steadily declining sales General Motors? Saturn division cancelled production of its previous sedan, the L-series. The company headed in a new direction, moving to all-steel bodies ? no more dent-resistant polymer panels — and updated design architecture. Elements of its successful Sky roadster, including the jewel-like headlamps and chrome grille bar, help define the Aura as a member of the freshened-up Saturn family.
?The Aura looks long and low, and has high door sills and shallow side window glass,? Andrews says. ?And, it has short front and rear overhangs, and I like that kind of appearance.?
Andrews says the 18-inch aluminum rims complemented the overall classy look of the car, and helped fill up the wheel wells of the Aura.
There are two versions of the Aura available, the XE and the XR. The XE trim level is powered by a 3.5-litre OHV V6, which produces 224 horsepower. Meanwhile, the XR features a bit peppier 3.6-L DOHC V6 that makes 252 h.p. at 6,300 r.p.m. and 251 lb.-ft. torque at 3,200 r.p.m.
The XR?s 3.6-L engine is paired up with a six-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the front wheels.
?The engine was strong, smooth and torquey,? Andrews says, and adds: ?I found I had better access to power by selecting my own gears using the tapshift paddle shifting feature. Fun for a while, but I expect for most drivers that novelty would wear off quickly.?
Andrews says he spends 95 per cent of his driving time commuting, traveling from McKenzie to downtown Calgary five days a week. He just traded in his 1998 Ford Contour and bought a 2003 Infiniti G35 Aero sedan. When shopping he says a vehicle must be ?interesting and fun to drive. I like sports sedans or AWD sedans because (the car) has to do double duty ? I need a four door car with a reasonable amount of room in the back seat, as it has to accommodate the family on certain occasions.?
Andrews has two children, son Ian, eight, and daughter Emma, six. His wife Laurie currently drives a 1999 Ford Expedition.
While Andrews drove the Aura XR around Calgary, he also got the car out on the highway to Medicine Hat. He and a colleague drove to the southeast Alberta city for a business meeting.
?The Aura has great highway manners,? Andrews says. ?It was comfortable and quiet enough for me to carry on a conversation with my soft-spoken colleague.
?We also spent part of the trip listening to the fine-sounding AM/FM/CD/satellite radio. The return trip we drove in one stint, that?s three hours in the saddle with no discomfort or fatigue, a real credit to the Aura?s civility.?

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photo courtesy GM

For Andrews, the ride was agreeably firm and sporty. The brakes, however, were a little vague, with an excessive amount of pressure on the pedal required for a small amount of stopping power. He also didn?t care for the front wheel drive powertrain, but that?s just his personal preference for rear wheel or all wheel drive vehicles.
He found the Aura luxurious, and thought the leather on the seats was plush. Andrews adds: ?The interior was very well put together, and I never perceived a plastic feeling.?
As driven, Andrews? Aura featured niceties including steering wheel audio controls, eight-way adjustable driver seat, rear audio controls with a pair of wireless headphones and the $1,285 premium trim package, the $1,195 power sliding glass sunroof, and the $660 comfort package ? for a total of $35,570. The premium package adds leather seats and leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob while the comfort package includes a six-way power adjustable passenger seat and power adjustable pedals.
When Andrews had the whole family in the car the kids found there was plenty of room in the back seat, and wife Laurie thought the car was easy to get into.
Although Andrews enjoyed driving the Saturn Aura XR for a week, his final opinion is: ?It?s not perfect for me. I could be quite happy driving one, but given a choice I?d go a different direction.?
So who?s perfect for the Aura? Andrews says, ?It?s an awesome car for a family, with enough room for four people, and it?s fun for dad to drive.
?I also think the Aura is more than good value for the money. It?s comfortable, roomy, powerful. I went to the Saturn website and put every option on the car I could think of, and had a hard time to get it over $35,000.?


NOTES FROM WAYNE ANDREWS SEVEN-DAY DRIVER?S JOURNAL

– The black leather seats look inviting and the pewter-look wraparound trim that extends to the rear cabin gives the interior a cohesive look.
– If you are looking for a floaty Buick-like ride, this is not your car. In XR trim, Saturn specs a firmer suspension, 18-inch wheels and low-profile 50-series rubber. Since I prefer a sportier ride, this suits me fine. Even so, crossing railroad tracks at 100 km/h caused no jarring or undue noise.
– All-wheel drive would make this car a four-season treat. While I?m noting seasonal quibbles, the door design both front and rear allows snow to fall on the seats when you open the doors.
– The Aura?s first practical chore was to fetch a six-inch Newtonian reflector telescope from another part of the city. I was skeptical the trunk would be sufficiently roomy for the 50 inch tube and hefty pedestal stand, (but) everything went in fine, despite a slightly high liftover and small trunk opening. The rear seat folds forward for even more cargo length, which is good news for skiers. The side cargo nets in the trunk were handy for small objects, but tended to snag easily.
– The combination of adjustable pedals and tilt/telescoping wheel make finding the perfect driving position a snap, though I have to say the plastic steering column surround looks out of place in this car?s handsome interior.
– Some final small criticisms. Why do the door handle recesses illuminate at night while I?m driving 110, then turn off when parked and I actually need them?
– Would I buy this car? Were I looking for an affordable, high-feature front drive family car, I would absolutely buy the attractive, sporty Aura. However, I personally still plan to hold out for a rear- or all-wheel-drive sports sedan (Andrews? wrote this prior to obtaining his Infiniti G35). Then again, should an Aura Redline (no news of this happening) come to market with 300 h.p. and all wheel drive, I reserve the right to change my mind.

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photo courtesy GM

IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL
Jason Hansen can?t believe he bought a Saturn. The 34-year old customer success manager at IT SportsNet says he grew up thinking his first brand new car was going to be an import. But buy a Saturn he did. Last fall he purchased a 2007 Saturn XE at Saturn Saab of Calgary Northeast, and has since put 7,500 km on the odometer.
Q: Why the Saturn Aura?
A: I was at Saturn Saab of Calgary Northeast test-driving a Saab 9-2X, and I saw the Aura out front. I had vaguely heard about the Aura, as my group of friends and I are always talking about cars. I took a look at the features and the price, and then took it for a test drive. I couldn?t believe it, I was floored that it was a Saturn. It was so well featured and the price was right. I waited a week and looked at other vehicles but I came back to the Saturn.
Q: What else did you look at?
A: I had my spreadsheet with the Mazda3Sport, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, but even the base four-cylinder models were out of my price range. With the Saturn Aura there was just so much car for the money. My car, even though it?s a base model, came pretty well loaded with On-Star, CD player with MP3, air conditioning and power everything.
Q: Do you have a favourite feature?
A: Oh, that?s a tough question to answer, it?s really hard to pick just one. But I guess it would have to be the car?s ride. It?s so supple yet very responsive, with an amazingly well tuned suspension. And the interior; it?s like a bank vault in their. It?s so quiet I can hear myself breathing while I?m driving.
Q: So, obviously there are no regrets?
A: Not a single regret, nope.

SPECS
Engine: DOHC 24-valve 3.6-L V6 w/VVT
Horsepower: 252 @ 6,300 r.p.m.
Torque: 251 lb.-ft. @ 3,200 r.p.m.
Wheelbase: 2,852 mm
Overall length: 4,851 mm
Curb weight: 1,654.3kg
Price as tested: $35,570

Derek Pauletto and Trillion Industries Calgary, Inside Motorcycles by Greg Williams

As seen in Inside Motorcycles, Volume 10, Issue 2 (May/2007)

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photos courtesy Trillion Industries

I once knew an extremely talented cabinetmaker, who, when the whine of the table saw was ebbing and the sawdust settling, would wax philosophically, sigh, and say: ?If motorcycles were made of wood, just imagine the bike I could build.?
So when I met Calgary?s Derek Pauletto I was surprised to learn he had been a cabinetmaker early in his life. You see, 34-year old Pauletto actually did trade in his wood saws and rasps for TIG welders and metal cut-off saws about 12 years ago.
Ever since, he?s been determined to engineer his own motorcycle, including engine and frame, by the time he turns 40. He currently builds his own frames, but the engine is taking him some more time. However, Pauletto states: ?I will hammer out one proprietary motorcycle that is all my own — and I?ve got six more years.?
Pauletto is well on his way, as he has just completed his first one-off motorcycle build and he?s gaining some well-deserved attention.
While Pauletto grew up working with wood he says it wasn?t until he was given an opportunity to work with metal that he heard his true calling.
?Right out of high school I was a cabinetmaker ? all my life I?d been into wood, making my own furniture and I thought that was going to be my destiny,? Pauletto says. ?But I?d never had a chance growing up to check into metal, and never had a chance to work with steel or alloy.?
Once given that chance, Pauletto says he saw a new road roll out ahead of him. ?I saw really where I wanted to go.?
While working at a local welding and fabrication shop Pauletto was taught the fine art of TIG welding, and became involved in the repair of motorcycle components.
?I really loved doing the (alloy) repair work, the small and really cool stuff,? he says. ?For me, it?s a pride thing.?

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In March 2005 Pauletto left his employer and opened his own business, Trillion Industries. He set up shop in his garage and started taking on work. Soon he was introduced to Calgary oil and gas man Davor Domic, who wanted a macho, super trick machine that would turn heads.
?We had a couple of meetings, and Davor had some pictures of muscle bikes. I drew him some sketches and he said, ?Just run with it?,? Pauletto says. ?His only stipulations were a wide 300 tire and 18 inch rims front and back. And it had to be black.?
To begin the project late in 2005 Pauletto ordered a 124 cubic inch S&S v-twin motor and a right side drive Baker six-speed gearbox. He also picked out a set of RMD billet wheels wrapped in Avon rubber. These components were set on a bench ? motor and gearbox in the middle and wheels at either end — while Pauletto cut out Styrofoam to simulate the frame and its subsequent shape. Pauletto then bent thin-wall 4130-chromoly tubing to form the main backbone, and used the motor as a stressed member. Mounts were installed to suspend the powerplant, and attachments for his own swingarm, which is cushioned by a single Ohlins shock, were welded in place.
The one piece of engineering of which Pauletto is most proud is his one-piece triple-X front fork tree assembly that eschews the conventional two-piece device. He had a friend help him design the tree using computer software, and the piece was cut via electronic discharge machining. Hand-finished, the triple-X proves innovative, yet Pauletto dismisses the idea of patenting the device.
?I don?t know if anyone else has done something like this, it?s hard to say. But just about everything?s been done before when it comes to motorcycles,? Pauletto says.
Pauletto stopped using sketches at some point, and says, ?As I was building it most of the ideas were in my head and I just let it happen.?
He began to really focus on Domic?s bike in June 2006, pushing to have the bike ready for an unveiling at the Calgary Motorcycle Show in early January 2007. Pauletto thought he would have the bike done in a month or maybe two, but he is running a small business and had to pay attention to his other projects. He also moved his shop into a Calgary industrial area building and it took him time to get settled. He and the bike just made the January deadline.
?I put in 250 hours just on the bike in December, and at the same time I was a dad and a husband. It was tough,? Pauletto says. But the work?s paid off. After showing the bike in Calgary he was invited to place the machine in the Parts Canada booth at the Edmonton Motorcycle Show, and then in his own display again in Red Deer.
An Avon tire rep saw the bike in Edmonton and told Pauletto his motorcycle had to be seen at the V-Twin Expo in Cincinatti in early February ? and he made it happen.
?That was great exposure, and it gave me lots of different contacts. It was really life-changing,? Pauletto says.
While the bike he has produced is in itself an artwork, it does remain an operable motorcycle.

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Derek Pauletto of Trillion Industries, working hard.

But Pauletto says: ?I?m pretty humble about it. There are a lot of smart people out there building bikes who don?t get enough credit. I?ll just keep working, and as long as I can produce really good work with quality and innovation, I don?t think there?s a limit.?
Pauletto has proven he can build a complete one-off motorcycle, and he?s working towards producing a small-displacement parallel twin engine that uses a supercharger or turbocharger to help boost power. He talks about machining his own bottom end and using components from other brands to complete the top end.
But in the meantime he wants to focus on producing and marketing his own line of components, including brake calipers and master cylinders — all pieces that Pauletto could put to use on his personal motorcycle.
And you can be certain that machine won?t be made of wood.

Click here to visit Inside Motorcycle’s website…

and click here to visit Pauletto’s Trillion Industries website.

Kane’s Harley-Davidson Calgary celebrates 50 years by Greg Williams

published May 25 in the Calgary Herald’s Driving section

by Greg Williams

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photo by Greg Williams

Mick Cawthorn of Kane’s Harley-Davidson with the 50th Anniversary Sportster — both his company and the venerable Sportster share a birthday.

Kane’s Harley-Davidson 50th birthday

Not many companies can lay claim to having been in business in Calgary for 50 years.
But on May 24, Kane’s Harley-Davidson in historic Inglewood reached that milestone and the ensuing birthday party carries on through the weekend. Festivities include Sunday’s running of the 16th annual Motorcycle Awareness Ride/Walt Healy and Bob Kane Memorial Ride in support of the Universal Rehabilitation Service Agency (URSA).
“Very few businesses in Calgary make it to 50 years, and very few motorcycle shops in North America make it to 50 years,” says Kane’s owner and long-time motorcycle enthusiast Mick Cawthorn.
The history of Harley-Davidson in Calgary does go back to 1919. But Bob Kane Sr., a Lethbridge dairy farmer, came to Calgary and established Kane’s Motorcycle Shop in 1957. At one time, Kane used to deliver milk in the Lethbridge area using an old Harley-Davidson and sidecar outfit.
In its history, Kane’s has sold motorcycles from just about every manufacturer, and was the first Honda dealership in Canada. For the last 24 years, the company has sold Harley-Davidson machines exclusively.
Cawhtorn had worked with Kane since the early 1970s, and he purchased a controlling interest in the company in the late 1970s. He hasn’t looked back since. With the rise in popularity of the Milwaukee-made Harley-Davidson machines Kane’s has grown, but Cawthorn has never looked to expand or move beyond his Inglewood location.
“We’re 50 years old this year, and our birthday is the same as the Sportster,” Cawthorn says. The first Harley-Davidson Sportster XL was also introduced in 1957.
To celebrate the 50 years, Harley-Davidson motorcycle demo-rides start today at 10 a.m. An informal meet and greet and barbeque complete with entertainment gets underway at 4 p.m. at Kane’s.
On Saturday a motorcycle and hot rod show and shine takes place on 11 Street, in front of Kane’s shop. “We want hot rods, new bikes, old bikes, basically anything that’s unique, all makes and models,” Cawthorn says. Spectators are welcome.
And on Sunday the motorcycle awareness ride/Walt Healy and Bob Kane memorial ride takes place. Registration at the Deerfoot Outlet Mall begins at 10 a.m., and closes at noon. A 110 kilometre ride to Symon’s Valley Ranch for a barbeque lunch departs at noon. There is a $30 fee per rider and a $30 fee per passenger, and all funds raised benefit URSA and their support of those living with a brain injury. Call 272-7722 or visit www.motorcycleawarenessride.com.
“The ride, again, is for all makes and all models of motorcycles,” Cawthorn says. “It’s about bikes being on the road, and we need to make the public aware that we’re here.”
That said, I’ll never forget once talking to the driver of a Ford Aerostar minivan after he’d been stuck in traffic waiting for the motorcycle awareness ride parade to pass.
“Next year,” he said, “I’m going to organize a Ford Aerostar minivan awareness drive.”
We know the minivans are on the road, but how closely do we watch for motorcyclists?

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Bob Kane, Sr. I think I took this photo, and the one below, sometime in 2000. Kane is the name behind Kane’s Harley-Davidson.

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Calgary Herald, Smart car utility factor, by Greg Williams

Cochrane firm’s add-ons make Smart cars tow-worthy

by Greg Williams, for the Calgary Herald published: Friday, May 4, 2007

photos courtesy Les McDonald

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Les McDonald of Cochrane was drawn to the Smart car because of its miserly fuel consumption — little did he know the car would provide the basis for a new career.
McDonald, 37, has begun importing and in fact manufacturing aftermarket parts for the Smart car. But these aren?t just parts that add a little extra bling. These are parts that add to the ultimate utility of the diminutive automobile.
?I bought my Smart car about two years ago,? McDonald says. ?I loved it and it was so different from what I used to drive.?
What he used to drive was a V-8 powered Dodge Dakota pickup truck.
?I drove a lot for work and the gas bills were just staggering,? he says. ?I wanted to put some of my money back in my pocket.?
McDonald operates Tracker Productions. He produces high definition promotional videos and commercials and must carry with him cameras, tripods and lighting kits. He says the Smart car always accommodated the load, but he sometimes felt pinched by the lack of space.
While perusing the Internet for aftermarket Smart car parts McDonald stumbled across a German product called the Clever End. The device, which is basically a body extension, replaces the stock rear tailgate/back window and fastens to four frame anchor points, two at the top and two at the bottom. The Clever End effectively doubles the carrying capacity of the Smart car.

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?I wasn?t necessarily cramped for space, and I wasn?t desperate to find something,? McDonald says. ?But I liked it because of the way it looked.?
He imported one for himself and told the company he?d like to bring them into Canada if they were interested in working with him. And they were. He?s begun importing the Clever End and will begin marketing them on his website www.smartcaruniverse.com in early June. Right now, the site is just a single page and is still under construction. (Note: The site is currently up and running, and McDonald has plenty of new parts for the Smart car. 06/11/08)
?We wanted to set up an online store and sell parts that added to the utility of the vehicle,? McDonald explains. Smart Car Universe is a great business opportunity for himself, but he also wanted to create business opportunities for other people as well.
?We?ll be setting up sales people across Canada (in markets where there is a Smart car community) who can work out of their homes if they want to, but they will represent the product and will help us focus on the service end. We don?t want to sell a product and simply say ?Good luck?.?
McDonald?s driven his Smart car across Canada twice, and once to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. His odometer now reads just over 97,000 km.
?After I test drove the Smart car I immediately bought it. Any misconceptions I had about driving that car were gone after the test drive,? McDonald says.
Following some seat time in his Smart car McDonald says he realized how capable the auto really is. So, he designed a trailer hitch that would allow him to tow either his 4.8-metre canoe trailer or a fibreglass storage trailer. Whether the car should be towing anything is a matter left open to debate, but McDonald figures it?s got a 225-to 275-kilogram towing capacity.
McDonald?s Smart car hitch is manufactured in Calgary. He approached Electromec Manufacturing Corporation with his drawings and measurements, and they fabricated a prototype hitch.

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?We made a couple of changes to the prototype, and it works great,? McDonald says. ?And they will be manufacturing it for me, They brought it in at a cost that I didn?t have to outsource it (for production anywhere else).?
Together with the Smart car accessories McDonald will also be selling three different types of trailers suitable for towing behind other compact cars and motorcycles. There are two fibreglass pull-behinds and a utility trailer. These will be imported from China.
?In North America everyone is focused on trailers to pull behind trucks or vans; we had to look elsewhere for smaller units,” McDonald says.

Calgary Herald, National Female Ride Day May 4, by Greg Williams

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photo courtesy Vicki Gray

 

Women on motorcycles will put rubber to Calgary roads — and across Canada — May 4 as part of the first National Female Ride Day.

The brainchild of motorcycle racer, instructor and coach Vicki Gray, National Female Ride Day celebrates women who choose to ride.

“The focus here is to shine a spotlight on women who ride, and enhance awareness of female riders,” Gray says from her home in Toronto. “I just want women to ride on that day.”

Gray, 48, has been riding a motorcycle since 1983. She got involved with bikes just after she’d been transferred to Nova Scotia while working for Revlon International as national training manager.
Click here to read the rest of the column in the Calgary Herald…