Calgary Herald, It’s Auto Show Time, by Greg Williams

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photo courtesy Aston Martin

The 2007 Aston Martin Vanquish will be on display Mar. 14 to 18 at the Calgary International Auto and Truck Show.

It?s auto show time.
Calgary?s International Auto and Truck show rolls into the Roundup Centre this month, and the display offers a glimpse at all of the new 2007 vehicles, plus some of the 2008 models.
From March 14 to 18 every major auto manufacturer will show off the latest in sheet metal, paint, pistons and gears (www.calgarymotordealers.com).
For 2007 the list of concept and future production vehicles under the spotlight includes the Jeep Gladiator, Hummer H3T (the pickup truck version of the large SUV), Ford Super Chief and Fairlane and Chevrolet Camaro. A couple of the 2008 vehicles to be shown include the Buick Enclave and the Lexus LS600HL hybrid.
While the mainstream manufacturers will take up every nook and cranny of the halls in the Roundup Centre some special interest makers will show their wares in the Corral. The list includes the Aston Martin Vantage and Vanquish, Bentley GT coupe and GTC convertible, Lotus Exige S, Lamborghini Murcielago LP640, Maserati Quattroporte, Ferrari 430 coupe, Saleen S281 Mustang and 331 Sport Truck.
Perhaps the best way to get up close and personal with the new iron is to take in the Vehicles and Violins gala. This event is something of an enchanted evening of music and food. Select groups of musicians from the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra play their strings and horns amongst the displays. A variety of international cuisine is provided at buffets stationed throughout the exhibit, but the automobiles are really the stars of the evening.
Now in its eighth year Vehicles and Violins is, in essence, a fundraiser for local charities. This year the recipients of funds raised are the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre (AARC) and the Missing Children Society of Canada.
Vehicles and Violins began in 2000, when the event raised $73,500 for the CPO?s Heartstrings program. Every year since the Calgary Motor Dealers Association (CMDA) has selected two worthy charities that share the funds, including the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Prostate Cancer Institute of Calgary, Alberta Children?s Hospital, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Alberta, NWT and Nunavut and the Canadian Diabetes Foundation.
More than $1,160,000 has been donated since the gala?s inception.
Tickets for Vehicles and Violins are on sale until March 9, and are $150 each. They can be had by calling 974-0710 or by emailing cmda@telus.net.
The Calgary International Auto and Truck show officially opens on March 14 and runs to the 18. Tickets are $11 for adults, $7 for seniors and youth, $3 children six to 11, free for children under six. A family of four pass, two adults and two youths, is $25.00.

As published in the Calgary Herald’s Driving.ca section…

Calgary Herald, A classic breed: Television show host has never met a car he didn’t like by Greg Williams

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photo courtesy Dennis Gage, My Classic Car

Greg Williams, For the Calgary Herald

Published: Friday, February 23, 2007

Dennis Gage is the affable mustachioed host of My Classic Car, the popular car culture series currently seen on Speed Channel.

Gage had no formal TV training when he met My Classic Car creator Brad Kimmel. After putting together a pilot episode, Gage didn’t think anything would come of the endeavour. But, as he says, “We’re currently in production of our 12th season, which is 13 more than I thought we’d do.”

Gage’s background is diverse. He’s played guitar and trumpet in numerous bands, and has opened for Charlie Daniels, Waylon Jennings and Dr. Hook. Gage also has a PhD in chemistry and has worked in product development at both Proctor & Gamble and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

However, Gage loves all vehicles, four-wheeled and two-wheeled, and his boundless enthusiasm is what makes My Classic Car memorable.

We caught up with Gage to ask him to talk about his favourite topic — anything with wheels. He’s appearing this weekend at the World of Wheels, today from 7 to 9 p.m., Saturday 1 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. and Sunday 1 to 4 p.m.

Click here to read the rest of the story in the Calgary Herald…

Calgary Herald, Ducati packs power, pares price by Greg Williams

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photo courtesy Revoluzione Cycle Imports

Redesigned series aims to maintain performance, but cut maintenance

Greg Williams, Calgary Herald

Published: Friday, February 23, 2007

Ducati has long been perceived as the Ferrari of the motorcycle world. But with the introduction of the 2007 Ducati 1098-series, the Italian maker hopes to be perceived more as the Porsche of the industry.

“Ferraris are very exclusive, they’re expensive and they typically cost more to maintain,” says Ian Loughran of Calgary’s Revoluzione Cycle Imports.

“Porsches are relatively easier to obtain, they have fantastic performance and they have great quality — and are not as high-maintenance.”

In the past, Ducatis were notorious for their rigorous and costly maintenance schedules. But that’s changed for 2007.

All Ducati models now require less frequent service, and fewer parts and less labour at each service, thus reducing maintenance costs by 50 per cent.

Click here to read the rest of the column in the Calgary Herald…

Calgary Herald, Red Hot and Race Ready Mazdaspeed3 by Greg Williams

The Mazdaspeed3 may drive like a missile, but it’s still one practical little number

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photo courtesy Mazda Canada

Greg Williams, For the Calgary Herald

Published: Friday, February 09, 2007

Mike Bennett, in his own words, is a bit of a car kook. Over more than three decades, he’s owned and driven some impressive autos, and he subscribes to no less than 10 automobile magazines.

So, what did he think of the 2007 Mazdaspeed3 he drove for a week?

“It’s like a Swiss Army knife sport compact,” said Bennett, commercial sales manager at Calgary’s Varsity Chrysler.

“If someone had to have just one car to do everything — from daily driver to a track-day vehicle — they couldn’t do much better.”

That’s high praise for the Mazdaspeed3, a car that debuted at the 2006 Geneva Motor Show. The Mazdaspeed3 is based on the Mazda3 Sport, which was selected 2004 Canadian car of the year by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. To top that off, AJAC voted the 2007 Mazdaspeed3 best sports/performance vehicle under $50,000.

Click here to read the rest of the feature, the People’s Test Drive, in the Calgary Herald…

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photo courtesy Mazda Canada

1939 Triumph 5T Speed Twin

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This is my 1939 Triumph Speed Twin, “rustored” by John Whitby. I acquired this machine from the estate of Bernie Nicholson, of Nicholson Bros. Motorcycle fame. Bernie is famous for his seven editions of Modern Motorcycle Mechanics, the bible for any British ‘cycle enthusiast.

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Bernie Nicholson hillclimbing the 1939 Triumph 5T Speed Twin in Saskatoon,

circa 1939

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Forward momentum ends, Bernie Nicholson with the 1939 Triumph 5T Speed Twin, circa 1939

When the Triumph came home it was set up as a hill climb machine. Bernie had a set of megaphones on the bike, but for some reason he’d removed the girder front end. I began a search for the correct girder and was finally able to locate a 1940 girder fork, which has the helper, or check springs, on the side. While technically incorrect for the 1939 machine, it was better than nothing! My own motorcycle accident put this project to the side. But when John offered to put the bike together I didn’t hesitate. This motorcycle wears all of its original patina. John painted and distressed the fork, headlight and front fender. The mufflers also were ‘beaten’ to give them a weathered look. It took very little to persuade the Triumph to run. It likes to smoke a bit, but I think we’ll leave it as is for a while longer.

Calgary Herald, Whizzer still creating a buzz after nearly 70 years, by Greg Williams

Look — on the road. It’s a bicycle, it’s a motorcycle, it’s a Whizzer.

Developed in 1939 by Breene-Taylor Engineering Corp., a Los Angeles maker of aircraft components, the Whizzer engine was introduced and sold as an efficient form of transportation.

Marketed as a kit, the Whizzer drivetrain could be installed in just about any boys or men’s bicycle frame — presto, a power bike

Read the story in the Calgary Herald…

Roger Goldammer by Greg Williams, Inside Motorcycles 2006

Roger Goldammer continues to capture international attention. I just caught an article about him and his Bonneville race bike in the Dec. 2006 issue of Robb Report. Here’s a piece I wrote for my Western Perspectives column in Inside Motorcycles.
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Roger Goldammer is hammering out quite a name for himself.
This Kelwona, B.C. based custom motorcycle builder has won numerous awards, and is garnering international attention. Working under the trade name Goldammer Cycle Works, this creative craftsman has wowed the judges with his machines, including the board-track era inspired BTR#3. His latest first place win — with a bike dubbed -Trouble- –was at the 2005 American Motorcycle Dealer (AMD)/Custom Chrome World Championship.
Goldammer defies convention and with Trouble created a short and lean machine. Foregoing the long, extended, fat tired, v-twin powered motorcycles favoured by some of his contemporaries, Goldammer’s Trouble almost looks sensible. Spoked wheels, narrow tires and flowing lines are what Trouble’s all about. And there isn’t a v-twin motor cradled in the frame, either. Instead, there’s a single cylinder unit fitted with a blower. And rather than an electric starter there’s a more traditional kick-starter.
“I really don’t think I have anything to prove to anybody except myself,” Goldammer says about his custom-bike building philosophy. “I just try to be diverse and open people’s minds a little bit.” To do that, Goldammer is working more with single cylinder engines, and is experimenting with fuel injection and blowers.
“It’s time to move beyond the 45 degree air cooled v-twin (engine),” he says from his home workshop. Goldammer and his family live on a seven-acre parcel of land overlooking Lake Okanagan. Here, he says he can focus on his work without distraction, and he doesn’t have to maintain an open storefront. At one time, Goldammer had a small shop right in downtown Kelowna.
His ‘home workshop’ is a 6,000 sq. ft. building, which is complete with all of his metal working tools and a dyno room. Goldammer Cycle Works builds prototype parts, and then outsources all of the machining to create a finished, marketable product.
And Goldammer no longer builds complete custom motorcycles for customers.
“The turning point for me came three years ago,” Goldammer says. “There was a turnaround in the economy here, and people didn’t have as much expendable cash. I got stuck with some bikes.
“So I got into manufacturing parts to allow me the freedom to build what I want to build — build the idea that’s in my head, and not cater to a customer’s wants and needs. You can’t blame a customer for not having the same vision as yourself.”
At 37 years old, Goldammer has taught himself most of his useful skills. He was born and raised in Vancouver, and moved to Salmon Arm in his early teens. The rest of his life has been spent in the interior of B.C.
He started out riding dirt bikes–a pursuit he still enjoys — and eventually found himself tinkering with and modifying his street machines. In 1993 he decided to learn more about the inner workings of motorcycle engines and enrolled in the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Phoenix, AZ. After graduating he spent time working in various U.S. motorcycle facilities, and says the custom motorcycle he had built here and taken with him was his ‘business card’.
“That bike got me work down there,” Goldammer says.
The work experience was an eye-opener for Goldammer. He says the custom motorcycle industry in the U.S. was exploding at the time, and often a frame builder was just around the corner, or a sheet metal fabricator was just down the street.
“When I got back home (to B.C.) I realized if I was going to get into the custom bike-building scene I’d have to do it for myself,” Goldammer says. “Out of necessity I taught myself many aspects of bike building — it’s not just motor work — but also frame construction and sheet metal skills. Being able to take it from start to finish on my own was important to me.”
But the bike building was still really a hobby. Goldammer worked in an auto machine shop for nine years upon his return to B.C., and says he worked with his hands and his head, thinking through problems that presented themselves.
“That’s a really important step, and some people (read: bike builders) aren’t willing to learn to do things properly,” he says.
Although Goldammer’s style changes and progresses as time goes on, one particular era to which he has paid attention is the early 1900s.

“It’s a fascinating time really, as the motorcycle had only recently evolved from the bicycle, and there was no real status quo. The industry was just starting to formulate, and it’s as if manufacturers just fit an engine in a bicycle frame and then went racing. The tires they were using were probably rated for 20 m.p.h. on clincher rims, and these daredevils of the day were racing at 100 m.p.h. with no brakes and a fixed throttle,” Goldammer says. His red BTR#3 is a fine example of his board track inspiration.
How did Goldammer find such inspiration? He tells stories about attending various U.S. custom bike shows, and seeing ‘long barges’ created on a theme-bike basis. Machines patterned after a swamp bug, a fire truck — even a heart pump bike that had vessels all over it and a blob for a gas tank — simply ‘repulsed’ him, and he found more than once that he had to leave the building.
“I wanted to go in an opposite direction,” he recalls. On BTR#3 he effectively captured the elements of the board track-era machines with his large front loop frame, exposed frame rail over the gas tank, and large 23-inch wheels. His BTR#3 has had an impact on the custom building scene, and today many builders are creating more proportionate custom bikes.
“I didn’t invent the board track racer, and there have been others out there. But I think mine came along at a time when it was needed. People forgot the meaning of cool there for a while, and cool has always meant riding these things.
“The overfed barges are dangerous, with a really wide tire and an extended front end you can’t turn on a city block.”
Goldammer has plenty more ideas, but as he concludes himself, “My personal battle is trying to find time to do everything I want to.”

See the latest issue of Inside Motorcycles…

Death Valley XV Motorcycle Run by Greg Williams Walneck’s Magazine 2002, photos by Greg Williams

A story written about the now legendary Death Valley vintage motorcycle run. I attended in Oct., 2001, and this article ran in Walneck’s Classic Cycle Trader.

MAX BUBECK’S DEATH VALLEY XV RUN

Max Bubeck — legendary Indian motorcycle rider — has hosted his California Death Valley Run for 15 years. He started this now infamous antique and vintage motorcycle tour in 1986 and except for 1987, Bubeck and his unique run have visited the Valley every year.
And at the invitation of Gary Breylinger, now of Montana and one of the riders at Death Valley II in 1988, I welcomed the opportunity to be a part of the Death Valley Run XV held in early October, 2001.
There were 78 registered participants at D.V. XV, with out-of-state plates from Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.
The D.V. Run now boasts international recognition and motorcyclists from Canada, England and Germany enjoyed Bubeck’s hospitality, the desert, and ideal riding conditions.
At 84, Bubeck’s reputation precedes him. His adventures and misadventures could fill a tome, and he is currently compiling his most memorable experiences in book format. Highlights of Bubeck’s illustrious past will give a sense of his deserved nickname–‘Fearless Leader’.
Bubeck’s first motorcycle in 1933 was an Indian 101 Scout, which he then swapped for a 1930 Indian Four. In 1936, he purchased a new ‘upside down’ Indian Four. In 1939 he bought a new Indian Four from Floyd Clymer which he modified to suit his tastes. Bubeck still rides this motorcycle.

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Max Bubeck and his 1939 Indian Four, and the
view from Dante’s Peak at the south end of
Death Valley

Between 1937 and 1979 Bubeck rode in 32 Greenhorn Enduros, and declared, “I finished 24 of them.” He rode his 1939 Indian Four in the 1947 Greenhorn, and was the overall winner. In 1962, he again won the Greenhorn, this time riding a 1949 Indian Warrior vertical twin.
In 1955, he laid out a cross-country enduro route that included the south end of Death Valley–he called it the Jackass Enduro. Of the name, Bubeck explained, “I came across a bleached burro skull, and I strapped it onto my Indian vertical twin. That skull became the trophy for the Jackass Enduro.”
In the late ’60s and early ’70s, Bubeck rode Hodaka trail machines in Southern California and District 37 enduro events. He was No. 1 in points from 1969 to 1972, and as he proudly pointed out, “I was 52 through to 55 years old, and I was no kid then.”
He continued, “I still have the urge to surge, and when I get so that I can’t go fast anymore–well, then I’ll slow down.”
In the summer of 2001 Bubeck rode his 1939 Indian Four from Palm Springs, CA to Springfield, MA, for Indian’s 100th birthday bash. Accompanied by two friends, Bubeck covered 450 miles a day, at 60 to 65 mph. And Bubeck was the only one to ride the total 3,554 miles aboard his motorcycle. Both Butch Baer and Tim Bresnahan completed the trip in an air-conditioned pickup, with their motorcycles relegated to a trailer.
And it was on this 1939 Indian Four–a machine which has accumulated more than 180,000 miles–that Bubeck toured his guests for Death Valley XV.
Death Valley National Park is an extraordinary desert and mountain environment, covering 3.3 million acres of eastern California. Badwater, in the south part of the Valley, is the lowest point in the U.S. at 282 feet below sea level.
The first stop on day one of Bubeck’s tour was the now defunct Harmony Borax Works, just north of what was home-base for the run–the Furnace Creek Ranch. This modernized facility started life as the Greenland Ranch. Originally, the ranch had date palm groves, and supplied hay for mules working at the Harmony Borax Works.

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A view of Death Valley from the Harmony
Borax Works, and Ubehebe Crater with
Leonard Miller’s 1926 Harley-Davidson JD.

A quick tour of the decaying remains of the Works, and it was back on the motorcycles to ride 75 miles north to Scotty’s Castle.
Death Valley is a rider’s paradise for several reasons. The first advantage I noted as I rode Breylinger’s 1967 Harley Davidson Sportster was the absence of large trucks–they aren’t allowed within the park. Second, it is so warm in early October that a T-shirt and jeans, together with a helmet–California is a helmet-law state–were adequate apparel for this D.V. rookie. Temperatures can reach 105 degrees in October, but during D.V. XV, participants were blessed with 90 to 95 degree days.
From the Harmony Works, the road north to Scotty’s Castle gently rises from the valley floor to an elevation of 3,000 feet. A guided tour of the Castle is a must, and as our hostess explained, Scotty’s Castle wasn’t really prospector Walter Scott’s home, but a desert retreat for Chicago insurance executive Albert Johnson and his wife Bessie.
Scott and Johnson had formed a partnership in 1904 and together the pair searched for gold in Death Valley. Although Johnson never found gold, he did find the desert climate agreeable. He and Scott would camp in Grapevine Canyon at the north end of Death Valley and he began to realize that this Canyon was an ideal site for a retreat.
Construction began on the Spanish-style villa in 1922, but it didn’t take shape until 1925. And while the Johnson’s called their villa Death Valley Ranch, newspapers and visitors came to call it Scotty’s Castle. Even though the estate was built with Johnson’s money, he allowed Scott the limelight, and defended Scott’s claims that the villa was his ‘shack.’
The Scotty’s Castle stop offered fuel and food, and the next rendezvous was six miles west at Ubehebe Crater, a 1/2 mile wide, 770 foot deep pock mark created more than 2,000 years ago by volcanic activity.
While at the Crater, I caught up with Leonard Miller of Sacramento, CA. Miller rides an original and unrestored 1926 Harley-Davidson JD, which is rich with patina.
“I bought it looking exactly the way it looks today,” Miller said. “I was at a swap meet, and this machine, with a sidecar, came in on the back of a trailer. I offered $5,500 for the rig 14 years ago, and apart from removing the sidecar I have not touched it, and I have never washed it.”
Miller’s JD made the trek back from Ubehebe Crater to Furnace Creek Ranch without incident. Roy Burke of Oregon also made it back, but encountered two small problems–his motorcycle was wet sumping, and a tire developed a slow leak.
I had caught sight of Burke and his impressive single-cylinder 1914 ‘Roy Burke Special’ Indian prior to leaving in the morning. Burke’s special is based on a 1914 single-cylinder Indian engine, but just about everything else is hand-made, including his own overhead valve conversion. Moving the valves over the piston dramatically increases the horsepower from a meager 3 1/2 or 4 to an astonishing 15 or 20.

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Roy Burke and his 1914 Roy Burke Special

“These old single-cylinder Indians used to go 30 or 40 mph–now this one goes 75 or 80,” Burke remarked early in the morning. He created his own frame, and appropriated a set of Japanese forks to suspend the front.
“We’ve been playing with these singles for about 20 years, and we’ve broken everything that can be broken–rods, crankcases, crankpins–but this engine has all Indian Chief parts inside it now.”
Sadly, Burke’s Indian was retired to the trailer, and wasn’t running for day two of Death Valley.
Bubeck rallied the riders on day two and led his guests to Devil’s Golf Course, Badwater and Artist’s Drive. My ride had been Breylinger’s ride the first day, a 1947 Royal Enfield J2.
Light and shadow create a variety of hues on the mountains and the flats that make up Death Valley. No where is this more apparent than on Artist’s Drive, a short paved circuit off the main road that loops through wind and water worn rock. While riding along the one-way road, the landscape changes from shades of purple to brilliant white.
A brief lunch stop back at Furnace Creek Ranch, and the vintage iron was again prodded to life for the last leg of Bubeck’s Death Valley tour. Zabriskie Point, 20 Mule Team Canyon, and then the final stop–Dante’s View.
I had been told that the road to Dante’s View was unlike any other. Much like the highway north to Scotty’s Castle, the pavement to Dante’s View slowly rises from the south end of Death Valley. And the road has everything, twists, straights, hairpins, and finally a 14 per cent grade for the last 1/4 mile.
Riders who reached the top first parked their machines, and watched the other motorcyclists make their way up the grade, through the hairpin, and grind up the final stretch in low gear.
At the top, I met Pat Owens of Temple City, California. Owens was riding a 1970 Triumph T120RT Bonneville.

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Pat Owens with his 1970 Triumph T120RT Bonneville

Owens and his wife Donna have more than 450,000 documented miles aboard the blue and silver Triumph, having ridden it twice to Alaska, and as far as Guatemala and Quebec.
“I’ve had this bike since 1970, and I am the one and only owner,” Owens said. “This bike has its original crankcase and crankshaft, and all of the gears except one in the transmission are original. I use half STP oil and half 140 weight gear oil, and I call the bike the ‘STP special’.”
The hill down from Dante’s View affords an opportunity to mount a coasting race. Halfway down the hill, motorcycle engines are cut, transmissions are placed in neutral, and they’re off–rolling down the grade to see who will glide the farthest. Dee Cameron of California picked up the long-distance coasting award aboard his Velocette.
At the banquet that evening, Bubeck presented an award to everyone who rode, each one specific to the recipient in some way. And the next three days were spent driving the return 1,500 miles to home–plenty of time to mull over the sights and sounds of Death Valley Run XV.