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Calgary Herald, People’s Test Drive 2009 VW Passat CC, by Greg Williams

This story first ran in the Calgary Herald Driving section, April 17, 2009

Photos in this post courtesy VW Canada.


Calgary bartender Allan Fraser has never purchased a brand new car.
That’s not to say he hasn’t had some nice vehicles. There was a succession of MGBs — he still owns one, in fact — and he drove a Mercedes-Benz for a few years.
Fraser, 54, just finds deals on older model cars, buys them and drives them until they no longer work. For example, his current car is a 1994 Ford Taurus, and it does everything he needs it to.
“It’s not much to look at, but it has been reliable,” Fraser says.
However, this People’s Test Driver may have been spoiled after a week in the 2009 Volkswagen Passat CC 2.0T.
“Would I buy one? I would have to say ‘yes’,” Fraser says. “I really enjoyed driving the Passat CC; I enjoyed everything about it.”
Brand new for 2009, the Passat CC — VW says the CC stands for Comfort Coupe — is based on the regular Passat platform. However, the Passat CC is definitely not to be confused with its sibling. The regular four-door Passt is still in the VW lineup, and the Passat CC is not a replacement. It is, however, a four-door car styled to look like a coupe, much like the Mercedes-Benz CLS.
While sharing the same wheelbase, the Passat CC differs from VW’s regular Passat in quite a few other dimensions, namely height, width and length. The Passat CC has a lower roofline, and sits lower on its haunches. The car is also wider and longer, and completely different looking with the smooth flowing lines and the aerodynamic shape of a two-door car.
Those lines found favour with Fraser.
“I thought it was very stylish and sporty looking,” Fraser says. “I thought it looked like it had been aerodynamically designed, and overall I liked the whole package.”
Fraser also thought the car looked comfortable, and fast. Which it was. The Passat CC is available with either a turbocharged 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder engine, or a 3.6-L V-6.
His car came with the 2.0-L four, and at the beginning of the test he thought it was the V-6.
“I was really impressed,” Fraser says. “That four-cylinder turbocharged engine puts out 200 horsepower, and it felt really powerful.”
The Passat CC is available in three flavours. There is the CC Sportline, which comes with the 2.0-L engine and a manual six-speed gearbox, and the CC Highline with the same front wheel drive powertrain but a few extras such as 12-way power driver’s seat, 18″ alloy wheels, Bi-Xenon headlights and a panorama sunroof. An automatic gearbox is optional in each.
There is also the CC 3.6-L Highline with a 260 h.p. engine coupled to a six-speed automatic, and that package includes VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system.
Fraser’s car was the 2.0-L Highline equipped model, and it featured the optional automatic with Tiptronic, a feature Fraser liked.
“I thought the Tiptronic was fabulous, it allowed me to shift the transmission like it was a standard,” Fraser says.
And Fraser enjoyed the ride. He used the car to commute back and forth to work from his Northwest home to Bearspaw, and he drove out to Kananaskis Country.
“I took it down a road that was ice and snow covered, and the traction control worked perfectly,” he says. “The car had really good traction, and I couldn’t upset the car at all.
“The ride was comfortable, and everything was quiet — it felt really tight and safe and it handled like a dream.”
The Passat CC rides on independent McPherson struts up front, and fully independent four-link suspension out back. Volkswagen lists ‘Sport Suspension’ as standard equipment across the CC range.
Fraser enjoys skiing — in fact, it was the slopes of the Rocky Mountains that brought him from his Cape Breton Island home to Calgary in 1976.
“I had some friends in Calgary, and I heard there was work here, and that the skiing was the best in the world — and it is. The skiing kept me here, and I’ve never been unemployed — I’ve always had a job,” he says.
Because he likes to ski, it’s important that any vehicle he drives has the capability to carry skis. With a rear seat pass through, Fraser says the Passat CC would definitely swallow his skis. The car did carry his hockey gear, including sticks, with aplomb.
“The trunk was very big,” he says, and adds. “I liked the fact there was a full-size spare tire in there, too.”
At 5’8″ Fraser found getting comfortable in the driver’s seat an easy task — he says the power seat with memory function moved in every direction and was extremely supportive. He had plenty of legroom, and says his nephew, who is 6’1″, also had plenty of room to store his knees while traveling in the front passenger seat.
That being said, Fraser did find the car a little awkward to get into, and more than once just missed hitting his head as he slid into the driver’s seat.
“Once I was in, though, it was a perfect fit,” he says.
In the past, Volkswagen has taken some criticism for not designing particularly welcoming interiors. Fraser says that’s not the case with the Passat CC. He liked the Nappa leather seating surfaces, and says the cabin materials were first rate.
“One of the first things that really stood out for me was how well put together the car really was,” Fraser says. “Everything was easy to see and use — the dash was laid out simply, and the heating and A/C controls were a snap to operate.”
Fraser drove himself and three co-workers to the city’s southwest in the Passat CC. All remarked on the comfort of the ride, and especially from the rear seat, the amount of available room.
“I became more and more impressed with the car from the time I got it to the time I took it back,” Fraser says, and adds, “I never had a negative comment from anyone I showed it to, everybody was impressed with the interior, the style, the get-up-and-go.
“It was really a tremendous vehicle.”

Engine: 2.0-L I4 16-valve DOHC turbocharged
Horsepower: 200 @ 5,100 – 6,000r.p.m.
Torque: 207 lb.-ft. @ 1,700 – 5,000 r.p.m.
Wheelbase: 2,710 mm
Overall length: 4,796 mm
Curb weight: 1,530 kg
Base price: $27,975
Price as tested: $40,835

For the past week, I had the marvelous experience of driving the 2009 Volkswagen Passat CC.
I picked up the car in Chestermere and drove it back to town. I enjoyed the way it looked, sounded and handled.
The Passat’s engine was a turbocharged four cylinder, which produced plenty of power. Its transmission was an automatic with Tiptronic system. I really enjoyed this feature as it allowed me to shift it up and down like a standard.
The exterior was very stylish with fine lines that suited the car perfectly. The doors and windows closed nice and tight making it feel very solid. The front hood opened and closed also very easily. The car’s trunk was very spacious and with the opening between the back seat one can carry skis and hockey sticks easily. The interior was great. Everything was within reach and it was easy to operate all the controls.
The power seats were very comfortable with plenty of legroom in both the front and back. Air conditioning was great and the heated seats were definitely a bonus with the cold weather.
At night I found all of the instruments and controls were distinctively lit up so that I could still find and operate them. With the changing driving conditions of snow, rain, warm and cold, the car handled and felt to be top notch.
One evening, there was a terrible snowstorm with drifting snow and when I drove home from work the Passat CC got me there safely with comfort and ease.
Overall, I had a considerable amount of fun driving the Passat this week. The time went fast just like the car. I believe the car to be a fine example of the People’s Car.

Inside Motorcycles, Jeremy Kroeker — Funnyman, Author, and Motorcyclist, by Greg Williams

Motorcyclist and author Jeremy Kroeker’s book Motorcycle Therapy is worth a read.

This story about Kroeker ran in the April 2009 issue of Inside Motorcycles — run to your nearest motorcycle shop, or Chapters/Indigo to find the latest edtion. Western Perspectives is my monthly column in this Canadian motorcycle magazine.


Jeremy Kroeker was suffering a seriously broken heart, and the only remedy the Canmore, Alberta man could think of was a good long motorcycle ride. Well, that’s simplifying and over-dramatizing the matter a bit. But in the fall of 2004, Kroeker, 36, and his friend Trevor Martens embarked on a journey to Central America. The ride proved to be a turning point in Kroeker’s life — it altered how he saw himself in relation to the world and those with whom he shares it. The adventure also gave him the opportunity to become an author.

He published Motorcycle Therapy: A Canadian Adventure in Central America in 2006, and Kroeker just released an illustrated edition of the book. In early 2009 Kroeker traveled across Canada to all of the major motorcycle shows, including Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer. Reaction has been good. (

Kroeker’s the first to admit that in the grand scheme of motorcycle journeys his wasn’t the farthest or the most arduous. “My adventure wasn’t the best out there, and I’m hoping my strength is in my writing,” he says. “I don’t want to be another author who writes motorcycle travelogues.” Well, Kroeker’s ride didn’t take him around the world or to the tip of South America, but the strength is definitely in his writing, which is filled with laugh out loud humour and a keen sense of self-deprecation. “I want my writing to transcend the typical motorcycle travelogue,” he adds. And it does, too.

Kroeker was born in Steinbach, Manitoba. He was eight years old when the family moved to a small town just outside of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. This is also where he first rode a motorcycle, a Suzuki DS80 dirt bike. “My dad gave me my first motorcycle lesson. He said, ‘Let out the clutch when you want to go, and pull it in when you want to stop’. As a kid he could fire up his dirt bike and be out on the prairie in minutes. At 16, Kroeker went half with his father and the pair bought a 1980 Honda CX500. Kroeker Jr. rode the bike mostly for everyday transportation, and two years later bought his own machine, a 1982 Honda CB750 Custom. He rode the bike to school, and took the occasional trip into Alberta to visit friends. Kroeker left home at 21 to drive 18-wheelers into the U.S., traveling to the eastern seaboard, southern states, and sometimes heading west to Vancouver.

“That gave me a real taste of the highway,” he says. “I’ve always loved driving, and I’ve always wanted to see what’s around the next corner.” He took 10 months off to travel through Europe at the tail end of the Balkan conflict, and wound up helping at a Croatian refugee centre. During his time in Europe Kroeker attended a climbing school in Austria, and decided upon his return to Canada that he needed to be closer to the mountains. A move to Alberta brought him west, and in 2002 he finally settled in the mountain community of Canmore.

However, Kroeker had been in a serious relationship that ended badly. Soon after his girlfriend left him, Kroeker injured his ankle while hiking. As he writes in the introduction to Motorcycle Therapy; “Suddenly, I had a sturdy tripod of injury, boredom and loneliness on which to display the hollow shell of my heart.” During our interview, Kroeker clarifies, “It felt like something was missing, and I needed something to snap me out of my funk. In the book, I make it sound like it was because of the girl, but I felt like my life had stalled.”

During his time recuperating on the couch Kroeker watched copious hours of programming on the National Geographic channel. “Here I was watching all of these people having adventures, and I realized I wouldn’t have an adventure unless I made it happen.” So almost on an impulse Kroeker bought a used 2001 Kawasaki KLR650 dual-purpose motorcycle. The machine was chosen for its rugged simplicity — something versatile and easy to fix. Plus, because the KLR is similar to a dirt bike and Kroeker grew up riding off road, there was a degree of familiarity with the machine and that made him feel comfortable. He packed very little and headed east to Saskatchewan to say goodbye to his mom and dad, and then on to Boissevan, Manitoba, where he picked up Martens. Both of them were riding Kawasaki KLRs, and the journey truly got underway when they pointed their wheels south. They traveled through the U.S., crossed into Mexico and on to Guetamala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

In the book, Kroeker writes that he and Martens were not ideal travel partners. He says now, “I didn’t want it (the book) to portray Trevor in too negative a light. What I learned is not that Trevor’s irritating, but that I’m irritable, and my flaws are more important than Trevor’s. That’s what I think the book communicates — take a step back and examine yourself.”

In a pivotal point in the book’s narrative, which I’ll call ‘squirrel cage introspection’, Kroeker’s just spent time observing a rodent stuck in a cage and comparing its fate to his own. He writes: “My motorbike had delivered me from the worst of my depression (but) I still felt hollow. What’s worse, the machine seemed to guide me into situations that magnified flaws in my character; impatience, anger, resentment, self-absorption. Leave it to me to turn a little vacation into a page torn from the awkward motorcycle version of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.”

Kroeker made an effort to write in his journal on a daily basis, and he sent some of his humorous updates via email back to friends and family. Ultimately, they encouraged him to write the book. What he thought would be a simple four-month process turned out to be a two and a half year endeavour. While he’s broken even on the project, he hasn’t made enough to fund another motorcycle trip. That said, in 2007 he did ship another Kawasaki KLR650 (not the one he rode to Panama) to Frankfurt, and rode into the Middle East. He’s at work writing about that adventure, and if that story is as funny as Motorcycle Therapy, he’ll have done a fine job.


Photo by Greg Williams


Inside Motorcycles, Aermacchi Singles, by Greg Williams

Story first published in Inside Motorcycles February/March 2009. Visit

If the text is too hard to read, the story follows in its original format. Sorry about the poor quality of the scans.



Harley-Davidson is currently famous for its big V-twin motorcycles — machines the American company has made almost since its inception. But there was a time when Harley-Davidson felt the need to be competitive in all areas of the market. In the late 1950s and early 1960s Japanese makers such as Honda and Yamaha were introducing lightweight, sporting motorcycles to a whole new breed of rider. To help stave off the import onslaught, in1960 Harley-Davidson looked overseas to Italy and purchased 50 per cent of the Aermacchi motorcycle company.

Aeronautica Macchi (a loose translation would be ‘air machine’) was founded in 1912. The company produced seaplanes, and in WWII they built fighting aircraft. After the War, Aermacchi was no longer allowed to focus on planes, and instead started producing a three-wheel truck. Following the truck was a lightweight motorcycle — this one designed by Lino Tonti, a talented designer who had been lured to Aermacchi from Benelli. Tonti was responsible for a number of small capacity machines, but he left in 1956 and Aermacchi replaced him with Alfredo Bianchi.

Bianchi was challenged with the task of creating a motorcycle that was originally sketched by Count Revelli, a well-known car designer, and the result was the 175cc Chimera of 1956. The machine was unorthodox looking, as it featured an enclosed engine; the body panels flowed under the seat and also formed the tail section. The machine didn’t sell well and Bianchi was asked to make some changes. What he kept of the design was the large tube backbone frame and the engine with the forward-canted — almost horizontal — single cylinder. Racing successes followed for both 175cc and 250cc examples, and that’s when Harley-Davidson entered the picture. They bought half of the company in 1960, and began importing Aermacchis to North America. The Harley-Davidson name was, of course, added to the side of the gas tank. Harley-Davidson Aermacchis came in a variety of sizes, including two-stroke 50cc, 90cc, 125cc and 175cc motorcycles. The most widely recognized bikes, however, were the four-stroke 250cc and 350cc Sprint models. Later, these machines received designations such as SS and SX.

Harley-Davidson bought the rest of the Aermacchi company in 1970. However, Aermacchi’s were generally slow selling and Harley-Davidson quit importing the Italian machines in 1974-75, and sold Aermacchi to Cagiva in the late 1970s. What goes around comes around, however, and in 2008 Harley-Davidson purchased Cagiva and MV Agusta.

John Flynn, 56, of Calgary is reliving his past. He grew up in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and was always around motorcycles. His dad and sister had bikes, and Flynn remembers riding minibikes before moving to larger machines. He rode street bikes until his second year of university, when he had a close call while riding a Honda SL350. Soon after that, he sold the Honda and concentrated on finishing school. But he couldn’t leave motorcycles too far behind. In 1993, he got back into bikes with a Yamaha 750 Virago and eventually bought a 2004 BMW R1150.

In 2006 Flynn and a friend rode to the Ponoka Vintage Motorcycle Rally (in Alberta), where he saw a 250cc Aermacchi on display. He remembered seeing a similar motorcycle as a kid in Moose Jaw, and says: “It was such a cool little bike. Most of us were on two-strokes, and that little 250 (four-stroke) sounded great. I thought it was pretty neat.”

So Flynn started doing some research, and found a 1967 SS250 Aermacchi for sale in Ontario. He bought that one and shipped it west. While it was in decent shape, Flynn replaced items such as control cables and tires, and cleaned up the carb. He got the bike to run, and started riding the Aermacchi 250 around town and attending Thursday Night Bike Night at the A&W on 16 Ave.

But one wasn’t enough. He found a second Aermacchi, this one a 1969 SS350, for sale on eBay. The bike was located in Quebec, and while the reserve wasn’t met during the auction Flynn contacted the seller afterwards and made an offer to purchase for the reserve price. This was agreed to, and an incredibly well restored Aermacchi was added to Flynn’s growing collection.

Wanting a machine he could restore himself, Flynn found a third Aermacchi, a 1971 SX350, in Ventura, California. He bought it for $1,250 and had it shipped north. When it arrived, he took it all apart, stripping the machine down to the frame. While mechanically inclined, Flynn does not do his own paintwork. The frame was painted black, and the tin was finished in a stock Aermacchi yellow. Spare NOS parts are readily available, Flynn says, through a number of U.S. suppliers and eBay. He rebuilt the wheels, added a new wiring harness, and shipped the 350cc engine to Aermacchi guru Ron Lancaster, of Lancaster Sprints in Tampico, Illinois.

Flynn surrounded the engine with foam and packed it in a Rubbermaid container and shipped it via FedEx. Once in his shop, Lancaster stripped the engine, cleaned out the crankcases, checked the bearings and put it back together with new valves and piston. He also put the engine in a bike and broke it in before shipping it back to Flynn.

“I didn’t think there was anybody around here who could do it,” Flynn says of the Aermacchi engine rebuild. “Lancaster is pretty famous as an old flat tracker who raced Aermacchis, and he’s good at what he does.” It cost Flynn $950, including shipping, for the rebuild. With the engine back Flynn mated it up to the refinished cycle parts. He found, however, that the rebuilt engine was hard to start thanks to a high compression ratio.

“The bike’s pretty famous for having to be push started; it’s hard to kick it over,” Flynn says. He routinely uses all three Aermacchis, and even trailered them to the 2008 Motogiro B.C. Rally. He and two friends put the small-bore Aermacchis through their paces, and says, “We rode and traded bikes and had a real great time; they’re a real hoot to ride. They’re a narrow motorcycle, they’re low to the ground, and they just have a great feel to them.”


Calgary Herald, World’s Most Beautiful Custom at World of Wheels, by Greg Williams

Photos courtesy JF Kustoms.

First published in the Calgary Herald Driving section Feb. 20, 2009.

Creating an award-winning custom vehicle takes artistic vision and many skills.
Sparks fly as a builder sculpts with grinder and welder, taking a car or truck and completely reshaping metal, making changes the original automaker never envisioned.
While there are many talented builders working in the custom car industry, one of the most creative is B.C.’s J.F. Launier of JF Kustoms.
Launier and his team just brought home the World’s Most Beautiful Custom award, presented Feb. 8 at the 59 th annual Sacramento Autorama in California.
And the car that was crowned the World’s Most Beautiful Custom is in Calgary this weekend. Launier’s hand built 1955 Chrysler wagon, R’Evolution, is at the 43 rd annual World of Wheels at the Roundup Centre.
This is the first time a Canadian has taken the coveted World’s Most Beautiful Custom title. Autorama show founder Harold (H.A.) Bagdasarian personally selected Launier’s car, and based his decision on style, craftsmanship and attention to detail.
Launier was born in Quebec but moved with his family to Osoyoos, B.C. when he was six years old. He bought his first vehicle, a 1951 Mercury truck, when he was 13 years old.
“I had a job mowing lawns, and I took that money and saved up enough to buy a vehicle,” Launier, 33, said during a telephone interview. “But I didn’t even have a clue how to charge a battery — I couldn’t hook up the positive and the negative terminals on a battery.”
That didn’t stop him. With the few tools he owned Launier started to tear apart the truck. He broke and stripped bolts, and says he faced a huge learning curve. But his dad knew someone who could weld, and Launier worked with him to make changes to the Mercury.
“If you get the right people to help you can make anything happen,” he says of his first build. Launier still owns the 1951 Mercury, and he drives his kids to their first day of school every year in the truck.
R’Evolution started life as a humble 1955 Chrysler two-door coupe. Launier and his build team removed the original roof and trunk and replaced it with the roof from a four-door wagon. The windshield was laid back 15 degrees further from stock, and the pillars massaged to give the car its sporty look. Inside, the headliner and cargo area are lined with wood, while the all-metal dash and centre console took hours of work to complete. Chip Foose designed the one-off wheels, and a Hemi engine resides under the hood.
According to a news release, Launier designed and built the custom car thinking about what a 1950s factory Chrysler sport wagon would have looked like, had they actually built such a vehicle.
“It is a look at where the modern day Magnum could have come from, a glimpse at the past that never was,” it goes on to say.
Launier built the Chrysler as a work of art, saying he treats an automobile as a metal canvas. That means this car won’t be used to pick up groceries any time soon.
However, Launier is bringing to the World of Wheels another of his gems, this one a two-door 1955 Chevrolet built for Calgarian Trent Bruce.
Just over two years ago Bruce commissioned Launier to construct the Chevy.
“I didn’t really have a vision,” Bruce says of what the finished car might look like — he just liked the 1955-56-57 Chevy’s and knew a custom from Launier would be hard to beat.
“I wanted a big horsepower motor, and I wanted it lowered, but I left the rest up to JF,” he says.
Launier tastefully customized the 1955 Chevy for Bruce, lowering the car and installing wide rear rubber and painting it two-tone orange and silver. Bruce will be taking his car home with him directly from the World of Wheels show floor, and is looking forward to driving it this year.
“I’ll never enter it in (another) show,” Bruce says. “My intent was not to have a show car that’s going to sit in the garage and get polished.”
Plenty more hotrods, restorations and customs are at the World of Wheels this weekend, plus Motorcycle 2009. Custom motorcycle builder Roger Goldammer, also from B.C., will be in attendance at the motorcycle exhibit all three days.
The show runs today 3 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., tomorrow 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. General admission is $14, children six to 12 $5, five and under free. Discount tickets at Auto Value are $12 and $4 for children.

Calgary Herald, 2009 Ford Escape People’s Test Drive, by Greg Williams

2009 Ford Escape

Story first published in the Calgary Herald’s section January 23, 2008.

All photos courtesy of Ford Motor Company and Wieck Media Services, Inc.

Calgary driver Jo Ann Kogawa says she is a truck driver.
Not a long haul, 18-wheel kind of truck driver — but a pick up truck and SUV enthusiast. Her first vehicle was a 1995 Nissan crew cab pick up, which she bought brand new. She learned to drive a standard transmission in the truck.
“I like sitting up higher,” Kogawa says, and of her affection for pick ups, she adds; “My dad’s an electrician, and he always had trucks — I like having a pick up truck box.”
But when marriage, a dog and then two kids entered the picture, she had to move to something a bit more family friendly.
“We need a vehicle with a cargo area and a mud mat,” Kogawa, 36, says. “With some room for a stroller, a backpack or a wagon, a sled or skis.” They also tow a speedboat in the summer, and need an SUV with some pulling power. Currently, the family maintains a 2002 Honda CRV and a 2002 Nissan Pathfinder. Kogawa drives the V-6 equipped Pathfinder on a regular basis, and that’s the truck that pulls the family boat.
Kogawa was chosen to drive Ford’s 2009 Escape XLT, a vehicle that was first introduced in 2001. The compact Escape fits in Ford’s SUV line up just below the automaker’s larger Explorer.
The first generation Escape ran from 2001 to 2007, with the second generation (2008) vehicle debuting at the Los Angeles International Auto Show in 2007. Design cues from its larger siblings were incorporated in the Escape, and the redesigned compact SUV featured a new grille and head lamp treatment and interior upgrades.
New for 2009 is a more powerful 2.5-litre inline four cylinder Duratec engine, a powerplant that is supposed to be more fuel efficient than the 2.3-L four cylinder it replaced. Also new is a six-speed automatic transmission, while a five-speed manual gearbox is standard fare. Optional in the Escape is a 3.0-L V-6.
And it was the Escape’s new four-cylinder engine that proved to be a sticking point for Kogawa. Her tester was fitted with the 2.5-L Duratec and optional six-speed automatic transmission. Unfortunately, she found the powerplant noisy, and criticized it for a lacklustre performance.
“I loved zipping around in the Escape,” Kogawa says. “But the engine was noisy, and you really heard it when you hit the gas.” Of the performance, she says: “Around town and in the city it’s fine, but my concern would be entering on and off ramps on the Deerfoot and highway passing.”
The Escape is only the second Ford product Kogawa has driven. When she was in high school her parents owned a four-cylinder Mustang, and she says the Escape’s engine reminded her of the Mustang.
Kogawa also had trouble with the Sport Blue Metallic finish, calling it a ‘fad’ colour that wouldn’t be popular a few years down the road. But once she got past the paint she gave the Escape thumbs up for its boxy and edgy styling.
“(The Escape) had a stubby, muscular stance that makes it look kind of rugged, and I liked the wheels,” Kogawa says.
She was surprised by the height Escape is. She noted that it was easy to access the rear seat to install child booster seats, but felt the Escape needed running boards to make it easier for kids and adults alike to get in and out of the SUV. Running boards are available from Ford as an accessory.
Kogawa, at 4’11 3/4″, found the power adjustable driver’s seat and the tilt steering wheel and controls fit her perfectly. She could adjust the seat so she was close enough to the pedals, but didn’t feel she was sitting too close to the steering wheel. She called the interior clean and modern, and praised the Escape’s fit and finish. She liked the charcoal leather interior, and appreciated the optional $1,200 moon roof. Her husband Geoff Kneller, at 6′ tall, also didn’t have any trouble getting comfortable in the Escape.
The ride was smooth, with plenty of bump absorption. Having never owned a car, Kogawa could only compare the ride to her truck-based experiences, and thought the Escape fared well in suspension and steering comfort. In fact, the light and almost loose feel at the steering wheel was one of Kogawa’s favourite features.
“The steering was so soft, and that made the Escape easy to parallel park,” she says. “And the side mirrors were awesome — I’m not sure if it was their design or their size, but they were great.”
Kogawa found the Escape to be smaller in the cargo-carrying department when compared to her family’s Honda CRV. She’s right, too. Her 2002 CRV has almost 949 litres of cargo space with the rear seats in the upright position, while the 2009 Escape features 827 litres.
At the end of the test, Kogawa says she was sad to let go of a brand new vehicle. But for her tastes, she says the Escape really needs the optional V-6 engine. She felt the Escape would be great for a young couple, or grandparents. In fact, Kogawa’s mom really liked the Escape, and that’s who she thinks would best suit the vehicle.
“There’s enough cargo room for shopping and city driving, but it’s not a family long haul touring vehicle,” she concludes.

2009 Ford Escape

Engine: 2.5-L DOHC 16-valve I-4
Horsepower: 171 @ 6,000 r.p.m.
Torque: 171 lb.-ft. @ 4,500 r.p.m.
Wheelbase: 2618.74 mm
Overall length: 4437.38 mm
Curb weight: 1512.7 kg (Auto/FWD)
Price as tested: $34,029

2009 Ford Escape

(I like) the box-like exterior — makes the vehicle look bigger and more rugged than it actually is. The electric (adjustable) seats are nice as I am short (4’11”) and like moving the seat to its highest position. All the controls etc. are within reaching distance and I can tilt the steering right down. Good functionality/design for shorter people.
Vehicle engine is very loud — the sound reminds me of the four-cylinder Mustang that my family had when I was in high school. Boy, sure can hear the engine, turn the radio on to muzzle the sound. Have to really press the gas pedal to get going — not used to this. Get caught on Deerfoot trying to merge — not a whole lot of power — must remember that.
Easy to install the car seat and booster seat, this is a plus. Good leg room behind the passenger and of course driver’s seat.
Pick up three girlfriends and head into downtown for late dinner. Very easy to parallel park — side mirrors are tall and big — LIKE this. Great side mirrors, really makes it easy to back up the vehicle and if you position the mirrors right you really don’t have to turn your head too much to shoulder check. Girlfriends like the vehicle.
The seat warmers in the front get hot really fast which is nice, would be nice to have in the back seat too as they are leather as well.
With the two car seats tossed in the rear, there is not much room left — definitely would not be able to fit in the jogging stroller. Not a whole lot of room in the back.

Drive back downtown for a doctor’s appointment.
Vehicle is very easy to drive, great views out the front window — feels like you are driving in a tall rig. Manoeuvres on city streets, inner city streets and parking areas quite easily — I can turn the steering wheel with my pinky finger! I like the ability to change the stations/volume control on the steering wheel — have it in the Pathfinder.
Very easy to find the vehicle in a filled up parking lot, and one set of grandparents like the bright blue color.
Drive down to Inglewood at night. Not many blind spots because of the windows. Sure is easy to drive just not a whole lot of power. Can’t find the ignition switch to start the vehicle when it is dark — there is no neon circle around it like the Honda/Nissan. A game of ‘poking’ trial and error.

Take the kids (4 and 2) with us and head to Phil’s Pancake house, they have a hard time climbing into the vehicle as it is higher and there is more rounded slippery plastic on the bottom of the doors. The jogging stroller takes up all the room in the rear and I really have to lift and reach in put it down in the rear. The rear bed is high (unlike the CRV). Kid #1 falls out of the vehicle as she is trying to get out of the vehicle on her own. There really should be a running board — the truck stands quite high. Lots of space makes it easy to get kid #2 out of the back seat. Good clearance above her head and behind the passenger seat. (I always bump #2s head in the Pathfinder as I unload and load her into the car seat). Husband is 6′ and he has good head clearance in the front seat even with the motorized sun roof — that’s a plus. Liking the touch screen media system (GPS, radio, DVD, Blue tooth etc)
We all like the windows as they allow for lots of light and everyone can see out quite well.

Short drive to Southland Leisure center for kids dance class. Friend’s mom likes the vehicle and sits in it. She too is impressed with the front window — says she feels like she is flying on top of the road.
Go to mom’s house for dinner. Both parents like the style of the car. Actually probably a good vehicle for them as they don’t need a whole lot of space — only need to be able cart the grandkids around. They don’t want a four-cylinder — told them that it comes in a 6 cylinder and because it sits up high it is very easy to drive the city. Kids have finally got a handle on getting in/out of the vehicle without a running board. Parked on a hill (incline) and I cannot reach the back hatch to close it so I have too jump (nothing new there). Too bad it does not have a handle as it is easier to grab — the slotted inside handle under the hatch door is too slippery to grab when jumping.

Take kid #2 to Gymboree in Midnapore early morning. Leather seats sure make the vehicle feel colder — good thing for those heated seats. In no time the vehicle is warm and the kid wants it cold again.
Drive up to Tuscany for dinner — hit the rush hour. Stopped behind another new Escape — like the backside — tail lights are bright and distinctive. There are actually quite a few Escapes old and new on the road. They must be reliable and the different model styles are still appealing. This radio staying ON after the engine has shut off is still confusing as you wonder if the vehicle is still running but I am getting used to it — shuts off after the driver’s door is open. Grandpop agrees that there sure isn’t a lot of room in the back rear cargo area. Packing a dog, stroller, bags etc would be very limiting.

Go to Costco. I like driving and parking this vehicle — sure is relaxing and I feel like I am seeing the whole road. Definitely not a lot of room in the rear cargo area with a stroller and now the Costco ‘goods’ tray. Honda definitely has more room and because the bed is lower, taking items in/out is a lot nicer. Pants get dirty from having to lean against the back bumper to reach for the groceries.
Drive back into the downtown core for dinner/desserts. Not too worried about finding parking as the vehicle is easy to parallel park as you have good vision from the rear/side mirrors. Get complimented on my ‘parallel’ park job from a couple of ladies. Told them that the vehicle has great mirrors to aid you.

Gas tank is pretty much empty. Did a lot of city driving from Woodbine to the inner city and back. Gas tank would pretty much be empty on my Pathfinder too so I am kind of surprised. Husband thinks that I should have gotten better mileage. (Kogawa drove about 500 km and it cost her $36 to fill the tank.)

Return the vehicle. Kind of glad as I miss my Pathfinder even though it does not have a GPS media system or the leather interior.
Overall, this Escape does not have enough rear cargo room for us to take along kids, accessories and a dog. Plus, the height of the vehicle is an issue without running boards to aid the kids getting in/out of the vehicle.I think though that it would be a great vehicle for couples (grandparents) as it would be a good alternative to driving a car. It is very easy and comfortable/relaxing to drive in the city as it does sit up quite a bit higher than a car. Accommodating different heights shouldn’t be an issue as the vehicle’s seats enveloped us both to our liking and for our driving pleasure.

2009 Ford Escape

Calgary driver Patricia Markin was driving a 2003 Pontiac Sunfire, a bare bones no frills four door car that was nearing the end of its lease. She started looking for a vehicle to replace it more than a year ago, and she drove a Chevrolet Avalanche and a Saturn Vue before deciding to buy a metallic grey 2009 Ford Escape XLT 4×4 late last year from Woodridge Ford. She picked up the vehicle on Dec. 19, and she?s got 596 km on the odometer. So far, Markin has driven mostly around town. She uses the Ford to commute from the northeast into downtown, and also travels to Moose Jaw, Sask., three or four times a year.

I liked the compact size of the Escape, and I thought I could handle the vehicle better than the others. With such a good car I’m planning on driving more on the highway, and will visit family in Moose Jaw even more often. I’m 5’7″ and I wanted a little more headroom, and thought that with the Escape I wouldn’t have to bend down to get into it, like I did with my Sunfire.

My Sunfire had nothing, so I wanted this to have power windows, cruise control, air conditioning — all the niceties. I didn’t specifically ask for a sunroof, but mine has one and I like that, too.

No, no, no, none whatsoever. There’s just enough power for me with the V-6, and the four wheel drive has helped give me more confidence driving in these kinds of winter conditions — and I’m aware that four wheel drive won’t help slow me down! I like the ride and the way it handles, I really enjoy driving the Escape, and am so in love with it.

Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club Calgary Alberta

Calgary’s Ace-Hy Motorcycle Club was founded in 1938, and legendary Indian retailer Walt Healy was an original member.

These photos were sent to me by Diana Gillrie, her father was Maurice Lapensee. He was an Ace-Hy member in the 1950s, and he rode a 1941 Indian Chief with sidecar. He married in 1956, and according to Gillrie, that’s when he sold his Indian for $50.

These photos were probably all taken around the same time, 1953, according to the one image. The hill climbs were most likely held near Cochrane or Bragg Creek; although the Ace-Hy club did run climbs on Tom Campbell’s Hill in Calgary.



Maurice Lapensee with his 1941 Indian, above and below.


Calgary Herald, Red Deer Shop Installs Chad Kroeger’s Sound System, by Greg Willams


Photo Courtesy Fuel’d Desgins — Travis Gustafson presents Nickelback rocker Chad Kroeger with his remodeled 1999 Lamborghini Diablo.

Story first published in the Calgary Herald’s section Dec. 29, 2008

When finished with a custom audio job, and to test the sound, the crew at Fuel’d Designs in Red Deer will often slip a Nickelback CD into the new stereo and crank up the volume.
So when audio expert Travis Gustafson was done with an install in a 1999 Lamborghini Diablo — which just happens to be owned by Nickelback’s lead singer Chad Kroeger — he played Follow You Home from the album All the Right Reasons.
“That song’s got some wicked double bass drum at the beginning,” says Austin Weezy of Installation Station, the audio shop that falls under the Fuel’d Designs umbrella.
The custom audio, interior and paint shop in Red Deer got their hands on Kroeger’s Lamborghini by literally tracking him down through a friend of a friend, who passed along a magazine that featured a custom truck with upgrades done by Fuel’d Designs.
“He (Kroeger) got to see the article and read about our shop,” Gustafson says. That got the ball rolling, and Kroeger decided to hand over one of his cars. It could have just as easily been his Hummer or his Corvette, but according to Gustafson, Kroeger wasn’t happy with the tan interior of his Lamborghini. The crew drove out to Kroeger’s Abbotsford home and loaded up the Diablo in their covered trailer and brought it back to Red Deer, where they gutted the car completely, and did a custom interior and audio install.
“He (Kroeger) wanted the Lamborghini converted from tan to black leather,” Gustafson says. “And we wanted to update the interior, and change the styling a bit by making it look more modern. We also wanted to integrate the audio so it looked like the car would have come from the factory.”
High-end audio components from Audison-Hertz, including two rear 8″ sub woofers, two 5 1/4″ rear fill speakers, and 8″ three-way speakers in each door are all powered by a five channel Audison amp. They also installed a 10″ video screen in the dash, and made hand-built seats and custom door panels.
“Chad’s super laid back and easy going,” Gustafson says. “When we delivered the car we got to hear the new album (Dark Horse) before it launched, and spent the night hanging out in his studio.”
Kroeger obviously liked the work, because the crew didn’t come back to Red Deer empty handed — they hauled back his Plymouth Prowler and are preparing to do a complete makeover on that car. You can watch the Kroeger Lamborghini project from start to finish on

Calgary Herald, A Brief History of Car Audio, by Greg Williams

Story first published in the Calgary Herald’s section Dec. 29, 2008

_dsc0033Photo courtesy Amee Reehal — Dashboard aglow in Porsche Cayenne, Calgary city skyline as backdrop.

Car stereos have been on the road longer than Jack Kerouac.
After getting in the car and firing up the engine the next step is usually turning on the sound system.
Almost instinctively, we reach for the stereo knob and crank up the volume — whether it’s a book on tape, talk radio, a Green Day CD, or Beethoven on the iPod.
From heavy tube-type AM radios, to transistor AM/FM units, to 8-track cassettes, CD players and on to satellite radio and iPods, car audio has become de rigueur and it is hard to imagine any vehicle without some kind of sound system.
In fact, according to Glen Barreth, vice president of operations at Calgary’s Wood Automotive Group, every new car sold — from a base Kia Rio to a loaded Chrysler 300 — comes fitted with a factory sound system. And at the very least, that system is an AM/FM radio with CD player.
There was a time not that long ago when a radio, and AM radio at that, was an option — and if it wasn’t installed in the vehicle there was a blank plate covering the hole in the dash where it would go.
In the early to mid-1920s radio was a relatively new technology, and the radios were becoming as commonplace in the home as a TV or computer is today. A home radio was often a large, floor model unit in an ornate wooden cabinet.
And what’s in the home eventually moves to the car. Early enthusiasts adapted home-style radios to operate in a vehicle, but credit for the first purpose-built automotive radio system is given to the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation of Chicago, Illinois. Brothers Paul and Joseph Galvin bought out a company that was building battery eliminators — essentially a device that allowed a battery operated radio to run on household current.
In 1930, the brothers built the first car radio, the model 5T71, and marketed it under the Motorola brand name. Motorola was an obvious name choice given the automotive industry — ‘motor’ combined with the ‘ola’ suffix.
Early radios, which were AM only, were built of metal and glass and had several vacuum tubes and a speaker. Needless to say, they were heavy units. Cars of the day had large metal dashboards, and the radio was installed right in the middle of the dash. Unlike today’s cars, where the underside of the instrument cluster and centre console are completely concealed, older vehicles were open under the dash making installing and removing a radio an easy endeavour.
Advancements in car audio included AM scanning technology, including GM’s Delco Wonderbar feature. Pushing the Wonderbar caused an electric motor to turn the tuning knob, and the tuner would stop at the next available AM station. Speakers moved from the radio itself into to the dash and the rear package shelf, giving much better sound quality.
And, some auto companies sold units that played special-pressed seven-inch records at 16 2/3 rpm. Chrysler offered the Highway Hi-Fi system from 1956 to 1961-62.
This is from an Oct 12, 1955 Chrysler press release: “For 1956 Imperial introduces the high fidelity record player. Small, neat and compact, the unit measures only slightly more than four inches high and less than a foot wide. It is mounted under the instrument panel, and plays through the radio speaker.”
Delco also dabbled with a car record player — but neither system could be considered a commercial success.
Reel-to-reel tape players were also offered, but real advancements in car audio weren’t made until the 8-track tape player became available. By the mid-1960s AM/FM radios were in the dash, and the 8-track player could be installed under the dash. Now, drivers could listen to a favourite radio station, or bring with them tunes of their choice.
From that point on, car audio systems and the inherent technology progressed rather quickly. By the late 1970s and early 1980s aftermarket manufacturers such as Alpine, Sony and Pioneer produced compact cassette players, complete with radios. Power output, boosted by car audio amplifiers, turned automobiles into rolling sound labs.
Compact discs were first commercially available in 1982, and this sound recording technology revolutionized the audio industry. It wasn’t long after that the big-name players in the industry were offering in-dash aftermarket CD players, and CD changers that allowed more than a single disc to be played.
Technology allowed installers to fit small video screens into cars, and the next wave of in-car audio was navigation systems and DVD players — sure to keep backseat passengers quiet on long road trips. Now, systems such as Blue Tooth allow all (or most) electronic devices a person might carry to communicate in concert, and in sync inside a vehicle. The living room (or home media centre) has moved into passenger vehicles and the technology is no longer just the domain of small shops customizing car audio systems.
Auto manufacturers have offered factory installed DVD systems since the early 2000s, and in keeping with the rapid pace of development, many new car stereos offer iPod connectivity.

2009 Cheverolet Corvette Coupe

Photo courtesy GM Canada — Dash and navi/audio layout of 2009 Corvette.

dB (decibel) Drag Racing
Nobody really appreciates the thump, thump, thump and window rattling bass that can sometimes be heard coming from a vehicle while stopped at a red light in the city. Taking it off the street, however, are serious car audio enthusiasts who spend thousands of dollars outfitting a vehicle with amplifiers and subwoofers, preparing it for an event called a dB drag race. These events have become popular in the U.S. and other countries, and participants compete to learn who has the loudest car audio system.
In the interests of safety, the ‘racer’ is not allowed to be in the vehicle; rather, the car or van is sealed up tight with a decibel-measuring instrument inside. Remote controls are used to turn on the system, and the winner is the participant with the loudest system, plain and simple.
According to the website, which is devoted to custom car audio and sound measurement, the 2008 record was 180.8 dB. For comparison, a normal conversation measures about 60 dB, a rock concert or airplane jet engine at 120 dB, and a gunshot at 140 dB.

ipod_mazda-2Photo courtesy Mazda Canada — iPod connectivity in a factory audio system.

We talked to three Calgarians about the music they listen to while doing their driving. One’s a motorcyclist, another a teacher and mother of two boys, and the last is a long haul trucker.

Wade Youngman
Calgary motorcycle enthusiast Wade Youngman has been riding for 36 years. Youngman also likes his music, and regardless of the machine he’s wired for sound. As the tour coordinator for the Calgary Motorcycle Club, Youngman routinely covers 16,000 to 17,000 kilometres a year. He didn’t have the capability to take his tunes with him until he got a 1978 Kawasaki KZ1000 fitted with a Vetter fairing — there was a spot to install a radio cassette deck.
Now, Youngman uses the factory stereo in his 2000 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Classic, or plugs his helmet speakers into his iPod when he’s aboard his 1997 Kawasaki KLR 650.
Here is Youngman’s list of music he’d likely listen to while on the road.
1. The Beatles
2. Blue Rodeo
3. Kid Rock
4. Natalie Cole
5. Sam Cooke
6. Johnny Cash
7. Billie Holiday
8. Herman’s Hermits
9. Elvis
10. AC/DC
“My tastes are pretty eclectic, and it only gets worse from there,” Youngman says. “It’ll be the White Stripes one minute, and Dean Martin the next.”

Donna Franke
Donna Franke is a teacher and mother of two boys, ages nine and 12. She spends a lot of time driving to school, various soccer activities in the Calgary area and traveling to her family’s ski condo in B.C.
Franke most often is driving their 2006 Acura MDX, and while on the road, whether alone or accompanied, she likes to listen to a variety of music typically on the radio. If driving on the highway she will use an iPod.
She says that with the popularity of the video game Guitar Hero her children recognize and enjoy many of the same tunes she connects to from her youth. That said, she has also come to appreciate some of the new bands her children enjoy and has gained an appreciation for jazz; her husband’s preference.
Franke’s list, although numbered, is in no particular order.
1. The Eagles
2. The Doors
3. Blue Rodeo
4. Santana
5. Sarah McLachlan
6. Pink Floyd
7. AC/DC
8. Finger Eleven
9. Led Zeppelin
10. Red Hot Chili Peppers
“My favourite songs are ones I can sing along to — though typically when I drive alone, to avoid complaints,” Franke says.

Bent Thomsen
Lease-operator Bent Thomsen owns his own tractor, a 2007 Freightliner, and says he’s been trucking for close to 20 years. He can get in his rig and leave Calgary and be gone from eight to 14 days. It’s a job that takes him all over North America, although he doesn’t get to the east coast very often. Thomsen will travel down to San Diego, and across the U.S. to Florida before coming home. Recently, he hauled a load up to Anchorage, Alaska. He says music for him is more of a mood generator, and what he’s listening to depends on how long he’s been in the truck, and where he is.
“It’s more about the genre of music than the artist for me,” Thomsen says. “It depends on my mood, and, for example, whether I need something to keep me awake at night, or relaxed during a drive through L.A.”
He uses the factory Freightliner stereo, but has a satellite radio tuner box hardwired into the system. Thomsen has also added some speakers to the outfit.
We really had to press Thomsen for a list of artists, but this is what he finally contributed.
1. Govi
2. Mike Oldfield
3. Genesis
4. Phil Collins
5. Brooks & Dunn
6. Gary Allan
7. Tommy and the Shondells
8. The Eagles
9. Allan Jackson
10. The Rolling Stones
2009 Cadillac XLRPhoto courtesy GM Canada — Cadillac XLR dash and audio layout.

Inside Motocycles, 1940 Indian Scout, by Greg Williams

Story first published in Inside Motorcycles magazine, Volume 11, Issue 7.

Please click on the thumbnail to see larger image.

Photo courtesy the Murphy family: Spud Murphy aboard his Indian.

And, if it’s hard to read the text, here’s the story.

When father and son Terry and Chad Murphy want to remember dad and grampa, they don’t have to look at a worn black and white photo; they can go to the garage and bring to life the Indian motorcycle he took on a summer journey in 1940.

The late Charles Gordon Murphy — better known as Spud — was born in 1918 in Neville, Saskatchewan but spent most of his life in Calgary. His first motorcycle was a 1932 New Imperial, a machine he bought for $5 in 1935. By 1940 he was pumping gas and fixing cars at the Big Chief Texaco station on 17 Ave. in Calgary, and he’d earned enough money to buy a Model 640 Indian Sport Scout. Most likely the bike was used, as it came from the local Harley-Davidson dealer Clyde Paul.

Murphy and his friend Les ‘Mac’ McNulty had decided they would ride their motorcycles to Tijuana, Mexico in the summer of 1940 before they enlisted. He had $8 in his pocket, while McNulty had $9. On the way they stopped in Latah, Washington where Spud’s uncle was a farmer, as well as the local moonshiner. The pair earned a little extra money running ‘shine to all of the farmers around the area before moving on to the Washington coast and the town of Eureka. And here, they worked at a friend’s gas station prior to rolling down Highway 101 to Tijuana.

“He told me all kinds of stories about his trip,” Terry says. “I can’t remember all of them, but he did tell me he also worked at a carnival in Laguna Beach, California where he rode the Wall of Death.
“I can see him doing that — he didn’t have any fear.”

When Murphy returned from Mexico he traded the Indian Scout for a brand new big twin Harley-Davidson. He stored the Harley in the barn on the family farm and then enlisted for service. He was shipped overseas where he was put in charge of a mobile motorcycle unit, and didn’t return until 1945.

Fast-forward 45 years to 1990. Spud and Terry are out for a ride, visiting a friend in Central Alberta who is a machinist/welder with a penchant for picking up all kinds of projects from cars to motorcycles. In his Quonset hut sat an Indian motorcycle, which had been restored to a point where it was a running machine — with a few details left unattended. Spud was offered a ride on the Indian, and he took the opportunity.

“Afterwards, dad’s sitting there looking at this thing, and I said, ‘Why don’t you buy it?'” Terry recalls. Spud asked how much it would take to purchase, and the reply was $10,000. “Dad said OK, and reached over and shook hands on the deal.
“I pretty near fell over,” Terry adds. “Dad was from the old school of not spending a lot of money.”

When they got the bike home Spud took a close look at the serial number. He got to thinking, and went inside to dig out an old logbook where he’d documented oil and lube jobs on his 1940 Indian, and he’d also noted the serial number. Turns out the serial numbers matched, and without any inkling of the connection, Spud had just purchased the Indian he’d ridden to Mexico some 50 years earlier.

Indian’s Scout dates back to 1920, when the company introduced the model with a 596cc (37ci) 42-degree V-twin engine. Engine capacity increased in 1927 to 745cc (45ci), and the model was further improved with the introduction of the 101 Scout in 1928. The 101 Scout had a lengthened wheelbase and a lower saddle height than its predecessor. The 101 possess legendary handling traits, and it was popular with sporting motorcyclists — including Wall of Death riders.

By 1932 Indian was facing cost-cutting measures and the company consolidated its models — the Chief was another popular motorcycle made by Indian — and they placed a Scout engine into the heavier Chief frame. To say the machine gained a little heft would be an understatement; nearly 60 pounds were added to the Scout. Of course, enthusiasts decried the weight gain, forcing Indian to introduce the Sport Scout in 1934. Sport Scouts were an amalgamation of parts and pieces from a few other Indian machines, including the Prince, 101 Scout and Junior Scout. The new Sport Scouts were lighter and quicker, and in the mid to late 1930s they were achieving success on dirt tracks across North America.

In 1940 Indian introduced the model 640 Sport Scout. Many of the 640s were built for military use, while others were designated for civilian buyers. Differences between the military and civilian bikes were skirted versus open fenders, full kickstart guard on the civilian machine, and different wheel hubs. Another subtle difference was the addition of small brackets or tabs on both sides of the lower half of the front girder fork; these would anchor the full-skirted fender found on the civilian bike.

Spud’s Indian Scout doesn’t have the full-skirted fenders, and there are other items that make the machine look more like a military model painted and finished to look flashier — but this is the way he remembered the bike from 1940.

Spud was able to enjoy his reconnection with the Scout for almost nine years — he died in 1999. Before he died he taught his grandson, Chad, how to ride the Indian. “We were out for a ride — dad was on the Indian, I was on my FL and Chad was on my Wide Glide.

“We stopped on a quiet road and Spud says to Chad: ‘It’s time you learned to ride an Indian’. So he goes through the drill of how the bike works, and then he takes off, down into a ditch, along the fence line, up and out and then the same thing on the other side of the road. I thought dad was losing it, but he comes back and says to Chad, ‘Now you do the same thing.’ And he did.
“When dad died, I told Chad the bike was his. I’m just looking after if for a while.”

Calgary Herald, SEMA Action Network Heads North, by Greg Williams

Story first published in the Calgary Herald’s section Nov. 7, 2008

Photo courtesy SEMA: A Dodge Super Bee heads into the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Regardless of the time of year Las Vegas is an exciting town.
But every year Sin City gets a serious dose of horsepower the first week of November, and for those involved in the automotive aftermarket industry that makes Vegas even more exciting.
That’s because the SEMA Show takes over the Las Vegas Convention Center — filling one million square feet with technology and auto accessories. SEMA is the largest automotive aftermarket trade show of its kind in the world. Today is the last day of the SEMA exhibit — this year the show ran from Nov. 4 to 7.
SEMA stands for Specialty Equipment Market Association, and since 1963 this group has come to represent not only the automotive and the aftermarket industry, but also the interests of car and truck hobbyists. Those hobbyists are a diverse group, and they include ‘rodders, customizers, tuners, four-wheelers, techies, racers and restorers.
SEMA started SAN (the SEMA Action Network) in 2007 to ensure a healthy automotive aftermarket in the U.S. Working together with car clubs and enthusiasts; SAN keeps an eye on government legislation and statutes that affect the automotive hobby. They have the support of some 3,500 clubs nationwide, thousands of individuals, and more than 100 consumer automotive publications. Through that large network SAN has the potential to get the attention of 36 million enthusiasts who can respond (via letter writing, etc.) to federal or state legislative actions or regulatory proposals.
They’ve been hard at work in the U.S. for over a year, and now SAN has extended its reach to Canada.
“We’ve been pretty successful in the U.S.,” says Jason Tolleson, SEMA Action Network director. “We’ve helped the (auto enthusiast) community, and we’re bringing some of our expertise north of the border.’
As an example of what SAN does, Tolleson talked about aftermarket exhaust systems and exhaust noise issues.
“Rather than the outright banning of modified exhaust systems, we’d suggest putting a testing procedure in place to ensure an aftermarket system was meeting a set decibel level, and not exceeding that,’ Tolleson says.
SAN also works diligently on certain exemption issues, such as tailpipe emissions for antique automobiles.
“(Antiques) should be safety inspected and maintained,” Tolleson says. “But those cars are on the road so little they shouldn’t be subjected to the same requirements as a daily driver when it comes to emissions and air quality issues.”
Tolleson says in the U.S. SAN works with a group called the State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus — essentially a coalition of lawmakers who identify themselves as ‘auto-hobby’ friendly.
‘Taking it to Canada is the next step,” Tolleson says. “We’re working to identify lawmakers (in Canada) who are friendly to the hobby. That program (the leadership caucus) is very successful in the U.S. and we want to expand that in Canada.”
The first SEMA show was held in 1967 under the grandstands in Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles. There were 98 booths and about 3,000 in attendance. Fast forward four decades, and the 2007 show featured 2,000 exhibitors and 125,000 attendees.
“It’s a $38-billion a year industry,” Tolleson says. “Whether it’s access to a vehicle restyling kit, tinted windows, a wheel and tire combination package, or all of the media and magazines that are out there, it’s amazing how far we’ve come.
“It’s all about personalizing your vehicle. You can go into Starbucks and choose between (43 — I counted them on their website) different types of coffee. So you should have the opportunity to go into a wheel and tire shop and also choose what you want on your vehicle.
“There’s so much you can do after pulling a vehicle off the dealership lot.”
Automakers such as Chrysler, Ford, GM, Kia, Lexus, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Scion, Subaru, Toyota and Volkswagen understand this. They all have their own corporate displays at SEMA, showcasing some of their own accessory pieces together with vehicles that have been modified by noted customizers.
Lexus, for example, is showcasing a GS 460 that has been tricked out by California builder Five Axis.
And the show features numerous notable celebrity appearances — all somehow involved in the auto industry — including bluesman and Mopar fan Kenny Wayne Shepherd, actor and racecar driver Frankie Muniz, customizer and artist Chip Foose and racecar driver Mario Andretti. As a trade-only event, the show is open to qualified members of the automotive aftermarket — no consumers allowed.
Of the SAN in Canada, Tolleson concludes: “We’ll be monitoring Ottawa and the provinces for regulatory issues, and ensure there’s a healthy marketplace.”
The public is encouraged to join SAN. Go to and look for the maple leaf to begin registration.

Photo courtesy SEMA: A tricked out Saturn Sky showcases what SEMA’s all about — aftermarket tires, wheels, body kits.