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Calgary Herald, Vinnie DiMartino and V-Force Customs, by Greg Williams

This story first appeared in the Calgary Herald’s Driving section on Feb. 22, a day before Vinnie DiMartino visited Calgary’s World of Wheels event.

Photo courtesy Vinnie DiMartino: Scooter antics with Cody Connelly

Fans of television?s bike building show American Chopper are sure to have noticed the departure of two familiar faces.
Both Vinnie DiMartino and Cody Connelly left the employment of Orange County Choppers (OCC) and have struck out on their own. In their new shop, V-Force Customs, DiMartino is prepared to continue building and fabricating custom motorcycles (
While DiMartino is no longer on TV, he will be in Calgary this weekend, with two appearances at the 42 nd annual World of Wheels at the Roundup Centre at Stampede Park. He?s scheduled to greet the public and sign autographs on Saturday only from 2 to 5 p.m. and again from 7 to 9 p.m.
Bike builder/fabricator DiMartino isn?t focused on his past. Rather, his sights are set on the road that?s laid out ahead of him.
?I spared no expense getting this shop the way I wanted it,? DiMartino said from his Rock Tavern, New York shop.
After making the break from OCC DiMartino spent a month with his lawyers, learning just what he could and couldn?t do as a result of some contracts he?d signed. But it was fairly obvious that opening up his own shop where he had creative control was the end goal.
?I am a motor head,? DiMartino said. ?And I always wanted my own shop.?
At first DiMartino located a building that was somewhat suitable for his purposes, and he spent a little money fixing it up. In the back of his mind, though, he knew he?d eventually have to relocate. Then, an old high school friend got in touch and told DiMartino about a brand new 14,000 sq. ft. industrial facility he?d just built.
?I knew this was the place I should be,? DiMartino said of the 5,000 sq. ft. bay he?s leased in the building.
With help from family and friends V-Force Customs opened late in 2007. And thanks to several sponsors V-Force Customs is equipped with a full complement of machine tools, including a Bridgeport CNC mill, numerous Lincoln Electric welders, and a Flow Waterjet machine.
All of this equipment is being put to good use. DiMartino and Connelly are putting the finishing touches on a machine they refer to as V-Force One ? the first bike finished in the new shop. According to DiMartino, the machine will be unveiled at Daytona Beach Bike Week on Mar. 1. After that, the bike tours 10 of the most popular motorcycle rallies in North America. At each event patrons can enter to win the machine, and a final draw will be made at Daytona in 2009.
?It?s a great way to get back out there,? DiMartino said. ?There?s so much hype about my first bike, I didn?t even really want to have to deal with that. This way, I get to build my first bike, parade it around, and then give it away.
?(I don?t think there was) a better route we could have gone.?
But DiMartino is looking forward to new opportunities with V-Force Customs ? perhaps even moving beyond motorcycles and building cars.
?I?ve got all the tools and equipment ? it?s freedom, actually. And maybe I won?t ever build cars, but I?ve got all the equipment to do it if I choose,? he said.
DiMartino is happy to be working in his new shop with Connelly, and doesn?t plan on spreading himself thin with too many projects. ?We?re starting off with some cool motorcycles, and I?d be happy building just five or 10 (bikes) a year.?

Calgary Herald, Hot Wheels Still Hot, by Greg Williams

Photo courtesy Mattel 1968 Custom Camaro

Story first published in the Calgary Herald March 14

Photo courtesy Mattel 1968 Deora

Hot Wheels.
The very name conjures images of one of the most enduring and popular childhood toys.
And the Hot Wheels brand celebrates a milestone in 2008. The cars and associated accessories turn 40 — and the pint-sized vehicles have become a legend in their own time.
“Hot Wheels are a part of pop culture,” says Mattel’s Hot Wheels brand manager Kathleen O’Hara. “Over 41 million adults grew up with the brand, and dads and even grandpas are passing on their cars to their own children and grandchildren.”
Hot Wheels have become highly collectible, with one rare example — an original rear-loading Spectraflame pink 1969 Volkswagen Beach Bomb — fetching close to $72,000 at an auction in 2000. Only 25 examples of the rear-loading Beach Bomb, where a surfboard poked out the rear window, were produced and only two pink ones are known to exist.
Elliot Handler, Mattel co-founder, was the man behind bringing the Hot Wheels cars to life. In 1968 he hired designers working for real automakers and charged them with the task of creating the best miniature die-cast toy cars available. Hot Wheels certainly weren’t the first die-cast toys. Names such as Britain’s Dinky, Lesney and Matchbox come to mind.
But Hot Wheels were different. The first cars, known as the ‘Sweet 16’, appealed more to a young American market due to the fact the cars were based mainly on U.S. designs. Among others, there was a Corvette, a Cougar, a Barracuda, a Firebird and a Mustang. Other designs were a bit more outrageous, including one called the Beatnik Bandit; legendary customizer and artist Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth designed this car.
Handler originally planned to call the line of die-cast cars California Customs, as the models were to reflect the west coast hot rod scene with trim such as hood scoops, wild colours and decals.

Photo courtesy Mattel 1968 Custom Corvette

“But one day when Eliot was pulling into the parking lot he saw a co-worker’s hot rod, and he said to him, ‘Those are some hot wheels’,” O’Hara says. The name stuck.
Adding to their almost instant popularity in 1968 was how the Hot Wheels toys ‘played’.
“It’s always been important for Hot Wheels cars to move fast, and Eliot wanted to make sure kids could drive them,” O’Hara says.
To that end, the Hot Wheels cars featured fully independent torsion bar suspension and wheels that moved freely and spun quickly. This allowed the toys to move along the unforgettable orange racetracks, which kids could, and still can, set up rather elaborately.
More than three billion Hot Wheels cars have been produced since 1968, and the brand has continued to expand with new track and play sets. In fact, as a Hot Wheels trivia sheet points out, those three billion toys are more than the combined total of cars manufactured by Detroit’s Big Three automakers — General Motors, Ford and Chrysler — since the start of the automotive industry.

Photo courtesy Mattel 1968 Beatnik Bandit

Helping kids of all ages celebrate the 40 th anniversary of Hot Wheels is a new program called Licence to Play ( Over the next few months, O’Hara says, there will be more to come on the brand’s website, including a birthday club and an online scavenger hunt. There is also a new line of cars called Since ’68. This line includes, among others, vehicles chosen by Hot Wheels Collector Club enthusiasts as the cars they’ve liked the best over the years.

Photo courtesy Mattel 1969 Spectraflame Pink Beachbomb

Inside Motorcycles — Heavy on the Salt: More CX650 Bonneville Salt Flats Adventure, by Greg Williams

I am surprised by the response regarding the first story (in the Calgary Herald) about Jim Wylie and Joe Haseloh’s adventures on the Salt Flats. There have been hundreds of hits — with most interest coming from European countries where the CX model is quite revered.

What follows is an expanded story, this one published in Canada’s Inside Motorcycles magazine (March, 2008) . My column, Western Perspectives, runs monthly in that magazine.

Photo courtesy Jim Wylie: Joe Haseloh (left) and Jim Wylie on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Calgary motorcyclists and long-time friends Jim Wylie and Joe Haseloh dreamed for years of tackling the Bonneville Salt Flats.

But as Wylie, 52, notes, “The years just go by. If I have any advice after this experience it’s to go ahead and do whatever it is you want to do — because it doesn’t get any easier.”

Both men dabbled in racing in the mid to late 1970s, and Wylie says; “Joe was a good racer, whereas I was average. I was a mid-pack rider, while Joe was the Western Canadian Superbike champion in 1978.”

Well acquainted with speed, Wylie and Haseloh felt the call of the Salt Flats. It was 2006, however, before the pair finally boarded a plane and flew to Utah, rented a car, and drove out to witness the BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials. “We wanted to see what it was all about,” Wylie says. “We spent a week down there in 2006, and the locals said it was the best salt conditions in living memory. That gave us a bit of a false impression.”

While circulating among the pits Wylie and Haseloh chanced upon Tom Liberatore, an Italian motorcycle aficionado racing a ca.1974 Moto Guzzi 750 V7 Sport in a 750cc pushrod class. “We talked for hours and hours. He held two records in the 750-pushrod class, and he confessed the only thing he feared was a Honda CX650,” Wylie says. The Honda CX650 is a rather unique motorcycle. While the bike was supposedly never sold in the U.S., it was available in Canada in the early 1980s. The engine featured pushrod-actuated valves, and was in a ‘flying V’ configuration, similar to the Moto Guzzi. But that’s where the similarities end. Honda’s CX650 features modern niceties such as four valves per head, liquid cooling, a 10,000 r.p.m. rev limit and shaft final drive; that’s why Liberatore was scared.

“It seemed like it would be so easy to annihilate a two valve, air cooled engine,” Wylie says, speaking of Liberatore’s Moto Guzzi record holder in the pushrod class at Bonneville. “The 750 pushrod records (were) low hanging fruit,” Haseloh commented to Wylie upon their return to Calgary in 2006. So the pair hunted down and purchased two 1983 Honda CX650s, one from a classified ad and the other from a friend of Haseloh’s brother. Turns out the machine purchased from the ad was ‘a totally miled out piece of junk’, while the other was an exceptionally well maintained bike in near immaculate condition. Another bike, a GL650 (same engine as the CX, just in a cruiser configuration) was donated by TJ’s Cycle in Calgary. A spare motor was purchased on eBay — and that gave the team four 650cc engines and three bikes.

Of course, both Wylie and Haseloh wanted to ride, so they set out to prepare two CX650s, one for each. Wylie would contend the 750 Production Pushrod class (750 P-PP — with a record 117.5 mph), while Haseloh would ride in the 750 Modified Partially Streamlined Pushrod Gas class (750 MPS-PG — 130 mph record). “We were going to be Liberatore’s worst dream come true,” Wylie says.

Photo courtesy Jim Wylie

Work didn’t really start on the projects until July of 2007. Wylie’s Production bike was fairly easy to make race ready — they removed the mirrors and signal lights, changed the handlebars to a low profile bend, and tuned the engine. The hard part was changing the gearing so that the bike would reach its top speed while the engine was still in the fattest part of its power curve. Easier said than done on a shaft drive motorcycle. In the end, it came down to putting the largest tire at the back end as possible — a 130/90-18″ Cheng Shin shoe. According to Wylie, at speeds greater than 150 km/h (all changes and modifications were tested on Haseloh’s dyno) the Chinese three-ply tire expanded by one inch. This ‘growth’ figured into their gearing calculations.

The Modified bike took a bit more effort. All new body panels were sourced and made to fit, a high-speed front fender was slotted into a set of Suzuki front forks, and a side mounted Gold Wing air shock was installed. The latter modification was in an attempt to fit a taller rear tire to further change the gearing. In the engine department Haseloh massaged the valves, installed a set of 42 mm Malossi racing carbs with custom intake manifolds and hand fabricated a set of exhaust pipes from scrap tubing. The bike should have been a winner.

Using a borrowed truck the pair got to Bonneville and the BUB speed trials for Sept. 2 to 6, 2007. Right away, they noticed the salt was completely different than it was in 2006. It was much wetter, making it rutted and filled with potholes. A couple of oversights left them working on the bikes just to pass tech inspection, and the Modified bike couldn’t be passed until metal tire valve stems were procured from Salt Lake City. That left the Production bike to run, and Wylie managed, with a slight tail wind, to achieve 120.3 mph through the measured mile. His return run an hour later was into a head wind and was slower at 117.432, but the average was 118.754 — enough for the record.

A competitor racing a Triumph Triple in the 750 MPS-PG class blew the team out of the water with a 157 mph pass, totally demoralizing them before they even had a chance to run the partially streamlined CX. They removed the fairing from their bike and entered the 750 Modified Pushrod Gas class instead, and after finally passing the tech inspection were allowed to run on a short, three-mile course. This run made evident a coolant leak, and the Production machine was cannibalized for spares. On the last day, and after waiting in line for hours the team never got to run.

“In the end BUB let us and some others do one way timed runs which was very kind,” Wylie says. “It was on this single run on the long course that we discovered our final and last mechanical problem. The fuel petcock we had installed at the last minute because of clearance issues did not flow enough fuel and Joe had to go through the mile at three-quarter throttle. Still he ran 121.234 mph, and we are convinced that with full power we could have taken the 130 mph record.”

Wylie and Haseloh intend to recuperate in 2008, and head back down in 2009. Wylie chuckles, “I don’t think I’ve recovered yet; either mentally or physically.”

Photo courtesy Jim Wylie

Calgary Herald, Stars and Cars: Q&A with Pixie Acia, by Greg Williams

First published in the Calgary Herald’s Driving Section Feb. 22, 2008

Pixie Acia photo courtesy World of Wheels

Pixie Acia is the 26-year old shop manager of High Voltage Tattoo in West Hollywood, California — the shop now known in the reality TV series L.A. Ink. In the show Acia works alongside noted tattoo artists Kat Von D, Corey Miller, Hannah Atchison and Kim Saigh.
“People believe everything they see on TV — and they shouldn’t,” Acia says of L.A. Ink, and the entire reality TV phenomenon itself. “What happens may be real, but editing can change what you see.”
Acia is a make-up artist first and foremost, working in film, fashion, and music videos. But she’s also got a soft spot for vehicles, as we learned during this interview.
Acia is putting in an appearance at the 42 nd annual Auto Value Parts Stores World of Wheels. She’s at the Roundup Centre, Stampede Park on Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.

Q: What was your first car?
A: The first car I fell in love with was my brother’s car, it was a 1973 Pontiac Grand Am. I just loved it, the way it smelled, the bench seat — and when you started it the whole car just shook.
My very first car that I drove, I’m embarrassed — it was an ’86 Chevy Nova. It would have been a lot cooler if it were a ’70 Nova.
It was the first car I had, and I drove it for two years. I covered it in insulation foam and stuck toys all over it and then some tattoo artist friends of mine airbrushed the whole thing. I also had a David Bowie Ziggy Stardust mannequin head on the car, and when I drove it the hair would blow back in the wind.
I gave the car back to my dad, and he put it a sheet over it in the yard he was so embarrassed.
Then I had a ’94 izusu 4 wheel drive, and I spray painted the whole thing again.

Q: Do you drive/own a car now?
A: It’s an all black 2004 Mini Cooper. It’s fast, and it’s cute, and I won’t spray paint this one.

Photo courtesy Jerry Clement, who shot this photo of Pixie Acia at a recent tattoo convention in Calgary.

Q: Do you have a favourite car, and if you could have any car you wanted what would it be?
A: My favourite car is the Mini Copper.
Any car I wanted? That would be a ’37 Ford pick up. My ex-boyfriend had a ’37 Ford truck; it was a piece of crap. It was rusty in places, the side windows didn’t go up and down, but it had so much character.

Q: Would you want a Chip Foose customized ’37 Ford truck?
A: Totally, a Chip Foose ’37 would be one I’d want to have. But it would have to whitewalls, and no hood, and have a rat rod look for sure.

Q: Are you a motorcyclist? There are photos on your page of you in a Johnson Motors (famous, and now defunct, West Coast Brit-bike dealer) Triumph T-shirt, and a couple of you dirt biking.
A: My dad raced motocross, and I’ve been around bikes my whole life, but I just learned how to ride dirt bikes two years ago.
I’ve always wanted to be on a street bike, and I’d love an old Triumph or a Harley.
It would have to be very functional; I’d actually want to ride it. If it was a Harley, it would have to have a rigid frame, a springer front end, mid controls, peanut tank, narrow rear tire — not a big fat lame one — no chrome, wrapped pipes; I’d want it vintage and gritty.

Q: What were you doing before L.A. Ink?
A: I was a make up artist, and a waitress and a body piercer.
I went to two make up schools; one in San Francisco and Cinema Make-up school in Los Angeles. I work in films and music videos, fashion, etc., and I’m still doing that work.

Q: What’s your favourite L.A. Ink episode?
A: The one where I took Corey Miller to the Villolobos Rescue Center, the largest pit bull rescue centre in the nation. I just wanted the audience to see the rescue and see that pit bulls weren’t bad dogs, and how this woman (Tia Maria Torres) had devoted her life to the pit bull.

Q: Do you have a favourite road trip or highway?
A: I like the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway No. 1). Once you get north of Ventura County, on the windy roads, it’s beautiful. I also like driving Mulholland (Drive) or along (Laurel) Canyon (Blvd.) here in L.A.

Q: Do you have other projects or what’s next?
A: In my life, what’s next is make up to pay the bills, and animal rescue to fill and satisfy my soul. (Acia has found a space to set up her own pit bull rescue society, called Pixie’s Pit Bull Paradise, in Agua Dulce just north of Los Angeles.)

Photo courtesy Jerry Clement. This shot of Pixie Acia was taken at the Calgary World of Wheels.

Calgary Herald, Malcolm Bricklin’s Vision for Visionary Vehicles, by Greg Williams

First published in the Calgary Herald Feb. 08, 2008.

Photo courtesy Visionary Vehicles — A 1/4 scale model of the luxury plug-in electric vehicleMalcolm Bricklin expects to sell by the end of 2009.

Auto entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin’s been around the block a few times.
From adventures to misadventures, his gears and wheels continue to roll — Bricklin’s latest venture sees him attempting to energize the electric vehicle industry.
Visionary Vehicles is Bricklin’s new company, and he plans to offer a brand new, plug-in luxury electric vehicle to consumers by the end of 2009.
“I’m trying to help start the electric vehicle industry,” Bricklin says from his New York office.
Now 68, Bricklin is perhaps most famous for his Bricklin SV-1. Built in New Brunswick from 1974 to 1976 the car was all about safety wrapped up in a sexy, sporty package. With gull-wing doors and an integral safety cage, SV-1 stood for Safety Vehicle One. Early Bricklins used an AMC 360 engine, while Ford’s 351 Windsor powered later cars. Approximately 2,854 Bricklins were built before the company went into receivership, and it is thought that about 1,500 of the unique vehicles still exist.
The SV-1 wasn’t Bricklin’s first foray into the auto world. In 1965, after turning his father’s hardware business into a large chain of building supply franchises, Bricklin helped set up Subaru of America. When he sold his portion of Subaru he invested the money in the SV-1 — and after the Bricklin SV-1 project failed he imported Fiat X1/9s and also formed Yugo America, Inc.
Since then he’s had his hands in a few other ventures, including marketing the EV Warrior, an electric bicycle. That the Electric Bicycle Co. ended in bankruptcy is unfortunate. However, he remains convinced that electric vehicles are the future.
“We’re starting to see people from all over the world coming up with (electric) vehicles that they think might be good sellers,” Bricklin says. “These people are building cars that will bring us into the next generation of vehicles.”
He’s talking about plug-in electric vehicles – cars powered by powerful electric motors that rely on lithium-battery power to propel them. But in order for plug-in electric vehicles to be successful Bricklin says two things must be present in the current North American market.
“First, there needs to be a dealer infrastructure — at least 250 dealers that are going to sell and service these kinds of vehicles,” he says.
Electric vehicles will require dealers who are willing to specialize in electronics. EVs are completely different than those powered by internal combustion engines — we’re talking about volts, amps and electric motors rather than gasoline, pistons and cylinders.
“It’s going to take a different kind of person,” Bricklin maintains. “And second, we need to be able to have components for these kinds of vehicles that are competitively priced. It doesn’t matter how cool your vehicle is, if you can’t buy batteries, controllers or motors you’re not going to be successful.”
Enter Bricklin.
He plans on placing large orders for just these types of components, thereby allowing him to build his own vehicle. With large orders, he brings down the cost of production, And with a lower price, he can turn around and sell necessary parts to other builders. For example, if he orders 250,000 battery components, and only needs 150,000 of them, he will pass on costs savings to smaller electric vehicle producers.
And that’s a bit of a mind-shift.
“Most people (would) want to take the technology and keep it for themselves,” Bricklin says. “But we’re saying ‘That’s not how you start an industry’.”
Bricklin’s Visionary Vehicles would take on a number of roles, including that of manufacturer, parts supplier, distributor, and ultimately, retailer. He’d like to establish a dealership network that not only sells his luxury car, but also sells vehicles from other makers to help fill every segment. Bricklin is not, for example, planning on building a plug-in electric SUV or sports car.
He is adamant that the Visionary Vehicles luxury plug-in will be available by the end of 2009. Whether his venture works remains to be seen.

Photo courtesy Visionary Vehicles — Another view of a 1/4 scale model of the luxury plug-in electric vehicleMalcolm Bricklin expects to sell by the end of 2009.

There are many other players in the electric vehicle world. Some, for example, include Tesla, Phoenix Motorcars and ZENN.
Arizona-based Tesla has some of its Roadsters on the road, and the traditional motoring press is enthusiastic about the dynamics of this vehicle. The Roadster is capable of a mind-boggling 0 to 96 km/h in just four seconds. Tesla has plans to expand, using the Roadster’s fundamentals in a performance sedan that can be sold for less money at higher volume.
Phoenix Motorcars in Ontario, Calif. builds two kinds of fleet vehicles — a mid-size four-door pickup and a mid-size SUV. According to the company’s website, Phoenix is focused “on fleet sales to companies, organizations and agencies in California needing economical, energy efficient, zero-emission (vehicles).”
There’s also ZENN Motor Company, the Toronto, Ont. based manufacturer of the ZENN (Zero Emissions No Noise) Neighbourhood Electric Vehicle, a three-door hatchback that features power windows, power locks and a heater.
And then there’s the return of General Motors to the electric vehicle market.
After being lambasted for pulling the plug on its EV1 (the subject of a film called Who Killed the Electric Car?), General Motors has burned a u-turn on electric vehicle development. The manufacturer has been showing off its Volt concept car, a vehicle the company hopes to launch by 2010.
As Bricklin says, “I’m not starting a revolution, (but) helping the evolution.”

Photo courtesy Malcolm Bricklin.

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Calgary Herald, Diesel Options on the Rise, by Greg Williams

First published in the Calgary Herald Jan. 25, 2008

Photo courtesy Mercedes-Benz Canada Mercedes-Benz offers this 3.0-litre V-6 clean diesel engine in their E320 Bluetec luxury car — a vehicle that should return an incredible 7.6-L/100 km.

Diesel power is enjoying a renaissance.
At the latest North American International Auto Show several vehicle manufacturers showed off or announced numerous upcoming diesel products.
And that pleases Allen Schaeffer.
?(The NAIAS) is traditionally about horsepower and concept cars,? Schaeffer said from his Frederick, Maryland office. ?This year it was more about shades of green.?
Schaeffer is executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum ( and he said: ?A lot of technologies are being put out there to bring green auto technology to the next level, and diesel has started showing up with some regularity.?
He noted gasoline engines are getting better economy, hybrids increasingly efficient, and a growing number of flex fuel vehicles are available.
Schaeffer said, ?And there is diesel as well. It?s good to be a part of that party, because a lot of people predicted we wouldn?t be invited.?
According to a Diesel Technology Forum news release numerous automakers including Audi, BMW, General Motors, Honda, Jeep, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Toyota and Volkswagen announced or introduced 13 diesel vehicles to the U.S. market at the 2008 NAIAS, and went even further by unveiling four concept cars featuring a diesel powertrain.
The same news release states BMW unveiled two new diesel vehicle models, and Volkswagen will introduce an updated clean diesel Jetta into the U.S. market this year. GM has plans to put a diesel engine in the Chevy Silverado beginning in 2009, and Audi unveiled the A4 sedan and expects to start selling the Q7 3.0 TDI by the end of 2008/early 2009.
Honda also announced plans to put diesel engines in Acura vehicles starting in 2009, with the Honda lineup to follow and Kia introduced the Borrego SUV, which will offer consumers a diesel version in the next two to three years.
Diesel power has been around for quite some time. Invented by Rudolf Diesel in Paris, he was issued a patent in 1892 for an engine that would see the pressure inside a cylinder ignite the fuel ? rather than requiring an outside source such as a spark plug for ignition and therefore combustion.
At the time of his invention steam engines were powering the majority of industry. Not surprisingly, steam operated at about 10 per cent efficiency, while the diesel engine was thought to achieve a figure close to 75 per cent efficiency. That figure was further enhanced as the diesel engine was developed. His engines went on to power electric and water plants, mines and pipelines, ships and locomotive generators ? and cars, buses and trucks.
Up until the last decade, the diesel engine was noted for being somewhat noisy and dirty. However, advancements in diesel fuel itself with a much lower sulphur content and the way fuel is delivered to the cylinders and how the exhaust is scrubbed clean have virtually made the diesel engine a champion among the green auto community and fuel efficiency aficionados.
According to R.L. Polk & Company, figures show since the year 2000 registration of diesel passenger vehicles in the U.S. has grown 80 per cent. In 2005, close to 550,000 diesels were registered, up from 301,000 in 2000. There are those who might have the temptation to recall the diesel powered auto products of the 1970s and 1980s.
?That?s the same thing as saying to a teen with an iPod, ?Remember the transistor radio??? Schaeffer said. ?We?re talking about the future, and it?s clean diesel. Folks truly aren?t as negative about diesel as some people might think.
?There?s a large percentage of people (looking for alternatives) who don?t know enough about diesel to form an opinion.?
And to those people who are looking for an alternative to gas-guzzling vehicles the new clean diesel will appeal. Without any loss of performance ? diesel engines are noted for their prodigious torque and linear power curve ? a light-duty diesel engine will typically get 20 to 40 per cent more kilometers per litre than a gasoline-powered equivalent.
?Any automaker that has introduced a diesel vehicle in the last few years has been pleasantly surprised with its reception,? Schaeffer said. ?And that?s generally a good sign.?

Check this link to a small Australian company offering retrofit green diesel technology —

Really old motorcycles, really cool gear

The Vintagent, a blog/web site created by San Francisco motorcycle enthusiast Paul D’Orleans is a treasure for those interested in learning about vintage machines. Girder forks, flat tanks, belt drives, Brooklands exhausts, exposed valve springs, Norton, Sunbeam and Velocette singles — it’s all here. Inspiring photographs, detailed descriptions, and thoughtful writing combine to bring antique motorcycles to a whole new level and to a whole new audience. Check it out.

Paul is a member of the Velocette Owner’s Club of North America. I met him at a Velo rally in Kamloops in 2003, where he spread out a myriad of interesting bits on a tarp. He helped out with a few parts that helped complete my 1946 MAC.


Calgary Herald, Alberta Licence Plate Consultation, by Greg Williams

First published in the Calgary Herald, Jan. 18, 2008

Photo courtesy Joe Sallmen: A 1941 Alberta plate

Alberta?s current licence plates, introduced in 1984, haven?t changed much. The design is, in fact, one of the oldest in North America.
That could be a problem as, according to Eoin Kenny, spokesman for Service Alberta, the province will run out of the three letter, three number combinations in 2009.
?That?s a comment on how many people have and own cars,? Kenny said. ?As a result of the prosperity here, we recognized we were going through plate numbers at an accelerated rate.?
Before running out, the province has decided this is a good time to review the design. Different background colour? Change the motto? Add a graphic or a theme? It would be pretty convenient to simply reverse the letter and number pattern of the current red on white plate ? putting the numbers before the letters.
To determine if Alberta needs a redesigned licence plate the province has decided to consult the public.
?If we were going to go through the process, we thought we?d put it out to Albertans,? Kenny said.

Photo courtesy Joe Sallmen: A 1967 Centennial plate

On Nov. 9 the province launched, a website featuring a survey asking questions about Alberta?s licence plate. Sample questions include: Should Alberta introduce a new licence plate design and Should the licence plate mainly provide information or should it convey a message about the province?
Alberta?s licence plates have changed over the years. From 1906 to 1911 vehicle owners had to display a province-assigned number somewhere on their vehicle, and it could simply be painted on the body. The first provincial plate was issued in 1912, and changes since then have included different sizes, colours, mottos, and numbers or number and letter combinations.
Often, plate colours and designs changed from year to year, said Joe Sallmen, licence plate collector and webmaster of
?But by the early 1970s most jurisdictions had introduced permanent or semi-permanent plates,? Sallmen said. ?It was a cost issue; with the number of vehicles getting higher and higher it was easier and less expensive to simply issue a decal to indicate the year.?

Photo courtesy Joe Sallmen: The last year (1974 decal) before Alberta went permanent

Alberta went permanent in 1975 with a black on yellow plate and the Wild Rose Country motto. That lasted until 1984 when the present plate was introduced with an image of a wild rose while the motto remained.
Now, Wild Rose Country could possibly be changed, as Kenny said, to Strong and Free, the provincial motto ? or something else entirely.
While speaking with Kenny he said to date they?ve had 28,366 responses on the website, with close to 400 or 500 coming in every day.
?Did I say 28,366? I meant 28,371. Since we?ve been talking, another five people have taken the survey,? Kenny said. ?It ticks over that quickly.
?I?ve been with the government since 2000, and I?ve never seen anything with this kind of response.?
Those are not repeat or inflated numbers as the survey can only be taken once from any given computer.

Photo courtesy Joe Sallmen: Current Alberta plate design

The open consultation goes until Jan. 31, and Kenny said it?s possible the province could have more than 40,000 responses by the time the site closes.
One of the more controversial questions on the survey is whether Alberta should bring back the front licence plate. In 1991 the province scrapped the front plate, and there are now some strong opinions on the subject.
?There are a couple of Facebook sites dedicated to the topic, and probably some others that I?m not aware of,? Kenny said.
What makes a plate a collectible item? Sallmen said there are two answers. The first are old plates in quality condition, and the second are some of the new graphic plates ? such as the new B.C. 2010 Winter Olympics plates.
Results of the on-line survey won?t be known for some months, and there will still have to be a decision made about what to do after the responses have been analyzed. ?We?re certainly going to take direction from the consultation,? Kenny said. ?(The topic) has captured the imaginations of Albertans.?