Sunday, 1 March 2020

Blog Post - 1 March 2020: Auto Abstracts

From my earliest days, I have been a car fan. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, I could identify every make and model on the road. As each September rolled around, I haunted the car dealerships to get a glimpse of the NEW! NEW! NEW! models. I sometimes knew more about them than the car salesmen did. I think the salesmen - and they were all men - found me annoying. Which I probably was. I read car magazines, collected Dinky Toys, and built plastic models of my favourite cars. For a time, I even abandoned my model trains in favour of a Scalextricslot-car track.

I pestered my dad to teach me how to drive. He let me teach myself on a tractor in a field. “Safer for the rest of us,” he said. Once I had learned how to use a clutch, there was no looking back. Knowing how to use a standard transmission has served me well through the years.

My first car was a 1968 Pontiac Firebird. Beautiful dark green exterior. Tan bucket seats – bucket seats! Dual-overhead cam six-cylinder engine with a throaty growl. Magnesium wheels. Red-striped Tiger Paw tires. Four-speed synchronized manual transmission on the floor – on the floor! (Four-on-the-floor being way cooler than three-on-the-tree.) Hood-mounted tachometer. AM/FM radio with pushbuttons – pushbuttons!

Oh my gosh, did I love that car. It purred sensuously and was a delight to drive...until the engine blew and General Motors admitted it had botched the design. So, I ended up trading my mortally wounded Firebird for a very modest Ford Cortina – four-cylinders, four doors, AM radio, automatic transmission – on the tree! And that was about it. No mag wheels. No Tiger Paws. No tach. No throaty growl. No...pulse. Sigh. 

Over the years, I’ve owned some superb cars – a 1976 Volkswagen Scirocco stands out – but I’ve also had my share of duds. I still don’t know what possessed me to buy a white 1973 Chevrolet Vega station wagon with fake wood panelling. One of the quirkiest was a 1978 AMC Pacer bubble car. 

Bill and I now drive a Mazda CX-5, with lots of bells and whistles. It’s a fine car, terrific in the snow, and very comfortable. But not as soul-stirring as the ’68 Firebird.

Which brings me to the recent Canadian International AutoShow, held in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. I like going to kick tires and pretend I’ve got bags of money to spend. My good buddy Norm went with me this year. And we had a great time. The logical side of my brain knows that the cars on display aren’t helping the planet much. Not even the electric cars, according to some people. Attending a car show is a counter-intuitive indulgence. I’m not sure how much longer the planet can afford them...or people like me, for that matter.

In any case, here are some of my photos from the Canadian International AutoShow. I hope you enjoy them.

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