Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cars are the stars

Hot wheels, great folks at World of Wheels

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Piston Ring's World of Wheels kicks off another summer of cruising in Manitoba.

Although my survey wasn't exactly scientific, after asking no less than 100 folks for their feedback on last weekends Piston Ring's 37th annual World of Wheels car show, it is safe to say this year's event was among the best in recent memory.

In addition to the amazing big-money cars that travelled to Winnipeg with the show, there was also a spectacular variety of made-in-Manitoba metal that showcased our homegrown talent.

Show chairman Bob Chubala, who was without question the busiest guy in Winnipeg last weekend, should be commended for the amazing lineup of custom vehicles he put together. In past years the complaint has been that there were too many of the same cars from past years on display, or too many newer cars or too many commercial vendors. The people spoke and apparently Chubala listened.

That said, it wasn't all hearts and roses.

Despite the fact that the quality of the cars on display was excellent, crowds were down moderately from last year. Organizers anticipated that Ashley Force-Hood, a very popular American drag racer, would be a huge draw. Force-Hood was both gracious and generous at her appearance on Saturday but she didn't generate the mile-long lines and overall excitement of past celebrity guests like Henry "The Fonz" Winkler or even Vern "Mini Me" Troyer. The general consensus seemed to be that although car stars like Force-Hood are popular among the cruising and drag racing scene, to pull in the huge crowds from the mainstream masses the show needs a big-time TV or movie star. My vote next year is for Brent Butt. I'd line up all day to get him to sign my Corner Gas shirt.

From a car lover's perspective, however, this was the perfect storm as the show floor was not as busy as it has been in past years, allowing the folks who are there to see and photograph their favourite cars with a little more breathing room.

Another plausible and totally possible reason for the reduction in spectators may be because here in Winnipeg and around Manitoba, auto buffs have so many opportunities to see cars both on the street and at the many events sanctioned by the Manitoba Association of Auto Clubs (MAAC). Every Sunday the parking lots of the Pony Corral Restaurant on Grant Avenue or the Tavern United on Regent Avenue are jam-packed with amazing cars and there are countless car shows and show-and-shines open to the public and typically free, all summer long. In other cities, the big car show like the World of Wheels may be the only opportunity for folks to see local cars, but here in Manitoba we see them at every turn.

That said, there was still huge excitement in the air and the general vibe was that everyone is glad winter is finally over and looking forward to hitting the streets to see and be seen in their cool machines.

One celebrity that locals really enjoyed the opportunity to meet was hotrod legend Gene Winfield, who spent the majority of the weekend in the DMK Customs display. Winfield, who is a legendary hotrod builder from California, has become a close personal friend of Lockport's own Pete Kroeker, a legendary builder in his own right. Winfield was in town all last week and he and Kroeker hosted a metal working seminar for local fabricators that was very well-received. It was big fun to rub shoulders with the likes of Winfield and his kindness and patience remind us that in the car community, even the stars are down-to-earth folks with all the time in the world for their like-minded fans.

The booth set up by the Winnipeg Police Service and Manitoba Public Insurance was also a popular attraction. When I stopped by, Const. Elmer Hanson and MPI inspector Keith MacDonald were fielding a variety of questions from concerned cruisers who want to get a better grasp on the law and if their vehicle requires repairs or improvements to be street-legal. Although some in attendance questioned why both MPI and the Winnipeg Police Service would opt to attend such a high-profile event, my feeling is efforts like this will help restore the rocky relationship between these agencies and local cruisers. The lesson learned from both these men was a simple one. If you're modifying a vehicle, familiarize yourself with the rules and stick to them and you shouldn't have any issues.

The Rolling Thunder motorcycle exhibit on the second floor of the convention centre was also popular again this year. Whether you ride a hog or a crotch-rocket, it's great to see Manitoba's motorcycle community banding together to enjoy this fun-filled weekend. Rolling Thunder chairman Robyn Gray should be whole-heartedly celebrated for resurrecting and planning this great element of the World of Wheels.

Overall, the quality of the show was great, and everyone I spoke with was full of compliments. Organizers should be commended for their hard work and dedication to our cherished hobby.

With great folks like the team from Piston Ring, show participants, vendors, volunteers and the organizers who brought us the World of Wheels in our corner, I feel that we have once again proven Winnipeg is and always will be the cruising capital of Canada.

Cruise safely and responsibly everyone!

Check out Willy's Garage next Friday for a list of all the show winners and biographies on this years' inductees into the Manitoba Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 1, 2011 F7

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