Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Summer is cruisin' along

Season's just begun and already the cars are out in force

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Hopefully, you found a few missing pieces for your mechanical puzzle -- or at the very least something neat to hang on your garage wall -- at the big swap meet hosted by the Manitoba Classic and Antique Auto Club last Sunday.

The annual swap meet and corresponding show and shine traditionally marks the beginning of the cruising season and, if the big crowd on hand at the Red River Exhibition Grounds was any indication, it looks like we're ready to roll through another great summer.

For the Willy's Garage crew, our weekend festivities kicked off on Friday night when we hosted a car show at the new Free Press News Café on McDermot Avenue. While the weather didn't totally cooperate, we still had a great little car show with a nice variety of classic and special-interest vehicles lining the street.

We also had the opportunity to slide into the Café and watch a couple of episodes of our new TV series, Willy Garage Goes .... All six episodes will be available to MTS TV subscribers in the Winnipeg on Demand lifestyles section later this month.

While it's safe to say we won't be winning any Gemini awards for our acting chops, we're thrilled with what a great job Scott Leary and the crew from Farpoint Films did with Season Two -- we think it offers a unique look at motoring in Manitoba.

Although we were a bit bummed out that the weather was so lousy -- and it was truthfully hard to have a good time knowing that so many other Manitoban's were fighting the flood -- we did get the chance to see what an amazing spot the heart of the city is for a car show. The historic buildings served as the perfect backdrop for our classic cars, and the Free Press Café has a great staff that serves up awesome food. We're hoping to get the chance to do it again later in the summer.

Local auto enthusiasts may have been running with the choke on last weekend, but this weekend its full steam ahead.

On Saturday afternoon, the Manitoba Mustang and Ford Association is hosting a car show at Kildonan Place Mall, and on Sunday the South Beach Casino is hosting its annual spring car show. The casino is less than an hour north of the city on Highway 59 and has become a really popular destination for cruisers. In addition to great food and cash prizes, South Beach Casino's car show also offers a massive parking-lot with room for hundreds of vehicles.

The Sunday-night cruise is also ready to roll with big crowds expected at both Tavern United at Canad Inns Transcona and the Pony Corral Restaurant and Bar at Grant Park Shopping Centre. I've been cruising to the Pony for more than 20 years and, after a long winter, I'm really looking forward to catching up with all my car buddies at the Pony and make plans for the summer.

But It would be ridiculous for me to write about the upcoming Manitoba cruising season without mentioning the rather large elephant in the room. The big talk all winter has been vehicle inspections.

In case you've been hiding in the garage, let me get you up to speed. Last summer, Winnipeg police and Manitoba Public Insurance kicked roadside vehicle inspections into high gear. Essentially, by registering a vehicle you have agreed to allow that vehicle to be inspected at any time by either the police or MPI. For the most part the reason they opt to inspect your vehicle is predictable. They're looking for ones they feel are unsafe, either due to poor maintenance or improper modifications.

A great deal of my not-so-scientific research on this topic is conducted via Facebook. Merely mentioning an upcoming cruising event or car show undoubtedly results in at least one of my friends commenting about vehicle inspections. The negativity stemming from this controversy is, without question, the most dangerous thing to have ever happened to our hobby.

Last winter, in the magazine section of a local bookstore, I spotted no less than nine different car and truck magazine covers focusing on the challenges that are facing our hobby. The cruising crisis isn't just happening here in Manitoba, but across North America. It's as though the world is bent on killing cruising.

Rest assured, my inner Jesse Ventura wants to play detective and get to the root of the conspiracy that must surely be at work here. Is there some creepy villain named Dr. Green living in a volcano somewhere, wearing a tie-dyed lab coat while perfecting the electric engine that will be the nail in the coffin of the internal combustion engine? Perhaps that's a stretch, but there's no denying that not everyone in the world shares our romantic views of classic and special-interest vehicles.

Maybe my generation is at fault. Back in my day, we hit the streets in a sea of ratty cars with loud exhausts and bald tires. On one occasion, after buying and registering an ancient truck, I drove it home with the windshield so cracked I had to stick my head out the window like a dog just to see where I was going. I've also used duct tape to keep a car door shut, and a coat hanger to secure a muffler.

Nowadays, young gearheads must abide by much more stringent rules and, while I truly do feel for them, in the same breath it's time to realize that times have changed. Back in my day you could also smoke in a hospital room right beside an oxygen tank.

Most auto enthusiasts over the age of 40 seem to be left alone, but that probably has more to do with the cars we drive than our age. Take the muscle-car crowd as an example. Many of the folks who cherish late-'60s and early-'70s Detroit muscle have a deep commitment and deep enough pockets to restore their rides to good-as-new or even better condition. In most cases, the police can inspect these cars with a fine-tooth comb and not find a single loose nut.

Antique-car lovers have it even easier: If you don't mind a top speed of 70 km/h, you could restore a Model T Ford to better-than-new specs for about the same price as a new Ford Focus. The old Ford may not be as fast as the new one but, as long as all the original parts are in good working order, it's good to go.

The street-rod and custom-car crowd face some challenges, but with a little time and money you can build a car that still looks old but has many updated components that make it safer and more reliable.

My '49 Pontiac may not be the prettiest kid in the class, but I have a late-model 350-cubic-inch Chevrolet V8 engine under the hood, linked to an automatic transmission. Up front there's a modern independent front suspension, power steering and power disc brakes, and my tires are brand new. With the exception of a few times I've run out of gas, it's been an incredibly reliable car, and I'm confident enough about how safe it is that I wouldn't hesitate giving your grandma a ride home from church.

Nope, it's not the muscle-car crowd, the antique-vehicle owners or even street rodders like me who worry about vehicle inspections. It's typically the younger crowd with their import tuners, low-rider builds or lifted trucks that seem to have the biggest issues. There's just something about altering your suspension that gives the safety police fits. It doesn't seem to matter if you have an engineering degree and took first place at the welding rodeo, if you alter the suspension on your vehicle enough to make a visual impact, you can pretty much guarantee that you will be stopped and inspected.

The vehicles that are being targeted seem to have one of these three things going for them: they are typically either too low, too tall or too loud. Many young enthusiasts do it right, for sure, but just as many go crazy with their rides and compromise safety in the name of style.

The big question is how these vehicles got on the road in the first place. Some may think that there's a bunch of shady mechanics out there passing anything with wheels as road-ready, but you need to understand the current rules before you blame your local mechanic. If I go out today and buy a nice 1995 Nissan pickup with a valid safety inspection on file with MPI I can insure that truck and hit the highway without issue. I can also drive it home and alter it in any number of different ways without ever telling that mechanic who deemed my vehicle safe.

The bottom-line is that any significant modifications require the vehicle to be re-inspected. If you opt to skip that step, and feel the need to cruise around town with your bumper dragging on the ground, expect to be stopped and inspected.

In my opinion, avoiding problems with "the man" is simple. If you alter your vehicle in any way, you need to familiarize yourself with the rules and make absolutely certain that all your modifications are legal. Anything short of that and you're asking for trouble.

Ultimately, the classic and special-interest auto scene is just as much about the people as it is about the cars. We older cruisers owe it to the future of our hobby to help younger folks who share our passion for cool cars. There are two levels of responsibility here. First, the veterans need to offer the benefit of our wisdom and resources. And second, the rookies in the game need to listen to us and build safe, reliable rides. It's no small order, but in the end it's the only way our hobby will survive.

Despite all the controversy, I'm still confident that Winnipeg will continue to hold the title of Cruising Capital of Canada for another year. My advice is to spend some quality time with your vehicle alone in the garage, study the rules and make informed decisions to ensure everything is safe and sound.

While you're working on your car, think about all the amazing events scheduled for the upcoming summer, the thousands of dollars you will help raise for local charities and all those thumbs-up you'll get when cruising in your prized ride.

willy@freepress.mb.ca

 

CRUISING CALENDAR

May 21

Manitoba Mustang and Ford Association presents their ALL FORD "Spring Breakout" Show N' Shine. Noon to 4 p.m. at the Kildonan Place Shopping Centre parking lot. Open to all MMFA members and non-members with Ford and Ford-powered vehicles. All spectators are welcome. No admission fees for entrants or spectators. For information and updates call (204) 981-PONY(7669) or visit www.manitobamustang.com

May 22

Sunday May Long Weekend - South Beach Casino & Resorts Annual Spring Car Show

Sun. May 22, 2011, 12pm-3pm. Registration starts @ 9 a.m. (FREE). For more info call Jim Robinson @ 955-7106

May 22

Cruise Night at the Pony Corral Restaurant and Bar, 400 Wilton @ Grant Avenue. 4:00pm to 10:00pm. All antique, classics and special interest vehicles are welcome. Hosted by Willy's Garage.

May 22

Cruisin' the Peg.Tavern United, 826 Regent Ave. W. 6:00 p.m. to 10:00pm. All classics, antiques, muscle, sports, specialty vehicles, & motorcycles are welcome.

May 25

Fabulous 50's Ford Club of Manitoba - A&W CRUISE NIGHT

238 Main St., Selkirk, MB., 6pm till 9pm. Cruise on out and enjoy tasty burgers, fries, and a root beer. 50's music, games & prizes. 50/50 draw in support of the Children's Rehabilitation Foundation. Open to all car clubs, antiques, classics & special interest vehicles. For more info call Grahame MacFarlane @ (204) 482-5417.

May 26

Red River Co-op Speedway

MSCR Series racing starting at 7:30 PM.

If you'd like your event details published please email: willy@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 20, 2011 F6

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