Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

It has an engine!

That's as technical as I can get about my new wheels

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Get ready to be insanely jealous, because we bought a new car.

We pick it up today. It's an awesome car. Do you know how I know it's awesome? I know because that's what my son told me.

And my son should know, because he's a car guy. When he was born, he popped out wearing little Italian-leather racing gloves, and his need for speed has only increased since then.

When he first got his driver's licence, my wife and I let him slip behind the wheel of the family car and drive us to the grocery store. I am not kidding when I say I have never been in a car moving that (bad word) fast in my entire life.

My wife and I were drenched with sweat, and at that point he had only backed out of the garage and reached the end of the driveway. The thing is, our son drives faster backwards than I do forwards. He once reversed out of the garage and only stopped when the rear bumper of his vehicle was transformed into a hood ornament on the car parked directly behind him.

Being a teenager and in possession of all the automotive knowledge in the universe, he stormed back in the house and, with righteous indignation, demanded to know which ignorant adult had parked a vehicle in such an obviously hazardous location.

Whereas my son knows everything there is to know about cars, I am happily oblivious. Still, I try to blend in.

Back in high school, I recall standing around with a bunch of guys ogling a muscle car oozing testosterone in the parking lot.

First car guy: "Water-cooled nitrous-oxide injectors! Sweet!"

Second car guy: "Check out the Hemi V8!"

Third car guy: "Dig the performance headers!"

Me: "And it's blue! Cool!"

Other than being able to identify a car's colour in under 60 seconds, I am in the dark about things automotive. This was a serious liability years ago, when walking into a car showroom was like dipping your feet in a piranha tank in the sense that, when you left, you would usually have several salespersons clinging to your limbs.

Today, however, things are more relaxed. When you walk into a dealership today, it's like that scene in Star Wars in which Obi-Wan Kenobi uses his Jedi mind-control powers to manipulate hapless storm troopers, except in this case, when you browse the least-expensive models, a salesperson sends this telepathic message: "These aren't the cars you're looking for!"

I am, of course, kidding about that last bit. All the car salespersons we met were incredibly helpful and friendly. In a comforting, low-key manner, they would patiently explain all the amazing technical features of their vehicles, none of which I understood.

My secret system involved waiting for the salesperson to go speak with the manager, then I'd quickly call my son and explain what type of car I was looking at. My son would then inform me whether the vehicle in question was a "tuna boat" (which is apparently bad) or the kind of "sweet ride" a young person such as he would not be embarrassed to borrow whenever he felt like it.

In the end, we bought a posh Japanese car with a name that means "completely out of our price range." Our salesman was a great guy named Mervin, and we liked him so much we (this is the truth) took him out for hot chocolate and cookies during the test drive. When I called my son about this spiffy car, he excitedly burbled out a series of impressive-sounding specs.

My son: "Dad, it's got a 3.5-litre DOHC 24-valve V-6 engine!"

Me: "That's a good thing, right?"

My son: "Are you kidding??? We're talking 290 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque at 6,400 r.p.m!"

Me: "And it's shiny, too!"

So thanks to Mervin and my son, I am the proud owner of a brand-new slightly used car that is marginally smaller than my house but has a much better sound system.

It replaces my old car, which died the other week when two girls in an automobile the size of a canned ham roared out of a back lane and inserted the exterior of their vehicle into the interior of mine. When I asked why they rammed me, the girls, about the age of my own kids, rolled their eyes at my blatant stupidity and explained: "Because we were lost!"

But that doesn't matter now. What matters is I have an awesome new vehicle my son would like you to know has a continuously variable valve timing control system on the intake valves AND a heated steering wheel.

Which I am sure I will enjoy, assuming my son lets me drive it from time to time.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 15, 2013 A2

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