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Car Chase -- Community Blog

First Energy’s announcement on Wednesday that it was coming as the title sponsor for the All-American Soap Box Derby is fantastic news for our entire community. With such a prominent title sponsor, the Derby has the ability to attract other sponsors and give it a real shot to returning to the national spotlight.

In its heyday, the All-American had participants from around the world and had extensive national media coverage. It was a weeklong community celebration with parades and festivals leading up to the actual championship races. Racers, their families and supporters went back to their home towns dazzled by the welcoming nature and vibrancy of our community.

Derby President and CEO Joe Mazur has been working diligently with the board over the past year to re-invent the All-American and make it relevant to modern day life. With its new focus on an educational tie-in, the Derby has already seen a significant growth in participation and support in new communities. Although there is still much to do, this is a great start and First Energy is to be thanked and congratulated for stepping up in such a big way.

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I know I’ve posted about this before but, just as a reminder, Classic Motorcar Auctions’ spring auction is this Saturday at the John S. Knight Center in downtown Akron. I just looked at the updated consignment list and it’s pretty interesting. Some great pre-war Classics will definitely entice the seasoned collector. What I found most interesting is the number of entry level collector cars which can be bought for a reasonable price and enjoyed immediately. There are also some very cool memorabilia items which will be sold prior to the cars. If you’re a baby boomer from this area like I am, you will find the wonderful 8’ by 4’ Isaly’s sign hard to resist.

The best part of this auction is that registration for a bidder plus one guest is absolutely FREE if done on-line at www.classicmotorcarauctions.com  by Friday! This is a unique offer from CMA and another example of their great customer service. I hope to see you there.

 

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It wasn’t too long ago when the only reason to buy a Korean made car was the fact that you couldn’t afford anything else. They weren’t well built, they weren’t that attractive and they weren’t even that fuel efficient. They were cheap to buy and, even though you didn’t brag about what you drove, they did a decent job of getting you from point A to point B within a modest budget.

 Recently, almost overnight, it seems like almost all the cool cars from Asian manufacturers are coming from Korea. The latest larger sedans from Hyundai and Kia are loaded with style and features that make similar offerings from Honda and Toyota seem old-hat. The Kia Soul is a runaway hit across all demographic lines (gotta’ love the dancing hamster commercials) and the Hyundai Veloster is the new shining star of the hot hatch category. Hyundai’s super-premium Equus line is receiving accolades from around the world for its quality and value. Even the entry level offerings from Hyundai and Kia have developed an excellent reputation for quality with their 100,000 mile/10 year warranties.

Five years ago, I would have laughed if someone suggested that I should buy a Korean car. Today, I would be tempted to buy several. Have do you feel about Korean cars?

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A coworker was at the Cleveland Auto Show over the weekend and came in very excited about what he saw. His impression was that it was bigger than it has been in years and the manufacturers were pulling out all stops with their presentations and displays. When I asked him what his favorite car of the show was, he surprised me by saying the new Subaru BRZ.  Not that I don’t think this new entry level sports car (to be offered in a Scion version also) is very cool, I just thought he would pick a more exotic model.

 If you had a chance to get to the show or if you have been looking at new cars, which new model impresses you the most?

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Even though this has been a very mild winter by all accounts, it has been a long time since cruise-in and car show season. The Canton Hot Rod Show gives enthusiasts a little taste of what we’ve been missing these past several months.

 Held at the Canton Memorial Civic Center this weekend, Friday, February 17 through Sunday, February 19, over 130 customized show cars and 30 motorcycles will be displayed in the warmth and comfort of the arena. Several cars have been invited from out of the area as well as some of the nicer examples of local show cars. Though this segment of the hobby is not my absolute favorite, I make a point of attending and am always impressed  by the craftsmanship involved in building these cars.

 A special feature to this year’s event is the appearance on Saturday and Sunday by actor Tom Wopat, known by many as Luke Duke on the original “Dukes of Hazzard” television show. I’m sure he has some great stories of destroying some General Lee Dodge Chargers.

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The expanse of the U.S. highway system spawned an entirely new culinary experience in the twentieth century; the roadside restaurant.  Originally mom and pop snack shacks, they grew into chains like Howard Johnson’s, Stuckey’s and such. Now there are plazas on toll roads where you are actually captive to the offerings that the state has deemed appropriate.

 Regardless, everyone has their favorite road food memories. I still fondly remember stopping at the giant Isaly’s when we went to visit my aunt and uncle in Youngstown. Chip-chop ham on soft, buttered white bread was better than any lobster or prime strip steak to my pre-teen taste buds, especially since I knew it would be followed by a double scoop ice cream cone. What is your favorite road food memeory?

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Everyone in northeast Ohio knows we’ve had a very mild winter – so far. We find plenty of other weather issues to complain about, but the snow and ice have been minor.  If you’re happy about this situation – you’re welcome! No, I am not claiming to control the weather or even have extra pull in that area, but we did trade in our Saturn Vue on a Chevy Trailblazer this fall.

The Vue was purchased in May of 2008 during the $4+ gas prices. It was a nice size for us; big enough to carry the family, pull our boat and do light hauling, but not so big that I felt I was driving a tank.  We got a great deal on the car and it got 20 mpg or more in city.  We were content in our purchase and loving the savings…then came winter.  Some of the same features that allowed the Vue to get great gas mileage and made it nice to drive also made it practically worthless in the snow.  Even with extra weight and good tires hills were nearly impossible, corners were treacherous and straightaways were white knuckle experiences.

Three winters was enough.  This fall found us car shopping again. Our primary requirements were  4 wheel drive and a vehicle my husband I were both comfortable driving. We looked at Nitros, Durangos, Explorers, and various Jeep offerings before deciding on the TrailBlazer. Although we haven’t had much snow, the TrailBlazer has more than paid for itself in the storms that we have had. In a great case of "prepare for the worst, hope for the best", we have not yet had cause to engage the 4WD. Happily, even in standard driving mode, the car goes without hesitation and I find my winter driving confidence renewed.

What do you drive when Ohio winter hits?    

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Since you’re reading a blog called Car Chase, I assume you know that I’m not asking about a place in California. Some of you may know that a Berkeley is an esoteric British sports car made in small numbers about fifty years ago. These cute, little three and four wheel convertibles were “powered” by two and three cylinder motorcycle engines. Due to their diminutive size and very light weight, they were very popular and reasonably successful in the early sports car racing scene. They still have a good following to this day, although collector values are still relatively low.

 The reason I bring all this up is that, as a former Berkeley owner, I occasionally do a Google search to see what’s happening with them. The other day, I found a blog which chronicled a complete, professional restoration of a lucky example. As I mentioned before, Berkeley values aren’t exactly at the top of the collector market so very few, if any, are professionally restored. What’s even more interesting is the shop which did this wonderful work is right here in Northeast Ohio. I checked out the website for Pete’s Custom Coachbuilding ( www.petescustomcoachbuilding.com ) and was amazed to see everything from micro cars to Indy racers to pre-war Packards in their portfolio.

After checking out some of the videos on their website, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=HWfsHNernAA) I was heartened to see that Pete and his crew are a group of young guys practicing an old craft. Their approach to their work and passion for doing things right seem to bear fruit in excellent results. It’s great to have another excellent resource in our area for anyone considering a project with any type of collectable vehicle. I can’t wait to check out Pete’s operation personally. If you have experience with any other shops, feel free to comment below.

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The story of Preston Tucker and his ill-fated car of the future was made famous by the 1988 Francis Ford Copolla film, “Tucker, the Man and His Dream”. The movie chronicled the venture to start a new car company in 1948 with a model that was well ahead in safety, design and engineering of what the mainstream auto manufacturers were producing. Some say that Tucker was nothing but a con artist and his company was just a sham to bilk investors. Others maintain that he was a genuine threat to GM and Ford and they used their influence with suppliers and the government to have his operation shut down. All in all, only fifty one total Tuckers were built.

 Up until the movie’s release, Tuckers were looked at as automotive oddities and, despite their rarity, traded in the $10-20,000 range. The film received great publicity and became very popular. As a result, Tucker values climbed steadily over the next couple years, finally eclipsing the $100,000 mark. Appreciation and desirability by collectors grew to the point where a Tucker finally reached the magical million dollar sales figure just about two years ago. A couple more sales in that range over the past two years validated their new value.

 Then, this past Saturday night, the stars aligned over Scottsdale and Barrett-Jackson sold an absolutely perfect, silver-blue Tucker for the astounding sum of nearly three million dollars! It was the most expensive car they sold of the 1300 or so that passed the block last week and it absolutely stole the show. No one saw it coming and now everyone is wondering if this is, all of the sudden, the new value of a Tucker.

 An interesting footnote to this story is that the Glenmoor Gathering will be featuring a Tucker class at this year’s event, which will be held September 14-16. In addition to the several original Tuckers which will be on the showfield, one of the original prop/stunt cars from the movie will also be displayed! This will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a group of these very special cars gathered together.

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OK, I’m addicted to watching the collector car auctions. Last night, I was watching one on television while streaming another one live on my laptop. I am definitely addicted to this strange genre of automotive reality television.

 One of the things that attract me to these events are the unique and sometimes odd vehicles that periodically cross the block. People who know me will testify that I have had my fair share of “interesting” automobiles but I am still amazed at some of the stuff that shows up in Scottsdale. What’s even more amazing is what people will pay for these oddities. For example a BMW Isetta, a 300cc powered, three-wheeled tin can with a front mounted refrigerator door, sold for nearly $50,000! That amount will buy you some pretty nice real estate in Akron these days.

 I would be very interested to hear what unique vehicles you may have owned or driven over the years. They could have been cheap or expensive, bought out of desire or necessity. With our proximity to Detroit and our heritage as the tire capital, I’m sure that plenty of “special” cars roamed our roads.

 

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