Epitome of Elegance – A Day at the Concours

*WARNING* Elegant photos of automobiles displayed in a beautiful setting present in this post.  Prepare to spend some time gawking…

Elegance, it’s a lost art.  Men in suits, ladies in dresses and hats.  Seems we have reserved this elegance for Wall Street and the Kentucky Derby alone, but pulling out all the stops, I present to you the Epitome of Elegance…The Concours d’Elegance of America.

A few fancy dresses, hats and a sea of blue sport coats were definitely present, but it was the cars that brought the elegance to the Inn at St. John’s this past Sunday in Plymouth, Michigan.

Normally I would be in attendance at a venue like this for the golf, but to my pleasure I was beckon come for an award, an Automotive Heritage Journalism Award.  Honored and humbled, this event started my day with a bang.  Friends and family flanked the Brembo tent table to cheer on their favorite blogger.

2018 AHJA JulesOnWheelz

Jules and Steve Purdy

Veteran journalist and Chief Judge Gary Witzenberg did the honors.  Organizer Steve Purdy was on hand for an “atta boy” as well.  Check “award-winning blogger” off my bucket list.  Now, enough about me…let’s get to the cars!

They started to roll in at 6 am.  Fresh from the media table, I with my treasured award and media credential around my neck proudly, moseyed down the course towards delight.  Arranged over three long fairways, the green velvet underfoot gave a cool layer to the ankles as I watched the owners prepping for the day with fevered brows.

1958 Pontiac Parisienne Convertible by GM

Ahh the smell of Meguiar’s and turf in the morning.  As the sunrise cut through the cloud of polish it was prime time for exhibitors to take one last look around the show…the calm before the storm.  The grown-up amusement park was soon to open.

From find to famous, some entries were fully restored.  Scrapbooks with pictures of every stage of resolution were proudly shown.  One that stood out was a car that was almost completely destroyed and saved by local Detroit businessman Jim George, seen in the background of this photo below.

Jules and 1958 Bentley SI Continental Drophead Coupe

More details to come in a future post, but know that this bullet ridden, gutted, rust heap made its way to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance for its cotillion in 2017.

Divided into classes like Jazz Age, American Post War, and Modern Collectibles, each car is judged by an esteemed group of car experts in blue sport coats.  They stroll the fairway with clipboards crowning “best-in-class” which then move onto the “best-in-show” competition.  Ribbons appear on the windshield later in the day.

I’m able to spot Wayne Carini from the Velocity Channel’s show Chasing Classic Cars, whom I met on Saturday, scoping the merchandise.  I continue to be impressed with Wayne as he strolled leisurely amongst the bevy of beauties. Later he would gladly pose for a picture with my family as he is one to encourage the young who are interested in cars.  *See teenagers in photo below.  **Yes, teenage girls.

Mornings with Wayne

Now…find a comfy seat and settle in…

I don’t apologize for the number…narrowing was never my strong suit, the more the merrier.

1958 Edsel Pacer Convertible
1958 Edsel Pacer Convertible
1958 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner Retractable
1958 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner Retractable
1937 Bugatti T57S Coupe 2
1937 Bugatti T57S Coupe Owned by 2018 Distinguished Judge Keith Crane
1937 Bugatti T57S Coupe
more of the 1937 Bugatti T57S
1915 Stanley Mountain Wagon
1915 Stanley Mountain Wagon
1939 Bugatti T57 Cabriolet by Letourneur
1939 Bugatti T57 Cabriolet by Letourneur
Bugatti racer
Bugatti racer
Bugatti emblem hood ornament
Bugatti hood emblem
57 Lancia and 50 Aston Martin
Left – 1950 Aston Martin DB2 Coupe, Right – 1957 Lancia B24S Convertible
1957 Lancia B24S Convertible by Pinin Farina
1957 Lancia B24S Convertible by Pinin Farina
1950 Aston Martin DB2 Coupe
1950 Aston Martin DB2 Coupe
1950 Aston Martin DB2 Coupe front
more 1950 Aston Martin DB2 Coupe
Minty Fresh
1947 Deleheye 135M Cabriolet by Henri Chaprone
Mercedes
Mercedes
Lovely Lady RR
Rolls Royce
1958 Ford Thunderbird Roadster
1958 Ford Thunderbird Roadster
1962 Sunbeam 11 by Thomas Harrington
1962 Sunbeam 11 by Thomas Harrington

Flip ups

King rat and The Judge

Whew! Ending with a King is appropriate.

The bridge from found to famous, barn find to blue ribbon is paved with mystery.  The story is the treasure.

Get out to a concours someday, you just may pick up something more than a sunburn.

Maybe even an elegant award.

Title photo:  1966 Bosley Interstate MKII 2-door Coupe by Carrozzeria Bosley

Corvettes and Cousins

Car love runs in families and mine is no different.

Growing up in the same northern Illinois region, my cousin Dan and I were worlds apart.  He, quite a few years my senior, hung out with my older brothers.  Including the little sister happened on occasion.  Dan’s daughter was my playmate since our ages were more inline.  Play dates included dolls and swimming…definitely NOT cars, that was reserved for the boys.

The intermittent rides in the variety of offerings of six teenage boys was thrilling to me.  I wanted to be one of the boys. This is where I began to veer off the spectrum of dolls and dresses and into the world of speed and chrome.

Setting sail from my Kentucky home to the Woodward Dream Cruise in Michigan last week brought a long-awaited reuniting with my cousin Dan in Indiana.  Tri-state travel never looked so good as he “gave the tour” of his garage.  Much to my surprise there was eye candy galore to be had on that tour.  Glancing left and right, the Route 66 memorabilia caught my eye instantly.

Route 66 decor

Photo by Jules Stayton

Like many car aficionados his “garage” was spotless.  It was more like a showroom for his automobile treasures collected over the years.  Each one with unique meaning and significance.  The decor started with the Edelbrocks and went wild.  Each item a nod to Dan’s love of cars.  We were cut from the same cloth after all!  But the best was yet to come…

He marveled at my interest and joy in each piece and the story it told.  He had no idea that we shared a love of autos, but once aware, we savored levels of conversation we had never experienced before.  They years melted and we were friends sharing the excitement that only “car guys” understand.

Imagine my elation when he asked if I’d like to take his 93′ Corvette for a spin.  Well of course!  We made sure to beat the impending downpour as we cruised the curvy lanes of the Indiana highways.  A few clouds could not deter this duo who had waited all these years to discover a common thread flowing through our gene pool.

Photos by Jules Stayton

One thing I know…you can’t pick your family but I sure would pick Dan even if he wasn’t family.  Car guys have to stick together.

D and J with 93 standing

 

Toyota 4Runner – an SUV standout

The compact sport-utility vehicle segment is becoming as crowded as a high school math class these days, but one of the standout students continues to be the Toyota 4Runner. Homework complete and the curve carefully considered, the Toyota 4Runner crafts an easy A.

Experience plays a big part in the lure that Toyota creates in all segments.  The Body-on-Frame construction of the 4Runner furnishes added strength and safety while reducing noise and vibration.  Body-on-Frame weaves major considerations of expense and mpg together in a way that benefits consumers.  It’s a more economical build and the mpg sacrifice, due to increased weight, still retains a 17/21 ratio in the base SR5 that retails for $34, 210. Click here to see the Body-on-Frame assembly process from Toyota.

4Runner console
Photo by Jules Stayton

Keeping up with the technology of others in its class, the 6.1-inch high-resolution touch-screen keeps the Entune Premium Audio with  Connection or Integrated Navigation and App Suite ready and waiting for instructions as the driver navigates everything from the school-year to the wilderness.  The third row seating is perfect for  extra cargo whether it be human or gear. This seven-passenger provides front and rear 12v power outlets and up to 88 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats down.  An available slide-out rear cargo deck can support up to 440 lbs.; tailgating just got real.

The 4.0 Liter DOHC 24-Valve V6  Dual Independent Variable Valve Timing engine with intelligence reaps a robust 270 hp @5600 rpm and 278 lb.-ft. of torque through a 5-speed automatic transmission.  Sporting around town  eliminates the need for a 4WD option in place of the standard RWD, but still renders the hauling capacity that most soccer Moms and Dads dictate.  For those off-roaders moving up the model scale to the TRD Off-Road or Off-Road Premium pushing the limit is granted with a part-time 4WD system that includes Active Traction Control (A-TRAC) standard.  Hill Start Assist Control (HSA), Multi-terrain Select, Crawl Control (CRAWL) and locking rear-differential authorizes wheels to function independently to manufacture the true off-road experience that many 4Runner customers need and desire.

4Runner 3rd row seat better
Photo by Jules Stayton

Toyota Racing Development (TRD) is a racing division backed by Toyota that has been equipping the toughest of dirt-seeking mudders for years.  The TRD Pro is easily spotted with its TRD 17-inch matte-gray alloy wheels and other standard features in-line with the goal of earth exploration like Performance air filter, brake pads, oil filter, Pro Blisten® shocks and TRD-tuned front springs to go with its personalized TRD-stamped aluminum front skid plate.  TRD Pro rings in at $42,400.

Options abound in the 4Runner realm.  As the owner of a 4Runner myself, I find it to be a vehicle I would choose again.  Loyalty is a cornerstone for Toyota and I am a faithful member.  Features that I enjoy are the versatile cargo/seating options, traction control, cabin comfort, smooth ride and reliability; ours has over 160,000 miles.  The 4WD adds a bit of spring to the general handling, but essentially gives the feel that most off-roaders enjoy.

4Runner fence
Photo by Jules Stayton

No matter which SUV you choose, be sure to test-drive the Toyota 4Runner.  It shoots to the top of the class by satisfying  your need for safety, reliability, style, and versatility.

 

2017 Impreza 2.0i helps Subaru celebrate its 50th

Subaru’s Impreza 2.0i enlivens an already stacked lineup of award-winning models for the brand.  Impreza doesn’t disappoint and flaunts safety, fuel economy and style as well as lively performance via its 4-cylinder Boxer® engine.

Subaru of America conducts a year-long party approaching the 50th Anniversary, culminating in a celebration like no other in February 2018.  With the donation of “50 cars for 50 years” for a charity to be named later this year, Subaru will also release special edition models to commemorate the occasion.

Founded by American businessmen Malcolm Bricklin and Harvey Lamm on February 15th 1968, Subaru continues its successful run with current day accolades like KBB’s 2017 Best Overall Brand and 2017 Lowest Cost to Own.

Impreza rear closeup
Photo by Jules Stayton

$18,395 starts the bidding for the 2.0i sedan honors.  Premium, Sport and Limited trim packages include a 5-door option that gives a 4-inch bump in trunk width for those weekend adventures that Subaru is famous for.  A 60/40 split makes tossing the golf clubs in for a quick nine after work,  a breeze. With 100-cubic feet of passenger space, the Impreza bestows a spacious feeling in its class.

Living in the Sport sedan as I did, garnered thrills from the 2.0 liter, 4-cylinder, 152 hp, horizontally opposed Boxer® engine used in Subaru models for the last 50 years.  Click here if you would like to see live action renderings of how the Boxer® positioning lowers the center of gravity in the engine compartment to improve handling, balance and stability.  Taking the curves of your own “C” road in the Impreza will not disappoint. Click here to see why Subaru is in a class by itself with road hugging technology.

Lineartronic® Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with Adaptive Control and Incline Start Assist comes standard on the 2.0i Premium and 2.0i Limited.  CVT is included on my Sport as an $800 option and is worth every penny as I accessed the 7-speed manual mode on more than one tour.  A 432 Watt Equivalent 8-Speaker Premium Audio system with Harman Kardon® speakers sparked pure joy.  Five-spoke 18″ rims added a beauty that rivaled the blooms of spring.  In all, including the $820 delivery and destination charge, its price tag comes in at $27, 165.

Marking time on your commute will yield a combined city/hwy mpg in the 30s.  The SUBARU STARLINK™’s Infotainment system includes Safety and Security options as well as Multimedia  and serves as the hub in a 6.5″ or 8″ display. Click on the links to see how each functions to make the Subaru an easy choice for any driver.

Weather is no issue with Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD.  Stability and drivability video versions are yours for the viewing via these links.

Impreza and science building
Photo by Jules Stayton

Lastly, one would be remiss without mentioning autonomous features when it comes to the Subaru Impreza 2.0i.  EyeSight® technology notches each unit possessing it to the highest possible IIHA Safety rating for front crash prevention.  Stereo cameras mounted where the map lights are housed produce a 3-D image of objects in their path.  Adjustments are made automatically to avoid impact.   Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Lane Change Assist (LCA), and Blind Spot Detection (BSD) are included in EyeSight® as well.  Lane Keep Assist must be turned on.  When functional it will give an alert to prevent “drowsy driver” issues and Adaptive Cruise Control, when activated, can be set by the driver to a particular distance from the car in front for alerts to engage the pre-collision throttle management system and avoid rear end collisions while in cruise.

A 3-year/36,000 mile New Car and Wear Item Limited Warranties plus 24-hour roadside assistance are included in addition to the 5-year/60,000 mile Powertrain Limited Warranty.  A luxury for cold weather climate owners is the 5-years, unlimited mileage Rust Perforation Limited Warranty.  It’s no wonder that 97% of Subaru Impreza vehicles sold in the last 10 years are still on the road.

Marion Subaru in Marion, IL gets a special thanks for my Impreza experience this week. Sales Manager James Shimkus and his staff,  including Service Advisor Jim Gooden and Sales Associate Grant Thurmond, made for a flawless affair.

Reasons are endless when considering Subaru for your next road experience, just ask the owners who have loved them for the last 50 years.

The Subaru Impreza is built in Lafayette, IN.

Teen drivers…what are they thinking?

petals in puddle

They want to fit in.  Like pieces in a puzzle.  Each have their special place that makes for a masterpiece. But teens, whether driving or not, have trouble focusing on where they lie in the scheme of things.  Driving adds mitigating factors to an already overloaded teen brain to challenge it in ways it’s never experienced.

The 2017 Chicago Auto Show addressed this problem in one of their Facebook Live interview segments hosted by ABC7’s traffic  reporter Roz Varon.  Facebook Live’s video included Joe Koenig from Chicago Clean Cities and from the National Safety Council, Senior Director Alex Epstein.  Even a question by yours truly made it into the interview!

The issue of autonomous vehicles came up and Alex Epstein noted the various ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) that the market is offering consumers currently like AEB, park assist, blind spot detection, lane keeping, etc.  Over 40 technologies are available right now.  NSC assists drivers with the learning curve by providing a link on their website to My Car Does What?  This should be a first stop for teens considering a spin in the family wagon, or Tesla, as the case may be these days!

I brought up the question of whether driver’s education programs would be updated to match the learning curve of new technologies in autos for young drivers.  The concept was met with some interest by Alex Epstein, but he noted that driver’s education programs are different in many states and the NSC was working with districts to include ADAS technology instruction using the aforementioned website My Car Does What?.

In Illinois for example, the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program hoped to be the best in the nation when it was first signed into law in 2007.  It cited a previous study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety to justify its strict regulations and curfews for teen driving hoping to reduce teen crashes and deaths.  The State of Illinois reports that it spent over $18,750,000 on driver education statewide in 2015-2016 that impacted the fiscal year 2017.  Amendments to the law have been made since then and the statute in its current form can be found at cyberdriveillinois.com.

2015 Teen Crash causes study done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety updated the information that the GDL was based upon.

With the practice driving minimum requirement of only 50 hours, we all have quite a bit to worry about when it comes to teen drivers.  This just adds to the deck of cards one is dealt when dealing with teenagers…God love them.  So, get out there America. Teach those kids what’s important when driving, all our lives may depend on it.

My love affair with the stick shift…

IMG_1407

I was six.  The shifter in question lived in a late 60s VW Beetle that my Dad had purchased from one of my brothers whose eye had wandered to a new mechanical love. The faded green paint, white interior, rusted floorboard and that knob on the end of a stick…I loved that car.

Being the only girl and the youngest in a family of five kids allowed me certain privileges with Dad. We ventured the streets and byways of our hometown in northern Illinois in that car and Dad taught me to shift.  He would clutch and I would shift left-handed.  I can drive in Europe thanks to him!  Timing my tiny hand with his size 11 shoe became a fun game that we “didn’t tell Mom” about.  In a house full of men, there were a lot of things we (namely me) “didn’t tell Mom” about when it came to riding in cars and on motorcycles.  That car still brings fond memories to mind as I write this blog post.  It was my first true car experience as the driver, or as close as a six-year-old could get…power like that at such a young age corrupts.

78′ Rabbit was the next VW product to drift across the driveway.  I was sixteen and wanting some independence.  Our next door neighbor was a VW mechanic so in my Dad’s eyes that sealed  the deal on another VW in our house.  Spending a whopping $800 on that orange beauty was a bargain…I paid half, Dad the other.  Funny, all that shifting left-handed did me no good as I rode shotgun on the way home from purchasing the gem. Sitting in the driver’s seat was a bit different from a Sunday drive with Dad at the helm.  A few driving lessons later on the National St. hill and he was done.  My tutelage was left to a friend who had mastered her own stick shift via the Mazda wagon of about the same year as my VW.  Manuals have peppered the landscape of my life and I currently enjoy my Subaru Legacy very much while I do some downshifting and passing on the B and C roads of life.

IMG_0796

While I talk of the love of a manual transmission, it makes me wonder where we will go…people like me who love to drive…when cars are more autonomous.  I’m not alone in my despair, the reality of it is here.  More and more features on today’s new rides have minds of their own.  Many are for safety, others for convenience.  Today’s cars will be on the road at least 15-20 years.  I’ve got awhile before we go completely autonomous.

One thing I do know…as long as this exists (photo below)…there will be drivers of manual transmissions. Maybe I should get into racing…looks like fun to me!

I bet Dad would have enjoyed it too!

Keep shifting my friend…

IMG_1408

10 days in February

I must confess…I love cars.  Old, new, running, rusted in a field, or withering away in a barn in Kentucky, I’m drawn.  Maybe it comes from growing up in the Chicago area and attending the Chicago Auto Show so many times.  Maybe it’s the four brothers who provided a showroom of jalopies and treasures on the mile long driveway I shoveled for so many years. Maybe the favorite teacher who loved and taught cars to the willing ears of his students…and I was SO willing to listen! I’m hooked.

Frozen fingers and toes, snow, salt, wind…nothing will keep a car buff from the show right?  Grey days and frigid temps are the norm most years and we faithful drudge through it all to attend one of the most elaborate displays of automobile perfection known to man…ok, maybe not known to man, but the largest in North America.  People actually come to the Chicago Auto Show to scope out their next ride!  Those practical Midwesterners, gotta love em’.

trainapproachskyline(Photo by Jules Stayton)

Blazing a new trail this year at #CAS17 was a new form of “attendance”, Facebook Live. Sitting in your pajamas in Boca just got exciting…even the media previews were hosted.

Junkies like me were able to tune in live when possible and view archived video at our leisure on everything from women in the auto industry #WhatDrivesHerCAS, keynote addresses like Midwest Automotive Media Association’s @mamaonline, to interviews from some of our longtime favorites in @MotorWeek‘s John Davis @MWJohnDavis.

Topics ranged from #AutonomousVehicles, teen drivers @rozvaronABC7, modifications & assistance dogs @BraunAbility @ccicanine, and of course the new model reveals for so many automakers that harness the Chicago Auto Show as the beauty pageant for their creation’s debut.

Blogging about “Hot topics, new trends and everything about autos…” is the goal, tune in for my next installment of  things I enjoyed about #CAS17 and until then, stay warm, it is February even though Mother Nature may forget every once in awhile.

Fondly,

Jules