Ikuo Maeda, general manager of the Design Division of Mazda, unveils the Shinari, a four-door sports coupe intended to show Mazda's design direction of the future.
Maeda, nicknamed 'Speedy' because of his racing hobby, designed the current Mazda2 and RX-8, and his father designed the original RX-7!
The Via Montenapoleone is the highest-end street in Milano - and that's a pretty strong field.
All the top international retail brand names are here, along with some Italian names you will only know if you're a real 'fashionisti'.
And I saw something there while walking to dinner Saturday evening I'd never seen before - a Jaguar taxi.
Not a limo with a liveried driver, but an S-Type, painted Milano-taxi-dull-white with the lit-up 'taxi' sign on the roof and everything, in a rank behind the Fiats and Toyotas (including a Prius).
Mercedes of course is the taxi of choice everywhere in Europe. There was also an Audi Q7 pulling out of the parking garage of our (Canadian-run) hotel.
I once saw a BMW M5 taxi at the Frankfurt Airport - painted German-taxi-dull-cream with the lit-up 'taxi' sign on the roof and everything; apparently you get a tax break on a new car if you run it as a cab for a year, and some clever dude was taking advantage. I assume the payoff was bigger than the cost of a paint job. And if you were late for your flight, you'd hope this would be the cab the dispatcher would send.
But a Jaguar taxi?
That's a new one on me.
Damn; I'm sorry I didn't even have my phone with me, let alone my camera.
At least the morning after I got a photo of the Canadian flag above our hotel entrance...
Touring Potsdam, south-west of Berlin, the former summer home of the Prussian kings and site of the peace conference for World War II, it really strikes you how different the automotive landscape is in Europe.
Probably 95% hatchbacks, wagons, and small 'people-movers' (our Mazda5 is probably the closest thing we have), a few compact SUVs, no pick-ups to speak of, and apart from luxury cars like S-Class or 7 Series, very few sedans.
These people are smart. If you're going to buy the 'footprint' - the area the car covers - you might as well buy the 'air rights' above it too.
OK, I did see one Ford Focus sedan today.
And a black Ford Mustang GT.
That's one rich 'burger' who can afford to fuel something like that at over two bucks a litre.
Here in the Centre of the Known Universe - heck, everywhere I’ve ever been in the entire Universe - a flashing green traffic light means an advanced green so you can make a left turn.
Not in Vancouver.
I was driving along West Georgia Street (I think it was) the other day and all the traffic lights were flashing green. But the traffic coming in the opposite direction wasn’t stopping - a left turn would have been suicidal.
Later, I asked a local what was going on. He said flashing green lights indicate pedestrian crossings, and that if someone pushes a button, the lights could turn red on little or no notice.
I have to give Vancouver credit - the city and its people did a fabulous job with the Winter Olympics.
They probably think everybody’s out of step on this flashing-green thing except them.
And we know Vancouver’s politicians hate cars even more than Toronto’s do; they’ll do almost anything to irritate motorists.
But come on, people. Tourism is a big part of your city’s economy. It doesn’t work well to have visitors wreck their cars or kill themselves because you make up your own traffic rules.
What’s next: go on the red and stop on the green - flashing or otherwise?
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a radar cop (well, it was probably LASER/LIDAR, hand-held in any event) wearing shorts, trying (unsuccessfully) to hide behind a thin concrete hydro pole as he was on Martin Grove northbound near Steeles the other day.
I may be wrong here (trying to look where I was going) but I'm pretty sure I saw his bicycle leaning against a fence. A bicycle! What’s he going to do if you don’t stop - chase you?
I didn't take a picture - HE was taking the pictures…
Thanks to the green Corolla for giving me some advance notice by flicking his lights.
Reminder to drivers, police officers - and Justices of the Peace: there isn’t a single syllable in Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act suggesting it’s illegal to warn people of up-coming radar traps.
TV and radio stations do it all the time.
All anyone's trying to do is what the cops are (allegedly) trying to do - slow people down.
Except when someone other than a cop is doing it, the government doesn't collect any money…
If you drive a car like Lady Leadfoot’s Miata, whose Daytime Running Lights flick off and on when you pull up (even minutely) on the handbrake, you can still signal your fellow drivers and the cops can’t even trot out that spurious ‘failure to dim high beams’ charge, which they love to do.
They also resort to the 'alternating headlights' provision which is equally invalid. If your lights are going off and on together, that's not 'alternating'; 'alternating' would be one light on, then the other.
This 'alternating' provision was put in to prevent tow trucks from installing the same 'alternating' headlights cop cars, ambulances and fire engines have, which would help the tow trucks get to the scene of a crash quicker so they can snag the job.
It has nothing at all to do with radar traps.
Want to lay a Criminal Code charge of Obstructing Justice to a flasher?
It’s not unusual for a car maker to offer a swan song for a popular model, a special edition, one last kick at the can for a favourite old trooper - the cynic might say one last chance to squeeze a final drop out of this particular mango.
That would be the Bentley Continental GT Speed Series 51, built in either coupé or convertible body styles, using the GT Speed mechanicals, bringing with it the 600 horsepower version of the twin-turbo W12 engine and firmer suspension settings than the base car.
A specific and limited palette of interior and exterior colours is offered, along with unique design cues.
The 'Series 51' nomenclature commemorates the year a separate styling department was set up for Bentley cars, under the direction of John Blatchley. He penned the first Continental, which is generally recognized as one of the all-time great post-war classic cars.
At that time, Bentley was part of Rolls-Royce, and this department was an attempt to help Bentley break away - at least stylistically - from its parent.
That break never really happened until Volkswagen took the company over in 1998; as part of that divorce, Rolls-Royce was absorbed by BMW.
There’s not much doubt that the Continental GT saved Bentley from extinction. At the VW takeover, Bentley engineers recognized they had some pretty neat hardware in the corporate parts bin, in the form of VW’s big Phaeton luxury sedan. But apart from a handful VW fanatics in Germany, there were very few car enthusiasts ready to part with six figures worth of - well, ANY currency, for something with “VW” on the grille, no matter how good it may have been.
Solution - wrap that hardware in gorgeous two-plus-two coupé bodywork, call it a Bentley, and stand back.
Worked a treat. Starting in 2003, the GT and its various convertible, sedan and high-performance variants thereof have been the best-selling Bentley family ever.
Heck; there have probably been months when sales of these cars were greater than what Bentley previously did in most decades.
However, all good things must come to an end. The buff books are preview-testing the GT’s replacement as I speak; it is expected to make its public debut at this fall’s Paris Auto Show (we’ll be there to let you know all about it).
So if you have $207,000 US burning a hole in your Levis, and want to honour an old stager who can still show off some amazing chops, a Series 51 is your chance.
Does anyone else think it’s ironic - bordering on stupid - that governments the world over force car makers to spend billions of dollars designing and building car bumpers which can withstand crashes of 5 to 8 km/h without inflicting any damage to the taillights, gas tank, etc., yet they allow owners to install trailer hitches like those shown here?
Bumper regulations are a noble idea. But a solid steel bar like a typical trailer hitch renders a ‘crash-proof’ bumper totally useless.
And with some of the bike racks people install, well, if a cyclist were trying to turn left behind a thus-equipped vehicle heading in the opposite direction and cut it a bit too close, the bike rack would practically decapitate the cyclist.
That's the sort of irony Alanis Morissette would sing about.
Then there are the sorts of trucks you see on the road all the time. Geez, if I ran into the back of a truck like this in my Miata, I’d be shish-kebabed before I even got to the truck’s taillights.
Now, for most people in most situations, these bumper regulations are a Good Thing. They reduce the cost of rear-enders - even if everyone pays more to have these bumpers, whether they have a rear-ender or not.
But these regulations have also prevented some pretty neat and exotic cars over the years from being sold in this country, and they still do. There are surely more trailer hitches, bike racks and trucks like those shown here on our roads than there ever would be of the sorts of cars these regs keep off our roads. Shouldn’t the consumer have the right to waive rear-end protection if (s)he wants to buy a cool car that doesn’t happen to have it?
It’s not likely anyone else would ever be harmed by a car not having a crash-proof rear bumper.
Whatever, I saw two messages several times on the 401 pixelboards yesterday that gave me some hope.
One read, "Keep left lane free for passing".
The second said, "Slower Traffic Keep Right".
This is only part-way all right, because of course, according to common courtesy, common sense, safety, efficiency and The Law, ALL traffic should keep right, except when actively passing another vehicle.
Or 'equestrian', but that's another story...
The problem with this pixelboard sign wording is that few people want to think of themselves as being 'slower'.
Also, to some, if they're going the speed limit they aren't 'slow', therefore have the right to drive in any lane they want.
Er, no they don't.
The Highway Traffic Act provisions which deal with keeping right make no reference whatsoever to speed, other than "the normal speed of traffic at that place and time", or if another vehicle is travelling "at a greater speed".
In other words, obeying one law - the speed limit law - does not give you the right to break other laws.
So while these pixelboard messages don't quite get it 'right', I'll take whatever I can get.