The Car Crash – it sucks, but it happens

Crashed in Montreal

The first time you crash is an unfortunate and unforgettable experience. We all think it would not happen to us, that we are good drivers, but sometimes, you just can’t avoid it.

It happened to me a couple of years ago, and the worst part was, that it was in my brand new car!
I was driving back home from work, in downtown Montreal. As I was driving on the main road, I started approaching an intersection ready to turn left. The light was flashing green, a sign in Montreal that the opposite direction has a red light and you are clear to make the left turn. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a blue pickup truck that was going pretty fast, but I did not think much about. I assumed the driver was going to stop.
As I made the turn, to my horror, I realised he was not stopping, and in a flash I felt the impact on the rear right side of my car. It was so violent my car rotated 90 degrees.
I was in shock, but my first reflex was to drive my car off the intersection. My car was still driveable so I pulled over to the side of the road.

This can’t be good I thought. I got out and walked around. For a while my world stopped as I saw the damage. It did not look good, and my rear wheel was flat. As I was checking things out, I was approached by a few people to see if I was okay, including a bus driver who said he had seen everything and the other driver had run a red light. He gave me his phone number and said he was ready to testify. Maybe there are still good people in this world.

Looks bad on the surface

I went around to see the other driver who was pissed off as well. His truck did not look in good shape either. There we were, both in a crash and not sure what to do. We decided to exchange information (license and insurance numbers), and took a few pictures of the crash. As I was not sure how this worked, I took pictures of everything, in detail.
We decided to return to our cars and call our respective insurances. My insurance was helpful and took me step by step on what to do. They needed a lot of information, but told me things were going to be okay. The other driver had run the red light. As I had a witness to validate my side of the story, things were looking good.

So many people, yet so lonely

Well, looking good for the next few days maybe, but for now I was still gutted. My car was not driveable and it was now close to 9pm. As I had a special insurance with Subaru, I called for a tow to the nearest garage. A tow-truck was sent, but they needed a police report in order to remove the vehicle. So what did I do? I called 911, who promptly sent me to the non-emergency number and said a team would be on their way soon. After 30 mins they showed up, and after exchanging with the towing company, my car was removed. Can you imagine, being in your first crash, and then talking to the police, trying to convince them they need to validate I was in a crash just so that my car can be towed to the garage. It’s a lot to work with.

All in all, it took 3 hours between the crash and my heading home. Thankfully I was downtown, so I just took a metro home, gathered my senses and drank a large scotch.
The next few days went by quickly. My insurance company arranged a replacement car (Chrysler 200….) the very next day, and took care of all the repairs.

I went to the garage to see my car and even though it looked in bad shape and all chopped

All chopped up

up, I was releaved to see that the damage was only cosmetic. The bent wheel was actually just a deflated tyre, and the bodywork had taken all the damage.
After three weeks and 9,000$ worth of repairs, my car was good as new.
I have to say, given the crash, I would have never imagined my car would have been repaired the way it was. Turns out, Subarus are really built like tanks! Now I love them even more!

And yeah, crashing sucks. But try and keep calm, don’t give in to emotions, try to be rational, and you will just make it out okay. At the end of the day, if the damage is only material, you are still the lucky one.

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I’m back! (Again)

New Cars! New Projects!

It’s been a while, no? Over two years actually….

What has been going on? A lot of things, some of them good, some of them not car related. But there have been a few projects and interesting things going on, so stay tuned! Regular content is soon to follow including:

  • Project Car 1: The Big Beige Barge
  • Project Car 2: The Little White French Lego
  • Snow and more Snow – Driving

And much, much more!

Let’s begin

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New-New Top Gear (Series 24), or The Grand Tour?

New New Top Gear

New New Top Gear

It was in 2015 that the “fracas” happened. Jeremy Clarkson, the most famous automotive journalist in the world and star of the BBC’s Top Gear, got angry at some food and punched one of the show’s producers. This tends to happen often in TV, I believe, however, ever since Top Gear kept getting in and out of hot water, the BBC decided it was enough and let go Jeremy Clarkson. His co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May then promptly left the show as well, and all three joined Amazon. This was perfect timing for Amazon, who was pushing for the creation of more original content, and needed big stars to animate its shows, to reach a world-wide audience. The rumours went wild for more than a year, but finally, in November last year, the first season of The Grand Tour aired. You know what? It was not that good.

Don’t get me wrong, the car videos were great. That opening sequence was superb, and I did rewatch it multiple times. But overall, the show felt like there was no purpose. It clearly was not about cars, since there was not even one car review per episode. Clearly, that opening sequence with all the car enthusiasts in the desert was just a lie. It felt like Top Gear, albeit the later series Top Gear. The episodes you watched and forgot. Clearly, all this was a way for Clarkson, Hammond and May to spend a lot of money. Story? Not much. They just drove expensive press cars, or badly-made-for-comedy vehicles (made by a specialized company, not themselves, let’s not kid ourselves) wherever they wanted. Just like before, everything was scripted, only more so. Even the live-audience segments were bad, way over the top.

The Grand Tour

The Grand Tour

The reason old Top Gear was good, was because it was a car-show, done in a comedic way. Here, they tried to make a comedy-show, in a car-related way. As funny as Clarkson Hammond and May are, acting is not their strong suit, and it showed. Just look up that Edge of Tomorrow bit with the military. It was just embarrassing. Maybe they’ll correct all this for next season, but based on historical evidence, I have my doubts. I honestly think that the Celebrity Brain Crash was done because they liked the idea of it, even though it was absolutely useless and not funny. We have to face the facts, Clarkson, Hammond and May are simply yesterday’s news. Just like Eiffel 65, they had one hit, and their time is now over.

Which leads me on to actual Top Gear. The BBC, ever the smart people, decided to cast Chris Evans as the star of the new show. The man who paints all his Ferraris white, and never drives them, so they do not lose their value. Also he’s a morning-radio show host, part of the most hated people in the history of humanity. As expected, he crashed and burned. The reboot series was passable at best. It tried too hard to be and not be old Top Gear at the same time. It could have been halfway decent without Chris Evans.
Thankfully he resigned, so the show could focus on the actual talent. And that talent was actually good!

New Top Gear - spot the mistake

New Top Gear – spot the mistake

The co-host, now turned host, was Matt LeBlanc. Yes, Joey. It may sound weird to cast a 90s American sitcom star in a British motoring show, but Matt is what Chris Evans is not: a real car enthusiast. He actually drives his cars and knows how to appreciate the philosophy of the automobile. Chris Harris, the now co-host is a god among youtube car enthusiasts. His specialty? Driving fast, drifting and being entertaining. The man got to drift an F40 and F50 back to back, so he was always going to be a great addition. The last co-host was Rory Reid. Unknown to me, and most of the audience, he is a valuable addition to the group, bringing a more novice point of view to the cast (a bit like Richard Hammond back in the day). Watch him, and you can just feel his enthusiasm for the job, and it just works. For fun, here is a video of Chris Harris doing what he does best: Drifting expensive cars.

In order to not have the same people all the time, the BBC chose to add “contributors” to the cast, in the form of Sabine Schmitz (the Queen of the Nürburgring) and Eddie Jordan (he of F1 fame). Contributors are not new, the initial series of Top Gear (pre-2002) regularly had them. Last series they were good, and this series we have yet to see what they do.
The Top Gear reboot with Chris Evans was passable for many reasons. The main reason it was not actually good was that they constantly tried to copy the old format, to no avail. Top Gear worked because of the relationship between Clarkson, Hammond and May. Chris Evans does not have any relationship with anyone, therefore it all felt awkward.

Top Gear Series 24 cast

Top Gear Series 24 cast

With the reboot of the reboot (sans Evans), also known as Series 24, you can feel the relationship between Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris and Rory Reid develop. They work together and have genuine fun. In just two episodes there have already been numerous occasions where clearly things went off-script, and the show is better off as a result. The flow between the cast seems more natural, making it more watchable. But this time, the BBC were smart and did not put the emphasis on the hosts. The emphasis now, is the cars, and that is what Top Gear should be about. This time you actually get car reviews, you actually learn stuff on the cars, and the challenge parts feel genuine. Just watch that first episode review of the Ferrari Fxx K. Is it about Harris? No, it’s about the car! They are not trying to be like old Top Gear, they are just being Top Gear.

First episode: The Ferrari Fxx K

First episode: The Ferrari Fxx K

After two episodes, I really like the show. I plan to rewatch the episodes, which I cannot say of the Grand Tour. The cast has chemistry, the challenges have a point, and the humour does not feel forced. It’s all about having fun. It reminds me a bit of the later Top Gear USA episodes, when they left the UK carbon copy format and did their own thing. And it just worked. Sure, Top Gear will no longer appeal to 12 year olds and middle-aged women, but the core fans, those who felt left out by The Grand Tour, will be happy. After all, Top Gear was always about CARS, first and foremost.

Do you have old Top Gear withdrawal symptoms? You know where to go: Top Gear 10

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Something Different: The Montreal Motorcycle show

I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of motorcycles. I’m a car guy, I like to have my four wheels on the ground. However, I have to admit, there is a certain charm to motorcycles. In terms of engineering, styling and performance, they are very appealing. I get why people are into them.

This year, I decided to visit the Montreal Motorcycle Show to see how it compared to the Montreal Auto Show, and I was pleasantly suprised. Though not as big as the Car show, the Motorcycle show had a great charm to it. You could definitely feel the passion out there, and best of all, almost all the motorycles were attainable (you could get on them, and the prices were not sky-high).

To get an idea of what type of motorcycles you can find at the show, here is just a sample of some of the most interesting examples on display. As you can probably tell, I’m not used to photographing motorcycles nor am an expert on model names so bear with me. If you want to know more, the Montreal Motorcycle Show usually runs in mid-February each year.

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Buying an old car in Canada. Here is what can go wrong

fun game of Guess the Car!

Fun game of Guess the Car!

A few months ago, I teased the fact that I wanted to buy a car, since I wanted to drive. Canada is the second biggest country in the world, with some of the longest roads and the most diverse terrain. Sure, I live in the city, but whatever.

So after thinking for a long time, I came up with a checklist of characteristics I really wanted in my car:

  • Good Handling: because I like to drive
  • Reliable: because road-trips
  • Fairly rust-resistant: because Canada
  • Comfortable: because Canadian roads
  • Exciting: because I like to drive

Naturally, that checklist was thrown out the window, when I was given the chance to buy an automatic wagon with less than 150hp. Also, it did not run. So here is how my careful planning worked out:

  • Good Handling: I never tried the car before, or any other car from the same brand
  • Reliable: the car does not start, I had to replace the knock sensor, the alternator did not work, and the brakes were jammed
  • Fairly rust-resistant: the car has a hole in the roof, and it’s not a convertible
  • Comfortable: I have no idea, since I never drove the car. Also, no heated seats, electric windows or air conditioning. I had to add a rev counter, since the car did not have one
  • Exciting: it’s 4 wheel-drive, weighs close to 1.5 tons and only has 135bhp

So why did I get it? In one word: Canada.

Think about it, when you go up North, where it is cold and icy everywhere, what do people drive?

Another word: Subaru

So in June last year, I was the happy owner of a non-running 1998 Subaru Impreza 2.2l (EJ22 to the connoisseur) Wagon. Automatic. In delightfully basic Brighton trim. Oh, and the colour was Brilliant Red (no joke).

A wild Subaru in its natural habitat

A wild Subaru in its natural habitat

Like good wine, you need time to appreciate old cars. So in October of last year, I was the happy driver of a 1998 Subaru Impreza 2.2l Wagon. I drove it after spending my summer weekends repairing it, spending the entire value of the car on parts and maintenance, and going to get the car inspected 3 times. (it failed twice)

I can hear you asking, but why? Again, because this is Canada. For instance, here is my car, one random day in December.

An icy Subie

An icy Subie

 

Here it is again, another random day in December.

A snowy Subie

A snowy Subie

Notice something?

To be completely honest, I really wanted an AWD car, since I have never driven in real winter conditions before, so I preferred to play it safe. And the little Impreza Wagon plays it safe. No speeding, just cruising. No canyon carving, just delightfully enjoying the countryside.

What could go wrong?

In a word: Rust.

You see, in Canada, especially Quebec, they love to put salt on the roads to avoid icing. It sounds like an intelligent decision, but it wreaks havoc on your cars! Case in point, my little Red Subie. Mechanically, in pretty good shape, even with 245,000kms. It starts everyday, no fault, drives 400kms per week without an issue, and the heater works a treat.

And yet, I find myself concerned about the level of water-proofness of my car. You see, when I got the car, it had a roof rack, which was screwed in the roof. What happens 18 years later? Many holes in the roof, some as big as a tennis ball. Not good. Another example would be inside the rear wheel arch. The metal in that area is a little thinner compared to the rest. After 18 years? A big gaping hole that sends water in the rear passenger footwell.

It’s annoying, but looking around, I’m not alone. Most cars in Quebec that drive all year, for over 15 years tend to have these issues. Seeing a car with literal holes in the doors is not a rare sight. Each time I mend a hole on the Subaru, I find another one. It kind of puts me down, because I love driving older cars. If those older cars end up full of holes, its no longer fun to drive them. And from what I’ve seen, Subarus are just as bad as all the others. With this amount of rust on my car, any sane person would trade up for something else. Maybe something newer, with more rust protection.

Lil' Red Wagon

Lil’ Red Wagon

And yet…

There is something about the little red wagon. First of all, that engine. The flat-four boxer engine is something else. I get why people swear by them. Sure, the engine is not very powerful, but after 3,000rpm, it loves to roar! Honestly, with the stock exhaust, it does sound a bit like a V8. What is not to love in that?

And I haven’t even mentioned the best part: All. Wheel. Drive. When the snow’s out, people tend to stay at home, in the warmth. Not me. I go Subaruing (from the Greek, Subarua, meaning, purposely finding snow and ice, in order to slide around and have an amazing time). Honestly, I have had some great fun with the little Subaru, and I have not even taken it on an ice track yet! It just is so hilarious, you feel like a rally driver in the snow. It makes me smile.

I just love driving it.

So yes, driving it everyday is probably not the best idea. The rust just keeps growing, and there are some concerning sounds that appear from time to time. But I learnt mechanics on it, and I am going to continue working on it. Will I keep driving it everyday? Not for long, I will probably get something newer for the daily commute in the future. But the Lil’ Red Wagon will continue with me, probably rallying.

Side note, if you ever plan to get an old Impreza, you need the Haynes manual. You can find it on Amazon: Subaru Legacy 1990 thru 1999: Includes Legacy Outback & Legacy Brighton

The Impreza look

The Impreza look

 

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