Fulfilling One’s Automotive Fantasy

Auto Vault Fantasy Drive 8.25.16
Lining up for a Fantasy Drive – All Photos by Randy Stern

Ever wondered what it is like to drive some of the greatest vehicles on the planet?

I always have. That was until I got deeper into this work. My inside voice no longer said “I’ll never get to drive these great cars.” Instead, it now says “well, I better put some miles on this Porsche and get some data.”

Getting access to these great automobiles is never easy. It takes some luck and a lot of patience. You can be persistent, but you can also wind up looking like a pest. I chose to be patient and ask when the opportunity presents itself. Or, as a regular occurrence, I end up being asked to drive their vehicle.

As a rule, the answer to the latter query depends on who is supplying the vehicle. If it is a manufacturer, dealership or related automotive business, the opportunity is executed on a case-by-case basis.

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The Speculator: What is The Cadillac Escala?

Cadillac Escala Concept - Photo (c) GM, Inc.

Cadillac Escala Concept – Photo (c) GM, Inc.

First, it was the Ciel. Then came the Elmiraj. Now, the Escala.

Now what?

Good question.

In recent years, Cadillac made the Monterey Car Week their platform to entice us towards the next design movement for the brand. General Motors’ luxury brand chose this venue where the most elite enthusiasts, owners and vehicles meet in one of the world’s nexus for the finest machinery. It is an appropriate destination to show the direction of Cadillac’s next look.

It is one thing to entice us with a concept. Once the concept is engrained into the public’s psyche, the company is asked to deliver. This is not an exact science or a game, but rather a cover for what comes next. For Cadillac, the expectations are high when these concepts show up on our social media feeds or news pages.

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Commentary: What Dreams Remain

Ferrari California
Would it be awesome if I fulfilled this dream? Photo by Randy Stern

What do I dream of these days?

I’m sure you really want to know. Rather, you would want me to discuss this with a behavioral health professional. Although, it is not a precedent on here since I have discussed such dreams in the past on here.

For example, I talked about cars I have never had the chance to drive, current vehicles I wanted to drive (however, I already accomplished four out of six of them listed in that piece), and vehicles I never got the chance to buy in my lifetime. These articles spell out the idea of missed opportunities due to my status as a younger person or in the professional realm. Certainly these dreams, ambitions, goals – whatever you want to call them – frame the idea that I still have the capacity to accomplish more.

Capacity, yes. Execution is a different story. Given the chance, I can accomplish a lot in this profession.

However, the execution of dreams should not be contingent on who owns what and who pays for it. In my eyes, the absolute notion of fulfilling dreams, goals and aspirations has to center around one thing: How can I make this happen?

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Adventures in Wrenching

The front Macpherson strut assembly before we started to take it apart

The front Macpherson strut assembly before we started to take it apart – All Photos by Tyler Lipa

Sometimes repairing a car can remind us of our own limitations.

Recently the front wheel bearings on my 2012 Hyundai Accent went bad. I have about 110 thousand miles on my car now, and call it a premonition, but I was pondering about whether it would be the suspension or the wheel bearings that would fail me first. What began as a slight squeak manifested into the hellish nails on a chalkboard sound that precedes a weekend in the garage.

There are two types of wheel bearings in most cars on the road today. The first type is a hub and bearing-type assembly that usually doesn’t require anything more than standard hand tools to replace. The second, more complicated, and unfortunately utilized type in my Accent are pressed wheel bearings that are held in place by tension. It was this type of bearing that showed me even the simplest and cheapest, each bearing was a little over $6.00, repair can quickly escalate into a nightmare without the proper tools.

Corrosion is the enemy of any repair. Front end suspension, brakes and hubs are extremely susceptible to rust and corrosion because they exists in a state of constant wear, heat, water and corrosives like road salt. That means when a wheel bearing goes bad there is no escaping the fact that your once pristine front end components are now stuck together in a rusty, neglectful embrace. My car was no different.

Early success can lead to overconfidence. Continue reading

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Crown Rally 2016: Time To Rally!

Crown Rally 2016 - V&R Rivals
Photo by Randy Stern

This year’s Crown Rally is about to get under way.

With 100 entrants ready to drive from the Twin Cities to Chicago and back, this mobile fundraiser for the Epilepsy Foundation is going to be a fun time for all. We congratulate everyone for participating and hope everyone has a great rally this weekend!

Victory & Reseda was grateful to have the opportunity to help participate in it through the efforts of the V&R Rivals campaign. As of going to press, Team Gasholes is in second place for fundraising, while Team Novas is in the Top 10. These two teams – as distinct as their personalities, vehicles and approaches to the Crown Rally – have been nothing but wonderful to work with.

We want to thank Tony Yost and Malyna Lem of Team Gasholes, Shane Sienko, Katie Nalpeka, Marky Weinmann, Gary Ezell, Anna Ledstrom of Team Novas for being a part of this inaugural V&R Rivals campaign. We also want to thank you for participating to help us raise funds and celebrate these two teams through the summer.

It is now time to Rally!

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#VOTY15: …And The Winner Is…

The first step in rebooting #VOTY is to backtrack and award the 2015 award.

We felt that there were some vehicles that deserved this award and had that opportunity missed. At this point, there is no recounting exactly how many vehicles were eligible for this award, except that they would have to have been written or photographed while under evaluation on Victory & Reseda within a 12-month period. In this case, the period was exactly from November 1, 2014 to October 31, 2015. V&R will pick up the #VOTY16 considerations from November 1, 2915. All qualifications and procedures for #VOTY16 will be announced in late September.

However, there is the matter of awarding the #VOTY15. We want to make clear that the InCarNation’s VOTY15 will be retained by the winner that received it in October of last year. The award being announced here is realigned with the original #VOTY awards, dating back to 2007.

For this award, it was a clear decision to make. The V&R staff conferred and decided that one vehicle should take #VOTY15 that won everyone’s hearts and brought new fans to the site.

Therefore, it is an honor to announce that the 2015 Victory & Reseda Vehicle of The Year Award – #VOTY15 – goes to… Continue reading

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The Return of #VOTY

2014 Vehicle of The Year Award Presentation
Remember this, folks? Photo courtesy of Victory & Reseda

The #VOTY is back!

It has been an interesting 20 months since the last time Victory & Reseda formally awarded their annual accolade for the best vehicle driven during a specific 12-month period. Continue reading

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Historiography: Camaro at 50 – Part 2

A couple of Chevrolet Camaros
All Photos by Randy Stern

Since its debut in September, 1966, Chevrolet’s Camaro has been a symbol of pride for General Motors. It was the Mustang killer that slayed all of its competitors in sales since the first one arrived into showrooms for the 1967 model years. While its competitors tried to ride the storm of new Federal vehicle regulations and the OPEC Oil Crisis, the Camaro resisted downsizing or, worse, product cancellation through the 1970s. Change came in the 1980s as the future Camaro arrived packing more power and a look that is unforgettable.

During the time of the third generation of the Camaro, customers began cross-shopping this iconic American sports coupe against Asian and European models – along with the Fox-body Ford Mustang. A Z28 was seen as a big V8-powered rival to the in-line six power of the Toyota Supra, the monster V6 of the Nissan 300ZX, the turbocharged rotary power of the Mazda RX-7 and the more expensive Porsche 944 Turbo. Although, Porsche enthusiasts would dismiss the Chevrolet as an absolute imposter not worthy of battle with the Stuttgart machine.

The end of the 1992 model year spelled many changes for the F-Body. General Motors announced that the Van Nuys plant will close with the building of the final third-generation models. The timing was not the best, since there was a Presidential election being contested. One would think things would be better after the Gulf War, but not this time. Though GM had been gradually laying off workers in the San Fernando Valley, there was not enough jobs at that time to help displaced workers get back into the job force. Not to mention other historical events that would ignite the powder keg inside the belly of Southern California – namely the Rodney King Riots.

Meanwhile, a new fourth generation Camaro was being developed. It was based on the previous generation, the concept was the advance the car’s design towards a more futuristic look overall. The car was lower, with curved slopes leading down to a more aggressive front end. The large glass hatchback was retained for the coupe, as it retained a lot of the design cues once set back in 1970 with the wide B-pillar. The convertible was retained for the fourth generation, while developed from the onset with the coupe. The interior returned to more of a cockpit design, with some modifications – such as a lower center console.

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The Coupe in Present Tense

2016 Honda Civic Touring Coupe
2016 Honda Civic Touring coupe – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2016 Honda Civic coupe

Remember the Honda Prelude?

I do. When it first came out, it was Honda’s third product to sell alongside the heart-winning Civic and Accord. There was a bit of Sochiro Honda inside of this small sporty notchback coupe – he loved motorsport and wanted the lightest weight possible for the best velocity. The first Prelude was not fast. It was quite aspirational for those looking for some luxury in their sportiness.

There was one Prelude I recalled the most. A high school classmate had one – a new 1980 model in a bronze color. We used to be a part of a club on campus and did a lot of regional and statewide confabs as a part of it. There was one problem, though. I was a big guy back then (still am). Guess who sat in the back seat more than often? I will attest that the Prelude’s redeeming quality was in back seat space. After all, it was technically a 2+2.

There were subsequent Preludes. They grew in size and stature. They also spawned more powerful engines, better suspension systems and advanced technology. Remember four-wheel steering? That was a Prelude innovation.

Five generations of Preludes saw their conclusion by 2001. It was at a part in Honda history that things weren’t all that exciting. That is, if you listen to enthusiasts of the brand. Others could care less, as most of the Hondas of that era were heavily modified – right down to their distinctive exhaust noise.

We miss the Prelude. Continue reading

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Historiography: Camaro at 50 – Part 1

MN C&C Oct 2015
All Photos by Randy Stern

Fifty years ago, the gauntlet was thrown down. The North American automotive industry has never been the same since.

The heart of the American car enthusiast lies within a class of steady-selling sport coupes and convertibles that fly the flag of the nation ever so proudly. As their lives took shape in the turbulence of the 1960s, their iconic place in the automotive lexicon bore fruit to the greatest rivalry that exists today. This rivalry was born with style, performance and a price tag within reach of every hard working American.

General Motors knew it had to be a part of this scene. They did so by introducing two products during the Summer of Love: The Chevrolet Camaro and the Pontiac Firebird. Today, the Camaro remains. In mid-August, it will celebrate its 50th anniversary during the Woodward Dream Cruise.

The Camaro and Firebird were byproducts of an idea that was spawned by the success of the former G.I.’s that fought in World War II. Americans were no longer content with just the standard issue automobile. Families wanted to diversify and enjoy the fruits of their postwar hard work and upward mobility. As they marched through Europe, they saw that automotive diversity in the small sports cars they saw along the way. The thought was to find a way to introduce them to our country as a motorized release from the potential stresses of American commerce and service.

While the sports car movement saw some interpretations by American automakers – the Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Thunderbird – they ended up being something else that was unattainable to every American. The Corvette sought favor with well-heeled enthusiasts, although they were priced within reach of most American customers. The second-generation ‘Vette was spurred on by a class of motorsports-ready machinery priced double the average cost of Stingray coupe. They also held true to the two-seat formula – something insurance companies were keen to put high premiums on.

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