A 21st Century Celica?

2011 Scion tC 20

Twenty-five years ago, I lost my father to a heart attack due to complications with diabetes.

In retrospect, my relationship with my father was, at best, interesting. I wanted a relationship with him, but he was more interested in his own life than the lives he helped create. It took me a long time to realize the disconnect that he had with my brother and I.

To pay our final respects to him, my brother and I had to go to the San Francisco Bay Area for his memorial. I arrived a day or so later and rented a vehicle for us to get around in. When I arrived at the National Car Rental counter at San Francisco International Airport, they put me in a somewhat appropriate vehicle: A black 1986 Toyota Celica GT Liftback.

Granted, it is appropriate color-wise. The car? I have to admit to having a bit of fun in it. Though I should heed the words of any good human being: It's not Kosher to arrive at a memorial service for a relative in a sports coupe.

Driving that Celica did confirm one thing: How much I loved them! That began when they first came out – a Japanese reinterpretation of the original Ford Mustang. Still, the small coupe left an indelible impression at various points in my life. There was a story my mom told how I was brought into the main office of my elementary school to be asked by my principal what car he should buy. Inadvertently, I said the Celica. He bought one and kept it for well over a decade. That was in 1971.

It Was a Good Day…

Tweet A starting point – 2011 Chevrolet Volt. All photos by Randy Stern In a single day, I met various GM executives, employees, interns…

When GM Comes to Town

2011 Chevrolet Volt 2

This weekend provided a quandary for the automobile enthusiast. Should one head to Southeastern Michigan, making the pilgrimage to Woodward Avenue for the Dream Cruise? Or, should one live it up on the Monterey Peninsula at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance?

Me? I can't afford either journey.

Yet, opportunity knocked at the right time. My regional media relations contact for General Motors mentioned via e-mail about the Open House events the company are sponsoring at three dealerships in the Twin Cities. He invited me to check it out, provided that I meet with him when they throw the doors open on Saturday morning at one of the events.

I accepted his invitation. And, I'm glad I did.

Five Favorites for the Woodward Dream Cruise

2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8

Name the biggest display of automotive history to ever roll down a single street?

Normally, such an event is called a "cruise." By calling it a "cruise," it means a display of cars of yesteryear where you can expect brutal exhaust noise and the rumbling of very large engines. The vehicles on display are indeed impressive, from old-school hit rods to today's tuner specials.

Not everywhere has such as "cruise." During the "Back to the '50's" weekend here in the Twin Cities, there is normally a "cruise" of the vehicles displayed at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds to Porky's, an old drive-in on University Avenue in St. Paul. However, the construction of the Central Corridor and the closure of Porky's have altered plans for the annual event.

Still, there is one cruise that refuses to yield to any road construction or transit development. The cruise takes place in the city where the automobile remains the economic engine for a city and its region. The street is a long one stretching from the banks of a river connecting two Great Lakes to somewhere towards the center of the lower half of the state.

Five Favorites for Going Back to Campus

2007 Ford Focus

Ah, college. To be an undergrad again…

Every college town – big and small – face the same onslaught of students coming back from the summer to resume academic life again. The future of our country bound for a college across town or on the other side of the country with their cars filled to the gills with everything for their dormitory or apartment. The parents tag along with a case of tissues hidden amongst the rest of their child's stuff.

It is uncertain whether the tissues are meant for seeing their precious child off…or, seeing their savings fly out the window in tuition, student expenses, entertainment (your definition varies here) and a vacation to South Padre Island.

Your Turn: The Camera Eye Personified

Classic Car

Creative people are drawn to other creative people – it's just a fact!

This is why I started doing a new segment for V&R – Your Turn. This is a forum to feature other creative folks that you may or may not have heard of. Their talents range from automotive photography to humorous writing from a different point-of-view transportation-wise. Your Turn posts will also feature stories of reader's rides – whether they love them or otherwise.

The first person to step into this role is St. Paul-based photographer Kevin Jack.

Five Favorites for The Glamorous Life

WOI 2008 3

What if you lived the glamorous life?

How do I define the "glamorous life" You probably watched the plethora of reality television shows, such as "The Real Housewives of [fill in your favorite upscale metropolitan area here]" and "The A-List [fill in your favorite urban gay male enclave here]." Some of us love the fact that the bourgeois can be as real as everyone else, but with a more pretentious taste. Some of us get nauseated at this display of civility and breeding amongst the nouveau riche gone wrong.

Do participation in the glamorous life mean one has to balance the silver spoon with bad behavior? When has success become so ugly? Is being a member of the A-List mean being less than human in some relevant traits?

Five Favorites to Take on a Track Day

Track days. They are a simple test between human and machine.

The subject of track days came about during a discussion on advanced driver education programs. There has been a push to create driver education programs for teenagers by teaching them advanced, but necessary skills. Car control is a huge piece of the puzzle, as teenagers need to understand how their vehicle can react when presented with a dangerous situation. It used to be called "defensive driving," but teaching these skills on controlled environments raises this concept to new levels.

Gadgetry and Responsibility – The Infotainment Quandary

2009 Hyundai Sonata 7

It used to be that we turned on the radio – and that's all we did to keep entertained and informed while rolling along the highway.

The void on the upper end of the center stack of our new vehicle certainly evolved over the past several decades. We began just with an AM radio band. Then we added the FM band, 8-track tape cartridges, cassette tapes, compact discs…and so forth. Today, we can do so many things than just listen to music while we drive – it is starting to become distracting.

Yet, has our want for infotainment became a distraction to our driving?