Today's snowmobiles are marvels of modern engineering. They feature state-of-the-art suspension systems and uber-powerful engines that often make more horsepower than a small car. These lightning-fast machines are also expensive, with many new models ringing the register at more than $10,000.
On Monday, Louis Riel Day, in the small but blooming town of Blumenort, a group of local sled-heads with a penchant for patina proved that you don't need to fork out a king's ransom to have fun and go fast on the snow.
On this day, it was all about vintage snowmobiles and the undeniable joy they bring to the ever-growing number of folks who restore and ride these eclectic classics.
"It's all part of Blumenort Family Days," said Vaughn Bergen, a mechanic from nearby Steinbach who once called Blumenort home and has many friends in the area. "Last year I was asked if I wanted to help out, and someone mentioned that vintage sled-racing would be fun -- and it just took off from there."
In 2013, about 20 riders showed up with a rag-tag collection of old snowmobiles. This year, thanks to some serious sunshine and balmy conditions, more than 30 vintage machines and their industrious riders made the event a raging success.
Bergen was running a 1975 Polaris TX 440 with a 500cc liquid-cooled motor, as well as a second and more extensively modified '75 TX 440 with a 600cc triple-cylinder engine. Although his sleds looked old-school, they've been boosted considerably in the speed department thanks to the installation of newer …
Last Sunday, within moments of arriving at the icy motorcycle track carved into the frozen man-made lake at St. Malo Provincial Park, it became apparent this thrilling and chilling motorsport has gained some serious traction.
Back in 2010 -- the last time we checked out the motorcycle ice races -- these winter daredevils were typically roaring around the track on a ragtag collection of older two-stroke powered dirt bikes. More than a few of the bikes were seemingly held together with a combination of baling wire and duct tape. Nowadays, thanks to the tremendous popularity of four-stroke dirt bikes, things may not be as loud, but take my word for it, they are much faster.
Make no mistake about it, ripping around an icy track on a motorcycle is not for everyone. In fact, the majority of the more than 30 riders who make up this informal group of ice demons are seasoned racers who compete in motocross, road racing and motorcycle enduro events throughout the summer months.
Out on the lake, traction is achieved via specialized metal studs called Kold Kutters that are carefully drilled into knobby tires. Pre-load is taken out of the rear suspension for better handling in the corners. Carburetors have to be rejetted to compensate for the cold temperature.
The bikes are newer and the track is longer, but one thing has remained constant: Kim Houde, a former Canadian motocross champion and Manitoba's most celebrated rider, is still the one to watch on the track.
Houde's birth certificate reveals he's …
Ask anyone in the auto business and they'll tell you that the month of December can be painfully slow. When the Christmas decorations get dusted off for another festive season, sales typically begin to stall and don't gain traction again until the New Year.
If you're like me, this sounds like the perfect time to unleash your inner-Winnipegger and strike the deal of the century. Thanks to incentives that include reduced or non-existent interest rates, special holiday pricing and even cash-back, purchasing a new vehicle during the holiday season seems downright sensible.
As an added bonus you get to chauffeur family and friends around during the holidays in your shiny new ride.
To help make your Christmas car-shopping experience even easier, the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, better known as AJAC, has just released its 12 "Best New" 2014 vehicle category winners.
The category winners grabbed the most votes recently at Test Fest in Niagara Falls, where 80 automobile journalists from across Canada subjected the finalist vehicles to five days of comprehensive evaluations. To be eligible, the vehicles had to be either brand-new or significantly changed.
Now, if you're shopping for me, there are a pair of vehicles on this year's list that would suit me fine. The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is, in my humble opinion, the sweetest Corvette since 1963. It combines a hint of nostalgia with generous helpings of modern technology, all wrapped up in a swoopy and ultra-sexy package.
Granted, it would have to sit in my garage for the next five …
The other night, I looked down at the blood pouring from my greasy knuckles and smiled.
"This heater core, it will not win," I said to myself. "If I have to fire up my torch and cut this entire frigging truck in half to get it out, I'm prepared to do that."
Thankfully, it didn't come to that. There will, after all, be heat this winter in my Chevy.
Busting up my knuckles may seem like a terrible way to spend a perfectly good Friday night. But for me, and any of you other fellow gearheads out there, with another long winter looming it's a sure bet you're looking forward to some quality garage time.
As I looked down at my bloody knuckles, I thought of my dad's best friend, Eddie Borsboom, and I grinned with the knowledge that he'd be proud of me.
My father Dave, and Eddie, they're both gone. But every time I'm working in the shop, late at night, with an aching back and a vengeful vehicle, I know they're around, laughing at me.
The story starts way back in the early 60s. Eddie was the night mechanic at Warren's Corner, a service station near the site of the Mint in Windsor Park. My dad drove a souped-up Oldsmobile, and so did Eddie. A lifelong friendship was forged.
Eddie was the kind of guy my dad surely wanted to be. Long and lean, with thick black hair and a deep tan. Eddie was one cool dude. My dad always said that Eddie could …
Every spring when the Manitoba Street Rod Association (MSRA) hosts its annual Rondex Rodarama car show at the East End Arena in Transcona, a pile of great prizes are given away by the event's many sponsors.
At this year's show, Ralph Thomas -- a member of the MSRA since the early '90s and the owner of a stunning 1930 Model A Ford coupe -- was the lucky winner of a dynomometer (dyno) session at Dragmart Performance at 1248 Main St.
Dave Rogers, the owner of Dragmart, purchased the company's Mustang-brand dynomometer in 2008 and has since put hundreds of local cars and trucks through the paces. Dragmart's Eddy-current dynomometer, a unit valued at more than $115,000, utilizes an electrically conductive core moving across a magnetic field to produce resistance.
In addition to being curious about how much horsepower his car's engine makes, Thomas also wanted to help sort out why the engine was running rich with fuel and suffering from poor fuel economy.
"It's just a stock GM crate-350 motor so it didn't put much strain on their dyno," said Thomas. "It made 200 horsepower at the rear wheels, and an estimated 260 horsepower at the flywheel."
After running the car on the dyno, Rogers offered Thomas a few simple solutions to improve the car's performance and fuel economy.
"I'd been meaning to swap out the intake and distributor anyway, but the dyno gave me the nudge to do it," said Thomas, who purchased a new Edelbrock dual-plane intake manifold and a Pertronix distributor. Thomas installed …
As I rumbled around a sweeping turn aboard my Harley-Davidson Road King, a dark figure emerged in the foggy distance. While easing off the throttle, my initial though was it must be a deer, but, as I grew closer it appeared to be a large bird, a really large bird. "Wow, that's the biggest hawk I've ever seen," I thought as I drew closer.
Then, in an instant, it happened. With the kind of grace reserved only for the animal kingdom, a massive bald eagle, dining on what appeared to be the remains of a fox, made two quick steps, spread his impressive wings and soared away.
Make no mistake about it, the Ottawa National Forest in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a magical place.
It was early in the morning and I was riding alone along the winding road that is carved through the forest on my way home from Milwaukee and Harley-Davidson's 110th anniversary party.
Maybe it was the sighting of the eagle eating that made my stomach grumble. Moments later, I rolled into the tiny town of Watersmeet, Mich., and found Big Mama's CafÃ©.
Since my own mother wasn't around to caution me otherwise, I opted for Big Mama's big breakfast, eggs, bacon, hash browns and biscuits smothered in gravy.
With a meal fit for a king under my loosened belt, I walked out into the fresh Michigan morning and lit a smoke. An old dude was checking out my Road King. He was the kind of old I'll probably never get, …
My how time flies! Throughout the summer the Grant Park Pony Corral Restaurant has been celebrating 25 great years as the city's favourite destination for classic and special-interest vehicle owners and the many fans of these cherished time machines.
The Pony's Sunday-night cruise event revved up for the first time way back in 1988 when members of the Manitoba Street Rod Association (MSRA) hosted a casual show and shine. The event has since grown to become one of the oldest and largest gatherings of classic and special-interest vehicles in the entire country.
Every Sunday from spring through fall, the Pony Corral parking lot is packed with an amazing offering of vehicles representing every genre in motordom. It is not uncommon to spot a shiny new Lamborghini parked alongside a vintage Mustang. The owners of these vehicles are always happy to share the finest details surrounding their fine rides. The weekly event was previously held at the Pony Corral's former Pembina Highway location, but in 2006 it moved to the Grant Park location, an area that has proven to be the perfect destination for a Sunday night cruise. In addition to its central location with a massive parking lot, the Pony also features a huge outdoor patio and a capable crew of seasoned staff and volunteers.
Sunday night cruising isn't just about the cars, it's a great place to catch up with old friends and make a few new ones. There's just something about the atmosphere that brings out the friendly neighbor in all …
We roll out of Harley-Davidson Winnipeg on a sunny Tuesday morning in a cavalcade of chrome, 20 bikes deep.
Old men with grey beards and tattoos older than dirt ride alongside young men who question whether they have the fortitude to keep up. Later that day, under a hot afternoon sun, the traffic parts like the Red Sea as we roll through small towns. Our American brethren, young and old, wave and jump for joy at the spectacle that we've become. Smiling ladies at roadside gas stations and diners ask if they can chuck it all and come along for the ride.
Amid the cheers of triumph, a rumbling V-twin engine roars between my legs and reminds me that I'm lucky to be here.
Yep, I drank the Harley-Davidson Kool-Aid, and it's the sweetest elixir I've ever sipped. Every wound, every scar, every pain that has ever dragged me down is magically eradicated from mind and body as I roll toward the Mecca that is Milwaukee.
2013 marks the 110th anniversary of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company and, to commemorate the event, the city of Milwaukee rolled out the red carpet on the Labour Day long weekend for tens of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts who came from across the U.S., Canada, Europe and even as far away as China, India and Russia to join in the festivities.
Located on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan. Milwaukee is the largest city in the state of Wisconsin, home to almost 600,000 people. The first Europeans to pass through …
While the long weekend offered so many great car- and motorcycle-related events that it was tough to decide which ones to attend, Cousin Mikey and I finally opted to head west on Saturday to the Super Run car show in Brandon.
The streets of Brandon were humming with hot rods when we arrived early Saturday afternoon, making the Wheat City feel like a scaled-down version of Minnesota's annual Back to the Fifties car show.
Super Run took place on both Saturday and Sunday on the grounds of the Keystone Centre. Although it's typically used for hockey games and horse-trading, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better venue for a car show. The grounds were picture-perfect and featured a nice combination of blacktop parking and lots of green space where cruisers parked on the grass under shady trees.
There was also a great all-day swap-meet Saturday. Judging by the lofty prices some folks were asking for their junk, the Canadian Pickers had already rolled through. But I did manage to buy a perfect, vintage Firestone tire ashtray to add to my growing collection.
Though just two hours west of Winnipeg, the event attracted a great offering of show vehicles from Saskatchewan, Alberta and even B.C. A few of our neighbours to the south also crossed the border to show off their cool rides. With more than 500 vehicles on display, it was tough to pick favourites, but a few really caught my eye.
Garry Reid from Souris made the 30-minute cruise to Brandon in his …
Every time I hear about a motorcycle-related fatality, it hits me like a hammer to the heart.
Most of my friends ride bikes and, as it turned out, I knew three of the five riders who lost their lives last month, all in one deadly weekend.
After the shock had eased, and the celebrations of their lives had concluded, I couldn't help but begin to have questions about my own life, and how it would really suck if it ended in the near future.
I've been blessed with a great family, amazing friends and a great job. I have more toys than I know what to do with, and my health for the most part (despite my best efforts to erode it) has been stellar.
Yet, on the very same day one of my friends and the love of his life were buried, there I was barrelling down the highway on a massive Harley-Davidson.
On the surface it may seem that those of us who choose to ride are borderline suicidal. We also might appear to be more than a little selfish -- making our loved ones worry about us for no good reason other than our own personal gratification.
In this time of reflection, I imagined my life without motorcycles. Maybe I should sell off the 15 or so bikes I own, and burn the piles of helmets, riding gear, T-shirts, magazines, die-cast models and posters that surround me. Delete all my riding buddies' numbers from my phone, un-friend my biker pals on Facebook and …