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Willy's Garage with Paul Williamson

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Rating the rolling stock

Are your tires up to the challenges brought on by heat and speed?

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Carey Hull, Kal Tire's director of retail products, checks tire temperature with a handheld pyrometer. "Heat is your tire's number-one enemy," Hull said.

When the invite arrived from Kal Tire to jet off to Toronto and ride shotgun around a closed course with regular Free Press Autos contributor and advanced driver Alan Sidorov behind the wheel, my mind's eye quickly raced.

I imagined Sidorov masterfully motoring an exotic supercar around the track at blinding speeds while I gleefully squealed under a hot Ontario sun.

Turns out the reality was a much less-exciting but abundantly informative event designed to help educate drivers about one of the most important and least-understood aspects of a vehicle's safety: tire speed rating.

"Speed rating isn't just about speed," said Carey Hull, Kal Tire's director of retail products. "It's also about handling -- how your tires help your vehicle to swerve and miss a deer, or stay on a highway ramp in the rain.

"The way your tires perform in those situations could save your life. That's why we should think of tire speed rating as a tire's 'performance rating.' "

The speed ratings for tires are identified by an alphabetic code. For most passenger vehicles, the recommended rating is a letter between S and Y. This letter can be found at the end of the tire size imprinted on its sidewall. This letter indicates the maximum speed a tire can go in conjunction with a load-carrying capacity.

According to Kal Tire, speed ratings were created in the 1960s so European drivers could gauge how fast they could safely drive their vehicles without risking tire failure. Since then, they have become recognized world-wide.

The ratings indicate …

Motoring marvels

Manitoba Motorsports Hall of Fame inducts three new members

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From left, John Scheel, Ian Corbett and Reg Wood were recently inducted into the Manitoba Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Since 2006, Piston Ring's annual World of Wheels car show has been the venue for the induction of three new members to the Manitoba Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Manitoba has a rich motorsports history filled with amazing men and women who have left an unforgettable impact on the local scene.

Inductees are recognized for their outstanding devotion and contributions to motorsports in Manitoba and come from the ranks of drag racing, oval track racing, motorcycling, fabrication, customizing, the automotive industry and the street rod and hot rod communities.

This year's inductees include a legendary local motorsports dealer with the need for speed, a skilled craftsmen who has re-upholstered hundreds of made-in-Manitoba show cars and a drag racer with a pair of world records in his rolling resume.

Special recognition should be given to Don Daley; his dedication to the history of Manitoba's rich motorsports history is a big reason why the Hall of Fame has been such a tremendous success.

2014 Manitoba Motorsport Hall of Fame Inductees

Ian Corbett

IAN Corbett's passion for motorsports, both as a hobby and a career, began to burn bright in the 1960s while working for his father at Corbett Motors, a Volkswagen dealership that was founded in Headingley and later moved near Polo Park.

In the early 1970s, the family sold the dealership and started Riteway Sports, selling snowmobiles. Corbett eventually went off on his own, starting Corbett Cycle City, a motorcycle and snowmobile dealership, in 1976.

Corbett has been involved in racing snowmobiles since 1965 and has a number of …

World of WOW

Local gearheads kick off another season of showing and shining

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Bob Donnelly, left, with his 1949 Anglia. The car was restored by Dale Loewen, right, and the crew at SanDale Fabrication.

If Bob Donnelly's 1949 Anglia could talk it would surely ask the question, "What took you guys so long?"

Donnelly's freshly built hot rod was one of the many vehicles with a great story to tell on display last weekend at Piston Ring's 40th annual World of Wheels car show.

"This car has been in our family since 1954," Donnelly said. "My uncle, Lazare, from St. Lazare, Manitoba, owned Fouillard Chevrolet, Olds, Pontiac back in the '50s and he took this car in on trade back in 1954. He kept it until 1958 before selling it to a local farmer and, in 1962, that same farmer needed two tractor tires but had no money so he traded the car back to my uncle."

The Anglia ultimately wound up in a field behind his uncle's house and remained there until 1990 when Donnelly, who had been bugging his uncle since he was about 12 years old to get the car, received a call from his cousin to come and get it before it was crushed.

"My nephew, Pat Donnelly, was eight at the time and came with me to pick up the car," Donnelly recalled. "He was here at the show with his two sons and he's 32 years old now."

Donnelly and his nephew towed the car home, where it sat behind his shop until 1997. Over the years, he worked on the car in his spare time, building a frame and collecting parts.

But the project really took off a couple of years ago when …

Fast at 40

Piston Ring's World of Wheels celebrates milestone

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Supercharged Dodge Charger from "The Fast and the Furious".

The RBC Convention Centre is the place to be this weekend as the 40th annual Piston Ring World of Wheels is poised to bring us another killer carnival of classic and special-interest vehicles.

Hats off and good luck to all the local gearheads who will be displaying their cars, trucks and motorcycles. Getting a vehicle up to World of Wheels speed requires true dedication in every sense of the word.

Take a close look at the locally built vehicles on display at the show and you'll quickly agree that spending all those chilly months hidden away in garages has resulted in some of the coolest rides on the planet. In addition to the sweet variety of local machines on display, show chairman and chief car wrangler Bob Chubala has worked feverishly to bring us a killer collection of vehicles from clear across Canada and the United States. Highlights include Wild, Wild Horses, a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang, presented by Birchwood Ford, and the Muscle Car Café, presented by Ground Up Restorations.

Special 40th-anniversary exhibits will feature the cars that Hollywood made famous, notably the Fast & Furious Dodge Charger, the Mad Max Interceptor, Black Beauty from the Green Hornet, the Back to the Future Delorean and KITT from Knight Rider.

Also look for a special display presented by Hawk Auto and Truck Accessories that will feature Ruby Red anniversary color vehicles. The Cruise Night Challenge, presented by Willy's Garage, is also back again this year, showcasing a variety of …

Time travellers

Vintage sled races heat up Blumenort

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Vaughn Bergen digs in for some serious traction aboard his vintage Polaris snowmobile.

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 …

Ice, ice, baby

Local motorcycle racers heat up frozen lake

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Jason Krahn is one of the few riders still running a two-stroke dirt bike. He is also among the fastest.

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 …

The 12 rides of Christmas

Canadian auto journalists pick their 2014 favourites

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Kia Soul

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 …

Mechanical memories

Remember those who stoked your gearhead game

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Willy, on the left, back in 2006 with longtime family friend and mechanical mentor Ed Borsboom, a local car buff and all-around good guy, who passed away in 2007

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 …

Only the dyno knows

Getting your engine tested with a dynomometer is the best way to accurately determine performance

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Ralph Thomas at his well-equipped home garage.

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 …

Memory machine

Our resident rider hangs up his helmet for another winter

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Throughout the summer, Willy rode his Harley-Davidson Road King more than 12,000 kilometres.

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 Café.

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, …