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Willy's Garage with Paul Williamson

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Riding for a reason

Ride for the Breath of Life is an annual motorcycle event in support of Cystic Fibrosis Canada. Riders from all backgrounds participate in rides that take place all across Canada throughout the summer months.

Funds raised by participants of the Ride for the Breath of Life support life-changing cystic fibrosis research, clinical care and advocacy. This support has resulted in outstanding progress in the quality of life for Canadians with cystic fibrosis.

The local leg of the Ride for the Breath of Life will take place this Saturday and departs from the Flying J truck stop in Headingley. Registration is from 9:30-10:30 a.m. This year the ride will make stops in Carman, at Gaslight Harley-Davidson in Morden and at Morris. The day features poker hands, breakfast, a barbecue at the end of the ride, a silent auction and 50/50 draw. Registration is $25 per rider. For further information please contact: …

Flying high, AGAIN

Cruising season is finally here!

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This spectacular custom Jeep YJ, owned by Harry Kettler, has been a mainstay in the Manitoba cruising scene for several years.

The grass is green, the streets are clean, the sun is shining and MOST of the potholes have been filled. All this can mean only one thing: cruising season is finally here!

Although cruise nights at the Canad Inns Transcona and the Grant Park Pony Corral restaurant officially kicked off May 18, thanks to cool temperatures and one rainy Sunday, local cruisers hit the streets with more of a fizzle than a bang.

All that changed last Sunday when city streets roared to life with an amazing assortment of motorcycles, muscle cars, street rods and customs cruisers.

The sun was shining so I opted to ride my Harley-Davidson Road King to the Grant Park Pony Corral for the weekly Sunday night cruise. As I rolled down Main Street under the hot sun with the radio on my bike tuned to Power97 and the soothing sounds of Ozzy Osbourne's Flying High Again blaring through the speakers, a bright red '69 Camaro pulled up beside me with Ozzy bellowing at an even louder volume. As I looked over at the driver we both gave one another the thumbs up at precisely the same moment and then we both broke into laughter, maniacal laughter that carried on for far too long. Cabin fever will do that to a guy, and you sure don't need me to remind you of the atrocity that was last winter.

Nope, from here on in it's all about seeing and being seen in the greatest cruising scene this vast nation has to …

Wheels in motion

Ride for Dad rolls next Saturday

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Ed Johner, a prostate cancer survivor and Ride for Dad spokesperson, says a simple three-minute test can save your life.

One of the greatest things about riding a motorcycle is sharing the experience with friends and family. Next Saturday, May 24, more than 1,000 local motorcycle enthusiasts will band together for the sixth annual Manitoba Motorcycle Ride for Dad in support of prostate cancer research and education. To date, the local leg of this national event has raised more than $560,000, with all proceeds staying right here in Manitoba.

The first Ride for Dad took place in Ottawa in 2000 and has since grown to become the biggest motorcycle fundraising event of its kind. This year, local volunteer committees will organize annual Ride for Dad events in more than 30 Canadian cities.

The first Manitoba ride took place in 2009 when 487 riders raised $69,000 in support of prostate cancer research and education. In recent years, thanks in large part to former Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicking legend and public-relations guru Trevor Kennerd, who is in charge of promoting the ride, the annual event has been kicked into high gear.

The 2013 Manitoba Motorcycle Ride for Dad was the most successful to date, with 1,002 registered riders helping to raise more than $225,000 to fight prostate cancer. Nationally, more than 265,000 men, women and children have raised nearly $10 million to fight prostate cancer.

The Motorcycle Ride for Dad is spearheaded by the Winnipeg Police Association, and the organizing committee is led by veteran police officers and all-around great guys Kirk Van Alstyne and Moe Sabourin. Registered riders, donors, volunteers and sponsors come from all …

Start your engines

MSRA's Rodarama car show brings the heat

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Last week, Willy wrongly identified Drew McRae's 1956 Ford Customline as a 1958 model. Rest assured he took his lumps for the blunder throughout the weekend at the Rodarama car show. Willy is reasonably certain this black beauty, owned by David Gray of Harley-Davidson Winnipeg, is a 1953 Ford.

Transcona was the place to be last weekend when the Manitoba Street Rod Association hosted its 15th annual Rondex Rodarama car show at the East End Arena.

More than 100 classic and special-interest vehicles packed both of the arena's ice surfaces. While Rondex Rodarama may lack the glitz and star power of Piston Ring's annual World of Wheels, the quality of the vehicles on display at the MSRA show is always top-notch.

When the awards were presented on Sunday, Julius Eugene took home best-of-show honours and best street rod (1935-1948) for his stunning 1941 Ford Coupe. Built right here in Manitoba, this beauty is among the nicest cars in the country. Eugene credits SanDale Fabrication with transforming his old Ford into the rolling masterpiece it has become.

Thanks to the MSRA members who volunteer their time, the vendors who service and support the hobby, the dedicated auto buffs who built and displayed their amazing vehicles and the thousands of spectators who took a step back in time to enjoy the show, the 15th annual Rondex Rodarama proves yet again that Winnipeg is the cruising capital of Canada!

 

2014 Rondex Rodarama Car Show Awards

(First Place awards sponsored by Outboard Rebore Alline Supply. Second Place awards sponsored by South Beach Casino & Resort.)

 

Street Rod (1934 & older)

1st Place: Ron Sweeney, 1932 Ford 5 window coupe

2nd Place: Duane Evans, 1932 Ford 3 window coupe

 

Street Rod (1935 - 1948)

1st Place: Julius Eugene, 1941 Ford Coupe

2nd Place: Larry Hosaluk, 1936 Nash 400 Deluxe

 

Classic Restored (25 years & older)

1st Place: …

Rink rat

Rondex Rodarama show goes this weekend at East End Arena

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Drew McRae with his 1958 Ford Customline. McRae's car will be on display alongside more than 100 local classic and special interest vehicles this weekend at the MSRA's annual Rondex Rodarama.

This weekend, Drew McRae's 1958 Ford Customline will be on display alongside more than a hundred classic and special-interest vehicles at the Manitoba Street Rod Association's 15th annual Rondex Rodarama car show, being held Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the East End Arena in Transcona.

The 24-year-old McRae can be forgiven for having only faint memories of the first big indoor show the MSRA put on way back in the spring of 1999 -- he was only nine.

"For pretty much as long as I can remember, Rodarama has been my favourite car show," said McRae, who lives in Transcona and is the son of local auto buffs Tim and Jo McRae. "There's just something about the atmosphere inside the arena that makes the old cars look amazing, and everyone is always super-friendly. It's the perfect way to kick off the car-show season."

The countless hours McRae has spent getting his old Ford ready for the annual show is a true testament to just how hard MSRA members have worked to not only preserve the old-car hobby, but also to make it appealing to a younger demographic.

I've known Drew McRae since he was a kid, watching as his interest in vehicles has shifted from import-tuner cars to old iron. McRae bought his '58 Ford a couple of years back from another local auto buff, John Ducharme. The car was complete but needed some serious rust repair. With help from his dad and a few friends, the car was brought back to life …

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 …

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 …

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