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Willy's Garage with Paul Williamson

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Mazda finally joins the luxury crowd

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Mazda's CX-9 may not officially have luxury status, but with its posh interior, crisp handling and sexy styling you would never know it.

Honda has Acura, Nissan has Infiniti and Toyota has Lexus. These spinoff brands have elevated Japanese automobiles to equal, and in many cases higher, status than even the finest offerings from the likes of Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Cadillac.

Posh interiors, smooth powertrains and curb appeal out the wazoo are hallmarks of these luxury Japanese cruisers.

Mazda, meanwhile, continues to chug along as the only Japanese automaker without a luxury brand.

If you ask me, all that changed with the release of the 2016 Mazda CX-9. Our tester, decked out in Signature trim, quickly had me checking off all the boxes required to achieve …

TestFest to reveal the best

Canadian Car of the Year competition getting ready to fire on all cylinders


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"The awards offer consumers a uniquely Canadian view into how well a vehicle is suited for life in this country," said AJAC TestFest co-chair Gary Grant, who calls Whitby, Ontario home.

It’s that time of year again, folks: time for the Canadian Car of the Year (CCOTY) awards program.

Held in Bowmanville, Ont., at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, the five-day event, known in the automotive industry as TestFest, has been running full-throttle since Monday and brings Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) members from across the country together to evaluate and grade 2017 models that are either all new or significantly redesigned for the model year.

Free Press Autos writers and TestFest veterans Kelly Taylor and Haney Louka arrived in Ontario on Monday and have been testing vehicles all week.

While testing new vehicles …

Second chance

After an accident left his rebuilt 1955 GMC truck as a write-off, Jean-Marc Lacasse went back to the drawing board

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Photos by Larry D'Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

For 1955, GMC and Chevrolet had planned to introduce an entirely new truck. Confronted with delays and problems, there was no way to get all of the product revisions completed in time for the fall introduction of 1954. A decision was made to postpone the release of the all-new trucks until the spring of 1955. The 1st series offered the familiar 1954 styling, but with advance-design styling, finish and engineering. By mid-year, the dramatic new styling of the 2nd series was available. It featured a dual bar grille and hooded headlamps, accompanied by a hefty bumper with circular guards that …

It's time to put old prejudices to rest

Manitobans should be careful not to paint all American hunters with the same brush

With the World Cup of Hockey set to begin, we Canadians are about to undertake one of our favourite pastimes — hating on Americans.

That’s all in good fun when it comes to hockey rivalries, but it’s a more serious issue when it comes to welcoming American visitors to our country, which can be an especially prickly subject come hunting season.

Hunters and anglers from south of the border have been coming to Manitoba for nearly as long as Manitoba has been around. Our close proximity to the U.S., combined with our pristine wilderness and healthy game populations, have long attracted outdoors …

The Toyota that isn't really a Toyota

The Yaris Sedan has the parts -- and the feel -- of a Mazda

One of the most common automotive journalist complaints is that carmakers, eager to impress, offer out models loaded to the nines. Lost in the leather, dual-zone climate control, heads-up display and satellite radio is a sense of what the car really will be like for the average buyer.

That wasn’t an issue with the Toyota Yaris Sedan I’m driving, which was as standard as they come, save for the automatic transmission. I was given a refreshing look at the basic model, warts and all.

First, a refresher on this Toyota that isn’t really a Toyota: The story begins after the 2011 Tohoku …

Rag doll

Mustang convertible a reliable, stylish summer cruiser

When Ford introduced the Mustang in New York at the World’s Fair in April 1964 as a 1965 model, it had more than just a hunch the car would be a marketing success.

The failure of the Edsel led Ford to be more reactionary in its vehicle introductions and with the influx of new youth buyers, it needed a game changer.

Mustang had to meet the market in a hurry and based on the successful Ford Falcon, it’s uni-body chassis and economical components helped bring the car in at a reasonable cost. The long hood and short rear deck styling often associated …

Worn distributor bushings may be the culprit

Question: I took my 1966 Dodge Charger classic car out of storage for the summer, and it isn’t running very well. It has a 318-cubic-inch V-8 engine with two-barrel carb and an automatic transmission. A friend rebuilt the carburetor, and that seems to be working fine, but it idles rough. I have changed spark plugs, plug wires and distributor cap, but when I go to set the engine ignition timing, the marks keep bouncing around. I don’t know what to do to fix it, and most garages around only work on newer vehicles. The car is all-original. Can you suggest …

Tundra TRD Pro worth every penny

On the surface, adding $15,000 in options to a $42,000 truck may seem ludicrous. But to a small percentage of truck guys that’s just a drop in the bucket.

Those big trucks you see cruising around with suspension lifts, beefy tires, pumping sound systems and a throaty exhaust note aren’t cheap.

That suspension lift, along with a good set of shocks can easily cost in the neighbourhood of $5,000. Throw in another $3,000 for decent alloy rims wrapped in rubber, add another $2,000 to upgrade the stereo. Expect to spend another $2,000 to get that exhaust sounding just right and properly tuned …

Motorcycle Ride for Dad rolls tomorrow

This year marks the eighth for the Motorcycle Ride for Dad in Manitoba, with more than $1 million raised for prostate cancer research and awareness in the province. The event gets bigger each year as more and more Manitobans join the fight. Nationally, more than 300,000 men, women and children have raised more than $18 million to help fight prostate cancer since 2000.

The Motorcycle Ride for Dad is led by a national advisory board, the Canadian Police Association, and volunteer executive committees in each of the event cities. The Manitoba Ride for Dad committee includes members of the Winnipeg Police …

Riding to remember

Motorcycle Ride for Dad ready to roll next Saturday

Unless you’ve been hiding in the garage for the better part of the past decade, you’ve surely heard of the Ride for Dad — an annual fundraiser in which motorcyclists raise money through pledges for prostate cancer research and education.

For the past few months, local folks from all walks of life have been gathering pledges for the cause. Next Saturday, more than 1,000 participants riding every make and model of motorcycle imaginable will join a police-escorted parade down Portage Avenue and then enjoy a scenic poker run to Gimli before making the return trip to Winnipeg.

The local leg of the …