Monday, March 28, 2011

Here, speeder, speeder. A look at police vehicles, past and present

Police cars have the distinction of being among the most important vehicles on the road, as well as some of the least respected.

Behind the scenes, the men and women behind the wheels of these rolling billboards of law and order are putting their lives on the line everyday to keep the world safe from killers, thieves, and other miscreants. We’d live in a pretty rough world without their service.

More visible, at least to the public, is the police car during traffic enforcement duty. The last thing we need are drivers thinking they can recklessly bomb thorough residential neighborhoods with no regards for the safety of others, and to that end, this is also an important function of the police car. Of course, that noble service can get muddled a bit when you see one of these cars hiding at the bottom of a hill on a lightly traveled roadway, nabbing people that venture five-miles-per-hour over the posted speed limit.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Unusual classic car auction sparks impromptu office field trip to Merriam

A couple of co-workers and I were sitting in our little Overland Park cubicles Friday morning, minding our own business, when we heard of some carbon monoxide contamination over in Merriam. And sure enough, we followed the colorless, odorless cloud to the normally vacant Merriam Plaza, where First West Auction Company was holding an antique, collectible, and classic car sale in the stillborn Circuit City building.

It was actually a pretty fun little field trip. There were a couple dozen interesting cars on display. Some of them were really awful, but there were a few that were surprisingly incredible.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vintage car toy ads. What to buy for the kids in your life. Or maybe your kids at heart

Why do you like old cars?  Maybe it's because you were influenced by someone; parents or grandparents.  Maybe it was a natural instinct--your heart told you you cars were good, and you believed it. 

But for some folks, automotive passion came from playing with toy cars as a kid.  And why not?  It's pretty hard to resist the lure of a cool little diecast, painted in an irredescent color, ready to follow your every command.  There are no traffic laws on your bedroom carpet.  It's just pedal to the metal, as fast as your little arm will take it.

I know I used to love playing cars.  I had various sizes, so I could play with a different set of cars depending on how the mood struck me.  Big cars were 1/25th-scale, so I could usually fit in a model or the rare large diecast in those chases.  Medium cars were somewhere around 1/43rd-scale.  There weren't as many of those, but they were still cool as something different.  And of course, the 1/64th-scale Hot Wheels/Matchbox-sized cars were the favorites.  That's mainly because they were the easiest to come by, and you could have lots more cars in a much smaller space.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mecum Indy event offers rare chance to see 1953 Fiesta, Eldorado, Skylark, and Corvette all in one place

I’ve mentioned before that I think 1953 was the ultimate year in General Motors history. Never mind that it was twenty years before I was even born. The products, legacy, and accomplishments from that year speak for themselves.

But you can’t really get the full impact of just what GM was able to produce just by reading things. You really need to experience the crown jewels of the 1953 GM lineup firsthand. The Mecum Spring Classic Auction in Indianapolis is providing a rare, rare opportunity to do just that. Crossing the block will be the ultimate quartet of GM’s most ambitious and sought-after cars; a 1953 Chevrolet Corvette, a 1953 Cadillac Eldorado, a 1953 Buick Skylark, and a 1953 Oldsmobile Fiesta.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Feed your need for scale speed at RS Diecast and Collectibles in car-crazy downtown Belton

RS Diecast Racing and Collectibles is one of the last of its kind in KC

Just a few years ago, NASCAR and collector car diecast stores seemed to be everywhere. Independence Center, the Great Mall, even Crown Center all had their own dedicated shops, and there were probably a half-dozen independents around town as well.

Today, these stores are few-and-far between. But if you're looking for a good one, look no further than RS Diecast Racing and Collectibles in Historic Downtown Belton, Mo. Owner Richard Smith will be happy to show you his extensive selection of common, and not so common model cars from the world of NASCAR, short tracks, muscle cars, and classics.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Promote 2011 Kansas City-area car shows, cruises, and races to a large group or readers for free. It's as simple as sending an e-mail

Well, we’re getting very close to car show and racing season here in Kansas City. It has been so nice out a couple of times now that it seems like we should already be having some cruises!

I try to post upcoming car shows, car cruises, swap meets, and car races on a weekly basis either here on the Hover Motor Company blog or on my Examiner page throughout the summer. But I need your help!

If you know of a car event anywhere near the Kansas City metro area, you need to let me know about it so I can include it on the calendar. I know about a lot of them, and I pick up flyers when I’m out and about, but I certainly don’t know about all of them unless someone tells me.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Did you hear that 2011 marks Chevrolet's 100th anniversary? No? Well, let's take care of that right now.

2011 marks the 100th anniversary of Chevrolet. I’m not sure how many people know that. I mean, I’m a Chevrolet nut, I try to stay relatively informed, and I really haven’t seen or heard very much about this.

The biggest public acknowledgement of this centennial seems to have been at a press conference at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit earlier this year. I was there. It wasn’t that big. There was a pretty nice video that played before the press conference (that few people in attendance even paid attention to), and they offered free beer to journalists. Otherwise, they introduced a couple variations of the new Aveo replacement Sonic. Happy frickin’ birthday.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Like Harry Hogge said, "There's nothing stock about a stock car."

“They ought to do it like the old days—just weld a roll bar in a stock vehicle and let the best car win!”

You hear that from people all the time. “There’s nothing stock about a stock car.” “Why do they even bother to call them Fords and Chevys?” And on. And on.

Back in the early days of NASCAR, stock cars really were just that—stock. Competitors would often drive their race car to the track, participate in the event, and drive it to work the next day. The biggest modification may have been removing the hubcaps.

But it wasn’t all perfect in stock car land. Drivers regularly suffered serious injuries and death. The cars were difficult to handle at speed. And even at that, they weren’t going as fast as the risks may indicate. Sure, those old news reels of the early days of NASCAR are great to watch now, but let’s consider what America’s number-one motorsport would be like if it followed the same formula today.

Assuming NASCAR could even regulate the technical aspects of a modern computer-controlled, technologically-advanced vehicle, it would be hard to imagine the close, fast racing we have today.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Green hybrids. Cars that run on both corned beef and cabbage

This is the age of green cars. Hybrid, flex-fuel, hydrogen, and electric. Minimum comfort and space for maximum miles-per-gallon. Save the dinosaurs!


Around here, green cars are, well, green. They’re hot rods, lead sleds, muscle cars, and trucks. They’re what you drive when you love what you drive. The old ones really are green, because they haven’t burned through any new resources or energy associated with their construction since they were new.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

It's fun to look around the Mecum Spring Collector Car Auction, even if you can't afford anything

An event like the Mecum Spring Auction inside Kansas City's Bartle Hall attracts people for a couple of different reasons.

First and foremost, it is a sale. The goal is to sell vintage cars and trucks. And they were doing a pretty good job of that. Two cars sold for well over $150,000, including a fantastic, original '65 Corvette Roadster with a rare 396-c.i. big block that fetched a healthy final price of $188,000. 

In fact, six of the top ten sellers were Midyear Corvettes. So if you love those cars, and honestly, who doesn't, Downtown Kansas City was the place to be.  And it all took place on live, national television on the Discovery Channel's HD Theatre.
But some people don't have thousands and thousands of dollars to purchase their dream car. I walk among them. And for us, the reason to attend this event is that it is one strong car show.

The cars at the CARB Race On Car Show at the Snake Saturday Festival and Parade were nice. Maybe too nice.

Like clockwork, the CARB Race-On Car Show at the Snake Saturday Parade in North Kansas City is the first glimpse of the new season's race cars, all on display in once place. Rows of shiny, straight, clean, perfect Modifieds and Late Models sit quietly in neat little rows, while families with kids and strollers admire them in their St. Patrick's Day green.

And as someone who parks at the back of the lot to avoid door dings, it always gets me that these guys are willing to take these beautifully constructed and painted machines and tear the hell out of them driving around a mud bowl. How do they do it? It would drive me absolutely crazy. I'd make a horrible racer, and not because I would worry about getting hurt. I just couldn't stand beating up my car!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Weird wonders. Cars that make you go, "hmm"

Sometimes, you’ll look at a car and say to yourself, “what the deuce?!”

Anyone who believes car shows are all ’57 Chevys and ’69 Camaros aren’t really paying attention. Sure, you’re going to see the old stand-bys, but most every gathering of vintage iron is going to have at least one completely off-the-wall, extraordinarily unusual ride. Bizarre? Perhaps. Creative? Definitely.

Today, we celebrate that alternative world. These are cars that you would never think you want, but you just can’t help but be attracted to them. These are the freaks—microcars, radical rats, shorties, home-built haulers—cars that are wonderfully comfortable in their own skins. They are nerdmobiles, but they’re too cool to know it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Just an old car. All original 1961 Corvette is regularly driven and enjoyed by the same owner for more than 30 years

Editor's note:  This article may seem strange for this blog, because it's written in third-person even though it is obviously about my dad and his Corvette.  That's because I originally wrote it for a magazine.  But before it could get published, the magazine went out of production.  I thought it was a pretty good story anyway, so I didn't want it to go to waste.

Also, the article mentions the connection with this Corvette and the Omaha Tangier Shriner Corvette Patrol.  I am currently working on a new story about that organization, and have some great pictures that I'll share in the neat future, so stay tuned!

For many years, Jim Hover refused to take his '61 Corvette to a car show. “I hated having people tell me I should restore it,” he grouses. “This car will never be restored as long as I'm alive.”

Jim has managed to keep his Corvette original for 32 years now. That's how long ago he bought it from an Omaha, Neb., used car lot for the princely sum of $4,500. And today, the gleaming white beauty sits in pretty much the same condition as it was purchased. Far from perfect, but with a charm and history that's hard to duplicate at any cost.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

There's still some good stuff at the 2011 Kansas City International Auto Show, depending on where you look

The slogan for the 2011 Kansas City International Auto Show was "The Car is the Star." That might not be particularly original, but it seemed relatively accurate. Because when we were there Saturday morning, Bartle Hall was crammed with people, all waiting for their chance to sit in or photograph their favorite "stars."

The fact is, the auto industry ain't what it used to be. Compare this year's auto show with one from just a few years ago, and there is a decidedly different dynamic. Several manufacturers are just gone--Saturn, Hummer, Pontiac, and Mercury, to name a few. And the ones that remain don't even bother to send last year's concept car for display. Nobody wants to look like they're spending unnecessarily.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

When you visit the auto show in Kansas City this weekend, it'll be good, but there was a time when it would have been spectacular

The Kansas City International Auto Show is in Bartle Hall this weekend, and I plan to go there and take a bunch of pictures for you and post them here. And they'll be OK. Lots of clean, shiny cars. Most of them just like the ones that are already out on the roads right now.

Did you know that there have been some 2012 model-year cars and trucks available for better than a month now?

Did you know that Chevrolet's concept car this year during their 100th anniversary at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the biggest show of the year, was a slightly modified new Aveo?