By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario -- March 30, 2017 -- In this week’s Friday Fun we hear about a shop owner who allegedly tried to steal a dead customer’s car, police in Italy foil a plot to steal the body of the original Ferrari (the man, not the car), why Highway 401 in Toronto is a bad place for an exhibition of motorcycle tricks and much, much more!
- From the “better them than me” file: The owner of a US autobody shop has been charged with 12 felony counts for, “… hiding a dead man’s Porsche from his family and taking ownership of the car.” An eight-month investigation by the local police department led to the arrest. The backstory: “In 2012, a man dropped off his 1978 Porsche 911 at the New Windsor business for repairs. While the car was in for repairs, the Porsche’s owner unexpectedly died,” according to a local news report.
“During this time, the original owner’s wife, who [the shop owner] knew, was looking for the Porsche. [The owner] is accused of purposely keeping the vehicle from the owner’s spouse, the administrator of her husband’s estate, so he could take ownership of it … It wasn’t until last summer that the vehicle’s whereabouts were discovered and … the fraudulent activity was revealed, police say.” The Porsche was found in a garage at the shop owner’s home.
- Another weird story involving a deceased person, this time from Italy: According to a report on Automotive News, “Italian investigators said on Tuesday they had foiled a plot to steal the body of legendary Formula One racing pioneer Enzo Ferrari and demand a ransom.” Ferrari died in 1988 at the age of 90. The report claims that, “Police in Nuoro on the island of Sardinia told a news conference they suspected that a gang had planned to demand a ransom from the Ferrari family or company after spiriting away the body … They gave no further details about the plot but said it was discovered during an investigation into arms and drug trafficking that led to a number of arrests … Ferrari is buried in an above-ground family tomb in the San Cataldo cemetery in Modena, near the Ferrari plant at Maranello in central Italy.”
- A fire in Alberta consumed over, “$3 million worth of vintage cars, collectibles, and restored farm machinery,” in a warehouse fire in Olds. The local newspaper reports that, “Just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, members of the Olds Fire Department were called to a rural location north of Olds on Range Road 14 where they found a large structure completely engulfed in smoke and flame … In a statement, the Olds Fire Department said the 40,000-square-foot building was a shop that housed a collection of 'vintage and one-of-a-kind automobiles, restored farm machinery, and collectibles'.”
- In British Columbia, not far from Kamloops (near Salmon Arm on Shuswap Lake) a landowner is offering his entire estate and all of its contents—including approximately 340 vintage vehicles—for just $1.45 million. The sale has been reported on several different auto industry sites. And no wonder. “The successful buyer gets the property zoned for auto salvage, a renovated house, a 900-square-foot restoration shop, a 1,200-square-foot steel building and enough steel beams and rafters to build 8,000 square feet of covered space … [and] more than 340 vintage vehicles.” The owner values the cars and trucks at, “anywhere from $500 to $35,000 each.” The owner of the property was quoted as saying he started collecting the cars when he was 20. He's 60 now. “I bought more and more. It’s easy to buy them when you’re working. It’s like an addiction. With 100 cars, 200 seemed better, and now it’s well past 300,” the owner was quoted as saying.
- Also in BC this week: Mounties have arrested a suspect they think was behind an “eight-hour, 630 km shooting rampage (that) targeted large transport trucks along Highway 97.” Police received numerous calls from truck drivers reporting that windows and radiators were being shot out as they drove along the highway in the northern Interior area of the province near, “Houston, Burns Lake, Vanderhoof, Clucuz Lake, Prince George, Quesnel and 100 Mile House,” according to a report. None of the drivers reported being hurt. But police carried out a province-wide manhunt and found the suspect in Chilliwack.
- In Ontario provincial police laid charges in an incident that took place on a highway last summer. A group of aggressive motorcycle drivers in the Toronto area were doing tricks along the 401 last July. They slowed traffic to do so. The fun ended when one of the motorcycles slammed into the back of a truck. The group did it again in September. They slowed traffic so some in the group could do tricks. The second time a road rage incident flared up (obviously). According to a report, “A female passenger in the car was assaulted … The driver of the car fled the scene and was chased by the riders before crashing in Mississauga, Ont.” This week police executed six search warrants, “at several locations throughout the Toronto area, seizing four motorcycles and arresting five people.”
- Incentives on vehicle sales in the US are back and bigger than ever. According to a report General Motors is offering an average of about $5,125 per unit in incentives. “That's apparently what it took to get its sales to rise 4% year over year,” according to the report. “Ford, which has been priding itself in its 'disciplined approach' to incentives, spent over a grand less, $4,011 on average, and its sales declined 4%.” These are averages. In the case of GM some vehicles have a $10,000 incentive applied to the sticker price.
- A recent article notes that, “Volkswagen is about to sell diesel vehicles for the first time in the US since its emissions scandal broke in 2015.” According to the report, “The automaker has received the EPA's blessing to sell 2015 diesel models that have been updated with new hardware and anti-pollution software ...”
- A Toronto-area law firm called Diamond & Diamond, “known for its flashy, US-style advertising,” was the subject of some very negative press earlier this year when it emerged that the company hired lawyers from other firms to take on its cases. The firm does a lot of car accident cases. But the firm's lawyers rarely show up in court. They get other lawyers to do the work and only do advertising while collecting cases and taking a cut of winnings. Now it seems the firm has just hired a PR agency to lobby against a new bill that calls for a, “major restructuring of Ontario’s contingency fee system — 'you don’t pay unless we win' — including a dramatic curb on how much lawyers can charge for their services.”
A Liberal MPP introduced the Personal Injury and Accident Victims Protection Act into the Ontario legislature. Now Diamond & Diamond has hired public affairs firm, the CCS Group, to lobby against the bill.
- As soon as you get a handle on one type of material, someone has to go and invent another one. An auto parts supplier is demonstrating a “plastic-metal hybrid product” produced using resins at this year's VDI Plastics in Automotive Engineering Congress in Mannheim, Germany. A plastic-metal hybrid “floor rocker reinforcement, for instance, can help reduce weight by up to 45 percent compared with a steel alternative,” according to a report.
- The Ontario government has missed on its promise to roll out 485 electric car charging stations this year. The government had promised to have them all up and juiced by March of this year. A Ministry of Transportation spokesperson admitted to the Globe and Mail this week they've only managed to get about two-thirds of the stations up and running. The spokesperson, “… said the charging network delays are due to various challenging 'site conditions' faced by the companies and their contractors installing the stations. Although the chargers are provincially funded, responsibility for building them lies with 24 contractors who won grants for the installations at various sites, including retail centres and fast-food outlets such as McDonald’s and Tim Hortons restaurants along Ontario’s highways.”
- A French cabinetmaker recently finished a wooden replica of a Citroen 2CV. A pensioner, Michel Robillard, took six years to complete the car, which is made out of apple, pear and cherry wood. “The undulating hood was carved out of a single block,” according to a report. The “two-horsepower” car was launched in 1948 as an answer to the Volkswagen Beetle. The wooden vehicle, “is equipped with an original engine from Citroen's later 3CV model, giving it the extra power needed to propel the naturally heavier wooden structure … The car's wooden frame is protected from the heat of the engine with a layer of insulation … Besides the engine, the vehicle's metal frame, wheels and headlights are the only parts the bearded Frenchman did not make himself.” The carpenter was quoted as saying, "The hubcaps are made out of wood, just like the car's seats, which come with comfortable pillows." According to the report, “The vehicle has yet to pass its technical inspection, but it has already caught the attention of prospective buyers.”