Event coverage

Cops and Cars show at Collectors' Car Garage Posted on 24 May 17:32

     Last Sunday I made a somewhat spur of the moment appearance at the very first Cops and Cars show in Chicago.  It was in a familiar venue, the lot just outside of Collectors' Car Garage which hosts the monthly Rise and Drive meets as well.  However, there are some important distinctions between Rise and Drive and Cops and Cars.  For Cops & Cars, the show is a judged show, with entry fees and judges, where as Rise and Drive is a more informal meet (you can see for yourself in previous blog entries).  The proceeds from entry fees, went toward the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation's "Back the Badge" initiative.   This initiative aims to purchase new bullet proof vests for Chicago Police officers currently in the line of duty.  Believe it or not, as critical an item for an officer's safety as it may be, it is the responsibility of the individual officer to purchase his/her own vest (outside of the one they receive out of cadet training, but those wear out).  So with a good cause and major bragging rights in the balance, the cars on display were bringing the proverbial "A" game.  


     Not surprisingly, the variety on display was vast, much like what you encounter at Rise and Drive; a little of everything.   Domestics, European makes, Japanese all spanning every imaginable era from pre-WWII until present day.  The overriding theme though, was definitely a domestic flavor, old school American classics, and there were some drop dead gorgeous examples to see.


     As always, I like to highlight some of the cars I found interesting for one reason or another.  This example below I found very interesting, a pre-World War II Citroen.  Made in 1922, the Citroen 5CV Torpedo below was a genuine antique, a relic of automotive history.  Standing next to it, taking in the details, you start to realize just how far the automobile has evolved.  The overtly boat-like styling, replete with beautifully finished wood panels that terminate rearward in a pointed bow, contribute to making the car seem not like any car at all.  Seeing these antique cars next to modern examples, is almost like seeing the leap in evolution between a Tyrannosaurus and a present day sea Gull, it is hard to wrap your head around them being related at all.


     Another notable car, and one that received an award on the day, was the Volvo P1800S below.  Immediately recognizable as a 1960's design, but in the funky Swedish car way, it is distinctly different.  A front grill reminiscent of Ferrari 250GT with tail end resembling Cadillac-lite fins, and body lines that make it appear wider on top than the bottom, it definitely drew my attention.  I am not as familiar with Volvo as I'd like to be, so this car inspired a post-show Wikipedia read for me.  It was a car that almost did not exist according to Wikipedia; having production held up for one reason or another, it finally saw the streets for the first time in 1961.  It is also the first car to be recognized for record highest mileage, with over 3 million miles of non-commercial use!  Adding to it's notoriety, it was also the car driven on TV and in regular life by the recently deceased Roger Moore during his days on The Saint.  If there's one thing I like more than seeing cool cars, it is learning about new interesting cars, so thanks to the owner of this Volvo for coming out!


      A wonderful Lotus Elan +2 was on display as well.  The styling of the Elan is such that even from a block away, someone like me who is not necessarily a Lotus aficionado, could immediately recognize it as an Elan.  I love the two color design, with the body in that gorgeous deep blue, the roof and pillars dressed in a glittering silver, it works together better than one might expect.  This car would also deservedly take home an award on the day, it was probably more immaculate than when it even left the assembly line.


     If you have been following the blog for any amount of time, you probably realize I have a penchant for Japanese cars.  Especially when it comes to those of the 1980's and 90's.  So you can imagine my glee when I was greeted by a veritable herd of 1st and 2nd generation NSX's (you'll see those further down).  What drew maybe as much attention though was a couple of unusual suspects of the JDM world.  The Toyota Supra is probably the most drooled over car in it's mark IV generation of the late 90's and early 2000's.  The third generation variant below is perhaps less, or under appreciated.  The one at Cops and Cars also appears to be a Japanese import, being right hand drive.  This struck me as unique as well, as this is not a car that typically someone goes through the trouble of importing.  To see it in person though, is to understand, it was incredibly clean and the interior even was about as mint as you will ever find in a Japanese car of the 80's.  Then I noticed the decals, "Team Nostalgic", it all makes sense as these guys eat, sleep and breath vintage 80's JDM.  Incidentally, Team Nostalgic has their yearly BBQ/Car Show coming up next weekend, which I will be looking to check out this year! 


     Lastly, this Aston Martin DB MKIII was actually the first thing that drew me in.  I regret not having more shots of it.  A combination of my drooling over the car in amazement, chatting with the owner who was quite friendly and proud of the car, and it being parked in a spot that made a good angle difficult, all conspired to leave me with too few shots and none that I really felt did the car justice.  This DB was incredibly restored, as faithfully as possible save for the inclusion of a 5 speed transmission that is far less problematic than the Aston gearbox it originally came with.  The interior, a decadent maroon leather so supple and soft in appearance, it's contrast with the understated silver gray toned exterior accentuates both simultaneously.  I absolutely loved this car, and hearing that the owner actually makes a point to drive it makes it that much more endearing.  It may make an appearance at the Geneva Concours D'Elegance later this year, so I hope to catch up with it once again.



     Yes, Sunday ended up a good day for a show, the weather held relatively well and it was a great crowd on hand for the first Cops and Cars show.  I only wish I had a bit more time to cover the event and soak it all in, but you can be sure I will be making a point to have Cops and Cars on my schedule in the future!  As always, keeps scrolling for more of my favorite shots of the day.

-photos and writing: Robert Sixto


JDM Chicago Season Opener Posted on 16 May 14:14

     The first JDM Chicago meet within city limits, the best weather we have had all week, and a couple of food trucks on site, added up for a great weekend to stroll about gawking at cars during JDM Chicago's season open meet.  JDM Chicago has been a pillar of the Japanese import car enthusiast scene in Chicagoland for many years.  The hallmarks of their site; impeccable taste in vintage and/or special Japanese cars, amazing photography, and a passion for everything as it relates to not just these cars but the culture that surrounds it.  It must be said, they also have one of the coolest logo's around, which includes a phonetic spelling of Chicago in Japanese characters and the four stars of the Chicago flag, love it!  JDM Chicago has also been organizing many informal meets over the years, known initially as "Friday Night Lights" events, which would eventually be held on Saturday's and not necessarily at night.  These JDM focused meets were always one of my favorites, as I have an affinity toward Japanese cars, and they always seemed to bring out some outstanding examples.  This year's season open meet was a bit different though, the location was actually within the city, on Chicago's north side.  It took place in a huge industrial lot owned by Basic Wire & Cable Co., rather than a parking lot for a mall.  They had food trucks, and a couple of sponsor tents set up as well.  The turn out was quite good.  Being an informal meet there was a fair amount of late arrivals and cars shuffling around, but once things settled, the lot filled out nicely.  The resulting effect, was a very organic car show where the collection of cars was always in flux and the landscape was ever changing.  It actually made shooting the meet alot of fun, as it felt like there was always a new car or view to snap.  After making the rounds, I grabbed a hot dog, bought a couple of JDM Chicago stickers (always important, spend when you can and support the folks that support your passion!), and was on my way.  Here are a few of my favorite looks from the day, starting with a few cars I considered to be the highlights of the day.


     The first highlight of the day, was this Suzuki Cappuccino pictured below.  It is hard to imagine any other car with such a small foot print, with an enormous personality.  Seeing it in person evokes smiles, I can only imagine driving it would result in endless grinning mixed with bouts of childish giggling.  The Cappuccino is what is known in Japan as a Kei car.  Kei cars are essentially micro machines built for negotiating dense urban areas, while keeping costs of ownership low via lowered tax and insurance costs.  All Kei cars are relatively tiny compared to even what is considered compact cars today, and are powered by similarly tiny engines.  The Cappuccino is powered by a small 3 cylinder engine that has been augmented with the addition of turbo that must be no larger than your closed fist.  I say must be, because it was barely visible tucked in against the engine in a snug little engine bay.  This swollen motorcycle engine produced about 60hp according to Suzuki, from just 657cc of displacement that is not too shabby.  The advertised 0-60mph time is not especially impressive, around 8 seconds, but this car is about so much more than that.  With the Cappuccino, it is more about the sensation of speed; the lightness of the chassis, the rear wheel drive, the perfect 50/50 weight distribution, the open air cockpit and the feeling of being so low to the ground.  All of these add up to make the little Suzuki greater than the sum of it's parts, to which the owner of this Cappuccino confirmed, it is a load of fun to drive.


     Another stand out, was this red 5th gen Civic below.  To this day, I would argue the 5th gen, or EG Civic, is simply the best looking design to ever grace the nameplate.  Particularly in hatchback form, it is one of the best looking hatchback's ever made.  The owner of this particular EG, has really done an incredible job building it to where it is now.  On the outside, the paint was re-done in an S2000 Formula Red.  It is a subtle change from the Milano Red these Civics might have worn from the factory, but it adds an extra "pop" that you immediately notice.  A set of Racing Heart wheels that fit the vintage perfectly, a more aggressive rear spoiler, small carbon fiber side mirrors and a mint condition front lip, all combine for an "OE-plus" look on the exterior.  On the inside, that ethos continues, with an S2000 digital gauge cluster so seamlessly installed it looks as though it came that way new.  The rear seats have been swapped with Civic Si seats sporting red stitching on black fabric, and in front sits a set of red fabric Recaro's.  Which brings us to what is under the hood, a K series swap being force-fed via a Jackson Racing supercharger.  The combination is incredibly quick by any standard, the biggest challenge is traction according to the owner, but this thing rips!  


     The last of a dying breed provided another great point of interest, a Mitsubishi Evo X.  It is a shame Mitsubishi could never really regain a foothold in the industry, and an even greater shame that the great Lancer Evo would be one of the first casualties of their struggles.  The Evo X in my opinon, was the best looking version to ever grace our shores.  The one pictured here, was made even better looking with several nice touches.  Not the least of which is those gorgeous, golden Work Emotion wheels.  The fitment is spot on, the matte finish eye catching, and the style looks almost like it could be standard equipment.  If you have been paying attention, it follows the same trend of the previous two cars mentioned; subtle re-styling and harmony that I really love.  The rear spoiler is really the only extreme looking element on the car, but even that is quite cohesive with the rest of the car.  I also loved that it was parked in this spot, lots of space and a decent backdrop to really showcase the car in photos.


     The final notable mention really struck a chord with me.  Aside from drawing a huge flock of spectators upon arrival, I was drawn as well because it was a second generation RX-7.  Being an owner of the same car, I naturally like to check out other FC's that I happen upon.  This FC hit's all the right notes, it's appearance is classic drift car attitude, something that speaks to the very nature of the JDM scene.  No surprise that it drew just about the biggest crowd of onlookers, maybe only second to the lines at the food trucks!  The car's stance included a set of shiny chrome Work Equips, and a ride height that would make it challenging to clear an Oreo cookie, on it's side.  A more aggressive body kit completed the flamboyant restyling, but dressed in a clean white facade, it still felt somehow muted and subtle.  Far from perfect, with some scarring along it's front bumper, chipped fenders from aggressively tucked wheels, and a loose fitting panel or two; these imperfections only seemed to amplify the car's charm.  It is clearly not a show car, this thing gets actively drifted according to the owner, and much of the rest of the car speaks to form following function.  Much of the underhood upgrades are kept relatively restrained, no 600 horsepower fire breathing beasts here.  This is intentional, the owner valuing responsiveness, balance and reliability over tire shredding power.  The other great thing about this car, the owner shares the experience with his toddler, sitting happily in the passenger seat. 


     The constant re-shuffling of cars and influx of new cars, made it a challenge to capture everything at the meet, and I am sure there are some I missed.  I made my best effort, and what follows below were some more notable sights from the day.  Thanks for reading!



 -photos and writing: Robert Sixto


Rise and Drive Record Day! Posted on 09 May 21:02


       Having attended every Rise and Drive Chicago event last year, it is probably no surprise that it was already a favorite of mine.  It is with that past experience, that I can say without any doubt that this season opener was the largest turn out for Rise and Drive ever.  When I say largest turn out, it was not by a small margin.  The normally ample lot outside of Collectors' Car Garage was nearly filled to capacity at one point, and fairly sizable crowds had gathered around the food truck, perusing the various cars outside, and shuffling in and out of the Collectors' Car Garage building.  Speaking of inside the building, there were some changes to that portion of the venue, as photography was not allowed inside for cars that were not on display.  A shame, but understandable, as these are clients of CCG who entrust these wheeled treasures to their care.  You certainly wouldn't want a bunch of strangers poking around and photographing your personal garage at home would you?  That said, there were a ton of actual customer cars inside and the typical display area has shrunk considerably, but you can still go in and see for yourself all the automotive wonders under the CCG roof.  I do mean wonders too, there are some amazing cars in there!  


     The lot outside genuinely became the main event this past Sunday.  It served as a good reminder that ultimately, this is what Rise and Drive was really about; car people coming together to look at and talk about cool cars!  In that regard it did not disappoint, the diversity of cars on hand is always impressive for Rise and Drive with a surprise or two for each event.  As I strolled about, enjoying the morning sun and more pleasant weather than we've had in some time, I snapped a few of the things that caught my eye.


     This BMW 2002tii below was eye catching indeed, and not just for that brilliant pumpkin orange blazing in the morning sun.  Such an immaculate example of an iconic classic is not something you see on the street often.  


     The new Acura NSX was another stand out, being relatively new to the scene, but they are starting to pop up much more frequently.  I find the design of this NSX tends to grow on you.  First impression can be a bit underwhelming, like you've seen it before, but as you take it in, the details impress more and more.  The color seems to really change the presence of this car dramatically; here in 130R White it is the picture of grace and elegance.  When draped in Valencia Red Pearl however, it shouts with passion and oozes with sex appeal.  Hard to think of another car that seems to transform so dramatically with a simple change of paint.


     Then we have the Rezvani Beast, which drew many "oohs" and "ahhs" along with some onlookers clearly puzzled by what exactly it was.  The Beast, is a model built by boutique car company Rezvani, using the underpinnings of the Ariel Atom and powered by a supercharged Honda in the rear.  Before you scoff at anything called Beast being powered by a mere four cylinder, understand that it weighs just over 1600lbs. and that Honda engine is now cranking out 500 horsepower!  Rezvani assures us it is enough to propel you from 0-60mph in less than three seconds, Beast material indeed.  


     I can not recall another time when the "25 year rule" had such an immediate and obvious impact on the automotive enthusiast world, as it has with the advent of the R32 Skyline/GT-R.  For those unfamiliar, the 25 year rule allows for any vehicle that was not originally sold in the U.S. to be imported, registered, and driven legally in the U.S.  When the R32 Skyline and GT-R turned 25 years old (first produced in 1989), they seemed to pour onto our shores.  They arrive in varying condition, as one would expect from any 25 year old car, and frankly they aren't always in the best shape.  The one at Rise and Drive this past Sunday however, was in good shape...very good shape indeed.  I have always had a soft spot for the R32 GT-R, but felt a bit let down by the ones I had seen in person.  Especially since they are not particularly inexpensive to acquire for such an old car, I had all but moved on from any desire to have one.  Seeing this one though, re-kindled that love again, maybe one day...


     Any vintage Ferrari is worth a look, and this series II 330GT was one I had not seen before.  The gorgeous example here, in Blue Chiaro, sat patiently in the morning sun.  The owner eventually returning to start it up, the V12 roaring to life before settling into a cranky burble as it brought it's fluids up to temperature.  What a great sound, and what a great Grand Tourer, you could really understand eating up thousands of miles behind the wheel of this big beautiful coupe.

     I really do love these meets, I seem to find something new each time, and the sheer variety opens you up to learn about certain makes/models you may have previously had no knowledge or interest in.  It is a good crowd of people as well, friendly and welcoming easily sparking random conversation with strangers.  Even with as huge a turn out as this opener had, that friendliness remained and there was zero bad behavior to be found (no foolish burnouts or revving of engines).  If you have not made it to Rise and Drive yet, please do yourself a favor and go, just once.  You won't be disappointed.  Keep scrolling for some more of my favorite snaps of the morning, and thanks for reading!

-photos and writing: Robert Sixto


Wekfest Chicago 2017 Posted on 03 May 14:23


     Having a site titled "Chicago Car Life", it should come as no surprise that any car show that is held within the city of Chicago, brings a sense of great pride and elation.  It also brings some apprehension, because having a car show in Chicago, near downtown is neither easy nor cheap.  It is easy to get it wrong, and very difficult to get right.  Well, the team at Wekfest USA, rose to the challenge and absolutely got it right!  Wekfest takes pride in the quality of cars at it's shows, and carefully curate the entries that you see when you walk the floor of the show.  As a result, this year's Wekfest Chicago was loaded with astounding builds of incredible quality.  Even the everyday modified cars, stuff people might actually drive on the street with regularity, were of a higher caliber than most.  The Wekfest crew try to instill a sense of family in all the entrants, and they impart a feeling of real pride for all that made it into the concours.  That pride showed in the cars, as everything on hand was absolutely spotless, no easy feat considering the onslaught of rain leading up to and into the entry of the show.  The roads were a wet, dirty mess, and to see the cars shining in the hall, you would have no idea that was the case.  The folks that run Wekfest, are clearly a group of people who love cars, and they focus on running an event free of distraction, that is purely about the cars and the proud owners.  This was plain to see, a winning formula.

     The weather could have threatened spectator turn out as well, but that was happily not the case.  Crowds were quite large and eager to see everything on display. As spectators came and went, the streets outside of McCormick place looked like their own parade of modified enthusiasts' rides.

     Wekfest is a car show that originated in California, which is unquestionably the king of car shows and automotive indulgence.  So it means something that the first Wekfest outside of California, was in Chicago several years ago.  It is also meaningful that, when that first outing didn't go as well as hoped, they eventually returned to Chicago again after a few years hiatus.  This year was the second consecutive year Wekfest made the trip to our fine city, and it is with that in mind that I always nervously hope we rise to the occasion.  A brief correspondence with the folks at Wekfest confirmed, they were very happy with the results and more importantly are incredibly committed to bringing the show to Chicago for the foreseeable future.

 Overall, Wekfest was a great show, with some of the best familiar cars we see around Chicago, as well as some impressive new faces from the surrounding regions.  With so much to see, there was no way I could capture it all, but check out the gallery below for some of my favorite looks from the show.  Really happy with Wekfest, and looking forward to a return next year, now if we could just get it to stop raining...

-photos and writing: Robert Sixto

Tuner Galleria 2017 Posted on 11 Mar 13:56


     The annual World of Wheels and Tuner Galleria show is a mammoth display of automotive excess.  If you love cars, especially modified or customized cars, there is almost guaranteed to be something at this pair of shows that you will enjoy.  Of particular note this year, is the Tuner Galleria portion of the show.  This subsection of the event, is a one day only show that focuses on more modern offerings that lean toward import vehicles, with the emphasis being Japanese cars.  I would unofficially assess that this year's Tuner Galleria was by far the largest to date.  In years past, the second floor hall that was utilized, would have a cloth partition dividing the used floor space from the empty floor space.  This year, there was no such partition, as the event nearly filled the entire second floor hall.  It has been an amazing evolution to witness, and a redemption of sorts as cars labeled "tuners" were derided at times by folks who just didn't see anything made in Japan as holding any real value.  The tuner section went from non-existent, to a small booth space or aisle, to having part of it's own floor, and now filling it's own floor.  I am a fan, and I love that appreciation for these cars has grown past them being appliances only. 

      I love seeing the growth within this sub-sect of car culture as well.  In earlier days, if you went to a car show featuring Japanese imports, most of the cars on display would be relatively new, probably no more than 10 years old.  Now as the golden era of Japanese cars in the early to mid-90's approaches 20 years old or more, there is an increasing diversity of models ranging from current model year, to cars that are over 30 years old! Although the market may not reflect it yet, in some ways I feel these older Japanese models from the 70's are incredibly special and valuable.  To re-iterate, in those early days Japanese cars were never even considered special and by no stretch of imagination collectible, they simply were appliances.  In that regard, it is impressive that any have survived, and more impressive the painstaking measures many have taken to preserve and\or restore them.  This to me is evidence of the ongoing evolution of the import car culture, it has gained ever more depth and substance in the decades that have passed.

     The charm of truly vintage JDM vehicles from the 1970's just can not be denied.  These tiny, box like machines have gone from everyday runabouts to something that is truly unique on the street.  Pencil thin A-pillars, round glass headlights, wheels that are smaller than some cars spare tires today, and an overall size that is diminutive in comparison modern subcompact cars, they command a reverence of a fragile but respected elder.  The number of these cars on display and the quality, seems to be growing with each Tuner Galleria, and I for one welcome it.

     Speaking of evolution, it was encouraging to see nearly no examples of terribly exaggerated camber to the point of ridiculousness.  Perhaps I am just becoming an old curmudgeon, but this was one trend that seemed to be snowballing out of hand and I am glad to see it gaining little traction in the Chicagoland car scene. Instead, the overall theme was widebody kits with large wheels, low profile tires and aggressive wheel fitment feeling every millimeter of the fenders they were housed in.  Lower ride height, to the point of tucking wheels into fenders was common, at times facilitated by air ride suspension that can adjust height on the fly.  However, there are a few brave souls that achieve this by static means, meaning they are stuck being incredibly low while venturing the Chicago area streets that sometimes resemble the surface of the moon more closely than what you would expect from a major modern city.


     Did I mention how great the older JDM cars were?  Well one of my favorites this year was this Celica GT that has undergone some changes since last year, all for the better.  It ticks all the right boxes for uber-JDM nostalgia.  Wearing a set of Speed Star MKI wheels, but with the added touch of what appears to be a hydro-dipped graphic that sets the deep lips off beautifully.  A matte graphite exterior with bolt on fender flares, fender mounted side mirrors, and subtle aero bits on both front and rear, it is a small but intimidating package.  The nod to "bosozoku" style with the exaggerated tail pipes, is executed well, giving an extra punch of attitude without looking silly.  All these elements give the car a personality, right down to the wooden ammo crate as a back seat and the scarf covered rear deck lid, it all just works.  Kudos to the owner of this one, phenomenal attention to details and focus on an overall theme!

     The other car that drew my attention, for completely different reasons, was the "Pontibishi".  This car apparently started life as a Fiero, and has been thoroughly re-worked inside and out.  It now houses a Mitsubishi drive train mounted in the rear, the venerable powerhouse four cylinder turbocharged 4G63.  The body has been transformed with what appears to be a very DIY type of fiberglass custom work.  It is a bit rough and unpainted, but I can see the makings of an attractive car here, it looks more NSX than Fiero now.  There is zero interior and a beefy roll cage encapsulates the cabin, which is equipped with fairly no-nonsense racing seat, harness, steering wheel and shifter.  It appears this beast is fully intended for track duty, which might explain the cosmetics taking lower priority for now.  This car got lots of attention, mostly of the "what is this?", or "they put what in this?" variety.  Monstrosity or stroke of genius?  I'll leave it to your opinion, but I personally dig it!

     There was no shortage of great cars this year, and I have more shots than I could cram into this blog post.  Here is some more of my favorites from this year, hope you enjoy!


photos and writing: Robert Sixto

Chicago Auto Show 2017 Posted on 14 Feb 12:57

     Once again the annual beacon of hope for warmer days and cleaner cars has arrived in Chicago, in the form of the Chicago Auto Show.  As an enthusiast and fan of cars that generally fall into less practical and more fun status, it may seem a large industry show is a bit lacking.  However, even though the Chicago Auto Show is a giant dealer show room, intent on selling a multitude of SUV's, CUV's, and whatever-else-UV's, there are still some fun things to see.  Even with our unseasonably warm winter, the dreary and cold months make it incredibly refreshing just seeing cars with fresh, clean paint again.  The Chicago Auto Show never gets the same kind of press, or wow factor of many other shows.  It is, like Chicago, a meat and potatoes kind of show, intended more for actual selling of cars, rather than entertaining wide eyed fan boys and girls.  Having been born and raised in Chicago, it is a yearly tradition, and there are many like me who can recall early childhood memories walking the plush carpeted aisles filled with all manner of shiny new wares.  Whether driven by nostalgia, the need to buy a new car, or just a love of new cars, the massive Chicago Auto Show is sure to have something for you.

      For me, this show has become my yearly opportunity to gawk and drool over the latest Alfa Romeo's.  This year was no different.  Although it lacked the heavy appeal to Alfa's heritage with no vintage models or paraphernalia on display, it's because they now have more current cars to show!  The newest being the Stelvio crossover, which might be the sexiest SUV anyone has made yet.  Picture the Giulia Qaudrifoglio in a slightly raised hatchback form, and that's the Stelvio.  Also new, is an expanded line up of Giulia models, the Ti and the Lusso.  These offer the same incredible styling and feel, even if they do not have the same Nurburgring bragging rights.  With a 2.0 liter turbo four cylinder delivering 280hp, the Ti and Lusso models are still quite capable of brisk acceleration.  In these trims, the Giulia can also be equipped with AWD giving an edge in winter conditions.  Did I mention they look just as drop dead gorgeous? It is no small undertaking for Alfa Romeo to re-enter the U.S. market after decades of absence, but with the new "Giorgio" platform underpinning the expanding line up, it is about as good a start as anyone could imagine.

     KIA has been an incredible rags to riches story within the automotive industry.  The company has enjoyed some incredible sales growth since it's inception.  Whatever your opinion on the cars, there is no question they have built something quite impressive.  This year, the headline grabber is the new KIA Stinger, a sport sedan born of the Stinger GT4 concept KIA unveiled a couple years ago.  KIA is taking aim at the high performance segment, with the Stinger packing some impressive muscle.  Styling is subjective, but to me it is a bit lacking.  The overall package seems a bit disharmonious, I see nice elements of several different cars within it, but it seems to lack it's own real identity.  I imagine designers listing favorites; favorite fender and doors; M4, favorite tail lights; Maserati Quattroporte, favorite wheels; Alfa Romeo, and so on.  I am not saying they are just copying style, but the various elements do not seem to meld together as one, prompting this kind of mental check list when you look at the car.  It is a good start though for a first foray into what is an extremely competitive segment, it will be fun to watch evolve over the next few years.

      The new Acura NSX is still quite a draw, even if reception is still a little mixed.  I think people are still trying to figure out what this car is about, lots of questions about price, performance and complexity.  People want to naturally compare it to the original NSX which bloodied the nose of exotics like Ferrari.  The original NSX was a blind spot sucker punch of a car that, exotic car peformance from a car maker that specialized in utilitarian vehicles for the masses.  This new NSX does not have the same element of surprise the original did, to the contrary it was met with fairly lofty expectations.  Thing is, on paper at least, it seems Acura have repeated history, competing with the likes of a Ferrari 488 for around $50,000 less cost.  What makes the new NSX even more impressive, is if you consider you are getting a hypercar style powertrain for less than 200 grand!  I don't think it is emphasized enough, but the only other super cars that implement electric power the way the new NSX does, will cost you well over 1 million dollars!  The only unanswered question, is the reliability, will it be able to deliver that Swiss watch level of craftsmanship people have come to expect from Acura/Honda.

     Porsche is rolling out their new Panamera for 2018, which retains familiar styling cues with minor adjustments, refinements and evolutions in the way that Porsche does.  To Porsche's credit, styling changes seem to move at a glacial pace, but yet the company manages to deliver a product that never seems to look old.  The new interior of the Panamera presents a step up in quality, becoming even more posh than the previous generations.  Also on display, the 718 in both Boxster and Cayman guise.  Everything on display wore muted, formal paint, silvers and grays, like suited up Formula 1 drivers enjoying a banquet.  The only shouty thing on display, still in it's race jump suit, was the 911 RSR GT car.  This is the much talked about mid engine 911, that indeed draws the eye upon arrival.  This loud, brash hooligan has a striking contrast to it's more serious peers in the exhibit.  "Didn't you tell RSR to wear the tux?" "Seems he's been drinking too much of the high octane again, what a scene he's making, how dreadful!"  How delightful!

     Dodge has been on a campaign to reshape the brand and regain the glory days when it was part of "the Big Three" and U.S. car makers were dominant.  Over the last few years, it has undoubtedly been one of the most fun corners of the Chicago Auto Show.  The Scat Packs, Hellcats and everything in between, are some of the best looking cars today with plenty of rubber-smoking fun on tap.  This year was no different, and the addition of a special edition Viper ACR 1:28 was a welcome treat.  What is the 1:28 designation?  It is the Laguna Seca lap time set by the car, one minute and twenty eight seconds.  The Viper is a bittersweet goodbye to the now discontinued Viper, with this ACR 1:28 edition being a limited run of only 100 examples.  The one at the show is number 001, and for such a rare car, it is perhaps a 001 in a lifetime chance to see one.

     It is hard to say that BMW's display this year was a let down, but...well...yeah, I was let down.  They did have an i8 in Protonic Red which I suppose is a cool car, everyone does seem to love it, it just doesn't really do it for me.  BMW explained that they wanted to focus on promoting their electric and hybrid models.  This means there were no "M" cars on display, not one.  Poor effort BMW, everyone at the show was more than capable of displaying both eco/green options and performance vehicles just fine.  I get that electric is the future, but when it seems there are more M division models than ever, it still felt odd to see none of them represented.  From an enthusiasts view, this is a brutal let down, how can you have a booth dedicated to the "ultimate driving machine", without the ultimate driving machines?     While Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Rolls Royce and Lotus do not have their own manufacturer based displays, they do always find a place in the Super Car Gallery at the Chicago Auto Show.  Never a disappointment, this collection is full of some of the best examples of high performance, opulent machines that push the boundaries of speed, decadence and comfort.  They are the upper echelon of the automotive world.  Looking over the spec sheet makes it clear to the mind, but sitting in them and feeling the supple leather, the controls like jewelry, the deep gloss carbon fiber, the way everything is made to be pleasing to the eye and to the touch, is quite another.  It really drives the point home, these cars are special.  Local custom and auto body shop Auto Art set up their own exhibit as well, showcasing the incredible work they do to make such special machines even more unique.  Auto Art ups the ante with custom wheels, wide body kits and jaw dropping paint jobs, you simply must see in person.  If you've been following previous blog posts, you've probably caught on that I am quite the fan of Mazda's.  While they aren't the fastest, most luxurious, or exclusive cars you can get, the little car company keeps chugging along with reasonably priced offerings that are reliable and still a joy to drive.  This year Mazda has continued their quest for more refinement, as each new model seems to be adapting the same kind of interior quality Mazda showcased last year in the newly redesigned CX-9.  The new MX-5 RF is so good, it seems silly they had not thought of it with previous generations.  The styling is not harmed by the addition of a retractable hard top, and I would even say it looks better.  They also brought along some MX-5 concept cars, that have been making the rounds for a while, but were still nice to see.  The Speedster concept is the minimalist, no windshield attention getter, and is always worth a look.  However, the Spyder concept I found especially intriguing.  The "Mercury Silver" paint and the sensual bikini slung top, create a striking visual.  The interior is fantastic as well, with two-tone tan leather designed in a way that Mazda say is meant to invoke a vintage feel.  I would say the design worked, it really does have the feel of a 1960's roadster.  The blending of modern touches like carbon fiber accents, beautiful Advan wheels and the vintage sytling of the interior and canvas top, is done to perfection.  Mazda say they strive to create vehicles imparted with spirit or soul, something the Spyder and Speedster concepts display with success.     All this is just a small sample of what is at the show this year, so make a point to head over to McCormick Place this week to see it all for yourself.  Even if you aren't in the market for a new car, or not really that into cars; the Chicago Auto Show is a nice escape from cold grey landscape.  So take the opportunity to walk around a pleasant space filled with lots of color, eat overpriced churros, and settle in next to a nice warm camp fire.  

photos by: Hector Hernandez and Robert Sixto

writing: Robert Sixto



Rise and Drive Season Finale Posted on 05 Oct 23:54


     With the close of a full season of Rise and Drive Chicago, a thing occurred to me, this event is the Justin Timberlake of automotive events.  You may have thought JT was just another pretty faced drone churned out by a highly manufactured and disposable boy band, but then he shocks everyone by striking out on a solo career.  He proceeds to kick ass and take names on said solo career by writing, performing and producing extremely successful albums.  This is much the way Rise and Drive takes you by surprise, as you may be expecting just another cars and coffee style event where you see some neat 911's or a new Huracan or two, but arrive to be surprised by a barn find Mclaren roaring to life in front of a crowd.  

          One might have assumed the Prince of Pop would be content with a highly successful music career, singing and dancing his way to endless Grammy awards, but then he reveals more talent.  With an impressive knack for comedy, he outshines the cast of SNL on their own turf, and breaks into acting landing several dramatic movie and TV roles.  He hosts events, hosts award shows and starts his own production company, proving a wide range of talents and abilities beyond just music. Rise and Drive includes this kind of range as well, bringing cars from various countries of origin, from antique to modern, street cars, race cars, and even completely custom cars.  Examples like the vintage Lamborghini Miura SV, smoldering with sexy, displayed inside the Collectors Car Garage surgically clean facility.  The very first front wheel drive car produced by Ruxton, a true antique that gave a glimpse of "the future" at a time when cars still shared roads with horses and the automotive industry was just starting to blossom.  A pair of gorgeous old Ferrari's that marked the dawn of the exotic car, showed with the grace of a glamorous movie star, but still possess legitimate sports car capabilities.  Think Helen Mirren in the movie Red.  A 1 of 3 in existence Pontiac Bonneville convertible that looked like it rolled off the assembly line the day before, proving even a modest name plate can become something of great value.  Even race cars show up like the aforementioned Mclaren M8A, or a Ferrari 575 in GT race trim, a Porsche 911 GT car, and even an E30 M3 with full Warsteiner livery.  The "regular" cars in the lot are a fun bunch too; a Charger Hellcat, a V8 swapped MG, the typical gaggle of scrappy nip-at-your-heels Miata's, a Maserati Ghibli from the late 60's/early 70's, the Dream Squads collection of high end toys with eye catching vinyl wraps, BMW Z3 clown shoe, the list goes on.   

     Then there is the likability of so called President of Pop, I mean even if you aren't a fan of J Timb's (did I just make that nickname up?), you probably don't hate the guy right?  That is something not to be underestimated; look at another pop star that shares Timberlake's first name, there is lots of hatred there.  J.T. comes off as an approachable, relate-able guy that you wouldn't mind hanging with, even though he is multi talented and fabulously wealthy.  This applies to Rise and Drive as well, it is an incredibly likable event.  With a helpful and amicable bunch working the meet, the staff makes you feel welcome and secure.  There are incredibly valuable cars on display, but some more accessible stuff as well, so it's not intimidating.  You are among a large group of true enthusiasts, like minded folks that love all manner of cars and may even strike up a good chat or two on the subject.  There is always some hot Starbucks coffee ready for you when you arrive, and sometimes they'll even feed you bagels, who doesn't love that!?     

     It has been a great season of Rise and Drive, and as we reluctantly prepare for the winter months ahead, storing our precious cars from modest projects to priceless antiques, we look forward to the end of winter when we can do it all again.  A big thanks to all the folks that support this event: Mancuso Motorsports, Chicago Vintage Motor CarriageTeam Stradale, Continental Autosports, and of course Collector's Car Garage for hosting.  Thanks for a great year Rise and Drive, here's to 2017 and bringing sexy back!

-photos and writing: Robert Sixto



   The Geneva Concours D'elegance was held at the end of this past August.  This would be my first experience venturing out to Geneva, IL for their yearly outdoor car show.  For those that might not know, the French translation for Concours d'Elegance is a contest of elegance, a fitting name given the cars on display but also the perfect backdrop of this charming town nestled in the Fox River Valley.  This outdoor show brings the open air, free roaming experience of some more informal car meets, but with the higher quality of cars and competition of an actual organized show.  Think of it as the Academy Awards/Oscar night, with it's varied collection of TV, movie and other celebrities, drawing wide eyed stares from fans and endless flashbulbs of paprazzis' cameras.  The Geneve Concours d'Elegance is the automotive equivalent of this kind of spectacle, bringing together many notable vehicles young and old, foreign or domestic into one magnificent event.  The show is an all day event as well, so unlike most more informal meets, it does not evaporate into nothingness by noon.  Although with the heat of the blazing sun during that late summer day, I could not say the same for myself.  The scale of the show was impressive as well, stretching for several blocks down 3rd street in downtown Geneva, with cars lining the intersecting streets as well.  It is all for a good cause as well, with folks on hand to accept donations toward Living Well Cancer Resource Center.  Given the size of the show, it was tough to capture everything, but hopefully the shots I did manage to get can convey the eye popping works of rolling art some of these cars really were.

    The number and variety of cars was impressive, but so was the overall turn out of spectators, it was quite a busy venue.  It is easy to see why, Geneva is one of those river towns with an amiable feel to it.  With it's downtown streets lined with plenty of shops, cafe's, pubs and the like, there is plenty to see and do around the show as well.  One particular theme of importance was the 100th anniversary of BMW being this year, and to this end there were several incredible examples to be seen.

  It didn't end with the BMW focus however, as there were plenty of things to see throughout the day.  A brigade of early 50's and 60's Porsches, a slew of genuine Shelby Ford offerings, a Cadillac V16 (Moar cylinders!), and even obscure offerings like the Arnolt-Bristol or Genetta G4, there was enough to fill your day.  I look forward to visiting again next year, and I would recommend it to anyone with a love for cars.  



Rise and Drive, Not Your Typical Car Meet Posted on 12 Aug 12:59

     It was another phenomenal weekend for a car meet, and being the first weekend of the month it was time for another Rise and Drive Sunday.  The overall turnout was a bit lower than last month's meet, but this did not dampen the event at all.  What I have come to love about Rise and Drive's meets, is the more intimate nature of the event.  It is a more focused venue, so it is impossible to miss anything there, and thus impossible to miss anything special at the meet.  There are advantages to this intimate set up, you can spend a bit more time absorbing details of cars, chatting with fellow enthusiasts, sipping your coffee and just taking in a beautiful morning.  For this weekend, Rise and Drive outdid themselves by having a Mclaren M8A Can-Am race car present.  Not only was it shown inside Collectors Car Garage, it was rolled outside and fired up.  The thunderous rumble of the V8 was something to behold, the first roaring rev of the engine sent a wave of startled jumps through the crowd, followed by a wash of awestruck smiles and laughter.  This is an experience that really can not be duplicated in any other meets that I have ever attended.  In addition, a representative from Mclaren was on hand to explain the unique story behind this vintage racer.

     This Mclaren M8A, had a dominant career in racing piloted by Bruce McClaren and Denny Hulme. Once retired from racing, the car would go on to become a show car for Goodyear Tires, being showcased at several events to promote the brand. Somehow along the way, it would be lost, the whereabouts unknown for several years until it would resurface on a farm.  Incredibly, this car was found buried in various bits of neglected parts and rubbish on a farm in New Zealand!  Upon it's discovery, it was literally dug up from it's would-be grave and a massive restoration effort was launched with the joint efforts of Denny Hulme, Goodyear and the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland.  The result is what we had the pleasure of seeing this past Saturday.  The bright orange paint looks nearly perfect and shown brilliantly in the bright morning sun.  The intake stacks are a thing of beauty, looking almost organic in nature, I was reminded of a cluster of mushrooms sprouting from a forest floor.  The engine is an actual structural component of the car, and again with the organic theme, suspension and running gear appear to sprout from and grow around it's massive V8 heart.  What I love about race cars like this, is that the beauty seems to occur naturally. That is, a race car is generally all function over form, everything is designed with the intent of being faster with little regard to style or beauty.  To have beauty occur despite this, is a fascinating thing.

   I love cars, but to have a car with a past, a deeper story; whether historic or personal to the individual owner, makes it that much more special.  When a car has a deep history like this one, and includes an epic resurrection, it is inspirational.  It is hard to think of any other informal meet I have attended that can match this one-of-a-kind experience.  I can not say enough about the quality of event the Rise and Drive folks have put together.

     After gushing about the M8A, you might think that was all there was to see, but you would be very wrong.  Also in the garage display area was a Ferrari 275 GTB/4, which provided an opportunity to see first hand the design evolution of Ferrari when compared to the 250 GT displayed last month.  An what an evolution it was, now equipped with a naturally aspirated V12 in front and, a first for Ferrari, a rear mounted transaxle.  This is one of those highly valued, highly sought after vintage Ferrari's and it is easy to see why; is there any better phrase uttered than 'vintage Ferrari V12'?  I think not.

      The other special treat, was the appearance of this 1957 Pontiac Bonneville convertible, which was visiting from the Driehaus collection thanks to Chicago Vintage.  Neither an exotic, or a vintage European car, but this massive beast of a car is incredibly rare. That is no exaggeration either, only a few hundred of these were made, and in convertible form you can count the number on one hand...with a finger or two missing.  Again, I can not stress enough how unique a show Rise and Drive is, in that you can see some true unicorn cars.  For this Bonneville, perhaps unicorn is not a fitting enough term, it is more of a wooly mammoth with a single horn on it's forehead.  The proportions of this two door convertible coupe make this car seem larger than life, it measures about two full feet longer than a modern day Cadillac Escalade.  When it was released, it tipped the scales at around 4,000 pounds as well, needing every bit of the 347 cubic inches of V8 it packed under the hood.  That V8 was special as well, sporting badges that indicate "fuel injection",it showcased the best GM/Pontiac could build, and the engine generated 315 horsepower, which is quite impressive for that time. 

     Aside from all the automotive greatness housed inside CCG's incredible facility, the lot is filled with an incredible variety of cars as well.  The scene outside is more informal car meet, but affords the opportunity to see all kinds of fun, enthusiast oriented and owned cars as well.  While they may not fall into the category of unicorns, there is some really cool stuff to see.  The variety of what is on display, the diversity of the crowd on hand, you get the sense that the love of cars is truly the overarching bond.  If you have not made it out to this event yet, you are in luck, there are two more remaining this year; the first Sunday in September and October.  Do not miss it


photos and writing by: Robert Sixto 


Rise and Drive July Meet Posted on 05 Jul 12:34

     The week leading to this Sunday's meet, Rise and Drive hinted that it would be bit more Ferrari flavored, in light of the upcoming Ferraris on Oak street event.  Sadly, I will not be able to make it to Ferraris on Oak, so I was hoping to get a little taste at Collectors Car Garage this weekend.  While there weren't nearly as many on display as there will be next weekend on Oak Street, there were some quality examples and, as always, the indoor concourse area was quite impressive.  We'll start with the main display in CCG's gorgeous facility, two vintage 60's Ferrari's flank a 575 in full race trim.  It is amazing to see the contrast between old black 330 and  blue 250 compared to the 575, which was produced about 35 years after.


      Perhaps it's age that has mellowed the cars, but the 60's Ferrari's look so approachable, with flowing graceful lines, they are kind and gentle faces.  The 575, like many of the post 80's Ferrari's, have a much more aggressive and menacing look to them. Here we have the most extreme example of that, nothing is more aggressive and menacing than a car that has been fully race prepped, making the contrast even greater.  It's like looking at a family portrait with proud elderly grandparents gently smiling as they flank their much younger grandson who spends much of his time at the gym, guzzling supplements and doling out overly aggressive high fives.


      Other treats awaited inside the garage, a Ford GT in full Gulf livery.  For anyone not in the know, the classic Gulf livery is the essence of cat nip for petrol geeks, sending them into a frenzy of fuzzy glee.  The GT's stable mate for the day was a Lexus LF-A, another car that seems to be made purely to become an instant classic.  The third leg of the stable, the noble first generation Acura NSX, a car that has grown into it's classic status and is enjoying an appreciation in value.  I found the trio quite fitting, as different as these cars may be on the surface, each one was the answer to the question; what's the best damn car we can make?  They all answered the call in their own way, and they are all splendid for it.


     On the opposite side of the garage, there sat a little Porsche, respectfully out of the main limelight.  This Porsche Speedster is one of those cars that you see and recognize as a masterpiece.  It sits like a shimmering wet droplet of black paint, not just in it's color but even it's overall shape.  It is a study in "less is more", and the beauty of stripped down simplicity.  Just looking at it, you know it would be impossible to drive without a satisfied grin on your face.  What a marvelous little car.


     Also in this corner of the garage, was parked a Berlinetta Boxer 512.  It was one of two on display at the meet, the other one parked outside.  It is telling when a car was never sold here, but finds it's way here anyway; you know it's special.  With a mid mounted flat 12 cylinder engine, and styling that would define the next generation of Ferrari's, it is undeniably a special car.  It's a good day in my book, when you see two immaculate examples in one place.


     The parking lot portion of the meet had plenty of interesting finds as well.  A full trio of first generation RX-7's made an appearance, and all still powered by rotary engines.  The red one pictured below even had a 13b-rew swap, the bigger turbocharged variant of rotary that came in the third and final generation of RX-7.  This swap is not as straightforward as you might think, and seeing it done this cleanly is fairly impressive.  With such a light chassis, and at least 270hp on tap, I imagine the performance is quite impressive as well.

      Another sight in the lot that made an impression on me, was this rat rod parked next to a newer Ferrari 458.  I just love the combination of these two extremely different types of car side by side.  Some might bemoan the informal and somewhat scattered nature of the modern car meet, but I just love it for occasions like this that bring together completely different worlds.

     Also outside was a red Lamborghini Huracan LP610-4.  The new Lamborghini is a great looking car, and strikes such a naturally intimidation stance, an angry bull ready to charge as befitting the makers crest.  It has the credentials to back it's intimidating looks as well, with just over 600 horsepower funneled into any and all four wheels.  It's engine is perhaps one of the last of a dying breed, big naturally aspirated power, as most manufacturers, even in the super car realm have opted to lop off a few cylinders in favor of adding a turbo or two.

     It seems everyone loves the BMW E30, this 3 series born in the early 80's has become the darling of automotive enthusiasts as of late.  Whether it be the accessible nature of the car, the tossable chassis, or just the heritage behind it, it really is the "it" car of the last couple of years.  On Sunday, not only was there an E30 present, but one in full racing livery.  Immaculate and incredibly well done, it was a sight to see.


    The often spotted Dream Squad made an appearance this weekend as well, with a collection of cars lining the garage entrance.  Each car in Dream Squad is adorned with unique vinyl patterns meant to emulate famous comic superheroes.  Cars like these turn heads and get attention, but as they represent rolling mortgages to many people, the attention is not always positive.  However, with the core goal of giving back and bringing cheer to sick children, the Dream Squad defies hasty judgement.  Success and wealth should not automatically bring about scorn, as Dream Squad reinforces, most people who do well, want to help others do well.  

     It was another satisfying Rise and Drive weekend at the Collector's Car Garage, on a beautiful holiday weekend in Chicago, it doesn't get much better than that.  There were quite a few cars that I saw at the June event, but I intended to focus on more of what was new this month.  With so much to see, it is hard to include everything, but below are a few more shots from the meet.  If you missed these past two, you are in luck, there is another meet next month, Sunday August 7th to be precise.  Come out, you won't be disappointed!

-photos and writing: Robert Sixto