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Looking Back in the YAK Rearview Mirror

2010 Tesla Roadster.

Meanwhile, 12 years later…

When I started writing the You Auto Know column 12 years ago, I might have hoped I’d still be doing it now, but did I figure on it? Probably not.

It was born out of my love for the automobile, and trying to figure out a way to drive a bunch of new cars without having to buy one. And I’ve had a doozy of a time and made some great friends doing it over the years.

If you’ve been out of the loop, this whole thing actually began one year before, in another, now-defunct, weekly paper. I decided to query the fine folks at AV about moving it over here after seeing some ominous writing on the wall at the other joint. And here we are.

The first road test was memorable only for being the first road test. It was the Isuzu Axiom (and no, I’m not making this up), a mid-sized SUV which I decided might be of interest to the “SUV/trailer-towing/I wannabe different” type of crowd. Apparently that crowd wasn’t big enough, as Isuzu the brand disappeared from North America in 2009. Just one of the many nameplates to go away since the birth of YAK. Plymouth disappeared in 2001; Pontiac, Saturn, and Hummer in 2010; Mercury in 2011, and Saab in 2013. And we drove ’em all!

Some drives, naturally, were more memorable than others. Like when in August of 2002, the folks at Paddock Chevrolet had me drive the new Impala right out of the showroom onto Delaware Avenue. There are some dealerships around who are finicky about even letting you drive through the maze that is often their parking lot, but to squeeze one out the door, unassisted, was a first!

In April, 2003 I made a stop at the NFTA garage on Military Road, where director of public affairs Doug Hartmayer put me in the driver’s seat of a Metro Bus for a short (very short!) spin in the parking lot. It helped when I channeled my inner Ralph Kramden. February 2004 saw a drive in a very different kind of Volkswagen—the Phaeton, a $100,000 premium sedan available with either a V-8 or V-12 engine. The Phaeton never really caught on in North America, but it did end up on my list of favorite drives. As did the Mini convertible back in October 2004. I called it “just about the most fun you can have with your clothes on.” And, I might add in October, with the heat turned all the way up.

Then in October 2007, I planted my rear in the driver’s seat of a new Cadillac CTS-V, which was the 469-horsepower, supercharged version of the popular mid-sized sport sedan. The motoring press fell all over each other praising this monster, and I added it was the car to drive “WHEN YOU POSITIVELY, ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO BE THERE…FIVE MINUTES AGO.” Yep, it was fast all right. A total contrast to the Smart For-Two I drove the following February. But who am I to judge?

Small, boxy cars became quite popular during these past 12 years, and I drove several. Including the second generation Scion xB in 2004, the Kia Soul in July 2008, and the Nissan Cube a year later. Want sports cars? One of my all-time favorite drives was the morning I spent driving the Tesla Roadster around town in July 2010. The folks at Tesla brought the car down from their dealership in Toronto to give the public a look at this $109,000 all-electric open two-seater. Hans Ulsrud of Tesla graciously gave me the car for the whole morning the day after the public event. What a gas (so to speak)! Of course I also squeezed in drives of the Mazda Miata (July 2009) and the Porsche Cayman this past September.

Family cars (Ford Crown Vic), SUVs (Cadillac Escalade), boring economy cars (Chevy Aveo)— they’re all fair game here. Because, well, You Auto Know why already!

Thanks for reading! See you on the road.

Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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