Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that I’m a die-hard car guy. Motor oil pump through my veins and it’s a common occurrence for me to get goose bumps just from a car’s exhaust rumble. Needless to say I’m a bit discerning when it comes to cars and won’t settle for just any car. My daily driver has to be fun and evoke some emotion. At the same time it has to be practical, particularly since I haul my two kids (two years and four years old respectively) around all the time and of course because we live in Minnesota.
If I had to pick one car from the portfolio of Morrie’s brands that fit my persnickety car preferences I’d most definitely land on a Subaru STI. So that’s exactly what I did. And to kick off my caretaking of my new ride I loaded the family up for a good old-fashioned road trip to the lake. You’ll notice there was at least one non-lake diversion, though.
The Ford Mustang was the original pony car back when it debuted in 1964. Designed to carry four passengers in a sporty, comfortable car that was just as stylish as it was fast. Amazingly, it’s survived the test of time, remaining one of the longest continuously produced models of any automaker in the world.
While sales have always been strong in the US, Ford made the decision to make the Mustang a global vehicle, requiring them to step up their game significantly with the 6th generation model in order to take on the best sport coupes from Europe and Japan.
In order to shine on the world stage, Ford took a clean sheet design approach to the 2015 Mustang and fitted things like independent rear suspension, a dramatically improved interior, and new engine options – including an optional turbocharged 4-cylinder for the first time since 1986 – to make this the best Mustang yet.
In a word, it’s tough. It’s grueling. It’s dirty. The rally will come to an end and you’ll wonder what you actually just saw and why you’re covered in an inch-thick layer of dust and you feel like you’d been wading through a swamp. But wow, what an experience. There’s nothing else like it.
Go to spectate or shoot any road race on a conventional circuit and it’s a walk in the park. To get from one corner of the track to another, it might be a 5 or 10 minute walk. Everything is paved, well marked. Go up in the grandstands and you can probably see the majority of the track. The same cars go by lap after lap for hours on end. Whichever car or team you’re focused on, you know exactly where they are in the standings each time they pass because you can see the rest of the field go by at roughly the same time. If all else fails, there’s usually a big scoreboard or an app for whatever series you’re following that shows the timing and scoring for the race.
Now try to follow the action in a rally. You’re often driving 20+ miles in between stages on poorly marked roads trying to find the lone spectator area for each stage. You can go hours on end without seeing any rally cars whizzing by. And unless you have a teleportation device or a time machine, chances are you’ll only get a chance to watch the cars fly by two or three times all day. And every time you do see one of the cars fly by at breakneck speed, you’re choking on dust clouds and getting pelted by rocks left in their wake. At least checking the standings throughout the weekend is as easy as checking Rally America’s website on your phone… As long as you can get signal in any of the remote areas where the stages are held.
It’s not all bad though. Sure shooting at a circuit is easier, but with rally, you’re experiencing the great outdoors. You get to drive on a lot of the same (or very similar) roads that the rally uses for stages. Fellow rally spectators are some of the kindest and most enthusiastic fans I’ve ever met, often because they’ve put in the work to get to the same remote area as you, for the same reasons. And because the cars aren’t really racing head to head, wheel to wheel, like they would at the track, the viewing experience is much more relaxed. You’ve got time in between cars to have conversations with people, to grab a drink, move around a little. All with beautiful, scenic landscapes all around you.
As a photographer though, this presents a significant number of challenges. What sort of gear do I bring? How do I want to capture the car in a way that shows both the speed and spectacle in which it goes by while also showing the natural beauty of the surroundings? None of the stages feature much by way of protection between the fans and the cars ripping by, hanging on by a mere thread of control, so often times the crowds are pushed further and further back, far away from the action. Being out in the elements has its perks, but you and your camera will also be exposed to uncontrollable rain, massive clouds of dust, the blazing sun, and frigid winds. It tests your character, forcing you to endure.
No doubt about it, shooting rally racing is an endless struggle, but get things right – or at least a bit lucky – and the results can be well worth it. You can snap away until the memory cards are full and the batteries are drained and only go home with a handful of shots you’re proud of but on the long drive home, there’s a sense of accomplishment, of camaraderie, of witnessing something special. There’s something magical about rallying that makes it unlike any other form of motorsports. It’s the way the wind laps at your face. The way crisp country air, untamed brush, and speckled wildflowers mix with the hazy clouds of dust and race gas. The way the serene stillness of an untouched forest is broken so abruptly by the staccato engine notes of highly-strung race cars hammering between gears. There’s something about that dichotomy between the tranquility of nature and the wild frenzy of motorsports that created a unimaginable combination that will keep you coming back for more.
Although it’s not required to have a deep appreciation for cars to work at for a dealership group like Morrie’s, a lot of us are absolutely fanatical about cars. While some of us diligently wash and wax our favorite cars before a car show or enjoy a serene cruise around town, we have some serious motorheads amongst our ranks who can only satiate their need for speed at the race track. Perhaps the most die-hard of them all are the rally enthusiasts, most typically found at our Minnetonka Subaru store. Scott Putnam, the fleet sales manager at Morrie’s Minnetonka Subaru invited us out to Michigan earlier this year to watch his team, CPD Racing, as they tackled a number of snow and ice-covered rural roads in their Subaru WRX STI during the first round of Rally America’s 2016 championship. A few weeks later, they were in Salem, MO for the 100 Acre Wood Rally. Scott invited us back to follow the team around the hills outside Portland, OR this past weekend during the Oregon Trail Rally, the 3rd round of the 2016 Rally America series.
The Oregon Trail Rally is an incredibly challenging and grueling three day event that follows the narrow fire roads that flank the Columbia River. While the scenery is absolutely breathtaking, these roads often feature blinding dust, slippery rocks, and sheer rock faces inches from the edge of the road. It’s a harrowing drive for your average driver, even more so while carrying triple digit speeds, sideways, while choking on the dust of the car you’re chasing down for a spot on the podium. Instead of CPD’s usual ace driver, Lauchlin O’Sullivan, Road & Track Magazine sent in contributing editor Jason Harper to mix it up in the dirt for an upcoming article.
The first day comprised of a few stage laps around Portland International Raceway with some added jumps to spice things up. You know, because rally. The turnout was great with lots of spectators lining the track well into the night. Jason and Scott kept things tidy and made up a few spots on the grid during the four stages held at the circuit.
The following morning, we headed into the hillside on the northern side of the Columbia River in Washington where Jason and Scott would be tackling a mix of windmill-lined gravel roads before ending on the private Maryhill Loop hillclimb stage for stages 11 and 12. The ominous silhouette of Mount Rainier always looming in the background, setting the stage for a clash of titans of the dirt. Maryhill Loop would cap off the day with an epic serpentine bit of tarmac that wound its way back and forth up the hillside of a private piece of land. Typically, this narrow two-lane road is used for downhill longboarding competitions and filming car commercials where a closed road is needed. For us however, it was an all-out, full-speed assault to the top.
For the final day, Jason and Scott went back across the river towards Dufur, OR to race through a mix of picturesque vineyards and silty hillsides. When all was said and done, CPD Racing didn’t make a podium spot but Jason was ecstatic each time he climbed out of the car. He drove cleanly and brought the car back in one piece. Mighty impressive for a novice rally driver, given the treacherous terrain and unforgiving conditions. We’re looking forward to checking back with the team in a few short weeks for the Mount Olympus hillclimb!
The deep, candy red paint sparkles in the sun. The light tan interior invites you to slip into the driver’s seat and get comfortable. With the top down, you can feel the warm summer rays and a gentle breeze engulf you. Twist the key in the ignition and the 289 cubic inch V8 growls to life. Feed in the throttle to warm the engine and listen to the staccato bark of 8 all-American cylinders firing, the sound amplified in the open air around you. All that’s needed now is a steady hand on the steering wheel as you slide the transmission into drive.
You’re now piloting an American icon: the 1966 Ford Mustang convertible – the finest open-air motor vehicle of its time. The plush interior and supple suspension help you to glide effortlessly down the highway as the V8 engine happily pushes you along. And if you get sick of listening to the engine, just find your favorite radio station to listen to as you forget about all your troubles. Unlike the sportier ‘67 Mustang GT-A Coupe, which begs to be driven hard and muscled around, this Mustang convertible is much happier to be savored as it wafts you along in style and comfort.
The thin-rimmed steering wheel offers power assistance, allowing you to guide the Mustang around corners with confidence. It’s a relatively effortless car to drive, really. Perfectly suited to gobbling up miles as you putt around town or as you cruise to the beach, there’s plenty of room for four adults, although kids will probably appreciate the rear seats more. The trunk is equally spacious for running errands or for lugging around the towels, sun-block, and a cooler. Not only will the Mustang get you where you need to go, but it’ll do so with flair.
There’s a certain air about the Mustang. It’s capable not just as a car, but as a statement. Although it’s more comfortable loafing along down Main Street or cruising around the lake, it’s more than just a pretty piece of automotive jewelry. While it may not be ideally suited for blasting from stop light to stop light in a cloud of tire smoke, there’s something about the Mustang that makes you feel like it’s capable of anything. It’s a surprisingly well-rounded automobile, and one that you should rent from Morrie’s Heritage Rental program that is currently in the works!
Guest blog post written by: Alex Bellus – a well-known automotive photographer in the Twin Cities area and a frequent attendee of MN C&C at the Automotorplex. He is an Automotive Analyst for IHS Automotive and has a wide range of automotive knowledge. Keep your eye out for his next Blog Post where he will highlight another popular Morrie’s vehicle!
I spent my week driving and riding around in the new 2014 Cadillac ATS and the only word that comes to mind is ‘wow.’ This isn’t grandpa’s old 73′ Coupe Deville anymore. Between the Touchscreen CUE system and lane departure warning that vibrates the seat when you accidentally leave your lane, this car was more than I could imagine. The all wheel drive isn’t exactly a new thing for Cadillac but within a few short years they have this car nailed down to how a sport sedan should drive. With the 3.6L or the 2.0 turbo version there is no shortage of get up and go or fun to be had on the open road – the ATS almost seems to anticipate acceleration and responds beautifully. The interior is, of course, classic Cadillac luxury. Hand stitching, leather and sleek styling abound inside the ATS, giving you the difficult choice between going fast for the sake of speed, or taking your time and cruising in comfort. If you’re looking for a new sedan that provides luxury, comfort and style I would highly suggest you run not walk to Morrie’s Cadillac and drive the ATS today.
After spending some time in the 2014 Mazda3, I have to say that I’m impressed. I drove the 5-Door Hatchback fitted with the Grand Touring Package. I’m a busy guy and hauling gear is the story of my life. Being a musician and a videographer I have guitars, amps, pedal bags, cameras, tripods, etc. with me at all times and making the weekly trek to band practice or a video shoot can be a cumbersome task. Not with the Mazda3. It’s one of the most versatile vehicles I’ve been in to date. The 5-Door Hatch has tons of room. My weekly drudge of hauling gear went from being a chore to being fun as soon as the back seats folded down and provided a huge landscape to play gear “Tetris” with.
Aesthetically speaking, the Mazda3 looks like a sports car should. Sleek definition lines and a lower profile make anything else in class look lack luster. Just looking at the exterior makes you want to drive it. And speaking of the ride and drive, the 3 is a blast to drive. The s-Touring has a 2.5 Liter 4-Cylinder with acceleration that pushes you into the seat. Every ounce of the 184 Horsepower under the hood is utilized and sounds more like a heavy hitting V-6 than a 4-Cylinder. I have to admit I was skeptical of the fuel economy ratings, 30 City and 41 Highway, but after a week in the car I was amazed. Between stop and go traffic to and from work and some highway driving to the recording studio, I averaged 38 MPG and I’m not light on the pedal.
The interior is just as stylish as the exterior yet comfortable and sporty. The infotainment system, gauge cluster, and interior amenities are simple and look great. Mazda has mastered the less is more approach with interior design and it really shines in the 3. That’s not to say there isn’t a load of technology and features especially with the fully loaded Grand Touring Package, it just so easy to use that it almost seems natural. There’s also a HUD (Heads Up Display) that pops up when you start the vehicle and it’s positioned right above your steering wheel. It shows your MPH as well as cruise control speed and adaptive cruise control distance. It’s pretty cool and a way better solution that projecting it onto the windshield. I don’t like to be reliant on blind spot monitoring or adaptive cruise control but the systems in the Mazda3 are fluent. I found myself appreciating them by the end of the week and didn’t find them to be an annoyance as some systems can be in other vehicles. Did I mention the seats? The Grand Touring Package had comfortable leather seats that really hug you. The interior was covered in soft touch leather and materials and looks as nice as it feels.
With plenty of packaging options, astounding fuel economy, and a 5-Door Hatchback or 4-Door Sedan, the Mazda3 is definitely a car for anyone looking for a sporty and versatile ride. Driver enthusiasts will find plenty to appreciate about this hot hatch as well.
This past weekend there was a lot of excitement buzzing around here at Morrie’s Brooklyn Park. Why, you ask? Well it’s not everyday we have an NHL player stop by our store.
Minnesota Wild Defenseman, Marco Scandella, gave us a call last week to express his interest in the 2014 GT-R that was on our showroom floor. We were very excited to bring him in for a test drive to check out the vehicle in person.
He arrived on Saturday, smiling ear to ear, and after a short while, decided he was going to go ahead and seal the deal on the GT-R. If you’ve ever seen Marco, you know he’s hard to miss. We even had a few customers in for service that got very excited when they realized who was in the dealership on the same day as they were.
We were thrilled to be able to work with Marco to help him find the vehicle that best fit his needs. Give us a call or visit our website here for more information on our vehicles or to take a test drive today.
It was a real treat trading in my 2000 Chevrolet Impala for a fully loaded 2014 Kia Forte for 24-hours this past weekend. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I can truly say it was a delight to drive this sporty new sedan. I enjoyed it so much; I didn’t want to return the keys.
The 2014 Kia Forte is a great fit for younger drivers looking for a safe and attractive compact sedan with all the bells and whistles for an affordable price. Features that I got to enjoy included air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, a USB input and power windows and locks. But you can expect to find all of those standard features on the base model in the Kia Forte. The EX model that I had the pleasure of driving also included a power sunroof, push button start, a six speaker audio system, cruise control, fog lights, remote keyless entry, power mirrors and the updated generation of the Kia UVO system.
This fully loaded Kia Forte was equipped with a 2.0-liter engine allowing the vehicle to achieve 173 horsepower and 154 lb/ft of torque, and believe me; you can feel the power in this vehicle when you’re cruising around town.
The handling on the new Forte was extremely impressive thanks to the all-new electrically assisted steering capability, which allowed me to be in complete control of the vehicle at all times. The braking and acceleration were also an upgrade for me, as the response time from action to delivery was much quicker than what I was used to in my Impala. All in all, I felt safe and in control while behind the wheel of the 2014 Forte.
Cadillac has always been synonymous with luxury, however, the lack of fresh blood to their lineup in the last decade left them tired and overlooked. That changed with the introduction of the 2013 Cadillac ATS. A new segment for Cadillac, the ATS brings the performance and luxury Cadillac is known for to a smaller, sportier platform. I was “tasked” with driving an ATS for a weekend and I have to say I was nothing less than impressed. I, like many others in my generation, initially thought Cadillacs were only enjoyed by those with an AARP card tucked into their wallet and spending their days on the golf course. I’m happy to say my assumptions were dead wrong.
At first glance this car is gorgeous. It sports the new, more aggressive front fascia that would later appear on the CTS, XTS, ELR, and future updates to Cadillac’s lineup. With features like swept back LED headlamps, 18-inch polished aluminum wheels, and a noticeably sportier stance than Cadillac’s past you can’t help but appreciate how far Cadillac has come. Currently one of the oldest American car brands, second only to Buick, Cadillac is amongst the oldest car brands in the world. Founded in 1902 with lineup consisting of 2 vehicles, the Runabout and Tonneau, both of which resembling the iconic Ford Model-A, Cadillac has spent the last 111 years perfecting the engineering found in their modern day offerings.
I’d love to tell you that I had a grand adventure during my time with the ATS but that would be quite a stretch from the truth. My weekend consisted of errands and traffic that the ATS took from mind-numbingly boring to fun in an instant. Equipped with the optional 321hp 3.6L V6 under the hood, I found myself smiling and giddy over making it to the next red light quicker that my fellow commuters. Its combination of available power, sport suspension, and remarkable list of safety features made driving this little beauty an absolute delight. The wide array of safety features that can be found in the ATS make you feel as if you have a co-pilot in the passenger seat. Getting too close to the car in front of you? Let me apply the brakes for you. Drifting into the next lane on accident? Let me warn you by vibrating your seat. The list goes on with features like adaptive cruise control, heads-up display, and parking assist to name a few.