Texas®

A number of years ago my friend, comedian Henry Cho, pointed out there is a tradition in the South, and especially in Texas, if you don’t have something nice to say about someone you just say: “Bless your heart.” It’s a classic, polite-but-biting, passive-aggressive put down.

Your neighbor chops his toe off with his lawnmower: “Bless his heart.” You’ve seen a baby that looks like it may have escaped from either the zoo or a Ringling Brothers Circus, “Bless his heart.” The woman at the office who can’t figure out how to open a link in an email, “Bless her heart.” Dodge rolls out the so-called “new” Avenger? Bless their hearts.

Dodge is in transition. Again. The current Avenger is a mid-life update of the mid-sized four-door sedan that Dodge sells tons of. Unfortunately, such sales figures are thanks mostly to budget-minded rental car companies and not real-life consumers. It was introduced in 2008 as the replacement of the Cloud cars (Stratus and Sebring), just as Dodge was beginning to descend down a very dark road into bankruptcy.

Honestly, Dodge does do a number of things right. They make fantastic full-sized trucks, great full-sized cars, such as the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger. They also make some fun muscle cars like the Dodge Challenger and, well, let’s face it, they own the minivan.

What Chrysler has never done well is build a good small car. It’s the weak hand in a stacked deck. Look back in the same market space and you’ll see a tremendous trend of sad, tepid little cars like the Plymouth Breeze, or the Dodge Reliant K Car. Even before those, however, the Dart and Plymouth Volaré we’re taking up space in lots. Not even Ricardo Montalban could charm his way out of that dud.

Even their smaller cars have a history of being problematic. The first car that I bought myself, with my own money was a Plymouth Horizon, so I have a great deal of hands-on experience dealing with this story. The current smallest Dodge is the Caliber, which replaced the Neon. I’ve referred to this car as one of the worst cars in the market today, as it’s awkward, underpowered and just plain ugly.

I was driving the Avenger around when I had to do a little soul searching on this. I had to wonder if the issue with the car was me, actually. I’ve spent 25+ years reviewing cars and honestly, most of what I end up reviewing are sports, luxury and some pretty high-end rolling stock. So, there I was, sitting in the driver’s seat of the Avenger thinking: “I have more comfortable lawn furniture!” when I then wondered to myself, “Am I a car snob?”

Is the fact that the car is cheap casting such a bad taste in my mouth? I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I’ve driven a lot of other “cheap” cars that are thrifty in a way that seems to have a far more cohesive package.

I also have a fundamental belief that your standard-of-care on an economy model must be higher because the money being invested into the purchase is considerably more of the consumers total worth. If you are buying a $19,000 car, you’re doing so because you really need it. Odds are, you’re buying a car to transport a young family and possibly to get to multiple jobs to keep a roof over your head. Your monthly car note will be the second biggest expense behind your home and every penny has to count.

Further up the food chain of options, where people go out and buy Jaguars, or Land Rovers, the percentage of income-to-vehicle is not nearly as dire. That end of the market has its value, but odds are the customer has never had to take a jar into the “CoinMaster” to make the car payment.

So it’s not really a snobbery thing, after all, I too understand the reality of creating a meal out of offerings from the “Dollar Store,” and pinching a penny ’til Lincoln yells “uncle!” I realized the other day that my wardrobe has come almost exclusively out of Marshall’s and Ross, and the reason I learned auto-mechanics was because of that Plymouth Horizon. For me, it was either: Learn how to fix it myself or start earning more money to pay someone else to do it.

So in a way, I kind of owe part of my career to Chrysler for building such a horrific car back in the 1980’s. And if the Avenger was available then, it would have been one of the best cars in the market, where even into the 1990’s, the bar was higher and this would have been considered a run-away success. As the standard has increased along with the level of competition, I can’t help but say if I were looking for something in this price bracket the Avenger simply would not be the one for me.

Kia, Hyundai and even Ford have far better driving cars in this space, which are head and shoulders above the Avenger.

I spent some time with my friend Tony, who recently purchased an Avenger. In discussing why he made this choice, I understood that it was more of an appliance purchase than it was one of a car enthusiast. His principal automotive need is to get to work, and he looked at the Kia and Hyundai, but the Avenger simply had a bigger back seat for his growing, soccer-playing daughters. The Avenger does have a much bigger back seat than the competition, and as he put it, “I got the biggest car I could get at the price.” He loves his Avenger because it does what he bought it for, but also points out that if the family is going on a trip, they’ll be loading into his wife’s Pacifica.

It’s extraordinarily expensive to bring a new car into the market. From concept to curbside, it takes years and untold millions of dollars. The Avenger’s midlife update is a step in the right direction, at least. It’s better than the Avenger it replaces and in reality, it’s the end of the whimpering line of cars from Detroit.

Chrysler has never really figured out how to build a good small car their new owners, Fiat, specializes in. Not only do they have the experience, designers and desire to excel in this market, they also have that indefinable Italian passion that exudes confidence and flair.

I look forward to what comes out of the new Chrysler as they invest in the replacement for this rental-ready Avenger, as well as its sister car, the Chrysler 200. Sorry, Chrysler: Even with Eminem providing the Detroit-centric theme music for the rebirth of the company, I can’t help but think of another Southernism I once heard an old rancher say: “You can’t polish a turd. Bless your heart.”

If you don’t remember the silly sci-fi movie Demolition Man, from 1993, allow me to refresh your memory: Sylvester Stallone played a cop who was frozen, then unfrozen in a future where the only restaurants are Taco Bells, everyone is polite and non-violent, the cars drive themselves and Sandra Bullock wears one of the greatest leather and spandex police uniforms ever.

During the “future” police chase, Stallone has to overpower his car’s self-drive system and crashes into a fountain where his car’s safety foam protects him from injury. That image, along with one of Bullock’s thigh-high riding boots and bolero-cut motorcycle jacket, kept going through my head while driving Volvo’s S60 AWD mid-sized sport sedan.

The “future” cars from the movie were voice activated and coddled the occupants in supreme safety and comfort. Given those highlights, there are numerous ties between Volvo’s well-earned reputation for safety and innovation and the sweet, futuristic rides of the movie that maybe hasn’t been so easily forgotten, after all. If you were planning on running into a solid object, this is the car to do it in.

Not only does the Volvo have dual front airbags, side-curtain airbags, and seat bolster airbags but also under-dash airbags to protect your legs in case of a crash. Volvo helped pioneer crash crumple zones to absorb impacts and roll over protection; driver stability controls anti-lock brakes and something called BLIPS: Blind Spot Lane Intervention Warning System. This warning mechanism alerts you when there is a car in your blind spot by flashing warnings in the side mirrors.

The S60 is about the size and market space of the BMW 3 Series or Audi A4, and if you still think of Volvo as boxy, stout, bland-mobiles you really have to see what they are like now. Sleek, stylish and attractive from any angle, the S60 is the middleweight fighter of the pack.

Years ago, I worked as a service advisor in a very large Volvo dealership. There wasn’t a month that went by that I didn’t have a client tell me stories of how their Volvo had saved their life during the course of a horrific accident. In each story, the client walked away unscathed and came back into the dealership to purchase another car.

Volvo owners are among the most loyal customers in the business, outside of the domestic pick-up truck market. It’s absolutely possible to find people who are on their fifth or sixth Volvo in a row, but there has been a little bit of tumult at Sweden’s big car business.

Back in the early 1990’s, Volvo ended up in Ford’s premium portfolio, along with Jaguar, Aston Martin and Land Rover. Then, Volvo staggered a little with some serious electronic glitches in the first generation S80. I had a customer who swore his was demon-possessed, even. Moreover, the brand was forcibly repositioned, away from its core market, where their main competition was fellow Nordic brand, Saab, into a sort of head-to-head with Audi, BMW and Mercedes.

Lesson learned for Volvo: If you are going to try to swim upstream, expect to take on a little water.

Volvo became a high-value asset in a sinking ship by the time Ford started shedding car companies left and right. The first out of the blue oval were the Brits, as Aston was sold, followed by Jag and Land Rover to Tata. Volvo’s unique position and geographic isolation from the rest made for one of the odder marriages when they were betrothed to a Chinese company (Geely) for $1.8 Billion. It’s worth noting that Ford had paid north of $6 Billion for the company.

The Chinese have announced a massive investment into the company, clearing the way for Volvo to emerge from Ford’s large shadow. During the Ford years, Volvo suffered from the same fate that has also stifled Mazda in the North American market at the same time as Ford expected Volvo to capture new clients, they were hell-bent to make sure those new clients would not come at the expense of Ford’s own products.

This generation of Volvo’s are transitional, designed under Ford’s ownership, yet built and delivered under Geely. It will be interesting to see how this relationship works, but there’s no doubt the S60 is on par with any European brand.

From some of the most comfortable seating in the automotive business, you will almost immediately get the picture the S60 is built for the long drive. The interior is Audi-like in its lack of drama and supreme functionality.

The word Solid comes to mind as you transition off the interstate onto rougher surfaces with more twists. The all-wheel drive keeps all the bits working in unison and is one of those bring-it-on options for nasty weather conditions.

Everything works well together and this is one sharp looking car. Now, Volvo may not have the market cache of a Mercedes or BMW, but that certainly is the perception of the brand these days.

During the S60’s time with Any Driven Sunday, I did find a lot of people doing double takes to try and decipher what they were seeing. This slick-looking car is no box on wheels, and is even a bit of a segment buster. Coming over the checkered line with a starting price of just a few ticks over $30,000, and an as-tested Turbo 325 hp V6 AWD north of $42,000 the S60 is a relative bargain in the Euro sports sedan market.

Now the “safety foam” and auto-drive systems from Demolition Man might be just a hair beyond where this Volvo is, the S60 is a sexy Swede.

Ah, damn. I managed to not think of Sandra Bullock long enough to talk about this car, so you will have to excuse me while I go update my Netflix account.

The current automotive landscape has way too many vehicles trying too hard to be everything for everyone. And in doing so they compromise on some things, ignore other things, and become identity-challenged bland-mobiles. The Shelby GT500 is none of that, and plenty more.

Words that should never be used to describe this Mustang-based 2011 Shelby GT500:

  • Subtle
  • Reserved
  • Bland
  • Boring

The Arrest Me-red, two-door arrived at the house on Monday, announcing itself a couple of blocks away with a hearty, lion-esque roar. Complete with white Le Mans stripes, flared fender wells, hyper-aggressive aerodynamics, carbon black wheels and a heavenly short throw shift knob at the pleasure point of a manual Six Speed, the Shel had the road presence of a professional wrestler fully engrossed in his “What are you looking at, Punk?” rant.

It almost had an aura around it.

What is a Shelby? Or more appropriately, who is the man that inspired this poke in the face of mediocrity? Carroll Shelby: A failed East Texas chicken rancher, speed merchant, successful racer, one time fighter pilot instructor, longest surviving double-organ transplant recipient, genuine American icon and the best natural salesman the world may have ever seen. That’s all he is.

After becoming a fighter pilot instructor during World War II, Shelby went home, got married, and started raising chickens on a ranch while racing on weekends. The weekend activities revolved around the now ghostly vapors of old race tracks that used to dot the countryside around north Texas and throughout the South. Many of those legendary old tracks have been swallowed up by suburban sprawl or lawyered out of existence, but in the early 1950’s, the racing world revolved around north Texas.

This was a time of legends, time of men like Hap Sharp and Jim Hall, who’s oil fortunes gave them opportunities to race anything, anywhere. There was also Lloyd Ruby, who is considered one of the greatest American racers ever, and AJ Foyt, a man that could drive, break and fix anything with an engine. It was a time of no seatbelts, leather helmets, and no one talked about NASCAR outside of the South East, and Road Racing was king.

In that past world, the foundation of what would later become a formula for success was laid when Carroll Shelby started racing someone’s car for them. It was a MG that had been outfitted with a small block V8 Ford. It was small, light, nimble and had more motor than most could handle. Carroll drove with such abandon and determination he very rarely lost and eventually earned a chance to drive another light, Anglo-American mutt; a Cadillac-powered Allard. It was this car that made him. His success in races around North America in the CadAllard propelled him to drive “Bird Cage” Maserati’s Ferrari’s, and eventually to win the most prestigious race in the world, The 24 Hours of Le Mans, driving for Aston Martin.

At the same time, as he became one of the most famous drivers in the world and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and pretty much every magazine in America, there was a ticking time-bomb ready to go off. Shelby’s heart was dying. Today, we would probably be able to just take a pill and go on, but in those days, a faulty ticker ended racing careers.

A masterful opportunist, he parlayed his celebrity into Gillette shaving commercials and also joined up with Jim Hall to import European race cars to America via Shelby-Hall Race Cars, located in Dallas. It didn’t last very long as Hall was racing Formula 1 and Endurance racing in Europe, and Shelby wasn’t exactly a man easily given to an office job.

Shelby got hold of a light aluminum British race car called an AC Bristol and found out the company had lost its engine supplier. He managed to convince them to send him rolling chassis of the little race car by telling them Ford was going to supply him engines. Of course, Shelby then had to convince Ford to actually supply the engines to him.

At the time, Lee Iacocca was a rising star at Ford, and as legend has it, the master salesman Iacocca was bulldozed by another like him, and was reported to say, “Someone give this guy an engine before he hurts someone.” The Shelby Cobra was born.

The Cobra formula was a light and nimble British car, big friggin’ engine. It worked (Note: I will explore this later in another article). The Cobra beat all comers and became a legend of its own, spawning the Pete Brock-penned Daytona Coupe Race car, which put Shelby back in the winners circle at Le Mans as a manufacturer, embarrassing the Ford factory team attempting to win the race with their new super car, the GT-40. After the Daytona soundly beat the GT-40 in tests, Ford made a deal with Shelby to take over the GT-40 team. But as a part of the deal to bring him in, the Cobra had to die.

Out of the ashes of the death of the Cobra and the now legendary friendship between Shelby and Iacocca grew the Shelby Mustang GT350, GT500 Program. When the Mustang was introduced in 1964, Iacocca knew he needed a performance package on what was initially an underpowered grocery-getter, but politics at Ford and an industry wide self-imposed ban on direct involvement in auto racing gave Shelby the ability to become the Ford racing proxy.

Original Cobra production was only around 1,000 cars. Six Daytona Coupes, and 20,000 Shelby Mustangs made it to the track and to the road, but a combination of his sponsor Iacocca being fired by Ford, the spike in oil prices, falling sales and that pesky now-faltering heart forced the end of the Shelby Mustang in the early 1970’s.

The Legend of the Shelby Mustang is a fascinating one, indeed. I can not think of any other car that has become a legend unto itself, blending its own history and that of the man who inspired it, along with some fanciful inaccuracies (some coming from Shelby, himself) into a story all its own. It has become a movie character (Gone in 60 Seconds), an object of desire as well as abuse. At any event where Shelby is present, there are usually dozens of children who have been named after him and people who approach him, as well as the car, with a blending of respect and fear.

There has been more ink devoted to this car and man amalgam than any other I can think of, and I have written for many magazines, and I’ve even consulted on a couple of books on both principals.

A few years ago, that faulty ticker was replaced and Shelby is now one of the longest surviving heart transplant recipients. Later in time, he needed a kidney transplant, as well. He has also founded the Carroll Shelby Children’s Charity, which raises money for kids in need of transplants.

These days, his health is said to be not-so-great, but remember that he is well over 85 now and has been married at least 6 times. This man has jammed more life into one than most could possibly imagine.

When Ford and Shelby decided to get the old band back together with the current Shelby GT500 they had a lot to live up to, some of it even fact-based. The decision was made early on that there would be no muddling of this legend, and Ford came out of the box with a loud, brash, thirsty, powerful, no-compromise car of unequaled, swaggering bravado.

It arrives like Robert Duvall’s Lt. Col Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now with a blast of Wagner, and the smell of Napalm in the air. It has a supreme confidence in its stance, letting no one assume it is anything but a serious chunk of car.

The exterior is garish with almost obnoxious sculpted, aerodynamic wings, splitters and curves over big Goodyear racing tires mounted on black powder-coated wheels which give-off a no-nonsense curb appeal. The tail has a high mounted wing, but it’s what is under the other end that counts. The engine. And what an engine it is. A 5.4 liter, four valve V8 lurks under the hood and where most would consider that enough, the Shelby has a SuperCharger to boost an astounding output into the realm of HOLY CRAP! 550 Hp and 510 foot pounds of torque.

All that power results in a snarling beast of aural wonders that make you want to roll the windows down and drive through the Addison Airport Tunnel, over and over again, just to enjoy the roaring sound. The six-speed manual is effortless and really is amazing at dropping all those buckets of power to the ground.

The interior is rather amazing in its own right. Combining “retro” styling that is needed to complete the muscle car redo, combined seamlessly with modern expectations like satellite radio, Sync-integrated GPS, along with every other desirable option in the catalog. One that I personally like is the high-mounted PowerPoint, at the center top of the dashboard, where you can easily plug in a radar detector (yeah, you’re going to want one of those).

This is a far cry from the utilitarian interior one got in the 1960’s Shelbys, but one thing remains – this is not a car for the timid.

On the center console, next to the shifter, there is an understated little button. When pressed, the button turns off the traction control. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON’T TOUCH THAT BUTTON!

The traction control on the Shelby GT500 overpowers its own tires quite easily, with the happy, little, unassuming button deployed, an average driver is in a whole bunch of trouble where enthusiasm is defeated rather quickly by the reality of kinetics. It is way too powerful for anyone without at least as much high-performance driving training experience as I have.

The old school rear-end on this beastly car gets upset rather easily by bumps inconveniently placed at the apex of corners, and the super-tight suspension makes attempting to drink coffee while driving make you look like an ill-advised, near-sighted epileptic trying to exercise with a shake weight.

During the course of week, the $55,000 Shelby GT500 was gulping high-octane like a kid with a garden hose. While running all over north Texas, I came to a couple of conclusions: It’s a brash handful of a car, not for those who fancy themselves in any way environmentally minded, but in a time when so many cars muddle their way to mediocre, the Shelby is one of the most satisfying, over-the-top ways to consume fossil fuels in a multi-sensual, true muscle car experience there is to be had.

And yes, it is just the sort of thing that should have a name like Shelby.

The ads are fantastic: In slow motion, a Jeep crawls over rocks to the deliberate cadence of a drum beat while the deep, resonating voice-over talks about rebirth, America, pride and the toughness of spirit – both of the people who build it as well as the vehicle itself. When one watches the ads they stir a patriotic, do-anything feeling and classic American definitions of rugged individuality.

This isn’t some advertising executive falsely claiming that the vehicle has abilities it simply doesn’t have; this is simply a very good use of branding for a very, very good off-road truck.

As a matter of fact, the Grand Cherokee Laredo is one of the few SUV’s in the market that is truly a SUV. Most of the vehicles in the market are “sortas,” as in the way it’s sorta a truck and sorta a car, but mostly a station wagon with ground clearance. The Cherokee is not one of those, as it really does everything well. From yeoman people hauling, to the go-anywhere abilities that “sortas” dream of, the Laredo manages to pull it all of well.

Its on-road manners are pretty much flawless, and the interior is beyond excellent. The GPS/Entertainment system looks a bit dated, but sounds great, none the less. Optional leather and high-end interior trim has lost the chunky old-school-Chrysler-parts-bin feel and look. All in all, the truck is a very modern machine worthy of not just a glance, but serious consideration for purchase.

Jeep has always been the special brand in the Chrysler stable, having gained its reputation from its origin with the US Military, and later as the go-to choice of outside-the-box thinkers and doers. Recently, Chrysler has been lurching like an addict from crushing debt, to a return to stability, then stepping into the abyss, crashing, rebuilding again and becoming the first of the big three to slip into bankruptcy.

The doomed marriage to Mercedes Benz, then to private equity company Cerberus left Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge cratered with issues worthy of a trailer park after a tornado went through the community. Now firmly in the hands of Italian car giant Fiat, Chrysler is again fighting its way back from the brink.

Really, Chrysler has had enough drama and intrigue over the last 30 years to qualify as an Eugene O’Neil or Tennessee Williams classic. The characters have been fascinating. From Lee Iaccoca, to Bob Lutz, to the man brought in by Cerberus to lead the place, Robert Nardelli, distinct characters have been in great supply.

Nardelli, a CEO from outside of the auto industry, was intended to be a master-stroke that would shake up the norms and get the floundering company back on track. One problem, however: The ship was already under water, and the new captain was only available for the job because Home Depot had fired him for almost submerging the giant home improvement retailer.

At Home Depot, Naradelli oversaw the explosive growth of big box retailing, opening Home Depots all over the place, yet seemed to forget a couple of things along the way. At the time, he wrote best selling books, was featured on 60 Minutes and Forbes as some kind of business wunderkind. At the same time of such fanfare though, the company had reached a crisis where their growth arc was simply unsustainable, and their employees began quite literally hiding from customers. Naradelli became the poster child for shareholder revolt over arrogant overpaid CEO’s as a result of this equation.

In fact CNBC once referred to him as the “Worst CEO in the history of American business.” It was said that he gained this distinction for managing to suck the entrepreneurial spirit out of Home Depot and its generally welcoming employees.

The Depot had forgotten the main reason for its success: Price and service. Eventually, things got so bad that Naradelli was dumped, as the entire business model had to be shifted back to focusing on customer service, and not rapid, fruitless expansion.

The reason this story is worthy of note is this: Someone at Home Depot forgot the fundamentals of their business model and ultimately, the shareholders, employees and customers paid the price. During Naradelli’s tenure at the Chrysler wheel, not only did the debt load, gathered long before he showed up, swamp the company, but one of the stupidest things to ever happen in the industry occurred at Jeep.

During an austerity program at Jeep, someone decided that the best way to get warranty costs under control would be to cancel the warranties of owners that used their Jeeps as actual, multi-functional Jeeps (crazy, right?). Jeeps which had minor rock scrapes on skid plates, or even after-market wheels installed were finding their coverage for mechanical defects eliminated, where they had been available prior to these changes.

Now think about that; the people most affected by this were the embodiment of Jeep’s commercial, rugged image. They were – if you will – the evangelists spreading the word of Jeep by using the “trucks as trucks.” I’ve even heard of a warranty being canceled for “Severe Use,” due to mud and rocks being found under the truck when it had brought into the Jeep dealership. Well, DUH! It’s a JEEP.

Now, every time I see those great advertisements, touting the steel skid pad as it scrapes across a rock, or touting the off-road toughness of the brand, I have the same thought: “Well there goes your warranty oh, Jeep owner”

Now that Fiat has taken over Chrysler and Naradelli is safely away from the business world again, I’m sure the Italians understand that the last thing they need to do is alienate the people who have already purchased their products.

In many ways I am more comfortable with the place Chrysler and Jeep finds itself in now, that the ship is being steered by the people who have brought us such great, spirited vehicles from Europe. They do “get it” when it comes to the passion a Jeep owner has for his or her Jeep.

The 4×4 variant is really the only way to go because, really, buying a two-wheel drive Jeep is kind of like dancing in scuba flippers – missing the point. Pricing ranges from the low $30’s to mid $40’s for the top-of-the-line, loaded Overland Edition. This is on par with the competition, and our tester was juiced with the 360hp 5.7 Hemi V8, which is, like any Chrysler Hemi, exuberant when it comes to fuel usage.

It’s funny how things tend to go, though. Under the skin of the Jeep flagship vehicle is a variation of Mercedes M class chassis, left over from before they exited the picture. It’s a very stable, sturdy foundation and will bridge the gap far into the future.

The Grand Cherokee Laredo provided to Any Driven Sunday is really one of my personal favorites over the last few months. Well mannered on-road and quite capable off, at the same time I drove the Jeep, I also had the chance to drive a new Toyota 4Runner and Ford Explorer. These are the three drivers in this market, defining what the mid-sized SUV should be, and how they should work. If I was looking to purchase one for myself, each has the equation solved slightly differently

If my primary driving was going to be on-road only, the Explorer might be the best choice, actually. With more off-roading, it might be the 4Runner, but that’s really splitting hairs at this point. If I wanted one that does both the best, well, the Jeep could definitely be the right choice. It truly is a personal choice and if you are in the market, please make sure you take the time to look at each of these choices.

It has an interesting name, and it’s an interesting place. Tucked just off I-75 and just north of Park on the southbound side, next to a motorcycle shop and a Steak-n-Shake in what was the Alamo Grill location, a soccer-themed English pub-style restaurant has opened its doors. Allen Wickers Public House is here.

The name is inspired by one of the great adventurers of the 20th century who’s name has become part of cockney rhyming slang. Allen Wickers (wickers-knickers-pants) literally takes on the “Traveling Pants” and brings high quality pub-grub, but with a few twists.

Wickers, the man, was one of those writer/adventurer/Renaissance men in the spirit of an Ernest Hemingway or Winston Churchill. You know, someone who wasn’t content to sit and watch others idly, but would simply go-and-do. In fact, Wickers was a “Bentley Boy”; a part of a group of English gents who raced in the first 24 Hours of Le Mans at a time that it was considered fanciful for a car to run, let alone race, for a full day without breaking.

He was cut from the British cloth that defined a generation of men who would sail around the world on a yacht one year, then climb Mount Everest the next. To head out on a safari in Africa, or to explore the length of the Nile for no particular reason but adventure wasnt anything unusual for these types of men. He might have even been one of the inspirations behind Ian Fleming’s James Bond character, as they may or may not have worked together for the Home Office during WWII (it’s hard to get spies resumes right sometimes, you know?).

Wickers’ son, Allen Wickers II, was a broadcaster that joined the British Army at the age of 16 and earned a position as a commissioned officer in the Film Corps where he followed and documented the savage battles in Italy during that tumultuous period of time. Wickers II later became a correspondent for BBC, traveling the world with his program “Wickers World,” which would often be the subject of parody by Benny Hill and Monty Python.

Opening a pub with a moniker like Allen Wickers could only be fitting for English themes, and of course, Soccer is the dominant sports theme when discussing anything UK-related. The FC Dallas fan cub has taken root in the pub, as have dozens of local soccer enthusiasts to watch road games and enjoy some scratch-made everyman grub.

“When someone recognizes the name they really get what we are about here,” Manager and Partner Evan Rupp says. “I really wanted to do a place that was not just another sports bar, but had some unique things. Really, we were lucky, because the folks who did the (now defunct) Alamo spent a lot of money on the facilities, so when we got this space, we were able to concentrate our efforts on making it unique.”

General Manager Robert Lenore brought his degree in Restaurant Management from Texas Tech and his years of management experience from Brinker and Red Robin to the team. “For years I have been wanting to do something like this,” says Lenore of the new and promising project.

When I say “Everyman Gastro-Pub”, I mean that the food is scratch-made-fresh, yet the presentation tends to be slightly lacking with baskets and plates acting as the main serving dishes. “I’m OK with that,” explains Lenore. “There are other places that spend the effort on final, artsy presentation and spend money on fancy plates; their food may look great, but I know ours tastes great and that’s more important to me.”

The British Pub-standard Fish-n-Chips is made with hand-cut Cod, battered with a light crispy tempura and doesn’t feel greasy like some places tend to serve.

“Because of how good this location was, when we were lucky to get it, we came out of the box pretty quickly. Overall, it was around 60 days from lease-to-open and that’s pretty short, but we seem to have earned some regulars already. It really is a neighborhood place where you can feel at ease and you don’t have to yell over music or deal with a lot of pretense.”

Lenore continues, “We also have open ears. The thing that really separates us from chain places or corporate diners is that we are always listening and interacting with our customers. If they want a specific beer or something, the decision-makers to do that are sitting right here. It gives our customers direct access to the guys who are making it happen.”

Those years in Food Service prepared Lenore for the ups and downs of opening a new location, but for Rupp it was a different story. “I had worked a lot of retail and grew up in a construction family,” recalls Rupp. “Not having a great deal of restaurant experience, the biggest thing I had to learn was that opening didn’t mean you would get customers right away.”

“I will admit to having some second thoughts, I mean this is really my inheritance here,”  admits Rupp. Rupp’s father had successfully built multiple construction companies specializing in concrete, paving and infrastructure, but his own aspirations always included getting into this kind of business.

A couple of years ago, opening a soccer-themed sports bar anywhere in North Texas would have been considered a tremendous risk, but the success of FC Dallas, along with changes in the demographics of Plano, have made this type of venture’s success a real possibility. “We’re aimed at a soccer crowd, as far as sports go, but really, if the Cowboys or Rangers are on, we’ll put the TV’s on what the crowd in the place wants,” says Lenore.  Lenore’s own Red Raiders might just get preferential treatment as well.

Currently there are over 16 beers on tap, and a wide selection of bottled and canned options are also available. “As we go, we find out what works. If someone wants something special on our list, we are more than happy to give it a try,” Rupp says. “It’s all about making what our customers want, actually happen.”

“We have had a lot of success with any of the Fuller’s; the IPA and others like that, we sell a lot of. For a while we had great success with the Kronenbourg, but they’re on strike now and we can’t get it. We do different things, so it’s not just the imports that we move a lot of. We have a PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon) tap for no other reason than it’s cheap,” Lenore says. “We’ll tinker with things and make changes, but really our biggest challenge is to get people in the door the first time. After that, they come back because we try to treat them right.”

Included in the facility is a separate event room for up to 50 called the Boot Room, and plans are in place to put a patio in the back to host live-music and to offer outdoor seating.

One item I tried on the menu of particular note is the Meatloaf Sandwich. That choice was so substantial, that when I picked it up, the “heft” alone made me stop and look at what I was doing. A thick, hand-made meatloaf slab was topped with mashed potatoes,-onions and mushrooms in a satisfying way. It’s the kind of stick-to-your-ribs kind of food – simply prepared and presented – that will satisfy your hunger and stay with you for a while (in a good way!).

As for the long term, the guys are thinking about opening multiple locations, but are sticking to the knitting of making their Allen Wickers Public House the kind of neighborhood spot that’s worth leaving your neighborhood to find.

 www.theallenwickerspub.com

Allen Wickers Public House

2301 N. Central Expressway Suite 195

Plano, Texas

972.424.2300

I love cars. I love driving, racing, and traveling by car. I’m that guy who gets up early on a Sunday to wash a car by hand. I love gadgets and gizmos and sensual design, so there are no words that can strike fear as deep into my heart as: “Your minivan is here.”

The Minivan: An anonymous, emasculating, cheerio-encrusted,suburban assault vehicle. Typically, they burst with the soul-destroying songs of Sponge Bob, and Dora the Explorer for the pre-Beiber set. It seems as though the car seat-mounted children stare as blankly at their mobile entertainment units as the sleep deprived parents do from the driver’s seat.

Do you get the notion that driving a minivan is not on my “must do” list? Checking any sort of residual masculinity at the door, Toyota dropped off a 2011 Sienna for Any Driven Sunday to test out, recently. In my front window, my neutered Yellow Labrador Retriever, Carlin, smiled, “Now, you will know how I felt!”

As much as I don’t want to admit it, the Sienna is about the only minivan I’ve driven that might rate as kind of cool. It’s a good-looking vehicle, and with optional, high-end aerodynamic front bumper fascia, and all the bells and whistles jammed into the “Limited” it wasn’t as bad as my preconceived notions warned.

The price starts at $24,000 and steps up to $25,600 for LE trim, $30,000 for the SE, $32,500 for the XLE and $38,800 for the fully loaded-up Limited. Even at the entry point, the Sienna is pretty well put together. The Limited had leather-covered everything, dual DVD, navigation, and pretty much every option available on a car or truck.

Both rear side doors were power and remote-operated from the key-fob, as was the rear hatch. Such an attribute is pretty cool, and for the I-have-to-carry-everything-in-one-trip set, it’s very convenient, indeed.

The more I drove the Sienna, the more I realized that if one is ever forced into this market segment – and no one ever wakes up saying they WANT a minivan unless they need one – the Sienna is easily one of the better choices out there.

As I was setting up next to a suburban soccer field to take some pictures of the van, I couldn’t help become hyper-aware that I didn’t belong there. As a 45 year old, single dude with a pretty expensive camera in tow, driving a minivan, I figured that someone would have called Chris Hansen, and that any second, the “To Catch a Predator” staff was going to jump out from behind a bush. So, I took the pictures and got out of there as quickly as I could.

Really, the minivan just isn’t a vehicle I would ever get for myself, unless there was a very significant shift in my world. The funny thing is: The market whose parents owned the first generation minivans in the 80’s are now old enough to be the target consumer. For the most part, those former back seat passengers of minivans have run away from this product at break-neck speed. They’re the folks who have created the SUV and Crossover segment as one of the biggest parts of the automobile market.

They seek out the functionality but, in their minds, they also avoid the stigma attached to the minivan.

As the generation before them created the minivan market because they swore they would never drive a station wagon like their Mom’s, the Minivan has created its own anti-market. For those who do not have that particular bias in their heads, and don’t mind the look of defeat that seems to come with piloting one of these very functional vehicles, the Sienna is the high-water mark for drivability and livability.

When Toyota came back to pick up the Sienna, they left me with a Scion TC, equipped with a six-speed manual. As a result, my manhood was restored faster than a spike of Viagra. For the week of Suburban Amnesia and for all my whining about driving a minivan, the Toyota option proved its worth. Hauling all sorts of stuff without any problem and finding its way around town very comfortably was quite the treat.

It is most definitely not for me, but for those looking at Chrysler’s Grand Caravan, or the other benchmarks of the market, the Sienna should be considered seriously. I don’t love it, but I have learned to respect it for what it is.

As part of the best-selling vehicle lineup in North America for almost 30 years, the Ford F-Series is without a doubt one of the best choices for a pickup truck in the full-sized market. Now, the question is which one to choose, as they start with the 1/2 ton F-150 and proceed in increments of 100, from F-250 to F-650, for those who simply need a dump truck that only looks like a pickup truck.

I’ve always been one to appreciate a truck for being a truck, rather than a personal car with a big, open trunk. With that being said though, the pickup in Texas is a car, truck, personal expression, external display of one’s DNA, office and even a workbench.

Ford sent over a 6 cylinder F-150 a couple of weeks ago, and it was a very comfortable, competent, and solid performer. I was surprised the considerably smaller power capability didn’t result in any significant fuel economy increase. Obviously, this is something that’s becoming more important as gas prices continue to creep north of $3.50 per gallon. And for a vehicle over 1/2 ton, my personal choice is to go diesel every time.

Even with the recent spike in diesel prices I can always justify the enhanced price of entry (in Ford’s case it is a $7,000 premium) to achieve the long term reliability, durability and fuel-usage economy that comes along with the far more powerful, big diesel engine. It’s amazing how the technology on the power stroke direct injection system has evolved over the years. Most may remember the staccato beat of incoming artillery and black clouds of unspent crud coming out of the tail pipe in the old school diesels. But with the newer, cleaner and quieter systems, you will be hard pressed to actually be aware that you’re driving a diesel from inside the well insulated cabin.

This quiet, but still fantastically powerful, truck with its solid frame and all of the expected cargo and towing capabilities – which put the stamped “SUPER DUTY” across the front grill – makes quite the visual statement, as well. As someone who spends a great deal of time on motorcycles, the front facade of this truck is almost frightening, what with its large swath of chrome glistening in the sun. Simply put: It’s one of the sharpest looking, heavy-duty vehicles ever to bear a big blue oval that I’ve ever seen.

Anyone in the HD pickup market knows it is a very tough room, loyalties in this subset of the market run into warring clans with family dynasties of Ford owners who can’t imagine anyone driving another type of truck. I have to tell you, I learned how to drive on my uncles F100 as the first enclosed vehicle, after lawn mowers, motorcycles and farm tractors when I was 10 or 11 years old. I don’t really know if anyone else in the family was aware that I was out driving around the property in Uncle Charlie’s truck, but I have my own personal bias when I hop into the big Ford: It feels as much like home as the smell of my mother’s Brown Sugar cookies.

The Super Duty 4×4 crew cab 3/4 ton truck has an entry price-point of $44,500, and with the addition of the V8 Turbo Diesel, power everything, cloth interior, shiny wheels and satellite radio, the price as-tested for the “big truck” comes in just north of $60,400.00. But, if you also look at the fact that most who do buy this kind of vehicle almost live in them, as they have morphed into mobile offices that is really not that heavy major of a switch from the real thing.

Both Nissan and Toyota have ventured into the full sized market over the last few years, but have purposely not wandered north into the Heavy Duty Diesel market. If they ever do, they are in for a hell of a fight as the Dodge, GM and Ford competition is very intense, already.

From the high step into the Super Duty, to its large turning radius, there is nothing wimpy about its look or impression on the road. In town or on the highway, the 6.7l v8 single turbo’s dual impellers rocket you unencumbered from a stop and overtakes almost everything on paved or unpaved roads. I didn’t have any opportunity to test out the towing abilities, but it can handle nearly anything from small trailers to mobile homes with not so much as a blush.

Really, everything about this truck is spot-on spec, from its handsome exterior to effortless interior, but were I to be in this market, I would have a very difficult time making the decision on what to take home. Personal opinion: The Ram has a better interior, and the Chevy has a quieter drive train, but the Ford has one of the best combinations for the consumer. It’s a really tough choice, regardless.

One thing that may push you into the land of Ford is this new power plant is designed to run up to 300.000 miles before a major service. Judging from talking to owners all over the state in my travels, I have to report that they claim the 6.7 is the best diesel Ford has ever put in a pickup. This is a big deal, as problems with the prior big D had resulted in a bit of a black eye for Ford.

In many ways this truck reminds me a little of the Cattle Barron’s Ball – an annual society must-do every year, here in Dallas where folks get all dressed up in tuxedo’s and cowboy boots – it’s flashy chrome still comes with a whole bunch of real truck.

 

 

My life has always revolved around a Ford Mustang.

Ford’s original Pony car was first introduced as one of the biggest new car projects in history as a 1964 1/2 model. I was introduced as a 1965… born in October. Now, over the last 45 years I am willing to concede the Mustang has had a much greater impact on the world than I have, but it seems like I have never been more than two steps away from one.

My earliest memories revolve around a hunter green Mustang my mom had as her car. My dad was the General Manager at a big Ford store and she always claimed a personal vehicle out of the inventory. Thankfully, her choice was always a Mustang. To this day, she still remembers her cars fondly.

The Sixties were good to the Mustang; the early Seventies were as well, but with the Arab oil embargo of 1973, EPA emissions, changes in safety standards and a general malaise at Ford, a neutered Mustang Cobra II, the Mustang II and other forgettable and anonymous renditions were the result. In 1979 the third generation plopped down on the scene, in our driveway and into the hands of my older sister.

It was the first new car she had ever bought and I remember it fondly, even though it was underpowered and a quality control problem poster-child. At this time, I was just coming of age and into my own automotive desires. A few years later I found myself selling cars at the local Ford dealership where my father had worked decades before, and I managed to get a 5.0 GT as a demo. This was the early 90’s and Ford had just backed away from replacing the Mustang’s Fox chassis with the front wheel drive, Mazda-originated car that eventually reached the market as the Ford Probe.

At the time Robert Van Winkle, a.k.a. Vanilla Ice, had emerged from “the hood” in Carrollton, TX and was “rapping” about cruzin’ in his Five Point-O. In fact, I know there is at least one picture of me with one company car, skinny tie, and a hair cut close to what we would call a mullet. Still, I thought I was pretty cool.

By the time the mid 90’s came around I was back in school and a guy at Ford called Alexander Trotman had risen to the big chair and he was being hailed as the savior of the Mustang, as low sales and build-quality issues had threatened to swallow up the entire rear wheel drive sports car market. The cross-town GM products, Camaro and Firebird, were about to end their production and Dodge had gotten out of the rear wheel drive world completely. While in college Ford recruited a bunch of us as part of a focus group on the then NEW Mustang, so again the car cut a swath through my life.

Years later, after moving to Dallas and being one of the founders of Texas Driver Magazine, there was yet another Mustang being introduced and I got the chance to ride it pretty rough while covering the Great Carrera Pan-American Road Race in Mexico where the newest mustang was the pace car. I wrote an article about the experience racing across Mexico in this newest stallion riding shotgun in the pace car through the mountains.

To be certain: The entire event is still something I consider a high water mark in my Auto-journalistic life.

Arriving back in Dallas I was pulled into the world of Carroll Shelby and the Mustang via some articles of many mutual friends who helped me write articles for TDM, Automobile Quarterly and other publications.

It has been a while since one made its way into my stable, but the original pony car looks pretty good after 45 years. In fact, Ford sent over a 2011 Mustang 5.0 GT,recently and yup, the Five OH is back. When the old 5.0 was replaced, it really was a 4.8l v8 and Ford put its corporate-wide modular 4.6 under the hood of the late 90’s early 00’s.

The newest Mustang continues with the formula of the relatively small car with the pretty big motor, as pioneered back in the 60’s. It’s a well sorted-out rear wheel drive whose evolutionary chassis upgrades and Big Brembo brake package makes for a car with plenty of go and stop.

19-inch, optional tire package brings both the right look and considerable grip to the short wheel base. Also, 412 horsepower and 390 foot pounds of torque make this pony get up and go in a hurry with considerable growl from the free flowing exhaust. It sounds WONDERFUL when you mash down on the go stick.

The interior is pretty much flawless as long as you take into consideration that the back seats are more ornamental than functional, and realize that the car is really intended for a maximum capacity of two. With subtle tweaks and a proper 6-speed MANUAL transmission, the Mustang is one of the most satisfying go-fast coupes on the market. But, keep in mind, the ads that claim 30+ mpg are based on the 6-cyl driven by the hypothetical little old lady.

Each time you make the ‘Stang growl, and your fuel gets sucked down into the 5.0., the result is grin-inducing but thirsty. Really, complaining about fuel economy in a car like this is kind of silly as there is an expectation of such. If you want mileage out of a gallon of gas, go buy something else.

With the history I’ve had with multiple Mustangs over the years, I would be hard pressed to find one that was better “out of the box.” And knowing how many modifications there are available, you can begin with a really well-handling, fast car like this and start screwing on bit and pieces using the Mustang as a platform for virtually limitless numbers of enhancements.

The Modern 5.0 Mustang GT comes across the checkout at $38,000.00 as tested. For most of the last 15 years there has been no real competition, but recently Chevy brought back the Camaro, and Mopar has stoked up the Challenger. The Challenger is really not direct competition as it is much bulkier and just not the same type of car. The Camaro is really the only natural rival, with Nissan’s 370z being the closest non-domestic option.

If I were in the market for a car like this, I might be tempted to stick with the clean, understated look of the GT, rather than the more attention grabbing Shelby that basically screams at you of its intent. I have always appreciated the “sleepers” that surprise you.

After 45 years in the market the Mustang is still young and vibrant - me not so much. But I did call my mom and tell her I was driving down the road in a new Mustang and at the age of 83, with a brand new aftermarket knee, she told me she still wants her old Mustang back.

Me too, Mom.

Jim Muise is a regular contributor to The Squawker. His Any Driven Sunday column appears regularly here, so keep checking back.

The three-way battle for the Heavy Duty segment of the pick up pruck market just got considerably more interesting.

All three domestic players, Ford, Dodge and GM, have, over the last few months, rolled out their big guns. They are all packing new or updated power from big, stump pulling turbo diesel engines.

This is not the segment of the full sized market the others play in. Both Toyota and Nissan, who offer excellent 1/2 ton options, do not have vehicles in the 3/4 ton market and do not offer diesel alternatives in the North American market. It is one of the few arenas in which the domestics do not have Pacific Rim competition.

It has become a hotly contested segment where each is scratching for advantage touting “Better” towing, “Better” interior, “Better” horsepower and trying to parse the most miniscule advantage into a marketing bonanza.

The most coveted of all potential customers is the convert. The convert is one who has always bought a Ford who decides to go against trend and opt to by a Chevy instead. That doesn’t sound that farfetched to most but this is the most loyal consumer in the most loyal market segment in the automotive business.

Especially in Texas, which is the largest market in North America for trucks, where brand loyalty takes on a near religious fervor in some quarters, I have actually witnessed fist fights that began when one’s truck gets insulted. It is the Texan equivalent of telling ‘Yo’ Momma’ slap downs.

The general more than takes this profitable and competitive market seriously and offer both GMC and Chevy truck labels that are essentially the same rolling stock with slight variations on branding theme. The Chevy Silverado 2500 HD 4WD LT provided to Any Driven Sunday is one of the nicest riding large trucks in the market.

Powered by a wonderfully quiet and powerful DuraMax 6.6 V8 Turbo diesel mated to a strong and seamless Allison 6-speed automatic, the Silverado is a fantastic place to either watch highway miles disappear or slowly slip past trees and turf off road. The interior on the test truck was as it should be LOW maintenance, just simple fabric and vinyl – a no muss, no fuss affair.

Not that the Chevy was devoid of options. With the “On the Job” package, it came equipped with bed mounted tie down hooks, rail liner protectors, a slip resistant bed liner, and 18” polished aluminum wheels brightening up the exterior. It is as it should be: a work truck that looks great.

The premium uptick on the diesel for any of these HD trucks is usually a $5-7 grand ticket inflator that keeps all but those who need the power of this tool from experiencing how wonderful going to the pump with the green handle can be. A regular Silverado HD 4×4 with a big gas motor will hit you squarely in the 10-14 MPG area, where the diesel was consistently pulling 18-22 MPG numbers regardless of how hard I was throttling it down the road.

In my mind, the greater fuel economy and more efficient power delivery afforded by a diesel engine is worth the increased price. I know there are ways via tax incentives for Commercial vehicles and especially for “Alternative” fuel vehicles that can help take the sting out of that price jump. However you do it the diesel it the way to go, hands down, in the large truck market.

After all, with a Heavy Duty truck it is not about the show it is about the go and this Chevy goes very well, it handles far more like a car and has a very comfortable and well laid out interior. This is the kind of truck that owners keep for a long time and use the hell out of.

While driving around the Melissa area of North Texas, where the pictures were shot, it became obvious the simple but elegant lines of the Silverado carried well down side roads with minimal drama. The steering is light and the handling, braking and road manners Chevy brings to the table are second to none.

I really liked the Dodge HD 2500 we had a couple of weeks ago it was a great truck, but for the option of heavy duty I found my preference started to shift to Chevy, but alas it had to go home.

Thankfully, my truck fetish will be sated by the Ford Super Duty that has taken its place outside the front door of my home.

Let’s be honest here. No one needs this car. No one needs a quarter million dollar carbon fiber super car. No one needs 0-60 times “under three seconds” or 0-124MPH time of “under 10 seconds”. No one really needs a 600 Hp two seater.

Want is a different thing altogether, I know a lot of people who want the McLaren MP4-12C and even a few who can afford it.

This is the stratospheric segment of the ultra-uber-untouchable part of the automotive world that most people will never actually see or experience themselves, let alone be able to drop the price of a really nice house on.

The MP4-12C market may just surprise you. Retailers have been chosen in such exotic locales as Zurich, Dubai, Monaco and Dallas, yup Dallas.

This is not McLaren’s first foray into road cars. The company evolved out of Legendary Formula One racer Bruce McLaren’s race team that has evolved to the current perennial track favorite race factory McLaren F1.

As far back as the early 80’s McLaren offered a Mustang “Road Race” package that turned the stallion into something that looked like a burnt orange blister. It had bulging wheel arches right out of IMSA road racing to accommodate race slicks, enhanced brakes and suspension and it was a car I remember drooling over as it sat on the front cover of Road&Track. Later in the 90s, they introduced one of the most coveted cars in history: the McLaren F1.

The F1 was basically a barely street legal LeMans race car powered by a BMW Motorsports engine in the back and was the only car I can remember that placed the driver right in the center and included two small jump seats near the pilot’s elbows. Simply put it was driving heaven.

A number of years ago I was standing in the race shop of a West Texas oil and gas man leaning against his McLaren F1. He had very generously offered me the chance to drive the car but there was a glitch in the plans as it was being serviced on the day I showed up. I was asking about the service when the car fired up on its own and went through a test pattern of revs. I thought it might be possessed but the mechanic explained the satellite dish on the roof of the shop was allowing F1 race tech’s the ability to wire directly into the car from England.

McLaren later partnered with Mercedes Benz and produced a limited number of SLR supercars that were brought in very limited numbers but there was something too clinical about the super Mercedes. It was very much like the automotive equivalent of one of those Architectural Digest ultra modern homes: stark, linear and devoid of emotional connection.

With the MP4-12C, McLaren ventured forth with some rather exceptional numbers and even more exceptional bits and pieces. The carbon fiber uni-cell chassis is reported to only weigh 176 pounds and is exceptionally strong and stout. Instead of relying on BMW or Mercedes to provide the engines McLaren developed its own TwinTurbo charged 3.8l V8. Utilizing F1 level electronic ignition, a seven speed dual clutch drive system and super light construction the MP4 is considered the highest horsepower normal gasoline engine with the lowest tail pipe emissions.

McLaren brought a MP4-12C to Dallas after introducing the car at Pebble Beach in California. Along with dealers in Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Florida and New York, Dallas was chosen for its high concentration of wealth and its exuberant car market.

They chose Park Place, a company with no small amount of experience dealing in the high end of the auto world. Already a multi flag dealer representing everything from Smart Cars and Porsche, to Rolls Royce and Bentley, Park Place was really the ideal retail partner to bring on board.

Dealer Principal Ken Schnitzer and GM Heath Strayhan were beaming during the Media Launch telling Any Driven Sunday about plans to build their showroom next to the Bentley, Rolls Royce Maserati location on Lemon Av.

With fingers and toes firmly crossed, we hope Mr S allows Any Driven Sunday a chance to drive the McLaren when they do take delivery of their own cars sometime early in 2011.