Sunday, December 28, 2014

Flashback!!! Compact Imports at the 1987 Chicago Auto Show... is this the beginning of the econobox era?

This video has popped up on Facebook and other social media just recently. It's a flashback to the early days of the 'econobox' era. 

The title of this video refers to compact imports yet there's several domestic manufacturers shown. 

The '88 Mercury Tracer  was a rebadged version of the Ford Laser model already sold in Asia and Australia, which was itself a restyled Mazda 323.The '88 Pontiac LeMans was manufactured by Daewoo and the '88 Mitsubishi Precis was a rebadged Hyundai. To top that off, the Ford Festiva was engineered by Mazda and manufactured by Kia. Mazda is Japanese; Daewoo, Hyundai and Kia were all based in South Korea.

I noticed that the Ford Festiva was presented as being equipped with a 1.1 litre engine with a 1.3 litre as an option. Although the smaller engine was available in other markets the larger, 1.3 litre, was the engine that came as the standard in North America. 

Not all of the cars in the video are what I would consider an econobox though. The LeMans is borderline and the VW Fox isn't really a "box". 

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Earliest road trip memories

I recently came across a couple of photos of one of my early cars. This was my second car and the  first I ever bought from a dealer. It was 1975 and I paid $400 for it. Can't remember how many miles were on it at the time but I do recall it needed a new windshield and within a couple of months of ownership I had to replace the brakes.

Even back then I couldn't leave things stock. I wanted to up the performance a bit so I installed a Mr. Gasket dual point distributor and a carburetor from a '69. The choke had to be converted to the '59's 6 volt system from the '69's 12 volt. I purchased an AM/FM radio and a voltage converter to go with it. Other modifications were the custom steering wheel and interior door panels. I also started on painting the stock steel wheels to resemble the then popular Jackman 5 spoke steel wheels.

The reason I'm sharing this is that the photos reminded me of my first road trip! I had only had my driver's license for a couple of years and hadn't ventured much more that two or three hundred kilometers from home. Friends had recently moved from Calgary to Campbell River BC, which is located on Vancouver Island, and had extended an invitation to come and visit. That was the seed for my first solo road trip.

There was no gas gauge in the early Beetles so planning for the trip was based on an estimated fuel consumption and how far I thought I could get without risking running out of gas. It turned out that my initial estimates were very conservative. My route took me west from Calgary along the Trans-Canada highway through Banff with the first scheduled fuel stop in Golden BC, 265km / 164 miles away. I only needed 18 litres / 4 imperial gallons of gas which netted me 40 miles per gallon. This turned out to be the average for the whole trip, 1600 miles and 40 gallons of gas.

The Coquihalla Highway was still 10 years from being opened so my route followed the Trans Canada Highway through Fraser Canyon. I remember the exhaust developing a leak somewhere after Kamloops BC. In those days oil came in cans so I stopped at a gas station, asked for an empty can, purchased  a couple of clamps and had my exhaust quieted down in no time.

Stopped at a campsite near Hope BC overnight planning an early start the next morning. Made it to Vancouver in time for the noon ferry across to Nanaimo BC and then headed up to Campbell River from there. 

The trip was a lot of fun and other than the exhaust patch I had no problems with the car. I didn't run out of gas either! I showed the pictures to the family the other day and one of the first things they said is that I should have kept the car! Perhaps they were right.

Do you remember your first road trip? Please share it by commenting below.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

We've been everywhere... an update

I don't want to leave out the Canadian portions of our road trips so here's a map showing the provinces we've been in during the same time frame of our earlier post:

Provinces we've visited in the Festiva marked in yellow

Although over the years we've been in more than what's shown I've only included those provinces that we've been in with the Festiva.We hope to increase the yellow bits on both maps during 2015!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

We've been everywhere... well not quite

I was just going over some of our blog posts and thought it would be fun to map out the states we have been through in the Festiva so here it is...

The states marked in yellow are the ones we've driven through since September of 2011 on our "Festiva Madness" and "Festiva in the Park" road trips. Final tally is 25 states plus Washington DC as of November 15, 2014. Those two road trips totaled over 18,000km / 11,000 miles spread over 29 days. Follow the links to the first post in each of those trips.

Your comments are welcome.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Not every road is a winding road.

Most of the road trips and favorite drives I've written about in the past have featured twisty two lane hardtop highways winding their way through mountain and forest. In fact there are some great drives that fit that description only an hour west of our home here in Calgary. 

The picture is considerably different an hour in the opposite direction. When you drive east from here the roads straighten out considerably and the vistas are long and broad. Although my preference is for the twisty bits there's something appealing about the long view too. The following photos were taken on the westward drive from Salem Acres Bible Camp, just west of Big Valley AB, to Innisfail AB along Alberta Highway 590.

This stretch of highway is about as straight as you can get as it rolls across the prairies and is a fairly typical example of the roads to be found across the eastern half of our province.

Friday, August 8, 2014

WESTIVA 2014... more photos

Here are a few more photos from the Westiva meet held last month. Enjoy...

Promised engine shot of Casey's 1.0L 3 cylinder turbo

Casey's Swift

Brad's Festiva in its current trim.

Upper Kananaskis Lake where we dipped our toes in the water.

On the road up to Boulton Creek Trading Post.

Thanks to Wilf and Brad for sending these. 

Brad also posted a little video of the drive from Wedge Pond up to the Boulton Creek Trading Post....

Thanks again to everyone who made it out. See you again next year, July11!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Gridlock on the TransCanada Highway.

Yesterday, August 4th, I drove my son and a couple of his friends to Grindrod, BC in our Ford Festiva. The drive out was great; we made really good time,didn't use much fuel and enjoyed the great driving weather and relatively light traffic. From our home in Calgary to our friend's in Grindrod is a 500km westward run that passes through Banff, Yoho, Glacier and Mount Revelstoke National Parks and over the Rogers Pass.

Castle Mountain near the intersection of the Trans Canada Highway and Highway 93

I was really looking forward to the run home that afternoon as there are quite a few stretches that are a lot of fun to drive, and by fun I mean twisty two lane. I was also planning to take a short detour at Golden to drive up the Kicking Horse Trail, one of the roads I mentioned in one of my "favorite drive" posts. Before I continue with the story I must say that I had noticed that the eastbound traffic was a little on the heavy side. With it being the Monday of a long weekend I wasn't surprised but as you will see it turned out to be quite a bit worse than I first thought.

After depositing the boys at the designated spot I began my return trip. The first leg from our friend's Grindrod home to Sicamous is about 34km on twisty two lane  BC Highway 97A that hugs the shore of Mara Lake for about half of that distance. Highway 97A is the northeastern branch of the highway that runs from the US border just south of Osooyos BC, through the Okanagan Valley and joins the TransCanada Highway at Sicamous. I wasn't too surprised then to see a bit of a back up in Sicamous with all the holiday traffic. I filled up the Festiva's tiny (38L) fuel tank, registering a satisfactory 5.7L/100km, and then headed out eastbound on the main highway. 

Here's where things began to fall apart. The heavy traffic I'd noticed on the way in was now heavier and slower. It took ninety minutes of stop and go to reach Revelstoke BC, only 75km away! Average speed.... 50km/h! 

I stopped in Revelstoke and revisited the Nomad Food Co. on Victoria Ave where Sharon and I had dined on our June road trip. The place was hopping and the food was awesome; you should try their crispy chicken burger. I stayed in Revelstoke for about an hour and then hit the highway again. The first 25km or so were great, even with the expected heavy holiday traffic. Things came to a stop, literally, 28km out, right by the Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk with stopped vehicles as far as one could see up the road. From there it was stop and go again for the remaining 120km to Golden. I left Revelstoke at 6:00pm MST and arrived in Golden at 8:50pm MDT. Average speed....52km/h!

Stopped at the Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk turn-off

Golden was just crawling with hot, tired travelers trying to get gas or coffee. Once I had my coffee and a box of TimBits I returned to the highway for the last leg home. By now it's just after 9:00pm and I'm ready for home so I didn't make the little detour I had planned. After the first 20 minutes or so I reached the Kicking Horse Rest Area and the base of Ten Mile Hill where there is a long stretch of four lane divided highway. By this point the traffic was able to spread out a bit and I made the remainder of the trip home in relatively good time arriving just before midnight. Fuel consumption also suffered, the return trip worked out to 7.1L/100km.

A few observations:

1. BC Highways and the federal government desperately need to finish twinning the Trans-Canada Highway!

2. I don't mind being in heavy highway traffic when it is moving consistently at or close to the speed limit. That wasn't happening on this drive.

3. I was pleasantly surprised at the road manners of almost all the drivers caught in this situation. There are quite a number of passing lanes along the way and invariably everyone would just stay in their place in line, probably recognizing the futility of rushing ahead by about five or six car lengths only to end up stopped.

4. The car behaved well, the A/C worked when called upon, got to listen to some great tunes and the weather was nice enough that I could have the windows open most of the time.

I will be going to pick up the boys tomorrow, August 6, and my guess is the drive will be a lot more enjoyable. Maybe I'll make that detour on the way after all!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Another road trip report.... this time not mine.

One of the blogs I follow is Subcompact Culture. Andy and his wife, Mercedes, recently took a road trip from their home in Portland, through Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alberta and BC. Follow this link to read of their adventures.


Sharon and I have driven portions of their route, albeit not in one trip, and can attest to the reports of great roads, great scenery and great food. 

On a technical note... Andy did a single post for the entire road trip whereas I have tended to do day by day postings. This begs the question: which do you prefer, a single post for entire trip or day by day postings? Please let me know by way of a comment.


Monday, July 14, 2014


July 12 dawned with clear skies and very little wind. The forecast was looking great as well with a high of 30°C/86°F predicted.

We had announced an 'official' start time of 10:00am so made sure we left home with plenty of time to spare. We arrived at the Wedge Pond day use area in Kananaskis with two Festivas, mine and my daughters, just after 9:30 and claimed a few parking spots. I have to admit right off the top that I spent way too much time talking with everyone and not taking photos.  

First to arrive was Casey in his green/gold 89 Suzuki Swift GS. This car was originally from Holland and as such had a few differences from the North American version. Casey has totally rebuilt the engine with a number of performance enhancing modifications. The turbocharged 1.0L 3 cylinder is force fed with over 15lbs of boost and runs on 94 octane fuel. He showed up without his hood as it was in the middle of some rust repair. I most regret not getting a photo of his very clean engine bay.

Casey's 89 Swift GS

Next to pull in were Wilf and Roseanne in their bright red 90 Suzuki Swift GT from Spruce Grove AB. They purchased the car new in 1991 and other than a few minor touch ups it sports its original paint. Wilf tells me he had the car treated with RustChek shortly after he got it and kept the treatments up over the ensuing 20+ years. Add to that the car has been garaged all its life and driven only in the summer for the past six years explains how he has been able to keep it in such good condition. The engine bay of this red rocket sports a 1.3L DOHC 16 valve engine with a turbocharger hung on the front! He too has rebuilt this engine and added a few performance upgrades. The original plastic headlights have been replaced with glass units filled with HID bulbs and most of the factory decals have been removed. Other than that the body is stock and original.

Wilf & Roseanne's 1990 Suzuki Swift GT

We didn't have to wait too much longer for our next guest. Brad arrived in his gorgeous 1990 Ford Festiva. He and his daughter hail from Prince Albert SK. They drove down a couple of days early and had been camping at Mount Kidd RV Park, a five minute drive from our venue. Brad's car features shaved door handles, a fibreglass hood, custom front bumper and headlights, Nissan seats and a paint job featuring white base with a blue tinted clearcoat. His engine bay is stuffed with a 1.8L DOHC 16 valve engine sourced from a Ford Escort GT. Brad has been a regular at Westiva, this being his fourth time. Each time he's come there has been one or two upgrades too. I have to apologize to Brad as I didn't get any photos of his car so these are from past meets. The big difference for this year is that the engine compartment has been cleaned and tidied up considerably and a fibreglass hood has been installed.

Brad's 1990 Ford Festiva

Another 'regular' pulled in shortly after Brad's arrival. Tom's Festiva is currently immobile so he brought his lifted Kia Sportage. Being built by Kia and equipped with a Mazda based 2.0L DOHC engine, and FE-3 if I remember correctly, it fits right in with the Festiva family. The closest I got to a picture of Tom's little off road beast is the one in the group photo at the end of this post.

Our last arrival was Bob II and his son, Bob III, who had driven up from Pasco WA. The engine in their 1991 Festiva automatic had just been rebuilt and had only 500km/300 miles on it before heading out. While putting things back together Bob added power steering to complement the A/C that was already there. Both these items were optional when the cars were new. This was Bob's first time to Westiva and we're glad they came!

Bob's tidy engine bay.

Westiva has been primarily focused on the Ford Festiva but it was decided to include other econoboxes from the late 80s and early 90s as we are all facing similar issues as our cars age, like parts availability. It was great to have Casey, Wilf and Roseanne join us and hear of their exploits and adventures. They are members on the forum.

I would like to thank for providing a gift card to give away at the meet as the prize for the furthest traveled. This year it was presented to Bob who beat out Brad by only 40km/25miles.

L-R: Tom's Sportage, Brad's 90 Festiva, my daughter's '93, my '92, Casey's '89 Swift GS, Wilf's '90 Swift GT, Bob's '91 Festiva.
After a great time of car talk and a picnic lunch we all cruised south down Highway 40 to the Boulton Creek Trading Post in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. Why you may ask? For ice cream of course! And to enjoy the scenery and twisty roads. It's about a 30 minute drive from Wedge to the trading post and we managed to keep together fairly well. After a delicious and refreshing ice cream Brad had to leave us and head to meet family in Drumheller AB. Before continuing on to Upper Kananaskis Lake Bob and his son took their leave as well. They were heading back to their hotel and hitting the road early Sunday morning for the homeward trip.

A short, five minute, sprint brought those remaining to the parking lot at the lake. Most of us took the opportunity to dip our feet in but Casey was a bit more adventurous and dove in for a quick swim. We hung out together for a while and then went our separate ways, Wilf and Roseanne to Spuce Grove, Casey to the southern end of Calgary via the Highwood Pass, and the rest of us back home via the shortest route.

I think it's safe to say that a good time was had by all with everyone saying they are looking forward to coming again next year. Bob even said they would come with two of their four Festivas rather than just the one. Having the Suzukis there was a treat and hopefully this will encourage more to come as well. Thanks to everyone for making the day a great one!

Follow this link for more photos.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Upcoming event for econobox fans!

On July 12th we will be hosting Westiva 2014. This would have been the seventh annual but the event was cancelled last year due to significant flooding in Southern Alberta. 

2008 attendees with 'The Wedge' in the background.

Westiva is very casual, informal event originally intended for owners, fans and fanatics of both the Ford Festiva or Ford Aspire but we have recently extended invitations to owners of other econoboxes from the late eighties and early nineties such as the Dodge Colt, Chevrolet Sprint, Geo Metro, Suzuki Swift and Nissan Micra.

The meet is held at the picturesque Wedge Pond Day Use Area in beautiful Kananaskis Country. The "official" start time is around 10:00am. At about 1:00pm we’ll cruise up to the Boulton Creek Trading Post in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park for ice cream, about a 30km drive. From there we'll continue to Upper Kananaskis Lake.

2010 attendees (This shot was taken before the tenth car arrived)

When Westiva was first held in 2008 there were four attendees. Two from Calgary, one from the lower mainland of British Columbia and the fourth driving up from Worland WY. Our best year attendance-wise was 2010 when we had 10 Festivas show up with the furthest being from Ontario. This year we already have owners bringing the cars from as far away as Pasco WA and St. Albert SK.

In keeping with our expanded area of interest we had the owner of a Suburau Vivio RXR come to the 2012 edition.

So consider yourself invited!


When: Saturday July 12, 2014
Where: Wedge Pond Day Use Area, Kananaskis, Alberta

Who: Ford Festiva and Aspire fans and anyone interested along with owners, fans etc of other econoboxes from the era.

Why: Why not?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A 'ferry' tale road trip day seven, June 8, 2014

Homeward bound today. We purchased an annual National Parks pass earlier in the year so decided to take advantage of it on this final leg of our road trip stopping at a number of the places we've "always" wanted to visit. After breakfast we headed up to Mount Revelstoke National Park. When we stopped at the gate we were informed that the road was only open up to kilometer twelve for a couple of reasons; first that there were a bear and cubs in the area and secondly that there was still quite a bit of snow higher up. We were also warned of another bear lower down, almost at the gate. We drove up and enjoyed the views and twisty roads but didn't see any more bears.

At the park gate.

One of many great vistas

We were a little disappointed we weren't able to get to the top but that gave us a bit more time to enjoy the rest of the day. Made our way back down, rejoined Highway #1 and headed east. The stretch of highway between Revelstoke and Golden makes its way up and over Rogers Pass but before getting there we stopped at the Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk adn picnic area on the banks of the Illecillewaet River. Not a very appealing name I agree but it was worth the little detour. The parking area is a very short drive off the highway and is well signed. The main attraction here is the boardwalk through some valley bottom wetland habitat. Many different species of birds come through here on their various migrations which makes the spot popular with bird watchers.

Trail map for Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk.

Sharon on the boardwalk.

Some of the birds that frequent the area.

Just east of the summit of Rogers Pass (1330m/4365ft) is Rogers Pass Discovery Center that is worth a stop. There was no snow on the ground this trip which is a huge contrast to the more than 6ft we found there when we were through the pass in late April. There are a total of eight snow sheds in the pass, three west of the summit and five east.

First of the eight snow sheds

Avalanche debris on the side of the road

Here we go....

So over the pass we go and start the 80km (50 mile) mostly downhill run into Golden BC.

Eastbound and down into Golden BC

East of Golden approaching the Kicking Horse rest area at the bottom of Ten Mile Hill

We didn't stop in Golden but continued on to our next destination, Wapta Falls. This is another of those stops we've often said we should do but were either anxious to get home or didn't have a park pass but... today is the day!!If you're not paying attention the turnoff is easy to miss. The trailhead is not marked on the TCH for westbound traffic as there is no left turn lane here. Continue 3 km to the west entrance of the park, turn and come back to access it from the eastbound lane. Once you do leave the highway it's about 2km up to the  parking lot. There were quite a number of cars in the lot which was assuring. The trail up to the falls is 2.4km (1.5 miles) one way and except for the last quarter or so is relatively flat. The trail reaches the river quite a bit above the falls and there are two routes that take you down to the bottom. The first is quite steep and provides some really impressive views of the falls. The other slightly longer route has a gentler slope but doesn't have the views of the other one. We took the first route down and the second route back up.

The road up to the Wapta Falls trailhead

The trailhead

Typical trail conditions

Admiring the view at the top of the falls

Lots of little inukshuks.... this one is my favorite

Wapta Falls

It took us about two hours to hike up to the falls, spend a little time admiring the view and return to the parking lot. Another of those "why did we wait so long to stop here" moments! 

Picturesque Field BC

Rundle Mountain

Entering Banff AB

Back to the highway and further eastward through Field BC and over the Kicking Horse Pass, which at 1643m (5390ft) is the highest point on the Trans Canada Highway, and into Banff for our last meal on the road. Our favorite place to eat in Banff is the Old Spaghetti Factory. The atmosphere is great, as are the food and the prices. I don't think we've ever been really disappointed with any meals here. 

We took a stroll after supper and picked up a couple of last minute gifts and then headed home retracing our route along Highway 1A through Morley and Cochrane and then home.

Homeward bound through Banff National Park.

McDougall Memorial Church, west of Cochrane AB

Sweeping vistas looking over the Bow Valley south west to the Rocky Mountains.

We have thoroughly enjoyed this trip. Driving the so-called backroads or minor highways really slowed the pace down which I think we both needed. Driving on the major byways always seems so rushed and hectic. Our chosen route had generally lower speed limits, light traffic, great scenery and lots of twists, turns and rolling roads. Thanks for following along; we hope you've enjoyed the ride with us. Stay tuned as we are starting to plan our next big trip!


Saturday, June 7, 2014

A "ferry" tale road trip day 6, June 7 2014

We stayed at the Best Western in West Kelowna last night and had probably our best night's sleep on the trip so far. Following a great breakfast we headed into Kelowna to our first stop. One of Sharon's favorite things to do is visit thrift stores in the various places we pass through and  we have found some really good deals in the past. Today we stopped at the MCC Thrift Store in Kelowna. Picked up a couple of books and some plates and then made our way to our next stop of the day.

Over the bridge...

First stop of the day

From MCC we headed across the upper part of Kelowna headed for Myra Station, the east parking area for the Myra Canyon section of the Kettle Valley Railway. This amazing stretch of railway engineering features eighteen trestles and two tunnels. This is the same railway that include the Othello Tunnels we visited a couple of days ago.

Through the orchards...

Up the forestry service road to the parking lot.

While excavating a tunnel through here unstable rock was discovered so they cut through instead.

We were privileged to see this soaring golden eagle.

Looking back along the trail.

Sharon and I walked to the three km marker and back along the trail and in doing so crossed eight of the eighteen trestles and went through one of the two tunnels. This is a great walk or bike for families as the grade is essentially flat. The highpoint of the KVR is in the section at just over 1200m. There have been some very creative people hiking or riding up here as we ran across lots of these inukshuks at one spot...

Now that's public art!

Got back to the car around 12:30 and decided to head to Vernon for our lunch. Before we got down off the mountain we almost ran into a bear!

That's a bear that had just run across the road in front of us!
Between Kelowna and Vernon on Highway 97

In Polson Park

The spot we picked was Polson Park. From there we hopped on Highway 6 eastbound and made our way through Lumby and Cherryville to the Needles Ferry, a free five minute ride across Lower Arrow Lake.  This is another beautiful stretch of twisty, rolling two lane blacktop on both sides of the crossing. 
Challenge accepted! :)

Approaching the ferry


One of the three cables that guide and pull the ferry across the water.

South of Nakusp

What's Brewing on Broadway

We saw quite a few more motorcycles out today; probably because it's Saturday and the sun is shining. Stopped for a coffee and a muffin at What's Brewing on Broadway in Nakusp. Great atmosphere and a delicious muffin! Adding about 50km/30miles to our journey brought us to the Galena Bay Ferry. This one is about a 20 minute ride across Upper Arrow Lake and is also free. It was here that we caught up to the motorcyclists that had passed us earlier.

Between Nakusp and Galena Bay

Motorcycles like to go fast!!!

Waiting for the ferry.

There's the motorcycles!

Admiring the view

From the Shelter Bay terminal it's only another 50km/30 miles or so to our hotel for the night in Revelstoke.

Between Shelter Bay and Revelstoke.
Heading to the hotel after filling up with gas.
We have been blessed with awesome weather our whole trip. Very little rain and lots of sunshine. The car has been running well and the roads have been incredible. We have both enjoyed driving the lesser traveled roads for a couple of reasons: the light traffic and the great scenery. I think the big difference is that on these roads you are driving in the countryside rather that driving through it as you would on the major, heavily traveled routes.

Our supper stop this evening was the Nomad Food Co. on Victoria Ave in Revelstoke. I had a burger and Sharon had a falafel wrap. Prices were very reasonable, the  food was excellent and service friendly. I think it's safe to say that we'll be back at some point!

Nomad Food Co. Photo credit to Marathon Mouth blog.

Thank you to Sharon for indulging me this afternoon's drive. We were originally going to make our way to Revelstoke via Sicamous. I'd also like to thank her for taking the bulk of the photos you're enjoying.