Not all cars are created equal. Some excel at hauling people and cargo, while others put comfort as the top priority. My favourite cars are the ones that excel in driver engagement.
But the honest truth is, any car can be fun. It’s about the driver and situation more than it has ever about the actual vehicle. I can guarantee I had more fun driving a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van north of the article circle in the dead of winter than I did driving countless high-price sports car in the thick of Toronto grid-lock traffic.
To prove that any car can be a riot, I’ll regale you once again with a story from my past. Two careers ago (damn, that makes me sound old) I made frequent trips from Toronto to Western Canada. We had a group of service representatives that visited dozens of dealerships in every major city from Winnipeg westward.
Three City Tour
On one such trip, I had to meet with a manager in Calgary, Alberta, a dealership in Kelowna, British Columbia, and then visit our office in Burnaby, British Columbia. I had planned the meetings on three consecutive days and began to set my travel arrangements.
I decided I would rent a car in Calgary and drive the entire trip. Those unfamiliar with Canada’s landscape, this would be journey through the Canadian Rocky Mountains. I set up all my meetings to be first thing in the morning so I could hit the road as early as possible and take my time on the journey for lots of pit stops and photo ops.
Weird Looking Camaro
I arrived at the airport the night before I was to depart on my journey and headed to the car rental desk. “Oh, yes, you’re doing the one-way trip. Ok hold on, we have a car that needs to go back to Vancouver”. Curious I inquired what was the car and she said “Camaro”.
Had I just won the rental car lottery? I was about to spend two days driving through twisty mountain passes and instead of having a mid-size sedan, I was getting a Camaro? Even if it was a rental spec V6 convertible, that was still more car than I expected. As a previous Camaro owner, I had never driven a 5th generation, so I was excited.
I waited in great anticipation for my car to arrive and then it pulled up – a giant 2010 Lincoln MKS. ‘Well, that clearly isn’t my car’, I thought to myself. But then my agent hoped out, handed me the keys and said here go. I responded with a smile “That is one strange looking Camaro.”
Day One – A Relaxing Drive
Even if I had gone from the prospects of attacking the mountain roads in a rear-wheel drive sporty coupe to the reality of driving a very large front-wheel drive cushy cruiser, I was still excited. I hadn’t done this drive since I was six years old. My Wife and I had done half of it about five years prior, but now I was going to drive the entire thing.
My meeting went a bit late and I didn’t get on the road as early as I wanted to. This meant avoiding the temptation to visit Banff, Lake Louise or Moraine Lake as I began my trek west. Anyone who is in that vicinity, all three destinations are an absolute must.
Being mid-spring, I went through a few avalanche zones that have snow sheds built over the road to protect it from any avalanches and/or landslides. A few of the zones had the remnants of an avalanche still laying on top of the roofs.
As I continued along highway 1, I stopped at various scenic overlooks to take in all the natural beauty and stretch my legs. The day was drawing to an end and I was really beginning to appreciate how comfortable the big Lincoln was. My fatigue level was near zero despite nearly nine hours into my trip (I like to make a lot of stops to look at mountains).
Even a relaxing day of driving can be fun when surrounded by so much natural beauty.
Day Two – A Bit of Fun
After a day of cruising, I was ready to do some real driving. Since the drive from Kelowna to Vancouver was only four hours or so, I decided I would go the long way via Lillocet, Pemperton and Whistler. This would put me on the fabled section of highway 99 that was not smoothed over for the Vancouver Olympics. It still had tight corners, switchbacks and intimidating drop-offs.
To get there I headed towards Merrit, B.C. and stumbled onto what would become one of my favourite roads. It was highway 8 that went between Lower Nicola and Spences Bridge. It is actually a well-known road, but I had never heard of it. It follows the Nicola River and towards the north-west end becomes a constant series of back and forth sweeping corners.
The first half of the road was a straighter, scenic drive. Along the way I spotted a Moose, a baby black bear and countless smaller wildlife. As I was approaching the latter half of the road, the corners began.
I was tossing the big Lincoln around in the corners with a bit of enthusiasm, grinning like a fool. I started to really hustle the Lincoln through the corners, right at the limit of my comfort zone. The big 3.7-liter V6 would pull the car out of the corner with decent force – especially if I was overriding the transmission to keep it in second or third gear. This continued for the better part of 30 minutes until the road finally ended.
It was amazing how much fun I just had. A giant car not meant to be treated this way, can still induce grins aplenty. With lower limits than a traditional performance car, I could safely, legal explore them. This enjoyment continued on highway 99 where a new challenge emerged, avoid the fallen rocks.
I my reached destination in Vancouver with a firm realization. It didn’t matter what I drove across this stretch of Canadiana. Whether sightseeing or corner carving, fun is what we make of it. Yes, I might have more enjoyment in a WRX or Miata, but if in the right mood, on the right roads, even a Cube Truck could be a barrel of laughs.