Tag Archives: vehicle

A Family Masterpiece

May 10, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Some childhood memories stick with you. Dave Carroll, a retired Union Pacific manager, holds onto the memory of one fateful childhood leap that dented his grandfather’s prized 1950 Mercury.

“I’ve got so much of my life in this car,” Carroll says. When he was about 6 or 7, Carroll was playing with cousins at a tree house on his grandparents’ farm in Fullerton, Nebraska. His grandfather John Carroll’s out-of-commission vehicle sat under the tree house.

“I remember it like it was yesterday. Instead of going down the rope ladder, I jumped out of the tree house onto the car and I caved the roof in.”

Carroll remembered his grandpa’s large hands. “He got in the car and he took his hand and popped it out, and I thought, wow.” Some wrinkles remained in the car’s roof and would stay there for many decades. “The funny story is, years later, I paid to fix that roof,” he says.

His grandmother, Etta Carroll, bestowed him the car after his grandfather passed away. Then she accidentally sold the car for $50 to a neighbor kid, while Dave was serving in the military during the Vietnam War. Dave and his father, Jack, travelled to Fullerton to get the car back after Dave returned from overseas. The duo were quickly chased off of the property by shotgun.

“We went downtown and we found the local constable. He was having coffee at the coffee shop. My dad knew him. We told him the story and he said ‘come on, we’ll go back.’” The story ended well for Dave, who was still in possession of the car’s original title. And the car has been with him since then.

Over the years, the Mercury was transported across the United States on a flatbed trailer while Carroll worked his way up at Union Pacific, from a position on the track gang to one in management at the company’s headquarters. His career led him to places such as Sydney (Nebraska), Denver, and Cheyenne. At every new location, Carroll brought along his beloved Merc’. “My intention was to build it, but being a railroader, I didn’t have the time or the funds.”

Carroll returned to Omaha in the ’80s. He met and wed Dianne Cascio Carroll, owner of Anything Goes Salon. Soon after, he began his odyssey of fixing the Mercury. Having the roof repaired is just one of the many changes Carroll has made to his car.

“There’s so many things that have been done to this car,” he says. Over more than 30 years, Carroll says he has spent thousands of hours refurbishing the car. Some projects were finished, only to be torn up again and redone so that he could try the ever-evolving products in the industry that worked better. “That’s my problem,” he says. “I redo things.”

He has often lost track of time while working in his garage in the Huntington Park neighborhood in Omaha. “I’ve had my wife open the door and say, ‘you know what time it is?’ I look at the clock and it’s 10 after 1 in the morning and I’ve got to be to work at 6 in the morning.”

“It’s not about me. It’s about my parents, and honoring the memory of my grandfather. I kept this car because it was in the family and it’s never been out of the family.”

Carroll’s imagination has affected every aspect of the car, from the striking Candy Purple body color, to the custom purple snakeskin roof interior. The air-conditioning vents were salvaged from a 2002 FordTempo. He ordered the custom-made steering wheel from California, and the windshield from Oregon. Thanks to Carroll’s insatiable creativity, the car has a digital dash, an electrical door opener, a late-model motor with custom aluminum valve covers, four-wheel disk brakes, rounded hood corners, a smooth dash and Frenched-in (curved) headlights.

The restoration has also been helped by Ron Moore of Moore Auto Body, Rick White of Redline Upholstery, and Rod Grasmick, an antique auto restorer. Using qualified professionals means that Carroll knows his car is taken care of, but he also finds them to be knowledgable friends.

“I have a couple of friends that are helping me with this car, that’s how our [automotive] community is—everybody helps everybody,” he says.

Will the car ever be finished? “My dad is always telling that he hopes to get to ride it in when it is done, and him being 92 years old puts a lot of pressure on me,” he says.

“My wife says, ‘you’re taking forever.’ Well, look at it this way, there’s better and newer stuff coming out all the time,” Carroll says. And so the journey continues.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

Efficient Urban Transportation in a Zip

February 24, 2017 by

Living in a technologically advanced world has its advantages, like convenience and fiscal recompenses we never could have envisioned.

As a Los Angeles native who paid car insurance the price of a mortgage in some places, one new convenience I can appreciate is Zipcar.

The program has graced Omaha with its presence for seven years. Zipcar was founded in 2000 by Antje Danielson, current director of education at MIT Energy Initiative, and  Robin Chase, co-founder of French chartering service Buzzcar. The pair created Zipcar to provide a more efficient, affordable method of driving in the city.

Zipcar P.R. manager Lindsay Wester, who is based in Boston, explains that Zipcar is as simple as join, reserve, and drive.

Business customers begin by signing up online, where they pay a one-time setup fee of $75 and annual membership dues of $35 for each driver. This membership covers fuel, insurance, mileage, parking, and maintenance. Individuals can pay a $25 one-time setup fee annual dues of $70, or a monthly fee of $7 plus the one-time setup fee.

The Omaha fleet includes two Honda Civics and a Ford Escape. The Hondas and the Ford cost $8.50 per hour Monday through Thursday, or $69 per day. The Friday through Sunday rate is $9.50 per hour, or $77 per day for the Hondas and $83 per day for the Escape.  The other car available in Omaha is a Volkswagen Jetta, which costs $9 per hour or $69 daily at all times. The cars are parked on Creighton and UNMC’s campuses, downtown at 17th Street and Capitol Avenue, and at Mammel Hall near Aksarben Village.

Upon becoming a member, the company sends the user a Zipcard, which functions as an entry key. The ignition key stays inside the vehicle. Each user gets one card with their membership, which gives them access to Zipcar’s nationwide fleet. Upon reserving a car, the company digitally connects the Zipcard to the specific car reserved. The user gains access to the vehicle by holding the card to the card reader placed in the windshield. After scanning in with the Zipcard, a user’s smartphone can be a backup to the Zipcard for locking or unlocking the car doors throughout a reservation.

The company first brought their concept to Omaha in 2010, launching at Creighton University, followed by University of Nebraska in 2012, then the Medical Center in October 2015. In Omaha, the target market has been students, but Zipcars also are useful for travelers.

Melanie Stewart, sustainability manager at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine, is in charge of UNMC’s program.

“Last year we had a visiting professor come in, and they had a friend in Lincoln, so they used a Zipcar to visit their friend while in Omaha,” Stewart says.

The Zipcars are also used by visitors of patients who may need to purchase supplies or just take a break from being at the hospital.

Patrick Lin, a 21-year-old Omaha resident, says, “I used Zipcar roughly four to six hours every week during my sophomore year. I first heard about it from some friends in California because they couldn’t have cars during their first year at college.”

Lin enjoys the ability to use a car when needed without the expense of owning it. “Personally, it allows a lot more to get done compared to other services. The only restraint I have is that since there is a time limit, you must plan your activities accordingly. But the per-mile usage you can get when a trip is planned right is entirely worth the time constraints,” he says.

Wester says that Zipcar has remained successful and growing for more than a decade and a half. And as city dwellers become more disenchanted with the idea of owning cars, their success should continue to accelerate.

Visit zipcar.com for more information.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

The Vesparados

August 26, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

They call themselves the Vesparados and they are, indeed, a wild bunch—wild about their Vespa scooters.

About 20 owners of the iconic Italian scooter belong to a loosely knit social group that meets at least once a week, sometimes more in good weather, to tool around Omaha and enjoy the freedom of the outdoors. Rides usually end with libations, dinner, or both.

If the name Vespa doesn’t ring a bell, think Gregory Peck vrooming through the crowded streets of the Eternal City with a laughing Audrey Hepburn on the back of his scooter in 1952’s Roman Holiday. Thanks to the Oscar®-winning film, Americans fell in love with the Vespa.

First manufactured by Piaggio & Co. in 1946 for easy and economical transportation in decimated post-War Italy, the Vespa remains better suited for boulevards and byways, not highways.

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“Most Vespas can reach 80 miles per hour,” says Gil Cohen, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Omaha Magazine. “But I wouldn’t suggest keeping it up there for very long. We don’t travel on interstates.”

The Vesparados come from a wide range of professions. But when the helmets go on, each rider assumes their Vespa persona.

“Everybody has a handle,” explains Cohen. “I’m ‘Jersey.’”

On a recent summer evening, the South Jersey native sat astride his red Vespa GTS 250 waiting for others to gather at a Fiat dealership at West Dodge and 180th streets for a cool, twilight ride along the nearby Lincoln Highway. Cohen’s GTS series scooter features Vespa’s trademark pressed-steel unibody, flat floorboard, and prominent front, but with today’s technology. True to the original premise of economy and affordability, the Vespa averages about 65-70 miles-per-gallon and costs around $7,000 tops, with smaller scooters in the $3,000-4,000 range.

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Ten riders eventually joined Cohen, including new Vesparado Todd Lemke, breezing in on a GTS 300 scooter.

“I had to have a bigger bike than Gil’s,” laughs the publisher of Omaha Magazine, who hasn’t gotten a handle on his handle yet. Lemke has always loved “anything with two wheels and a motor,” and finds the Vespa a natural extension of his motorcycle and dirt bike hobbies.

The parking lot, now filled with Vespas in hues of blue, red, green, and brown, crackled with laughter, indicating long-standing friendships among the participants. Husband-and-wife dentists Bill and JoAnn Kathrein, a.k.a. “Tito” and “Cupcake,” shared good-natured ribbing with longtime friend Dr. Bill Bucy, a dentist who lives in Auburn, Neb., and stores his Vespa in Omaha.

Joining in on the conversations were Spencer “Dragon” Jacobs of Badger Body and Truck and his girlfriend, Kathy Anthes; Dr. George “Doc” Perlebach; Wells Fargo Financial advisor Denis “Ballanca” Roberts; Omaha attorney Dan Smith, clearly enjoying his first Vesparado outing; architect Steve “Itchy” Ginn (no question asked, no explanation offered), whose new GTV series “retro” scooter has the headlight attached to the front fender; and David “Blazer” Parsow, looking very dapper in a crisp, white shirt and black sport jacket. “It comes from being in the clothing business,” deadpans the president of Parsow’s Fashions.

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The riders motored single file down the Lincoln Highway toward Elkhorn and stopped at a plaque commemorating the centennial of the transcontinental roadway. Placed neatly side-by-side, the scooters looked like a multi-colored, metallic chorus line; their owners looked like they were having a blast.

Vespa may mean “wasp” in Italian, but to the Vesparados it means “let’s buzz around.” 

What to Do When Your Vehicle Overheats

July 22, 2013 by

The summer heat not only affects us, it also affects our vehicles. Our vehicles are much more likely to overheat during the hot summer months.

It is important to do what you can to prevent your vehicle from overheating in the first place. Making sure to use the proper coolant for your vehicle is extremely important. Not all coolants are safe for all vehicles. Also, making sure that there is enough coolant in your system before driving is going to save you from a possible overheating scenario. If you notice that your vehicle is overheating—steam coming out of the hood and/or your temperature gauge going past the halfway mark and into the red zone—turn off your air conditioning and turn on your heat to full blast. Doing this will transfer some of the heat away from the engine to the inside of the vehicle.

Pull over, especially if there’s not a service station nearby, and turn the engine off. Pop the hood, but let it cool down before completely opening it. NEVER open the radiator cap while the vehicle is still hot; this is very dangerous. The radiator cap should be cool to the touch before opening. Look in the coolant reservoir to see if there is coolant in there. It is always a good idea to carry a bottle of coolant with you. In a pinch, you can use water.

If you have antifreeze with you, fill your reservoir with the coolant once your vehicle has cooled down. Your vehicle manufacturer should have stipulations on which types of antifreeze to use. Some are premixed; others need to be mixed with a 50/50 combo of coolant and water. If your radiator is not properly holding the fluid, there could be a leak somewhere, and it’s important to get it checked immediately.

If the vehicle does not seem to be cooling down, and there is not a service station nearby, it may be necessary to call roadside assistance for a tow.

Roadside Emergency Services

June 20, 2013 by

It’s July, and summertime is in full effect. This also means plenty of family road trips, most of which go off without a major hitch. However, if something does go wrong with your vehicle, it can make for a giant headache. Not to worry though, there are emergency roadside services out there that can help.

It may be well worth it to buy emergency roadside coverage in the event that you do have car trouble. Some of the services that these companies provide are:

  • Battery boosts
  • Battery replacement
  • Fuel delivery
  • Tire service
  • Towing
  • Lock-out services

The issues listed above can happen to anyone, yet are always unexpected. Prepare for the unexpected and make sure to either purchase an emergency roadside service or, at the very least, have the phone number of one such service. We are fortunate that these services are available to us, and one just might come in handy when that giant headache shows up!

ProTech Xpress

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

People are just so busy,” says Michelle Fouraker, cofounder of ProTech Xpress. “If you find a car on Craigslist during your break at work, it’s not like there’s a bunch of them sitting on a lot. There’s one. Call us up, we’re there, we’ll go.” Michelle, along with her husband, Jon, launched the vehicle inspection service in Omaha last September.

Drawing on his 25 years of experience as an automotive technician and used-car inspector, Jon takes his knowledge on the road, inspecting used cars on behalf of prospective buyers.

“It’s something that’s been in the back of my mind for some time,” Jon says of the business. “You know, when I worked for dealerships, they didn’t always fix everything that needed to be fixed. They did it out of economics,” he explains. “You can’t afford to fix everything that needs fixed on a car. So I’m kind of out there fighting for the guy with his hard-earned money. I don’t want him to get ripped off.”

Prospective buyers can request an inspection by visiting protechxpress.com, where they can e-mail or call with a car’s information. If neither Michelle nor Jon picks up the phone right away, they’ll get back to a caller within the day, usually within a few hours. The inspection itself takes an hour.

“We’re going out to the car for you,” Michelle clarifies. “You don’t have to be there; we can e-mail you the report. We’re not trying to sell you parts, we’re not selling you repair service, we’re not going to recommend anybody to you. This is our 100-percent-unbiased opinion of the car.”

“We’re not trying to sell you parts, we’re not selling you repair service, we’re not going to recommend anybody to you. This is our 100-percent-unbiased opinion of the car.” – Michelle Fouraker, co-founder

After he receives a request for an inspection, Jon contacts the car’s owner and sets up an appointment to inspect the vehicle. Following the inspection, he doesn’t show the owner his report, however—that’s for the prospective buyer’s eyes only. For the most part, he just presents the facts of his findings. It’s not about advising someone to buy or not to buy.

If he finds something seriously wrong with the car right away, Jon will call the prospective buyer to let them know. “I’ll ask if they want me to finish the inspection,” he says. If the buyer says, no, thank you, they’ll pass on the car, Jon charges $25 for his time and moves on. A completed inspection runs $99.95 for two-wheel drive vehicles and $129.95 for four-wheel and all-wheel drives. If an inspection takes place outside the Omaha metro area, ProTech Xpress does charge extra for the mileage.

A five-page PDF is available for download on the site as a comprehensive sample of what the ProTech Xpress inspection entails. “It’s all in my head,” Jon says of the checklist, “all from experience.”

Michelle recounts one instance where the inspection uncovered that a car had indeed been in an accident, even though the vehicle’s CARFAX report came up clean. “You can tell with a paint meter,” she says. “The paint’s thicker where it’s been repainted, and there was a little bit of overspray on one of the tires. The car’s owner didn’t even know it had been in a wreck because they had bought it second-hand, too.” The buyer was able to take that info and request a few hundred dollars off the price of the car. “Which more than pays for the cost of the inspection,” Michelle adds. Jon has found rust spots covered with a nice paint job and some duct tape. Another woman was purchasing a used SUV from a dealer and, based on ProTech Xpress’ report, was able to receive a new set of tires for free from the dealer.

Eventually, the couple would like to franchise the business. “That’s the big goal,” Jon says.

Preparing for Road Trips

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Road trips can be a lot of fun, but they can also turn into a nightmare if you aren’t prepared. There are a few items that should be checked before you set out for your destination to ensure that your vehicle is as ready for the drive as you are.

  • Make sure to check all fluids—antifreeze, power steering, brake, transmission, and windshield wiper.
  • If you aren’t current with your oil changes, get it changed before leaving.
  • Inspect your hoses and belts for wear and tear. If something looks askew, take it to a trusted mechanic and have them take a look.
  • Check all tires, including the spare, to make sure that they’re in good shape and that the tire pressure is correct.
  • Be certain you have a jack and lug wrench in case you need to change a tire.
  • Check your battery to make sure there are no corrosions, cracks, or leaks.

I recommend doing all of these things a week in advance in case there are any problems. This should give you adequate time to take care of any repairs. There are also some items that are important to have along with you in case you do have car issues.

  • Gas can. Don’t wait until the tank is too low to fill up. On a road trip, it can be hard to know how far the next gas station will be.
  • Water. Make sure to have plenty of bottled water; the summer heat can be extremely dehydrating.
  • Phone charger. This should be used your entire trip to ensure your cell phone has a full charge.
  • Shade. Bring window shades, towels, and hats.
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses. Just because you’re in the car doesn’t mean your skin and eyes can’t get sun-damaged.
  • Flashlight. Nothing is worse than being stranded in the dark.
  • Maps. We often use phones or the GPS on our vehicles, but having an actual map is necessary in case our electronics fail.
  • Walking shoes. Make sure you have shoes that are comfortable for walking in case you have to “hoof it.”

Be sure to prepare for your road trip and carry along a few extras just in case. With these few tips, you should be well on your way to a fun, safe trip.

Spring Cleaning

March 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It’s that time of year again. Spring cleaning not only applies to our homes but to our vehicles as well. After the long winter, it’s time to give your vehicle some TLC. After all, the best way to avoid having to spend a lot of money on your vehicle is by doing regular upkeep.

All of the sand, salt, and other chemicals that are thrown on the streets during the winter can really wreak havoc on your vehicle. To begin with, an extremely good wash is in order. This doesn’t just mean rolling through a carwash on your way home from work. That will not get the areas that are in desperate need of cleaning.

It’s extremely important to clean underneath your vehicle as well. That’s where the majority of all of the gunk is hanging out. Also, the wheel wells need to really be cleaned and scrubbed. This is a prime spot for rust to start. Open your doors and make sure that you clean the door jambs, where the hinges are, and the bottom of the interior door. This is another place that salt and chemicals hang out and can begin to create rust issues. Anything that can be done to prevent the beginning of rust needs to be done. Once it starts, there aren’t a lot of great options.

After giving your vehicle a good wash, paying close attention to all the “hot spots,” you should be in good shape to begin the spring. My last advice is that if you notice your vehicle driving a little funny, pulling one way or another, you may need an alignment. The potholes can create this issue very easily, and it’s better to get it taken care of right away than to drive around with your alignment off. One result of driving with your alignment off—it can wear your tires unevenly, possibly causing you to need new tires.

In Case of An Accident…

January 25, 2013 by

Skidding, sliding, and slipping are all common this time of year. Unfortunately, that can be followed by a bump or even a crash! Auto accidents are a pain for everyone, but knowing what to do in an accident can ease some of the stress.

The first thing to do is report the accident to the police. If there are no injuries, go ahead and begin to exchange information with the other driver. Make sure to get their personal information, along with the type of vehicle, and all insurance information. The next thing to do is to determine if your vehicle is drivable. If not, the police can call a tow truck, and you should have your vehicle towed to the shop of your choice.

After the police have finished at the accident scene, if the vehicle is drivable, you will want to call the insurance company of the driver at fault. Depending upon the insurance company, they may want you to go to their “drive thru” claim place, or they may make arrangements to come to your vehicle to do an estimate. Another option is that they may want you to take it to a body shop for an estimate. The most important thing to know now is that you are the vehicle owner and no one can tell you where to have your vehicle repaired. There is no law that requires you to have your vehicle repaired where your insurance company recommends. It is always your choice.

When determining where you have your repairs done, there are some things that you may want to take into consideration. What type of warranty does the shop offer? (Whether or not your insurance has a warranty, it is the shop that is ultimately responsible for the repairs.) Also, do the technicians at the shop receive ongoing training? Is the shop involved nationally, keeping up with all the newest procedures and technologies? The best thing to do before you are involved in an accident is to do your research and know where you will take your vehicle if the unexpected happens. Making a snap decision doesn’t always lead to the best decision.

Keeping Your Home Safe

November 25, 2012 by

Did you know a break-in occurs in the US nearly every 16 seconds? Omaha break-ins are also on the rise, making local homeowners take action in securing their homes. Here are some ways you can keep you and your home safe.

Be aware of who is in your neighborhood. Vehicles driving around at night without lights, unfamiliar cars parked and occupied at unusual hours, strangers going door-to-door or loitering around houses where residents may not be home—these are all signs that a burglar could be working your neighborhood. Burglars and other criminals often strike neighborhoods where residents keep to themselves. Getting to know your neighbors and implementing a Neighborhood Watch programs can deter crime in your area.

  • Take precautions when you leave your home. The risk of a break-in is greatest when a homeowner is away. Sgt. Erin Dumont of Omaha’s Crime Prevention Unit says, “Daytime break-ins seem to be the most active.” Dumont also has some tips on keeping your home secure while you are away:
  • Make it appear as if someone is home by leaving a TV and light on (or have them on timers, if you’re worried about your electrical bill).
  • If you are away for an extended period, let your neighbors know; ask them to pick up your mail, newspapers, or even mow and shovel snow.
  • Avoid announcing your vacations on Facebook and social media sites. If you have kids, make sure you know what they’re posting, too.
  • A car break-in can lead to a home break-in. Be cautious while you are out; thieves can snatch a garage door opener and registration, which may have your address on it, making your home their next target.
  • Don’t make it easy for burglars. Leaving a window open for fresh air is an invitation to a burglar. Always make sure to lock all windows and doors before you leave. Never allow strangers in your home to use the telephone or bathroom. Don’t leave valuable items outside, like bicycles. Leaving a spare key out or “hidden” will make it almost effortless for someone to have access to your house; instead, leave it with a neighbor you trust.
  • Protect your home at night. Keep your blinds closed. You don’t want to let burglars get a peek inside at any of your valuables. Simple things like a barking dog, a security system sign in the yard, or a pair of men’s shoes by the front door is sometimes enough to discourage a break-in. The panic button on your car keys can act as an alarm. Keep them by your bedside, and press the button if you hear suspicious noise outside or someone trying to break-in. A well-lit neighborhood can deter criminal activity. Ask neighbors to keep their exterior lights on at night and consider installing motion-sensing lights to illuminate exterior walls.