The Year We Improvised – 2020 Review

2020 review

Oh boy. Review and recap the year that was 2020, you say? Not surprisingly the backspace button has already been getting a workout and I’ve barely begun writing anything of real substance. Going into this I had no idea how I was going to put this post together, but I did know that it would be compiled in a different format to those of years prior.

Traditionally the year-end review posts would take a look back at each individual entry that the site had seen over the course of the preceding 12 months, but that’s not how I’m approaching this one because quite frankly, the post would be way too long. 

This has to do with something I’m going to touch on more in a bit, but 2020 was one busy year for the blog to say the least. I had discussed this briefly in the Fall Blog Update and it ties quite nicely into this entry today: 2020 was in many people’s eyes set to be nothing but a disaster, but there was the opportunity to turn it around and that’s exactly what we set out to do. 

Bday weekend 10

Bday weekend 5

Bday weekend 3

Coming out of 2019 we had the momentum of one of the most memorable and significant years that we’d ever had and couldn’t wait to carry that forward…and then the world went a bit sideways. Now let’s not open up the can of worms that was 2020 – speaking in terms of society, politics, economics, conspiracies – let’s make sure that stays shut instead. Let’s seal it in duct tape, encase it in concrete, and drop it to the bottom of the ocean. This review will be steered towards and focused on our automotive world. After all, no one came out of 2020 without losing something – jobs, friends, family – but newspapers and social media have had enough on that to last us all a lifetime. This is an automotive blog after all, and as such we are looking at our automotive year. 

World of Wheels 2020 1

With all of the established big events having to cancel their 2020 editions (if I’m not mistaken World of Wheels was the only one able to go ahead as planned given it was so early in the year) and initial predictions making it seem like any and every car event would end up being called off, that suddenly left us with what was looking to be a car season full of nothing. But that was only one way to look at it. The negative way. The wrong way. 

S13 2020 1

Yes, one could have fussed and whined about how the season was supposedly canceled and pouted in a corner all summer long, or one could take the hand that was dealt and play it. So play it, we did. The reality was that without the major events taking place, we were given a car season with no obligations. No schedule. No predetermined plans. It was like the mother of all long weekends and it was up to us make it up as we went. And we did. 

Explore Alberta 1

S15 first drive 13


Many of us went on more cruises, visited more parts of our province, and put on more kilometers by driving for the sake of driving than we had in years. I personally made it out to small towns I’d never set foot in and shot things I’d never seen before; for someone who was born and raised here there’s a lot of this province I’ve yet to see with my own eyes but I managed to put a pretty healthy dent in the list of places-I’ve-yet-to-visit and can’t wait to carry on with that next year. I even finally made it back to Edmonton a few times, admittedly for car parts but I did take the chance to cruise around a little while up there each time. 

Selsun painted trim 9

Pepper 2020 3

Alpine 2020 3

Elsewhere, many others hunkered down in garages and used this summer as an extended (and warmer) winter build season to really make some headway on projects in preparation for the eventual return of more shows and events in a future year. After all, the time will pass regardless so why not use it to get something done? We didn’t have to worry about having cars fully detailed and prepared for display at events on weekends, nor did we have to be fighting with stuck bolts as we worked though the night to get the darned things back together in the first place, with a deadline coming ever closer. Make no mistake that it was sad to see all of our yearly traditions called off – Driven, Sunday School, All Ford, etcetera – but equally, it was freeing. 

S15 repaint 11


S15 repaint 43

Obviously my personal highlight of the year was seeing the S15 progress so substantially. By the time it otherwise would’ve just been coming out of winter storage to get back on the road it instead found itself being disassembled, loaded on a flatbed, and hauled off for paint. With the Focus “finished” I was happily wandering around town and beyond with it while Speedy put in some long hours bringing the S15’s shell back to better than new. With the slight (ahem) bias towards S15 updates and photos this year I think a couple of people actually started to wonder if the Focus had been sold but rest assured that was not the case (and never will be). It has been tucked away in storage and will be back in ’21, switching out with the S15 more frequently.

Firebird Club 2019 23Dijon SS flare install 10Black Diamond 2020 8Black Diamond 2020 11Selsun ST wing 9DCIM100GOPROGOPR0746.

As for the blog itself, I was a bit concerned early on in the year that a lack of content could be a bit of an issue this season but those worries were very quickly washed away. I did pull some from my archives to either add variety here and there or finally get out some articles and videos that were overdue, but with that newfound free time, exploration, and various projects progressing, I was also capturing a steady stream of new photos and video. 

Explore Alberta 10Explore Alberta 9

Sitting among the many other photos which I stockpiled this year are a few sets destined for more of the Explore Alberta posts, which I am particularly excited to get published over the remainder of our winter. One trip in particular, down to Nanton, resulted in what I think are some of my favourite shots of the entire year. That little adventure was also one of the more spontaneous things I did this season as during a free afternoon I hopped in the Silvia, pointed it south, and just kept going. No passengers, no radio even (it was – and still is – out for other work); just me with my camera gear and nowhere to be for a few hours. 

NA Meet July 28 2020 8Deerfoot City August 14 2020 1Blackfoot Inn Sept 23 2020 1A&W Sept 18 2020 13G Meet3G Oct 4 2020 63G Oct 4 2020 8

Helping to add to this photo accumulation, as things eased a bit we were able to start hosting some meets around the area which led to many great nights with friends both old and new, and gave us some sense of familiarity as compared with “normal” years. With that however, sadly, came another setback with the increasing frequency and level of stupidity from certain attendees. Meet after meet after meet the Ricer Clan infiltrated (Best Post of the Year award still goes to Jason) and eventually killed off a couple of the weekly events we’d been enjoying, including N/A’s still fairly new series. Just as we had with the 2020 season as a whole though, we didn’t sit about pouting but turned it around instead. Not only did we switch over to the classic meets and have an absolute blast spending our evenings at them, but we kicked off the private, invite-only 3G meets which – I think many would agree – ended up being the best “tuner” meets any of us had seen in ages. Another thing to look forward to in 2021, without a doubt.

Balance Anniversary 17Balance Anniversary 21Sorority Row 2020 18Sorority Row 2020 17Custom Decals 2020 28Custom Decals 2020 13

Along with the return of the more informal gatherings however, also came a few more serious undertakings that certainly stand out as highlights of the year. Not long after we had all gathered at Balance to celebrate their 5th anniversary, the girls from Redline Sorority hosted their Sorority Row show and shine and it was a resounding success – even more so when you consider that it was not only their first show but was put together with just a few weeks’ notice. The very next weekend then was probably the biggest and most talked-about event of the entire year, Custom Decals’ Season Closer. Along with KMR, Infamous, So Scare, 403 Street Driven, and Thirty Three Ten, this ballooned into something larger than I think anyone had predicted. For those that still had an itch to scratch I don’t think it can be argued that these – and the few other larger, more formal events that were quickly put together – weren’t a solid alternative to all those that had been called off for this year.

Sept 20 2020 2

Similar to how I had summarized 2019 as the year things changed, this was the year we improvised. With absolutely nothing happening at the start of the season, we cruised and/or turned wrenches. With meets barely getting up and running again before being ruined, we not only moved to different gatherings but made a replacement. And with the possibility for larger shows presented to us but none of the regular events in a position to proceed, groups came in to (quickly and effectively) organize new ones. We made it work. 

Sept 20 2020 32A&W Sept 11 2020 13G Oct 4 2020 7

Through it all though – the cruises, (pre-ricer takeover) tuner meets, classic meets, Balance’s anniversary, Sorority Row, Season Closer, and everything else, I’m pretty sure that I met more people and put more faces to cars this season than I had in any other single year; and if you wish to use only one metric to determine the quality of a car season, I’d say that’s a pretty good one. After all, what is easily the single most important and valuable aspect of everything that this hobby and lifestyle has to offer?

Its community. 

What next?

Looking ahead to 2021, by now I should be typing out what can be expected for the site and projects over the next 12 months but it should come as no surprise that I’m not entirely sure. As the saying goes, life is what happens while you’re making other plans, and 2020 was a clear illustration of that. We had some plans that went ahead as scheduled and others that went better than expected, but also many that fell flat on their face. As such, while I do have expectations and goals and targets for the new year, I’m approaching them all with a bit more caution than usual that things may not go exactly as hoped or predicted. 

Suburban refresh 21

What we do know however is that we will get to kick off the new year on the blog with some updates on a few of the vehicles, with the Suburban being the highlight of them to begin with. The team at Speedy have been working some crazy hours and I already have the next update ready to go, but to stick with the (roughly) one-post-a-week schedule I pushed it back a little bit since this review naturally had to go up at year’s end. 

S15 wheel teaser

As for the other cars, the S15 will see continued progress with the centerpiece of it all – the new wheels – set to be revealed too. As you can see above they are here, but they’re not ready to permanently go on the car just yet as they are also a wintertime project to look after, with the blog post to come once they’re all set. There’s quite a story to them now…

Grand Prix 2020 13

The Grand Prix is naturally set to receive some extra attention this coming year as well, to not only make up for ’20 but also to repair the cooling system after chasing fault after fault with it this fall. Parts availability is – and will remain – the determining factor for its progress this year however. I’m still on the hunt for the individual components but one thing these cars have going for them now is that complete and driving examples can be bought for mere hundreds, so there’s always that as a Plan B if the right year/engine/trim combo comes up. I should’ve hoarded even more parts for this thing 10 years ago! 

Black Diamond 2020 2Custom Mk3 Needles 1Austin's Bagged RS 4

Mustard meanwhile, like with this year, isn’t set to receive any real updates but thanks to the other Mk3s in the group, longer-term projects we’ve been finishing up, and more that I still have in my archives, we’ll keep Mk3 updates and content coming your way regardless. After all, fellow owners and enthusiasts remain as a strong portion of our readership and we still love the cars as much as ever, so our tinkering with them isn’t set to end any time soon. Or preferably, ever. 

iMSS 2019 156Explore Alberta 11

Lastly, what about the schedule? At this point there are talks of some of the larger local events possibly coming back for 2021 but anything confirmed or canceled as of today could very well swing the other way by the time we get to summer. Whether 2021’s season ends up being a repeat of 2020’s or closer to that of earlier years however, either way there’ll still be plenty of opportunities to have fun; provided we put in the effort.  

The 2021 car season will be what we make it. Bring it on.


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