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Jim Treliving (COURTNEY PERRY/COURTNEY PERRY/THE GLOBE AND MAI)
Jim Treliving (COURTNEY PERRY/COURTNEY PERRY/THE GLOBE AND MAI)

My Car

Dragon's road to riches Add to ...

Jim Treliving is one of Canada's top business tycoons - the entrepreneur behind Boston Pizza. But you probably only recognize him as one of the Dragons on the CBC hit show Dragon's Den.

When it comes to his rides, all his vehicles share the same traits -they're big, brawny and powerful cars - just like their owner. His favourite is a 2007 Bentley Continental GT coupe.

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"The Bentley is fun and exciting. It's to have a good time - to me, that's what it's all about. It's sporty. It's alive - it's a great car to drive," says the native of Virden, Man., who now divides his time between three homes in Dallas, Palm Springs and Vancouver.

"I really like the Bentley when I'm going out in Dallas. We go to a restaurant, just my wife and I. The valets always park it right in front," says Treliving, who is the chairman and owner of Boston Pizza International Inc., which operates in three countries and has nearly $1-billion in annual sales. Before his business success, he was a RCMP officer.

"The other day, I was at a coffee shop in Texas and I had a young guy, probably 12, walking around my car taking pictures. I walked out and said, 'Have you ever sat in one of these?' I said, 'Okay, get in. He sat inside.

"I said, 'Now see that button on the right? Can you reach the brake?' He could barely reach the brake pedal, but he started it up. And he goes, 'Oh, I never dreamed I'd be able to do this!'

"His mother came out and said, 'Thank you - he's nuts for cars!'"

But the Bentley isn't just a head-turner, it's a great drive, says Treliving. "The ride is so smooth. It's got all the features you can get on it. It's a beautiful ride and it's got great acceleration. … There's over 600 horses in there!"

"I've been caught for speeding," he laughs. "I shouldn't say that but I have. I haven't been for a while."

Occasionally, he still likes to push it. "Once on an early Sunday morning at 5 o'clock, I wanted to see what it would do on a straightaway - a 10-mile stretch of highway.

"I got it up to 177 miles so that was real fun! The faster it goes, the more it sinks down so you can really feel it so easily - it's just a beautiful car to drive."

While the Bentley is for pleasure, his other car in Dallas is strictly for business. It's a 2010 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG sedan. "I love my new Mercedes AMG - it's really a classy car," says Treliving, who also has other successful business ventures in real estate development, sports entertainment, and the Canadian oil change retailer Mr. Lube.

"The AMG has the most powerful engine in it."

He also likes the innovative technology. "It has night vision. A camera is mounted on the outside of the car and at night you can see scenery on both sides of the road - if anybody is standing in a ditch or an animal you can pick it out quite easily."

In Palm Springs, Treliving owns another three-pointed star - a 2002 Mercedes S500 sedan. "The S500 I've had almost eight years. I mostly turn them over in three, five years. But I like this one."

At his home in Vancouver, his ride is a 2008 Lincoln Navigator. "It's great for the ski hills, luggage and golf clubs. It's more for the kids and the grandkids - you can load everything up."

Treliving has always been a car guy. "I grew up in the prairies so I really enjoyed vehicles. I wasn't a big fan of any particular brand, but I liked fast cars," says Treliving, who turns 69 in May.

With the RCMP in rural Alberta, he drove a range of Chevrolet, Ford and Pontiac vehicles.

"We souped up cars in the police force. We had ones for highway patrols to catch speeders.

"One of the neat cars I drove was a Studebaker Avanti - it was an unbelievable car. It was a fast, fast car. They had a funny torpedo look to them - they had a bullet front and a bullet back. Boy, was it a fast car, but they didn't have more than a one- to two-year production and it was over."

He had some close calls on the force. "I was in a high-speed chase, chasing a stolen car. I had a Ford Fairlane and I smashed it up chasing this guy because we were going through all kinds of trees, bushes and down country roads.

"Finally he came to a T, he went over it and into a ditch and I came flying in right on top of him. That was a wild chase. When you're young you don't care. And it's not my car," he laughs.

The entrepreneur is a risk-taker when it comes to business but not cars. "I don't think cars are a great investment. I think they're a great convenience.

"There are two kinds of cars. There are cars you drive and you turn them back, you buy them and sell them, that's the end of it. And then there's the collector. Some guys have made a lot of money, but it's a long-term investment."

While he doesn't consider himself a collector, he still shops for new rides. "I'm a big guy - I'm 6-foot-3 6-foot-4 so I can't get into Ferraris or that kind of car. I think they're a neat-looking car, but they're too small for me.

"I've sat in the Lamborghini Spyder. It's something you fit into - you either look good in it or you don't.

"I need a car that I can fit in because I'm tall. I feel good in the AMG and the Bentley. I looked at the Rolls-Royce and they're really nice, but I got to wait 20 years to be old enough to get into there."

Peter Cheney picks 11 iconic rides ... one for each decade of automotive history

pgentile@globeandmail.com

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