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Radio host and potential mayoral candidate John Tory is happy with his aging SUV - but wishes it had GPS (Fernando Morales/Fernando Morales/THE GLOBE AND M)
Radio host and potential mayoral candidate John Tory is happy with his aging SUV - but wishes it had GPS (Fernando Morales/Fernando Morales/THE GLOBE AND M)

My Car

Practical vehicles get campaign veteran's vote Add to ...

These days, John Tory, the former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader, says he is focusing on his new weekday afternoon radio show called Live Drive on Newstalk 1010.

But he may be throwing his hat into the ring for the mayor of Toronto's job next year. If he does, Tory's official campaign ride might be his 2000 Lexus RX300 SUV.

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"As a veteran of three election campaigns - two in ridings outside of Toronto and when I ran for the leadership of the Ontario PC Party - it was the vehicle I ran around in because it saved us the money to rent a vehicle.

"In all three of those campaigns, I used my own car," says Tory, who is actively involved in a number of charities and organizations, including St. Michael's Hospital, the United Way and Easter Seals. He is the honorary chair of the Easter Seals Gala Ball this Saturday."If I run for mayor, which is highly speculative and hypothetical, you can go around the city just in a car and on transit. In any campaign, you can use your own car - it's better because it doesn't cost you your own money to rent one," says Tory, who was a Toronto mayoral candidate in 2003; he lost that bid, coming in second to David Miller.

His Lexus has only 196,000 kilometres on it. "I'm not a car person.

"Driving the car is very utilitarian. … I've never had any interest in driving a sports car or sporty kind of car - I don't think they're practical. You can only take one other person with you, there is no back seat and the trunk only fits three things in it," says the 55-year-old married father of four.

His wife Barbara Hackett doesn't agree. "My wife would have a diametrically different view. In fact, her choice of cars over time has reflected it.

"She doesn't care about practicality, but I'm very practical when I look at these things. … The fact I drive a 10-year-old car is indicative that it's not a subject of great fascination to me as long as it works well and it's practical. She's more of a car person than me - usually, it's the other way around."

While Tory loves the exterior design of the RX because it hasn't changed dramatically over the years, he misses some of the new technology inside.

"It has no GPS [global positioning system]built into it - the things you couldn't get 10 years ago built into it. There are a number of occasions when I wished it had a compass that displayed north, south, east or west. I can't tell you how many times I needed it."

Tory's first car was a Ford Mustang. "It wasn't a very good car. It was the famous year where they tried to revive it, I can't remember the year, but in any event it looked much different.

"I think it was quite a flop actually because they tried to craft their way from the look of the original Mustang. It was like Coke Classic; they tried to take Coke that was working perfectly well and reinvented it as something else and it was a dismal failure."

Actually, his first car was supposed to be a different Ford.

"My grandfather had a 1957-58 Thunderbird coupe - it was white with a red roof. … Before he died, he said he was going to leave me this car in his will, which he did.

"He died when I was only 15 and my parents very wisely said I shouldn't have a car right when I turn 16 and they sold it. Today's kids would have taken them to court - you can't do that!" he laughs.

"In fact, the man who bought it still owns it. I have half a mind to go and say to him, 'Look when you get to the point when you want to get rid of it, sell it to me.'"

Over the years, Tory has owned a Toyota Celica, an Oldsmobile Cutlass, a Chevrolet Monte Carlo, several Chrysler minivans, two Jeep Cherokees and a Pontiac Grand Prix, which his wife dumped unexpectedly.

"It almost had a hole in the floor. It had rattling, banging and a symphony of bad noises. You would shut it off and it would run for another couple of minutes after you'd take the key out.

"My wife thought it was such an embarrassment and, one day, she just had it towed away," he says with a laugh, before admitting it was a smart move on her part; the Grand Prix had run its course.

Tory's favourite rides were the Jeep Cherokees. "I liked those immensely. They were sporty and practical because there was room in them to put your stuff.

"They sat up a bit off the road, which I liked. They were very versatile - they could drive in the snow well and my son took them off-road a couple of times, which I'd never be inclined to do. That's just a matter of lack of courage."

But his wife put an end to a third Cherokee. He bought the Lexus RX300 instead.

"Barb told me after I had two of them, I couldn't get another one. She said you should get something else, so I got this Lexus.

"I'm not sure it was exactly what she had in mind. I think she was interested in getting some sort of sports car, but I wasn't," says Tory, who has also practised law in his career, and was chief executive officer of Rogers Cable and the commissioner of the Canadian Football League.

Now, he can't imagine parting with his Lexus. "It's like an old friend - I don't think about replacing it because there seems to be no issues. I figure if it ain't broke, why replace it?"

But if he could, he'd probably go back to a Cherokee. "It sounds weird - I'd probably get another Jeep because I've always liked them. Barb will just die when she reads this."

pgentile@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @PetrinaGentile

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