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MY FIRST CAR: Turning a first car into a good Vibe

Published August 20, 2014

Broadcaster Steve Anthony needed a cool ride to match his cool gig when he started in radio

By all accounts, the drop kick was nicely executed.

A delightfully impromptu move livening up the staid morning television fare.

Backing up a few feet away from the oversized tire of a monster truck for a live remote on the Maple Leaf Monster Jam Tour last January, Steve Anthony, the popular co-host of CP24’s breakfast show, radio personality and former MuchMusic VJ, gave the behemoth an exuberant kick.

In truth, it was nothing wildly outrageous. But as he bounced off the rubber and fell to the ground pausing only briefly before getting up to finish his hit with the studio, Anthony knew something was wrong.

“When I see it, I can’t,” he says, hesitating. “Knowing in my mind’s eye how horribly painful it was, I have no idea how I stood up.”

Anthony says he quickly came to the conclusion he wasn’t going to be able to walk off the pain. He’d snapped off the top of his femur — the ball part of the hip joint. Something he didn’t know at the time.

Joking about the scar from his hip replacement surgery that runs up his thigh — and, his words, “on my butt cheek” — it’s easy to understand Anthony’s popularity with viewers.

Jovial and spontaneous (impressive since he’s up at 3 a.m. prepping for the show), his self-deprecating sense of humour and work ethic have ensured a broadcast career lasting over three decades.

The Montreal native started in radio as a teen, quickly landing his first job in Timmins, Ont., then moving on to Kitchener before scoring the prized drive-home afternoon slot at a Montreal station, the second-largest market in Canada at the time.

He was all of 24. And he had arrived.

Going from having very little money to spend (choosing to live close to stations to save on transportation costs) to a good income, Anthony wanted his first car to be special.

Walking into a dealership, the young DJ received the full-court press.

“I remember the guy’s name, Jean-Claude, and I just said I wanted something fast, impressive, and literally it was like: ‘Have I got the car for you!’ ” Anthony says, laughing at the stereotype.

But he scored his dream wheels: a 1985 Mazda Rx7 GSL SE purchased in 1984.

A cool ride to match his cool gig.

A 1985 Mazda Rx7 GSL SE, like this one, was Steve Anthony's first set of wheels that he purchased in 1984.

“It was fabulous,” Anthony says. “A jet black Rx7, it had a defused grey stripe on the side — it looked awesome and he (the salesman) just pulling up I said I want it.”

Overlooking the impracticality of the car’s screw off convertible roof (which when removed didn’t even fit in the two-seater) and it’s lack of air conditioning (something he only realized once he’d bought the car), he acknowledges the joy of owning his first car created it’s own special logic. AC, for example, was unnecessary because he’d always drive without the roof. Two seats were all he needed since he’d only ever be driving with one friend.

His first outing in his new ride was memorable as well.

Tooling around the winding streets of Mount Royal and Westmount, Anthony wanted to get the feel of his new sports car.

“I remember driving, not super fast, but I just wanted to stomp on it and see how fast it would go. So I would do that and whip around a corner, and I remember I owned the car for, I think I might have had it 20 minutes, and I nicked the curb and took a whack out of the wheel hum. I was pissed and that was the first time I realized from that point forward that if I get a new car I’m going to key it myself. Because if I do it, it’s done,” he says, still sounding miffed.

But the car, flaws and all, was nothing short of a joy for the young broadcaster. Dubbed Lance, the car survived numerous adventures.

Like a jaunt with a friend down to New England.

Returning from Rhode Island and Cape Cod and caught on the highway in a downpour behind a tanker truck — without the roof on — Anthony says the amount of water coming into the car was surreal.

“We would have pulled over but we definitely would have died — someone would have hit us so we kept on going with the water pouring in. I think we literally had to bail out the car.”

Starting in the new role of video jockey in 1987 at MuchMusic in Toronto (he worked at the station until 1995 before moving back to radio), he hung on to the Mazda for years, even having it repaired after an accident that twisted the frame.

“I loved the car too much; it had been through a lot,” Anthony says. Ultimately the car was passed along to his wife — he didn’t need the ride — till it finally gave out.

It was through his wife, an actress who had taken a gig at an auto show presenting the Pontiac Vibe, that Anthony says they found a worthy, though completely different, heir to the beloved Rx7.

With a GMC Jimmy behind them and a cottage and camping to look forward to, Anthony says he was impressed by the Vibe.

“When we moved from the Jimmy we actually parked them side by side and I took all the camping equipment and we moved it into the Vibe and there was more room in the Vibe after we moved all the stuff in there than there was in the GMC Jimmy. The SUV had the wheel hubs that came inside the cab so that made it really hard to pack things because there’s these big bumps inside of the SUV on either side whereas the Vibe wasn’t like that and I thought, wow, this is awesome.”

A practical sort not looking for a status symbol, Anthony loves the car’s fuel efficiency, maneuverability, 120-volt outlet and overall pep.

“I don’t need a car that goes 190 km/h because I’m never going to drive it that way,” he says.

Happy with their ride but looking for a newer model, getting a good Vibe these days may not be easy.

Driving the first Pontiac for three years, it took a hunt around town to score their second from the marque which ended production in 2009. Even the Vibe’s twin (the vehicle was a co-production with Toyota) badged as the Matrix was discontinued in the U.S., though the 2014 model is for sale in Canada.

Now after five years and with the Vibe no longer produced, it may be time for Anthony to start kicking some tires, figuratively that is.

wheels@thestar.ca

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