The event is held on the grounds at Hersheypark
The event is held on the grounds at Hersheypark. Click image to enlarge

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Article and photos by Jil McIntosh

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Cars sweeter than candy in Hershey

Hershey, Pennsylvania – I’m generally no fan of Fall, but for one week each October, the end of summer is no longer a hardship. That’s when I pack a vehicle with spouse, friend, luggage and a wagon, and point everything south to a town that’s both famous for chocolate, and what’s believed to be the world’s largest antique automotive flea market. It’s properly the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Fall Meet, but those of us into vintage tin just know it as “Hershey.”

While that name conjures up visions of candy for most, car fans realize it as some ten thousand vendor spots, a massive car corral, and a Saturday show that draws everything from Fords and Chevrolets to such long-forgotten marques as Marmon, Chase, Red Bug and DeDion Bouton – and all of them, no matter how old or how valuable, have to be driven up an entry road to get inside, past long lines of spectators for whom it might be the only chance ever to hear one run.

The trip is also a vehicle test, and it requires the type of vehicle that I normally wouldn’t buy for a personal car. With only two of us, I don’t have the need for people and cargo space that’s the norm for many Canadians with families. I often take a minivan or SUV, but this time I decided to try something different: a 2010 Ford Transit Connect.

2010 Ford Transit Connect
2010 Ford Transit Connect
2010 Ford Transit Connect. Click image to enlarge

Already popular in Europe – it’s built in Turkey – the Transit Connect is most commonly sold as a commercial panel van here. It’s also available in the configuration I took, with a second-row bench seat and windows in its sliding doors. (In reality, that’s how they all arrive in North America right now, due to an obscure Turkish tax; Ford then removes the rear seat and replaces the rear windows with metal panels.) After spending some time with one, I’m hooked on its versatility. I could very easily see buying one of these for a personal vehicle, in place of a minivan or crossover.

The trip traditionally begins at “o-dark-thirty,” as my husband puts it, and so I pointed the Transit Connect’s sloping snout from my Ontario home toward the U.S. border well before the crack of dawn. The TC, as we dubbed it, really isn’t intended to be a highway hauler; rather, it’s an urban work vehicle, perfect for small-item delivery or trades people. Even so, it worked out quite well on the trip. It uses a 2.0-litre gasoline engine (wouldn’t it be marvelous to get a diesel!) that makes 136 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque, mated to a four-speed automatic, and it’s front-wheel drive. Fortunately for my right foot, cruise control is a standard feature. Other niceties included with all models are a/c, a CD player with auxiliary input, keyless entry, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, variable intermittent wipers and, on the passenger wagon, electronic stability control. Rear-seat access is through the two sliding doors, and the double rear doors can be opened 90 degrees or, at the touch of a button, out to 180 degrees. The rear seat also folds and tumbles forward if more cargo space is needed, although we didn’t come close to filling it. Front and front seat-side airbags are standard, and the brakes also work very well – as I discovered when a driver going the wrong way on the highway made a U-turn in front of me. Keeps you on your toes, driving does.

2010 Ford Transit Connect
2010 Ford Transit Connect
2010 Ford Transit Connect. Click image to enlarge

The TC runs on 87-octane fuel, although unfortunately Ford’s brilliant Easy Fuel capless system isn’t included. It’s officially rated at 9.5 L/100 km (30 mpg Imp) on the highway and 7.9 (36) in the city. On our trip, which was primarily highway driving around the 112 km/h permitted on the U.S. interstate, and with some stop-and-go in small towns, I averaged 10.5 (27). And while the seats won’t find their way into a Lincoln anytime soon, they weren’t nearly as uncomfortable as I would have expected after a ten-hour driving day. My TC started ticking the cash register at $28,299 and had a couple of options including a reverse sensing system and a block heater. Before freight, taxes and the stewardship fee on its tires, it finished up at $28,629.

In fact, my complaints about the truck were minor, and most of them aimed at better convenience. The cruise control buttons on the steering wheel should be illuminated, as they’re hard to find in the dark; the buttons on the key fob need a touch of white paint, as it’s equally hard to see which of the black-on-black icons is the right one; and for an urban delivery vehicle, the turning circle seems rather wide.

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