|From Conquest Knight's website|
...The Knight was the largest four-wheeled vehicle I’d ever driven. Passenger cars scurried around far below, like dinghies manoeuvring around a battleship, and I felt the Knight’s seven-ton bulk through the seat of my pants – if I wasn’t careful, I’d be picking Hondas and Chryslers out of my grille.
The Knight’s weight came from more than just its size and security features. In back was a 32-inch Sony flat-screen TV, a PlayStation system, a satellite receiver, a granite bar and power-operated steps that folded out like the stairs of a Learjet. On top of the dash was a pair of video screens that showed the outside world through heat-sensitive cameras known as FLIR’s – cars and pedestrians appeared on the screens as ghostly white shapes, like missile targets in a Tom Clancy film.
I wondered where I should go in the Knight – the financial district, perhaps? As attention-getting devices go, the Knight would make short work of the Bay Streeters’ Porsches and BMWs. Or maybe I should go to a crime-ridden neighbourhood, where the Knight’s steel fortifications would render me Glock-proof. I decided on Kensington Market, home to Toronto’s single greatest concentration of social activists and environmental buffs.
Kensington is the spiritual home of the Occupy movement and the bicycle. Residents pride themselves on an art installation called the Earth Car (an old Ford that has been filled with dirt, converting it into a wheeled planter). So what would the Kensingtonians think of the Knight, which is designed to protect one per centers from the resentful masses? (And burns about 40 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres.)
As we wove our way through the market’s narrow streets, every head turned. Jaws dropped, and countless people snapped our picture with their cell phone. Finally, I found a spot large enough to park the Knight (I used the FLIR screens to double-check that I wasn’t running over any people or cars.)
I soon realized that the Knight was a social litmus test on wheels. “Who do you think you are?” one woman asked, shaking her head. A thin guy in sandals and a greasy-looking Cowichan sweater walked straight up to me, his lips contorted in fury: “Big tough guy in his big tough truck, right? Screw you!”...