Audi challenges Beechview's world-class-steep Canton Avenue
March 3, 2016 12:00 AM
A pickup truck takes on Canton Avenue in Pittsburgh's Beechview neighborhood Wednesday. It's dubbed one of the steepest residential streets in the world.
Cyclists struggle up Canton Avenue in Beechview, the Dirty Dozen's signature hill with its 37 percent grade.
By Ed Blazina / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
This time, iconic Canton Avenue in Beechview lost.
The thoroughfare, dubbed one of the steepest residential streets in the world because of its 37 percent grade, regularly foils cars and trucks that try to go up in winter conditions. Bicyclists participating in Pittsburgh’s Dirty Dozen — the annual ride up the city’s steepest slopes — often fail when they get to Canton.
But in a commercial that began airing Monday, an Audi Quattro A4 had little trouble making the steep, cobble-stone ascent — despite man-made obstacles such as sand, gravel, mud and snow spread to make it even more challenging. In a spot made in conjunction with Red Bull, world-class athletes who are passengers going up take wild rides down the 200-yard hill behind the car on skis, a snowboard and a mountain bike.
The 80-second spot is part of Audi’s Quattro Challenge campaign to show there are few limits to the car’s capability. Pittsburgh firm Animal Inc. filmed the commercial over two days in November with Steve Hoover as director.
Mitchell Barutha, a Pittsburgh-based location manager, said Animal contacted him about six weeks before the filming was scheduled. Mr. Barutha’s job involved going door to door to visit residents, making them aware that the avenue would be closed for three days, safety barriers would be installed in some areas and loud snow-making equipment would be used for four hours overnight.
Ed and Dolly Love had front-row seats for the production. Their house, which originally belonged to Ed’s grandfather, sits across Coast Avenue where Canton bottoms out, so close that the Loves sat outside with their grandchildren to watch the filming.
Their parking pad became part of the production headquarters, with cameras, tents and vehicles scattered about Coast Avenue. They watched as dozens of production workers milled about and a four-wheel-drive Porsche preceded the Audi so it could film the action.
The commercial opens with Swedish racing legend Mattias Ekstrom driving an Audi and a voice saying, ”Pittsburgh. What a quiet, lovely place — until now.” That’s followed by Mr. Ekstrom racing down Canton Avenue and stopping at the bottom to pick up friends to “give them a lift up a street.”
The friends are German free-style skier Bene Mayr, Finnish snowboarder Heikki Sorsa and American world champion downhill mountain bicyclist Aaron Gwin.
“For some, too steep,” Mr. Ekstrom says over black-and-white film of bicyclists falling over as they try the hill. “For me, just perfect.”
Then it cuts to a series of clips of an exuberant Mr. Ekstrom driving the Quattro A4 up the hill, showing the car plowing through sand, gravel, mud and snow. After the Quattro summits the avenue, the athletes who rode up as passengers don their equipment and follow the car back down. The commercial shows their hotshot moves and twisting jumps in all conditions.
“It was just amazing,” Mrs. Love said.
For their inconvenience, the Loves got a new gravel driveway when the production crew spread some of the material there after they were done using it on the hill.
But Canton didn’t lose every battle. Mr. Barutha said during one jump, Mr. Gwin blew out both tires on his mountain bike when he landed.
To view the commercial, visit www.post-gazette.com.
Ed Blazina: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1470.
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