1960 Chevrolet Impala Sport Coupe

Harvey Eckmier was trying to find a 1959 Chevrolet back in 1991. In London, Ontario there was an antique car dealer on Warncliffe Road and this car was for sale there. It had been imported from Nashville. Even though it wasn’t Harvey’s preferred colour, it had the required low mileage and great condition as most cars from “No-Salt-States” tend to be. Harvey bought it and in March 1993 it was time to get it into the body shop so the restoration could begin. Harvey’s brother-in-law is Ron Box – a well known high end restoration master craftsman who has restored and customized countless other outstanding cars. Naturally, Ron was in charge of this project. Harvey points out that this car was restored 25 years ago (and counting) -but it looks like it was just finished yesterday!!

Since the restoration this Impala Sports Coupe has been driven over 60,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) and currently sits at 107,000 miles (172,000 kilometers)! It has won over 160 awards including “Best Interior” over at the annual car show in Michigan at the Henry Ford Museum. The rules said he had to split the title with another car otherwise this amazing Impala would have won “Best Exterior” as well!

 

In the 60,000 miles since restoration Harvey has driven to many places in Canada and the United

States and truly enjoys the Impala’s terrific highway ride. With the stock 283 cubic inch engine and the two barrel carburetor, the fuel economy is pretty good and the power is of course just the way the car came from the factory. The view from the rear corner really highlights the car’s lines which gives a sense of the sculptured look from that era – the jet plane stainless steel image on the fender trim, the flattened fins as the finned era was moving on and the famous “bubble-top” roof line with the huge expanse of glass!

 This car brings back memories of days when 6 full size adults with their luggage could fit into one car!!

1937 Jaguar Replica

Jack Pearce continues to modify his Replica of the 1937 Jaguar SS 100. Since his initial interview by Car Stories North, he has added the spare tire mount, relocated the gas tank filler and doubled up on the radiator in front for additional engine cooling capacity.

Under-hood-heat for the V8 Chevy engine needed to be reduced to the 180-190 degree range. The custom stainless steel bumpers -front and rear- are also new and the designs were a co-operative effort between Jack, a fabricator and some technology students from Georgian College in Barrie, Canada. The rear bumper helps support the spare tire as well. The rear tire mount system took some thought – but the solution he designed opened up the sizable trunk for travel storage and it balances the design of the whole car.

The Lexan windshield wings reduce the cockpit turbulence. The wind net he “Velcro’s” to the roll bar helps keep his wife’s sun hat on at highway speeds.

Jack keeps telling me this car is not intended to be an accurate reproduction – he knows historical Jaguar purists will object to his version. His goal was- and is, to have an enjoyable summer car that he can take anywhere in confidence. I really like the period style of the convertible top and side curtains that do a great job keeping them dry and warm in rain or cooler weather.

Interestingly, his extra radiator is separate from the main rad. He removed the heater and instead  connected the supplementary radiator to the heater hoses. He usually drives the car in summer only and the heater is not required. This seems like a simple solution for extra cooling – something I might consider for my old car too! A number of hot days in long traffic I have  opened up the heater to circulate more coolant to the system and bring engine temperature down.

 

Jack is a senior international level competitive Laser sailor. He was chosen as one of 38 sailors to compete in the 2017 World Senior Laser Championship in Croatia. He installed a pretty hefty trailer hitch on the rear  to haul his Laser sailboat on its trailer so he can drive his Replica Jaguar to sailing competitions. After teaching College math for 51 years, Jack now spends his days driving his car, international sailing and another of his hobbies – adding LED lighting to model cars, ships, trucks, service vehicles and railroad rolling stock – much of which he exports to other hobbyists.

This car along with his other hobbies keep Jack smiling and on the lookout for another challenge!

Back Roads

Bill Dampier bought these two Fiats after visiting the Detroit Auto show. The first one was the red one and his hyper- black Abarth came out the next year. Since the Abarth had more of the features he wanted, he sold the red one and patiently waited for the Abarth turbo with its 160 hp, a 5 speed stick shift, with track handling and very fast – His was the first one in London, Ontario, Canada.

Bill grew up on a farm just north of London Ontario and his first car was a $50.00 1938 Dodge Deluxe.

At 15 he learned to drive on a track on the farm. The next year, he found a 1949 Ford and began to customize it right away. His shop teacher helped with the modifications in trade for Bill seeding his lawn. To pay for his car, Bill took a job as a custodian at his high school and after class, he worked cleaning up the mess of the day. The worst job he says was the lunchroom garbage.

Bills family ran Gammage Florists in the Hotel London and he worked there from about age 10. After 16, he and his cousin Gard Gammage began to take the two 1954 Dodge panel vans on deliveries.

He has always lived in the country and is known as a car guy.

In 1959, he joined a rally club with another fellow. He bought an Austin Healy Sprite and modified it to rally. Then, in 1961, Bill along with a navigator, secured a sponsor and entered the 6 day “Shell 4000” from Montreal to Vancouver. Until 1968, the Shell 4000 Rally was one of the most famous motorsports in the world –

He finished 84th in a field of 105 cars – even after losing an hour stuck in mud! Sterling Moss’s sister Pat Moss also ran this rally.

After the Sprite, and now with a family, the next car was a modified Volkswagen bug – mostly for local rallies and some grocery hauling.

He really wanted a Volvo PV 544 when he saw them rally in the Shell 4000. It was faster and less temperamental than the Sprite. The Volvo had the speed and handling and the room he needed to haul his family around.

Over time, he owned three 544s. His last one came from California 40 years later. Bill drove it back to London in 2005 by himself -a trip with great memories. Over years, he worked on that car to make it almost perfect.

Bill really liked his new Red Fiat 500 but as soon as he saw the Abarth version, he almost ran to the dealer to put one on order. The Abarth takes him back to his rally days and it is a real blast on country roads. A real hot rod! The early Fiat 500 Abarth was the brainchild of Karl Abarth and it first raced in 1958. At the Monza Italy race track over seven days and seven nights, the Fiat 500 Abarth broke six international records, nearly one every day. This little car has the headroom Bill needs and he says “it sounds awesome under hard acceleration. It revs eagerly to redline in each gear, and makes fantastic sounds when changing gears”. Then he says, “the 160 hp feels more like 200 in this little car. And then I hit the sport button! The straight pipes make quite a racket”.

Bill’s big grin tells it all!

1952 MG TD

Richard Skidmore has owned this car since 1978. He tells me it took him 25 years to get it. He was about 17 and hitchhiking to school when he was given a ride in an MG TD. The memory of that car never left him and he was determined to have his own someday.

The MG T series is a range of body-on-frame open 2-seater sports cars with very little weather protection. They were produced by MG from 1936 to 1955. The series included the MG TA, MG TB, MG TC, MG TD, and MG TF Midget models. The last of these models, the TF, was replaced by the MGA. Nearly 30,000 TDs had been produced when the series ended in 1953 with all but 1656 exported, 23,488 of them to the United States (US) alone. The main complaint that US owners had with the MG TD sold in the US was the British 12-volt electrical system, which was hard to service when most US cars were still using 6 volts. Also, they had minor complaints over the lack of water temperature and fuel gauges. But in general in surveys, owners of the Americanized MG TD had more positive remarks than negative. 

An example tested by The Motor magazine in 1952 had a top speed of 77 mph (124 km/h) and could accelerate from 0–60 mph (97 km/h) in 18.2 seconds. A fuel consumption of 26.7 miles per imperial gallon (10.6 L/100 km; 22.2 mpg US) was recorded.

This is a beautiful running MG TD and has the standard twin SU carburetors. Richard says he can balance the SUs himself – although he and I agree, it isn’t all that easy to do. This engine ticks over quietly at idle – very smooth.

When I was asking about the engine cooling system, Richard showed me the red vanes inside the radiator shell and pointed out they can be set (like aircraft wings) to direct air past the radiator core to maximize cooling. Such a simple idea to help the fan keep things cool. These MGs are simple mechanically and Richard pointed out how he jacked the car up at home and did his own front end alignment without a fancy alignment machine. I didn’t see any tire wear!

The MG was located at an RV dealer in the Hamilton Ontario area where it had been part of a trade-in on a motor home. Seems like one extreme to another? Since Richard bought it, he rebuilt the 1250 cc engine and generally drove it and fixed it as necessary for 18 years or so.  Then in 1995 did a cosmetic restoration.

He figures his MG has about 371,000 miles on it – which probably isn’t all that much if you consider it is from 1952.

1950 Mercury Eight

The first postwar Mercury was introduced in the 1949 model year. The engine was a flathead V8 that produced slightly more power than the then also newly designed 1949 Ford. A new overdrive system was optional, activated by a handle under the dash. The styling of the Mercury Eight, when it was released in 1949, adopted the “pontoon” appearance, and was successful in both ending the monotony of warmed-over pre-war style, and differentiating Mercury from its comparable Ford cousin, a trick that spelled sales success. Sales figures for both Ford and Mercury broke records in 1949. The new approach to styling was also evident on the completely redesigned Lincoln and the all-new Lincoln Cosmopolitan. The Mercury Eight used full instrumentation.  An 8 tube radio was an option. The Mercury was an up-scale car and quite a performer in its time. (Extracted from Wikipedia)

There are very few preserved Mercury’s of this era to be seen today. This body style became very popular with customizers – the shape somehow stirred their imaginations and many variations show up at car shows across North America. Years 1949, 1950 and 1951 show gradual design feature changes until a major redesign showed up in 1952. In Canada a virtual clone was called the Monarch. Most of its variations were trim designs.

This Mercury Eight Sport Sedan from 1950 is a remarkable and accurate restoration – the exception being the striking colours. The owners Linda and Dave Goff just won another Best-In-Show award at a car show in Ontario. Linda picked the colours and interior while Dave looked after the outside – restored in 1997 including new fenders, rocker panels and a rebuild on the 255 Cu In. Flathead V8.

Dave says the overdrive kicks down a cog if you need passing power – push the accelerator to the floor and it drops down to regular third gear, let the pedal up and it shifts back to overdrive. Overdrive works in second gear also but is seldom used that way. Linda laughs at the vacuum wipers – step on the gas and the wipers slow down – not good for passing slower cars in the rain!

The other shortcoming was pretty normal in the 50’s – no synchromesh in first gear. So, rolling stops before shifting into low gear are not preferred.

1955 Cadillac Coupe DeVille

Styling and performance excellence of the 1955 Cadillac coupe extended the margin of Cadillac’s dominance as the world’s best-selling luxury car. The body style of this particular model was introduced in 1954. It features wrap-around panoramic windshield, a flowing Florentine curve roof line, a weather seal “flipper” above each door glass and higher tail fins. The fuel filler cap continues to be concealed beneath the left tail lamp. The dual exhaust system exits through the rear bumper ends. Chrome-plated aluminum
“saber spoke” wheels were available.

Engine: 331 CID V8, 250 horsepower

Base Price in 1955: $4,305

(Excerpted from Wikipedia)

This immaculate Cadillac was discovered at a country car show in Ontario with its owners enjoying the  beautiful warm day and talking to other car buffs about their treasures.

This car was acquired (by it’s current owners) in 1979 in Calgary, Canada and driven on only sunny days for a year, then stored in British Columbia. These are the 5th owners of this car. Its first owners were in San Francisco California, then it was moved to Oregon then Calgary, then British Columbia, and since 2005 it resides in Ontario. This Cadillac has 81,000 miles on it.

In 1991 a complete mechanical restoration plan began but that effort was slowed by having to locate the replacement of some stolen engine parts. Between 2006 and 2009 the restoration was finished. The paint and trim is accurate and the detail really becomes evident in the upholstery where the craftsmen at RM Restorations in Chatham, Ontario painstakingly measured each button and its placement so that all squares are exactly perfect. The new steering wheel cost $1800 alone and the colour of the leather hand grips dictated a repaint of the interior metal trim to match. The wire wheels are real also and the huge trunk is totally reupholstered as if it just came from the Cadillac factory. The whole car is restored to as close to original as possible.

“The power”, say the owners, “is more than adequate”. You find the nicest cars and the nicest people at some of these classic car gatherings!

Brand Loyalty

At cruise events and car shows I have observed what I call brand polarization.

I think it is partly brand loyalty – something marketers try very hard to master.

Car owners like to join clubs with others who own the same brand – it is natural to gather with others who have similar interests. I think it must be a human condition. There are Directories of Directories of Organizations – all manner of groups cluster for all manner if reasons.

I think this is quite interesting – not that people with similar interests gather together – rather that their brand loyalties are so strong.

I’m wondering if part of the loyalty is just as simple as familiarity. Each brand has its own way of doing some things and perhaps that is why the owner bought that variety in the first place. Of course style and colour, features – all play a part. It’s why Industrial Designers are an important part of the design teams.

So there is no denying brand loyalty exists and manufacturers work really hard to establish this bond with owners.

One description I read pointed out that currently, manufacturers know that if a car owner is going to purchase a new car within 3 or 4 years, they are most likely to stick with the brand they have. This might have had a lot to do with the terms and conditions of most car leases. It is also known that a buyer who waits longer to purchase a new car will likely have experienced lifestyle changes and is more likely to shop other brands.

When it comes to our special cars however, even though brand loyalty is almost always present, it seems to me it could be a counter-productive trait.

What I mean is, just because I favour a particular brand of car, or a particular model or colour, I try to appreciate that the owners next to me (at a cruise event, for example) are just as proud, worked just as hard and needed as much ingenuity and dedication as me – probably more.

Can we just try to look at our special cars through a different lens? Maybe a wide angle and not narrow?

For example, if you meet someone who has a hotrod but you have always liked the original, the bottom line is, we all have an interest in cars and we are all in this together.

Youth and Old Cars

I am not alone in my concern for the future for older vehicles when this generation of owners and mechanics fades away.

If you notice, many publications have obituaries of long standing car friends. I wonder what happens to their historic vehicles. Not enough of the children or grandchildren care – or seem to have the “connection” or want to be bothered. You see, it is our hobby not theirs.

I see Hagerty Insurance has identified this issue. Their website says:

“Hagerty is dedicated to helping ensure the future of the classic car hobby by Driving the Passion for Classics and providing young people unique access to classic car related experiences through various youth services with our Youth Advocacy Program.

Since 2007, more than 3,000 people age 25 and under have participated in the Hagerty Youth Advocacy Program to gain insider access to the classic car and boat hobby. Hagerty provides these youth services as a way of ‘giving back’ to the classic car industry to support and encourage the next generation of car enthusiasts and collectors.” (https://www.hagerty.ca/corporate/hobby-support/youth-programs)

I see a very few young people at cars shows and cruise events. Every once-in-a-while I do talk to a young person who is actively restoring a car/truck but how many will take over the special vehicle and give it the care it needs so it will be around 50 years from now? My guess is not too many.

I have looked for places where restoration training might be available – but the trade schools seem to be pointed mostly at careers in industry and that involves Information Technology mostly.

I went to a dealer the other day in my old car to buy some oil filters. Some of the mechanics wanted to see the engine. When I lifted the hood one pointed at the generator and asked if that was the air conditioning pump. So the gap is really wide these days and getting wider.

It isn’t all that bad of course – today’s cars are amazingly reliable – unless you think about 50 or even 20 years from now and try to visualize today’s mechanics working on yesterday’s cars. Or today’s young owners and the rapidly evolving technology world they enjoy – very few will develop the bond our generation developed learning how to repair and maintain these vehicles when we were young.

I think the restoration and preservation of these older vehicles can provide a significant number of careers – Hagerty must think so too.

Where will the training come from? When I was a teenager, the corner garage usually had a mechanic and an apprentice. That training ground – the conduit for future mechanics – is all but gone now too.

Many of today’s older car owners – who know a lot about older cars – have an opportunity here, they could become mentors somehow. Maybe the car clubs can offer an enticing opportunity to get young people involved.

I wouldn’t be surprised that if more young people knew there were career opportunities and training was available, they would step up.

In the big picture, we are not so much the owners as we are the custodians of this part of our transportation history – for that we have a responsibility.

My Favourite Publications

I enjoy reading Old Autos (www.oldautos.ca). This is a Canadian news print style publication that is published twice a month and is full of personal stories of cars, lots of photos and some terrific historical reports.

I like Old Autos because the people next door or down the road are featured in their stories. This is stuff I can relate to and it is the same approach I use at Car Stories North.

I also enjoy Hemmings Motor News and Hemmings Classic Cars (www.hemmings.com). These are magazines you can find  in many book outlets. It is very informative with in-depth historical notes of pioneers of motorized vehicles – mostly North American. Sometimes the stories show the development over the last century into this one and often highlight names from the past. The photos are excellent.

Another favourite of mine is Practical Classics (www.practicalclassics.co.uk). This is a British magazine and has a “cast of characters” who engage in repair and restoration projects and often compete against each other with their repaired vehicles. Even though they feature mostly British cars, there are interesting articles that are well photographed, that show how to make repairs to older cars. You find words like wings (fenders), bodge (repaired badly) and other British expressions that make you scratch your head – wondering at the translation. Some of their repair projects don’t work out as well as they’d like. I particularly like the overarching philosophy of the magazine’s approach which encourages us to use our older vehicles – regularly – even in place of a second daily driver.

1964 Volvo

www.carstoriesnorth.com is a site that I created as a business idea to take me into retirement and to have some fun.

One day at work, I was talking about retirement and wondering what my next career would be like. I was thinking seriously about continuing in my field as a business advisor with a focus on financing and business succession – things I had spent a number of years doing. Misgivings about the endless routine brought me to the conclusion it was time to do something different. Something I loved.

I liked cars – always had – ever since my first 1950 Pontiac Silver Streak my best friend Jack and I bought for our summer job in a warehouse. I was always fixing and cleaning my cars, my father’s cars, and learned rudimentary driveway bodywork, learned how to dismantle, repair and reassemble a couple of engines in my cars so they actually ran better than before, brake jobs – and lots of things a teenager needed to know if they had a car and not much money. My father guided me along – mostly by encouragement and by lending his tools (he was not a mechanic).

A few years back, 2009 to be exact, I decided it was time to get a hobby. One night on my way home from work I stopped at a cruise night and it was like I became infected by some kind of bug. I saw a number of cars I wanted but driving home from there I dismissed them all. That night I hopped on the internet to find the one I wanted and by next morning the deal was almost complete – the first time I had bought anything on the internet!

It took about three weeks for the car to actually arrive from “Out West” where salt is less of a problem for old cars – and when it did arrive, it passed the safety check right off the truck. I was on my way to new experiences and new challenges and directions. 

It started with my hobby!!