Photo by Crystal Rhyno/Advocate staff

A labour of love

Classic car collectors gather in Red Deer this weekend to take a trip down memory lane

It’s not something you see every day.

A calvacade of brightly coloured, shiny classic cars and trucks cruising down the highway from Red Deer to Rocky Mountain House.

The streets are lined with locals hoping to catch a glimpse of the hot rods that were once the vehicles of the day in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and the 1970s.

Behind the wheel of a four-door 1940 Ford sedan, Luc Vigneault has the windows down and gives a small wave and flashes a big smile to the crowds.

His father Jim De Vries, 77, is in the passenger seat.

The Ford is De Vries’ favorite hot rod from his classic car collection in Surrey, B.C.

It was originally assembled in the Kingsway Plant in Vancouver.

One family owned it before De Vries bought it in “pretty good shape” from a friend about 10 years ago.

De Vries and his son made a few tweaks including putting in a new transmission and changing the front end to make the vehicle more drive friendly. It is what is called a “restorod” where everything on the outside and interior are done to the original style but the running gear under the hood are modern parts.

Now it handles and brakes much better. It’s much better on gas too.

That’s something you want when you’re cruising on the roads as part of the Alberta Super Run Association’s Rock’n Red Deer celebration of classic wheels and car culture.

Leading up to the main event this weekend, hundreds of car enthusiasts trickled into the city to take part in the early bird cruisin’ events where the classic cars tour nostalgic or car-related places in Central Alberta and area.

The father and son duo were part of a group from the British Columbia Hot Rod Association who made the trip.

The cars from across western Canada travelled in six groups of about 25 cars and trucks to Country Classics and other spots in Rocky on Thursday.

Hinton’s Ron and Judy Brookes made a maiden trip in their 1952 Nash Healey, one of only six cars believed to be in Canada. They bought it nine years ago and finally got it road-ready on July 1.

“It’s a labour of love,” said Ron Brookes about his car hobby. “It keeps me occupied. I spend a lot of time in the garage.”

Dick Wallace, president of the Super Runs Association which puts on Rock’n Red Deer, joked that the old hot roders are “desperately clinging onto their youth.”

Wallace, whose daily ride is a 1966 Thunderbird, said taking trips down memory lane is what draws people to the classic car-collecting hobby.

With more than 2,500 participants in the car show this weekend at Westerner Park, the hobby is thriving.

But there is always the question of what will happen with these cars with each passing decade. Wallace said there is hope in what he calls a resurgence of interest in the baby boomers coming on board.

“They are retiring or close to it and their mortgages are paid off,” said Wallace. “They are having fun. (It seems) more young people are paying attention to these cars.”

Joe Krego, 24, of Red Deer, is not a baby boomer but he has had his eye on the classics before he could drive. His father Rick bought him a bare bones 1942 GMC Pick up when he was five-years-old.

At 11, he began working on the truck and finished it in time to drive it to his high-school graduation in 2007.

Krego said he was attracted to the uniqueness of the classic cars and the 1942 model fit the bill. The GMC trucks came off the assembly lines for three months in 1942 before GMC went into war production.

“We love to see more people get into the hobby,” said Rick Krego, a long-time collector who had a 1937 Chevy two-door in the car show. “That’s the problem today. If you look around here there’s more people with grey hair and not a lot of young people. Where do all these cars go when they pass away? If we don’t take care of these old cars we will lose history.”

Hayley Gochko, 18, is slowly helping keep history alive on the streets of Edmonton with her 1966 Chrysler Windsor. She bought the car on Kijiji in 2009. Gochko saved and sold puppies to buy the $6,500 car. One day she hopes to have the keys to her dream car, a 1970 Dodge Cuda.

“I like being different,” said Gochko, who is going to study heavy mechanics. “I like old cars. I love Dodge and Chryslers”

Her parents Dale and Bonnie are happy to see their daughter involved in a family-friendly hobby that they can enjoy together.

De Vries said collecting classic cars is simply a hobby that gets into your blood regardless of age or gender.

“We would like to get more younger people,” said De Vries. “Right now we are just a bunch of old guys with grey hair.”

Vigneault said this is one hobby where you meet people who grew up with these vehicles and always have a story to tell.

“Your vehicle brings a story to life because it brings an instant memory back,” he said. “They take a picture with that car. It puts a smile on their face and off they go.”

A public showing of the cars is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Some 850 classics and customs from the 1950s, 1960s and the 1970s will be on display for public viewing.

For a full listing of this weekend’s events visit www.rocknreddeer.com

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

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