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Classic Cruising with Larry D'Argis

Too cool for school

'Scholar Hauler' puts the class back in the school bus

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Commercial vehicles are rarely restored to their original condition, but when Ron Schellenberg and his wife, Sandra, saw an old 1957 GMC school bus camper in a copy of Buy & Sell, they thought the bus might be worth a custom treatment.

Growing up in the country, or outskirts of town, usually meant you rode on the bus to get to and from school.

Generally based on a cab and chassis purchased from vehicle manufacturers, the bus enclosure itself was the work of a specialty coachbuilder. Town sites and municipalities often owned their own bus and eventually they’d end up at a local auction.

Today, there are still some of these old workhorses around. Purchased decades ago, some were lucky enough to see conversions into campers and others… well, some just became a home for the chickens or were used as a storage shed.

Long gone and forgotten, commercial vehicles are seldom restored to their original condition, unless they carry a historical significance or other special provenance. Then, there are those that catch the eye of someone creative.

In 1997, Ron Schellenberg of St. Andrews was going through an old copy of Buy & Sell when he saw an ad for a 1957 GMC school bus camper. His wife, Sandra, remarked that the bus might make a cool custom, so they decided to make the trip south of Winnipeg, out to Roseisle, to have a closer look.

Schellenberg says, "The owner had taken the original bus and made it into a crude camper, with a couple of roof vents and a chimney from an old wood stove."

After hauling it home and giving it a good look over, Schellenberg found the brakes were totally shot, the original straight-six-cylinder motor and manual transmission were near death and not what …

Truly one of a kind

Hot Rod Lincoln is a throwback to '50s and '60s car culture

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Photos by Lorne Edwards

The car has full-fender skirts in the rear with chrome accent bars. The rear fenders were also extended to accommodate classic Packard tailamps.

Custom vehicles gained prominence in the late 1940s. Automobile producers found they could gauge consumer interest by introducing concept vehicles and modern features at fairs and exhibitions. Many young men were known to lust after the latest designs from Detroit. You could almost draw a parallel line between the evolution of hot rods searching for performance improvements, while customs focused more on unique styling and cruising capabilities. The hobby exploded in the 1950s and, to meet enthusiasts’ demands, separate magazines evolved dedicated either to horsepower or high style. The trend continued well into the ’60s. Today, the early customs are still highly regarded as rolling works of art.

For Rance Pritchard of Winnipeg, growing up through the car culture of the ’50s and ’60s, a custom cruiser was one vehicle on his bucket list.

"I’ve had many cars, but I always wanted a full-out custom," Pritchard says.

In 2006, he went out to look at a 1940 Ford, owned by Gord MacDonald in MacGregor, Man. There were several cars for sale, but as he was looking over the lineup, he caught a glimpse of a 1941 Lincoln Zephyr Coupe and asked if it was also for sale.

It was a project car and had a good deal of work already done on it, including a three-inch chop on the roof, and the fenders had been blended into the body. Yet, in all, it was still just a shell with no drivetrain, paint or upholstery.

Over the next year, he sourced a rear axle from a …

Flights of fancy

In its time the Superbird was a tough sell, now it's a collectible

The Ford Motor Company was enjoying much success on the NASCAR circuit in 1969 with its aerodynamic Ford Talladega and Mercury Cyclone Spoiler models. Dodge countered with its own winged-warrior, the Charger Daytona. That left legendary Plymouth racer Richard Petty without a viable ride. Petty actually jumped ship and joined Ford, running a number 43 Talladega in ’69. Out of the 54 races that year, the results were impressive. Petty posted nine of the 29 wins for Ford.

For 1970, Petty returned to the Plymouth camp wheeling their new Superbird. Based on the Road Runner, it used a 19-inch aerodynamic nose extension that cut the wind reducing drag. In back, an adjustable aluminum horizontal stabilizer rode atop two gigantic 25-inch tall uprights. Additional wind-cheating treatments included stainless steel covers to smooth out the transition between the windshield and A-pillar and flush-mounted rear window glass Fender top vents were added to allow additional clearance for tires. The modifications, similar to those used on the Daytona, substantially increased down force allowing the car to remain stable on the track and post speeds never seen before in the sport of stock car racing.

To qualify as a stock car under NASCAR rules, Plymouth had to build one Superbird for every dealer, approximately 1,935 units, and while it allowed the car to compete, it brought about several other problems. Offered at a base price of US$4,298, Plymouth was still losing more than $500 per car in production costs and interested buyers were asked to shell out …

More than a car -- it's functional art

Winnipeg native will show of his 1960 Chrysler 300F at the 43rd annual Piston Ring World of Wheels Car Show

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Photos by Larry Dargis / Winnipeg Free Press

Lindsey Fuller has put about 48,000 kilometres on the 300F while attending numerous shows throughout Canada and the United States.

By 1960, manufacturers were looking toward building better cars, instead of just adorning previous models with more chrome.

At Chrysler, the move to unibody construction represented a great leap over the previous body-on-frame construction that had been an industry standard since the days of the Model T.

The 1960s also were about performance. Chrysler continued with its 300 series, based on the luxurious New Yorker line, that included parlour-like comfort with high-class style and performance.

The Chrysler 300F drew on its heritage of a high-class two-door hardtop coupe, with a leather interior and styling cues from the posh Imperial. Style were refreshed with broad four-lamp headlamps and sweeping, canted tailfins that housed new boomerang-shaped taillights. A cross between a fighter jet and a rocketship, it gave the illusion of speed and motion, even while standing still.

In 1994, Lindsey Fuller of Winnipeg was knee-deep in a restoration of a 1959 Chrysler 300E and looking for parts in Ontario.

"We were 60 miles south of Ottawa and the guy was a total enthusiast," Fuller says. "He had buildings and a yard full of Chrysler letter cars and Imperials."

Fuller secured the needed parts for his restoration, then tried to buy a very nice 1960 300F that was in one of the buildings.

"Nineteen-sixty has always been my favourite ‘fin’ car design," Fuller says. The seller had only the one 300F, so he tried to get Fuller to buy one of his three 1961 300Gs, but Fuller stayed with his choice.

Two years later, Fuller received a call saying he …

Modern style with a classic V-8 engine

Owner worked long, hard hours to keep the fourth-generation Ford Mustang in the family

The Ford Motor Company introduced its new Mustang at the New York World’s Fair in April 1964, as a 1965 model. With more than 22,000 units sold on the first day, the Mustang was Ford’s most successful launch of a new vehicle since the Model A in 1928. By the end of 1965, Ford had sold nearly a half million Mustangs and the demand for more was barely slowing. The four-passenger, long- hood, short rear-deck pony car was born and has been in steady production since its inception.

Through the decades, the Mustang has undergone several transformations to reach its current sixth generation. Except for the 1974-78 second-generation models, the Mustang remains a steadfast collectible. I’m often asked what is the next big thing in collector cars, and while my crystal ball does get a bit foggy at times, I see a definite opportunity to score a future classic in the 1994-95 fourth-generation models.

The 1994 model was a definite break form the 1979 to ’93 Fox platform. A major redesign, it remained true to its roots and gave buyers the 5.0 V-8 GT until the 1996 introduction of the 4.6 modular V-8. Don’t get me wrong, the modular motor makes great power, but these early 5.0 offerings all respond to the same tuning and performance upgrades of the earlier models and aside from the electronic ignition and fuel injection, it’s the same pushrod V-8 Mustang used for 30 years. That’s what makes them different and, with just a two-year window of …

Charger an instant classic

Modern modified muscle car lives up to its 1970s namesake's legacy

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Winnipeg's Vince Proteau bought this 2013 Dodge Charger in 2014 when it only had 100 kilometres on it. He took it on memorable trips to British Columbia and Texas.

The year 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of the Dodge Charger. What began in 1966 as Dodge’s offering of a fastback/personal performance car, based on the intermediate Coronet, caught an immediate following with both youth and middle-age buyers. The fifth-generation Charger would continue production on the Dodge Omni L-Platform from 1982 until the end of the 1987 model year. It would again see semi-retirement, but would reappear 19 years later in 2006.

The Charger was now part of the LX full-size platform sedan. Most notably, the new Charger had acquired an extra set of doors and, as a four-door model, it gained more in market share. The styling harkened back somewhat to the original Coke-bottle styling and with several powertrain options, it did offer buyers a performance perspective that had been missing from the Dodge lineup. With several trim versions available and returning to rear-wheel-drive, it was closer to the original image of a performance car, than had been seen in decades. For 2012, the Charger received a new interior and more aggressive and aerodynamic styling that had an even greater connection to the popular 1970 model. Also on tap were new engines, including a 3.6-litre V-6 with variable valve technology and a lively 470 horsepower 6.4L V-8.

For Vince Proteau of Winnipeg, cars have always been a part of his life.

"I started out working on cars with my father and as I grew up, I would buy old police cars at auction and fix them and drive them," Proteau says. In …

Muscle car madness

The Plymouth Hemi 'Cuda is a monument of an era

The muscle car evolution had reached a fever pitch by the late 1960s.

There was a muscle car offering in every lineup, from compact to intermediate; even full-size boulevard brutes could all sport the latest in big-block V-8 power.

By 1967, the addition of the pony car Mustang, Cougar, Camaro and Firebird also gave buyers the sportiest go-fast packages available.

At Chrysler, the Plymouth Barracuda had been available with the 383 V-8 and a special-order 440 big-block V-8 through various dealerships, but the Hemi engine everyone wanted was still a factory race piece.

For 1970, the Barracuda (or ‘Cuda) performance model was all-new and available with every engine Chrysler offered, including the lowly slant-six-cylinder. Along with the 375-horsepower 440 V-8, there was a new 440+6 option that included three two-barrel Holley carburetors for a whopping 390 hp.

For those wanting more, the 426 Hemi was just a check-mark away on the option box. With performance-proven hemispherical combustion chambers, 10.2:1 compression pistons and breathing through dual Carter AFB 3084-s four-barrel carburetors, the engine produces 425 hp at 5,000 r.p.m. and 490 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 r.p.m. Another attractive thing about the new street Hemi was the hydraulic performance camshaft. With no mechanical valve settings to worry about, it simplified keeping the big engine in tune.

Selecting the pricey $871 Hemi engine option opened doors to other equipment.

Buyers chose from a floor-shift, four-speed manual or 727 TorqueFlite automatic transmission. The latter would be a column-shift unless the buyer selected the slap-stick floor-shift with centre console.

Two axle packages …

Turbocharged memories

Winnipeg man owned Shelby Charger as a high schooler, bought another many years later

The year 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of the Dodge Charger.

What began in 1966 as Dodge’s offering of a fastback/personal performance car, based on the intermediate Coronet, caught an immediate following with youth and middle-age buyers alike. For 1975, the Charger SE was placed squarely in the specialty car market alongside of the Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Ford Elite. Sharing the same two-door coupe platform as the intermediate Chrysler Cordoba, the emphasis on comfort and formal style were clearly established. Rich leather and plush velour fabrics took centre stage; its days as a performance car were clearly behind it and the Charger name would be retired after 1978.

The Charger name would resurface in 1982 on the Dodge Omni platform. With other intermediate models phased out, Dodge looked to the smaller Omni to regain the Charger’s sporty image. On the surface, it looked like a stopgap move to keep the name alive, but as Chrysler was downsizing every other model into the "K" car platform, it made sense. The L-Platform, front-wheel-drive, hatchback was a lightweight, nimble package, with just enough horsepower to keep it attractive as a performance offering. For 1983, it would become available as the Charger Four and Charger 2.2. In 1984 things got really-interesting, as a link with automotive designer Carroll Shelby brought the prominent performance name and some added horsepower through turbocharging and other performance modifications.

James Blatz of Winnipeg says his experience with the mid ‘80s Charger began in high school.

"I had a 1983 Shelby Charger in …

Love at first sight

After years of searching, Lockport man finally finds his dream Impala

Chevrolet dealer showrooms were all abuzz while unveiling a completely new model for 1958, the posh new Impala. An exclusive model marked by a distinctive badge, the Impala was more than a trim option and it differed structurally from other garden variety Chevys. It was available in only two body styles, convertible and sport coupe, the coupe had a slightly shorter roof and longer rear deck than the Bel Air hardtop.

Beginning in 1959, the Impala model had grown to include the four-door sedan, four-door hardtop and a station wagon. By 1961, the Impala had proven so popular with buyers that all the full-size Chevrolet cars could be ordered in the Impala trim. In 1961 the Super Sport or SS option package were introduced — dealer installed on any Impala model, it consisted of SS emblems on the rear fenders, deck lid, dash pad and special wheel covers with spinners. The $54 package also included some great performance upgrades such as heavy-duty springs, shocks, sintered metallic brake linings, power steering, power brakes, 7,000 r.p.m. tachometer and whitewall tires.

Under the 1961’s long flat hood there were a plethora of options. The 135 horsepower, 235.5 cubic-inch, six-cylinder was available as the base engine, with the venerable 283 V-8 two-barrel and four-barrel coming in with 170 and 230 horsepower respectively. For those with a yen for even more performance, there was the 348 cubic-inch Turbo-Thrust V-8, available in 280, 305 and 340 hp states of tune. Top of the pile was the new for …

Challenge accepted

The 1970 Dodge Challenger T/A offers a lot of bang for the buck

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Photos by Larry D'Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

Eric Bueckert of Winnipeg bought this Plum Crazy purple coloured Dodge Challenger T/A in June 1995.

Created in 1966 by the Sports Car Club of America, the Trans Am race series was derived from the A Production class utilizing production road cars from various manufacturers. Mustang, Camaro and Javelin were the major players in the 5.0-litre or 305-cubic-inch class.

By 1968, manufacturers noticed enthusiasts were tracking their racing success, and racing wins almost always translated into increased sales. To capitalize on the series’ popularity, Chevrolet rolled out the Camaro Z28 in 1968 and, not to be outdone, Ford countered in ’69 with their Mustang Boss 302. Also showing up in ’69 was the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, but Chrysler would make a late entry in the series with both their 1970 Plymouth AAR ’Cuda and the Dodge Challenger T/A.

Power for the street version came from their J-Code 340-cu.-in. V-8, equipped with 10.5:1 compression ratio, Edelbrock aluminium intake manifold and three Holley two-barrel carburetors. Output was underrated at 290 horsepower at 5,000 r.p.m. and 335 pound-feet of torque at 3,400 r.p.m. Today, they’ve found the 340 Six Pack produces about 350 horsepower. In actual competition, the V-8 was destroked by using a special crankshaft, bringing it down to 303 cu. in. in order to comply within the 5.0L class maximum. Transmission options included the Chrysler new-process four-speed manual with Hurst floor shift or a 727 Torqueflite automatic. Out back, the 8 3/4-in. Sure-Grip rear axle could have either 3.55:1 or optional 3.91:1 gear ratio.

The Challenger T/A came factory-equipped with a host of specialty equipment for its $4,643 …