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Classic Cruising with Larry D'Argis

You can't go wrong with a 1930s Ford

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Ken Betcher has a really swell 1939 Ford cruiser.

BY the late 1930s, Ford held the lion’s share of the low-price market. The size, style and performance it offered translated into good sales figures despite the Depression era it spanned. For 1939, the car changed little, except for new front-end styling on the DeLuxe models with a lowered grille and headlights that were incorporated fully into the fenders.

Today, these Fords are some of the most sought-after vehicles. Stock restorations are popular as is the street rod route, where they are repowered and upgraded with modern suspension systems. For Ken Betcher of Winnipeg, there’s always been a hot rod Ford in his plans. Betcher joined the Manitoba Street Rod Association (MSRA) back in 1973. Even though he didn’t own a car at the time, he was involved with his friend Don Daley and his ’38 Dodge — attending meets and rod runs.

Over the years, thoughts of getting his own car were always in the back of his mind and in 2011, after decades of looking, he took the plunge.

"I had retired a few years earlier, and my wife Olwyn said if I was going to buy a car, it should be the best one I could find," Betcher says.

With the help of Daley in 2011, they located a 1939 Ford Deluxe Tudor sedan in Eau-Claire, Wis. A car built in the early 1990s by Winnipegger and MSRA club member Lou Asselin, it was a solid and well-built car.

To get the car back to Winnipeg, Betcher and his brother Warren made …

It's fast, loud and proud

Muscle car aficionado couldn't pass up chance to rebuild 1969 Charger

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Photos by Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

Randy Zaborniak painted his beauty in his garage — gunmetal grey metallic for its body and bumpers and hot rod black for its hood.

THE Dodge Charger has been with us since 1966 and through the decades we’ve seen the car’s popularity on a steady increase with both collectors and enthusiasts.

Immortalized in film, it’s usually cast in the role of the bad guy’s car. Back in ‘68, it emerged as the mob hit men’s ride in Bullitt. The yellow getaway car in Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, Stuntman Mike’s sinister pursuit car in Death Proof, and who could forget the General Lee, moonshine-hauler in the Dukes of Hazzard television series?

The list goes on, including several appearances in the Fast & Furious movies, showing the Charger has staying power.

Based on the Chrysler "B" body intermediate, the Charger is similar to the late ‘60s Coronet, Super Bee, Road Runner and GTX models, but through time, it has basically been a one-off body style.

Immediately recognizable as one of Dodge’s premier muscle cars, with its Coke bottle shape and hideaway headlamps, it also packs a powerful punch, thanks to its 440 Magnum and 426 Hemi V-8 engine options, making it the perfect chase or getaway vehicle.

For Randy Zaborniak of Winnipeg, he’s owned and restored several Mopar muscle cars. A member of the Manitoba Mopar Association since 2000, in 2008, he had decided on a new project.

"I’m a builder by nature, so as a challenge to myself, I decided to do a full restoration by myself," Zaborniak says.

Purchasing a 1969 Charger in 2008 from Thunder Bay, Ont., sight unseen, was a first for him.

"I had my daughter send me over …

Wild horses couldn't drag him away

Dugald man finds beauty in 1968 Mustang pulled apart and rebuilt from scratch

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Classic fastback lines are shown off in a rear view of the vehicle.

The Ford Mustang received its first significant restyle in 1967. The car launched in mid-1964 and the upgraded design maintained a close following to its original theme. Available as a hardtop, 2+2 fastback and convertible, it continued to retain its 108-inch wheelbase, but grew in other proportions. Bodies were stretched two inches longer and a marginally wider engine bay was designed to accommodate a new big-block V-8 engine option.

In 1968, the Mustang changed little in appearance other than the addition of government-mandated side marker lamps and the replacement of rear quarter side vents with a cleaner piece of chrome trim. Additional improvements in handling and braking were also included, but these were minor unless the buyer opted for the GT package. Despite competition from other manufacturers, with other pony car offerings, the Mustang continued to be a major player in the sales arena.

Another contributor to sales success in 1968 was the debut of the movie Bullitt. Legendary actor Steve McQueen rolled onto the screen as Lieutenant Frank Bullitt, driving a Highland Green ’68 fastback — and in an iconic 10-minute chase scene, the car emerged an instant film icon.

In 2006, Bruce Neufeld of Dugald was looking for a classic vehicle project when his wife, Wendy, told him about the Mustang in her cousin Dave’s barn. Dave had started to restore the 1968 Mustang fastback and it had already been a 25-year project for him that had stalled. Knowing Dave needed a half-ton truck for the farm, Neufeld drove over in …

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 …