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Classic Cruising with Larry D'Argis

Good as gold

50-year-old Ford Fairlane convertible brought back to former glory

Ford’s new intermediate arrived in dealer showrooms in 1962 carrying the familiar Fairlane name. The Fairlane, first introduced in 1955 as a top-of-the-line series for the full-size Ford, gave way to the Galaxie moniker in mid 1959 and became a mid-level series on the ’60 and ’61 Ford. With the growth in full-size cars through the ’50s, the Fairlane as an intermediate, was compared to the dimensions of the ’49 through ’51 Fords that had appeared a decade earlier.

While proportions were roughly the same, the new Fairlane was noticeably lower in height over the shoebox Ford. The Fairlane evolved through the early 1960s like the rest of the Ford line, not only growing in size, but it also became a player in the performance market.

Completely restyled for 1966, the Fairlane was longer, lower and wider. It also featured new front and rear suspension and a larger engine bay to house the optional big-block V-8 engines. The GT model was available on the Fairlane 500 hardtop and convertible and was fitted with bucket seats, floor console and special GT badging. If buyers opted for an automatic transmission over the four-speed manual gearbox, the nomenclature identified it as the GTA.

In 1966, 4,327 convertibles and 33,015 hardtops left the factory equipped with the mighty 390 cubic-inch, 335 horsepower GT V-8. With a manageable 116-inch wheelbase and weighing in at just over 3,500-pounds, the Fairlane was now capable of low to mid 15-second quarter-mile times at more than 90 miles per hour.

For Dennis Atamanchuk …

Squeaky clean

Compact Mercury Comet restored and revamped

The late 1950s saw sales of foreign compact cars in Canada reach more than 20 per cent of new car sales. Clearly, buyers wanted smaller, more economical cars than the large, chrome-laden models many North American makers had to offer. This consumer shift resulted in a variety of American compacts hitting the market as 1960 models. Offerings included the Plymouth Valiant, Chevrolet Corvair, Studebaker Lark, and Ford Falcon.

Thanks to thrifty pricing and simple, straight forward styling, these compact models had a bright future.

In the Mercury division of Ford, the plan was to introduce the compact Mercury Comet in the United States in March 1960, but it wouldn’t reach the Canadian market until 1961. This would have left Mercury dealers in Canada without a compact car to sell, so Ford of Canada gave Mercury dealers the new Frontenac. Basically a clone of the Falcon — with some easily distinguishable trim — the Frontenac sold well before it was replaced by the Mercury Comet in 1961.

For 1961, the Comet came to Canada in four models, the two-door and four-door sedan as well as two- and four-door station wagons. Available with a base 85-horsepower, Thrift-Power 144-cubic-inch, six-cylinder engine, it offered basic transportation for six, with good fuel economy — all for about $2,100.

Today, there are still a few of these jewels around, and compared to other classic vehicles, they can be purchased and enjoyed for a reasonable cost. For Cheryl Sinclair of Lockport, it was all about finding a neat summer driver. In …

Special delivery

Piston Ring resurrects rare Chevrolet for its fleet of collector vehicles

Since the invention of the automobile, light-duty service vehicles such as flat-deck trucks, pickups, sedan deliveries and even hybrid car/truck models such as the Ford Ranchero and Chevrolet El Camino have been important tools for small businesses.

One vehicle that proved to be especially useful is the sedan delivery. Basically a station wagon without windows and rear seating, these handy rigs afforded a large open interior space with room for larger items and allowed the driver easy access through a liftgate. Under cover of the steel roof, contents were also kept out of the elements, and with softer spring rates than a truck, these vehicles offered a smoother ride for both cargo and driver.

Jim and John Tennant of Piston Ring Service grew up in the auto parts and service business. Their father James Tennant Sr. founded the company in 1953. Suffice it to say, the Tennant brothers have seen many delivery vehicles come and go over the years. Today, as leaders of their family business, Jim and John look back on a time where these simple delivery vehicles helped build the company.

James A. Tennant Sr. was a machinist by trade and started out with a small 240 squarefoot machine shop at 127 Garry St. Now, 63 years later, Piston Ring Service meets the needs of the professional automotive installer with a 200,000 sq. ft. warehouse carrying an inventory exceeding five million parts. With more than 45 corporate and franchise automotive outlets, Piston Ring ensures those parts meet intended destinations with fast …

Couch DeVille

Unique items up for raffle from Manitoba Street Rod Association

Automobilia plays an important role in what is collectable today. Anything related to the motoring experience can be used to further a display or create one unto itself. We all have favourite items we like to hold near and dear, such as old signs, photos and items that harken back to the days of our youth. Today, the trend to have the rec room, garage or man cave featuring these items as a focal point speaks volumes about what you appreciate in life. Where to find such treasures is often by chance, and the Manitoba Street Rod Association (MSRA) is offering just that.

For the past two years the MSRA has successfully held raffle draws for a fully restored vintage gas pump. In each of those years the club has raised several thousand dollars for its club charity, the Children’s Rehabilitation Foundation (CRF). The CRF uses these much needed funds to provide special equipment and recreational items for children with special needs. For MSRA member Tim Salisbury, these previous raffles have struck a chord. “As a parent I know what it’s like to try to come up with a few hundred dollars to provide my child with a new bike,” said Salisbury, “but for a parent of a special needs child, coming up with the $3,000 to $7,000 needed can be a great hardship.”

This year the MSRA has stepped it up a bit by including an automotive loveseat along with a vintage gas pump. By using the rear section of a …

Pump up the VOLUME

Piston Ring's World of Wheels this weekend at RBC Convention Centre

Piston Ring’s 42nd annual World of Wheels car show kicks off today at 3 p.m., and this year the big story is volume. The newly renovated RBC Convention Centre has increased to 110,000 from 49,000 square feet and now offers room to display more than 235 vehicles — nearly double the number on display in past years.

Included among all those great rides are 18 feature vehicles such as Gary and Marilyn Reimer’s muscular 1969 Chevrolet Camaro from Steinbach, Alden Miles from Lakeville, Minn., and his wild 1948 Anglia, and Don and Connie Lee from Grand Forks, N.D., and their gorgeous 1963 Chevrolet Impala.

Other special displays include the Muscle Car Café presented by Lake Marion Collision, featuring high-performance rides from the muscle car era, the Color Me Gone display presented by Hawk Auto and Truck Accessories, featuring vehicles painted in bright colours so prevalent in the late 1960s and early ’70s, the Fire Pit, a red-hot display featuring an assortment of flamed vehicles, and Beetlemania, a collection of VW Beetle and Microbus models presented by St. James Volkswagen.

Bob Marvin from The Shed in Warroad, Minn., is showing three specially prepared Yenko Super Cars from 1969: a YSC Camaro, Chevelle and Nova.

Also making the trip is a 1969 Camaro Z28 constructed by legendary racer Smokey Yunick and an Alice Cooper tribute Harley-Davidson custom chopper.

On the local front, there will be 10 Manitoba car clubs competing in the Club Challenge. The Corvette Club of Manitoba is presenting C1 through C7 model Corvettes, there …

Local legend

Mach I Mustang 'born' and raced in Manitoba

Leading the pony car field through the 1960s, the Ford Mustang would see its third generation debut in 1969. Available in seven models and ranging from a coupe to a convertible to the sporty fastback, Mustang was at the top of the most wanted list.

By 1970, Mustang had evolved into not only a sporty street cruiser, but also an accomplished road racer, a Trans Am circuit champion and a drag-strip terror. The special-order Boss 429 produced by Ford sub-contractor Kar Kraft was a limited-production car developed to allow the new Boss 429 engine to qualify for NASCAR racing. Mustang had made its mark in virtually every racing venue it qualified for and continued to uphold the “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” sales mantra. While the market had become almost saturated with pony cars, Mustang still managed to capture the top sales spot, selling 190,727 in 1970.

For Mark Gawthrop of Stony Mountain, performance is front and centre.

As the owner of Corners Quickly from 1988 to 2008 he’s racked up more than two decades of building street performance and racing engines.

Gawthrop’s 1970 Mustang Mach I is a local Winnipeg car purchased new from Dominion Motors. After seeing a couple of years on the street, it ended up being used as a quarter-mile drag car. Gawthrop’s friend, Brian Bartel, spotted the car in a Winnipeg Free Press classified ad and purchased the Mach I as a roller without an engine in 1977. After reinstalling an engine and racing it for a …

Beach Boys' buggy

This 409 clone is definitely 'real fine'

She's real fine my 409, my 4...0...9.

The line comes from the Beach Boys song 409, released in '62 and letting everyone know about Chevy's newest high-performance powerplant.

Introduced in October 1957 as a 348-cubic-inch engine intended for Chevy trucks, it had the low-end torque needed for pulling heavy loads. But by the late '50s General Motors realized the additional cubic inches and torque from the 348 was also needed to pull the weight of the ever-growing full-size Chevrolet.

The 348 responded well to increases in compression and carburetion to the point that it kept Chevrolet competitive in the market. But in late 1961 an increase in bore and stroke to yield 409 cubic inches really got the ball rolling. Again, increases in compression and a move to dual four-barrel carburetors yielded 425 horsepower at 6,000 r.p.m., making the Chevy a viable street machine and successful weekend racer.

By 1964 there was a new player in town called the mid-sized LeMans GTO, which had less weight and almost as much performance potential. The full-sized cars were losing some of their performance image. But, hook a full-size Impala Super Sport up with the 425 horsepower 409 V8 and fading quietly into the woodwork wasn't an option.

There were 8,684 Chevrolets built in 1964 with the 409 V8, so finding one today can be a bit of a challenge. But since less than 10 per cent of them found their way into the Impala Super Sport convertible, finding a needle in a haystack starts to look like …

Modern muscle

Updated Impala SS features fire-breathing big-block and contemporary components

The Chevrolet Impala made its debut in 1958. Initially offered only as a sport coupe hardtop or convertible, it was a sales success too good to be kept to just two models. That would change in 1959 as all full-size Chevrolet models were available in the Impala line. Beginning in 1961, a dealer installed Super Sport option package could be purchased on any Impala. The $54 package included suspension, braking and handling upgrades, as well as SS identification badges on the rear fenders, deck lid, instrument panel and wheel covers. For 1962, the Super Sport package became factory option code 240 and included many of the same features as 1961 -- with the addition of bucket seats and a locking center console for $155.95.

For Darren Terry of Winnipeg, the bug to get an old car came in 2003. "I looked at a friends SSRq73 Mach I and passed on it, but kept looking," says Terry. In 2004 he found a 1965 Impala SS hardtop advertised for sale in Park Falls, Wisc. White with a black top, it was a running and driving car with a good body. The added value came with it being factory equipped with an L35 396 cubic-inch big-block V-8 and four-speed manual transmission. Terry travelled to Wisconsin to see the car and discovered a few surprises. "The original 396 V-8 was gone and replaced with a SSRq70s vintage 454 V-8, but the car looked very good, so I struck a deal, loaded it on the trailer …

Olds feels young again

Legendary 442 restored to luxurious, powerful glory

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Brian Klassen says he fell into the 442's paint colour by accident, but Larry D'Argis says it's a pretty good imitation of a factory colour -- Cameo Ivory.

Oldsmobile offered the 442 as a performance option on the F-85 Cutlass line beginning in 1964. An intermediate model, with added performance, thanks to the winning formula of coupling a large V-8 engine with a light car, and equipped with stiffer suspension and other road-handling abilities, it sold 2,999 units in its first year of production. Its popularity continued to grow with 25,003 built in ’65, and a slight drop to 21,997 in ’66. For 1967, the 442 sold 24,829 models and continued to offer performance, style, handling and luxury options.

Featuring a 400-cubic-inch V-8, equipped with 10.5:1 compression ratio and Rochester four-barrel carburetor, it produced 350 horsepower at 5,000 r.p.m. and 440 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,600 r.p.m. Available as a two-door coupe, holiday hardtop coupe or convertible, the 442 was quite the boulevard cruiser no matter what model the buyer chose. Along with an impressive list of standard equipment, the 442 could be as loaded up as the buyer wanted, thanks to an even longer list of options and accessories.

For Brian Klassen of Morris, the mid-’60s Olds was never really on his list of must haves. “I didn’t like the big wheel wells on the Cutlass, I felt the tire just got lost in it,” says Klassen. Years later a friend was selling all of his Olds and 442 parts he had removed from many cars, and Klassen bought them and tucked them away for safe-keeping. He then started to keep his eye out over the years for a …

Straight cat

1969 Mercury Cougar convertible one of less than 10,000 produced

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This 1969 Mercury Cougar convertible represents the second generation of this classy and classic pony car.

Since 1964 Ford had the compact Falcon, sporty Mustang and luxurious Thunderbird in its stable, while the Mercury line consisted only of the Comet and its full-size line. To bridge that sales gap, Mercury launched the Cougar for 1967 -- this sporty offering was aimed at folks who wanted a slightly upscale ride, but weren't quite ready to shell out the big bucks for a Thunderbird.

With hide-a-way headlamps, sequential turn signals and upscale styling, the Cougar gave an almost European aura to an otherwise Falcon/Mustang based American original. Sharing the same basic uni-body chassis, the Cougar featured a three-inch longer wheelbase, different spring rates for a smoother ride and increased leg and trunk room over the Mustang. With an overall length of 190-inches it was more than six inches longer than the Mustang. Unless the two were side-by-side it was hard to tell the Cougar was a larger car. It was the Cougar's styling, however, that really brought the package together. The Cougar certainly didn't go unnoticed -- it received Motor Trend magazine's car of the year award for 1967 and accounted for almost half of Mercury sales for 1967.

With the 1967 model making such a great entry, Mercury didn't mess with success and only offered mild styling changes for 1968 with the inclusion of side marker lamps, dual hydraulic braking system with warning light, four-way emergency flashers, padded dash and sun visors, along with two-speed windshield wipers and washers as standard equipment.

In 1969, the second-generation Cougar emerged. New sheet …