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Classic Cruising with Larry D'Argis

Rare rag

1970 Dodge Challenger convertible one of only 3,173 produced

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Mike and Barb Huen's 1970 Challenger R/T convertible.

Plymouth introduced the A-body Valiant-based Barracuda in 1964 and it went head-to-head in sales with the Ford Mustang. Because of the lack of room in the engine compartment, the car was limited to small-block V-8 engines, while the competition went with big-block V-8s. Other than a few 383 cubic-inch powered cars or specially prepared 440 models available in 1969, interest from performance buyers began to wane. In 1967 Chrysler had slated a new E-body Barracuda for release in 1970. The E-body series shares the same front sub-frame member with the B-body Coronet and Satellite models, allowing ample room for the installation of every engine Chrysler produced.

This also gave Dodge the opportunity to share development costs and produce a similar model on the same platform, giving them a viable pony car to compete with the popular Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang. Enter the new Dodge Challenger. Available in both hardtop and convertible, with an engine and performance-options list longer than your arm, this new kid on the block could raise eyebrows and pulses just sitting on the showroom floor. Its low-profile stance, and full-width, deeply recessed grill set back behind the dual headlamps, gave an immediate visual that screamed muscle car. Working back, the raised rear fender line and full-width rear lights split by a large reverse lamp with the DODGE name in chrome block letters, made it easily distinguishable from other models.

Developed simultaneously, the Barracuda and Challenger bear a strong family resemblance, yet are two very different automobiles. The Barracuda …

Northern gold

Beaumont wagon a rare and unique Canadian cruiser

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Brian Klassen's stunning 1968 Beaumont SD 396 station wagon is finished in brilliant metallic gold paint.

For the Canadian market, General Motors of Canada introduced a new car in 1962. The Pontiac Acadian was based on the new compact Chevy II platform and, other than the Canadian-inspired name and some unique badging, it was a carbon copy of the Chevy II. This gave Canadian Pontiac dealers a low-price compact model to compete with the Ford Falcon. One of the few options on the Acadian was the Beaumont trim package. Additional chrome and a nicer interior was the basis of the option, but as the years progressed, the Beaumont name would actually take over as the car moved to the mid-size Chevelle platform in 1965. Available in sedan, hardtop, convertible and wagon, the Beaumont covered every model of intermediate sales and was just what Pontiac needed to battle the sales competition.

Utilizing the body, frame and powertrain of the Chevrolet Chevelle, GM added the Lemans/GTO instrument panel along with upgraded interior appointments to set the cars apart. Further differences were readily noticeable with a unique grill, taillight panel and identifying trim. With list prices only slightly higher than the Chevelle, Canadian Pontiac dealers had a viable model to offer their customers. With the signing of the Canada/U.S. Autopact agreement in late 1968, the GTO and other U.S. models were allowed to enter the Canadian market without additional duties and 1969 would be the final year for the Beaumont.

Brian Klassen of Morris knows Beaumonts all too well. Having purchased 35 Beaumonts and Chevelles over the past 30-plus years, he's …

Life in the Fairlane

Flashy Ford restored to its former glory

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Finished in Carmine Red, this 1967 Ford Fairlane 500 XL is owned and driven by Kevin Torrance

The new Fairlane series arrived in showrooms in 1955 as the top trim level for the Ford lineup. In 1957, Fairlane continued, but was split into two series with the addition of the Fairlane 500 as the top level. With the introduction of the Galaxie in late 1959, both Fairlane models fell into line as Ford's mid-price offerings and remained there through 1961. For 1962, the base Fairlane and Fairlane 500 became part of Ford's new intermediate line. With several models and two trim levels to choose from, these large and stylish cars filled a marketing niche. Both models saw several styling changes throughout the first half of the 1960s and remained relatively popular sellers. The newly designed 1966 models, however, really signalled a winner for Ford, with strong sales and a loyal following that still lives on today in the collector-car hobby.

For Kevin Torrance of Winnipeg, he'd tinkered with his 1959 Ford Galaxie since he was 16 years old. He had taken on several minor bodywork and paint projects and felt he was ready to move forward with a more challenging project. "I like all cars, but the Fairlane had a racing heritage from the days of NASCAR running on tracks like Daytona," says Torrance. "The Fairlane was also a uni-body, fastback and fairly lightweight for its size."

After spotting a 1967 Fairlane 500 XL for sale in Winnipeg on Kijiji in November 2011, Torrance went to look it over and found a complete V-8-powered car in running order, basically …

Heavenly body

Ford Galaxie out of this world

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With help from local automotive shops, his friend Rick Stevens and the support of his patient wife, Irene, Denis Girardin (above) restored his 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner to pristine condition.

By 1960, the size of the vehicles found in the Ford and Mercury lineup had grown to epic proportions. For 1961, it was time to scale things back and introduce a car with a little less bulk, while retaining comfort, style and performance. In the Ford lineup the full-size Fairlane and Galaxie models were trimmed. From the beltline down they were all-new, two-inches narrower and nearly four-inches shorter.

There was also a return to the classic Ford round taillights and modest angled rear quarter fins -- the last finned fenders to appear on a full-sized Ford. Up front the park and signal lamps moved from the edge of the fenders to the bumper and the recessed grille was replaced with a concave split grille. The passenger compartment comfort remained the same and several upgrades in suspension were introduced.

Engine options also grew for 1961 with the introduction of the 390 cubic-inch V-8 in four versions including 300, 330, 375 and 401 horsepower. Along with the new power, came a chassis that was pre-lubricated and touted as "able to take care of itself." Meaning the chassis and suspension components were good for 20,000 miles before servicing. In short, Ford was all about consumer satisfaction that also included a return to factory-backed racing with an ad campaign that proclaimed "Ford... Total Performance."

For Denis Girardin of Winnipeg, working on old car projects has always been a great hobby. After selling his 1939 Chevrolet street rod at the annual Back to the 50's weekend in Minneapolis …

Hotrod heart

Jim 'Jimbo' Frazer inducted into Motorsports Hall of Fame

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'Jimbo' Fraser, the latest inductee into the Manitoba Motorsports Hall of Fame, with wife, Shannon.

For Jim "Jimbo" Fraser of Winnipeg, automobiles have been a huge part of his life. Over the years, Fraser has been a fabricator, drag racer, race-crew member, show-car builder and an innovator with a wrench that just won't quit.

Having had a hand in dozens of successful builds of not just his own wheels, but also helping others realize their dreams, Fraser personifies all that is good about the automotive hobby.

Turn back the clock to Fraser's "Crazy Pink Elephant" -- a legendary local car that was a hit on the drag strip. The car was a former Neelin and Murray A/Gasser race car from the 1960s. Fraser took the 1940 Willys sedan body and frame and installed a supercharged Chrysler Hemi V-8 under the hood. Known as Chrysler's elephant motor, it was a natural to paint the car pink and name it after an elephant.

Another vehicle still roaming local streets is the 1973 Vega Kammback wagon he built in the early 1980s. With a pro street stance and race-ready at a moment's notice, it was both Fraser's mechanical abilities and his eye for detail that made it a hit. Fraser stuffed an LS7 454-cubic-inch big-block Chevrolet V-8 motor into the once-anemic little Vega and added massive 16.5-inch wide rear tires. A World of Wheels car show winner, the car was also featured in a 1988 Car Craft magazine.

Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing Fraser inducted into the Manitoba Motorsports Hall of Fame. The hall was created to honour individuals …

Cruising for a cause

MSRA's 23rd annual Toy Run all about helping kids

with the cruising season drawing to a close, for many enthusiasts the Manitoba Street Rod Association's (MSRA) annual Toy Run is a must-attend event. Laid back, simple and a whole lot of fun, the Toy Run offers enthusiasts a chance to get together and swap tales from the past summer, discuss upcoming projects and gear up for future events.

The show runs Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Canada Revenue Agency parking lot located on Stapon Road just across from the Sears store in the Kildonan Place Shopping Centre. Entry for participants is a new, unwrapped toy or a cash donation. Stuffed toys are not accepted as they can't be cleaned and sterilized. Spectators get in free. In past years the show has drawn more than 500 vehicles and thousands of spectators.

The MSRA supports children's charities and all proceeds from the event go to the Children's Rehabilitation Foundation. Now in it's 23rd year, the Toy Run has been a staple for old-car enthusiasts. Through the club's efforts, they've raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Children's Rehabilitation Foundation. In addition to raising money for charity, MSRA members also volunteer their time to a variety of events, notably the club's annual Rondex Rodarama car show.

To raise additional funds for the Children's Rehabilitation Foundation, this year the club is also raffling off a '50s gas pump. The pump is fully restored and would be a welcome addition to any garage or man cave. The 1954 model Wayne 500 pump …

Small-block, BIG IMPACT

1968 Camaro's latest makeover dumped the inline six for a 350 V-8

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Ernie Tattrosson and his 1968 Chevrolet Camaro.

General Motors introduced the Chevrolet Camaro to the public in the fall of 1966. It was a late entry into the pony car sales arena, enjoyed by the Plymouth Barracuda and dominated by the Ford Mustang for the previous two years.

Unlike the competition, who based their designs on their compact model chassis, Chevrolet designed the Camaro as its own model and could be ordered as the owner wished. All engines from the economical six-cylinder, to the big-block V8s were available, as well as Chevrolet's full lineup of optional equipment. The first generation Camaro also had style going for it. Simple flowing curves that gave the car that hint of motion, even while standing still, were coupled with an interior that was fashionable yet functional.

For 1968 the Camaro remained relatively unchanged from the '67 model with the exception of federally mandated side marker lamps and the elimination of the door's familiar vent windows. The change was a result of Chevrolet's shift to the new Astro-Ventilation system, where additional vents were now housed in the dashboard as well as at floor level. The optional equipment list continued to grow and buyers were free to choose many different packages or select individual features as their wants and pocketbooks allowed.

For Ernie Pattrosson of Winnipeg, the early Camaro was a must have. "I always wanted an early Camaro," says Pattrosson. After looking for some time, Pattrosson located a one-owner 1968 Camaro in Winnipeg's Charleswood area. An original car finished in Grecian Green, it was just …

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 …

Potent pony

Vintage Mustang updated with modern gear

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Brad MacDonald restored this 1966 Ford Mustang coupe utliizing many modern parts.

The first generation Ford Mustang was among the most successful cars to ever hit the market. Offered as a two-door coupe, convertible and fastback, it was a sporty looking car available with a multitude of options that could take it from grocery getter to formidable street machine. Over the years, fastback and convertible models have stolen the limelight and represent the highest prices in the collector car world. Lately, however, the coupe model has come into its own.

More affordable and still in great supply, the Mustang coupe can be outfitted however the owner prefers. Even the six-cylinder equipped models can be converted to V-8 power, opening the door to countless possibilities when it comes to building these coupes into fire-breathing pro touring cars.

Brad MacDonald of Winnipeg liked the idea of pairing a vintage Mustang coupe with modern running gear and suspension. Following consideration and consultation with others, he began looking for a suitable platform to build his creation.

Turning to eBay, over a five month period MacDonald bid on several Mustang coupes and lost, until 2011 when he was finally the winning bidder on a white Mustang in Washington. Equipped with a 200 cubic-inch six-cylinder engine, it was rust-free and had been previously restored. With the car back in Winnipeg, MacDonald went to work stripping it down and getting it ready for a total pro-touring conversion. "I had never restored a car before, so this was new ground for me and all I had to fall back on was the abilities …

Stargazing: Oldsmobile Starfire shines bright

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Larry Brown of Stony Mountain with his 1962 Oldsmobile Starfire Holiday hardtop.

The personal-luxury market arrived in the late 1950s when Ford's four-seat Thunderbird appeared in 1958. Billed as a personal car for buyers, with its aircraft-inspired centre console, high-performance engine and special power options, these features became a standard bill-of-fare for other manufacturers to follow.

For 1961, Oldsmobile introduced the Starfire to bolster its coverage in the personal luxury category. With a late January 1961 release date and the fact that it was offered as a convertible only, it still managed to produce a very reasonable 7,800 sales. The top-of-the-line Starfire was well received and while it probably cut into the posh Ninety-Eight models sales, Oldsmobile expanded the series in 1962, adding a sporty two-door Holiday hardtop.

This proved to be the market punch Oldsmobile was looking for. Convertible sales stayed at a respectable 7,149 production figure and the Holiday hardtop took off with sales of 34,839. Well equipped with sports console, tachometer, Hydra-Matic three-speed automatic transmission and console shifter, power steering, power brakes, leather upholstery, dual exhaust with fiberglass-packed mufflers and a model specific brushed aluminum side trim, this boulevard cruiser was a real looker.

Under the hood, was the Starfire Ultra High Compression, 394-cubic-inch V-8. Equipped with 10.5:1 compression, and a Rochester four-barrel carburetor, it produced 345 horsepower at 4,600 r.p.m. and 440 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 r.p.m. While it may not have been a stoplight terror, performance was very respectable, given its 4,400-pound curb weight. Priced at more than $4,000 before optional extras and riding on a 123-inch wheelbase, the …