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Classic Cruising with Larry D'Argis

Big red wagon

Rescued from a B.C. forest, '66 Fairlane 500 Wagon shines once more

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Ron Schellenberg of St. Andrews owns this eye-catching 1966 Ford Fairlane 500 station wagon.

With the 1960s came new compact and mid-size vehicles. But not to be overlooked in the line-up were station-wagon models to meet the needs of growing families.

Production figures show sales were relatively steady and didn't begin to wane until the minivan hit showrooms in the 1980s. Today, these older station wagons are catching the eye of classic-car enthusiasts, many of whom have turned them into some pretty classy cruisers.

Ron Schellenberg of St. Andrews has owned station wagons most of his life. When he was a boilermaker in the construction industry, wagons were a natural conveyance to transport him and his gear to worksites.

"The wagons were roomy and tough, and things didn't slide around in back like they do in a truck," Schellenberg said. While keeping the everyday car on the road was his main foray into auto repair, an early 1990s visit to see his brother Bob in Maple Ridge, B.C. started him down another road.

"Bob had about 20 cars on the property and this Fairlane 500 wagon was one of them," he said. "I picked it out of the pinecones and fir-tree needles and thought for a project car it was in very good shape, which really means it needed everything."

With the original 289-cubic-inch V8 engine removed years earlier, Schellenberg installed a used 302-cubic-inch V8 and got the car ready for the journey to Manitoba.

"The trip through the mountains at night got a bit tense, as the headlights would momentarily go off and on, but I made it home."

Without …

Waiting for spring

Restored '68 Pontiac GTO Convertible ready to cruise

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An original Winnipeg car sold by Birchwood Motors in 1968, the GTO came finished in Solar Red with contrasting Parchment 'Morrokide' interior upholstery.

Pontiac's 1968 redesign of the GTO was a hit out of the park.Concealed windshield wipers, a new dash, optional hood-mounted tachometer and form-fitting Strato bucket seats and console, greeted drivers.

Outside, the car looked noticeably heavier but a three-inch drop in wheelbase and better G70 14-inch tires greatly helped handling. The Endura grill and horizontal headlamps was an industry first -- the energy-absorbing nose encircled the split-grille styling and was to reduce minor parking-lot damage.

Optional hidden headlamp doors and a dual-scoop hood, coupled with a lower stance, gave the new GTO an even brawnier performance aura.

Production for '68 was 87,684 units, up 6,000 cars over the previous year.

In 1985, 16-year-old Winnipegger Darren Pallen was into motocross racing, but the high cost eventually convinced him to take up another hobby. He considered getting a '60s Camaro, but his father Brad steered him towards a larger car.

"My dad was a salesman at Towne Pontiac, and he said I needed a five-seater with a decent-size trunk to take my buddies around," Pallen recalled. "He had me look at a 1968 GTO convertible and, while I didn't really want it at the time, I took it home."

An original Winnipeg car sold by Birchwood Motors in 1968, the GTO came finished in Solar Red with contrasting Parchment "Morrokide" interior upholstery. The car not only had road appeal, but came loaded with most of Pontiac's extra-cost optional equipment.

There was power steering, four-piston caliper, power front disc brakes, power windows, power driver's seat, power top with glass back …

Cherry Chevelle

Two-tone '65 Malibu SS gets resto-mod

Chevrolet introduced the new Chevrolet Chevelle in 1964, positioning it between the compact Chevy II and the full-size Chevrolet.

The mid-size Chevelle offered buyers a mid-sized price as well as additional room over the compact class. It was produced in nine models over two series, including station wagon and convertible models. With Chevrolet's seemingly endless list of extra-cost options, the Chevelle also could be personalized by buyers to meet their needs, so no two were exactly alike.

The 1965 models saw a moderate restyle, with the front end now sporting a slightly vee'd appearance and a new grille, and the rear featuring newly styled tail-lamps. Bright side mouldings, bucket seats, a centre console, a special instrument package and Malibu SS rear fender script came with the optional Super Sport appearance package, giving the Chevelle a performance-car look to go with at least a half-dozen engine choices.

Ed Gobeil's '65 Chevelle Malibu SS hardtop wasn't his first car, but to say the Selkirk resident had a long-term connection with the car would be an understatement. Purchased in the spring of 1981, the Malibu was a little rough around the edges and was replaced as the family car that fall by wife Kim's 1967 Dodge Coronet 500.

"The Coronet was a nicer car than the Chevelle and served the family for many years," Gobeil said. The Chevelle was tucked away and spent time being dragged from one storage garage to another, always with the intention of a future restoration.

Gobeil pulled the car out of storage …

Primo Avanti

Pristine '63 Studebaker Avanti turns heads

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The 1963 Avanti is finished in gold with tan leather upholstery.

In 1962, Peter O'Toole lit up the movie screens in Lawrence of Arabia and the space race was at full throttle, striving to put a man on the moon. In the automotive arena, Studebaker was unveiling its new four-passenger personal luxury coupe, the Avanti.

Italian for "forward", the Avanti was everything Studebaker hoped to be in the 1960s. While the company had been a long-time builder of good-quality automobiles, the Avanti was a radical departure from previous efforts.

New president Sherwood Egbert envisioned a car that would advance Studebaker's image and, armed with a doodle he had hastily sketched on an aircraft napkin, he felt he had a winner. To bring his ideas to fruition, he called on designer Raymond Lowey, who had been involved in the design of Studebaker's highly successful, slick, low-slung Speedster and Starliner coupes from the early '50s.

Tasked with bringing a new, pinched-waist, or Coke bottle-shaped coupe to market, Lowey assembled a team that included Tom Kellogg, Bob Andrews and Bob Ebstein. A rush job from the start, they worked in complete secrecy from a rented ranch house in Palm Springs, California.

Lowey's team fit the long-hood, short-rear-deck design to an existing 109-inch wheelbase from the Lark Daytona convertible. Working 16-hour days, the team was able to put together a workable design within six weeks, incorporating all of the elements Egbert wanted plus a few more.

A "C" roof pillar housed a hidden roll bar, the cockpit employed several aircraft-inspired control levers and the front end dispensed with the traditional …

Magnetic Monza

'66 Corvair convertible broke design conventions

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The 1966 Corvair Monza took Cruiser of the Week honours twice in 2013.

By the mid-1950s, domestic car manufacturers were getting concerned about a growing buyer attraction to imports -- especially the smaller, less-expensive models that had lower operating costs and better fuel economy than full-size North American models.

Targeting the Volkswagen Beetle, with its simple construction, four-wheel independent suspension and air-cooled four-cylinder rear engine, General Motors felt it could do a better job for the North American market.

In crafting a better bug-killer, GM designers started with a larger six-passenger compact car able to carry growing American families. They stayed with an air-cooled rear engine but added two cylinders and a larger displacement that was better for highway driving.

In late 1959, the Chevrolet Corvair hit showrooms to mixed reactions. Wholly unconventional and totally unlike the compact Ford Falcon and Plymouth Valiant that had also just entered the market, the Corvair was a controversial buy. It was such a radical departure in design from what any other American manufacturer offered many buyers felt unsure and avoided the car.

Riding on a compact 108-inch wheelbase with a total length just over 180 inches, the Corvair was sized like the competitors. But that's where the similarity ended.

Available as a four-door sedan, coupe or station wagon, power came from a rear-mounted, all-aluminium, air-cooled, horizontally opposed, six-cylinder engine. It came with either a manual gearbox or extra-cost two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission, and had the usual optional-equipment packages familiar to Chevrolet buyers.

Enthusiasts liked the feel of the car and its rumbling rear engine. The introduction of the Monza Club Coupe …

New collector plate, insurance arrive March 1

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To be eligible for Manitoba's new collector-vehicle coverage the vehicle must be a minimum of 25 years old, have a minimum value of $5,000 and weigh 4,540 kilograms or less.

It's been roughly 10 years that the Manitoba Association of Auto Clubs (MAAC) has been consulting with the province and Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation about a collector-vehicle license plate.

The association has not just been seeking a plate that would identify collector vehicles, but also insurance coverage that meets reflect how these vehicles are actually used.

Finally, Justice Minister Andrew Swan, responsible for MPIC, announced the new plate last July 12 as part of a newly developed auto insurance package. The program becomes effective on March 1.

"This new collector plate and vehicle insurance program option is the direct result of speaking with members of the collector car community who obviously have tremendous pride in their vehicles," Swan said.

The Collector Vehicle Program is designed to reflect the infrequent use of these vehicles and the extraordinary care and maintenance owners provide for them. Until now, owners of these vehicles have registered and insured them in the spring and then changed over to lay-up or storage insurance in the late fall.

For most of these vehicles, which slept through the long prairie winter, it wasn't a problem. But for anyone planning a southern holiday with their vehicle, or even have work done on it during the winter months, it meant returning to full registration and insurance. Many collector-vehicle owners felt the annual rates were high for the use their vehicle saw, and that the lay-up insurance did not adequately protect their vehicles from collision or theft-related claims.

Under the new program, with rates recently approved by the …

Finest of the '50s

Hard-to-find Merc a classy cruiser

The mid-'50s Mercury was part of a milestone event at the Ford Motor Company. Not only was the Mercury lineup totally restyled, but in April of 1955, a new Lincoln Mercury division was established. This further distinguished the marque from its Ford counterpart and really set Mercury on the path of being a unique model.

The '54 model was well-received, as was its new front ball-joint suspension and powerful overhead-valve V-8 engine. The 1955 styling was new, as the car appeared squarer with higher fender lines, a sleeker roof and wider flared rear fenders. Ford aficionados will point out the Mercury still shared the same cowl as the Ford, but that's where the similarities ended. Bold front and rear styling, high-level stainless and chrome trim, fountain tiered dash panel and upscale passenger compartment materials gave the Mercury more of a Lincoln feel. For 1956, Mercury changed little, other than some trim and engine changes that included an even more powerful V-8.

Don Johnson of Oakbank has built and owned several cars over the years, including a very nice 1947 Mercury Coupe. While the street-rod Merc was a blast to drive, Johnson's plan was to eventually leave the car to his son and grandson who live in Arizona. "In 2010, I thought, why make them wait. I can buy something else and give them the coupe now," says Johnson.

Like most car enthusiasts, there's always a catalyst or spark that leads us to look for one particular make or model. For Johnson, it was …

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 …

Back to the Future

Movie-famous DeLorean gullwing never fails to draw attention

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Ron Knight's 1981 DeLorean, with its signature gullwing doors.

The story of the DeLorean Motor Company is as multi-faceted as the face of a diamond.

John Zachary DeLorean was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1925 and rose through the ranks of new-age car designers. A short, one-year stint at Chrysler was followed by an another brief tenure with Packard Motor Car Company before DeLorean found his niche at General Motors in 1956 as Director of Advance Engineering for the Pontiac Division.

Promoted to chief engineer of Pontiac in 1961, DeLorean oversaw many of the division's engineering innovations, including the Wide Track Pontiac principle, overhead-cam six-cylinder engines, concealed windshield wipers, hidden windshield antenna and the Endura bumper. He spear-headed development of the Pontiac Tempest LeMans, which later became the platform for the GTO muscle car, and introduced both the Pontiac Firebird and Grand Prix models as well as the little Vega economy car.

Despite all these accomplishments, DeLorean felt he had more to offer and resigned from his position as Vice-president of General Motors in 1973. Seen by many as a charismatic maverick in the conservative auto industry, his vision was to create a sports car like no other -- one that performed well, with good handling and superior stopping power, and built on a frame and body that would never rust.

DeLorean's dream of an ethical sports car also promised a measure of economy with low emissions. It was a tall order, but with that mandate the DeLorean Motor Company (DMC) was born.

When a prototype was unveiled in October, 1976, many panned …

Top-notch Tudor

1940 Deluxe model makes for a fine street-rod

For 1940, the Ford Motor Company rolled out an icon: the DeLuxe.

Although the basic body was little changed from the '39 model, Ford stylist Eugene Gregoire added a heavy chrome trim incorporating a park lamp surrounding the almond-shaped headlamps. The DeLuxe grille featured a centre section with horizontal bars and secondary side grilles. Shift levers were now mounted on the steering column and the rear fenders sported Chevron inspired tail-lamps.

Today, the 1940 Ford is not only a revered classic but a perfect street-rod platform. Gord Patterson's 1940 Ford Tudor sedan is in the street-rod category.

While looking for a neat truck to keep pace with his wife Dale's custom Chevy pick-Up, Patterson spotted the Tudor for sale at a local car show. Originally imported from California in 2009 by Bill Windsor, the '40 Ford had been an online street-rod purchase.

Windsor, known locally as Whipper, drove the car until 2010 and thoroughly enjoyed it, but felt it fell short of his expectations. With the help of friend Jim McNeill, the car was stripped down for a full rebuild. The work was completed in 2011, but Windsor unfortunately passed away the following year. The car sat until Patterson purchased it following the show last summer.

The Ford is drenched in a new coat of bright red base/clear paint. Body modifications included a nosed hood, decked rear trunk lid, dual side-view mirrors, shaved door handles with electric latches to pop the doors open, recessed rear licence plate and a V-butt glass front windshield replacing the …