By Kirk Winter

With the nice weather finally here, some of the most beautiful steel and chrome creations of automotive geniuses worldwide have emerged from their winter slumber and are now gracing the highways and byways of Ontario.

Classic car season is in full bloom, and Sunday, July 14, Lindsay will be hosting the 16th Annual Classics on Kent Car Show. This show is an opportunity for likeminded car owners and lovers of old cars to gather together, tell a few tall tales and gaze at some of the most gorgeous cars ever manufactured.

Classic car owners proudly call themselves “gear heads.” They are not only handy in the garage and body shop, but many are automotive historians who, when given the opportunity at gatherings like Classics on Kent, can talk your ear off about the model they have fallen in love with. Their garage at home is often as well-equipped as your local mechanic, with some featuring hydraulic lifts, so no aspect of the car is ignored when being pampered. Whether their cars are daily summer drivers or “trailer queens” these cars are treated like members of the family, or better!

Your typical Gear Head is a male between 40 and 85. Often, the older the individual the more classic a car they have fallen in love with. Many of Detroit’s classic pre-1945 cars and trucks have been brought back to life by those who may have grown up with one in the driveway so many years ago.

The era typically over-represented at these shows focuses on muscle cars manufactured in America between 1964 and 1973. Long before the massive spike in gasoline prices courtesy of OPEC in 1973 and American federal government regulations on emissions, these primeval beasts were the stuff of drivers’ dreams with the Big Four trying to shoehorn the biggest possible motor into almost every carline they manufactured. Suddenly, family cruisers like the Dodge Coronet and the Ford Galaxy 500 had “street cred” like never before. This was the age of the Camaro, Firebird, Mustang, Charger, Challenger, Javelin and many others. These vehicles featured the speed, torque and 0-60 acceleration unheard of in all but a few cars manufactured today.

In the Gear Head community, there are as many sub-sections of classic car owners as there are cars. Generally the split looks something like this: The cars that revolutionized the car business like the Model T and its brethren have a devoted group of restorers and owners. The next big sub-section is made up of the owners and restorers of the steel and chrome “land yachts” of the 1950s. No car gathering is complete without its display of Chevy Bel-airs and the like. There is also a devoted group of pickup truck restorers who focus on Ford, Chevy and Dodge half and three quarter tons from this golden age of automobiles. The Volkswagen Beetle and van are surprisingly popular among collectors and restorers, and no car gathering is complete without a sprinkling of Dr. Porsche’s masterworks. In Canada, cars manufactured in the United Kingdom, particularly open-topped sports cars, have a following so large that often they can have car shows of their own like Lindsay’s Brits in the Park.

Lindsay is home to one of the most famous classic car collections in the world, owned by the Manleys, who still sell Chrysler automobiles at the corner of Wellington and William Street. The Manley boys specialized in Chrysler/Dodge muscle from the 1960s and 1970s, and their full off frame up restorations attract buyers from across North America. Many of their vehicles sell for more than $65,000 and there never appears to be a shortage of owners looking to possess a lovingly restored piece of Chrysler/Dodge history.

When one attends a car show like Classics on Kent, I am still amazed at the passion these people have for their classic cars. For many, car shows are how they spend their holidays, hanging out with other equally as passionate Gear Heads. Many have successfully converted their partners who travel with them from town to town on the summer cruise/car show circuit. You have to have deep pockets and a patient personality as older cars are fickle beasts with distinct personalities that have not gotten better with age. A former colleague of mine knew not to bother trying starting his classic MG on rainy days as the antiquated electrical system was simply not up to the test. It was truly a sunny day car only. These vehicles are expensive to repair, and often require parts which now have to be custom manufactured as original parts dried up long ago.

If truth is to be known, I am a Camaro/Firebird man, and some days I don’t know why. My ’81 Firebird that I drove in university was a lemon with a finicky carburetor that some days started and some days didn’t. My ’86 Camaro was a much better vehicle and did me well until marriage and snowy days driving into town from Dunsford convinced me that something with four-wheel drive made much more sense. Eight years ago, I purchased an ’82 Camaro Z28 from a local dealer who had bought the vehicle at auction in Port Perry. The Z was a true survivor. It had had seven owners and spent its entire life in Ontario, but was virtually rust free. It also ran like a top, the Iron Duke under the hood turning over like clockwork and safely getting me where I need to go during the sunny and all too short Ontario summer.

If I still own her when she turns 40 in 2022, a spot on Kent Street with other classic cars might be a nice way to celebrate that momentous anniversary. I know my Z will be in good company.

For all of you going, have fun at the car show and try to avoid getting your ear talked off by the gear heads who will gather there. They are just sharing their particular passion with anyone who will listen. You might be surprised what you learn!