An Inseparable Pair

A mutual love of classic cars helped forge a special bond between friends.

1956 De Soto Pacesetter and 1955 Oldsmobile SedanPhoto: Courtesy Dorothy Hancock

Fast Friends

My husband Bob has always loved classic, old cars. He got his first car when he was 16 years old. It was a 1947 Chevy and he had to borrow an extra $10 to get enough money to pay for it. In his late teens and into his early 20s, he helped work on his friend’s car, who drove at the annual Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) fair in Toronto. In the ’50s and ’60s, Good Friday was the start of the racing season at the CNE. No matter rain or shine or even snow, we girls would be in the stands, wrapped in blankets, if need be, while our guys worked on getting those jalopies ready for showtime.

Of course, those days have long been over. Bob and I eventually got married, we bought a house and we had kids. When Bob retired in 2000, he treated himself to a 1955 Oldsmobile two-door sedan with a white-coloured top and a coral bottom (above right). Everyone around called it the pink car but Bob nicknamed it his “Baby.”

Our next-door neighbour, Gerry Byrne, was also a car enthusiast. He owned a 1956 De Soto Pacesetter convertible, (above left) and he and Bob became fast friends.

Gerry was a retired mechanic who liked to fix up old cars on his driveway and then sell them. Old cars usually need a lot of different parts, which gave Bob and Gerry a good excuse to go on multiple excursions together. I remember many times when Gerry would come to our front door, telling us he had cabin fever, and he’d ask if Bob could “come out to play?” With a fleeting kiss and jacket half on, Bob would be right out the door and they were off, no matter what the weather was like.

Unlike Gerry’s wife Marg and me, those two never took into consideration the cost of these all-day trips to say Picton or Windsor or Minden to price a paint job on a car, or to New Hamburg for some part or another. Finding old cars in the back of some auto wrecker’s field felt like finding a gold mine to them. Whether it was disconnecting a steering wheel from a cab, a taillight from a rear bumper, or crawling beneath a car to check for a part that was needed, nothing was too much trouble.

Summer evenings were spent going to car cruises, car shows or any other place that like-minded car-lovers gathered to talk and show off their cars.

Sadly, Gerry became ill in 2011 and he sold his De Soto to a collector from his home province of Newfoundland & Labrador. The car was refurbished and became a showpiece there.

After Gerry passed away, Bob still went to car cruises, met with the guys and checked out old cars he hadn’t seen before, but eventually, without Gerry, it just wasn’t the same.

His own Oldsmobile still needed various parts here and there, but he had lost his drive to go searching for them. Bob sold his “Baby” to a fellow who came to look at it, bought it and then trailered it back to a small town outside of Buffalo, New York. This man really enjoys the car and each year since has sent Bob a Christmas card telling him what new things he’s changed or added to it. Bob is happy knowing that the car he got so much joy from is now being enjoyed just as much by its new owner.

Next, read the heartwarming story of the special memories attached to one man’s 1935 Maple Leaf.

Originally Published in Our Canada

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