Wheels

There’s much joy to be had in re­flect­ing on a car that’s been such a big part of your life

Our Canada - - Contents - By Lynn Rentz, Ponoka, Alta.

When I first met him, my hus­band Rod had been an ad­mirer of ve­hi­cles, es­pe­cially mus­cle cars of the ’60s—the cars of his youth. A wealth of in­for­ma­tion, he could name the year, make and model of al­most any car, even if we saw it in pass­ing on the op­po­site side of a four-lane high­way. This was amaz­ing to me, as I tended to iden­tify cars based on their size and colour. When­ever we passed a lo­cal “Show ‘N Shine,” we al­ways stopped to have a look around. Fi­nally, in the spring of 1997, the year he turned 50, Rod grad­u­ated from ad­mirer to owner with the pur­chase of a 1967 Ca­maro con­vert­ible. When we first went to look at the car, it was sit­ting in the cor­ner of a farmer’s Quon­set hut, cov­ered in dust, and had not been driven in years. But it fired right up and, in a mat­ter of min­utes, we de­cided to pur­chase it. The fol­low­ing day, we re­turned with a cheque and Rod proudly drove it home.

It was, of course, in need of some TLC. The first or­der of busi­ness was to re­place the torn rag­top and front seats. Once that was done, we spent the sum­mer cruis­ing in our new toy. The re­ac­tions we got while driv­ing that car were amaz­ing— peo­ple were al­ways honk­ing, wav­ing, or giv­ing us a big thumb­sup. As win­ter ap­proached, the car was rel­e­gated to the garage and Rod be­gan search­ing for parts to com­plete the restora­tion. We made count­less trips to David T’s Auto Cen­ter in north­east Ed­mon­ton; bought parts lo­cally wher­ever we could find them, and pur­chased hard-to-find items from as far away as Cal­i­for­nia and Ge­or­gia.

As the years passed, Rod spent many hours loos­en­ing old rusty bolts; clean­ing and pol­ish­ing, and re­plac­ing worn parts—be­ing care­ful to never mis­place so much as an orig­i­nal bolt. There were frus­tra­tions and oc­ca­sional four- let­ter words, as knuck­les were scraped or newly ac­quired parts didn’t fit as planned. At the end of a busy day, though, Rod liked to sit back with a cold, wellde­served beer and ad­mire the lat­est im­prove­ments to the Ca­maro. “Car gazing” he called it.

Once most me­chan­i­cal is­sues had been ad­dressed we be­gan to take longer trips—to Van­cou­ver Is­land, Cal­i­for­nia, New Mex­ico, Ore­gon, Wash­ing­ton and Mon­tana. We’d pack an amaz­ing amount of stuff into that lit­tle car, and then throw a set of golf clubs on top of the pile in the back seat to help hold down the load as we cruised with the top down. We soon bought a small tent trailer— a Kam­peroo—that we hauled on more hol­i­days.

In an old car that still had many orig­i­nal parts, some prob­lems were to be ex­pected. The most mem­o­rable one oc­curred in Glacier Na­tional Park, Mon­tana. We had driven to the sum­mit of Lo­gan

Pass, where we spent a beau­ti­ful day hik­ing. We de­cided to put the con­vert­ible top down for the de­scent and part­way through the process, the orig­i­nal hy­draulic mo­tor that pow­ered the top gave up the ghost, forc­ing us to drive down the moun­tain­side with our roof con­spic­u­ously at half- mast. Noth­ing that a friendly neigh­bour­hood me­chanic couldn’t fix—and we man­aged to find one who did.

Sadly, Rod passed away in 2014. I still en­joy driv­ing the Ca­maro, al­though the trips are shorter and al­ways bit­ter­sweet. I will soon pass the car along to Rod’s son and then he, too, will be able to ex­pe­ri­ence the in­com­pa­ra­ble joy of the open road, of the sun and wind on his face and, hope­fully, the plea­sure of mak­ing im­prove­ments to a car that’s now passed 50, but still rarin’ to go.

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