Cobble Beach will host rare auto gems
Of all the 100-plus cars that will be on display Sunday morning when the fifth Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance opens to the public, I expect the 1967 sports racing car, the Chinook CanAm Mk 5, will attract a lot of attention.
As some of you may know, I’m partial to racing cars. Breaking it down even further, I’m partial to Canadian racing cars, particularly those conceived, designed and built in this, our home and native land.
Not too many of those around, unfortunately.
Bill Sadler and David Greenblatt were a couple of guys who designed and built road-racing cars while Doug Duncan dreamed up and constructed some of the most wicked fast oval-track supermodifieds you’ve ever seen, including the first Canadian rear-engine super.
And then there were the Hungarian-immigrant Fejer brothers, George and Rudy. Those two, with more than a little help from their friend Ed Butt, built Chinook sports cars, Indy cars and Formula Atlantic cars in the 1960s.
The first Chinook was a Mk 1, built in their Toronto shop for George Fejer to drive in the first Can-Am Series race that was held at Le Circuit-Mont Tremblant in Quebec on Sept. 11, 1966.
George qualified 26th out of 34 starters (more than 40 showed up) but dropped out midrace with a fuel leak. Nat Adams then bought the car — by this time a Chinook Mk 5, which was really a knock-off of the McLaren M1sports car — and drove it in the ’67 Can-Am race that was held at what was then Mosport Park.
After racing it for a while, Adams sold it and subsequently lost track of it.
The Chinook Mk 5 that will be on display Sunday was purchased, in pieces, by Raymond Boissoneau of Bedford, N.H., who had it completely rebuilt. It is shown — and even raced, on occasion — at vintage car events in the United States as well as in Canada.
The Concours at Cobble Beach, which is a little north of Owen Sound (it’s two hours and 10 minutes from Toronto’s Pearson airport; just go west on the 401to the 410 and head north) was the brainchild of financier Rob McLeese and his late father, Willis.
It started during a dinner when Rob asked his dad if he should buy a cottage in Muskoka with 300 feet of shoreline for a million bucks, and McLeese Sr. retorted that he could buy a mile-and-a-quarter of Georgian Bay shoreline with 600 acres above it for the same amount of money.
So, Rob went for the Georgian Bay property and turned that 600 acres into the Cobble Beach Golf Links. That’s when his father suggested the car show modelled on the famous Pebble Beach Concours d’Excellence, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The first Cobble Beach Concours was held in 2013 and was a smashing success. Every one that’s been held since has been bigger and better than the last one.
“I saw this car (the Chinook CanAm), and I said to Ray (Boissoneau), ‘You have to bring it to our show,’ ” McLeese was saying during a telephone conversation we had the other day.
“He got excited at the prospect, and he said, ‘I think I can get some of the original guys there,’ ” and that’s why people admiring the car on Sunday will find Rudy Fejer and Ed Butt nearby, if not right beside their creation.
Another glorious piece of machinery on view Sunday will be a 1932 Frontenac E Deluxe sedan, which is owned by Harold and Kathy Smale of Bala, Ont. It was manufactured by Dominion Motors in Toronto for three years in the early 1930s and only four are known to exist today.
Howard Anderson of Calgary is bringing along a real prize — a 1932 Pierce-Arrow Series 54 Convertible Couple. Its history is fascinating.
Pierce-Arrows were all built in Buffalo, N.Y., except for some that were put together under licence in Walkerville, Ont. This particular car, which has been in the Anderson family since 1950, is extremely rare.
“Think about it,” said McLeese. “In the early 1930s, everybody was struggling so badly that Pierce decided — there was some kind of incentive to produce cars in Canada — to assemble some in Walkerville at the Studebaker plant there. So, this car, which is a very neat car, was built in Ontario, and there are only three Canadian-built cars left, and this is one of them.
“This fellow in Calgary, I don’t know how he found out about us, but I’m happy because he’s going to be here, and he’s bringing this car,” which was completely restored in 2011 at Greer Restorations in Cobourg, Ont.
Now, the Concours is much more than a Sunday afternoon walk along the 18th hole of a golf course.
Friday night, there was a reception for participants and judges (all of these cars are in a competition for ribbons, trophies and bragging rights).
Saturday (today), a participant tour leaves the golf course at 9 a.m., and more than 125 cars will meander down to Owen Sound and back following the water the whole way. A stop is planned in Meaford at the Leith Presbyterian Church, where painter Tom Thomson is buried. Another stop at the Inglis Falls Conservation Area is also on the schedule.
Also Saturday, a Cars & Coffee show sponsored by Segal Motorcar will feature 150 autos, 25 years and older, that didn’t qualify for Sunday’s main event. And a seminar presented by Hagerty Insurance will focus on what judges look for at a Concours event.
Mercedes-Benz is a sponsor, and they’re bringing along a documentary film, The Green Hell, about the Nurburgring race course in Germany. It will be one of three racing movies shown before a dinner and reception Saturday evening.
Sunday is showtime, with Best of Show expected to be announced a little after 4 p.m. Admission is $40, and proceeds go to the Sunnybrook Foundation and the Owen Sound Hospital Foundation.
If you go, and you find that Chinook Can-Am car, get Rudy Fejer and Ed Butt talking.
Rudy will have you laughing so hard, your stomach will hurt, and Butt will show you photos of being at Indianapolis and Mosport with Team Lotus and Jimmy Clark. A great time will be had by all. Promise.