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As mentioned in my Holiday Classic Car Spotting featurette last Thursday, I had two very unexpected classic surprises while in North America and the first occurred on just the first full day of our vacation. It was a great delight to spend a few days in Nova Scotia – which is beautiful, incidentally, and well worth a visit – staying with the family of one of my German cousins, who had moved there some thirteen years ago. They live in a place called Lapland (yes!) on a quiet lakeshore, surrounded by forest, the nearest town being Bridgewater – arguably the middle of nowhere. Over a couple of beers on our first evening, we discussed what we might do during our few days there and I half-jokingly mentioned the idea of checking out a classic car show if there was one nearby. To my surprise, the answer was that there was indeed an event happening just about 20 minutes’ drive away, in Nova Scotia’s much smaller version of Liverpool. It was just a local event, so unlikely to attract more than 30 or 40 cars, but we could check it out. “Why not?” said I, of course, and on a cloudless sunny morning, the four of us set off towards Liverpool.

We parked up a short walk away from the town’s Memorial Park and as we approached it, it rapidly became clear that this was not just a small pub meet. Cars – and they were mostly large cars, many with equally large engines – were rumbling one after the other onto the two fields in the park, which soon contained not 30 or 40, but more like 300 largely North American classics. They made quite a spectacular and colourful sight in the August sunshine. Even my non-classic loving companions (I know – sad, right?) were impressed – it would have taken an extreme cynic not to be.

Although I’ve learnt much over the last eighteen months or so here in the virtual pages of ViaRETRO from both fellow team members and our well-informed readers, my knowledge of and about American classics remains somewhat thin. I sincerely hope readers will forgive any errors below. Fortunately, many of the cars spread out across the site had cards on or inside their windscreens providing some basic, if incomplete, information.

We do of course get quite a few Transatlantic classics at some of our shows here in the UK – some more than others – but they are rarely more than a significant minority. In this case, the number of European and Japanese classics on display could be counted on the fingers of two hands in total, and of course they contrasted sharply with the domestic models, not least in terms of size and engine capacity.

If there’s one car we’re guaranteed to always see at a UK show, it’s a MGB – usually in packs – and sure enough, that mainstay of the UK classic car scene was present and correct in Nova Scotia to fly the Union Flag; in fact, there were two, as well as it’s little brother, the Midget. Alongside one of the ‘B’s was a bright red Volvo Amazon and a few yards away, a black early split-windscreen Morris Minor from 1953, on British plates no less. It was proudly displaying its huge engine, all 918cc of it, almost certainly winning the prize for least powerful car of the day. And apart from a pair of Datsun Z-cars and a stray VW Bug, that was the extent of the overseas delegation in Liverpool that day.

The main features of the event were enough muscle being flexed to shame Dwayne Johnson – much of it proudly on display as owners left their bonnets (or should I say hoods?) raised – and some of the best paint finishes I’ve ever seen anywhere, in occasionally dazzling colours.

I’ll start with what for me is a quintessential 1960’s American muscle car – and one of my favourites – the mighty Pontiac GTO, in particular the 1966 model year. From menacing stacked-headlamp front to its sleek, simple yet brutal lines, the GTO looks the business. There’s more to it than looks, of course, as underneath its muscular suit beats an equally powerful 6.4-litre heart pumping out between 335 and 360bhp – enough to propel this hefty machine to 60mph in just 5.8 seconds. There were a few at the show, my personal favourites being one in metallic blue, the other, a ’65 Le Mans, magnificent in bright red – they both looked superb.

Naturally there were examples of the cars you might expect to see even at a UK show, but just in much greater numbers here – Mustangs, Camaros, Corvettes and Chevelles a-plenty. I really appreciate some of the mid-1960’s to early 1970’s cars – not over-burdened with chrome or empty stylistic flourishes, but clean subtle lines that nevertheless let you know there’s some serious grunt under the hood. The first-generation Camaro is a perfect example of that, and there were several at the show.

Mercury, Oldsmobile and Plymouth are marques we see in fewer numbers in UK and the rest of Europe, but there were a good number at this show. From Mercury, one of my favourite cars of the day, a gorgeous 1955 Mercury Monterey in mint green with white roof, as well as a couple of Mercury Meteors, both from 1956 – one in pink-over-black, the second in blue and white – not forgetting a ’67 Mercury Comet Cyclone in cream. All of them looked terrific with the sun glinting off their chrome and gleaming paintwork.

A trio of Oldsmobile Cutlass 442’s were spread across the two fields, one a convertible in yellow and black, the other two being coupés, one in red and the other in black and, errr… well, several other colours. I liked the first two a lot, the last one, not quite so much. Two Plymouth Roadrunners in red-and-black and yellow-and-black respectively also caught my eye.

Progressing to play my game of pairs, two cars that looked great together were a duo of second-generation Chevy Camaro’s, one in red with white stripes, the second in yellow and black (stripes running the length of the bonnet or hood seem to be a thing on some cars – they generally look good, too). Moving away from the muscle (but still mighty), two Cadillac Sedan de Villes, one a ’65 in metallic green, the other a ’66 in blue, both sporting the then fashionable – and in my view, very cool – stacked headlights. This last pair looked quite formidable, one of the ultimate combinations of power and luxury at the time.

It wasn’t just about muscle, power and size at this show, though. There were a number of lesser-spotted (in the UK, at least) badges scattered around the site on cars which would be considered large in the UK but classed as mid or even compact-sized in North America. I mention randomly the likes of two early Dodge Dart Swingers (such a sixties’ name – not entirely convinced they would dare use it again today!) including one in yellow, a smart red. Then there was the red Plymouth GTX with black stripes to match the black vinyl roof, a green AMC Rambler 660 and a darker green Chevrolet Vega – a mini-Camaro if you will (at least in the looks department), and not a car I can recall ever seeing at any UK show. This last model started life as Motor Trend magazine’s Car of the Year in 1971, justifying being named after a star, but suffered quality and reliability issues throughout its seven-year lifespan.

Some of the cars on show were (unsurprisingly) Canadian-market versions of US cars, such as the previously mentioned Mercury Meteors, and a striking red and black Beaumont Sport Coupé from General Motors – as I understand it, a Chevrolet Chevelle in all but name and logo.

Perhaps one of the more eccentric US marques when it came to styling was Studebaker – the adventurous Avanti and Commander come to mind – and while the front end of the green 1965 Cruiser looks relatively conventional, the rear of the car is decidedly quirky, at least to my eyes, with its raised and slightly protruding tail lights.

There were also a number of splendid cars on show in what the organisers classed as Pre-49. I particularly liked the trio of the cream 1927 Model T Roadster, green 1929 Plymouth on lovely yellow wheels, and maroon 1930 Ford Model A, but my favourite in this class was a very handsome 1933 Chevrolet Master Delux in a strong blue with darker blue wings and spare wheel trim – lovely!

I thought this was a terrific, vibrant show, full of colour – the contrast to the limited palette of the vast majority of modern American cars could hardly be greater – and I would have spent longer there had I not been outnumbered by my companions, who were keen to head on for lunch. It made for an excellent start to the holiday for me and it was a very nice change to visit a classic event across the pond. And this wasn’t even the only classic car surprise during our holiday – more on that later!

 

6 Responses

  1. yrhmblhst

    Ok then… you knew Id be commenting on this one…
    Glad you enjoyed the show. Couple of standouts there too. That yellow Olds 442 ragtop? Thats a 70 and it says its a W30 car. Very rare – especially in convertible form – and the W30 is a monster of an engine. Way underrated HP-wise to gain a favourable factor with the nhra and insurance surcharges, it makes enough torque to interrupt the earths rotation if youre pointed the wrong way and can hook up.
    The yellow RoadRunner you noted is nowhere near a factory shade for that year, but at least they did the colour change right and included the inners and firewall.
    See that red 65 Chevelle sitting next to the red pearled 65 Impala SS? Tho the Impala looks to be a great car, look at the fender badging on the Chevelle… It says ‘396’. Now, I’m 99% positive that this a clone/’tribute’ – I hate that word/ fake, but the car SAYS its a Z16. How do I know its not real? Well, because they only made 201 Z16 Chevelles in 65, and no one who had a real one would shod it with those wheels, but if its a good clone, that 396 / 375 really makes that light car move…if you can put it all down.
    The stripes you note running the full length of the hood [bonnet] and trunk [boot] were factory on Z28 Camaros and SS Chevelles. [and some 442s] Seems like everybody and their dog paints em on every single Camaro and Chevelle in the country tho.
    Those A bodies – the lime green Dodge Demon and the darts – with a 340 were nearly unbeatable on the street bitd. They weigh nothing and the LA motor makes real good power; again, underrated at the factory for the reasons given earlier. Tinny, but nice cars.
    That light green 74 Nova SS is a bit of a rarity too.
    GTOs… In 64 and 65, GTO was an option package on a Tempest / Le Mans, so yes, technically, that red 65 is a ‘LeMans’ that happens to have a GTO option package installed. In 66 it became its own model line with a different model in the VIN. Before that tho, its impossible to tell a fake w/o a PHS. neat neat cars, 64 being my personal fave for personal reasons.
    Gald you enjoyed it; lunch is ready – more later…

    Reply
  2. Tony Wawryk

    @yrhmblhst – yes, I figured you would be able to fill some of the many gaps! While this was obviously a Canadian show, would this be representative of what you’d expect to see at US/North American shows in general?

    Reply
  3. yrhmblhst

    Yes Mr Wawryk, this appears to be relatively good sample of what you would find in an average sized show over here with a few exceptions; one normally would see more trucks. Depending on what part of the country youre in, this would range to ‘a few more trucks and Jeeps’ to a boatload more of trucks. Also, seldom does one see any 4 door cars. Prewar and the occasional Tri 5 excepted, things like that brown 70 Ford just wouldnt be shown. Never say never, but never would you see that late 70s maroon Olds in the botton photo. Also, Canadian market cars are pretty rare. Otherwise, looks fairly typical.
    Quick comment as an aside about Beaumonts. I do NOT claim to be an expert on them and Im sure a canadian enthusiast could add and or correct me, but basically, yes, that Beaumont is a Chevelle with different mouldings, taillights and grille. Typically a Beaumont has a Pontiac-ish split / twin nostril looking grille with some extra trim and unique taillights. personally, I often like the Beaumont grille better…. Now to confuse things even more, for a period from the late 50s [as I remember- I know its true in the early 60s] til the 70s, Canadian pontiacs had Chevrolet engines and used Chevrolet frames. Dont ask me why, but they did. Canadian Pontiacs [full size] actually werent ‘Wide Tracks’ as they used Chevrolet frames and A arms! The Canadian Mercurys used different – usually flashier/gaudier – grilles and trim than the American version, but with no other differences. There were tho Mercury badged trucks in Canada! Kinda cool.
    Back to typical shows… A LOT of that depends on where in the country you are. For example : if you go to a Cars and Coffee in Dallas, youll think youve accidentally ended up in a Lambo dealers used lot. Its ridiculous. Houston aint much better. Los Angeles? LOTS of street rods, perfect musclecars, completely ruined 60s Impalas [lowriders] and a metric tonne of japcrap. NorCal will be heavily European, with still more japcrap and lots of Pony cars. Atlanta area will be heavily American with a significant smattering of Euro and lots of trucks. If you ever get to go to a good gathering in the Detroit area, bring a pocket sized defibrillator cause youll need it – the quality [and quantity] of cars in that area is mind boggling. Beyond perfect Musclecars and full size hardtops number in the millions it seems. During supper one night a couple of years ago when I was up there, staring out a restaurant window one friday night I saw everything from 2 different F40 Ferraris to a boattail Auburn just driving down the thoroughfare. I lost count of the cool cars just during the time it took us to have an evening meal. My buddy Larry goes to a Thursday night get together most weeks and its common to have 40 or 50 classic American cars – emphasis on MuscleCars and Pony cars – along with a few street rods, a half a dozen corvettes and 2 or 3 hyper exotics. And thats just a weeknight get together… The classic car scene is amazing in and around the Motor City.
    The show you went to tho is pretty average for a suburb / smaller town show in the middle of the country, except for the lack of trucks. Around here we’re inundated with lots of late model Corvettes, Camaros , Challengers and Mustangs as well as an annoying number of jap cars with no springs, a sewer pipe hanging out the back and a stereo with more power than the engine. But otherwise, look pretty typical for an all model show in the middle of the country.
    One thing tho – we’re pretty good about segregation ; many shows are single marque. But then thats a whole different kettle of fish…

    Reply
  4. Tony Wawryk

    As always, a ton of useful extra info (I find the internal badge engineering and annual model year changes simply baffling, though some might say the same of BL’s and Rootes’ badge engineering back in the ’50’s and ’60’s in particular). Sounds like I should try to find my way to Detroit (a US city I have yet to visit) sometime…re the apparent lack of trucks at this show – there were some, but I ignored them…

    Reply
  5. yrhmblhst

    Well, one would be well advised to stay out of Detroit proper…but the ‘burbs have some fantastic get togethers for motorheads. To completely OD, go the week before and the weekend of the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise.

    Reply
  6. yrhmblhst

    addendum…
    Got to thinking – Beaumont is a model, but turned into its own brand as it was originally an Acadian, which was a Canadian Chevrolet sold in Pontiac dealers…. or something like that. :)

    Reply

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