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The 40th Annual Fenelon Falls Car Show

August 10, 2022

Dudley Jacobsen and Jane Hunter with Lucy, a 1948 Chrysler New Yorker at Fenelon Falls Car Show, 2022

In 1983, Fenelon Falls was celebrating its lock centennial and one of the many events in the village was a car show, hosted near the old municipal office (now Sobeys’ parking lot). One of the volunteers was Roger Bellwood, who would go on to be the village’s reeve in the years leading up to amalgamation. Before long, Roger and Lance Hackett were co-ordinating the show, with the help of the Fenelon Falls Lions Club. Four decades later, Roger’s three sons carry on the tradition (Shawn, Andy and Jim), of co-ordinating this community fundraiser for the Lions Club.

There is a special excitement to being at the Car Show. It is a venue where so many people share their passion for vintage and classic automobiles—“A lot of great cars and great people,” in the words of John Brumwell. Strolling up and down the rows, taking in all the vehicles, it’s easy to make friends in the car community. Many exhibitors and visitors return year after year. One car at the show, Julie Hayes’ 1928 Durant M2, had been at the first car show, and was restored by Roger Bellwood’s Memory Lane Motors in the early 2000s.

With about 500 vehicles on site, the show has something for everyone. Many visitors make a weekend of the trip, with about 500 people camping out on-site Saturday night. This year, the show hosted the Canadian Coasters Tour—a group of enthusiasts spending the summer driving from Newfoundland to British Columbia. While many attendees lovingly care for their vehicles and bring them out for the shows, the Coasters make the dream journey from one coast to the other—an unforgettable experience for the few who have the experience.

For many, driving across the country would be the trip of a lifetime, but to make the journey in an old car takes the experience to a whole different level—“you drive these damn things, you don’t just aim them,” in the words of Coasters Event Coordinator Fraser Field. Some of the cars don’t have power steering, most predate air conditioning (though this is one convenience that is hard to turn down), and getting them started can take several minutes, even for someone with all the skills that went into rebuilding the vehicle. As they make their way across the country, the Coasters are constantly in tune with their ride, always listening to the engine, attentive to the feel of the car.  For many, especially as they tow a trailer thousands of miles, with a vehicle that might be 50 or even 75 years old, avoiding a breakdown is always in the back of their mind. But even when something goes wrong, wherever they go, there are car enthusiasts ready to help. It is close community and there have been many “Coaster miracles” over the years, as complete strangers lend a helping hand and find the parts to keep the vehicle on the road. One time, a driver hit a deer and carried on to the coast with his hood bent right up.

As they travel together across the country, the Coasters become a close-knit family, camping together and often sharing the same meals. Most are retirees, but Dudley Jacobsen and Jane Hunter are bringing their kids along for the ride. “They are old enough to remember it all, but not old enough that they can say they don’t want to come. I hope it is an experience that will stay with them for a lifetime,” Dudley explains. Driving his 1948 Chrysler New Yorker named Lucy, this is his first coast-to-coast trip. “Its ancient technology, with a suspension that has 35 or 36 grease nipples, and before long they will need greasing again.” So he will end up in an parking lot, under his car, doing the necessary maintenance.

Because Lucy’s carburetor sits right above the exhaust manifold, it is no simple task to restart the car, once it has been running for any period of time. He modified it to have an electric fuel pump, but still he has to let it cool, wait for fuel to get back into the carburetor, then crank it, while jiggling the pedal. After perhaps a couple minutes, it comes to life, but then he still needs to wait about 20 seconds before setting out. “Don’t be in a hurry with Lucy.” But it is a unique experience to travel across the country in a car that has been filmed several times, including for Project Bluebook and the series Grease. Wherever you go, someone will want to talk about the cool car.

Practically everyone exhibiting at the show has spent countless hours restoring and maintaining their vehicle. Don Rossignol came across a 1957 White 3000 Cabover in Eureka Springs, South Dakota and had it shipped up to his home. He bought a 1975 Winnebago, and cleared it off to accommodate the old truck. To make them compatible, he had to cut six feet off the back of the Winnebago, and lower the engine six inches. Being retired, he worked on it every day for about five or six months, but the result was a one of a kind vehicle, “everything is so close to you with the flat nose on the Cabover, it’s unique and fun to drive.” Back in its day, the Cabover was a common delivery truck, but few have survived, “so today, everyone wants to stop and talk about it.”

There is something special about driving a car from a bygone era and there is something even more special in being part of an event where hundreds of these vehicles and their owners get together. Fraser Field remarked, “this is one of the best shows we have seen on our cross country tour—there are a lot of people here.” At the Fenelon Falls Car Show, it’s a lot of enthusiasts from across the country who all have something to share with each other as part of the close-knit car community.

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