The gleaming whitewall tires of the 1970 Ford Thunderbird two-door coupe Karl Haus drives are the reason cat whiskers were invented.
You sure wouldn’t want to scuff up tires that pretty.
His 34-year-old daughter Katrina, the co-pilot in the passenger seat as they waited to get rolling in the Cruisin’ Classics Charity Cruise, says she knows nothing about the mechanical side of her dad’s bright blue T-bird but she does know a thing or two about its curb feelers.
“If you make a sharp turn or anything like that and get too far in to the concrete curb it scratches and makes a noise so you know you’re too close to the sidewall,” said Katrina.
“It’s awesome to ride in. When it’s nice weather we just like to go cruising. He doesn’t go in the rain -heaven forbid water. There’s power under that hood. I’ve never driven it but I’ve never asked. This is his thing; I’d rather just enjoy the ride.”
That 429 cubic-inch engine in the T-bird puts out enough thrust to shoot front-seat passengers into the back if they’re not careful. It is a bit of gas guzzler but Karl says it’s no worse on mileage than a Hummer. He found the car in an ad three years ago and had it shipped from Ontario. Of all the years Ford made Thunderbirds there were only two years in which the hood had a beak-shaped peak in the middle and Karl loves his.
“A big car like this, you want to cruise, you don’t want to speed,” said 61-year-old Karl.
“I always liked the big American cars and these are rare.’70 and ’71 were the only two years they made Bunkie Birds with the peak in the front. You see the older ones, like the 50s and 60s, and you go through the Auto Trader and the last year is ’69 and then they start at ’73. You just can’t get the ’70 and ’71s, and in my eyes they’re the nicest ones.”
Karl works as a baker at Pastry Chef downtown. His plan is to pass his old cars down to his kids as part of their inheritance..
“One of them gets the ‘67 Mercury Meteor Montcalm convertible and one of them gets this one,” he said. “The Mercury was made in Canada for the centennial year.”
Karl’s 30-year-old son was working out of town in the oilfields near Grande Prairie and missed the Charity Cruise and Karl was wishing he was there with him and his sister to celebrate Father’s Day and take in the warm sunny weather Sunday. Karl didn’t know about the cruise last year and by fluke just caught the tail end of it when he “weaseled in” to the long line of vehicles passing by hundreds of onlookers who crowded along the route.
“It’s nice that people still appreciate beauty,” he said. “I think that’s got lost in today’s society that people actually stop and smell the flowers and actually look when they see something nice. Everybody’s just, rush, rush, rush. I like to drive these things because it reminds me of the old days, better times.”
A couple rows away in the staging area of the vast CN Centre parking lot, the long arm of the law was there and another father-and-daughter team was ready in their black and white police cruiser to answer the call if any trouble brewing.
Bob Crowley used his skills as a licenced mechanic to turn a 1989 Chevy Caprice Brougham into an immaculate replica of the Los Angeles Police Department cruiser used in the ‘60s-era TV series Adam-12. It’s got all the sirens and warning beeps, a flashing red cherry lights on the roof, a side-mounted searchlight, and a piece of whittled wood and steel pipe glued together to resemble a dashboard-mounted shotgun. It even has the LAPD decals on the door that match the number of the car officers Jim Reid and Pete Mulloy used to chase down bad guys in California.
Crowley, 58, He’s always loved cop shows. He was an auxiliary RCMP constable for 20 years and now works as a security guard for Telus. He and his 32-year-old daughter Lynn each have complete LAPD uniforms with caps they bought on eBay and they’ve worn them together at Northern FanCon but it was a bit too warm Sunday to bother getting dressed up in all that gear.
“Adam-12 was my inspiration,” he said.
Bob knows when he’s out driving his cop car there’s a good chance he’ll get pulled over by the RCMP, and that’s not because he’s doing anything wrong.
“They love it, they stop us and take pictures all they time it’s a pain in the butt,” he laughed. “They were going to a forest fire situation outside Quesnel on Upper Fraser Road and they pulled a U-turn and came screaming back behind me to get pictures of this.”
The car was parked for two years during the height of the pandemic and Bob said he didn’t know about last year’s Cruisin’ Classics Charity Cruise. He also has a replica California Highway Patrol car of the type used in popular 80’s TV series, C.H.I.P.S. and has uniforms for that as well. He’s waiting for his collector’s plate before he insures it.
“It’s just great being part of dad’s hobbies,” said Lynn, who helped him scrape the vinyl-top roof off the Brougham. “Putting the new roof on was fun.”
The car count for the Charity Cruise exceeded 400 on Sunday, about 70 more vehicles than last year’s event.
Stan Todoruk got his ’34 Ford four-door sedan ready just in time. Until last week it had been out of commission for about six years, ever since it got hit by lady driving a van turning out of a side road to get onto the Hart Highway. The wreck left Todoruk with a concussion and he put his hand through the windshield and his car was a write-off, having ploughed into the back end of the van with the front driver’s side of his antique. He had to change the chassis and replace the front fender and front suspension and it was a lot of work to get it back on the road but he wanted to fix it and used the insurance money to buy the parts he needed.
A shinier version was made famous in the movie Bonnie and Clyde and it was their death car at the end of the movie when they met their untimely end in a hail of bullets in a police takedown. Todoruk’s car has real bullet holes on the back end from when somebody took a few potshots at it while it sat broken-down and abandoned in a Begbie Summit creek bed south of 100 Mile House, until a friend of Todoruk’s rescued it. He filled the shotgun-slug holes in the roof but didn’t bother with the rest and didn’t give the car a paintjob, opting instead to leave it with its unfinished rusty green patina look.
“I like the fact you can come up and a kid can stand on the running board and look in, or you can eat your lunch off the hood if you want to,” said Todoruk. “If you get a ding or a dent it just blends in. This paint was probably done in the 50s and it was originally a burgundy colour. The doors, the hood and the grill are off another car, it wasn’t a complete car, you had to make it that way.”
This year’s 45-kilometre charity cruise through the city streets was a joint fundraiser for the Prince George Hospice Society and the Prince George office of Alzheimer Society of British Columbia. Donations were being accepted at the parking lot or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.