Cross-Canada tour an antique roadshow

Slow and steady behind the wheel, as far as Bill Meredith is concerned, that's the best way to see Canada.

Meredith is one of a dozen antique car owners from Prince George getting set to join a parade of at least 100 antique vehicles in the Canadian Coasters 50th anniversary Coast to Coast Tour.

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The long journey begins June 28 in Saanichton, near Victoria, with a wheel dip in the Pacific Ocean at Mile 0 of the Trans Canada Highway and ends in St. John's, Nfld., on Sept. 1.

With 65 days to work with, daily destinations are no more than 500 kilometres away. The tour is geared to hit as many interesting/scenic spots as possible, following mostly secondary routes and in some cases zigzagging across the 10 provinces. The leisurely pace of the tour suits Meredith just fine. He'll be in no hurry, driving a 1950 Chrysler Royal.

"Because of the speed of it, we get to see Canada," Meredith said.

"I've driven from here to Toronto more than once, but never stopped and looked. This time I'm going to see Canada and with everything being arranged, we're going to see more on this trip than you would if you were on your own."

Bill's wife Brenda is still working and will fly to Toronto to meet up with him in late July. She plans to tour with him until he makes the return trip to Ottawa, then will fly home from there while he drives the car the rest of the way to Prince George.

"I told all these guys that when your wife gets a little noisy I've got room for three women in there and I can turn my hearing aids off," he laughed. "Somebody asked what's in it for me and I said I should be able to freeload a meal now and again."

Meredith's car has only 75,000 original miles on it and the 250-cubic-inch flathead six-cylinder engine he rebuilt has just 1,500 miles on it. His biggest concern is the 54-litre fuel tank, which gives him a range of less than 400 kilometres. So he'll be making frequent stops at the pumps to keep the tank topped up. He's mounting a box to the back of his car to carry a gas can just in case he's running low. One thing's for certain, he won't be driving fast. His car will have a sign on the back which reads: 'It's an old car with an old fart behind the wheel, thank you for your patience."

The Prince George contingent plans to skip the hassle of catching the Vancouver Island ferries and will join the tour on Friday in Lillooet. The tour stops overnight in Merritt, Osoyoos, Trail and Cranbrook before crossing the border. Their first Alberta stop is at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre and they'll spend that night at Hill Springs, near Waterton national park, where there's a barn dance planned.

At least 100 cars will be part of the tour this year, part of the country's 150th anniversary celebrations. George Windsor and his wife Virginia will be making the 6,000-kilometre trip driving in a 1986 Olds Cutlass Supreme, then will drive back to Prince George.

"It's ocean to ocean and I've never done that before, but I've wanted to," said George, a longtime director for the Prince George Cruisin' Classics, who has never driven east of Fort Frances, Ont.

"Lots of people are camping, pulling trailers, and two (of the P.G. couples) are motelling it.

"My wife has a bad back and we were figuring three months in a car is a long time, so I got something with comfort for her," he said. "I have several older cars but the Cutlass has bucket seats."

Dave and Anna Wilson plan to make the long trek in a 1936 Chevrolet sedan they brought to the Father's Day Show and Shine last Sunday at L'heidli Tenneh Memorial Park. Dave Wilson is a mechanic and will be taking lots of spare parts, just in case anything stops working.

"If it breaks down and can't run anymore we'll just rent a car and carry on," Anna laughed. "I've never been across Canada and I'm looking forward to it - the furthest I've ever driven is Saskatoon. We've owned that car about three years now. We've gone to Victoria in it and it's been OK. Each day is going to be fairly short, three or four hours, but Ontario will be up to six hours."

Dave Wilson has given his car plenty of upgrades and that should enhance the reliability factor. It's got plenty of passing power with a 383 cubic-inch motor and two four-barrel carburetors.

"It came with a six (cylinder engine) and now it has an eight," he said. "It'll pass everything but a gas station."

The Maritimes is high on the list of all six Prince George couples as a destination. Most have never been to the East Coast, let alone driven those provinces on an extensive tour. Visits to historic sites, museums, parks, bus trips from Lethbridge to the Calgary Stampede, tours of old Quebec City, and even the Bruce nuclear power plant on Lake Huron in Ontario are on the itinerary. Car shows are being planned around the tour, which will bypass the big cities whenever possible.

Dwaine Harvey brought three cars to the Show and Shine - a '52 Pontiac, a '32 Ford and a '37 Ford, but his vehicle of choice for the tour is a '72 GMC pickup, which he'll use to haul a fifth-wheel trailer.

"I think this is going to be like going across Canada and looking in the back door," said Harvey, who will travel with his wife Sandra. "Every province has car clubs that will be hosting us, so I think we'll see things you wouldn't normally see, car clubs and museums and junk yards. By the time we get back we'll probably be so sick of looking at old cars."

Dale Wallace and his wife Betsy will be hauling a trailer with their '29 Ford Model A truck, while Glenn and Lynn Monteith will have a '55 GMC pickup to pull their temporary home on wheels.

"I've been across Canada three times and this will be the slow trip," said Glenn Monteith. "I plan to leave my truck and trailer in Montreal and fly home and then next summer go back and just make it a one-way each year. Lynn and I have driven across twice and we're both excited about it. People don't seem to understand that Ontario's only half way."

The first cross-Canada tour, organized by the Historic Automobile Club of Canada, happened in 1966 and nine cars completed it. A second tour was organized in 1967 to help celebrate Canada's 100th birthday. Since then it has become a once-every-decade event, most recently held in 2010.

In each town or city visited, antique car club members will be encouraged to join the tour, giving car owners a chance to show off their classic cars and trucks.

Tour updates will be filed regularly on the website,

www.canadiancoasters.ca.

The six local couples will be posting blogs and photos on their own Facebook site, Canadian Coasters Prince George Group.

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