Sunday, August 16, 2015

Autorama 2015 in Cornwall, Ontario on August 16, 2015

To those who do not have a special interest vehicle, the number of shows, cars-and-coffees, shows-and-shines, and related events will come as a surprise.  I found a lengthy list of all the events taking place in our region and was surprised that it went for pages and pages, considering how short our driving season is from April to October.  For the first time we had a reason to go and visit the little towns in the area we have never stopped in before and next on the list was the Autorama 2015 on August 16 at the NavCanada training facility in Cornwall.

Cornwall, named for the Duchy in England, is a city of 46,000 that serves as a Port-of-Entry between Canada and the United States.  Located 100 kms southeast of Ottawa, it was settled by United Empire Loyalists escaping the USA and eventually became, with canal and rail links, a signficant regional centre.  It has suffered through economic vicissitudes as many of its big employers--a paper mill, a rayon plant, a big (and seriously polluting) chemical plant--have shut down.  Business has adjusted and there are various distribution facilities taking advantage of the border proximity.  The NavCentre is used primarily to train foreign air traffic controllers but is available for conferences and rents hotel rooms as well.  It is situated on 70 acres overlooking the St. Lawrence River and was an easy drive from Ottawa.

One of the pleasures of attending car shows in different cities is that they draw from a different pool of participants so you don't always see the same vehicles.  Cornwall drew attendees from Quebec, different places in Eastern Ontario and across the border in New York State.  Of course, I ended up parking beside a flame-painted Chevelle that had been at the Wicked Garage Open House in May.

The range of cars was quite interesting, featuring hot rods (and plenty of souped-up pickup trucks!), muscle cars from the 1960s, the odd European machine and, of course, Corvettes.  Always Corvettes. On the one hand, you want to arrive with something nobody else has but on the other you gain access to all these events with no effort and don't usually have to answer a lot of questions yourself!

The car above was one of the more unusual visitors: a restored 1958 Ford Fairlane Skyliner with its retractable hardtop.  14,713 were built that year and, unusually, there are no hydraulics used in the system as was the case for convertibles of the era.  There are seven reversible electric motors, four lift jacks, ten limit switches, ten solenoids, four locking mechanisms for the roof and two for the trunk.  And 610 feet of wiring to do it all.  Of course, with the top retracted there was pretty much no trunk space.  Produced for only three years (1957-1959), the Skyliner was a car before its time.  I had an interesting conversation with the owner/restorer.  It had been a four year project to bring it to the current condition and, in spite of its complexity, the retraction system is pretty reliable.

Not surprisingly, there were not a lot of European or Japanese cars at this (or most other) events in Eastern Ontario.  The simple fact is that few were purchased until the 1980s in North America where the then-Big Three domestic makers owned the market.  In Cornwall there was a very clean Porsche 356 with a beautifully-detailed engine.  Rolls-Royce was represented by an old Silver Cloud Series III, looking like a stately home, and a current Phantom Drophead Coupe, which is about the size of a house and more costly.  The Phantom weighs an impressive 2620 kg (5780 lbs) and is the most expensive model in the company's line.  As a convertible it looks rather ungainly but, well, your money your car.

There were a number of interesting trucks at the event.  Pickup trucks from the 1950s and 1960s have become very popular in vintage car circles, it seems, and hot rodding of them is pretty common.  In addition to the pickups, there was an impressive Chevrolet flatbed and some nice vans as well.

There were many single representatives: one yellow Cobra replica; a black two-seat Thunderbird, a 1966 Dodge Charger.  This wide variety made the show entertaining but it is also apparent that cars that are much older tend not to be driven to these kind of events.

And, as mentioned, there were Corvettes!  While not a great number of them, there were representatives of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th generations, even if only one car from each--oops: there were 2 C3s but the engine compartment of the silver one made you forget the other one. Here they all are in order, minus my car which is in the heading photograph:

I did have a conversation about my car with someone who had owned an older Corvette.  He complimented me, and mentioned that it was too bad about the scratch in the back.  I walked around and discovered that, yes, there was a scratch below the rear side marker on the right side--exactly where I would have expected to see it after coming into contact with a ladder mounted on the wall when backing up into the garage.  Which I had done the day before when I noticed the ladder move in my mirror.  This will always happen at some point and while I have touched it up it still bothers me and I know that I will eventually take it in to get done.  But as one learns, there is always something with a Corvette that would like attention, even if only for a fussy owner!

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