River City Classics Car Show overtakes High River

First published Calgary Herald Driving section Sept. 23, 2011. Photos courtesy Ted Dawson.

Fall is in the air, and that means the automobile show and shine season is just about finished.

However, before the cars, trucks and motorcycles are stored away for their winter slumber, there is one big show left on the calendar.

On Sunday, Sept. 25 the historic downtown core of the burgeoning community of High River plays host to the River City Classics Car Club ninth annual show and shine. High River is 37 km south of Calgary on Highway 2.

What started in 2003 with a show featuring 127 vehicles along three downtown streets has mushroomed to an event in 2010 that quite literally overtook High River with 1,240 antique, custom and special interest vehicles.

In 2011 the car club is hoping to once again host that many vehicles, or perhaps even more.

Doug Montford, a High River resident since 1979 and lifelong automotive enthusiast, says in 2002 he and a small group of aficionados started the River City Classics club to keep an interest in the car hobby alive and well in the prairie town.

“We organized our first show in just a couple of weeks,” Montford says. “And each year since, the numbers have been growing. How does one account for that?

“We have a great setting in the downtown core and George Lane Memorial Park, and the atmosphere here is really laid back. And, we’re probably getting a reputation as being something of a fall closer for the car season.”

Montford also credits the 60 paid up members of the River City Classics club, and all of their volunteers who help pull the show together.

“Everyone in the club works hard at putting this show on, and a lot of people not even associated with us just arrive to help out,” Montford says.

The town of High River has stepped up to help host the weekend, and this year is organizing some special Saturday events in an attempt to encourage more enthusiasts to stay and discover the community.

Beginning at noon on Saturday — the day before the main event — downtown High River hosts opening celebrations, and according to the calendar on their website, is offering free beef on a bun, followed by numerous activities that celebrate transportation.

And at dusk on Saturday the town offers a drive-in movie with the screening of American Graffiti in the Highwood High School parking lot.

Then, as early as 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, the vehicles start arriving. That is a full half hour before the first volunteers are on the scene to help direct traffic.

Montford says their High River show and shine has drawn enthusiasts from all of the western provinces, and even some of the border states, including Montana and Idaho.

“We’ve had cars from as far away as Fort McMurray, Regina and Vancouver,” he says. “We’ve heard that some spectators and showgoers organize their holidays around our car show.”

The show is, of course, all about the iron, and there is a very diverse collection of vehicles on display. From drag race cars to family sedans and everything in between, there will be something for everyone.

For Montford, his collection includes a 1938 Nash hot rod he built many years ago, together with a customized 1967 Pontiac Acadian station wagon and a 1962 Chevrolet Impala convertible.

He is at work on a 1940 Ford truck – also a hot rod project.

Funds raised from the $10 vehicle registration fee and t-shirt sales go back into the community. In support of the Salvation Army at Christmas at least two families per year are provided everything from the turkey to the tree and the presents beneath it thanks to the River City Classics club.

River City Classics Car Club ninth annual show and shine in downtown High River runs Sept. 24 and 25. Activities begin at noon on Saturday, while show and shine registration starts on Sunday, running from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., fee of $10 plus Food Bank donation per vehicle. All makes and models welcome, including motorcycles. Spectators welcome from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a Food Bank donation. Call Doug at 403-652-4366 for info, or visit www.rivercityclassics.com.

2011 Millarville, Alberta Classic and Vintage Motorcycle Swap Meet

Motorcycle enthusiasts won’t want to miss the 2011 Millarville Classic and Vintage Motorcycle Swap Meet — our Ninth Annual — on Sept. 11. Hosted by the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group — Rocky Mountain Section, this grassroots event takes place in the riding arena at Millarville Racetrack, a venue nestled in the rolling foothills of Southern Alberta. It’s a short 30 minute ride or drive south of Calgary, and the meet has become a destination for all gearheads.

Why? Millarville Swap Meet has become something of a legend, as most of the tables are filled with Real motorcycle parts — dirty and rusty, sometimes crusty — but good for something.

Table bookings are now being accepted, and cost to non-paid up members of the RMS section is $25 each. If you’re a paid up member of the RMS, good news. The cost of one table will be covered by the group. Contact Bobby Baum at 403-230-9269 to book, or email him at whopkin1@telus.net.

Doors are open from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., and it’s $3 to enter the arena. Vendors welcome at 8 a.m.

Pre-1916 Indian and Kenneth Andrew Creery

Here’s one that has to be shared. Patrick Creery’s family lived across the street from us for many years. We just recently re-connected, and after seeing my review of the Canadian Military Motorcycle  in the last post, he emailed this:

“Here’s a picture of my Grandfather Kenneth Andrew Creery in Vancouver circa 1914 with his (Indian) motorcycle before he went off to Europe to fight in World War I as a test pilot.”

I’m sure KAC would have had many great tales to tell of early aircraft and motorcycle engineering. I’m hoping he kept a diary or journals, and that they’re still with the family. Stay tuned.

The Canadian Military Motorcycle — book review

First published in Inside Motorcycles August 2010.

During the Second World War the Canadian military trained thousands of dispatch riders and motorcycle mechanics. Most of those trainees are now no longer with us. But in 1993 Max Burns and Ken Messenger penned the Winged Wheel Patch – an important book that shone a spotlight on the men who rode two-wheelers in the Second World War.

The Winged Wheel Patch is long out of print, but now there is a new major work for Canadian military/motor history buffs. Author Clive M. Law has written The Canadian Military Motorcycle, a book that focuses solely on the machines themselves. Law logically starts at the beginning, with ‘the first recorded use of a motorcycle as an item of military utility’. This happened in 1908 when a quartermaster-sergeant in Winnipeg showed up at camp with a Harley-Davidson and sidecar, equipped with a machine gun.

From his First World War chapter Law moves on to document the motorcycles used by the Canadian military, and delves deeply into not only the various makes and models, but also the requisite markings, regiments, clothing and training schools. Law’s writing is clear and concise. The 196-page hardbound book is packed with more than 450 photos, and each one is accompanied by a written comment. The photos and other documents throughout the book are fantastic testaments to the military motorcycle, and even though Law doesn’t focus on the men, it’s impossible to view such images without remembering the motorcyclists as well.

At $59.95 this history (ISBN: 978-1-894581-57-8) is available direct from the publisher at www.servicepub.com.

Cotton motorcycles don’t grow on trees

After seeing the recent Throttle Yard posting for an octet of Cottons for sale, I thought this might prove of interest. I wrote this short Cotton history as my Winter 2009 Pulp Non Fiction column in the Antique Motorcycle Club of America’s magazine — the Antique Motorcycle.

Say the word ‘cotton’ and most people would think of the material used to produce Levi jeans or Hanes T-shirts.

But say the word ‘cotton’ around a few motorcycle cognoscenti and another image entirely might emerge – that of a storied British marque famous for winning Isle of Man TT races and other competitions.

In 1913 Frank Willoughby Cotton of Gloucester, England designed a unique triangulated motorcycle frame and patented the idea in 1914. Cotton’s frame was stronger than the spindly ‘bicycle’ diamond-type chassis that was in vogue at the time. Cotton enlisted the help of Levis — another British motorcycle maker — to build two samples of his new frame but the First World War intervened and hampered his plans to bring a complete machine to market. It wasn’t until 1919 that the Cotton Motorcycle Company came into existence, and the first Cotton appeared in 1920.

Purported to have an extremely low center of gravity Cotton motorcycles became a popular mount for racing, and this did not escape F.W. Cotton’s attention. He saddled Stanley Woods on a 350cc Blackburne-powered Cotton in the 1922 Isle of Man Junior TT, and Woods managed a respectable fifth-place finish. (During his 1922 outing on the 350cc Cotton, just about everything that could go wrong, did. He botched the start, having to stop to retrieve some fallen spark plugs. The machine caught fire in the pits. Not long after putting out the flames and back on the circuit, Woods had to stop and wrestle with the valves thanks to a broken push rod.)

In 1923 Woods won the TT aboard a Cotton, and a bit of a sales boom occurred in 1924 after the factory swept the first three spots in the Junior TT. Cotton used a variety of engines in his triangulated frame, including side valve and overhead valve Blackburne, OHV JAP and Villiers two stroke units.

In this 1938 brochure Cotton offered ‘14 Superlative Models’, and advertised that ‘Cotton Stability Makes Speed Safe’. Of the 14 models available there were three 350cc machines, the Model 9/38, 350/38 and 9/Special. These all had OHV JAP powerplants, but the Special was fitted with a high camshaft JAP engine. There were three 500cc motorcycles, the 500/38, 5/Special and 25/Special. A 500cc JAP five-horsepower single was specified for each; the 5/Special was an S-Sports engine while the 25/Special employed a high camshaft unit. The largest Cotton was the Model 600/38 with a 600cc OHV JAP.

In the 250cc range there were three motorcycles, including Model 6/B, 250/38 and 30/Special. The 6/B ran a 250cc OHV Blackburne engine, while the last two used 250cc OHV JAP engines.

All of the machines listed above featured “The famous Cotton Patent Triangulated (frame) – by common consent the Masterpiece of modern design – giving perfect riding position with magnificent stability and controllability. Originated the phrase ‘Speed with Utter Safety.’ Front and rear wheel stands fitted.” Forks were specially-constructed Cotton-Druid girders.

Further specifications include a Burman three-speed gearbox, with a four-speed Burman listed as an option. Carburetion is via Amal TT or Bowden, and ‘silencing’ is carried out “By imposing large bore chromium plated exhaust pipe, leading to a sports cylindrical silencer. These modern upswept pipes remain immaculate, and improve appearance.”

So far, we’ve covered 10 Cotton models. The remaining four are the Model 1/V, fitted with a 150cc Villiers two stroke, Model 1/B with a 150cc OHV Blackburne, Model 2/JC and 2/J, both powered by a 250cc sidevalve JAP – for a total of 14 motorcycles.

Cotton suspended the manufacture of motorcycles during the World War II period, with the factory turned over to the manufacture of war goods. Post-war, Cotton did not immediately return to the production of motorcycles.

By 1953 Cotton’s triangulated frame was of course obsolete, given the rear swinging-arm suspension systems that were coming into widespread use. F.W. Cotton himself retired in 1953, and the concern was branded E. Cotton (Motorcycles) Ltd. Several models were produced, with Cotton making frames only and most every other component bought in.

A letter dated 23 June 1961, addressed to the Nicholson Bros. of Nicholson Bros. Motorcycles in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan enquired after overseas dealers.

“After a quiescent period covering many years the Company has been re-organized during the past year or so, and has once again been obtaining striking results in trials and competitions during the past two years. Production has now reached a point where we are in a position to extend to overseas markets, and we are, therefore, seeking distribution arrangements in Saskatchewan.”

Nicholsons did not take on Cotton, but for 1961 the range included eight models such as the Vulcan 4-speed 197cc Road or Sports and the 250cc Scrambler and the Continental Duplex Frame 250cc. Two-stroke Villiers engines powered all models.

Cotton soldiered on in the late 1960s after Villiers quit supplying engines, building primarily competition machines around Italian-made Minarelli engines and even a 250cc Rotax powerplant.

Cotton lasted until 1980, much longer than many other British ‘cycle builders.

Book ’40 Ford traces pre-War history

First published 8 April 2011 in the Calgary Herald Driving section. Cover image courtesy Motorbooks.

We often get caught in the rush of the modern world, and the pace of developments and technology can make it easy to forget the past.

Switching off the computer and turning to the printed page offers a brief respite.

And for those interested in the history of the automobile, and in particular a certain era of Ford, a notable new book by author Joseph P. Calabas, ’40 Ford: Evolution, Design, Racing, Hot Rodding is recommended reading.

Cabadas is well suited to the task of writing about pre-War Ford developments.

Born in Detroit, Cabadas has spent some 15 years as an automotive reporter. He has written two award-winning auto books, including River Rouge: Ford’s Industrial Colossus and The American Auto Factory.

His latest title is published by Motorbooks (ISBN: 9780760337615, $35 CAN). The book ’40 Ford offers a comprehensive look at the auto manufacturing giant, and specifically how Ford evolved beyond the heady days of the Model T.

Cabadas notes that the Model T, one of the best-selling cars of all time with more than 15 million units trundling off of Ford’s assembly line by May 26, 1927, was not much more than a horseless carriage with a four cylinder engine. Ford updated the vehicle, and in 1928 introduced the Model A, another four-cylinder car.

By the late 1920s Ford’s rivals Chevrolet and Plymouth offered more powerful six-cylinder cars, but Henry Ford refused to build a six.

Instead, Ford wanted to design an economical eight-cylinder powerplant. Engines of this size were nothing new – but they were almost exclusively the domain of more expensive, luxury automobiles.

Henry Ford wanted a V-8 engine with a cast iron block, and he planned to sell it in a car that would cost less than $600. Other vehicles equipped with a V-8 engine, such as a Cadillac or a LaSalle, sold for more than $1,000.

Cabadas writes: “The V-8s owed their existence to Henry Ford’s decision to replace the Model A in 1932. With falling car sales and declining revenues exacerbated by the onset of the Great Depression, Ford faced a slide into insignificance if it brought out the wrong product at the wrong time.”

The product? Ford’s flathead V-8.  Cabadas goes behind the scenes as he details how this famous engine was designed, and a series of black and white photographs helps illustrate the subject matter. There are 163 black and white images in ’40 Ford, and many show foundry and machining processes used by Ford in the early 1930s. Dozens of these photos were sourced from The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Mich., and alone are worth the price of the book.

First offered in 1932 in the Model B, “With its 16 valves located inside the V-8 block, the engine had a flat cylinder head bolted on with 21 studs, hence the nickname ‘flathead’. Ford’s V-8 had a compression ratio of 5.5:1 with 65 horsepower at 3,400 rpm and a 221-cubic-inch displacement, offering as much or more power than competitors,” Cabadas notes. For 1933, horsepower increased to 75 at 3,800 rpm.

By the mid-1930s aerodynamic shapes such as those found on new airplanes, trains and Zeppelins were beginning to inform automobile design, and Ford’s Lincoln division came up with the Zephyr – a super streamlined vehicle. Although originally envisioned by John Tjaarda, it was Ford’s Bob Gregorie who dreamed up the distinctive wedge-shaped front end, essentially altering new vehicle design from 1936 forward.

And it was Gregorie who borrowed cues from the Lincoln Zephyr and applied them to the less-expensive Fords – the result being the ‘radically streamlined’ 1937 cars, featuring, as Cabadas notes: “…all-steel ‘teardrop’ bodies, including an all-steel top, an alligator hood, and a sharp-nosed and rakish front with a radiator grille that curved deeply into the hoods’ sides. The headlights were molded into the crowned fenders, an exceptional design feature because most cars had torpedo-shaped lights mounted on the radiator shell or the fenders.”

These features ultimately culminated in the 1940 Ford, a vehicle considered by many to be the pinnacle of pre-War automobile design – powered, of course, by the flathead V-8.

In ’40 Ford Cabadas also delves deeply into the influence of organized labour movements on the auto industry, and how Ford resisted their efforts.

The final chapter of the book recognizes the labours of individuals devoted to finding out just how fast the Fords of the late 1930s could go in organized racing competitions or hopped up and on the streets.

Cabadas’ book ’40 Ford is a welcome diversion from the computer screen, and it serves as a poignant reminder of past developments in the North American automobile industry.

Steam Whistle Brewing goes Retro Electro

First published in the Calgary Herald Driving section, 15 April 2011. Photos courtesy Steam Whistle Brewing.

 

This week I get to write about two of my favourite topics — old trucks and beer. Now, I’m not a six-pack a day kind of guy, but I do occasionally enjoy a good cold Pilsner or lager. As for old trucks, what’s not to like?

Especially when the truck in question has been brought straight into the 21 st century. Witness Retro Electro, a 1958 Chevy Apache half-ton truck.

No gas-guzzling V-8 engine lurks under the hood. Instead, there’s a high-efficiency AC motor capable of generating 465 foot-pounds of torque.

That is enough power to lay strips of rubber, and the truck’s creator, Vancouver-based Mike Kiraly, enjoys doing nothing more than just that.

Well, he also enjoys talking about beer, and doing his job as a B.C. sales rep for Steam Whistle Brewing.

Located in the historic John St. Roundhouse in Toronto, Steam Whistle Brewing is an independent player in Canada’s beer making industry. Their product is marketed in Alberta, B.C. and Ontario. The company is arguably one of the greenest producers in the country, from the power they consume to the equipment they use.

“We have 12 major initiatives,” says Steam Whistle Brewing communications director Sybil Taylor. “And those initiatives begin with the beer itself. We’ve chosen to make a simple Pilsner using four natural, non-GMO ingredients.”

There are plenty of other examples of how green-minded Steam Whistle is, and another could include the fact they keep some old vehicles out of the scrap yard. The company uses a fleet of highly visible, green painted vintage vehicles to deliver its brew in cities including Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.

“I was talking to someone about our green fleet, and he said to me they weren’t really green,” Kiraly says. “My rebuttal was that we helped keep the same vehicle on the road for more than 50 or 60 years.”

After that exchange, Kiraly got to thinking about really being green, and he saw an opportunity to create a project that kept a vintage vehicle on the road, and completely updated that ride with zero tailpipe emissions. Something that was completely in line with Steam Whistle’s green initiatives.

Kiraly had to sell the project to Steam Whistle’s top brass, but that wasn’t hard to do as he says he simply ‘oozed passion’ about building an electric-powered vintage pickup truck.

Kiraly, 33, is based in Vancouver, and has been working with Steam Whistle for two years. His background, if you can believe it, is as a scientist – a molecular biologist specializing in endocrinology and diabetes research.

“I went through a major career change, from scientist to beer guy,” Kiraly says, and laughs, “I’m the first doctor beer rep that we know of.”

After getting the go-ahead Kiraly began looking for a suitable truck to modify. He had been driving a 1957 Chevy truck around Vancouver, and one day found a note tucked under the windshield wiper blade. The writer of the note was offering a 1958 Chevy Apache, and in November 2009 Kiraly bought the truck.

“I wanted to build an electric hot rod truck, one that would do a burnout, and travel 150 km on a chage,” Kiraly says. To do this, Kiraly worked with a group of people, including his father, as they designed an electric drivetrain and restored the truck.

Joe Mizsak did much of the metal fabrication and restoration, while Lloyd Wagner was enlisted for bodywork and paint. Kiraly’s friend Trevor Stoker is the lead engineer at Azure Dynamics, a hybrid vehicle company in Vancouver, and he helped design the running gear, while his company supplied the motor and controller. Randy Holmquist from Vancouver Island’s Canadian Electric Vehicles supplied battery management hardware.

Everything to do with the gas engine was pulled, and the group put in an AC motor with a driveshaft direct to the rebuilt rear end. Under the hood went a controller – about the size of a boom box – and electrically powered hydraulic pumps were installed to handle power steering and brakes. The truck is fitted with a Camaro front end.

Twenty-four lithium batteries fit into the bed of the truck, and this power supply offers a 150km driving range with an 8-hour recharge period using a 220V/30A service. The truck is geared low so that it has a tremendous amount of grunt, and has a top speed of about 90 km/h – which will be just fine for its duties around Vancouver. Green energy company Bullfrog Power provides electricity for the truck, and 100 per cent of the juice is wind generated.

“The one concern I had was safety,” Kiraly says. “I needed to build a truck that is idiot proof. There are inertia control switches, so the truck shuts down (and the high voltage power) is disconnected should the truck ever be in an accident.”

It took a year and a half to build, and Kiraly first drove Retro Electro earlier this year. “Like any other old vehicle there’s always something to tweak,” he says.

Without the gasoline engine, Kiraly says the truck is extremely quiet. “But when you’re driving it, you hear all kinds of other noises you would usually never hear in the cab, and you’re constantly wondering where they’re coming from.”

Vintage-style hand lettering Retro Electro and Steam Whistle graphics top off the Chevy, and was done by Stefanie Goodrick of Sign Me Up Designs.

Now, Retro Electro has been shipped by rail to Toronto to visit the brewery, and returns to B.C. this summer as Kiraly tours with it around cities such as Vancouver, Kelowna and Kamloops. There are also plans to ship it to Alberta.

“The whole point is to get people talking about alternate energy solutions, and Retro Electro doesn’t do anyone any good sitting in a parking garage.”

Ladies, gear up for…

Here’s a story about founder Vicki Gray, written in 2007 when she was just getting the wheels rolling on this initiative.

Women on motorcycles will put rubber to Calgary roads – and across Canada — May 4 as part of the first ever National Female Ride Day.

The brainchild of motorcycle racer, instructor and coach Vicki Gray, National Female Ride Day celebrates women who choose to ride.

“The focus here is to shine a spotlight on women who ride, and enhance awareness of female riders,” Gray says from her home in Toronto. “I just want women to ride on that day.”

Gray, 48, has been riding a motorcycle since 1983. She got involved with bikes just after she’d been transferred to Nova Scotia while working for Revlon International as national training manager.

“I needed an outlet from that demanding career,” Gray says. “And I forced myself one summer to take sailing lessons. While that was exciting, it wasn’t quite enough.”

Before Gray had her first car she says she was going to buy a scooter – but that plan was scuppered when the intended machine was vandalized. And, she recalls riding around in first gear aboard a boyfriend’s off road motorcycle.

“Even back then, I guess I was interested,” Gray says. “So, I took the Gearing Up program (the Canada Safety Council motorcycle training course) in Dartmouth.”

After completing the course Gray rented motorcycles to ride in Nova Scotia. At the time she favoured cruiser-style machines, and even bought a Honda CM450 Custom when she returned home to Ontario. Gray enjoyed motorcycling so much she started instructing with the Canada Safety Council, and eventually traded her Honda 450 Custom for a 1987 Honda CBR600F.

The CBR600F is a sport bike, and Gray says she quickly became addicted to the machine’s power and the speed. But with another life change — this time when she moved to St. Maarten in the Carribean – Gray opened her first school, the “Pro Rider Motorcycle School”. She taught thousands how to ride, from beginners to the Dutch Antillean police, using her own fleet of dual-purpose street/dirt bikes.

By 1994 Gray had married and moved to the Netherlands. Here, she bought a Suzuki GSX600F and began touring Europe, including the Swiss Alps. When a friend talked about taking a motorcycle race licencing course Gray said she’d attend with him.

“That was it, I was hooked,” Gray recalls. “Three weeks later I had my first race.” After that, Gray says there was no looking back. “I started buying more and more equipment, and the next thing I knew there was no getting out.”

While living in Europe Gray raced both Hondas and Ducatis, and has been sponsored by world championship teams Ten Kate Honda and Ducati North America.

“On average, when a woman gets involved with racing it’s because a boyfriend, husband or father gets them interested,” Gray says. “Very seldom does a woman just walk into this.”

But that’s what Gray did, and she says it took her some time to learn the ropes; “I didn’t know how much a motorcycle could be altered, and how a bike could be made to fit and work for me.”

Gray moved back to Canada in 2006, and has launched Motoress – a website (www.motoress.com) and a brand she hopes will help inspire other women to reach any of their two-wheel aspirations. Whether it’s a scooter, a cruiser or a sport bike they wish to ride, Gray says Motoress is a brand that will speak to all women.

And National Female Ride Day fits into her mandate. While NFRD was intended to just be a Canada-wide event and Gray thought she might have 500 riders, she says she’s had to rethink the scope of the day. “There are so many women from the U.S. and other countries who’ve decided to join in. I could potentially have thousands of women riding on May 4.”

Postscript 6 April 2011: Gray’s thoughts have proven true — this is indeed a worldwide event, with literally thousands of female riders taking part. Congratulations to Motoress.

Tsawwassen Classic & Vintage Motorcycle Swap Meet and Show N’ Shine

It’s time for Western Canada’s premiere motorcycle event —  the Tsawwassen Classic & Vintage Motorcycle Swap Meet and Show N’ Shine. Held annually at the South Delta Recreation Centre in Tsawwassen, B.C., this year’s show is scheduled to run Sunday, April 17. Doors open at 10 a.m.

Event organizer Todd Copan and his family are celebrating 26 successful years with the event, which  started in 1986, and since the second meet it has been held in the same location. It started off small but has grown to fill the 25,000 sq. ft. venue — a hockey arena and a curling arena with six sheets of ice. There are 160 booths/tables in two buildings.

Vintage and classic motorcycle parts are the focus of the swap meet, but Copan has several other activities taking place, including a Japanese-only hall where anything from the big-four manufacturers – new or old – can be found. He also sets apart an area especially for his show and shine, and every year Copan determines a theme. For example, in 2011, Copan is celebrating all special and hybrid motorcycles, especially the Triton.

There have been some relatively obscure feature machines on display here, including an incredibly rare 1941 Harley-Davidson prototype OHV 45 cubic inch motorcycle. Harley didn’t produce an OHV 45” (750cc) motor until the Sportster in 1957. There have been Crockers, Vincents, Brough Superiors – even Max Lambky’s streamlined twin-engined Vincent that runs at Bonneville.

Some say the most enjoyable part of the Tsawwassen swap meet is the impromptu show that takes place in the parking lot. Literally hundreds of motorcycles converge on the asphalt and the display can sometimes be just as entertaining as what is inside the hall. You’ll want to go in though, if not for the motorcycles, then for the opportunity to win a copy of the Seventh Edition reprint of Modern Motorcycle Mechanics and the book about that book, Prairie Dust, Motorcycles and a Typewriter. Good luck!

 

Red Devil Rods and Custom Paint profile with George Bordas

Story first published in the Calgary Herald’s Driving section 25 March 2011. Photos courtesy Red Devil Rods.

George Bordas was 17 in 1985 when he started working at Carline Muffler in Calgary’s Forest Lawn.

The job was a life altering experience, and it set him on a different path than what he had intended.

His parents wanted him to be a pharmacist, and he had plans to study medicine. From medicine to metal, some 25 years later, Bordas is the man behind Red Devil Rods and Custom Paint, Calgary’s newest fabrication and paint shop.

And he has his friend Marty Robertson to thank. In 1985, Robertson was an employee at the Carline Muffler location. After Bordas was given a tour of the shop he was quite literally written an uncommon prescription.

“Marty was into rods and cars, and I wasn’t a gearhead at all,” Bordas said. “But when Marty showed me the underside of a hotrod on the lift, I could see the (car’s) frame and then picture in my mind how all of the custom bent exhaust tubes would have to come together. I went over to the tubing bender, and went at it.”

Soon after, Bordas was working at Carline Muffler — his first paying job out of high school — and he learned to weld and to work on engines. To further his automotive apprenticeship, Bordas moved to Winnipeg where he approached the owner of a local hotrod shop. He was told that the shop wasn’t hiring, but his spark of enthusiasm didn’t go unnoticed, and he was soon employed.

Bordas paid his dues in this Winnipeg shop, spending two years cutting and welding nothing but custom frames, and then another two years fabricating replacement fenders and quarter panels from sheets of steel.

“I used to draw a lot,” Bordas said of the next step in his education. “And I wanted to see if I could paint like I could draw, so I bought a $20 airbrush kit.”

He did a few samples of airbrush art, and showed them to his boss, who was suitably impressed. Bordas was then taken into the spray booth, and asked to paint a fender and a door.

1941 Willys project.

“I’d never done prep for painting before, but I got it together and painted it perfectly, and from then on was doing body work and paint jobs,” Bordas said. He became known for custom blending one-off paint colours, and for the quality of his finished products.

In 2009, because he loved the mountains, Bordas moved to Invermere, B.C. Simply looking for something to do in his new hometown Bordas began working on a 1949 Mercury, and this led to similar jobs. Not long after, Bordas opened Valley Rod and Accessories, a small three bay shop where he customized vehicles, and painted everything from boats to jet skis and dirt bikes.

“I was finding, though, that 90 per cent of my customers were from Calgary,” Bordas said, so late last year he moved back to Calgary, and recently opened the new shop.

Red Devil Rods is located in an eight bay facility in southeast Calgary. The location could hold 16 or 17cars, although it would be a tight fit.

“Here (in the new shop), I get to do more of what I like to do – and that’s work on the older stuff.”

That being said, Todd Angus and Freddy Sanders are employed to take of collision and insurance work. Bordas tries to stay on the fabrication/hotrod/painting side of the business.

Bordas sprays only the latest environmentally friendly water borne paints from PPG, and said he had to learn to work with the new products himself – he adopted the paints before many others in the industry.

A number of unusual projects on the go at Red Devil Rods, including a 1941 Willy’s pickup truck Bordas purchased from an estate. The owner died in a house fire before he had the opportunity to finish the truck, and Bordas bought the Willy’s with the intention of completing the project and then giving it back to the daughter.

1950 Buick Dynaflow sedan project.

Bordas has a 1950 Buick Dynaflow sedan set aside for himself. He plans to chop the roof 6.5 cm, blast and paint the frame, and install an LT1 Corvette powerplant in the massive engine bay. It will be done in a lead sled style, with a custom red and black leather interior and flat black and pinstriped exterior. He plans to have the Buick on the road this summer.

“I feel I’m not working at a job when I’m cutting, grinding or painting,” Bordas said, and added, “I just love doing this.”