skip to Main Content

Chevrolet in the family


There’s a new addition to the vehicle family around here.

Having wanted a big-fendered car from the early 1950s for many years, one is now sitting in the driveway.

It’s an all-original 1954 Chevrolet sedan. It’s not the desirable coupe, nor is it an upscale Bel Air. No, it’s just a plain old humble four door, with a 235 cubic-inch inline six-cylinder engine and three on the tree column shift.

I’d watched Kijiji for months, always looking for Chevs or Pontiacs between the years 1949 and 1954. Sometimes I think the searching was more fun than the buying.

Regardless, it seems anything that was local (as in, Alberta), was either an expensive rusted out field find, or a car that had been over-restored or hotrodded to within an inch of its life.

Then, the 1954 popped up in Leduc, just outside of Edmonton. Apparently, it had been in the family since new. The car had been recently inspected, insured and registered, and was a solid runner.

Going by photos alone is always risky, but I couldn’t travel to view the Chev. Instead, I talked to the seller on the phone, and made a deal. His brother would drive the car down to Calgary in mid-October.

Safely delivered having made its more than 25-kilometre journey, the next step was insuring the Chevrolet.

There are many providers of vintage vehicle insurance; a simple Google search turns up several options.

However, in 2010 Hagerty collector vehicle insurance became available in Canada. The seller of the Chev had used their services, and I decided to do the same.

I visited their online quote provider ( and a few minutes later, albeit with a quick follow-up phone call, the car was insured.

Hagerty Classic Car Insurance started operating in 1983 when Frank and Louise Hagerty couldn’t find appropriate insurance for their vintage wooden boats. They started an ‘agreed value’ policy for vintage boat owners, and soon managed almost half of the collector boat insurance business in the U.S.

They followed that in 1991 with coverage for collector vehicles, and, as the website says: “Hagerty has grown from a small agency headquartered in the Hagerty family basement to the leading provider of collector car and boat insurance in the world.”

Check that off the ‘to-do’ list.

Next up was registration.

A visit to the main branch of the Alberta Motor Association with proof of insurance and bill of sale in hand, I soon learned that an ‘antique’ plate wasn’t quite what I’d expected.

My adviser told me an antique plate wouldn’t allow the vehicle to be driven to, say, the grocery store or the local coffee shop – something we’d likely do with the Chev. According to Alberta Regulation 320/2002, Traffic Safety Act, Operator Licensing and Vehicle Control Regulation, Section 57.3,  “A person shall not use a motor vehicle registered as an antique motor vehicle as general transportation.”

And further, Section 57.4 states: “An antique motor vehicle may only be

(a) used as a collector’s item for transportation to and from and for use in exhibitions, club activities, parades or similar events, or (b) driven to and from a garage or service station for repairs or servicing.”

Section (a) seems like a pretty grey area, and open for interpretation. I know a few folks with vehicles registered as antiques, and they always tell me if they got pulled over they’d simply say they’d been on a club run.

I registered the Chev with a regular plate, just for my own peace of mind.

So far the car’s gone to the gas station and back, and I’ve filled the tank with fresh fuel and fuel stabilizer. Tomorrow, it’s an oil and filter change, and another, longer drive.

What’s next for the car? Should the 6-volt generator be replaced with a 12-volt alternator, allowing an electronic ignition system? Should it be left stock, and simply tuned with new points in the distributor?

The old car sits quite high, and I’m also dreaming of dropped spindles up front and 2” lowering blocks out back. Worth the expense and effort, or just leave it alone?

We’ll see. It’s going to be a long winter, and there’s a 1939 Triumph T100 motorcycle project in the shop that needs some money first.