Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fall fun with a real vintage

A day in the life of a gearhead

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It was as though it happened overnight. When I woke up on Sunday morning thousands of leaves had fallen all around me. "Holy crap," I thought as I stood up and brushed myself off. "Where did summer go?"

With that in mind I vowed to kick the stuffing out of the day.

In case you missed it, the Fabulous 50's Ford Club of Manitoba hosted its annual car show at Garden City Shopping Centre last Sunday. Organizers stopped counting at about noon and more than 1,200 classic and special-interest vehicles had already packed the parking lot. It's a sure bet by day's end more than 1,500 local auto enthusiasts had showed and shined their prized rides, and thousands more spectators joined in the festivities. Throughout the weekend the club also hosted a fun-filled social on Friday night and a cruise to Lockport on Saturday. In total more than $20,000 was raised in support of the Children's Rehabilitation Foundation. Fabulous 50's member Geno Hnatuk personally knocked on the doors of practically every auto dealer in Manitoba and single-handedly raised nearly $11,000. Wow!

Normally I'd walk around a car show, shoot photos and talk to the countless friends I've made in this car-crazy town, but this year my wife Melanie and I opted to load our newly purchased 1990 Yamaha Razz scooters onto our truck and bring them to the big show. We picked them up for a song last week from our buddies at Adventure Power Products and have since decided that scooters are more fun than a car load of monkeys. Whizzing around Manitoba's biggest car show on a scooter that weighs about as much as my right leg was a total riot. In past years I've lamented that it was impossible to see every vehicle on display but this year I did my best to tour the entire parking lot about 40 times. Sorry if you got caught up in my little cloud of blue two-stroke smoke but it was all in the name of effective journalism.

As the master of ceremonies it was a thrill handing over all the much-deserved hardware awarded to all the hardworking locals who have done a supreme job preserving or resurrecting a fleet of vehicles that is best described as breathtaking. In every single corner of the parking lot another treasure was uncovered and totally reminded me that Manitoba is without question ground zero for classic and special interest cars in this country.

One plaque that I took great pleasure in presenting was the annual Cruiser of the Year award. Every year fellow Free Press Autos writer Larry D'Argis and I are bestowed the honour of choosing a person from our local car culture who truly personifies what the automobile hobby is all about. This year we picked Fabulous 50s' Ford Club member and longtime Piston Ring executive Adriene Poirier. Adriene is one of those guys who always has a mile-wide smile on his face and a firm handshake for everyone he meets. Seeing a slight tear in his eye when we presented him with the award proved that he is all heart. Congratulations Adriene and on behalf of everyone you help I'd like to offer a sincere thanks for all you do for our hobby.

When the big show wrapped up hundreds of revellers made their way to the Pony Corral on Grant Avenue for dinner and more fun. After unloading the scooters from the back of the truck at the Pony a few wheelies were popped amidst cheers and jeers from the huge crowd. The Antique Motorcycle Club of Manitoba was the featured club for the night and these folks offered a brilliant display of vintage bikes from around the world. Greg O'Kane, who was one of my first 'bosses' in my former career as a corrections officer, was displaying his mint BMW motorcycle complete with a Russian-made sidecar. O'Kane has been retired from Headingley Jail for seven years and is now 68, but he still looks like he could tame the toughest thugs Manitoba has to offer, if not with his generous ways and his contagious smile then certainly with his bear-like grip.

As night fell I was wishing I'd ridden my motorcycle to the Pony so I could go for a ride through town. As I looked over at my new/old scooter it dawned on me that this thing was street legal (insurance was only $230). Since I always keep a helmet in my truck and a high-visibility vest, I opted to hop on the little scooter and make my way to the Tim Hortons on north Main. My wife gave me a head start and caught up with me in the truck on Main Street. Throughout my trip as I pulled up at stoplights beside custom cruisers and other 'bikers,' hilarity ensued. Guys would look over at me and look away, then do a double take and shout out "Willy, is that you?" Only in Winnipeg...

Upon arrival at the Tim Hortons there were many more cruisers and motorcycles on display and more friends to catch up with. Since it was fairly warm I opted to ride the little scooter all the way home to Cooks Creek. Trying to find a route that didn't include a highway was tough but I managed and the ride wound up being one of the most peaceful trips I've had all summer. Forty-five minutes later I rolled into my yard with frozen knees and a dumb grin on my face.

Next weekend there are even more things to do; on Saturday there is a big car show at Winnipeg Beach and as much as I'd like to get there you'll have to tell me all about it. I'm heading south to my grandmother's hometown of St. Jean Baptiste with my Kawasaki Brute Force quad in tow for an ATV derby that is rumoured to attract thousands of Manitoba mudders. My wife has made me promise to leave the scooters at home!

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 14, 2012 F5

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