Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Feel-good car show of the year

'Bentley tourists' join enthusiasts at first-ever Collector Car Appreciation Day

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There's no denying that Winnipeg has hosted some amazing car shows over the years.

Still, if you're a veteran automobile buff, you may sometimes feel as if you've been there, done that and have the T-shirt to prove it. We may be the cruising capital of Canada, but the reality is we haven't had a fresh venue to showcase our automotive passions for a number of years.

That's what made the city's first-ever Collector Car Appreciation Day so special.

The event, masterfully organized by the Manitoba Association of Auto Clubs (MAAC), was held last Friday at the Manitoba Legislative Grounds, Memorial Park and a short stretch of Broadway Avenue. In case you missed it, more than 300 local cruisers and hundreds of spectators showed up for this festive event that paid tribute to our city's long-standing love affair with classic and special-interest vehicles.

While the vast majority of vehicles on display have been seen around town in the past, it was the amazing location that really made this event special. The sun was shining, the Golden Boy was watching over us, and we were surrounded by beautifully manicured lush green grass and a sea of flowers in full bloom.

I really can't imagine a more picturesque location to host a car show, and for a few magical hours it actually felt like I was a tourist in my own hometown.

For me, the most interesting proof of this event's success -- and the true 'community' nature of our hobby -- came from a pair of travellers who've been touring the country in a classic Bentley.

Robin Hines and his longtime friend Neil Stephenson recently shipped Hines' 1926 Bentley roadster from England to Halifax and started an epic road trip that mirrors a similar trip Hines' father Jeremy made more than 30 years ago. The pair picked the car up in Halifax but opted to undertake a true nationwide tour, so they drove the car to Newfoundland and started there.

Hines was actually born in Victoria, B.C. but moved to England with his father as a child. He recently moved back to Canada and wisely decided he had to bring his rare Bentley along with him.

"The car was purchased new by my grandfather, passed on to my father and now belongs to me," said Hines, who noted that it has been running great and they're right on schedule.

Although the pair have received a warm welcome across the country, Hines offered that he was totally amazed with the hospitality they received here in Winnipeg. Example: local Mopar collector Pat Kaniuga arranged for the use of a garage so Hines could do an oil change, inspect the gearbox and rear axle and install some fresh spark plugs.

The car is a 1926 Bentley 3.0-litre with a straight four-cylinder engine. Highlights include twin magnetos, with twin spark and four valves per cylinder. According to Hines, it can run all day long at 100 km/h and has been averaging more than 20 miles per gallon on their journey.

The reaction to the car when it roars down the highway is typically one of shock, he said. "They don't expect us to be traveling so quickly in such an old car."

There is no support vehicle with them and, while cargo space is at a premium, they've got more than enough room on the car's running boards to strap down their luggage.

Asked if Winnipeg was living up to its reputation as Canada's classic and special-interest vehicle capital, Hines heartily agreed.

"You're really such a friendly lot here -- the reception has been quite exceptional and the motoring clubs here are fabulous," he said. "This attention has all been quite unexpected and we will always have fond memories of Winnipeg and your tremendous generosity."

After a few minutes chatting with Hines and Stephenson, I was reminded that the passion Winnipeggers have for our hobby is just as rare as our cars. Celebrating in such a scenic spot resulted in the feel-good auto show of the year.

Here's hoping that Collector Car Appreciation Day becomes an annual event.

Willy@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 15, 2011 F2

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