Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

We come in peace

Free Press photograph creates controversy

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Silly me -- all this time I thought Manitoba's classic and special-interest auto scene was a tight-knit bunch that looked out for one another.

But, if you believe Manitoba Public Insurance, the reality is there are a few rotten apples in our bunch.

To get you up to speed, here's what went down.

Regular readers may recall a photo we published May 2 of long-time Manitoba Street Rod Association member Rob Rose, proudly sitting on the front tire of his freshly minted 1930 Model A Ford street rod. Rose had just won the Tom Milne Memorial Award at the club's annual Rodarama car show.

Winning the award meant a lot to Rose, who is from Brandon, because Milne, who died of cancer in 2011, was his friend. Milne was my friend too, and truly epitomized the car hobby. He was one of those guys who was always willing to lend a hand to his pals and quick to offer kind words of support.

But, according to an official from MPI, several complaints were received after the photo appeared in the Autos section because Rose's car had no fenders or bumpers. Even though Rose had transported the car to the show in a trailer and never drove it an inch on city streets, MPI opted to send him a letter advising that his car had been reported as unsafe and would require a comprehensive safety inspection.

"Sure, it was shown minus fenders and bumpers." Rose told me in a recent email. "Heck! it was a car SHOW!"

Not wanting to get on the bad side of Johnny Law, Rose put the fenders and bumpers on the car and took it in for inspection. He had made the parts when building the car, knowing that it wouldn't comply with the law. But he prefers the look of the car sans fenders or bumpers and chose to enter it that way in the show.

Although he doesn't harbour any bad feelings, Rose did want to set the record straight.

"I would just like to take this opportunity to assure everyone concerned with this stuff that the car was on hand at the required time and place with bumpers and fenders installed," Rose wrote. "It passed safety without a single glitch. We can all sleep safely tonight.

"To the people who phoned in -- relax, please. Hot-rodders are not stupid. We know the laws of the land."

Rose added that he was sure glad the car hadn't been displayed with open headers and slick tires. Can you imagine the fallout from that photo?

So there you have it, a tale of intrigue that begs this question: Did anyone really call MPI to report Rose's car? Or did one of their astute inspectors see the photo and take it upon themselves to order an inspection of a vehicle that was photographed at a car show -- with no evidence to support that it had been driven on a public roadway?

We'll likely never know. Either way, I'm betting Tom Milne is looking down and shaking his head.

Although it's too early to tell, since the weather hasn't exactly been cooperative, here's hoping that MPI and the local police have better things to do this summer than harass folks in cool old cars.

Perhaps Rose summed it up best: "We are harmless. We come in peace."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 7, 2013 F6

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