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The cars of summer

Warmer weather brings out classic autos of past

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Hay River (Aug 12/02) - Several things appear every summer in the NWT.

There are mosquitoes and tourists, of course.

And there are also classic cars, which are nowhere to be seen during the winter but almost magically appear when the weather turns warm.

The classics from the 1960s and earlier grace NWT roads with a style that stands out among the cookie-cutter vehicles of today.

Among them is Dan Costache's 1966 Oldsmobile Delta 88 convertible.

The Yellowknife resident says he brings out the car each spring.

"I try to drive it every day if the weather is favourable."

That means when it rains -- or looks like rain -- the car stays in the garage.

Costache says it's a "neat" feeling to drive the car, and he enjoys the "Nice car!" comments, which even come from pre-teens far too young to remember when the vehicle first appeared on the road.

During the winter, Costache says the car, which he owns along with his wife, Ann, stays in the garage and he tinkers with it. Winter driving is out because of the weather and the higher risk of an accident.

Perhaps one of the oldest cars to be seen in the summer is a 1947 Mercury coupe, owned by Joe McBryan of Hay River.

McBryan has a theory of why such old cars appeal to people. He explains that they are often the first cars people could have afforded to buy in their teenage years, when the vehicles may have been 10 years old, and they therefore hold special memories.

"That's the formula," he says, "It's reminiscent of their happy days," he adds, noting each generation has its own favourite cars..

His 1947 Mercury, which he has owned for 30 years, is a replica of his first car.

And other people still like to see the Mercury on the road.

McBryan recalls that, while he was once stopped at a service station in Red Deer, a woman ran up to the car and sat in the passenger's seat. She explained it was the car her boyfriend owned when she was a teenager.

Another classic seen during the summer in the NWT is a 1965 Pontiac Acadian Beaumont convertible, owned by John Hill of Hay River.

Along with being a classic, that car is rare, with only 203 having been built.

"I love old cars," says Hill. "I've always dreamed of having an old car."

Hill has owned the car for five years, and it needed extensive restoration when he first bought it.

"It turns a lot of heads," he says.

And like other classic cars, winter driving is out of the question.

"That's the way it got to be in the shape it was in," Hill explains.

"The weather got to it."