If you've wondered what it'd be like to step into a time machine and step out 50 years in the past—well, it might be something like this
Welcome to Autofest!
1949 Diamond T
1951 Mercury Pickup
1972 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser
1972 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser
1955 GMC Schoolbus
Beehive Oil Filter on 1930 Ford
1947 Mercury Pickup
1968 Pontiac Beaumont
1971 Ford Torino
1964 Chevrolet Impala Hardtop
Pushbutton Door Handle
1959 Monarch Lucerne
1959 Mercury Monterey
Early Air Conditioning!
1959 Cadillac Eldorado
1932 Chevrolet Louvres
1951 Hudson Hornet
1968 Ford XL
1961 Chevrolet Impala
1969 Dodge Charger
- Welcome to Autofest!
- 1969 Camaro
- 1949 Diamond T
- 1951 Mercury Pickup
- 1936 Chevrolet
- 1951 Plymouth
- 1965 Dodge
- 1972 Oldsmobile...
- 1972 Oldsmobile...
- 1955 GMC Schoolbus
- 1930 Ford
- Beehive Oil...
- 1954 White
- 1947 Mercury Pickup
- 1968 Pontiac...
- 1971 Ford Torino
- 1964 Chevrolet...
- Pushbutton Door...
- 1959 Monarch Lucerne
- 1948 Pontiac
- 1959 Mercury...
- 1952 Cadillac
- Early Air...
- 1959 Cadillac...
- 1932 Chevrolet...
- 1951 Hudson Hornet
- 1968 Ford XL
- 1962 International
- 1961 Chevrolet...
- 1969 Dodge Charger
Held each summer in Oshawa, Ontario, and hosted by Motor City Car Club, Autofest brings together almost 1,300 vehicles for the weekend, and we were there to capture it. You could find just about any style of restored, customized or hot-rodded vehicle, but for many people, this is the classic: the 1932 Ford, commonly known as “The Deuce,” and with a flame paint job.
The return of the Camaro brought the nameplate to a new generation of car enthusiasts, but for many, it’s the “original” one that turns their cranks. The model debuted for the 1967 model year, but there was new styling for this 1969 version, which also marked the first year of the 350-cubic-inch engine.
Here’s a truck brand you might not know. The Diamond T originated in Chicago when a man named C.A. Tilt started building cars in 1905, and in 1911 responded to a customer’s request that he build a truck. No one’s quite sure, but it’s possible the name came from a logo drawn by Tilt’s father, with a “T” for his name and a diamond indicating quality. Eventually the firm got into heavy-duty models, and in 1951, discontinued its light-truck lineup. It was sold to White Trucks in 1958.
Any American readers may be scratching their heads right now, because the U.S. never saw the Mercury pickup truck. Canada’s unique dealership division meant that Ford-Monarch stores sold Ford pickups, but Mercury-Lincoln dealers had no trucks to offer. The Mercury pickup, sold from 1946 to 1967, was a Ford truck with unique badges and trim.
The plate says it all. This is the styling and stance of the modification typically known as the “street rod,” including its eye-catching paint. The flap under the windshield is the cowl vent: when opened as here, using a lever under the dash, the vent would catch fresh air and direct it into the cabin.
Customized cars are all about taking a stock vehicle, and then making it as mild or as wild as the owner prefers. This one’s definitely on the wild side of things.
Custom car builders originally started out with mostly 1940s and 1950s vehicles, but as time went on, they turned their talents to newer cars. This Dodge is a combination of older styling cues, including its blacked-out grille and lowered suspension, along with its more modern wheels and low-profile tires.
Station wagons were the “original minivans,” and they were huge, as evidenced by this Olds—which, believe it or not, was classified as a midsize! It was based on the Cutlass, but with a longer wheelbase. It was the ninth and final year for the Vista Cruiser…and it was called that because…
…because of its “vista” window. The raised roof and its curved glass greenhouse provided extra headroom and light for passengers in its available third row of seats. The five-passenger model was $3,774, while a seven-passenger Cruiser was $3,908.
Who wouldn’t have studied harder, just to go to school in something like this? Not that many people work with commercial vehicles, but when they do, the results can be stunning. This truck won an award at the show for its fabulous graphics.
Wide whites, chopped top, and a Cad mill in Henry’s Lady…now this is a hot rod. As for the terminology, it means tires with extra-wide whitewalls; a roof that’s been cut off, a portion taken out of the pillars, and the roof welded back on at a lower height; it has a Cadillac engine; and it’s a Model A, dubbed “Henry’s Lady” when Henry Ford debuted it as a replacement for the “Tin Lizzy,” the famous Model T.
Custom car builders often incorporate neat aftermarket items, either vintage or reproduction. The “beehive” oil filter, introduced in the late 1940s or early 1950s, was intended to cool the engine oil by dissipating heat via its aluminum fins, since overheating was a frequent problem in older engines. As with other oil filters of the day, the beehive was hollow, and you unscrewed the top and dropped in a disposable filtering cartridge.
It takes a special breed of enthusiast to restore a big truck. Take everything you need for a car—parts, paint, prep, and a place to store it—and supersize it. It’s especially tough because commercial vehicles were generally worked until there wasn’t much left of them. Even so, there’s a hard-core segment of restorers who work specifically with tractor-trailers, delivery vans, wreckers, military vehicles, and other work trucks.
While that Mercury pickup we showed you earlier was a fairly stock unit, some people really like to run with ’em. The “rat rod” phenomenon started several years ago and so far shows no sign of dying out. Builders use whatever’s handy, including parts that were never intended to go anywhere near an automobile.
The Beaumont was another model that never went south of the border, along with its Acadian sibling. Stiff tariffs on imports had automakers producing vehicles specifically for the Canadian market, and the Beaumont was a rebadged version of the Chevrolet Chevelle, while the Acadian was the Chevy II. The first ones, in 1962, were Chevy II variants and called Acadian Beaumont, but when the Chevelle was introduced for 1964, they became two separate models.
Among the many body styles available on cars, one of the more popular was the “fastback,” with its long, sweeping profile. That relatively flat rear window let in a lot of sunlight, though, and so many fastbacks were outfitted with louvres that provided rearward visibility—to some degree, anyway!—while cutting down on the light and heat.
Time for terminology! I’ve overheard some people who think that a “hardtop” is a car with a solid roof, as opposed to a convertible. Instead, it’s this: a car with no centre B-pillar, so that it’s open from front to back when all the windows are down. Cars that have pillars are often referred to as “post” cars, as in, “That’s a two-door post.”
Here’s another item that was almost universal on cars, and then slowly faded away. Pushing the button with your thumb unlatched the lock.
The Monarch was a Mercury line that was specific to Canada, but wait—isn’t the Lucerne a Buick? It is now, but a few names made their way onto other manufacturers’ vehicles before finding permanent homes. For example, the Suburban is now a Chevrolet model, and the Sierra is now a GMC pickup, but those names also spent time gracing Plymouth station wagons in the late 1940s and 1950s.
Automakers often added styling cues that would make their vehicles immediately identifiable. These might change slightly from year to year, but you’d still be able to spot a car by them. At Pontiac, it was the “silver streak,” a band of chrome that ran down the middle of the hood, and sometimes continued on the trunk as well. This trademark chrome piece first appeared in 1935, and lasted until the final twin chrome strips on the 1956 model.
Now there’s a dash! By this time, automakers were slowly starting to consider safety inside the car. The steering wheel is a “deep-dish,” as opposed to the decorative pointed steering columns that many automakers used in the 1940s, but regulations still hadn’t been passed that outlawed sharp-edged buttons and levers. This Mercury also has its gearshift configured for PRNDL. Earlier in the 1950s, many automatic transmissions didn’t have Park (you put it in Neutral and set the brake), and on some, you pulled the lever all the way to the bottom for Reverse.
Many automakers now use numbers and letters for their model names, but it was all descriptive “back in the day,” as shown by the script behind this Coupe deVille’s rear side window.
The joke goes that old cars featured “4-40 A/C”—four windows open at forty miles per hour. Several companies made these aftermarket items, commonly called “swamp coolers.” You’d put water inside to cool the air through evaporation, which was then funneled into the car. A few came with fans and worked all the time, while others only cooled the car as you drove along and forced the air through them.
Cadillac initially introduced the tailfin, although they started just as little nubs on the back of the 1948 models. Before long, just about everybody had them, and almost seemed to be a race to see whose could be the tallest and most outrageous. Most regard the 1959 Cadillac’s version as the “ultimate” fin, although the ones on the 1960 Caddies were even taller.
Overheating was an ongoing problem with many cars in the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s: the engines were of heavy construction that held the heat, the narrow engine compartments trapped the warmth, and improvements in radiators and cooling fans were still in the future. One solution was louvres in the sides of the hood. Many were just slits cut into the metal, but louvres like these automatically opened and closed, controlled by a thermostat. Lower trim models got painted doors, while fancier ones were chrome.
If you saw the movie “Cars,” you know this one well. The Hudson Hornet wasn’t the fastest car out there, but it dominated racing because of its low centre of gravity, which gave its drivers far better cornering ability than taller competitors. Hudson called it “step-down design,” and it was radical for its day. The big benefit for consumers was that passengers sat low in the car and enjoyed considerable headroom, even with the car’s aerodynamic low roof, and the wide frame made the cabin more spacious, along with a smoother ride.
Here’s another styling trick you don’t really see anymore: hidden headlights. Some lights popped up out of the fenders, but Ford was fond of little doors that swung up or down to reveal the bulbs when the headlights were turned on. Of course, as the mechanisms for these various systems got older, many cars were nicknamed “Blinky” by their owners when only one would open.
A few agricultural implement makers tried their hands at building cars and trucks, but among the most successful was International. The company’s first products were motorized buggies. Its last light truck, the Scout II, was built in 1980, and today it specializes in large commercial trucks.
It was often common for companies to produce one basic body style, and then trim it differently into several models. At Chevrolet, one of the ways you could tell them apart was by the taillights. This top-line Impala came with three lights on either side, but cheaper models such as the Biscayne only had two.
Here’s some trivia the next time you see one of these orange machines. The Dukes of Hazzard was loosely based on a real moonshine runner named Jerry Rushing. His car was actually a 1958 Chrysler 300D. And it was named Traveller, after the grey horse that Robert E. Lee rode during the Civil War, but the TV producers changed the name because they figured viewers wouldn’t get the reference. But never let the truth get in the way of a good story!