Rare Cars and Unique Stories Shine at Posh Ontario Car Show

KEMBLE, ON – Tom Huehn is grateful that his eye wanders to automobiles, not to women. “I love them all, and I want to keep them all, and that’s easier to do with cars,” he said. “I very rarely sell cars, because I like to keep stuff.”

What he’s keeping right now is a 1948 Packard convertible, which he showed at the Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance in mid-September. Now in its seventh year, it’s considered one of the premier car shows in the country, drawing some of the finest vehicles from across Canada and the U.S. More than 110 cars and motorcycles competed in 19 classes this year.

A group of international judges selected the winners in each category and then chose their Best In Show, which went to a custom-bodied 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet owned by Robert Jepson, Jr., of Savannah, Georgia. He’d taken that top spot in 2018 with a French-built 1938 Delahaye coupe.

Huehn took an award for the Packard, but he’s not about trophies; he and his wife Janet are in it primarily for the pleasure of driving their old cars. He bought the Packard three years ago, but he’d had his eye on it since the 1970s when he first spotted it in a museum in Windsor, Ontario. It went through two owners after that, and since he got it, he’s put 1,000 miles (1,600 km) on it.

It’s one of several cars he owns, including a 1908 Cadillac and 1911 Ford, and that’s not unusual in the hobby. If someone just has one, it’s usually due strictly to restrictions on garage space, time, or money, not on lack of a desire for others. Huehn prefers older cars; he also likes something with an interesting history, and the top must go down.

“I’ve been doing this since I was 15,” he said, and he’s 70 now. “My father was an undertaker in Kitchener (Ontario), and I wasn’t a bad kid but I liked to have fun, and undertakers weren’t like that. So Dad brought home a (Ford) Model T and said, ‘Fix it’ to keep me out of trouble. There were a lot of old car guys around who had patience and they helped me along, and I just kept learning and appreciating all types of cars.”

Not only did he fix up that 1927 Ford, but in 1967, he drove it on an old-car tour to Montreal and back for the Expo 67 centennial exposition. He’s still a regular fixture on car tours today, including a recent week-long one for vehicles more than 100 years old.

As with many participants, for Huehn it’s as much about being with his old-car friends as it is about the vehicles. He’s a friend of the Hadfield family, the car-collecting clan that includes famed astronaut Chris Hadfield, and offered to trade the commander “a drive in my 1908 Cadillac for a ride in the space shuttle,” he said. “It’s a complicated car, but I showed him the controls once and then he took off like he’d always driven it, because that’s how his mind works. But then he came back and said, ‘Oh yeah, I forgot, when I retired they took away my keys to the shuttle.’ Oh well.”

Starting out early with old cars is a common theme with many enthusiasts. Mark Schneider, who lives in Owen Sound close to the Cobble Beach event, showed a 1912 Model T Touring car that has been in his family for more than 60 years. “Dad bought it in 1956, when he’d been in the hobby for 10 years,” he said. “He had a 1918 Model T that was his first car in 1947, and I still have that one too.”

As old as the 1918 Ford was, Schneider’s father wanted a car that was even older than that – a so-called “brass car,” as the 1912 Ford is. On those earlier models, the radiator and most of the exposed bright metal was brass; after 1915, most manufacturers started using nickel, and would eventually go to chrome. Brass cars still remain desirable among collectors today.

The elder Schneider drove the car for many years, but when it got weary, he put it away and started collecting parts with the intention of restoring it as a retirement project. That never happened, and when he died in 2003, “I picked up the ball,” Schneider said. “I started the restoration in 2008 with my son Reid. I was raised in the back of the Model T.” The cars are intended to stay in the family, although Schneider, who’s 62, said Reid “will have to fight his sister for them.”

Schneider is familiar with many old cars; his father also owned a 1939 Plymouth and a couple of Ford Model As, and Schneider’s first antique sports car was a 1972 MGB “that I fell apart on me, because I drove it into the ground.” But he likes the simplicity of the Model T, which Henry Ford designed to be inexpensive and easy to operate, and which basically put the world on wheels. Although some features like its acetylene headlamps were made in the U.S., the 1912 was built in Ford’s Canadian plant in Walkerville, now part of Windsor.

For all its simplicity, the 1912 Ford is an enormous car. Close by was the microcar class, where Kenn and Donna Poore displayed their 1962 Goggomobil. It and their seven other similarly-micro-sized cars all fit into their two-car garage in Sarnia, Ontario.

Microcars had a relatively brief fling after the Second World War, mostly in Europe and Britain. Their tiny engines sipped fuel, which was still in short supply; they were inexpensive; and they were usually taxed and licensed at lower rates. Despite its Italian-sounding name, the Goggomobil was built in Germany.

The car was pretty much restored when Poore bought it two years ago in Ohio, and he likes to do as much hands-on as he can, but parts are hard to find, and most must be ordered from Germany. The 10-inch tires were also a special order; an American company that specializes in vintage tires agreed to make them, but only if guaranteed a minimum of 100 tires. “A fellow in Tennessee ordered them and then offered them to the microcar clubs,” Poore said. “We bought six, and they were $125 a tire.”

The Goggomobil uses a two-cylinder, two-stroke engine that makes 14.8 horsepower. The day prior to the show, they’d gone on an old-vehicle tour. “We hit 55 miles per hour, and it felt like 155,” Poore said. “Driving it around town at home is okay, but I wouldn’t go down a highway alone if I wasn’t in a parade. It only weighs 900 pounds (408 kg).”

The couple started out with a 1932 American Austin Bantam, a tiny car built in Pennsylvania that they initially saw online, but were unaware of the larger world of microcars until a friend invited them to a show. “It opened our eyes and was a new world for us,” Kenn Poore said. “I love big cars, but little cars are fun. We’re social people. It’s fun to go to a show with one and have 100 questions asked about it.”

Chrome congregation at Cobble 9/25/2019 10:00:00 AM