On June 29, wagon master Fraser Field will round up more than 200 fellow travellers and ride out of town. That is, after the drivers of more than 100 vintage and classic vehicles dip their tires in the Pacific Ocean in Victoria, B.C., and drive to the ferry to the mainland. It will be the first leg of a long journey.
Approximately 8,000 kilometres down the highway, after crossing two mountain ranges, travelling across Canada’s Prairie provinces, through Ontario and Quebec and into the Maritimes, with a ferry ride to Newfoundland, the Canadian Coasters will dip their tires in the Atlantic Ocean at Cupids, Newfoundland. The trip should take 70 days.
The wagons are an assorted convoy of vintage vehicles at least 30 years old, with some dating back more than eight decades. Fraser Field, a former B.C. paramedic, drove his 1969 Pontiac ambulance across Canada on the 2000 tour and again on the last tour in 2010 – from Newfoundland to Victoria. The ambulance had put in years of service in Kellogg, Idaho.
This year, he has prepared another vintage ambulance with a long B.C. history. His 1948 Chevrolet one-ton ambulance/rescue vehicle went into service at the Sullivan Mine in the southeastern B.C. community of Kimberley on May 8, 1948. It cost the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company (Cominco) $2,441.24.
Raised on a dairy farm in Port Coquitlam, the handy ambulance owner has completely rebuilt the 1948 truck with modern running gear, including an updated 261-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine with computerized dual-tuned port injection coupled to a four-speed automatic transmission.
“I built it with common components so I can stop at auto wreckers along the way and get replacement parts if necessary,” Field says, a hint of pride in his voice.
He and wife Dorothy have spent five years organizing the Canadian Coasters Coast-to-Coast Tour, which will mark the 50th anniversary of the first trans-continental vintage vehicle tour that ended at Montreal’s Expo ’67 world fair. That was Canada’s centennial. This tour will commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday, with many communities along the way linking their Canada 150 celebrations to the passing tour.
“There is no other tour in the world like this one, with organizers in communities along the route holding events for us and making every day special,” Field enthuses. Overnight stops will largely be in campgrounds with visits to museums, special attractions and private car collections. For example, the tour will include the Rossland Mining Museum during a stop in Trail, B.C.
While in Ontario, participants will take the Manitoulin Island ferry on Lake Huron; nearby, they will also visit the nuclear generating station on the Bruce Peninsula that produces 30 per cent of Ontario’s electricity, and take in other attractions while travelling through the province.
“We encourage people to come out to look at the transportation of the past whenever we stop, and many communities organize their own car shows for us to participate in,” Field says.
Joann Villeneuve, wife of the late legendary racecar driver Gilles Villeneuve and mother of F1 champion Jacques, has agreed to lend her support and name as Honourary Chairman of the 2017 Coast-to-Coast Tour. She is chairman of the planned Villeneuve Automotive Museum and will host an event for the tour in Montreal.
“The Coasters is a fabulous organization of great people from all walks of life and every part our nation, united in their passion for showcasing our automotive heritage, which is exactly the mission of our planned museum,” she says.
Oddities on the tour will include a 1929 Plymouth converted to an electric car; it will be carried in the back of a van and driven out during stopovers because of the lack of charging stations along the way. Other interesting vehicles include a 1940 Ford panel van originally used by the Victoria Police Department as a paddy wagon, a 1938 Ford sedan and a 1958 Austin Cambridge.
Two Ford Skyliner retractable hardtop convertibles from B.C. will make the trip – a 1957 model owned by Abbotsford’s Rick Cathro and a 1959 model owned for 30 years by South Surrey residents Alec and Yvonne Pont.
“It’s the trip of a lifetime and a chance to see rural parts of the country we may never see,” Alec Pont says.
Two vintage buses on the tour include a 1954 Greyhound and a 1967 Trailways towing a 1948 Jeep. John Carlson, president and chief judge of the National Association of Automobile Clubs of Canada (NAACC), and wife Koko from Belcarra, will be participating in their unrestored original 1973 Mustang, once owned by the wife of a former Saskatchewan premier.
“This tour is a NAACC-sanctioned event that also commemorates the 50th anniversary of the National Association of Automobile Clubs of Canada. We are grateful for the dedication and hard work of wagon masters Fraser and Dorothy Field, “ John Carlson says. All but 16 of the participants will be towing trailers for camping along the way. Others will be booked into motels.
“We are like a family on the tour,” Fraser Field says.
Several of the Coasters were on the original tour in 1967 when they were kids. The oldest participant is 82. Among the youngest will be the Fields’ grandson Lucas, who will have lots of new friends, as there are four other young grandchildren on the tour and a hundred grandmothers to give them cookies and hugs.
Since the tours are planned every 10 years, the 68-year-old wagon master hopes he will be able to take in the next one. He believes driving coast-to-coast across Canada and back again with new and old friends is a great way to celebrate Canada’s driving heritage and the country’s 150th birthday.
Alyn Edwards is a classic car enthusiast and partner in Peak Communicators, a Vancouver-based public relations company. [email protected]