For Gordon Stewart of Telkwa, cars have been a passion for as long as he can remember.
“My dad liked mechanics and so I got into mechanics and then I got into cars,” Stewart explained.
The most recent result of that passion is a fully restored 1935 Ford two-door slantback, a project that occupied him happily for four years.
Silver with red trim on the side panels, doors and back hatch, the car looks like it just rolled off the production line.
“Everybody says it looks really pretty,” Stewart said pointing to the slant back
“I think it is, I’m very happy with it.”
Stewart’s skill at rebuilding vehicles is evidenced by a stack of trophies, twelve of which are for a ‘35 Ford truck, earned at various car shows throughout B.C., including Smithers, Prince George and Vancouver Island.
The truck took six years to rebuild.
One of his favourite projects, a 1930 model A Roadster pickup, was completed in 1962 and featured in the magazine Popular Hot Rodding. The car still survives in the care of a friend in Victoria.
“It looks just the same as when I built it, he keeps it in real nice condition,” Stewart said fondly of the roadster.
Re-building cars is just in his blood, Stewart said, when asked what it was about the hobby that motivated him.
“I was always into cars and liked to play with that sort of stuff,” he said standing in his garage, with shelves loaded with trophies from his racing days which included building a 200 mph dragster with his buddies.
“We went all over B.C.and the states to race.”
Prior to arriving in Telkwa, Stewart ran the family bakery in Victoria, Willie’s Bakery on Johnston Street, which still operates today. Although he enjoyed working in the bakery, working around flour for 25 years took its toll on his lungs and so he decided to move to Telkwa.
While in Victoria , Stewart, 74, a retired truck driver, became involved in hot rods at the age of 19 when he started the Century Toppers car club with his friends.
Although he is passionate about rebuilding cars, Stewart admitted, with a chuckle, there’s nothing easy about any facet of rebuilding a car.
For example, the newly finished car and the truck, he said were just bodies when he found them.
“For the car I had to get the frame from somewhere else and the truck didn’t have fenders on it,” he said.
Probably the biggest challenge of rebuilding cars or trucks is finding parts, Stewart explained.
Finding the right part, whether it be a grill, hood or something else, especially an original part, involves scouring the landscape across the province.
Once the parts are found, they have to be cleaned up, with metal parts from bolts and nuts to frames being sandblasted.
Engine mounts have to be refrabricated to suit the new engine being installed.
For the pieces that can’t be found, or can’t be salvaged, there are manufacturers who specialize in making aftermarket parts that resemble vintage parts.
Another element to be considered is the type of engine to put in the vehicle. For the slantback, Stewart decided to go with a GM 350 V8 with fuel injection.
“Apparently they get really good mileage,” he said.
Although the vehicles are in mint condition, Stewart does take the truck out for drives and has every intention of driving the Ford slantback, around town and on longer trips, even to Vancouver Island.
Although the trips can be lengthy, there is one big rule that is never broken, ever.
No eating or drinking allowed.
“None of that stuff, we don’t want any accidents,” he said, shaking his head.
Who can blame him.
Stewart figures he has invested about $50,000 in the car and another $50,000 in the truck, significant investments not to be tarnished by a coffee or ketchup stain.
Despite his last two projects taking the better part of his spare time for the last 10 years, Stewart isn’t taking a break.
In his barn there’s a 35 Ford four-door sedan waiting for his attention.
“It’s a barn find,” Stewart said.
“It’s as if someone drove it into the barn, turned the key off and walked away.”
As for advice to anyone contemplating on taking up car rebuilding as a hobby, Stewart went straight to the heart of the matter.
“All the power to them, but they have to realize they need a shop to do this and all the tools and equipment,” he said.
In addition to the right tools, Stewart added one more key item.
“It just takes time,” he said.