Cool cars and hot rods

Ken Tamburini shows off his 1969 Mercury Cougar at an A&W Cruisin’ the Dub gathering this spring at North Ridge Plaza. The fast-food restaurant is a meeting place for cool cars every Wednesday evening this summer.  - GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin
Ken Tamburini shows off his 1969 Mercury Cougar at an A&W Cruisin’ the Dub gathering this spring at North Ridge Plaza. The fast-food restaurant is a meeting place for cool cars every Wednesday evening this summer.
— image credit: GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

There are a lot of ways to have fun on four wheels – just ask anyone who’s a member of a car club in Nanaimo.

The Harbour City offers a lot of different ways to shine up and show off any type of automobile, with numerous car clubs in the region.

“There’s the Ford clubs, there’s Chevelle clubs, there’s Cadillac clubs, there’s British car clubs, then you have your specialty car shows,” said Ken Tamburini, who likes to bring his 1969 Mercury Cougar to the weekly A&W Cruisin’ the Dub gatherings at North Ridge Plaza.

There are auto enthusiasts and collector cars in any city, but it’s especially noticeable on Vancouver Island, Tamburini said.

“On the mainland, there’s so many people, it’s so congested, you never see it. Nobody would take their vehicles out,” he said. “But here, yeah, you see it. Small-town feeling, big-time show.”

The parking lot outside the fast-food restaurant becomes a car show every Wednesday night during the summer. A&W offers a free root beer for anyone who participates.

“And then that entices you to go into the A&W and have a burger and some onion rings. That’s what I did tonight,” said Tamburini.

Motorists bring lawn chairs or wander around and chat.

“We’re sharing knowledge on the cars, making them better, more driveable, quicker,” said Ryan MacLeod, who brings in his modified drag-racer 1979 Chevrolet Malibu. “It keeps everybody in the same loop.”

They talk about the cars they brought, the cars they left at home, other cars they’ve had over the years, maintenance, parts, restoration, modification.

“And stories,” said Tamburini. “Because there’s 50 years of stories in those cars, right?”

Sometimes even more than 50 years. Brad McLuskie, past-president of the Nanaimo chapter of the Vintage Car Club of Canada, loves driving his 1950 Ford F1 pickup truck hot rod.

A vintage vehicle is generally defined as one 25 years or older, but anyone can join the club.

“They don’t even have to have a car, just car interest,” McLuskie said.

His group has a clubhouse at Nanoose Bay and they get together to share information, participate in shows, or just go for a drive. The cruising is McLuskie’s favourite part, he said.

“We did a cruise [this month] that was 17 of us that just wound through all these outer roads and the rural roads,” he said.

Some car club members drive farther than others. Cathy Gislason, chairwoman of the local chapter of the Old English Car Club, was getting ready to leave this month on a 3,000-kilometre road trip through B.C. and into Alberta with club members. She drives a 1966 Austin-Healey Sprite and her husband drives a 1966 Sunbeam Tiger and they join in the motorcade at the Empire Days parade every year. Club members participate in other car shows in the area, and put on their own Brits on the Beach car show in Ladysmith every summer.

The Old English Car Club has regular meetings, too, but “it’s not really a meeting,” said Gislason. “It’s just kind of, ‘Let’s get together with our cars,’ and we go and we have a picnic. We usually talk about cars; people stop and talk to us.

“For me it’s the social aspect. Lots of people know lots of things about these cars and they have a passion for it.”

Sharing that passion, finding that like-mindedness, is a reason MacLeod enjoys bringing his Malibu to the cruise-ins.

“Everybody likes the cars,” he said. “It keeps us all together. It’s sort of like our cult following: we get together, talk cars and have fun.”

Tamburini said he’s been enthusiastic about cars his whole life. He’d drive them, race them, beat up on them and have fun in them, and when he bought his ’69 Cougar, it was every bit as cool a car as he remembered.

“When I brought it home, it was like being back in 1985…” he said. “It was like bringing you back to your youth again.”

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