When 13-year-old Jason Venier heard his parents were going to sell the family’s car he knew he had to do something.
The 1973 Plymouth 340 Duster had only known life as a car in the Venier family. It had brought Venier and his sister home from the hospital in Trail after they were born, it was thickly saturated with memories of numerous family camping holidays, and it was silent sentinel at nearly all of Venier’s experiences in his young life at that point.
So at the tender age of 13, Venier petitioned his mom to stop his dad from selling the car, and instead hold onto it for a few more years.
He succeeded, and two years later Venier had amassed the $4,000 needed to buy the car — through money he earned on his Trail Daily Times paper route and working at the Home Hardware — and the car was his.
He had the car bought and paid for a whole year before he was old enough to drive it.
“I drove that car up and down the driveway for a whole summer until I got my driver’s license,” he said.
Although Venier’s Duster won’t be in the West Kootenay Smoke and Steel fourth annual Cruiszn the Columbia Car Show in Gyro Park this Saturday (10 a.m. start), he will have one of his six vintage vehicles in fine form for the show.
Over 100 vehicles are expected to show up and shine in the annual event, part of the West Kootenay Smoke and Steel’s contribution to the love affair of the automobile, and a free sentimental and nostalgic trip down memory lane for others.
It has been nostalgia that has drawn each of Venier’s vehicles into his backyard stable. His 1968 Chevy Camaro was bought brand new by Trail’s former fire chief Darryl Casey, then sold to Venier’s uncle before Venier himself bought it two years ago.
His 1968 sport Plymouth Satellite convertible — the vehicle Venier will bring if the rain holds off for the day — was once known as the fastest street vehicle in Kelowna with its 440 cubic-inch engine.
Like most of the 40 members in the Smoke and Steel car club, Venier loves older vehicles. From his 1968 Ford Vailant V200 to his 1966 Polara, or his vintage jukebox machine from the Elk’s Hall, Venier relishes nostalgic items, and cars in particular.
“Everybody seems to come into something they are comfortable with. I just seemed to be really comfortable with the older vehicles and I quite enjoy them.”
Once a journeyman mechanic, he began rebuilding the Duster’s engine in high school automotive class, then working with some of the best mechanical minds in the business after graduation.
He apprenticed with Dennis Yablonski in Fruitvale, moving on to Henry Reimer at Civic Auto in Nelson, then pulled wrenches at Genelle Marine Repair with Ron Giles, and finally finished his mechanic career at Kootenay Chrysler before landing at Teck as a lead tapper last year.
Although he enjoyed his years of work and the people he learned with, the older cars were what he really wanted to work on but they never came through the shop. So he went out and bought them and began working on them at home in his well-equipped home garage.
“I’m really sentimental in that respect. Maybe I live in the past,” he said.
Venier inherited his love for older cars from his dad, Peter, who always had some of the “coolest” cars around Trail in the 1960s. Now, after haunting car shows since he was 16 years old, the 32-year-old Venier has found feeling nostalgic for a bygone era brings him a precious gift in the present: some of his best friends were found reminiscing over the fender of a vintage piece of steel.
“Sometimes you go to some of those shows and it gives you a taste of what life could have been like back in that day, before there was internet and cell phones and you could just go down and talk to your friends, and you used to drive around in your car and go cruising or to the car hop restaurants,” he said.
“At these shows it’s not even really about the car, it’s about the people and how much fun you have and how many memories you had in that car,” he said.