By Lyonel Doherty
We’ve all been a victim of “you snooze, you lose.” But when it comes to classic cars, Bart Spruyt made sure he didn’t when he found a 1974 Toyota Corolla for sale.
Actually, it was his son that spied it one day in the back of a used car lot in Mission.
“I told my son to grab it,” Spruyt said while showing it off at the Cactus Jalopies custom car show in Osoyoos last weekend.
Countless people marveled at the little orange beauty, decked out with an old surfboard on the roof and some plastic French fries, hamburgers and soft drinks on a window tray. It’s a nostalgic touch that gets people talking.
The former Toyota mechanic from Victoria fell in love with the car the moment he saw it for a thousand bucks. He noted the two-door wagon was scarce, so he didn’t bat an eye handing over the money.
Spruyt put about $10,000 into the car, with a new driveline and “hopped up” engine featuring dual carburetors and high-compression pistons. He made a custom roof rack to hold a vintage surfboard and plastered the back windows with Hawaii stickers.
“It’s got lots of power and drives great,” Spruyt said proudly, noting it has a 5-speed transmission.
“We were following a big Buick hotrod (to the Okanagan) and he couldn’t shake us.”
Spruyt admitted that he was nailed with a speeding ticket one time while driving the Corolla to a car show in Victoria.
The Toyota enthusiast said he’s attended many car shows in the past but really likes Cactus Jalopies. “I like the laid-back attitude,” Spruyt said, noting that many vintage car shows are too regimented with too many rules.
People like the fact the show accepts basically anything, as long as it’s somewhat original. It can even be something you are working on with lots of rust. Car buffs appreciate all of the creativity that the show welcomes.
“It’s my first time here, and I really enjoy it,” said Spruyt. “I’ll be coming back next year.”
When asked what his favourite car was at the show, he couldn’t pick one. But he really liked an old station wagon parked beside him.
“There are so many nice cars that it’s hard to say which one I like best.”
Another entry that many people commented on was a 1957 American LaFrance fire truck.
Many prizes were handed out at the show. For example, it was noted that one participant, Chester Ferris in a New Yorker, came all the way from Mesa, Arizona, the farthest that anyone travelled to attend the show. Ferris is known as a man of many characters, and last weekend he wore several suits and played the part of each character.
After the show on Saturday, most if not all participants took part in a parade lap at Area 27, the new racetrack in Oliver.
Osoyoos resident Dean Gauthier took his 1947 Chevrolet pickup truck with a dog named “Tucker” in the back.
Cactus Jalopies organizer Francine Launier said the show was a great success, attracting 365 vehicles, and a total of 436 if you count the drag racing contingent.
She noted the show is becoming so popular because of the range of activities it offers, such as bowling, shopping for the ladies, drag racing and wine tours.
“Some wineries said there were too many cars (to accommodate).”
Next year’s plans include the welcoming reception to be held at J.F. Launier’s new shop that he intends to build, said Francine.
No doubt the highlight of the weekend was the parade laps at Area 27, she pointed out.
“A big thank you to Area 27. Everyone was so excited (to do the laps),” Francine said.