Classic cars offer drive ‘back through time’
When Ed Halvorsen is behind the wheel of a 1930 Ford Model ‘A’, it’s like taking a trip back in time.
“I always tell people: life goes by so fast. Why not get in a car that only does 25-30 m.p.h.?” the local classic car enthusiast and member of the International Early Iron Car Club reasoned Monday.
“There was always old cars around our house, and my older brothers had cars of some sort,” he recalled.
“Old cars were a big item out in the country here.”
But about 15 years ago, Halvorsen’s interest turned into a serious and now long-standing hobby of restoring classic cars.
Halvorsen restored his first 1930 Ford Model ‘A’ car. Over the years that followed, he restored two more, with the most recent being completed about four years ago.
“They have flowing lines. The ones previous to that were like a horse buggy sort of a car,” Halvorsen said in explaining the appeal of the Ford Model ‘A’.
It has taken Halvorsen up to four years to restore one of the Model ‘A’ cars since he usually only has time to work on them in the winter. The rest of the year, he’s too busy in his profession as a carpenter.
Each car also took varying degrees of work. The most recent Model ‘A’ he got from Saskatchewan, for instance, had its back end cut out to make it into a sort of mini-pickup truck.
Halvorsen said that during Word War II, people could get gas rations if they had trucks, but not for their cars.
“So the people out in the Prairies used to cut the back out and put a little box in there,” he noted.
“They used it to haul cream cans. It would qualify as being a truck.
“I heard that had happened in more than one place, so it was an interesting thing to find this one that was all cut out,” added Halvorsen.
“I actually found the back part of another car and we welded that back in.”
Halvorsen said he tried his best to get original parts for his cars, with his three Model ‘A’ Fords about 90 percent original.
Although replacement parts are available, they just don’t fit as good as the originals, he noted.
While restoring a classic car takes time in its own right, part of the challenge is tracking down parts.
Halvorsen said he and other car club members go to swap meets in Winnipeg, Grand Rapids, Mn., Bemidji, Mn., and Iola, Wis., to name just a few, which often are held in conjunction with car shows.
“It’s quite a process. You’re constantly on the lookout,” chuckled Halvorsen, noting that sometimes you find the parts you want and sometimes you have to settle for finding pieces of those parts.
But at the end of the day, trips to these swap meets/shows are “all good fun.”
“You see what people are fixing, and there’s cars for sale,” noted Halvorsen.
“And you meet a lot of really nice people at these swap meets,” he added. “Everybody’s got a story, and it’s all pretty interesting.”
Those who have been to the Scott Street “Show ’n Shine” and the annual “Fly-in, Drive-in BBQ” out at the airport likely will have seen at least one of Halvorsen’s Model ‘A’s Fords as he tries to get them out at local events as much as possible.
“The more cars, the better,” he reasoned. “It’s good for the people to see different styles, even from the same year.”
But Halvorsen admitted that unlike some of other newer models other enthusiasts restore, he can’t drive his 1930 Model ‘A’ Fords to faraway shows.
“I don’t go very far with them. It’s not like a normal car you can just drive down there,” he explained, adding he has driven them to Emo and Barwick.
Although the cars could be pushed to 55 m.p.h., it’s much more comfortable to drive them at 35-40 m.p.h. along the River Road (Highway 602) where there’s not too much traffic.
“You could drive wherever you want. It’s not like they’re going to break down on you,” he noted.
“It’s just that it takes you so long.
“They don’t have a good heater in them—this time of year would be pretty cold,” Halvorsen added.
“All it has is a little trap door for the heater, so whatever comes off the motor,” he smiled.
While some classic cars buffs put modern amenities inside their vehicles, Halvorsen said he likes keeping the cars as authentic as possible.
“When you’re cruising around in something like this, the point is you want to get away from the radios and the TVs and everything else,” he chuckled.
Halvorsen conceded the classic car hobby does cost money, although not as much as some people might think.
But at the end of the day, all hobbies, including hunting and fishing, carry a price tag. And while you often don’t get back the money you put into that hobby, it doesn’t matter as long as you enjoy it.
“I think it’s the style of [the classic cars], the lines, that I like,” Halvorsen remarked. “It’s far away from what I do [as a carpenter].
“It’s kind of a break, I guess.”
And it’s especially worth it when he can take the children and younger members of his family out for a ride in a vintage automobile.
“It’s something the average kid doesn’t experience—a ride in a car that’s 80 years old,” Halvorsen enthused.
Halvorsen said he has no interest in selling his three Model ‘A’ Fords, but he is moving ahead with new restoration projects.
Next up is a 1955 Ford Thunderbird, which he hopes to have on the road sometime this spring, and a 1928 Ford Roadster pickup truck.
He also has his eye on a 1969 Mustang, which he might not need to fix up much and can just enjoy cruising around in.
“They don’t all need to have a lot of money put into them to enjoy them,” he stressed.
“I think that’s one of misconceptions—that you have to spend four years to get a car finished so that you can enjoy it.
“But you can enjoy one that runs and you can drive up and down the highway—and has a heater,” Halvorsen added.
“In this case, I’ll think we’ll have this one just to drive.”
Halvorsen, meanwhile, has been a member of the International Early Iron Car Club for as long as he has been restoring cars, and recommended anyone with an interest in such automobiles to join.
“You get together with people that have the same interests,” he explained.
“There’s some really nice people, good people in the car club.”
Halvorsen said club members network to not only to share what they’re working on, but where to get parts, where upcoming swap meets and shows are, and so on.
They also get together for cruises, take people on ride-alongs, and go out for dinner at times.
Members also have been reaching out to Fort Frances High School tech students to promote the club to the younger generation and get them involved.
The club has been sponsoring bursaries for the last few years for students showing promise in the automotive/mechanical fields, and also has waived car club memberships for youth who want to join.
Membership normally is only $15/year.
Halvorsen said there is a lot of interest in classic cars out there, and in fact, there’s quite a few people in the district have them but are not a part of the club.
He added anyone is welcome to join the club—they don’t even have to own a classic car.
The club meets the first Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. (the location varies from month to month).
Those interested can contact vice-president Jim Sheppard (274-4997) or any other club member.