Thursday, August 21, 2014

Canadian Automotive Museum & Memories

The city of Oshawa is famous for General Motors and the McLaughlin family. Sam McLaughlin, founder of the McLaughlin Motor Car Company in 1907 lived to be over 100 years old. He became president of General Motors Canada in 1918 and continued his affiliation with the company until well into the 1960's. How amazing it must have been for him to see his vision turn into such a massive manufacturing facility!

I lived in Pickering in the 60's, not too far away, but sadly, was too young, too disinterested and too unaware of automobiles and their assembly to be curious. I knew nothing of the McLaughlin family's history and as far as I was concerned, Oshawa was so far away that it might as well have been on another planet.***

To this day, if I'm to be honest I don't really bother with automobiles. My previous car was purchased after I drove past a Ford dealership and liked the look, colour and features. I don't rush off to shopping mall parking lots where old cars are gathered en masse and people proudly display their refurbished vehicles.

Having said all that, I recently had occasion to go to the Canadian Automotive Museum. The occasion was my attempt to amuse an 18 year old male visitor without totally breaking the bank. I checked tripadvisor and discovered that this was ranked the number four attraction in Oshawa. Admission was reasonable and despite being located in the heart of downtown, there was free onsite parking.

As soon as I walked inside, I was astounded. The old (not old as in parking lot gathering old, but really, really old) vehicles were fascinating. They were huge, beautifully constructed and ornate. I was also amazed at how many were actually built in Canada. 
These are some of the more basic earlier vehicles
Hubby was most excited to spot this vehicle. It was a Buick Roadmaster, one of only twenty-seven  remaining in the world. He told the story of when he was young in New York. He recalled riding to the lake in this type of car with the neighbour's son Freddy Werner. What he remembered most vividly was when Freddy drove home from work one day, honking his horn, displaying American flags and yelling that the war was over.

Then we got to a generation of vehicles which I remember fairly well. As soon as I saw this, I recognized what it was. I'd seen an amphicar this exact colour a few times  as it drove into Frenchman's Bay near my home. Imagine that...a car that could also motor through water. What fun! And yet, if you thought a convertible alone would ruin your do, imagine riding this through water with 60's poofed up hair á la the movie 'Hairspray'.
The Automotive Museum has unfortunately outgrown its space. There have been so many wonderful donations that some areas are cramped at best. For example, who would want to hide away this memorable 1960's lemon yellow Corvair. My dad owned the four door silver version. I think it should be on display front and centre don't you agree?
Ah yes, so many interesting things to see and so many memories. There were cars and limos which once carried royalty and then there was the DeLorean, a stainless steel sports car with gull wing doors. There had been a lot of controversy surrounding this model of car, finances and its owner. The DeLorean's biggest claim to fame has to have been its starring role in the movie 'Back To The Future' where Doc Brown turns it into a time machine.

What a thrill it was to actually see a real DeLorean. This one, a 1982 coupe had been donated to the museum. It had very low mileage...under 2000.  

Then, as we were leaving I noticed something else which I remembered. It was an old gas pump displaying the price of twenty-nine cents a gallon. When I first moved to Pickering, gas was twenty-nine cents a gallon at the Fina station on the corner of Liverpool Road and Bayly. Gallons were definitely cheaper than our current litres.
Too often, we ignore the attractions that are closest to us. A lot of people say that it takes having company for them to see the many wonderful tourist sites available around them. How true this is. It was particularly the case for me. This was truly a wonderful experience and not one that I would have normally selected for myself. I recommend it to anyone. In fact, I soon as I write my own tripadvisor review.
***I had young person's view of distance to be sure. Oshawa was about 15 kilometres away, plus there was not much public transportation in the 'burbs back then. Can you say Gray Coach bus? Those were even the days prior to the existence of GO transit.

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