CHEMIN DU ROY
OLD CAR HEAVEN
I hadn't gone too far out of Repentigny when I came to yet another shuddering halt ... "you'll get used to this" - ed ... and it wasn't for the Salle de Montre sign either, although that did become Lesson II of my "Teach Yourself Québecois" course on my Facebook page
The reason for the shuddering halt was the nature of what was available to see in the Salle de Montre, or Salon d'Exposition for those of you who speak Français de Paris.
Just so that there is no mistake or misunderstanding, the proprietor of the Salle de Montre had arranged some advertising exhibits outside his premises to catch the attention of any passers-by.
It clearly can't have worked as well as he would have liked because I do not understand at all how it came to be that I drove down this road in September 2011 and missed all of this. I don't know what it was that I must have been doing.
This red car is a 1973 Buick Riviera and if you like it as much as I do you can take it away for a mere $3900. It's a typical American "gas guzzler" from the days immediately prior to the oil wars with the Middle East and so probably at the extreme technical and technological epitome of self-indulgence.
Regardless of any of that, it's the rear end and the shape of the rear windscreen that does it for me. I stood outside and drooled over this for a good ten minutes.
This however is much more my style. It's a Studebaker Champion, from the same people who built the covered wagons in the mid-19th Century. I forgot to note the date of manufacture but I reckon it has to be something round about the early 1950s.
It's powered by a V6 engine and 3-speed manual gearbox, and has done about 67000 miles from new, so we are told. A snip at just $4900.
Fans of the early James Bond films starring Sean Connery will have seen dozens of these cars before. This is a 1967 Plymouth Fury and I think that this is the model of car favoured by Felix Leiter and his pals in the CIA, from what I remember.
This is a high-mileage machine of course, having covered all of 84000 miles, or just under 2000 miles each year since new and this will cost you all of $6900.
I managed to button-hole the proprietor of the garage and explained that I was writing a travelogue, and so even though I had no intention of buying anything he invited me to go for a wander around the Salle de Montre. "Just don't climb on the cars or open the doors".
This is where all of the expensive cars are kept, and I do mean "expensive" too. There isn't one car in here that cost less than the price of the house in which I live.
Well maybe there is. Perhaps I'm exaggerating. This dark red one here with the vinyl roof (and that immediately dates it, doesn't it?) is a 1974 Cadillac Coupe de Ville and it's yours for a mere $12900.
This is another car with a certain significance for fans of the James Bond films, only this time featuring Roger Moore, who wasn't a patch on Sean Connery but I digress ... "You? Digress? Perish the thought!" - ed ....
In the film where he goes to New York to confront the "two-bit island diplomat" and his mystical girlfriend who reads the future in the cards, and on the way into the city Bond's chauffeur is shot by the driver of a passing car, this is an example of "the passing car", or "pimpmobile" as Felix Leiter so eloquently called it.
What was the name of that film? E- if you know.
Station wagons - the American version of what I would call estate cars - have always had an intense fascination for me, even though they don't often have the same kind of stylishness as a saloon.
However, you can't criticise this 1955 Mercury Monterey "woody" on that account. It really is beautiful. I was sorely tempted to take this one home with me but the price tag of $33900 put me off somewhat, even if it did only have 11000 miles on the clock.
And ... ohhh blimey! I would take this one back home with me in a heartbeat, even if it is all of $39900 and it's a car that originally came from Europe. Leaving aside the issue for the moment that it doesn't have the novelty value of being an American car, this is by far and away the best car in the showroom.
In case you haven't twigged already, this is a Rolls Royce and not just any Rolls-Royce either but a 1935 Rolls-Royce 20/25 6-cylinder 4-speed manual. I'm not sure about the body because in those days it was usual practice for these vehicles to have real coach-built bodies made-to-measure and I swear, even though no-one ever believes me when I say this, that I have on one occasion seen a Rolls-Royce from this era fitted with a van body.
But let's return to the issue in hand. This vehicle is right-hand-drive so it must have been made for the British market - after all, Canada changed over to left-hand-drive in the early 1920s - and it is in fact carrying a British number plate on the boot lid - BYT 788. If only I can now find my 1972 copy of "Glass's Guide For the Motor Trade - Yearbook" (working for an Insurance company between 1972 and 1974 did give me a few intrinsic benefits) that registration number will tell me (and you) so much more about the vehicle. My 1959 Motor Trader's Handbook does however tell me that the BYT series of numbers was issued in London in July and August 1935 so it might even be the original registration.
29500 miles on the clock, by the way. half of which were, presumably, added while the car was being driven to Canada. Laugh as you may, but back in those days motorists were much more intrepid than they are now and it would be no surprise to me to learn that this Roller arrived in Montreal via Moscow, Vladivostock and Alaska.
As an aside ... "here we go again" - ed ... you probably might like to know that the formative years of my life were spent in a small village called Shavington, which is just 4 miles away from where the Rolls-Royce factory used to be when it was in Crewe.
So having spent 10 minutes drooling over the Roller, it's time to continue our voyage around the "Salle de Montre" and our next stop is at this particular beast. This is a 1938 Cadillac Fleetwood with quite a high mileage for a vehicle in here - all of 105000 - although seeing as it is a V8, and presumably a low-compression long-stroke side-valve fitted with a manual 3-speed gearbox, 105000 miles means that it probably isn't even run in yet.
If you want to take this home with you, you can have it for a mere $39900. Of course, you would have to call it Mick, wouldn't you?
As yet another aside, this would be the North American equivalent of the Rolls-Royce above, and although it is only 3 years newer, the body styling is light years apart. Whether you go for the more modern look or whether you go for the traditonal, classic appeal, you have to admit that the British motor manufacturers had a lot of catching up to do.
In fact, at the end of World War II the British were still churning out cars designed in the 1930s and maybe even earlier. You had to wait for the "next generation" of British cars at the end of the 1940s, the Ford V8 Pilots, Vauxhall Wyverns and Standard Vanguards, to see vehicles like this in the UK.
We're back in the more modern stuff again over here, and this is another car that I would like to put my hands on. It's a 1956 Chrysler New Yorker Convertible, with 53500 miles on the clock and quite a snip at $27900 to you, my boy.
It's in need of a little TLC, as are most of the vehicles in here, by the way, but then again you wouldn't expect to pay $27900 for one of these in mint condition, would you?
It reminds me ... "ohhh God!" - ed ... of an event that took place in my life back in the mid-1990s. I was staying with friends in Nice on the South of France and we had decided to go out for the evening, so they arranged for a babysitter. And when the babysitter turned up ... well, she was only a teenager but she was stunningly beautiful with long dark brown hair down to her waist. In fact, a certain phrase involving athletes and those canine companions of purveyors of meat and poulty springs readily to mind.
When we returned, my friends asked me to drive her home (I don't drink alcohol) and they offered me the keys to the XR3i that they had. Well, badger that for a game of cowboys - I took the BMW convertible, lowered the hood, and drove her three times up and down the Promenade des Anglais on her way home (which, to tell the truth, was only 5 minutes away, but that really wasn't the point).
Of course I stopped at every red light and every road junction to let everyone see me with this beautiful nymphette in the passenger seat, and I could hear the whispers going something along the lines of "look at that rich old bald-headed b*st*rd with that 'belle nana' in the passenger seat. He must be rolling in money to be able to pull a young bint like that, the filthy swine!". You have no idea at all what that did for my ego, and I lived off the prestige for weeks. I still dine out on the story even now ... "you don't say!" - ed.
And so what does that have to do with the Chrysler New Yorker? Well, the mid-90s were a long time ago but I still remember the occasion vividly. I would need the Chrysler, and probably a lot more than that as well, to recapture my lost youth. I was a fool to have let her go.
Anyway, let's be a little more realistic and turn our attention to this car. It's a 1936 Dodge Business Coupe and it's yours for only $24900. I forgot to note the mileage by the way but I don't suppose that that is all that important on a car that's 76 years old.
Film buffs and movie-goers will probably recognise this vehicle too. Unless I am very much mistaken (which, believe me, has happened on one or two occasions) it's the same kind of vehicle that Humphrey Go-kart alias Philip Marlowe drove in The Big Sleep.
There's something else in here that is within my budget too, and this is this 1951 Mercury. It's priced at only $14900 which seems to be something of a reasonable price for me to buy a piece of North American motoring heritage.
Once more, I forgot to note the mileage but for a 60 year-old V8 flat-head, which is North American for what I would call side-valve, with three-speed manual gearbox, that's not very important at all. I also forgot to note the model.
Have you noticed that the front doors are standard doors but the rear doors are what are commonly called "suicide doors"? You might think that that is quaint and historic but just nip outside and take a close look at a modern American extended-cab pick-up.
Moving further down the line, I stop at this nice bronze sedan with typical late-1950s American body styling. This is a 1958 (my guess about the year was pretty good but it wasn't really all that difficult) Pontiac Parisien and this is another car that had me drooling. I'd take this one home too, if I could.
Having said that, however, I clearly have expensive tastes that don't go anywhere near matching my wallet, because this would set me back a good $39900. Even if it does only have 18293 miles on the clock, I still couldn't justify paying that much money for this particular car.
I also stumble across a couple more Rolls-Royces here, but these are much more modern than the 20/25 back there in the far corner.
The maroon and beige one is a 1973 Silver Shadow, yours for only $19900 which doesn't seem at all to be a bad price, and the dark green one is a 1981 Silver Spirit which you can have for a mere $24900.
The Spirit, by the way, is advertised as having a fitted radio cassette. What kind of selling point is that? When you consider how much you had to pay for one of these when it was new, most people would be expecting to find their own personal string quartet sitting on the back seat.
I have something of a prejudice against the Silver Shadow. This was the model that replaced the legendary Silver Cloud, the last Rolls-Royce that looked like a real car. When they launched the Silver Shadow in the late 1960s, everyone's jaw, including mine, dropped. It looked like nothing more and nothing less than an oversized and upmarket BMC 1300 and when BMC launched the Vanden Plas 1300, one of which is quietly languishing in my barn, I'm afraid that as far as I was concerned, this was the beginning of the end for Rolls Royce.
You may say that even Rolls-Royce has to move with the times, but I don't agree at all. A real Rolls-Royce will still stand out from the crowd even today, despite the fact that they stopped making them 45 years ago. A modern Roller looks just like any other big car.
There is however a delighful story about the legendary British golfer Tony Jacklin turning up at Crewe back in those days to look at the new range of Rolls-Royces. Sensing a sale and some free publicity, the company lent him a demonstration model so that he could drive in style to his next tournament and be seen by the world at large in one of Crewe's finest.
After the tournament, on his way back to Crewe, he stopped to pick up a hitch-hiker, and of course the hitch-hiker was overwhelmed by being given a lift in a Roller. The two of them talked about the car for much of the journey and Jacklin delighted in telling his passenger everything about all of the fittings and accessories of the car.
Eventually the passenger pointed to a couple of plastic things on the dashboard. "What are those?"
"They are tees" replied Jacklin.
"What are they for?"
"You put your balls on them when you are ready to drive off".
"Blimey!" exclaimed the hitch-hiker. "Rolls-Royce think of everything, don't they?"
I Don't know all that much really about North American cars, but I do know something about North Americans. If you want to sell a car to an American, you can call it a Parisien or a New Yorker because most Americans know where Paris and New York are, and the names are rather chic.
However, I bet that almost nobody south of 48°40' would have any clue at all about the significance of the word "Laurentian" and so my guess would be that this 1960 Pontiac Laurentian may well be a car that was destined only for the Canadian market. If that is the case, then this car is of special interest because of its potential rarity value. I know that I had never heard of such a car before meeting this one.
It's also of special interest because of its price tag - just $11900, but its rarity value works against it because it looks as if the interior has been partly eaten by rats. I wouldn't know where to begin to try to find another interior, unless there's an equivalent car that was sold on the USA market. I don't think that any European seamstress or trimmer would be able to recapture the authentic North-American look.
That's a shame really. At that price I could have been very tempted to enter into further discussions about a really interesting North-American motoring curio.
In the song "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" the couple singing it argue about
"My country estate..."
"Well I want ..."
and I bet that they weren't arguing about this particular vehicle, because, believe it or not, this IS a country estate.
It's a 1954 Ford Country Estate and this is another vehicle that I would love to have on my my own country estate back in France. It really is beautiful and it would set me back a mere $16900. I am of course a 1954 model and I wish that I looked half as good as this.
Pride of place, right in the doorway where people like me can peer in and have a nosey when the Salle de Montre is closed goes to another Cadillac Fleetwood. This one is a 1951 model, and by comparing it with the 1938 model above, you can see by how much American car design has advanced in the intervening years. Britain in 1951 was still struggling to catch up with American pre-war design.
This Caddy has a mere 25600 on the clock and $16900 on the price ticket, and is probably the best buy, dollar for dollar, in the building. On balance, this would probably be the most realistic car for me to fit into my suitcase to bring back across the Atlantic. I'd call this one "Mick" as well.
As for what might be the best car in the place, well of course in dim artificial light it is not possible to give the bodywork on any car any kind of proper and thorough examination. But if I could take this 1954 Mercury Monarch Lucerne Sun Valley outside for a thorough check-over in the daylight and if it looked as good out there as it does in here, then this would be a prime candidate for that honour.
Mind you, the price tag of $59900 is quite stunning as well and so the owner clearly thinks that it is as good as it looks and in that case it may well be a fair price for it. I can't of course comment ... "that's never stopped you before" - ed .... I don't know enough about North American car values.
I ought to say that the above photos do not represent the entire stock of the garage, as you might have observed. They just show the cars that were of interest to me. There were probably 50 or 60 cars in here altogether and there would be something for everyone, from a Lotus down to a Series III Landrover.
I was grateful to Howard for having let me wander around with a camera, and I went and had a chat with him once I had finished my perambulations. We differ very much because he likes the finished product and I prefer to find them as they are dragged out of the barn. We had quite a debate about that
Almost all of these vehicles here are what he describes as "project cars" and need some degree of care and attention. He does have a showroom in Montreal which is full of the finished product and he invited me along to see them.
That's something to fit into the agenda when I have more time. Right now, I'm off to lie down in a darkened room.
By the way, if you want to add anything at all about these cars to pad out the brief notes that I have written, please . I'd love to know more about these cars.