Then and now: Antique cars on P.E.I. hold interest through the ages

Doug Parkman has been restoring cars for decades, and remembers driving in an antique car convoy to Expo '67 in Montreal to meet other enthusiasts. (Sheryl MacKay/CBC - image credit)
Doug Parkman has been restoring cars for decades, and remembers driving in an antique car convoy to Expo '67 in Montreal to meet other enthusiasts. (Sheryl MacKay/CBC - image credit)

Doug Parkman remembers a time before Prince Edward Island's roads were filled with traffic.

"We didn't have a family car when I was a young lad, and my aunt used to truck us around quite a bit for little outings and whatnot in a 1931 Pontiac," he said.

That was in the 1940s. But now, decades later, Parkman has many cars, including some from that earlier era.

"I guess I was intrigued with the wheel," he said. "I had quite an interest in vehicles all the way through."

His garage, on what's been dubbed "Studebaker Lane" in East Royalty, is overflowing with classic vehicles, from a Model A Ford to a 1930 Graham-Paige Town Sedan, and Parkman has many other antique enthusiasts asking him for help with their own cars.

"It's surprising how many people are calling on me to fix them up," he said. "Just yesterday I was able to fix a guy up with some brake linings and reface his old brake shoes to get him on the road because he wants to go to the street rod show in Brudenell."

The P.E.I. Street Rod Association's 44th Annual Show 'n Shine in Brudenell this weekend serves as the kickoff event for Automotive Heritage Month in July.

Several other events will be held across the Island throughout the month, which the province is officially recognizing for the first time this year.

P.E.I. has a complex history with cars. The first one arrived in North Rustico in 1866, but in the early 1900s vehicles were banned outright for several years for fear they'd frighten livestock.

Now, July 12 will be celebrated as Collector Car Appreciation Day, and classic car nights are held in Summerside each Friday night until the end of August.

A lifetime ago

Parkman first got involved in restoring vehicles back in the 1960s when he bought and started to work on a 1930 Chevrolet coupe. It was that vehicle he took to his first "worthwhile outing" — a trip to the 1967 Montreal Expo.

"Just a little two-people car humping along at about 30 miles an hour," he said. "It took us nine days to get to Montreal."

A convoy of other antique cars filled with collectors from the Island travelled to Quebec together, stopping along the way for maintenance as needed.

Among them were the parents of Wilfred Moase, who now works with Parkman on car restorations.

Wilfred Moase restored this Model A Ford, which was previously owned by his father, with help from Parkman.
Wilfred Moase restored this Model A Ford, which was previously owned by his father, with help from Parkman.

Wilfred Moase restored this Model A Ford, which was previously owned by his father, with help from Parkman. (Sheryl MacKay/CBC)

"Going to Doug is like going to your doctor," Moase said. "He puts you right at ease."

Moase also got into cars at a young age, thanks to his father's involvement in the hobby. He and his dad both restored the same vehicle as their first project, a 1928 Model A Ford Tudor.

"The family acquired it in 1961. He collected many vehicles after that and restored a few. But I said, well, if I'm going to restore one myself, I'd pick this one because it was the first," he said.

"He got that car when I was probably about six years old."

Now the P.E.I. director of the National Association of Antique Car Clubs of Canada, Moase has seen the local chapter grow from just a handful of members when it was formed in 1964 to more than 140 today.

For him, driving an antique car is an opportunity to harken back to a simpler time.

"Just being able to bring something back to life, whether it's an old car or some other item, bring it back to life and just show people that not everything was always ultra modern," Moase said.

"That's how people used to get around then. So it's kind of neat to just carry on the history of whatever it is you're interested in, and I just happen to be into the old cars."

Building community

Both Parkman and Moase have many memories from their days driving around with other antique car aficionados.

But for every day on the road, there are countless days spent in a workshop or garage.

"People don't really understand how much work it is," Parkman said. "You have to start at the asphalt and work up. Undercarriage, body, interior, engine, powertrain, the whole bit. Brakes, steering, tires, rims, everything. It's a big job."

Wilfred Moase, P.E.I. director of The National Association of Automobile Clubs of Canada, says he likes being able to give an older item new life through restoration.
Wilfred Moase, P.E.I. director of The National Association of Automobile Clubs of Canada, says he likes being able to give an older item new life through restoration.

Moase, the P.E.I. director of the National Association of Automobile Clubs of Canada, says he likes being able to give an older item new life through restoration. (Sheryl MacKay/CBC)

Parkman said his 1930 Graham-Paige Town Sedan was a "piece of junk" when it first came to him. It had been taken apart decades before he bought it, and rain, animals and time had all taken their toll.

"The inside was torn out of it, the parts were all over the place," he said. "It really was just revived from ground zero."

While Parkman does everything himself, save for some sewing, he does have experts on hand to help him out when things are a little more advanced.

"I do welding, but I'm not as proficient at it as the guys that have been doing it for a lifetime," he said. "So there's somebody you can call on ... and say, how do I do this or how do I do that?"

Parkman and Moase are both in the midst of their next restorations. For Moase, it's buffing the paint on his old Model T. Parkman's working on an International Scout, which is similar to a Jeep.

One of the vehicles Doug Parkman restored is this Graham-Paige town sedan, which came to him in a less-than-driveable condition.
One of the vehicles Doug Parkman restored is this Graham-Paige town sedan, which came to him in a less-than-driveable condition.

One of the vehicles Parkman restored is this Graham-Paige Town Sedan, which came to him in a less-than-driveable condition. (Sheryl MacKay/CBC)

"The body work is underway, now the undercarriage is finished, complete and running," he said.

Even in his late 80s, Parkman is still excited to take a "new" car for a test drive.

"Geared it up with a milk crate to sit on to rip down the driveway to see what it was like."

Moase hopes to see many Islanders enjoying the hobby and the open roads during the summer.

"[I] just encourage everybody to get out with their old cars, particularly in July, and enjoy the shows that are going on," he said. "Or just go out for a cruise."