Discovering Manitoba

Car Crazy Manitoba

Jor Borges’ pride and joy - a 1980 Dodge Ramcharger

We never think about Manitoba as being a Mecca for valuable antique and classic cars, but apparently others do. Take Bill Casey, lately MP for Colchester-Cumberland in Nova Scotia. Bill is a former car dealer and a collector of venerable automobiles and he has sourced many of his finer specimens right here in the friendly province. But it isn’t just vintage cars that excite the prairie psyche. There are no less than 60-plus car clubs in the province, representing everything from BMWs to Austin-Healys, from Studebakers to Corvettes, Porsches (apparently there are over 400 of these expensive cars in the province), Thunderbirds, and even military vehicles. There are clubs representing hot rods, custom classics, trucks, P.T. Cruisers, Smart cars, and more.

The Canadian Classic Car Registry is headquartered here. Throughout the year, no less than seven Manitoba cities and towns, including Brandon, Gimli, Steinbach Russell, Lac du Bonnet and Richer, plus Winnipeg, host close to 40% of the all the car events held across the country. Joe Borges is one of the enthusiasts. “I started out building model cars, when I was just a kid,” he says. This ignited his interest. “I had a passion for a 4 x 4 trucks,” he notes and he has a stunning 1980 Dodge Convertible Ramcharger with a 550 HP engine. But lately, this has been expanded to include its late model “silver”, a Chrysler 300 SRT (2007).

“Maybe our interest has something to do with the long winters,” Joe muses. “When the weather gets nice, we like to take advantage of the summer hours to show off our work.” He explains that personalizing your vehicle is part of the joy and much of that work is done in the dark months. His younger brother, Bobby, is just as addicted and has recently brought a 1969 Chrysler 300 from California off the Internet. He also just bought Charger from Michigan. Internet purchasing has made the collectors very happy.

The car crowd is like an extended family. Whisper the words “Show and shine” and hundreds of cars come out to strut their stuff as happened at Tavern United on Regent one evening in May – 500 cars showed up on a Sunday. The Pony Corral on St. Mary Avenue hosts classic cars every Wednesday and basically shuts down the street. Then there’s the Pony Corral on Grant, another big rallying spot for the younger guys (one of the Ginakis brothers is a car fanatic). It’s held every Sunday night until October. Even the Legion on Henderson Highway hosts its group of groupies. And there is a monster car show at Garden City Shopping Centre, which will show over 1,000 cars – the list goes on.

The Sunday Night Cruise is a big deal in Winnipeg, when hundreds of car buffs show up at 9 p.m. to cruise Portage Avenue. This weekly summer rite of passage has been around for about a decade and now there’s one in Brandon. Show and Shines occur in Richer and Steinbach and Gimli.

According to Joe Borges, it’s all about sharing your passion. He’s proud of the Winnipeg connection, too. “Paul Williamson, of the Free Press “Willy’s Garage” column even has a bid in to be on the Tonight Show, “ he laughs. Hey, if Dick Assman from Saskatchewan can get on Letterman by virtue of his name, why not?

Meanwhile, indulge your eyes with glimpses of Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Audis and the occasional classic beauty, not to mention the fabulous custom jobs around town. Or check out the “rides” at one of the Show and Shines around the province. There may be a car addictin you just waiting to be aroused.

- By Dorothy Dobbie | Photo by Joe Borges

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