CENTENNIAL CARAVAN: CANADA’S COASTERS RIDE AGAIN! 2017
By: Michel Lamoureux
Photos submittted by Michel Lamoureux courtesy of the “Coasters”
Originally published in Hagerty Classic Cars magazine and www.hagerty.com
For Fraser Field of Deroche, British Columbia, life on the road has largely amounted to attending the sick and aiding the injured. Which is what you do, of course, when you spend thirty years at the wheel of a fast-paced, wailing-siren ambulance as a paramedic. So it’s no surprise that Fraser’s knowledge of, and interest in, these life-saving utilitarians grew with time. Plus, if you’re a car guy to boot, why not collect them too. And so, Fraser’s job-to-passion transition led to him owning various such models and makes, including a unique 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, a couple of late ‘60s Pontiac Bonnevilles, a 1972 Cadillac, as well as a rare 1948 Chevrolet Panel currently being restored for future use.
“It’s interesting to observe people’s reaction when they see ambulances out of the past”, he says. “There is a special aura about them that rekindles human sentiment, mixed with intense curiosity. On one hand, an image forms of the ‘user’—usually individuals who face sudden threats to their lives at some point.
On the other, the realization of those who provide the care needed, typically in critical circumstances. Add an historical layer to the picture, and all of the right ingredients combine to create a singular fascination for this mode of transportation”.
But now, a bigger mission awaits Fraser, as a busy summer looms ahead in 2017: That of shepherding 125 vintage vehicles across Canada and back—a whopping 9,500-mile journey stretching over four months. As chief coordinator of this formidable volunteer task, he is conferred the title of Wagonmaster by a one-of-a-kind grassroots organization known simply as the “Coasters”, whose Canadian origins date back to 1966.
Those were, of course, the inimitable days of peace and love, the year when Mary Quant’s miniskirt was all the rage, when Batman started competing with Captain Kirk for top TV ratings and the creatives who made The Sound of Musicthe highest grossing film ever won the Oscar statuette.
Meanwhile, back in Canada, a group of intrepid car collectors decided they wanted to do something out of the ordinary in the name of their passion. Wouldn’t it be great, they thought, to organize the mother-of-all-trips across the entire nation and back. After all, the 1967 Centennial celebrations were fast approaching, and what a fine way this could be to celebrate Canada’s history by showcasing its automotive heritage. It was further agreed by the newly formed organizing committee that their über-cruise would leave from Victoria, B.C., and reach St. John’s, Nfld. way east, with a farewell dinner scheduled in Montreal at the then-biggest bash of all: EXPO 67. Amazingly, and in spite of the ambitious commitment required from Tour participants, some 130 registrations from every province were officially entered. Of that number, nine cars would eventually complete the total distance under their own power.
Pete Gagan took part in that inaugural Coasters expedition with wife Mary Jane aboard their 1928 Model A Ford Roadster, while best friends John and Sue Somerset lodged in the car’s rumble seat. A young Bill Sauder of Ontario was also among the event’s pioneers in his dad’s 1914 Ford—the oldest car to finish the entire Tour, though their engine chewed up two crankshafts along the way. Bill even remembers the day when they climbed the stairs of Ottawa’s Parliament building in their Ford while the Coasters stopped in the nation’s Capital. Unimaginable nowadays. At 15, Jean Mulloy joined her mom and dad, George and Ethel Brown, for the ride of a lifetime. To this day, she remembers how proud she felt to be Canadian, as the trio traveled 9,000 plus miles across the land in their 1929 Chrysler Four-Door Sedan. Amazingly, Jean, Bill and Pete all plan to return in 2017…. five decades later!
When the first Coasters edition of 1967 got underway, it was decreed that the Tour should be repeated every decade or so thereafter, despite the massive, multi-year, volunteer effort involved each time. One of the founders’ initial intent was unifying antique car clubs across every province. The result was the establishment of a first chartered organization, now the National Association of Automobile Clubs of Canada—just one of four noble goals agreed upon, including:
• To travel across the breadth of Canada on her 100th birthday and see as much of her and her people as possible, the slow and easy way (now, that’s the spirit!)
• To join together all of the antique car clubs of Canada in a co-operative effort, as another step toward building a working federation (nation-building at its best)
• To show the people of Canada the part that the antique auto clubs are taking to preserve an important segment of Canadian history (significant social legacy)
• To assist other Centennial celebrations where possible (going the extra mile).
Pat Forster (seen here riding a 1896 Geneva bicycle) and her late husband Charlie, were among the originators of the Coasters 1967 Tour. The bike was owned by Pete Gagan who hauled it in the trailer behind his Model A.
The oldest car that traveled coast-to-coast in 1967 was Tom Stewart’s 1909 Ford, the earliest example known then in Canada.
1969 Dodge Coronet Super Bee, with Coaster Mike Guido of British Columbia at the wheel. Great muscle, not cheap on gas.
Wagonmaster Fraser Field and his 1969 Pontiac Bonneville ambulance. Pace car extraordinaire.
1947 Ford Bell Telephone Repair Truck, owned by Coasters Ken and Carole Gordon of Ontario.
1941 Dodge COE, owned by Coasters Rick and Linda Orza of British Columbia.
Lester and Millie McKay’s 1954 Mercury Monterey pulling an early original Snapper trailer. Sitting proud next to Gord and Joyce James’ 1956 Mercury Montclair. Both couples from New Brunswick.
1949 Diamond T model 509, owned by Coasters Jim and Joan Scott of Ontario.
Coaster Ron Arseneault of Ontario with his 1961 Chevrolet Impala.
1960 Ford Thunderbird, owned by Coasters Blair and Joan Chisholm of Nova Scotia.
1957 Buick Caballero Estate Wagon owned by Coaster Bill Carlson of British Columbia.
Fraser and Dorothy with their ’57 Chevy Belair ambulance. People (and a car) for all seasons!
Distinguished members of Fraser and Dorothy’s vintage ambulance fleet, at their farm in British Columbia.
Please read this info below before the AGM and also look at the Coasters web site. www.coasters2022.com
We want lots of active discussion at this coming AGM. Fraser will be in attendance in 2019.
My best to you all.
From: Fraser Field [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Friday, August 03, 2018 10:17 PM
To: Fraser Field
Subject: 2022 Tour
I hope the summer finds everyone out and about with their cars enjoying the season.
Everything is coming together for the 2022 Cross Canada tour. The web site has had lots of hits and I’m adding information as things happen. Dorothy has ordered and received some clothing examples and we will have them at the Nakusp camp out. A simpler logo similar to the 2010 tour will also be shown at Nakusp. Now is the time to get your ideas and suggestions in as soon it will be to late to make changes. I’ve worked out a proposed travel route and will go over it with John Carlson in the near future. The National, NAACC, would like to be more involved in the planning process and Dorothy and I welcome their input.
I would also like to remind everyone that the tour deposit is due on the end of this month and it will keep you on the tour roster. We do have on going expenses, such as the web site, insurance, booking deposits, inventory items and the such. The deposits collected helps take care of these, remember the deposits are fully refundable as stated on the web page. www.coasters2022.com Tour Information section. The site also contains a lot of early information.
We have several people who have joined the Coasters Tour Group for the first time and they are all anxious to learn more and are looking forward to 2022. Great to have new people to enjoy the excitement of the Road less Traveled. A welcome to all of you.
Any questions, concerns, ideas or just want to say hello. Drop us an email
Fraser and Dorothy
2017 Coast to Coast trip.
They are a group of classic car enthusiasts that actually drive their old cars on one of the world’s greatest tours, traveling coast to coast across Canada. They are a collection of car buffs that come from every province in Canada, the USA and other parts of the world. Every ten years (or so) they all meet on one of Canada’s coastal shores and take the two month tour of Canada’s wonders, one time east to west then the next time west to east. We have the privilege of meeting some of the greatest people in the world, members of other car clubs. Their hospitality and friendship confirms we are one large family, sharing interests and of course great stories.
The first tour was held in 1967 to celebrate the centennial of Canadian confederation
for information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos from the NAACC Facebook page all in one spot and easy to find. The first 4 digits are the date the image was posted on the NAACC Facebook page.
Meeting of the Ford Model T Club of Quebec Sunday, August 23, 2015 as they continue their multi-day regional tour. 100 members in all.
On tour earlier this week, therefore, with a stopover yesterday at Jean-Pierre Viau’s house in St. Edouard, Quebec, on the South shore of Montreal, near the US border.
Himself a serious collector of amazing cars and one of the Coasters’ organizers, as well as a past/future participant with wife Nicole. Way to go, J-P and Nicole! Troopers par excellence.
But then again, Fraser may just be too busy to engage in deeper thought, making sure there’s enough gas in everyone’s tank both morning and night, or plenty of food to feed his family of hundreds thrice a day. It’s nothing he won’t be able to handle, of course, when you’ve been an ambulance paramedic helping people in need all your life. One thing is certain, though: The summer of 2017 won’t be the same across Canada, thanks to a remarkable league of devoted lovers of old cars: The country’s very own, homegrown, Coasters.
And now, a little travelling music, please.
For more information and visuals: canadiancoasters.ca
AN INTERESTING LETTER FROM A 1967 TOUR PARTICIPANT
I think I need to sign on for the 2017 Coast to coast tour. There is a good reason for this, as I was on the 1967 tour, so should do a 50th anniversary.
I am 75 now, but got into the old vehicle hobby early with a $35.00 Model T, and a $15.00 1912 Indian motorcycle when I was 16. I joined the Ontario Region of the AACA, and the Ontario Region of the HCCA which later became the ACCCC and the HASC. I was a charter member of both, but more active in the latter. I was also a charter member of CHAF, the forerunner of the NAACC.
I drove car #46 in 1967, a 1928 model A Ford Roadster. We drove the Ontario and Quebec sections, with another couple in the rumble seat.. I knew all the key players well, and remember the names of most who went the whole way. Jack Bray, Porky Schneider, Bill Sauder, Jack Veroche, George Brown, Sandy Intini, Tom Stewart, Jack Morton, Charlie Forester come to mind. I still have the brochure and my registration card. The oldest coast to coast finisher was Tom Stewart’s 1909 Ford. I can probably dig up a few photos. Bill Sauder broke three crankshafts in his 14 Ford, but made it none the less, replacing them on the side of the road. He specialized in climbing stairs with the T, and climbed the stairs of the Parliament buildings with it. You probably wouldn’t be allowed to do that today.
I saw it mentioned somewhere that a water bomber dropped a load by accident on the campground. That was no accident. We were in a parade in Ottawa, and Ron Miller was following a float which had a man sitting in a bathtub ahead, advertising something or other. Ron and his wife had water pistols and were using the poor fellow as target practice. As Ron and his wife were on their honeymoon, they camped with their 1926 Dodge away from the crowd. The bathtub man, who happened to be a water bomber pilot attacked in the morning, and got his revenge. The rest of us were unscathed.
I noticed mention of the 1975 tour with no details known. It was organized by Charlie Forester and Jack Bray, and had most of the “hardcores” from the 67 tour. We were living in Calgary then, and although we didn’t attend, we had Tom Stewart, Jack Bray, and Porky and Marion Schneider as guests. We still had the Model A, and we all went to a local car event together. Charlie Forester fell ill just before the others left Ontario, and planned to catch up. His wife Pat phoned when we were all together in Calgary to tell us Charlie had died from a brain tumour. It put a damper on our party. All of the people previously mentioned are dead now, except possibly Ron Miller who was about our age, but I’m not sure.
On the motorcycle side, I founded the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group, served as President of the US based Antique Motorcycle Club of America, and on the Motorcycle Commission of FIVA in Europe.
I just sold my 1921 Stutz Bearcat, but still have a 1904 White steamer and 1978 Ferrari. I’ll probably get something more suitable than either for the tour. The Ferrari would be fun but it doesn’t carry anything. I couldn’t get Mary Jane to ride on any of the nine motorcycles. She says after 50 years of marriage, she does’t have to do that anymore.