SYDNEY — As a member of the Cape Breton Chordsmen, Jack Gardiner knows a thing or two about singing.
But when he’s not performing with the barbershop-style harmony group, it’s the rumbling sound of his vintage car’s powerful Olds 350 Rocket V8 engine that provides the music to his ears.
“I like old cars and I love the sound of those engines,” said Gardiner, who spent more than three decades operating a corner store in Sydney’s Ashby neighbourhood.
The old general store is gone, and the 77-year-old now spends time in his nearby garage where he can often be found tinkering with his 1950 Meteor Custom sedan that he has owned since 2000. “It’s nostalgia, I guess, because I was driving a 1949 Ford when I got married and was looking for something similar, but I came across the Meteor and my wife bought it for me for my birthday and I’ve had it ever since,” said Gardiner, who travels around with a poster board of pictures showing his car in its various stages of restoration.
“It’s an eye-catcher, people like to check it out. Sometimes when I go by some kids they’ll shout out ‘Hey, awesome car, man’ and I know they don’t have any idea what year it is or what kind of car it is, they just know that it’s different,” he said.
“I think one of the highlights of driving a classic car is when younger people look at it and are taken aback.”
But it isn’t just the younger generation that looks twice at the red and grey classic that sports the obligatory whitewall tires and fender skirt that covers the back wheels.
Gardiner laughs as he recalls the story of how a man had his wife pose beside the Meteor and then photo-shopped the custom Jack and Betty front license plate.
“I saw that he posted it on social media with his and her names there instead of ours,” he said.
While his vehicle may be a head-turner nowadays, that wasn’t always the case. In fact, it was introduced to compete against other economically-priced cars, in particular the Pontiac.
A press release dated June 25, 1948 reads: "The Mercury and Lincoln division of Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited announced today that it would shortly introduce a brand-new automobile in the low-priced field, to be known as the Meteor. It will be exclusive to the Canadian market and will be distributed by the Mercury and Lincoln dealers across the Dominion."
Gardiner recalls taking the car down to South Carolina, where mechanics there referred to it as a Canadian Ford.
“They knew the difference for sure. First of all it had a different front grille from other Fords, they took the grille of the Monarch and put it on the Meteor,” he explained, adding that other identifying characteristics include the shooting star that sits just above the rear license plate and the airplane hood ornament.
The Cape Breton car classic enthusiast can occasionally be found showing off his ride at local car shows or sometimes just driving around.
“I just like old cars,” said Gardiner, whose garage also houses a nearly four-decade old Buick LeSabre.
But that’s a story for another day.
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