Pat McKenna and Lynn and Ray Fowler stand in front of their original 1914 classic cars Aug. 20 in downtown Ponoka. The travellers stopped in Ponoka during a weeklong trip from Calgary to Edmonton last week.

Pat McKenna and Lynn and Ray Fowler stand in front of their original 1914 classic cars Aug. 20 in downtown Ponoka. The travellers stopped in Ponoka during a weeklong trip from Calgary to Edmonton last week.

Century old cars stop in Ponoka on memorable adventure

“Everybody has a bucket list and everybody has things they want to do.” Ray Fowler.

Classic car lovers had a big surprise Aug. 20 when two century-old cars made a stop in downtown Ponoka.

Rebuilt with love and care, Ray and Lynn Fowler in their McLaughlin-Buick, along with Pat Mckenna in his Studebaker SD4, decided to trek from Calgary to Edmonton last week using the old route by motorists in 1914.

The group dubbed the trip Road From the Past and it did not take long for City TV to hitch a ride to document the epic road adventure complete with old-timey camping equipment and everyone dressed in clothes similar to that of the same time period.

Many people took the long and harrowing trip from Calgary to Edmonton but it was in 1914 that a map was developed, giving travellers a reference point. There is only one surviving map from that time and it is housed in the Glenbow Museum in Calgary.

This was no ordinary map either, said Mr. Fowler; reading up on the map showed tips for motorists such as a farmhouse on the left would have a working telephone or specific landmarks.

“It would tell you about the hardware store in the town…Ponoka was there,” said Ray Fowler.

Research took several years and between the two cars, the Fowlers and McKenna made seven trips to find the route that was as close to the original as possible.

“You’re not going by road signs, you’re actually going by ‘turn right at the slough,’” said McKenna.

Travelling with 100 year old equipment

Fowler says his car is a Canadian built McLaughlin-Buick, decked out with all original parts, including a canopy roof and hand crank starter. There are only three left, stated Fowler proudly. “It’s a little beat up, because we use it a lot.”

Driving on the modern roads, even the gravel roads, with old equipment brought many challenges for the veteran travellers. Fowler says they have a better appreciation of how people used to live. At the time of production, the McLaughlin-Buick was most-likely considered a state of the art automobile but in today’s market of electronics in vehicles the McLaughlin-Buick is definitely a unique experience.

Small hills or sharp turns become their own obstacles for these older vehicles; the McLaughlin-Buick has a safe top speed of 28 to 30 miles per hour. Anything faster, says Fowler, and the car starts to vibrate.

“Every little hill you’re looking at, ‘Can I make it in third? No. I can’t make it in third, I’ve gotta stop now and change it to second,’” he explained.

McKenna drives a 1914 Studebaker SD4 five-passenger vehicle, also built in Canada and has all its original parts. He bought it some years ago and has a 1958 bill of sale to go with it. For McKenna, seeing the smile on people’s faces as they stop in different communities along the way has made the trip worth the effort.

“Everybody loves to get in them,” stated McKenna.

The challenge for him is driving a car with square-cut gears and a leather clutch.

Stories that last a lifetime

The three travellers have been using gravel roads and range roads as part their route and have camped along the way using gear from the same time period. Every morning they update with City TV Breakfast Television in Calgary over how the trip has been and Fowler says there’s a story to tell every day.

“Everybody has a bucket list and everybody has things they want to do,” said Fowler.

Longtime friend and cameraman with City TV, Rod Maldaner, is filming a documentary called 100 Year Road airing Sept. 26 on the channel covering the whole trip. Maldaner said the moment the trip started, there has been something to film.

On the first day of the trip the crew hadn’t even left the parking lot and Fowler’s right-rear wheel broke, forcing him to find a wheel of similar size and make somewhere in Calgary.

There is hours of video coverage that Maldaner has to go through because each day brought something different to cover.

“When do you shut the camera off?” asked Maldaner excitedly.

The story writes itself, stated Fowler, who praised the camera crew for filming in all weather conditions. One leg of the trip put the travellers on a head-on course with heavy rain and thunderstorms. Rather than hide in the car, the camera crew geared up and filmed these intrepid motorists battling the conditions and dealing with a flat tire at the same time.

“You can’t stage that stuff,” said Fowler. “And you’ve gotta be there to catch it.”

The trip ends at Chianti Café Aug. 28 in Edmonton where the old post office used to be in Old Strathcona.