Ian Smale’s light blue 1960 Chrysler Saratoga, pictured here by the water, was built in the company’s since-closed plant in Los Angeles, Calif. He bought it in an online auction and brought it home to Victoria from the U.S. in 2008. (Courtesy of Ian Smale)

Ian Smale’s light blue 1960 Chrysler Saratoga, pictured here by the water, was built in the company’s since-closed plant in Los Angeles, Calif. He bought it in an online auction and brought it home to Victoria from the U.S. in 2008. (Courtesy of Ian Smale)

Oak Bay car festival elicits decades of automobile anecdotes

Entries in July 24 show range from Chryslers and Dodges to Lambos and McLarens

The Oak Bay Collector Car Festival hits the gas July 24 after a two-year COVID-19 hiatus, returning with a myriad of colourful stories attached to the mileage of each vintage vehicle.

For $20, all collector car owners and enthusiasts may bring their vehicles to Oak Bay Avenue and Foul Bay Road starting at 7 a.m. to line them up for display between Mitchell Street and Monterey Road until 3 p.m.

Longtime festival organizer Ken Agate is already anticipating a rush leading up to the event, but appreciates the community for supporting the love and labour for these vehicles.

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The car count for the event “tends to be in the range of 275 to 300,” and as far as the crowds go, he’s yet to find a good way to count the “frightening” amount of attendees. “The good thing is the weather looks stable for a bit.”

One thing Agate likes about the festival is how it welcomes owners of vehicles not in the elite price range or the subject of expensive restorations.

“I don’t want it to be intimidating,” he said, noting that overtly expensive cars can scare some people away. That said, exotic models from manufacturers like Aston Martin, McLaren and Lamborghini will still make an appearance.

In 1975, Agate bought his own 1938 Dodge Brother in his home of New Zealand before deciding to part ways with it upon leaving for Canada. But the luggage handler he met suggestive otherwise, he said.

“The young fellow said, ‘Oh, take that Dodge with you!’”

Ian Smale of the Walter P. Chrysler Club, a Victorian who’ll be attending the festival, shared his story of acquiring a light blue 1960 Chrysler Saratoga in 2008. After parting ways with the 1962 Chrysler 300 he’d owned 26 years, Smale began searching for a replacement Forward Look-era car with fins and AC to accommodate summer road trips to WPC Club meets in the Pacific Northwest.

“My wife and I were both getting tired of traveling at high speeds on the highways to the meets while having the windows down to keep the air flowing, and it wasn’t fun listening to the highway traffic and wind noise, especially the semi trailers!” he explained in an email.

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Smale instantly fell in love with the Saratoga after finding the rust-free collector car on an eBay auction. It had been repainted, re-plated, polished, reupholstered and equipped with AC, electric windows and swivel seats. Manufactured in Chrysler’s former Los Angeles, Calif., plant in October 1959 and cruising L.A. streets for five decades, the car came with exactly 100,000 miles and had received little mechanical work in its lifetime.

Smale picked up the car in Blaine, Wash., and brought it back to Victoria without issue. While having it inspected and certified, it failed on some minor issues and needed its AC system reworked.

Six weeks later, he set off for his first Chrysler meet in McMinnville, Ore., where temperatures would hit more than 100 F and having reliable AC ensured a bearable trip. Since then, improvements have been made to the engine, transmission, front end and rear springs and Smale has done much detailing and completely restored the engine and trunk compartments.

He’s put another 42,000 miles on the car, which he expects runs as smoothly now as when it emerged from the L.A. plant more than 60 years earlier.

Several years after Smale bought his Saratoga, he gave Chris Gannon a lead on a red 1961 Chrysler for sale on the mainland by the owner’s grandson. It included electric windows, swivel seats, a power antenna and clear-rim steering wheel.

Within a week, the car was on a trailer back to Gannon’s home. He sent photos of the Chrysler to Smale, who realized it belonged to a former WPC club member from New Westminster, who entered it in a winter photo meet in 1980.

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The car had been in storage and was in “remarkable condition,” having logged 58,000 miles and “been babied since new.” Gannon successfully revived the car at his shop and said the 383 motor and such mechanical elements as the carburetor, master cylinder, water pump, hoses, distributor and brakes work flawlessly.

Having logged 5,000 miles in the Chrysler without issue, he’s pleased to be its current owner and confident he can enjoy this classic vehicle for many more years.

The Oak Bay Collector Car Festival will include a prime rib barbecue on the lawn of the municipal hall and distribute colourful rosette ribbons for automobile awards in more than a dozen categories.

For more information on the event, visit oakbay.ca and find Collector Car Festival under Explore Oak Bay and annual events.

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