While strolling in Montreal’s Little Italy neighborhood, a tiny, red car caught my eye. Little more than a motorized roller skate, the car was a promotional vehicle for a business called ‘Mother Shuckers’, tempting passers-by with “La Boite Aux Huîtres”. “Oysters in the Box” offered my Google French translator. Hmm…perhaps not having the little hat above the “i” on my keyboard was important after all.
Anyway, that petite red car had a real attitude. I figured Montreal might reveal other vehicles with personality if I burned some more shoe rubber on the city’s streets. Maybe I could even find an aged version of the chick-magnet I drove in high school. Captain America owned the streets in those days, with a 1968 Jaguar XKE.
I continued my crosstown trek with newfound purpose. It didn’t take long for me to encounter my next vehicular gem; a faded, mustard-yellow ’71 Volkswagen. No, this was not the wildly popular Super Beetle. Rather, it was the Beetle’s forward-leaning cousin, a Volkswagen Fastback. For reasons that escape me, 1971 was the final year of that marvelous T3 body style. Who didn’t like that beauty?
Continuing into the Mount Royal Plateau district, a sign near the funky Bily Kun Bar presented my next motor memory. There, above the sidewalk, floated a faux 1956 Thunderbird convertible. The suspended T-Bird captured my attention, and my imagination: top-down, cruising, watching my date’s blond hair blowing in the wind. C’est la vie.
Still hopeful of reuniting with the wheels of my youth, I pressed on and stumbled upon my most unusual 4-wheel find: a wrecked sedan, turned on its side in front of the Darling Foundry, an art centre near Montreal’s scruffy Griffintown neighborhood. Bucket seats were placed on the pavement around the car’s muffler, which sprouted a rainbow of hoses. A closer inspection revealed the muffler had been modified to function as a hookah. It seems the Foundry’s price of admission included a tailpipe smoke of….Arabian tobacco.
No doubt, each oddball vehicle I encountered had its own biography, a mystery never to be told. Perhaps the greatest puzzle of the day was my final discovery, a toy tow truck embedded in a sign. The message painted on the sign was, “It’s not your fault I love you”. There was no punctuation. The sign raised some profound questions in my mind. Why was there a tow truck on the sign? Did the sign’s creator leave out an important comma, or a period? Was that really Arabian tobacco?
Feet aching and out of gas, I had barely opened the hood on my search for character cars in Montreal. While it had been great ride, I felt a bit disappointed not to have found the dream machine that turned heads, and got me to Mr. Wersdorfer’s class on time back in high school.
Okay, so I wasn’t Captain America, and I didn’t drive a ’68 XKE. My wheels were an even rarer sight on the high school parking lot. I drove the classic 1963 American Motors Rambler, with 4 cylinders and a 3 on-the-floor.