Skip to content

Old Discovery to Be Given New Life

In 1946 Ike Clarkson, an Elkhorn area farmer, started to restore antique cars in his spare time and became very good at it. He had a gift to see the beauty and the potential in older cars of the teens and 20s and 30s.

In 1946 Ike Clarkson, an Elkhorn area farmer, started to restore antique cars in his spare time and became very good at it. He had a gift to see the beauty and the potential in older cars of the teens and 20s and 30s.

He also had the mechanical know-how, as most farmers do, to fix things and finally, the ability to find missing parts to complete this project.

In 1961 a project was started with Mr. Clarkson and the village of Elkhorn, to build a permanent display area for his collection, which would later become known as the Elkhorn “Antique Automobile Museum”.

The museum was opened in 1967 and in 1971 the collection, under the ownership of Marguerite Ablett, was given to the village.

Over the years the museum has grown in its collection of cars and other related and non-related artifacts. Just recently they have opened up a century farmhouse display in a period farmhouse that was moved to the site. The finished project being a great showcase for domestic household items and a testimony to the efforts of thousands of hours of volunteer work.

I have lived in Elkhorn since 1982, and have often been a visitor to the museum and involved with some of its events. It is also well-known that I've been an active military historian and reenactor, making history come alive in communities big and small, from Winnipeg to Regina. You can imagine my surprise when after living here for almost 33 years I discovered a military vehicle - a treasure forgotten in the back corner of the large vehicle display gallery.

Two years ago, in the far back corner, I found, with the help of some local information, a 1912 Canadian Army Medical Corps Cadillac ambulance. The story behind it being that Mr. Clarkson found it in Winnipeg and had the vehicle shipped out to his farm in Elkhorn. However he never had time to restore it as he passed away unexpectedly in his mid-50s. So it was moved to the museum with the rest of his collection, put in the back corner and forgotten for the most part.

For several years I have been on the board of directors of the CFB Shilo Museum and in that capacity, I mentioned about the existence of the Elkorn Auto Museum army ambulance. From that began a long process of communications and meetings between the two museums that last week led to the ambulance being turned over to the CFB Shilo Museum for restoration and display at their base facility.

At an earlier visit, the CFB Shilo Museum officials were impressed with the vehicle, that was, for the most part, a basket case; but all of the key parts were still there, with the rotted wood parts being something they could restore or replace.

Recently the Shilo Museum's curator of collections and the head restoration mechanic, came out with a trailer to pick up the unique piece of Canadian military history. Area volunteers showed up to help with the loading, and after almost three hours, had it secured on a trailer and covered in a protective net. When it was pulled out, with the help of the museum small work tractor, operated by museum curator Richard Hainer, the box part of the truck revealed more of the original parts that could be used or serve as templates to make reproductions.

As it was winched aboard the flatbed, old traces of the army green paint could be seen and an old sign, that after the army had finished using it, said that it was owned by a garage in the Osborne area of Winnipeg.

Some research on the vehicle shows that the 1912 Cadillac was a four-cylinder engine of 30 hp which could be started by a handcrank, but was also the first model to have a 12 V battery electric start system.

Shilo Museum officials plan to evaluate the overall project and, since it is a World War I era vehicle, hope to start work on it within the year. They hope to have it involved with some of the World War I displays that are taking place across Canada.

Not a lot about its military service history is known. It is alleged to have served at the former World War I Canadian army base Camp Hughes that was located east of the present CFB Shilo, but did not see service overseas during the war.

When the project is finished the vehicle will have signage that will give credit to Ike Clarkson and the Elkhorn Antique Auto Museum. Said Lil Jackson, a member of the museum’s restoration club, “This donation to the CFB Shilo Museum will be a great promotion for our auto museum and put the army ambulance in a location where it will be restored and where it will have a military home. It will give us more needed display room in our museum and overall, it’s a win-win situation for both museums and Manitoba history.”