Students restore classic car

The Elkhorn Antique Auto Museum has over 100 antique and classic cars, trucks and farm machinery in its collection and for many people in the Westman area, the museum seems to be a well kept secret. Over the years since its start in 1967, this collection has grown with a wide range of antique artifacts being donated from people near and far.

The museum was to be a showcase for the lifetime collection and restoration vehicle projects of area farmer, Ike Clarkson. Clarkson donated sixty vehicles to the museum in 1961 and the museum was officially opened in 1967 as a centennial project. It included a large display hall that has been expanded over the years.

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Many of the vehicles gifted to the museum came from local area residents. One such car was the pride and joy of Newton (Chub) Sinclair, who farmed south of Elkhorn before moving into the village. In 1966 Chub bought a brand new, white, Oldsmobile Tornado. This car was ahead of its time because of its unique body design and because it was the first of the big U.S. manufactured cars to feature front wheel drive. The vehicle was produced for three years and then dropped as the driving public was not totally sold on the concept of front wheel drive on the bigger North American built cars.

The car was Sinclair’s pride and joy and today it might be called a boat because of its large size. He kept it cleaned and polished and whenever the car came into the village, it would catch your eye. Chub Sinclair passed away in 2002, but in 1991, after owning the car for twenty-five years, he gifted it to the Elkhorn Antique Auto Museum. The ‘Olds was well displayed in the museum among the other big cars of the sixties and seventies.

The auto museum is only open during the summer months and the majority of the restoration work is carried out by members of the museum’s restoration club or by other volunteers. The number of volunteers over the years has dwindled and despite the best efforts of those who help out at the museum, the cars do not always get the attention they need, which in some cases is a lot of work and a special skill set.

Recently, museum director and former school principal Kevin Tutthill made an arrangement with Fort La Bosse School Division to have some work done on Chub’s car to get it back to running order. The work would be done by the students with staff supervision at the power mechanics shop program at Virden Collegiate Institute.

According to shop teacher, Darren Denty, the project was a welcome learning experience for the students, who had never seen a car and engine of this type, during their shop classes. For Mr. Denty, it was a pleasure to get to work on a big block engine that, for the most part, is pre-computer in its operations.

The students have been working on it for a few months and are learning some of the unique aspects of older vehicle engines. While in the shop, the students repaired or restored the electrical systems, the fuel system and worked on the ignition, brakes and exhaust system.

Mr. Denty also added that it was a great thing that the museum trusted the shop kids, with the work. That work is now completed and the ‘Olds will be returned to the museum. They did start the engine and the roar of it brought back memories of the big 60s cars.

Mark Cowan, principal of VCI said about the project, "I was very pleased with the museum car project, for both the learning experience for our students in the power mechanics program, and an example of co-operative education with the community." 

The car will soon be back in Elkhorn and may be on display in the future, once the covid restrictions are relaxed. At the moment the Elkhorn Antique Auto Museum is closed until the present health restrictions are lifted and it is safe for us to get on with our daily lives, pleasures and travels again.

© Virden Empire-Advance