They don’t make ’em like this anymore
NEW GLASGOW — If there is a road where hobby meets passion, Fred (Bud) MacPherson travels it in a blue 1931 Chevrolet Special.
For years, the New Glasgow resident worked on heavy machinery while operating his own excavating business. Since retiring, he still spends plenty of time in the big red double-bay garage behind his house, only now he’s working on antique automobiles.
“Typical, I guess, of most people with antique cars — you see one of the first cars you had when you were young,” MacPherson said, gesturing toward his 1947 Mercury Coupe.
“I never had an antique before that. I always liked them but never thought I’d be into that.”
It’s safe to say MacPherson is now fully “into that.”
His garage is filled with car parts and the tools of the trade for restoring and maintaining them. There is a mural of his collection on one of the walls, just above a cabinet full of trophies and model cars.
Sitting in one of the chairs made from old car seats, MacPherson said the satisfaction of restoration has a lot to do with how the cars were made.
“They’re simple compared to today’s cars. You lift the hood in your car and you can’t even see the spark plug wires; these are easier to work on. It’s not hard to find the problem with them and, basically, if they’ve got a spark and gas, they’re going to go.”
The Mercury was running but needed a new exhaust and a “do over” when MacPherson bought it.
“We stripped it: took the body right off of it, took the motor out of it, took everything apart (and) redid everything from the ground up.”
Aside from the bodywork, MacPherson did everything himself.
Then there’s the 1928 Ford Model A (MacPherson restored that one, too) and the green 1939 International, complete with wood frame in the box.
But it’s the car that sits next to the Model A that has the most interesting backstory.
MacPherson’s 1931 Chevrolet Special, a dark blue four-door with yellow wheels, looks like it did the day it rolled off the lot. It didn’t take a lot of work on MacPherson’s part to make it look that way, either.
For many years, the car belonged to Howard Locke, a well-known family doctor in Pictou County. MacPherson used to plow the doctor’s driveway in the winter and do landscaping work for him at his cottage.
“He was just one of the best,” he said.
Locke’s father, Earl, bought the car brand new in 1931 in Liverpool while working for the telephone company.
Through the years, Earl kept records with the precision of a watchmaker: when he added gas, how much, the price of gas, when the oil was changed, when the car was serviced, the amount of miles driven each year and how much the entire operation cost.
The car, which today has about 81,000 miles on it, also had an early global positioning system installed just above the windshield: a compass.
“He says in some of those records that there wasn’t many signs to go by down in the country,” said MacPherson.
“That was his GPS to tell him which way to go to get back home.”
The car had a paint job in 1990. Three years ago, when MacPherson bought the car from Howard Locke’s son, he had the bumpers, door handles and headlight bar chromed, the wheels painted and added a stripe kit.
Everything else remains as it was the day it left the yard of Thompson Bros. Machinery Co. Ltd. in 1931.
“I didn’t need another car, but it’s more about who owned it,” said MacPherson. “He was a real prince of a man.”
The car drives like a dream, topping out at about 75 kilometres an hour. Zooming along the roads of Pictou County, it elicits waves from people driving cars that likely won’t see half of its 81 years.
“I dare say there’s not another ’31 Chev in the Maritimes, if not Canada, that’s in the condition that that is in,”MacPherson said.