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Cruise Nationals sneak peek (Gallery)

  • Scenic cityscape of downtown Toronto Ontario Canada during a sunny day

You probably still have fond memories of the car in which you learned to drive.

Karen Cofield not only has those memories, but she still has the car — a 1967 Mercury Montclair — as well as Glen Cofield, her driving teacher who later became her husband.

Their car was one of more than 1,400 vehicles that rolled into Oshawa’s Lakeview Park last weekend for the three-day Autofest antique and custom car event. The show also marked the Cruise Nationals finale (see a gallery above for scenes from the show), where 10 cars and trucks were selected for the competition display that will be at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto next February.

The 1967 Montclair, which the Cofields drove to the show from Carrying Place, near Trenton, was purchased new by Glen’s father.

“Four generations have ridden in it and three generations have driven it,” Karen says. “I met Glen when I was 15 and he and his sister taught me how to drive on it.”

Throughout the summer, cars are chosen at 10 cruise nights — informal weekly shows where car owners meet — to attend the Auto-fest finale. Out of 60 cars, 10 made the cut for the finals: 1934 and 1939 Fords, 1953 Chevrolet and 1955 Ford pickup trucks, a 1955 Mercury convertible, 1956 Thunderbird, 1970 Dodge Challenger, 1971 Plymouth Barracuda, 1937 Studebaker and a 1969 Lincoln Continental Mark III.

The huge white Lincoln is owned by Cleo Tobias of Whitby, whose experience sums up the camaraderie of the old-car hobby. “I’ve had it five years, but it was my husband’s car,” she says. “He always wanted a Lincoln and his mother missed hers, so he bought this one and he would drive her around in it.”

After her husband died last summer, Tobias took the Lincoln to a few cruise nights to see if she could sell it. “But I met so many people who became friends, and I fell in love with cruising,” she says.

The three Cruise Nationals winners, to be named at the show next February, will be selected by online voting and celebrity judges.

Frank Mitchell’s 1937 Studebaker may raise some eyebrows: the model is called Dictator, a name the Indiana-based car company later dropped due to the politically sensitive climate of the time.

Mitchell, a professional engineer, bought the antique four-door sedan in 1975 as a graduation gift to himself, but not without careful research first.

“I wanted something different. Studebaker turned out to be the best-engineered, so that’s what I bought.”

He took four years to restore the car and it looks as good as new. He now spends his time collecting accessories, including a metal trunk that fits behind the rear bumper, and a little fan that hooks to the steering column to keep the driver cool.

Also chosen as one of the finalists, Jason Villari was equally sure about his choice when he bought his bright red 1956 Thunderbird a year ago.

“When I was six years old, my dad took me to a car show in Malvern,” the 32-year-old says. “I saw a ’55 Thunderbird and said, ‘Poppa, Poppa, what’s that car?’ My dad said, ‘That’s a 1955 Thunderbird, but you have to see a ’56, because it has a more voluptuous rear end.’ I asked my mom what voluptuous meant, and she said, ‘I’ll tell you when you’re 18.’ ”

The two-seater Thunderbird was in great shape when he bought it, but he rebuilt the engine last winter. “It’s peace of mind,” he says. “My wife Teresa and I just like to drive it.”

Although Autofest seems to be primarily about shining up one’s ride to show it off, the event is actually a fundraiser. Motor City Car Club uses the proceeds to support Grandview Children’s Centre in Oshawa, which helps special-needs children and their families and receives no government funding. At the awards ceremony, the 26-member club handed over a cheque for $18,000, bringing its total donation over the years to more than $120,000.

  • Cruise Nationals sneak peek (Gallery)
  • Cruise Nationals sneak peek (Gallery)
  • Cruise Nationals sneak peek (Gallery)
  • Cruise Nationals sneak peek (Gallery)
  • Cruise Nationals sneak peek (Gallery)
  • Cruise Nationals sneak peek (Gallery)
  • Cruise Nationals sneak peek (Gallery)
  • Cruise Nationals sneak peek (Gallery)
  • Cruise Nationals sneak peek (Gallery)
  • Cruise Nationals sneak peek (Gallery)
  • Cruise Nationals sneak peek (Gallery)
  • Cruise Nationals sneak peek (Gallery)
  • Cruise Nationals sneak peek (Gallery)
  • Cruise Nationals sneak peek (Gallery)
  • Cruise Nationals sneak peek (Gallery)
  • Cruise Nationals sneak peek (Gallery)
  • Cruise Nationals sneak peek (Gallery)
  • Cruise Nationals sneak peek (Gallery)
  • Cruise Nationals sneak peek (Gallery)