When Shauntelle Leblanc first laid eyes on her future husband, he was pulling up to her Toronto apartment in a 1962 Mercury Monterey. The classic car was perfectly in keeping with his online dating profile that stated, “Dave Leblanc, vintage enthusiast.”
Given their shared passion for all things throwback, the wheels of love began to turn. 20 years on, the pair are now the proud owners of Ethel 20th Century Living, a popular mid-century modern vintage store on the Danforth.
And while the Monterey was around for most of this love story, nothing lasts forever. Five years ago, the vintage vehicle’s brakes gave way, banishing Monty – as the convertible was know – to the couple’s carport.
After waiting a few years – and living through a pandemic – the couple decided it was time to buy a new vehicle, one that reflected their mutual respect for vintage vibes. The Leblancs tells us why they love their 1965 Plymouth Valiant Convertible.
“When we started to talk about getting another vintage car, I was pretty focused on the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia,” said Shauntelle. “The problem was that they’re not cheap in good condition and we’re not mechanical people.
“Dave sent me an essay written by a guy who drove a vintage Valiant across the country, He said it was the most boring vintage car in existence, but also the most reliable. That spoke to us because living with vintage you’re always repairing things — like getting things reupholstered and gluing chair frames. I didn’t want to deal with that.
“When we found this Valiant on Kijiji, it was aesthetically in perfect condition. That’s one of the reasons we gravitated toward it. In June of 2021, when we drove it home. I think we paid $14,5000 for it and put another $2,000 into it to get it certifiable. Since then, our Valiant, or Val as we’ve named her, has been all over Toronto.
“Admittedly, this is not a practical car to drive. We do a tiki event in upstate New York every year and our friends ask us if we’re ever going to bring the Valiant. It would cost us $2,000 in gas, so we said, ‘No.’ We keep it local. For us it’s about aesthetics and the industrial design.
Technically, the car is in my name, but funny enough I've never driven it. It's tricky to get cars in and out of our parking spots behind our building and Val does not have power steering. Because of that, Dave is the one usually piloting her around town while I sit in the passenger seat with our dog Bella and enjoy the ride.
My attitude towards vintage has always been that you must actually use it,” said Shauntelle. “We put our feet up on our vintage table at home. We use all our vintage glassware. It’s no different with a vintage car. We put her to good use, and she brings us so much happiness. We say she’s like a holiday on wheels.”
A CLOSER LOOK: 1965 Plymouth Valiant Convertible
“A guy came up to me when I had my 1962 Monterey and said, ‘Oh I see you’ve got the barn doors,’” said Dave. “I wasn’t sure what he meant, but he pointed out that there are these two cubby-looking doors on the right and left side under the dash. You can find them in this car, too, and basically what they do is pull fresh air from the bottom of your car and wooshes it onto your face. It’s a low-tech air conditioner of sorts, which I love.”
“We look at these cars as sculptures,” said Dave. “I think, just the year after this, horn rings like this one disappeared and I think they’re one of the coolest things. There are the signal lights that look like elegant vintage pens. It’s all very space age and very thin. Even the cigarette lighter is minimalist and beautiful. And what I might love most is the typography you find in the car — this kind of custom and casual script. I adore the fonts from the 1950s and 1960s, and here they are fossilized in this car.”
A Canadian car
“I joined a vintage Valiant and Barracuda Facebook group. When I posted a pic of this car — they’re all Americans on this group — they said I had the wrong dashboard. But what they didn’t know is that this was a Canadian Valiant so there are some peculiarities. If you see a picture of any other Valiant from 1965, this is not what the dashboard looks like. Some of them had different front grills as well. All these different things that make it unique.”