College students restore classic vehicles | Virden Empire lead

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

The museum was intended to be a showcase for the lifelong collection and restoration of vehicle projects by farmer Ike Clarkson. In 1961, Clarkson donated sixty vehicles to the museum, and the museum officially opened in 1967 as a centenary project. It included a large exhibition hall that was expanded over the years.

Many of the vehicles donated to the museum came from local residents. Such a car was the pride and joy of Newton (Chub) Sinclair, who had farmed south of Elkhorn before moving to 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 great US front-wheel drive cars. The vehicle was produced for three years and then discontinued because the driving audience was not fully convinced of the front-wheel drive concept of the larger cars built in North America.

The car was Sinclair’s pride and joy and could now be called a boat because of its size. He kept it clean and polished, and when the car got into the village it caught your eye. Chub Sinclair died in 2002, but in 1991, after owning the car for 25 years, he donated it to the Elkhorn Antique Auto Museum. The Olds was on display in the museum alongside the other great cars from the sixties and seventies.

The car museum is only open in the summer months and most of the restoration work is carried out by members of the museum’s restoration club or other volunteers. The number of volunteers has decreased over the years and despite all the efforts of the museum helpers, the cars do not always receive the necessary attention, which sometimes requires a lot of work and special skills.

Recently, museum director and former headmaster Kevin Tutthill reached an agreement with the Fort La Bosse school department to have some work done on Chub’s car to get it back on the road. The work would be performed by the students under the supervision of staff from the Electromechanical Workshop Program at the Virden Collegiate Institute.

According to workshop instructor 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 workshop class. Mr. Denty has had a pleasure working on a big block engine, most of which works in front of the computer.

The students have been working on it for a few months and are getting to know some of the special features of older vehicle engines. In the workshop, the students repaired or restored the electrics, the fuel system and worked on the ignition, brakes and exhaust system.

Mr Denty added that it was a great thing that the museum entrusted the shop kids with the work. This work is now complete and the old ones are being returned to the museum. They started the engine and the roar brought back memories of the great ’60s cars.

Mark Cowan, Rector of the VCI, said of the project: “I was very satisfied with the museum car project, both because of the learning experience for our students in the energy mechanics course and as an example of the cooperative training with the community.”

The car will soon be back in Elkhorn and may be on display in the future as soon as the Covid restrictions are relaxed. At the moment the Elkhorn Antique Auto Museum is closed until the current health restrictions are lifted and we can safely resume our daily life, joys and travels.

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