The stories cars tell

By Josh Aldrich, Camrose Canadian

Crystal Kelland's 1952 Pontiac Chieftain rat rod at the Camrose Cruisers Show 'N Shine on Main Street in Camrose on Saturday. Josh Aldrich/Camrose Canadian

Crystal Kelland's 1952 Pontiac Chieftain rat rod at the Camrose Cruisers Show 'N Shine on Main Street in Camrose on Saturday. Josh Aldrich/Camrose Canadian

Crystal Kelland may have married a mechanic, but make no mistake her 1952 Pontiac Chieftain rat rod is all hers. 


She grew up helping her dad in the garage work on muscle cars and in high school she became the go-to person for all of her friends' car issues. The fact she could more than hold her own in talking carborators and cylinders made her the perfect match for her husband Bill Kelland when they met while going to the University of Alberta-Augustana. 

Their two cars were on full display, parked next to each other on Main Street in Camrose for the annual Camrose Cruisers Show 'N Shine. 

"I got into it when I was a teenager, it was something I was doing to bond with my dad a bit," she said. "He started showing me how do the stuff and that's when I was old enough to be able to drive and he taught me how to do everything … then I married a mechanic." 

Kelland grew up with muscle cars and said she always wanted one, but when her husband came across the Pontiac in a Saskatchewan quonset, it was love at first site. 

She has since made it her own with little accents like dice for the door locks and striping on the fenders, but she left the faded green to rust exterior the way it was. It is a patina she would never be able to recreate. 

"It’s all numbers matching, it's even the original paint," said Kelland . "It’s been sitting out of the elements for so many years, that's why it's in such great condition. I wanted to keep it like this … I love the original." 

She loves coming to the car shows to show off her ride, though most figure it must belong to her husband, and while there is the odd lug nut who tries to inform her how she should be changing her car, she says most are fairly well behaved. 

"I like showing off my car and I like talking to people I know when I come to car shows," said Kelland, noting she loves hearing the yarns about someone's dad ho has a similar car parked out in the back 40 or some who will talk about how this was their first car. "I like when a guy comes over and goes to my husband and says 'is this your car?' And he'll be like 'Nope, it's her car.'"  

After 14 years of marriage, the car gene has been passed down to their four children, and her oldest daughter is already hooked on turning wrenches. 

"My oldest has been talking and she wants to become a mechanic when she's older," said Kelland. "She sees dad and she goes out and helps. She helped him change over an intake gasket the other day." 

Every car and owner had a story at Show 'N Shine about how they became entangled with their dream ride. 

Wetaskwin's Doug Groff landed his 1953 Chevrolet panel van while living up in Yellowknife in 1995 and spent the next five years rebuilding the vehicle. It is a decommissioned army vehicle that still has Canadian military service plates on the interior – something Groff says are normally removed. 

When he got the van, it was still an army green, but he has since painted out to a medium beachwood brown. He has also renovated much of the interior of the van, using his carpentry skills to replace the floor of the van and the wood panelling on the inside. 

"I had to do some body work to it, but she's as original as I could keep it," said Groff. 

He drives the van up to an hour away for car shows – it maxes out at about 75 kilometres an hour – and will trailer it to shows all over Alberta and into the U.S. 

"My first truck when I was 16 years old was a 1955 International Travelall. I had an instant camper. Dufflebag, riffle, a couple of cans of gas. Gone," he said. "You get used to them." 

Some owner/vehicle relationships were quite new. Shawn Schofield has only owned his 1934 Ford Model A for a few months and has not got into the rebuild yet, though he does have plans for it. This is the truck of his dreams. 

"I saw it, I had to have it," he said. "Since my dad took me on my first world of wheels when I was seven years old, I just never saw one that was in my price range and then I saw this one." 


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