The year was 1961, and Ben Schnider was looking for a car. He wasn’t looking for an especially fancy one, just something to get him around, and so he went to Invermere Contracting, a car dealership that used to be located in the space that Bud’s Bar and Lounge now occupies. Schnider settled on a 1959 Ford Galaxie Fairlane 500, which he drove for the next 10 years and over 120,000 km before resigning it to a parked spot on his property for the next 30 years.
“After I drove it for 10 years, its a junker, so what do you do with it?” Schnider said. “You either throw it in the dump or you park it, and this one happened to be parked.”
So, 30 years passed in which no one really paid much attention to the car, other than the occasional squirrel. Rust formed and the paint job lost some of its lustre, but the spirit of the car remained, just waiting for the right moment to be restored to its former glory. That moment came around the year 2000 when Schnider was faced with a decision: scrap the car, or restore it. The Ford Galaxie’s time had come.
“It’s a lot of work to restore a car, but it all depends on what stage you want to restore it to,” said Schnider, who is a former mechanic.
Schnider decided to go all out — he said that if you aren’t restoring a car with the frame off than you aren’t restoring a car the right way. What this meant is that he had to go over every aspect of the car with a fine-toothed comb, and as he put it, basically build a car. Schnider sandblasted off the accumulated rust, replaced rusted panels and parts, took the paint job right down to the metal and repainted it the exact same colour as the original. No doubt countless hours went into tinkering with the engine getting it back to working order, but after a few years the car was restored to its former glory, and ready to hit the streets.
“A few of my friends were after us for a long time to get a car and come out to the car shows,” Schnider said. “We decided that, seeing we had this restored, we started going to the car club.”
Schnider and wife Janice joined the Radium Car Club shortly thereafter and have spent the last decade travelling to car shows in their Ford Galaxie, as far south as Montana and as far west as Kamloops. The Schniders say they generally go to about five or six shows a year, although with the heavy rain this year they have only been to two so far. They generally travel with other classic car enthusiasts on the longer trips, as the old cars can be a bit temperamental.
“I really enjoy the camaraderie of the other owners,” Schnider said. “You meet a lot of friendly people because you all have the same interests.”
Both Schnider and wife Janice will on hand at the Radium Show & Shine on Sunday — Ben parking cars and Janice handling door prizes, and no doubt their shiny 1959 Ford Galaxie Fairlane 500 won’t be far away.