Topping out at 70/mph in overdrive, Jim Carpenter drove some 200 miles Sunday morning - from Peachland to Maple Ridge - in an old jalopy. It was a trip made for sentimental purposes.
It was a fitting journey to make in his 1954 Dodge Regent sedan, a car that was once his grandmothers, then his mothers, before being turned over to him in 1974.
After a year of fixing it up in shop class at Maple Ridge high school, the vehicle served as Carpenter's source of transportation to his grad celebrations on Granville Street in Vancouver in 1975.
"Let me tell you about my dry grad_ It was me, this car, and a jug of frosty A&W rootbeer," he recounted, bringing the car back to Maple Ridge this weekend to be part of the second annual Maple Ridge Secondary dry grad show and shine fundraiser.
"I heard about this show last year and thought it would be neat to participate in this show with my high school car at my old high school," he explained.
Armed with his class of '75 Ridge Echoes yearbook and a picture of him and the car on his grad night, Carpenter joined about 110 other vintage car collectors in the show that filled the school's west and rear parking lots with their beloved cars.
Carpenter was happy to share his story of dry grad and his car with anyone who would listen during Sunday's car show.
When Carpenter turned 16, he took possession of the Regent, which had been sitting in disrepair in his yard.
"It was just there waiting for me. I was intrigued," Carpenter said. "It was pretty bad. The motor was all but seized, there were rust holes in the back fenders, the brakes had failed, and the paint was weathering off."
He dumped a few bucks into getting the brakes fixed, then hobbled it together enough to drive to school, where he announced to his shop class teacher that he was going to one day restore it to its former glory - but for now he just wanted it to run.
In the following months he was frequently spotted dragging engine parts and accessories through the school field to the shop, much to the chagrin of his teacher who advised him to tackle a more realistic project. The teacher insisted he could drop $100 and get a working vehicle instead of taking on this "lost cause."
But Carpenter wouldn't be deterred. And it meant a lot - 37 years later - to bring that same vehicle (now fully restored) back to his alma mater where it and the story could be shared with others.
His passion (admittedly verging on obsession) with the Regent was only the beginning. Not only has Carpenter clocked some 130,000 miles on the old Dodge's original flathead-six motor, but he has expanded his collection to include a dozen other classic cars in various stages of restoration. And more significantly, he's parlayed his love of cars into an Internet- based parts and tire business he runs from his Okanagan home.