Martin Burr stands beside his 1981 Mercedes.

King of the cars

Oak Bay man boasts a garage filled with classic cars

Like any ‘car guy’ Martin Burr has many stories about his unique collection of vehicles.

Spanning the globe, his collection includes a 1967 Morris Minor, a 1981 Mercedes 380 SL, a 1986 Citroen 2CV6, and a 1919 Ford Model T, he also owns a 22-year-old Mercedes 300 SEL and his wife Carol drives a Volkswagen.

He bought the Model T, which he shows at the Oak Bay Collector Car show annually, in 1993. The car was made in Canada with an electric starter and electric headlights. “There’s a special luggage rack, a Stewart speedometer that is driven off the right front wheel, an eight-day winding clock, a front bumper which is extremely rare,” he said describing its many attributes.

He traced its lineage to Montreal and knows it spent time in a stone garage before it was shipped out west on a train in 1963. “Whoever had it originally must have had money … it’s loaded,” he said of the black beauty which boasts  most of its original parts.

“I’d like to keep it until it’s 100,” he said. “Then I’d like to find a museum, maybe a Ford museum in Canada that would keep it. That’s my goal because it’s still basically the way it came out of the factory 15,000 miles ago.”

Burr’s first car was a 1949 Austin he purchased for $100. “It was a narrow little car. It was tippy around corners – my girlfriend hated that car,” he said. His buddy drove a robin’s egg blue 1955 Morris Minor. “I fell in love with the Morris Minor,” he said. “It’s a little car with a lot of power. And it’s fun to drive.”

His Citroen was purchased in France and came to Canada via Montreal. It was completely rebuilt in Coquitlam. “It’s an exceptionally well-built car. It’s known for its independent suspension on each wheel. Since the late ‘40s it hasn’t changed. There’s no heater. The vents just open to let the exhaust out – it’s an ingenious design and it’s just a blast to drive.”

He learned to drive in his parent’s 1957 Ford station wagon and discovered a life-long passion. “Once my mom and dad went to Seattle and left the station wagon at home. My buddy and I hot wired it and drove it down to Kits Beach to look at girls.” Their fun came to an end when his sister spotted them on the road. “My Aunt Mabel phoned my mom and a few hours later they came home. I ruined their long weekend. I got supreme hell from my father. That was the first and last time I stole a car.”

In 1963, a year after his brush with parental law, he was driving his girlfriend home and was challenged to a drag race through the Massey tunnel. “The Ford Mustang beside me wanted to drag … I put my foot to the floor and the engine exploded in third gear. There were pieces all over the road. It was raining, 11 o’clock at night and we had to take the bus home.”

Although his garage is full, he would love to own a 1955 Thunderbird. “It’s one of my favourites.”

He jokes that collecting cars keeps him out of trouble, but one more and, “my wife would kill me,” he says with a laugh.

 

editor@oakbaynews.com