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First started as "My 2 Cents" in 1997, I have written posts numbering into the hundreds. It will take some time to resurrect the older posts, so keep checking back. They will include meet reports, travelogues, and news of interest to Ontario licence plate collectors.

A Gran Torino day out

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

Last year, my trip to #Stirling worked surprisingly well—the weather was good, I found a bunch of plates, I brought my kids and they had fun (and behaved!) and I got some good exercise. All the while, we were hitting two birds with one stone, as that was the day we had booked our household carpets for their annual steam-cleaning. What better way to get the kids out of the house, than to spend the day at big outdoor flea market?

I booked our carpet cleaning once again on Stirling Saturday, and when the day arrived, I had the car ready with DVDs to keep the kids from counting the minutes along the way. My alarm clock failed, so I overslept. But my previous evening’s preparation for a quick AM departure meant that we were able to get to Stirling less than an hour later than planned, so it wasn’t all bad.

As soon as we arrived on the grounds and paid our admission (the gate guy allowed the kids in for free), I was greeted by an oddly familiar sight. It was a 1968 Chevelle, decked out in a four-digit pair of YOM plates. The number looked familiar, so I took a few photos. (When I got home and checked my records, it turned out that the pair did indeed come from me, back in 2009!)

It was a misty, drizzly morning, so there weren’t a ton of cars in the show lot. I wondered what that might mean for the number of vendors at the market, but I needn’t have worried. There wasn’t an empty vendor plot to be found. In fact, they were crammed along the edges of the racetrack, and even the back field behind the arena was quite full. With this being the second year since the AACA mothership dumped the town of Stirling for the city of Lindsay, the Stirling market remained as full and active as I’d ever seen it. Eric Vettoretti tried the inaugural Lindsay AACA market last year, and said that the extra drive from the east (and overnight accommodation needed in order to be there in the morning) wasn’t worth it. Whatever the organizational changes, the Stirling market feels essentially the same as it always has been - so Stirling will be my only destination on the first Saturday in May for the foreseeable future.

I met up with Eric soon after arriving, and we spent time doing some YOM prospecting while I allowed ample time for the kids to sniff through tables of toys. I coached my daughter this year, and encouraged her to shop around and not simply fixate on the first lame-ass thing she saw (no, I didn’t use the word “ass” in conversation with her). She eventually chose an elegant-looking doll. My son likes his dinky cars, so I have to be mindful to show him vendors that are selling good used stuff, and not collectors who want $5 for a Hot Wheels car because it’s still under plastic. We managed to find him some cars at $1 each tops.

Eric and I found a trio of matching Canadian Forces in Europe plates. They were the older black variety. Neither of us know much about the specifics of these issues, so it was a mystery as to why there were three matching plates. Assuming that there might be a pair of plates for the front and rear of a vehicle, there could also be a third plate for a trailer or mobile gun to be towed behind a military vehicle. It seemed unlikely that they would have punched out three plates in error. Regardless, the vendor wanted $125 for the set – and maybe that’s not an unreasonable price for a trio of matched plates – but we don’t know enough about them to know how rare a find they are, and besides, neither Eric not I actively collect such forces plates anyway. We left them behind on the Sweet Caporal trunk upon which we found them.

It started to rain just as we stopped for lunch at a fry trailer, so I brought the kids onto the rickety old bandshell stage to munch on their fries. We watched the people walk by with hunched shoulders and wet hoodies and wondered why we were the only ones taking refuge in a dry spot.

The wet weather didn’t afford me many photo opportunities, although after the rain stopped, we did venture back out into the show lot. My son spent time checking out an old 1940s Dodge and – bundle or energy that he is – he lept and twirled too close to the car for the owner’s liking. One of these years, he’ll calm down—I hope. I saw a really cool 1966 Dodge Monaco, with the huge bowtie taillights. Curiously, it had an old 1973-issue Ontario passenger plate. I took a few pictures, just to document the fact that these plates, issued over 40 years ago, can still be legally used on the road. It looks as though this car was used through 1974 (as it bore a faded ’74 sticker in the lower box) and then sat garaged for some time into the 1980s before it was brought onto the road again. The sun-faded plate also shows remnants of the old paint rollers that were used in the Millbrook prison. If you look closely at the W and J, you can see a faded “8” and “6” in the background. The blue paint was applied to the rollers before the plate rolled underneath, and, of course, some paint stayed on the plate as it went through. Thus, there was less paint remaining on the roller after it completed one full rotation, so through the second rotation, as the plate was finishing its pass underneath, there’s less paint to apply onto some of the remaining raised edges. Ordinarily, the paint was thick enough that you can’t see where less paint was applied, but sometimes, sun-faded plates can reveal this artifact. I have a bunch of old, sun-faded, quarterly truck plates that I collected as a child that show the same “ghost” characters.

I found another ’73 plate nearby, this one being mounted on a ’68 Impala. It appeared to be a similar “survivor” issue as that of the Monaco, although there were no lower-box stickers on the plate. Maybe they were just peeled off, although there’s a chance the car was used until ’73 and then stored for a while before being renewed with the same plates.

These two ’73 plates were not in the best of shape, but they were still quite legible. In contrast, I spotted a newer plate in a rest stop along the way home that shows the awful production quality of new Ontario plates, with the reflective sheeting just flapping in the breeze. These terrible plates have been getting some news coverage in the past few months, but MTO spokespeople have pretty much said that we can expect a five year lifespan out of our plates before they need to be replaced. Of course, that’s never been announced before—that’s a cheap “Oh, by the way” statement concocted by someone on the receiving end of journalist questioning. A plate like this one would have been issued around 2009. Bumper stickers last longer than that!

The time came to head home, so I helped the kids into the car and we headed south to the 401 and then eastward. Nearing the exit to Deseronto, I spotted a thin trail of black smoke in the air. As we drove nearer, the thin trail became a substantial plume, and I could see that something was on fire on the right side of the road, just beyond the overpass. I now use a dash camera in my car when making longer drives, and it accurately filmed the burning truck as we drove past—the image here is a still taken from that footage. First responders had not yet arrived. The driver had detected the fire and detached the trailer from the cab before pulling further ahead to save his load. He was on the side of the highway, a safe distance away, talking on a phone and standing with a couple of other people who had stopped. Not wanting to expose my kids to danger, I continued on my way. There was no need for me to alert any authorities—there were fire engines racing down the highway in the other direction, ready to fight the fire. I was fortunate to be safely past the fire and closer to home before the highway was closed… although I did stop long enough to text Eric – who was 30 minutes behind me – to get off the 401 and find a detour before it was too late.

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