This summer, I found myself driving past a lot of rusty old vehicles. You know the type: They’re sitting in fields, behind bushes, or just on the roadside. They may have plates on them, or maybe not. I’m largely past the point where I feel the need to separate the plates from the vehicles. They may be what I refer to, tongue-in-cheek, as “public domain” (meaning no one would miss these plates, there’s no reasonable chance that they have any legal value to a landowner, and there’s no chance I’d be seen if I tried to liberate them). I lived for finding such things as a kid. But if there were no plates for me to find, the fire may never have been lit. So I leave them be. A kid could find them someday—and poof—another fellow collector is born.
Often, when I’m driving, I’m going a long way and I don’t have the luxury of time to stop for everything I see. But this summer, I had more time than usual, so I stopped to take some pictures. I also stopped at a couple of other places and found plate-related things to photograph. Here’s what I saw this year between July and September: Old vehicles, a few plates, a few pictures, and lots of rust!
We start with a 1967 International C-Series pickup, which I wasn’t expecting to find. I stopped to photograph something else, and found this truck nearby. I was in plain view of the highway, so I didn’t want to push my luck and start snooping around for a plate or windshield decals. But I gave it a visual once-over, and it didn’t seem to have a plate.
Next, we have a 1946-48 Chevrolet Stylemaster 2-door sedan. I’ve been spying on it from the road for the past 35 years. It’s really easy to miss, but I’ve known for a long time where to look, and I finally had enough time (and no family in the car) to get out and meet it. It used to wear a borderless black Ontario passenger plate on the rear, but I never knew if it was 1957, 1959, or 1961. The plate disappeared long ago, as did the remaining paint. The whole car is covered in patina now.
Not far from the previous two vehicles are three others, resting side-by-side behind some bushes. Two of them are 1958 Pontiac sedans. I don’t know enough about old Pontiacs to tell the trim levels, so I don’t know if they’re Star Chiefs or Bonnevilles. The yellow one was plateless, but the blue one had a faded mid-1990s Ontario plate attached on the rear. My guess is that they were once parts donors for some long-completed (or forgotten) project.
Between the 1958s rests a 1953 Pontiac Laurentian (a Canadian variant with unique tail lights). This car still wore a pair of plates, if you can call them plates. They were barely identifiable as Saskatchewan, from the reflective 1977 series, with the most recent sticker reading 1987. The sun has gotten to them, with the reflective sheeting having all but disintegrated, leaving the sturdy galvanized baseplates behind.
The next few pictures are not rusty wrecks, but I wouldn’t have seen these if I hadn’t taken the time to stop. They’re in the Mattawa Museum, which I visited in August on my way to our annual lake cabin rental. The museum does feature a mid-1940s Ontario truck plate, among many other interesting things. This picture features a large family posing with their 1933 Chevrolet truck in 1936. This was the year of the ill-fated lock tab truck plates. The front plate had conventional bolt slots (as seen here). The lock-tab plate would have been affixed to the rear. That would have been the more interesting of the two, but film was expensive in the depression, and I’m sure the photographer wasn’t about to spring for another exposure.
Next is a view of downtown Mattawa, looking north. My gut tells me this is 1966. The white X-plate on the station wagon at the right indicates that this is an even year. The X is separated from the other five numbers, meaning that this pic can’t have been taken any later than 1966. There’s a bit too much shade, so it could be 1962 or 1964, and the square-shaped tail lights on the wagon could be a bit ahead of their time for ‘62 or ‘64.
The last Mattawa picture was taken at the town centennial parade in 1984. The old fire truck has a commercial plate that came from the original 1980 distribution of renewable stock. Plate nerds don’t have much info as to which series went where, but it looks like HC9 went to Mattawa. The museum had no info about the truck itself, so I’ll leave it to a truck nerd to figure out what year it was built.
We now move westward to St. Joseph Island, and we switch from one fire truck to another. The St. Joe museum has all kinds of cool things, including a small licence plate collection. The newest plate in their collection is mounted on the front of this fire truck. It began its life in 1927 as a Graham Brothers bus, but was converted into a fire truck in 1932 and used in Stevensville, near Niagara Falls, until 1950, when it was purchased by the town of Hilton Beach, on St. Joe’s island. It was used as a fire truck for only six years. Hopefully they didn’t pay much for it.
Still on St. Joe’s island, I found this 1967 F-350 flatbed. I was lucky to spot it in a field of grass that was as tall as the truck itself. It still wore its farm plates, and was last on the road in 2003. There’s quite a bit of agriculture going on in this part of Ontario, but Mennonite families make up the most visible part of it, and they generally don’t use motorized vehicles. There don’t seem to be many farm plates to find in this area, so this one is a bit of a rarity. I could have easily taken the plate without being seen, but I left it in its place.
Far away from St. Joseph Island, I found myself passing through Marmora in September. I’ve been there before, but I didn’t recall ever seeing an antique fire truck parked outside the fire hall. I stopped for a closer look and found a very faded exempt “bumblebee” sticker on the front end. Like the fire truck in Mattawa, this one had a plate from the 1980 allocation. So whoever is tracking these things can add EM4 to their list, and attribute it to Marmora. The truck was clearly not fit for any kind of service, and may not have been in running condition.
Later that day, I had moved on from Marmora and was heading into Peterborough on Highway 7. I stopped at an antique market (where I’ve never found anything I wanted to buy), and discovered a 1952 International pickup. It was far from being roadworthy, and given the plates, had last been on the road in 1969. I don’t recall having seen it next to the market before. I used Google Street View to look into it further. The truck had been deposited there since my last trip.