Stratford's Love Affair with Automobiles

This is a timeline of cars owned by Stratford people .  Pictures and Text by Vince Gratton

1899 LeRoy

This is "Sandy" Rider at 286 Queen Street on his LeRoy. Likely getting ready for a parade! He found it in a bicycle shop in pieces and put it back together in his living room. The LeRoy was made by the Good's in Kitchener. 

This car used a single-cylinder engine, and was based on the curved dash Oldsmobile. An unusual feature was the lack of brakes on the wheels. To stop the car, the driver used the reverse pedal of the epicyclic transmission. Production ended in 1904 due to a lack of capital. Source: Bub Kelly FB

1902 Oldsmobile

Photographed on George Street in 1922. This 1902 Oldsmobile was a part of an organized new car showing for a local car dealer "Roy Brothers Garage" at 108 Downie Street. Seated in the Oldsmobile on our left is the 1st NHL Hockey Superstar Howard "Howie" Morenz  ( See Morenz Dr.) who played for the Montreal Canadiens from 1924 till 1937. Morenz 1902-1937 started his hockey career in Stratford before joining the Montreal NHL team. Seated with Howie is life time friend Walter "Butch" Kelterburn 1901-1971 who also enjoyed a long professional hockey career with roots to Stratford's hockey team. The new car showing parked under the canopy is a 1922 Oldsmobile 4 Door. Thanks to Richard Spiegelman for the proper identification of the 1922 Oldsmobile. Vince Gratton

1908 Reo Touring 

This photo shows Dr. Baker and his wife test driving his possible purchase of a new 1908 Reo Touring on loan from the local dealer Kalbfleisch Bros. Photographed outside Stratford Ontario Canada the vehicle has a Ontario issued black rubber license plate with white lettering. These plates were used from 1905 till 1910 after which plates were issued annually.  Dr. Baker appears to be explaining this contraption to friends as his wife looks happily upon their soon to be modern mode of horseless transportation. ( see Baker Street)

Photographed in 1929 on Brunswick Street 

1910 Baker Model V Electric Queen Victoria Runabout

This little electric Runabout was the pride and joy of its owner Mrs. Dr. Deacon. Used regularly in good climate weather and not sold till her passing this car still exist in the area today. Manufactured between 1895 and 1916 the Baker Electric was built in Cleveland Ohio. This particular model with the optional top cost an amazing amount of just under $2000.00 new. Advertised as the Aristocrats of Motordom one just like this was Thomas Edisons first car. His company manufactured the batteries for the Baker Automobiles. My mother was born in Stratford in 1921 and remembered Mrs. Jeannette Deacon driving this car around town. By Mothers time it was a novelty then to see the owner driving this dated contraption. Vince Gratton

1916 Overland Model 81 Touring 

 This wonderful 1916 Overland was purchased by my father for use in the parade and other week long activities surrounding the Stratford Old Boys Reunion in 1953. My parents and a few other members of the local Optimist Club and Opti-mrs. are dressed in period clothes to match the cars age. We kids enjoyed a fun day riding along. Purchased from a local farmer who had not used this Overland for years as it required a replacement for the rear end drive assembly. After the season I remember that Dad sold it for a $100.00 which was a good price at the time. Vince Gratton

1917 Bartlett

"Rex" Bartlett, a very imaginative Stratford engineer, opened the Canadian Bartlett Automobile Co. Ltd. in Toronto, and in its first two years, 100 vehicles were built. In 1916, he needed to expand his output, so Rex bought a partially finished furniture factory at 212 Norfolk St. in Stratford. In 1916, 200 more cars were turned out of the Stratford plant, and a few Bartlett trucks, that were built on the automobile chassis were also turned put. Unfortunately, it all came to an abrupt end in 1917 when war broke out.  Rex lived on 169 Norfolk Street

Photographed at the Bluegrass Festival hosted by the Perth County Historical Foundation in Upper Queens Park, Stratford in 2009. The owner was kind enough to just leave it parked for all to use and enjoy as a prop for family and friend photo opportunities.

1921 Ford Model T Touring ( Canadian Built ) Survivor

This wonderful old Model T was sold new to a local farm family. After very limited use it was placed in dry upper barn storage till the original owner passed away in 1955. Acquired at an estate auction by another eccentric owner Eddy Robb he too stored it unused until his passing in 2006. Purchased by its present owner Gord Sylvester who was most respectable of its appearance he treated it to a mechanical only rebuild. The remainder as you can see still displays all its original Patina. This car is always a crowd favorite just for all that it represents.   Vince Gratton

1925 Hudson Super 6

This Hudson Super 6 was my Great Uncle Charles Fulton car. It has the optional solid military wheels and the added accessory trunk. The smaller boy is his son Ray and the taller teen boy is my Uncle Jack Gratton. This photo was taken on Earl Street in Stratford Ontario c.1928 .   Vince Gratton

1926 Brooks Steamer

This car at the time of the photo in 2009 was at its last fund raising event, the annual Stratford Railway Heritage Day event sponsered by the Perth County Historical Foundation. This unique vehicle with all its local provenance is now on permanent loan to the Stratford/ Perth Museum. This Stratford built car can be viewed at the museum facility . The Brooks Steamer Steamer was built in a factor on Ontario Street.  See ( Ontatio Street)

1931 Ford Model AA Dump Trucks 

Shown here is two new 1931 Ford Model AA Dump Trucks. A part of the gravel crushing and road building business of Yundt Bros. 

1931 Chev Coupe

This wonderful restored 1931 Chevrolet Sport Coupe was sold new to the Laidlaw/Park family in Homewood, Pennsylvania, It moved with them after the war to Hanover, Ontario. Not licensed after 1958 it remained with the original owners family till 1964.

Purchased by Bill Faulhafer its second owner with only 29011 miles showing it moved to Stratford, Ontario. Here it was treated over the next few years to a loving restoration. An exterior only refinish in Boulevard Maroon with Black Fenders and Gold Pinstripes was applied. After 23 years it was sold to a third owner whom after a short time sold it at a Fall meet in Hershey, PA.   Vince Gratton

1932 Ford Coupe

Nothing says Hot-Rod more then old Fords from the 1930's and the king of them all is the "32 or Deuce as it's nicknamed. Wayne Yundt owned just such a car and it was king of cool at the time. Built as a Father-Son project it took two years in the late 50's to go from an old clunker to a show finished Street Rod. Updated suspension, brakes, tires , new electrics and a modern for the time Chevrolet V8 engine made this a fast and safe ride. A Bright red paint finish and a custom interior it was named "Apache".   Vince Gratton

1932 Desoto Deluxe SC Roadster 

This car was one of my fathers second cars he owned when I was a young lad. That is me in my 1948 Austin Pathfinder pedal car. This rare SC Roadster Deluxe was in very excellent condition. The car was sold to a buyer in Thorold and was eventually the subject of extensive restoration. It now lives a pampered life in the United States. This photo was taken on Cobourg Street in 1951.  Vince Gratton

1933 Lincoln KB Dual Cowl Phaeton  

This classic 1933 Lincoln KB was owned by Wurster Motors, the Meteor Mercury Lincoln dealer in Stratford Ontario. Shown here with its owner Harold Wurster on Lakeside Drive beside the Avon River in the early spring of 1954. This vehicle was proudly displayed in his showroom along side new cars of that time. I was only 9 when I visited this dealership with my Dad and seeing this car alongside the new '54 Lincoln was a car boys automotive dream. 

1934 Plymouth FE Deluxe Sedan.

Some time in the 1930s, my Dad stands beside a Chrysler/Dodge/Desoto? on the river drive near the island. I had hoped to get a year from the license plate but I could not find it. I hope the smart car enthusiasts will be able to tell me more. Notice that there are no houses on the future Haig Drive. Bob Medrum  FB.  Chrysler cars at that time were great engineering value for the money. Photographed on the south side of the Avon River by the Island. Across the river you can see what is William Street today. At the time the property on William Street was home to two farm houses. Vince Gratton

1934 Dodge  DB Sedan

This new 1934 Dodge Sedan was photographed at the B-A Service station on the north-west corner of Huron and O'Loane street. A cold January day in 1936 this car is sporting a  Supertest winter radiator cover across the front. Visible in the distant background is a Shell sign which shows even then the brisk competition for your fuel dollars. The well dressed men are not identified, the station was operated by the Hishon family at the time.  Vince Gratton

1935 Ford Deluxe 3 Window Coupe

This great little 35 Ford 3 window was my first car back in 1958. Purchased in solid body condition with well worn mechanics. It was a dream come true for a young teenager at the time. After 2 years and a lot of learning it was road worthy and I sold it to move up I thought. Kept track of it for a while and then it disappeared.  Vince Gratton

1937 Cadillac La Salle Four Door

This class act car was loaned to me by its owner to escort the guest of honour to a special ceremony hosted by the Perth County Historical Foundation in honour of her brother-in-law. Tom Patterson was the founder of the now famous Stratford Shakespeare Festival which held its first season in 1953. This conveyance was just the right vehicle to do the job and was a great complement to its owner. His first try at a complete restoration he choose a barn find basket case and a difficult car to source. It was a wonderful smooth and perfect driving old car and it was my pleasure to have had the privilege to use it on his behalf for this duty.  Vince Gratton

1939 Ford Deluxe Tudor

This was a like new 1939 Ford Deluxe Tudor when I acquired it in 1963. Only a light sanding and a few minor scratches to fix and transformed from dark blue to Black. Six foot dual chrome scavenger exhaust pipes hung under the axle, a mild front suspension rake and it was a cool ride to go.  Vince Gratton

1940 Desoto Custom Convertable

A 1940 Desoto Custom Convertible one of only 1085 manufactured . The driver is my Dad, Don Gratton and this photo was taken in 1950 in front of his shop at 590 Ontario Street, Stratford.  Vince Gratton

1948 Chrysler Windsor Sedan 

Owned by the parent's of Henry Bülow Rasmussen 

Car identified by Vince Gratton

1953 Ford Victoria Hardtop 

This 53 Ford 2 door hardtop was one of my favorite teen cars. Powered by a 322 Century engine with dual exhaust and quick release cutouts it made for a fun ride. Lowered all around its shaved body and black rims with baby moons made it appear classy yet tough. Finished in pure white with a black top this good looking car in its day had no problem burying the speedometer on the open roads. The fellow standing with the car is my friend Frank Smith taken on Argyle street in Stratford 1964.  Vince Gratton

1954 Lincoln Capri Hardtop

This 54 Lincoln Capri was sold new here in Stratford by Wurster Motors the local Meteor Mercury Lincoln dealer at the time. Born as a white car with a light brown top a local dentist Dr. Joseph Boyd purchased it and paid to have it changed to black and the accessory continental added before he took delivery. I purchased it in 1972 and it still drove out real nice and all the options were working well. The body had suffered the normal amount of rust but it still had its original black finish and had never been accident damaged. I stripped all its chrome and interior and repaired the rusted metal and repainted it in Black Lacquer. 

I saw this car new in the showroom as a 9 year old and fell in love with it. I could not turn down the opportunity to actually own it myself. As a further coincidence at the same time I owned this car we also had purchased Dr. Boyd's home at 155 Birmingham St. The neighbour could not believe it the day I came driving in the driveway in the Lincoln that had lived there when new. Vince Gratton

1956 Monarch Lucerne 4 Door Sedan 

This locally owned 1956 Monarch was on show in Stratford at a Spring River Drive Cruise back in 2008. Sold new here in Stratford to an employee of Union Gas who at purchase  bought it as a personal car to use daily. Shortly after he aquire it he was given a company vehicle to drive and the Monarch got little use. He took special care of his cars and after a few years this became his pride and joy and the decision to not use it except for Sunny Summer days became the norm. He passed about the time this photo was taken and not long after that the car disappeared from Stratford. Fast forward to the Summer of 2022 and this car shows up at a car show in Bothwell. It has not changed at all and the present owner has continued to give it the care it always enjoyed.  Vince Gratton

1959 Pontiac Bonneville 348 Tri-Power

If you were a car crazy teen in the late 1950's you would remember one special car that was like no other that plied the streets of Stratford. Purchased when still new by well known local "Champ Landers" was this pure white 1959 Pontiac Bonneville Hardtop. The Pontiac was all new for 1959 and it looked like nothing Pontiac had built before. The American Bonneville was a high end model not available in Canada and it was wider, lower and longer then its Canadian cousins. You could upgrade this car by ordering it with a big block 348 tri-power engine that made for one powerful and fast car.

To own such a car in Canada you had to pay stiff import duties and only a few ever made it across the border. Champ not only paid that but once in Canada it went straight to Riddler's Speed Shop in London where the engine was tore down and fitted with special race components to make this car even more crazy fast and powerful. Vince Gratton

Word got out that this car would be making its debut at the service station at the corner of Ontario and King Street on the following Monday night. A weekly meet place for serious car guys at the time the parking lot was full and there were bicycles everywhere. We waited and when it headed towards us you could hear it before you seen it. The engine thumping like a untamed beast it slithered slowly off the street and on to the parking lot. If the devil drove a car this was it. No doubt every boy there went home and dreamt about the day he could own such a car.

If this wasn't enough Champ commissioned local well known artist Jack Turner to repaint the car. Sprayed in muti-coats of Candy Apple Red it was then Scallop painted to highlight the body features and then the Scallops were pinstriped along their edges in Gold Metallic.

A story that makes for legends was that Champ the dare devil bet that he could make it from the city limits to Grand Bend in a crazy short period of time. Someone may still remember the details. The only part that I can recall was that the time keeper who joined this journey said that as they approached the village of Dashwood he slowed down to 100 mph as he passed through.  Such behaviour is a part of our history, right or wrong it is our history.  Vince Gratton

1966 Acadian Invader

This then new 1966 Acadian Invader made for some interesting excitement on Huron Street. The local owner of this high powered car left the service station on the corner of Huron and Mornington Street and headed west up the hill. In front of St. Joe's Chrurch he over torque his car causing it to perform a summersault landing on its roof in the middle of the street. A light weight GM car with a 350hp engine this combination proved deadly at the time. General Motors received a lot of bad press for offering this L79 option in such a light weight car poorly designed for such power. Vince Gratton.                                                        

1970 Datsun 2000 Sport

My Dad never lost his love for open top cars. Growing up there was always a convertible as well as the family car in the driveway. Born in 1915 it was not till the early 60's that his love for true sports car came to light. After owning several British MGA's he discovered the Datsun 2000, a 1970 model with a 4 speed transmission. He kept this car till he was 85 years young and sold it only weeks before his sudden passing. Always an Optimist he loved life and I can still see him driving in an open top car with a big smile on his face. Vince Gratton