COLUMN: Demolition recalls thoughts of rigs and rambles

It was with some nostalgia that I briefly watched a large excavator clawing down that little auto dealership building ...

COLUMN: Demolition recalls thoughts of rigs and rambles

On the Other Hand by Mark Rushton

It was with some nostalgia that I briefly watched a large excavator clawing down that little auto dealership building on McCallum Road just north of the freeway.

The building’s demolition is to make way for a very impressive commercial centre at this location and on adjacent lands. However, my mental reflection was not for what is to come, but what was there many years ago.

The little building was built, or at least operated, by Ron Neetz who had, if memory serves me, a Datsun (forerunner of today’s Nissan brand) dealership. By 1969 I had become acquainted with Ron and one day he called me, knowing my penchant for outdoorsy stuff.

“I’ve got a two-year-old Jeep Wagoneer on the lot that you might be interested in,” was the message.

A day or two later, its new home was my driveway, my first of many four-wheel-drive acquisitions over the years.

The mighty Wagoneer, and mighty it was in dimensions, being close in size to the GM Suburbans or Yukons that currently roll along our streets.

The Wagoneer was, in today’s lexicon, more than “trail ready,” with big axles, big tires, locking hubs, four doors and enough room inside that, with the rear seats folded, you didn’t need a tent to sleep in the backcountry.

Of course, back in the day, used vehicles didn’t come with any sort of warranty, so I was on the hook when a year or two after purchase I discovered the rear tailgate door was rotting away.

It seems that whoever owned the rig prior to me was a fisherman – a salt-water fisherman – who must have carried his boat on the roof rack.

The dripping water entered the door-well through the rear window seals and the salt rapidly consumed all manner of things metal.

First, the window crank quit, and forcing it shattered the glass. Then the door itself began to pinhole.

However, its shortcomings didn’t diminish my adventures and that truck took me all over the province, from climbing out of the Chilliwack River Valley over Mount Thurston to entering the Fraser Valley about where the waterslides are now located at Bridal Falls.

It took me through all the historic towns of the Kootenays, through the Rocky Mountains from Banff to Jasper and, on a dusky blue summer evening in the canyon of the Fraser at Big Bar ferry, allowed me to discover an area where a few years later I would explore many times on horseback.

Eventually age and abuse caused the big in-line six to pack it in and, though I can’t recall its disposition, I assume I had it hauled off to the auto-equivalent bone yard, junked like the car lot where I acquired it.

My Wagoneer’s death, while certainly permanent then, may see a resurrection at least in part from Jeep’s concept car department.

In Tuesday’s Vancouver Province auto section is a feature on seven Jeep concept vehicles, one of which is reminiscent of my old rig.

It would be great to see a modernized large Wagoneer-equivalent start to roll off the assembly line. I might even be tempted buy one if my little Jeep, which is more a “sidewalk smoothy” than a rugged off-roader, comes to the end of its life.

Regardless, time does move on despite the memories, and perhaps soon I shall be returning to the site of the old car lot to drool over more stuff to use in the backcountry.