Affordable Classic: Dragging It Home – 1961 Pontiac Laurentian

In the last installment I had purchased a 1961 Pontiac Laurentian but still needed to haul it home. A few days later I secured a twenty foot rental trailer and hooked it up to the Ford truck. Rod and I again made the journey north through the southern Alberta prairie landscape. This time we got a little eye candy along the route.

Soon after setting off we spotted a 1962 Chrysler, 1947 Studebaker Champion and a 1958 Chevrolet Impala. Something was clearly afoot as these are not your average vehicles in traffic.

As luck would have it we followed the Chrysler for roughly forty five minutes to the small town of Lomond. Here we discovered a small gathering of classic vehicles which we soon found out was a local club gathering for a coffee break before heading off to a private event.

Taking a closer look at the participating cars, we noticed the 1947 Studebaker Champion appeared to be a salesman type special coupe with the extra-large trunk.

The 1958 Chevrolet Impala was joined by another 1958, this time a Buick Special with a lovely two tone paint job.

Next it sat a pristine mid-seventies Buick LeSabre.

The 1962 Chrysler two door wore matching classic license plates, which are legal in Alberta if for the correct year.

It was not a particularly warm day, so both the 1964 Cadillac and 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 convertible had their tops up.

Around the corner a 1972 GMC pickup truck sat next to a 1963 Chevrolet Belair four-door sedan with vintage slot mag style rims. The F150 and trailer snuck into the photo. Rounding out the group was a 1970s Ford F-series pickup and a modern Chrysler Sebring.

As we were preparing to leave, a 1963 Ford Fairlane 500 pulled in followed by a 1950s Chevrolet truck. The modern wheels on the truck likely meant it had a modern chassis and drivetrain underneath so we queried the owner for details. He had mated an accident damaged modern Chevrolet pickup with the classic 1951 body shell into a reliable and comfortable classic. The truck had been built as a tribute to his son who had unfortunately died young. Further adding to the story the owner/builder detailed the painful registration processed that he underwent to get this hybrid registered legally.

Unfortunately, we could not admire other people’s classic cars all day while I had one of my own to retrieve. Reluctantly we pushed on. Once we arrived at the seller’s property with trailer in tow, we gathered up a couple extra rims that were included in the deal and prepared the car for loading.

When it came to time to load the trailer we were aided by the fact that the car ran, but hampered by the fact that the brakes were not functional. The seller offered to do the actual driving since neither Rod nor I had driven a three on the tree manual transmission before. The sheer size of the car soon became a factor as we had to supplement the trailer ramps with extra wood in a bid to improve the approach angle and avoid high centering the car.

We noticed the remains of the stock exhaust system nearby under a tree; it had been a victim of when the car had originally been unloaded from a trailer. Likely past its best regardless.

Once on the trailer, we disconnected the coil and used the starter to fine tune the car’s location on the trailer. After securely strapping it down we hit the open road.

Well, we fully intended on hitting the open road and the seller said he would like to see us off but had to attend to a fellow who showed up to retrieve his hardtop for the winter. We took this an excuse to wander his yard again.

This time we came across a fantastic vintage RV and an International Metro van. The RV would have made for a fantastic camping unit if it were given a modern power-train swap.

Assuming one had the time and desire to clean it up first.

The International Metro van was a very rare end of run model that neither of us had seen before. Unfortunately it was quite rusty in the seams so probably best suited to the role of storage container it was already playing.

We helped load the ’70s GMC hardtop before finally hitting the road, although I have to say for being made of fiberglass it was rather heavy. Thankfully the drive back went smoothly although we did stop once to double check the tie downs. Before getting home it seemed like a good idea to fully clean the several decades’ worth of grime and dust that had accumulated on the car. Rather than risk taking the car off the trailer and being unable to load it again we decided to leave it on for the wash.

The hot water powered through the grime in the engine bay, making it a much more pleasant place to work in. The seller had mentioned earlier that he had started to restore the paint finish on one side of the car with metal scrubbing pads(!!). Certainly not the tool or method I would choose but it had left one side a slightly lighter color than the other. Fortunately our power wash did the same thing the metal scrubs had done but in a more gentle fashion and evened our the car’s color.

As we arrived home my wife wondered how it had taken all day to drive two hundred kilometers or so. I tried in vain to explain that we had come across a tour of old cars, wandered a storage yard and cleaned of twenty five years’ worth of dirt. She did have a bit of a point as the rental trailer needed to be returned in less than an hour and we still needed to unload it. Using the curb to flatten out the departure angle we suspected extra wood was unnecessary this time. It felt right to drive the car off and into the garage so I got behind the wheel of the big car with no brakes. With less fumbling around than I expected I found reverse gear and started backing off the trailer. As I descended down the ramps gravity became more of a motivating factor I could hear Rod urgently yell “Stop, stop … STOP”. Instinctively I stabbed the brake pedal, which just flopped toward the firewall uselessly. As I was fumbling around trying to shift from reverse into first gear, the rear wheels hit the driveway. While I had come off a few degrees from true the car had managed to hang on to the last few inches of ramp. It had been a closer call than I would have liked but the car was off the trailer.

After rushing to return the trailer I could finally give my purchase an assessment in greater detail. But that will have to wait for the next installment.

The whole Affordable Classic series:

  1. The Search Is On
  2. Landed One – 1961 Pontiac Laurentian
  3. Dragging It Home
  4. Assessment and Planning
  5. Little Fixes
  6. Shocks and Brake Removal
  7. Disc Brake Mounting
  8. Cooling and Fueling
  9. Back into the Brakes and Other Odds and Ends
  10. First Drive!
  11. Last Minute Fixes