It was going to be a hot one.
I set my alarm for 5 am and hopped into my pre-packed car at about 5:45. The temperature hadn’t quite dropped to a comfortable level overnight, and now, the yellow sun was peeking through the eastern clouds, signalling to me that the clock was running, and before long, it would be hot once again. I was on my way to the Merrickville Cruise and Shop, as a vendor, for the fourth consecutive year. My ’71 Super Beetle, Greta, had been running quite reliably on the whole this season, so I decided that she was up for the 140 kilometre round trip. She seemed to understand the gravity behind my vote of confidence, having never before been driven to Merrickville. She didn’t disappoint.
I arrived at Eric’s place just after six o’clock and he was ready to go. We were leaving earlier than usual to account for the fact that Greta isn’t a speed demon—a survivor such as she is better off cruising at around 80 km/h on the sideroads than being pushed to over 100 on the expressway. So I leisurely followed Eric in his comparatively luxurious Venza and we were in Merrickville a little after 7, with time for a coffee along the way.
Four shows previously, when we set up a vending spot during our debut in Merrickville, we had arrived at 7 am with lots of time to unpack our gear, and watch the occasional classic car lumber by on its way to the show field. But the show had been growing, and this year, there was already foot traffic going by, with people stopping to see exactly what we were going to be selling. We felt somewhat rushed as we assembled our license plates for sale on the display boards. We had brought the same camping tent-shade as last year, to keep us out of the sun; But this year, the show was more organized and a (larger) tent was provided to us. We also had an assigned location on Main Street this time around, whereas last time, we simply picked our spot on a first-come, first-pick basis.
I had brought Greta to the show to serve as a live example of YOM plates in action. I had to park her under our tent, so it was a bit crowded, but the effect was worth it. Next year, Eric and I will probably get two adjoining vendor spots where I can park Greta off to the side where she can be better seen.
We come to Merrickville to sell our wares of guaranteed YOM plates. We’ve perfected our sales pitch, and it seems that more people are becoming aware of the Year Of Manufacture program. The Government of Ontario has never promoted the program outside of standard information on their website, so it appears that most of their advertising has come from us. One of the authentication staff within the YOM office estimated this year that about 80% of their YOM submissions received originate from either Eric or me. It’s some work, manning the table through the day, but we have a blast, and we do enough in sales to make it worthwhile. If we have to leave the wives and kids behind on a Sunday, what better place to be than a car show with over 1000 vehicles on display?
When either one of us steals away from the vending table for a while, leaving the other in charge, we always keep an eye out for YOM-registered cars. More and more often, we’re seeing our own handiwork. The first year we did Merrickville, we were lucky to see 2-3 YOM-plated cars. This year, the total was closer to ten. Slowly, very slowly, it’s becoming more mainstream.
The first YOM-plated car that I saw was a ’67 Camaro. I’m always interested to see how the owners deal with the expiry stickers. Some use a tab that juts out the side, some trim the sticker so it fits, some slap the sticker on in an awkward corner, and some just stick it on the chrome next to the plate. This Camaro had a trimmed sticker. Other YOM-plated cars included a ’64 T-bird, ’69 Chevelle, ’70 Electra, ’65 and ’67 Mustangs, and a ’62 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk II. I only saw one of my own plates this time, on a ’71 Skylark. Well, actually two of them, if you include Greta’s ’71 plates.
In the show field, there was a new electric-powered Tesla roadster, complete with a brand-spanking new Green Vehicle plate… the first one I had seen in the GVAB series. Funny to think that they’ve got over 1000 plates in the books to get through the GVAA series. That’s going to be a rare type to try and collect… at least for now. Maybe in 20 years, they’ll be all the way down to something like GVZZ.
Chesterville, Kemptville, and the other towns along the 43 corridor each sent an old fire engine to the show. They were all parked together on the western edge of the field. A lot of them have regular truck plates with the “bumblebee” exempt sticker. I suppose the YOM program doesn’t allow heavy vehicles such as fire engines, but I still think it would be the ultimate find for a platespotter to see a YOM plate with an bumblebee sticker right on it. Other people dream of winning the lottery. I dream of stuff like this.
One of the rarer cars that I found was a Citroën SM, an innovative two-door coupe that was made between 1970 and 1975. The front end features six squarish headlights, which makes the car look more like an early-80s model. Right between the headlights goes the front licence plate, all of which are protected from the elements by a windshield. The car, while very cool, didn’t sell in the US very well and Citroën had to keep reacting to changing US safety regulations. Citroën went bankrupt in 1974, and after Peugeot took ownership, the SM was axed.
The sun blasted down continuously from overhead and I was sweating buckets. Luckily, Eric and I were right next door to the Krown rustproofing guys, and they had brought a chest freezer with something like a thousand two-foot-long Freezies. They were just handing them out to passersby. Eric and I gratefully accepted some whenever they were offered to us—We probably had three or four each over the day. As the end of the show neared, Krown still had a couple hundred left, so they were busy handing them out to as many people as possible. Our own businesses of selling YOM plates are much too low-volume to afford offering a similar freebie, but it sure was nice to have Krown as a neighbour. The added foot traffic didn’t hurt, either.
We would have wandered around the show more than we did, but the sun just wiped us out. We began packing up at around 3:30. Greta started right up and seemed to have much more pep than I did. She took me along old highway 43 and up old highway 16, and back to Ottawa—and didn’t complain once.