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Classic Cars: Working through the pandemic, one part at a time

- SaltWire Network

Vancouver car enthusiast Lewis Thaw and Courtenay 1950s Ford collector Larry Jangula haven’t met formally but they may cross paths in the Washington State border town of Blaine. It is in Blaine, 30 minutes south of Vancouver, that they pick up parts to bring back to Canadian hobbyists and classic car restorers.

Business is booming.

“Snowbirds can’t fly south; people can’t travel as they once did; some are taking early retirement and others are working from home. But they are all working on their projects,” says Jangula, a former RCMP corporal and two-term mayor of the Vancouver Island community of Courtenay.

For Lewis Thaw and wife Ailaj, owners of a collection of two dozen classics, the pandemic caused their Vancouver-based auto parts business to quickly shift from a wholesale-focused business to one that served the retail market as well.


Larry Jangula turned his love for 1956 Fords into a business that sells parts all over the world. Alyn Edwards/Driving - POSTMEDIA
Larry Jangula turned his love for 1956 Fords into a business that sells parts all over the world. Alyn Edwards/Driving - POSTMEDIA

 


“We find parts all over the U.S. from suppliers and friends for restoration shops and hobbyists,” Lewis Thaw says. “We bring the parts across the border and deliver them right to their door.”

His business is up 20 per cent in the last year as the pandemic keeps the U.S.-Canadian border closed to all but essential and commercial travel.

Both Thaw and Jangula have turned their passion for classic cars into businesses.

Lewis Thaw spent 25 years selling custom wheels and tires before starting a car restoration business that provided vehicles to B.C.’s burgeoning film industry. The financial crash of 2008 killed that as film production slowed to a crawl.

Pivoting, and being a lifelong Mustang enthusiast, he brought together inventories of vintage Mustang parts and began to sell across Canada. Then he branched out into Camaro parts and other classics. Today, Canadian Classic Auto Supply has two warehouses in Delta jammed with new old stock and reproduction parts that he sells wholesale and retail along with his cross-border parts locating enterprise.

“I spend hours online looking for parts and talking to contacts all over North America,” he explains. “I also have agreements with more than 100 suppliers, which gives me a price advantage.”

A major challenge was to find parts for the 1958 Pontiac Parisienne convertible recently completed by B.C.-based Jellybean Autocrafters.


The rare 1956 Ford Fairlane Skyliner glass-top owned by Larry Jangula of Courtenay on Vancouver Island. Alyn Edwards/Driving - POSTMEDIA
The rare 1956 Ford Fairlane Skyliner glass-top owned by Larry Jangula of Courtenay on Vancouver Island. Alyn Edwards/Driving - POSTMEDIA

 


“This is a Canadian-only car built for just six months and the parts are very hard to find,” he says, adding he estimates he located $20,000 in parts for the car, including rare interior moldings.

He found three parts trucks in Armstrong, B.C. that proved essential for Jellybean’s extensive rebuild of a customized mid-’50s Willis station wagon. He has sent parts as far away as Italy, Japan and New Zealand.

Long-time hobbyist and classic car retailer Larry Jangula became fascinated with the new 1956 Ford cars when he first saw one at the age of 16 while living on the family farm in Empress, Alberta south of Medicine Hat.

“It was the first Ford to have the exhaust come through the rear bumpers and to have a fender insignia showing it was powered by the Thunderbird Special engine,” he says. “It was the most beautiful car I had ever seen.”


Lewis Thaw shows off a part used in his cross-border supply business. Alyn Edwards/Driving  - POSTMEDIA
Lewis Thaw shows off a part used in his cross-border supply business. Alyn Edwards/Driving - POSTMEDIA

 


Jangula’s collection includes a fully optioned two-tone blue 1956 Ford Fairlane Sunliner convertible and a similarly equipped 1956 Ford Fairlane Skyliner, one of only 603 produced with a see-through Plexiglas roof. He still owns his first collector car – a willow green and colonial white 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Sun liner convertible purchased 45 years ago in Los Angeles.

“I was always looking for parts and, as I traveled around in my career with the RCMP and on holidays, I would go to small-town Ford dealers and buy their old and obsolete inventory,” he says. “This was before reproduction parts were available.”

He praises Henry Ford for having an easy-to-understand parts numbering system so people could tell at a glance what the part was and the year and model it fit. At a Ford dealer in Maple Creek, Sask., he found two sets of very rare accessory rocker moldings for 1956 Fords still in the original wrapping on a shelf right above the parts department entrance. Both his 1956 Fords are now equipped with rocker moldings.

With a growing collection of rare Ford parts, Jangula started vending at swap meetings in B.C., Washington and Oregon. He turned his passion into the Larry’s Cars and Parts business 30 years ago. He has since branched out into providing parts to hobbyists as far away in Sweden, including General Motors’ parts and reproduction body panels for all makes.

His latest trip back to Courtenay with a vanload of parts picked up in Blaine, Wash. was hair-raising. “It snowed all the way up the Island Highway and a lot of the drive was in white-out conditions. I had to make stops at body shops along with way and the driving was terrible,” he says.

A barn-like building built in the ‘40s that was a former furniture store alongside a river in Courtenay holds thousands of parts Jangula has collected over the years — many of them obsolete and extremely difficult to replace.

“I still have the excitement of finding rare parts and helping people. Retirement doesn’t turn my crank,” he says.


(Alyn Edwards is a classic car enthusiast and partner in Peak Communicators, a Vancouver-based public relations company. [email protected])

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