Community

Good cars, great friends: Aristocrats

The parking lot was full for the Maple Ridge fall fair in 1961, the dawn of the Golden Age for muscle cars. - Maple Ridge Museum
The parking lot was full for the Maple Ridge fall fair in 1961, the dawn of the Golden Age for muscle cars.
— image credit: Maple Ridge Museum

Baby Boomer children born after the Second World War moved away from the conservative nature of their parents and led the cultural changes that swept North America and Europe during the 1960s and 1970s.

One of the most distinctive traits of this younger generation was their love of cars and the freedom they afforded them.

This was the beginning of the Golden Age of the muscle car, with sleek domestic models made by Ford, Chrysler, Dodge and Chevy, equipped with V-8 engines, bucket seats, and big blocks.

“It’s surprising how people knew you by the car you drove, like it’s an extension of you,” Laura McCartney said of the strong car culture during her youth.

“It was a long time ago, when you could name the kind of cars people would drive in with.”

A physical extension of this mentality was the numerous groups that popped up, where members shared their passion for cars and showed off their ‘babies’ to one another.

In Maple Ridge, there was the Aristocrats Car Club.

The club was started in 1965-1966 by a group of young people who enjoyed working with cars and spending time together.

The original Aristocrats members: Steve Hamilton, Ernie Mostrenko, Al Hemminger, Ron Coleman and Bob Audet.

Luckily for the group, the drafting service business, where member Steve Hamilton worked, located on the south side of Lougheed Highway between 223rd and 224th streets, allowed the club to hold meetings in its basement office.

As time moved forward and membership numbers grew, the Aristocrats moved their meetings to a space located on the upper floor of a building at the south foot of 224th St. This rented space, which had a wooden staircase leading up the side of the building to a separate entrance, was quickly personalized by the group and painted purple.

Easily identifiable in their matching group jackets, members talked about cars, fixed cars, and drove their cars in local parades.

When asked about his favourite memory of the car club, Ron Coleman quickly described the group’s involvement in drag racing.

“Best memories from the club had to be building a car to race at quarter-mile strips. We first got advice from Buck Kenny, a local star of quarter-mile racing, who worked at Mussallem’s as a mechanic. He told us to find a ’55 Chev station wagon and it had to be a particular model with an automatic. We then improved the engine by balancing/blueprinting, etc., had it painted bright yellow and were very successful and would usually bring home a trophy most weekends unless our arch-rival from Tacoma, Wash. showed up, as he usually beat us. We only raced at the Mission drag strip, now part of the Save-on-Foods/Canadian Tire mall and Arlington Washington, which had been an old Second World War airport base. I don’t know what ever happened to the car, but guess one of the remaining members must have inherited it.”

As members got older and their lives changed, the club slowly came to a close in the early ’70s.

While the club ended, the relationships between club members did not.

“We were mainly friends prior to forming the club,” Coleman said.

“But after the membership increased, many more friendships were formed.”

Sandra Borger is a researcher at Maple Ridge Museum.

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