In Love With Classic Cars

Ted Forbes collects and restores 1950s era automobiles and memorabilia

  • Jan. 30, 2019 8:00 a.m.

– Story by Alyn Edwards Photography by Don Denton

From West Shore Life + Style magazine

Sooke’s Ted Forbes bought his first car at the age of 14. Growing up on a farm in Souris, Manitoba, he loved machinery and cars specifically.

The 1949 Meteor coupe he bought for $40 was a first year, Canadian-only car that was really a “badge engineered” Ford with a different grille and emblems.

So his love affair with Meteor cars began. But it was the big cars of the mid- to late-1950s that would ultimately hold his attention.

“The rich kids in my town used to drive up and down Main Street in their mother’s cars. One had a pink and white, 1958 Mercury hardtop with cruiser skirts, the other a white, 1959 Oldsmobile convertible with red rockets [rear fenders ending in rocket-style taillights]. I was just a 12-year-old kid off the farm who was completely smitten,” Forbes recalls.

A visit to his sprawling, Mediterranean-style home outside Sooke reveals garages full of some of the most impressive restored cars in existence from the 1950s. All are fully optioned and painted pastel colours from that era.

Ted Forbes sits in his 1957 Meteor Convertible “Pinky”. Photography by Don Denton

He has five prime examples of Meteor cars in his collection — four of them rare convertibles:

• The most elusive is a black and yellow 1955 Meteor Rideau Sunliner that he originally missed buying when he phoned too late on an ad placed in the Winnipeg Tribune half a century ago. The man who succeeded in buying the convertible eventually moved to Victoria, and Forbes kept upping his offer until he finally acquired it 10 years ago.

Similarly, he knew the original Victoria owner of his pastel-peach and colonial-white 1957 Meteor Sunliner convertible, and was first in line when the decision to sell was made.

To get a matched set, he restored the remains of a 1956 Meteor Sunliner pulled from a Manitoba junkyard years ago. He calls it “Juicy Fruit” for its unique grove green and saffron yellow colours.

• He restored an equally rare 1956 Meteor Rideau Crown Victoria with its distinctive tiara roof in red, black and white.

• Wanting an earlier example of a Meteor Sunliner convertible, Forbes went back to the Prairies to buy three junked convertibles and a 1953 Meteor Victoria hardtop that was once owned by a childhood friend. Using skills honed during his 30 years working all over the world as a superintendent on oil drill rigs and in shipyards, he used parts and pieces to build his 1953 Meteor Sunliner into a world class showpiece. Painted colonial white, the Sunliner features a stunning red and cream interior and every option possible, including a continental kit spare wheel with graphics. He named the car “Canadian Maid.”

Forbes and his late wife Sharon were regulars at classic car swap meets all over North America looking for parts and rare accessories to make their cars special. The couple operated Island Powder Coating for many years.

Ted Forbes’ 1957 Meteor Convertible “Pinky”. Photography by Don Denton

Some of the other stand-outs in Forbes’ collection include:

• A silver and red 1959 Oldsmobile convertible that pays tribute to the car he saw cruising the main street of his home town back in the ‘50s. So is the rose and white 1958 Mercury Parklane convertible, which he tracked down in a junkyard in Williams, California.

Among the cars Forbes is most proud of is his Canadian-only 1958 Pontiac Parisienne convertible and matching American-built 1958 Pontiac Bonneville convertible, which is awaiting restoration. Although both cars look alike, they are very different. The Parisienne was built in Canada on a Chevrolet platform, borrowing its frame and mechanical components from its sister car. The American Bonneville is larger because it is built on an Oldsmobile platform and is powered by a unique and much larger 371 cubic inch engine. Forbes’ rare example has factory tri-power carburetion.

• Yellow is the theme for two other rare Ford products of the mid 1950s in the Forbes collection. His goldenrod yellow 1955 Thunderbird roadster has the rare continental kit option as does his golden-glow yellow and colonial white 1956 Ford Crown Victoria Skyliner, one of only 603 built with a rare, see-through Plexiglass roof.

• He also has four rare Mercury examples, along with his signature daily drive — a red, Canadian-only 1956 Mercury pickup truck. For 1955, he has a white Sun Valley with Plexiglass roof and a fully optioned coral pink Montclair convertible. His 1956 Mercury Montclair convertible is a showpiece in orangey-red persimmon, complemented by London Gray, and restored with all available options.

A 1956 Mercury pickup is Ted Forbes’s summer vehicle. Behind it is a 1958 Edsel. Photography by Don Denton

“It’s carried us to California and Hot August Nights in Reno four times,” Forbes says.

One of his favourites is the 1959 Chevrolet Impala convertible he rescued from a junkyard in Ontario and restored in silver with red accents.

And remembering the gorgeous, Canadian-only 1960 Pontiac Parisienne convertible that a close friend purchased nearly new when they worked together in the Alberta oilfields, Forbes rescued a wrecked example from another junkyard and turned it into a better-than-new jewel.

He doesn’t have far to go to remember the convertible he bought from money earned in his first years in the oil patch. It was a powder blue 1966 Mercury Parklane convertible with bucket seats and full power options.

It was his wedding car when he married Sharon and continues to be a centrepiece of his collection, since he has owned it for half a century.

He’s come along way since that $40 purchase at age 14 in Souris, Manitoba.

Engines, car parts and memorabilia collected by Ted Forbes. Photography by Don Denton

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