Karen Bowtell thought her husband, Doug, was done building cars until a Buick Nailhead motor showed up at their house.
“He just liked the idea of having that motor, so I asked him what he was going to do with that motor (and) he just started collecting parts and pieces,” Karen explained.
“He would come up with things and just start adding to it … I didn’t think we would have anymore hotrods, but like I said, it started with the engine.”
Two years later and Doug had built himself a custom 1928 Roadster pickup from the ground up — one of several cars he’s crafted in his lifetime.
A mechanic by trade, Doug has always been “tinkering with cars,” said Karen. He’s built a ’37 from just a shell — which was fished out of a barn in Winnipeg — and a ’53 Mercury truck, which was built 30 years ago and still garners attention.
“What he couldn’t find he made, so (the Roadster) is definitely homebuilt. He added from different vehicles and stuff, too,” Karen said.
“This one was basically 100 per cent build.”
Hotrodders may recognize the flashy vehicle from shows across B.C. and United States, including the Langley Good Times Cruise-In, which the couple will be attending on Sept. 10.
The Bowtells have been involved in the charity show on and off since 1997, when Doug was a volunteer.
“It’s kind of tradition,” Karen said.
“It’s the hub of hotrodding, the place to go. It’s not even so much about the car show and the cars, it’s the whole atmosphere. We all get together Friday night, and in the morning, we meet and we go in and park and we spend the day together and enjoy Langley downtown.”
For Karen, who often fills the role of “apprentice” as Doug works on his cars, the part she enjoys most about hotrodding is the culture.
“In the day, everybody used to gather around and watch somebody build a car, or everybody helped you build a car. That’s what it was all about, getting together,” she said.
That nostalgia was brought back to her earlier this summer, when she and Doug ran into a bit of a glitch with the Roadster on Vancouver Island.
While on the way to a Sunday car show in Victoria, their car broke down in Campbell River the Tuesday prior.
“We wanted to get to Victoria for Thursday, and we couldn’t get the part right away. We had to wait a couple of days,” Karen said.
Instead of waiting, they decided to look up the local car clubs of that area to see if anyone could help them find the elusive part for the Roadster’s old engine.
“So we phoned the North Island Cruisers over there, and next thing we knew, coming to our cottage, we had a couple hotrods show up with the part … they basically pushed us out of the way to install it,” she said.
“These guys just happened to have the part, and they came and they bailed us out … We loved it, it was neat, it was just so cool that they came to the rescue. It is kind of what hotrodding is all about, so it was a really neat experience.”
The Langley Good Times Cruise-In is back in downtown Langley on Sept. 10, with a swap meet and car corral on Sept. 11. Featuring more than 1,200 classic cars, the annual event attracts thousands of spectators while raising funds for local charities.
For more info, visit langleycruise-in.com.