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David Bednar stands in front of his 1952 Chevy pickup. Included in his eclectic collection are a 1995 Miata, 1952 Chevy Suburban, 1962 Buick LeSabre, moulded plywood runabout boat and his daily driver, a 2004 BMW.
David Bednar stands in front of his 1952 Chevy pickup. Included in his eclectic collection are a 1995 Miata, 1952 Chevy Suburban, 1962 Buick LeSabre, moulded plywood runabout boat and his daily driver, a 2004 BMW.

My Car: David Bednar

The CNE's general manager has a stable of classics Add to ...

David Bednar has a long history in show business, including involvement in the Shaw Festival and Livent. But for more than a decade, he has been staging another big show in Toronto - the annual Canadian National Exhibition.

The CNE, which runs from Aug. 21 to Sept. 7 this year, is one of the oldest and longest-running fairs in the world; it started in 1878.

But Bednar, the CNE's general manager, also has an affinity for old cars.

The avid car collector has a stable of vehicles including a 1952 Chevrolet pickup, a 1952 Chevrolet Suburban, a 1962 Buick LeSabre, a 1995 Mazda Miata (which was originally owned by the late June Callwood), a 1988 Chevrolet S10 Blazer, a 1979 Harley Davidson golf cart and his daily driver - a 2004 BMW 325xi sport wagon.

"I don't have a strong conscious memory of this, but apparently the summer I turned 2, my brother would sit on the porch and go through car books with me," he says.

"By the time I was 4, I could tell a Maserati from a Jaguar. There's a funny tape recording of me and my father saying, 'Are you sure it's not a Jaguar?' And me saying, 'No. No.' In a four-year-old voice. 'That's a Maserati!'"

Bednar's collection started in 1991 with the 1952 Chevy pickup. "My wife and I were on a road trip in Knoxville, Tenn., and I told her that I always wanted to have a Chevy pickup truck from the year that I was born.

"I bought the thing on the spur of the moment and drove it back. I've had the pickup truck the longest and I'm the fondest of it," says the married father of four children and two stepchildren.

"My wife has correctly determined what the '52 pickup truck says about me. As she points out, I tend to be nostalgic and I had a very happy childhood. She thinks that owning a truck from the year of my birth, 1952, somehow speaks to my love of that time of my life," he says.

"I often have people ask me if I'll sell it. The others might be for sale some day, but the pickup truck I'll be driving until they take my licence away!"

The pickup truck cost $2,100 in 1991, but he spent nearly $6,000 repairing it. "It took me about three years to rebuild the engine and it's due for a whole round of renovations that I haven't had a chance to get to yet.

"It's really easy to work on. There are so many things about this hobby that I like. I love the mechanical involvement. I like driving a variety of vehicles," he says.

"I do have an ambition that my wife doesn't share with me - I'd love to drive my pickup truck to Alaska," says Bednar, who worked on major theatre productions such as The Phantom of the Opera , Ragtime and Showboat during his three-decade run in the arts and entertainment industry.

His second purchase, the 1962 Buick LeSabre, also holds a special place in his heart. "It's a big honking V-8. It'll pass anything but a gas station," he laughs.

"When I was in high school, the car I learned to drive on was a car like this. I spent three or four years trying to find one. I found one in South Dakota in 2000 and flew out and drove it home." So far, he has invested about $6,500 in it.

"We took the Buick to Florida once. My wife didn't want to take it. We argued about it. We got as far as Pennsylvania and ran out of gas. It's stupid of me - the gas gauge was working. I don't know what I was thinking," says Bednar, who was born in Dallas; he received his Canadian citizenship at the CNE in 2000.

Then came the drop-top. "I was thinking about getting a convertible and then I read this article about June Callwood's children getting her a new one to replace the old one. So I just phoned Mazda dealers until I found her car. They only had to change one light bulb to pass safety."

"It's got the odd little ding and scratch on it. It's not the perfect car by any means, but it runs like a dream and my wife loves driving it."

He even had the privilege of meeting its late owner June Callwood. "I recognized her at a Cirque de Soleil opening, I went up and introduced myself. She smiled, wagged her finger in my face, and said, 'You know, I took good care of that car!'"

But not all purchases were wise ones. "The Suburban really looks like hell. It's why you should never buy a car on eBay.

"It looked good in the photos on eBay and it was really cheap. I bought it and it cost me another $1,000 to get it here; and once it arrived it literally had no floor - from the seat to the firewall - there was no floor!"

To date, he has dumped nearly $10,000 in the Suburban. "A word to the wise - if you buy something like this, it better be because you want to own it because the carrying costs are high.

"The initial investment can be very low. I bought the Miata and the Blazer thinking they might be some future investment, but you're not going to make money on cars. At least, I'm not," he laughs.

Over the years, Bednar has owned a 1967 Dodge A100 Slant-6 van, a 1968 Volkswagen Bus, a 1969 Buick Wildcat, a 1967 Dodge Monaco, an Austin America, a Ford Aerostar and a 1976 Chevy van that was used during the Montreal Olympics. But there's only one vehicle he regrets parting with.

"The car I regret selling was the Vega station wagon" - a car the kids nicknamed Brown Car.

"It ran like a piece of crap - it had an aluminum engine and it didn't have a very comfortable ride, but it was a good-looking little car. If I could bring that one back, I would."

pgentile@globeandmail.com

 

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