In a world where many ventures fail shortly after they’re founded, Motor City Car Club has held on and surpassed its 50th anniversary. Even more noteworthy, it still has some of its original members, including Joe Larocque.
In 1957 he joined the Kontinentals, which merged with the Igniters to form the club that exists today.
“Back in those days, we pretty well went to just local shows, in Toronto and the Oshawa area,” he says. “We went to a lot of drag races back in those days too, down to Deseronto and up to Cayuga, and the odd drags in the States.
“The Igniters were pretty well into a lot of the drags and car racing, and the Kontinentals were pretty much into the shows, although we did go to the drags. It was a combination of both that we ended up doing car shows and people going to the drags.”
Married to Teresa, with sons Jay, Shawn and Sean, Joe spent most of his working career at General Motors. He started in 1958 on the assembly line. Eventually he moved into material control, driving a truck to deliver parts between the buildings. His previous jobs also included working at Maclean-Hunter, a dairy in Montreal, and on gas line construction.
“Back with the Kontinentals, I had a 1955 Pontiac convertible,” he says. “There were two of them in the club. Mine was black and Bob Reynolds’ was off-white, but he had three single-barrel Corvette carburetors on his six-cylinder, and that was high-tech back in those days. I think I bought the Pontiac in 1957. Prior to that, I had a 1951 Chev two-door hardtop, and then before that, I had a 1947 Chev two-door coupe.”
Over the years, his garage has also contained a 1953 Chevrolet half-ton, 1947 Mercury coupe, and the car he currently owns, a 1937 Chevrolet Master sedan.
The Igniters suggested joining forces, Joe says, “so we struck up a conversation with them and hemmed and hawed because we couldn’t decide what name to go with. When we amalgamated, it was decided we’d go with Motor City Car Club. I don’t remember who came up with it, but it was put to a vote. Everything that has ever been done in this club has always been done up front, and nobody has ever really dictated that we’re going to do this or that. It doesn’t mean that we all agree, but it’s always been run by the membership.
“Most of the guys in both clubs were all Oshawa residents except me. I lived in Pickering at the time. Thank God there was only a meeting once a month!” Still, Joe admits, gas was only 27 to 30 cents a gallon, which made the commute a little easier.
The club was initially meeting in a horse barn in Hampton, and from there moved to a mill in Orono that’s now a Sears catalogue store. “There was a main floor and then if you came in the driveway off the main drag, you could go down underneath and that’s where we had the club,” he says. “The guys working on their cars worked on the main floor, but there was no insulation or anything. When I was with the Kontinentals, we never had any building. If we did any work, we’d probably do it out of Bob Reynolds’ garage on King Street.”
Although he still loved hot rods, after a few years he decided he didn’t like the direction the club was taking, and he left in 1964. He didn’t join any other clubs in the interim and he still attended shows that Motor City put on, including those at the Children’s Arena. In 1982, “I just wanted to get back into it,” he says. “I still knew some of the members who were in Motor City, like Al Barnard. Al gave me the number and I called and talked to Bob Clarke, and he was my sponsor when I rejoined.”
He bought his 1937 Chevrolet over 15 years ago. “I had a 1953 Chevy half-ton and it was slow, so I just said, ‘You know what, I’m going to look around and see if I can find a turnkey one.’ I’d just missed one, a 1939 Chevrolet coupe.” Gerry Goreski had the ’37 up for sale and Joe decided to see it. “I went up to Port Perry and had a look at it at his house, and I gave him the money. The next day I brought the car home, and I think that weekend we headed down to Gananoque.
“That was my first car show with it, and I wasn’t there half an hour and somebody wanted to buy it. I said no thanks, and he bugged me all weekend. I was sitting at a restaurant on Saturday night having dinner and he came over and said ‘name your price,’ and I said no, I’m not interested. We were at the dance and he bought me drinks, but I never sold it.”
The car is here to stay, and so is his association with the club. “Over the years, Motor City Car Club’s got a pretty good name,” he says. “The club is really respected all over the U.S. and Canada and as far as that goes, it’s pretty nice to walk around car shows or car races with a Motor City T-shirt on. You can always hold your head up high.”