If you want to know the definition of “impossible,” try missing Jim Murphy’s car at a show: his 1932 Ford will undoubtedly be the brightest shade of yellow there. It’s a long way from the vehicle he originally wanted, though, which was a helicopter.
“I always loved them, ever since I went up in an old Bell over Niagara Falls,” he says. “My last ride was last year when we went over the Grand Canyon.”
A mechanic for Kenworth, he had an interest in cars right from childhood. “I was taking automotive in high school and I did the cylinder heads on my dad’s 1961 MGA when I was about fifteen,” he says. “My stepbrother had a 1955 Mercury and I helped him on it. Cars have always been my passion. My first car was a 1963 Acadian Supersport, and I wish I still had it. I had that before I had my licence.”
He bought the car when he was working as an apprentice at a Ford dealership in Ajax. “There was nothing wrong with it; it ran perfectly. I did it up a little bit – put on a hood scoop off a Mustang and put bigger tires on the back.” The greatest thing about working at the dealership, though, was being able to drive the high-performance cars, which he did alongside the owner’s son. “We took out a Cougar Eliminator, Ford Fairlane GT, Boss Mustang, Mach 1,” he says. “We’d put the dealer plate on them, take them out and just hammer them.”
When it came to collector cars, Jim preferred Corvettes, and his first one was a 1972. “I took it to Nurse Motors for a paint job, and they took it for a road test,” he says. “I don’t know why, but they took it for a drive and somebody clobbered it. When I got the car back, I could lift the back of the body off the frame. I turned around and got a 1973, and then I bought a 1977. I put side pipes and Thrush exhaust on it, and it was a nice car.” Also travelling through his garage over the years were another 1977 Corvette and a Camaro Z28.
Alberta’s oil boom beckoned and Jim, who by this time had finished his apprenticeship and was working on dump trucks, went to Fort McMurray in 1981. There he bought another Corvette, this time a new one. He also indulged his interest in helicopters by helping a friend build one from a kit, intending to train and get his pilot’s licence in it. Unfortunately he returned to Ontario after he finished building the little chopper but before he could start lessons. His friend also owned a Model A pickup truck, and Jim caught the hot rod bug.
“I was conversing with my brother Rick about his cars and I wanted to line up something to bring back, so I looked at a 1934 Ford, but it had four doors and I didn’t want that,” he says. “Then I saw a 1931 pro-street three-window A, and I actually put money on it, but when I went to get the car, the guy had sold it on me.”
He returned to Ontario and worked for J&F Trucking for a year, which is where he met Sharon Karn. They’ve been together for 22 years and their family includes Sharon’s son Phil, his wife Corinna and their sons Ethin and Liam.
Still looking for a car in 1994, Jim went to Haimer’s in Whitby and found a frame, grille and grille shell for a 1932 Ford. The frame went to Toys for Boys in Cambridge, where it was K-framed and pro-streeted. “When I couldn’t find a body for it, I ordered a Gibbons body from California and then I modified it for pro-street,” he says. Four years after that, I finished building it. I bought a Ford axle from the wreckers and had it cut down, I bought a Mustang independent front suspension, got a 350 Chev engine and had it rebuilt, had a 400 transmission rebuilt and had it done up a little bit with a shift kit, and then I put it all back together. I then took it all apart and painted it underneath, made fenders for the back to fit 18” Mickey Thompson tires, and had it painted at Maaco.”
He and his brother Rick thought about joining Country Car Club. “We went over and checked it out, but for some reason we didn’t join up,” he says. “I don’t remember why. But Rick went to Motor City on his own, and I joined up six months later in 1996.
“I like it because we can do things as a group of people. I don’t do as much as I used to since the grandkids and stuff, but I still remember those times. It was such a decent feeling when you went to the Trenton show. There was a restaurant there and we’d come in the door and everybody had napkins tied around their heads. That was so much fun – they had a hat ready for me and it was so cool. The whole restaurant was full of car people.”
His favourite event is Autofest, specifically when the cars start coming in on Saturday and Sunday mornings and he can reacquaint himself with friends he hasn’t seen for a year. “It’s like a long distance family that you only see at reunions. You get to catch up on each others’ lives and have a laugh or two.” He also enjoys watching and waving at the procession of cars at the end of the show on Sunday night. It gives him a chance to maybe pick up a few ideas for future car-making ventures.
His job at Kenworth, a second one running a vending machine business and renovations to his house all keep him busy, but he has plans. “I think I’ll probably build another car,” he says. “I want to build another ’32, a roadster. This is a lifelong interest.”