Arts & Life
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Ever since he retired from municipal politics six years ago, Reg Atkinson has been able to dedicate a lot more time to his classic car collection.
As it stands, the former Brandon mayor — who was in office between 1997 and 2002 — is putting much more of his energy into maintaining three different vintage vehicles: a 1963 Chrysler Imperial, a 1981 Chrysler Imperial and a 1986 Ford Crown Victoria station wagon.
Atkinson told the Sun that each car has its unique appeal and individual needs, requiring a slightly different approach whenever he gets behind the wheel.
For example, the 1963 Imperial has been in the Atkinson family since it originally rolled off the assembly line, which means the 72-year-old is very selective about when he takes it out for a drive.
"My dad’s price books from the 1960s are still in the glove box of that car," Atkinson said, explaining that his father worked as a farm equipment dealer. "His registration’s in it too and his writing is on the dash on an oil change sticker from 1977, so that one is my crown jewel. It doesn’t get out into the sunlight unless it is going to church."
Thanks to his father’s careful stewardship of the vehicle, Atkinson said the 1963 Imperial also required very little in terms of repairs and revitalization when he took possession of it in the mid-1990s.
"That vehicle was also built when a car was a car," he said. "So it’s never had any major work ever when it comes to the transmission or motor or anything like that."
Because it was in such pristine shape, Atkinson felt comfortable enough to incorporate the 1963 Imperial into some of his official duties as mayor, using it to open up Brandon’s first roundabout at 34th Street and Willowdale Crescent in 2000.
"So it’s really the only classic car that I had in my political life," he said.
While the 1981 Imperial doesn’t have the same legacy behind it, Atkinson admits he takes it out on the road far more frequently.
In fact, the former mayor said the car’s frame and 318-cubic-inch V8 engine is so reliable that he feels completely comfortable giving it for his grandson Ozy, who will become the car’s new owner once he is old enough to drive.
"Every time he comes to our place he says ‘can we take my car out?’ So he treats it as his car already," he said. "I’m not sure if I’m doing him a favour or not because it’s not particularly economical, but it is for picking up chicks, you know?"
However, out of these three vehicles, Atkinson said the 1986 Crown Victoria is the easiest to drive and provides the most versatility, especially for big family outings that require a lot of room and storage space.
"You could sleep in that car if you wanted to," he said.
Overall, Atkinson told the Sun that he’s just glad that he finally has some time to give these vintage vehicles the attention they deserve.
While the 72-year-old has fond memories of his time politics — which includes a nine-year run as the mayor of Hartney and a six-year stint as reeve for the RM of Cornwallis — he said these larger responsibilities often put his various automotive projects on the back burner.
But with that part of his life in the rear-view mirror, Atkinson is now fully committed to making sure these three vehicles stay in good shape so that he can, hopefully, pass them on to the next generation.
"I’ve been very busy all my life, but now I have three acres, three close grandsons and three classic cars," he said with a chuckle. "So I still have lots of things to do. So much for retiring."
Atkinson currently resides in the RM of Cornwallis, located just outside of Brandon city limits.
» Twitter: @KyleDarbyson
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