Seniors and their Vintage Cars: Driving Dick Dickinson

by Dick Parkes, Vintage Car Club of Canada, Kamloops Chapter

Although not the oldest member of our group, Dave Dickinson has probably been involved with vintage vehicles longer than anyone else in town. Dave was born in 1939 in Creston, B.C. where his father owned the local General Motors dealership, so he was exposed to all things automotive from day one.

One of his first jobs was driving a wrecker after school for his dad’s garage. When Dave was 16, his dad picked out a good car from his sales lot and sold him his first car, a 1948 Chevrolet.

After finishing high school, Dave left Creston in 1959 and went to work on a seismograph crew in the Northwest Territories for two months and then moved on to Lower Post, near Dawson Creek, where he was involved with erecting two microwave towers.

He then heard about a small Esso service station that was up for lease in Fort St. John. The average daily sales of gasoline from the station were 125 gallons, the water supply was a 45 gallon drum and the restroom was an outhouse in the back yard. Nobody else wanted the challenge but on July 1st, 1960, Dave became the proud operator of his first business. With the help of his brother, they made a success out of the garage and operated it for five years.

A young lady by the name of Noella deWit was teaching elementary school in the nearby village of Charlie Lake and after meeting up with Dave, they were married in 1963. Hearing about an Esso garage up for lease in Cache Creek in 1965, Dave and his family, which now included young son, Darrell, moved to Cache Creek. And this is where he was bitten by the vintage car bug.

In October, 1966, the Vancouver Chapter of the Vintage Car Club of Canada (VCCC) had a tour to the Cache Creek/Ashcroft area. Some of the cars were experiencing tire problems and when Dave was repairing a flat for one of the old cars, George Hoffman, a friend who he had met in Fort St. John, came into the shop and pestered Dave for $10. Finally, to keep George quiet, Dave gave him the $10 and George said, “Congratulations, you are now the newest member of the VCCC!”

The next spring, Dave went looking for a vintage car and found a 1930 Model A Tudor sedan at Fred Sawada’s Royalite service station at the corner of Columbia Street and 6th Avenue in Kamloops. The Model A was never restored but was driven around town and one year was entered in the Ashcroft Parade as a clown car with the whole family (now including second son Duane) dressed up as clowns and water spraying out of the radiator.

When Dave picked up the Model A at the Royalite station, he noticed another nice looking coupe in the yard, but it didn’t appear to be for sale. About a year later he received a phone call that the car was now available so Dave hooked up a trailer, brought it home and then tried to figure out what he had just purchased. Turns out that it was a 1928 8-cylinder Hupmobile Coupe and in 1972 Dave drove it in one of our early Easter Parades with his sons in the rumble seat.

Doing some more research into Hupmobiles, he discovered that there was an international club and Dave began attending their meetings in the U.S. and ended up being the President of the club from 1994 to 1999. Despite living in Cache Creek, Dave and family became active participants in the Kamloops Chapter, and after visiting one of our members who was working on a car, Dave decided to restore the Hupmobile and in 1981 it was completely torn apart. Ron Buck (our first subject in this series) decided to put on an engine course for our members and Dave brought the Hupp engine to the course and it was rebuilt, but that’s about as far as the restoration process proceeded on that car and it remained in pieces until sold recently to a collector in Washington state.

Hupmobile is not a very well-known automobile marque (see sidebar) but once Dave got familiar with them he started to amass a collection. On a visit to a local Ford dealership to pick up some parts in 1970, he had a discussion with one of the salesmen, who asked if he wanted to buy a new car. Dave said, “Only if it’s a Hupp!” and a young fellow in the parts department overheard the conversation and said that he had one. This car was in West Vancouver and Dave checked it out when down that way and ended up buying the 1930 Hupmobile Model S 4-door sedan.

Dave’s next vintage acquisition was a 1938 Bickle-Seagrave pumper fire truck. He had been a volunteer fireman in his younger days and when he saw an ad in a newspaper that the Duncan Fire Dept. had a truck for sale he bought it and drove it home from the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal. They had lots of fun entering this truck in parades and showing it off in front of the garage.

Long story, but Dave’s next buy was a 1917 Model T Ford touring car that was located in Estevan, Saskatchewan. He found that he didn’t have the time to devote to this car so it was passed on to a family member in Calgary.

Hearing about a Hupp that didn’t sell at a Tacoma auction, Dave tracked down the owner and ended buying Hupp #3—a 1933 Model K 4-door sedan. Over the years this car has been treated to a new paint job and some motor work and has been used on dozens of tours, parades, and car shows over the years and is the only Hupp that Dave still owns. Dave then learned about an older Hupp at the Stan Reynolds Museum in Wetaskawin, Alberta and when a customer’s car broke down in Cache Creek and needed to be taken back to Alberta, Dave said he would haul it there with his wrecker if the customer covered the cost of the gas. This gave Dave an opportunity to check out Hupp #4 which was hidden in a huge warehouse full of old vehicles. Dave managed to crawl back to it, had a look and said that if they could get it started he would buy it. The 1913 Model 32 Hupmobile touring car was dragged out into the daylight, started up and the deal was done!

On the way home from Vancouver after showing their 1933 Hupp in the Expo 86 car show, that car developed generator problems so they stopped off in Mission where they knew a woman who also had a Hupp and were hoping that she might possibly have an extra generator. The Dickinsons not only found a replacement generator but also ended up buying Hupp #5, a 1928 Series A 4-door sedan, which the woman needed to sell as they were leaving the country. They now had the largest collection of Hupmobiles in B.C., but that didn’t prevent them from adding more cars to their collection.

In 1993, the Dickinsons had a house built in the Rayleigh area, with a six-car garage to hold their vintage cars, and they left Cache Creek for Kamloops. Upon moving into town, they became much more active in our Club and Dave was President for 3 terms, had several stints as Treasurer, was on our Finance Committee, is our Club statistician and has been producing our newsletter, The Kamshaft, for over 10 years. Before her untimely passing in 2015, Noella was also deeply involved with everything vintage, always appearing in costume to match the year of their vehicle, and she even produced a vintage costume guide for our members to reference. In 1997, a 1973 Corvette roadster was purchased to allow more comfortable driving to our distant tour destinations but was sold recently. Dave replaced it with a 1963 Ford Galaxie 500 XL 2-door hardtop purchased from another local member for the same purpose.

Time has moved on and Dave has sold the Model A Ford, three of the Hupmobiles, the firetruck and the house with the six-car garage and has moved into a downtown condo, but has no intention of abandoning his love of vintage cars. Dave (Mr. Hupmobile to us) admits that he has never actually completely restored a car, but has certainly benefitted from all of the experiences and friendships that they have given him over the last 62 years.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF HUPMOBILE

Before starting his own company in 1908, Robert C. Hupp worked for the Oldsmobile, Ford and Regal Motor companies. The first car produced by the Hupp Motor Car Company was the 1909 Model 20, a small two-seater runabout with a price tag of $750 and over 1600 were built. This initial success allowed the company to increase production and bring out larger vehicles and eventually move up-market into the mid-price range. Hupmobile made good cars which sold well until the Great Depression but it was all downhill from there. Hupp’s last gasp in 1940 was the Skylark, a re-tooled Cord 812, but it wasn’t enough and after building over half a million vehicles, the Hupmobile marque disappeared.

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