Seniors and their Vintage Cars: Virgil Lysgaard jack of all trades

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

Virgil Lysgaard is another of our farm boys, born March 31, 1940 to parents of Norwegian descent in Macklin, Saskatchewan, the closest town to their farm that had a hospital. His next 18 years were spent on the farm, going to school in Evasham before moving to Vancouver in 1958 to live with an aunt and uncle.

There he attended grade 12 at Vancouver Tech and grade 13 at King Edward High. Back in 1953 his family moved to a farm in Alberta and Virg’s first interest in cars was tweaked when a neighbour gave him a worn-out 1928 Model A Ford coupe that had been abandoned back in the bush. He and his brother towed it home with a tractor, eventually got it running again (learning a few things in the process) and spent many hours driving it around the back roads in the area.

In 1960, Virg began apprenticing in a machine shop in Vancouver and started noticing some interesting cars in the area. One day he spotted a 1948 Packard 8 convertible for sale on a car lot for the princely sum of $175. He borrowed the money and got the car home and began some repairs. When it failed the Vancouver safety check (the brakes were pulling to one side), he discovered that the brake wheel cylinders were not matching and although it was difficult to obtain Packard parts, he got it resolved and was up and running. It seems that Virg was developing a taste for big American cars as his next find was a 1956 Cadillac Eldorado with a price tag of $1700, so the Packard was traded in on this showboat. This car, however, had factory dual four-barrel carburetors and although gas was cheap back then, it still consumed it at a ferocious rate and before it was paid off, the Caddy was traded in on a 1960 Lincoln four-door hardtop, one of the biggest cars ever made. Virg drove the Lincoln for several years but it’s biggest problem was that it leaked, not a good thing in the Vancouver climate.

When Virg finished his apprenticeship he became a journeyman at V.M. Dafoe Limited, a small shop specializing in boats. He worked in the machine shop, mostly on boat propellers, but when things slowed down there he moved to a tool and die shop making moulds for plastic parts and now driving a 1959 Chevrolet pickup. The next big car to catch Virg’s eye was a 1958 Lincoln Continental Mk. III convertible, costing him only $400, and this car served him well for a few more years until the reverse gear packed it in.

His next major life moves were getting married and buying a large run-down house in the Grandview area and obtaining his next car, a Citroen DS 21 sedan, formerly owned by a French diplomat.

Virg’s wife had an uncle in Creston who owned a service station and was retiring, so in 1974 they sold out in Vancouver and moved to that community to become the new owners. On the way, Virg was driving the moving van and his wife drove the Citroen until it broke down and they left it at a service station, never to be seen again.

Their gas station business became a disaster as Esso pulled their dealership and they could not make a go of it as an independent dealer. In 1976, Virg made a chance trip to Kamloops to visit a friend at Heffley Lake and while there he overheard a telephone conversation that Mansini Steel needed someone for a month, and the next day Virg went into their shop, was hired and stayed there for 30 years, wearing out a lathe in the process. His tenure there entailed working on logging skidders and drilling machinery, requiring totally different skills than he had previously acquired.

When Virg permanently moved to Kamloops, he split up with his wife and she stayed in Creston. He then began building a house in Cherry Creek but when he was unable to renew his mortgage, the house was sold unfinished and Virg then bought 20 acres at Pinantan Lake where he built a small house and began collecting cars. At one time there were over 20 cars on the property and we started to become familiar with him when he joined the Vintage Car Club in 1986.

In the ensuing years Virg has been an active participant, organizing tours, showing his vehicles in mall shows, working on the Club’s Austin ambulance restoration project and always present at our swap meets. He has also been an invaluable asset to many members, machining unobtainable parts for their restorations.

A few years ago Virg sold the Pinantan Lake property and moved closer to town and reduced his car collection to about 10 vehicles. Currently in his stable he has two very rare Citroen SMs, a 1970 Citroen DS 21 sedan, a 1924 Ford Model T coupe, a Mercedes coupe, an Indian motorcycle, a 1954 Packard hardtop and numerous Cadillacs.

Like many of our VCCC members, Virg has other interests including sailing and inventing things. He has obtained a patent for an ingenious little clip for holding up Christmas lights (selling thousands of them) as well as another patent for a board game called “KGB.” He has also dabbled with installing an electric motor from a Vancouver trolley bus into a Ford pickup, attempted building a very weird gas engine and experimented with skis that could travel down the road, without snow.

Last year, at 78 years of age, Virg married Anne Mitchell and continues to work on the restoration of his 1954 Packard hardtop, which just shows that you’re never too old to keep going, just like our vintage cars.

© Kamloops This Week