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Time travel: 1,250 shiny pre-1952 cars cruise streets of Greater Victoria for Deuce Days

Highlight event is on Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., when hundreds of Deuce Days participants will gather with their cars on streets around Victoria's Inner Harbour.

Northwest Deuce Days — the world’s largest gathering of 1932 Fords — returns to Victoria this weekend, with about 1,250 of the iconic hot rods expected to cruise the streets and be on display at the Inner Harbour on Sunday.

The event marks the 90th anniversary of the legendary car and the 10th anniversary of the show, which welcomes any hot rod, street rod and rat rod — as long as it was built before 1952.

The cars are expected to start arriving for the four-day event on Thursday, with more than 100 cars expected to disembark from the Coho from Port Angeles at 2:15 p.m.

The highlight of the show is the 1932 Ford coupe, affectionately called the Deuce, with more than 500 expected this year. The name is derived from the model year of the vehicle in French.

Unlike some car shows, which highlight originality, opulence or speed, Deuce Days is all about creativity and rolling automotive art, with the majority of the highly customized vehicles sporting colours that range from mild to wild and enough chrome to blind you on a sunny day.

While they all start with the same basic body, no two cars are exactly the same, with owners spending considerable time and money customizing their rides, limited only by their imaginations and pocketbooks.

This year, there will be a special section in the show for “woodies” — station-wagons with the bodywork constructed of wood, or styled to resemble wood. About a dozen of the vehicles are expected to be in the driveway of the Hotel Grand Pacific.

This granddaddy of car shows on Vancouver Island was started by hot-rod builder Al Clark with a meet at Gorge Kinsman Park in 1998. The show moved to Oak Bay Village in 2000, before ending up at its current location in the Inner Harbour in 2004.

The show reached a milestone in 2007, when more owners chose to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the model in Victoria than in Detroit, where Ford organized a special event.

After the last show, Clark decided to retire, handing over the reins to Destination Greater Victoria.

Paul Nursey, CEO of Destination Greater Victoria, said the organization is happy to carry on the Northwest Deuce Days tradition, and expects the economic impact of the four-day event to the region to be between $2.5 and $3 million this year.

“And it won’t be just limited to downtown. We are happy to spread activities throughout the region, with activities such as a tour of Butchart Gardens on Friday morning and a cruise along Goldstream Avenue in Langford on Saturday.”

Typically, hotel rooms are fully booked years in advance of the show, which takes places once every three years, with some hotels reporting that guests made return reservations as they left the last event three years ago.

For those who have always desired to own one, the show is also chance to see if their dream car is for sale.

The price of admission can be steep, however, with award-winning models costing anywhere from hundreds of thousands of dollars to $1 million. Prices depend on a vehicle’s history and provenance, if it’s based on an original chassis, or its build quality if it’s a reproduction car.

Although the main Deuce Days show runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, you can watch owners arriving to park their cars as early as 3:30 a.m.

Deuces will be parked along Belleville Street between Douglas and Pendray Streets, on the circle drive, side, in front and the parking lot behind the B.C. legislature.

Cars will also be on Government Street from Superior to Broughton, on Menzies from Belleville to Superior Street, on Wharf Street and in the parking lot beside Ship Point.

There will be no vehicles on the lawns of the Empress Hotel or the legislature.

The show draws crowds of up to 100,000 spectators who will have an opportunity to stop and chat with owners who choose to stay with their cars.

For more information, go to

Deuce Days, the tiny edition

For the third consecutive Deuce Days, the Scale Plastic Automotive Modellers of Greater Victoria is hosting a model car show at the Hotel Grand Pacific on Sunday.

Sponsored by B.C. Hobbies, the indoor model show is essentially a scale version of the car show taking place outside, with a showcase of scale models of cars built in 1972 and earlier in a variety of categories.

Expect to see models of all 15 body styles offered by Ford in 1932. You can also trace the history of Deuce model-car building through a large assortment of ’32 Ford model kit boxes.

Admission to the show is by donation for adults and free for children ages 13 and under, who will receive a car poster to take home to colour.

The event runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday in the North and South Pender Rooms of the Hotel Grand Pacific, 463 Belleville St.

Deuce Days highlights

Thursday, July 14: Most of the Deuces will arrive. Watch for them coming off the ferries, on the Pat Bay Highway, and all around the downtown core.

Friday, July 15: From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Deuces will create a mini-car show in the parking lot at Butchart Gardens, a National Historic Site.

Saturday, July 16: Watch for Deuces throughout Greater Victoria as their drivers take part in what is known as a Poker Run. Participants will travel to different locations or stops throughout the region to draw their poker chip or card. The run starts at about 9 a.m. and will take three or four hours to complete.

Sunday, July 17: The big event. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the largest collection of Deuces in the world, accompanied by a variety of other vehicles dating from before 1952, will be gathered around the Inner Harbour.

What’s a Deuce?

Strictly speaking, it’s a Ford with a V8 engine, and the word Deuce indicates the year – 1932.

The car sold well when it was introduced, and by the late 1940s there were still plenty to choose from, and they were for sale cheap. Classified ads in the Daily Colonist and the Victoria Daily Times – and just about every other daily newspaper in North America – had plenty of 1932 Ford Coupes.

So young men bought these cars, chopped and channelled them – basically, lowered the roof and the car itself – and got busy customizing the cars and giving them paint jobs that would never have been approved by Henry Ford.

Along the way, many of these Fords were given newer, more powerful engines.

The Deuce fad helped inspire magazines such as Hot Rod and Rod and Custom, which in turn persuaded more young men to get Deuces.

And yes, the Deuce made its way into popular culture. The Beach Boys had a hit song in 1963 with Little Deuce Coupe. Bruce Springsteen’s song Blinded by the Light refers to a Deuce.

The most famous Deuce of all might be the yellow coupe that starred in the 1973 movie American Graffiti.

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