Our Town

Hillbilly Hotrods brings back that classic shine

Don Carter beside his hot rod in his garage just outside of Cranbrook. - Arne Petryshen photo
Don Carter beside his hot rod in his garage just outside of Cranbrook.
— image credit: Arne Petryshen photo

The sign in the garage says “Hillbilly Hotrods,” and to give credence to the name, a yellow hot rod sits in the main garage bay.

They may be so-called backyard mechanics, but Don Carter and his friends take the term a few steps further, working on each other’s project cars, usually classics, and restoring them to their  former glory.

“It’s very satisfying, when you build something and get it running,” Don said. “A lot of people that are working all the time and have money will buy a car done. Myself, I like to build it from scratch.”

The hotrod that sits in the garage is painted yellow with red flames. The engine compartment is uncovered and the twin exhaust pipes come straight off the engine block, down the sides and to the rear of the vehicle. With a turn of the key and few pumps of gas to prime the engine, the V8 grumbles to life.

Don said it’s the third engine he’s dropped into the vehicle and the smoothest running. The vehicle even has a square door on the passenger side that opens and back in the day was used to carry golf clubs out to the course. He’s been working on the project for three years.

While Don has always been interested in cars, it was in the past few decades he started to build hotrods in his garage just north of Cranbrook on Highway 95A. Don is also a resident of Joseph Creek Village.

“I started building hot rods in the ‘90s,” he said. “I have a disability, so instead of just sitting around and not doing anything, I started working on cars. It’s a good hobby. You get to meet lots of people. There’s nothing bad about working on cars.”

Indeed, Don has nothing but good things to say about the various classic vehicle chassis that dot the yard, recounting stories and histories of the cars. They are from various decades, and in various states — ranging from completed builds down to rusted out hulls used only for parts.

Don used to have three or four cars at a time, but now is down to two.

He reminisced over one of those former cars — a 1938 Graham.

“It was pretty well done when I bought it,” he said. “It just needed some tender, loving care. I fixed it all up and it ran good. It had a supercharger, overdrive, square headlights — all factory stock. It was a very futuristic car.”

Another Graham sits outside, though it’s one year newer but still has a good amount of work needed to be done to it.

There is also a 1950 Ford in the second bay of the garage, disabled for priming and painting.

When the Cranbrook arch was dedicated a few years ago, it was Don’s 1934 Hudson convertible that was used in the presentation.

He also regularly attends car shows all over the Kootenays, and used to frequent ones down in the States as well.

He’s looking forward to this year’s upcoming shows.

“I’ve done lots of car shows,” he said. “Car shows all summer long.”

He said he has won a few in his day, and you start to get better at presenting your car the more you go.

“If you go to enough car shows, you win,” he said.

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