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By Glen Watson This is a tale of two people and two cars, nothing more. Or is it? In these rare examples, found in Whistler, there is a synergy. Putting together the elements of a human and a machine can create something more than the two would be separately. For most people, the idea of having a vehicle for more than work or play is not even a consideration. The automobile is seldom seen as more than a means of transportation to be used, and even abused, until it is eventually replaced. However, Whistler's Ann-Shirley Goodell and Rick Sladen illustrate how this relationship can be transcended. There is a grain of the typical relationship in their vehicular bonds, since both refuse to simply place their vehicles in a shrine without ever being able to appreciate what they have. In both cases, they use, and perhaps abuse, their vehicles almost daily. Goodell's story begins in 1962, when the Trail, B.C. native was attending school in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her father suggested she purchase an Oldsmobile, the typical American car at the time. Goodell bought a large, reliable and dull Oldsmobile to satisfy her father's request. She soon decided the Oldsmobile was not what she wanted to own. She took an $800 loss on the Olds when she purchased what she really wanted, a 1962 Corvette convertible. Without a hardtop, which she purchased later, Goodell's Corvette cost $3,600. This was roughly the same amount as the annual salary she was now making as a nurse. "When I bought this car, I knew I would have it forever," she says with a smile, more than 30 years later. It was the last year of production for this model, but she had no idea back then how important that would be. "I've had an amazing number of offers for the car. I can't drive to the gas station without getting an offer." But, Goodell continues to hang on to the vehicle because it is about more than money. It is truly her car, forever. "My husband, Rob, says he married me for the car, but all he got were the bills," she chuckles outside her Whistler home while washing her Corvette, a routine she has done countless times using Sunlight soap, chamois and elbow grease. Wet, wash, rub, rinse, rub. When she married Rob in 1963, she packed up her car and headed toward Trail from Cincinnati. The 2,600 mile trip, which took two-and-a-half days, was not without a few highlights. The car was packed with luggage, including her wedding dress. The first day ended in Minneapolis, Minnesota where the U.S. Army Reserve weekend was being hosted, resulting in a shortage of hotel rooms. When Goodell pulled into a motel on the outskirts of the city she ended up asking the night watchman to watch her and the car through the night while she slept in it. Once they were married, the Goodells drove the Corvette to the Okanagan for their honeymoon. "Somebody put shaving cream around the windshield and along the side of the car. It said `Just Married' but the cream started to cover us and the inside of the windshield. We stopped in the middle of nowhere and a lady came out with a kettle to clean us off. I don't even think she had running water," she remembers. Goodell and her Corvette have been cross-country many times over the years, sometimes for fun but also to follow her husband's career path, which has seen the family of four move to San Diego and San Francisco. She and her Corvette lived in San Francisco for seven years during the ’60s. She worked in the Haight-Ashbury area during its peak and experienced the Berkeley riots. For more than a decade now, the Goodells have lived in Vancouver and Whistler. Driving Highway 99 is fun in the Corvette: "It drives like a tank at low speeds." She has had only three speeding tickets since she bought the car, complete with its 327 cubic inch engine and three on the floor transmission. "I wanted a 400," she says, but at the time she was mostly a city driver. Her mechanic in Vancouver is a nice Hungarian man who is now retired, but continues to look after the Corvette. "He loves the car," she says. Mechanically, the car has been very good. The engine has been re-built twice, primarily because the first re-build wasn't done very well. The odometer stopped in 1976 at 136,000 miles and , perhaps symbolically, the clock has also stopped running. There have been two fender benders, as well. Five years ago, she had just got the car back from the mechanic when it happened. "It was a gorgeous day. The top was down. I was driving in Kits and saw someone coming at me at an intersection." The driver of the other car continued along for half a block before hitting a cyclist. The cyclist flew through the air, landed on her feet and began running. "The cyclist was a long distance runner, an amazing woman. I just watched her fly. I couldn't be upset with what had happened to my car," Goodell says. The incident ended up costing Goodell some money after the ICBC settlement. "I wanted to take the car to the best person, but ICBC doesn't necessarily want the best person to work on it," she says. The second accident happened in Goodell's driveway. A friend was over to visit and the friend's car rolled down the slope into the back of the Corvette. "That person is still a good friend," she says, mostly because the accident looked worse than it actually was. It occurred the day before Goodell was supposed to drive in Whistler's Canada Day parade. There was glass everywhere. "I thought, my God, who's car can I get to drive in the parade?" she remembers. Once the tow truck removed the friend's vehicle, which sustained extensive damage, brushing off the glass and other parts revealed only minor bumper dents and paint blemishes. She was able to drive the car in the parade on behalf of the Whistler Centre for Business and the Arts. Goodell admits the Corvette has also been the source of a great deal of amusement, both for herself and others. "We were quite a travelling circus. Two kids, a collie and me going to the grocery store in a Corvette and car-pooling to kindergarten," she muses about the days when having more than one person in a seatbelt was allowed. Both sons, Gordon and Christian, were allowed to drive the car for the first time when they graduated from high school. "They were old enough to know how to drive and appreciate the car," she says. She has also learned how kind people can be, which is perhaps the best thing about having the car. While she is no stranger to admirers, occasionally the car is a great way to start a conversation and get to know somebody. Once, while travelling across the United States with her son Gordon to start her new job with Children's Hospital in Vancouver, she stopped in Gillette, Wyoming only to discover one of the metal pieces at the back end of the vehicle had almost rusted through. She could not go on without getting it fixed. The General Motors dealer told her it would take two weeks to get the part, but she only had two days before starting her job. The dealer pointed her toward another shop down the street with a sign on it which read: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The gentleman there told her he could forge a new piece in about 10 hours if she could convince the local doctor he could wait to get his car fixed. She did. When it came time to pay the $210 bill, she didn't have a chequebook and the shop didn't take credit cards. She had enough cash, but it meant she and her son could only eat once, maybe twice, afterward. The shop owner said it would be all right if she mailed him a cheque once she got to Vancouver. She did, gladly. While Goodell's story is an example of the importance of care and proper maintenance of a new vehicle, Rick Sladen's is perhaps a more typical story of restoring a vehicle to its original condition — with a twist. A veteran of more than 10 restoration projects over the past 30 years, his focus is now on restoring Packards. The Packard car company was started by two brothers in 1899 and specialized in making luxury cars in the United States. It went out of business in 1958 when the giant auto manufacturers had more resources and the demand for luxury vehicles dropped off. Thirteen years ago, Sladen began working on a 1939 Packard wagon, one of only eight now known to exist. The body is made by Cantrell of New York and is on a Packard chassis. "Packard didn't build wagons or trucks. They just built the chassis. They only assembled luxury cars," he explains. More than 1,500 hours later, Sladen finished putting the car back together. "This is something I do as a hobby, instead of watching television. It is not a money-making proposition," he says. Once the wagon was finished, complete with wood panels on the sides and roof, Sladen began driving it, and how. In 1988, through his wife Regina's relatives in Russia, he learned about a unique opportunity as a result of the opening up of the communist countries. An invitational antique car tour was being planned through these countries. Sladen managed to get an invitation through the relatives. First, he had to get the car over there. The Packard and a 1946 Kit trailer, to sleep in, were shipped by boat from Vancouver to Sweden where they were received by his friend. Sladen and his wife travelled by air. Once in Sweden, they drove around the Scandinavian countries while waiting for the proper documents from Russia. After all, this was probably the first time western people were allowed to drive their own vehicles there. "I had no trouble on the Autobahn keeping up with the trucks," Sladen says of his V6 powered Packard. All three of his Packards have V6 engines, although V8 and V12 engines were also manufactured. Once the documents came through, the real trip was about to begin. "We had an incredible response. We attracted attention everywhere we went. It was like a time warp of 30-40 years." This time warp also included spartan services for automobiles. Fortunately, Packards are extremely reliable, but Sladen always carries a repair kit and spare parts when touring, just in case. "We bought gas from tanker trucks for 11 cents/litre there," he says of the nine days spent driving in Russia, Latvia and Estonia. The entire trip was about a month long, but Sladen's Swedish friend helped arrange to keep the car in a museum in Sweden for the winter, until Sladen returned for another trip. Travelling with the Packard let Sladen experience more than he would have otherwise. Besides being steered toward lots of interesting places and being invited into homes, he was able to find out about lots of car museums he might otherwise have missed. "In France, at the National Motor Museum, we asked where we could park. They opened the gate into the courtyard to oogle over my car while I oogled over theirs." In Switzerland, a campground owner suggested Sladen should go out of his way to visit Granson Castle because there were antique cars in the basement. He's glad he did. While Sladen has sold off the other cars he has restored over the years, this one is special. "People ask if it is for sale and the conversation ends there, because it's not. The car's a keeper. It is me. The only reason to sell is to pay off debts, get a better car and use that money to move up to another car." Sladen has done just that with his hobby. He originally bought a 1937 Packard truck to use for parts, but finished restoring it this week. It is one of the two remaining Packard trucks he knows about. He will soon be starting on a 1937 Packard convertible which has been waiting patiently for his restoring touch. He restores them completely, from the motor up, and strives to keep them original in every detail except for safety upgrades, such as turn signals. While Packards are considered big money cars, they are one of the easiest to get parts for because of their popularity. Last week, a Packard tour of about 50 vehicles made their way to Whistler from as far away as California. Sladen gave a slide show of his trips and then joined the tour for the southern leg. "I'm a driver. I'm not into shows. I want to get use out of the vehicles I restore," he says. While these two examples show the importance of proper maintenance and care a vehicle should be given, they are by no means the only examples to be found in Whistler. To see a few more local examples, check out the Show ’n Shine in Pemberton this weekend. Maybe it can be your reward after you give your own vehicle a really good wash.

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