By The small boy ran toward the 1929 Graham Paige, opened the door and jumped on his grandfather’s lap, who just finished pumping up the tires. The boy, about five-years-old, beamed. He knew he was going to get to drive the car, with his grandfather ensuring they stayed true to the curve of the road. These moments bonded the boy with his grandfather, and likely set him down the road to his future occupation.
“Those are fond memories,” says Dave Morrison, now 44-years-old and the owner of the Barrie Auto Care Centre. “My family lived in British Columbia, but we would visit my grandfather in Trent about once or twice a year and I always went straight to the car.”
Morrison says his grandfather, Burt Simpson, who was the dean at Albert College, bought the Graham Paige vehicle in the 1930s. He drove it around a bit, but ended up keeping it in his garage most of the time.
“I think it was more of a show piece,” Morrison hypothesizes. “My grandmother says he wanted to get it because it was a higher-end car at the time, and there weren’t many of them around.”
Morrison’s grandfather passed away in 1980, and he left the car for his grandson. Quite fitting, as much of their time spent together revolved around the Graham Paige.
In his late teens at that time, Morrison put his self-taught mechanical knowledge, and what little money he had, to work. “My grandfather wasn’t a mechanic, and as he got older the car started to fall apart. At one point it wouldn’t even start.”
After a lot of mechanical work, changing the differential so he could keep the old wooden wheels on, and tweaking the steering so it was a better ride on pavement, Morrison got it running again.
“I can drive anywhere with it now,” he says.
“It can do 80 km/h no problem. I keep it at the shop and sometimes use it to shuttle customers.”
And when he has it out in public, there’s not shortage of attention. “It’s amazing how people think it’s public property,” he says, laughing. “They’ll open the doors and just go in. And the older folks love talk about it.
“Most people think it’s a Model T or a Model A; they haven’t heard of Graham Paige because they were more into making trucks and then were bought by Dodge in the 30s, so there aren’t many of them around.”
Morrison says he’s kept the vehicle as original as possible. The original engine and transmission remains – a Continental six-cylinder with a three-speed. And it still uses a six-volt, although he’s updated it to a more current six-volt system.
There’s a joy he gets working on this grandfather’s car that can’t be duplicated. “I’m the only guy [at my shop] who knows how to fix a carburetor,” he says, almost with pride. “The younger guys haven’t been around it. So if something old comes in, I’m the one that works on it.
And, in those moments working on the car, you have to believe he’s taken back to when he was five-years-old, sitting on his grandfather’s lap and learning how to drive on the 1929 Graham Paige.
Written by Travis Persaud