At the Montreal International Auto Show, it’s estimated two-thirds of the 200,000 visitors are “habitués” — aficionados who come out of a love for cars, but aren’t looking to buy. At Toronto’s car show, by contrast, two-thirds are there because they’re in the market.
Montreal’s show, featuring more than 500 cars from 38 carmakers and now in its 77th year, is in some ways geared more toward dreams than practicality, which is perhaps an apt way to describe the difference between the two cities.
Herewith, some of the multi-hued dreams on display.
Attendees were lined up to get in Saturday morning, and most rushed to the seventh floor to see the electric cars. One took out folded pieces of cardboard, assembled them, and placed them in the trunks.
“He has kids,” spokesperson Denis Talbot explained. “He wanted to see if their hockey bags would fit in the car.”
Four years ago, there were only about five electric models on display. This year, there were more than 20.
Maxime Gauthier eyed the Toyota Prius Prime, a plug-in hybrid going for $35,000, less several thousand dollars in government rebates, while his one-year-old sat in the driver’s seat. It might be his next car.
“With the cost of gas, and the environment, it’s starting to make sense,” he said. One booth featured electric bicycles, another growing trend.
Two dozen protesters from Extinction Rebellion gathered outside the show, chanting “they stink, they pollute, they kill.”
A study released this week by HEC Montréal on the state of energy usage found Quebecers bought a record-breaking number of light trucks and SUVs and are using more gas than ever before. Electric cars represented three per cent of new car sales in 2018. Light trucks and SUVs made up 64 per cent. “It’s time for car culture to come to an end,” protesters said.
The mighty Model T
Guy Dufresne’s car is 108 years old. Last year, he drove his 1912 Ford Model T, with its original engine, more than 1,000 kilometres on Quebec roads, at a top speed of 80 kilometres per hour. He found it in Pennsylvania, bought it for $4,000, and spent 10 years rebuilding it, restoring its brass kerosene lamps and doors made of oak. It sold originally for $690 — today, it’s worth about $50,000, but it’s not for sale. Dufresne’s father was an auto mechanic, and Dufresne was a machinist technician. Now he rides with the Model T club of Quebec. The only changes needed to make it roadworthy were to install disc brakes and turn signals.
Next car over, in the Classics section, Daniel Jean’s 1929 Ford Model A, built in Ontario and assembled in Montreal, sold for $495 in its day, cheaper than the 1912 Model T. During the Depression, Henry Ford dropped the price of his cars and increased salaries of his workers so they could buy them. Unlike many car makers of the time, Ford didn’t go bankrupt.
After a search of many years, Jean found the car, sitting in a barn for decades in St-Paul-de-Joliette. He paid $4,000, and spent close to $50,000, and 3,000 hours restoring it. In its earlier life, it logged 55,000 kilometres in Sherbrooke.
Is it for sale? “Never,” said Jean, showing pictures of his grandmother sitting on a Model T back in the 1940s “I restored this with my son, my daughter. They drive it. This was a work of love.”
Prancing horses in the field of dreams
Over at the Ferrari corral, the 488 Pista, hot red and 720 horses, retails for $458,000. The 812 Superfast, top speed of 340 km/h, is cheaper at $422,000, but its gas mileage is not as good. The price tags elicit sarcastic comments of “That’s in the budget,” and “Oh, not too bad.” Ferrari rep Roberto Soccio notes those are base prices, however, and extras will bring up the price.
“You don’t need a Ferrari,” he said. “You want one.” There’s a one to two year waiting list for the Portofino Ferrari at his Jean-Talon dealership, a relative steal at $246,000 — without the extras.
Car as self
Jose Mendes estimates he’s spent $50,000 upgrading his tricked up 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart on display at the “My Car” section of the show. The passion for cars was passed on by his father. He races it against other car nuts, who express themselves through their cars, he said. What does his say about him?
“It’s loud,” Gomes said. “But it’s also charming.”
Over at the Porsche section, the tagline for the 718 Porsche Spyder two-seater convertible, $110,000 and 414 horsepower, is: “Perfectly irrational.”
Which sums things up nicely.
The Montreal International Auto Show runs until Jan. 26 at the Palais des congress. General admission tickets are $17 for adults.