I always knew my 73 Dodge Dart Swinger would be reincarnated, but this was the last place I expected to meet up with my former ride. Even though I bought it fifth-hand in 1983, the honey-coloured Swinger served me well for eight years. That unstoppable slant-six heart was beating strong, but the car’s frame was rusted out. My father sold it to a young kid who was plundering it for parts. It’s always hard to say good-bye to cars I’ve loved, and so I comforted myself with the notion that someday, we would meet again.
And here I was, at the EV Fest at Toronto’s Evergreen Brickworks when I spotted my old sweet set of wheels. The Swinger’s insides had been gutted, reworked, restored and converted into an electric vehicle. I suppose I shouldn’t have been that surprised. After all, the Swinger was just a Valiant with bellbottoms, always at the vanguard of an exciting, consumer-friendly movement like electric cars.
A dapper elderly rogue standing nearby asked me if I’d like to know more about the Swinger, since the owner had “stepped out.” Howard Hutt, the president of The Electric Vehicle Society of Canada, told me that the Swinger (is that a great name or what?!) had been bought with barely 25,000 miles on it. When I told him I’d had one just like it, he asked me if I still had it! I wish!
Still going strong at 89, Howard pushed his sunglasses off his nose to tell me about his EV, a Ford Ranger that was one of 400 that barely escaped being crushed by Ford. What is it about the Big Three crushing their EVs?! He said the lead acid battery no longer worked, and although alternate battery packs were available, they were just too expensive. In its heyday, the Ranger was powered by 90 ponies in its water-cooled engine and could get Howard from Ajax to Oakville. Impressive for 80s technology.
When Howard told me he’d been a steam engineer in the Canadian Navy, I knew he was my kinda guy. Next meeting of the EV Society? I’ll be there.