Hot Rods in Ontario: Revisiting the Jalopy Jam Up

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In 2014, long before my official arrival as speed hunter, I introduced the Jalopy Jam Up from Ontario, Canada as an event worthy of IATSH.

As a traditional hot rod show, the cover would be a significant departure from the events that dominated the front page at the time. If I wanted to make a splash as a candidate speed fighter, the Jam Up was the perfect opportunity to do so.

There was only one wrinkle – the day of the event it rained. A plot. I did what I could, but the splash I was hoping for was more of a wet sock crush than anything else.

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Four years later, I managed to work my way aboard as a regular Speedhunters contributor, and ever since then, doing Jam Up justice has been on my hit list.

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Over these nine years, the Jalopy Jam Up has grown and changed location. In this growth, it remains unique as the largest and oldest event in Ontario that caters to traditional hot rods and customs. This particular segment of automotive culture has always interested me, simply because my exposure to it is still relatively low.

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Like most kids of the 80s and 90s, when I started to really notice cars, “street rods” were the dominant standard for any old American car that wasn’t a muscle car. Boyd Coddington and Chip Foose ruled the roost and everyone followed suit with copious amounts of chrome, billet and teal accents. It’s not a hit at that time, I loved it – and quite honestly, I still appreciate a lot of the examples – but there was so much more hot rod culture that I had yet to experience.

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Finally, thanks to friends, I acquired a little more knowledge. The hot rod scene has yet to fully capture my attention, but I couldn’t deny the appeal of something simple, fenderless and loud.

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My first Jam Up was so different from other events I had attended that I was instantly hooked. I’ve only missed one or two since then. It also led me to research other events of a similar nature and make many connections within the local hot rod community. Heck, that’s a big reason I bought my ’51 GMC.

A shameless slam car guy, I find myself particularly drawn to custom (or “kustom”) vehicles.

If it’s low to the ground, has a snowflake roof, and has style, then son of a gun, I’m in!

What makes a jalopy?

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One of the hardest things to explain about the Jam Up is what makes a “jalopy”. The word is more synonymous with vehicles in poor condition than properly built hot rods. I guess in some ways this pairing is appropriate, at least for non-vehicles.

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The majority of the cars featured draw their styling from a time when vehicles were stripped down to go as fast as possible, with anything unnecessary being jettisoned to save weight. To the uninitiated, it looked like negligence.

The fuel injection lasted a few years, the wheels were black and steel or magnesium, the tires were white, and the exhausts were short. Driving was an experience to be alert to, as there was no assist and going past the 6-volt sealed-beam headlights was a real hassle.

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Many of the cars in the Jam Up didn’t just represent that era, they’re actually vintage, rescued from a barn and restored just enough to be driven today.

Last I spotted this ’32 Ford 283 ci V8 engine, the owner was looking for a shimmy up front. It has since been repaired and he has been enjoying it all summer, the same way the original builder would have done so many years ago.

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Is it a little rough around the edges? Sure, maybe a little, but it’s still a lot of fun and “fun” is the central theme of many hot rods.

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Eventually, style returned to center stage and customs entered the picture. These cars prioritized form over function and no modification was really prohibited.

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The Jam Up is essentially a “rad” event for an earlier era of American automotive styling.

In fact, do that American cars and motorcycles….

… Oh, and bikes and mini-bikes too.

It’s not so bad

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Some people think limiting an event to a certain time is elitist, but trust me with the Jam Up – it’s not that bad. Good times are more important than rules and regulations.

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Yes, the main show area is themed, but elsewhere on the grounds, just about anything goes. This means that there are some very interesting rides hiding in different corners of the sprawling site.

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Among the wide variety of cars in the extra lot, two really caught my eye.

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I probably don’t need to explain why I liked this bagged Cadillac so much, but the Tri-Five wagon below really stood out to me for almost fitting in.

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At first glance, it looked like a nice low cruiser, but the bars peeking through the rear window suggested there was a little more going on.

Just like aftermarket gauges, a discreetly placed tachometer and a manual transmission.

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The car had “just a small block” tucked into the front end of the tube, but the owner also mentioned that a larger grinder was on the engine mount at home. There’s no rush to set it up right now because he’s having fun riding it as it is.

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Like any big outdoor hot rod event, there were a few vendors peddling their wares and I had to get a quick look at a pretty wild kit car that was accessible for $5,000 or the best deal.

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It’s easy to see that this is a VW pan based kit, but can anyone guess which kit it is? Toss a guess in the comments and I’ll let you know if you got it.

More overflow area cars will be in the Cutting Room Floor chapter because I’d like to wrap up this post with something a little different.

Drag the line

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Since my days of building RC and model cars, I have always appreciated a good paint job. While modern automotive events are good for vinyl graphics or great solid paint jobs, events like this are great for flames, scallops, flakes and scratches.

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Pin-striping amazes me because it’s often done on the spot and fairly quickly after all, and freehand too.

Give an artist an idea and they’ll build on it, using their well-earned best judgment and the look of your build as a guide.

In the end, you end up with something super unique to ride around town because no two jobs are the same.

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It may have taken me a few years but I’m glad I finally found my way back to Jam Up. It’s an event worthy of so much praise, if only to give guys like me a chance to step back in time a bit.

David Thomas
Instagram: stanceiseeverything.com

Cutting room floor

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