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Up to 500 classic cars expected for Hot August Nights

Cathy Dobson Meet Slick. He’s come a long way from the rust bucket Jack and Julianne Higdon found abandoned in a barn near Manheim, Pennsylvania.
Julianne and Jack Higdon with their restored 1951 Chevrolet panel truck. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

Meet Slick.

He’s come a long way from the rust bucket Jack and Julianne Higdon found abandoned in a barn near Manheim, Pennsylvania.

“It looked like a rusty tin can and when I opened the cab door, I looked down and there was no floor,” says Jack.

That was nearly two years ago. Slick, as the Higdon’s affectionately call their 1951 Chevrolet panel truck, is now fully restored – and then some.

A dull red when it came off the assembly line, it’s now a shiny cherry red. Where the back doors once opened separately left and right, Slick now has a hatchback that pops open using a linear actuator once used to lift people into the bathtub.

Among its contemporary amenities, Slick has air conditioning, LED brake lights, power steering, a chrome steering column and Cadillac seats.

Under the hood, there's a 4.7 overhead cam V8 fuel-injected Dodge Dakota engine. In total, the Higdons spent $40,000 on the restoration after making the original purchase in 2015 for $1,000.

“It looks vintage but runs like a modern truck,” said Jack. That’s important because the Higdons bought Slick for more than just his looks. They wanted a truck to distribute their car wax, which Jack sells to other car enthusiasts.

The Higdons also own a 1969 Pontiac GTO and have been members of Sarnia Street Machines for 12 years.

Sarnia is a hotbed of classic car owners, says Julianne who is a board member with the group.

“There’s a big interest here. Our club has about 80 members but there are a lot of people all over Southwestern Ontario that come to our events,” she said.

The recent Cruise in the Park in June attracted 400 to 500 cars, everything from 1920s hot rods to muscle cars and classics.

The next big event is Hot August Nights on Thursday Aug. 3 in Canatara Park.

Street Machines President Jo-Ann Thorne says if the weather is good, another 400 to 500 cars will be out for that.

It’s a free event and includes entertainment by local bands Borderline and Scott Manery and the Barnburners, who donate their time and talent.

For a donation, the public can attend the car show, concert and dance in the park from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Thorne says anyone with a passion for cars is welcome to join the club. Members participate in regular social events that include visiting nursing homes to wow the residents with their vintage vehicles.

“Street Machines does a lot for their community,” Thorne said. Since Hot August Nights started in 2005 the club has donated $210,000 to Pathways of Sarnia-Lambton.

An additional special event is planned this year on Sept. 3 to honour late Street Machines president Bob McMillan who died last November.

McMillan was a founding member of the club and the heart and soul of it for many years.

“His wish was that in lieu of a formal funeral we’d have a memorial cruise and a celebration of life,” said Julianne, who is chairing the Bob McMillan Cruise and Poker Run at Clearwater Arena.

Anyone interested in participating can register at [email protected] or

The Arts Journal features stories about the cultural fabric of our community.  Send your ideas to Cathy at [email protected] or call 226-932-0985.

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