Jalopy Jam Up 2017: Roadkill Visits Classic Canadian Hot Rods

If you build it, they will come. No, we’re not suddenly kicking dirt on a baseball diamond. Instead, we headed to a Canadian hot rod show that draws cars to the middle of nowhere—in the rain this year—and still makes everybody happy as a kid in a candy store.

It’s called the Jalopy Jam Up and three car-crazy friends dreamed it up when they couldn’t find a local show that catered to the traditional hot rods and customs they love. The trio hosted this year’s Jam Up in August in Durham, Ontario, at the wildest campground you can imagine. The Frontier Ghost Town was created to look like an abandoned Wild West town complete with saloon and cabins.


“There are lots of good hot rod shows, but there’s really none like this,” says Jeff Norwell (above, center), who created the show along with Brandon Roberts (left) and Jay Tyrell. “It’s small, it’s intimate, and it’s just cool.”

This marked the show’s fourth year, and despite the weather—half-hour of rain, 10 minutes of sunshine, 10 minutes of cloud, and repeat all of Saturday—some 350 vehicles showed up for the two-day event. Entries must be 1964 or older and built “in the style of how a young person would put a car together back in the day,” Norwell says. These cars park on the ghost town’s main drag while other stuff that’s cool but not quite in the style (such as rat rods and street rods) get preferred parking behind the blacksmith’s shop.


Car owners typically come from across Ontario, but this year saw attendees from Quebec, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, as well. The show is mostly publicized through word-of-mouth and social media, and those who arrive for the first time usually end up returning next year with friends.

“We were going to shows in the U.S. like the Lonestar Round Up and the Hunnert Car Pile-Up, and that’s where we first thought of this,” Norwell says. “Everybody said it would never work here, that we’d only get 10 cars, but here you are. It’s a community hub where people come together. Everybody’s car has so much personality. The cars are the stars here.”

We couldn’t agree more.


David Brown’s 1936 Ford started as a two-door sedan that was cut down into a coupe. Built by Oddball Kustoms, it’s chopped six inches, has a ’37 Ford deck lid, ’39 Ford transmission, 1958 Olds 371 engine, and an AC Delco fuel pump for a shift handle. David intends to leave it unpainted “to show the process it went through,” which is a really cool way to honor the builder.


Rob Purcell of Harriston, Ontario, had recently taken his ‘32 pickup to the Syracuse Nationals in New York, where it was named one of the show’s top 10. The Firedome engine came out of a 1957 DeSoto that got smacked by a train back in 1959. Rob found it in a barn with 15,000 miles on it and set six deuces on top before putting the engine between the rails. He wanted to channel the truck but decided the cab was too nice to cut up. We think it looks just fine the way it is.


Trevor Lines and Becky Hastings couldn’t fit their family into their ’28 Model A, so they traded it for this ’55 Chevy that Trevor spent the last five years turning into a gasser. Becky takes the kids to soccer practice in it. On weekends, they load it up and take it to the cottage—all at 16 miles to the gallon!


Keith MacIntyre built his 1927 Ford 12 years ago, but last year, he wanted to shake things up. So he ripped it apart for a makeover. We like what’s shakin’ now: metal-flake paint, wide whites, and a 1952 Olds powerplant.


Eric Rand’s 1937 Chevy was built in the 1950s as a hot rod in Toronto. Its 1963 plate marks the year it was taken off the road and stored away. Eric bought it and built it as “time-period correct as possible,” he says. Although he owns a body shop, he can’t bring himself to lay any paint over that incredible patina.


Matt Thompson spent last winter putting together his ’31 Ford using a 283 ci V8 out of a 1960 Impala. The project started as a Model A pickup, but when he found he was too tall for it, he swapped it for a roadster body instead.


Bart Smith of Brooklin, Ontario, still has the original four-banger in his 1929 Ford. He bought it four years ago and it’s a work in progress. “It’s my always-driven driver,” he says, “and its reason for existing is to be on the road every year.”


Every hot rod show should have a tattoo parlor. This year, artist Lisa Darksunshine was laying down ink (and yes, I got one!).


The saloon hosts live music all weekend.


Last year, this got pushed into the show. This time, with a new engine, it came in under its own power. It’s a ’49 Meteor—a Canadian-market Mercury—built in 1962 as a show car called the Thunder Ball. It picked up numerous trophies in Michigan and Ontario but left the show circuit around 1969. No one wanted it when it was rediscovered in 2014, so its owner gave it to 10-year-old Dutch Grasley of London, Ontario. (Can you imagine being 10 years old—and getting this?!)


His dad Kevin is slowly rebuilding it and also trying to piece together its somewhat mysterious history. It was made from a four-door hardtop and includes custom-made seats, Oldsmobile windshield, and a full-length console with a phone.


Chris Holke bought his 1942 Chevy pickup three years ago in rough shape from Tennessee. He’s lowered it, put in new glass, and added power disc brakes, but he left the 292 ci straight-six under the hood. And if you look closely, there’s just enough pinstriping to set off that time-worn paint.


Ryan Hill spent most of Saturday drying off his interior – he’s been too busy building the rest of his ’29 Ford and hasn’t yet made it to the roof. It’s got a 239 ci Y-Block out of a 1954 Ford pickup, and he made the Model A chassis that sits underneath.


This ’31 Ford has seen more than its fair share of highways over the years. Robert Di Pietro of Candiac, Quebec, bought it in 1960, built it into a hot rod in 1961, and has put more than 100,000 miles on it since then. Other than some new paint, it’s basically the same as when he first put it together.


Anybody can put an air suspension into a 1950 Dodge, but we’ve never seen one plumbed in as well as Matt Moran’s.


Jared Lapp and his girlfriend Sid Dunlap arrived in a ’32 roadster from Fresno, Ohio. Sid’s grandfather built the car, and when he passed away two years ago, Jared bought the car. Giddyup comes from a ’48 Flathead.


Check out more Jalopy Jam Up photos in the gallery below!

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