CSRHoF

2013 Induction - Doug Curran

This year’s inductee Doug Curran is a unique individual, but then, really aren’t we all?  

 

Well,  that may be true, but it just seems that Doug is a little more unique than most of us. Let me explain. 

 

Over his life he has been a street rodder, drag racer, race car builder, club builder, street rod builder, automotive writer and photographer,  model car aficionado, track announcer, promoter and organizer,  race car crew chief  and more.  

 

His story is indeed an interesting one that has taken him across most of Canada and much of the USA pursuing his passions and he has spent a lifetime sharing those with fellow enthusiast everywhere. He lives the street rodders lifestyle that many of us can only dream of or read about.  He’s like a character out of a Henry Gregor Felsen story, all grown up but still living and breathing all things automotive.

 

His story begins in the late 40’s in Nelson BC. 

 

He remembers his first contact with the automotive world around 1953, when his dad helped him build his first model car, one of the old Revell “Highway Pioneer” kits. 

 

In 1956 a transfer took the family to Scarborough, Ontario and shortly after that a trip to Niagara Falls made an indelible impact on young Doug. 

 

His dad pulled into a gas station to fill up and Doug’s little eyes became fascinated with a quarter midget race car parked in the lot. He got to sit in it and even had his picture taken in the driver’s seat. It was right then and there that he knew cars were going to be a major part of his life. And boy, did that realization ever come true. 

 

Throughout the early 60’s Doug soaked up everything automotive that he could find.  Car magazines and model cars and friends that shared the passion for all things automotive became a way of life and regular trips to the old CNE Speedway in Toronto fueled those dreams.

 

In 1965, another transfer took the family including Doug, his brother Jerry and sister Barb, back to the west coast and they located to Port Moody, BC. 

Doug was now in high school and his interest in cars only increased. He spent much of his time taking cars apart, figuring out how they worked and what could be done to make them faster, make them safer and make them better. 

 

 

He taught himself to weld, run a lathe and use sheet metal tools. He loved hand building parts and components and took great satisfaction in making them. 

 

He bought a 53 Chevy for his first attempt at building a hot rod, that didn’t work out quite the way he planned. 

 

So, next he stuffed a 354 Hemi into a 61 Dodge, better but still not enough. 

 

What followed was a bunch of other projects and dreams that didn’t come true. And then a friend’s 1931 Essex became available and Doug turned that unfinished pile of parts into a real street rod. He knew he was onto something!

 

Later, in 1968, he spotted a 34 Ford sedan, an old time hot rod that was originally built in the 50’s, in a wrecking yard in Surrey, BC. He really wanted that car but it had already been sold.  It took him nearly a year to track down the owner but his persistence paid off and in August of 1969 he dragged it home. 

 

This car, lovingly referred to as “Old Green” is still with him today.

 

 

At about that same time Doug got into drag racing in a serious way.

 

He built a 56 Chev 2door for competing at Mission Raceway. 

 

He also helped his little brother Jerry with his racing efforts culminating in the mid 80’s with a 9 second Chevy II. 

 

The last drag racing car Doug built was a funny car chassis with a 23 T roadster body powered by a 427 Rat motor. That car ran in the mid 8’s.

 

In 1971 Doug attended the first meeting of a group of car enthusiasts in Abbotsford, BC. From that gathering, the Pacific International Street Rod Association was formed. Doug continues as one of the original members. 

 

Over the years he has held various executive positions including chairman, newsletter editor, tour director and club historian. His late wife Cathy also served as secretary for many years. 

 

In addition, he always does the announcing at PISRA events but he became famous for his model car displays. He organized, judged and competed in these competitions for many years. 

 

Doug was a big promoter of the Canadian Street Rod Association in the early days. He became the Provincial Director and even attended some of the meetings held here in Ontario at his own expense. At every PISRA meeting Doug gave the membership an update on CSRA and was instrumental in getting 22 PISRA members to Regina for the Canats in 1980 where they took the club participation award. 

 

Doug will do almost anything for the club as can be seen in this photo. It seems that Doug and a few friends were fooling around one day and decided that the December newsletter could use a Christmas theme. So they dragged a bunch of stuff out of his shop and set up the photo shoot. That’s Doug in the Santa Claus suit.

 

In the 70’s Doug started doing chassis work for other street rodders helping with their projects. By day he earned a living as an Industrial Electrician and at night and weekends he became a fabricator of street rod components.  He developed several disc brake kits most notably for early Mopars, Studebakers and other oddballs.

 

He has installed over 100 Mustang II front ends in everything from Model A’s to late models. In addition, he has bent up a lot of roll cages for the race car crowd and wired an untold number of street rods.

 

He continues today with his specialty of narrowing year ends for both the street rod and race car folks. He also likes to play with sheet metal and has built his own brake, bead roller and other fixtures and jigs.

 

One day in the late 70’s his father showed him an article in the BC Government News. It was titled “Government plans sweeping changes to the Motor Vehicle Act”. 

 

It seems their plan was to get rid of unsafe vehicles including all modified cars and trucks.  Doug brought this to the next club meeting and that resulted in the formation of the “Specialty Vehicle Association of British Columbia”. 

 

This group became the liaison between the car community and the Government bringing rational, logic and common sense to the Act.

The SVABC has also successfully worked to create a Modified Vehicle Collector Plate Program and other issues concerning registration and operation of modified vehicles. These are truly outstanding accomplishments that benefit everyone in the hobby and Doug was at the forefront working hard to ensure success. 

 

A chance trip to SKAGIT Speedway, a dirt track in Alger, Washington, took Doug’s automotive involvement in a whole new direction. He has always loved Sprint Cars and believes they are the wildest thing on 4 wheels. 

 

At SKAGIT he got to know some of the drivers and before long he was wrenching on 3 teams in different classes. 

 

 

He also started going to DEMING Speedway, also in Washington, where the cars are smaller and powered by motorcycle engines. He helped a couple of teams and then built a car in his shop. 

 

About that time the track needed an announcer so Doug became the voice of the track for 4 seasons also doing promotion work for them. 

 

In 1988 he became crew chief on a 1200 cc car that was very successful.

 

Over the years Doug has had articles and photos appear in many street rod and enthusiast publications including regular contributions in the old Canadian Rods and Vans Magazine in which he was a west coast contributor insuring that the left side of the country received coverage of their events and cars. 

 

Even today, you will often see acknowledgments to Doug in papers like Old Autos as he allows his extensive collections of photos and magazines to be used by anyone who supports anything automotive. 

 

Let’s take a moment and talk about his stable of street rods. 

 

Doug has owned literally hundreds of cars. So many in fact, that he has lost count.  But there are 4 that are very special and important to him. 

 

We mentioned his 34 Ford Sedan “Old Green” earlier. This chopped 4 door has been on the road since 1976 and has rolled over 200,000 miles all across North America. And, despite the years and miles the car still looks great. Three different motors have powered the sedan, currently it runs a 283 Chev with a power glide transmission.

 

His 34 Ford Pick up features a Mustang II front end and a 231 Buick V6 engine. It also has power everything including the cowl vent!  And like all of his rides, Doug has done everything on this little beauty himself.

  

Next is a 1941 Ford Cab Over. 

 

This truck was originally purchased by the Red Cross to haul supplies in Vancouver during World War II. It took him 16 years to build this unique hauler. It is powered by a 468 Chev engine mounted mid-ship behind the cab. Talk about your trick engineering. The sleeper hinges up on hydraulics for access to the engine all at the touch of a button. 

 

The most recent addition to his fleet is a 1940 Ford Coupe, but new is relative, as he’s owned the car for over 30 years only he just recently finished it. Doug has built this hot rod as throw back to those days of his youth, when he dreamed about neat cars.

 

Nothing on this street rod is newer than 1965. From the 64 Corvette 327  to the 1959 Olds steering wheel, every single part pays homage to the graffiti era of the  60’s.

 

Doug seems to have it all, including a new 1,800 square foot shop to play in with his fleet of street rods and all his toys and the skill and talent to do so many things so well.  

 

 

But not everything in his life has been story book fare. 

 

In 1988 he had trouble with his left hand, numerous tests revealed nothing but one day he woke up with that hand shaking and he knew what it was, Parkinson’s Disease. 

 

He took the meds prescribed and did what the doctors told him to do. He fought it for 10 years before being forced to retire and take a disability pension. He is absolutely convinced that the nights spent working on his hot rods have limited the progression of the disease and helped keep him going. 

 

The latest drugs have allowed him to get back out in the shop and have him TIG welding again. He pushes himself daily to overcome the effects of the disease. 

 

Doug’s first wife, Cathy, was a big part of his hobbies and adventures. 

She was a strong supporter of his street rodding efforts and was active herself in PISRA. They were together for over 30 years but in 2008 she succumbed to cancer and Doug was devastated.

 

But good things happen to good people and Doug has recently remarried. 

He met Elizabeth about 3 years ago, dated and last year made it officially as Mr. and Mrs Street Rodder.  

 

In fact, they’re celebrating their first anniversary this weekend. 

 

Doug advises that Elizabeth was quick to pick up on the fact that cars are more then merely transportation. It just took one visit to Doug’s garage and she was in love with street rods and race cars. She has become a fan of racing and attends events with Doug taking over the photography duties. 

 

 

Doug is one of those neat people you meet in life. 

 

He is a hard working, intelligent and talented guy who really enjoys making things and the entire building process. 

 

 

He enthusiastically looks for opportunities to help others and is living proof that if you work hard and treat people right your dreams can come true.

 

We are extremely proud and happy to welcome Mr Doug Curran as the 46th member of the Canadian Street Rodding Hall Of Fame.