For a “street wheeler” (the catchall name we’ll use to describe participants in the variety of events celebrating motor vehicle culture, held the third weekend of July in Lethbridge) there are a number of things that can get those pistons pumping. For some, it’s the power of the machine, belching black smoke and burning long patches of rubber down the asphalt, much to the chagrin of most observers. For others, it’s not as much about the cars, as the culture and the community surrounding the event.
“It all started in high school with my bright pink 1977 Saab 99GL,” explains Brent Coulton, a member of the Lethbridge Air-Cooled Volkswagen Club. “I got teased a lot but it didn’t matter to me, it was something unique.”
Growing up on Vancouver Island in a middle class family, Coulton didn’t have the means to really get into cars but admired the collectors he saw around him. As an adult, he made the decision to buy the tools required to teach himself the basics of motor mechanics. It was a humbling educational experience that gave him a greater appreciation for the processes and practice involved in the art of motor vehicle maintenance.
“I have so much respect for the car guys who taught themselves everything in the pre-internet days,” he says. “Now it’s just so easy to teach yourself a new skill by watching videos on YouTube.”
It wasn’t until Brent moved to Lethbridge that the bug really caught hold, when he stumbled upon his first Street Wheelers Friday night cruise. He was so mesmerized by the spectacle unfolding before him, he basically walked off his job that evening.
“I was doing my rounds outside at work and had no idea what was going on,” Coulton exclaims. “There was suddenly hundreds of these amazing vintage cars rolling past and I just ditched the rest of my shift to stand there and gawk at them all go by.”
Coulton soon got involved with the local VW Club and joined a like-minded group of folks who didn’t just care about the cars, but the unique history and stories that come along with them. As the proud owner of both a 1964 Volkswagen Beetle and a 1962 Volkswagen Standard bus, he’s certainly got his hands full on both sides of that coin.
“Volkswagen people are different, they’re into the unique oddball stuff,” Coulton explains. “Some muscle car guys are really into horsepower, which is great, but VW guys usually pride themselves on knowledge, not speed.”
“There are plenty of people in town who give it a bad name, but there’s a special affinity between those who really dedicate themselves to a craft,” Coulton says. “Knowing the difference between which specific year’s model has curved headlights or not is the kind of obscure trivia we live and die for.”
This year is the 40th anniversary of Street Wheelers. Whether you’re into watching fast cars rip down the drag, or simply admiring a nicely polished machine, Street Wheelers offers a variety of events for everyone from July 14-17 in locations around Lethbridge. Visit www.streetwheelers.com for full details.