Celebrated Lindsay car shows return to downtown

Classics on Kent and Brits in the Park

By Kirk Winter

John Thomas and his 1977 Ford Maverick. Photo: Sienna Frost.

If you hear the sound of distant thunder in the early morning of July 16, do not look to the skies. Instead, grab your friends and family and head to Victoria Park and downtown Lindsay to take in the rare gathering of over 450 vintage vehicles from both the United Kingdom and North America – cars and owners who are gathering for two of the biggest cars shows on the Ontario summer circuit.

Victoria Park will be the centre of all things British that Sunday, with the Victoria British Car Club hosting Brits in the Park. 170-plus cars manufactured in the United Kingdom, restored to pristine condition, will be displayed for all to enjoy.

A few steps away, Classics on Kent, sponsored by the Lindsay Business Improvement Association, will be an open-air car park, home to an impressive collection of 300 roadsters and muscle cars gathering to remind aficionados of a simpler time when gas was cheap and Detroit produced some of the most gorgeous cars in the world.

Classics on Kent

Amy Occhipinti, executive director of the Lindsay BIA, hopes that this year’s Classics on Kent will serve two very important purposes. First, the show will give residents the opportunity to see some pretty cool cars. But, equally as important, the executive director wants to welcome people back to the downtown.

“We want people to come back to the downtown and see how beautiful it is now that the construction is finished,” Occhipinti said. “We want this show to not only celebrate the first time the classics have been on display since 2019 but also mark the comeback” of Lindsay’s downtown.

With that in mind, the BIA has branded this years Classics on Kent as more than a car show.

Occhipinti said one of the first things visitors will notice is that there will be a vendors’ alley with more than 80 different vendors offering a variety of consumer products, some car-centric and some not. There will be 16 sponsor booths in addition to the vendor booths highlighting a variety of goods and services.

“There will be a Kids Zone,” Occhipinti said, “where children can get their face painted and participate in a variety of activities. There will be a display of pickle ball ongoing, street curling sponsored by the Lindsay Curling Club and live dancers on the main stage on Kent Street. There will also be a beer tent with a disc jockey providing music.”

Occhipinti said the downtown businesses that make up the group’s membership are solidly behind the show and are encouraging the street festival vibe the BIA is aiming for.

“We hope our member businesses are open and take advantage of the crowds this car show will bring to the downtown,” the executive director said.

Occhipinti noted the logistics of marshalling 300 cars on Kent Street and managing all the other activities that are going on will be much easier for the BIA with the help of a number of volunteers.

“Ideally we can do it with about 100 helpers,” Occhipinti said. “Volunteers will be involved with registration, organization, directing participants to where they need to be, clean up after the show finishes at 3 pm and help with the Kids Zone.”

The executive director said there will be a training day for volunteers the Saturday before so they will be comfortable with their assigned tasks.

When asked where Classics on Kent ranks in the pantheon of summer car shows, Occhipinti said the Lindsay show is one of the biggest displays anywhere in the province.

“Most of our car owners come from outside the area. Classics on Kent is a coveted show within the car community. We have added a cruise event on the Saturday night before the show that will begin at the airport and end at the Howard Johnsons on Lindsay Street South.”

“We want this show to be a celebration of the return to normalcy that we have been lacking for a number of years,” Occhipinti added.

John Thomas is certainly looking forward to this year’s Classics on Kent. John was at the first show almost 20 years ago and has participated in every show since.

Thomas and his friends are regular participants in the central Ontario summer car show circuit that begins around Mother’s Day and ends with the Norwood Fair in early November.

Unlike many other participants who are loyal to a specific brand or model of car, Thomas said, “I am loyal to no breed and appreciate all cars.”

During Thomas’ many years on the circuit he has shown everything from a 1947 Plymouth restored to stock to British-made trucks and Japanese sports cars.

This year John will be on Kent Street sharing his “resto-mod” 1977 Ford Maverick, an Arizona car that the previous owner spent over six years restoring and modifying with a drivetrain out of a five litre Boss Mustang.

“I wanted a car that would be a reliable (powerful) cruiser,” Thomas said. “She is a real wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

When asked about the hobby that he and his friends have given so much time to over the decades, Thomas said, “It is a labour of love. It is a great hobby. Unfortunately, it is getting too expensive for younger members to get involved. They are trying to buy a house and get their families started. With the cost of parts and labour you will never get your money back if you have to pay to have the work done.”

Thomas noted that many wonderful vehicles are being sold by families after the death of the owner because the next generation simply isn’t interested. A number of these vehicles are being bought up by a handful of uber-wealthy collectors who are building museum-sized collections of classic vehicles.

Asked if he had any advice for folks with cars of note Thomas laughed and said he “has never bought a painting just to hang on the wall.”

“Quit worrying about that first stone chip and get out and enjoy them,” Thomas said.

Russ Bolton and his TR-6. Photo: Sienna Frost.

Brits in the Park

Bob May, the president of the Victoria British Car Club that was started by long-time members Jim Hancock and Russ Bolton in 1994, is very excited about this year’s combined show.

“Talks about combining the shows began before the pandemic,” May said. “Charlie Macdonald was president of the BIA at that time and was very supportive of the idea. When the pandemic hit things were heading in the right direction. Once Classics agreed to run the show on our Sunday we met again in March of 2023 and here we are today.”

With a brief hiatus for the pandemic, Brits in the Park has been in operation since 1995.

“Victoria Park is such a beautiful location, made even more beautiful by the presence of all those British cars,” May said.

This year May expects 170-plus cars, 10 vendors catering to the needs of all things British and a food truck booked to provide sustenance to the hungry show goers.

May first became involved with British cars growing up in the Niagara region where an English car dealership sat proudly only a few blocks from his family home. May said he fell in love with British cars due to the proximity to that dealership and with a little help from a friend.

“My best friend growing up was from Blackpool, England,” May said, “and that relationship strengthened my interest even more in English motorcars.”

May has been involved with the Victoria British Car Club since 2014, first as a musical performer at Brits in the Park and then as a member and now club president. May shared that the club has a far-flung membership including many British car enthusiasts from Peterborough and Haliburton.

When asked what kind of vehicles will be on display, May suggested that probably the ubiquitous Austin Mini and the sleek two-seater Triumph TR-4 and TR-6 will be in plentiful supply.

One of those TR-6 cars belongs to founding member Russ Bolton and has quite a history.

Originally manufactured in 1972, the car had been written off as a wreck following an accident. Bolton did a complete frame-off restoration in 1995 that required the car to be completely disassembled.

When asked what attracted him to the TR-6 Bolton said, “they are unique, smaller two-seaters. They are sporty and I love driving stick.”

Bolton added there is a level of simplicity to the vehicles that is attractive for those considering a restoration. He also points out that despite the fact that many of these cars are more than 50 years old, there are a number of companies, both in England and North America, who still manufacture almost all the parts including the upholstery that makes restoration to factory specifications possible.

Bolton’s TR-6 still has fewer than 60,000 miles on the odometer, and seldom is it driven more than 1,000 miles a summer.

Bolton agrees with Thomas that the collector community for classic cars is aging quickly and that young “gear heads” are choosing to put their time and money into small fast Asian cars made famous by the Fast and Furious movie franchise.

“Custom shops are available to do work on those cars, but not so much for either British or classic vehicles anymore,” Bolton said.

If TRs aren’t to your liking, May added that connoisseurs of more rare British vehicles like Austin-Healeys, Jaguars and Rolls-Royces will not be disappointed by the collection on display either as the interests of the local British car club collectors run far and wide.

When asked about the legendary unreliability of many of the British vehicles, particularly when exposed to harsher climates like that of Canada, May said that British cars and their intoxicating mix of beauty and foibles are definitely an acquired taste for the first-time collector.

“If your car isn’t leaking oil, something is wrong,” May joked.

Typical of many summertime car shows, there will be prizes handed out at Brits in the Park will recognize the first and second place finishers in 17 different categories of English automobiles. There will also be two special trophies handed out recognizing Best in Show and Car of the Year.

Still want to register?

If you have a vehicle appropriate to either of these shows and would like the opportunity to meet others who share your love of beautiful cars please contact Brits in the Park at or Classics on Kent at .

Occhipinti said that often registrations for Classics on Kent can be accepted as late as the day of the show as many owners wait until the last minute to commit because they are waiting to see what the weather is going to be like.

1 Comment

  1. What is the vehicles age cut off for displaying a vehicle ?
    I have visited this car show many times in years past and have even displayed a classic car too.
    Love the old classics, hot rods and the Triumph TR6.

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