How Canada West Region Came to Be.
- Jack Habart
Porsche has a long history in BC. I don’t know when the first Porsche was sold here, but it was likely in the mid 1950’s. There is a wonderful (but unconfirmed) story about one local VW / Porsche dealer, who, after having had a good experience selling the cars in the first year decided that for the following year they would order two of every model Porsche made. All was well until the cars were unloaded from the boxcars and there among the 356s were two 550 Spyders – which created considerable consternation with the sales staff – but they were eventually sold.
When I came to Vancouver in 1964 to attend university there were a number of 356 “bathtubs” on the street, including coupes, cabriolets and speedsters – and even some 4 cam Carreras. They could also be seen in the used car lots that dotted Kingsway, although knowledge of the cars by sales staff may have been limited. One of my clients in the early 1970’s told the story of this neat, peppy little coupe that he bought off a lot. He really liked the car, but sold it in disgust when he found you had to take the motor out to change the spark plugs – it was an early Carrera.
As a young “gear head”, I was drawn to the old racetrack at Westwood, and was impressed by these little Porsches that zipped around all the larger cars like the Mustangs and Corvettes. Memories include watching Tony Campbell in an RSK (and later in a 904), or Monty Sheldon and Lew Florence chasing each other around in the track in 906’s, both cars changing gears in exactly the same spot, lap after lap.
I bought my first Porsche, a 356 C cabriolet in 1971. But other than spirited drives to Whistler and to the Interior, there were no organized activities. If you wanted those, you had to drive to Seattle and join the Porsche Club of America, which a number of local people did. There were no regions outside of the USA.
In 1973, at the Porsche Parade in Monterey, John Macfarlane enquired about the possibility of opening a chapter in B.C. Some of the PCA executives of the day were firmly against the idea of a region outside of the USA – after all it was the Porsche Club of AMERICA! However, there was support from some, like Hank Malter, then zone rep for California, who thought it was an idea worth pursuing and who provided information and support about starting a new region.
Back in Vancouver, a core group consisting of John, Jim Axleson and Bill Botham worked on the idea of starting a region in Western Canada. In the fall of 1974 they decided to test the market to see if there was interest and organized a dinner at the Airport Inn in Richmond. Word was sent out by newspaper ads, along with direct mail to Porsche owners. (John obtained the entire BC Porsche owner list from Volkswagen Canada – along with a stern warning not to share the list with any of the dealers).
The dinner was a success with over 70 people attending!
Soon the local dealers (Cowell Motors in Richmond, Guildford Motors in Surrey, Westminster Volkswagen and Clarkdale Motors) joined in. A number of meetings were held over the fall / winter of 1974 and finally enough people joined PCA through PNWR in Seattle that BC could apply for its own Region. PNWR provided valuable support and turned over their share of the Regions dues rebate for those members transferring to Canada West (much to the relief of the original three who had been funding costs out of their own pockets).
The application was submitted in March 1975 and the Charter was granted in April. The first official Charter Meeting of the Region was held at John’s home in May 1975 with many members of PNWR in attendance to cheer our success. The Charter was presented by the late Mick Williams, then the Zone Representative and later the President of PCA.
Canada West Region was the first Region in outside the USA, and included all of BC and Alberta. Subsequently Polar (Edmonton), Vancouver Island, Wild Rose (Calgary) and BC Interior Regions were spun off, and in the East, Upper Canada Region was formed. Volkswagen Canada provided support for a number of these regions with the statement that they would support the formation of local Porsche Clubs, as long as they were affiliated with PCA.
By the time I joined the club in 1976, CWR had a fully developed slate of activities including: monthly dinner meetings with guest speakers (wine tasting was a great draw); auto crosses; car rallies (with a social at a members house to ensure that the driver and navigator / spouse were on speaking terms again by the end of the evening); tech sessions; multi-region events (with auto crosses on roads at the then “under development” Sudden Valley); and drivers education at Westwood.
In the late 1970’s, as the value of Porsches started to rise, John and Bill also started an appraisal process for members’ cars which was recognized by ICBC. Appraisals were held once a year, and over the course of a day, about 50 cars were documented. This was likely unique in all of PCA.
A big thanks to John, Bill and Jim, and all the early executive and volunteers for giving CWR such a great start!
ED: Canada West is very excited to have John Macfarlane, our founding member, back on the CWR Executive for 2011. Holding the position of Treasurer, John is set to help the ship sail into it’s next 35 years.