Motor City grew out of two Oshawa-based car clubs, the Kontinentals and the Igniters, and Mike Kalynko was in on the ground floor.
“In 1959 I was one of the Igniters,” he says. “I was with them for three years, and they’d been around not too long at that time, maybe two or three years before that. I was 15 years old at the time and I wasn’t driving a car. I joined due to my interest in cars.”
His first car, given to him by his grandfather, was a 1952 Morris Minor convertible. “I did nothing to it,” he says. “It was transportation and just a fun car. My first ‘car club car’ was a 1956 Studebaker Power Hawk. I did a little bit of motor work and some mild customizing.”
The Studebaker was followed by a long string of vehicles, including a 1963 Pontiac Parisienne, 1968 Chevrolet, 1947 Ford, 1930 Model A pickup truck, and in 1970, a C/Altered drag car. “It was originally owned by Karbelt, but it wasn’t what they liked and so I bought it from them. I ran it for a couple of years and then sold it.”
Drag racing “was a fairly hot thing to do on weekends,” Mike says, “and one of our guys, Frank Powers, was as close to being a professional drag racer as anybody in this area. We used to follow him. It was a case of ‘I’m going racing, guys, who’s coming with me?’ I can recall a weekend that a bunch of us went to St. Thomas and he was running. I had to borrow my grandfather’s Fargo pickup, loaded with all the gear, and I camped out at the track and helped out. I got the bug and said, everybody’s racing, so why can’t I take my truck down? So we took my grandfather’s truck to the track a few times. It blew up in Toronto, and I had to tow it to my uncle’s house, and the motor was shot. That was the last time I borrowed a car from my grandfather!”
Life took a bit of a turn, with marriage to his wife Barb and a change in his automotive interests. Subsequently, Mike left the car club and became heavily involved in snowmobile racing, competing on Rupp Canada’s factory team. In time that also lost its appeal and “the edge for cars came back,” and in 1983 he reapplied and regained his membership with Motor City.
“I bought a 1932 Pontiac coupe, which is still under construction,” Mike
says. “I’ve just been working on that whenever I could.” He found a 1938
Hudson Super Six coupe for sale, and at Barb’s urging, he went to look at
it and bought it on the spot. He and his brother Gary finished it “and have
been driving it ever since,” he says.
He took special interest in the community events that the club put on
in the 1960s. “Our involvement got stronger with the city and the things
we were doing for charities and kids,” he says. “We’d get involved with the
Bowmanville Training School doing models, with the community days at the
police station. We put on a car show at the Children’s Arena and I felt
pretty proud because Colonel Sam (McLaughlin) came to look at the cars.
He’d ask questions why this was done, why this was customized, and he was
a great guy for not turning his nose up because it was a modified vehicle.
“We couldn’t afford security, so we slept at the arena: Roy Begner,
Frank Power, Gary Challice and myself. We were security at the event and
I think we made enough money by the end of the weekend to run out and
buy a six-pack of beer and share it with the club, and that was our profit.
It was fun, there was no pressure, and you did it because you wanted to
That community spirit has carried over to Autofest, where Mike is primarily in charge of communicating with the City of Oshawa, including securing the park, dealing with city council, and handling the particulars for the Friday night event. Semi-retired – he currently works as an auto appraiser, and in the past has been a travel agent and a liquor salesman for Seagram’s Distillers – the flexibility with his time allows him to work with the city during business hours to help get the show going.
“I’m proud of the club, proud of the members, proud of our accomplishments,” he says. “Being able to do things that normally an individual wouldn’t be able to do by himself, such as doing the ‘clown thing’ at the hospital, doing the civic stuff, getting the Civic Pride award – that just blew us away. When we handed out that cheque to Grandview for $15,000, right then I started to well up. I was holding back tears, and my hair was standing on end. The excitement and enormity of it was phenomenal.”