Welcome to the final installment of Ottawa Car Scene’s articles featuring some local car dads in honour of Father’s Day this week. It’s been fun looking at how families can share their automotive passions between generations and to see how similar or different the interest can be between generations.
This article features one of our crew Paul Psutka writing about his dad, Ed. Ed is the definition of a backyard mechanic. Self-taught, he’s been fixing and maintaining his own cars since his very first car; a base model 1960 Chevrolet. Early work on his ’60 was guided by his then girlfriend’s dad. Ed’s dad would have gladly helped him, had he known Ed had bought the car! Later he pushed his skills even further when he built his own VW Beetle based dune buggy.
Ed working on an Oldsmobile. Credit: Paul Psutka
As often happens with the arrival of a new baby, the dune buggy was parked in a corner of the garage. Luckily it didn’t stay parked long. As soon as Paul was old enough to “help”, it was back out and Paul was put to work, fetching tools for his dad. He also had lots of practice helping Ed wash his cars.
Paul helping Ed work on his 1977 Impala. Credit: Ed Psutka
A large part of Paul’s childhood was spent with his parents at car shows. They’d take Ed’s dune buggy to local shows. Volksfest in Embrun was an annual tradition, as was attending Capital City Volkswagen Club events. Visits to the Kanata cruise night, starting when it was still at Nickels, were common and they’d even make the trek out to the Orleans cruise night now and then. It also wasn’t unheard of for family vacations to include stops at car shows or other car related events. Vacation highlights included a NASCAR trucks race in Nashville, a VW car show and drag racing event in Virginia and riding sandrails through dunes in California.
Ed and Paul at a car show with the dune buggy. Credit: Ed Psutka
Paul and Ed’s passion for mechanical machines goes beyond just cars and trucks . One of Paul’s earliest car memories with his dad was going out together on summer nights in Ed’s mid 70’s Camaro, stopping at Becker’s to pick up some chocolate milk then heading to a parking lot along the rail line through Kanata and watching a train pass by.
Ed and Paul driving to a car show. Credit: Roger McGetchie
The shared passion was taken a step further when Paul got his first car. One day, a regular visit to Ed’s dad’s house unexpectedly resulted in Paul leaving with his first car. This, despite the fact he wasn’t even 16 yet! Ed’s dad had decided it was time to retire from driving and was wondering if they might know someone who could take his 1983 Oldsmobile Delta 88. He was overjoyed to keep the Olds in the family. This car has now been driven by 3 generations of Psutkas and is still on the road, although not driven as often as it used to be.
The family sedans at the Carp car show. Credit: Paul Psutka
Paul’s preference in cars has been strongly influenced by both his dad and his grandfather’s preferences. From his first 1960 Chev up until the inevitable minivan period, Ed has been a lifelong Chevy guy. This was something he got from his own father. Once Ed’s father retired, he felt he had earned an upgrade to an Oldsmobile, his 1983 Delta 88. When this car was handed down to Paul it piqued Paul’s interest in Oldsmobiles. Even though he hasn’t owned one, Paul still has a soft spot for VWs and has a few on his car bucket list.
Ed’s retirement gift to himself, a 1960 Impala. Credit: Paul Psutka
As Ed was nearing his own retirement, he was looking to bring back a piece of his youth; his first 1960 Chev. But, like his own father, he decided a bit of an upgrade had been earned and after weeks of eBay browsing and showing listings to Paul and Sue, his wife, he found ”the one”. He knew he had found the perfect car when he received an almost instant approval from his wife to buy it. They’ve been known to take it for a drive to get ice cream during the summer, similar to when, as he puts it, he was “courting his wife”.
Paul’s 1972 Cutlass as they first saw it in Phoenix. Credit: Paul Psutka
A father-son trip to Arizona led to the purchase of Paul’s 1972 Cutlass. Although it was a rust free car, the sun had taken its toll. Ed and Paul started a 7-year restoration of the car. They sought professionals for paint and an engine rebuild but did the rest of the work themselves, with the help of some very generous friends.
Paul’s Cutlass after restoration. Credit: Paul Psutka
According to Paul, the best advice he has received from his dad was to “only change one thing at a time”. This is great advice when troubleshooting, something they have had a lot of experience doing with the Cutlass. Doing it this way pinpoints the source of an issue instead of just masking the symptoms.
Ed and Paul at Roy’s Cafe along Route 66. Credit: Paul Psutka
Ed and Paul continue to go on father-son trips, but now they are often planned specifically for automotive events such as the Carlisle Ford Nationals and Oldsmobile shows. Las Vegas has also become a frequent destination for its proximity to Route 66 and a car guy bucket list destination, SEMA. Ed is also a frequent visitor to the Barrie and Carlisle automotive fleamarkets, looking for a good deal or hard to find parts for one of the cars.
Enjoying the perfect car for cruising Route 66. Credit: Paul Psutka
Both Ed and Paul are anxiously waiting for the return of car shows. If you see one of them at a show, odds are the other is around somewhere. When not attending local car shows you can find one of them tinkering on an old car or maybe even out cruising Route 66 on a father-son trip.
Happy Father’s Day Ed! Thank you for your help, patience and guidance.