Engel and Audrey Bouwmeester are just entering the ranks of seniors and I am happy to finally be able to tell their story as this couple exemplifies what vintage motoring is all about. Engel was born in Claresholm, Alberta in 1954 and moved with his family to Brocklehurst in 1956. Engel’s dad worked on farms and a sawmill in the area and eventually got into housing construction. With four brothers and three sisters, Engel’s house was crowded!
Audrey was born in Vernon and after moving to Kamloops met up with Engel when a girlfriend was going out with one of Engel’s brothers and Audrey and Engel were married in 1974. Engel had finished up his schooling at Kam High and Audrey had graduated from across the river at Norkam. Following in his father’s footsteps, Engel entered the building trade and Audrey took a two-year diploma nursing course in the second class of nursing at Cariboo College. For many years Audrey worked out of the nursing float pool at Royal Inland Hospital and finished up the last 15 years of her nursing career in the outpatient ward, where some of our readers may have benefited from her care.
Engel’s first car was a ‘62 Chevrolet Biscayne 2-door sedan that he bought from Fisher Brothers Motors for $125. Those were the days! He later moved upmarket to a ‘69 Chevrolet pickup, then a ‘72 Chevrolet El Camino and then their first new car, a ‘77 Pontiac Trans Am. Engel had always liked old cars and located his first vintage car while working up in the Campbell Range area. A derelict ‘27 Studebaker 4-door sedan was spotted rusting away amongst some pine trees and when Engel and Audrey went to bring it home, Audrey wondered why someone would actually pay money for that old wreck! The Studebaker was missing the motor, transmission, radiator and shell, among other things, but Engel dragged it home and started his first restoration project, joining the Vintage Car Club in 1978. Looking at the before-and-after photos, you can appreciate how much work was required to turn this abandoned vehicle into a work of art. When our restored cars are exhibited, some folks assume that they were found that way, not realizing the many hundreds of hours and expense required to bring these cars back to life. The Bouwmeester’s ’27 Studebaker is a perfect example of this.
As sometimes happens in the vintage car hobby, once you start off with a certain marque, others of the same marque seem to follow. After the ’27 Studebaker was finished, Engel heard about a ‘24 Studebaker touring in Richmond and that became his next Studebaker project. Studebakers just seemed to find Engel and there are now nine of them on his property, including two 1917 touring cars in boxes! Their most recent Studebaker purchase was a ‘54 Commander 4-door sedan that originally came from New York. This was a complete car in good original condition, but Audrey and Engel are registered to be participants in the 2022 Cross Canada Tour and Engel thought that a few things needed attending to before making that daunting trip. One thing led to another, and of course, now the whole front end is off the car with the V-8 motor being rebuilt, new front suspension being installed and much rust removal and bodywork underway before a complete repaint. Engel estimates that it will be on the road this summer.
The Bouwmeesters are no strangers to long trips as they estimate that their first Studebaker, the 1927 sedan, has travelled over 40,000 miles since it was put back on the road. Back in 1985 they drove it to Las Vegas and back with a blown head gasket being the only hiccup.
In 1989, they loaded their four kids into the car and drove it along with eight other VCCC members’ cars in a Tour U.S.A event to New Jersey, with stops in Tennessee and Oklahoma on the way home. The only problem they had was a broken wheel which was welded up at a service station. This car has also travelled to many May Tours (the annual Vintage Car Club “convention”) all across the province.
I remember accompanying the Bouwmeester family to a May Tour in Victoria when they were driving their ‘24 Studebaker touring. This car only has a fabric top with no side curtains and on the way home it was cold and pouring rain. They were stopped under a highway overpass, trying to get their kids dried out so we took one of them in our car (a warmer and dryer sedan) and another car club member took their daughter. Another memorable trip!
Over the past 42 years the Bouwmeesters have been exemplary Vintage Car Club members, participating in many functions, Club positions, building projects, and even chairing our 2004 Crossroads May Tour, when over 200 vintage vehicles descended on Kamloops for three days. They also belong to the Antique Studebaker Club, the Studebaker Drivers Club, the Hudson Essex Terraplane Club and the Vintage Motor Car Club of America and have toured all over Canada and the United States in conjunction with these clubs. Our old cars aren’t meant to be museum pieces and the Bouwmeesters enjoy vintage motoring and all the friends they meet along the way