Canadian Winter Rally: Gone But Will It Be Forgotten?

Recently I got a message from Al Isselhard of Wolcott, New York about the Canadian Winter Rally.  Al competed in this very challenging rally on two occasions, finishing the 1966 running.  In that year, Al was the navigator for Bob Henderson in a Volvo 122.  The photo below shows Al and Bob at the Rootes dealership in the Toronto area before the 1966 Canadian Winter Rally.  The credit for this photo goes to Bob Tescione of Rochester, NY.

Al Isselhard and Bob Henderson Prepare For the 1966 Canadian Winter Rally

In an exchange of emails, Al and I were lamenting the apparent lack of readily available information on the list of entrants and finishers of this significant Canadian rally.  Unfortunately it seems that the organizing club, the British Empire Motor Club is no longer involved in car rallying and perhaps these records are lost or sitting in a box in someone’s basement or attic.  It would be a shame if the details of the Canadian Winter Rally are lost to Canadian motor sports.  If someone knows where this information might exist, please let me know.  Some summary information on the Canadian Winter Rally is available in old issues of Canada Track & Traffic.

A few years ago I was able to purchase on eBay five finishers’ medallions from the Canadian Winter Rally from the years 1963, 1968, 1969, 1970, and 1971.  I asked the seller, who was from New York state, about how she acquired the medallions, but my email went unanswered.   By the way, I would be interested in getting additional finishers’ medallions from the Canadian Winter Rally for other years as well.

My Collection of Finisher’s Medallions From the Canadian Winter Rally

Recently I purchased three license plates from the Canadian Winter Rally, however I have not taken delivery of them yet.

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14 Responses to Canadian Winter Rally: Gone But Will It Be Forgotten?

  1. tony kloosterman says:

    In 1971, i was a young man of 16 and entered this event as a navigator ( had already had 4 years of navigational experience at that time) The interesting thing about that was there was a requirement for both drivers and navigators to have a drivers license. I didn’t have one but was able to get a beginners permit and that was good enough for the organizers!!!

  2. Mike Mazoway says:

    My good friend, Dick Posenauer, ran the Canadian Winter Rally twice to the best of my recollection. Both times were in the mid to late 60’s. When Dick passed on many years ago I was given his rally gear and a lot of old rally “stuff” by his wife. I looked and did not find anything from the CWR in my collection. I am fairly sure that he ran with Morgan Cooper in a Mini one year. I will try to see if Morgan is still around (he would be in his late 80’s if he is still with us).

  3. My father ran the Canadian Winter rally on several occasions. These were in the late 60s and early 70s. He may have won overall – but certainly had multiple class wins. Last time I visited him, in California, I took photos of many of the pictures and trophies he has on the walls of the garage and in the house. Several were of the Simca team he led during that time and of the awards. The photos are not of the greatest quality so it is difficult to make-out the exact detail on the awards.

  4. Brian D. Paul says:

    I entered the ’65 winter rally driving a Austin 1100 and did not finish, due to an iced up fuel pump. Also entered in ’66 driving a Mini Cooper S, much better prepared, sump guard, large gas tank (taken from a Sebring Mini), studded tires all around, fuel pump moved into the trunk. I did finish, but can’t remember the final overall results. I was at the time a member of the Oakville Trafalgar Light Car Club. I would be interested in those results and any photos you might have.

    • Hi Brian,
      The only reference that I have about the 1966 Canadian Winter Rally is an article that was published in the March 1966 issue of Canada Track & Traffic. It only mentions the top finishers, not the complete listing. The article did note that only 40 cars finished out of a starting field of 112 cars, so congratulations on being a finisher! I will scan this article and forward it to you so that you will be able to read it. I might also post the article on my website so that others can read about it as well.
      Steve McKelvie

    • Hi Brian,
      I just sent you via email another article about the 1966 Canadian Winter Rally that was sent to me by J. Scott Morris.
      Steve McKelvie

  5. Doug Leverton says:

    Hi Brian
    I loved that event! I think I ran every one from 1970 to 1981. I may have some literature on the event in that period, I’ll look. I certainly have some fond memories.

  6. Keith Angell says:

    I drove in the 1971 Canadian Winter Rally. I can’t remember what my overall finish was, but I was second in class driving a Saab 850 GT Monte Carlo. First in class was another Saab. The depth of snow that year was exceptional, giving the advantage to the Saabs that had larger diameter wheels (greater clearance). The second half of the rally was scrubbed, no check points, the conditions were too bad, The only requirement to qualify as a finisher was to make it back to Toronto from Ottawa by any route you could find.

    • Hi Keith,
      Thanks for that information. It must have been bad for the rally to be shortened like that. I suppose that in addition to the ground clearance the Saab might have had a traction advantage with the front wheel drive. Congratulations on a great finish in bad conditions!
      Steve McKelvie

      • Keith Angell says:

        I remember at the time that people were saying that it was the worst blizzard that Ontario had ever had. I just checked the records and found that the winter was the worst, Ottawa’s snow depth – ‘ 444.6 cm in 1970-1971 – an event often regarded as a 1,000-year occurrence’. I did have a traction advantage over some cars, as I remember it, there were a number of front wheel drive minis that because of their low clearance were basically snow ploughs.

  7. Doug Leverton says:

    I remember that year of the deep snow. At one point the entire rally was stuck behind Walter Boyce in the snow. Everyone got out with shovels to try to get Walter unstuck so he could clear road so we could all get out. With many shovels a section of road was shovelled out and Walter asked for 2 guys to get on the steps he had mounted on the rear bumper. He even had handles on the trunk lid (Datsun 510). I naively climbed on assuming he was going to rock back and forth, but in a few seconds I realized he was off into the stage with myself and another poor soul hanging on for dear life. He was going much too fast to think of jumping off. A few km later he was stuck again and they let us in the back of the car (no seats), as we were soaked and frozen. Idling to maintain cabin heat was not a great feature of that car. I think we sat in the back of that car for a week…seemed it, it was probably some hours before we got out.
    It was a two day event back then and a huge adventure.

  8. Peter Ousey says:

    I love the finisher medallions you have…I competed in the Winter Rally from 1974 to 1978 and still have one “finisher” dashboard plaque. Definitely not as cool as yours though. I also have a b/w photo of driver Gary Powe and myself at the start line in 1975 in our Cooper S if you would be interested. It was a wonderful time for Canadian auto sports and I truly enjoyed the bond among competitors. I have a few more items from back then…Tall Pines pins and a route book, results and photos from the 1978 Criterium du Quebec, we finished 16th in a Datsun 510. Please feel free to send me an email and I will happily share.
    Peter Ousey
    London. Ontario

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