duke brown

Mike, Gary and Duke

      If you belonged to a car club growing up in Toronto and surrounding area you probably crossed paths with the ‘Rodfather’. Duke (Derek) Brown and his brother Tony were founding members of the Roadmates Car Club which formed in 1956. Duke was the clubs only president from the beginning until his passing in 2016. We all have our Duke stories and over the course of the next couple of months I will share with you some of my favourites.

Igniters original jacket
Igniters original plaque

      First how did I meet Duke; in 1961 the Igniters Rod and Custom Club of Oshawa held their second annual one day car show in the parking lot of the Oshawa Shopping Centre. Duke and myself were both showing our hot rods. Duke had a black primed Model A coupe and I had a black primed 34 Ford coupe. My coupe was part of the Kontinentals Rod and Custom Club display. 

Duke Brown's - Model A Coupe
Gary Challice's - 34 Ford Coupe

       As it turned out we ended up in the same class: Unfinished Hot Rod. Yes, in those days they had classes for unfinished vehicles. The Igniters didn’t want the responsibility of judging the show and picking the award winners so they decided to use local City of Oshawa officials. The City of Oshawa mayor, Oshawa Chief of Police and the Oshawa Centre facilities manager. As it turned out I was awarded first in unfinished hot rod and Duke was runner up. It was obvious that a mistake had been made. So shortly after, Duke and I hooked up at the conclusion of the show and exchanged trophies. That was a start of a wonderful friendship between us. Of all of the cars in this show, there were 3 vehicles competing in this small outdoor show that went on to compete on the show circuit, win major awards, and appeared in the pages of the popular automotive magazine such as Hot Rod and Rod & Custom. Bud Pearce from Buffalo with his pickup “The 4Bees”, Ken Kay from Kitchener with “Seabreeze” and Ed Benetin from Oshawa with his 1931 Ford Roadster. 

Ed Benetin's '31 Ford Roadster
Bud Pearce's 4 Bees
Ken Kay's Seabreeze

     This chance meeting with Duke lead to us working together at the Speedsport Shows. We both became International Show Car Officials and traveled all across Canada and the United States. My first story on Duke takes place at the Cadillac House Hotel in Detroit and involves a suitcase. Stay tuned… 

Original trophies from the igniters outdoor shows in the 60’s

I would love to hear your Duke Brown experiences. Please comment below or email me at sled1949@rogers.com

                                                                                                                                           For now,

                                                                                                                                                         Gary Challice

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