iron buffalo

     In the fall of 2007, I got a call from James McBurney enquiring about entering a car in Performance World. His business (Cardude) was building a car for Don Francks: Canadian actor,singer and activist. The car was called Quicksilver hg and was based on a 1952 Mercury Speedster body. The goal was to unveil the car at the Detroit Autorama at the end of February and bring it to Performance World the following weekend.

This story is about Don Francks. In the 70s he lived on Red Pheasant Reservation in Saskatchewan he was adopted by the Cree and given the name Iron Buffalo. Dons accomplishments are numerous including appearing in the Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Mission Impossible tv series, recorded 3 albums and was a guest on the Jonny Carson Show 7 times. He was also a collector of vintage model t speedsters.

     First a little about James and Quicksliver hg. James is from Niagara Falls and we are all familiar with his tribute to the full custom car era:1952 Dodge Convertible called Jade. He was also the promoter of the indoor car show: Wheel World Car Exhibitions in Niagara Falls. Quicksilver hg started with a 1952 Mercury Speedster body that Don had in his collection, Jim added a modified Speedway Motors T frame, Ford rear end, coil over shocks, and four bar system out back with a dropped axle up front. Dropped in a 355 cubic inch small block. The highly polished aluminum body and attention to detail makes this an outstanding car.

     I first met Don at the Detroit Autorama in 2008 and had the privilege of working with Iron Buffalo on several projects over the following 6 years. At Performance World in 2008, I was having some issues with a car owner and as the weekend progressed it was becoming a major problem. Unbeknownst to me at the time Don was very aware of what was going on. Quicksilver hg’s display was located directly across from this individuals display. On the Sunday morning of the show Don came to me and offered to get involved if I felt I needed some support. Fortunately, the car owner and I came to an agreement. For Don to step up and offer his assistance to basically a stranger (me) says a lot about his character. Later that evening after the show had closed and the building was empty, the disgruntled car owner had called me and said that he was completely out of line and apologized.

     I am a member of Motor City Car Club and in 2009 we celebrated our 50th Anniversary. It is a tradition with the club that we have a gala on each anniversary. We invite past members, a few guests and have a weekend party. In the past at the Saturday night gala, we also brought in a guest speaker. Past speakers include Bob Larivee Sr, Bruce Robertson, Chuck Miller and several others. A club member, Louis Balogh, suggested Don Francks. Don was contacted and he happened to be available and a deal was done! Boy was that the right decision! Don was a one man show, he told stories, did impersonations of famous people and sang a few tunes. The membership and guests were absolutely in awe and we had to allow him to go over his allotted time.

     In 2014, the Canadian Motorsports Expo at the International Center, the organizers added a new feature the Autoglym Hot Rod and Custom Car Display. In a meeting close to show date the organizers Inside Track mentioned that missing from the race car section was vintage race cars and did I know of any? Immediately I thought of Don Francks and said that I would contact him.

    Don said that he had 2 Ford Model T speedsters in Toronto in a garage off a lane in the Bathurst and St Clair area. Because of the snow and location there may be a problem getting out of the garage plus he had no way to get them to the International Center.

     Working with the show promoters and a transport company, the cars were on display at the 8th Annual Canadian Motorsports Expo. During the show I was approached by John Rosenthal of the Canadian International Autoshow which was being held the following weekend at the Convention Centre in downtown Toronto. John was enquiring if the speedsters would be available for the Autoshow. Again, working with the promoters of both shows the transport company and Don, arrangements were made to have the cars transported directly to the Autoshow on Sunday night instead of back to Dons garage. Another example of Dons willingness to help.

Harry Sherry- Don Francks Two Legends M.C.C.C. clubhouse 2009

     On the Saturday night of the Motorsports Expo there was an on-stage panel presentation with prominent car builders which I had the honour of hosting. Don was on the panel and after five minutes he had complete control of the audience.

     One of my fondest memories of Don was being at his CD release party. As a guest of Bob McJannett (Performance Improvements) I was in the audience on the evening of February 27, 2014 at the Lula Lounge on Dundas St West in Toronto the day before his 82nd birthday.

Iron Buffalo passed away in 2016.

Me & Don Francks

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

                                                                                                                                           For now,

                                                                                                                                                         Gary Challice

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