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A drive down memory lane

Are you a classic car lover? Then this museum in Edmonton should be on your list of must-sees.

Long, silent stares are common at Yesterday's Auto Gallery.

"It's like looking at art," said manager Bill Storr, describing how visitors are encouraged to take their time viewing the 80-plus classic cars inside the unique showroom on Edmonton's south side.

"There was one visitor from Ontario who spent a great deal of time admiring a 1970 Chevelle SS 454. He just sat there, had a coffee and admired the car," said Storr.

The showroom features a rotating display of eye-catching vehicles and motorcycles, ranging from a 1926 Ford Model T to a 2017 Mustang Shelby Super Snake.

"We get a lot of middle-aged and seniors who like to sit and chat and just look at the vehicles. It's so comfortable. No one is in a rush," said Storr, who often breaks away from his busy schedule to educate and inform visitors about the collection. (When Storr’s not available, a dozen TV monitors situated around the showroom provide details about each vehicle.)

"There is nothing comparable to this place. There are some small museums in B.C. but nothing this big."

The gallery is the creation of Glen Stenabaugh, an Edmonton industrial trailer company owner and long-time classic car collector. Stenabaugh told the Financial Post earlier this year that he has been collecting cars since he was a boy, owning his first three by the time he was 14 years old.

Storr said Stenabaugh bought the large southside building once occupied by the Provincial Archives and soon the dream became reality.

Created as a non-profit foundation to benefit a handful of charities including Little Warriors, Strathcona Food Bank, and The Hope Mission, the gallery opened late last summer but was forced to close after a month due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The unique museum reopened May 3 and has been drawing crowds ever since.

"The most interesting part is very young children are our biggest fans. They keep begging their parents to bring them back," said Storr.

All but a handful of the vehicles inside the showroom are owned by Stenabaugh.

One of those vehicles is a rare 1955 Packard Four Hundred, one of 10 classic vehicles owned by Storr.

“These vehicles are important. This was the last Packard sold in Alberta,” said Storr, who purchased it from an elderly Lethbridge woman 12 years ago.

Storr, who has been restoring vehicles for decades, was introduced to vehicles at a tender age by his older brother.

"I was four or five years old and I was helping my brother work on a 1958 Oldsmobile," he said. Ironically, one of Storr's classics is a 1958 Oldsmobile.

There are at least four vehicles - including a 1966 Chevelle Malibu 33 - at the gallery that are in what's described as ‘Concours condition.’

"Concours- or pristine - are cars restored to almost a perfect level. It's a show piece car." said Storr, adding the vehicles are transported by trailer and never driven on a public road.

Another vehicle in the showroom, a 1956 Mercury Montclair, was restored by an elderly gentleman from Three Hills--restoration work that is something of a dying art.

"No one else will be able to do that. We have got to get this passed on," said Storr.

In August, some old engines will be brought in to the work bay area of the 53,000 square foot complex.

'We're going to have some kids and young people work on them. We want to find people to carry on the tradition," he said.

Yesterday's also features Sylv's Diner, where visitors can enjoy a hot dog, milkshake and jukebox as part of the retro experience. As well, the museum is offering outdoor space at the back of the building for market sales, where classic car buyers and sellers can commune.

Yesterday's Auto Gallery is at 8707 51 Ave NW, Edmonton. Adult admission is $20; youth and seniors $10. Kids under seven get free admission. See more at yesterdaysautogallery.com