The first time I ever saw the Rocky Mountains was in the Summer of 1963.

We headed to Mabel Lake, BC because my aunt and uncle had a lakeshore cabin that was a custom fit for a couple of unhinged kids (Jim and me) on summer vacation.

My dad had a 1960 Dodge Seneca four-door sedan at the time so that was how we road-tripped 60s-style to Mabel Lake.

Jerry Sutherland

That Dodge was the fastest car he ever owned because it had a 361 four-barrel V-8. He clocked it through a radar at nearly 130 miles per hour—he had a license to speed because he was with the Alberta Highway Patrol. That number made his ’60 Dodge a legend with Jim and me—but my dad didn’t like the gas mileage, so the Seneca was gone in less than a year.

Mabel Lake is one of the deepest lakes in BC plus it has a serious undertow because it empties into a river so there’s an element of danger that barely registered with Jim and me. You had to take a boat from a parking lot to get to the cabin–that’s where the Dodge sat for the duration of the family vacation.  

There was a major car show in Penticton, BC so the right thing to do was to road trip to it in a 1960 Dodge and celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Mabel Lake run.

Non-car people will never understand why a 63-year-old car would be a practical choice for a major run through the high mountain passes and sweltering heat of the BC interior. The truth is it isn’t practical—but that’s not the point.

This is one of those “If I have to explain it, you’ll never understand” scenarios. A ’60 Dodge has the power to take on the steep grades in BC, but you’ll never mistake its road manners with those of a brand-new Vette. It rides a lot better, but a ’60 Dodge doesn’t carve a turn—it plows into them like a street cleaner.

The biggest shock to people not familiar with early 60s iron is how a 63-year-old car can easily run at 75 miles per hour. You can see it in their faces when you’re in the fast lane—it’s a cross between the legendary deer-in-the-headlight stare and the that-guy-is-high stare.

You don’t get the built-in comforts you’d find in a brand-new Lexus, but you will get something you’ll never get in a Lexus—cool factor. Harley guys wave at you and 80-year-old women give you giant smiles.

It’s like being part of a rock star fraternity with the wide demographic base of the Rolling Stones. There was a kid in Revelstoke who chased the Dodge around the parking lot at a gas station with his phone so he could get some videos.    

The road to Mabel Lake was gravel back in 1963—now it’s paved but no wider. The Dodge handled it like a typical ’60 Dodge would on a twisty road with lots of blind turns—not Porsche-like. It’s more drunken lurch while walking on soft pillows like. The guy in the Porsche who followed the old Dodge almost all the way to Mabel Lake would definitely agree. 

Mabel Lake was off-the-beaten path in ’63, but it’s been discovered by high-end suburbanites, so now there are golf courses and giant houses. The final touch was to take a picture of the car above the parking lot where my dad parked the car 60 years ago. That was really cool.

A side note—Jim ate too many green apples from the orchard behind the cabin back in ‘63 and Mom warned him he’d get sick. She was right—we weren’t even halfway up the hill from the lakeside parking lot when he hurled.

Good news in 2023—Jim didn’t hurl on the same road 60 years later.

The bigger point behind this run is how you celebrate a 60th anniversary tour. You can do it in the sanitized confines of a soulless new car, or you can take a risk and run with a 63-year-old car on a 1228-mile road trip. Bring extra parts, tools, emergency equipment, extra gas, and an optimistic attitude.

We need more of that these days.

Jerry Sutherland

By: Jerry Sutherland

Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post,  Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.

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