Feature: B.C. Vintage Truck Museum

Feature: B.C. Vintage Truck Museum

This 1941 International K7 COE began its service life in the War effort, as a troop or equipment carrier for the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps, until 1946, at which time it was purchased by Bob King during liquidation of war assets. It was one of the trucks donated to the Province in 1974.

Story and photos by Gerry Frechette

There are car museums seemingly everywhere in North America, but far fewer exhibits dedicated just to trucks. Fewer still are the museums featuring only large commercial trucks, and such a facility is located in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey.

The B.C. Vintage Truck Museum has been operated by the Surrey Heritage Society since 2012 in buildings at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds, owned by the City of Surrey. The beginnings of the collection were when local trucking magnate Bob King donated some 14 trucks to the Province of B.C. in the mid-’70s, and they were then displayed at the B.C. Transportation Museum until it was closed down in 1991. The Teamsters Union took care of the collection until 2012, when the current space was made available in Surrey and the Museum began operation.

Fast forward to today, and the collection has grown to some 27 trucks, all with historical significance in the growth of the Greater Vancouver area, and British Columbia in general. However, the Museum faces a big challenge. Less than a year after receiving a Canada 150 grant to upgrade their space which enabled them to move several trucks out of storage and put them on display, they now face losing half the space.

This 1937 Mack EQ entered service with Shell Oil in Vancouver, as a coal delivery truck. The rear deck was depressed along the centreline, so that bags of coal could be transported without tying them down.

When the structure was built in 1958, it incorporated Surrey’s original Town Hall from 1881. The city is in the process of developing the Surrey Museum, and they would like it to include the Town Hall, which will be moved to the new site. When that small building is removed from within the larger building which constitutes half the Truck Museum, space for about ten of the trucks could be lost depending on how the de-construction is carried out, and they may have to go back into storage – somewhere yet to be determined. All this only months after they finally got the building into a useful and attractive condition.

“We are hoping that when the City extracts the old City Hall from our building, that we can put a roof and floor in that area of the building, and preserve it for our use,” explained Museum President Chenn Bergen. “That would keep us going another four or five years at this site, while we get our plans and funding going for a new building.”

Naturally, the Museum directors and volunteers are trying to find a long-term solution, ideally a building with about 25,000 square feet, somewhere in Surrey or nearby. The City has indicated they might be able to provide a suitable piece of land, but just the building would probably cost $5 million. So now they are beginning a fundraising program to raise about $3 million of that, in hopes that the rest would come from other sources like government grants.

So, at the time of this writing, the B.C. Vintage Truck Museum faces the dismantling of half of their building, starting on April 30, but are hopeful that they can continue to use that wing if it can be preserved in a usable condition. The future is uncertain, but fans of old trucks can only hope that this unique collection finds a new home where it can continue to be enjoyed for what it is – an important display of the commercial transportation history of the Lower Mainland of B.C.

Categories: Features, Trucks Plus