Oshawa’s Auto Museum acquires a ’91 Civic – its first Canadian-made Japanese car

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Published April 4, 2023 at 9:57 am

Canadian Auto Museum board member Greg Johnston and Honda Canada CEO Jean Marc LeClerc with a 1991 Honda CVivic, the first Canadian-made Japanese car in the collection

Japanese automotive giant Honda has been building cars in Alliston, Ontario for 37 years and yet the Canadian Automotive Museum in Oshawa – the shrine to all things Canadian in the world of auto history – didn’t have any of its cars on display.

Thanks to a chat between museum Executive Director Alex Gates and Justin Sookraj, who has been running Oblivion – billed as Canada’s ‘coolest 80s and 90s car and culture show’ – at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto since 2017, they do now.

One of the museum’s cars at the show was a 1987 Magna Torrero (given to the auto museum by Magna Corp.), a concept vehicle that came complete with an array of gadgets, such as computers, 11 cameras and a fax machine in the back seat, that was unheard of in those days.

The car (also noted for its rather questionable styling cues) is back on display at the museum in Oshawa and Sookraj and Gates were both on hand for the auto show’s 10-day run. They naturally got to talking and Sookraj mentioned he had an Alliston-made 1991 Honda Civic at his dealership (Wells Auto in Milton) and perhaps, as Gates did not have any Canadian-made Japanese cars at the museum, he’d like to borrow this one?

Gates jumped at the chance, though he wasn’t sure it was going to fit in the museum’s lobby when the car arrived in Oshawa. “I didn’t know what we we were going to do if it didn’t fit.”

It fit.

A keyboard player entertains guests in front of the Fossmobile – the first Canadian car ever produced – at the auto museum’s Curator’s Reception

Most of the vehicles at Sookraj’s dealership are a bit more exotic than a 1991 Honda Civic, especially after he took over the family business (started by Ivor Sookraj)  in 2014. With the management change came a shift in focus to the restoration of classic cars from the 80s and 90s, particularly DeLoreans, the iconic Lotus-designed car with the gullwing doors made famous by the Back to the Future movies.

One of those DeLoreans, finished in stainless steel and with all the retro European flair you could ask for, is now on display at the auto museum in Oshawa.

Sookraj was in Oshawa last Thursday for the Curator’s Reception at the museum, an event hosted by Gates and attended by museum members, auto history afficiendos, local dignitaries and even the President and CEO of Honda Canada, Jean Marc LeClerc.

Sookraj said the car had just one owner before he acquired the ’91 Civic to display at his dealership: an elderly woman who (maybe) just drove it to church on Sundays.

“Could be,” he said with a smile. “We did find a rosary on the dashboard.”

Justin Sookraj of Oblivion car show and Wells Auto (Milton) fame with a De Lorean from his collection

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