Cruise over to the Classics Salon and check out the 1967 Fastback, top, owned by John Foster of Mississauga and the 1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk of Ray Martin, Sparta, Ont.

Two of the most revered brands in North America’s automotive history — venerated by enthusiasts, but for widely different reasons — are the subjects of this year’s AutoShow Classics Salon in the South Building, MTCC.

“Pony Fever: Performance Cars for the Young at Heart” captures that short-lived era from the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s when the so-called Pony Cars — led by the Ford Mustang and closely pursued by the Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird, AMC Javelin, Plymouth Barracuda and others of similar sporting intent — captured the imaginations of young and old alike.

“Different by Design: A History of the Studebaker Corporation,” profiles one of America’s most iconic automobile marques — one that left a lasting legacy in design and innovation that has long influenced other automakers.

And a third element to the Classics Salon, back for a third time at the Canadian International AutoShow: the Cruise Nationals, a salute to Canada’s vibrant “cruise culture,” featuring vehicles from across southern Ontario, a hotbed of cruise activity.

Pony Car Fever

Pony Cars derived their generic description from the Mustang, named after the wild horses that once roamed the American west by the thousands.

Oddly, it was the only car of its kind to carry an equine appellation. Still, such was its impact on North American driving culture that the entire genre came to reflect the Mustang’s horsey handle.

Two standout ‘Stangs among this year’s display are a powder-blue 1967 Fastback, owned by John Foster of Mississauga and a sharp ‘70 Mach 1 Fastback owned by George O’Hearn, also of Mississauga.

Martin Mann of Stratford will show his gorgeous ‘68 American Motors AMX, to remind the Mustang crowd that they weren’t the only contenders for the Pony Car crown … at least for a while. A 1970 Dodge Challenger Coupe owned by Dr. Joe Muskin of Ajax extends the same message, but from the pentagram peoples’ point of view.

More than 30 Pony Cars representing all the manufacturers who built them will be on display as part of Pony Car Fever.

Different by Design

Studebaker stood for innovation and aerodynamic design in the years that it built automobiles, and even before that as a 19th century wagon maker. The firm entered the automotive business in 1902 with electric vehicles and gasoline-fuelled vehicles in 1904, and it partnered with other builders of gasoline-powered vehicles until 1911. In 1913 Studebaker introduced the first gasoline-powered vehicles under its own “Studebaker” brand name. Acquired in 1954 by Packard Motor Company of Detroit, the company ceased automobile production in 1966.

Sporting designs that looked like no one else’s, Studebakers on display will include a ‘51 Commander convertible, built by its owner, Bill Balzer of Hornby, to replicate a ‘50s custom cruiser. Bill Harris’ stunning 1963 Avanti R2 has a 289 cubic-inch V8. It’s been restored to original as the first North American car with factory disc brakes and curved side glass.

A 1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk with pronounced rear fins (Cadillac wasn’t the only one to use this design cue), restored to original by owner Ray Martin of Sparta, Ont., marked the only year in its history that Studebaker used the Packard engine.

Cruise Nationals

Meanwhile, the most elaborate nod to “Cruise culture” in Canada is back for a third year at the Canadian International AutoShow.

The driving force in creating the Cruise Nationals was to celebrate the “wonderful and popular phenomenon of weekly car cruises,” says AutoShow events supervisor, Jon Rosenthall.

Across North America, cruise events are hosted by thousands of volunteer classic vehicle enthusiasts, and attended by thousands more enthusiasts with their meticulously restored vehicles. It’s not uncommon for many cruisers to attend several different ‘cruise-ins’ weekly throughout the season to show off their prized passions, to exchange ideas and to enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded individuals.

“Southern Ontario is one of North America’s most concentrated regions in the collection and enjoyment of classic cars and of the “cruise culture,” Rosenthall said.

Of the 10 finalist vehicles on display, a panel of celebrity judges and the public, who voted online, chose the top three prior to the opening of this year’s show.

The hunt for the best classic car in Southern Ontario began prior to last year’s cruise season in May and continued at cruise events throughout the region all season long.

The process begins all over again for next year’s Cruise Nationals Display with the start of this year’s Cruise season.