The Redmobile

Stories and info about those no longer involved in the industry

The Redmobile

Postby jon » Fri Jun 04, 2010 7:21 pm

DJ spins memories of his prized '57 Fairlane
Red Robinson was quick to buy his first car -- so quick, in fact, that he didn't even know how to drive
By Alyn Edwards, Vancouver Sun June 4, 2010

Rock 'n' roll Hall of Fame DJ Red Robinson remembers the new 1957 Ford Sunliner convertible purchased before he knew how to drive.

Red Robinson, Jim Greenwood and Terry Rae got together at Nick's Restaurant on Vancouver's Commercial Drive recently.

That's nothing new because the trio of old friends has been dining there for more than 50 years. As Terry Rae said on this occasion: "I used to park my hot rod roadster in front of Nick's when I would go there at least once a week in the 1950s."

Rae, historian at the Deeley Motorcycle Exhibition on nearby Boundary Road, had brought along his photo album.

The album was open to a 53-year-old photograph of a brand new 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Sunliner convertible.

The stunning red convertible had been purchased by the legendary Robinson, who is standing by the driver's door surrounded by a group of friends.

The photo was taken in the summer of 1957 at the Igniters Car Club garage in North Burnaby just off East Hastings St. Robinson had just learned to drive his new Ford convertible.

Robinson started his career in radio as a 14-year-old high school student with a fascination for the rhythm and blues records he heard on the jukebox at a restaurant on Broadway.

He was invited to help CJOR disc jockey Al Jordan spin records on an afternoon teen show.

Within two years, Robinson had taken over the show and introduced rock 'n' roll to a growing Vancouver audience.

By the age of 19, Robinson had moved to CKWX radio, which had just started broadcasting 50,000 watts -- the most powerful radio station on the west coast with the Red Robinson Rock and Roll Record Show, heard from San Francisco to Alaska.

On top of this, the youthful disc jockey hosted dances and introduced rock 'n' roll icons, including Elvis Presley and the Beatles, to Vancouver audiences.

"I was earning about a thousand dollars a month, which was big money in those days and amazing money for a teenager," Robinson recalls. "I saw a magazine advertisement for a red 1957 Ford convertible and thought I would like a car like that."

Robinson's uncle, Chuck Robinson, one of Vancouver's original hot rodders, took him to Fogg Motors in New Westminster to order the car.

It had to be torch red with a white top and matching interior. Robinson and his uncle ticked off a long list of options including the Thunderbird special motor with dual exhausts, fender skirts and rear deck antenna.

After about five weeks, Robinson got the call to pick up his car at the dealership. "The car was beautiful," he recalls.

"But when the salesman handed me the keys, I just stared at him. I didn't know how to drive."

The car remained at the dealership until Rae and Robinson's uncle could pick it up. Uncle Chuck then proceeded to teach the proud owner how to drive his brand new Ford convertible in the back lanes of North Burnaby and in the parking lot of the Brentwood shopping centre.

The young Robinson passed his driving exam the following Monday.

"I had a Motorola 'ship to shore' radio telephone installed in the car so I could broadcast live from the car," he recalls.

"One night, I timed the records with the engineer so I could do cut ins from the car. I would leave records in telephone booths all up Oak Street and tell people I was dropping them off from my red convertible. Then the police pulled me over because a lineup of cars had formed behind me."

But it wasn't long before the red convertible was attracting the wrong kind of attention. "I was roaring up Boundary Road and got pulled over by a motorcycle cop," he recalls. "It was Sandy Sanderson and he told me he clocked me at 55 miles an hour in a 30 zone and would have to give me a ticket. Then he told me it was my misfortune that I pulled off to the left instead of the right. The right side of Boundary Road is Burnaby where he didn't have jurisdiction."

Robinson had become a member of North Burnaby's Igniters Car Club and wanted to hop up the engine in his striking red convertible. His uncle installed a triple carburation kit purchased at Cal-Van Auto Supply which significantly boosted the horsepower of the 292-cubic-inch V8 engine.

Jim Greenwood, known as "James" for his pin-striping work on West Coast custom cars, added gold striping around the headlights and along the sides of the Ford convertible to make it even more distinctive.

"There were many stars who rode in that car," the radio veteran says of the days he would transport the headline acts for the concerts he would MC. "They included Canadian music country star Ian Tyson as well as rock and rollers Robin Luke, who recorded Susie Darlin', and teenage superstar Ritchie Valens.

The darkest day of his ownership of the beautiful red convertible came after a New Westminster dance that Robinson had hosted.

"When I came out to get in my car, I found every piece of glass had been broken, even the glass in the speedometer." Vandals had also pried open the hood to steal the special carburation set up.

"I just sat down on the curb and cried."

But all good things have to come to an end. In 1959, Robinson moved his radio show to Portland, Ore., where he also hosted a spin off from Dick Clark's American Bandstand imaginatively named Portland Bandstand. He left his then-two-year-old red Ford convertible with a relative to sell on his Kingsway car lot.

In Portland, he bought a white 1959 Chevrolet Impala hardtop with a powerful 348-cubic-inch engine and four speed transmission.

Within a year, Robinson was drafted into the U.S. army and found himself at boot camp in Fort Ord, Calif.

He subsequently returned to Vancouver radio but would never see his red convertible again and has no idea what happened to it.

"I saw the identical car advertised on the Internet this year. It was my car. I mean it was exactly like my car."

He had paid $2,950 for his red Ford convertible, which was delivered just in time for the summer of 1957. This year, the identical car restored to perfection had been offered for sale at $46,000.

"I would have bought it for sure," he says. "I was just too late and it was sold."

So, the memories of the 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Sunliner can only be rekindled through photographs and conversations with lifelong friends who were there at the time Robinson bought his brand new car that he didn't know how to drive.

Alyn Edwards is a classic car enthusiast and partner in Peak Communicators, a Vancouverbased public relations company.
User avatar
Advanced Member
Posts: 9196
Joined: Mon May 08, 2006 10:15 am
Location: Edmonton

Re: The Redmobile

Postby theallniter » Fri Jun 04, 2010 7:55 pm

FYI - Alyn Edward's partner at Peak is the former producer of Zig Zag (the BCTV kid's show that really wasn't a children's TV show) and the origin of the allniter's current moniker - DJZigZag .
Ross Sullivan is that man's name.
WAGRadio 180.2 FM / 1802 AM
New World African Music
DJ ZigZag
User avatar
Advanced Member
Posts: 46
Joined: Wed May 21, 2008 10:08 am

Re: The Redmobile

Postby Jack Bennest » Sat Jun 05, 2010 8:04 am

Thanks to Red for a picture of his actual car

User avatar
Jack Bennest
Advanced Member
Posts: 4626
Joined: Mon Apr 17, 2006 9:25 pm

Return to Radio People History

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests