Collector Classics: Egg-xacting restoration hatches memories

VANCOUVER – Pieter Vanderpol was completely taken by surprise when his sons showed him something special at their company’s 60 anniversary party.

It was the exact type of panel delivery truck that Pieter used to deliver eggs for the company started by his father in 1952. The truck had been completely restored over the past year and brothers Mike and Phil Vanderpol had organized it so their father had no idea what was going on at the 360 Fabrication restoration shop a few minutes away from their Vanderpol’s Eggs production facility in Abbotsford.

“It was just like getting back on a bicycle after years of not riding,” Pieter recollected during an interview in his house beside the family business. “I got behind the wheel and knew exactly how to start it including turning the key, pulling out the choke and pushing the floor starter.”

Mike and Phil, two of his 12 children, had spent a lot of time finding a vehicle to restore just like the 1942 GMC panel truck Pieter had learned to drive when he was 13 years old. His father, Willem Vanderpol, had brought his wife and eight children to Canada from Holland in 1951 and, after a few months working as a labourer, used his last $450 to buy a 10-year-old truck and a load of fish from the docks.

Soon Pieter was taking one day a week off school to help his father on the route on Thursday’s — the big sales day with many Roman Catholic customers eating fish on Fridays.

He peddled the fish door-to-door in New Westminster and Burnaby. Young Pieter was enterprising and began raising laying hens at the family’s rented home in New West. His father began offering surplus fresh eggs to customers on his door-to-door route and soon found a market for fresh eggs.

“Eggs weren’t refrigerated in those days when most people still had small ice boxes,” Pieter explains. “We could leave eggs outside for people to pick up but not fish. So we gradually started delivering only eggs.”

The business expanded with Willem Vanderpol buying new routes to supply restaurants and corner stores with fresh eggs. When Pieter was 16, he got his own door-to-door sales route with a used Austin van.

Over six decades, the business passed from Willem Vanderpol to his son Pieter and then to Pieter’s sons Mike and Phil. Now, with nearly 200 employees, Vanderpol’s Eggs is B.C.’s largest supplier of fresh and frozen egg products. The company has customers across Canada and internationally, including Japan. Among its many products are pre-mixed eggs for restaurants, including McDonalds and BC Ferries, as well as dried egg whites for cake mixes and other uses.

The search for a vintage truck to celebrate six decades of success was a challenge. The original 1942 panel truck was a GMC (General Motors Canada). Ads posted in car magazines across Canada brought offers of Chevrolet panel trucks but no GMC models.

Just when Mike and Phil were about to give up, they received a call from a man in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. He told them he had bought a second-hand 1945 GMC panel truck in the 1950s for use in his plumbing business. He retired the truck in the 1970s when the engine gave out and parked it in the backyard. He said the truck was original and restorable.

It turned out that this was no ordinary vehicle. After the purchase, the Vanderpol brothers discovered it was body Number 1 built at the General Motors assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario after the company stopped building domestic vehicles for three years to allow for war production during World War Two.

“Once we realized what we had, we abandoned our idea of doing a cosmetic restoration so the truck looked original but with a modern engine and brakes. We committed the truck to a full authentic restoration,” Mike says.

The truck was completely disassembled at the restoration shop and rebuilt to look and perform the way it did when it was shipped from the factory to Saskatchewan in 1945. It is painted the original dark blue colour.

Pieter Vanderpol says his father’s original 1942 GMC panel delivery truck was an off-white colour with a grey roof. Other than the new truck having a custom radio, the two vehicles are identical.

The 60th Anniversary truck has been taken to some local car shows in the Fraser Valley and used for a company party.

“We brought it right inside the Ramada Plaza and Conference Centre,” Phil Vanderpol says. “It was a big hit. Everybody wanted to get their photos with the truck. It’s our history.”

Alyn Edwards is a classic car enthusiast and partner in Peak Communicators, a Vancouver-based public relations company. Contact him at [email protected]

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