The elite of hot rodding, including Californians Roy
Brizio, Steve Moal and Vic Edelbrock, were heading for Victoria’s
Northwest Deuce Days which would see streets around the Inner Harbour
along with the lawns in front of the Provincial Legislature and Empress
Hotel lined with the world’s best modified cars.
Bob Diachuk had
been working for 12 years to have his very special hot rod debut at
Grand National Roadster Show in California next January. When he was
diagnosed with liver cancer earlier this year, a decision was made to
enter his car for Northwest Deuce Days in Victoria in mid-July. The work
to finish the car became urgent.
Bob, who had spent his career as
a log broker, had been interested in old cars and hot rods since his
teenage years in Burnaby. His father was a mechanic who taught his young
son all about cars.
Bob’s first car was a Model A Ford purchased a
year before he could get a driver’s licence. He built the car into a
hot rod which fired a lifelong interest. There would be many modified
cars, including a 1933 Ford roadster, a 1940 Ford, 1955 Ford
Thunderbird, a 1948 Ford woody wagon and a 1966 Chevelle.
1932 Ford roadster had become an obsession. It would be very personal
and built to the highest standards possible. He made 20 trips to the
annual L.A. Roadster Show and had taken hundreds of photographs of some
of the best modified cars in America.
Bob chose longtime friend
John Barbero of Pyramid Street Rods in Bellingham, Wash. – an
internationally recognized hot rod builder – for the job.
made repeated tours to California to buy parts for his deuce (1932 Ford)
roadster, and lay awake at night designing the car in his mind. He went
across the U.S. border to Pyramid Street Rods several times a week to
work on his car.
But as the disease began to seriously affect his
health and mobility, friends and family became concerned he would not
live long enough to see his dream completed.
And so, dozens of
people pitched in to help. The Pyramid Street Rod Shop crew worked
extended hours to complete the car. Friends in the Vancouver area took
over complete pieces of the car, including noted custom car painter
Sandy Morita, who painstakingly put the final finish on the custom
As Bob entered a hospice weeks before the
Northwest Deuce Days show was to begin, the pace of work on his car was
stepped up dramatically with Barbero aided by fellow Bellingham street
rod enthusiasts Frank Marino and John Lobach.
Just weeks before
the Victoria show, a spot opened up for the emerging street rod at Sid
Chavers Upholstery in Santa Clara, Calif. – one of the best known trim
shops in the U.S. Barbero and Lobach immediately put the partly built
street rod on a trailer heading south. One week later, the street rod
was back in Barbero’s shop in Bellingham for completion.
before NW Deuce Days opened, Bob Diachuk’s doctor, Andries Bredenkamp,
gave the family the go-ahead to take Bob to Victoria for the show. In
Bellingham, the hot rod shop crew worked into the night to put the
finishing touches on the car before loading it in the trailer bound for
Bob’s wife Cathi and daughters Nicole,
with husband Jason Thompson (JT) and Andrea with husband Steve Noga
ferried Bob to Victoria in his beloved 1948 Ford woody station wagon.
Other family members from the Prairies made hurried plans to head for
“It was a tremendous group effort to make my dad’s dream
come true to see the completion of the street rod he had worked so hard
to create,” says daughter Andrea, a kindergarten teacher. When word got
out that Bob and his street rod would definitely be part of the NW
Deuce Days show, 30 of his friends from Canada and the U.S. made
last-minute plans to attend.
“A group of us got up at 4:15 in the
morning in Victoria to make sure his car was properly prepared and would
be on display at the front doors of the host hotel,” says Osoyoos
resident Al Abraham. “This was an amazing show of caring for Bob who was
having such a difficult time.”
Hotel guests, owners of the 1,000
hot rods and custom cars attending the show and an estimated 100,000
spectators crowding into downtown Victoria to see the show had the
opportunity to see Bob’s car at the entrance of the Grand Pacific Hotel.
proud owner, in a wheelchair, was able to be with his car alongside
family and friends wearing T-shirts depicting the car that were produced
by South Surrey street rod enthusiast Rob Mallett.
“I am very
emotional and can’t find the words to describe how I feel,” Bob said. “I
just want to thank my family, my friends and John Barbero for making
On Sunday, he was able to tour the show of cars
lining the streets around Victoria’s inner harbour in his wheelchair. At
the late afternoon closing ceremonies approached, Bob was helped into
the passenger seat of his Ford woody station wagon driven by Barbero,
who had modified the car.
“Bob thought we were heading for the ferry for the trip home to Vancouver. But there was to be a diversion,” he says.
They headed up the driveway of the provincial Legislature where a crowd had gathered.
told Bob: I think you just won the big one,” Barbero says. Bob’s 1932
Ford street rod had won the Participant’s Choice Award – the top award
for the show as the favourite among the nearly 1,000 fellow street
rodders displaying cars at the show.
“He turned to me and said:
‘This means everything.'” “My dad was completely taken by surprise. He
thought we were just heading home. He was so happy,” Andrea says. “Deuce
Days was an opportunity to showcase 12 years of labour and love and we
knew this would be the last car show he would live to attend with his
family and friends.”
Andrea says her father spent years dreaming of this car, and winning the Participant’s Choice Award was the icing on the cake.
the bottom of our hearts, we thank our Pyramid Street Rod family and
all my dad’s many friends for making this dream come true and to have
him smile during this difficult time. We were all honoured to see his
creative genius recognized – a reward for all of the time Dad spent in
his many garages over the years.”
Bob Diachuk died at his home in White Rock seven days after attending the NW Deuce Days Show in Victoria.
Edwards is a classic car enthusiast and partner in Peak Communicators, a
Vancouverbased public relations company. Contact him at