One could say that when it comes to Classic Car collector Mark Bates, the word boring has never existed during his lifetime, be it work or pleasure. His ‘not so boring’ 1960 MG-A Roadster, is just the latest of a few ‘nice rides’ that Mark has been fortunate to own over the years and is a vehicle that he bought in Georgia and I might add, sight unseen. “I’ve been driving it ever since it was shipped up here,” Mark says proudly “and it’s been great. Actually, all I have added to it is a Ford Sierra 5-Speed Conversion Kit purchased in England from High-Gear Engineering and installed by Moggy Rumbrettern Motors, which makes it drive more easily on the highways here.” Located in Mono, in the Hockley Valley, Mark adds that the roads are ‘just fantastic’ for driving a Roadster like his and says that Orangeville itself is also a great spot to showcase the car, as throughout the year fellow ‘car buffs’ of the ‘Headwaters British Car Club’ meet and go out for a ‘day’s drive’ and then enjoy a good meal together.
Mark, who is originally from England, has always had a keen interest in sports cars and especially a fascination for British cars, that began when he was a mere youth. “Back in the ‘50’s, all the sports cars came from Europe, until maybe 1954 when the Corvette was released in North America. I always seemed to have an affinity for the British models, as I liked their look and style and wanted to buy one when I graduated from college. My first car was a 1967 MG-B, which I drove until it basically disappeared (laughs). So far I have owned five classic cars including another MG-B and a TR6, but I always wanted an MG-A. Finally, in 2014, while looking on the internet, I saw the Roadster for sale in Georgia and immediately I wanted it.”
Mark has owned five classic cars, so does he buy one and then sell it after driving it for awhile? Does he own more than one classic car at a time?
“If I had a garage large enough I would”, he says with a laugh, but admits that he usually will hold on to the cars for some time. “I have a tendency to baby them and keep them in good shape as I love driving them.”
Now retired, Mark originally worked for Nortel and then after that, he had a stint with a Pharmaceutical company, first in Milton and then in Argentina. Some time later, he ended up in Barbados with CIBC and finally, he went back to Nortel, only in the US. Mark actually retired from full time employment at 50, but did do some consulting work for several years after, which gave him more time to spend with his cars. Was this when the passion for classic cars finally kicked in?
“I don’t know if you would call it a passion, but I have always had a nice collector car like the Roadster and the only time that I think I will sell it is when I find that I can’t get in and out of it”, he says with a chuckle.
Does he see that day coming soon?
“I do, but what I did in the meantime was buy myself a Mercedes 350 SLK as it has more easy access and I guess you could say that it will probably be my next sports car when the MG goes!”
Mark is also known for enjoying a good game of hockey, an interest that has been fueled because he was like any kid growing up in Canada. “I probably could have gone further in hockey had I not discovered horses when I was younger. I started hanging around the horse industry (rodeos, riding) and then when I went to college I wanted to play hockey but I didn’t think I was smart enough to be able to play college hockey. Instead, I started playing a lot of industrial hockey and going to tournaments, in fact I went to California a few times and played in the world famous ‘Snoopy Tournament’ founded by Peanuts creator Charles M. Schultz (who actually played in the tournament when I first started there.)
Any regrets that he didn’t go further in hockey?
“No I don’t think that I really have any regrets, because growing up I always liked to try new things and hockey was just one element and when I think back now, I probably wouldn’t have had the physical size necessary to be a professional hockey player. Plus, I’ve since had nephews play Junior A in Ontario and when you see what they have to go through to maybe even be considered to play in the NHL, it’s very tough. It is just an entirely different game now!”
Mark still continues to keep the hockey passion burning though by playing Oldtimer’s regularly and says that almost 10 years ago he started a 55 and up league in Orangeville, which has grown so large that they now have since added a 65-plus league. “The town actually runs the programs and although it is just ‘shinny’ hockey, it’s great to see that the older guys that show up regularly, are still able to compete.”
He alluded to earlier on how horses helped to curtail a hockey career, why was this?
“Well, when I was turning 16, I started helping a guy up the street that had a horse farm, and he became like a father to me as my own father had died very young and my mother had moved back to live in England. I always had a horse to ride back then and actually did some rodeo for two years, but I wasn’t really very good at it, so I quit. But I started to hang around with a guy who did do rodeo professionally and although I never made horses a career, I always seemed to be around them.”
Finally, is this Mark’s last Classic Car?
“If I had a four-car garage, trust me there wouldn’t be any space for a fifth one! (Laughs) I may like to own a Jaguar XKE before I let the Roadster go though, but a growing issue now is the fact that we are losing all of the talent that used to fix these cars, as people have either retired or passed away and personally, I like to drive them, not fix them.”
WRITTEN BY: LARRY SIMPSON | PHOTOGRAPHY: CORY BRUYEA
RESOURCES: MARK BATES