Gear shifts

Kevin Jenkins restores cars and fixes fire trucks — all while keeping his day job.

One might expect to find hay or chickens in the barn on Kevin Jenkins’ property. Instead, it’s full of car parts and his pride and joy: a 1963 Ford Fairlane Squire station wagon.

“I restore cars — it keeps me reasonably broke and reasonably busy,” says Jenkins, wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a do-rag over a long, gray ponytail. The unusual look is just one of many quirks to go along with the many passions of this PEI accountant, who has worked for the provincial government for the past 31 years.

The son of farmers grew up “with lots of machinery, so I’ve always enjoyed working with tools and fixing stuff,” he says.

The Fairlane, a showpiece for the antique car shows he attends yearly throughout the Maritimes, was a shell when he bought it for US$350 in Vermont years ago. It had no engine, no transmission, no tires and a shredded interior. He spent years scavenging for parts and had the interior completely redone in red vinyl by an upholstery shop. “The thrill of the hunt is what I enjoyed the most,” he says.

Jenkins also keeps three fire trucks: one in his father’s barn down the road and two in storage. Why own old fire trucks? “They’re unique,” he says. He plans to turn one into a car hauler, another into a pickup truck and keep the third for parts, but “I’m keeping the fire lights and sirens,” he says. “I’ll drive them to shows.”

As if fixing up cars isn’t enough, Jenkins was also a two-term mayor of the town of Stratford, from 2003 to 2010. It was a gig he took on in addition to his day job. His political career began with a seat on the town council in the mid-’80s. “[My wife and I] were new in town and someone invited me to a council meeting,” he says. “I wanted to shape the community where our daughters would grow up.”

Yet he still found time for his passions: old cars and his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

The Harley came when he turned 40. He’d had motorcycles when he was younger and decided, “If I’m ever going to get back on two wheels, I’d better do it soon.” His wife, Zelda, a retired ER nurse, forgave him — eventually. “Better than a girlfriend,” he told her with a laugh.