I arrived in Halifax, Canada in 1964 via the Royal Navy submarine HMS Alcide. Life was much different in those days, gas was cheap and cars could be had for $100. Drive in theatres, drive in A&W burger places were the rule of the day. Safety in automobiles was only a notion, flimsy baby seats that hooked over the front bench seat were everywhere. They were without doubt the most dangerous thing one could use for a young child, a head on collision and the child would have been launched through the windshield. Like I already said, things were different back then. Now flash ahead to 1969, I had just arrived on Prince Edward Island as the newly minted ass’t manager of the KMart Auto Centre. The Motor Vehicle Dept had just instituted a vehicle safety inspection program. To administer this very important program two very ”Important inspection Officers” were hired. All the garages and auto centres that wished to become a safety inspection station had to attend an orientation meeting run by said officers. We met at a local school one evening, about 50 mechanics in attendance.Our intrepid safety officers took the stage resplendent in their military styled uniforms complete with Buster Brown Belts!!!
They began by covering the obvious safety aspects, tires,brakes,lights, steering and windshield glass. It should be noted, neither of these gentlemen were qualified auto mechanics, however they did wield their uniformed authority with much aplomb. I merely listened, I had to be there if our centre was to be awarded the coveted inspection license. That was up until the point when they raised the issue of the Thrush Muffler as reason to fail the safety inspection. I couldn’t resist asking why a perfectly good system properly installed would fail the inspection.(We sold the Thrush at the KMart). Too noisy was the instant response. But surely they are no louder than many other systems and indeed without a decibel meter how could one decide the noise level. Without allowing them to interrupt me I quickly continued, can you please tell us what the acceptable noise level on PEI is?. I would have thought excessive noise to be a Provincial or City By Law violation. Safety would only be an issue should the exhaust system be badly rusted and or leaking into the car. To fail a car with a good system by claiming it was too noisy would at best be just an opinion. I sat down, many heads were nodding in agreement. I must confess I felt rather full of myself as I watched the two officers struggle to provide an answer. Of course they had no valid or reasonable answer so just blustered on that thrush mufflers would not pass inspection. Some weeks later, now with our inspection license hanging on the garage wall, in comes one of the inspection officers. I had thrush mufflers prominently displayed they were selling well and very popular among the young motorist. I waited to see if he would tell me to remove them and or stop selling them. Alas nothing! he looked around and decreed we were doing things correctly and left. The thrush muffler was safe!
Now you might think this was the end of my adventures with Motor Vehicle Safety, but you would be wrong. Tomorrow I will continue this interesting, if somewhat silly story as it moved ahead into 1975.
God Bless and keep reading
I should qualify my comments by saying the standards today are very good. The safety program is properly administered and working well.