Terry Friesen remembers being a 16-year-old high school student and being told by his car dealer father to go to the airport and get on a flight to Toronto where his father was waiting with a car and a moving van that he had purchased and had to be driven back to British Columbia.
“He gave me $200 and a credit card along with a crash course on driving a truck with a five-speed transmission and two-speed axle and said goodbye,” Terry says of his first cross Canada trip. “The truck had an Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon in the back.”
He recalls being chastised for not completing his homework in high school and the teacher not believing why. The day before, after school, the 17-year-old had left his father’s Ford dealership in Abbotsford with an F100 pickup to be dropped off at a dealer’s lot in Kamloops. There, he got another truck to drive to Penticton where he picked up a Ford Galaxie. He got home in the wee hours of the morning: Highway 1 through the Fraser Canyon, down through the Okanagan and home over the Hope-Princeton in one shot.
His father, H.D. (Henry)Friesen, had purchased the now 70-year-old M.S.A. Motors, a Ford Monarch dealer, in 1959. M.S.A. stands for the Fraser Valley communities of Matsqui, Sumas and Abbotsford, an hour east of Vancouver. Henry Friesen was the ultimate wheeler dealer. There were five boys in the family in each one worked at Henry Friesen’s dealership. On one occasion, 30 new cars were sold to a rental company in Terrace and some of the boys were conscripted to convoy the cars north.
Henry’s sons had access to amazing cars as the dealership had a high-performance division. There is a photo of a Calypso Coral 1970 Mustang Boss 429 putting out 375 horsepower that Terry Friesen drove when he was 14. Another photo shows his brother Dennis racing a 1970 Mercury Montego 428 demonstrator across Sumas Prairie.
“The shop also gave us access to work on our own projects like a Windsor-powered 1965 Mustang, Mustang Boss 351, a 1956 Ford F100 pickup, a 1940 Ford, Lotus Cortina and Mustang Mach 1‘s,” Terry recalls.
The boys learned to drive their father’s used cars on a vacant lot across the street from the dealership on Fraser Way, which was then the Trans Canada Highway going right through downtown Abbotsford. They also learned the art of salesmanship. “My father was always selling,” Terry says at his Abbotsford home, where he keeps a collection of vintage Ford pickups and cars.
He recalls in 1974 his father was driving a 1972 Mercury Marquis back from Ontario when he saw a 1966 Mercury that had broken down near Brooks, Alberta.
“He stopped to help and then sold the 1972 Mercury he was driving to the disabled motorist and took their car in trade. I had to fly to Calgary and drive a Bronco my father had bought in Saskatoon to flat tow the broken Mercury back.”
On another occasion, his father went out to talk to a man who was hitchhiking outside the dealership.
“My father traded the guitar the man was carrying for a cheap Zephyr Zodiac he had at the back of his lot,” Terry says. “My father took chickens, a church organ and even a Cessna airplane in on trade for vehicles.”
M.S.A. Motors was started by Peter Dueck in 1951. Dueck would have a later career as a Member of the British Columbia Legislative Assembly where he served as health minister and minister of advanced education. Henry Friesen had operated a used car lot in New Westminster and then bought a motel in Penticton which he traded to Dueck for M.SA. Motors in 1959. He operated the dealership until 1985. MSA Ford is now located in the Fraser Valley Auto Mall.
Terry Friesen worked for his father’s dealership for six years after high school running the gas bar and in the service department. His brothers worked in the sales, service and parts departments.
“We did drive some of the new cars. But we had to earn the money to buy our own cars,” Terry says, adding his first car was an unimpressive and rusty 1958 Ford 300 sedan that cost him $53.50. He would go on to a successful career in truck sales using the salesmanship techniques learned from his father and the salesmen who worked for him.
Terry has a large collection of automotive memorabilia at his Abbotsford home and some nifty classic Ford products in his garage. Among them is a 1957 Ford Custom 300, similar to the 1958 model he owned as a teenager. But this one is highly modified to go very fast. Parked beside it, is a 1950 Ford coach that could have been sold as a year-old used car at his father’s dealership.
The cool classics are his 1951 pickups. The Ford is a full custom in green with pearl flames was purchased in 1987. The Canadian-built Mercury pickup has modified mechanics for drivability but still looks very much like the way it did when used by the prairie farmer who hauled grain with it. The sign on the door pays homage to Terry’s grandfather’s Saskatchewan homestead.