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Are early car build ups a viable option anymore ?


1912Staver
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The current thread regarding the 1 Cyl. Pierce engine and seeming correct early Holly carb. has sparked my question. I know that a number of very early and some later Brass era cars have been built up over the years from isolated components and partial basket cases.

Is this a practical route to building a car these days ? I think George Albright is probably correct when he stated the number of people with the in depth knowledge necessary to have success with a project of this sort is a rapidly shrinking group.

And unless a person is very favorably located , EG reasonably close proximity to the major swap meets like Hershey the task becomes an exercise in frustration.

 For those of us living in a more remote location ; in reality about 60% of North America by geographic area , are we left with things like Model A and Model T Fords as our only viable option ?

I realise there are amongst us those who can shrink distances with money, but I doubt many in that category bother with decade long component searches and basket case restorations. They just buy nice cars in the first place.

Are the other 75% of us more or less out of luck ?  Baring a truly miraculous ,intact , interesting , affordable early car purchase .

 

 

Greg in Canada

 

 

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I know a couple elderly collectors on Vancouver Island with some early stuff that will never get restored.  A Brush, A Galloway, an early EMF, ‘15 Buick truck, a Pontiac truck which I believe was only built for a year or two in the late 20s just to name a few.  None are particularly valuable even when restored, and it they all need everything.  For most younger enthusiasts these projects just don’t have much attraction.

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I have been in touch with David about many other things related to my car, as well as the engine you mention. I don’t know about the availability of the running gear for a buildup car, but honestly the way early motorcycles are going, and that carb was also used for those, I think it has tremendous value on it’s own. The Pierce group is much stronger than I expected when I jumped in totally unprepared and I expect someone within that group (other than me) is salivating over the potential.
 

If I had spare cash sitting in my car account, I would probably be hounding David for the opportunity to get it ESPECIALLY if I had knowledge of a chassis! 

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There are probably a lot more early car "projects" out there than we realize.  With the increased difficulty of finding barn-fresh originals on these early cars, it's only natural that people will be recreating cars from the pieces that history left behind. It's probably true that a lot of the early cars existing today are put-togethers, but I'd rather that than to let pieces languish in the corner. So-hopefully David will hang onto his early stuff and begin the quest for enough to complete a car from it.  If not, then hopefully there is someone out there with enough of a project that the engine will be the finishing touches on.  I have also been following the thread with interest, and maybe someday there will be a nice little De Dion or something like that in my garage.  It shouldn't take up much more room than an MG.

Terry

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3 hours ago, Modeleh said:

I know a couple elderly collectors on Vancouver Island with some early stuff that will never get restored.  A Brush, A Galloway, an early EMF, ‘15 Buick truck, a Pontiac truck which I believe was only built for a year or two in the late 20s just to name a few.  None are particularly valuable even when restored, and it they all need everything.  For most younger enthusiasts these projects just don’t have much attraction.

 

 

Perhaps not for the younger set, but I expect when it is time to sell there will be substantial interest. There has been very few Brass cars or projects for sale to the general public in British Columbia in the last decade or so. Cars and projects do from time to time change hands but nearly always quietly. And those that are advertised seem to fall about 99% in the Model T category.

I don't have anything against Model T's. But the 1900 - 1915 era has so much more to offer.

Being of modest means I have really only seen a project as a path to Brass car ownership. But travel costs, shipping costs and a number of other factors seem to be making even that approach unworkable. At least within a timeline of 2 or 3 decades. Generously applied $ can ease distance , availability and time obstacles. There does not however seem to be a cure to lack of $.

 

Greg in Canada

Edited by 1912Staver (see edit history)
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Early Car= Pre 1905

 

Hard to do......no, time consuming and expensive, yes. Most early cars are more of a casting and machining project........wooden bodies are not terrible to reproduce. Recently early stuff is not as strong in the market as it once was, so a project isn’t practical unless your looking for a retirement project to keep you busy. A pre 1900 American car that is unusual still interests me, but not one of the common cars. I have been fortunate to play with some very, very early cars that were large and interesting.......AND American. The stuff is so rare now, it almost never changes hands......so many are in institutional collections.

 

PS- I don’t consider a car “old” unless it’s pre war........WWI, that is.

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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I agree Ed, although I would move your 1905 up to 1907. 1908 - 12 seem to be the next logical group. Real cars vs the 1907and older  " gas buggy's " The term " Horseless Carriage " really sums up what you are calling early cars. But the HCCA applied the term to any and all 1915 and older, and muddied the meaning.

And they did it so far back in the history of the hobby it can't be undone.

My personal interest is the 1908 - 1912 cars. Far along enough in development that you can actually use them on quieter roads and at a decent 30 - 50 MPH pace.  

Anything newer is simply a modern car in my eyes. Starters, front doors, electric lights, windshields. I might as well save myself the trouble and just drive my Hyundai.

And you are right, the very early large cars are in a class by themselves. I have not even seen one except in photographs, but we can all dream.

 

Greg in Canada

Edited by 1912Staver (see edit history)
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Early steam motors can be found in the $2500 range and sometimes less. They are on ebay occasionally. There was one on the HCCA site last  month. I know a guy who is building an early Locomobile now and he recently finished a sister car to the Loco. Once you have the motor, building a car is not that hard, though it is not cheap. If you're interested, you have to find the guys that have the early cars, show yourself friendly, interested, and helpful, along the way somebody will decide to part with something and they will be looking for a caretaker for their baby. It might just be you. It has happened before.

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Steam engines still need a boiler. Rarely cheap . I am not sure about steam cars however I person I used to work with was a traction engine guy. Needs a yearly inspection and certification by a boiler authority inspector.

And in the case of traction engines a licenced engineer to operate it. I have an operators ticket as did my co- worker, part of my marine engineer ticket. Now that I am retired my ticket will eventually expire and I will not be able to renew it .

You need a minimum of 2 years on the job within every 5 year renewal period to maintain a marine ticket in Canada. I am not sure what the requirement would be for a steam car.

 

Greg in Canada

 

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Were they ever? I don't remember it ever being easy and clearly not "remunerative" to undertake a project like rebuilding a car from "two tracks in the mud." There have never been many people who could do it although in the past there may have been more who thought they could and failed. The only car I really regret selling was the nearly hopeless wreck of a very early Panhard - maybe c.1897-1899. It had been outside so long that a tree about 8" in diameter was growing through the center of the chassis and had to be cut down to move it. Everything was rusted solid...seriously rusted solid, including the inside of the transmission because the cover was missing. The engine was missing altogether although it came with a later (c.1902) Panhard engine. I advertised it in Hemmings and sold it before I'd even seen the magazine and I could have sold it again within 12 hours. Being a person of rather limited means I will probably never get another chance at a big, very early car. At the time, I couldn't see how I could bring it back but today, while it would be a monumental job, I can see that it could be done. But...it would never be a money maker - it wouldn't even come close to breaking even and unless you understand that it would be a fools errand. Still, if I had the chance again I'd take it even if didn't live to see it end.

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If any complete Blue Prints survive on the Automobile in question then we could reproduce the entire car of our dreams. Just need a lot of time and money. Start with a Foundry, Move those parts to a well equipped machine shop. Sheet metal shop, wood working shop. Brass radiator reproduction. Upholstery shop....$$$  Yes, it is possible. Easier and cheaper to just buy one complete and running.     

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1 hour ago, AHa said:

My point is there are early projects still out there. You may not see them advertised publicly. As to cost, have you been to the grocery store lately?

 

 

I actually have a decent project, my 1912 Staver Chicago basket case. 

The problem is all the additional costs when parts hunting, particularly travel. There are virtually no parts for a medium sized 1912 car showing up at the swap meets I can afford to attend. British Columbia , Washington State , Portland Oregon.

Bakersfield California was a dream for years but looking less likely with each passing year. Hershey is the gold standard but the costs of attending an event 2800 miles away are way out of reach. Air travel , hotel, rent a car , freight for

anything I am lucky enough to find. It just isn't happening on a modest retirement pension.

The trips to the grocery store are not optional. And believe me I shop for good nutrition at the best cost / benefit ratio possible. Very few frills in our household, very basic cable , internet. I don't own a cell phone. Cheap to operate car. 

But travel pushes the hobby budget beyond the breaking point.

 

Greg in Canada , 2 hrs North of Seattle WA

 

 

 

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I had the remains of a 1911 or 1912 Stoddard Dayton Roadster years ago. Bought it at a farm auction for $27.50 around 1983. Yes, Twenty Seven Dollars and fifty cents. No engine. No transmission. No radiator. Rough sheet metal that was basically just patterns.Thinking back the old fellow and his brother that originally owned it told me it had a Knight engine in it. Stoddard built a few toward the end of production and were the first to use the Knight sleeve valve engine.  What a Brass car that would have been if my neighbor did not scrap the major parts for the war effort. I looked for about 10 or 15 years for stuff but could not find an engine or transmission anywhere. Finally sold it to someone that had some pieces that could someday reassemble it and bought some major tools that helped me fix a lot of other stuff with the money I got for it. I did buy a few things for it like a radiator emblem years ago at Hershey. I still have a book on models sold around 1912 that I look though and dream about from time to time. Dandy Dave! 

Edited by Dandy Dave (see edit history)
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It would have been something I would have had a hard time parting with. However you now have that very spiffy C - 36 roadster  so you are well provided for on the brass car front.

 

Greg in Canada

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Without a Motor and Transmission I did not have much to work with. So I passed it along. However. If the motor and Transmission were there I would have been driving it today. Dandy Dave!  

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That's what I thought originally but the original owner and his brother told me years before it had the 6 Cylinder Knight Sleeve valve engine. Albert and Otto Olson were brothers and Otto went off to serve in the first World War. Albert stayed home on the farm and ran the wheels off of the Stoddard. When Otto returned he was quite upset that the car was beat and did not talk to his brother for years because of it. Lots of local collector tried to buy it and Albert would always say go talk to my brother Otto. Otto would say go talk to my brother Albert. They both passed in the early 1980's and the remains were sold at the family farm auction. I already knew basically what it was and I happened to be there and bid till I won. My Dad told me I was nuts and paid too much for that pile of junk. He didn't laugh when I sold it later for $3200. He never second guessed anything I brought home after that. Dandy Dave! 

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Great video ! My Staver basket case has the potential to be a similar machine.  Longer W.B. on the Staver so not so  "racy " but I am on the tall side and want the leg room.  The Staver uses a less interesting monoblock T head, and I suspect less power than a Stoddard Dayton 50 HP.

Missing engine parts on my project is a big obstacle. Crankcase , timing gears, water pump, cams , followers. A long list of needs. It's probably more practical to fit a different engine but I haven't found anything suitable .

 

Greg in Canada

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I have had a few missing-more-than-they-had projects over the years. As far as uncommon manufactured cars go, I made a rule for myself to not buy a project that didn't have at least most of the engine. I figured I could adapt a transmission, or even a whole rear end. I was getting ready to adapt a transmission into my dad's Paige after twenty years of looking for one when I suddenly and unexpectedly found one! 

 A few major resurrections, mostly but not all, model Ts of one sort or another I have actually restored! I still have  '13/'14 Metz project pile, that is almost enough there to be worth restoring. I figure it could be restored almost as easily as I could do another model T speedster. If I ever get to it. And I have the gasoline carriage project. Now, THAT one has possibilities. And a few drawbacks. Biggest drawback? I still don't know who built it. Without knowing WHO built it, one cannot know for certain WHEN it was built. Based upon the parts, and how they were made, the materials used, and methods of workmanship? It most likely wasn't built later than about 1902. And quite likely late 1890s. Being a gasoline engine (crude, and using technologies dropped about 1900), if restored it could well become one of the earliest American built gasoline powered automobiles NOT in a major museum or collection where it cannot be seen running and driven. 

I have taken a few bad hits financially in the past fifteen years. Ended up selling all the running or near complete cars I had. All that is left is several project piles, and my social security check. Currently, I spend most of my time caring for sick family. I need to finish two brass era model Ts that are about half done. Then onto maybe something else. Maybe the gasoline carriage, or the Paige.

 

Projects are out there. I have at times, offered to give away the Metz, or the Paige, provided a taker had genuine interest in doing the restoration. From time to time, I still consider that. I still really want to restore the gasoline carriage! I want to hear it run and feel the vibrations, and the road moving slowly below me! It is missing a lot, but I have figured good ways to fill in the gaps. And I have spent many hours online, researching what it has, and what it needs.

 

It can still be done. A bit of creativity, hard DIY work. If someone has a place to keep it and work on it, and the desire, one could still put themselves in a horseless carriage.

But my days of acquiring project cars are done. I have enough piles, and I actually sort of like the ones I have. More money would be nice. But mostly I need some better time.

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The truth is early cars are still being restored. I noticed a crankcase being poured for an early T head car recently. A printer was being used to print the pattern. This is a huge cost savings. We are not far from being able to print a crankcase out of metal. Some metal printing is being done now. Don't give up. Just before 2,000 I knew a man with  a car that had a Knight Sleeve Valve engine in it. If I remember correctly, he had a complete spare engine setting on the floor in his garage.

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Plays with brass, At least you had the major components. Engine, Transmission, rear end, frame, wheels. I guess my point about the Stoddard Dayton is that It was not worth pursuing with out an engine or transmission. The rest would have been reproduceable. Body parts, Head lights would have been out there somewhere. Even a radiator could have been made. Stuff like that, but to completely reproduce an engine and transmission would have been quite a mechanical and financial feat. I realized that it was more than I was willing to do or could afford at the time so rather than hoard it I decided to pass it on. So the original posters question about " Are early car build ups a Viable option any more" in this case would have been an astounding no. Not even with everything that I know today.    

Edited by Dandy Dave (see edit history)
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23 minutes ago, AHa said:

The truth is early cars are still being restored. I noticed a crankcase being poured for an early T head car recently. A printer was being used to print the pattern. This is a huge cost savings. We are not far from being able to print a crankcase out of metal. Some metal printing is being done now. Don't give up. Just before 2,000 I knew a man with  a car that had a Knight Sleeve Valve engine in it. If I remember correctly, he had a complete spare engine setting on the floor in his garage.

 

I think that is happening more than we might expect. My shop is next door to an aluminum foundry and the brothers that run it are both friendly and helpful. They have cast a few parts for me and just recently one was telling me that they have started to get printed molds (i.e. the printer actually makes the mold without needing a pattern.) I once saw that demonstrated as part of a rapid prototyping demonstration. At the time, three or four years ago, it was frightfully expensive but I bet it's already getting much more affordable and for something like a crankcase or a block, very attractive. There will still be a lot of serious machining involved but we are approaching something that is doable by a competent enthusiast.

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When I appraised the viability of restoring the Staver pre purchase, I noted it had a decent radiator, a very sound transmission , a complete rear end. and what was there of the engine , block , pistons and rods, crankshaft, flywheel and clutch were in reasonably good condition.

In short nearly all of the chassis except wheel spokes , fellow bands, rims and hardware . the correct steering box, and the previously mentioned crankcase, cams, followers ,timing gears water pump and some smaller parts like oil filler crankcase vent etc.

I seriously underestimated how difficult Teetor Hartley engine parts were to turn up. And the factor that deep pocketed American Underslung owners were in a much better position to acquire any engines or parts that have come to light in the intervening two decades.

They are both in reasonably high demand for Underslung restorations ; a car with far higher market value and desirability then my Staver, and as back up units for people who tour in their Underslung's.

If I even had access to a damaged crankcase my chances of casting a new one would be far higher. But to create patterns from air is a far more difficult task for something as complicated as a crankcase.

 

Greg in Canada

 

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Edited by 1912Staver (see edit history)
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post-32715-143138047025_thumb.jpg

 

Is this a teeter? Greg, somehow we need to get you a crankcase for your motor. Do you know of anyone that has cast a new one and might have a pattern? How many motors like yours are out there? Have you found any other of the missing parts. There was a complete steering mechanism at  a flea market a couple of years ago I could've bought for next to nothing but I'm trying hard not to buy stuff I don't need anymore. Even if it wasn't the right part, if it helped you put the car together, it would be worth it. I guess for that matter, a more modern gear could be adapted without too much trouble.

Edited by AHa (see edit history)
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That engine has some similarity's but I do not believe it is a Teetor.  It looks close to the smaller engine American used in the small car they called the Scout. But as far as I know the Scout engines were not built by Teetor Hartley.

If it is a Scout engine it will be quite a bit smaller than the engine Teetor built for American { Traveler Model } , 1 year and 1 model of Auburn   , Staver  { model 35 , 4 3/8 x5 engine , model 40 [ mine ] 4 1/2 x5 engine} later cars ;1913, and 1914 rated the engine at 45 and then 55 HP but the bore and stroke were unchanged from 1911 and 1912 40 HP dimensions. As well as Pilot and one or two even more obscure makes. Note this is the users of the 4 cyl monoblock only.

Teetor built a number of other engines as well, the majority which seem to have been used by American Underslung.

As far as I no there have been no new crankcases produced by anyone, and  therefore no existing patterns. How many is hard to say , however they definitely seem rare. A couple of the Underslung guys searched pretty extensively for a long time. That is not to say they don't exist. But they would definitely appear to be in quite short supply.

I have had much better luck with the car itself. Not that I have found a great deal that is specifically  Staver but I have found a number of parts that are from the ballpark correct year and quality of car. I have a couple of steering boxes that are close but still not quite what would be ideal so I am still looking in that dept. It needs to be a 1912 ish R.H.D. medium to largish car steering assy  so a bit problematic.

They usually go for pretty good money so I am reluctant to pay a substantial price for the " wrong " box.  If the correct box ever shows up then a going rate price is fine with me.

The problem of the engine in particular and to a lesser degree the steering box is the car uses a "sub frame " to mount the engine. This means the width of the nearly always cast in engine mounts common on this era of crankcase are almost always too wide. And with a 100 year old plus casting something that is very difficult to successfully modify. Subframe style engines do exist, I just haven't found one yet that I can afford.

The last 5 years or so of parts hunting have seen fewer and fewer parts from this era showing up at Pacific North West swap meets. Not that there was ever a huge amount, but lately almost nothing.

I would really like to see the yellow roadster in person some day , but it is the Owl's Head museum on the East coast. Other side of the continent.  A very long way to go for perhaps a few more photo's.

 

I expect that one day reality will hit me in the face and I will come to the same realisation Dandy Dave came to with his Stoddard Dayton project. All it really needs is an owner with deeper pockets.

Greg in Canada

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Edited by 1912Staver (see edit history)
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Are there any spare engines laying about where the owner might be convinced to allow it to be used to cast a crankcase? How many other people are needing crankcases or complete motors. If enough people are involved the cost comes down considerably. As I understand it, your biggest need is a crankcase and two cams, for which you have no specs?

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That is essentially  correct, plus the quite complicated water pump and all the drive gears. Cam followers and housing , hold downs  could be " faked ".

Unfortunately I don't travel in American Underslung circles.  I believe the only one in the Pacific N.W. was sold to the Coker's about a decade ago. I spoke with Harrold on the phone a few years before his passing but he had no spare parts.

Other than the 3 Teetor Staver's ; my basket case, the yellow roadster, and a touring squirrelled away by descendants of the Staver family, and Randy Ema's Auburn, as far as I know all of the surviving engines are in American's.

 

 

Greg

Edited by 1912Staver (see edit history)
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It looks to me as if you've started out with more parts than I had but I can see your point. If you can't make them yourself, and can't afford to have them made, it's practically impossible. But, I'd say that was always the case. I faced that sort of problem 40 years ago with a 1910 REO. In the end, I did find some bits but they were nearly as worn as the parts I was replacing and I had the advantage of working on an engine that was made in large quantities over a long period of time.

 

As to the sub frame problem, there was an SAE standard for subframes...I'll see if I can find the relevant data. I think there were only 3 widths although the holes front to back were probably different.

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Hi AHa, that looks like extremely nice work . But I can't see it happening on my budget.

Hi JV, I haven't done it yet but it is pretty simple to draw up the mounting dimensions working from my frame.  It's somewhat buried in one of my sheds at the moment, but once we get better weather I am going to dig it out and draw it up for easy reference.

I didn't realise there would be a standard but it now makes sense that I measured a FWD truck Wisconsin "T" head and found it would almost bolt into place. A Wisconsin would be an ideal transplant engine but they seem to be just as hard to find

as Teetor Hartley's. All those pesky Stutz owners have seen to that.

I think I have most of the skills necessary to produce most of the necessary parts. But I am reluctant to make patterns without a genuine example to work from. If you go to all that work it makes much more sense to be able to produce correct parts

and possibly offset some of the cost with sales to others. If I wing it I will end up with castings that are "5 footers ". They would however allow me to assemble the car so it might come down to that, sort of like your water pump solution. Functionally great,

and almost certainly a better design featuring improved materials and machine work, but not quite a visually exact duplicate of the original. 

At one time I thought I had ample time to see this project through. The last 5 years have cast some doubts. I am still only a year and a half into retirement so hopefully a couple of decades still left .

 

Greg

 

Edited by 1912Staver (see edit history)
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A year ago I was offered 5 Wisconsin engines, all from 4WD army trucks and all in wretched condition but I didn't act fast enough. That was probably a mistake but, like you, I don't have money to spare. I may have something on the water pump you need. I will look when I get home. I am pretty sure I know where the sub frame specs are.

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On 3/19/2020 at 8:44 PM, 1912Staver said:

You need a minimum of 2 years on the job within every 5 year renewal period to maintain a marine ticket in Canada. I am not sure what the requirement would be for a steam car.

In Canada you do not need anything other than a drivers licence to operate a steam car.

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6 minutes ago, Joe in Canada said:

In Canada you do not need anything other than a drivers licence to operate a steam car.

There's nothing that I'm aware of in Ontario, except finding a knowledgeable insurance company.

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