This week The CJN features… Toronto Driveaway Service


TORONTO - A help wanted ad in a Toronto newspaper changed Ron Coady's life 35 years ago. The year was 1959 and Coady was 27, a recent immigrant from England. He was working as a printer in Toronto, " not exactly making big money." In those days one could earn twice as much in the United States, so he applied for a green card - they were easy to come by in the '50s - he remembered.

The ad, one of many such ads in Toronto papers at the time, was from a Detroit drive-away service that wanted drivers to deliver vehicles across the United States. " I had seen those ads and they intrigued me," said Coady. " I'd only been here two years and it was an opportunity to see North America."

He took a month's leave of absence from his job and embarked on a financially- rewarding adventure that was to set him on the road to self-employment.

He spent the month criss-crossing the United States, delivering cars for the service. Coady picked up a brand- new Cadillac in Detroit and drove it to Dallas, where he got a car whose destination was California. In San Francisco, he got a vehicle for delivery to Ohio. On the last leg of the journey, he drove from Miami to Buffalo. " At this point I decided I can run a business like this and I knew there was nothing like it in Canada,." he said. He couldn't believe his luck.

When he returned to Toronto, he immediately founded Toronto Drive-Away Service, and he has never looked back.

At the time Coady thought the bulk of his business would come from used car dealers who sent vehicles out West. He had no idea there were so many snowbirds who wanted their cars delivered to Florida and returned, he said.

" We've become kind of an institution among retired people. The cars being sent down now - we sent their parents' and grandparents' car down." Currently two-thirds of Coady's clients are snowbirds who winter in Florida. The snowbirds are either "bored of driving down themselves or their doctors recommend they don't drive down."

One of the bonuses of running a drive-away service, he said, is the opportunity to meet some interesting people. When Coady's Florida clients were working, many of them were the movers and shakers of Toronto - they were judges, lawyers and politicians.

The company delivered cars to California for the SCTV crowd - Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin and Martin Short. Anne Murray sent her car to California through Toronto Drive Away, and Sheila Copps drove a car out West in her student days. As recently as two years ago Copps delivered one to Canada from Tampa.

In the past 35 years Toronto Drive-Away has sent thousands of vehicles, mainly cars but also buses, vans and trucks to destinations across Canada and the United States. One summer, usually a slow season for the service, Coady had about 200 army jeeps for delivery to various points across Canada.

Toronto Drive-Away screens drivers, which includes checking their driving records and ensuring that they are respectable members of the community. There is a detailed application form. However, selecting the right drivers requires experience and intuition. "You have to be able to read people." Coady said.

While the majority of drivers - 80 percent - are male, he finds more women than ever are driving for his service.

New driveaway services are popping up these days, he said, since many people who have taken early retirement are opening businesses. Coady advises people who want their cars driven anywhere, especially over the border, to take their business to an established service.

Paperwork, which includes customs forms and photocopies of insurance documents and ownerships, has to be done properly or else the car will be turned back at the border, he cautioned. "Newer companies may not be aware of this."

The Toronto Drive-Away Service is staffed by Jean Scott, who has been there for 22 years, and by Ken Moude, who has been with the company for five years. Coady's 25-year-old son Dan recently joined the business after finishing university. " He's decided to come into the family business," Coady said, " so we expect him to carry it on."

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