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The Globe and Mail

Alan Thicke's post-prom dash to Florida in his secret car

Alan Thicke

Profession: Actor, author, composer

Age: 64

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Hometown: Kirkland Lake, Ont.

Notable achievements

  • Growing Pains ran from 1985 to 1994 and is syndicated in more than 65 countries
  • Hosted The Alan Thicke Show, a Canadian talk show, as well as numerous award shows and beauty pageants.
  • Author of Lovely Parting Gifts, How to Raise Kids Who Won’t Hate You and How Men Have Babies – The Pregnant Father’s Survival Guide


  • Celebrity panelist on Canada Reads 2012 competition; he defends The Game by Ken Dryden. Feb. 6-9, 2012. Show airs live on CBC Radio One and will be live-streamed on CBC Books.
  • Cameo appearance in Adam Sandler’s upcoming film Donny’s Boy


He's best known as psychiatrist Jason Seaver in the 1980s hit sitcom, Growing Pains. But even though Alan Thicke was one of America's favourite fathers – he's a true Canadian.

When he isn't acting, he's composing music and writing. He's the man behind hit TV theme songs such as those for Diff'rent Strokes, The Facts of Life and the original Wheel of Fortune.

And when he drives to the red carpet, the small town boy from northern Ontario goes in style in a 2008 Jaguar XJ sedan.

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Why did you buy a Jaguar XJ?

I commute a lot between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. I did my due diligence and they told me Jaguar would hold up.

I could drive it into the ground for hundreds of thousands of miles and I could throw in all my hockey gear, my golf clubs and my briefcase into that car and it would still look good.

It's been a complete workhorse. It's been everything they said it would be. I literally seem to live in it some days.

What does a Jaguar say about you?

I like to look nice when I pull up on the red carpet and the valet takes the car. I'm a little bit vain that way. I want it to look good, but I also need some performance because I'm commuting.

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I did have an experience some years ago where I bought a car that just looked great. It was a childhood fantasy. It was a 1977 Cadillac Eldorado convertible – it was white with a red leather interior. It looked like something Elvis would have been buried in.

The guy who sold it to me didn't tell me it was mostly a parade car. Here I was driving it to within an inch of its life to L.A., Palm Springs, Vegas and Santa Barbara. The thing just crapped out on me completely a couple of times on the side of the road.

What was your first car?

My first car was a conspiracy between my dad and grandfather. It was an English little box-like car, not particularly attractive in blue. I wish I could remember the name. It was when I lived in Elliot Lake, Ont. – we're talking about the '60s now. My dad got it for me as a used car from my grandfather, who all his life was a car dealer in Northern Ontario.

My first job was at my grandfather's car dealership where I pumped gas and cleaned toilets at the age of 14 in Kirkland Lake. It gave me an appreciation for toilets – I didn't want to do that any more.

I do have an extensive background and history with cars – a love affair with cars. I just don't know anything about them.

I know when they look good. And I've been lucky. I've chosen wisely. My only misstep was Elvis's convertible. But even then I had some memorable experiences with that car. I just shouldn't have taken it on the freeway.

What did you drive in the past?

In my early days driving in Canada I was a General Motors guy because of my grandfather …. In my first book, there's a story I wrote about a secret car I had. I never told my dad about it until I wrote this book. I couldn't tell him until I was 50 years old!

It was my second year of university at the University of Western Ontario. My grades weren't good enough the first year. My dad accused me of too much football and girls. So he wouldn't let me have a car. In secret defiance of him, I got one anyway.

It was a 1958 Volkswagen, gold colour, that I bought for $300. Me and my college roommates called it the Golden Jet.

Speaking of workhorses, I drove this car all the way to Fort Lauderdale in the dead of winter in February with a buddy of mine who later became a big-shot lawyer in the London area.

We had been at our prom and struck out with the two girls we had taken. We were in a pretty bad mood, feeling rejected in our tuxes and probably reeking of beer. We decided we'd do something crazy.

At about two o'clock in the morning, it was freezing and we decided, why don't we just get out of here and go to Florida? We started driving and about 27 hours later we were in Daytona Beach. We had an amazing one-week vacation. Had to wire home for some money.

The Golden Jet performed beautifully for a week. I sold the car at a slight loss – for $200. That was my first workhorse.

Any other good driving memories?

I had a fabulous experience with my Pontiac Firebird. When I moved from Toronto to Los Angeles, I drove that car all the way there.

I got as far as New York and picked up the woman who would become my wife – she lived in New York. We put a U-Haul on the back of this orange-coloured Pontiac Firebird in 1969, loaded all of our belongings into it and drove this Firebird across the United States, even took a long route and stopped in a couple of places for the fun of it. Got there, lived there, started our careers and had our kids there – all started with a Pontiac Firebird.

What are your plans with the Jag?

I have a 14-year-old and he likes it. He'll be eligible to drive in less than two years. I may target it for him. It's big, safe and he's comfortable with it. It might become his first car.

If I can bring you the keys to any car what would it be?

You must have something nice in a Bentley.

I have friends much richer and crazier than myself who ostentatiously pull up their Bentleys to the red carpet often with a driver.

I would choose luxury over speed and performance because I'm a cautious driver who doesn't get into any trouble with the sheriff.

The interview has been edited and condensed.

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About the Author

Petrina Gentile is an award-winning automotive journalist - one of the few women who cover cars in Canada. Her life revolves around wheels. She has been writing for the Drive section since 2004. Besides auto reviews, she also interviews celebrities like Norman Jewison, Patrick Dempsey, Rick Hansen, Dean McDermott, Russell Peters, and Ron MacLean for her My Car column. More

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