Category archives: My Classic Car

My Classic Car: Carey Hill’s 1963 Studebaker Lark

Carey Hill has owned this 1963 Studebaker Lark since 1972 | Carey Hill photos
Carey Hill has owned this 1963 Studebaker Lark since 1972 | Carey Hill photos

My father worked for the local Studebaker agents in New Plymouth, New Zealand. One of the Studebakers we used to see in to the workshop from time to time was a 1963 Studebaker Lark that belonged to a local farming family, the Abrahams. They had bought it new and lived right up high above New Plymouth city on the slopes of Mt .Taranaki — a near perfect cone volcano (dormant) behind the city.

In 1972, the Abraham family traded the Studebaker in on a new Mazda Capella RX2 rotary-engine saloon and the Studebaker, with 52,000 miles on the clock, was for sale in the dealership used car lot.

And so, in 1972, at the tender age of 16 years, I became the second owner of this Studebaker Lark.

At the recent Americarna weekend
At the recent Americarna weekend

Turn the clock to 2014 and the Studebaker still takes pride of place in our family fleet of cars, which includes a Mazda Miata, Nissan Maxima and Ford Mustang convertible.

The Studebaker remains a fast and comfortable cruiser with its 289cid V8 and a four-speed gearbox.

Studebakers in New Zealand were assembled with right-hand drive. The cars were sent here in what was called CKD — completed knocked down — kits, which means they arrived in parts and had to be assembled. In 1963, about 96 Studebakers were sent here for local assembly.

The original Studebaker overdrive gearbox proved a little light back in the ‘70s when I was street racing everyone. I replaced it with a Ford gearbox.

The engine was fully reconditioned a few years ago with all the reciprocating parts fully balanced — a hot camshaft sourced and fitted with a new Edelbrock four-barrel carb and manifold. Dual exhausts feature Forza-flow mufflers. She is loud and a strong performer.

When needed, parts for the car are sourced from studebakerparts.com.

1986 Ford Mustang is a work in progress
1986 Ford Mustang is a work in progress

P.S. The 1986 Mustang is a recent purchase and a running project car. It was imported second-hand from California to New Zealand in 2008 by another enthusiast but the restoration never progressed. Rock Auto in the U.S. has been brilliant supplying the needed parts.

Oh, and the Nash Metropolitan has been in the family since 1973. It was found crashed in a wrecking yard, purchased for $70 and rebuilt.

My Classic Car: Brian Weller’s 1939 Chevrolet Master Deluxe

Ready for the parade
Ready for the parade

Editor’s note: The Warriors’ Day Parade is held each August at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. The parade this year will be the 93rd and is scheduled for Saturday, August 16. It will commemorate especially the 100th anniversary of The Great War and the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

Each Warriors` Day Parade you can find my 1939 Chevrolet Master Deluxe somewhere in the middle, chauffeuring very senior folks who fought in World War 2.

While these events are a time of reflection, we are seeing fewer veterans every year. The challenge each of us is faced with is what will these events really mean to folks if we allow them to forget?

Like Remembrance Day, celebrated on November 11 and originally created to mark Armistice Day, the end of World War I, Warriors’ Day is an opportunity for folks to recognize the ultimate sacrifice made by veterans in both World Wars, Korea and various missions over the years.

IMG_0191AHowever, not one veteran remains from World War I and World War II ranks are thinning dramatically. An entire generation that made such a huge sacrifice is slowly disappearing.

Veterans of the Second World War who stormed Normandy, France in the D-Day invasion may recall a passage off a war memorial which highlights their deeds. “They will never know the beauty of this place, see the season’s change, enjoy nature’s chorus. All we enjoy we owe to them. Men and women who lie buried in the earth of foreign lands and in the seven seas.“

Remembering and honoring our veterans should not require a special occasion. Their exploits are well documented and deserve recognition.

A new generation of armed forces is serving overseas in Afghanistan and other conflict areas and deserve recognition. Our troops in Afghanistan are not buried at the side of the road or some field, they’re bringing them home and that’s a credit to our country.unionv_04A

For those who perish, their final drive home can create a respectful memorial service when folks line bridges along the highway. With flags waving in the breeze, with firefighters and paramedics saluting as folks stand at quiet attention while the procession of police motorcycles and cruisers… and a hearse passes by. One can feel proud to be part of the crowd who line these routes.

While our present involvement in world conflict has been reduced for now, the next time one of our heroes returns home in a procession, take a few moments and go out to any procession route bridge. It’s not just that one returning soldier you’re honoring, but the millions who contributed, either fighting on distant shores or building airplanes and munitions at home who have served our country in time of need.

General Douglas MacArthur said, “No one hates war more than the soldier,“ but the men and women of our armed forces continue a proud tradition; to maintain our freedoms…our freedom to vote, our freedom to work, our freedom to raise our families, our freedom to live in safety and security and our freedom to voice our opinion, even when not all would agree.

So, while you stand at attention and clap when you see a veteran waving from a classic automobile during any Remembrance or Warriors’ Day Parade, think for a second of the sacrifices the prior generation have made, for all of us!

My Classic Car: Dale Grim’s 1965 Ford Mustang

British badges on a Ford Mustang? | Photos by Larry Edsall
British badges on a Ford Mustang? | Photos by Larry Edsall

I was born in Dearborn, Mich., on July 26, 1965. I was among the last of the Mustangs built in the 1965 model year. My original owner purchased me from the only Ford dealer in Rantoul, Ill., in August of that year.

In 1967 I moved to Lakenheath, England. I traveled the English countryside and to London many times. I even saw the Queen once! I have cruised the German Autobahn with the finest German autos. My handling package helped me climb the Swiss Alps safely and my bright red color and sleek fastback design brought me much attention on the streets of Paris.

In 1976 a friend of my current owner purchased me from my original owner and brought me back to the United States. In 1977 I was repainted my original color. I moved to Arizona and was adopted by my current owner in 1978. At that time I had just over 100,000 miles with only a valve job on my engine. I soon started on my first motor/transmission transplant.britstang2

I retired in1982 with 200,000 miles of daily transportation. Over the next 10 years end though I came out only for pleasure drives, time was taking its toll on me. So after a year of indecision and potential replacement search, my loyal owner decided to keep me and give me a new lease on life.

Jim Smart, editor of Mustangs and Fords, defined the process of maintaining a stock appearance with better-than-original performance on the road as a “restification,” now known as “restromod.”

My restored process went from October 1993 to May 1994. I am now on my “second 30 years” and plan to outlive my owner!

“Loyal” owner Dale Grim adds some details to the car’s story: The Mustang went to England with a fellow member of the U.S. Air Force. The original owner sold it to another airman, who eventually brought it back to the U.S. when stations at Williams Air Force Base near Phoenix, where Grim, also in the Air Force, saw the car and eventually bought the car. Grim has driven 46,000 miles since the 1994 restoration, shows it frequently, and already has made plans to be at the Mustang 50th anniversary celebration this year in Las Vegas.

 

My Classic Car: Cassie’s 1968 Chevelle Concours

my chevy

I may be a girl, I may be 19, but I have the most badass car a girl my age could own. I own a 1968 Chevy Chevelle Concours. It’s an automatic with a 307 cubic inch. It’s not a big motor but it’s estimated it has about 200 horsepower, which is better then any of my friends’ Toyotas or Hondas.

I got it from Quartz Hill by Palmdale, Calif., when it was a “junker.” On blocks, with more dents then you could count and a hole in the roof and animals living inside it and no engine. The guy was just selling it for some money for his son’s college education.

I saw it and I fell in love.

It was a fixer upper, but being my dad was a mechanic and I was 14 and ready to work.

Me, my dad and the whole neighborhood spent hours well into the nights and every weekend building it. I had a vision. It would be the Tigger Car Part II, a tribute to what my mom drove when I was younger, a 1972 orange Chevelle with black SS stripes dubbed the Tigger Car after the cartoon tiger in Winnie the Pooh.

Of course it didn’t turn out exactly like that, but it turned out great!

I was 15 1/2 when we took the car down to its first show. I was in young rodders category at a local show. While the car barely ran and had no paint or interior done on balding tires, I won first place.

Two years later I sent it off for paint, coming back a bright hugger orange and a vinyl top with no dents and beautiful.

We continued to fix it and when I turned 17 I drove it for the first time. It was amazing! I took that car around the block by myself and I saw how much work and effort everyone put into it and I loved it.

What really touches me is that I can drive my car anywhere now and be reminded that this may be my car, but honestly it’s everyone’s car. My dad and his friends and the whole neighborhood, we’re all one big family and almost every part came from one of them. I wouldn’t be anywhere if I didn’t have my “car family,” which is really what classic cars build, not a car but a memento and a tribute to the love and strength of a family.

Not just your own either, but anyone who got their hands dirty. It doesn’t matter how much drama happens in life, because I know that in the heart and soul of my car, I have a family.

My Classic Car: Planet Barrett-Jackson: Ride along as RideTech’s president sells his cars at the auction

Editor’s note: Bret Voelkel, president of the well-respected automotive aftermarket air suspension systems producer RideTech, took two vehicles to Barrett-Jackson’s recent Scottsdale auction — a 1971 Pontiac GTO convertible and a 1933 Factory Five Ford hot rod. Here is his report, which we reprint with permission from his newsletter:

The GTO is on the block | Photos courtesy Ridetech
The GTO is on the block | Photos courtesy Ridetech

Planet Barrett-Jackson

The GTO sold for $62,000… ironically exactly what I was asking for it last summer. Right money in my opinion. I never did find out who bought it, but somebody emailed me a screenshot of a guy that looked like Larry Bird. Whoever it is… they got a great car.

The ’33 sold for $100,000

“Should it have brought more?”

The '33 in the staging lane
The ’33 in the staging lane

Nope. There is absolutely no more robust environment for buying or selling a car than Barrett-Jackson.

“…but you had more than that in it…”

Well, I can assure you all that the only person who cares even a little about that is me.  I don’t make money building cars… that is how I spend money. The ’33 was built for 2 reasons:

1. To demonstrate and promote our new coilover shock product line with a car that was light and competitive. Remember that “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” thingy? Mission accomplished.

2. To exercise and refine our design and fabrication talents. I think that went pretty well, too.

As a happy coincidence we were blessed with the Goodguys Autocross championship, the cover of Hotrod magazine, a 10-page article in Hotrod, winning the Optima Road America event, winning several other Autocross and road course events… and talking to a bunch of you guys who thought a road racing street rod was the coolest thing ever.

I do know who bought the ’33… He also bought  Velocity in 2011 and my blue ’56 F100 a few years back.  He understands and appreciates craftsmanship, and is willing and capable of spending his money to achieve that. He is also smart… that is why he didn’t meet my asking price last summer… he knew how narrow the market would be for that car and was willing to take his chances at Barrett (as was I). He will use and care for the car nicely.   I am very pleased he ended up with it.

A successful week? Damn right. The only success that could be bigger is the next one.

Kurt Blackgrove, Dennis Neihaus and Greg Schneider build the finest cars in the world. It continues to be an honor to work with them and to drive their creations. Now I’ll get the chance to do it all over again!

Some of you may remember my silver ’69 Mustang that I raced a few years ago. It’ll be good to get back in that car again!

Bret Voelkel, President, RideTech

My Classic Car: Wayne Brewer’s 1949 Chevrolet 3100

 

Photos courtesy Wayne Brewer
Photos courtesy Wayne Brewer

This is my first classic and at age 62 I feel like a boy with a new toy.

My truck is a 1949 Chevy, a 3100 equipped with a 350 V8 engine and automatic transmission. It has a great looking bed and paint job — a nice charcoal grey that gets a lot of attention.

It’s not what I would call a show-quality truck, but as a daily driver she is very nice and will make me proud to display at our local car shows.

waynetruck1Why did I wait so long to buy my truck? Well, I retired and my wife and I moved to Hendersonville, North Carolina, and bought a second home there. Hendersonville has an active classic car club. I went to one of its shows and though it looked like a lot of fun. I needed a hobby and wanted to meet new people in the area.

I started looking on the internet for classic cars and found this truck at a dealer in Atlanta. At first I was looking at cars, but then my wife told me that it was a dream of hers to own a vintage truck. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and her grandfather and father both owned old trucks and I think she just fell in love with the idea of someday owning one herself.

My plan is to trade for a different classic every two years. Maybe next time I’ll switch to a classic car.

My Classic Car: The 1958 Isetta that Rick DeBruhl just had to buy

Photos courtesy of Rick DeBruhl
Photos courtesy of Rick DeBruhl

(Rick DeBruhl managed to turn the wasted hours reading car magazines and hanging out in auto shop into a career. He works for ABC and ESPN covering IndyCars and NASCAR Nationwide. He also is part of the Fox Sports team covering the Barrett-Jackson auctions. Rick writes automotive reviews for the Arizona Republic and kidneycars.org. You can read more of his work at www.rickdebruhl.com, where this article first appeared.)

I didn’t mean to buy a BMW Isetta.

After all, I like cars for two main reasons: speed and beauty. The Isetta has neither of those two things.

It has no speed because the Isetta has a one cylinder engine that pumps out a whopping 13 horsepower. On a good day, with a tail wind, you might hit 50 mph.

It has no beauty because, well, it’s doesn’t. Oh sure, I’ll hear the word “cute” a lot. “Funny looking” will be close behind. As I climb in the single door that is the front of the bubble-shaped body, the words “odd” and “downright ugly” will be uttered after I hopefully can’t hear.Isetta at Canoga from yearbook 001

So why did I buy an Isetta? Because I had to.

It all started at Canoga Park High School back in the early 1970s. Our principal, Hugh Hodgens owned an Isetta. He’d bring it to football games on Friday nights. Every time our team would score a touchdown, he’d pop a cheerleader out the sunroof and drive around the track.

Ever since then I’ve had a fascination for the tiny cars. I remember regularly seeing one parked close to Highway 101 near Anderson’s Pea Soup in Buellton, California (just north of Santa Barbara). As I’d drive back and forth to college I’d ponder how it would be fun to own an Isetta.

Fortunately, it was not an obsession. My automotive tastes are a lot more mainstream. Mustangs and Corvettes are more my style. The smallest car I owned was a 1959 Bugeye Sprite. But while it was small, it was sporty and a lot of fun.

Over the past five years I’ve seen the Isettas become a popular fixture at the Barrett- Jackson auctions. There’s always one or two and they bring impressive money. Apparently cute sells.

Of course, not even that was enough to make me want to buy one.

Until I found it. “It” was a 1958 Isetta sitting just outside of Sacramento. It was restored about six years ago and has less than 100 miles on the odometer since the work was done. Nicely finished with red paint and a red and white interior, the frame was in great shape and the engine started right up.

But that’s not what made this Isetta special. It was special because of its owner: Hugh Hodgens. That’s right, the principal. It was the same car I’d seen him drive around the track at football games.

The path to my purchase started one day when an email was forwarded to me from a family friend who used to work at the high school. I happened to notice that Mr. Hodgen’s (I can’t call him anything else) email was included. Having plenty of happy high school memories (after all, that’s where I met my wife), I decided to send him a message, and mentioned that I had a fondness for Isettas. His return message included the nugget that he still owned the car. My next email concluded with one of those brash statements, “If you ever decide to sell the Isetta, let me know.”

Turns out that Mr. Hodgens, after owning the car for 46 years, was ready to sell. It was always a novelty, but also a part of his family. Still, it had reached the point that he wasn’t using the Isetta much. It was garaged at some property he owned near Sacramento. My offer came at just the right moment. More importantly, it wasn’t from a stranger. It was from a member of the Canoga Park High School family.

Suffice to say that one thing led to another and before long we had a deal. Mr. Hodgen’s son brought the car down to Los Angeles where I picked it up and trailered it back to Phoenix.

So now I own an Isetta.

What am I going to do with it? Well, it’s hardly transportation, at least not the way we think of it today. Back in the 50s, it was designed to be a step up from a motor scooter, if not quite a full car. It’s surprisingly comfortable and roomy, but it’s also a rolling death trap. I pity anyone who was hit in one of these back in its day. And then there’s the speed, or lack of it.

My wife and I will putter around the neighborhood. We’ll take it to church, although I’m a little worried about driving it to the grocery store. I’m not concerned about someone trying to steal it (first they’d have to figure out the backward shift pattern), rather some pranksters might try to pick it up and move it for fun (just like kids did back in its high school days). We’ll definitely hit some car shows where we stand a great chance of winning the “People’s Choice” award.

One thing we will do is make people smile. The few times I’ve driven it, people stop and point. They wave and tell their kids to come take a look. They desperately try to whip out their camera phone and take a picture.

Maybe that will be the legacy of this car. It made me smile in high school, and now I get to pass those smiles on to a new generation. How many cars can make that claim?

And that’s why I had to buy it.

My Classic Car: Richard Whitehead’s ’59 El Camino

Photos courtesy of Richard Whitehead
Photos courtesy of Richard Whitehead

Last year I imported into Australia an ELKY,  which I can claim would be one of if not the best Elky worldwide.

My friend Willi Maul, a former Mercedes-Benz dealer in Los Angeles, had been looking for a couple of years to find me the right car. He found it in Florida, where it was owned and restored by Al Burzo, a retired police chief from New York. The restoration was a three-year process completed in 2007 after completely stripping it with a body-off- restoration. Many desirable modifications also were carried out, including a new Impala interior, air conditioning, disc front brakes, power seat adjustment, R700 transmission, power windows.

The original 348 motor with tri carbies was completely reconditioned.

This 1959 El Camino has traveled 10,000 trouble-free miles.

whitehead4It had a substantial show history in the United States, including first place in the annual national winter convention in 2007, 2008 and 2009. It has gained three platinum certificates already here in Australia, where the general public has never seen a ’59 Elky (there are maybe six or eight total here) and thinks it was converted from an Impala station wagon.

I was fortunate that when I purchased “Black Beauty.” Our Aussie dollar was doing well vs. the U.S. dollar. As you guys probably know, there was a great influx of U.S. classics here at the time, but that will slow down. Today, our dollar is worth only 89 U.S. cents.

Up until about 2 years ago, left-hand drive cars were not allowed on our roads and could not be registered. This law has been amended. Left- hand drive is allowed, providing the car is at least 30 years old.

Cars that were imported from the U.S prior to this change had to be converted from left to right-hand drive — at a cost of at least $10,000!

I have been told by my dealer friend in Los Angeles that the day will come when many of our top U.S cars will be re-purchased by the Yanks and returned to America.

whitehead7

 

 

 

My Classic Car: Grandmother would like Gary Loar’s ’54 Pontiac

Photos courtesy of Gary Loar
Photos courtesy of Gary Loar

I have owned this car, a 1954 Pontiac Chieftain Deluxe, for 20 years. I got the car to save her from the previous owner, who could not afford to restore the car and it was just sitting and deteriorating more and more.

Why this car? Because my grandmother had a ’54 Star Chief convertible, so I wanted one for many years. This is the only ’54 I could find at the time, but then good luck finding a convertible.

It took about one year to complete the restoration, which was done with the help of friends in the Pontiac Oakland Club International, the Antique Automobile Club of America and other friends who own classic cars.

We took the car down to bare metal, rebuilt the engine and transmission. I don’t think there was a bolt or screw that wasn’t turned.

Now, this car is just wonderful to drive.

The car made its “debut” in June of 1994 at a national car meet in New Hope, Pa.

I drive it to and from local car shows, though lately I’ve been trailering it to long-distant shows, though I have driven the car as far west as Indianapolis and as far east at Cape Cod.

I think my grandmother would be pleased.

 

My Classic Car: A father shares the story of Maxx Christopher’s Opel GT

Maxx (at far left) and the Christopher family fleet, including Dad’s classic cars and Maxx’s older brother Cody.

(Editor’s note: This story was written by Maxx Christopher’s father, Andrew.)

I write this story with sorrow and with joy, to tell the story of my son Maxx Christopher’s love affair with cars from the time he was crawling, pushing Hot Wheels Johnny Lightings cars across the floor.

Maxx always loved cars, car movies, car shows, working on cars and just talking about cars.

When Maxx was 4 years old, I bought a 1971 Pontiac GTO (a restoration project), As I began the restoration, Maxx started helping me in the garage, first by holding the light and handing me wrenches and sockets. At an early age, Maxx got to know his way around a toolbox.

Maxx watched and participated in transforming my ’71 Goat into a show-winning car,  winning trophies in several shows including the GTO North West Regionals.

But this was only the first of several show cars that Maxx worked on with me over the years. There was a 1972 Olds Vista Cruiser, 1968 Mercury XR7 GT 390 Cougar, a 1972 Olds Cutlass “S” , and a 1974 Triumph TR6. Maxx had become quite knowledgeable about classic cars.

Photo courtesy Andrew Christopher
Photos courtesy Andrew Christopher

When Maxx was 13 he saw a picture in a car magazine of an Opel GT and fell in love with it. Maxx told me that someday he was going to get a Opel GT and my answer to him was that you never see Opel GTs.

But as fate would have it ,the next week one popped up in the local want ads. Maxx and I went to look at the Opel GT. There was a complete car, but all apart in boxes.

I bought the car for Maxx for a $1,000.

After all those years helping me restore my projects, Maxx finally got a project of his own, and I thought this is going to be fun spending time with my teenage son wrenching on his car in the garage. I told Maxx I was not going to work on the Opel unless he is alongside me. He  participated on every aspect of the restoration.

The next three years are full of cherished memories for me, spending time with Maxx restoring his Opel GT — time we spent together was not only car talk but what happened in high school that day along with leaning life lessons not only for Maxx but for me.

By the time Maxx turned 16 his Opel was completed and wearing stunning bright orange paint. Maxx drove his Opel GT to show off his car at its first car show a month later and took two trophies — best sports car and best high school car. He was so proud and I was so proud of him.

Maxx continued to drive his Opel GT to school and to car shows, taking home trophies until he left to for the Job Corps Urban Forestry program on the Oregon Coast in October 2009 to begin training to become Arborist. The Opel GT stayed in my garage while Maxx completed the 13 months of training.

When Maxx retuned to Southern Oregon he loved being able to drive his Opel GT on the mountain roads again.

With the economy being slow, Maxx had a hard time finding steady employment as an arborist, but he didn’t give up. Then he found an arborist job on the other side of the world, in New Zealand, on the Internet.

Maxx applied for a work visa and he was off to New Zealand at age 18, leaving his Opel GT behind again.

After five months missing America with work coming to an end, Maxx returned home, only to find a still bad economy with scarce employment opportunities. He decided to join the military and serve his country in December 2011. In January 2012 he passed his armed forces test and his physical.

But two days before he was to be sworn in, he lost his life at the hands of a drunk driver. It was February 4th, 2012. Maxx had climbed into the back seat of a car that had been driven over  to pick up Maxx and a friend. They got in not knowing the driver had just consumed a ½-bottle of rum and was five times over the legal limit.

Today, the Opel GT sits in my garage and remains a part of our family, and I can feel Maxx is riding along with me when I drive his car.