1954 Corvette – Dismantled car is brought back to life by Ernest and Pat Gonzalez
It was one great summer day in 1999 while BBQ’ing and reading the classified ads that I ran across a 1954 Corvette for sale. I was nearing my second retirement date and thought that a project car would be fun and challenging.
I presently own a 1977 Corvette with only 9K original miles. I purchased this car new on my 40th birthday and it has been with me for 40 years. I guess I have always been a Corvette guy. As a teenager I can remember going to the dealership in September/October each year to see the new cars and to spot the new Corvettes. I just knew I would own one in my future. I never imagined two would be possible.
As I read the ad, I thought restoring a 1954 Corvette would mean bringing back to life a piece of America’s sports car history. 1954 was the second year for production of the Corvette by GM and a whole new way of manufacturing car bodies. They had fiberglass bodies, two seats and the car design was revolutionary.
I mentioned the ad to my wife and she suggested that I call. I did call, and a lady informed me that the car was completely dismantled. She explained that it was all over the living room, all over the bedroom, under the bed and there were parts just all over the house. I quickly told the lady that I was not interested because the car was dismantled. I had envisioned a complete car. It would have given me a blueprint to go on during the dismantling and restoring the car.
The next day (Saturday) while shopping, my wife suggested that we go see the car. So I called and this time her husband answered. As it turns out, I had met him at a car show where he was showing his 1954 Corvette that he had restored and which had obtained a Bloomington Gold Certificate. Obtaining this certificate in the collector car world means that he had restored his car back to original with excellence. He informed me that he had begun to restore the second ’54 Corvette and then decided to sell the car. He said that even though it was dismantled, it was a complete car. He asked me to come by on Monday, when the car parts and chassis would be on display for all buyers to see. I informed him that I was flying to San Francisco on business that Monday and could not be there. I told him that if he assured me that the car was all complete, I would purchase the car sight unseen. He did not agree, he wanted me to see the car before buying it. So on Sunday, my wife and I went to his home and looked, talked, looked again and decided to buy the car. I wrote him a check for the down payment and we returned two weeks later, completed the transaction and spent about 10 hours gathering parts, labeling and packing a multitude of boxes. We loaded my pickup to the gills and went home. The chassis and body would be delivered later. My wife was nice enough to suggest that our 5th bedroom would be a good place to store the car parts. This way, they would be in a controlled environment. I of course, did not object and prepared the bedroom floor suitable for storing the parts.
For the next 5 ½ years, this project car would open up a whole new world for us. New knowledge would be gained, new friends would be made, challenges would be overcome and a lot of time would be spent in restoring everything back to original. I became a member of National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS), purchased all of the judging manuals and attended NCRS meets to gain information and knowledge on how to restore. I took many pictures, spoke to a lot of ’54 Corvette people and set my sights on restoring the car in a manner that it could earn the highest awards in NCRS and in the collector car world.
During the restoration I had to pay close attention on how GM was assembling/finishing cars during the time my car would have come off the assembly line. I discovered that GM was making minor changes in the car appearance during the same production year. Even though the car body was the same in appearance for years 1953 -1955, changes were made in painted parts vs. chromed parts, bullet air cleaners vs. two pot air cleaners, slotted screws vs. Phillip head screws, vs. bolts, etc. There were a lot of other differences specific to each car year which had to be investigated and too many to mention. Attention was given to manufactures dates, casting numbers and date of assembly according to “VIN” number. In 1955 the six cylinder “Blue Flame Six” engine with three side-draft carburetors was replaced by the first 265 cubic inch V8 with a WCFB four-barrel carburetor. Back then you could have any color you wanted in 1953 and early 1954 as long as it was “Polo White with Sportsman Red Interior”. 1954 brought a few other color combinations which were first available to GM upper level management and later to the public. All three production years had Power glide transmissions. Car productions were 300 in 1953, 3640 in 1954 and 700 in 1955. Of the total 4640 cars produced, I estimate there are 1500-1700 cars still in existence today. The rest were crashed, burned or parted out.
The car restoration took 5½ years. The car originally was white with red interior. Body preparation and painting initially took 5½ months. The rest of the time went to carefully restoring, painting, chroming and assembling the car per GM/NCRS specifications. Some days we spent 2 hours, some days 15 hours, all told several hundreds of hours were spend during the restoration. Items such as convertible top and interior were left to masters of the trade. We asked John Kennedy who became a true friend, to bring his equipment and materials from Bountiful, UT, spend three days at our home and build the convertible top and interior to GM specifications. Money spent were a few bucks here and there, lots of sweat, determination, wife’s love and understanding and the car was finished. I say finished, but an old car is never finished. There is always something to re-restore again.
The car to this date has earned several awards. Best of Show Stock at the Corvette/Chevy Expo, Best of Class and People’s Choice at the Lakewood Yacht Club Concourse d’ Elegance, two Top Flights and one Performance Verification award with NCRS. Best of all, the “Highest Award” awarded by NCRS, is “The Duntov, Mark of Excellence Award”.
Corvette history is back to life, to be enjoyed and driven occasionally. The car some 63 years later is back in appearance and mechanically as it left the assembly line in September 1954 at the GM plant, Saint Louis, Mo.
The Story of “Pee Wee” – Our 1968 Volkswagen Beetle
Now a little background; both of our sons went to Texas A&M—WHOOP! One weekend in 2003, they both came home for a brief weekend visit. We were so lonely when they left, that we decided to cruise around El Paso, rather than go straight home.
We were driving down Alameda Avenue, in south El Paso, when we saw the cutest turquoise VW Bug, sitting in a rundown mechanic’s garage with a For Sale sign on the windshield. As luck would have it, the garage was open. The mechanic said that he was selling the Bug for a friend, gave us $5.00 for gas, told us to test drive it and to take our time. We were hooked! The next day, we went back with cash and bought the newest member of our family, a 1968 Volkswagen Beetle that we named “Pee Wee”!
That day, we found out the background story on our Bug. The Bug’s owner and his wife just had a baby and needed money as a down payment on a house. The only thing of value they could sell was the BUG. He and a friend had rebuilt the Bug from a rusted out shell, to what we were looking at. They had worked nights and weekends, getting as many original VW parts as possible. They referenced pictures of Bugs to be sure they were remaking it as original as possible. Selling the Bug was the last thing they wanted to do, but they really needed a house to raise their family.
Once we sported around in our newest automobile, we would notice mechanical problems that needed to be addressed, from a gas smell that almost knocked you out, not to mention us smelling like gas, to oil leaking everywhere. We had the 1600cc engine resealed, recovered the seats with boat leather (so our skin wouldn’t stick on the vinyl seats), replaced the interior carpets and head liners, replaced all rubber seals and gaskets, fixed the brakes, and replaced the bumpers. In fact, we have replaced and fixed most all of the moving parts. During these repairs, we decided to have the Bug painted. Our mistake was using the cheapest, fly-by-night painter in El Paso. This was a true learning moment. Repair projects just seemed to pop up continuously and once we began, we thought we would never see the end.
On recommendation from one of the members of our car club, we finally took Pee Wee to Doggett Freightliner of El Paso. She sure looked extra small compared to the huge 18-wheelers in the shop! They straightened out the frame, adjusted the bumpers, removed all the bondo and performed all the preparation, repair and details that go into a paint job. The color was an original from 1968. It took 5 months for the job to be completed, but what a difference!
We really enjoy driving Pee Wee. As long as we are moving with the windows and vents open, we are fine—it is the stopping that gets a little warm.
We are so proud our little Bug, that we have written out our own Bug Love Story using Oldie But Goodie song titles. This story expresses our excitement and pride we have for Pee Wee.
Bruce Carter’s Trophy Winner
Bruce Carter’s 1915 Model T Touring car won the H. F. Houston Memorial Production Award and a First Place trophy for AACA National Winners in the 19th Annual Granville Heritage Day Antique Car Show in Granville, Tennessee over the Memorial Day weekend. The car was also featured in several of the Granville Heritage Day events where approximately 7000 people attended and it lead the parade through the town during the afternoon. Congratulations, Bruce
Ben Carter’s little blue Packard coupe won Best In Class! at Keels & Wheels at Seabrook this year for the second time. “Their trophies are getting so big”, he remarks. It also won Best In Class at the Texas Packard Meet in Kerrville last April. It’s a beautiful car. Congratulations, Ben.
IGNORANCE IS BLISS
To DB or Not To BE – That is the question!
It’s 88 years old and looks it, but it runs and its fun. That’s my 1929 Dodge Brothers sedan. Embossed on the hubcaps are the letters “DB”. One day I drove it to a shopping mall on a routine errand (why not?) and left it in the parking lot. Upon returning to the car there was a young couple standing there curiously pondering the Dodge. The guy, ignoring me, and apparently trying to impress his girlfriend with his superior knowledge of antique cars, said to her, “See, the initials on the hub caps tells you what kind of car this is.”
“It’s a DUESENBERG!”
Did I point out his error?
I didn’t see any upside to making that correction.
I’M ONLY 82 AND I CAN DO IT MYSELF!
By Rick Mock
It was the summer of 2016 and I had just sold my latest old car. My garage was now strangely empty so I started looking for a new project. One day, at one of our club meetings, there were a couple of beautiful ’57 Chevy’s in the parking lot. They were owned by two of our club members. One was a 2-door hardtop (Cullen Dauchy’s) and the other was a 4-door hardtop (Bill Palmer’s). Both were “Matador Red” in color and looked like stunning pieces of art.
I started thinking that if someday I ever got a ’57 Chevy, I would want a different color and maybe it could be as pretty those red ones. I figured three Matador Red ’57 Chevys would be too many in the club. I did some research on factory colors for the ’57 Chevy and came upon a striking picture of one and its color was called “Canyon Coral”. I thought it was almost as pretty as Matador Red, so I started looking. I envisioned that perhaps I could be the owner of a beautiful Canyon Coral 1957 Chevrolet hardtop.
I searched several on-line classified web sites, eBay, Craigslist and others and finally came up with a possible candidate located in Florida. It was a ’57 Chevy 2-door Hardtop that ‘needed a little work’. I contacted the seller and after some intense negotiating, we came to an agreement. ‘Unbelievable! I now owned a ’57 Chevy Hardtop!’
Now I had to get my prize to Katy. I could hardly wait. I contacted a couple of shippers that I had used in the past and hired the one I thought would get the car to me safely for the best price. They told me it should be shipped in less than a week and I would be getting the car in a few days. After a week went by, I called to check on the progress and the shipper told me that there was a problem. Because the car wasn’t in running condition, they needed to find a car hauler, in that area, that needed one more car to complete its load. Its route had to be headed West through Houston. It would need to be loaded on the rear of the trailer and taken off first in Katy. A vehicle in non-running condition is difficult to load and unload and must be done only once. He said it might be several days before that particular scenario would occur.
I thought about it and told (rationalized) myself that, what the heck, I have a tow dolly so why don’t I go get it myself? Why should I wait an indefinite length of time for who knows how long. I wanted my ‘new car’ NOW!
So I went to Nancy and said. “I’m retired, I have time, and I don’t do anything, so I’m going to Florida and bring my ’57 Chevy home”. I had towed cars from all over the country and this should be a snap. It would be freeway driving all the way and should be a breeze, there and back. And in addition, it may just cost a little bit less to do it myself. She thought I was crazy but as always, she supported me and helped me plan the trip. I was to travel most of the way on the first day and stay in a motel. Then on the second day, arrive at my destination and load the car. Upon my return, I would stay in the same motel and return home on the third day.
The trip to my destination went without a hitch and upon arrival, met the seller and inspected the car. It was better than I had hoped for and I was tickled to death. We got it all loaded up and headed back to Katy. No worries. Wow! I had a ’57 Chevy on the trailer behind me, and it was mine!
Before After (I wish)
All was going smoothly and I was having a good time as the weather was nice and it looked like it was going to be an uneventful trip. After a stay in the motel near Mobile Alabama, I got up and started the last leg of the trip. About this time, Nancy called me and informed me that they were having severe rain storms in the Greater Houston area and it seemed the rain was going to hang around for the next couple of days. I was about 400 miles from home so I said that I would call when I got near Houston and would assess the situation then.
That afternoon, when I got near the Texas border, the sky opened up. It started raining so hard that I had to slow down to a crawl. After driving for about an hour or so, all of a sudden, it seemed that the trailer and car were swaying back and forth a little so I managed to pull over to check things out. I did a walk-around and everything seemed ok. Must‘a been the rain, I thought. After driving a few more miles, it began swaying back and forth again and suddenly I heard an ominous “BANG”! I immediately pulled to the side and got out to inspect. I found that the wheel had come off the left rear of the Chevy and gotten lodged in between the inner fender and frame. The brake drum was dragging on the ground. And here I was, in a driving rain, on the freeway shoulder, cars and semi’s whizzing by three feet away, and miles from an exit or assistance.
Being the cool, calm, confident guy I am, I started to panic. Oh Lord! It’s the end of the world!
It must be true that God takes care of old fools and drunks, because when I looked closer I found out that the lug bolts had worked loose causing the wheel to slip off the drum and the wheel became wedged up inside the wheel well. The axle spring was a just a few inches off the ground. I looked things over and started to think. If I had a scissor type jack I could perhaps get it under the spring and lift it high enough to remove the tire from the wheel well and remount it. I thought, now where can I find a jack out here in the middle of nowhere in a downpour. Then I thought about the jack in my truck. I didn’t remember what it looked like because I never had to use it. I found it tucked in a cubbyhole under the back seat and would you believe it? It was the precise scissor type jack that I needed. I couldn’t believe my luck and it raised my spirits a little. The jack was fastened down in what seemed about 7 or 8 places and I couldn’t get it loose in the dark and the pouring rain. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally managed to free it and went back around to the Chevy and started the arduous task of trying to get everything put back together. I jacked up the axle, freed the tire from its hideout, and mounted the tire back on the lugs, using four lug bolts, one off each of the other wheels. All while traffic was whizzing by about 3 or 4 feet behind me in heavy rain. What an eerie feeling of dread as I feverishly worked on the car on my knees with a vehicle flying by every few seconds.
After what seemed an eternity, and being thoroughly soaked, I was ready to travel again.
Feeling better about the situation I called Nancy for a weather report. She said the rain seemed to be easing up a little so I decided to continue toward home again. Going slow wasn’t a problem because of the heavy rain. I assumed that four lug bolts on a wheel should hold securely enough to travel at a lower speed. Well, everybody knows what happens when you assume something. Read on.
I drove about another 20 miles or so and was somewhere near Anahuac when the car and trailer started to sway back and forth again so I pulled over once more. Sure enough, the lug nuts were just about ready to come off again. What next? I thought. With a closer look I saw that the threads on the lug bolts were beaten up badly and the lug nuts would not hold. I then saw an exit in the distance and decided to tighten the lug nuts as best I could and try to reach the exit. I just wanted to get off the Freeway and out of the way of fast moving traffic. I slowly reached the exit and discovered a Church and a few houses on the other side of the freeway and proceeded to the sanctuary of the Church parking lot. You can imagine my relief to find any sort of comfort considering the circumstances. Even the rain let up enough for me to walk to a house next to the Church to ask if I could leave my precious cargo in the parking lot while I went and got help.
As I approached the house, a large pit bull type of dog let out a string of barks and headed toward me. So much for comfort! My truck was more than a hundred yards away so I decided to act like I was unafraid and started talking nicely to the obviously angry dog. ‘Act unafraid’ is the operative phrase here because I was about to soil my britches. However, just in time, the dog’s owner came out of the house and calmed the pooch down. As it turns out, the dog was a big teddy bear and wouldn’t hurt a flea. The gentleman said it would be ok to leave the car on the Church parking lot for the evening.
I called Nancy and told her of my predicament (I spared the gory details) and said that I would be home as soon as I could. She informed me that because of the heavy rains and flooding, many of the freeways in Houston were closed, especially around the downtown area. What else could go wrong, you ask? Just wait, you’ll see.
I took the Chevy off the tow dolly and decided to proceed somehow through Houston, avoiding flooded roads to get home with my truck and trailer. Being familiar with downtown Houston and its many back roads, I managed to get home around 6:00 in the evening. But I still had to retrieve my Chevy.
I called Bob Watson, an awesome friend and also a club member and explained the situation. I asked him if I could borrow his tandem trailer that was equipped with a winch. Without batting an eyelash, he said, “Sure, let’s go get your car”. By the way, it was still raining. Bob owns a huge, Ford, 4 wheel drive, diesel truck that could pull a stump out of the ground. We hitched up his trailer and headed out. We had to go through various parts of Houston to avoid flooded roads and finally made it to Anahuac. The rain had subsided a little so we started loading up the ’57 Chevy. Things were looking pretty good at this time and we were feeling invincible. We let out the winch strap and started cranking the car up on the trailer. Guess what? You guessed it. The winch broke beyond repair and the car was only about a quarter of the way up the ramp. Oh boy! It was about 9 pm. Now what? I was beginning to understand the word ‘frustration’.
We looked around and saw the house where the gentleman and the dog lived and decided to go ask if we could leave the car overnight and retrieve it the next day. My favorite dog gave us the same unfriendly greeting but I was on to his act by this time and we made friends again. The gentleman came out of the house with three other friends and they all had a beer in their hands. They were all big fellows, too. After explaining our problem they said “No big deal — Let’s go load your trailer”.
All of us managed to easily push the car onto the trailer. We tied it down, profusely gave our thanks and offered payment. They said “don’t worry about it”. They even offered us a beer and saw us on our way. With a keen sense of accomplishment, we headed home.
Finally, we got the car and trailer to my house, backed it in my driveway and left it to be unloaded in the morning. It was midnight. All was well!
The next day, I bought Bob a new winch and installed it. Then unloaded my 1957 Chevrolet 2 door hardtop and backed it into the garage. The garage wasn’t empty anymore.
Buying a Packard through a Broker
In the past 10 years I have purchased 3 Packards. The first was by answering an ad in Hemmings Magazine from the owner who was in Chicago. To see the car I flew to Chicago and made a deal including delivery to Richmond, Texas. The second was a car I saw on eBay where I was the winning bidder and the seller found a shipper who would deliver the car to Richmond for only $600.00. Both sales and delivery went very well.
The 3rd car was my 40 coupe which I bought from a broker in New Jersey. I worried the most about this purchase because of several reasons. First it was in New Jersey. Second, how much rust is hidden in a 75 year old Packard that has always been in New Jersey. Third, I was concerned the whole deal might be a scam. The broker had a very nice website which could be a fake. I decided to take a chance because the broker whose name was Basim, told me I could wait until the car was on its way to pay for it which would take a couple of weeks to schedule.
I became concerned when Basim called me and told me that a friend of his was bringing a shipment of cars to the Houston area the next day and he had space for one more car. The problem was, he needed the money the next day which I sent against my better judgment. Was I going to be out a lot of money? Was I taken in by a Middle Eastern scam artist who was selling the same car to several people and then leaving town with the money?
The next day I got a call from someone who told me he was the truck driver and he was leaving New Jersey with the car. This did not make me more comfortable. He could have been in on the scam. A couple of days later he called again and told me he was running late and would not arrive for 2 more days. On the scheduled date I got a chair and sat in my driveway and waited. After a couple of hours I heard a big truck coming and it turned down my street. It was the enclosed carrier which he parked near my house and opened the rear of the trailer. Inside was my beautiful blue coupe and also 6 corvettes. It took only about 5 minutes to unload and drive into my garage.
The moral is, if you find a car offered by a broker instead of the owner, it may be a good deal but check it out first. (Contributed by Ben Carter)
SPARKY THE FIRETRUCK
Recollections of SPARKY: My 1923 Reo Speedwagon Firetruck
Two questions with the same answer –
Q: Does every little kid want to grow up to be a firefighter?
Q: Does every new grandfather want to make his grandchildren happy?
A: Yes, so the obvious answer is to buy them a Firetruck!
In 2003 I found “Sparky” on EBay and bought him as pictured sight unseen. Three weeks later he arrived from western Pennsylvania to my home in Southern California to the delight of two little grandkids and one big kid. The big kid’s wife did not seem to share equal excitement.
Within three months this 1923 REO Speedwagon with a Waterous 350GPM pump endured a frame-off tear down, pounding out, repainting red Rust-oleum in my back yard, and reassembly. The engine was seized, but broke free with 48 hours of cylinder soaking in WD-40. All 18 horses came to life with an aftermarket Model A carb. The leaking water jacket that made my oil milky was my biggest headache until I discovered K&W Nanotechnology Head Gasket and Block Repair (wonderful stuff!). Several thousand dollars and many months later Sparky was festooned with the requisite klaxon horn, crank siren, brass spotlight, fire axe, hooks, helmets, nozzles and all the other gear and gadgets to make the toy look real. The grandchildren loved it! It was great in parades and for driving kids of all ages around their neighborhoods, spraying everyone in sight and making screaming siren sounds only kids enjoy. On the road, speeds could get all the way up to 30 mph, fast for those days. I also won Best Firetruck in Orange County’s huge 5000-car ‘Cruise For A Cure’ car show, the finest of its several awards.
The REO design was essentially unchanged from the trucks supplied for the Great War, with lots of very unique design aspects. Its only brakes are in the rear, being external bands that don’t work when wet. The heavy motor is mounted in a double frame in the front where seemingly 90% of the weight is, so rear brakes don’t stop even when dry… but just bounce along, leaving long black dashes. The steering gear is a massive setup as pictured.
The transmission is mounted under the seat and connects with one of its two drive shafts. The F-ported engine is essentially three castings: one crankcase and two similar cylinder sections. There is no bottom pan or head as in its more modern contemporaries. The external valve mechanisms needed frequent manual lubrication, splashing oil hither and yon. One horizontal shaft on the passenger side of the engine drove the water pump, the generator, and distributor. Rube Goldberg lives!
Then sad times came – the grandkids moved away from coastal southern California to experience the pleasantness of Katy’s heat and humidity due to job relocation. Ten years later grandma and grandpa followed of course, sans Sparky.
Clash of the Thirteen’s
I was just about to pull forward out of my driveway in my 1913 Buick touring headed for a July 4th event when Mary, my dear wife, was backing her 2013 Ford Edge out the same driveway and, you guessed it,
The 1913 Buick lost a chip of paint off the leaf spring about the size of your fingernail.
The 2013 Ford had about a $1000 worth of damage.
I guess they really don’t make them like they used to!
Retirement – by Rick Mock
When I retired in 1999, it got me to thinking about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Nancy and I had this big house to ourselves and I didn’t want to just lie on the couch or sit in a bar all day, so I told Nancy I was thinking about driving a school bus. She said “Yeah, right! I’ll give you two weeks. Those kids will drive you crazy.” — I drove a bus for 13 years and loved every minute of it. It was a perfect job for a retiree. You have your own office, a room with a view, no telephone, a 3 month summer vacation, and best of all, a 5 hour lunch break.
With the added income and 5 hours a day to spend it, a new career was launched in my garage. The Ford Mustang was my car of choice. During my first 8 years of retirement, I acquired approximately 12 project Mustangs and turned them into nice driver cars, including completely restoring two fastbacks. During this time a ’40 Cadillac Sedan DeVille and a ’40 Chevy 2 door sedan managed to show up in my garage. The latter was eventually sold to Dwyre Durant, one of our Cruizer Members.
One day I came to the conclusion that I was selling every car as soon as they were finished and would start looking for another project. Then the realization hit me. I didn’t necessarily want to possess them; I just liked working on them.
By this time I was growing weary of Mustangs so I looked around for something else to spend my time and money on. Remembering a ratty old pick-up that a high-school friend had and all the fun we had with it, I had a new purpose and the search was on for my first Model A.
With a two car garage and no room for many projects, I decided to get rid of anything resembling a Mustang. I needed room for a Model A (or two).
Two other Cruizer members, Tom Queen and Bob Watson and I decided to sell all our surplus car parts and other junk at the Conroe Swap Meet. We loaded up Bob’s large trailer and cleaned out our garages. With close to a $2000 profit, I came home to an eerily empty garage.
In my search for the perfect Model A, I found a two door coupe in Oregon and it even had a Texas title. When it finally arrived Nancy and I were thrilled. It also had air conditioning!! James Campbell (another Cruizer member) remembered the car from years before because he helped put in the A/C. It’s a small world, isn’t it? We joined a Model A club and had a lot of fun with our little coupe. Alas, it didn’t need much in the way of repairs so in the next three years I acquired several Model A’s and followed the same routine as I did with Mustangs. It was apparent that working on a car was more fun than owning one.
Thinking back a long, long time ago, during high school, I watched other kids work on cars and build hotrods and wished I could do the same. But being a poor farm boy, it was way out of my reach. Then I had a revelation. Aha! Now was my chance. I was going to build my own Model A hotrod!
After doing some research (a couple hours worth) the planning started. Enthusiastically I started looking for parts. I found a ’30 frame, ’39 flathead engine and transmission (from Cruizer member Dave Stark), ’31 dropped front axle, 38 rear-end, ’29 body and bed, ’35 wheels (from Cruizer member James Campbell), a boat steering wheel, and many other needed parts. I then learned how to weld (taught by Cruizer member Bob Watson). I became an amateur engineer (sort of). After 3 years of doing quite a bit of the work three times before getting it right, I had a Hotrod and we named it ‘June Bug’ (Nancy’s middle name is June). It even ran, drove, turned and stopped just like a real car. I even managed to find a title for it (no easy task). I had a feeling of accomplishment that’s hard to describe.
Unfortunately, the love affair lasted only a few months and, yes, I sold my beloved hotrod. However, I sold it to a young man who wanted to buy it for his Dad. His Dad was an older guy (younger than me) who loved Ford flathead motors. I felt less guilty.
The Princess Brings Home Her First Junior!
By Brenda Shore Kaiser
It is easy to think that we may become accustomed to winning. After all, we have seen the members who have a lot of cars and many awards. So what does it feel like when you have a brand new car, you have put your heart and soul – and money into it – and it wins? It feels fantastic. It did to my husband and me in Canyon, Texas (2007).
Princess is a 1963 Chevrolet Nova SS Convertible. She came to live with us in the fall of 2006 and although she was already a winner, she needed some tender loving care to get her back up to ‘show’ quality. Dave and I have always loved sports cars with a specific affection for Corvettes, so with our natural orientation towards Chevrolets, when we found out that the SS was for sale, we decided that she had to be ours. Of course, like many purchases there were a few logistics that had to be worked out before she could make it to Houston.
First, the car was in New Jersey. Second, the car needed to be trailered. We had never trailered a car and didn’t even own a trailer. So, we bought the car and we bought a trailer. Next, we ask for assistance from my family to get the car to us. It sounds funny now, but at the time it was a logistical nightmare. The car was in New Jersey, the trailer was ordered and delivered to Pennsylvania, and the truck needed to pull the trailer was in Texas. And so, the voyage began. My parents drove to Texas, left us their car and drove our truck back to Pennsylvania. They picked up the trailer and had all of the required pieces added, i.e., electric brake kit, sway bars. They then picked up the car and delivered it to us right before Christmas. The car that we had bought – sight unseen – was finally home.
Dave and I knew that we were going to show this car and that we had two options. Because Princess had already won many AACA awards, we could either continue to show her with her current awards or start all over again. We took off the awards (which was easier said than done) and decided to go for a first junior. The decision to go to Canyon was easy – what better place to show and win than in your home state.
We cleaned, scrubbed and waxed until everything was perfect. Every part of the engine, interior, exterior and chassis was checked and where needed, parts were replaced and/or fixed. We wanted to make sure that the car not only looked good, but that it ran like it did when it was delivered to some lucky person 34 years ago. All of our available time was spent in the garage. We even put up a lift so that we could work on the car from all angles. And then it was time to go to Canyon.
The road to Canyon is long. As everyone knows you can drive all day and never leave Texas. It was a good trip, however, and we made it to the hotel late Thursday evening without any problems. I would like to say that the rest of the trip was just as uneventful, but unfortunately that was not the case. It rained on Friday – seven inches in three hours. It was more rain that they had seen in 35 years. The roads were gone and the water was rising quickly. Unfortunately our trailer was in a lower spot so of course it had to be moved. Hooking up a trailer is enough fun and a test for any good marriage, but to do it in the pouring rain standing in a foot of water is even more fun. We did it though, and the trailer and the car were safe and dry; we can’t say the same for ourselves, however.
Saturday morning started out with a light rain, but by the time Judge’s Breakfast was finished, the rain had stopped and the sun was coming out. It was a beautiful day and our Princess was ready to be shown. The location was perfect, the weather was perfect and our car was perfect. Since Dave and I are both judges, we had to leave the car and hope that everything would turn out OK. Our saga however didn’t end at that point; we had one more obstacle to overcome. Yes, we were both nervous and yes, we did things that we had never done before. When we were released from the show field, we put everything in the trunk and were ready to leave. Unfortunately everything included the keys – the keys to the car, the trailer and the truck.
With the assistance of some fantastic people, our back seat was removed, the liner was pulled back and we crawled into the truck and retrieved our keys. Our car was stripped and put back together in under 10 minutes and all by a couple of our National Directors. None of us could believe how fast it was done! We could now leave the show field.
We did win our first Junior that evening at the banquet. All of the hard work and all of the trials and tribulations were worth it. We are very proud of our car and even more proud of what we went through to show her. We celebrated with friends and had the champagne that Dave brought all the way from France. The trip home was calm and the Princess now rests quietly in our garage waiting for the next opportunity to come out and shine. Yes, she is going to compete for her first Senior next year – place still not determined.
By the way, our Princess got her name because she came to us as a ‘trailer queen,’ but due to her size and beauty, we just call her our Princess. She is very happy with our 1972 Corvette, Mille (Mille Miglia Red) and our 1949 Kaiser, Crystal (Crystal Green).
Since Princess won her first junior she has gone on to win a Senior in Tucson, AZ, 2008; a Grand National First in Topeka, KS, 2009; and a Grand National Senior in Shelbyville, TN, 2012. She has also received seven preservations, including the last one in Galveston.
Note: This article first appeared in the October, 2007 Gulf Coast Region ‘The Antique Expression.’ It has been updated to reflect the most recent AACA show in Galveston.
1954 Corvette – Dismantled Vet Comes Back to Life
Contributed by: Ernest Gonzalez
It was one great summer day in 1999 while barbequing and reading the classified ads that I ran across a 1954 Corvette for sale. I was nearing my second retirement date and thought that a project car would be fun and challenging.
I presently owned a 1977 Corvette with only 8K original miles at the time. I purchased this car new on my 40th birthday and it has been with me for 36 years. I guess I have always been a Corvette guy. As a teenager I can remember going to the dealership in September / October each year to see the new cars and to spot the new Corvettes. I just knew I would own one in my future. I never imagined that two would be possible.
As I read the ad, I thought restoring a 1954 Corvette would mean bringing back to life a piece of America’s sports car history. 1954 was the second year for production of the Corvette and a whole new way of manufacturing car bodies. They had fiberglass bodies, two seats and the car design was revolutionary.
I mentioned the ad to Pat and she suggested that I call. I did, and was informed that the car was dismantled. The lady said it’s all over the living room, all over the bedroom, under the bed and there were parts just all over the house. I quickly told the lady that I was not interested because the car had been dismantled. I had envisioned a complete car. It would have given me a blueprint on which to go on, during the dismantling and restoration.
The next day, while shopping, Pat suggested that we go see the car. So I called and this time her husband answered. As it turns out, I had met him at a car show where he was showing his 1954 Corvette that he had restored and which had obtained a Bloomington Gold Certificate. Obtaining this certificate in the collector car world means that he had restored his car back to original with “Excellence”. He informed me that he had begun to restore the second ’54 Corvette and had decided to sell the car, but that even though it was dismantled it was a complete car. He asked me to come by on Monday when the car parts and chassis would be on display for all buyers to see. I informed him that I was flying to San Francisco on business on Monday. If he assured me that the car was all complete, I would purchase the car sight unseen. He did not agree, as he wanted me to see the car before buying it. So on Sunday, Pat and I went to his home and looked, and talked, and looked and decided to buy the car. We returned two weeks later and completed the transaction and spent about 10 hours gathering parts, labeling and packing a multitude of boxes. Loaded my pickup to the gills and went home. The chassis and body would be delivered later. Pat was nice enough to suggest that our 5th bedroom would be a good place to store the car parts. This way they would be in a controlled environment. I of course, did not object, and prepared the bedroom suitable for storing the parts.
For the next 5½ years, this project car would open up a whole new world to us. New knowledge would be gained, new friends would be made, challenges would be overcome and a lot of time would be spent in restoring everything back to original. I became a member of National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS), purchased all of the judging manuals and attended NCRS meets to gain information and knowledge on how to restore. I took many pictures, spoke to a lot of ’54 Corvette people and set my sights on restoring the car in a manner that it could earn the highest awards in NCRS and in the collector car world.
During the restoration I had to play close attention to how GM was assembling/finishing cars during the time my car would have come off the assembly line. I discovered that GM was making minor changes in the car appearance during the same production year. Even though the car body was the same in appearance for years 1953 -1955, changes were made in painted parts vs. chromed parts, bullet air cleaners vs. two pot air cleaners, slotted screws vs. bolts, etc. There were a lot of other differences specific to each car year which had to be investigated and too many to mention. Attention was given to manufacture dates, casting numbers and date of assembly according to “VIN” number. In 1955 the six cylinder “Blue Flame Six” engine with three side-draft Carter carburetors was replaced by the first 265 cubic inch V8 with a four-barrel carburetor. Back then you could have any color you wanted in 1953 and early 1954 as long as it was “Polo White with Sportsman Red Interior”. Later in 1954 a few other standard colors emerged such as “Pennant Blue, Sportsman Red and Black” which were first available to GM upper level management and later to the public. All three production years had powerglide transmissions. Car productions were 300 in 1953, 3640 in 1954 and 700 in 1955. Of the total 4640 cars produced, it is estimated that there are 1200-1500 original cars still in existence today. The rest were crashed, burned or parted out.
The car restoration took 5 ½ years. Some days 2 hours, some days 15 hours, all toll, lots of hours, a few bucks($$$$), lots of sweat, determination, wife’s love/understanding and the car was finished. I say finished, but an old car is never finished. There is always something else to restore again in order to keep it original. Body preparation and painting initially took 5 ½ months. The car originally was white with red interior. The rest of the time went to carefully restoring, painting, chroming and assembling per GM/NCRS specifications. Items such as convertible top and interior were left to masters of the trade.
When NCRS judged our car, they judged it with four (4) teams of master judges that took about 8 ½ hours. They checked for number matching, as well as everything had to be date coded and manufacture coded 3 months to 6 months before the assembly date. The car scored 98 points out of a 100 because of over restoration. NCRS wanted to see ripples in the fiber glass as the production models. I was aware of this requirement during the restoration, but elected to remove the ripples by gel coating and sanding for 5 ½ months.
The car to this date has earned several awards. Best of Show Stock at the Corvette/Chevy Expo, Best of Class and People’s Choice at the Lakewood Yacht Club Concourse d’ Elegance, two Top Flights, one Performance Verification award with NCRS and most of all the most prestigious award, “NCRS Duntov Award, Mark of Excellence”. This award is equal to the “Blooming Gold Certificate Award”.
Best of all, a bit of Corvette history was put back to life, to be enjoyed and driven occasionally. The car some 59 years later is back in appearance and mechanically as it was when it left the assembly line in September 1954 at the GM plant, Saint Louis, Mo.
I Like ‘IKE’
Ever since I was a puppy I wanted a 1957 Thunderbird. The lady down the street had a ’55 triple black T-bird and my spoiled cousin in Michigan had a black ’56 his daddy gave him at 16. In fact at some point in my early high school years I set three goals: a college education, owning my own business, and a 1957 Thunderbird.
After rounds with restoring Corvettes, an XKE roadster, a Model A Tudor, a neat little 1923 Reo Speedwagon fire truck, and several other four-wheeled prizes, in 2007 I set about finding a ’57 Thunderbird project car. Enjoying mechanical work and pounding fenders at the time, I was seeking more restoration exercise (sure beats running treadmills at the gym).
Having already bought and sold several cars, engines, and car parts on EBay sight unseen, I was not put off by the risks of a transaction that described a 57,000 mile running older restoration with very nice paint, mechanical soundness, with good interior and show chrome from a self-proclaimed T-bird collector in Green Bay, WI. I set my budget, and of course exceeded it by a good margin in the excitement of the auction. After all, it was 2007 at the height of collector car prices of that decade; weren’t prices always going to increase?
I won’t go into the exaggerations the seller used when describing the car. But for a car described as never having been in an accident, why did it have bondo stalactites hanging down from the inside of the front left fender? Why did the hood have evidence of a fold running diagonally across its middle? Why are the tops of the front fenders rippled like they were used as seats at the drive-in? What is the tar goop around the floor pans? Why does the car not stop? Why does it shimmy over 30 mph?
Astonishingly, the car had a lot of paperwork in its rather decrepit excuse for a glove box. I found it was the 124th car built on its January 9th birthday. It was delivered to the distribution point in Washington DC and purchased at Behrend Brothers Ford in Baltimore February 23, 1957 by Vernon Manger for his 21 year old son, Alvin, to drive. The dealer took in his 1953 Lincoln in trade. The fully-loaded triple bronze T-bird had every conceivable option of the time.
Finally in 1963, the title was transferred from daddy to Alvin. Alvin had married Carol Kelly and produced a daughter in 1958 named Sharon. It was my talking with Sharon on the phone when I learned the “true” history of the car.
By now the car was becoming a very personal item to me, and as I always do I named this car. I wondered what I should call a 50’s car born in a decade I remember so well: “IKE!” Hence, the “I Like IKE” stickers on my car are not there only to reflect my nostalgic political leanings, but my attainment of the last of my three life goals. Before moving to Texas two years ago, ‘IKE’ had California plates reading “NO. 3 GOAL”. (I am on goal #11 or 12 now).
Back to ‘IKE’! I learned from Sharon that ‘IKE’ was kept outside for the first 15 years of his life and had become a rust bucket. The trunk was rusted out, all four fenders were rusted through at the bottoms as were the rockers, and the floorboards were transparent to non-existent. On April 22, 1971 Alvin must have had some guilt because he put some bucks into the car: a tune up, new idle arms, battery, brakes, and one week later got the tranny overhauled. Later he got some of the rusted panels replaced. Alvin kept the car garaged way out back at the Manger Meat Packing Company, the family business until 2003.
On July 16 of that year, Alvin got the hots for a Clenet-2 and sold the T-bird to a private party for $4500. At that time it had 56,120 miles on the meter. The new buyer was Ron Dipietro in Pittsburgh who did some additional sheet metal repairs, put in a new radiator, rebuilt carb, and new gas tank. He dressed the car in new grey primer before selling it in 2005 to Joe Gordon in Sandy, Utah for $19,000 on EBay, plus $1300 shipping.
Joe re-chromed the bumpers and painted the car in light yellow orange peel. Somewhere along the line the original bronze interior panels were exchanged for white ones, which they still are under my bronze camouflage. He told me he put over $3,000 into the car over the 18 to 24 months of ownership and sold it for $21,000 to my Green Bay seller. At that time it had an inoperative tach, a hanging headliner, a baby blue dash pad (later died bronze by my seller), and much more (or less!) than what was disclosed. It still did when it was delivered to me, along with a stone chipped windshield.
As I subsequently learned, the Green Bay crud who sold Ike to me in 2007 was in the business of selling auto paint supplies. He must have used this car as a mule to train his customers how to do body work, paint, clear coat, and color sand. It is apparent the guy who did one fender is not the same guy who did another. Although Ike is all one color, and wears his original factory hue of Thunderbird Bronze, the trunk lid is not finished nearly as well as other places on the car. The original fiberglass top shows evidence of its original bronze color on the inside, although the outside color has been stripped and painted poorly in white.
Sooooo, the car that was described on EBay as:
– coming from salt-free North Carolina since birth, came from salty Baltimore via Washington DC.
– rust-free with original rocker panels, etc., may be that way now but surely was not most of its adult life.
– accident-free, experienced an early front-end collision according to the first owner’s daughter.
– having new brakes, but with mismatched drums and shoes that caused rubbing when stops were unsuccessfully attempted.
– mechanical work done and having a rebuilt front-end, but didn’t (Gosh, what a messy job doing this myself!).
– both electric window motors work, NOT!
– new dash pad, but it is blue under the peeling bronze dye.
– working original town and country radio, NOT!
– refinished stainless around windshield, NOT!
– great bronze upholstery, but its seams ripped within the first month.
All was not lost. Upon these discoveries, the seller and I came to a reasonable price adjustment and the hatchet was buried under threat of turning him over to EBay’s fraud group. But he surely did not make any money on the sale of my birdie.
I do not know how it feels to be a parent of a child with challenges, having unconditional love, but because of the challenges ‘IKE’ has presented me with, I continue to like this car and would not trade him for anything. The more work I do to him, the more I drive him, — the more I Like ‘IKE’… all 81,000 miles of him. Makes me all tickly inside.
The People’s Choice, First Place Award
Dean and Diana Forbes are the proud owners of a 1956 Continental Mark II. They are pictured accepting The People’s Choice, First Place Award at the 27th Annual Tri-Region LCOC Meet in Salado, TX in April 2015. They acquired it on Father’s Day 1999 and Dean collected parts for the car over the next 8 years in anticipation of a body off restoration which was completed in 2010.
Since then it has been featured in Houston Chronicle’s ‘Heidi’s Pics’ (June 20, 2014). It has also won numerous awards at various car shows in the past, such as the Concourse de’ Elegance of Texas in Conroe, Texas where the car won the Best of Class Award in 2014.
Congratulations Dean and Diana
Editor’s note: That’s a very long and beautiful car.