A Life-Long Love Affair
[May 2019 | San Juan Silver Stage | By Kathryn R. Burke]
Images, Kathryn R. Burke.
The smell of axle grease. That unforgettable sound when cam and carburator and crankshaft are all in perfect accord. There’s nothing quite like it. Hanging out in the garage, repairing, painting, and working on the old vehicles, from tires to top—it’s something that gets in your blood and stays there. Then when you get that baby tuned up and shined up, you take it out for a cruise, just like in the old days. Rolling along with the top down and the radio up, you hope to see some of your friends out on the road, too. Many of the owners of these well-loved and lovingly preserved (now) classic cars are of ‘a certain age’, from the era where you hung out at the malt shop and went cruisn’ on Saturday night. Building and rebuilding those old cars and trucks in our garages is for many of us part of a continuing, life-long, love affair with the American automobile.
George VanAllen, Montrose, Colo.
The Black Canyon Car Club (BCCC) got its start in 1990, when George VanAllen moved to Montrose from California. A long-time member of the Chevy GMC Truck Club and National Chevy Club, he had been restoring cars and trucks and doing shows for about 20 years. “When I got here, there wasn’t a lot going on,” he said. “I talked to a few people and they thought it would be really neat to do some shows together. We met at the park. About 15 people showed up.”
And that was the beginning, back in 1995. VanAllen wound up being president of the club for almost 14 years. The old pickups are his favorites, that and the MGs. “Over the years. I’ve had over 60 MGA roadsters,” he said. “And just about every model of Chevy. They’re the easiest to work on and get parts for. I have a good time with those.”
Shane Brown, Montrose, Colo.
Shane Brown also has a good time working on the old cars. A co-founder of the BCCC, Brown also likes Chevy pickups. “I’ve had a ’58 ChevyApache pickup since I was 17,” he said. “Still have it. Had it for 32 years now. I’ve been rebuilding it since 2005, and I’m in the process of painting it.” His latest acquisition is another pickup, a 1966 Ford.
Like VanAllen, Brown just keeps on collecting. “Right now, I have five classics,” he said, “including my daily driver, a ’69 Dodge pickup.” Brown’s favorite classic for now) is a 1964 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon. You might recognize it as the old cruiser that California surfers favored. “1964 is the very first year they made them,” he said. “There were only 3,393 made. I’ve got one of them. There aren’t that many left.”
Jack Fay, Ouray, Colo.
Jack got his first hot rod as a sophomore in Ouray High School, a ’52 Plymouth he bought from his sister, Judy.
“I stuck an old Cadillac V-8 under the hood,” he said. “All kinds of performance cars and motorcycles followed—Plymouth Roadrunners, a GTX, Ford Mustangs, and a turbo-charged 1987 Buick Grand National.”
Jack bought his first Nash Metropolitan while working in Denver in the late ’60s. Later, he located two for sale in Montrose. “I bought both for $1800 and fully restored them in my home garage—paint and all.”
He’s owned 44 so far. “My love affair with these cars goes back to the years when muscle cars came out in the late ’60s and early ’70s. I was fortunate enough to be the right age at the right time,” Jack said.
Wayne Mettler, Fruita, Colo.
Wayne’s dad was a mechanic and worked on cars in the family garage as a hobby. Wayne worked on them, too, and started racing them as a kid. “By the time I was in my early 20s, I was racing all over,” he says. “San Fernando, Long Beach, Fontana—I had a ’55 and a ’56 Chevy and I raced them both.”
Wayne kept it up over the years and had “many, many cars over many, many years.” He remembered one in particular, a ’41 Willys Americar that made it into Hot Rod Magazine and was named “The World’s Most Beautiful Willys.”
“I did a ’69 Camaro, then a ’56 Bel Air Post.” And now, the ’55 210 Post pictured here. And, guess what? Wayne’s favorites are … a ’55 and a ’56 Chevy!
Rob Lake, Montrose, Colo.
Owner of Mylar Auto Finishing in Montrose, Rob has spent his whole life working on cars. His dad bought Mylar from a former owner and Rob took over from his dad. “When I was a kid,” he recalls, “we went out and collected old cans, which we sold to Dad and he used to mix paint. As far back as I can remember, we were working on cars and bikes [motorcycles], restoring them and building them.” Rob’s hot rod is still a favorite. Like most of the men interviewed for this story, his love affair with the American automobile goes back a generation or two and shows no sign of abating.
Kathryn R. Burke. (Wayne Mettler’s ’55 Chevy 210 Post)
Shane Brown. (Shane Brown’s 1964 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser)