[A slew of perfectly restored 1920s and '30s all-metal-bodied pedal cars rest on the floor of Restorations Plus in Cary. The little tin wonders are highly sought after by collector car enthusiasts.]
From RU2 I drove to 7713 Newbold Road, also in Cary, and the location of Restorations Plus (847-462-6794), and I’m really glad I did. Upon walking into the shop I was greeted by shop owner Kenny Robins. Robins took me over to a very highly prized and much sought-after all-original 1965 Oldsmobile 442 drop-top (convertible) awaiting its restored interior and some minor electrical work.
Next to the shop’s rear door entrance were a bunch of snow-white sheets covering something. The sheets stretched for about 20 feet. “What’s under all of those sheets,” I asked, “car parts waiting to be sent out to the Chrome plater or what?” Robins grabbed the end of one sheet and snapped it off to expose a really big surprise. Like a magician, voila, he revealed car collectible gold – two rows of totally restored, pristine 1920s and ’30s metal pedal cars! I stood there mouth agape. I wanted every single one of them. I looked down at the mint little car in front of me and recognized the stand-up headlight pods on each fender. They were the style used by Pierce Arrow automobiles back in the day. “Is that a Pierce Arrow replica?” I asked. “Yes,” he said, “a real-deal 1937 all metal pedal car made by Steel Craft back in the ’30s.”
One of Robins’ uncles, a big-time car guy, died last year and the cars were part of his private collection. His uncle’s family asked if he would sell the little cruisers for them. Of course, Robins agreed. The cars would sell fast, Robins told them, because they were so popular with the car culture crowd. Nothing like having a perfect 1937 Pierce Arrow pedal car replica sitting next to your real 1937 Pierce Arrow automobile – and both painted the same color at a car show. Together, those cars will draw people to them like flies to sugar.
On my way home, I decided to stop in to see Haig Haleblian, owner of Exceed Flooring in Crystal Lake. Haleblian has been a good car buddy of mine for years and is a big-time car guy with an affinity for vintage European rides. He absolutely is passionate about early rear-engine, air-cooled Porsches. I wanted to see if he was working on any new vintage car projects.
The first ride he showed me was a very tired looking 1969 real-deal Myers Manx dune buggy. While it’s not European, it is rear drive and has a hopped-up 1600cc dual port, dual carburetor VW engine in it. So, it’s sort of like a poor man’s air-cooled Porsche. These were kit cars (now called component cars), and the Meyers Manx was the one to build for yourself. Because of their rarity and low-model build. they have become extremely desirable when and if they appear on the collector car auction circuit. Haleblian said the little fiberglass dune buggy was a work in progress.
He then showed me what he’s seriously working on when he has the time. There, standing in front of me, was what Enzo Ferrari called the ”most beautiful car in the world” when he first saw it unveiled to the public at the 1961 Geneva, Switzerland, new car show. The car, an icon with all car enthusiasts if there ever was one, was a 1966 E Type Series I Jaguar (DOHC) double overhead cam 165-horsepower six-cylinder coupe. This highly sought after model with the fully covered headlights has taken on an almost religious aura with collector car aficionados. This beauty, however, needs some tender loving care.
“The car sort of found me,” Haleblian said. He had been talking to a car buddy about a particular early Porsche he had just bought. The individual knew the model and loved it, so he asked Haleblian if he would sell it to him. Haleblian told him he hadn’t gone through the car yet and hadn’t really driven it on the street. His friend wouldn’t take no for an answer and asked if a trade would be okay. Haleblian asked what he had to trade, and his friend said he had a ’66 Jag XKE (it’s name when it came from England and arrived on American shores back in the mid 1960s). The friend went on to say the car was a low-mile, all-original – except for one repaint in the factory color Opalescent green – late 1980s, survivor car. Absolutely no rust on it, as it came out of mostly dry and warm Texas. Haleblian told him to send a few pictures. Once Haleblian saw the photos, he knew he wanted the car, especially since it was worth more than his Porsche at the time. So, the deal was made.
The car mechanically is perfect and runs like a Swiss watch. The paint job the car received in the ’80s was really faded due to the Texas sun. So now Haleblian is wet-hand sanding the entire car, and then he will rub it out until that opalescent green shines like new. Haleblian has a very large task ahead of him, and I asked him to call me when he had the car back to his liking. I really want to see the car finished, and maybe take a ride in it. “Will do,” he replied.
I got to thinking, all three cars I saw being saved for prosperity have been featured in hit songs. The 32 Ford 3 window coupe is the famous “Lil’ Deuce Coupe” the Beach Boys sang about in 1961. The Olds 442 was the car the group Primus was singing about in their 1991 hit “Jerry Was A Race Car Driver” and, of course, the Jaguar was the ride featured in the song “Dead Man’s Curve” by Jan and Dean in 1964. You know you have a sought-after car when a hit song was written about it.