- Written by webmin
In May, I wrote up some snapshots from the Keels and Wheels Concours in Texas. Now, official coverage is running in the upcoming Hemmings, but there were more great stories than I could fit into the four pages allotted. And I do mean great; it seemed as though everyone I talked to had a story worthy of a full feature, and next time I go down, I’m going to find these people and make sure their amazing tales get told properly. Like the one about the time John Cozad’s GT 500 burst into flames, in the middle of nowhere in Mexico. With his wife and three kids on board…
1969 Mustang GT 500 FB, John Cozad, South Padre, Texas
One day back in ’69, John spotted a GT 500 on the showroom floor of Joe Marsh Ford. He drove over in his GT 350, and drove out in the GT 500. “I whupped just about everything up and down South Main in Houston,” he said, and liked it so much he even bought a twin. It wasn’t all fun and games, though. Loaded up with a wife, three kids and their surfboards, on an Endless Summer expedition, a leaking fuel filler set the rear end on fire. “It burned like a torch,” he said. After escaping from the middle of nowhere in Mexico, some local ingenuity got the car home. The dealership was apparently less ingenious, though, because it happened twice more.
John’s obviously taken care of that, because he won Best in Class for Shelbys, a featured marque at the concours.
1931 Morgan Aero, Kim Freeman, Lake Jackson, Texas
When Kim found his three-wheeler in 1999 in pieces, it wasn’t a car that had been taken apart for restoration and never completed; instead, someone in San Francisco had thought it would make a good straight track racer. It went through another owner who started assembly, but by the time Kim got it, there was little of the original wood left and it had the wrong engine. And while the body was there, it was formed to fit around the original wood framing. As he didn’t want to rebody it, there was only one choice: Make reverse casts of the body to recreate the wood frame. Kim says while he retained every possible original piece, he did fabricate the new frame out of much heavier and stronger ash, rather than poplar. He’s shown the car many times, but only since 2007 has it had the correct engine.
1936 Baver Craft, Mark Hyman, St. Louis, Missouri
Noted collector-car dealer Mark Hyman’s Baver Craft is in the HMN coverage, but only there’s only one photo, so you don’t get a good look at just how wacky it is.
The Baver is a replica of an outlandish prototype produced for the USGS by Henry Baverstock. The replica runabout was built by Baverstock’s grandson from the original plans and completed in the early 2000s. It features hand formed copper and brass, although a quiet, modern four-stroke 9.8hp engine lies beneath the Captain Nemo engine cowling.
1961 Ferrari 250 GTE, Robert Weiner, Houston, Texas
Robert went to work for Shell Oil when he got out of college in 1970, and they sent him down to Houston for 22 weeks of training, complete with $20 day per diem. He needed transportation, of course, and came up with new car money, $3,700, for a Ferrari freshly imported from Italy. For that kind of scratch, he could have got himself into, if not a Hemi, at least a Six-Pack Charger. He gradually transitioned it from daily driver, to weekend car, and then when he was transferred to North Carolina, it sat for seven years. In 2003, he started an “evolving,” driving restoration with Vintage Motorcars in Houston that was more-or-less finished in 2009, or at least finished enough to yield Platinum certification at Cavallino last year (and Silver at Keels & Wheels). It’s now evolved back into a weekend car, although we don’t see daily driver in the cards again any time soon.
1948 Vauxhall Zimmerli, Frank Rubino, Pinecrest, Florida
No, it’s not a hot rod, but it is a custom, a one-off show car built for the London Earls Court show in 1948 by Swiss coachbuilders Zimmerli. Vauxhall owned the car for about 30 years, but it ended up stored in a warehouse until a GM executive acquired it and brought it to the US for his personal use. Frank then bought it in a deal brokered by Hyman, Ltd, and restored it himself. If it looks familiar, that may mean you’re a reader of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car, as it was featured in a story by Dave LaChance in the last issue, and Frank has been showing it extensively as well; it had a first place at Amelia Island a month before Keels & Wheels, where it took second (Silver) to Rufus Coburn’s SS in the British Vintage class.
1962 Ford Thunderbird, Mike Neumann, Bellaire, Texas
This M-code T-bird was coming home, since Mike bought it at the WWG Seabrook auction on this site a year earlier. Before that, though, it was a minor celebrity, coming from the Cinema Vehicle Services collections in California. “I like the bullet birds,” said Mike, “But it’s the engine what makes the car,” and lifting the hood on the tri-power 390 is a treat. Mike has done everything but the paint, and plans to do that soon. He’s also enjoying extensive research into the car’s past, and thinks that as built, with tri-power, no air conditioning and 3.10 rear end, it saw some sort of racing in the past. “It drives beautifully,” he said, and has taken it well into super-legal speeds. “It will cruise comfortably at 95,” he said. We’re sure he was on a closed course.
1958 Porsche 356A 1600 cabriolet, Hugo Zagaria, Houston, Texas
He’s had Porsches all his life, but finding an original, unrestored 356 is special. Hugo’s find came from the 356 collection of the second owner, in Kentucky, and he was able to track down the original owner thanks to that, who still had 30 years worth of records. “He kept every document,” said Hugo. “It’s a big book.” He found it had been imported by Max Hoffman in 1957, and sold to Connecticut, where the original owner kept it for 30 years; like him, “I tend to keep them a long time,” he said.
Together with Soraya Ontiveros, Hugo also brought the 1962 Porsche 356B coupe in the background; the restoration of that one was completed a week before the concours. “I obtained original leather seats from Porsche for that car,” he said “It cost me a lot of favors.” That car won Silver in the Porsche class.
1958 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce, Ben Schotz, Austin, Texas
If you were walking up an Austin alley, you’d have stopped, too, if you saw a Giulietta Sprint sitting in weeds up to the door handles. Ben hadn’t been an Alfa fan, but on that day in 1973, he became one. It took him a while to get into this early Spider, though it was also sitting in a field when another local Giulietta buddy found it in 1976. Ben acquired it in 1989, still unrestored, but partially apart and straight. By then, he had his own car business, Mercedes-Benz shop The Cobblers Shoes, and didn’t get the restoration of the Alfa seriously underway until 2004, completed in 2006. It went on to become a national Alfa award winner, with Silver in the Alfa Romeo class at Keels & Wheels.
1932 Cadillac 370B sedan, John Sweney and Mike Stargel, Houston, Texas
If John and Mike’s V-12 Cadillac looks a little short to your eyes, it’s not you—it’s them. A collective 12 feet, eight inches tall, the main reason they own it is just that it fit their respective 6’5” and 6’3” heights. “We were in search of a car that would fit our tall frames,” said John. Friends with the late collector John O’Quinn, they toured his warehouse to see what they would fit into, and narrowed it down to Cadillac and Lincoln. “Frankly, we’re in Texas, so we wanted a V-12 touring car. Packard, Rolls-Royce, Studebaker—none fit.”
Then they went looking, and eventually located a suitable car in West Virginia. A museum car, they found it “reasonably presentable, but with 30 years of museum wax on it.” Under that, though was good lacquer they estimated to be from the early Sixties, and that came back with rubbing. They had six new wire wheels—and a mascot—made, and then started on the real work. “It hadn’t been driven seriously since the restoration, about 50 years ago,” said John, and they certainly intended serious driving. To that end, they installed dual zone air conditioning, and a new LeBaron Bonney wool interior. For comfort, and that’s still a relative term, they dropped the seats two-and-a-half inches on half springs. “We didn’t intend on winning any concours,” they said (although they placed second in class). “We just wanted to drive it.” Thus, before the concours, they completed a 1,000-mile AACA tour, probably the longest drive in the car’s life. At the concours, it was constantly full of kids: “We put every 12-year-old we can find in it, and let them start it, when possible.” Better ambassadors for the hobby we can’t imagine.