Old cars show style

June 29, 2003|by JULIE E. GREENE

Eric Kirk admires antique cars, including his 1956 tangerine and white Studebaker President on display Saturday at the Mason Dixon Region of the Antique Car Club of America's annual car show at the Williamsport Redmen grounds.

Kirk, 51, of Winchester, Va., also likes his 1926 Paige, but it was the car that defeated his Paige two years ago at a Winchester competition that was Kirk's favorite on Saturday.

The object of Kirk's admiration was a 1926 canary and black Wills Sainte Claire roadster with a dark tan leather seat and a six-cylinder engine with an overhead cam.


"It's an immaculate restoration," Kirk said. "I'm just in awe of the work that was done on that automobile."

William B. Hunsberger can't take all the credit for the handiwork, but he did hire the people who restored his rare classic.

"To me, it's like a piece of art," said Hunsberger, a retiree who lives near Leitersburg.

"I found it in my father's barn," Hunsberger said. "It was in good shape, but it wasn't in show condition."

When asked how much the restoration cost, Hunsberger said, "You can ask, but I'm not telling you.

"It was salty," he said, meaning it cost a lot.

Hunsberger's late father, Russell B. Hunsberger, bought the car in 1977.

Of the 12,000 Wills Sainte Claires made from 1921 to 1926, approximately 60 are left, Hunsberger said. The car is named for its creator, C. Harold Wills, and the Michigan river along which the cars were built.

Wills was Henry Ford's right-hand man for about 16 years until the two had a falling out and Wills, a rich man, left in 1919 and started building the Wills Sainte Claires, Hunsberger said.

Wills, a metallurgist with an engineering background, helped Ford design the Model T, Hunsberger said.

The roadster has big disc wheels, a rumble seat, a wooden steering wheel, a compartment on the side for a golf bag, a backup light and biflex nickel bumpers.

The car is decorated with Canada geese. In addition to a gray goose hood ornament, a goose design is on the bumpers.

On Aug. 28, 1926, a Wills Sainte Claire set a cross country record, traveling from San Francisco to New York in 83 hours and 12 minutes, according to "Wills Sainte Claire Motor Cars" by Dave Jenkins.

In addition to that book, Hunsberger has the original handbook and recently acquired a care and operating book for the car. The book notes that, when possible, the car should be driven down the center of the road to keep it on a level plane and avoid rough spots in the road.

Hunsberger's Wills Sainte Claire was the grand national winner last November at the ACCA meet in North Carolina.

The Wills Sainte Claire wasn't the only rarity among the approximately 80 antique cars on display, said Stanley Stratton, who was president of the national ACCA in 1990.

Charles and Lisa Cadwallader of Kearneysville, W.Va., brought their 1933 brown and cream Continental Beacon. The couple has another Beacon at home and a Continental Flyer.

Among the cars on display was a 1959 Ford Galaxy with a retractable hard top and a 1956 Chevrolet convertible. The convertible sported its original baby blue paint, said Halfway resident Jerry Reid.

Reid's wife, Donna, owns the car. It is one of seven antique cars the couple owns.

To be an antique, a car must be at least 25 years old, said Les Adelsberger, president of the regional ACCA.

That qualifies John Easton's 1951 bluish gray Chrysler Saratoga.

Easton, 76, said he drove to Topeka, Kansas, to get the car after finding it in "Old Cars Weekly."

The car sported a sign saying it had 1,843 miles on the odometer, but by the time Easton drove it to the car show from Berkeley Springs, W.Va., that had climbed to 1,886 miles.

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