Car crazy

August 09, 2005|by MORGAN FAHEY

What is it that drives a person to take a rusty old car and make it into their own customized classic?

Josh Stanton, 18, of Smithsburg, is the proud owner of a '95 Jeep Wrangler, but it's not an ordinary Jeep. Stanton has transformed it into an off-road vehicle, with a Straight 6 Jasper engine, four-inch lift kit, computer chip to upgrade horsepower, roof rack, brush guards and a performance clutch. He didn't just add off-the-shelf parts. His customized shifter is a 3 ball right off the pool table.

Stanton has poured $9,000 into transforming his Jeep, $4,000 for the engine alone. He plans on enlarging the vehicle one day.

Stanton said he customized his Jeep because he lives in the mountains. He drives on so many trails, a regular car just wouldn't cut it. An upgrade seemed to him to be a necessity.


"I love the woods, so I figured I might as well explore them," Stanton explained.

Stanton, whose father had always driven a truck, decided early on that he wanted a Jeep. While driving down the road one day, he spotted the one he now drives. That was the easy part. The process of upgrading the vehicle has been a long one.

"It's a lot of trial and error," Stanton said. "If it doesn't fit, just start over."

Classic restoration

Sonny Showalter and his nephew Eric Martin, of State Line, Pa., teamed up to repair a '69 Chevelle Super Sport back in 2002. After 3 1/2 years, the car is nearly completed.

Three and a half years, a whole lot of work, and $17,000 was worth it to Showalter and Martin. The Chevelle was Showalter's original car back in '71. He had sold it because he needed another vehicle.

"If I had it to do over again with all the money in the world, I would have kept the car," he said.

Showalter was elated when, in 1998, the car's owner returned it to him for a 25th wedding anniversary gift. Showalter's work sticker from 1973 was still in the back window.

But the car wasn't quite as he remembered it.

"It had pretty much gone to no-where land. It was in pretty rough shape," Showalter said.

After working at an auto body shop for four years, then moving on to Mack Trucks, Showalter had learned a lot about working on vehicles. He hired Martin, who had worked with him at both places, and together they built their own rotisserie - a car lift that can turn a car on its side - and set to work.

They kept the original roof, interior sheet metal, frame motor, transmission, rims (although the tires are new), and original rear-end. But they replaced a lot.

The front end was entirely rusted out. Showalter and Martin redid the power steering, sanded the roof down to bare metal, completely rebuilt the original engine - a 396-cubic-inch big-block - and transmission with the help of two friends, recovered the seats, replaced the front end and installed all new gas lines and brake lines. All the exterior sheet metal had to be replaced. Showalter and Martin used a firewall and back end from a donor car to replace the firewall in Showalter's Chevelle.

"We completely tore apart every nut and bolt," Showalter declared.

Showalter's wife is also excited about the restored Chevelle's progress.

"She's anxious to get behind the wheel," he said. "I'm a little worried, though, because it's going to have a little more punch than her four-cylinder car."

This '69 Chevelle is one of Showalter's dream cars. He added that he and Martin plan to build a customized clone that will be street legal but juiced up for drag racing.

Salvaging classics

George Hammond, 65, of Williamsport loves old cars, especially Chevrolets. He has a salvage yard of cars and trucks out back, the walls of his house are lined with pictures and model cars, and he has a room full of car-show trophies.

He currently owns eighteen cars and trucks, all of which he restored. The majority are Chevrolets.

"I've restored Chevys and been involved with Chevys pretty near all my life," he said. "In fact, that is how I got into the salvage yard business in '71, because it was either that or get rid of them."

When Hammond was younger, he lived on a farm with a sister and three brothers, all three of which tinkered on cars. People would give the Hammond boys old cars to see if they could get them running.

"It was a learning experience," Hammond says.

Hammond prefers working on classic vehicles. His favorite car to drive around is the '57 Chevy he customized. He lowered it three inches, put disc brakes on the front, customized the interior, installed a '57 Buick grille, and replaced the drive train with a 327-cubic-inch engine with an aluminum high-rise carburetor and a 350 Turbo transmission with a shift kit.

He's always wanted a '57 Chevrolet.

"When I was running around in the Fifties, (a friend of mine) had a white one and (another friend) had a blue one," he said. "I just always wanted one."

He has no idea of the amount of money it took to restore all his vehicles, but he knows that it cost a lot to buy them.

"I guess it just depends on whether you like your money or you like your cars," Hammond said.

He also likes going to cars shows. He often attends the June Jubilee in Martinsburg, W.Va., weekly Saturday car nights at Valley Mall in Hagerstown and many other local car shows.

Though he doesn't work as much on cars anymore, his son, Tom, is carrying on the tradition. He got his start working with his dad on old cars.

"The best way to learn is OJT - on the job training," Hammond said. "You take it apart, and put it back together, and if that doesn't work, take it apart and put it back together again."

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