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Boonsboro garage provides a haven for car guys

November 11, 2005|by JESSICA HENESY

BOONSBORO - The group of men gathered on a Wednesday evening at John Lloyd Jr.'s garage vary greatly in personality and age but they all have one thing in common - a passion for fixing up old cars.

"Sounds like a timing problem in the motor," one says of a mysterious noise that is heard in the project of the evening, a Model A Ford.

"Could be an oil leak," says another and thus begins another evening of friendly banter and car talk between friends, old and new.

Lloyd has been working on old cars since he can remember but has only been fixing cars in his garage off Rt. 40 near Boonsboro since he moved to Hagerstown in 1996. He previously ran a nursing home in Annapolis and opened Reeder's Nursing Home in Boonsboro.

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While the Ford, hoisted on the ramp, is the centerpiece of conversation, a different type of "model" just beyond the car and spanning the back of the garage, holds the attention of the first-time visitor.

Lloyd built a life-size replica of a Sinclair gas station, complete with a walk-in "station" that includes an old sliding credit card machine that imprints SInclair's account number, inside his garage at the back. A table inside the "station" contains a scale model of an actual Sinclair gas station that "dings" when a little car pulls up to the pump and "chugs" the gas into the car.

Outside the station, a female mannequin sports a Sinclair workshirt with the name badge of "Hersch." Various car care equipment, such as a tire changer and headlight tester, and Sinclair memorabilia line the front. An old-fashioned gas pump displaying the price of 19 cents a gallon is evidence that gas was once below $2.

But why the Sinclair brand?

Besides the fact that Lloyd's uncles owned gas stations and one of those bore the Sinclair name, the reason is relatively simple.

Lloyd traded a motor scooter for the "Sinclair High-Compression Gasoline" sign and it snowballed from there.

"It started with the sign," Lloyd said. "Then my daughter would bring me home other Sinclair items and people just started giving things to me. Many artifacts are from friends."

As for the "artifacts" that Lloyd fixes in the garage, he would much rather drive them out on the open road and does so often on the road trips that he takes with the Hub City Model A Ford Club, a group founded by Lloyd and his friend, Stan Thomas. Club meetings are held the first Wednesday of each month but are not merely social - they are more focused on different aspects of car care and repair such as radiators (November's topic). Ladies are welcome and Lloyd said that in addition to a "ladies' night," many wives of club members will go "on tour" once a month in the antique cars. In fact, the most recent member of the club is a woman, Lloyd said.

"I find it interesting that a local hobbyist has opened a facility like this and is encouraging and supportive of this type of hobby; it's very unique," Thomas said.

While not all of the men helping Lloyd on this particular Wednesday night are members of the Hub City Model A Ford club, anyone is welcome to join him at the garage on Wednesday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m. to fix cars or just "shoot the breeze." These evening get-togethers started with Lloyd, Dick Hartle and Ron Ford just working on their cars and, as word spread, evolved into an open setting where car buffs can stop in and help out as they please.

Among the group this evening are Hartle, Ford, Thomas, Dan O'Connell, Ron Mullins, Walt Ledden and Justin Ledden, all of whom contribute a special talent, according to Lloyd.

Lloyd says Thomas, retired from Hagerstown Trust, is "the detail man; he's the glue that keeps everything together," while Hartle, who retired from Sears, is "a good mechanic; the first time he listens to a Model A, he tell you 'Well it's definitely not this and it's certainly not that.'"

Walt Ledden has some "newer" cars from the '60s and just recently became interested in older cars, LLoyd said. Ledden owns the Model A that the group is working on this evening.

At 17, Walt's son, Justin, is the youngest member of the group but has already restored a Blue Dart, Lloyd said.

O'Connell, owner of O'Connell Jewelers in the Valley Mall, brings the experience from owning at least three Model Ts and a '57 Thunderbird, which he drove to Lloyd's garage.

Mullins can describe Chevys from every year and note the differences although he is partial to Fords, LLoyd says.

Ford is the "Model T Man," but Lloyd is quick to point out that Ford is no heir to Henry, the founder of the automobile empire. He worked at MCI for 33 years and has a bevy of cars from which to draw knowledge of motors.

"I have a '64 Ford convertible, eight Model Ts, a Model A, a '65 T-Bird, a '38 Ford and a '77 Mercury Cougar," Ford rattles off without taking a breath.

"Oh, and four Fortune tractors."

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