Back in the ’60s I worked as a salesman for a food outfit. I lived in Staten Island, N.Y. and covered territories in New Jersey. Many of my first experiences in the hobby took place in the Garden State where antique cars had license plates with a “QQ” prefix. In 1978, I got the job at OLD CARS WEEKLY. I put my family on a plane to our new home and got ready to drive our 1954 Chevy sedan to Wisconsin. The car was not in good shape and had license plates that were out of date. Somewhere in New Jersey a state tropper saw the expired tags and stopped me. The car had one window roken out and my rather crazy dog was tied in the back seat. I told the trooper I was escaping the East for a new life in Wisconsin and suggested he let me go with a warning. I don’t know if the growling dog helped, but the trooper followed my advice and I was soon on my way again. Later, I enjoyed making trips back to New Jersey as part of the job. I would stay with my parents, but my old salesman’s training and committment to do an honest day’s work often led me to drive around during the day calling on old car businesses. We had a technical writer–a chemist named Ed–who lived in Boonton, N.J., so I went to see him and he took me to visit Kanter Auto Products. They were housed in a very large old building. The top floor was entirely devoted to the storage of Packard parts, while the lower floors were filled with NOS and reproduction parts for later-model collector cars. On the same trip, I went to visit Bill Hirsh, another icon in the old-car business. He also had an unusual old building with foot-thick walls. It had once been a fur vault and he even offered to sell me an old fur coat. Newark is not the garden spot of the Garden State, but I had worked there in the ’60s and driving around still brought back memories. Another long-time OCW advertiser I went to see on that rip was Robert Turnquist at Hibernia Auto Restorations. After a tour of his fabulous shop, which had turned out many Classics, I was invited to his home to see his even more fabulous collection of cars and antique toys. I would guess all this took place in 1980 or 1981, but I remember it all as if it took place yesterday. This is a wonderful hobby with lots of fantastic people involved and lots of fun things to see and those New Jersey “QQ” plate owners go a long ways back in the hobby.
Gunner’s Garage with John Gunnell
"Gunner" is one of of the most prolific authors and most visible characters in the old car hobby. He has written dozens of books about old cars for Krause Publications and is the former editor and publisher of Old Cars Weekly. His collecting pursuits range from old Pontiacs, to MGs, to retired police cruisers, to Indian motorcycles. He remains a frequent contributor to Old Cars Weekly and owns and operates Gunner’s Great Garage, a classic car restoration and gift shop in Manawa, Wis.
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