By Phil Hall
The four makes of motor vehicles featured as the theme of the July 12-15, 2012, Iola Old Car Show — Plymouth, Mercury, Pontiac and Oldsmobile — may have expired early in this century (thus the theme “21st Century Orphans”), but each has left a long history of significant products that are being celebrated.
This is clearly illustrated in the Wisconsin-sourced quartet selected for this year’s poster, program cover, T-shirts and other souvenirs.
They are a 1938 Plymouth pickup truck owned by Vernon Meyer of Wisconsin Rapids, 1950 Mercury coupe owned by Matt Gilson of DePere, 1957 Pontiac Bonneville convertible owned by Chuck Richardson of Fitchburg and 1969 Hurst/Oldsmobile hardtop owned by Bob Blattler of Manitowoc.
Histories of the poster vehicles vary as much as their age and configuration. One was owner-restored, one was professionally restored, one was fine just the way it was and finally, one is mostly original, with minor restoration.
Representing the truck contingent is the 1938 Plymouth PT-57 pickup of Vernon Meyer. A long-time Plymouth owner and restorer, after he rebuilt a 1937 Plymouth pickup, Meyer had parts left over and set out to find another one to restore.
“My nephew had a 1938 pickup with a cracked block he wanted to get rid of,” Meyer said. “He wanted to get the block repaired and put it in a Massey-Harris tractor. I let him have the engine and used a 1947 Plymouth 217-cid flathead six I had.”
Meyer sent out the machining work and rebuilt the engine himself. That was just the start of his work on the 1938.
“I rebuilt the transmission, repaired the frame, re-arched the right rear spring, did the electrical work, installed the interior, redid the brakes and did the welding. I cut the Plymouth logo out of a rough tailgate and assembled a better one,” Meyer noted.
Meyer has owned many Chrysler products over the years, and at 84 years old, he still works on them. His two Plymouth pickups are currently joined by a 1967 Plymouth Barracuda and 1973 Road Runner. He has done work on both.
We jump from an owner in his 80s to 28-year-old Matt Gilson, who wanted a 1950s collector car, in stock condition to replace a Harley. Matt works in Florida, but will come to Iola for the show. His dad Mike is keeping the 1950 Mercury at his home in DePere.
The 1949-’51 Mercury is one of the most customized postwar cars of all time. Finding a stock example in excellent condition is rare and keeping it that way is even rarer.
Matt and Mike looked for a nice Mercury all over the Midwest, but found their car on the Internet in nearby Fond du Lac.
“The Merc was solid; it was like a new old car. We were told it was up on blocks from 1959 to 2002,” Mike said.
They fixed an oil leak and put on new shocks, but left it the way it was.
“We left the single exhaust and glass pack muffler in place,” Mike said, noting their lone concession to a non-stock item.
They’ve had the Merc about six years and have logged about 4,000 miles going to and from car shows.
Easily holding down honors for the longest ownership of a poster car is Chuck Richardson. 2012 will mark his 50th year.
“My dad owned Richardson Pontiac of Spring Green and the Bonneville came in as a trade-in on Christmas Eve of 1962. I had just graduated from high school and wanted a convertible,” he said.
He was getting one of the rarest of performance Pontiacs, a car that featured Rochester mechanical fuel injection and drew only 630 orders in 1957. It was the first production Bonneville and a mid-year model. However, it took years for Chuck Richardson to realize what he had.
The dealership mechanics pulled the injection setup and replaced the 347 with a 1958 370-cid V-8 with a four barrel carburetor.
“I kept the fuel injection setup, thankfully,” he said.
He drove the car with the later engine for several years and then parked it outside, behind the dealership. About 1980, he started restoring it with replacement floor panels and a new paint job, which it still carries today.
Around 2000, he went the full-resto route and had a full body-off-frame restoration completed in Casper, Wyo.
“They redid the interior and found a 1957 347 to mount the injection on,” he said.
Now all is well with the world and the Pontiac is seen at many shows around Wisconsin. It has been in the Iola feature tent in the past.
“It’s not a trailer queen, I’ve put about 30,000 miles on it since the restoration — it has about 82,000 now,” he added.
Falling in the middle of fully restored and original is the 1969 Hurst/Oldsmobile of Bob Blattler. Model year 1969 was the second for the Cutlass hardtop to be modified with factory blessings by Hurst Performance. Originally, the plan was to use the Hurst connection to allow installation of a 455-cid V-8 in the intermediate Cutlass, something parent General Motors frowned on.
It may have been love at first sight for Blattler, who initially saw his car at a show in 1995, but it took until 2003 for him to get the owner to listen to his pleas and sell it.
“It needed minor rust repair and there was some quarter panel damage. I painted the lower areas after the body work, but the rest of the surface is original and the chrome is in good shape,” he said. “I also put new shocks, rear springs and tires,” he added.
Other than a tune-up, the H/O, which now has 44,000 miles, has performed fine without a rebuild.
“In 2007 I took it to the dragstrip at Wisconsin International Raceway (Kaukauna) on rookie night and made six passes, turning 13.56-seconds for my best run on the quarter-mile,” Blattler noted.
However, area car shows are fare for the car these days. When not at shows, the Olds is not lonely, as Blattler also has 1979 and 1983 Hurst/Olds machines and a 1985 Olds 4-4-2.
The poster for the 2012 Iola car show looks to be taken at a drive-in movie. Actually, photographer and designer Clay Miller staged the whole thing last fall, using the Activity Center on the Iola Old Car Show grounds, not far from the feature tent where all four poster vehicles will be on display for the run of the show.
To learn more about the 2012 Iola Old Car Show, visit www.iolaoldcarshow.com.
Fans of these 21st-century orphans can learn more here:
- The Standard Catalog of Oldsmobile 1897-1997, the ultimate reference guide for Oldsmobile fans and auto historians, is back with updated collector pricing through 2004 models!
- Find Mercury info with the Mercury 1961-1975 Standard Statistics Download.
- Plymouth pricing and data can be found in our Standard Catalog of Chrysler 1914-2000.
- The Standard Catalog of Pontiac 1926-2002, the ultimate reference guide for Pontiac fans and auto historians, is back with updated collector pricing through 2005 models!