26 August 2010

Our Cars: Linda Austin's American classics

There’s something contagious floating around the Hagerty offices. No, we’re not talking about the swine flu or the common cold – it’s something we’ve come to call the “Collecting Bug.” No matter their background, it doesn’t take long for many employees to show some symptoms.

Linda Austin, vice president of Auto Sales and Service, is a prime example. She contracted “the bug” after spending three years on the phones with clients and learning about their experiences. Now, nearly 10 years later, the five cars she’s collected prove that the “affliction” might take up a lot of space, but it’s sure a lot of fun.

Cars

• 1929 Model A Tudor (2001)
• 1952 Ford Pickup (2002)
• 1947 Dodge Pickup (2002)
• 1953 Chevrolet Pickup (2003)
• 1931 Model A Tudor (2006)

Car background

“My interest in the hobby really began after I started working for Hagerty. After three years of hearing about clients’ experiences with classic cars and their passion, I decided I wanted one of my own. But I didn’t want a car that I grew up with; I wanted a really old one. I got a bit carried away and filled all the extra storage space at my house with a vehicle of my dreams. Now my dreams sometimes go back and forth between “what was I thinking” to my original vision of driving down the road in my classic vehicle.”

Why older cars?

“I started with a Model A because I wanted a truly “old” car, not one that I remember growing up with. I was tempted by a Model T, but was a little wary of learning how to drive one. Plus the one I was looking at was sold before I could take a look at it. I like the history attached to the Model A. It lets my mind wonder back to those simpler times, and I enjoy imagining the “family car” as it was used back in the 1929 and the early ’30s.

“With my trucks, I like the look of the big hip fenders. And I couldn’t resist the grille on that ’47 Dodge Truck.”

Repairs and modifications (planned or completed)

“I plan to keep my vehicles original. The only modifications I’ve made are for safety, such as better brakes on the 1953 and a generator on the 1931. They all require repairs or maintenance from time to time. I wish I was a better mechanic, so I rely heavily on my friends in the Cherry Capital Model A Club and my local mechanic to keep my cars and trucks on the road. I try to do some of the work myself, but I always keep my cell phone handy to call for assistance.

“The Model A’s and 1953 truck are the only ones currently on the road. The other two trucks need major restoration that I may or may not get to. It’s when I look at them when I wonder what I was thinking, but I’m always inspired when I see similar models at car shows so they remain in my garage.”

Hobby activities

“I belong to the Cherry Capital Model A Club, Model A Restorers Club and Model A Club of America. I really love the long drives with the other club members. We always have a lot of laughs, find good food along the way and have a great time.

Interesting stories

“I broke down at the first gas stop during one of my first long trips with the Model A. I was traveling with the Cherry Capital Model A Club from Traverse City to Port Huron, but the car just would not start back up. But my fellow club members were determined to get me back on the road. At each stop, the guys would try and figure out what was wrong, and then give me a push to get it started. I quickly learned that I didn’t pop the clutch quickly enough! They all had quite an exhausting workout, and I’m still learning that clutch-popping routine.

“We reached our destination, and the next morning I disappointedly went to breakfast while the guys continued to troubleshoot. They discovered that it was the battery ground that was causing the trouble; fortunately an easy fix with a piece of emery cloth. They weren’t about to let me off that easy though. When I walked back, they had pieces of my Model A (and a lot of their spare parts) scattered all around the car. I stood there with my mouth gaping, and they all had the last laugh.”

Favorite drive

I really love the drive from Traverse City to St. Ignace, crossing over the Mackinac Bridge. There’s nothing quite like looking across the Straits from the seat of a classic.

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