4 June 2012

Patron Saints

No matter how obscure your orphaned car, you have a knight in shining armor ready to keep your car on the road. Meet your Patron Saints

Every American who drives an orphan car knows the Ghostbusters movie question: “Who ya gonna call?” Luckily, there are “patron saints” across the United States who have devoted their lives to keeping your car on the road despite the lack of parts, shop manuals and other general know-how about a given marque. We’ve asked a number of these dedicated patrons how they got involved with their car of choice and what sort of challenges they and their fellow owners face in keeping those orphan cars running.

1955-1975 Citroën DS 19/20/21/23

Richard Bonfond of Sacramento, California
916-689-3928, rbonfond@comcast.net
These iconic machines were first introduced at the Paris Auto Show in 1955 and are considered by many, including Classic & Sports Car, to be among the most beautiful cars ever built, with design by Italian sculptor Flaminio Bertoni and French aeronautical engineer André Lefèbvre. The DS series featured directional headlights and a self-leveling hydraulic suspension that provided excellent ride control and handling — during a time when independent suspensions were rare.

Q: How did you get involved?
A: My father was technical manager for Citroën for the western U.S. and I was around them from day one. I worked for Citroën in the U.S., then in Paris, Brussels and in Britain. I’ve got five D models at present, a convertible and a wagon, and recently acquired a 1956 DS 19 barn find.

Q: What are some common challenges for owners?
A: The biggest problem now is the cars are old. Citroën is no longer here and you get people who muck around with the cars and think they know better. When I end up with a car with an issue, I usually find it’s human error.

Q: How about parts availability?
A: The DS parts supply is better than in the 1990s; the cars are collectible and everything is remanufactured — interiors, technical parts. I bought a complete parts department from a retired dealer and I have a lot of resources.

1981-1982 DeLorean

Stephen Wynne of the DeLorean Motor Company in Humble, Texas
800-872-3621, delorean.com, info@delorean.com
These stainless-steel, gullwing sports cars were the brainchild of John DeLorean, the former GM executive who established his own short-lived sports car concern in Northern Ireland. Powered by a rear-mounted Peugeot/Renault/Volvo V-6 producing 130 hp, the cars attracted a dedicated group of followers but were not a large seller, with only 8,742 units produced.

Q: How did you get involved?
A: I’m an English and French car mechanic who came to the U.S. from Liverpool in 1980. With DeLorean’s troubles, everybody was running away from the cars. When we bought the remaining factory inventory, we got all the spares and technical drawings. We redesign and reproduce parts to keep quality up and make them affordable.

Q: What are some common challenges for owners?
A: When people are thinking about buying cars, they check prices and parts availability. So we have parts and reasonable prices, but who’s going to fix the cars? We have five franchises in the U.S. and one in Europe, so it’s not difficult to own a DeLorean. There’s a service and support network out there. If people can’t drive cars, they lose interest.

Q: What about parts availability?
A: We have a 40,000-square-foot warehouse in Houston, most of the time with more than 95-percent availability of spare parts.

1946-1954 Hudson

Jack Miller of the Hudson Heritage Museum in Ypsilanti, Michigan
734-482-5200, ypsiautoheritage.org, hudsondealer@ypsiautoheritage.org
Hudsons of this era, especially after 1949, were known for their sleek, “step-down” bodies, which referred to the placement of the passenger compartment down inside the perimeter of the frame. With the resulting lower center of gravity, handling was improved. Powered by its high-torque inline six, the Hudson was an excellent performer and dominated NASCAR racing in the early 1950s. Hudson merged with Nash Kelvinator in 1954 to form American Motors.

Q: How did you get involved?
A: I started working in a Hudson dealership when I was 14. I was driving new Hudson and American Motors demonstrator cars to school at 16. I never left. Our dealership building in Ypsilanti is now one-third of the museum.

Q: What are some common challenges for owners?
A: Hudsons were over-engineered and over-built. My expertise is post-WWII cars, but he Hudson-Essex-Terraplane club (hudsonclub.org) is very knowledgeable, and we have guys who specialize. The museum has many sources, information and manuals.

Q: How about parts availability?
A: We have lots of relationships and know places to go for parts. We get involved working out problems on the phone.

THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN

Here’s a list of more patron saints — bless them all!

• Chevrolet Corvair: Larry Claypool, The Vair Shop, 815-469-2936, vairshop.com, larry@vairshop.com

• Excalibur: Alice Preston, Camelot Classic Cars, 414-760-3111, excaliburclassics.com, excalgal@prodigy.net

• Jensen Interceptor: Doug Meyer, K&D Enterprises, 425-788-0507, interceptor.org, administrator@jenseninterceptor.com

• Toyota 2000GT: Peter Starr, Bob Tkacik, Maine Line Exotics, 207-286-9467, mainelineexotics.com, sales@mainelineexotics.com

For every one patron saint we’ve included, there are scores we’ve missed. For Swallow Doretti there’s Tom Householder in Ohio, while AMX owners can turn to californiaclassicamc.com. And then there are a few patron saints who keep many marques on the road, like Kip Motors for any British orphans or Re‑Originals for many Italian marques.

For more about patron saints, go to hagerty.com/patronsaints. If you know of any other patron saints, tell us about them. Let us know at editor@hagerty.com

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To see this article in its original format, view the pdf version of the Summer 2011 issue of Hagerty magazine

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