4 June 2012

Reach for the sky

The Grille screams Cadillac, the front fenders suggest Buick and the rears whisper Lincoln Continental, but Angela Viersen’s Skylane Motor Special is a one-off custom, built by her great-grandfather.

In 1949, Leroy Viersen Jr. wanted to build a car to showcase his skills. Viersen and his son, Leroy III , set to work in the old carriage shop that housed the Viersen’s Skylane Motors repair shop.

Like so many hot rods, the starting point was a reinforced ’32 Ford chassis. The rear frame was Z’d to lower the car, and a front cross member from a 1940 Ford was fitted to accept a 1946 Mercury beam front axle. Steel front and rear body sections were fabricated by hand over a tubular frame. A 1948 Buick donated front fenders, while the modified rears came from a 1948 Lincoln. Viersen fabricated and louvered the hood himself.

For power, Viersen chose a 230.4-cid Mercury Flathead, which he built using a 3/4-grind camshaft, Meyer dual manifold and heads and a compression ratio of 9:1. He topped it with a pair of Carter carburetors and a custom Kong ignition. The three-speed transmission came from a 1948 Merc.

Inside, an Auburn instrument panel hosted instruments from a 1941 Buick. The floors were carpeted and the low-mounted seats trimmed in leather.

After three years, Viersen completed his dream car. The stunning custom caught many eyes, including those of publisher Bob “Pete” Petersen, who put it on the June 1951 cover of Motor Trend magazine.

A few years later, Viersen Jr. died suddenly and his distraught family rolled the car into storage, where it sat for the 30 years.

Growing up, Angela Viersen recalls: “We could only see a little of the car because it was covered with things. When Pa (her grandfather, Leroy Viersen III ) asked if I wanted it, I had to talk to my husband, Johnny Crego. When we went to get the car, I didn’t know what we were getting into; it didn’t run and was in pretty bad shape.”

The couple started the restoration in 2000 when Johnny entrusted it to Bobby Regeirro of Bob’s Restoration in Los Angeles. The finished car won the Special Interest Class at the 2004 Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona. Many other awards and magazine features followed.

Angela and Johnny take the car to several “special shows” each year. As for Angela, she’s just happy to have this indelible rolling link with her great-grandfather and her grandfather.

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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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