REVVED UP: Buying, keeping and driving a classic vehicle

By Stacie Smith • Last Updated 11:24 am on Monday, July 01, 2013

Two antique modes of transportation — a 1908 Sears and Roebuck Model J horse carriage, in back, and a 1973 Chrysler New Yorker — await some maintenance at Flat River Repair in Greenville.

According to the State of Michigan, for a vehicle to qualify for an historical or authentic license plate, it must be at least 26 years old, based on the model year deducted from the present calendar date. Two local, classic car owners talk about their passion and the care and expense involved with owning and maintaining a classic car.

Don Rush stands alongside his classic 1973 Chrysler New Yorker. Rush offers a few pointers to those interested in purchasing an antique vehicle.

Don Rush, owner of Flat River Repair, has long loved classic cars, including the 1973 lime green Chrysler New Yorker he owns. Having an extensive knowledge and background in mechanics makes it less intimidating to purchase and restore a classic vehicle, he said. Rush offers a couple simple mechanic’s tips to determine the quality of a vehicle. One good idea is to look at the undercarriage of the vehicle. You can also find possible flaws or detect previous work done on a car just by hearing the sound from tapping on the doors.

Both the Chrysler and a 1965 Plymouth Barracuda Rush owns were purchased from California owners. Due to less drastic weather conditions, the vehicles’ bodies were in good condition. It is keeping those cars in shape in Michigan’s climate that presents the challenge, Rush said. However, wind, rain and snow aren’t the only things that can eat away at a vehicle.

“Varmint control is the biggest issue,” Rush said. “They can wreak havoc with a car that sits.

“One option (to avoid this) is a good cat,” Rush laughed. “Some people use moth balls and there are some other things on the market (for pest control).”

Rush owns a rat terrier mix that makes for a great guard dog around his classic cars.

“He catches anything that moves,” Rush said about his dog. “He’s on an electric collar and has free reign around the yard.”

Rush stores his New Yorker in a pole barn during the winter months. He advises disconnecting the battery and, once the warmth of spring arrives, start the engine and allow it to run at least an hour. Rush also suggested that once someone purchases a certain model vehicle, they should contact and join a club centered on that particular make and model to create and wider network of friends and contacts that offer more knowledge about the vehicle.

James Hugenroth’s 1974 Chevorlet Corvette amid a field of American flags.

Belding resident James Hugenroth is part of the Greenville Corvette Club. He owns a 1974 Corvette and takes it to various auto show events.

Hugenroth first developed an interest in Corvettes when a high school friend’s dad owned a 1974 Corvette. Knowing what he wanted was one thing, though. Affording the price tag a classic car like that comes with would prove a more difficult task. Building up and saving money to purchase such an item became Hugenroth’s No.1 priority.

Once he was able to purchase the car, his fiscal responsibility didn’t stop there, either. Maintaining the vehicle comes at a cost, as well, both with time and money.

To help absorb some of the cost of owning and maintaining his Corvette, Hugenroth does the work himself. He said he wouldn’t have it any other way. He also recommends having mechanical inclination if even considering the purchase of a classic car.

“If you’re going to own a car like that, you want to do the work yourself,” Hugenroth said. “I want to do the work. I want to be involved.”

While many car enthusiasts purchase a classic car for the purpose of entering shows or parades, Hugenroth isn’t just into the aesthetics of a classic car. He wanted a car in good working condition so he could enjoy the thrill of driving it often.

“I like to use it as a road car. I like to take it places,” Hugenroth said. “It is in my best interest not to have it in mint condition, I like to drive it.”

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