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2017-09-06 / Featured / News

Chesterfield’s classic cars, and the seniors who love them

BY RICH GRISET STAFF WRITER AND BEN ORCUTT CONTRIBUTING WRITER


Pete Bell with his 1942 four-door Ford Super Deluxe. 
ASH DANIEL Pete Bell with his 1942 four-door Ford Super Deluxe. ASH DANIEL As the president of the Central Virginia Mopar Club – which promotes the restoration of any Chrysler-built car – and owner of five classic cars under the Chrysler umbrella, it’s not surprising that Jim Hill considers himself a Chrysler man.

“My father was a Chrysler person,” says Hill, who lives near Pocahontas State Park. “My family had Chrysler products all their lives.”

A lifelong lover of cars, the 75-year-old says he’s spent even more time working on his Chrysler-built classic cars – which include a 1969 Dodge Charger, a 1970 Dodge Charger, a 1965 Plymouth Satellite, a 1969 Plymouth Road Runner and a 1971 Plymouth GTX – since he retired as an electrician for Philip Morris in 2002.

Now, going to the garage each morning to fiddle with his cars has become part of Hill’s everyday routine, and he regularly drives across the country to attend car events and look for rare parts to add to his cars.


A Chevrolet Bel Air at a recent car show at American Legion Post 186 in Midlothian. 
ASH DANIEL A Chevrolet Bel Air at a recent car show at American Legion Post 186 in Midlothian. ASH DANIEL Hill is far from alone. For many retired and semi-retired seniors, free time and finances are such that they can finally purchase and restore the car they’ve dreamed about since they were teenagers. For Bon Air resident Pete Bell, it meant restoring a 1942 four-door Ford Super Deluxe, a car that came out the same year he was born.

“I got it in 2008,” says the 75-year-old, who recently displayed the Ford at a car show at American Legion Post 186 in Midlothian. “Bought it from a fella in Fluvanna. … Restored it myself, and it was a three-year restoration.”

Bell paid $1,500 for the car “in its rough state.” It’s now worth an estimated $25,000. Ford made 24,846 of the cars that feature a standard three-speed transmission with gears on the column and a flathead V-8 engine, Bell says. The only part that’s not original on the restored vehicle is the engine.


For some seniors, restoring old cars fulfills a lifelong dream. 
ASH DANIEL For some seniors, restoring old cars fulfills a lifelong dream. ASH DANIEL “I’ve got a ’49 model engine in it,” he explains. “The engine that came in it was in such bad shape I decided that I would upgrade it a little bit.”

In addition to driving the car around town and taking it to car shows, Bell said he earns extra cash by transporting brides and grooms who opt for a nostalgic wedding ride over a limousine. Though he’s also restored a 1930 Model A Ford and a 1967 Mustang convertible, Bell says the 1942 Ford is his pride and joy.

“This brings me more compliments than anything that I’ve done,” Bell says.

Fred Fann, president of the Car Club Council of Central Virginia, says he’s had classic cars ever since he was a teenager. His first was a 1957 Ford.

“It sort of spoiled me on Fords,” says the 64-year-old Chesterfield resident. “I’ve had Fords all my life.”

Today, Fann has a 1968 Ford Torino he bought six years ago and a 1969 Ford Ranchero that he purchased two decades ago. Mechanically minded, Fann has made major improvements on his cars, including rebuilding the engines and working on the transmission.

“You just take it apart and put it back together, replace everything that needs to be replaced,” says Fann, a retired Huguenot High teacher who used to race a 1964 Ford Fairlane at the Richmond Dragway in Sandston.

Though he’s president of the car club council, Fann says he’s not really one for car shows. Instead, he enjoys the annual “Polar Bear Run,” an event that’s taken place locally for the last 18 years. For the event, drivers helming classic cars begin at a specified location, then end at a mystery destination, often a restaurant or someplace interesting to shop.

“We’ve had as many as 90 cars on it,” he says. “Last year, I think we had about 40 or 50 cars that went on it.”

Fann says his organization formed in 1995 to repeal a “clunker bill” that saw junk yards crushing old cars to claim pollution credits. Councils were formed across the United States to fight these laws, which Fann says were destroying classic unused cars that weren’t causing pollution because they didn’t run. These days, the council monitors any car-related legislation, and keeps a running calendar on its website of all car-related events in the area. Presently, there are 40 clubs involved with the council, with each club ranging from 20 to 400 members.

With cruise-ins – informal gatherings where people show off their classic cars – and more formal car shows, Fann says there’s plenty of events for car enthusiasts to take part in locally.

“It’s sort of a lifestyle when people get involved with cars,” Fann says. ¦

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