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Trending Backwards: Retro Nostalgia from Roadsters to Corollas

Why would a car owner choose to own and invest in something old rather than new? From a '31 roadster to an '85 AE86, DrivingLine explores the stories of a handful of enthusiasts who have gone “retro” with their rides, getting an inside look at why they chose the car they did and what guided their build decisions.


retro-nostalgia-doug-grande His Story: Doug Grande shares one of the most common stories of enthusiasts in the hot rod and custom-car world, that of leaving the car hobby for decades for priorities of growing kids and family. When the time in life came where Doug had more spare time and money, the hot rod bug caught up to him. The Car: After owning an old Volvo traded for an Austin-Healey and then a ’57 Chevy sedan and Volkswagens in his younger years, Doug was urged by an acquaintance to build a hot rod. “Until then I didn’t even know you could build your own car,” he says, laughing. After building a respectable Model T roadster, thena pieced-together 1932 Ford, the chance to endeavor on his 1931 Ford roadster began. Finding it on Craigslist, where so many of our modern-day car exploits begin, Doug based this build on an A/V-8, or the combination of the pioneering engine that Ford introduced in 1932(the first massproduced V-8) in a smaller and lighter Model A body. While he did build in some modern amenities, such as a modern five-speed transmission, the Flathead power mill and overall character of the car is that of a hot rod from the ’40s or ’50s… all the way down to the fact that Doug built the car entirely by himself with modest help of friends.


retro-nostalgia-1939-Dodge-Business-Coupe retro-nostalgia-bill-shields His Story: With a history in both boat and snowmobile motorsports, Bill Shields eventually decided to take on a bigger challenge – to build a car to compete in the Peking to Paris Challenge. It’s an 8,923-mile rally across some of the most inhospitable terrain in China, Mongolia, the Middle East, and Europe raced by strictly-vintage vehicles. The Car: Certain rules needed to be followed in order to compete in the Peking to Paris rally, including a pre-1941 car for the Vintageant class– that combined with the availability of the intact and solid Dodge in a nearby farm pasture secured Bill’s choice. From there it was a following of the rules and happy luck which secured build choices, like a Chrysler flathead six with dual carburetors and a three-speed transmission. Sure, some concessions to modern comforts were made such as Recaro racing seats, but the body remains faithful to stock, withstanding enlarged front wheel wellsfor tire clearance. A pair of Brits won the Vintageant class in their 1937 Chevrolet, but Bill and navigator Danny Day led a good part of the race, winning most of the speed tests and hill climbs. While racing more modern cars in a rally of this sort would provide a much different (and faster) story, would it really be more fun?


retro-nostalgia-948-Ford-F1-Pickup retro-nostalgia-lori-bentley-law Her Story: Trading cars more often than boyfriends as a teenager, Lori Bentley Law has always had a history with odd and marvelous 4-wheeled characters. While researching old trucks for a novel she was writing she came across the F1, with no intention of making a purchase. Something about it got under her skin and a month later she had her first full build on her hands. The Car: Being sold as “Whole or Parts,” Lori’s Ford F1 needed a lot of work. She was filthy, wasn’t complete, and soon got her name “Bondorella” as she evolved into something spectacular out of the ashes of Bondo scrapped from her now bare metal body. As Lori has a penchant for old things, “Putting in anything other than an old Ford engine made no sense for me,” she notes. “Since the F1s originally came with a flathead, I wanted to go that direction. I love the clatter of the flathead, the romance of this engine long gone. “Bondorella is not 100% true to original. Overall the truck is a good combination of the old things I love, like the flathead and the mechanical fuel pump and the Stromberg carburetors, combined with a few things to help drivability.” With a vision of a bare-steel finish like the motorcycle tanks Lori loves so much, Bondorella got several coats of clear with some metal flake mixed in and became “a rolling disco ball.” But Lori notes, “At her heart, she’s simply a stock truck, minus paint. And I wouldn’t have her any other way.”


tending-backwards-1964-Ford-Falcon retro-nostalgia-blaine-wolfe His Story: Growing up with a love of older cars, building and owning the ’64 Falcon has given Blaine Wolfe more than just a means of transportation. His Falcon is in a sense part of his family and social circle, a memento of his past, and a means to stay in touch with the things nearest and dearest to him. The Car: “I was given my first car, a ’65 Mustang, for my birthday,” Blaine begins. “The car came from my uncle, Jim Wolfe, who also had this very ’64 Falcon.” Though the Mustang was more desirable, the young Blaine really wanted the more proletariat Falcon, partly because it was a racecar and it ran. “I also wanted something different than a Mustang, Nova, Camaro, or Chevelle.” Persisting with offers to purchase the Falcon for a dozen years before succeeding, “The 10-mile trip (home) took forever because the car would overheat,” he admits. “It didn’t matter to me because it was finally coming to my house.” During the car’s build process Blaine recalls, “In typical hot rod fashion one thing led to another and what started out as a straighten-and-primer job turned into the car I have today.”That includes custom body work, interior, built engine, and upgraded suspension. The rebuild process is never a quick one, but during it Blaine got to build lasting friendships and now enjoys taking family vacations in it with his wife and kids.


trending-backwards-1985-Toyota-Corolla [caption id="attachment_36088" align="alignleft" width="300"] retro-nostalgia-steve-nakamura Photo Courtesy of Nadine Hsu/Sachiko Studios[/caption] His Story:Growing up in Southern California, an area largely known for being one of the main hubs of modified imports, Steve Nakamura first spotted an AE86 in the parking lot of his high school. Now having owned three different AE86s, with some Hondas thrown in there too, Steve says he’s not biased to any specific car manufacturer. “If a car’s good, it’s good,” he explains. “It’s good to own and experience different types of cars.” The Car: Purchasing his first AE86 a year after he’d first spotted one in his high school parking lot, Steve quickly began modifying it to provide more power. The quest for “more” led to selling the Corolla and playing with turbocharged Hondas, then purchasing a second and third AE86 later on. The one you see here has been swapped with a later model AE101 20-valve block, big port AE86 cylinder head and dual 44 Mikuni carburetors. It’s classically styled to what you’d normally see in Japan with its Goodline front bumper, Run Free aero mirrors and TRD rear wing. One could easily assume that his styling choices are period correct, and to an extent they are – but that wasn’t his intent. “I was just emulating styles I saw in old Japanese car magazines,”he explains, “I once had it painted the infamous ‘panda’ scheme from Initial D, and later I painted it red to pay tribute to my drift heroes of the 2000-2003 Japanese drifting era… They’re also very nostalgic for me. I wouldn’t call myself a Toyota or Honda enthusiast. I just love cars.”   Perhaps we’re not as different as the cars we drive make us out be. Whether in a patina’d old truck or turbocharged import, at the core we all choose our cars because, on some level, we connect to them. It could be that it’s our own blood and sweat invested into our projects that ties them to us, regardless of their era. Or sometimes it’s that reaching backward into the past helps one to find oneself in the present. Thanks to all of these owners for sharing their stories with us! Have something of your own you'd like to share? We'd love to hear from you, email!

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