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’32 Cabriolet a lifetime love affair

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, April 12, 2013, at 8:41 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, April 13, 2013, at 6:31 a.m.

— Although he already had a ’32 Chevy two-door sedan in the works at the time, Ray Abrahams instantly fell in love with a much sportier 1932 Chevrolet the moment he laid eyes on it.

"The first time I saw it, it was sitting there and the couple that owned it were having a picnic in the park," he recalls. "I walked over and, man I couldn’t believe what I saw. I saw great potential in that thing."

The owner wasn’t ready to sell the car, but was open to discussing the possibility.

"He wanted to know what I wanted to do to it. If I wanted to hot rod it, he didn’t want to let me have it. But I told him I would restore it," Abrahams said.

"He was a cop at Galva … the original owner who bought it new," he said. Ray and his wife, Sylvia, put the car at the top of their wish list and left their names with the owners.

"We didn’t think we’d ever see it again," said Sylvia, who said they learned the owner had died. Then one day in 1962, they received a phone call indicating the car was still in the possession of the man’s wife and she wanted to know if they were still interested in it.

"Boy howdy, it didn’t take me long to get over there," Ray remembered. "I think I paid $400 for it."

But the car needed more than a little tender, loving care.

"He had driven it through a barbed wire fence," Ray said. "So he had painted it. He even painted the top. I think he painted it with a broom."

Ironically, says son Kim Abrahams, "We think he preserved it that way. There is no rust anywhere on the car."

Even the chrome spoke covers on the wire wheels were painted over, as was the Potter Mfg. Co. decal inside the lid of the old-time rear mounted trunk.

"I took some lacquer thinner and real carefully took the paint off that decal," Ray Abrahams said. He removed all 40 spoke covers from each of six wheels and patiently soaked them in paint thinner to restore their original luster.

The cabriolet features roll-down windows, as opposed to a roadster, which came equipped with side curtains. Designated by Chevrolet as a "Confederate" model, Abrahams’ cabriolet was an exceptionally well equipped Depression era car, with twin fender-mounted spare tires, a rumble seat, dual fender-mounted horns and twin tail lights, as well as the optional Potter trunk and rack, and a beautifully plated Eagle radiator cap.

New, it sold for the princely sum of $610.

Abrahams discovered the ’32 had been fitted with a 1940 engine. "I wanted it back to original, so I put the one that was in the other ’32 in it," he said. He had new babbitt bearings poured for the 194 cubic inch inline 6-cylinder power plant, which was line-bored and then carefully reassembled. "That’s why it runs so good now," he said.

Vern Winter restored the cabriolet to its original glory with a fresh Fisher Red factory paint job and contrasting black fenders. Paul Matz stitched up a beautiful leatherette interior, covering the rumble seat surfaces in the same material and creating a new top out of canvas for the car.

The restoration was finished in 1964 and as second owners, Ray and Sylvia Abrahams wasted no time enjoying their "new" car.

"We used to drive out to the reservoir on weekends in it. We drove two married couples away from their weddings in the rumble seat … and the grandkids loved riding back there. We even drove Miss Kansas in the fair parade here in Hillsboro," Sylvia recounted.

Nearly 50 years after it all began, though, the car wasn’t getting much use and sat most of the time in another son, Rex Abrahams’ car shed. The paint had begun to crack and it was apparent it was time for a second restoration.

Lowell Heinrichs of Hillsboro and his son, Romney Heinrichs of Hesston, were tasked with the job in October, 2011.

"They took every piece apart that they could," said Rex Abrahams. But the engine needed nothing and the interior and top looked like brand new, so they were just cleaned up and left as they were.

By the spring of 2012, the Abrahams’ ’32 Chevy was wearing fresh paint and needed only one thing to complete its comeback — the touch of a top-notch pinstriping artist. Rex and Kim Abrahams recently loaded the Chevy up and hauled it to Tulsa, where Ron Myers applied new yellow-gold pinstriping to accent all the gloss black body accents.

Ray and Sylvia Abrahams, now in their 80s, live in a retirement home in Hillsboro and have to rely on wheelchairs to get around, but absolutely light up when they get a chance to show off their beloved ’32 Chevy.

"A day like this, when I can be out here with my car … that’s good medication for me. It’s better than any pills I’m taking," grinned Ray.

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