Carl and Bonnie Fry's signature cars couldn't be any more different: His big, bold red 1965 Buick Riviera has been in their family for 44 years and boasts a stout American V-8 and a sumptuous bucket seat interior. Her tiny two-tone pink 1959 Nash Metropolitan has been in the family for just over a month and is powered by a little English-built 4-cylinder engine and features a gray tweed bench-seat interior.
But the two cars couldn't make the Frys much happier, although Carl comments, with feigned indignation, that the little Metro has already gotten more attention than the Buick.
"When I took it to the tag office, there were five women there out in the parking lot, taking pictures with their cell phone cameras... going home, I had two gals who asked me if I would pull over and let them take a picture of it," he said, grinning. "It does attract attention," he said.
"I really like pink... we had been looking for a Metro for about two years," Bonnie said. They bought the 72,000-mile car based on photos sent by the previous owner, who was clearing out a collection of Metros in St. Louis.
"We were pleasantly surprised when they rolled it off the transporter," Carl said. "And happy," chimed in Bonnie.
The car had undergone a full restoration, getting a new look with a hot fuschia or magenta color that perfectly complements the basic pink, which is accented with plenty of bright red pinstripes, inside and out.
Near the tiny white continental kit on the back is painted a pink flamingo. "He named it Pinky," said Bonnie, who explained that the seller sent along everything she would need to show the car, including a display board showing the flamingo at the wheel of a cartoon version of the car, a wicker basket with flamingo-decorated glassware and all the detailing supplies she would need to keep the car sparkling.
Both Hudson and Nash marketed the Metro under their own badges, Carl said. The car was actually built in England by Austin, which supplied the little 4-cylinder overhead valve engine and the notorious Lucas electrical components. "The main switch has three settings: off, blink and smoke," Carl said.
The '59 Nash Metro, the highest-selling model year, with some 22,300 sold, had some significant upgrades, Carl said. For the first time, the little car came with an opening trunk lid, a one-piece rear windshield, vent windows and a glove box. Their car also is equipped with the bigger 1500 cc engine producing fully 52 horsepower to motivate its 1,800 pounds.
"It has an 85-inch wheelbase and a 42-inch wheel track. This car will set on a sheet of plywood," Carl said.
"It's definitely not a guy's car ... it's always been women who love it. And I'm just so thrilled with it," said Bonnie, who can't wait to share "Pinky" with other female car lovers.
The Riviera, meanwhile, remains a show-stopper in its own right.
Shortly after the Frys were married in June 1966, Carl decided his fuel-injected '57 Chevy hardtop wasn't safe towing a 4,000-pound boat on a trailer.
He spotted the nearly new '65 Buick Riviera for sale at a lot on Kellogg. "It had 17,000 miles on it, it had huge brakes, air conditioning, power steering... and a 425 cubic inch, 360 horsepower nailhead V-8 in it," he said. "They wanted $3,750 for it."
He struck a deal with a neighbor to buy the '57 Chevy for $550 and soon had the Riviera on the road with a trailer hitch package installed. "It has the Super Turbine 400 transmission, with a 2.62 low pitch turbine in it. With 485 foot-pounds of torque... it'll pull a stump out of the ground," Carl said.
Both Bonnie and Carl drove the Riviera regularly for many years, before lending it to a nephew who needed a car while finishing his doctoral degree at Stanford. They got it back 11 years later when Carl flew to Canton, Ohio, and drove the car home.
With the help of son Steve and daughter Kim, the Frys did a yearlong frame-off restoration on the Buick. In the process, the 425 was blueprinted and gained a second Carter AFB 4-barrel carb, an MSD ignition and some beautiful underhood show chrome.
Dale Hanson repainted the car in brilliant red "on his gravel driveway," Carl recalled, and Morgan-Bulleigh reupholstered the white bucket seats and door panels, installing a new headliner in the process. Lewis Street Glass installed pieces of new glass as necessary.
"The Buick turned out to be a really good car," Carl said. It has become something of an icon for the ARC Car Show, a benefit program for people with developmental disabilities. Both cars will be on display at this year's show at Old Cowtown Museum on May 23.