Larry Wolfe and Dave Stuckey had been friends for a long time before Wolfe managed to track down and buy one of Stuckey’s iconic custom cars, a radical 1965 Pontiac Catalina that ended up in Delaware.
Wolfe was stunned when he saw the car, now painted a bright yellow, roll off the transporter in 2015. But with the help of a bunch of his car buddies, he was determined to return the radical custom to its former glory in honor of Stuckey, who by then was in failing health.
The paint job was priority No. 1 in both men’s eyes. And after the car was made roadworthy again, Wolfe set about finding the best match for the original deep cherry color that now is often referred to as a brandywine.
“David loved brandywine,” he said.
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“I saw him a day or two before he died,” Wolfe recalled of his last visit to the hospital to see his old friend. Stuckey was sleeping when he arrived. Stuckey’s daughter, Christine, squeezed her dad’s hand and told him Wolfe was there to see him.
“He opened his eyes and the first thing he said was, `What color are you going to paint that car?’ And I told him, ‘The same color you painted it. That way, if nobody likes it, it’s your fault.’ ”
“We tried about eight different colors,” Wolfe said, noting at one point, Chad Markle, owner of Service Auto Body Shop, even painted the hood of the Catalina half-and-half, using the two top contending colors.
It was a close call, but the DuPont color called out was “Black Cherry Plum Pearl,” and it was stunning.
The Catalina, which Wolfe nicknamed “The Pharaoh” as a nod to the custom car craze of the ’60s and ’70s, had received only minor modifications in the second phase of its rebirth. The rear bumper was tucked closer to the body, a gas filler cap was removed and the rear panel cleaned up, with the tail lights sanded, polished and buffed to a translucent red by Corey Conyers, who consulted on the paint choice.
Markle finished up the body work and set to work painting the Pharaoh using base coat/clear coat and lots of pearl to catch the sunlight. He also convinced Wolfe to let him finish out the trunk interior in vinyl upholstery and a light brown carpet. He even restitched the custom pin-striped style design originally sewn into the dash cover by legendary upholsterer Paul Matz.
“He was always one step ahead of me. This has been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” Wolfe said.
The remainder of the interior remained basically unchanged, done in a gold frieze cloth with white vinyl trim, which contrasts nicely with the darker, more refined paint job, which Stuckey had predicted would give the car a smaller, brighter look.
Stuckey had improved the silhouette of the car by sectioning 3-1/2 inches out of the body, just below the belt line and then bringing the roof down, laying the factory rear windshield almost flat. Wolfe replaced the rusty 5-spoke mags with new Cragars outfitted with spinner-style knock-off centers. Tires are BFG/TA’s, 215/50/R14’s mounted on aluminum spacers at the front, matching 275/60/R15’s in the rear.
Gary Carter handled most of the mechanical work on the Pharaoh, with a Holley Sniper electronic fuel injection unit equipped with a handheld tuner inside the car installed to improve the Catalina’s drivability.
“Basically, I like driving the car,” Wolfe said, noting he has owned all kind of vehicles, from street rods to drag cars and show bikes. “But I always revert back to customs.”
“I’m not a trophy hound. I don’t go to as many car shows as I used to,” he said.
He was knocked out at the way the Pharaoh shimmered in the sunlight on one of its first outings recently, marveling at the way the fresh paint showed off its highlights. It was a shame his friend Dave Stuckey didn’t get to see it finished in its original form.
“He would have liked it. I love that car, I love that he built it, and I love that I have it now. It’s probably the last car I’ll ever have,” Wolfe said.
Mike Berry: email@example.com