The one that got away

Robert Epp still misses the 1952 Ford Tudor with the '55 Plymouth grille installed by Darryl Starbird in the mid-'50s at his custom shop on Mt. Vernon.
Robert Epp still misses the 1952 Ford Tudor with the '55 Plymouth grille installed by Darryl Starbird in the mid-'50s at his custom shop on Mt. Vernon. Courtesy

Awhile back, we asked for your "One that got away" stories and we have received some doozies. Here's another sampling for your post-Christmas reading enjoyment.



I had this '58 Pontiac Star Chief two-door hardtop when I got married and to this day my wife hasn't forgiven me for selling it. It was a 370 cubic inch with a 4-barrel and an automatic trans part of the time and a 3-speed standard part of the time.

I was working in a body shop at the time so I had shaved the ornaments off the hood and trunk. It had Dodge Lancer hubcaps and a grille made with cabinet drawer pulls. The tail lamps had chrome bullets in their centers and I showed the tail lamps to several of the local cars as it was fairly quick. I have lots of good memories of this car.

-- Merle Toews



My first collector Studebaker was this 1929 Studebaker Commander 8 Victoria (which I called a "pregnant coupe", because it looked like an "extended" coupe cabin). The front passenger seat was a "jump seat" that folded down and forward for access to the rear compartment, which included a sizable storage compartment at far left of rear seat (to hold a top hat-- the car was also called an "opera coupe"). Those were the best looking wood spoke wheels I have ever seen.

I purchased it here in Wichita from long-time old-car enthusiast Frank Aksamit, who acquired it from the widow of the man who began its restoration. My parents had some Studebakers over the years, which, coupled with my interest to have an "old car" that was not necessarily like others, was instrumental in my decision to "dedicate" my old car interest to Studebakers.

This picture was taken in the driveway of my parents' home in East Wichita in the mid-'70s and includes our two youngest daughters.

The car "got away", but only because a couple from Texas saw it pictured in an old car magazine and eventually convinced me that they wanted it even more than I did. I have always been sorry I was not able keep that car, but have never regretted the (very favorable) transaction that resulted in its ownership change.

-- Larry Tholen



In 1952 while in high school I was driving a nice 1940 Ford coupe. After graduating I spotted this 1948 Pontiac convertible with twin spotlights and skirts and traded for it. The dealer just made a call and sold the '40 over the phone while I was signing the papers on the Pontiac.

I removed the Indian from the hood and cleared the deck lid. While dragging Douglas one night, my friends suggested that we split the exhaust manifold on the Pontiac straight eight engine. What the heck, we finished at midnight. The next day I added the exhaust using Porters mufflers.

Later in the year I slid on some ice and smashed a front fender and couldn't find a replacement, so back to the used car lot and I purchased a 1953 Pontiac convertible, which I had when we were married.

-- Gilbert Adams



I wish I still had a 1952 Ford Tudor. After an accident, Darryl Starbird put it back together. It was one of his earlier creations after opening Star Custom Shop in 1955 or '56 on Mt. Vernon just west of Washington. The car had front end damage. The insurance company helped pay for the work and I worked for Darryl part time.

The grill was replaced with a 1955 Plymouth grill which had a section cut out of the center to fit the opening. The tail lights were replaced by 1955 Packard tail lights. The 1955 Dodge side trim separated the metallic blue top from the Cadillac alpine white bottom and hid the buttons for the electric door latches. The trunk was also electric.

Small flames separated the paint of the back of the rear quarter panel. Scoops in the rear fender were accented by chrome strips from a 1954 Mercury. The front corners of the hood were rounded and the headlights were "frenched."

It had Plymouth Fury hubcaps. The car was lowered 3 or 4 inches with fender skirts. The interior was upholstered by Morgan-Bulleigh. I parted with the car in North Carolina, newly wed and needing money after being drafted and stationed at Fort Bragg.

-- Robert Epp



In the early fall of 1970 it was finally time for my first set of wheels. Two major drawbacks, however -- my limited savings and the fact my dad was head of the state patrol caused much trepidation as we started shopping to find something "suitable." As we pulled into the lot and headed to the back row (with all the old family cars, rusted out pickups, and a van or two), my heart sank. Needless to say I was floored when we stopped in front of a bright red '63 Ford Galaxie 500 XL. It was a two-door hardtop with an aerodynamic fast back body style, black interior, bucket seats, and a factory 4-speed transmission! Under the hood was that big black & gold 390/330 hp Police Interceptor engine! As we took it for a test drive, he didn't say a word but he just smiled. I drove it like it was grandma's. While it had the XL package of exterior and interior trim, all power items (steering, brakes, air, windows,) had been omitted. It even had the metal (police car) dash instead of the padded version. The engine, cooling system, suspension, and rear-end were part of the police car package.

While "the Ford" took some kidding while cruising main, for looking like a "big family car" it certainly held its own between street lights.

I sure wished I'd kept that thing. But I was a kid and I always wanted something different, newer, etc. After tinkering with the car for about 2 years I traded it for my first sports car a beat-up 1967 Fiat 850 Spyder. Yeah, what can I say?

-- Tom Kohmetscher



Summer of 1974, my paternal grandmother entered a nursing home and could no longer drive. I inherited her car, a 1964 Lincoln Continental with "suicide" doors and just a little over 10,000 miles on it. She literally drove it only to church on Sunday, and had another car for her-day-to-day driving.

The Lincoln had power windows/power seats/automatic headlight dimmer and was in showroom perfect condition, and after I put 3,000 miles on it, I sold it for all of $1,000.

--Ray Thomas

Related stories from Wichita Eagle