To say that the beautiful little 1929 Pontiac Sport Roadster holds a special place in the Albers family's hearts doesn't even begin to sum up the car's significance.
Kenny Albers, a former drag racer who has made his living as a farmer near Chapman, said, "This was my dad's first car. He bought it new... he and my mom were married in it."
After several years of use on the streets and highways, Clyde and Lois Albers gave their roadster a new job: pulling a hay rake in the farm fields. The driver's side door was removed to allow quicker entry and exits, Kenny explained.
"The Pontiacs had crossflow radiators and they cooled so much better that they could use it in the field," he said. "But they... came with a Marvel updraft carburetor and my dad and his brother didn't want the exhaust pipe coming down in the hay field and setting the field on fire, so they flipped the manifold over and put a downdraft carburetor on it. They ran an exhaust pipe up through a hole in the hood," he said.
Albers said his older sisters remember riding with their mother in the roadster-turned-tractor with a hay rake hitched to the back of the car back in the 1940s.
Eventually, the car was put away in a barn, tucked safely under a hayloft and pretty much forgotten. Kenny Albers thought that someday he would restore the roadster, but he never had the time or the money to start the project. So the car sat and gathered dust.
Kenny and Kathy Albers' daughter, Kami, was fascinated with the car, too.
"When I was a kid and kept bucket calves in the barn... I would sit in the car and think that someday I was going to drive it," she said.
The years continued to roll slowly by and still the Pontiac sat alone in the barn. A chunk of its big wooden steering wheel cracked and fell out, the pistons and rings in the Big Six engine eventually rusted themselves to the cylinder walls. The top fell to tatters.
But the thought of bringing the car back still held its charm among family members. In the summer of 2010, Kami Albers asked her dad if it would be possible to get the roadster running in time for her upcoming wedding to Casey Poell.
"We decided if we were ever going to do it, now is the time to do it... while Mom was still alive," Kenny Albers said.
But the wedding was only 90 days away, so the car was sent to Bright Built Hot Rods west of Salina for professional restoration.
"I would have liked to have done a lot of the work myself," Kenny said.
"It wasn't a frame-off restoration. They cleaned it up and had the engine rebuilt by Leland Tinkler," he said. The Sport Roadster used a body built by the W.F. Stewart Co., rather than the more commonly used Fisher body, Albers said.
"There are only 10 or 12 of these cars registered in the United States that they know of," said shop owner Keith Bright, who had two employees working on the project. Fortunately, the bodywork was in remarkably decent condition, thanks to the protection afforded by the barn, where the car sat for decades.
Although some of the chrome trim, like the grille shell and the Indian head radiator cap, was badly pitted, it was shipped off to Dan's Metal Polishing in Adamsville, Tenn., where it was restored to like-new condition.
There was enough paint showing on the car that by using a computerized color scanner, the restoration team was able to duplicate the factory cream and dark brown paint scheme. The original wood-spoked wheels were cleaned and repainted dark brown, with fresh red pinstriping applied.
A missing hubcap was replaced by one found in Australia and shipped to Kansas by express freight. The steering wheel was fixed and fresh new pleated brown leather was stitched up at Bright's shop to cover both the front seat and the rumble seat, where Kami and her husband would ride on their special day.
Although the car was restored to near-showroom condition, Kenny Albers made the decision that the old galvanized exhaust stack poking through the hood should be retained, in a nod to the roadster's unusual farming heritage.
It was a scramble to get the roadster together in time for the wedding. How close did it come?
"Hours," grinned Kami.
A water pump failure had to be fixed at the last minute, but the Pontiac, with Kenny Albers at the wheel and Kami and Casey Poell in the rumble seat, was ready to transport them from the church in Manhattan to their wedding reception.
"There was a little catch in the starter... so the groomsmen had to push the car to start it," Kami said.
"The wedding party got to do a little extra work," her dad noted.
Kenny Albers said he is so glad that his mother, who passed away in October, got to see the car restored and running again.
"I guess sometimes when you buy a car, you don't know what you're buying until 50 years later," he said.
The roadster was recently fitted with a snug new canvas top and plans are to get it out for parades and occasional fair weather jaunts.
"It's going to be fun to cruise around town in," said Kami Poell, who with her husband will be the next caretakers of the Albers family roadster.
"We're building a house specifically with a third car garage just for it," she said.