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posted: 7/30/2012 6:00 AM

Prospect Heights resident adopts rolling relative

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  • Kurt Fredricks considers his 1953 Buick Super convertible a rolling relative.

    Kurt Fredricks considers his 1953 Buick Super convertible a rolling relative.

By Matthew Avery
Special to the Daily Herald

Our classic vehicles have a way of working their way into our hearts, becoming not just mere cold, metallic modes of transportation, but rather cherished four-wheeled family members.

Kurt Fredricks has one such rolling relative in the form of a 1953 Buick Super convertible.

"I've had numerous offers by eager buyers, but my family nixes any amount and forbids me from selling," the Prospect Heights resident said. "It just means too much."

The family's affinity for their drop top has been forged over many years, beginning when the once derelict car first join them through the subsequent happy memories of growing up alongside it. "I've got photos of the car and the kids from when they were small to now when my grown daughter included it in her wedding," Fredricks said.

While the treasured Buick is in pristine condition today, it started off as a tired heap parked in a Chicago city side yard. Fredricks found the car in 1980.

"All the tires were flat, the roof was gone, it didn't have brakes and the floors had rotted away. It would run but that's about the only positive thing you could say."

The do-it-yourselfer hauled the heap back to his home garage where he began a full restoration.

"'I've always been fascinated with cars and wanted to bring one back to life."

The voluptuous fenders and hood were removed and everything was stripped and sanded to expose the bare metal. Once the body was straightened and rust removed or replaced, a coat of Majestic White paint was applied. While the original GM-bestowed color was Glacier Blue, Fredricks opted to make the switch to give the open-air cruiser a more regal appearance, highlighted with the flowing, elegant chrome trim and brightwork.

For those less than ideal days, a new brown top -- complementing the interior upholstery -- was available to provide shelter from the elements.

Hidden behind the toothy front grille is the factory 322-cubic-inch powerplant, Buick's first application of a V-8 engine. To differentiate it from cars carrying the two inline-eight cylinder engines available in 1953, a "V" signature piece was placed in the bombsight of the stately Buick's hood ornament.

The project was completed in about a year and the impressive final results were quite unexpected.

"I just wanted to make a nice car that could be used," Fredricks said. "I never intended it to be a show car."

Show it he does, as Fredricks gets behind the banjo steering wheel to head out to a variety of events. He bought it with the odometer showing 26,000 miles. It now displays 46,000 miles, accumulated from trips to Wisconsin, Indiana and around Illinois. Recently, while at the Buick Club National Meet in Indianapolis, Fredricks picked up a first place in his class.

"It just floats down the road -- akin to driving a gigantic pillow. Generally, other motorists are kinder when they see me coming and don't cut me off or tailgate. They just enjoy seeing me gently pass by."

Fredricks plans to hang onto the grand tourer, continuing the tradition of making precious family memories.

"I'm busy taking photos of my grandkids behind the wheel or in the back seat and letting them ride with me," he said. "They love the car just as much as their parents do!"

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