"If you're going to have a classic car, you have to drive it. Otherwise, I recommend you collect stamps!"
That is the advice Mike Podgorski gives on how our beloved rolling icons should be handled.
The Barrington resident isn't just blowing smoke when he makes this bold comment. Podgorski and his wife, LaVerne, have racked up plenty of miles through the years on both of their antique Ford Model A's.
These classic blue ovals consist of a 1928 closed cab pickup and a 1930 Town Sedan. Both have gone through major rebuilds and restorations.
"Driving them is a wonderful experience. We simply love the sound. You can slow down and distinctly hear each cylinder," Mike said.
The closed cab truck had been the apple of Mike's eye since 1965. "The pickup was owned by a town doctor in Iowa, not far from where LaVerne's sister lived. He used it to haul garbage," he said. "As soon as I saw it, it grabbed me.
"In my youth I had '34 and 35 Fords and I always missed the Model A era."
He purchased the vehicle in 1974 and right away "every piece, part, bolt and nut came off" in a full frame-up, in-home restoration. Their three sons all pitched in to get the antique back on the road.
The 40-horsepower, inline four-cylinder, 201-cubic-inch engine received an overhaul and a new wood kit was installed inside the cabin. The classic-collecting couple opted to paint the hauler Manila Brown, forgoing the factory Rock Moss Green.
"The right color is very important for national judging, but that's only one day out of the year. There's a lot of other days where its about me being happy with how it looks," Mike said.
The truck project was completed a year later, not long before the sedan came into their garage fold. The second model A was found in 1978 downstate in Dixon.
"Mike said he was just going to go over the basic mechanics and make it a driver. That was his intent, but soon it ended up as a full restoration," LaVerne recalls.
Multiple pieces of the wood frame were replaced and some corner bodywork repair was needed from a previous road mishap. Despite the patch-ups, all of the original metal was salvaged, along with the wheels. A new mohair interior was installed and the exterior two-tone paint scheme was reversed. Now, Chicle Drab is on the top and Copra Drab on the bottom.
While both Ford vehicles maintain that pristine classic look, they have received two major upgrades; safety glass and alternators instead of generators to keep up with the electrical loads.
True to their word, the Podgorskis aren't afraid to hit the road in their antique machines. "We drove the sedan to Virginia Beach, Va., going through rainstorms; I couldn't see 10 feet in front of me. Everybody says it hurts the car but it doesn't hurt it one bit," Mike said. "We passed modern cars broken down on the side of the road. We'd go by and give them an 'ahooga' horn!"
So far the sedan's odometer has accumulated 36,000 miles, including stops in such scenic places as Niagara Falls and Washington, D.C. The vintage pickup has also received a highway workout, having been driven through 20 of our country's states on trips to Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Canada.
You'd be wrong to assume the Podgorski's had to really rough it during those long excursions.
"We had a modern Cadillac and I'd much rather ride in these cars," LaVerne said. "They're actually easier on the back."