Classic cars: Second rebuild was a homecoming of sorts
The south Florida sun beat down, rippling off the asphalt in a misty haze. It was a hot one but the two teens barreling down the highway in 1981 didn't care. They were on the hunt.
Fifteen-year-old David Schmadebeck rode shotgun, eager to find what his driving friend had promised.
"He had a buddy selling something called a 'Javelin,' " Schmadebeck recalls. The kid worked at a local supermarket and that's exactly where David and his pal were headed.
The pair pulled into the store's parking lot right as the car's owner was leaving. "He screeched out of the parking lot, fishtailing the whole way. We chased him down and I got a good look at it. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before."
A deal was struck, making the Javelin David's first car. The vehicle, a 1974 American Motors Corp. Javelin AMX, was in "poor condition but had potential."
Assisted by his dad, Dave, David worked hard to restore the classic cruiser. Off came the sunbaked blue paint and, in its place, Dave sprayed on a midnight black hue. The engine was pulled and rebuilt and a new interior went inside the cabin. The payoff was some glorious adolescent cruising.
"I'd go out racing with school buddies all through the Everglades. The only thing better was driving along the ocean on the A1A (highway)," David says.
In 1986, the Schmadebeck family moved to suburban Chicago. Two years later, David made the decision to attend HVAC school. Cash-strapped, he sold his black beauty to help finance his career endeavors. His father, also wanting to ensure his son's future, put up his personal 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air as collateral for an additional loan. David went on to graduate and launch his own heating and cooling business in Prospect Heights.
Despite passing years, David never forgot his love of the Javelin. In 2012, he acted on his burning desire to find another one. After a year of searching, he located this 1973 prize in Maryland.
"The seller was a younger guy and it had been his first car, just like me," David says. The AMC had been sitting in a garage for the last eight years and never ran. After trailering it home, David embarked on a full overhaul.
Schmadebeck employed the help of several different shops in a most fitting area: Kenosha, Wisconsin. In fact, the paint and bodywork was done across the street from where the American Motors factory used to sit. The engine work was done not too far away, either.
The 360 that resided between the front fenders was swapped for a heavily worked over 401. The build came together in June 2014 -- just two days before its debut at the American Motors Owners Association's Kenosha Homecoming. The multiday event celebrates everything AMC and served as the perfect place for the grand unveiling.
"You can't go back to earlier times but, for me, this is the closest thing. It is nice to know when I turn the key it'll fire up -- the high-school car didn't always do that."