Vintage News

January 6, 2020 – A 1931 Buick

This 1931 Buick was my dads for the last 50 plus years. He had plans to restore it but never did. He is now 88 years old so it was time to realize that a restoration was out of the picture. I sold it to a Mr Peter Powers, who his grandfather use to run a Museum that my father use to go to and was friends with Peters grandfather….So kind of a neat story! I will keep posting pictures of the progress that Peter is making out with the car.

December 16, 2019 – Goodbye to a Classic

SOLD! The 1970 Chevrolet Impala has found its forever home in Stockton, CA. With five daughters and just welcoming his third grandson, Juan is looking forward to enjoying the classic convertible with his family. As you can see, the avid car collector and builder loves all types of cars. His plans for the Impala? Leave it just the way it is…Beautiful!

January 23, 2016 – Featured in The Day
“A Packard comes to life at Vintage Motorcars” by Lee Howard

Richard Willard picked up the remnants of a 1928 Packard three decades ago, but he’s been so busy building his antique auto restoration business that he never quite got around to fixing up his own car.

“I bought it as a basket case,” said Willard, owner of Vintage Motorcars on Boston Post Road not far from the Old Saybrook border. “It literally came in pieces.”

Over the years, he put in a few days here and there to bring the Packard 526 Runabout back to life, researching the right materials to use and finding sources around the country. But other projects kept getting in the way.

“When you’re in the business, you don’t do your own stuff,” he said.

Then he heard that the Barrett-Jackson collectible car auction house would be coming to the Mohegan Sun June 23-25. And that jump-started a more aggressive effort to finish the Packard restoration, helped along by his 83-year-old father, Sam, a former auto mechanics teacher.

Finally, about two weeks ago, the 30-year project was largely done, the chrome headlights gleaming and the leather seats smelling like new. Capping it off is a replica of one of the original radiator ornaments that gave the Packards their distinctive look.

“It was a really difficult restoration,” Willard said. “You had nothing to go by. You had no forensics.”

Willard’s father, who has done antique car restoration as a hobby for decades, did much of the research on the vehicle, which was custom made. With no definitive indication of original colors, Willard made his own choices, picking out three different reds for the body and a handsome brown look on the interior.

“The late ’20s up until the ’30s were just some of the best years for cars styling-wise,” Willard said.

Willard figures he and others put about 6,000 hours into the restoration. Other projects he has been involved with have involved more hours, including work on an antique fire engine and another involving a Nash bus, but this was the longest in terms of the years between start and finish.

“Packards are a mainstay in the antique car hobby,” Willard said. “They’re very well built, very well designed.”

Unfortunately, the Packard’s exquisite design and workmanship required many hours to manufacture, said Willard, the $3,000 original price tag compared with the cost of a $700 Ford doomed the brand to extinction.

“They made too good of a car.” he said.

The typical older man who buys a Packard will find it has no radio, no air conditioning (other than putting the top down) and gets only about 8 miles to a gallon of gas. But it does feature unique drum headlights and cool looking running boards, not to mention a handmade trunk that really is a trunk attached to the back of the car.

Willard figures the car will fetch about $400,000 , and he’s glad Barrett-Jackson has decided to make Southeastern Connecticut home for its inaugural Northeast Auction. The auction will be broadcast live on the Velocity and Discovery television networks.

“It’s going to be a proud day…to be on national TV,” Willard said.

October 14, 2013 – Featured in The Day
“Rare Nash school bus gets new life” by Lee Howard

A circa 1948 Nash school bus that made its way from Minnesota to Vintage Motorcars in Westbrook a few weeks ago is one of only two known to exist.

Rich Willard, owner of the vintage-car restoration business, said he began restoring the rare vehicle last month at the request of a Nash collector from France for whom he has worked previously.

“We’re going to bring it back to life,” Willard said. “It’s going to be labor intensive. It’s a lot of time.”

Willard, who has been known to restore antique and classic cars as well as old fire engines, said this is his first bus project. The restoration likely will take more than 3,000 man hours to complete and easily will cost in the $150,000 range, he said.

The most difficult part, he said is the initial research to try to figure out how the bus looked when it first came off the assembly line. The vehicle, which was no operational when it came into the shop, has gone through a series of alterations through the years, he said, and may have once been used as a “hippie bus.”

Making the restoration more problematic, he said, is that no one has pictures of the original look of the bus, including such specifics as handle and upholstery styles.

“The factory that made the body burned down, and they didn’t save the records, so this is going to be difficult,” Willard said. “We want it to be authentic and original.”

The Nash bus, stored outside of Vintage Motorcars when it first came in, has attracted a lot of interest, Willard said. The bus has been parked for only a day or two when one woman, a bus driver herself, came in to get a closer look. Women rarely come into his business, he said, because vintage cars are more of a guy thing.

“I have cars in here that are half-million-dollar cars that didn’t get such interest,” Willard said. “I’m assuming it’s because we all remember being on a bus (in the past) and we don’t see them (now). No one brings a bus to a car show. There’s no bus show.”

Nash Motors dates back to 1916, when a former General Motors executive names Charles W. Nash started the company in Kenosha, Wis. The company, later purchased by American Motors Corp., became a success thanks to a guiding philosophy of providing good value as well as a series of innovations that included the first compact, sub compact and muscle car.

Even Nash aficionados, who are more prominent in Wisconsin, were largely unaware that the company has manufactured school buses until the first vehicle was saved from a Minnesota salvage business in 1993.

The Nash bus hauled to Connecticut reportedly was found near a farm in Glyndon, Minn., where it had been used for alcohol-fueled hunting and fishing trips before being abandoned, its windows apparently shattered by gunfire. An Ohio member of the Nash Car Club of America discovered the bus in 2010, shortly before it was to be sold as scrap, and did some initial work on it, including a paint job that covered a previously red exterior with the more traditional yellow.

Willard said the collector who is paying to restore the bus, Thomas Harrington of Paris, intends to bring it to Nash shows and perhaps later to donate it to a museum.

But first the tedious work of dealing with rust and dents, repairing the body and chassis, rebuilding the engine and dealing with a multitude of parts, paint and upholstery issues will have to be completed. Willard figured hundreds of phone calls will be necessary to track down all the parts required to do a faithful restoration of the Nash bus and wind up with a vehicle as close as possible to one that came off the assembly line more than six decades ago.

“We capture dreams for people,” Willard said. “We want somebody to be able to look at a photo…of when this bus was new and say, ‘Geez, that looks identical.'”

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