Wheels: Bellmawr Man's Hobby Is an Unrestored '57 Chevy

When J.R. Hannigan retired in 2001, his wife Rosemary told him to "get a hobby." It didn't take him long to decide what his hobby would be: a classic car. And not just any classic car. A '57 Chevy, preferably unrestored or otherwise modified.If only he could have gotten it right away. He'd found one at Berlin, NJ's Black Tie Classics, but the owner and J.R. couldn't agree on the price. "I pestered him for almost a year and he finally gave in."And it wasn't as if this were the first "fun car" in his life. At 15, he bought a '41 Ford coupe that didn't run. He learned how to fix up cars by doing. "It was a V-8 with two water pumps. You learn a lot when you take a car apart, but when I fixed a forked shift-linage arm and I could drive it, I was so excited."Then he went into the service. When he came out he was soon in a 1961 Chevy convertible, and "then it was station wagons and hauling my two kids around. The last fun car we had was a Dodge Ramcharger four-by-four," Hannigan said."I do like to tinker and attend to details." There were plenty to attend to on the Chevy. Black Tie Classics had left the car out in the weather and watching it deteriorate just about drove J.R. nuts."It does need some restoration, but until now I've just fixed things as they break or need replacement. The major problem is the Powerglide transmission. It works fine but leaks."I discovered it'd be a major job to fix the 'rope gasket' - the engine and transmission would have to be dropped."But the front seat wear could be corrected much more easily and inexpensively.Not long ago the starter solenoid went kaput and J.R. sprung for a new starter and is well-pleased by its superior performance over the old unit. "But every time I start her up I wonder what's going to fall off next."Usually nothing does, but there's always a bit of suspense.He is concerned about what the car lacks in terms of safety. He's added seat belts and almost shudders when he sees how delicate and fragile the brakes are."The master cylinder is tiny and there's only one line coming out of it for all four wheels. I'd really like to upgrade the master cylinder and maybe even put discs on the front."With a generator putting out only 55 amps the lights are weak. He never goes over 65 mph but feels like he's overdriving the headlights. He put reflectors under the tiny tail lights so at least there'd be some message to the people behind him."I've heard of a company that'll take your generator, put a 100-amp alternator inside it, and send it back to you." He's thinking about it.He has added a modern touch - a "brakes are on" stop light inside the rear window.The car is period-correct in all respects, from the cosmetics to the running gear. The cosmetic details add to the fun: the half-moons over the headlights, the scarf and dice hanging from the rearview, the reflective license-plate mounting bolts.The mechanical details are more inconvenient: the non-power steering and brakes, the weak lights, the bias-ply tires marketed by Sears in 1980."This car is a handful, but at least it has electric wipers that work continuously, unlike the vacuum ones that stopped when you opened the throttle." But they are only 12-inches long.Handful or not, both J.R. and Rosemary enjoy the admiring looks when they drive it to events, its small but upper-end collection of trophies (usually People's Choice), and the approval they get from fellow hobbyists.Rosemary has even made a quilt honoring her "cruiser" on his birthday. The quilt features a print with turquoise Chevys and a centerpiece computerized photo of J.R. in the '57. It's safe to say she approves of the hobby, though her hobby, quilting, "doesn't approach the expense of J.R.'s."In addition to the quilt, what also makes the car unique is the apostrophe they added to the license plate. Instead of saying "JRS 57," it now correctly announces "JR'S 57."All it took was a little bit of cosmetic electrical tape.

Wheels: Bellmawr Man's Hobby Is an Unrestored '57 Chevy 1

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8 Ways to Pin Your Remembrance Day Poppy | Cbc News
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