Your first vehicle purchase just might have a story similar to Michael McCloskey’s.
“When I was 18 years old, I wanted a car so that my parents couldn’t say, ‘You can’t have the car tonight,’” the Peters Township resident recalled.
Where the comparisons probably end is that he bought a BMW, at one heck of a price, even for 1977:
“The lady wanted $75. I offered $50, and she took $60.”
His BMW, though, is pretty much the opposite of what you’d consider to be a luxury vehicle. When he acquired the car, it didn’t run, but he was able to get the engine going, all 300 cubic inches and 12 – yes, a dozen – horsepower of it.
“Pretty much every golf cart has more horsepower,” he’ll admit.
Today, McCloskey’s pint-sized 1957 BMW Isetta draws plenty of attention wherever he takes it, as was the case on Sunday during the 15th annual Classics On Main car show presented in Washington by the Covered Bridge Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America.
As folks marvel over the Isetta’s diminutive stature and all-around quirkiness, including the front swinging forward as its only door, they typically quiz McCloskey along the lines of:
“What is it? Why is it? Where’s your real car?”
That’s pretty much the same reception it got back in the day.
“I didn’t drive it very long before I ended up getting a more ‘real’ car,” McCloskey said. “I started kind of restoring it several times, and it became more and more valuable. So about 10 years ago, I had it professionally restored.”
Slightly larger than the Isetta is the 1959 Fiat 500 owned by Francis and Carol Startare of Washington.
“I grew up with this car. It was my father’s,” he said about Francis Sr., who made the purchase in 1961. “I learned to drive stick shift in it. My father drove it a pretty good bit. Then when he passed away, it sat for a long time. It was in pretty bad shape. I retired in 2012 and I thought, I’m going to restore it.”
The visit to Classics On Main was one of many for the Fiat, which is a two-time champion for the marque at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix.
Carol said that made for quite the spectacle.
“The best part was,” she recalled, “all the Italians, the Lamborghinis and everything, are in the winner’s circle, and there’s the humble little Fiat.”
Speaking of humble, its two-cylinder engine produces all of 16.5 horsepower. Not so unassuming is the engine of Ron Pavlisko’s 1948 Ford Anglia.
The Washington resident’s British-built car has Chevrolet Camaro ZZ3 350-horsepower engine under its hood – that’s “bonnet” in the United Kingdom – to go along with a Corvette transmission.
“I’ve wanted one since I was 18, when we used to go to Keystone,” he said about the Westmoreland County raceway. “They used to take an Anglia and put a small-box Chevy (engine) in it, and that thing would scream down the strip and beat everything in its class.”
Pavlisko has owned the Ford since 2013.
“It was 90 percent done, so I’m not going to take credit for all of that,” he admitted. “I’m not a mechanic, but I love cars.”
Love of cars runs in the family of brothers Howard and Drew Carl, who live in Mt. Pleasant and Chartiers townships, respectively.
Howard brought his 1965 Dodge Coronet 500, the top of its model line, to Classics On Main, and he also owns other vintage vehicles, primarily Chrysler Corp. products: 1937 Plymouth, 1948 Chrysler convertible, 1952 Chrysler 300, 1978 Dodge Express pickup, “and somehow a Super Beetle convertible. A Volkswagen sneaked in there.”
As for the Coronet, he said that his father-in-law bought it new, and it’s been kept in premium shape for more than half a century.
“Really, all it got was a nice paint job,” Howard said. “The interior is original and everything else is original. I’ve done some mechanical work on it, brakes and mufflers and all that regular stuff.”
His brother’s contribution to Classics On Main was his 1948 DeSoto Club Coupe, which was restored in the mid-1970s and has been in the family for about 25 years. Another Chrysler Corp. car, the marque ended with the 1961 model year.
“A lot of people will look for a name,” Drew said about the reaction when he drives it. “What is that, DeSoto? I’ve never heard of a DeSoto.”
He also has a 1946 Ford, his mother’s car and the one in which he learned to drive.
While Ford Motor Co. has sold hundreds of millions of vehicles since 1903, production by Zimmer Motorcars Corp. of Syracuse, N.Y., barely topped a thousand.
“And a lot of the 1,200, when they were new, were shipped to Europe,” Bud Gibson of Washington said. “So there aren’t many of them left.”
As such, his 1988 Golden Spirit – the final model year for the original incarnation of the Zimmer, which continues to be built today under different ownership – received lots of attention during Classics On Main with its neoclassic style, reminiscent of the most luxurious of cars from the late ’20s and early ’30s.
Gibson said he had been looking for a similar-looking automobile called Excalibur, but he thinks the Zimmer is nicer. And beyond the aesthetics, it was built using a Ford Mustang chassis and drivetrain.
The Jessop Steel Co. retiree credits son Joe, a 1986 Washington & Jefferson College graduate who Gibson Stainless Entrepreneurial Scholarship to ease the financial burden on students who have a passion for entrepreneurship, for helping Dad own a truly distinctive car.
“That’s the result of my sacrifice,” Bud said, “getting him through college.”