Stosser has love affair with cars

June 27, 2004|EMIL TOADVINE

There's a reason most of Paul Stosser's antique cars are convertibles.

"There's a saying, 'If the top goes down, the price goes up.'"

Stosser, who has moved from the realm of collecting to selling vehicles, usually sticks with Corvettes and Cadillacs, but one of his most recent acquisitions is a 1924 Model T Ford. He unearthed it in a barn in Science Hill where it had been sitting for about nine years.

"I never thought about a car that old. I've never had one," says Stosser, whose home office has the walls lined with photographs of cars. One of the largest frames contains photographs showing the front and back views of various Corvettes he has owned. Other than the Model T, a 1963 Cadillac and 1963 Chevrolet share the distinction of being the next-oldest models in his fleet.

Stosser and his wife, Sandra, are having a great time with the Model T, shining the brass grill, admiring the wooden spokes around the wheels, and locating the gas tank under the seat.


Driving it has been a challenge.

"If you look at the foot pedals and the feet, it looks like Fred Astaire dancing," says Stosser.

The owner in Science Hill had bought the Model T in 1989 in Tennessee, but had parked it because of failing health.

"It was in really good shape and he showed it," says Stosser.

To bring the Model T to Danville, Stosser enlisted Floyd Lyons, who owns the BP station on Lexington Road, and his rollback truck. Lyons wanted to show it off after hauling it to Danville.

"Floyd said, 'Can we go down Fourth Street? I want the people to see it.'"

Lyons says it's incredible how little work the Model T needed, despite serving as a nesting ground for dirt daubers in the barn.

"The next day, it was sitting there sparkling and all he done was wash it. It blowed my mind."

Although driving required some getting used to, the car didn't need a lot of work before Stosser took it for a test drive. He did have his mechanic friend, Jack Lee, tune it up.

"It runs like a Singer sewing machine," Stosser says.

Just as he knows all about his Corvettes, Stosser quickly became knowledgeable about Model Ts. He ordered the instruction manual and the service book. His is one of 220,955 made in 1924.

"It cost $345 and came with one option, an electric starter for $65," he says of the car that he now estimates is worth $15,000.

Like his other vehicles, he compiled a notebook on this one. One of the interesting items inside is a photograph of Stosser as a boy. Almost as if he guessed his destiny, the photo was taken in 1959 in front of a Model T at the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan.

The Model T joins the many other vehicles in Stosser's stable cruising machines. Stosser isn't sure when his love affair with cars began.

"As a teen, I was always washing and waxing them and keeping them clean," he says. "Cars back then were different. They had character. They changed the sheet metal every year."

Despite his devotion to the cars he has collected, Stosser is willing to part with the majority of them and has them listed through the Bluegrass Cruiser's Web site under Grandpa's Rides. He decided to start this business after his recent retirement from Phillips Lighting, where he had been factory manager for 15 of the 19 years he was there.

His inventory includes a white 1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic convertible. Its license plate identifies it as "WHT BTY," for white beauty.

"I've got red beauty. I've got black beauty and I've got blue beauty," says Stosser, who jokes that he must hold a record for personalized license plates.

He felt the Caprice worthy of collecting because it's the last year this model had a convertible.

For his wife, a white 1992 Corvette is a present "4 BHAVN."

Sometimes, he finds a car that requires quite a bit of fixing. A 1968 Ford Galaxie XL Convertible is being painted diamond blue at Caldwell's Body Shop.

"I use them for just about everything I do," he says, noting that he turns to Don's Upholstery for seat and other interior repairs.

Stosser always is on the lookout for an old car. He recently heard about a 1964 Chevrolet located in Garrard County and he and his trusty sidekick Lyons set out with the rollback truck. The car had been sitting for several years and the owner didn't even know where to find the set of keys. After a little bit of powerwashing to the vehicle, Stosser started thinking how he wanted to fix it up.

Lyons gets a kick out of Stosser's zeal.

"That's his life right now."

As a member of the Bluegrass Cruisers, Stosser has plenty of company with his hobby. He says vintage cars appeal to all ages. He just sold a 1968 Ford Galaxie XL Fastback to his neighbor's teenage son. The teenager has an area of the Boyle County High School parking lot designated for antique cars.

"He and another kid have a Chevy Nova and they have a special place they park them."

Stosser sometimes selects a car for other unique features. A 1963 Cadillac Sedan Deville is special for its Royal Maroon paint.

"They only made 4 percent of the cars that color that year," he says.

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