Ron Dawicki relishes the thought of possessing a truly rare car. And through an equally rare set of circumstances, he got one about two years ago. A 1929 Chevrolet. Roadster. “International.” Right-hand drive. (When did you last see one?)
“You don’t see them every day,” he winks. “And at car shows they’re non-existent.” Just how many there are left in the world is a matter of conjecture, but it would be surprising if there were very many.
Part of it is in its construction. Much of the sheet metal is actually nailed to a wooden frame, which doesn’t allow the body to flex much. But it would be easily torn apart either by hand or by excessive driving. The mileage on this car’s original motor is also indeterminate.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The car, after being driven and stored in Uruguay, was brought here about 10 years ago and restored in a shop in West Chester, Pa., where Ron’s brother-in-law spotted it and bought it. He enjoyed tinkering with it for eight years or so and then decided to move into a gated, deed-restricted community. One of the restrictions was the number of bays a garage could have: two. Both he and his wife had daily drivers, so the “hobby car” had to go.
The brother-in-law explained his predicament to Ron and asked how to go about selling a rare antique car. Ron saved them both a lot of trouble by buying it.
“I love this goofy thing!” And there’s no denying the car has some quirky features. The rebuilt-but-original engine is Chevy’s first iteration of the “Stovebolt Six,” rated at 65 hp. But this one has a downdraft one-barrel carburetor. It sports a badge of the Automobile Club of Uruguay on its grille. It has an exterior fuel gauge atop its gas tank. And it sports the optional “artillery” wheels, with wooden spokes in place of a steel dish, reminiscent of WWI caissons and cannons.
And the quirkiness continues when driving the car. “It’s an adventure driving this.” With its mechanical brakes, non-synchromesh transmission and leaf springs, one would expect it to be. But as the saying goes, “Wait, there’s more!” The gas “button” is between the clutch and the brake! The starter “button” is well off to the left.
Starting the car requires a deft handling of the choke, throttle and spark advance/retard cables. In warm weather it smoothes out quickly, and it’s time to engage first gear. Just after it gets rolling, a double-clutching gets it into second with nary a grind of the gears. Third will enable the car to plod along at a leisurely 35-40 mph. The flat-spotted tires have just about rounded out after a two-mile drive.
But the car is a looker, not a runner. Its lines resemble other late-1920′s cars but have their own distinct sleek look. “And it looks so good with the top up. I like to leave it up.” And the striking maroon lacquer repaint at restoration looks to be its original, authentic color. It even has a couple of “alligator” cracks in it, like most aging lacquers develop.
Ron has recently added period-correct dual horns and fog lights to the front — “I wanted to ‘chrome up’ the front a little” — and plans to install a period-correct heater this winter. He’s delighted that he found one almost exactly the same color.
He and his “wrench man,” Anthony (“Skeeter”) De Pompa, have had a long history of turning out winning cars. “The ’29 Roadster has won a trophy every time out!”
Many car collectors have a roomful of trophies. Ron has a barnful.