Classic Devotion

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:47

    FRANKLIN-One day in April, 1990, Philip Littell was helping a friend in Maryland clean out his home when he encountered a 1941 Ford business coupe, which had been sitting idle in the garage since 1951. "I asked him what he was going to do with it, and he said I could have it," recalled Littell, a Franklin resident and the older brother of state senator Robert Littell. "So I picked it up on a trailer and took it home. Actually, the body was in fair shape. Mechanically, it had to all be redone." Now, some 15 years later, what the older Littell has is the same 1941 Ford business coupe, only this time it's spanking new, shiny and ready to drive, which he sometimes does. And Littell's good friend, former Franklin Mayor Ed Allen, has been restoring old vehicles into eye-catching, antique jewels since 1960. Together, both Allen and Littell have discovered a hobby that is as time-consuming as it can be expensive, as countless t car lovers have discovered throughout the years. But is it really as expensive as one already assumes it to be? "More," replied Allen with a wry grin. "(But) it's a nice hobby, and you meet a lot of nice people. I had met Phil before, but we didn't become friends until we got into cars." Of course, hobbies become even more fun when that hobby also is in the neighborhood of the subject's true abilities and inclinations. In other words, if you want to get into the restoration of old vehicles, it's nice if you have some kind of mechanical background, and both Allen and Littell do. Allen is a former supervisor for the Ford Motor Company, while Littell once was the owner of a refrigeration and air-conditioning service. Littell also was a maintenance supervisor for the Vernon Board of Education before retiring a few years ago. "I started back in about 1960," recollected Allen, who later built a massive garage on his property. "I did a '29 Model-A Ford, then a '41 Chevy coupe and a '57 T-Bird. And then a '48 Plymouth convertible, and then I did a '46 Ford convertible. And I'm working on a '63 British land rover and a '48 Plymouth coupe. Unlike those involved with rebuilding and reworking foreign cars, restoration of American cars usually does not involve the incessant changing of parts and fluids, along with other maintenance that is necessary for the former. But American cars still require a lot of love and effort, both Allen and Littell said. "Depending on the automobile, some of the parts are hard to find," Littell said. "You spend a lot of time going to flea markets. It's not a cheap hobby." "It doesn't stop," Allen added, noting that he pays about $125 a gallon for the original lacquer used to paint the cars. Nor is it for the faint of heart. First, Allen said, you remove the body from the frame, and "then you restore the frame. Then, the motor and the running gear. I painted my body off the frame, then put it back on. And then when you're done painting the body, you still have to do all the interior, then all the glass, and all the rubber seals. "It's a long process," he said. There are times, both men agree, when they get to a point where they stop and don't necessarily resume work for a while. Littell said it's like doing a tough crossword puzzle: "You get stuck, you go away for a while, and you come back and it's there." Both men said the hobby n something interesting and rewarding to do n is what keeps them going, not whatever money they might spend restoring a car or earn selling it. "It's something I do to keep off the ‘honey-do' list," Allen laughed. "Lots of times I go down there at nine or 10 in the morning, and I don't even come back for lunch, not if I'm into something." So what advice would they give to someone who wants to take up the hobby? "Get a video camera and videotape everything you take apart, as to where it went," Littell explained. "The pictures are invaluable because when it takes you so much time, you kind of forget where a part is." "Don't be afraid to ask for help," Allen concluded. "There's always someone willing to help you."