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Victoria-based exotic and classic car restorer Rudi Koniczek is always enthusiastic about the cars that he restores. But he absolutely comes alive when he talks about unearthing one of the rarest cars in the world from decades of dusty storage in a rat-infested garage at a home in Santa Monica, Calif.
For the past 40 years, Rudi & Company has been one the foremost restorers of Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadsters and gull-wing sports cars. Owners have shipped cars for restoration from as far away as Europe, South Africa and Japan. He has restored about 100 of the cars and currently has half a dozen under restoration. His shop also restores other special interest cars to concours standards.
He takes pride in having restored the 1960 Mercedes-Benz 300SL bought new in Montreal by Pierre Elliot Trudeau. It was a rush job to be completed in time for Justin Trudeau’s wedding in Montreal. The restoration that usually takes a full year was compacted into eight months. The silver roadster is magnificent and is part of Canadian history.
The Mercedes-Benz 300SL was introduced in 1954 as a two-seat, closed sports car with distinctive gull-wing doors and was the first gasoline-powered car with direct injection. Later it was offered as an open roadster. It was the fastest production car of its day.
The 300 referred to the threelitre engine and SL stood for Sport Leicht. rom 1955 through 1963, there were approximately 1,800 M-B 300SL roadsters built and 1,383 gullwing coupes produced from 1955 through 1957 in Stuttgart, Germany. Gullwing describes the way the doors lift open.
In the ’50s, the factory turned out 29 special lightweight alloy body gull-wing coupes with Plexiglas windows. These are among the world’s most valued collector cars, worth about $2.5 million each.
Only 28 of the alloy-bodied cars were accounted for. The whereabouts of No. 29 was one of the great mysteries in the classic car world. Koniczek had restored numbers 1 and 6. He knew where all the other alloy-bodied cars were except for No. 21.
Twenty years ago, he heard about a gull-wing that had been stored in a garage in Santa Monica, Calif., for decades. It was a rumour that he and a California enthusiast followed up on over the years.
This spring, Koniczek was able to make a deal with the owner of the car. But getting the Gullwing out of the garage was a challenge. The widower owner was in his late 80s, and his garage was full of old mainframe computers. The car couldn’t even be seen in the garage.
He hired two men to clear the way to the car. When the car began to emerge from the clutter, it became apparent that the search for No. 21 was over. "I took a magnet out of my wallet and ran it over the car and it didn’t stick," Koniczek recalls of the moment.
The owner of the car, Tom Wellmer, had received the new 1955 special alloy M-B Gullwing coupe in New York as a graduation gift from his parents. He drove it into the 1970s until the transmission broke. Then he put the car up on jack stands and began taking it apart. He took the wheels and hood off, the interior out and removed the transmission. And then the car just sat – for more than 40 years.
Koniczek guides seven full-time artisans and a bevy of other craftsmen who contribute their talents during the restorations. His mission statement is just three words: Best or nothing.
His restorations have won every major award there is. The M-B Museum in Stuttgart features some of the cars he has restored.
There is a row of 300SL cars in various states of restoration, including a roadster once owned by Canadian Forest Products founder Peter Bentley. Other cars are receiving body and paint jobs in a downtown Victoria shop.
Koniczek is the ultimate self-made man. An only child, he and his parents came to Canada from Germany in 1953. As a teenager, he got an after-school job in a model shop, taking his pay in kits that he would build into his favourite car – the M-B Gullwing.
Koniczek will start the restoration of the "missing" alloy-bodied 300SL early next year. The only stipulation made by the original owner in selling the car was for the rare car to be given a full restoration to look as it did when he took delivery in 1955.
A.K. Miller's Front Yard
Consider the strange story of Alex and Imogene Miller of East Orange , VT. They eked out an existence on a small farm. Alex would scrounge rusty nails from burnt buildings to repair his roof. He drove a ratty VW Beetle, and when it died, he found another even more ratty, and another...the rusting carcasses littered his yard. Alex died in 1993, and Imogene died in 1996. The local church took up a collection so they could be buried in the churchyard, and the state began the process of taking the farm for taxes. That would have been the end of a sad story, except...
Forget the VW: a '28 Franklin ($4500 US) and a '23 HCS($14,500 US) lurk inside.
While preparing the estate for auction, the sheriff discovered a cache of bearer bonds taped to the back of a mirror. That triggered a comprehensive search of the house and outbuildings. The estate auction would eventually be handled by Christie's , and it would bring out collectors from all over the world.
1913 Stutz Bearcat went for just $105,000 US. Must have been the bad tire.
It seems that Alex Miller was a Rutgers grad, son of a wealthy financier. He lived in Montclair , NJ , where he founded Miller's Flying Service in 1930. He operated a gyrocopter (look it up, it's too much of a digression) for mail and delivery service through the 30's. But the Millers had a secret, and they moved from Montclair when they needed room for it.
Step behind the wheel of a 1916 Stutz Bearcat ($155,000 US).
Choosing to live low profile, and paranoid about tax collectors, Miller moved to the farm in Vermont , and took his collections with him. Most of his cash had been exchanged for gold and silver bars and coins, which he buried in various locations around the farm. He carefully disassembled his gyrocopter, and stored it in an old one-room schoolhouse on his property. He then built a couple of dozen sheds and barns out of scrap lumber and recycled nails. In the sheds he put his collection.
Have to remember to clean that '20 Bearcat out of the shed ($50,000 US).
Alex Miller had an obsession with cars. Not just any cars, but Stutz cars. Blackhawks, Bearcats, Super Bearcats, DV16's and 32's. He had been buying them since the 1920's. When Stutz went out of business, he bought a huge pile of spare parts, which was also carefully stored away in his sheds.
A Springfield Rolls Piccadilly Roadster ($115,000 US), made in Illinois .
Sometimes he would stray, and buy other "special cars", including Locomobiles, a Stanley , and a Springfield Rolls Royce. He never drove them. He'd simply move them into his storage sheds in the middle of the night, each car wrapped in burlap to protect it from any prying eyes. Over the years, the farm appeared to grow more and more forlorn, even as the collection was growing.
A snappy car: 1921 Stutz Bearcat ($58,000 US).
Occasionally he would sell some parts to raise cash. Rather than dipping into his cache, he would labor for hours making copies of the original parts by hand.
Stutz factory spares. Cylinders and pistons from a brass era Stutz in foreground.
Collectors knew him as a sharp trader, who had good merchandise but was prone to cheating. His neighbors had no clue at all, they thought Alex and Imogene were paupers, and often helped out with charity.
Wheelbarrow blocks a '28 Stutz Blackhawk Boattail Speedster ($78,000 US).
The auction was a three day circus, billed as the "Opening of King Stutz Tomb." It attracted celebrity collectors, as well as thousands of curiosity seekers. The proceeds were in the millions, some items went for far more than their value in the frenzy. In the end, the IRS took a hefty chunk of the cash for back taxes, which proves the old adage about the only two sure things in life.
A vanilla '31 SV16 Stutz Sedan ($10,000)
Bargain of the show: a '29 Stutz Blackhawk sedan for $7000 US
A beautiful Stutz DV32 Sedan ($27,500)
Anyone need a new Stutz engine? Still factory fresh.
A'23 HCS ($12,000 US) lurks in the darkness of the barn.
A Lebaron dual-cowl Stutz from 1929 ($68,000 US)
A '27 Stutz AA Sedan for $6500 US
1925 Stutz Speedway Six ($9000 US)
T-Head engine in a '21 Bearcat
Build a '22 Stutz touring car from this pile of parts for just $10,000 US
$2.18 million at auction
$1 million in gold
$75,000 in silver
$400,000 in stock
And they never got to enjoy it
Thanks goes to AUTOCULT Nomad, Robert Morris, for the heads-up on this one…
In 1954, drag racing was a fairly new sport, but it was becoming more and more popular and the idea of sanctioned events with elapsed time recording and all the shit we take for granted in modern-day-3-second-rolling-billboard Top Fuel and Funny Car racing was but a novelty.
And the cars on those early dragstrips were about as refined as a farm tractor, with all the styling to match. But hell, everything has to start somewhere and the idea of going as fast as possible from a standing start to the end of a quarter mile had more to do with pushing a repurposed passenger car through the ambient air than a purpose-built machine to cheat it.
But, in ’54, the very first World Series Of Drag Racing was being held in the Midwest and there were more than a few guys willing to put their skills and asses to the test with whatever they thought would beat the other guy down the track. And that’s where Kenny Kerr and Francis Fortman put their home-built, alcohol-burning, flathead-powered Deuce 3-window to the test. Just once.
The coupe was put out to pasture, literally, after that day of racing just outside of Chicago and was finally discovered by Ken Robins just recently. We’re not gonna spoil the story any more than we already have, so we’ll now turn it over to the guys at Old Cars Weekly to tell you the whole deal. We’re not batshit crazy about ’32 Fords the way most hotrodders are, but we absolutely ARE full-blown nutty about stories like this.
1927 Model T Touring Car
I was repairing some fence on the back 40 for a neighbor of mine when I came across an ole barn that had actually already fallen down. But one of the walls hadn't fallen yet and I thought how odd. I got to study it a little closer and sure enough I found this ole 1927 Model T Touring Car. I went to the owner of that property and turns out they were the parents of a good friend of mine in high school. I asked if I might somehow be able to acquire the ole tin lizzie but she had said that it was her brother in laws ole car and IDE have to talk to him about it. I ask for his info but just by chance he was there visiting. His residence was in West Oklahoma though. I asked and well it wasn't all smiles and thrills when he said to me. "No, it's not for sale. I've had that car since the early fifties and I'm going to fix it up one day." (I'm sure I don't have to describe the feeling I got. We've all heard that at one time or another!) Well I went back to fixing the fence, long face and all! I shared the story with my friends and soon it just became a memory of an ole car going to waste.
Till one day I get a call and it’s the mother of my ole high school chum. She asked if I still wanted that ole car out there in the rubble. Of course my answer was you bet, but I had to ask really, thinking the ole fellow that was going to fix it up had come to his senses, "What happened did the feller decide not to fix her up?" She replied, no he died on Christmas Eve and we need to get the money up for his funeral expenses." Man that took the wind out of me!
Well long story short we worked out a deal and I couldn't get down there fast enough to get the rubble off and asses my treasure.
Here are some pictures that I took when I finally got it loaded and home; then some more pictures of it in the garage now. I want to get started on the restore but I first have to finish the two 1930 Model A Sedans that I'm working on now. Why two of the same car one might ask, well I didn't intend it to be that way but after getting deep into the initial restore I found that I'd come across enough parts that I could start another!
If someone should ask whether I’d want to sell it or trade, the answer would be sure. I really love it but I've got so many irons in the fire. I don't want to be at the front door one day telling some young man, I've been intending on fixing that up one day.
I would really like to trade it for an almost completed restore 1930-31 Model A Sedan. I've got the car running and cruise it around town often. There are a lot of older gents that love it when I take them for a ride. It's like you can almost see there demeanor return to there ole glory days. IDE just like to have an old finished model A so that I can quit working on them every spare moment and get on with enjoying it.
As you can probably tell I'm a bit of a talker and a lot of a rambler at that. Thank you for your sight. It's a testimony to a lot of folks that look on it that it's still possible to be one of the luckiest guy's in town!
This might not be your run of the mill barn find but this 1965 Shelby GT350 has been sitting in some owners barn in Ohio for the last 27 years as a project that never got off the ground. The car has seen some better days with alot of rust on the body and the motor, trans and interior are completely gone. The body is verified as a 1965 Shelby GT350 through it's VIN# 5T09A18XXX and through the Shelby Tag that was pop-riveted on the drivers side inner fender panel.
The Shelby Tag decodes, SFM - (Shelby Ford Mustang), 5 - (model year 1965), S - (Street car). The VIN number decodes:, 5 - (model year as 1965), T - (Metuchen, NJ assembly plant), 09 - (Fastback), A - (engine code for 289ci 4V V8 271hp high performance), 18XXXX - consecutive unit number. In 1965 their were 516 Street production Shelby GT350's produced and they were all made in Wimbeldon White with Black interior.
This might be a good starting point for somebody with an original 289 from a 1965 Shelby GT350.
"The Other Woman's" Humble beginnings. We found this car through a long time friend. It had been sitting the past 20 years in a barn just 3 miles from where he grew up. A project to use a freshly built 351w that is another long story was the plan, now a car was located and only the actual work was left to be done! Best place to start is a good cleaning!!! Later Kim named the car "The Other Woman because I seemed to spend a little too much time away from her?
After several months of de-mousing, cleaning, scraping and welding we painted the car ourselves. It isn't perfect, but it feels pretty good to know we did it ourselves. Well until I see all the little things!!! Then I curse the fact that it isn't perfect. Maybe it is a family thing?
18 Month family restoration effort!
Our mission was to build a nice daily driver with some modifications.
Modifications include: 351w motor with Duraspark Ignition donated to effort from '77 thunderbird. Shelby front drop. 2001 Mustang Front Seats with custom upholstery to look more at home in a Vintage Mustang. 3 Point Seat Belts and Pioneer Head Unit (hidden in trunk) with some Alpine Speakers in the package tray and custom kick panels. Magniflow 2.5" Stainless Exhaust was the final touch. They say a project car is never complete, future efforts include some more suspension work to hopefully quiet down the squeaks from the urethane bushings and to raise the front in a bit with some new springs (guess I shouldn't have cut that 1/4 coil out). We should also get that factory air working too for the hot summer days!
Thanks to my boys Michael and Matthew, and my future son-in-law Aaron for all the help along the way. Dad is even letting them take for some spins these days. And knowing their luck with cars, that is a major step on my part!!
1962 BSA DBD34 Gold Star – Barn Find
1962 BSA DBD34 Gold Star – Barn Find
Someday…How many times have you told yourself “Someday, I will find the bike I have always wanted’ Well for me, “someday” finally arrived and I feel like the luckiest guy in the world. After 10 years of patience, perseverance and pure luck, I found a barn fresh 1962 DBD34 Gold Star that I could afford. My goal is to restore her from the crank up to full UK clubman specs and then will ride the heck out of her this spring.
My bike arrived from Texas and I am the one who found it in the first few minutes it was listed on Craigslist and snapped it up. I feel like a I won the lottery!!!
**See links below for full story and photos.
THE BARN FIND
For many years, local legend had it that one of the fabled factory production 1957 Corvette AIRBOX race cars had been sequestered in a rural Ohio barn since the 1970’s. Few however had actually seen the car, and many doubted that such a car actually existed. One man however, Corvette restorer Joel Lauman, had seen the car, knew the owner, and was convinced that the car was authentic in every respect. While the owner was fully aware of the special nature of the car, and was understandably reluctant to part with it, Joel persuaded him to sell the car to Bill Connell with the assurance that the car would be restored to award winning standards.
With the help of GM engineer and Corvette historian Ken Kayser, the “4007” car was fully authenticated as the earliest known of the legendary AIRBOX racers, as well as the “pilot” car for subsequent RPO 579D production. See The History of GM’s Ramjet Fuel Injection on the Chevrolet V-8 and its’ Corvette Racing Pedigree by Kenneth Kaysar for details.
Although the history of the car was yet unknown, a year of letters, phone calls and visits led to a full exposition and documentation of “4007”s origins and race history.