VOICES: In retirement, former body shop owner still committed to preserving cars

This story is part of Voices of our community, which is designed to tell you something new about your neighbors. Participants are chosen at random for the interviews, in which we strive to share a portion of their lives with you, the reader. Look for this series every Monday.

MECOSTA TWP. — Scott Taylor’s newly restored 1922 Chevrolet FB Baby Grand has a collapsible cloth roof and no windows, just like his 1923 Chevrolet Superior Touring Car and his 1914 Baby Grand.

Despite the fact that half of his car collection leaves passengers exposed to the elements, he’s looking forward to winter, when he’ll have a Ford Model T parked in his garage and a few months to work on the car’s electric wiring.

Scott Taylor stands outside his garage with three classic cars he has restored: a 1922 FB Baby Grand, a 1914 Baby Grand and a 1967 Chevy Camaro. (Pioneer photos/ Whitney Gronski-Buffa)

After retiring from 40 years in the auto body business as the owner of Scott’s Body Shop, Taylor still is getting his hands dirty repairing cars, but he’s shifted his focus to classic cars. In addition to the open-air cars, Taylor has a fully-restored 1967 Chevy Camaro Rally Sport, a 1939 Chevy Master Deluxe and two other cars he’s looking to sell.

When he’s not working on his own cars — it has taken him four years to restore the 1922 Chevrolet FB Baby Grand, which he acquired as a rusted-out frame for $500 — he judges car competitions for the Antique Automobile Club of America and the National Chevrolet Club and does restoration work for friends and people he meets at competitions.

“I do all the stuff nobody else wants to do,” Taylor said.

The Pioneer caught up with Taylor this week to talk about why it’s important to preserve classic cars and what he thinks will be “classic” to future generations.

Pioneer: How long have you been restoring cars? How were you introduced to the business?

Taylor: I’ve been doing this more than 55 years. My uncle had a garage and I started working in his garage when I was 13, and I owned Scott’s Body Shop for 40 years. I still do some stuff for people, mostly things nobody else wants to do.

Pioneer: How does a person begin to restore a classic car? What’s the biggest challenge? How long does it take?

Taylor: The biggest thing is finding the parts. You just don’t go to the regular automotive store and order the parts. Their computer systems only cover so many years. They don’t have many books where you can cross-reference. So I make a lot of parts. My neighbor across the street has his own machine shop, so I use that.

This 39 Chevy I restored it over 35 years ago back in 1976 and did the ‘46 Chevy in the garage the same year and then I got a ‘40 Chevy truck. I really didn’t do anything until I got this ‘23 (Touring Car) in 1986 and restored that. When I got that, I also got a Corvette and it seemed to be more interesting than the Corvette. I sold the Corvette to a guy in Big Rapids and the touring car I won three senior grand national titles with.

Pioneer: What do you like about the restoration process?

Taylor: I like the sheet metal work; that was my specialty, anyway. Now I have to have other people do my painting for me because I don’t have the facility for that. The guys are pretty good over at the shop. They’ll get me in on a Saturday or something, and usually it isn’t the whole vehicle, just parts.

Pioneer: What’s the appeal of the older cars? Why not supe up something new?

Taylor: Well, I used to have hot rods, but I got too many tickets. That hot rods and stuff like that, those cars with the modern engines, they drive like modern cars with the air conditioning in them and everything. These are more like toys. I know guys that are in the Horse and Carriage Club who, I wouldn’t do what they do, but they take their cars and drive in the mountains 100 miles a day. I’ve learned a little bit from those guys. They put modern bearings in them so they can run them a little bit more and they’re more durable. I’ve not had too much problems with running my cars. When you restore something, you always think, “Well, I’ll fix this up better,” or you’ll find a rearview mirror that’s better than the one you have.

Pioneer: How did you become a car show judge?

Taylor: Before I got the ‘23, we started taking the ‘39 to national meets and I noticed the guys who won the highest prizes were judges. When you learn to become a judge and you learn the manual, it’s not about how shiny the paint is, it’s about the authenticity of the vehicle and how close you are to how the vehicle was built when it was new. I found a lot of guys who do their own painting and paint their frames with brushes instead of spraying and they win national awards. … When you learn how they were built originally, you have a little bit of knowledge on how to restore them to how they were originally built. That’s what we judge them by.

Pioneer: Which do you think will be the classic cars the younger generation collects when they’re older?

Taylor: I don’t know exactly what it will be. With Ford, the Model As and Model Ts were popular when they sold them. So if they’re popular when they’re new, they’ll be popular later. The new Camaros, new Mustangs, the new Chrysler Cuda that has that retro look — those are the cars people are buying and those are the ones that are going to go up in value.

One reason why a lot of cars, like the Buicks, (have been preserved) is because the people who bought them were well-to-do, they had buildings to keep them in, they had chauffeurs that took care of the cars, and when they decided they didn’t want to drive that car anymore, they’d buy a new car and stick the other in the garage and let it sit. It didn’t go out into the backyard and deteriorate. So that’s why there’s a lot of those cars around.

Another reason is that they were good cars. People kept them up and drove them. Especially with the Chevrolets, people just wore them out. I’ve seen parts on cars I didn’t think could wear out but they do because of the movement and vibration of just going up and down the roads.

One thing with the newer cars that will be hard to keep them as antiques when they get older is that the electronics are going to go and there will be no way to replace them because there will be all new stuff. You can’t go to machine shops and have new electronics made. I have no idea what it’s going to be, but I think in the next 10 years you’ll see the young people coming out of automotive classes that are used to working with electronics and start taking these older cars and they’re not going to be putting big engines in them. They’ll put moderate engines in and try to go for gas mileage and ease of operation. They’re going to have the technology to put all these computer systems in and airbag systems. They’ll incorporate all that into old cars. You’re already seeing a bit of that now. … If you watch the hot rod TV shows, you’ll see the guys putting in fuel injections. Next year, NASCAR will be doing fuel injections in their cars instead of using the old style carburetors. That’s going to change the whole game.

Pioneer: What would be your advice to the younger generation who want to preserve today’s car for the future?

Taylor: Keep them stock as much as possible. When you customize a car with a big engine and all that, the things you do make it your personal car. That doesn’t mean somebody else might want that car. They might not want the engine you have, they might not want the type of front end you put underneath it or any weird type of upholstery. At the moment it might be worth more money, but down the road, when it gets older, the value will diminish and the only way anyone will want it is if they can buy it cheap and tear it apart to put all their stuff in it.

avatar

Posted by Whitney Gronski-Buffa

Leave a Reply