– by John McCulloch
On a gray Saturday at the end of March, CAC members George Dyke, John McCulloch, Doug Pengelly and Larry Lewis took advantage of the opportunity to get a guided tour of the car restoration facilities of RM Classic Motors in Chatham, Ontario. We were also joined by Peter Bandy of CCNA who, living in Detroit, was just 45 minutes away! We converged on RM (the initials of its founder Rob Myers) which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
Since its inception, the company has grown steadily and is now ranked among the top three auto restorers in North America. The company started when Rob Meyers undertook a restoration in his backyard in the mid 1960s. When auto enthusiasts saw his work, the demand for his services began.
There were two major parts of the tour conducted by our helpful and very informative guide Barry. First we looked at the workshop area where 8 cars were under active res-oration. Among the vehicles there were a 1939 Bugatti, a 1937 Chrysler Imperial Businessman’s special, and a 1950 Anheuser Busch truck/float used in parades. A few of the vehicles in the shop were undergoing only minor repairs. Two that I thought were outstanding were a pair of 1953 Mercedes Benz 220 roadsters. Although the shop was off limits to visitors, we had a good view through windows down on to the shop floor. It was clear from the state of some of the cars that artisans would have to fashion new parts from scratch. Barry explained to us that one mechanic would basically take charge of a car from start to finish, although different crafts such as painting and upholstery would be done by other specialists at RM.
The second part of the tour was a leisurely walk around the “museum” at RM. I put museum in quotations because many of the cars were being stored for an upcoming auction, whereas others were awaiting restoration and still others were simply parked there. One of the first cars we saw was an enormous 1941 Chrysler which served as the Pace car to the 1941 Indianapolis 500. Nearby was a beige 1936 Cord equipped with a Southwind heater supplied by our own Larry Lewis. George Dyke fell in love with a 1929 Bentley which was custom built for the Bentley family. While the car was, in overall form, very similar to vehicles such as Dusenbergs or Auburns, it projected a sense of the power from its massive grill and headlights to its long hood. A feature that none of us had ever seen was a unique body material used in this car. The doors and rear body parts were made of leather stretched over the frame and then finished to look like metal.
The last highlight was a pair of 1929 Duponts. These two cars (from about 500 built) were made by the Dupont family in their own factory. The unique feature was a radiator cap shaped like an eagle’s head made of crystal. After the museum tour we ensured that Peter got an adequate tasting of Canadian beer at a local sports bar, then departed for home. The participants rated this trip a great success.