“This is called a ‘Sixty Special,’” said Wes Tintinger as he pulled back a car cover to reveal his gleaming ‘58 black Cadillac loaded with chrome.
“In ‘58 it had nickel chrome,” he said of the model. "But in 1959, they decided it was too dangerous to put on. And in ‘60 less and less. Now it’s plastic, they don’t even put chrome on.”
It’s facts like this and more, you learn from a collector who knows his car history.
And for those who are interested, Tintinger also knows his engines, since he does some of his own work.
But it’s all the lovely little details that catch the eye of this writer -- even though I’m admittedly no auto aficionado.
It’s the quality of the craftsmanship, the graceful design, the white-leather, black-fabric upholstery with an embedded silver coronet, the glowing white walls -- as well as the dashboard light and floor lights, all still working beautifully -- that draw my eyes for a closer look.
But no doubt for Tintinger, it’s lifting the hood to admire the V-8, 365 cubic inch engine that’s much more exciting. Or better yet, cruising the Cadillac down the open highway -- now that the speed limit is back up to 80.
One thing one soon discovers about classic car junkies -- owning just one is rarely enough.
Out in front of Tintinger’s house, enclosed in its very own trailer, resides a red and black 1917 Oldsmobile M37.
Leather upholstery, wooden dashboard and steering wheel, as well as wooden wheel spokes -- it calls to mind something F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald might have zoomed off to flapper parties in.
“When I bought this car I bought the whole history of Oldsmobile,” said Tintinger. “Olds started in 1890. In 1889 they incorporated and started building cars.”
He can also tell you about Ransom E. Olds, the pioneer American automaker who was the son of a blacksmith who made mining equipment.
But Tintinger’s heart still yearns for the car that got away -- a 1955 Chrysler 300 that could do 150 to 160 mph -- that he bought for $600.
“There was only 1,725 of these made,” he said. “They were all identical white -- except for 10 of them that were red that were in the Indianapolis 500.”
They were the fastest, mass produced cars to come off the assembly line at that time.
“It’s difficult today to realize what a sensation a 300-horsepower auto was in 1955,” reads an online article by Dan Jedlicka about these cars. “The C300 arrived when the fastest, most powerful American mass produced cars were still mostly costly full-size models.”
Tintinger is one of 41 members of Capital Carriages Car Club, the local chapter of the Montana Pioneer and Classic Auto Club.
For those who are car connoisseurs or wannabes -- the next few months bring a host of opportunities to meet local members and peer under the hoods of their classic and antique autos.
And if you strike up a conversation with Tintinger, you'll soon learn his fascination stretches to include many more things mechanical.
“I’d like to start a tractor club in this town,” he laments. The nearest one he could find is a club in the Flathead. Gracing his front lawn is a McCormick Deering W-30 tractor that still runs, once you crank the engine, which takes a fair amount of muscle power.
And then there’s his basement, now the realm of a true "underground railroad," where Tintinger tinkers on his $35,000 set of trains recreating the 1930s era of passenger trains steaming across the Western landscape -- complete with train whistles and blasts as they chug out of the station and steam around the basement.