In 2002 Dennis Helleur went to a farm auction and paid less than $100 for a 1951 Buick Super that had been sitting in a muddy lot for years.
“I’d probably been driving by that car for 10 years and been looking at it and thought, ‘That would make a terrific lead-sled customized car,’ ” Dennis says.
After his wife, Helen Helleur, told him about the auction, he went to it and stayed all day in the rain.
“It was about the last thing that sold,” he says.
But he didn’t hot-rod it like he planned. When he opened the hood, he decided the original straight-8 engine and transmission were in good enough shape to keep.
He set about restoring the car to an original condition, except for the colors. The tires, for example, were ordered from a man in Oklahoma who made them from the original mold.
“We just beat the bushes looking for parts and still are looking,” Dennis says.
Helen works with Krystal Thomas, a special-needs young adult. Krystal picked out the ripe plum color that Dennis used on the exterior. Helen’s youngest sister, Charla Jerome, picked out the light gray color on the roof.
“Krystal will tell you it’s her purple car,” Helen says.
The restoration project took seven years, including one year when Dennis felt burned out and it just sat.
“Finally I said we’re either going to get rid of it or finish it, so I finished it, and I’m glad we did,” Dennis says. “It has been fun.”
It also took a lot of dough.
“I could be driving a Lexus now probably cheaper,” Dennis says with a laugh.
Dennis, a lifelong mechanic and body man, was a sophomore in high school when he restored his first car. The oldest car he has restored was a 1909 Rambler Convertible when he was in his early 30s.
Helen says one of the best parts of driving the Super is interacting with all the people who notice it.
“You can pull into a gas station and people you might normally never speak to… you will talk to,” she says.
The Helleurs take the car on monthly cruises with fellow car lovers and enjoy driving it in nice weather.
“Krystal and I drive it all the time in the summertime,” Helen says. “We didn’t buy it and fix it up for it to sit. We bought it and fixed it up so we could enjoy it.”Contact Darren at 515-953-4822 ext. 304 or firstname.lastname@example.org to recommend someone for an upcoming issue of “What’s In Your Garage?”