There's a touching memento in Charlie Lunsford's central Norman home that memorializes his recently departed spouse Marty. The couple was wed in 1958. Marty died in 2018. A photo of the pretty brunette beams out from a special automobile plate with the words, "Marty's car, 60th Wedding Anniversary." It's a memorial tied to the pristine 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible parked nearby. Lunsford purchased and restored the Chevy to showroom condition shortly before losing Marty.
"She became ill and could do very little but she wanted to ride in that convertible at least one time," Lunsford said. "My son came over and we got her in the wheel chair and into the car. I have a picture of her looking through the windshield and her eyes were sparkling like diamonds she was so excited."
As with many couples in long marriages, the years include a lengthy procession of family automobiles. Lunsford's vintage Chevy isn't a daily driver but it's symbolic to him of the era when he came of age. Many in Norman have seen his car because it carried dignitaries in the 2018 Veteran's Day and Christmas parades.
"I just love that era and this car," Lunsford said. "1955 is when I was in high school. We got married in that decade and started having children then."
He's kept a list of the cars owned over time. They include a 1954 Ford Club Coupe, 1953 Ford sedan, 1954 Pontiac, a pair of 1967 Ford Mustangs, 1948 Willys Jeep and a 1964 Ford convertible.
"I bought another 1953 Ford because it reminded me of the car Marty and I had when we lived in Colorado," he said. "Then I had a chance to buy the 1955 Chevy convertible that I have now. It's my favorite of all."
Lunsford's friend Roger Bryan helped find the red Chevy a few years ago. The old car had been in storage for 28 years in a climate controlled building in Edmond. The owners had started and then neglected a restoration process. It was for sale.
"We went over and looked at it," he said. "The body was rust-free and everything we checked looked great. The paint job just needed to be buffed-out."
The Chevy's original 265 engine had been replaced by a 305 V-8 pulled from a Chevrolet El Camino. It was a perfect candidate for restoration. The original paint job had been two-tone "Harvest Gold" and "India Ivory." The car had been assembled at the Kansas City, Missouri Leeds Industrial District plant. In that era the facility was divided between two distinct business units, the Fisher Body organization and Chevrolet Motor Division.
Lunsford wasn't sure how Marty would feel about a convertible. But she knew her husband has had always wanted an open-top car and was all in.
"We brought the car to Norman in 2016 and began working on it," Lunsford said. "The car's electrical system wiring had to be completely replaced so we bought a 1955 wiring manual."
The restoration process took nine months. The engine was flushed and miraculously fired right up with an expected cloud of smoke.
"The car had a power convertible top but the workings were all gone," Lunsford said.
The standard transmission was replaced with automatic. Front power disc brakes were installed. Fuel injection was chosen over carburetion. The 1955-1957 Chevys are highly collectible cars. They represent an important era in American automotive history. The styling of these cars has remained appealing over the years, even to those with no nostalgic attachment to the time. These factors contribute to the fact that replacement parts are readily available.
"I wanted to keep the original 1955 Harrison radiator, so I had it rebuilt," he said. "My friend Roger did ninety percent of the restoration work. I had a lady come in three days a week to help when Marty was ill so I could run up to the city where his shop is and help with the car."
The Chevy has curb appeal-plus.
"There really aren't that many convertibles around," Lunsford said. "My kids and grandkids love it. I just enjoy driving it."
Lunsford and his Chevy are popular members of Norman-based Canadian River Cruisers car club. He was wearing a CRC ball cap covered with autographs by his pals in the club.
"I joined the CRC when I had the 1953 Ford," Lunsford said. "Club member Terry O'Dea was visiting with my next door neighbor and came over to talk about the old Ford. He invited me to one of their Saturday morning coffee club meetings. There's one every week at different locations in Norman. Right after my first meetings I knew it was a club that I would enjoy immensely. It's a great group of folks who enjoy the same things I do. Sitting around sharing stories about classic cars, finding parts and everyone is there to help you."
Lunsford is also proud of the CRC's community service work.
"There are many charitable projects," he said. "Someone always has a car ready if the city needs it. We visit retirement communities where the residents love seeing the cars of their youth and we participate in the various parades. The club's main concern is giving back to the community which I thoroughly enjoy."
This is the northwest corner of 3rd and Main in Tulsa taken in 1941. The Crowne Plaza would be (if there was a corner still) where the Seminole Hotel sign is located in this view. Holly's was a downtown clothing store in Tulsa.
Dan Rohring was born in 1957 in St. Joe, Michigan, a small hometown of about 9,000 people, situated in a pretty spot along the shores of Lake Michigan. His mom was a schoolteacher and his dad retired from a career in the Air Force. Dan grew up in that small town atmosphere, and began working for his dad at a Men’s store in town.
His first job was working the sales floor doing basic things – but he and his friends had different ideas. One day while his dad was away, Dan and his friends played a new game called “DAN-NEQUIN-THE-MANNEQUIN” where they dressed Dan up as a store mannequin and he substituted himself into the store windows in lieu of the plastic model. Dan said with that mischievous gleam in his eye: “As people would window shop, “Dannequin-the-mannequin” would remain perfectly still, except for a wink or a quick grin toward a child. “
Dan graduated from St. Joe high (GO BEARS!) and was a member of their swim team. “My favorite stroke was the butterfly” (ugh!)
It was time to drive! His first car was a used 1964 Olds F-85, white-on-white 4-door that he purchased from his granddad.
To Dan, it was an embarrassing family mobile with three on the tree. “The first I did was to order a floor shifter from J.C. Whitney and replace the column shift. My granddad gave me one of those metal beer can openers which he said I needed to use to jimmy the gear knuckles inside the steering column whenever the car got stuck between gears.”
About 1979, Dan moved to Oklahoma to work for the Pontiac Motor Division of General Motors. Dan said: “The only thing I knew about the state of Oklahoma was what I had seen in the Broadway play – O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A”
“And that is where my live changed as I met Twila on a blind date. It was a blind date for both of us, set up by friends from each company who knew each other. Neither of us had EVER been on a blind date before, but as you can see, well – it worked out pretty well!”
Dan and Twila have lived in and around Norman ever since. They have 3 children: Zack, Tyler ,who lives in Norman and works for Natural Grocers, and Morgan who many of you know because she helps them in the kitchen at the swap meet. Dan worked for Pontiac Division for 38 years.
Over his life, Dan has enjoyed many cars, most of them small sporty vehicles: “Oh, I have had a bunch of cars, a TR-A, a TR-3, TTR-4, my 1958 Berkeley which is like an oversized go-kart, an XKE Jag, an S600 Honda convertible…..many small fun cars. I love to fabricate parts for them. I think the Honda S600 is my favorite all time car.” (One is shown below- it looks like a small Fiat Spyder))
Dan’s current interests are his little two-cycle 1958 Berkeley convertible and his new 2005 Lotus, which he drove to Rudy’s on the morning of our interview. The car was originally a dark blue, but the nosepiece had been damaged in a crash. Dan found a silver gray one online and replaced it. PRESTO! Two tone car that looks great!
This photo is an early one from the cRc archives - our first club community project in 2009 when we brought our cars to the front of Rivermont retirement home for the folks to enjoy.
Dan and Twila have been members of the club since the beginning. They give us great pleasure twice a year by putting on the NORMAN SWAP MEET, 3 days of fun for the cRc.
What you might not know about Dan:
1. Dan is an inventor and holds a patent for a product he once produced known as a ZZ-Ball. A sort of gyro/football. Ask Dan.
2. His main love with old cars is the restoration and fabrication part. To see how this is true, you need only come to the swap meet and see the little red van thingy.
3. Dan is certified in all 8 typical ASE auto certifications.
MEET STEVE THOMPSON
Fast facts: Born in 1952 Ponca City, OK. Met wife Debbie when he was 24 - 2 children, 4 grands (one of which comes to coffee call every Saturday - Grayson)..........
Cars and such: 1st car was a 2-door brown 1947 Businessman's coupe without mufflers.
Most exciting: a 1969 Z-28 with a Corvette engine.
Current car: a 1966 red Chevelle SS396 2door red on red.
Dream car: Another Z-28 red with black stripes - "I could really get in trouble with that!"
cRc: "One of the guys in downtown Norman invited me to join about 7 years ago. I had a 1937 Chevy at the time. I have never met a better bunch of guys!"
What you likely didn't know:
1. Steve wrestled while in high school.
2. He loves to vacation in Destin, Florida
3. He loved to bass and crappie fish with his dad.
Thomas John Vaughn was born in OKC at the old Wesley hospital during the height of World War II – 1943.
LITTLE KNOWN FACTOID: Tom’s dad was a combat medic and was surrounded by the Axis forces at Bastogne during the battle of the bulge. He made it out ok.
Tom grew up in central OKC, attending Andrew Johnson elementary and then John Marshall high school.
LITTLE KNOWN FACTOID: Tom played tennis on the tennis team and was also a drummer.
Following high school, Tom enrolled at Southwestern in Weatherford and. “I had a wonderful time. Perhaps too wonderful. Got into the college party scene and enjoyed all of it.” Tom re-enrolled at UCO in Edmond as a serious student and went on to graduate in 1967. This was during the Vietnam war and Tom worked for the U.S. Government during that time. While not in the military, his effort was war related.
In 1967 he returned to the U.S. and involved himself in the 1968 Presidential Campaign (Nixon vs Wallace vs Humphrey). From there it was on to grad school where he completed his masters in Psychology.
Finding politics enjoyable, Tom worked as an advance campaign man for the 1972 presidential candidate George McGovern.
After the campaign, he was working for the OK State Department of Health and he decided to go for his doctorate.
LITTLE KNOW FACTIOD: He received his PhD in 1979.
He became Regional Coordinator for the State Department of Health and in 1984 went into private practice and is still in active practice today.
LITTLE KNOWN FACTOID: Tom has a need for speed…consider the following. His first car was a modest 1955 4-door Plymouth, Dark blue, but he totaled that one. Next up was a hot 1956 Ford with an interceptor engine and pipes. He said: “I certainly paid a lot of money in fines for those pipes.”
LITTLE KNOWN FACTOID: He was in a hot rod club called the Deacons.
Tom’s current rides include his 1955 Red 2 door post Chevy and a 1972 Challenger (this one is for sale on the cRc website).
Tom’s fun dream car is a really tricked out Chevy C-10. He heard about the club 4 years ago having asked around a bit and so he joined the cRc.
FINAL LITTLE KNOWN FACTOID: He used to do a lot of rock climbing. In fact he has climbed “Half Dome” in Yosemite park.
Thanks Tom for sharing a number of fun things about your life with the club.
JOHN FLOYD PEACE was born in Jericho, Texas. Everyone knows where Jericho is right? It is 7 miles outside Center, Texas. John said: ‘The population of Jericho was 4, IF they are all still there.”
Well they are not still there. Jericho is a ghost town today, all except for the cemetery. It was originally a route 66 town in the Texas panhandle. John’s dad was a farmer, his mom was a farm-wife.
The family moved to north Houston early-on and John went to school there. He attended Jeff Davis High School and was in the class of 1957.
John’s first job was in the United States Navy. “I was a brown shoe
E-5."A brown shoe is the aviation branch of the Navy. Black shoes (ships) and brown shoes (aviation).”
“I was stationed in San Diego, Oakland, Whidbey Island (Washington), North base Norman, the USS Kitty Hawk and the USS Forrestal. I was in for about 10 years, and then returned to Norman where I worked in a machine shop in OKC.”
“Jean and I met way back in 1957 and we married in 1958. August 1st we will celebrate 60 years together!”
In 1986, john received his pilot’s license and began flying freight for Martinaire out of Dallas. From 1986 until 2001 he flew with Martinaire in the 19 passenger twin engine Metroliner.
At one time John owned a 4-seat 1974 model piper aircraft.
His first and favorite car was a black 1949 Mercury convertible. His current ride is the sleek black 1986 Chevelle 2 door hard-top SuperSport with a 454 engine. John has had that car since it was new. It still is from what we can tell. His confessed that he does like the Audi’s however and would like to own one someday.
What you don’t know about John:
1. He has 8000 hours and is qualified to pilot Beech99, Metroliner, and King Air aircraft.
2. He loves to build model railroads, specifically HO n3 gauge.
3. He is a SCUBA diver and has dived in France and in St. Croix.
John joined the cRc about 7 years ago at our World Headquarters- Midway Grocery. He said “I’ve been waiting on this interview now for seven years. Thought it would never happen!” John likes the companionship of our friendly members, people who know a lot about cars and we like John and Jean too!
Master-Sergeant-At-Arms, twin (OMG there are two of them), ball point pen collector………FLOYD DEAN YATES and his twin brother LLOYD GENE (try saying those names rapidly 5 times) came howling into this world during a full moon on November 24th, 1937. That was the same year Amelia Earhart disappeared and Daffy Duck debuted….wonder if those things had any bearing on the birth of these two twins who Dr. Buffton delivered at their farmhouse east of Norman. Doctors still made house calls in 1937.
Floyd’s mom was a housewife and his dad was a farmer. Floyd’s youth was filled with tragedy. Fortunately he has always had a wonderful spirit that enabled him to overcome anything. His dad passed away at age 54 and his mom was left to raise 4 children at home. When Floyd was 6, he lost his leg due to the accidental discharge of a shotgun in their home. He missed more than a year of school while they tried to save his leg. The accident happened on Friday the 13th – Floyd still is cautious on this particular day.
He went to Wilson Elementary and Norman Junior High and then Norman High. Following graduation, he went to California “to get rich. That was what my older brother said…..I liked to have starved!”
In the 1960’s I returned to Norman and was working for “Uncle Henry” (This was cRc member Billy Henry’s dad.
FACTOID: Billy Henry and Floyd are 1st cousins. The work was at the Allstate Ice Dock at the corner of Robinson and Porter. At some point, Floyd decided to go independent and bought his own ice truck. He made ice deliveries in the form of 100-pound bags, to most of campus corner and many of the restaurants in Norman. One day he saw this little machine that automatically made ice for a restaurant and he said “uh-oh!” and so he sold his truck and went to work for Dunn’s DQ stores doing hands-on equipment repair. This was a stepping-stone to becoming a Journeyman in a heating and air career. He took the test and got his heating and air license.
Floyd’s wife LAVANDA and he have known each other since elementary school but took their time deciding to tie the knot. They married in April of 2003!!!!
Floyd’s 1st car was a 1948 Ford, co-purchased with his brother. A 2-door blue affair. His second car was also a Ford, a 1951 model. He said, “I have always been a Ford man. My daddy was a Ford man and so I became one. Ford is all I know. I had to spend lots of money on them so they would beat those Chevys.”
Floyd owns one of the longest cars in the club. A pearl-white 1963 Ford Galaxie XL (XL=xtra long?) convertible. If Floyd could have any car, it would be a 1957 Thunderbird red on red.
Floyd is the club’s self-appointed Sergeant-at-arms, often leading investigations into mischief within the club. “I will track down and horsewhip innocent or guilty as needed!” Yates said.” I don’t often have to use my rubber hose, but I keep it handy.”
“This club has a lot of trouble-makers!”
"Somebody needs to take a rubber hose to those car show guys."
What you probably don’t know about Floyd Yates:
Nothing, He is an open book…but,
1. He has a massive cheap-pen collection and is very, very sensitive about his pens. He distinguishes easily between a cheap pen and a VERY cheap pen. He collects ONLY the best cheap pens. He grudgingly loans them out.
2. He has the first dollar he ever made…. this should be no surprise to anyone. Moths swarm out of the man's wallet whenever it is pried open.
3. He loves to buy old car radios, repair them and resell them worldwide. He has made shipments to Australia and all around Europe. He is able to repair almost anything.
4. Floyd is a charter member of the Canadian RIVER Cruisers, joining in the first month of our organization. He rapidly advanced to the self appointed Sergeant-at-Arms position, which he claims he holds for life.
Today we interview cRc member Alex Leroy Barr, but first we all need a brief history lesson.
What is a Spanish land grant?
The Spanish and later Mexican governments encouraged settlement of the coastal region of Alta California (now known as California) by giving prominent men large land grants called ranchos, usually two or more square leagues, or 35 square kilometres (14 sq mi). In today’s terms, about 8,900 acres. Over the years and several wars later, most of these ranchos passed into American farmers hands.
How big is 8900 acres? Well it is BIG.
Our hero in this story, Alex Leroy Barr was born in Selma, California in 1950 to F.D. and Rachel Barr, orchard and vineyard farmers on a Spanish land grant dating back to 1846. He graduated from Selma High in 1969 and went to Reedley Junior College where he studied Aeronautics. Following that he attended Fresno State.
When he turned 21, he married his wife Penny. Interesting factoid: Alex’s dad and Penny’s mom dated when they were in high school but went on to marry other people. At least their children, Alex and Penny, decided to try things out and it seems to have worked.
Alex’s early years were spent in California, but then friends who lived in the little town of Moore, Oklahoma called him and he moved out here on faith and soon found a job with MAN LIFT, INC. the company that originally made all of those scissor-lifts.
Alex worked with them for a number of years until they closed in Moore and offered him a job in Pennsylvania. He declined and headed back home to California where he worked in various jobs until landing on his feet at the Chowchilla corrections center for women, the largest women’s prison in the world. He found a home there and worked in the California Department of Corrections for 13 years until age 55 and he retired - the first time.
Alex and Penny pulled up stakes in California and sold everything. California money goes a long way in Norman and so they took their family back to the Norman area and made a new home. Alex was hired by the Chickasaw Nation as a buyer and has spent more than 13 years working with them.
1st car a 1959 Chevy Impala Red with black interior 2-door loaded $150 (No wonder he is a purchasing agent, what a steal!)
Car #2 a 1966 Chevelle Super-Sport with the 425hp 396 engine. Does this mean Alex has that “NEED FOR SPEED?” You bet. Watching Formula One and NASCAR are some of his favorite pastimes. “If it has wheels I watch it. I was watching tractor races one day when Penny came in and looked for a moment at the TV. She just shook her head and walked back out of the room.”
His dream car proves the need for speed, it would be a “REAL COBRA” Alex said “ I would like to drive one and see just how close I can come to hurting myself.”
In Alex’s words “ I love to cook but I don’t do fancy.” “We love to go on road trips, primarily within the U.S. and I love the ocean. I have already prearranged to have my ashes scattered in the Pacific.”
What you probably don’t know about Alex:
“ I have my airframe and power plant aircraft license.”
“I love to do Bonsai gardening.”
“I am an active member of the Norman Moose lodge.”
“Over the years I have built 5 street-rods and 2 T-buckets. But my favorite rebuild was a 1955 Studebaker 1 ton pickup with a massive 454 engine.”
Alex has been an active member of the cRc for the past 7-8 years, attending coffee call on a very regular basis. “I like the guys. We are just guys and gals that share a common interest. There is no pretension in the club. That is what I love. You can go and just be yourself.”
Alex has the red Corvette which you have not seen lately because it decided to jump a low curb and trash itself.
We are pleased to have members like Alex in the cRc.
(Capital Hill Hospital shown below)
Gary's mom was a housewife while his dad was a construction welder, most for projects involving OG&E. His early schools included Townsend elementary, Kerr Junior high, and Del City high school. Gary graduated from Del City H.S. in 1962.
(Capital Hill trolley line shown below)
Upon graduation, he took a job with Ledbetter Buick for a while and then Van's Auto Parts Supply. He worked with Van's from 1963 until 1974 when he bought S. Penn Auto Parts, a business he owned and ran from 1974 until 1983.
Way back when........he met his future bride-to-be Jo Nell, his childhood sweetheart and they have been married 54 years in June of 2018! They attend Cornerstone Baptist Church in Moore. Jo Nell has been a member there for 70 year, while Gary is a relative newcomer - with only 67 years of membership.
Gary is a ford man. We present the following evidence:
His first car was a white 1958 Ford 2 door which he bought from his brother.
His second car was a 1950 Ford which he made into a 1/4 mile dragster. Following his marriage, he and Jo Nell decided a dragster might not be the ideal family car and so his next car was a 1962 Ford 4 door. Gary said "My father was a Ford man also, so why not me also?"
The Lunow's have 2 boys.
If Gary could have his pick of any car, it would be a 1936 Ford V-8 Coupe. That he said, "Would make Jo Nell VERY HAPPY."
Gary was a 4 letter man in high school. "My coach believed if you conditioned for one sport, why not for many sports so I played Baseball, Football, Basketball, and Wrestled."
What you might not know about Gary:
Gary and his brother used to get up early before school and go duck hunting. If they were lucky and got a few, they didn't have a chance to clean them before school started, so they would just "drop them in mom's freezer" and when they got home they would clean their ducks. "Mom did not always appreciate having little dead ducks in her freezer during the day."
Gary once bought a Jeep and enjoyed going out and climbing the hills east of OKC. "The Jeep would climb only to a certain angle and then would run low on oil pressure. I went home and did some cutting and welding on the oil sump , redesigned it to pool more oil near the pump, and went back out and did some SERIOUS hill climbing!"
"I love to bass fish. I fish for Black Bass and I own my own Ranger bass boat. I especially like McGee creek area."
Gary has been a fairly active cRc member since joining the club in 2017. Recent shoulder surgery has had him out of the loop for a few months but he is almost as good as new! Thanks Gary for taking the time to share your life with us!
Let's talk great car stories:
Interviewer: "Kaye, what was your very first car?"
Kaye: "The 1939 Pontiac that I still own. I bought it well used from my friend whose sister said she wouldn't be caught dead in a car that ugly. I paid it off over time. It was a 1939 Pontiac Businessman's Coupe. There is no real back seat as the businessman's coupe had room for samples and storage in the back. It will also hold a boatload of high school girls going to the drive in movie!
Kaye: " I decided it was going to be very cool in school to be a smoker. In my brief career as a smoker, I smoked a total of two cigarettes, and both times I almost set my car on fire! I gave up smoking after my second cigarette!"
I bought the car in 1960 and drove it all over Grady county. I once had it up to 90 miles an hour going down a long hill. Now that was one experience I will probably not repeat! (laughter!) Dale and I restored the car in 1999 and while we don't take it out often, we do love to show it off.
"Now if I had my pick of cars anywhere, my favorite car is cRc club member Ron Blisset's 1914 Cadillac. That is one perfect antique."
Things some of you may not know about Kaye:
She was stopped for speeding in her 1939 Pontiac......she looked at the officer and said "Really? In THIS car?".....He didn't write her a ticket........
One of the things on her bucket list was to see the famous ducks coming out of the elevator in the Peabody hotel in Memphis. She recently got to watch them march across the lobby.
Kaye has won more club raffles and pots than anyone in the history of the club. If your money is not already in the pot, when Kaye bets, just kiss your dollar goodbye!
Her daughter calls her "Lucy", after Lucille Ball because according to her daughter, she is always doing something goofy that ends up backfiring. (Interviewer: Kaye laughed a lot during this part of the interview and declined to provide us with examples. We will need to meet with and interview her daughter.)
Kaye and Dale are charter members of the club. I met Kaye at the defunct Riverwind car show when my car was parked next to her Pontiac. I thought about what a great edition to the club her car would be and left the club information with her. In a few weeks, she and Dale showed up and have been dedicated members since. Speaking of dedication, we have some pretty good dedication going here:
10 years in the cRc
19 years attendance at Immanuel Baptist Church in Norman
58 years owning the same classic car
56 years married to Dale
45 years living on Cruce Street in Norman
41 years with Avon (she also worked as a career Secretary for Norman Public Schools for 18 years.
and finally, the many faces of Kaye Cook:
BILLY CECIL HENRY was born an OKIE. Born in 1939 in Dorgherty (Murray county), Oklahoma to Cecil and Ada Henry, the Henry family were farmers, and Billy was the 3rd child of 3.
At an early age, the family moved to Wynnewood and then to Norman, about 1-1/2 miles from Hollywood Corners. Perhaps that is why we usually see Billy on Thursday nights at the cRuise-in there!
Sooner of later his dad quit farming and went to work at a feed store and then at an ice plant. Billy meanwhile continued his education in the Norman public school system at Jefferson elementary, and the old Norman junior high, and finally Norman high, graduating in 1957.
The Air Force sounded pretty good and so in he went. Following basic training he was married to Mary and they have been together ever since. Billy moved to Charleston, S.C. as a radar electrical power production specialist – where he learned some of his good engine skills. Speed skills were to come later. They lived in Charleston for 1-1/2 years, Fire Island, Alaska for 1 year, and then were transferred to Eagle Pass, Texas for 1-1//2 years. During that time, Mary gave birth to twin girls.
Once his enlistment was complete, Billy and family returned to Norman where Billy ran ‘Henry’s Ice and Beer to go” up on North Porter. The site has since been cleared and a Farm Bureau business sits there. He bought the ice business from his dad, and then in 1966 bought a Fina gas station, also on Porter. This building still exists as a flower shop just south of Van’s BBQ. In 1969, he joined Coors Brewing Company where he found a good home, good advancement, and worked there for 31 years.
In retirement, Billy used to buy wrecked Hondas from insurance companies and mix and match the cars back together. He did this for almost 14 years. I suppose that if you ever wanted to know anything about a Honda, well, you should see Billy first.
Example...Honda before Billy:
Honda after Billy:
WHAT WERE YOUR EARLY YEAR CARS?
“My first was a 1949 Ford that was totaled in a slight head on collision with a highway patrol car. I then purchased a 1952 Ford convertible, followed by a 1955 Ford and then a 1957 Ford convertible.” Billy is a confirmed Ford guy, as well as a lover of convertibles.
Floyd Yates is Billy’s cousin, and those of you who know Floyd, know his 1963 white Ford Galaxie XL – well Billy had one just like it and both he and Floyd purchased these cars within a week of each other! As the story goes, Billy ordered his in November and was waiting for it. When it arrived, one week later Floyd bought his off the showroom floor. Billy hopped his up and decided to use this family car as a dragster, racing it weekly in Ardmore or at the strip up in OKC at the fairgrounds.
“I don’t think that transmission was ever built to stand up to my racing. I think Ford rebuilt my transmission a number of times. Much of it was still under warranty. They finally convinced my to keep that car off the track.” Billy said.
So Billy decided to make the 1963 back into a family-mobile, and he went out and purchased a 427 engine to put into a dedicated drag car. And hot it was. When he first started running it, it was turning a 13 second ¼ mile, but when he finished – well, it was a 10 second car.
IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY CAR YOU WANTED……”I already have it” Billy told me. “It is my 1955 Thunderbird convertible.”
WHAT DO PEOPLE PROBABLY NOT KNOW ABOUT BILLY HENRY?
“Well, I was a scuba diver for a good while, and I used to water ski competitively. We built a competition ski jump over in Lake Thunderbird and held ski competitions there.”
“When I was younger, I went through a motorcycle phase and a group of us would gather in the flood plane near Lake Thunderbird at dusk. We would then ride the dirt bikes looking for Jackrabbits. Back in the day there were many. We would stir up a Jackrabbit and the chase was on, the rabbit cutting back and forth and the dirt bikes zig zagging left and right to try to keep the rabbit in the headlights. Jackrabbits can go very fast for a short period of time but the tire pretty easily and so in a few minutes the rabbit would tucker out and just stop cold. We would stop also and reach down, and pick him up and pet him, passing him around among the chasers, and then set him carefully back on the ground and go try to find another one. We never harmed any of them, just chased and petted them.”
His current fleet consists of the 1955 bird, a 1966 Thunderbird, and a 2004 Thunderbird. But just then you think he is a has Ford tattooed on his forearm – his family car is an Acura! He was an early member of the cRc and we see Billy and Mary in their 1955 at most club events.
“We also love Colorado, especially the Lake City area where we like to go and ride 4-wheelers. We went there for 16 years in a row. As you know, Mary and I have been going to south Texas since 2005, spending part of the winter in Mercedes, Texas. We have gradually built an entire set of friends down there from all over North America.”
Billy and Mary are faithful members of our club, always willing to pitch in and lend a hand of run a project.