The ’50s era appeals to people in a number of ways. It was the time of Elvis, sock hops, drive-ins, and now-classic TV shows such as Leave It to Beaver.
Some of today’s iconic cars, like the Corvette and T-bird, were launched during the ’50s, and toward the end of the decade, “fins” were the big trend in cars.
Two Lancaster County car guys show their love of the ’50s with their vehicles. Manheim-area resident Terry Sides purchased his ’59 Studebaker from Charlie Lehman, a co-worker at his former job at Alcoa.
“[Charlie] drove it every day to work. I loved that car and told him I was interested in buying it if he ever wanted to sell it,” Sides says.
He had the opportunity to do just that a year or so later when the notice that the car was for sale was posted on the employee bulletin board.
“I didn’t really need another car, but I bought it. I really like the lime-green color; it’s original to the car,” he explains.
The two-door Studebaker is a smaller car, and its “smooth lines” appealed to Sides. He recalls seeing a similar Studebaker as he was growing up in Lititz. The owner had put mag wheels on it, and Sides says that it was odd to see a younger person own this type of vehicle.
“It’s more of ‘your father’s car,’ and young guys usually went for Mustangs and other Muscle cars,” he chuckles.
Sides says that he bought the car on a Monday night and then went to pick up his daughter from cheerleading practice. As they walked toward the car, he played a bit of a prank on her.
“She thought the car was really neat. I didn’t tell her it was my car, but told her that we should take it for a ride. She was really concerned, until I told her it was my car,” he recalls with a smile.
Sides has always liked cars; his first car was a ’67 Mustang.
“My dad didn’t like cars to sit in the yard with people working on them, so the Mustang was brand new. I loved that car. I learned about fixing cars by helping my friends work on their cars,” he said.
Since Sides purchased the Studebaker, he’s put in a new engine, a Chevy 350 V-8, and had the transmission repaired and the interior redone.
“It had a Studebaker engine in it when I bought it, but that was not the original engine. Studebaker parts are getting harder to find, and when you do they’re a bit pricey,” he explains. “The interior is as close to the original as possible, but I haven’t replaced the headliner yet. A lot of people go to Florida in the winter, but I go to my garage and work on my car or other projects.”
He and his friend, Syd Young, built the Chevy engine for the car— Sides is the machinist and Young is the mechanic. Over the years, Sides has taken the ’59 Studebaker to numerous car shows and car cruises.
He’s scaled back in the past few years and now only takes it to about three cars shows annually: LCBC’s show outside of Manheim, the Lititz Lions Club Car Cruise, and Cruisin’ the Square in Manheim.
“It’s a car that I do drive. I won’t trailer it to a show,” he says.
Although he enjoys the Studebaker, it does not have creature comforts such as power steering and air conditioning.
Young has a collector car (or six) of his own, including a ’77 Corvette and a ’55 Chevy 210 Del Ray. Like Sides’s Studebaker, it’s a two-door, but it’s a sport coupe. And, like Sides, he purchased it from somebody he worked with.
Young explains that it was a family car of the guy he bought it from. It had been restored about 20 years before he purchased it, but it needed some work by the time he bought it in 1990. The front (hood, doors, front fenders, and quarter panels) were bare metal and the interior was ripped and torn and had to be redone.
Even so, the car appealed to him.
“The 1955 is one of the most sought-after Chevys. It has a timeless body style, and 1955 was the first year for Chevy’s V-8 engine,” he explains.
Young has worked on a lot of cars, including an MG that he just finished restoring.
“Working on cars is what I like to do. I do most of the work myself, but I don’t have a spray booth, so I can’t paint,” he says.
After he first purchased the ’55 Chevy, he repaired rust and then had it painted. The car was in his garage, and he would take individual pieces to a friend’s body shop to have them primered and then painted.
“By doing it a bit at a time, the car wasn’t in the way at his body shop. I could prepare the pieces for painting and he could paint as I brought them to him,” Young explains.
After the Chevy was repainted, he tackled the interior, redoing the seats, carpet, headliner, and visors. The engine and transmission also received attention. The 265-cubic-inch V-8 engine and Powerglide transmission were replaced with a 406 V-8 and a Turbo 400 transmission—the larger motor bumped the horsepower from 162 to 400 and the transmission went from a two-speed to a three-speed.
It still has drum brakes, but they’ve been rebuilt. Young is currently restoring the ’55 Chevy to its correct factory paint scheme: onyx black and Indian ivory.
Young has been into cars for a number of years. He worked on his first motor as a teen; he fixed the flathead in the family’s lawnmower. His first car (at age 16) was a ’52 Plymouth; he rebuilt the motor and replaced the clutch.
That was followed by a ’49 Plymouth convertible that he says was his first hot rod. The stock engine was a flathead 6, but he put in a larger V-8 engine from a ’58 Chevy.
“I had a lot of Plymouths over the years, but now I’m a Chevy man,” he proudly proclaims.
All of his current classic cars are built for performance, and all of them are “drivers.” The variety in his garage also includes a ’70 Chevelle that is only used for racing and an ’88 Caprice that he and his wife have driven cross-country to explore Route 66. )))