Living The Classic Car Dream

I am Ron Ayers, General Manager of Classic Cars of SC, Inc., in Gray Court, SC. My family started collecting antique cars in 1958. My dad bought a 34 Ford pickup. I just barely do remember it. He sold it some time later and then in 1961, he bought a late 31 Model A Ford coupe and a late 31 Model A Ford wide bed pickup from a graduating student at Bob Jones University. We worked on them off and on for a few years. When I was 14, that would have been in 1963, I bought my first car, a 1929 Chrysler 4 door sedan, for $100. I played with it for a little while and sold it. Then I bought a 1940 Ford convertible and played with it for a little while. In 1966, while a senior in high school, I bought my first Corvette, a 1954 convertible, missing the engine, otherwise complete. I paid a whopping $150 for it. I never did really like that body style. I sold it for $600, put another $100 with it and bought a really nice 1958 Corvette body. I restored it and drove it while I was in the Navy. I loaned it to a friend of mine when I was stationed in Maryland. He blew my engine and I had to have it trailered back home. I put another engine in it and continued driving it.

My last tour station was in Charleston, SC. The last week before my discharge, I drove the Corvette home. On Sunday evening when I was headed back to Charleston, it started making a noise. It was either the transmission or the rear-end, I could not tell which. I almost turned around and took it back home to get something else to drive, but I didn’t. I drove it on to Charleston. I got my discharge from the Navy the following Friday. I called my Dad and told him I was on my way home and there was something wrong with my car. I asked him to stay close to the phone in case I had to call him to bring the trailer and come and get me. On the way home there was a guy driving a new Jaguar XKE. In the general course of traffic, he would pass me and I would pass him. When I built the car, for some reason, I did not put an accelerator pad on it. It had a prong coming out of the firewall that the accelerator pad should have ridden on. I just used that as the accelerator. The return spring on the carb that I installed was a little too strong. The strong spring pressure on the prong would make my foot go to sleep, so sometimes I would drive with my right foot on the accelerator and sometimes I would drive with my left foot on the accelerator. At this time, I was in front of the Jaguar. My foot was getting numb and I switched feet. When I did, the car jerked. Through my rear view mirror, I saw something fly across the road and the car stopped pulling. I coasted over to the side of the road. About that time the Jaguar pulled up behind me. I was looking under the car trying to see if I could see what the problem was. The Jag driver got out of his car and came up to the back of my Corvette. He asked me if he could help. I told him what had happened. I was looking under the car and could see oil everywhere but could not tell what the problem was. I asked the Jag driver if he would take me to the next exit so I could call my Dad and get him to come and get me. He took me to the service station at the next exit where I called my Dad. I had a cousin who lived not far from where I was. I called her to get her to take me back to my car and to wait with me for my Dad. My dad finally got there with the truck and our tilt bed trailer. We hooked a chain to the front of the Vette and pulled it up over the crest of the hill. I unhooked the chain and my dad pulled the truck and trailer down the road a couple of hundred feet. Dad got out and tilted the bed on the trailer so I could load my car. I let the Vette roll down the hill and up on the trailer. When the trailer bed tilted down, the rearend chunk broke completely off and fell down on the bed of the trailer. Then, I knew exactly what was wrong with my car. I sold that ‘Vette a few days later before I ever even unloaded it off of the trailer. A few years ago at the Charlotte Auto Fair the person I sold that 1st 54 Corvette to came up to me and reintroduced himself. The next year, the person who bought that 58 Corvette came up to me and reintroduced himself too. Like me, they were both still Corvette lovers.

I really liked Corvettes. At one time, when I was in my early 20′, I had 15, mostly all projects, but still 15, Corvettes at one time. Recently, I had 7 Vettes, a 63 4 speed convertible with a ZZ4 engine, a 64 coupe with the original 327/250 engine, factory automatic, factory Air Conditioning and I added power steering, a 67 convertible, with the original 327/300 engine, automatic trans, power steering and power disc brakes. I added vintage AC to it. I also had a 78 Anniversary car, an 81 coupe with a lift up rear hatch like the 82 special edition Vettes had, an 84 and an 89 race car, the last 2 were both projects. Presently I still have my 64 Coupe, the 89 race car project, and I just sold another 72 Vette which was my 182nd Corvette.

I also have very fond memories of a 64 VW Beetle that I had. In 1969, I was stationed in Bainbridge Maryland for several months in the Navy going to Fire Control School. A friend of mine had rolled (wrecked it) his 64 Beetle on the turnpike. I purchased it from him for, as best as I can remember, $100. There was a shop in Dover Delaware that built Dune Buggies. They needed the gas tank and steering column of the 64 era VW’s for the Buggies. They had a very nice 58 VW sun roof body there that they had taken off of a frame and agreed to swap my wrecked body for their nice body. Several friends of mine and I took my body off the frame at the PX, borrowed a truck from the Motor Pool, took my body to Dover and swapped it for the Sun Roof Body. We took it back to the PX and installed it on my chassis, hooked everything up, and I drove it back home to South Carolina. I painted the car when I got home. I later got transferred to Charleston SC where I was attached to a Submarine. One Saturday morning, I got up and it was beginning to snow. I decided that I wanted to go home for the weekend. I lived near Greenville which was about 200 miles away from Charleston. I started home. The closer I got to Greenville, the worse the snow got. I remember, I was going down a hill on the Interstate near Columbia SC and my Beetle started to slide. It did a 180-degree spin and the rear of the car went down into the median. When the rear of the car hit the bottom of the median, the front of the car was still sliding around and I drove right out of the spin which made me do a full 360 degree turn. I never stopped until I got about a mile up the road. I had to pull over on the side of the road and check my pants to make sure they were still clean. LOL. I made it back to Charleston on Sunday evening. Another barracks mate of mine had a 1953 MGTD Roadster. He was getting ready to ship out to sea for 6 months and he did not want to leave his TD at the base while he was at sea. He was asking $400 for his TD and I was asking $600 for my Beetle. He gave me $200 and his TD for my Beetle. I was able to drive the TD back to Greenville where I later sold it for $1,500. Before the Sailor I had traded my Beetle to was to be shipped out, he rolled the Beetle over in one of the butterfly entrances on the interstate near Charleston. I bought it back from him for $150, took it home, put another body on it and ended up trading it for a 190 SL Mercedes convertible that had a bad rear-end in it. It gives me a smile on my face just sitting here recalling the experiences I had in my Bug.

In the early 70’s, when I got out of the Navy, I went to work with my dad building houses. Actually, I wired my first house by myself when I was 16 years old and plumbed my first house when I was 19. In 1973 I wanted a Rolls Royce. I found a 1926 20HP Rolls Royce for sale by a Mr. Leroy Clark in Durham, North Carolina. It had been re-bodied in the 30’s by Southern Body Works with a 4 door Saloon body. I paid him $4,000 for the car. When I got home with it and started looking at it, I thought I had paid too much for it. I found a 1925 Rolls Royce with a Landaulet body by Brewster, also in North Carolina, that I liked better than the 26. I had to sell the 26 before I could purchase the 25. I advertised my 26 Rolls Royce in our local newspaper, the Greenville News. It so happened that a Mr. Howe from Ohio was in town on business and saw my ad in the paper. He called and wanted to come out and look at it. When he arrived, we drove it around the block. He asked me what I wanted for it. I told him $7,500. He asked me what I would take for it today, I told him $7,500. He asked me how he could get the Rolls back to Ohio. I told him that I would deliver it for expenses, probably $100 to $125. He asked me if I would take $7,600 for it and set it down in his back yard. I said I would and our deal was set. I delivered it to him a few days later. When all was said and done, I had made about $3,200 on that Rolls.

I had been buying and selling cars since I was in my teens. After that Rolls Royce deal and the money I had made on it, I told my dad that I thought I would like to go out on my own buying and selling antique and classic cars full time. This is how I got started in the Collector car business. I have heard it said “If you enjoy what you do, you will never work a day in your life”. I feel like I only work half a day a week. The rest of the time I am playing. My advice to you is to find something you enjoy doing, something that you have a passion for and go out and PLAY every day. May God Bless each and every one of you who read this.

Ron Ayers

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