Although the years and many miles may have passed, Norma Fitzsimmons still remembers her first ride in her shiny, red 1964 Studebaker Lark convertible.
And now Spectrum teacher Allen Anderson is helping those miles melt away as he and his shop class are lovingly restoring the classic car to its original condition.
“I’m a Studebaker guy,” said Anderson, who owns a 1963 Studebaker convertible of his own. “Ken [Pleasance] told me about a car that had been in his garage unassembled for 17 years. I said bring it to me and the students will put it together for you.”
Pleasance purchased the car 20 years ago from the owner who had contacted him to put an ad in the Studebaker newsletter. In going through the vehicle’s documentation he discovered Fitzsimmons was the car’s original owner.
“When I decided to start restoring it I phoned her 17 years ago and said I am going to restore this car and when I’m finished I’ll take you for a ride,” said Pleasance.
Although more than a half century has passed, Fitzsimmons can still recall the first time she laid eyes on the car, seeing it in the showroom of the old National Motors in Victoria and telling her husband Russell that was what she wanted for Christmas.
“On Christmas morning I opened my present and it was an empty box with a key in it and he said ‘Go look in the garage.’ I tore off down there and there it was,” said the 94-year-old Cadboro Bay resident.
Fitzsimmons said she was so excited she immediately took the car out for a spin with her daughter Diane, still dressed in her nightgown.
“There’s a lot of good memories in that car,” she said.
Anderson and the students at Spectrum have been working on the car since February, spending about 80 minutes each school day.
“It was just a shell when I brought it in,” said Plesance.
But Anderson and his students have embraced the project.
“It was one of 53 [Lark convertibles] built in Hamilton, [Ont.] that year. It’s also a six-cylinder automatic, of which only 17 were made,” said Anderson, who has always been enamoured with Studebaker, which started out in 1852 building wheelbarrows and covered wagons.
“It’s an orphan. It’s not one of the big three,” said Anderson on why the Studebaker holds such an appeal for many.
Studebaker stopped production in its U.S. plant in South Bend, Ind. in 1964, continuing production on the Lark type models in Hamilton until 1966. The fact the vehicle hasn’t been in production for more than 50 years has complicated a few things for the Spectrum shop class.
“We’re still waiting on some parts but we’re hoping to get it on the road before the school year ends,” said Anderson.
And when they do, you can bet Fitzsimmons will be among the first to go for a spin.