Route 66 Trip Winners
In August, Pam Dench and partner Dean Currie are heading off to get their kicks, as winners of the Coast FM/ Classic Driver Route 66 competition
Sometimes, you wonder if prizewinners really appreciate what it is they have won. When SW Media General Manager Wes Davies and I went to Pam’s Christchurch home to hand over her winnings, a place for two people on the Classic Driver Route 66 tour, one look up the driveway was enough to tell us that we couldn’t have had a more appropriate winner if the result had been rigged (although if that were the case, I would have won it!). A 1960 Cadillac and a 1968 Thunderbird aren’t your usual sight in a suburban street, but that was only the beginning as we were invited into the man- cave for a drink and the official handover.
Except man-cave doesn’t really describe what Dean has on the side of his garage. If there were to be a bar like this in town, I would never go anywhere else! We all want somewhere to display our shiny things and all the other bits that seem to be associated with owning old cars and Dean certainly has done that. He’s just lucky that when he woke up the next morning, I hadn’t taken up residence in there.
For a couple who began their motoring lives in a Mini (Pam) and a Hillman Super Minx (Dean), a fleet of six American cars, from a 1934 Ford V8 to a 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle, set up for drag racing, they must have seen the error of their ways fairly quickly. When it comes to their classic fleet, it is the 1960 Cadillac, a slightly faded and totally original pale green behemoth, which currently sees the most use and while both Pam and Dean said their favourite was whatever car they happened to be driving at the time, Pam let it slip that the big Caddy really was her pick, and that was the first car they had brought in from the US. Dean had always wanted a Cadillac, and the bigger, the better!
A problem many of us suffer from is a lack of garage space, especially when trying to restore a car as well as keep the rest of the fleet running. In this case, the offender is a 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air station wagon. When I went to see them, the car had just come back from the painters and was being prepared to have the interior refitted. Another US import, it was an example of how careful you need to be when bringing a car in. Having been through the process before, Dean took careful care to ensure the car was rust free and it certainly was. Except that the floors had been replaced with flat steel. Certainly there was no rust, but it still needed a new floor-pan. Although their background is in hotrods and they have owned the 1936 Ford V8 rod in the middle of the shed since 1996, the Bel-Air is being kept standard, with its original 283ci Power-Pack engine, the only deviation from original spec being a set of Cragar wheels and possibly a smaller steering wheel.
It is always dangerous to ask what the next project is going to be… Pam thinks it is a refurb. of the period caravan which goes to events on the rear of the Caddy. Dean was thinking of the panel repair to the right rear of the Chevelle required to get the recent import through the compliance process and on the road. Then the ’69 Pontiac Bonneville convertible, which hasn’t been out for a couple of years needs some minor cosmetic work (my pick of the cars in the garage, what a brilliant summer cruiser that would be, with its 400ci V8 making easy work of propelling what is a substantial piece of metal) and there are the new wheels to go on the 36 V8 to give it more of a retro-rod look. Don’t forget the 66 Thunderbird, another arrival from the US, a straight, rust free car which spent most of its life tucked away in a shed in Washington State. This is an unusual beast, with the big 428ci engine, electric everything including seats, which makes it a very collectible car. A vacuum leak seems to be the reason for it’s rough idle and the brakes have suffered from a lack of use. Nothing major, but it all takes time. However, all of this work is going to take a bit of a back seat. The cars will be tucked away for a month or so and while we all freeze through winter, think of Pam and Dean as they cruise Route 66 in a Mustang. Jealous? You bet!
Wes Davies, Classic Driver Publisher, hands over the prize to Pam & Dean
The favourite in the fleet, a 1960 Cadillac in barn-fresh condition
A couple of future projects, a 66 T/bird and caravan, neither needing too much attention