Kyabram Free Press

Gee, that was one long van restoratio­n

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The restoratio­n of Willie Gee’s 1927 Capitol Chevrolet delivery van by Frank Tobias was completed over many years of “start and stop” restoratio­n.

In 1973 Kyabram Historical Society had been donated Mr Gee’s old van, which was in a state of disrepair and housed in a hay shed on a farm about 6km out of Kyabram.

At that time Mr Tobias had been fully occupied with running his business, Tobias Motors, at the east end of Allan St from 1962 until his retirement in 1994, and was involved with his many other interests and activities.

Mr Tobias had neither the time nor the inclinatio­n to restore the van, so Kyabram Historical Society advertised the sale of the van in The Age for $50. There were several replies to the offer, but no-one came to look at it.

Mr Tobias did not want the van himself, but then felt obliged to take it. He paid the $50 and said he would restore the van for Kyabram Historical Society and that it should remain in Kyabram.

He collected the van from the hay shed, as the farmer intended to demolish the van to make space to store hay. He towed it home and there it sat in the family’s backyard for the four young Tobias boys and their friends to play in for a number of years.

Mr Tobias had worked on the van many times for Mr Gee when he was an apprentice motor mechanic.

Mr Gee had purchased the van in Kyabram from Bill Shaw, a salesman for Pettifer Motors.

In 1976 Mr Tobias towed the van to his workshop at the garage. He pulled the vehicle to pieces and the restoratio­n began. The woodwork was completed by neighbour Geoff Daniels, and when it was at the framework stage Mr Tobias was able to tow the van with his 1925 Dodge in the 1976 Centenary Street Parade.

With Mr Tobias’s many other interests occupying his time, Mr Gee’s Chev sat in the showroom of the Allan St garage for many years. It was not until 1998 that Mr Tobias really got into the restoratio­n, as he had already collected many parts needed for the van over the years.

Les Smith from Shepparton upholstere­d the seat, hood and roll-up sides for him.

Mr Tobias finally completed the van in time for the Goulburn Valley Motor Vehicle Drivers Club’s annual parade of vehicles in December 2000 held at the DECA driving complex in Shepparton, at which he received a prize for best individual restoratio­n.

What an amazing achievemen­t for one man after spending about 400 hours and $3500 in parts on the restoratio­n. A labour of love.

After 30 years, Mr Tobias generously handed the van back to Kyabram Historical Society. It is now housed at the Hazelman Cottage Complex at Kyabram Fauna Park in the Transport Through Time building, which was officially opened by former federal MP Sharman Stone together with Mr Tobias on October 21, 2003.

— Compiled by Eileen Sullivan, Kyabram

Historical Society voluntary librarian.

 ??  ?? Green machine: Frank and Enid Tobias in Willie Gee’s restored 1927 Capitol Chevrolet delivery van loaded with produce for sale at the Kyabram Street Parade in 2001.
Green machine: Frank and Enid Tobias in Willie Gee’s restored 1927 Capitol Chevrolet delivery van loaded with produce for sale at the Kyabram Street Parade in 2001.

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