A WAREHOUSE FULL OF CERTIFIABLE CLASSICS
Vancouver collector, soon to be 89, has a soft spot for Studebakers and Packards
Barney Vinegar has an altruistic vision of the cars he is restoring. He has a warehouse crammed full of 60 classic cars and trucks, but he is concentrating on restoring rows of classic Studebakers with this vision in mind.
“They don’t make these anymore, and I would like to see these Studebaker cars and trucks preserved for the next generation,” he says.
But why would he have two identical Maui Blue 1952 Studebaker Commander convertibles? “I thought I would have twins,” he says with a grin, while looking at the nearly completed frame-off restoration of one of the convertibles.
The backstory is he bought the first blue convertible and then saw a similar car sell at a Toronto auction for $73,000. He knew of another convertible being offered locally for less than half the auction price.
“The owner didn’t know one of these had sold for $73,000, so I said I’d take it.”
Then he tore it all apart and spent a king’s ransom restoring it from the ground up.
In a similar vein, he paid $43,000 for an ultra-rare 1958 Packard Hawk and had it shipped up from Texas. Then he redid everything, including the correct supercharged V8 engine, and put it back together again.
There were only 588 of this model manufactured in the last year of Packard production and his is one of only seven built with single headlights instead of quads. “It’s the last year for Packard; there isn’t another one of these cars in Canada and it’s now a thing of beauty,” he says with pride.
The fabled bullet-nosed Studebaker cars were only manufactured for the first two years of the 1950s. Barney Vinegar has six examples, including coupes and convertibles.
“Whenever I would see them for sale, I would buy them, sight unseen,” he says. “Half of these cars came out of junkyards. They only made these for two years.”
There are even more bullet-nosed Studebakers among a group of parts cars behind his warehouse, located alongside a major highway south of Vancouver
His collection includes a beautifully restored first-year 1963 Studebaker Avanti, along with a yellow Studebaker pickup truck.
His “museum” features three Model A Fords, including a roadster, a red 1957 Thunderbird parked alongside a two-tone blue 1926 Studebaker roadster and a Canadian-built 1938 McLaughlin Buick sedan. He also has a 1938 Chrysler Royal sedan.
The hood is up on a lovely dark blue 1951 Mercury sport sedan with an automatic transmission — the first year is was available. Barney is charging the battery.
“I bought it and backed it in here maybe 15 or 20 years ago,” he says. “A lot of these cars I never started working on.”
He has his own parts department, with many rare Studebaker pieces purchased online from all over North America. He references books and online sources to organize his restorations.
He is working on a first-year 1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk. He also has a 1957 model with the supercharged engine.
“I usually have five cars apart and I go from car to car, doing work, so I’m not waiting for parts,” he says.
Barney was raised in a Jewish immigrant family in Andover, N.B. He says he always loved cars. At the age of 13, he bought a Model T Ford from the farmer next door. He took it apart, fixed it and learned to drive it.
Always an entrepreneur, he got into the oil business, spreading waste oil from a refinery in Fort St. John on northern dirt roads to keep the dust down. That included a 1,000-mile stretch of the Alaska Highway.
That business became Vinoco Oil, supplying car dealerships, repair shops and oil-change companies through dealers in both B.C. and Alberta. Barney eventually sold out to a larger oil company.
On a trip to Toronto, his brothers showed him a new idea for a parts washer: basically a kitchen sink on a drum with an electric pump and hose to clean parts with recirculating solvent.
He got the sinks from the company pressing them out in Detroit and began assembling two sizes of parts washers in Vancouver.
He soon had 500 of them rented out to service garages throughout the Pacific Northwest. His operation was bought out by Laidlaw International and Barney retired at 65.
Years earlier, he had purchased five old cars to take to car shows to promote his oil business, including a 1923 Buick touring car, 1924 Chevrolet and 1929 Pontiac — antique cars he still owns.
Once fully retired, Barney got the car auction bug and started stocking his warehouse with antiques and classics that piqued his interest. Many of them are Studebaker products.
His location is more like a clubhouse, where fellow seniors come regularly to work on the cars and others drop by to see them.
Barney is in his warehouse shop every weekday during business hours.
“I come in the morning and talk to all the old people who stop by and I invite them to see my cars,” says Barney, who will be 89 in May. But his focus is on interesting the younger generation in historic automobiles.
“They don’t make cars like this anymore. Someone has to show them what they are all about and that’s what I like to do,” he says.
Whenever I would see them for sale, I would buy them, sight unseen. Half of these cars came out of junkyards. They only made these for two years.