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A Love of Vintage Automobiles : Restoring Antique Cars Is Just Her Speed

December 20, 1986|TERRY BONIFANTI | Associated Press

SCRANTON, Pa. — Mary Alice Reif Gallagher, who owns a 1924 Buick, says her interest in antique automobiles stems back to her childhood, "the days when my dad would take us on trips and we'd name the cars as they went by and look for license plates from the different states.

"I just like the looks of old cars. I find them interesting," said Gallagher, the first female president of the Scranton Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America.

Gallagher found old cars interesting. But it was her husband, the late Michael Gallagher, who some years ago found the old car she now drives.

The story of the find is typical of how many people locate their antique cars. Some are parked in fields or behind houses. Others, like Gallagher's, are found hidden in the back of garages.

"My husband found our car in a garage in West Side. I don't know why he stopped. But he called and said he just found a car he had to buy," Gallagher said.

That car is now in her garage in Nativity awaiting a repainting. But that, she said, doesn't prohibit her from being very active in the Antique Automobile Club of America.

Don't Have to Own Car to Join

"You don't even have to have a car to be member," she said. "We are drawn together by the common interests of preserving, restoring and simply enjoying vintage automobiles."

It was pure enjoyment that drew Gallagher to her first antique automobile show.

"We just liked cars and went to look at them. It was my husband's idea to join the club and I very early on got hooked into it. I was hesitant to join something I had to commit a day to. But I was easily swayed and now have some of my most enjoyable moments at club meetings and shows," she said.

The club meets once a month. Meetings can range from full business sessions where the local group's annual show and flea market are planned, to fun sessions, like a recent meeting in which an antique touring costume fashion show was conducted.

As the years progressed, Gallagher got into active participation in club activities as well as into active participation in automobile restoration.

"To show a car, you need to keep it in prime condition and it should be as authentic as possible," she said.

'Must Keep It Authentic'

This means a lot of work and a lot of fun. Antique automobile enthusiasts might be found sitting in their living room sanding wheel spokes or out in their garage matching paint or on the porch polishing an oil can.

"I get into upholstery and the like--cutting and sewing," Gallagher said. "The interior of the car is important in judging. Ours has a velvet-like interior. Others may have leather. You must keep it authentic.

"The same is true of paint. You have the right type of paint, enamel or lacquer. The trim should have either chrome or nickel in the right places. You try to stick with what was original."

When it comes to engines, Gallagher said, "That's my sons' job. But I do know ours is a four-cylinder motor. On the fire wall is a little oil can. We actually have to get out and oil the motor at times."

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