Village People|2013

Chrome plater Terry Meetz set up this “village” in his swap meet space at
the Fall Jefferson car show.

Larry Fecter and I are “Village People.” Let me explain what I mean by that.
People ask me why I knock myself out going to car shows when you can get things on the Internet now? It is because I sometimes I see things at a show and then a week later I see something somwhere else and a little trigger in my brain trips and I put the two things together and — BINGO — an idea pops up.
For example, last week when I went to Jefferson ( I saw the little “village” (see photo) that Terry Meetz of Custom Plating Specialists ( set up. Then, yesterday I went to a Manawa Chamber meeting. Afterwards the members did two ribbon cuttings in the downtown area and I noticed lot of empty buildings on Main St. So, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if we turned Manawa into an old car village!”
Larry Fechter of Iola and I have discussed this concept many times. The small town of Princeton, Wis., has become an destination for household antique collectors. So, with a little work, why couldn’t Iola or Manawa (or both together) become a home for old car businesses and a destination for collectors?
The corridor between the towns is already filled with restoration shops, private collections, people who sell old car parts and others who are seriously involved in the collector car hobby. The Iola Old Car Show, the Symco Shakedown and the Manawa Mustang Round Up are all close by. There are also museums and junkyards nearby and all kinds of mechanical and auto body talent. Area powder coaters, chrome platers and machine shops are hungry for new business.
The old car hobby is full of small businesses. Just visit the swap meets at Iola or Symco and you’ll see hundreds of entrepreneurs, many already have successful businesses and others who would love to turn their hobby into a career. Could such enterprises flourish in a small town if someone led them to the place and made doing business there attractive? You bet they can!

fifth avenue

Fifth Avenue Auto Parts has a storefront in the small town of Clay Center, Kan., but all of the firm’s business is done by mail order.
My friend Randy Rundle runs Fifth Ave, Auto Parts in Clay Center, Kan. ( He sells his high-tech old car and hot rod parts to customers all over the world. When I visited him years ago he told me no one in town could understand why he had no local walk-in business and still managed to stay open. He mail orders to the universe! That’s why!


The interor of Fith Ave. is filled with specialty items to make hot rods and old cars run cooler and better.
Another good example of how old cars fit a small town is the Pontiac Oakland Automobile Museum ( in Pontiac, Ill. Now, Pontiacs were made in Michigan — not in Illinois. That didn’t stop the City of Pontiac, Ill., from giving Tim Dye an empty downtown building to house his collection of automobilia and bring tourists to town. Other people loaned their Pontiac cars to Tim for display and the city soon had a thriving museum that today attracts collectors from all over the world. Members of car clubs tour there by the hundreds. The museum has become a huge tourism destination.

The Pontiac Oakland museum attracts Pontiac club members to downtown Pontiac, Ill. This was formerly four empty storefronts.
Larry Fechter and I both think that this concept could work in our area. If anyone else likes the idea, let’s get together and bat it around. The door is always open at Gunner’s Great Garage and Larry is just 15 minutes away.