Every boy’s dream is to one day own the coolest car among all his friends showing it off proudly as he cruises the boulevard in hopes of finding that one special girl to ride next to him. The second coolest thing is to have performed all the repairs yourself. Tom Drake found himself doing just that, not in hopes of finding the girl, but learning how to work on cars for restoration and then resell them to the highest bidder.
In 1967, when Tom was 17, he first laid eyes on a 1951 Pontiac, only because he was in dire need of transportation. This Pontiac was unrestored, all original, and the perfect car for Tom’s needs. After Tom entered High School his love for cars grew, so he enrolled in the school’s auto shop class and there he really started to become consumed with the love of fixing and restoring cars. During his years between High School and Junior College, Tom owned some pretty impressive classics by today’s standards. He had a 1951 Woody, (look out Beach Boys), a 1956 Chevy two door, (who doesn’t love a 55, 56 or 57 Chevy these days?), and a 1959 Chevy. Tom would spend hours tinkering with these cars, get them in great operating condition, and then offer them for sale, making a small profit for all his efforts.
The last vehicle Tom would own before being drafted and heading off to Vietnam in 1968, was a 1965 Ford Mustang. The Vietnam War was not one which those who proudly fought for this Country would come back in the same frame of mind. Tom Drake was one of the fortunate ones who managed to survive and return to the States, serving out the rest of his duty until he left the Service in 1979. During that time in the Service, Tom developed a love for motorcycles. He began purchasing bikes, restoring them, and then selling them at a profit. Even though this passion only lasted a few years, he did manage to even build a chopper to add to his list of accomplishments.
In 1983 Tom purchased a 1964 or 65 T-Bird, but it was only in his garage a short time after he fell in love with a 1954 Willy’s Aeroace. Again, not keeping it for long, he sold the Willy’s to the first eager buyer.
Tom did manage to marry the love of his life, Sherry Jacknowitz, who was a very close friend of mine in High School in Petaluma, California. They have been married since 1984 and together they make a great team. Sherry often helps Tom work on his “projects,” as Sherry calls them, when he is in need of a third hand or for someone to help lift or hold something in place. Sherry doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty, but she knows that Tom prefers to work alone in his own little world of restorations.
Tom does encourage Sherry to learn how to do preventative maintenance on her own vehicle, which is a must for all women or young girls who need to take charge of their vehicles repairs.
After settling in with a new wife and starting a life together, it took Tom a little while to jump back in to restorations. In 1990 he purchased a 1953 Ford and a partially restored 1965 Ranchero. By now Tom was also into building homes for his family to own and occupy, only to sell and start again. This became a full time job for Tom building and selling homes and each home was more beautiful than the last. Since Tom’s love for restoration of automobiles was more than a side hobby, a shop for all his projects was a necessity so that was added to the build. Every mechanic needs his or her own shop.
In the year 2000, Tom had the urge for a 1970 Mustang; working his talent and turning it into a beauty. Then once again, Tom’s passion for restoring motorcycles resurfaced and he spent the next 10 years bringing some of these beauties back to life, but also enjoying them on trips to places like the Sturgis motorcycle rally. This gave Tom and Sherry time to enjoy the sights and each other.
Tom at present has 7 autos, 2 motorcycles and 3 trailers. Two of the seven vehicles are still being worked on. When asked why he loves to spend so much time working on these babies, Tom answered, “I like to see the old cars back on the road again. I don’t keep them long, I just get them up and running so that I can sell them to others who have always wanted one. I used the profit to help move on to the next project.” Tom prides himself on mastering just about every detail and repair that goes into restoring a classic, from paint, to upholstery, and fabrication. He loves the challenge and is not afraid to ask for help from other backyard mechanics or professionals in the trade.
So, if you feel the need to dive in and give restorations a try, go for it, because the only one that can stop you is you yourself. After all Every Boy’s Dream is A classic restoration.