Car enthusiasts show off rebuilt cars

Jodi Schellenberg
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Everybody has a passion and while some people enjoy cooking or painting, others love cars.

Some spectators at the Canadian Tire Car show admire Roger Wirtz’s 1965 Pontiac LeMans on Saturday.

Roger Wirtz has cars in his blood -- he has loved them since he was a child and had the opportunity to show off his rebuilt 1965 Pontiac LeMans at the Canadian Tire Car show on Saturday.

“It started when I was one,” Wirtz joked. “My uncle had a ’67 Chevelle. He apparently used to babysit me and take me for rides in that Chevelle. I am pretty sure that had some sort of effect.”

Wirtz started restoring cars himself when he was 15 years old, when he bought a 1964 Pontiac.

“I still have my car that I bought when I was 15,” he said. “It has been restored -- it is time to restore it again but you know what, it is tried and true. That thing, you jump in it and go.”

To him, restoring cars is a passion and a hobby.

“I am always building, always tinkering, always trying to educate myself and learn how to do stuff,” Wirtz said. “I can’t sit still … I’m twitchy and have to be doing something with my hands.”

He compared restoring a car to being an artist because it is a creative outlet.

“It is putting your thought and then taking everything out of your head and putting it on the canvas,” Wirtz said. “ You get to … show people and say, ‘This is what I created. This is my workmanship.’”

Wirtz put a lot of work into the 1965 Pontiac LeMans he had in the show.

“I bought a nice solid car to start with and I’ve gone through everything mechanically,” he said. “I build the engine myself, I rebuilt the transmission, had some friends help with that. I did the bodywork. It is roughed in.

“The interior, we just finished putting that in this morning,” he added. “At six we were still working on the car. It’s not done but it is presentable. There is lots of trial, lots of tribulation.”

He said he also upgraded it from a 326 with a three-speed standard to a 455 Pontiac with a four-speed transmission instead.

“I believe in tradesmen and the old-school journeymen and learning how to do things with your hands and that is what I did,” Wirtz said. “I taught myself to weld and I taught myself to build engines and I’m a journeyman in something unrelated to this but this is what I started to do when I was 15 and stuck with it.”

While working on the car, Wirtz had a lot of help from his friends, who were especially helpful leading up to the car show.

“The last three nights, I have had different friends come over to help me get it past the next level because I was just overwhelmed,” he said. “There was just so much and when you have a hard deadline you are trying to get to.”

One of Wirtz’s friends, Steve Boyle, who had a 1970 Camaro in the show, helped him put the interior in his Pontiac.

“He builds cars as well. We are neighbours and both gear heads,” Wirtz said. “That is his pride and joy -- a ’70 Camaro. We play off each other and we feed each other’s passion.”

The car show is also a chance for car enthusiasts to socialize and meet other people will similar interests.

Since Wirtz is so passionate about cars, he is passing on his interest to his son.

“My son is starting to take an interest, so he is in the shop and I’m teaching him, first off to be patient and don’t get discouraged because this takes so much time.”

The Prince Albert resident is part of two car clubs in the city -- the Classic Cruisers Club and the Idlers Car Club.

“The Idlers is a club that isn’t really a club. Four guys, we decided a long time ago that we were tired of putting nothing under club so we came up with the Idlers,” he laughed. “You have to have 10 cars in the stable and it takes you 10 years between cars building them -- you are an idler. The project that never gets finished, you are an idler. There are no meetings, no dues, no club charter.”

Organizations: Canadian Tire Car, Idlers Car Club, Prince Albert Classic Cruisers Club

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