Wheels of Dreams

The mechanic rolls out from under a maroon 1941 Chevy and glances at the customer’s 1951 Ford. “I’m sorry,” he says, ’1 don’t work on the newer cars.” The customer looks disappointed and says he has driven 50 miles for Harold’s expert service.

That’s a long trek to get an overdrive cable greased, so Harold Meloling (above), of Harold’s Elderly Auto Repair in Garland, makes an exception. “Sometimes,” he says, “I will go all the way up to ’54.”

Meloling, 61, is a purist. He sniffs at references to the “classic” 157 Chevy or ’55 Thunderbird. “Ford and Chevrolet never made a classic,” says the former Braniff Airlines mechanic. “A classic is a big car, with 16 cylinders.”

And you think your 1930s vintage car is an antique? Not in Meloling’s shop. Anything made later than I9L5 is no classic, he says. That’s when they started replacing the brass trim with chrome. A car with chrome on it can’t be a classic.

Currently, Meloling is rebuilding a 1926 Paige from the ground up for a doctor, a job that will cost around $10,000. “It’s a hobby for men who have extra money to play with,” he says. “Now it’s mainly doctors and lawyers and retired people who want a car like the one they had as a kid.”

What kind of condition does a car have to be in before Meloling can restore it?

“Anything can be restored,” he says. “Bring me the hood ornament, and I’ll build the car it goes on.”

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