May 16, 2021
Chevrolet Cabriolet finished and wrecked on same day
The 1937 Chevy Cabriolet described in Episodes 358 and 359 was Presque Isle’s Greg Roderick’s first “real crack at restoration” according to the owner of Northern Auto Body. That turned out to be an understatement. Now the “Rest of the Story”
The 1937 Chevrolet Cabriolet owned by Milton Adelman was finally restored in the fall of 1990 after three years at Northern Auto Body. On that fall day, Matt Dick and Greg Roderick decided to take the car to Perry’s store a little over a mile south of the shop.
They left the shop and drove to Perry’s for fuel. While at Perry’s, they met a man from Fort Fairfield who was impressed by the restored Chevrolet. After talking a few minutes Dick and Roderick headed back to the shop. The man from Fort decided to follow the two men back to the shop to get a more in-depth look at the car.
As the two men neared the Presque Isle Road shop, Roderick pulled to the right and used hand signals to indicate a right-hand turn, since the Chevrolet had no turn signal lights. Matt in the passenger seat also indicated with a hand signal that they were turning right when a blur of motion zoomed by the right side crinkling the right front fender and bounced across the driveway and culvert before coming to a rest in the ditch in a cloud of dust.
The big Chevrolet service truck with a welder on back was owned by Gary Bonville and driven by one of his employees. The employee got out of the truck spluttering that he thought the car was going left despite all visual hand signals to the contrary.
It turns out that the gentleman the Roderick and Dick had met at Perry’s was a town policeman for Fort Fairfield and had seen the whole incident which he reported when the state police arrived sometime later.
He stated that the truck had passed him at a high rate of speed and got between his vehicle and the newly restored car. The hand signals were observed yet ignored by the truck driver.
The state policeman seemed to be in a hurry and left the scene after taking the statements of both involved and the witness. He did not give them a copy of the accident report.
Roderick waited a week for the accident report. When it did not come in the mail, he sent a request to receive a copy. Meanwhile he had talked to the truck owner that smacked the Chevrolet, Gary Bonville. Gary asked if Roderick had seen the accident report which he had not. Well, the report clearly stated that Roderick was at fault.
It turned out that the policeman in his haste incorrectly identified driver A and Driver B in his sketch. After some discussion and a few threats of intervention by a New York law firm, the insurance company agreed to pay for repairs to the Cabriolet.
Roderick did not want to repair the crinkled right front fender, rather wanted to order a NOS fender. The fender was ordered from an outfit in Kentucky which promptly shipped the rare fender to northern Maine by common carrier.
The arrival date came and went, no new fender. Roderick called the local depot to see if the fender had made it to Presque Isle which the shipper had said it did. The depot operator had not seen such a box.
It turns out the Kenmore refrigerator box had sat in the depot for some time and one of the employees had dismissed the box as empty. It was light weight and when opened did not appear to have anything in it except air. The box was put out for the garbageman to pick up.
Gil’s Sanitation picked up the box along with other items of garbage and brought it to the Presque Isle landfill for disposal. When the local trucking company owner realized what had happened, he went to the landfill to see if by chance the box had made it intact. It had not. It was crushed!
Another fender was located and eventually made it to the Presque Isle shop without incident. After three months and an $1800 repair bill the now intact car was driven very carefully to Mars Hill to be stored at Milton Adelman’s brother Yale’s basement just before snow began to fall.
After the 1937 Chevrolet Cabriolet spent the winter in Yale Adelman’s basement, brother Milton asked Roderick to drive the car and work the bugs out and gave permission to enter local car shows if desired.
The car garnered Best of Show awards in every local area car show that Roderick entered. Local meant state of Maine shows in a two-year span.
It was decided to bring the car to the Owls Head Big Rally Car Show. While at that show, owners Milton and Gloria Adelman made the trip from their Meddybemps Island home. All met with Jeff Orwig, the curator for the Bob Bahre Automobile Collection. Orwig asked, “Did you ever think of taking your car to the Hershey Show?” (Hershey, Pennsylvania for the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) meet.)
With Milton Adelman’s blessing, Roderick, Jimmy Chandler, and Jim Burrill headed off for the Hershey Show later that fall of 1992. The majority of the1,800 cars arrive in enclosed trailers protected from the hazards of open trailers, not Roderick’s restored gem.
Upon arrival in Hershey, the three friends set to work cleaning the grime and dirt from the car before judging. Jim Burrill masked off the intake manifold adding some color to the top of the engine while Roderick was under the car super-cleaning the frame and suspension components.
The work paid off with a Junior AACA Award of Excellence. The car had to score over 365 of a possible 400 points awarded by a panel of five judges. This first prize meant that the car was now eligible for the Senior Award category with its higher standards of judging.
With new found confidence, Roderick and Chandler drove the car to the June 1993 AACA Eastern Spring Show at the Carlisle, Pennsylvania to compete in the Gettysburg Regional. They did not win at Carlisle which surprised the men who had done so well at Hershey the previous year.
Roderick took an AACA Judging Course to gather some insight into what the judges were looking for in the elite categories that they now found themselves in. He decided to up his game by performing several subtle yet points worthy modifications to the 1937 Chevrolet.
He brought the fender bolts to Russ Woodman’s auto machine shop where Russ showed Roderick how to install a bolt into the valve grinding machine. Once the bolt was chucked up, Roderick made several light passes to grind off the bolt’s identification marks since those standards were not in place in 1937. Roderick then sprayed a light coat of silver on each bolt head before re-installing the fastener onto the car.
The headlights were next when they were disassembled and re-silvered to look like they had just come off the factory floor. New period correct battery cables connected the retro battery for the final touch. Even the plastic tire valve stems caps were replaced with metal covers.
It was off to the October 1993 Hershey AACA meet. Roderick was confident that he had performed the modifications which would garner the points for a Senior Award which carried a minimum of 375 points of possible 400.
He and his sidekick, Jimmy Chandler went to the awards banquet at the end of the show. All the hardware was given out and the Maine men were completely shut out. The long ride home included discussions about the crazy AACA scoring which had mysteriously alluded them. They beat themselves up racking their brains to determine where they went wrong.
One day, about a month after the Hershey show, a box showed up at the Presque Isle shop. When the box was opened, a trophy was inside with an explanation. The judges had misplaced a couple scorecards which meant that the points accumulation could not reflect the true score. When the scorecards were located, the Maine car was the winner of the Senior Award. The thoughts of unfair scoring and self-doubt dissipated.
The car’s owner, Milton Adelman was wise beyond what the young autobody/restoration man Roderick would know. When he had heard about the complete wipeouts at the Fall of 1993 and Spring of 1994 shows, he laughed them off and reiterated to young Roderick, in his early 30’s, the scale of the competition that they were up against. The arrival of the trophy and Adelman’s confidence in Roderick literally changed his attitude and lifted his aspirations.
The car was a winner at every subsequent show garnering awards at this partial listing of shows:
- Bonny Eagle High School Extravaganza
- Show, Shine, & Drag Race Show sponsored by VIP at Oxford Plains Speedway
- Augusta Show and Shine at National Guard location
- 1994 AACA Preservation Award at Cape Elizabeth, Maine
- Best of Show at Naples, Florida Depot Show 1996
- Southern Winter AACA Meet at St. Petersburg
- Multiple Preservation awards earned by Adelman who became a perennial favorite when he entered his Cabriolet at his winter home in Naples Florida
Milton Adelman more than a customer
When Milton Adelman walked into Greg Roderick’s shop in Presque Isle in 1987, neither man could have predicted the pathway that their relationship would follow. Adelman had heard from Presque Isle businessman, Fred Haines, that this guy at Northern Auto Body was performing wonders with his work ethic and skills.
What began as a customer/autobody shop owner affiliation would grow into one of mutual respect and admiration. Adelman provided Roderick with the self-confidence he needed in a way that Roderick would recognize later.
Roderick was always welcome at the couple’s Naples, Florida winter home. When Roderick would show up, the Chevrolet Cabriolet would often be a mutual point of interest. On one occasion Roderick was in Florida and wanted to rent a car. Milton said to take the Cabriolet which was much more unique than a plain-Jane rental car.
Roderick shared in Adelman’s grief when his wife Gloria died in January 3, 2010. It was Gloria who had kick started the Cabriolet restoration after the stock market crash in 1987.
The friendship between Roderick and Adelman was typically a phone conversation every month when they would talk about how things were progressing in the County with Roderick’s projects, the potato crop, and of course the weather.
The last time Roderick saw Adelman was when he was attending the Aroostook Central Institute (ACI) Reunion in 2019. Memories were shared and pledges were made to visit one another when possible.
On March 31, 2020, Roderick made a call to his old friend when he had not heard from him for several weeks. Adelman’s daughter Toby returned that call later that day. She said her father was on the phone with his sons and daughter saying their good byes since Milton was gravely ill and no longer able to speak.
With a tear in his eye, Roderick conveyed to me that he was honored to be able to say his final farewell to a man he now considered a dear friend. Later that same day, Adelman took his final breath.
The 1937 Chevrolet Cabriolet that brought the two men together still remains a part of the Adelman family in Naples, Florida. Roderick mentioned that he hopes someone will retain ownership of this special automobile.
Let’s go racing!
Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:16)