From junk heap to dream car
By MARALINE KUBIK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
LORDSTOWN -- A 19-year-old cancer patient's wish will come true Saturday when the Make-a-Wish Foundation unveils the young man's dream car, a completely restored 1962 Chevy Bel Air station wagon.
The car, which would have cost $100,000 to restore, will be presented to Victor Ramey, who suffers from Hodgkins Lymphoma, a cancer that invades bone marrow and other organs, during a fund-raiser car show at General Motors' Lordstown Assembly Plant.
Five volunteers, including two cancer patients, restored the car.
Victor dreamed of driving a classic show car years before he was old enough to get his license.
When he was only 13, he talked his dad into buying the station wagon. They planned to restore it together, but shortly after they started, Phillip Ramey had a heart attack.
While his dad was recovering, Victor got sick.
The Make-a-Wish Foundation, a nonprofit organization that makes wishes come true for children with life-threatening illnesses, offered to get Victor's car on the road but couldn't find anyone near Victor's Columbus home to take the project on.
Volunteers from the Mahoning Valley knew they could transform the heap of rubble into a showpiece.
"Most people would have looked at it and junked it," said Bill Conklin, owner of Pro-Car Race Shop in Columbiana, one of the volunteers who put in a collective 3,000 hours since January restoring Victor's car.
He and Joe Brenneman, who retired from GM on June 1, Harvey Kulkin, a sales executive at Sherwin Williams Automotive Finishes Corp., Marc Holbury, a technician at Sherwin Williams, and Dale Schaller, Make-a-Wish representative in Youngstown, knew they could do it.
With help from the automotive classes at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center and the support of 56 area businesses, including the GM assembly plant, Conklin, Brenneman and Schaller went to work.
Kulkin read about the project in The Vindicator and volunteered to provide paint for the car.
"My dad passed away from Hodgkin's Disease, so I had an ulterior reason for getting involved," he said.
Initially, Sherwin Williams was just going to provide the paint, Schaller noted, but ended up providing a couple of volunteers when two of the three primary restorers were diagnosed with cancer.
Conklin was diagnosed with brain cancer, and a malignant tumor was discovered on Brenneman's esophagus. Both are undergoing treatment.
By the time the car was ready to paint, Sherwin Williams had created a one-of-a-kind color, Make-a-Wish Blue, so that Victor's car would be unique.
The paint incorporates the latest helicon technology to create a crystal that causes the color to shift as the light changes, Kulkin explained.
"It's unbelievable how it works," Conklin said. "They painted the car black and then they painted it with the Make-a-Wish Blue. It looks like this," he said, holding up a paint stick partially coated with what looks to be a clear enamel.
"When you spray this over black, that's the color you get," Conklin said, pointing to Victor's car and its purplish sapphire finish.
Victor will show the car "everywhere I can."
Following the show at the GM assembly plant, he'll display it at the Super Chevy Show in Columbus Sept. 13-14 and a show to benefit Make-a-Wish in April.
Because Make-a-Wish made his dream come true, Victor said he wants to do whatever he can to help make wishes come true for other children with life-threatening illnesses.
National auto restoration magazines have followed the project and will be at the car show Saturday to photograph it.
The show is free. Entry fees for show cars, truck and motorcycles are $10 each. Registration is at 9 a.m.; the show runs until 4 p.m.