By Mary O’KEEFE
In 1998 Ken Sobel had his second heart operation and his doctors told him he would not have that long to live. Looking at his mortality, he decided to pursue his bucket list and on that list was a very special car.
“My wife and I would watch these old movies and she would say, ‘That’s the kind of car you should get,’” Sobel said.
That kind of car rolled right out of film noir. It was a 1930s-40s type of car, the kind that gangsters and cops would drive.
“I called a friend and [asked] him to send me all the old cars for sale he knew of,” he said.
His friend knew classic cars and sent him a few suggestions of those for sale. Sobel found a 1934 Dodge DRXX. It wasn’t in great shape but he and his friend Larry LeVine decided to buy it and have it restored.
“It was restored by prisoners in Nevada. They have 145 men restoring cars,” Sobel said.
The state of Nevada has a program where prisoners work in a variety of fields including auto restoration. Sobel and LeVine sent the car to one of these programs and the men brought life back into the old classic.
Now both LeVine and Sobel attend several of the car shows throughout the area and also drive the car – a lot.
“I would drive this car all the way to New York,” Sobel said of its engine integrity.
But it is not enough to display this classic car; the two men add a bit of history for each show. They dress in classic ’30s suits, including fedoras, and the car gets outfitted, too. Tommy guns are in the front and back seats and shells litter the running board. It is a throwback to the time of the “Untouchables.”
What Sobel likes the most about the car is the conversations and thumbs up that follow it.
“We drive it all the time,” he said.
It was this love of cars and conversation that flowed along Brand Boulevard on Saturday during the Glendale Annual Cruise Night. Classic car and hot rod owners gladly spoke to those who strolled by and had so many questions about when, where and how they got their cars. And this year there were more motorcycles at the event than ever before.
The owners ran the gamut of background and of ages. Nickole Dixson saved her money and when she was 17 she bought her car.
“I didn’t want a car like everyone else,” Dixson said.
When she bought her Chevrolet Chevelle it looked nothing like it does now. It was a working car but was definitely not living up to its potential.
“My mom (Mary Beth Wissmann) found the car,” Dixson said.
The two went and looked at it and Dixson knew this was the car for her.
“It was big and all metal and strong,” she said of her car.
It was perfect timing because not long after they completed the deal for purchase another buyer showed up with more money than the original owner was asking. It was perfect timing and it just seemed it was meant to be. Her dad, Larry Wissmann, is a mechanic at California Muscle Cars. He took his daughter’s car and returned it to its former glory days.
Before her dad rebuilt the car she drove it, adding a few more dings than had been there when she bought it.
“I hit a pole,” she confessed.
She maybe smacked into a few more things before it got its remake.
“[Larry] took all the dings out,” Mary Beth added.
It took about a year but today the car looks like it just rolled off the line. It is registered as a classic car and Dixson now brings it to car shows for others to share her love of the classics.
“Something about it,” she said. “It is so beautiful.”