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Published: Sunday, 12/25/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Oh, Man! Cave

Former body shop becomes retreat for car enthusiast

BY TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A "Carol's Restaurant" sign points to a large kitchen that orginally was a paint booth in Chuck Hymore's man cave in East Toledo. He made the sign in honor of his mother, Carol. A "Carol's Restaurant" sign points to a large kitchen that orginally was a paint booth in Chuck Hymore's man cave in East Toledo. He made the sign in honor of his mother, Carol.
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This is the last in our 2011 monthly series, My Space, about people’s favorite rooms. A new 2012 series will feature interesting collections. If you have one, contact Tahree Lane at 419-724-6075 or tlane@theblade.com.

Chuck Hymore’s playground pulls together his favorite things.

The antique and classic cars are finally in one place. Dozens of vintage signs and license plates are thoughtfully hung. A former paint booth has become a stainless-steel kitchen where rib-and-steak feasts are concocted. And enhanced by surround sound, a screen drops down for watching games.

"It’s nothing but a big man cave," says Mr. Hymore, one that approaches being a retro museum.

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The 40-foot-by-80-foot body shop in East Toledo that was originally Earl’s Garage was in bad shape when he bought it almost four years ago. He retired last year from the Toledo Police Department where, for 16 years, he was a resource officer at Waite High School, his 1975 alma mater.

"I’ve always collected cars since I was about 16 years old," he says. "Over the years I’d buy them and fix them up, but I didn’t have ample storage. Having them all under one roof is nice."

Imagination, building savvy, and untold hours of work created this homage to nostalgia circa 1940 to 1970.

"Once I got into it, I got ideas," he says. "One thing led to another."

Chuck Hymore and girlfriend Teresa St. Marie stand below a neon sign he salvaged from a junkyard. Chuck Hymore and girlfriend Teresa St. Marie stand below a neon sign he salvaged from a junkyard.
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The ambiance is easily altered by raising or lowering light levels in various areas, and by clicking one of 11 remotes that illuminate signs. He built one above the kitchen door: "Carol’s Restaurant," named for his mother, Carol Leggett.

Part of the fun, of course, is hunting for old metal treasures. "I like the thrill of getting the deal."

At a Toledo junk yard entangled in saplings, he found 40-feet of neon signage in three 150-pound sections. He and a friend cut the trees down, then wrestled and strapped the pieces to the top of a commercial van. After the broken neon was repaired, they hauled them onto scaffolding and bolted them into place 13-feet high. The message: "Fabulous B-B-Q Ribs & Chicken."

Other signs are for Red Man tobacco, Gulf Supreme Motor Oil ($20 at a barn sale), Rexall Drugs (drove to Nashville for it), Pepsi-Cola, and taxi services. A candy machine holds treats for a nickel. There are a couple of metal porch gliders for seating.

But it’s the eight pristine vehicles, all glisten and gleam, that are ahhh-some. His most recent purchase is a little 1957 Nash Metropolitan convertible, a teal and white rectangle reminiscent of an amphibious car.

"It turned out to be a blast to drive because it puts a smile on people’s faces. It looks so dinky and boxy."

He’s rebuilding another fairly new purchase: a 1948 Crosley fire truck, originally used inside factories and later purchased by amusement parks. It’s 16 feet long and can hold about a dozen children.

"I took it apart and just put on new transmission, engine, and brakes," he says. "It’ll be a parade car," perhaps IN a future East Toledo Christmas parade, for which he drove his Good Humor ice cream truck a few weeks ago. When he acquired the ice cream truck, it had a ’63 Chevy cab and platform, but his research indicated it should be 1955. He changed it out, also adding airbag suspension and one-ton springs because the ice cream box has such heavy freezer plates. Keith Knecht, the late pinstripe artist, painted the lettering and ice cream images.

There’s a cherry-red ’37 Buick, and a shining silver-blue metallic ’59 Thunderbird convertible with air ride that can elevate the chassis 12 inches. It’s fuel-injected and has a Mustang GT drive train.

Fuzzy dice dangle from the rear-view mirror of a turquoise and white ’55 Chevy Bel Air hardtop sport coupe. With updated drive train, brakes, steering, and digital dashboard and sound system, it’s a restorod, meaning its mechanics are modern but the restored body is true to period.

"It’s [a restorod] a much better driving car and a safer car, too."

A 1998 Corvette convertible, on lift in background, is among Chuck Hymore's vintage car collection. A 1998 Corvette convertible, on lift in background, is among Chuck Hymore's vintage car collection.
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High on a lift is a red ’98 Corvette convertible; its interior and top are camel colored.

Especially unusual is an open-sided railroad baggage cart circa 1929-30 that he’s turned into a bed. It originally had a straw-on-wood roof.

The tailgate of a red, ’54 Chevy pickup hangs on one wall, folding down to serve as a bar. Above it is the truck’s front end.

A pair of stained-glass windows from an Old West End home are near the front door. Upon entering the attractive brick-facade building (yes, he spent two summers restoring the exterior), is a vintage bicycle, a porch swing hanging on chains, and a marquee for the "Route 66 Drive In," that took him a month to build. Its message welcomes guests to the 2012 Super Bowl party.

Black stools edge a bar that appears to be the finny back of a ’57 Chevy Bel Air. He helped build it out of wood and fiberglass after hours in the shop at Waite for a regatta, and years later bought it. A huge painting of a ’50s-era diner at night was done by Clint White, of Toledo’s police force.

And a high-definition projector splashes programs on a 10-foot drop-down screen, with great sound provided by 10 speakers and two sub-woofers.

Mr. Hymore gets a kick out of the wow-factor the place generates, especially among the under-30 crowd. In addition to his old vehicles, he also works on his three everyday rides here. "This is strictly for pleasure."

So why didn’t he become a mechanic?

"Are you kidding me? When you’re bad and you die, God sends you back as a mechanic with a lot of friends and relatives." A mechanic, he adds, who is sentenced to work on new, not vintage, cars.

Contact Tahree Lane at: tlane@theblade.com or 419-724-6075.



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