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A specially designed platform in the middle of Tom Chandler’s garage makes it easier to park his restored cars.

By Pat McTaggart

Freelance Writer


Many hobby enthusiasts have a section of their homes set aside to display their various collections, be it a few shelves or display cases, or perhaps a room or two. For Elkader resident Tom Chandler, the display area for his collection is a 50x50 foot garage attached to his house. In it are 12 of his 18 restored collectible automobiles.

“We went through several design ideas before we decided on this one,” he said, referring to the giant turntable in the center of the garage. “My goal was to be able to get any car in and out of the garage without having to move the other ones. With the turntable, I can just drive the car on it, flip the switch, and face the car in any direction to either back it into its space or drive it out of the garage.”

Among the vehicles in the collection is a 1924 Franklin Speedster, a 1939 BMW, a 1927 French Derby sports car, a 1952 Glasspar G2 and a 1954 Bristol 403. There were only 273 Bristol’s built, and there are not very many in existence today. Chandler said that the Derby is also a rare vehicle.

“I followed the Derby for 29 years as it went through four owners before I was finally able to get it,” he said.

Many of the vehicles Chandler has acquired were in rough shape, some consisting of only the chassis. He restores them in a 50x60 foot shop located in downtown Elkader.

“I have had an interest in unusual cars ever since I was in high school,” Chandler said. “Most of that interest has been for lighter, sportier cars. My brother and I did repair work on our family vehicles, which helped a lot in later years. After high school, I bought an Austin Mini and headed off to college.”

After graduating from college, Chandler started buying cars with the idea of restoring them. His first collector car was a 1953 British Singer.

Tom retired in 2000 after teaching music at the Central Community High School in Elkader for 32 years. Since then, he has spent countless hours in his downtown shop working on various projects.

“Retiring gave me a chance to really get serious,” he said. “I have metal fabricating tools, a wood shop and a painting area in the shop. When restoring a vehicle, I try to find original parts if possible from dealers and collectors in North America or Europe. If I can’t get them, I try to find appropriate substitutes, or I fabricate them in the shop from original specifications.”

“If you know what you want, you can get the right materials and shape the part to those specifications,” he added.  “I’m currently working on a 1952 fiberglass Maverick Sportster, which was the brainchild of an aeronautic engineer.”

Chandler has gone to many car shows to exhibit his work. He has won several individual awards and he took home the Champion’s Choice Award at the Indianapolis Car Show this June.

“I get a great deal of satisfaction in being able to bring things back and give them the look they used to have, putting them in a workable state,” he said. “There’s also satisfaction in being able to share them with other individuals and enthusiasts.”

One of the ways he is sharing his passion for the autos is hosting an “Open Garage” event that will be held at his residence at 100 Haven’s Drive near the Central Community Hospital on Saturday, October 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, October 16, from 2 to 5 p.m.

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