Classics Keep Man's Engine Running
Time was when paying a debt by barter was common. Thirty years ago or so when Jack Yale was paid with a rundown 1933 rumble-seated Chrysler for electrical work he'd done on a house, he wasn't so sure if a basket of garden vegetables or basket of eggs might not have been a better deal.
"It was one of those any place you put a dent would improve it," the Kennewick man said. But it was a bargain in the making for Yale. "I was hooked."
By the time Yale and his wife, Peggy, completed refurbishing the 1933 Chrysler, it looked new, and the description of classic car attached to it. And he and his wife were hooked on classic cars.
The 69-year-old Yale now owns eight elegantly restored classic cars. He is a fixture among classic car aficionados throughout the country.
His cars are seen in parades or car shows, and he receives calls from around the country from those interested in probing his mind for its detailed knowledge or seeking parts he may have.
Today, the Yale's own:
ĽA 1931 Chrysler roadster, designed without side windows.
ĽA 1931 Auburn Cabriolet coupe convertible with rumble seat.
ĽA 1931 Chrysler Custom Imperial, one of only 18 ever built and featuring two windshields, known as a dual cowl.
ĽA 1932 Chrysler Imperial convertible sedan.
ĽA 1935 Auburn Cabriolet convertible coupe.
ĽA 1936 Auburn four-door convertible with fold-down windshield.
ĽA 1940 Mercury Eight coupe.
ĽA 1941 Packard convertible coupe.
"They are all certified classics from the Antique Auto Clubs of America," Yale said.
The club is the grandfather of such organizations, he said.
All but one of Yale's classics come with straight eight-cylinder engines, the exception being his 1940 Mercury coupe with a V-8. The cars are maintained and protected in a large garage on the Yale's 5-acre spread. Three times a year he removes all the cars from the garage and lets them idle.
"A couple I leave accessible to drive during the summer," he said.
Over the years, Yale has acquired and sold many classics.
"I'm a collector. I get a car and enjoy it, and I get another car and enjoy it.
"It's not for profit."
He regularly attends car swap meets looking for cars, parts or other car enthusiasts to exchange information with.
Yale also is a member of the Ye Olde Car Club of the Tri-Cities. Its members are close knit, and as many as 35 gather weekly for breakfast. For the past 18 years after the Benton-Franklin County Fair Parade, about 80 classic car enthusiasts and 35 cars have shown up at the Yales' home for a post-parade party.
Yale loves all classics but has particular affection for Chryslers and Auburns.
"I've owned nine Auburns," he said. "That '33 I started out with hooked me on Chryslers."
Yale learns about cars he desires through many sources. The couple may travel thousands of miles to get one, and he and Peggy have even driven half-way across the country in a classic they've just purchased.
"It seems like every car I've wanted is on the East Coast," he said.
Yale's mechanic skills on classic car engines are legendary, and he often helps other classic car owners.
Born in Arkansas, Yale was raised in Richland after his parents, Colin and Irene Yale, settled here in 1942 when his father went to work as one of the original survey engineers for Hanford's Manhattan Project during World War II.
Yale graduated from what was then Richland's Columbia High School in 1951 with Peggy Personett, who he married. They have three daughters and five grandchildren and will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this year.
"In high school, I had a Model A Ford and a '36 Ford," Yale said. "Every one I
got I fixed up. People were always willing to buy from me because they always knew the cars I had were debugged."
For three years after high school, Yale ran a gas station owned by Peggy's grandfather in Atwood, 111. He became familiar with what are many of today's classic cars.
"About half of our customers' cars had been made in the 1930s," he explained.,
In 1954, the couple returned to the Tri-Cities, where Yale went to work for General Electric at Hanford as an electrician. He later took a job for the Bonneville Power Administration until he retired in 1985.
When he was wiring homes on the side to raise a little extra money, Yale was forced into taking the old 1933 Chrysler after one customer couldn't pay cash. He plowed into restoring the exterior and engine, while Peggy refurbished the interior.
They went on to restore a 1934 DeSoto Airflow, which Yale said was a "basket case." They took trips all over in the beautifully restored classic as they have in many others they've owned.
Yale usually allows about a year for restoring a car. The oldest car he's restored is a 1914 Mitchell, and he still has a 1948 Farmall tractor he uses for blading dirt roads on his property.
There's also a profitable side to the Yales' passion. Classic cars have a way of growing in value. He noted that in the mid-1970s he restored a 1947 Ford convertible and sold it for $2,300. Today, it's worth about $23,000.
"We try keeping the inventory down, but I like making them run," he said.