Restoring the past: Local man wins awards with classic car

Restored classic cars – many parades feature them and many people stop to admire them.

Yet a lot of work goes into making those cars look as good as they did when they first were purchased decades ago, said Bernie Schelb, senior master judge.

Items seemingly as minor as the available paint colors from that year must match, he said. Even though he does not much care for the color of the car he shows, he kept it because to do otherwise could stop him from winning a competition.

“I don’t want to paint something passionate pink,” he said.

Schelb has been showing his ’67 Nova Super Sport for a few years now, winning competitions throughout the country. To win a competition, judges look through a 143-item checklist, featuring different parts of the car.

With his Nova, he has won a national first place junior in June 2010, a national first place senior in Hershey in October of that year, a nomination for the National Award in 2010, a grand national first place junior in May 2012 and a grand national first place senior in June of this year. To compete at a higher level, a car must receive a first place ranking at the next lowest level.

Competitions are held all over the country. In 2016, the grand national will be held in Williamsport.

Competition season mostly is in the summer, especially in the eastern part of the country because people do not want to risk ruining their cars in bad weather. Cars spend much of the year in storage.

“I don’t pull it out of storage until April,” Schelb said. “I start monitoring the condition of the unit. I repair things that malfunction. Batteries don’t last forever.”

Schelb participates in the local Susquehanna Valley Region chapter of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA). The board of directors of the local chapter meet weekly to schedule events to ensure people get to see the hard work men and women have put into the cars.

“It’s a hobby,” Schelb said. “It keeps you out of trouble.”

For more than 30 years, Schelb has been a part of the AACA.

“Lots of time and money,” he said.

Just how much time and money goes into restoring a car depends on the type of car and the level of repair work the car owner can do without hiring someone else to do it.

“Every vehicle is different,” Schelb said.

Since every vehicle is so vastly different, car owners must do extensive research to get the cars ready to compete. Schelb acquired documents about each car part so if, when the judge looks at the car, there is any question about whether something is just as it was originally made, he can pull out his binder and show that it is.

To keep the cars looking their best, many car owners avoid driving their cars to the competition unless it is not too far away.

Some owners will only take their cars onto the grass if protective booties are on the wheels to keep potential grass stains away.

Still others refuse to even take their cars out of the trucks on which they came.

To be a senior master judge like Schelb requires annual schooling to learn more about different cars. When he does judge, he leaves his own car at home.

“I want to baby-sit it,” he said, something he cannot do if he is to be out inspecting other cars.

When he judges a car, he never is allowed to judge his own or a friend’s car to keep it fair.

In the past, Schelb worked on trucks. Now when he judges, he requests trucks because he is more familiar with them.

The competitions are not just for those who show and those who judge – people are there to buy and sell cars and some just like to look around at all of the cars on display.

Schelb’s other classic car is an ’86 Rolls Royce Corniche II. One of only three or four in the state, it only has 5,000 miles on it.