DRIVE! 2010 • Driver’s seat

Changing cars is like changing clothes for Classic Chassis’ James Gudat

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

Classic Chassis member James Gudat
HOW HE ROLLS | Despite having a reliable, newer Dodge Ram truck to do most of the heavy lifting, Classic Chassis member James Gudat opts for one of his many vintage cars for everyday driving, like this awesome Matador. (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice).

In Drive, we try to look at what’s on the horizon for new cars and upgrades of our favorite models. But for a sizeable group of gay Dallasites, older is better.

The Classic Chassis Car Club provides a place for vintage car aficionados to meet and share their gearhead passion. Many of its nearly 150 members are multiple car owners. But few have as many as James Gudat, who garages more than two dozen cars at his East Dallas home and in Canton. Ironically, he uses his vintage rides more than his “new” car, a 1995 Dodge Ram truck.

For more information, visit ClassicChassis.com.

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Name: James Gudat

Day job:  There are a couple of things I do. I’ve had an assortment of rental properties for the last 20 years, and four days a week I go into the office of Connectrac, a great place that my longtime friend Clint Strong created. I am really spoiled there. The two facilities that we have occupied in the last four years have space set aside in the warehouse for parking my vehicle of the day. It’s super to drive into the building and not have to worry about door dings, sun, hail or any other unfavorable elements.

What kind of car: I have 30 of them.

Say what? Yeah.

Which do you drive on a daily basis? It depends on the weather, what has air in the tires, a charged battery … and not two or three cars behind it.

Seems like it’d be tough to go through all to find out which to roll out with. What do you have to choose from? The group of wayward cars is a hodgepodge, which includes a 1928 Studebaker President (which is all original and runs but looks like it’s 82 years old), a 1958 Nash Metropolitan and a 1979 Pacer wagon. I love wagons and fixed up duplicates of the ’63 Rambler wagon and ’73 Ambassador wagon with woodgrain sides.

When it’s nice, I take out a convertible, or a hardtop and roll down all the windows. When I need attention, one of the 1970s cars in a factory original over-the-top two-tone paint scheme. Other times, I feel like a luxury ride so I pull out a 1956 Continental Mark II (the rarest car in the group) or a 1966 Imperial LeBaron. If I feel like hot rodding, I will pull out the 1979 Camaro (triple black with nice cast wheels and white letter tires) or my bad boy car, a 1972 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ with a powerful 455, Posi-track and no emission controls.

I have no idea what that means, but I want to ride in it. It isn’t restored so it has rough edges, but it’s a real kick to get behind the wheel and stick your foot in it. Laying big black rubber strips is almost a thing of the past and most cars now simply cannot do it. Still, sometimes it’s fun to not grow up.

Where did your love of cars come from? Aunt Sylvia gave me a model of a red 1968 Lincoln — I loved that toy and still have it. Aunt Louise was always a car gal with a new car every four years or so. Some of the best memories were in those cars. I still have my first car I bought 33 years ago.

Which is your most modern car? I have a ’95 Dodge Ram. The newest old one is a ’82 Lincoln Mark VI coupe. I think it’s a very pretty style with the triple pastel French vanilla paint. The leather seats are butter soft and it drives like a modern car. It gets about 20 miles to the gallon in town and 25 on the highway. Since it’s smaller — by old car standards — I can fly into a parking spot at warp speed and watch the hood ornament swing around without fear of totaling everything around me.

What do you like about your truck? It gives me the pulling power to haul almost anything that I need to. It’s the only new vehicle I have ever bought, and now it’s 15 years old, but still going strong. It looks good but not near as flashy as newer trucks. It never lets me down.

The best part about driving vintage cars is… It is the memories of family and events and the fun of being different. I like looking down a hood that’s a mile long. The wagons are great when I need to haul something like Christmas presents.

The worst? Pushing a car out of an intersection after it has just stopped running and walking home to get the truck to gather supplies to revive it.

Eesh. No thanks. You don’t want to have a wreck with one of these old cars. They are much more durable with stronger metal bodies and thick windows. A new car would fall apart if it hit any of these. Knock on wood that it doesn’t.

You must have some big stick shifts. Actually most are automatics — the only standards are the Studebaker, the Metropolitan and, of course, the 1963 Chevy firetruck which does have the largest stick.

That’s what I wanted to hear. What is it about cars today that doesn’t compare to the old ones? They have no flash or style. It’s hard to get excited about another 4-door sports sedan that looks like a two-week-old bar of soap.

There are some exceptions. The new Challenger, Mustang and Camaro are pretty fun.

Do you go to the throwback diners like Keller’s Drive-In? I have gone to two of the cruise nights at Keller’s. We rotate our monthly cruise events around the Metroplex to keep things interesting.

Do you play oldies music really loud while driving about in a classic car? I enjoy the tunes in the cars. They all have radios except for the Studebaker.  Most are AM-FM and some of the ’70s models even have working 8-track players. The ’74 Lincoln Town Car has an enormous sound system with a high power receiver, amps, speakers and dual 14-inch sub woofers that take up most of the trunk. That car will rock with the best. It plays classical music with a depth that is moving, but, of course disco sounds really good, too.

How do you maintain 30 vintage cars? If I let a car sit too long it gets cranky. They  develop leaks everywhere and it looks like your driving the Exxon Valdez around. I try to rotate all of the running tagged, insured ones so every few weeks they are driven. Twice a month, I drive to my storage in Canton to trade out a car and bring one back. The 60-mile trip helps keep the cars running much better.

Can I have one? In the last 25 years, I have only sold less than a handful of cars. There will be a time I’ll need to pass them onto someone else to enjoy, but not for a while. Anyone can have a vintage or classic car, but can you handle the care and upkeep that they demand?

No. If the question is, can you have one of those cars I have become the caretaker of, then the answer would be “not just yet.”

Dang.

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The big reveal: McLaren goes commercial

McLaren Automotive has been making cars for 20 years, but unless you frequent a racetrack, chances are  you’ve never seen one or even known where you could get one for a test drive. But starting next year, you need look no further than Dallas.

Park Place Motorcars is teaming with the British Formula One specialists to sell McLaren’s new production model. And it will only set you back $225,000.

The big reveal came about a month ago, when bigwigs with Park Place and McLaren pulled the sheet off the MP4-12C, an unwieldy title that reflects the company’s Project 4 carbon fiber model. And it is stunning.

The aluminum body, 2,866-lb. luxury sports car weighs 200 pounds less than rival models, with every gram being accounted for. A high exhaust system decreases drag by not allowing emissions to come out under the chassis. And the interior styling is comfortable and surprisingly roomy.

It’s certainly not a car for everyone — definitely not every pocketbook — but as car fantasies go, you can’t dream much bigger.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Bishop Arts First Thursday to feature classic car show

As part of its First Thursdays series, the Bishop Arts District will host “Cruise Night” Nov. 4, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., featuring classic cars from the Classic Chassis Car Club.

Merchants say they expect to fill at least two blocks of the urban historic district with lacquered fenders, polished chrome, white-wall tires and leather upholstery.

Classic Chassis Car Club is the organizational sponsor for the event and club members will furnish more than two dozen cars to anchor the it. Members of the general public are also encouraged to bring their special “rides.” In keeping with the club’s membership policy, “Cruise Night” is open to all pedigrees of collectible vehicles, from restored classics to brand-new exotics, from art cars to vintage two-wheelers.

Vehicles will be displayed between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. in reserved parking spaces along Bishop Avenue and Seventh Street. Early arrivals are welcome, and car owners need not remain for the entire duration of the event. There is no entry fee and no competition.

TWCD holding  Masquerade event as Halloween weekend fundraiser

The Women’s Chorus of Dallas will host “Masquerade 2010” Saturday, Oct. 30, at 7 p.m. at the Sammons Center for the Arts, 3630 Harry Hines Blvd.

The annual fundraiser will feature a wide variety of silent auction items, casino tables, live jazz music, tarot card readings, ballroom dancing and a contest for the best  masquerade costume.

Auction donations in the form of items or certificates for good or services are still being accepted and are tax-deductible.

Auction items already donated include original artwork, tickets for sports, theater and other entertainment events, spa packages, overnight hotel stays and travel packages, celebrity memorabilia, gift baskets and more.

The casino at the event will include poker, blackjack or roulette, and the best players can win prizes.
Tickets are $25 in advance, available online at TWCD.org, by calling 214-520-7828 or by e-mailing twcdoffice@twcd.org. Tickets at the door will be $35.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas