Man reunited with race car
August 09, 2013 11:00 AM
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HANOVER — When Charlie Garrett sold his restored 1939 Studebaker in 1965, he never expected to see it again.

But not so long ago, he sat in the car, newly restored, started the engine and listened to the familiar sound.

Garrett, of Hanover, raced the car as a young man in his 20s.

During its racing days, the car set five different records at Garrett’s home track, York U.S. 30. And he was also reunited with his racing team during the U.S. 30 Dragstrip Reunion Show at the York Fairgrounds in July, the same day he was reunited with the Studebaker.

“We were just a bunch of kids who wanted to race,” he said. “I needed something to keep me out of trouble.”

In 1967, the car was featured in Hot Rod Magazine. He sold it the same year and opened his Hanover racing-engine shop, which he still runs today.

Randy and Yvonne Davis, of Littlestown, have a garage full of classic cars they’ve restored over the years behind their Littlestown home, and have known Garrett since 1978. The Davises would buy cars from him and restore them.

They decided to restore a Studebaker and eventually bought parts to build one, until they found what they thought was Garrett’s original one in 2010.

So Randy Davis brought it to Garrett and said, “I think I have your old car.”

Garrett put a magnet on one of the door hinges — he’d replaced them with a nonmagnetic metal in the ’60s. When the magnet fell off, he knew it was his car.

After Garrett sold the car, the new owner turned the car into a street rod. It was in bad condition by the time the Davises bought it.

“They butchered the frame so bad that we almost couldn’t use it,” Davis said.

For the next 18 months, the Davises worked with Jon Little, a Littlestown racecar fabricator who has worked on cars for Garrett and the Davises over the years, to turn the car into the same car Garrett remembered. They would buy parts online, show them to Garrett and compare them to pictures from the 1960s to make sure everything was just as it was.

After 18 months, the car was ready — just in time for the 65th anniversary of Hot Rod Magazine.

The owners of all cars that were featured in the last 50 years were invited for a special reunion show in California this March.

“They couldn’t believe we finished the car just for that show,” Yvonne Davis said.

The magazine asked the Davises to stay after the show to photograph the car again for another appearance. The current issue of Hot Rod magazine features Garrett’s old Studebaker.

“To have the honor to have it back again in the magazine is pretty neat,” Garrett said.

At the York show this month, the car sat with a cover on it for the first half, then it was unveiled to Garrett and his old racing team for the first time.

“I was surprised at how nice it was,” he said. “I knew it was going to be nice. It was way past anything I ever expected.”

Garrett stopped racing in 1996, as changes in sponsorships made it impossible for him just to race part time. He focuses on building engines for other racers at his Hershey Heights Road shop in Hanover.

“I never had anyone teach me anything. I just bought books,” he said. “You gotta love what you do if you want to be good at it.”

“The driving part I still miss, but the fact that I can build motors and be around racing helps,” Garrett said.

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