Old Cars

Restoration of 1953 Maverick Sportster

Story Starts in 2006

In 2006, my close friend Bob Curtis told me a tale of a 1953 Maverick who had vanished in Wisconsin, USA. After Sterling Gladwin, the creator and founder of the Mountain View, California-based Maverick Motors Company, passed away, the Gladwin family sold the car.

(We’ll talk more about this 1953 Maverick’s history in a later tale.) When Bob first saw the Maverick, it was a beautiful representation of what a car from the 1950s might be in terms of grandeur. That was going to alter.

The new owner purchased the vehicle from a Minnesota dealer and started the restoration process with a business close to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A disagreement erupted early on in the restoration, and all work was suspended. The 1953 Cadillac chassis and drivetrain were removed from the Maverick body, which was retained in place.

Some time later, in the 1990s, Bob lost track of the vehicle and all of its parts. Since then, there has been no word of the car, and it is believed to be gone.

Maverick Emerges in 2007

I received an email from Wisconsin’s John Englehardt in 2007. John had located a Maverick body in Wisconsin and had asked Jeri Clark, another one of our fiber pals, for assistance. Jeri is not your typical motorist. One of our fiber-gang members, Jeri, who is a friend of John’s, constructed many of the original Grantham Stardust bodies in 1953. Well done, Jeri!

A small world, huh? (Jeri Clark will be covered in more detail in the near future. Returning to our story.)

It turned out that Randy Olsen was the Maverick’s owner, and he had bought it around ten years before. Randy was eager to find a new owner and John’s assistance helped us quickly reach an agreement. Rick D’Louhy and I then planned our upcoming trip for the time when the snow would melt and a path would take us to the gleaming Maverick in southern Wisconsin. He had realized that it was time to find another owner for it.

2008–2009: Randy Olsen and the Maverick

The Maverick had been kept dry in a barn for more than ten years when we landed in Wisconsin in June 2009. I adore barn treasures. “Piece of cake,” I thought to myself as Randy, Rick D’Louhy, and I moved the body from the barn to the trailer.

Damn! A maverick’s body weighs a much!

It’s been more than five years since that day, but I still recall how difficult it was for three powerful, virility-filled, and physically fit “car guys” to raise the body. We estimate it to have been 300 pounds or more, possibly 400 pounds. All I know is that as I lifted that body and strapped it to the trailer for transportation, I shrunk by two inches.

2009’s The Big Orange Moose

Anyway, after packing the Maverick, it was getting late and we were returning from Wisconsin when we spotted it. It was like a mirage on the horizon and it was a sign that we needed to stop. It was something so big that we couldn’t identify what it was, but it was calling us to pull over. It was an enormous orange moose!

Rick and I shot a few pictures and then called it a night at The Big Orange Moose, a bar and restaurant within a hotel. And we now knew what to call our automobile. The next morning, we left for home.

Secured A Proper Chassis: 2009–2010

Late in 2009, we discovered the vehicle of our dreams—the final piece of the Maverick. A 1953 Cadillac Series 62 whose repair had begun but been halted before being finished. It was a nearly rust-free car that was more than 50 years old; the mechanicals were completely finished, and many of the pieces were off the car and easily sellable. The chassis and drivetrain that our Maverick’s original construction used were the ideal automobile.

However, it was in the state of Washington. Located in Florida. That is very far away. Even though it cost extra to transport the Cadillac from Washington to Florida, it was worthwhile. I was aware that selling a lot of the pieces would greatly lower the overall cost of this purchase.

So, in the beginning of 2010, the Cadillac showed up. It also came with some “drama,” and I’ll never forget that “coming” night.

As expected, the Cadillac showed up and was in excellent condition. nonetheless, not in running form. According to what they told me, the men who drove the car from Washington to Florida knew how to unload a sizable, inoperable vehicle. Let’s see if I can correctly narrate this portion of the tale.

First, one car was emptied and converted into a “reverse tow vehicle” so that it could be used to pull the car off the trailer. This indicates that they had a rope linked to the Cadillac and were planning to gently remove it from the trailer. The images below show the rope fastened to the Cadillac.

Second: It seemed reasonable to lay down a 4×4 wood block to stop the automobile on the ramps. The slope wasn’t particularly steep, but they “knew” that it would prevent the car from down the ramps.

The car jerked and slid onto the ramps when they tugged on it, which is what actually happened. And this is when, in my memory, the modest slope seen in the photographs below transforms into the ski slope from ABC’s Wide World of Sports. The Cadillac accelerated at a remarkable speed, slid down the ramp, and rolled the 44 over like it was a piece of paper.

Upon realizing that the Cadillac was now directly in front of him, the driver of the tow car slammed on the accelerator and made an effort to move out of the way. Of course, he overlooked the fact that the rope was still fastened, and the Cadillac accelerated toward him as it sprang off the ramp.

Late 2010 is when the Cadillac body comes off.

In order to sell parts and remove the body from the chassis, I had given Scott the responsibility of disassembling the 1953 Cadillac. Scott performed all of his tasks admirably and even more. And given the equipment I had at the time in my carport, that meant we had to figure out how to remove the body. Tim Masters comes on.

We had to figure out how to get rid of the body because I had found a new owner for it. I made a call to all of my fiber-friends in Tampa using a fiberglass horn on top of our house that delivers the signal; it works somewhat similarly to the Bat Signal. When the horn blew that evening, our fiber-team gathered.

Early 2011: The 1953 Maverick Meets Its Chassis

On this section of the narrative, Ben Emerson took the lead.

Ben was a fabricator who spent many years working with me, mainly on the chassis of our 1937 Gougeon Streamliner. I urged him to gather some of his pals on this particular day so we could carry the incredibly heavy Maverick body onto its chassis (I remembered how heavy it was from several years before).

Beginning of Restoration: 2013+

Tom began working on the Maverick’s restoration in late 2013, and with the assistance of our design team, which is led by Raffi Minasian and Dan Palatnik, we now have a clear idea of what we want our car to look like when finished (more about our design plans for this car in a future story here).

Although Tom and his buddies still have a lot of work to do, the pictures below show that restoration has already started.

The Yellow Brick Road, down

We prepared for another journey and left “Dodge” in the summer of 2013. (our headquarters in Tampa, Florida). It’s always entertaining to move along with one of our cars in back. It’s even more entertaining when there are several questions at each stop. See some of the images from our journey in the Maverick to Tom’s house in Elkader, Iowa, below.

The Last Countdown: Restoration is almost finished

Check out a handful of the pictures Tom brought in that show the restoration’s development through October 2020. Now that the body has undergone complete restoration, the chassis can be attached. The chassis has been fully restored. How will Tom spend the upcoming autumn and winter? He only needs some internal work, final fitting, and sorting. Let’s look at some pictures, gang.

The Final Appearance

With the renderings below, Dan Palatnik, a member of our restoration team since the project started in 2013, established the benchmark for the Maverick’s final appearance and feel. Check ’em out, guys, and once again, thanks to Dan Palatnik for a job well done.

I hope you liked the tale, and keep in mind…

Undiscovered Classics is where the journey keeps on.


Image credit for the responsible owners | Please dm for removals


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