If Dean Weller were a car, he would be a Rocket 88. At least that what’s he seemed like on Tuesday as he bounced around the De Soto city park to celebrate his 88th birthday with 75 or so car buddies at the De Soto city park. He has the energy and physique of someone 20 years younger.
By TOM STRONGMAN
Weller owns the old Ford garage in downtown De Soto, and he calls it Grandpa’s Garage. He and his shop have become a legend not only because he builds an antique car almost every year but also because every Tuesday his shop becomes gathering place for old-car lovers to swap tales, share parts and keep up with Weller’s projects.
Last Tuesday was the 11th year that Weller’s wife Delores and daughters, Shirley Haynes, Janet North, and Deana Chance have given him a birthday picnic. This year was a first because Weller wrote a song about his shop, and friends Tom Bogardus, Russ Kapp and Chuck Daniels helped him perform it at the park. When he stepped behind the keyboards his eyes were as bright as a youngster on Christmas. He said this was one of the first times he had ever performed with a group in public. Kapp led the singing.
The first verse:
“It’s open house at Grandpa’s Garage, every Tuesday morn.
It’s sweep the floors and dust the cars, every Tuesday morn.
From east to west, from north to south, friends come from far and near,
It’s like this at Grandpa’s Garage, every Tuesday morn.”
Weller attributes his youthfulness to his hobby of restoring old cars. “I don’t smoke or drink, and I believe a little hard work never hurt anyone,” he said in an interview several years ago. “Working on old cars gives me a lot of exercise, which I think is important.”
Weller has a soft spot for Model A Fords, but he occasionally tackles something else. He once spent 1,000 hours hand-forming a Model A body out of wrought iron so that it looks like metallic lace. He built a replica of a 1912 Mercer on the frame of a 1930 Pontiac and made nearly every part from scratch. He is also known for his detailed drawings of vehicle parts that are so intricate that they are artwork in themselves.
As Weller said a couple of years ago, “I’ve been very fortunate in my life. I would recommend my footsteps to anybody.”
Tom Strongman’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org