Under blue skies on a near-perfect fall morning in late November, Richard Woody pulled his 1961 Pontiac Bonneville out of a garage behind his home and headed out on the road.
Woody was thrilled that the car he found two years ago in Utah still had the ability to exceed 60 miles an hour without it being restored.
As he zoomed down the roads near his Kearney home, it was easy to see how 71-year-old Woody was temporarily taken back to the time when he was in the Navy and he owned a 1961 Pontiac Catalina.
“In ’61, everybody was happy,” Woody said. “The economy was good.”
Never miss a local story.
The Catalina was also the car Woody drove when he was dating his eventual wife, Ann.
Woody viewed Pontiacs from the early ’60s as the first muscle cars. In drag racing, Pontiacs were winning, beating out other brands, he said.
Simply put, the Pontiac brand has always been special to Woody. The fact that Pontiac officially ended production on Oct. 31, 2010, didn’t end Woody’s love for the brand. It enhanced it.
Woody wants to get the word out about the 7th Annual Pontiac Tribute Day, which will be held June 4, 2016, at Olathe Bass Pro Shops, 12051 Bass Pro Drive, Olathe. It starts at 10 a.m.
The show is for Pontiac owners of all cars and GMC trucks because they once had Pontiac engines in them.
“If you have something Pontiac, bring it to the show,” Woody said. “It is free admission to the public and people who exhibit their cars.
“When Pontiac closed down, that ended Pontiac as a brand, so the Tribute Day is to celebrate that brand. We have been averaging 125 cars and trucks each year. We are trying to get more numbers.”
Last summer was the first time Woody was able to take his 1961 Pontiac Bonneville to the event.
Woody said he searched a long time to find a 1961 Pontiac. He has bought several other cars and restored them.
For the 1961 Pontiac Bonneville, Woody wanted a survivor car, meaning it is a car he can take to shows that has had very little restoration work. Nearly everything has to be original.
Woody finally found what he was looking for.
“It belonged to a lady in Utah,” Woody said. “She owned it all her life. They stored it away. It spent 30 years in a barn. It took me two years to get it road-ready again.
“It is a survivor car. You either restore it completely or you have to be careful with what you do because everything you do takes off points when you show it.”
Woody is proud to say the 54-year-old car is mostly original. He did put in seat belts, but they don’t cost him any points at shows because they are a safety feature.
Even if it wasn’t a restoration project, the car needed two years of work to be road ready.
“It was stored so long that the brakes, the exhaust, the gas tank was full of rust,” Woody said. “This is the original upholstery and original carpet. The cushion of the back seat is still original fabric. You fix some stuff and not others. The dash is cracked. I could replace it but I would start sliding down that slippery slope of restored.”
Last June, Woody felt his car was ready for competition. He took it to a car show in Liberty, and his car won a trophy.
“My original sat next to someone who spent $100,000,” Woody said. “It was hard to compete, but they appreciated originality.”
When Woody shows the original engine in the car or the eight lug wheels that he had put on, it is obvious that his 1961 Pontiac Bonneville is priceless to him.
Do you have a car, truck or motorcycle or other vehicle you would like see featured in Make It Yours? If you do, email your idea to David Boyce at Drive@kcstar.com