With just a little more than a mile to go, Jim Dillenschneider knew he had a phone call to make.
His wife, Martha, was waiting anxiously at their home in Lake Lotawana, and she had asked him to call. Jim was returning from Elyria, Ohio, and Martha wanted to get an early look at what he was bringing back with him: a red and white two-door 1955 Ford Victoria.
“I started to cry,” she said last week, looking at her husband in their living room. “I wanted to see you come across the dam and I did.
“It had so many memories.”
The first time Jim took his wife on a date, it was in that very same 1955 Ford Victoria. That was just one reason why the car that had been out of their lives for a decade generated such strong emotions.
For Jim, the story of the 1955 Ford Victoria started when he was 8 years old and his mom had just bought it new.
“I came home from grade school,” he said. “I’m standing on 69th Terrace and I saw it coming down the street – wow, it is a two-door, it is red and white. My affection for the car started then.”
Eight years later, the car felt like his.
“It was ‘Jim, go to the laundry. Jim, take your brother to school,’ so it became my car,” he said. “It was just transportation.”
The car traveled with him to Central Missouri State during his college days. But one day the car was involved in a rollover accident. It was totaled. But Dillenschneider couldn’t let go of it.
He put the ’55 Ford Victoria in his garage, thinking one day it would be repaired. That day never came for him. In 2002, when he was 55, he realized repairing the car wasn’t going to happen.
“I was getting into my third life,” Dillenschneider said. “I was starting a building company, building homes. I have a wife and two kids, responsibility.”
Dillenschneider put an ad in an old-car trade publication, hoping someone would buy it and repair it. Bob Nolan of Elyria, Ohio, purchased it, and Bob’s son, Tim Nolan, came to pick it up.
Dillenschneider said Bob Nolan liked ’55 Fords. The one he bought from Dillenschneider was his fifth.
“The reason he bought mine was mine was red and white and his was light blue over dark blue, and he wanted to make a sister to his car, and he did,” Dillenschneider said.
With the ’55 Ford Victoria gone, Dillenschneider thought less and less of it. He figured he would never see it again.
But in September, 2012, as he returned home from work, he saw his wife on the phone. She wanted him to take the call.
It was Bob Nolan. He wanted to know if Jim wanted to buy his old car back.
Jim had a couple of reservations. One, he wondered if the car was operational without a lot of problems, and two, he questioned whether they had the money to spend on buying his first-ever car back.
“I’m on a budget,” he said. “Home building isn’t making me a lot of money. If you have homes out there not being sold, you don’t need to be spending money on your first car. But Martha had just retired. We put her lump sum in a savings account for vacations. I hung up the phone. ‘Martha, I want the car. I just don’t want to spend the money.’
“Martha said, ‘OK, this is what we will do. Take the money out of the vacation account, buy the car and when you sell a house, pay me back.’ She really bought the car.”
Soon after the call, Dillenschneider drove to Elyria and brought a friend, Ross Whitney, who took care of the trailer to transport the car back to Lake Lotawana. Whitney was also there to provide an objective opinion on the condition of the car.
Dillenschneider saw it and became emotional.
“There is my car, I can’t believe it,” he said. “We drove it. Nothing was wrong with it. Ross said buy (the car) before (Nolan) changes his mind. Everything that was wrong with it was repaired.”
The first place Dillenschneider took the ’55 Ford Victoria when he returned to Kansas City was to his younger brother’s house. He also grew up with the car.
“He was standing in his front yard working,” Dillenschneider said. “He said, ‘Aw Jim, that is so nice. You got a car just like mom’s.’ I said, ‘This is mom’s car. He said, ‘You are kidding me.’
“We went driving in it and were having the best time. Martha was in the back seat laughing.”
Jim and Martha now take their ’55 Ford Victoria to the Hartman Heritage Center Cruise Night on Saturdays in Independence. They have run into friends from their high school days.
“I’m in this for the memories,” Dillenschneider said.
The red and white Ford Victoria has given the Dillenschneiders plenty of them and an amazing, heartfelt story.
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