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An Unexpected Gift

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In 1990, Greg Bedford was working at his shop, Bedford Auto Body, in Mountain View, Calif., when he got a call from his father saying a neighbor wanted to get rid of a 1952 Buick Super two-door hardtop sitting in the garage.

“I thought to myself, what would I do with this old car?” Bedford says. “I really wasn’t interested.”

But he went to Lincoln, Calif., anyway, to meet his father’s neighbor, Fred, and take a look at the Buick.

The car had belonged to Fred’s wife, who died in 1956. He didn’t have the heart to sell it, so it sat idle in the garage ever since. It was derelict. The tires were flat. Cobwebs draped the car. In the glove box were matches from the 1950s and the car’s original owner’s manual. The stainless steel and chrome were still nice-looking, straight and clean.

GOOD AS NEW: Greg Bedford brought this 1958 Buick back to life after it sat for more than 30 years. Photo courtesy Greg Bedford

Fred had tried to get rid of it, but no one would take it. As Bedford was considering the car, Fred stuffed a crisp $100 bill in his shirt pocket.

“I looked at his daily car (also a Buick), and said, ‘Fred, I’m going to do the body work and paint for your car for what you have given me, and I won’t take no for an answer.’ We shook hands and the agreement was final,” Bedford says.

He spent the next two years pouring his nights, weekends and $10,000 into the classic Buick. Bedford, who not only runs his own shop but is also a part-time actor and fine-art painter, says he spent the first year on body and engine work, and the second on upholstery.

He started by stripping it down to the metal. He took the chrome off, the doors, the trunk lid. Everything.

He hand-blocked all of the dents so the bodywork would be completely straight. The car, which was originally green like split-pea soup with a dark navy metallic blue roof, got a new paint job—black with a white roof. Bedford painted each panel separately and then polished them to show a mirror-like finish.

Photo courtesy Greg Bedford

Then he put white leather upholstery on the seats, a change from its gray fabric. He repainted the dash burgundy, which was its original color. The Buick also got a rebuilt Dynaflow transmission, and a Fireball 263-cubic-inch straight-eight engine.

The car has received a lot of attention since it’s completion. Bedford won a first-place award at the Palo Alto Concours D’Elegance at Stanford in June 2010. The judges commented on the car’s especially nice paint job.

“Judges were really impressed with this,” Bedford says. “The paint job still looks like it was painted yesterday.”

Despite its attention, he mostly keeps it covered and stored.

“Fred passed away within a year of my restoration project, and I was sad that he never got a chance to see her completed,” Bedford says. “Every time I drive her down the road, I think of Fred and his wife and how they must have enjoyed driving this 1952 Buick as much as I do.”

If Fred could see it now, Bedford says, he’d probably be appreciative.

And what if Fred’s wife could see it now?

“She’d probably say, ‘I want the keys back,’” Bedford says.

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