Jerry Bernard is a car guy.

As owner of Pendleton Autobody, Bernard works with cars all day and has restored several classics. But the car that really gets his heart pumping is his 1963 Buick LaSabre -- a long, red beauty with fins, white top, chrome molding, a 401-cubic-inch V8 under the hood and a four-speed shifter on the floor.

The vintage muscle car had been parked for 28 years on an Ione ranch when Bernard acquired it 15 years ago. The car was rare.

"There were only 72 of them made," Bernard says. "To order a four-speed, it was $360 over and above the price of the car. In 1963 that was a lot of money."

The car didn't run, but had good bones. Bernard gave it a new paint job and did body work. J & B Automotive and A-OK Upholstery did mechanical and upholstery work. Over three years, the ugly duckling slowly changed into a swan.

A friend, Yvonne Heimark, the owner of another classic Buick, convinced Bernard to enter his now-pristine LeSabre into the Buick Nationals, held in Portland last month. Bernard came home with gold in his division.

Heimark brought home silver in her division after entering her 1965 Riviera Gran Sport. The Pendleton woman is as helplessly in love with her car as Bernard is with his. She did some of the restoration herself and effortlessly reels off the car's specs.

"It has a 425 engine with dual quads," she said. "The Gran Sport is known as the banker's muscle car, a luxury car that was ahead of its time for 1965."

Equipped with power window and brakes, AC, rear window defroster, automatic headlight dimmer and button on the floor to control the AM/FM radio, she said the car hugs the road and had an original sticker price in the neighborhood of $5,000.

At the four-day car show, Bernard and Heimark rubbed shoulders with nearly 400 other Buick owners. Formally titled the 2014 Buick Club of America National, the event took over the parking lot of the Red Lion Hotel from July 23-26.

Bernard drove to the car show while Heimark trailered her vehicle. Driving their classic cars isn't cheap -- Bernard's LeSabre gets about 12 miles per gallon, while Heimark's car gets 17. The thrill of driving such a piece of history eases the pain at the pump.

"When they made these cars, gas was 35 cents a gallon," Heimark said.

Neither regrets the gas expenditure or the time and money spent restoring the cars.

"I knew what I was getting into," Bernard said.

"It was a labor of love," Heimark said, while admitting, "Finding parts for a (classic) Buick can be difficult."

She bade Bernard goodbye, slid into the Riviera and started the engine with a rumble that faded to a purr.

------

Contact Kathy Aney at kaney@eastoregonian.com or call 541-966-0810.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.