Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

April 11, 2013
Restoring American Muscle

Tooele man’s love for restoring American-made cars began at an early age and continues today 

A lot of people have an appreciation for American muscle cars, but few have the chance to restore them to their former glory. Alek Holmes is one of the rare individuals afforded the opportunity to restore a classic American  muscle car.

“I’m not an import fan,” said the 28-year-old Tooele man. “All engine, all American.”

In years past, he was able to buy, restore and sell a 1976 Chevy truck, but his real love is the classic Oldsmobile coupe.

Currently, he owns three Oldsmobile cars, two 1970s models and one 1972 442. Eventually all three cars will be fully restored, but his 442 is nearly finished. The 442 was restored first because it is the car he fell in love with at a young age.

His love affair with his 442 began when he was just 14 years old. His dad asked him to get in the driver’s seat and follow him in another car to Bob’s Garage on Main Street in Tooele.  Most teenagers are not lucky enough to own the first car they fall in love with, but for Holmes, the stars aligned and at 14 years of age, he was able to purchase the car from his dad for $400.

Part of the sales agreement was that his dad would take several parts from the car, like the wheels and tires.

“My dad parked it after that,” he said. “I couldn’t drive it until I got my driver’s license and by the time I did get my driver’s license, I didn’t have the money to replace the parts my dad took off.”

When he turned 19, Holmes and his buddies put some old tires on it and took the car out for a spin in typical teenage boy fashion.

“I went and grabbed it one day and me and my buddies were out playing and I ended up breaking the engine,” he said.

When they tore the engine apart to figure out the problem, they found they had broken a lifter, which is the part of the engine that makes the fuel intake valves open and close. That was just the beginning of the restoration.

Holmes has pictures of what the car looked like in those early days. To the untrained eye without the vision or knowledge of what an American muscle car is, this 442 may have seemed like any other generic, old car. But for Holmes, who had the dream and vision of its potential both outside and under the hood, it was a diamond in the rough.

In the 14 years Holmes has owned the car, it has been transformed from that generic, old car into a sexy, sleek, “Matador Red” power beast. Serious restoration of the 442 began in January 2011.

Because the parts are so rare and expensive, Holmes had to make some sacrifices in order to afford the restoration of his 442.

He made an agreement with his wife, Jeskalynn Holmes, that he would sell his 1992 Camaro and use the money to fund the restoration of the 442.

He also traded another classic car he owned, a 1955 Chevy, for the paint job on his 442. Luckily, a friend of Holmes knows how to paint cars.

“I made a deal with him that if he painted my car, he could have the 55 Chevy,” he said.

A muscle car can be defined as any of a group of American-made two-door sports coupes with powerful engines designed for high-performance driving. It is this powerful engine that brought Holmes his proudest moment during the restoration.

“The thing that got me most excited was probably the first time I started it and actually heard the engine and broke in the cam shaft,” he said. “You have to run it at about 2,000 RPM for about 20 minutes to break in the cam shaft.”

At the time he started it, he didn’t have the exhaust system hooked up so the sound of the igniting gas was not muffled in any way. It was loud enough that his wife had to come out of the house and to the back edge of their property where the shop sits to see what the racket was.

After he got it back from the painters in May 2011, it stayed on jack stands until he was able to buy tires and rims for it. In September 2012, after buying the new rims and tires, he was able to take it off the jack stands for the first time.

“I was able to see its stance with wide back tires and smaller front tires,” he said. “Just the way it sat made me really happy that day.”

Holmes wasn’t able to take it on the road because he still needed bumpers and had to have the windows put back in, so he had to jack it back up.

“Once I got it fully ready to drive, I dropped it on the ground and fired it up, and took it for a drive,” he said.

During that drive he scraped the bottom several times. He realized after having the car on jack stands for so long, the springs had settled. He had to install new springs before he took it out again.

About a month later, after installing the new springs, he was able to take it up the road and back. This is when he took his wife for a ride for the first time. It still had open headers so the engine roared like a beast.

“It was pretty loud, but I enjoyed it,” said Jeskalyn. “Everybody and their dog about broke their necks looking at us.”

Alek has very little restoration left to have it in pristine condition, but being a 1972, it will always have something that needs done to it.

“I’ll probably get the transmission redone, because the transmission that’s in it has never been touched, so who knows how long that will last,” he said.

Alek doesn’t plan on selling this car. Out of all the cars he’s had, this one is the keeper. This is a love affair will last his lifetime. His plans for it to extend at least 20 years in the future.

He has plans to pass it on to his son, who is less than a year old. Maybe the appreciation for this American muscle car can be passed to his son, just like it was passed from Alek’s dad to him.

“I’ll keep it up and going and take it to car shows, but it won’t be a trailer queen,” he said. “I’ll drive it there and back and to work. And maybe my son will drive it to school.”

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