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Origin Story - by Kelby Steele

The old car bug hit me at eight years old. A 1931 model PA Plymouth sedan was slowly sinking into my grandparents' back yard.

It was great to play in, and I drove it many miles without ever leaving the yard. One day, an offer came to purchase it. As I listened to my grandmother negotiating with the man on the front porch, I was struck with grief. My grandfather picked up on my state of emotion. He intervened the negotiations and said, “No sale, let it set. When Kelby is old enough, it is his”. I became the caretaker of that 1931 Plymouth for the next eight years, and my dad helped with repairs. The updraft carburetor was shot, and my dad got the idea to mount the intake manifold upside down and bolt on a downdraft carburetor from a Jeep to get it running. It worked! At sixteen years old, I had it on the road. Each outing in the Plymouth was a memorable occasion.

Winter driving in the 1931 Plymouth without a heater was less than pleasant, and it was time to move on to my second car. I wanted a small sports car. My dad taught mechanics for American Motors Corporation. He was a factory man, and as long as I lived under his roof I was only allowed to park a Rambler in front of the house. The only Ramblers I could afford resembled bathtubs, so I bought the smallest one I could find. My first modern car became a 1954 Nash Metropolitan. In subsequent years, I went through eight of them. They were English built and sported an MGA driveline. I learned what parts were interchangeable, and my last Metropolitan had a floor shift four-speed, with dual carburetors. After venturing out on my own as a young adult, a 1964 MGB caught my eye as my next project, and I have never looked back.
I entered the restoration field in 1971 working in the restoration shop for Eugene Zimmerman’s “Automobilorama” which was a sizable antique car museum in Mechanicsburg. In 1973 I started my own shop at home in my garage following the closing of “Automobilorama”. A 1935 Auburn Boattail Speedster was my first commissioned restoration project as an entrepreneur. In 1985 I made the decision to jump in with both feet and buy a shop on Rt. 15 in Enola, PA. As time went on more and more British cars showed up. My original intention was to just buy and sell imports, but the business morphed into a British specialty shop servicing and restoring anything and everything British. Often, I found myself being interviewed for hours to see if I was capable of restoring an old MG that someone just inherited. I decided to build a showroom and put some finished examples in. A picture paints a thousand words. That method worked and the rest is history. We always had a few projects going at once and Austin Healeys were our ‘bread and butter’ for decades.

Maintaining a 7,000 square foot restoration facility and managing 6 mechanics kept me pretty busy. Now it’s time to finish up some of the project cars that I have collected over the years. Some of those cars and unnecessary parts will eventually be sold. I still have that 1931 Plymouth, and it’s still wearing the paint job I gave when I was 16 years old! Additionally, I will be getting out to events that I was always too busy to attend. See you at the vintage races!

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