Car gets its zoom restored

Fairlane broke records at Salt Flats in 1956

Published: Monday, April 16 2007 12:00 a.m. MDT

B. Kay Hutchings, Lehi, is restoring a historic 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Club Sedan -- every nut and bolt of it.

Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News

LEHI — Paint fumes pervade the small, dusty shop. Sand paper, spray paint cans and rusty old car parts clutter every surface, piled on tables and jumbled together on old wooden boards propped on the hood of a dilapidated Ford.

Amid the mess, though, a shiny machine is being assembled, part by part, and, with it, a small piece of history shakes off the dust and re-emerges, better than new.

This 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Club Sedan broke more than 458 national and international records, along with two other cars, in a 20-day trial run of the model at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1956. The three cars raced around the 10-mile track in western Utah about 5,000 times, only stopping for fuel and oil.

When American Fork resident B. Kay Hutchings first saw the car, though, jagged holes gaped across the bottom of what was left of the doors, the motor didn't run and the lower part of its fenders had completely rusted away.

His friend Bob Sandkaut bought the car in the early '90s because of the car's past — just a rumor at the time.

"I bought the car a long time ago ... on a story that turned out to be true," said Sandkaut, who lives in San Diego. "It was sitting basically in a tow yard in Reno (at the time)."

The ninth car off the assembly line, the sedan appeared in a glossy, feature-length advertisement in Life magazine in the late '50s, touting the model's speed and endurance.

"We wanted to prove to ourselves, as well as to the American people, just what (kind of vehicle) we had," said Danny E. Eames, the crew chief for the '56 test, in the Life advertisement.

The yellow-and-black car averaged a cool 107.15 mph — impressive for the time. The Ford was in surprisingly good condition after the test, so a Jaguar four-speed transmission was installed and it was sent off to race at Pikes Peak, Colo.

It was a downhill drive from there, though.

At some point, the vehicle was donated to the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nev., but soon rusted into obscurity.

After Sandkaut purchased the car, it sat in a storage unit for more than a decade before he persuaded longtime friend Hutchings to restore it.

"When he got it up here and we started looking at things, it became a pretty scary old car," said Hutchings, who has put in four days a week on the car for the past year. "We've restored every nut and bolt."

Literally. He pointed to a square board, substituting for a tray, covered in handful after handful of small hardware. Each piece has been soaked in an acidic solution and individually wiped clean of rust. Before returning them to their designated spots on the Ford, Hutchings will paint each one.

The restoration is nearing completion and Sandkaut hopes to take the finished product to the Bonneville Speed Week, a week of racing held each August at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

"It would be kind of like an anniversary for the car," he said.

During the past year, the entire car has undergone the automotive equivalent of massive surgery — doors and trunk replaced, metal siding patched up, a new engine and upholstery — under the hands of an expert surgeon.

Hutchings began restoring cars in 1976 and moved his hobby into a deserted body shop in Lehi in 1989. He doesn't know how many cars he's restored, but he said he'd put the number somewhere around 100.

"My old partner (at the shop) told me I was afraid of nothing," Hutchings said. "No one in his right mind would have tackled some of these (cars)."

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