Revving up a new tour: See garages and vintage cars on the North Side
September 16, 2016 10:29 AM
Tom Armstrong sits in his 1957 Volkswagen Beetle in front of his house.
By Kevin Kirkland / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Axles, Alleys and Ales” is the anti-house tour.
“We have these tours with Victorian architecture, wine, beautiful houses and beautiful gardens,” says Tom Barbush of the North Side. “Well, there are beer-drinking guys who like cars, too.”
From 1 to 5 p.m. p.m. Sept. 24, participants can peek into garages and carports in the historic Allegheny West neighborhood and look over 20 vehicles ranging from a 1946 Ford Super Deluxe convertible to a 1979 Airstream motor home to a 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z07. Visitors 21 and over get to sample beers from War Streets, East End and Penn breweries. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 on tour day. Younger visitors pay $10.
Mr. Barbush credits Abi Webb of the Allegheny West Civic Council with the idea for the fundraiser and organizing it, but vintage car owners in the neighborhood made it happen. Once the wheels started to roll, the question was: What would Steve McQueen do?
Well, just to be McContrary, he might start at tour stop No. 3, Mr. Barbush’s carport on Buttercup Way. Inside are his 1964 Corvette sport coupe and ‘66 Mustang convertible.
“They’re sculpture. They’re art…. I consider these to be iconic designs of that era,” says Mr. Barbush, 63.
The ‘Vette, which has a solid rear window instead of the more popular split window, is an unrestored survivor that was loved by its original owner for 22 years. After he died, it sat in a garage for more than two decades in Hartford, Conn., until Mr. Barbush bought it in 2012. Though all the rubber had to be replaced, everything else is original.
“The way you can tell it’s a survivor is the smell. It smells like an old car. When you close the door, you can tell it’s never been apart.”
The Mustang, however, was a major restoration that two previous owners abandoned. Mr. Barbush might have, too, until he discovered it was a rare K-code, high-performance convertible. Of the 1.7 million Mustangs built from 1964 to ‘67, only 13,231 had the Cobra V-8 engine. Mr. Barbush’s Springtime Yellow pride and joy is one of only 105 made that year and registered with the High Performance Mustang Registry.
After he bought it for $1,500 in 1984, he spent 21 years looking for used K-code parts -- “I like the patina” -- and learning from other collectors at swap meets. Like him, they were raising children, working full time and fitting their hobby in when they could.
They say it’s not about the money; the restoration costs are often more than the cars are worth.
“I enjoy the driving experience,” Mr. Barbush says. “You have to be engaged, check the gauges, shift gears, listen to the engine. They’re not made for going 80 on the highway.
“A two-lane road on a cool evening -- that’s what I enjoy.”
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