From the Catskills to the Concours, a classic tale.


A Model A picked up by a Lake Oswego man for $60 will vie for top honors at a premier classic car show

Robert Foster bought his 1931 Ford Model A Cabriolet in 1959 for $60. While that price might sound unbelievably low, it was actually a splurge. He also bought a 1929 Ford Model A around that time for less money. In fact, he figures he and his brother bought 15 vintage Fords and Chevys for $20 or less, including a 1931 Ford pickup.

Foster explained that he and his brother lived in Woodstock, N.Y. in those days. He remembers that cars from the 1920s and 1930s were stored all over the rural countryside — in barns, under trees or just out in the open.

He and his brother would drive around, spot them and ask if they were sale. Most owners were only too happy to have them hauled away by the brothers, who would get them running or pull out parts for their other cars.

“It was so easy to work on cars back then. They were so simple,” said Foster, a landscape architect and artist who lives in Lake Oswego. “It was no problem to pull an engine out of one car, stick it on another and have a running car.”

The cars were also durable, Foster says. He and his brother would routinely drive them up into the Catskill Mountains, following logging roads and even stream beds. They didn’t have driver’s licenses at first and most of the cars didn’t have current plates, but nobody seemed to care.

One day, Foster’s brother spotted the 1931 Ford Model A Cabriolet 68-C draped under an old Army tent beneath an apple tree. He immediately knew what it was by the shape under the canvass. The Cabriolet was a convertible with a slanted windshield, something all Fords got the next year.

“We stopped and I asked the property owner if he wanted to sell it,” Foster recalled. “He said it belonged to a relative who wanted $500. I said I was just a kid and only had $60 in the bank. We wrote back and forth for awhile after that, and he finally sold it to me for $60.”

Foster and his brother pumped up the tires and towed the car home, where they swapped enough parts to get it running for several years. Foster drove it regularly during his high school years and beyond, eventually parking it in a shed on his father’s property and buying a 1947 Citroen for his daily driving.

When he and his wife moved to New Orleans in 1980, he drove the Citroen and shipped the Model A there in a container crate. When they moved to Portland five years later, Foster again drove their decades-old French classic and shipped the Ford in another container crate, intending to restore it at some point.

The time came in 1990, after they bought a house with a two-car garage. Foster was still driving the Citroen when it was rear-ended in Milwaukie. The insurance company totaled it and Foster turned his attention to the Model A.

The restoration took five years. Foster completely disassembled the car and refurbished or replaced everything and repainted it to the original green.

When the work was done, the Model A was no longer the neglected car he and his brother found under a tent in 1952. It took second place in its class at the Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance last year.

“I tell people, that’s all the football games I missed for five years,” Foster says.

Foster is bringing the car back to the Concours, one of the West Coast’s premier classic car shows, on Sunday, July 15 for another shot at a coveted blue ribbon.

While Foster was bit by the restoration bug, his brother took a different path with his car collections. The father of four sold his cars off over time for $3,000 to $5,000, Foster said.

He even sold the miscellaneous parts he had gathered over the years for good money, too — a sign of how much the value of once-unwanted cars has increased since their high school days, when a twenty-dollar bill could get you a vintage pickup.

Other local cars on display

Robert Foster’s 1931 Model A isn’t the only car from the Lake Oswego area that will be on display in Forest Grove on July 15. Here’s a sample of other local entries:

  • Adrian Petras, of West Linn, is bringing a 1940 LaSalle 60
  • Terry Cone, of Lake Oswego, will display his 1941 Mercury Delux
  • Daryl Campbell, of Lake Oswego, will show off his 1948 Lincoln Continental.
  • Philip Hofer, of Lake Oswego, will bring his 1951 Ford woody wagon
  • Steve Woodyard, of West Linn, is bringing a 1960 MG A.
  • Michael Graham, of Lake Oswego, is exhibiting his 1963 Chevy Impala.
  • Doug Shapiro, of Lake Oswego, will display a 1967 Chevelle SS 396
  • David Burkhartsmeier, of West Linn, will show his 1969 Chrysler 300

© Pamplin Media Group – reprinted with permission

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