Forty years ago, an Aloha man fell in love with a couple of banged-up sports cars in Portland. Now he’s driving them.
By Jim Redden Pamplin Media Group
Many of the classic cars coming to this month’s Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance have been kept in mint condition by a series of owners.
But Wally Schwab, a retired art instructor from Aloha, plans to enter two imported sports cars he first saw decades ago on the streets of Portland, where they were mangled by serious crashes.
Now, they are both his — and on their way to regaining their showroom glory.
Schwab admits that 40-plus years is a long time for a dream deferred. But the former ceramics teacher is not a trained mechanic, upholsterer or auto body repairman. He is largely self-taught, learning from others with more experience and relying on professionals for the most complicated work.
And, he adds, “I needed to wait until I had the time and money.”
Schwab’s remarkable story starts at Sagner’s Motor Mart, a car dealership owned by Roger Sagner in Portland in the 1960s. Schwab was working at Portland State University when he walked by the dealership and saw a Morgan there one day. He had seen his first Morgan while teaching in New Jersey a few years earlier and had fallen in love with the beautiful, hand-built English sport cars with flowing fenders that were gaining a cult following in America.
Sagner came out and struck up a conversation, eventually offering Schwab a weekend job prepping cars that had been ordered by customers. They included Morgans, which were shipped over from the factory in England.
Shortly after he began working there, an insurance company brought in a 1958 Morgan Plus Four, which had been wrapped around a telephone pole.
Still, Schwab could see it had the iconic “waterfall grill” and a Triumph TR3 engine under the hood, which was secured by the trademark leather straps. The company was writing it off because the frame had been damaged in the accident.
Sagner suggested Schwab buy it. He did for $500, hauled it home and stuck it in his garage. It was his first car.
Over the next four decades, Schwab moved it to a number of his other homes, always meaning to restore it when he had the time and money.
Schwab also first saw his second Morgan, a 1966 four-seater Morgan Plus Four when it arrived at Sagner’s dealership for a new owner. Despite the additional seats, it retained the sports car’s classic looks and was powered by a TR4 engine.
Schwab detailed it and drove it around town for a few days before the owner picked it up. A short time later, another car came around a corner, hit the Morgan head on and totaled it. The owner stuck it in his garage, where it remained until he died a few years ago. The widow called Schwab, who had kept in touch, and asked if he wanted to buy it. Of course he did. Who wouldn’t want two totaled Morgans?
After retiring from teaching, Schwab decided it was time to restore them. He began with the 1958, stripping it down to the frame, which was fixed, and repairing everything else. Work was completed two years ago. Schwab entered it in the Forest Grove Concours last year, where it took first place in one of the “sports cars and tourers” categories.
With this year’s show approaching, Schwab got down to work on his 1966. Because it had been kept in a leaky garage, Schwab says it was a lot more work than the 1958. But he’s hopeful it will be completed by the time the cars start staging on the shady lawn of Pacific University’s campus on Sunday, July 15.
Both Morgans are timeless classics — the inspiration for the Aero 8 and other collector cars still being built at the company’s factory in England.
Morgans aren’t the only cars Schwab works on. He also restored an MGB he bought in 1985 and is nearing completion on a 1958 MGA.
Despite his love of English cars, Schwab admits his daily drivers have been older Fords, some of which he used to buy for less than $100.
© Pamplin Media Group – reprinted with permission