By Paul Duchene
Brent McKinley came to the classic car hobby the way many people do. Somebody once said “a classic car is one you rode in the back of between the ages of five and 15” and, in 1950, McKinley’s grandfather bought a new Hudson Commodore Six.
As anyone into Hudsons knows, this was the engine to have those days, as it dominated NASCAR for four years in the early 1950s with “Twin-H Power” carburetion.
“My grandfather died in the 1960s, and he left me his car,” said McKinley, an investment builder in Arlington, Wash., who grew up in Spokane. “That was the seed car for my collection and I did a 100-point restoration on it in the 1990s.” (A “100-point” restoration leaves a car in the same condition that is was when it rolled off the assembly line.)
McKinley has been a regular exhibitor at the Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance since 1984, winning Best of Show three times at the Northwest’s most prestigious show. He has also been Senior Judge and had his cars featured on the event’s poster and program.
McKinley keeps about 20 cars in his collection in two heated buildings at his Arlington home. He concentrates on ’50s car and Corvettes (he has a silver 100-point, fuel-injected, split-window ’63 Stingray, “4-speed, of course”), the obligatory Rolls-Royce, and a couple of pickups.
McKinley’s first Forest Grove Best of Show winner was a 1929 Packard 640 roadster in two-tone brown. He also won Best of Show later with a 1932 Auburn boat tail speedster, an outrageously flashy design once described by a British automotive journalist as “targeted at wealthy American juvenile delinquents.” McKinley has had several Best in Class wins through the years as well, but last year won Post War Best of Show in a remarkable maroon 1953 Hudson Hornet convertible that was breathtakingly restored.
“I’ll be bringing back the Hudson this year and also a 1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham, since we’re focusing on ’50s cars. There are plenty of decent Eldorado Broughams out there, but few have had classic car club quality restorations. This is extremely well restored, definitely a 100 point car.”
The Eldorado Brougham was introduced in March 1957 and based on the Park Avenue and Orleans show cars of 1953-54. It was the first completely pillarless four-door hardtop and featured suicide rear doors. At $13,074, it was almost double the price of a Fleetwood 75 sedan and came standard with every option available, including air suspension, memory seat, cruise control, signal-seeking radio, electric door locks, dual heating controls, twilight sentinel and magnesium wheels.
The luxury items, which are almost impossible to find, include the complete “Mad Men” kit with drink tumblers, cigarette and tissue dispensers, ladies compact with powder puff, lipstick and cologne, matching leather notebook, comb and mirror and Arpege atomizer with Lanvin perfume. It was designer to compete with the Lincoln Continental Mk II and only 400 were built. Just like the Lincoln, GM lost money on every car.
McKinley also owns the “Packenburg”. This remarkable roadster was constructed in Southern California in 1948-49 and combined a 1932 Packard with a 1932 Duesenberg engine and transmission and dashboard. Apart from the fact it must go like blazes – the Duesenberg straight 8 puts out 265 horsepower, against the 110 hp of the Packard engine – how was it crammed in?
“The builder had to move the radiator and the light bar 4 ½-inches forward and section in 4 ½-inches into the hood. It’s an extremely fine job,” said McKinley. “Glenn Mounger acquired it in the 1980s and I bought it in 1996. Glenn had hubcaps made to read ‘Packenburg’ and doorsill plates to match.”
The car has been displayed at Forest Grove three different times and one year was featured in the event’s promotional poster.
“It always creates a lot of interest,” McKinley said.
About the car
Brent McKinley’s first restoration car, his grandfather’s 1950 Hudson Commodore Six in 1950, is a true classic. With its “Twin-H Power” carburetion, the Hudson won 40 of 48 stock car races in 1952 and the Hudson Museum in Ypsilanti Michigan is proudest of Herb Thomas’s Hudson Hornet racer in which he won 43 races. By contrast, Hudson’s 8-cylinder engine was neither as powerful nor as durable and was dropped for 1953.
Paul Duchene is a 40-year automotive journalist, who has written for the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, The Oregonian and numerous magazines. He announces at the Portland and Monterey Historic races and is a judge and emcee at the Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance.