When Bill James retired in 2005 after 35 years of running Glendale Printing Center, he assumed he would have more free time.
But as current president of the West Glendale Kiwanis Club, board member of Glendale Crime Stoppers and a former president of the Verdugo Hills Council, Boy Scouts of America, James’ days have been no lighter than when he was still part of the workforce.
When he isn’t busy giving his time to the community, James tends to his 35-year-old car restoration hobby.
With five completed cars stored in an enlarged garage he built next to his house, James is working on restoring his sixth — a 1929 Chevrolet with an all-wood frame.
What sparked your interest in car restoration?
I’ve always had an interest in old cars, since high school — when we drove old cars. And then I bought one and restored it; I enjoyed the process, so I continued.
Do you usually purchase the cars, fix them up and sell them?
No, I keep them. I spend so much time on them; it’s hard to give them away.
What is the usual process? What’s the first thing you do?
You collect pieces. For one of my cars, I found the body up in Seattle, a frame in La Cañada and parts in Oregon. You collect parts for a while before you can get to the actual restoration.
How do you find the parts?
Well, in most cases, friends say, “Hey, I found this thing you’re looking for,” or I look in old car ads — Hemmings Motor News, or something like that. Lately, I have used the Internet. I found some stuff on EBay the other day.
Do you find that as the years go by, it’s getting tougher to find parts?
Yes. Some of the cars are getting really expensive. Even old Fords; all the cars in the last year or two have probably gone down in value with everything else, but as a general rule, it seems to me that they keep ahead of inflation.
Do you install any safety measures?
I put seat belts in my cars — they didn’t have them originally — but it’s not required to have safety measures unless it was required in the year of manufacture. We drive them infrequently, and we drive them slowly, generally, so we’re very careful. You are careful where you park; you generally look for a place away from everyone else.
Does the value of a car go up once it’s been restored?
Oh yeah, it’s worth more. But you can always buy a finished car that someone else has done for less than you would have spent on it.
What keeps you from just doing that?
It’s kind of neat to take a lot of junk and make a car out of it. It’s the process that’s enjoyable.