It’s a wonderful thing to make good stuff from an absolute steaming pile of junk, especially under less-than-ideal circumstances. Some guys sign the car over to someone along with a check, but then it's left to the whim and talent (hopefully) of the consigned builder. Without that personal touch, something is lost in translation.
Bryan Page isn’t one of those guys. He’s a lot more like you and me. Brian had the right attitude and the extreme patience and persistence to go with the hands that got it finished. It helped, too, that he was a bona fide repo man, a toothy dog that never lets his clandestine raids go unfinished.
He began with something really trashy and backed it up with an equally trashy piece, a sled nearly as sad as the first one. He was confident that he could make one car from two. And that’s just what he did. He gave tangibility to the old saw that “hope springs eternal.”
In the summer of ’95, he found an original ’69 RS/SS 396 in a beat-down barn that was in better shape than the treasure within it. Bryan didn’t think twice. The motor had popped long ago and half its pieces were on cars belonging to somebody else. It was rotted from the cowl panel to the taillights, including frame rails, sub-frame, fenders, doors, and most everything else.
By the time it was on Bryan’s trailer, the car was in two pieces. He hauled it home. He was persistent. Finally, dirty old reality hunkered down within him and refused to move. The car wouldn’t make it. Then serendipity went out to the highway and lay in his path, so to speak.
In ’98, he was in Palmdale, California, helping a friend move into a house he’d just bought. He found this forgotten car sitting dead in the weeds, white with a black vinyl roof, body edged in red. After multiple visits to the house nearby, he caught the gentleman at six o’clock one morning and offered him $500, the amount of his last unemployment check. The guy backed off, saying that someone wanted to give him $1,000. Bryan apologized for waking him up and began to retreat.
Then came the music Bryan so badly wanted to hear. “Hold on,” the man said. “I didn’t say I wouldn’t take it.” After swapping lies for 20 or 30 minutes, he bought the car. It cost another seven bills to have the travesty trucked to Michigan. There, he stripped all that was salvable from the original find and began the resurrection of the second one, the one that had conflict in every panel. “I think the previous owner would drive down the road, see something they hadn’t hit yet…back up…hit it…and then do a victory dance on the roof,” says Bryan.
Though the sheetmetal was rumpled, at least it wasn’t suffering slow-death oxidation. After finishing all of them, Bryan replaced the front header panel and the lower rear section of the left quarter. “There were more than 100 holes in a 10x12 inch area from an old-style screw-in dent puller.” He block sanded it for about 100 years. Finally, the stuff was ready for paint.
Bryan sprayed it with Diamont Torch Red in his buddy’s two-car garage, but assembled it in his own one-car garage. After he’d added the workbench and tool chest, things were beyond tight, severely hampering breathing. Elbow room was so tight he “could only work on one side of the car at a time, push it out and down to the street, turn it around and push it back up the driveway. It got to the point where I hated pushing that car. A few times I got so mad at that thing it almost went to the junkyard.” Four years later, Mr. Page was driving his entity all over the place and loving every minute of listening to its rapping Flowmasters.