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October’s Cool Ride: Jim and Diana’s Custom Nova Featuring Mike LaVallee

We are very excited to show off a cool custom Nova owned by Jim and Diana Workman. This car has both a 68-72 Big Bowtie trunk panel kit and a solid deck lid cover. We love to see one upholstered this way that really compliments a beautiful car. This one is unique because it features not only custom stitching, but custom air-brushing by the one and only Mike LaVallee. It is when we received these photos that we learned of Mike's passing.

A Short History on Mike LeValee

Mike began drawing dinosaurs at the age of two. Later while in high school and moving on to sketching other animals, one of his teachers recommended he enter a national art competition. After winning, he decided to pursue a career in art and attended Butera School of Art in Boston.

Initially, he learned how to paint signs. He got a job at a sign-producing company and stayed there for about a year. LeVallee decided the job wasn’t for him and instead set up shop in his parents garage. There, he learned airbrushing from his father who used it for his taxidermy business. Instead of using dead fish as a canvas, Mark chose motorcycles and cars.

A friend saw his talent and suggested he ply his new trade at the Laconia motorcycle rally up in New Hampshire. He ended up making more money in that single weekend than an entire month of working in the sign business.

The motorcycle rally was the spark LeVallee needed to find his success in the airbrushing business. He traveled like a gypsy from show to show until he eventually settled down in Washington State. While attending a show in Seattle, Mark came up to a black ’32 Roadster. He mentioned to the guy working underneath the car that he could fix the scratch for 20 bucks. Mark fixed the scratch the next morning and met the owner of the car who was none other than Chip Foose of Foose Design.

Foose was so interested in LeVallee’s work he flew him down to Southern California where Mark painted his flames on the side of a ’51 black Chevy pickup. It was later featured on the cover of Classic Truck Magazine turning LeVallee’s work into an international sensation.

Mike passed away April14th, 2020 from complications of a stroke at 60 years old. Mark’s airbrushing techniques have changed the automotive industry. He called his technique True Fire which as since become the industry standard for airbrushed flames.

See some of Mike’s artistic process here:

The Risk of Rust: A History on How Automakers Fought Corrosion

Those of you who live in cold, snowy, or hot moist climates know the menace of rust. Although your classic is more at risk in those areas, corrosion tends to eventually attack vintage vehicles at some point. However, the history of car rust is not so simple. Modern cars today can withstand rust better due to a combination of advancements in design, manufacturing, engineering, and implementing anti-rust plans.

Thick Skin and Steel Frames

Galvanization is a chemical process that fights rust. Sounds like the perfect solution for cars, right? Wrong. Even though the Brooklyn bridge used over 15,000 miles of the galvanized wire during construction in 1883, car companies didn’t catch on. Instead, up until the 1950s, the steel used to build cars was much thicker than today. Even though rust could still affect thick steel, it took a long time to ultimately corrode.

Cult of Consumerism

Another crude solution to rust is to not let your car age. In addition to thick steel frames, 1950’s post-war American convinced consumers that they needed a new car every other year. Car companies would frequently introduce new body styles during that same time, making the appeal of a brand-new car too good to pass up.

Finally, Zinc

While the general American population was fine with swapping cars like hot potatoes, overseas felt differently. And we’re not talking Europe. Japan is an island nation that habitually fights moisture from the sea air. As Japan became a new automotive powerhouse, companies like GM, Chrysler, and Ford began taking on anti-corrosion technology. Enter galvanization.

Rust happens when metal gives up its electrons to another piece of metal willing to receive it. Typically, a liquid, otherwise known as an electrode, facilitates this transfer. With cars, steel gives up its electron to water, road salt, and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Galvanization is the process of coating steel with zinc to avoid corrosion and rust. In other words, it halts the chemical process of rust from occurring by keeping the metal’s electrons in place and instead, sacrificing its own.

Glass Bones and the Unibody

After American companies began adopting galvanization, they also started simplifying designs. This decision was partially an imitation to Japanese designs, so moisture can’t get into smaller parts of the car.

Anti-Rust Treatments

As the ’90s came around, so did multi-year corrosion warranties. Although many different and effective anti-rust treatments exist, none can guarantee zero perforation. The easiest and safest way to avoid the risk of rust is to take care of your classic. Keep it away from salt. Remember to always park it in a dry yet ventilated area. And as always, store it in a safe spot for winter.

Will You Survive the Storm? Prepping for Hurricane Season

Original Air is located on the Gulf Coast of Tampa, FL, so we know a thing or two about hurricanes. We’ve experienced more than a few close calls with Irma, Dorian, Laura; you name it, we’ve dodged it. However, luck can’t last forever. And many weren’t so fortunate. In 2017, hurricane Harvey and Irma wrecked nearly 1.4 million cars. If you own a classic and put countless hours into it, always be prepared.

Collector Insurance

The best piece of advice we can offer you when it comes to your classic and hurricanes is protecting yourself with the right insurance. Make sure you have the right plan to cover all your collector car needs. Most standard auto insurances will only pay the cash value of the classic. This may land you thousands of dollars below the actual market value.

Years ago, after losing about a thousand classics post-Katrina and Rita, the collector car business for insurance changed. Some insurance companies wrote about 75% of their claims were a total loss.

To qualify as a classic, in general, the car must be:

  • At least 25-30 years old
  • A modified car or hotrod
  • Classic trucks
  • Muscle cars
  • Exotic or luxury
  • In limited use
  • Secured in storage
  • Attend car shows and meetings
  • For the owner to hold a clean driving record

Classic Car Policies

Each classic is unique, so there is no standard value for specific types. You and your insurer will have to agree on the value of the vehicle. If you already got insurance and have taken care of your classic over the years, know your value might have increased. Remember to speak about adjusting the amount as time goes on. Depending on the state, some types of insurances can also cover a portion of expenses needed to evacuate.

Evacuating with a Classic

If your classic is your daily ride or you think it’s best to bring it with you, make sure it’s ready for the distance. Read our tips on the proper classic maintenance before taking it out on the road. More than likely, you’ll hit evacuation traffic, so be sure you have everything you need including a functioning AC.

In addition to maintenance, you want to bring a handful of items with you on the road. Bring a roadside emergency kit that includes tire sealant in case of a flat. Add a can of gas as gas stations are notorious for running out of gas during hurricane evacuations. Plus, bring a cigarette lighter-to-USB charger for vintage cars for phone charging. Many classics don’t have an option for phones to connect, so consider getting a Bluetooth speaker.

Cars with a garage

If you have a garage but live in a nasty flood zone, you might be better off with your friend or office garage. If the garage’s structure is weak, it may not last the hurricane and damage your classic even more. Furthermore, many modern houses install flimsy garage doors that break in high winds. Consider finding storm braces.

Even if your neighbor has lived in the area for 20 some years and swears it’s never flooded, there’s a first for everything. You can look into car capsules but depending on your budget, you might want to stick with jacks.

Cars without a garage

Simply put, you need some shelter. Check-in with friends, family, and neighbors to see if they’re willing to help you out. If you work at a larger office building with a concrete garage, use that. If you know similar places in the area that won’t tow, use that instead if you don’t have access to a private one. Furthermore, make sure you park above the first floor toward the middle near the walls.

If you don’t have access to any garages, find a tall, strong structure away from trees, water, and powerlines. Make sure the area is clean and ideally vacant. You don’t want any projectiles flying into your classic.

Once the car is parked, disconnect the battery. Raise it on jack stands if you’re not parked in an upper-level garage. Put on a protective cover and an additional tarp.

Be Cool and Help Out

Lastly, if you see someone in need, lend a hand. Hurricane season can be challenging but coming together as a community can make the difference. This guy saved a stranger’s Mazda RX-7 from tropical storm Cristobal’s floodwaters. The water would’ve ruined it entirely if not for the heroism of someone with good taste in cars. Be more like him.

Read the full story here.

September's Cool Ride: Mark's 1967 Oldsmobile Toronado 495

I bought the car five years ago. It was a heat-only car but here in Florida, an A/C is essential. The car is now a resto-mod. The front discs are from a 70 Toronado. The parts and pieces are from three Toronados in order to make one new A/C system. We also rebuilt a 425 transmission with a switch pitch converter. The engine was bored and stroked to a 495 cc (8.11 liters) with a 12:1 compression.

The Original Air parts are the condenser, drier, and evaporator.

Are You Holding on to These Parts? Don't

If you’re like us, you’ve worked on several restored and modified car projects. Chances are you’ve collected your fair share of car parts, and they aren’t cheap. While you hate to throw away something you may need or at the very least costs an arm and a leg, space is an issue. It may be so much of a problem that space has become just as valuable as a garage filled with old parts.

In other words, if you or your family are suffering from a parts hoard, you have options. Your first impulse might be to sell it all but face it; that could take months. Maybe even years. On the other hand, your significant other might want to rent a dumpster and get rid of it all. However, that’s not going to work either. The idea that someone somewhere might be willing to pay for that old muffler is just too good to pass up. All in all, the best approach we can recommend is coming out of a hoard with a clean space and make a pretty penny or two.

Easier said than done. Ten to 20 percent of car parts may be possible to sell, while the other 80 to 90 aren’t. You’ve got to factor in the time to sort, clean, take photos, describe the part, find a way to advertise it, pack it up and ship it out. Of course, you can always give parts away or donate them, but that’s still a lot of work without the pretty penny. Concentrate on parts that you know has monetary value while considering their condition and how easy it is to clean them up and ship them out.

Here’s Original Air’s list to help out your hoard:

Sell (if it is a rebuildable core or not in reproduction):

  • POA valves - sell us your old POA valves here
  • STV Valves
  • VIR units
  • Compressors
  • Some expansion valves
  • Hose/manifold assemblies (in not in reproduction)
  • Evaporators (if not in reproduction)
  • Condensers (If not in reproduction)
  • Evaporator housings
  • Compressor brackets & mounts
  • Pulleys & Idlers

Throw Away or Recycle (if in reproduction or not rebuildable):

  • Condensers
  • Evaporators
  • Compressors
  • Valves
  • Hoses/Manifolds
August's Cool Ride: Abimael's 1987 Chevy Monte Carlo 350

I'm the original owner having bought it in 1987. The off frame restoration was completed in 2012. It's got a ZZ4 crate motor, hooker full-length headers, and blazer front spindles with the disk. It's also got Camaro rear disks, 1/2 inch dual exhaust with flowmasters, cowl induction hood with an air cleaner, dual electric fans, and a full Original Air system.

The Original Air components on it are the condenser, hoses, compressor, and evaporator.

July's Cool Ride: Tom's 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle 396

This car has been in my family since 1983. I drove it through high school, took it to prom twice, and raced at the High School Drags at the local drag strip. I drove it through college and on our honeymoon. I drove it more than 100,000 miles with a Maaco paint job and the wrong powertrain.

The frame-off restoration took over 20 years. The powertrain includes a 396 producing 400 horsepower, an M-20 wide ratio 4-speed, and a 3.55 12 bolt positraction rear axle. My brother completed the body and paint, I did upholstery and wiring, my dad fabricated many parts, and we all, including my wife and 2 sons worked on the assembly.

We have a number of air conditioned classic Chevys in our family that have utilized Original Air components in our restoration/134a conversions including a '68 CST K20 PU, '65 Chevelle, 2 '70 Chevelles, and a '72 Chevelle. I knew I wanted to keep the look as original as possible on my '69, so I utilized the Original Air High Efficiency Condenser, Receiver/Drier, half of a barrier hose set (I wanted to keep the factory muffler on the compressor), and a recalibrated POA valve. My brother and I assembled and charged the system and it has provided dependable and comfortable cruising passenger temperatures since completed.

The car has earned trophies at many shows and been photographed for commercial projects as well. The car has been with me for 36 plus years and there are no plans for the car to ever leave the family! Thank you for providing quality parts to the classic car restoration community!

All Original Air Components:

Condenser, hoses, drier, expansion valve, and recalibrated POA valve.

Working With Graveyard Carz

Graveyard Carz sublets all of their A/C rebuilds with Classic Auto Air. Any rusty, old products in dire straits are sent our way. Everything from the firewall insulation pad to other complicated parts with multiple components are sent back marked, inventoried and in tip-top condition. Check out one of our features on the TV show Graveyard Carz:

Our Favorite Ford Series Features

Original Air receives several reader ride submissions every month. Unfortunately, we can't pick all of them to feature. So this month, we're consolidating some of our submitted rides that were close to winning. Here are some of our favorite ford series reader rides.

Daniels' 1974 Ford F100, 390

Featuring Orginal Air's compressor and control.

Arnie's 1984 Ford F 150, 460

Featuring Original Air condenser, hoses, compressor, drier, accumulator, expansion valve, suction valve, and evaporator.

"Well, at my age it's more about comfort than style. I spent over a year looking for something to complete I could put some of my touches on. It needed to be a pro street, big block, and just a little different. Then I found it. The first thing I did was to look into putting A/C in it. So the call to Original Air, and was set up with a kit that was perfect for my truck. Pulled motor out changed cam, heads, and transmission. Added a gear vendors o d. Rear-end gear. And 6 years later, we take it everywhere. It almost gets more miles than our daily."

1978 Ford John Wayne Supercab Lariat

One of fewer than 500 produced that year, this historic heavy hauler was offered in highly original, unrestored condition. A copy of the original registration issued to the Roland Harper catering company of which John Wayne was a business partner was included. It has no less than the largest available engine, and the Super Cab packs a 460 CI V-8 backed by an automatic transmission. Power steering and power disc brakes work together with forged twin I-beam suspension for confident road control even on the longest day. Oh, and it included a factory installed Ford AC system.

We are always hearing about cool restoration and modified car projects from our customers, and would love to see and share those factory-equipped A/C cars. Fill out our Reader Ride form so that you can describe and upload pictures of your ride so that we may share it with our customers worldwide. So get your car cleaned up, grab a camera, and send us your best shots!

June's Cool Ride: Jay's 1966 Ford Mustang V8

I purchased my Candy Apple Red, Parchment interior 1966 Mustang from a 94-year-old lady in Tennessee. She and her husband purchased the car and had it restored in 1995. The Mustang was a trophy-winning car at local car shows from 1995 through 2000.

However, the mustang was only driven about 4,000 miles in the past 25 years and spend most of the time parked in a block garage after the restoration. It was starting to show its age when I purchased it. Being an A Code, highly optioned car, my goal is to keep it fairly original. I have spent the past year on renovation work to bring it back up to driving condition, in addition to a complete overhaul of the car, I have added an aftermarket power steering system and rebuilt the factory air conditioning with Original Air components, including the evaporator coil, expansion valve, Sanden compressor, hoses, dryer, and condenser.

Which Original Air components do you have in your car? · Condenser · Hoses · Compressor · Drier · Expansion Valve