Tag Archives: auto

A Family Masterpiece

May 10, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Some childhood memories stick with you. Dave Carroll, a retired Union Pacific manager, holds onto the memory of one fateful childhood leap that dented his grandfather’s prized 1950 Mercury.

“I’ve got so much of my life in this car,” Carroll says. When he was about 6 or 7, Carroll was playing with cousins at a tree house on his grandparents’ farm in Fullerton, Nebraska. His grandfather John Carroll’s out-of-commission vehicle sat under the tree house.

“I remember it like it was yesterday. Instead of going down the rope ladder, I jumped out of the tree house onto the car and I caved the roof in.”

Carroll remembered his grandpa’s large hands. “He got in the car and he took his hand and popped it out, and I thought, wow.” Some wrinkles remained in the car’s roof and would stay there for many decades. “The funny story is, years later, I paid to fix that roof,” he says.

His grandmother, Etta Carroll, bestowed him the car after his grandfather passed away. Then she accidentally sold the car for $50 to a neighbor kid, while Dave was serving in the military during the Vietnam War. Dave and his father, Jack, travelled to Fullerton to get the car back after Dave returned from overseas. The duo were quickly chased off of the property by shotgun.

“We went downtown and we found the local constable. He was having coffee at the coffee shop. My dad knew him. We told him the story and he said ‘come on, we’ll go back.’” The story ended well for Dave, who was still in possession of the car’s original title. And the car has been with him since then.

Over the years, the Mercury was transported across the United States on a flatbed trailer while Carroll worked his way up at Union Pacific, from a position on the track gang to one in management at the company’s headquarters. His career led him to places such as Sydney (Nebraska), Denver, and Cheyenne. At every new location, Carroll brought along his beloved Merc’. “My intention was to build it, but being a railroader, I didn’t have the time or the funds.”

Carroll returned to Omaha in the ’80s. He met and wed Dianne Cascio Carroll, owner of Anything Goes Salon. Soon after, he began his odyssey of fixing the Mercury. Having the roof repaired is just one of the many changes Carroll has made to his car.

“There’s so many things that have been done to this car,” he says. Over more than 30 years, Carroll says he has spent thousands of hours refurbishing the car. Some projects were finished, only to be torn up again and redone so that he could try the ever-evolving products in the industry that worked better. “That’s my problem,” he says. “I redo things.”

He has often lost track of time while working in his garage in the Huntington Park neighborhood in Omaha. “I’ve had my wife open the door and say, ‘you know what time it is?’ I look at the clock and it’s 10 after 1 in the morning and I’ve got to be to work at 6 in the morning.”

“It’s not about me. It’s about my parents, and honoring the memory of my grandfather. I kept this car because it was in the family and it’s never been out of the family.”

Carroll’s imagination has affected every aspect of the car, from the striking Candy Purple body color, to the custom purple snakeskin roof interior. The air-conditioning vents were salvaged from a 2002 FordTempo. He ordered the custom-made steering wheel from California, and the windshield from Oregon. Thanks to Carroll’s insatiable creativity, the car has a digital dash, an electrical door opener, a late-model motor with custom aluminum valve covers, four-wheel disk brakes, rounded hood corners, a smooth dash and Frenched-in (curved) headlights.

The restoration has also been helped by Ron Moore of Moore Auto Body, Rick White of Redline Upholstery, and Rod Grasmick, an antique auto restorer. Using qualified professionals means that Carroll knows his car is taken care of, but he also finds them to be knowledgable friends.

“I have a couple of friends that are helping me with this car, that’s how our [automotive] community is—everybody helps everybody,” he says.

Will the car ever be finished? “My dad is always telling that he hopes to get to ride it in when it is done, and him being 92 years old puts a lot of pressure on me,” he says.

“My wife says, ‘you’re taking forever.’ Well, look at it this way, there’s better and newer stuff coming out all the time,” Carroll says. And so the journey continues.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

Polishing a Legacy

December 10, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

America’s long love affair with the automobile is perhaps best told in stories of fathers and sons. The 1932 Chevrolet Cabriolet convertible featured in this installment of “How I Roll’ has for a half century been at the center of one such father/son vignette.

“My dad collected and restored many, many cars,” says Mark Chickinelli, “but he always said that this would be the very last car he would ever do. It was that special to him. He was willing to wait for decades to fulfill that promise. Sadly, he was only half right on his prediction.”

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A debilitating stroke three years ago ended the hands-on stage of Val Chickinelli’s restoration hobby. Known for leading Omaha Plating Co. for 50 years on the corner of 24th and Leavenworth streets, Val had purchased the vehicle known as a “Baby Cadillac” in the early ’60s. Punctuating the point that he was a patient man, restoration began only in 1999. A fire later destroyed many of the car’s key components as fate did its best to thwart what would become a son’s race against time in fulfilling a father’s wish.

After his dad’s stroke, Mark stepped in and also enlisted his father’s longtime collaborator, Bob Chalek, perhaps the area’s foremost authority when it comes to work on classic Chevrolets, Pontiacs, and Oldsmobiles. Chalek had more than a craftsman’s love for the iconic car for he had once, oddly enough, owned this very same beauty back in the 1950s.

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“I grew up in my dad’s businesses,” says Mark. “Ever since I was 8, he had me doing odd jobs, and that often meant moving any number of his 100 vintage cars. We moved this car more times than I can remember. It was disassembled and in boxes, and we moved it from storage place to storage place, but it was like it was always there waiting for us.”

Restoring automobiles, to the Chickinelli family, is an endeavor elevated to high art, something that is second nature to Mark. He is a fine art painter who has done work for such clients as Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

Val passed away in August, only shortly after the restoration was complete.

“He only got to see it in pictures before he died,” Mark says, caressing the graceful curve of the car’s fender. “My dad will never ride in this car, but I think he’d be very pleased. It’s everything he ever dreamed it could be. It’s now a part of his legacy.”

Winter Ready

December 1, 2013 by

It would be nice to be able to call in to work every time we had a little bit of snow, but that just isn’t realistic. We have to get out there and brave the snow and ice in the winter months. Still, there are a few things you can check to make your winter driving safer:

Wiper blades – Your wipers should clear the dirty slush that continually flies onto your windshield without leaving a smeary mess. If not, they need to be replaced. Keep in mind that it’s recommended to replace wiper blades annually. Always having enough windshield wiper fluid is important, too, particularly fluid that withstands freezing temperatures.

Battery – If your battery is more than three years old, it’s a good idea to have a certified battery shop or mechanic test the battery. You don’t want to be stranded due to battery issues that could have been avoided.

Tires – Monitor your tire pressure and tread frequently throughout the winter. Your tire pressure may have dropped along with the temperatures. For every ten degrees the temperature drops, tires average a loss of one pound per square inch. Your tires should also have adequate tread on them. Having them checked out by a professional before a big snow is a good idea. Always have a spare tire and jack with you as well.

Belts and Hoses – Have a professional check them to make sure there are no leaks, bulges, or fraying. The cold weather will only exacerbate these issues, making the hoses and belts more brittle.

Radiator – Make sure that your radiator is filled with the proper water/anti-freeze mixture that is recommended by your vehicle manufacturer.

Gas tank – Always keep a quarter to a half-gallon of gas in the tank at all times to prevent moisture buildup in the tank.

It’s also a good idea to have a winter weather kit in your vehicle. To make an emergency kit, include a blanket, boots and gloves, an extra set of warm clothes, food and water, an ice scraper, a small shovel, a flashlight, windshield washer fluid, flares, jumper cables, a first aid kit, and an abrasive material to help if you get stuck (such as sand or kitty litter).

The Vesparados

August 26, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

They call themselves the Vesparados and they are, indeed, a wild bunch—wild about their Vespa scooters.

About 20 owners of the iconic Italian scooter belong to a loosely knit social group that meets at least once a week, sometimes more in good weather, to tool around Omaha and enjoy the freedom of the outdoors. Rides usually end with libations, dinner, or both.

If the name Vespa doesn’t ring a bell, think Gregory Peck vrooming through the crowded streets of the Eternal City with a laughing Audrey Hepburn on the back of his scooter in 1952’s Roman Holiday. Thanks to the Oscar®-winning film, Americans fell in love with the Vespa.

First manufactured by Piaggio & Co. in 1946 for easy and economical transportation in decimated post-War Italy, the Vespa remains better suited for boulevards and byways, not highways.

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“Most Vespas can reach 80 miles per hour,” says Gil Cohen, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Omaha Magazine. “But I wouldn’t suggest keeping it up there for very long. We don’t travel on interstates.”

The Vesparados come from a wide range of professions. But when the helmets go on, each rider assumes their Vespa persona.

“Everybody has a handle,” explains Cohen. “I’m ‘Jersey.’”

On a recent summer evening, the South Jersey native sat astride his red Vespa GTS 250 waiting for others to gather at a Fiat dealership at West Dodge and 180th streets for a cool, twilight ride along the nearby Lincoln Highway. Cohen’s GTS series scooter features Vespa’s trademark pressed-steel unibody, flat floorboard, and prominent front, but with today’s technology. True to the original premise of economy and affordability, the Vespa averages about 65-70 miles-per-gallon and costs around $7,000 tops, with smaller scooters in the $3,000-4,000 range.

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Ten riders eventually joined Cohen, including new Vesparado Todd Lemke, breezing in on a GTS 300 scooter.

“I had to have a bigger bike than Gil’s,” laughs the publisher of Omaha Magazine, who hasn’t gotten a handle on his handle yet. Lemke has always loved “anything with two wheels and a motor,” and finds the Vespa a natural extension of his motorcycle and dirt bike hobbies.

The parking lot, now filled with Vespas in hues of blue, red, green, and brown, crackled with laughter, indicating long-standing friendships among the participants. Husband-and-wife dentists Bill and JoAnn Kathrein, a.k.a. “Tito” and “Cupcake,” shared good-natured ribbing with longtime friend Dr. Bill Bucy, a dentist who lives in Auburn, Neb., and stores his Vespa in Omaha.

Joining in on the conversations were Spencer “Dragon” Jacobs of Badger Body and Truck and his girlfriend, Kathy Anthes; Dr. George “Doc” Perlebach; Wells Fargo Financial advisor Denis “Ballanca” Roberts; Omaha attorney Dan Smith, clearly enjoying his first Vesparado outing; architect Steve “Itchy” Ginn (no question asked, no explanation offered), whose new GTV series “retro” scooter has the headlight attached to the front fender; and David “Blazer” Parsow, looking very dapper in a crisp, white shirt and black sport jacket. “It comes from being in the clothing business,” deadpans the president of Parsow’s Fashions.

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The riders motored single file down the Lincoln Highway toward Elkhorn and stopped at a plaque commemorating the centennial of the transcontinental roadway. Placed neatly side-by-side, the scooters looked like a multi-colored, metallic chorus line; their owners looked like they were having a blast.

Vespa may mean “wasp” in Italian, but to the Vesparados it means “let’s buzz around.” 

What to Do When Your Vehicle Overheats

July 22, 2013 by

The summer heat not only affects us, it also affects our vehicles. Our vehicles are much more likely to overheat during the hot summer months.

It is important to do what you can to prevent your vehicle from overheating in the first place. Making sure to use the proper coolant for your vehicle is extremely important. Not all coolants are safe for all vehicles. Also, making sure that there is enough coolant in your system before driving is going to save you from a possible overheating scenario. If you notice that your vehicle is overheating—steam coming out of the hood and/or your temperature gauge going past the halfway mark and into the red zone—turn off your air conditioning and turn on your heat to full blast. Doing this will transfer some of the heat away from the engine to the inside of the vehicle.

Pull over, especially if there’s not a service station nearby, and turn the engine off. Pop the hood, but let it cool down before completely opening it. NEVER open the radiator cap while the vehicle is still hot; this is very dangerous. The radiator cap should be cool to the touch before opening. Look in the coolant reservoir to see if there is coolant in there. It is always a good idea to carry a bottle of coolant with you. In a pinch, you can use water.

If you have antifreeze with you, fill your reservoir with the coolant once your vehicle has cooled down. Your vehicle manufacturer should have stipulations on which types of antifreeze to use. Some are premixed; others need to be mixed with a 50/50 combo of coolant and water. If your radiator is not properly holding the fluid, there could be a leak somewhere, and it’s important to get it checked immediately.

If the vehicle does not seem to be cooling down, and there is not a service station nearby, it may be necessary to call roadside assistance for a tow.

Roadside Emergency Services

June 20, 2013 by

It’s July, and summertime is in full effect. This also means plenty of family road trips, most of which go off without a major hitch. However, if something does go wrong with your vehicle, it can make for a giant headache. Not to worry though, there are emergency roadside services out there that can help.

It may be well worth it to buy emergency roadside coverage in the event that you do have car trouble. Some of the services that these companies provide are:

  • Battery boosts
  • Battery replacement
  • Fuel delivery
  • Tire service
  • Towing
  • Lock-out services

The issues listed above can happen to anyone, yet are always unexpected. Prepare for the unexpected and make sure to either purchase an emergency roadside service or, at the very least, have the phone number of one such service. We are fortunate that these services are available to us, and one just might come in handy when that giant headache shows up!

Gwen’s Tips: Full-Service Gas Stations

The few full-service gas stations remaining in Omaha are proud of what they can offer their customers. These six stations tell you in their own words what you can look forward to from their businesses.

“We pump the gas. We also check the tires if they need it, clean the windows, and check the fluids,” says owner Keith Kettelhut. He’s been at Ralston Auto Repair since he was 16, when the gas station had four full-service lanes. They’re down to one lane now, but that’s okay. “There’s only a few of us left here in Omaha,” he says. “We just try to be a small town gas station, not a convenience store.”
Ralston’s Fuel and Services
7701 Main St.
402-597-5064

“We’ve been in business since 1964, when full-service was the norm.” Steve Bertagni, owner of Ted’s Sinclair, is proud of the longevity of his business. “We decided to keep the service going, at least at one of our pumps, to take care of older people, people who are disabled—those who want a little service instead of do-it-yourself all the time.”
Ted’s Sinclair
4525 Center St.
402-558-5420

“We provide the full-service because it’s needed,” says Bob Fenster, service manager at Buchanan’s BP. “We vacuum the carpets, wash and check tires, check oil and fluids underneath the hood. We also pump the gas.” The station also has an in-service shop for more complete maintenance.
Buchanan’s BP Service Center
7911 W. Dodge Rd.
402-393-2722

Aside from having their gas pumped and their windows cleaned, customers at Fred’s Friendly Service should know that if they want anything else done, all they need to do is ask. “I’m proud that the business has been family-owned for 50 years now,” says owner Robert Wackerhagen. His father was Fred, the business’ namesake. “That’s what my dad always said: Friendly service is the most important part.”
Fred’s Friendly Service
2901 Leavenworth St.
402-342-9519

“Our ASE-certified technicians still pump your gas, clean your windows, check your tires, and check your vehicle’s fluids.” Jim and Jerry are second-generation owners of M and N Service, a family-owned gas station. “You are going back to a time where people smiled and were genuinely glad to see you. Our old-fashioned values haven’t changed.” Those values go back to the station’s beginning in 1972, when their parents opened the station.
M and N Service, Inc.
12005 Pacific St.
402-333-6823

“We offer full-service to help people out,” says Kyle Spicer, manager of Buchanan’s BP Service Center. “Not a lot of people pump their own gas, specifically older folk. The full-service island is what we are most proud of. We normally wash the car and vacuum it out. We also pump the gas. We’re here to provide what they’re unable to do for themselves.”
Buchanan’s BP Service Center
5001 Dodge St.
402-553-7374

Preparing for Road Trips

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Road trips can be a lot of fun, but they can also turn into a nightmare if you aren’t prepared. There are a few items that should be checked before you set out for your destination to ensure that your vehicle is as ready for the drive as you are.

  • Make sure to check all fluids—antifreeze, power steering, brake, transmission, and windshield wiper.
  • If you aren’t current with your oil changes, get it changed before leaving.
  • Inspect your hoses and belts for wear and tear. If something looks askew, take it to a trusted mechanic and have them take a look.
  • Check all tires, including the spare, to make sure that they’re in good shape and that the tire pressure is correct.
  • Be certain you have a jack and lug wrench in case you need to change a tire.
  • Check your battery to make sure there are no corrosions, cracks, or leaks.

I recommend doing all of these things a week in advance in case there are any problems. This should give you adequate time to take care of any repairs. There are also some items that are important to have along with you in case you do have car issues.

  • Gas can. Don’t wait until the tank is too low to fill up. On a road trip, it can be hard to know how far the next gas station will be.
  • Water. Make sure to have plenty of bottled water; the summer heat can be extremely dehydrating.
  • Phone charger. This should be used your entire trip to ensure your cell phone has a full charge.
  • Shade. Bring window shades, towels, and hats.
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses. Just because you’re in the car doesn’t mean your skin and eyes can’t get sun-damaged.
  • Flashlight. Nothing is worse than being stranded in the dark.
  • Maps. We often use phones or the GPS on our vehicles, but having an actual map is necessary in case our electronics fail.
  • Walking shoes. Make sure you have shoes that are comfortable for walking in case you have to “hoof it.”

Be sure to prepare for your road trip and carry along a few extras just in case. With these few tips, you should be well on your way to a fun, safe trip.

Spring Cleaning

March 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It’s that time of year again. Spring cleaning not only applies to our homes but to our vehicles as well. After the long winter, it’s time to give your vehicle some TLC. After all, the best way to avoid having to spend a lot of money on your vehicle is by doing regular upkeep.

All of the sand, salt, and other chemicals that are thrown on the streets during the winter can really wreak havoc on your vehicle. To begin with, an extremely good wash is in order. This doesn’t just mean rolling through a carwash on your way home from work. That will not get the areas that are in desperate need of cleaning.

It’s extremely important to clean underneath your vehicle as well. That’s where the majority of all of the gunk is hanging out. Also, the wheel wells need to really be cleaned and scrubbed. This is a prime spot for rust to start. Open your doors and make sure that you clean the door jambs, where the hinges are, and the bottom of the interior door. This is another place that salt and chemicals hang out and can begin to create rust issues. Anything that can be done to prevent the beginning of rust needs to be done. Once it starts, there aren’t a lot of great options.

After giving your vehicle a good wash, paying close attention to all the “hot spots,” you should be in good shape to begin the spring. My last advice is that if you notice your vehicle driving a little funny, pulling one way or another, you may need an alignment. The potholes can create this issue very easily, and it’s better to get it taken care of right away than to drive around with your alignment off. One result of driving with your alignment off—it can wear your tires unevenly, possibly causing you to need new tires.

In Case of An Accident…

January 25, 2013 by

Skidding, sliding, and slipping are all common this time of year. Unfortunately, that can be followed by a bump or even a crash! Auto accidents are a pain for everyone, but knowing what to do in an accident can ease some of the stress.

The first thing to do is report the accident to the police. If there are no injuries, go ahead and begin to exchange information with the other driver. Make sure to get their personal information, along with the type of vehicle, and all insurance information. The next thing to do is to determine if your vehicle is drivable. If not, the police can call a tow truck, and you should have your vehicle towed to the shop of your choice.

After the police have finished at the accident scene, if the vehicle is drivable, you will want to call the insurance company of the driver at fault. Depending upon the insurance company, they may want you to go to their “drive thru” claim place, or they may make arrangements to come to your vehicle to do an estimate. Another option is that they may want you to take it to a body shop for an estimate. The most important thing to know now is that you are the vehicle owner and no one can tell you where to have your vehicle repaired. There is no law that requires you to have your vehicle repaired where your insurance company recommends. It is always your choice.

When determining where you have your repairs done, there are some things that you may want to take into consideration. What type of warranty does the shop offer? (Whether or not your insurance has a warranty, it is the shop that is ultimately responsible for the repairs.) Also, do the technicians at the shop receive ongoing training? Is the shop involved nationally, keeping up with all the newest procedures and technologies? The best thing to do before you are involved in an accident is to do your research and know where you will take your vehicle if the unexpected happens. Making a snap decision doesn’t always lead to the best decision.