By Leeanne Seaver
Dale Emaar’s red and white ’29 Roadster will be a featured-car at the Vicksburg Old Car Show, the result of his passion for the hot rods he’s built in his shop north of Vicksburg since the 1980s.
Emaar credits his auto mechanics instructor at Kalamazoo Central High School for teaching him the proper way to repair an engine. The skill served him well in his hobby, although his career was actually in the grocery business.
Once he retired, he could fully indulge his passion for hot rods, driven by the creative process itself.
“I’ve built a dozen or so hot rods, never with the goal of selling them,” he said. “My purpose was to enjoy the time spent working on each car.”
Each car has a theme such as the streetrod hailing from the ‘70s with air conditioning, power steering and brakes, he said.
“The emphasis was on style and comfort—late model car dependability in an old car body,” he said.
Emaar can tell a version of that story for every car he’s built.
Each of his vintage vehicles features original parts rescued one piece at a time from swap meets and internet sources. Each also has a unique personality created through airplane seats and seatbelts circa World War II.
His signature style combines authenticity with art.
“Post-WWII hot rods are my favorite,” Emaar said. “A roadster with a lightened body is the perfect image of the style.”
“That’s my style—nothing modern,” he said. “Back then it would have been the absolute cutting edge of design, so it’s a neat thing for me to be as true to the time period as I can.”
A good place to find parts is at military salvage, he said. Airplane seats he used in one car were found in an abandoned airplane.
“I traded that guy five small motorcycles for the five seats, but they were light and perfect so my car could go faster but I don’t race them,” he said. “I just build them.”
Emaar’s wife, Lois, a retired Sunset Elementary teacher, has framed a photo montage of the cars he’s built in what looks like a Hemmings Hot Rod calendar. In fact, one of Dale’s cars has been featured on such a calendar, said Lois, as Dale shakes his head and waves it off.
“I’m just so proud of this guy,” she said of her husband, as she recalled the Italian man who picked Emaar’s canary-yellow 1932 Ford Roadster over 13,000 other vintage cars at the Louisville NSRA (National Streetrod Association) Show, one of the largest streetrodder events drawing people from all over the world.
“The buyer from Italy fell in love with our car with its gorgeous, creamy white leather interior,” she said. “He told us he was going to look over the other cars at the show before letting us know. Sure enough, he came back and wanted our Roadster.”
They shipped it to him in Italy and then he sent them some pictures of him driving it through the Swiss Alps, she said.
If you miss their 1929 Roadster at the Old Car Show, you might just see them cruising around the countryside this summer.
“I like to take her into town for an ice cream,” Dale said. “Without her support, I wouldn’t be doing this. Lois encourages and supports this hobby and that’s why I can do it.”