Appeal of classic cars remains strong to 81-year old Hampton man
Published 9:01 am Friday, June 3, 2016
The general enthusiasm for antique cars is no surprise for 81-year-old Frank Iiames of Hampton. They are a cultural artifact and a memory of “the good old days.”
Until a few years ago, antique cars were rarely seen on roads and were parked in garages dreaming of better times instead.
The abundance of vintage cars on display at the Saturday evening car shows in Elizabethton proves that not just people with a love for horsepower want to see the old models outside of their museums.
Iiames, who regularly attends the weekly car show in Elizabethton, says this attitude has changed. Vintage vehicles such as Iiames’ 1927 Ford T-Bucket Coupe are now often taken for a drive or to a public appearance such as the local car show.
In addition to his baby blue 1927 T-Bucket Coupe, Iiames owns a 1957 Studebaker and two Buick Reatta sports cars, all of which he has completely restored.
Iiames moved to Hampton 10 years ago from Pensacola, Fla. He served two years in the U.S. Army, 1954-56, at the end of the Korean War.
On the back on his vintage car in black script are the word “Born to be wild.” Iiames said he chose the words because it described him when he was younger. “I was drafted in the military, and a little unsettled at the time. While in the Army I grew up some and wised up some,” he said. Upon his discharge from service Iiames attended junior college for two years and then transferred to the University of Florida, where he received his baccalaureate degree. He taught industrial arts for 31 years before retiring.
He settled in Hampton after meeting a “nice” lady at a Christian Retreat in Washington state. “We roamed all over the South in a camper, sort of looking for a place to settle down. We visited Roan Mountain State Park, and really liked the area and what we saw. She and I decided this is where we wanted to live. She was from Davenport, Iowa. We married in 1999 and bought a home in Hampton,” he shared.
Sadly, his wife Sharon died in 2008.
Iiames admits his love for old cars reaches back to days when he was younger and had “more energy.”
“Many of the old cars on display at the car show I grew up with and there’s a bit of nostalgia there. The little blue car (his 1927 model) appeals to ladies more, I think, because of the color. It’ll run like a scalded dog. I have to watch it when I’m out on the road,” Iiames said.
The 1927 T-Bucket Coupe has a 350 Chevrolet motor and has rolled up 23,000 actual miles. Iiames described it as a “jewel.”
Iiames said he bought the car in Jacksonville, Fla., and it took him six years to restore it. “Restoring these old cars can be rather expensive. Some of the cars displayed at the car show probably have as much as $50,000 in them,” he said.
Iiames attends the car show almost every week and takes turns bringing his four vintage cars to the show. “The Buick Reatta was short-lived. They only made them four years, from 1988 to 1991. However, it was a nice little car; one of the best-looking convertibles ever,” Iiames said.
“It has proven to be a good hobby for me. I enjoy showing my cars and attending the car show. Elizabethton is a wonderful area,” Iiames said.
The car show, sponsored by the Carter County Car Club, is held downtown on Elk Avenue each Saturday evening from April through October, beginning at 5 p.m.