Here in New England, the car hobby is divided into two distinct seasons. A driving season and a project season. The winter months are a great time to take on long overdue maintenance or do some spiffing up. Some folks with strong motivation and warm facilities will take on more substantial projects like engine rebuilds or complete restorations. Regardless of the size of the project, they all began as the same thing…a dream.
We car guys are dreamers. Dreams are the fuel for our projects. Most of us are long on imagination and short on cash or skills. But that doesn’t stop the dreams. And with the help of local car clubs and the internet, expertise and money saving tips are being shared more than ever before. That’s lead to dreams becoming reality. While clubs and the internet are the most robust classic car resources, I recently visited a facility that is making all kinds of wild car dreams come true.
Wray Schelin is a master at rendering dreams in sheet metal. HIs business, Pro Shaper, is located in Charlton Massachusetts not far from the Connecticut boarder. A visit to his enormous warehouse is like stepping into Touring of Milan or Carrozzeria Zagato without having to cross an ocean. Everywhere you look, sculpture is in process. From drawings, to wire frames, to sensuous aluminum panels that you can’t believe were once mere sheet metal. Wray can make a whole new body for your car. While he spends much of his time realizing the impossible dreams of his customers, he is also empowering DIYers and aspiring professionals to fabricate their own dreams through his classes. Twice a month, students are treated to a 4 day intensive on sheet metal shaping. Classes are totally hands on and many participants have no prior experience. In an era when great old-world craftsmen are dwindling, Wray is doing the car hobby a tremendous service by passing on his considerable expertise.
As if Wray’s shop wasn’t enough inspiration for any winter project, Pro Shaper employee and Master Craftsman Bob Berchen treated us to a tour of his collection. Like Wray, Bob’s projects are really only limited by his imagination. Almost all of his collection are his own creations! They include a Jag V12 powered hot rod with a nose piece inspired by a gran prix Maserati. An air cooled V-twin powered 4 wheel cycle car with tandem seating and driver controls in the rear seat. A Morris Minor panel van with aluminum V8 Oldsmobile power and a Crosley powered motorcycle.
Bob also told us a hilarious story that’s still got me laughing about how things have changed in the car world over the years. Bob’s dad was a sales manager at a Volkswagen dealership. One day a customer came into the dealership who wanted to buy a brand new Beetle. He had an older used car that he wanted to trade in. But Bob’s dad was hesitant about taking this car in trade because he knew it would be hard to sell. It was a sports coupe that was over 10 years old. It was really hard to get in and out of, it got super hot inside and didn’t even have roll down windows. But after some negotiations a deal was struck to sell a brand new VW Beetle and take in trade a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing!
Here are some very interesting photos from the shop.