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Model A to Mustang, he has 'em all

Staff writer

There are car guys.

Then there are car guys.

Dennis Frantz, parts manager at Hillsboro Ford, is an italics kind of car guy.

He not only loves restoring antique cars and trucks but also sources license plates from vehicles’ year of manufacture — Marion County plates — if possible.

Fourteen vehicles — from a 1930 Model A to a 1972 Ford Mustang — are nested in barns across his property.

Some he’s carefully covered up like a child in a blanket.

Some are in various states of restoration.

Some are ready to roll.

A photo collage features many of Frantz’s cars over the years, including a 1971 Mustang Mach 1 for which he won an award at a Darryl Starbird show. He showed the car and raced it.

He’s kept copies of checks from races he’s won, including one for $100 dated May 12, 1984. He got it from International Drag Racing of Wichita.

Walk into one of his outbuildings and you’ll see a 1952 Chevy pickup he’s been working on for 15 years.

His grandfather bought it new in Oklahoma.

A Ford loyalist, Frantz dropped a Ford engine into the truck — a 351 Windsor, to be exact.

David Unruh helped him.

After Unruh died in 2009 at age 39, Frantz stopped working on the truck for a few years.

“He was my best friend,” Frantz said.

Doctors gave Frantz six months to live in 1996. Cancer crept into his lymph nodes. His dad died in 1999.

Hobbies often become more than hobbies. Whether quilting, painting, writing poetry, or restoring a 50-year-old truck, they become therapeutic.

Originally blue, the Chevy is covered in primer. Asked what color he wants to paint it — he doesn’t do paint work himself — he said he wasn’t sure.

“Right now, I just want to get it running,” he said. “I’m getting closer.”

Parked next to the truck is a 1972 Mustang convertible that Frantz’s brother found in Winona.

“It was completely shot,” he said.

It’s not now.

“We took everything apart and rebuilt it,” he said.

Frantz’s nephew purchased the car and flew in from Texas last weekend to pick it up.

Frantz has worked at Hillsboro Ford since 1984.

Savannah Stone, title clerk at the dealership, is Unruh’s daughter.

She’s known Frantz all her life.

His love for autos is obvious, she said.

“You can definitely see that the passion overflows into his work, too,” she said. “Anybody who knows him or has been around him knows that.”

Last modified Sept. 29, 2022

 

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