Building treasures: A Cinderella-style automobile affair

ST. JOHNS — There is an absolute truth in the adage, “One man’s trash is a another man’s treasure.

Everett Gross has always tinkered with fixing up old cars, an interest he developed from working with his father, Doyle Gross.

In the summer of 2000, Gross discovered his pièce de résistance. While attending a car swap meet at the Clark County Fairgrounds in Springfield, Gross found a 1938 DeSoto that was on its last leg.

“It was a mess,” said Gross, who grew up in St. Johns and graduated from Wapakoneta High School in 1973. “The front fenders were hanging there. Inside the car there were boxes full of car parts. The floor boards and the trunk were rusted through. It didn’t have a windshield.”

Most people with a car in such shape would be ready to scrap the car for its worth in metal, much less pay good money for it.

But the mechanically-inclined Gross saw a future for the beat up car.

“I bought it planning to make it a street rod,” Gross said.

Over the next few years, Gross completely dismantled the car part by part and then he analyzed every piece and decided what he wanted to put in it and what he wanted to replace. He sold the old engine on eBay, giving him a little more money to start his rebuilding process.

And, of course, the hobby artist and Just Us Quartet member made his own revisions.

Gross decided to add  some safety features due to the vehicle not being one of the safer models in its original form. He redid the entire frame of the vehicle. To give it his own personal signature, he put a 350-cubic inch, V-8 engine in it and put the back end and front clip of a 1979 Camaro in it.

He tinkered his way year-by-year before finally having it street legal in 2008.

“I only had so much money each year to put in it so it took a while,” Gross said. “I have spent countless hours on that car. I am still not completely finished with it yet, but it is street legal.”

Gross, who has worked for years at Airstream in Jackson Center putting front and back ends on the motor homes and vans, said he learned some wiring skills that has helped him with fixing up old cars.

But the most important aspect he has picked up from his personal employment is the confidence to take on each adventure.

“It has made me confident in taking on the projects,” Gross said. “It has made it come easier.”

In the past three years, Gross has taken the vehicle to several car shows, where it has been a popular vehicle among car enthusiasts.

Some of the shows the vehicle has made appearances at include the Armstrong Air and Space Museum show, the Harvest and Wapakoneta Baptist churches, and a benefit at Celina Custom Auto that was held to raise money for his eldest son who was in a motorcycle accident.

He and his wife, Sharon, have three sons, Thad, Keon and Ethan, and a daughter, Tristan. Thad followed in his father’s footsteps as an artist and car enthusiast. He also lives in St. Johns with his wife, Kim, and three children, while his brother, Keon lives with his wife, Samantha, and his youngest brother, Ethan, lives with his wife, Beth, in Wapakoneta. His sister, Tristan, lives in Wapakoneta with her husband, Joe Heckman.

His vehicle took first place in that show, as well as one at the Wapakoneta Baptist Church.

To answer the question on everyone’s mind, Gross claims to not really know the vehicle’s top speed.

“I never tried to see how fast it goes,” Gross said sheepishly. “I didn’t want to pay the ticket to find out.”