PROSPECT — In 1905, a brand new Packard automobile rolled out of the factory in Detroit, Mich. and was delivered to William T. Hunter, founder of the Pennsylvania-based Devon Horse Show.
The car was sold to Hyde Ballard in 1938, and again to Curtis Blake, co-founder of Friendly’s Ice Cream, in 1979. Nearly two decades ago, the car found its fourth and current owner, John Jones.
“Historically, this is the most significant car I have. I have the history of this car from the day it was made. That’s very unusual,” said Jones, a Prospect resident who owns the Prospect Dairy Bar with his wife, Carol.
Jones owns more than a dozen antique cars, all of which he restored himself, including a 1912 Thomas Flyer. Jones considers the 1912 Thomas Flyer the “crown jewel” of his collection, and it’s only one of two known to exist, he said.
“The other is up in Seal Cove Auto Museum in Maine, but it is not in nearly the condition this one is in,” Jones said.
While Jones enjoys collecting cars, his real passion lies in restoring them.
“I am a toolmaker by trade. [Restoring cars] lends itself to being a toolmaker because, to do these cars, you have to be a machinist, a toolmaker, a blacksmith, a fabricator, just about everything,” Jones said.
The only thing he doesn’t do is the fabric work.
Along with owning the dairy bar, Jones runs Packard Inc., a specialized machining company named after the car. He works on his cars when he can — the weekends, in the evening and on days off. He puts an average of 3,000 hours of work into each of his cars.
Jones said he spent 600 hours on just painting the Thomas Flyer, which is hand-rubbed nitrocellulose lacquer.
Jones’ passion and attention to detail has garnered him national attention over the years. All but two of his vehicles have won the Antique Automobile Club of America’s national first prize.
“This is my hobby. I fall in love with all my cars. I don’t sell any of them,” Jones said.
Jones started restoring cars about 50 years ago when he purchased a 1927 Ford Model T, which he refurbished and drove to his wedding in 1969.
“It was the challenge of taking something that was derelict and deplorable and making it a piece of jewelry,” said Jones about what fueled his passion for restoring cars. “Doing it all myself is very rewarding. I don’t want to just write checks and buy cars. I do all the work myself. I like the challenge.”
Jones was hooked after finishing the Model T.
“Once I finished it I enjoyed restoring it more than driving. So I said I need another challenge,” Jones said.
His next restoration, a 1931 Chevy Roadster, was so well done he began to get attention from other collectors and requests to work on their cars. These days, he prefers to only work on his own cars.
“The cobbler goes barefoot. If I restore cars for other people I will never get to do my own,” Jones said.
Although most of his cars are for show, Jones does drive some of them.
Each year, Jones and his wife participate in the Horseless Carriage Club of America’s National New England Brass and Gas Tour. This year, Jones drove his 1912 Velie on the tour, which was in Bar Harbor, Maine and went through Acadia National Park.
When he is not restoring cars, Jones is either working at Packard Inc. or fixing machinery at the Prospect Dairy Bar.
Running a machinery shop allows Jones to craft the unique parts he needs for his vehicles, like the carburetor he built for a 1905 Packard.
“Who can you go to to make a carburetor? You don’t go to a NAPA dealer and ask them to make a carburetor for a 1905 Packard. That’s where my talent comes in,” Jones said.
Jones isn’t planning on retiring from his shop any time soon.
“My hobby is too expensive,” he said.