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Respecting the Classics
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Friday, July 18, 2014 11:00 AM
James and Nancy Abbott sit in their 1964 Ford Fairlane 500, one of five classic cars on display at the Abbott’s home on State Road 56, just west of Hanover. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie)firstname.lastname@example.org)
Abbott says his 1955 Chevy is a real crowd pleaser that often comes home with big prizes from car shows the couple attend.
Curious passersby waved and honked at James and Nancy Abbott on Thursday as they zoomed by the couple's Hanover home - sometimes twice - often rubbernecking to get a better glimpse of the front lawn filled with classic cars.
"We've had several people stop, a lot of honks and then some people wanting to know if they're for sale," James Abbott said.
"They're not for sale," Abbott said while his five pristine vintage automobiles shimmered in the sun. "We'd like for people to see them and to show them off."
The couple took advantage of the mild weather to host their own impromptu car show, greeting each visitor in their driveway.
The Abbott fleet includes a 1931 Model A Ford - the last year of production for the Model A, two Ford Fairlanes ('64 and '67), a 1951 Chevy truck and 1955 Chevy. Aside from a few minor add-ons, the cars are all original with very low mileage and hardly a blemish between them.
The vehicles have become the couple's newest hobby. James worked at Chain Belt Co. in Madison for more than 40 years and farmed on a family plot. He still works at a John Deere sales lot. Nancy is retired from the Shoe Factory and Madison Precision Products.
The Abbott family has a long history of restoring and showing vintage vehicles. Any Regatta Parade viewer likely remembers the family's vintage John Deere tractors. Abbott once had as many as eight tractors in the parade.
Three years ago, the family shifted its focus to cars after finding a 1955 Chevy in Florida that looked as if it had just rolled off the manufacturing floor. That got the ball rolling, and soon, the Abbotts had found other vehicles across the Midwest, sometimes traveling hundreds of miles to check them out.
Each car is hauled in a trailer to save on mileage and to reduce any possible wear. The couple also visits various locations before deciding on a vehicle.
On a mission to find a 1964 Fairlane, James once traveled to Austin, Texas, and then Minnesota. Neither the cars were as advertised and weren't exactly what he wanted.
"They just weren't as sharp as that one is," he said pointing to his Fairlane.
The 1964 Fairlane was the most deliberate purchase and takes up a special place in the couple's garage and their hearts because it is identical to the vehicle James had when he met his wife.
"When her and I started going together in 64, I had one identical to it," he said. "Same color, interior and everything. We were lucky to find it. It means a lot to us."
The Abbotts regularly attend cruise-ins and car shows to rub elbows with other car enthusiasts. The 1955 Chevy - which has become Nancy's pride and joy - has won best in show in three of the four times it's been entered into an event.
The flashy collection has been a big hit with family, neighbors, local residents and organizations, too - all of which have requested special appearances.
James said with so many resources invested in maintaining his current collection, he doubts he will add to it anytime soon.
Plus, Nancy tells him the garage is getting a little cluttered.
"She tells me, 'no more,'" he said smiling.
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