Bob Kranz of New Munich has been restoring old cars since his very first car, a 1972 Impala convertible that his dad bought for him in 1988. Since Kranz didn’t even have his driver’s license yet, his dad drove it around for a year before Kranz himself got behind the wheel.
“I actually saved him a lot of money,” said Kranz. “When I was 7, he had promised to buy me a new car of my choice if I never drank, smoked, chewed or did drugs. He got me this car for $500. I’ve always owned a classic car since then.”
The Impala only needed a new top, but otherwise was in good running condition. That hasn’t always been the case with the cars Kranz buys. After the Impala, he bought a 1928 Buick and a 1937 Pontiac four-door sedan. Before he had a chance to restore them, they were both spotted by people just driving by.
“They were people who wanted them more than I did,” Kranz remembers.
Next, he bought a 1991 Geo Metro convertible.
“Any car more than 20 years old is considered a classic,” he said.
He had a 1970 Ford F250 pickup for a while. It wasn’t long before he found his current 1959 Dodge Coronet four-door sedan with a V8 engine.
“I saw this at a Pantowners car show in St. Cloud in 2008, and bought it for $1,600. I even drove it home to Albany,” said Kranz.
Three out of the four tires were separated and it had manual steering and manual brakes, so the ride home wasn’t quite a breeze.
The first thing that was repaired was the transmission. The Coronet was originally all white but Kranz though it looked like a Beluga whale, so it was painted brown and white.
The exterior is all original except for the new colors and the dual exhaust, which was an option for the Coronet, originally. The chrome was replated, though and the stainless has been buffed.
“I love the chrome. That’s why I went for the ‘50s model,” said Kranz. “It was a childhood dream to have one like this. I fell in love with the front end.”
The interior needed a bit more work. The seats were reupholstered with fabric from a 1996 Nissan. The print is so close to the Coronet original that only one eagle-eyed car show attendee has ever spotted the difference.
The headliner (ceiling covering) and the carpet were replaced. The floors have been replaced. It is, after all, a Minnesota car.
The Coronet has some very unique features. The transmission is operated by push buttons on the dashboard, to the left of the steering wheel, called Power Flight transmission. There are no foot pedals. There is no gear for park, so the parking brake works for that.
The front ashtray is near the top of the dashboard, and swivels to come out of and go back into its recess. Door locks are operated by a tiny lever near the front of the doors. There is one ashtray in the back, mounted in the back of the front bench seat. The rear view mirror is mounted on the dashboard.
“It’s nice to see out the windshield with nothing blocking the view,” Kranz said.
The back end features jet-age styling which was just becoming popular in 1959. The tail light buckets look like rockets.
“The cars were meant to look fast while standing still,” he said.
There are fins along the top rear fender. The trunk fits four comfortably. The front turn signal trim pieces feature a cog (gear) design.
Kranz has collected memorabilia for his Coronet over the 12 years he’s owned her. He has the original owner’s service certificate, which was never used. The paperwork shows that the car was sold brand new in St. Paul.
“According to the owner’s manual, this car can actually be push-started, although I’ve never had to do it,” Kranz said.
The owner’s manual is in pristine condition, looking like it’s never even been opened. He also has an original sales brochure for the 1959 Coronet models as well as advertisements.
Kranz has received a few car show awards, including two trophies and a plaque.
There is one recent glitch which needs to be fixed before Kranz can take the Coronet on the road again. A wiring fire under the hood was caused by a voltage regulator which malfunctioned.
“I’m not a wiring genius, so I need to have someone look at it,” he said.
There are still a few small things to be replaced or refurbished, such as the sun visors, but the project is very close to completion. In the meantime, the Coronet will go into hibernation for the winter, waiting until the spring and another classic car season.
Kranz has a fair amount of auto-related memorabilia to keep occupied during the winter. He has hundreds of 1/64-scale die-cast cars in his basement. He has other unique things such as all the Pixar cars from the movie “Cars”.
“Smokey and the Bandit” was the first movie he saw at the drive-in as a youngster. To remember that, he commissioned the movie’s black semi with a stagecoach scene on the side from a custom model builder he located on Facebook.
But the Coronet is still his main project for now.
“This is the classic car I’ve had the longest. Once this is done, I’ll keep it. Then I’ll look for another one to work on; I’m always looking,” Kranz said.