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Restoring a dream

August 29, 2018

ROCK SPRINGS, Wyo. (AP) — Pat Hruska Jr. may have found his biggest restoration project to date, a 1937 Cadillac Hearse with a flathead V8 engine.

Hruska, the owner of Pat’s Auto Service in Rock Springs, brought in the vehicle in early August after five hours of trying to pry it from the ground from where it was acquired. His 22-year-old son, Tyler Hruska, dedicated the next day to get it running.

The vehicle needs a lot of work that includes having its starter taken off and rebuilt and replacing a missing grill and hood ornament. The ornament was purchased off eBay for $800, Pat Jr. added.

Pat Jr. said he also plans to take out the tracks and wood inside the back and turn it into a delivery panel.

If a prospective buyer wants to put them back on, then he would do so, he said.

Pat Jr. said he hopes to have the restoration completed within a year or two.

If we can restore this, we can restore anything, he said.

His dreams, however, are bigger than just working on a Cadillac.

A CAR SHOW

Visiting Pat’s Auto Service is like attending a classic car show. Parked outside the front entrance are a beige 1950 Nash Ambassador Super, black 1951 Nash Statesman Custom and white 1965 Ford Custom with 40,000 miles on it. On the side of the shop are 1977 and 1979 Corvettes and a 1967 Pontiac GTO waiting to be worked on.

The shop, formerly Downtown Auto Body, stands next to Rizzi’s Automotive and Towing on Ninth Street.

Park and get out of the vehicle then open the door to Pat’s. Soak in the odors of greased STP and Marvel Mystery oil cans and find 1960s and ’70s California license plates on the right. Turn to the left and there is a shelf full of automotive books and magazines and a license plate that says “Mechanic on duty, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

Shuffle down a few feet, make a right, enter the first part of the shop and discover a 1979 Pontiac GTO that is covered up and has several months’ worth of work ahead of it before it is ready for the outside world.

Inside the next room is the 1937 Cadillac, and just next to it is a fathom blue 1967 Pontiac GTO 455 4-speed with power steering and power brakes that Tyler restored from the ground up.

The best part of seeing a finished product is “seeing your hard work and seeing it work,” Pat Jr. said.

Also in the room is a light blue 1978 Z-28 Corvette that Pat Jr. worked on. It won first place at the 2016 Rods & Rails Car Show.

The Hruskas have put their sweat and tears into the vehicles. Pat Jr. has four sons, but Tyler helps him with the business.

“I’m just fortunate that my son likes to do this,” Pat Jr. said. “We’re partners. It’s just too hard to find good help.”

FAMILY PASSION

Tyler said he has enjoyed playing with cars ever since he was a child.

“He slept with his Hot Wheels,” Pat Jr. said.

The business runs in the family, as Pat Jr. is a second-generation owner. His father, Pat Hruska Sr., owned a shop for decades in another part of Rock Springs, also called Pat’s Auto Services.

Pat Sr. began working on cars when he attended Rock Springs High School in the 1950s. He said he would do work for his classmates.

He started his shop in 1961 and worked on cars until 1997. Among the array of vehicles Pat Sr. restored are a 1969 Chevy Camero, a 1933 Rolls Royce and a 1963 Studebaker Avanti.

Pat Sr. said while he is retired he enjoys talking to his son and grandson about automobiles.

“I like to give advice and sometimes I learn something,” Pat Sr. said.

Pat Jr. said his father talks about “just anything that stumps us pretty much.”

“Between the three of us we get it figured out,” Pat Jr. added.

An average restoration project can take about six months depending on what the customer wants and if they have the money, he said.

When asked what was the most difficult restoration project he worked on, he said, “There are a lot of tough ones.”

“We just tackle them when they come,” Pat Jr. added. “Not many places in town do a full restoration. It takes some time and money.”

THE DREAM

Pat Jr. and his son also fix cars, domestics and foreign.

It can take about a day or two to repair, he said.

When asked what is the biggest difference between working on newer vehicles versus older ones, Pat Jr. said it is how the vehicles are diagnosed. Newer vehicles have computer diagnostic scanners that determine what is wrong with them.

However, Pat Jr.’s long-term dream is to one day only work on restoration projects. He said he would like to operate out of a big warehouse where he can restore the cars and then “flip them.”

“If I had my way I would take over the K-Mart building,” he said. “You’ve really got to be banking it to do that.”

He wants people to be able to see the work he and Tyler do so they can attract businesses from all over.

Ideally, Pat Jr. would like to hire four or five guys on a project, which would enable his shop to restore a car in less time.

“If they do a good job, I would take care of them,” Pat Jr. said. “You take care of your employees, they’ll take care of you. They’ll take pride in their work.”

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Information from: Rock Springs (Wyo.) Rocket-Miner, http://www.rocketminer.com

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