Joy Riding In Lakewood

Larry White driving his new roadster. 

In the spring of 2013, Barb and Larry White attended a craft and garden fair at Quailcrest Farm in Wooster Ohio. While Barb had her eyes on various metalwork crafts, it was Larry who walked away, or drove away, with the greatest metalwork craft of all. While Barb’s treasure was a custom made weathervane for the yard, Larry’s was custom made for the garage!

Wooster, Ohio residents Ken and Gretchen Foran are metalwork craft artists who sell their metal creations at various Ohio fairs. Barb and Larry White became interested in the beautiful and unusual copper metal crafts and put in an order for a custom made work of art. The Forans invited them to come back to their home later in the year to pick up the weathervane. During that visit, Larry noticed the six-car garage on the property of the large country home. Larry soon discovered that this garage was home to a 1964 Jaguar XK, and a very unusual 1931 Alfa Romeo look-alike.

For Larry, it was love at first sight. The steel gray beauty with burgundy piping was the kind of big boy toy that any red-blooded American man would have a hard time walking away from without peeking under the hood. But, surprise! There is nothing under the hood but a handy storage space for the wicker picnic basket for a Sunday afternoon cruise. The motor and inner workings are at the rear of the vehicle. This charming little roadster is actually a kit car. Larry knew he just could not walk away without asking if Ken and Gretchen were interested in selling this treasure. Now, he is not only the proud owner of this open road head-turner, but he also knows the touching story that goes along with it.

In the 1960s, Ken and Gretchen Foran married and started their life together. Gretchen did not know how to drive a car and was fearful of learning. Her fear stemmed from having seen her sister and several other children get run over by a drunk driver in a school crossing zone. Ken knew that driving was an absolute necessity once the children came along. Gretchen agreed to learn to drive if Ken could find her a car where she could see all four wheels. Well Ken did better than find her the right car; he built her the right car. On a visit to Hale Farm and Village in Bath, Ohio, Ken met a dealer selling car kits who informed him of a gentleman selling a partially built kit car. Ken purchased the work in progress and set out to complete the project and make it road-ready.

Ken recalls that the chassis was chopped, the framework installed and the body was fitted, but there was no engine. The chassis and transmission were from a 1964 Volkswagen Beetle. After reworking the mechanicals, Ken decided that he did not want his wife to have a 6-volt electrical system and since Volkswagen had converted to 12 volts in 1965, Ken located and installed a 1967 Karmann Ghia motor. His crafty wife made the bushing adaptor for the starter, and Ken handcrafted the walnut dashboard. He purchased a pristine set of Ford Model A wheels at a swap meet and paired them with Volkswagen wheel adaptors, new wheels and tires. At last, this labor of love was ready for the open road, and Gretchen learned how to drive and gained her confidence in their newly revamped sporty coup. Ken and Gretchen’s two children also learned to drive the manual transmission. The Foran family enjoyed many years of tooling around in this motorized novelty, which was the hit of many church fundraisers and events. Countless children and families had the memorable pleasure of riding or driving in Ken’s prized possession.

Today, Larry White continues that tradition of sharing joy rides with friends and strangers alike. He graciously stops to talk with onlookers who wish to take a picture of this unusual auto, and Larry invites them to sit in the car while he takes the picture. I recently had the indescribable pleasure of not only riding in Larry’s car, but also driving it. And although you feel like you should be wearing aviator goggles and a racing hat, one thing you will be wearing for sure is a smile. “Everyone that goes for a ride can’t help but smile,” says Larry, who describes the journey as, “Therapy Driving.” For sure you will break out into a smile just hearing the horn that harkens back to the days of the Waltons as Larry clips along at 30 mph down Clifton or Lake. This new little addition has brought lots of joy and pleasure to the White house, the Larry and Barb White house, that is!

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Volume 10, Issue 18, Posted 4:26 PM, 09.02.2014