Bill Easton restores & shows antique cars
Antique car buff John William "Bill" Easton has always had a thing for old cars. In 1960, he'd had his eye on a 1933 Franklin Olympic that he had seen down in Washington, D.C. that year. Some soldiers had left it at a garage there and never came back for it. Easton knew the garage owners.
His wife Mary Easton bought the car for him as a Christmas present. It was his first antique vehicle. The car had been painted with roof tar and it took some work for him to restore it. The car was purchased for $250, said Easton.
Since Easton retired in 1960, he's tried to restore a new antique car every year. He has ridden in many area parades, often joined by his wife, and has also participated in regional antique car club shows and competitions.
Easton recently put together a display of his award plaques that his antique cars have won from 1961 to the present. Many are first place honors. Easton, who is 80 years old and who is from Berkeley Springs, has about 30 more awards to put on another display panel. The older plaques are brass.
Mountain State Cruiser
Easton is one of the original members of the Mountain State Cruisers and was their treasurer when they started 15 to 16 years ago. He has also been a member of the Mason-Dixon Car Club in Hagerstown and a charter member of the Antique Automobile Club of America. (AACA)
His antique car show awards display has numerous colorful plaques from places such as the AACA Annual Antique Car Show, the Annual Apple Blossom Meet, the Berkeley Springs Dairy Queen's Saturday Night Cruise-ins, the Hancock Father's Day Show, the Fulton County Fair, the Shenandoah Caverns, Virginia Charter Tour, the Mason-Dixon Region AACA Meet in Hagerstown and the Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival.
Easton, also known as John, Willie or Willie-Bill, worked for Kirk-Ford in Hancock for 13 years. He also was employed with Compton's Trucking for nine years. Easton now works part-time at Helsley-Johnson Funeral Home.
Easton has been a member of the Junior Order of the Moose Lodge #117 in Berkeley Springs for about 37 years and was 1995-1996 state counselor for the lodge. The local Moose lodge is the largest in West Virginia with 200 some members, said Easton.
Easton bought his prized 1957 Ford Thunderbird from Kirk-Ford about five or six years ago when they went out of business. The car dealership had owned the antique car for 36 years and ran it in parades, said Easton. He's the third owner of the Thunderbird. A lady had brought the Thunderbird to Kirk-Ford to trade it in, he said.
Restored over 30 antique cars
Of the more than 30 antique cars that Easton has bought and restored, he's had three Mustangs and one convertible. Easton did a 1935 Chevrolet for a Virginia man and also restored a 1940 Chevrolet four-door for a former mayor of Hancock.
A 1951 Chrysler Saratoga had 1742 miles on it when Easton got it and 2271 miles on it when it was sold, he said. He had to put all the brakes and some of the chrome on it during the car restoration. It was considered priceless in 1951 because it had a Hemmings V8 motor in it, said Easton.
His favorite car was a 1965 Mustang that was black with a white top. It had a high-performance motor.
"It was a nice car," he said.
Easton has sold antique cars that he has restored all over the world. A 1958 Cadillac that he renovated went to Holland. A 1962 Ford Fairlane four-door sedan and a 1960 Cadillac that Easton worked on went to Sweden.
When restoring antique cars, you may get by without having to redo the whole vehicle, said Easton. A lot of times you're replacing valves, seals, the fuel pump, the water pump, hoses, the exhaust and more. On some cars, Easton is lucky to break even. It's a labor of love and one that's mostly a moneymaker now.
Easton likes riding in area parades and was entered in the recent Paw Paw Memorial Day weekend parade. He's done the Winchester, Hancock and Paw Paw parades every year as well as the Apple Butter Parade, the Hagerstown Halloween parade and others.
Easton told of having an old Franklin in the Martinsburg parade once.
"It quit on the way home," he said.
His grandson Gary William "G.J." Easton Jr. also has an interest in antique cars. His grandson drove one of his cars in the Apple Butter Parade during a visit from Senator Jay Rockefeller. Easton's granddaughter Kim Olson used to sometimes ride with him in parades when she was a child.
Also restores antique tractors
Besides restoring antique cars, Easton has done a couple of antique tractors. He had an antique Ford tractor for nearly 10 years that he used to mow the fields in back of his home. His wife got him an antique Ferguson tractor. He said he had to run all over the country with a friend to find parts for it.
Easton has had good times with his antique car pastime. He and a couple of friends went to Hershey, Pennsylvania every year for 25 years to sell antique car parts. They had a camping trailer and stayed from Tuesday to Saturday, he said.
Easton has enjoyed riding his antique cars in parades and being in car show events. The Mountain State Cruisers hold their car shows in downtown Berkeley Springs from May until September or so, said Easton. They hold 50/50 raffles every Friday night to benefit a local cause such as a kid's cancer trip or someone who is ill, he said.
"You meet a lot of nice people at these places," he said of the antique car shows.