“I COULDN’T even say which is my favourite,” says Sheffield classic car aficionado Steve Wright of his collection. “They’re like my children - I love them all.”
Steve, aged 57, from Millhouses, lives for his cars. All late 1950s and early ’60s American models, they are kept in a garage in Rotherham, to which Steve escapes every weekend.
For Steve the lure of these streamlined machines goes beyond mechanics.
“Every car has its own smell and sound,” he says. “You learn to recognise it in each and, the minute it changes, you know something’s not right.”
A stocktake of Steve’s collection reads like the lyrics of a Beach Boys song.
He has a 1958 Ford Edsel, a 1959 Ford Thunderbird, a 1959 Dodge, a 1959 Plymouth Fury, a 1959 Chevrolet Impala, a Buick Electra 225, and a 1963 Buick Riviera.
“The Buick Riviera is a very special car,” says Steve. “It was the first to have angular shaping, not fins, which set it apart from everything. It was intended to be like a Ferrari and a Rolls Royce and to go round bends really well - not many American cars are known for that.”
The car was not only a design classic, it’s high-performance too.
“Even now, compared to modern cars, it handles really well. It’s very quick too,” says Steve.
The Riviera was built to go from nought to sixty in 8.1 seconds, and it was a luxury car, a fact reflected in the price. Even in 1963, it cost around $5,000.
Steve’s is an upmarket version. On the dashboard, between the powder-blue velour and leather seats, is an engraved plate that reads ‘Expressly built for George W Cue’.
“They put those plates in for the car’s first owner - wonderful isn’t it?” says Steve. “I love thinking about all the different people who have been in these cars.”
It was that same sentimentality that made him decide against selling his 1959 Dodge Coronet.
“I had arranged to sell it to a mechanic for £10,000 - then I took my young son, Marcus, out in it and he was getting sleepy, so I said, ‘Lie down and go to sleep if you want’. And I wondered how many dads have said that to their sons in this car.”
It’s proved very special in other ways too.
“I had to have it reupholstered in Rotherham, and I got a call from the upholsterer who said, ‘Did you know there is a book in the car? We’ve found a copy of Time magazine from 1959, and a book on how to teach yourself rock drums!’”
The books had got trapped in the car’s interior, untouched for years.
“It’s amazing,” says Steve - who gets excited about all his cars.
“The Buick Electra 225 for example got its name because it’s exactly 225 inches long,” he says. “The interior is full of gems. On the passenger seat mirror in italic font are the words, ‘Buick is a beauty too’.”
And on the radio there are small triangles dotted across the frequency band.
“Those were in all cars of the era, in case of nuclear attack,” he says. “If there was a nuclear attack you had to tune into those points for government broadcasts!”