- Published on Tuesday, 02 July 1996 20:22
- Written by Clyde Noel - Town Crier Staff Writer
Los Altos Hills resident George Ellis, pictured here with a 1940 Buick convertible, left, and a 1946 Buick sedan, has restored more than 200 cars as a hobby.
Photo by Monique Schoenfeld, Town CrierWhen George Ellis was flying for the Navy during World War II, he spent many hours wondering what he would do when the war was over. When he and a fellow Navy flier found out flying was too expensive, they decided to buy old cars and restore them.
"By now, I have restored more than 200 old cars as a hobby, and when I finished them I make a trade off for other cars," Ellis said. " I remember trading off a restored Dusenberg for eight cars."
Ellis has been restoring cars since the late 1940s, and recently retired to play golf. He still restores cars for friends and selected automobiles to keep occupied.
"Six cars I restored were in last month's Palo Alto Concours d' Elegance," Ellis said. "I used to be a judge at the Concourse, but if I won an award and was showing at the same time, it looked too political, so I just restored cars."
Ellis has always been a stickler about authenticity. When restoring cars, Ellis believes they should have authentic parts, not plastic parts like some cars have.
"Up until 1941, white wall tires were white on both sides of the tire. After 1946 they only put white on one side," Ellis said. "When I showed a car at a recent concourse, the judges docked me for having white on both sides. The judges didn't know what authentic means. They were more interested in exotic, vintage and high performance cars. I did a lot of judging in my time, but not anymore. You hurt too many people's feelings."
According to Ellis, two purists come to mind. Anyone who belongs to a Model A club knows what authenticity means. When people show a Model A, he said, everything on the car will be authentic and the judges know what is original.
The other instance was the Bill Harrah collection of cars in Reno. Harrah was a purist, Ellis Said, and all the cars in his collection were as pure as they could possibly be. After Harrah died, his collection was sold to different collectors through out the world at a premium.
Ellis's favorite car is the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham. Cadillac introduced it in 1957 for $17,500. The 4-door sedan automobile had a stainless steel top and weighed 6,800 pounds. Ellis said the car had all the automatics, dual quads and the first of dual head lights. Cadillac only made 501 cars in this class.
Another car Ellis enjoyed was the Continental Mark II before it became the Lincoln Continental. "I bought a new Continental Mark II and drove it 380,000 miles," Ellis said. "There is only a little bit of a difference between a good car and a great car, and the Mark II was a great car. It had "sure track" and "no skid" in the 1960s. Today we know that as "anti-lock brakes."
The hardest car for Ellis to restore was the 1935 Cord. It was super charged with an electric shift. It was the first car with hidden lights and the first with a front wheel drive.
Ellis said no car is safe anymore because of the reduced weight to save fuel.
"Somewhere along the line there has to be substance to a car," Ellis said.
"Every car is unsafe because of its lightness and a truck can wipe you right out," he said. "We should be figuring out how to make a car safe and buy more American cars because they are safer.
"Ford and Chevrolet are the greatest cars in the world, so why buy a foreign car?
What do you need with a Rolls Royce that uses all that American ingenuity?
We build so many cars there's bound to be a few with some faults. America still doesn't know how to build a small car, but most of the foreign cars are using American ideas and American patents and paying royalties to American car companies."
Today Ellis works out of his garage in Los Altos Hills. His company is called Ellis Enterprises and if the car is interesting, he may restore it-as long as it doesn't interfere with his golfing.
Ellis Enterprises is located at 13330 Burke Road in Los Altos Hills.
For more information, call 948-3859.