An oil change at Onamia Service Center is more than just dropping off a vehicle and letting the auto technicians drop in 5 quarts of oil. Stepping foot inside the service center is a visual experience one might expect at a night in a museum.
Todd Nystedt is the owner of the auto repair center that is complete with a body shop. It’s also what could be considered a nostalgic exhibition of the auto industry. He has been collecting rusty old antique signs and anything to do with cars from rear bumpers to hood ornaments, oil signs to dealership signs and everything in between.
“I’ve been collecting for about five years,” he said with a smirk.
Looking around the shop, it appears Nystedt found the mother load in less than a decade.
One of his prize pieces of memorabilia is his 1936 Chevy Coupe that he turned into his front reception desk.
It is the actual car. Not a replica. Not just the hood. It is the whole car.
“I’m the guy with the dreams,” Nystedt said. “My body guy did all the work.”
His body guy is none other than Scott Bruggman. He is more of an artist than a body guy. He is a highly skilled craftsman at the least. Working with steel and fiberglass, chrome and rubber, Bruggman can do it all. His latest project is refurbishing a 1958 Chevy Impala to look exactly like the car from the 1973 movie, “American Graffiti.”
For the trivia buffs, and those too young to have ever heard of the film, according to Wikipedia, that movie was nominated for an Academy Award. It was set in the 1960s about a group of teenagers, their cars and rock-and-roll music. Starring in the blockbuster were Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Harrison Ford, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips and Wolfman Jack. Suzanne Somers has a cameo. The movie itself was produced on a budget of $770,000.
Bruggman, Nystedt and his mechanical crew are restoring what will be valued at over $100,000 when finished, Nystedt said. “The motor alone is worth around $8,000,” he added. The engine is a Chevy Crate 400-plus-horse power, for those gear heads that want to know.
The dream car is owned by Dean Benson, who plans on driving it around for a few years before he even thinks about selling it, Nystedt said.
All around the shop from the reception area to the mechanics garage are indications Nystedt has an obsession with cars – and everything that has to do with cars.
There is a glass case in the front reception area filled with hood ornaments and gadgets from a vast variety of old cars. One of the coolest gizmos in the collection is a clock. It is from an Oldsmobile, “1951 or 53 or 54, somewhere around there,” Nystedt said. The original clocks like that were mounted on the steering wheel and had no batteries or any type of power source, Nystedt explained. “So when you turned the steering wheel, it wound the clock.”
There are metal painted signs from all over the Onamia area circa sometime in the past. The Phillips sign hung outside of the Onamia gas station during the 1950s. “I believe 1959 was the last year it was open,” Nystedt said.
The Goodyear sign was found under three feet of dirt by a couple of guys goofing around with a metal detector.
Nystedt has always liked cars, from farther back than he can remember. His dad owned two “Hancock” gas stations in Los Angeles beginning in the early 60s. While Nystedt was growing up, he loved to hang out with is dad at work. With all the cars.
“You can bet the hunt is on for one of those signs,” Nystedt said.
But the glow in Nystedt’s eye comes from the reflection of the coupe that sits in his reception area. It is still a work in progress. The front grill needs to be put on. But it has come a long way from what it looked like a few short years ago. Nystedt rescued the old rusty coupe from a field. It was owned by Butch Hastings in Stony Hill.
“I just like cars,” Nystedt said with a grin. “And collecting car stuff.”
Some may call it an obsession. But there is no doubt that Nystedt is passionate about anything to do with cars.
This article originally appeared on MileLacs Messenger.