Custom Cruise Friday
When talking about classic car owners, there are really only two main camps. There are the collectors that are looking to chop roof lines, shave bumpers and jam turbocharged engines into their cars. Certainly those cars are great; the imagination knows no limits. But for an equal number of owners on the other side of the fence, simply restoring a classic ragtop to factory condition with the aim of going on a long and relaxing cruise checks all of the boxes they need. The latter of these camps is exactly where this week’s Custom Cruise Friday vehicle, a 1961 Pontiac Parisienne, and its owner, Larry Dombrosky, falls.
“These old tanks, you just drive them,” Dombrosky said. “Just change the oil and tune it up every year. Or two.”
Saving the Princess
Dombrosky is the car’s second owner since it was purchased new at, now defunct, Jenner Motors. It was previously owned by a successful ranching family who lived outside of Edmonton in Namao, Alberta. The family mostly used the car to drive friends and family around their estate showing off some of the property’s naturally occurring features. It was also used early in its life as a livery car in local parades showing off politicians and dignitaries. Over the years, the car picked up the nickname, Princess.
As can be the case when a collector comes across a car they want to add to their stable, Dombrosky wasn’t car shopping when he first came across the 1961 Parisienne. He was visiting the estate to potentially purchase some farm equipment. After seeing the car, Dombrosky seemingly forgot about his original intentions. His first inquiry about purchasing the car was denied graciously, but also firmly.
“When I first asked about the car, Jack (last name withheld) said, ‘That’s mom’s car. You don’t have enough money, my friend,'” Dombrosky recalled.
Dombrosky took the statement as it was intended, not as a slight against his bank account, as a clear message the car wasn’t for sale at that time. By keeping in touch with the family and using other contacts, Dombrosky was eventually offered a chance – one single chance – to buy the car.
“I got a call (from Jack’s widow Leona) at 2 p.m.,” Dombrosky said. “I was told to have cash in hand at the house by 6 p.m.”
Waking up a sleeping beauty
Classic cars are known to have a personality all their own. When Dombrosky was getting ready to take Princess back to his castle, she didn’t seem very excited to leave the only home she’d known. According to Dombrosky, it didn’t take much to get the car started initially. He and a friend simply needed attach the battery cables and reluctantly put a shot of ether into the two-barrel carburetor on the 283 cubic-inch, V-8 engine.
“I didn’t like the idea (giving the shot of ether),” Dombrosky said. “We fired it up and drove it out of the shed. While letting it warm up, it ran out of gas.”
Getting more gasoline wasn’t much of a problem. The fact that the 1961 Pontiac Parisienne hadn’t been driven in while and didn’t have working brakes, was something to consider. Certainly Leona had a lot of appreciation for Princess and raised some concern with Dombrosky about the lack of stopping ability.
“Leona excitedly said, ‘You can’t drive that car,'” Dombrosky said. “I told her, ‘We’ll take care of it.'”
Getting ready for the ball
After getting the car back and doing some basic maintenance including changing the master cylinder, changing the oil and repairing the brakes, he wanted to surprise some friends by entering it into the Rockin’ August Show and Shine in St. Albert. By Dombrosky’s account, his collector friends were impressed and Princess seemed happy being in the parade. This time around instead of politicians, Dombrosky’s granddaughters rode in the back.
While the ranching family owned the car, they put very few miles on it. Right now Princess’ odometer reads a little more than 26,000 miles. Dombrosky will not be as shy about letting Princess stretch her legs. Now mechanically sound, there are a few cosmetic needs which require attention. Both doors are missing a piece of chrome trim, the doors also need rubber seals and after more than 50 years, the convertible top needs to be replaced. A new taillight also needs to replaced on the passenger side of the car and the front bumper needs a little straightening. However, the interior will remain untouched as it’s already in nearly perfect condition. However, the 1961 Parisienne was in such good shape already that Dombrosky’s only son Kyle used it as his wedding car — at the urging of his bride.
“I didn’t buy it just to drive to A&W and sit there for four hours,” Dombrosky said. “I bought it so the wife and I can cruse.”
Plans to fully restore the body in the next year are in the works. Once completed any potential buyers looking to take the car off of Dombrosky’s hands aren’t going to have enough money.
Do you have a special, custom or otherwise interesting General Motors vehicle in your garage? We’d love to take a look at it and tell your story. Email photos and pertinent information to Don Wheaton Brand Manager, Melina Kawecki — firstname.lastname@example.org.