BY MELANIE BUCK –
The men of the Mena Lions Club recently toured a local business that few know exist and that anyone would be in awe of as soon as the doors open. Vintage Tin Restorations lives in a small hilltop shop that looks just like any other shop when approached. However, when one walks inside, it is immediately apparent that this is not your average mechanic shop. The walls are laced with antique cars that most people have never heard of and all of them are pre-1943.
Cole Tuttle, one of the two men employed at Vintage Tin Restorations, gave the full tour to the Lions Club and a sneak peak inside of his restoration-geared mind. Tuttle and Brandon White, both from ‘up north,’ work for Will Moon, a retired man who began restoring cars at the age of 14. Moon is now in his 70’s and is happy to have turned his hobby into a business. Both Tuttle and White have four-year degrees in Automotive Restoration and the expanse of mechanic and restoration knowledge between the trio is impressive, to say the least.
Lions Club members were amazed as they had the rare opportunity to look on a 1914 Overland that fired up as if it were brand new. A 1933 Continental Ace, one of only two in existence, sits in the corner waiting on it’s turn in the restoration line-up, one that will take an Amish Wheelwright down memory lane as the wooden spokes on its wheels must be replicated the old fashion way.
A 1932 Chrysler CM6 is in the works right now, waiting on it’s wooden top, while the guys work on the mechanics of the machine. “We really pride ourselves on the mechanical side of the business,” said Tuttle, explaining how they don’t want their cars to just look good, they want them to run good as well. “We want our customers to be able to just hop in and take a ride when they want, safely and comfortably.”
Members also got to see “the car that started it all,” a 1931 Essex Super Six that Moon earned when he was 14 years old, by clearing hay out of a barn. Moon actually fell through the hay loft and onto the roof of the car and convinced the owner to let him have it. It was tucked away into an Amish barn and the owner needed rid of it anyway. That story and that car eventually brought Moon and his hobby to Polk County.
So how did Moon and his cars find Mena? Upon retirement, his wife was searching areas to buy a home and her family had vacationed here when she was a child. The couple found their dream home in Wickes and opened up shop in Mena about a year ago. They started on DeQueen Street and have recently moved to a building tucked behind UPS on South Mena Street.
The quaint shop also holds a car that is rumored to have been driven by Amelia Earhart. Her father owned a car lot and this car is one of two she may have driven. The shop stays more than busy and has received cars from across the country that are waiting their turn to look and run like new again.
“It makes us really happy when we can just walk up to that Overland and just start it up. There’s a lot of hard work to make it run just like it did when new, but we get to play, doing what we love,” smiled Tuttle. “We don’t upgrade, we stay original. We call ourselves, ‘the original perfectionists.”
And indeed, perfection lines the walls. Following the tour, members of the Lions Club were offered a ride in a completely original (no restoration work has been done on it, all original parts), 1922 Moon Motor Car. The car, when manufactured came with curtains, instead of glass windows, and has a manual windshield wiper. Seating the driver plus four passengers, the old leather seats provided a comfortable ride around Mena. Tuttle said one advantage of restoring the cars is the privilege of driving them as well. And if you’re wondering, yes, Mr. Moon is a descendent of the Moon Car Company. For that story, you’ll have to wait for the upcoming Business of the Week feature of Vintage Tin Restoration in The Pulse.
Continuing a long-standing tradition of the Mena Lions Club, member David Maddox said, “We are an organization of businessmen and we like to promote local businesses. It’s a tradition for us and this business was a joy to tour.”