COLORADO SPRINGS (AP) - If a car can be family, this 1966 Pontiac is like a suave favorite uncle with nary a wrinkle to indicate his years.
But it is a bittersweet truth in the Shaver family that this car underwent an extensive face lift after an accident March 30 that killed the real glue of the family, 82-year-old Herbert "Buck" Shaver.
Shaver was in his driveway working on his son's car when a fire ignited, setting him and the garage storing the Pontiac on fire. He died a month later.
Shaver's friends and family knew the best way to pay tribute would be to restore the car he purchased 43 years ago and had kept in mint condition ever since.
"We couldn't fix my dad, so the next thing to do was to fix the car," his son Bob Shaver said.
A handful of members of the Veteran Motor Car Club of America's Pikes Peak chapter, Shaver's second family, were chosen for their talents and love of "Buck" to bring the Pontiac back to life.
Its paint was cracked and peeling from the heat of the fire. The windows and door panels were off. The new-car scent that somehow had remained for more than four decades was replaced with the heavy smell of smoke.
"It was pretty bare bones," Bob Shaver said.
For six weeks, Bob Shaver, Lyle Pierson, Mike Davis, Bob Tittel, Herman Harder, Dan Daily and Harold Naber worked to have the car ready to show at the recent VMCCA Western National Tour, which brought a flood of classic cars to the region.
"Knowing him all these years, he would do anything for anybody in the car hobby," Pierson said. "He did so many cars for me and engines, that I could never repay him. So I was happy to return the favor in a small way."
Had the group not pitched in, Bob Shaver estimated it would have cost as much as $8,000 for the restoration.
Buck Shaver was a lifelong mechanic who learned the trade while serving in the Philippines during World War II.
After his return to his native Colorado, he and his partner, Grier Manning, opened Shaver & Manning 66, a Phillips 66 garage on South Nevada Avenue. Shaver then worked at Perkins Motors from the mid-1960s until his retirement.
"He was probably the best mechanic in the club," Davis said.
The day of the fire, it is believed Shaver was installing a fuel pump when it hit a drop light. Gas squirted on Shaver and there was a spark, igniting a fire, Bob Shaver said.
His wife, Margaret Shaver, pulled off his shirt and called 911 while Shaver moved a truck from the driveway so a fire truck could get to the blaze.
He instructed the firefighters to get the fire out in the garage before the cans of paint exploded and sat himself on the gurney when paramedics arrived.
He remained in a medically induced coma, through his 64th wedding anniversary a week later, until he died of an infection.
Shaver's sons and grandchildren plan to continue displaying the car in Shaver's honor.
"That's part of the family. What do you want them to do with it?" Tittel asked.