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'Blast From the Past' set to rock Mills

Ron and Carol Windels of New York Mills stand with their restored 1968 Firebird convertible, one of about 10 cars they will bring to town this Saturday for the Classic Car Show on Main as part of the 125th "Blast From the Past" community celebration.

Ron and Carol Windels love to cruise back to the '60s with the top down.

Married since 1968, the New York Mills couple has always had a thing for classic cars, and the last 20 years have built up quite a collection - part of which they will have on display this Saturday during the Classic Car Show on Main.

Ron's first car growing up was a 1962 Chevy Impala Super Sport convertible. The car came and went, as did Ron, but he never forgot that car.

"You always have a nostalgia thing for the first car you ever had," Ron says.

In 1994, Ron found a '62 Impala convertible similar to his first set of wheels at an auction sale in Perley, Minn. So he bought it and had it restored. Carol recalls more of a romantic version of the story. She says they saw the car listed on an auction bill and decided to go check it out. As Ron and Carol came over a hill they saw all the cars lined up. And that's when Ron simply said, "There it is," referring to the '62 Impala. Carol actually wrote a story about that day and she won an award for the story, which appeared in the Wadena Pioneer Journal. She doesn't recall what she won, probably a car wash she thinks.

Ron bought his first classic convertible in 1988, followed by the '62 Impala in 1994, and thought at the time he would just get a couple as a hobby. The hobby has grown a little.

Since then he has developed a collection of 15 classics - most of them Chevys from the 1960's, most of them convertibles - in various stages of restoration. None of them are considered top show cars but that doesn't matter to Ron and Carol. He enjoys collecting cars from an era of which he has a strong emotional bond.

The Car Show on Main is Saturday, July 4, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Classic car owners are encouraged to display their cars at the show. No fees, no prizes, no classes... just admiration. Contact Ron Windels at 385-3955 to enter.

On display Saturday will be a 1968 Firebird convertible - one of their favorite cars in the collection, and one they like to cruise in with the top down.

"That's mine," says Carol, as Ron proudly smirks and shrugs his shoulders.

Ron bought the 1968 Firebird for Carol as a Christmas present about four years ago from a guy north of Frazee. And what makes the '68 so special is that's the year Ron and Carol got married.

"Back in 1968, Carol considered buying a Firebird, but she got me," Ron jokes. "I bought it as kind of a peace offering."

Other than the Firebird, and a 1950 GMC pickup currently being restored, all the cars in their shop northeast of Mills are Chevy Impalas from the years 1962-68. Some are Super Sports and some are regular Impalas, but all are convertibles. Once Ron retired and they moved into a new house about a year and a half ago Ron finds himself putting more into his classic car hobby. There's more time and more storage. And now they live on a tar road, which makes cruising in a covertible much more enjoyable.

Ron and Carol took the Firebird out the other day for a nice summer cruise. Carols says it's always nice to take another couple along when cruising. Head scarves are a necessity because it's always windy in the back seat and that's where the wives sit - farmer style.

The '50 GMC is one Carol really looks forward to driving when it's restored. It's a regular farm truck with a few milk can dings they bought from Harold Bernu. The truck's name is Wilma - after Harold's wife's name. "The '40s and '50s pickups have a lot of class," Carol says.

She also has a 1968 Volkswagon convertible because she had a '63 Volkswagon when her and Ron met.

Ron stepped out of the '60s long enough to buy a 1991 red Chevy Corvette convertible.

"Every man or boy at some time in his life probably thought I don't really need a Corvette, but it really would be fun to drive one."

Ron says people collect cars for various reasons and his is all about looking back at the cars he grew up with.

"That's the reason I have the cars I do," he says. "A lot of them are part of our past; and desiring a car because you couldn't afford one at that time."

Saturday's event on Main in downtown New York Mills isn't about who has the best show car. There are no classes and no prizes. The show is just a place for people who appreciate the classic cars.

"This is not a competition," Ron says. "Anybody with an old car parked in the shed for 40 years, and can get it started can bring it to town."

The Windels are not about restoring cars to top show quality and not being able to do much with them other than look.

"Ours are meant to be driven and enjoyed," Carol says. "The show is a chance to visit with people with the same interests."