June 25, 2008 · Updated 12:11 PM
"An antique named Ramblin' Rose An antique car is most loved by those who knew it when it was not quite an antique. At least that's my conclusion after talking with Winnie Wheeler about her 1962 Rambler Classic. Winnie was excited about having driven her Rambler to and from Ocean Shores last weekend for a rally of AMC cars from the years 1958 to 1969. Bragging a bit about her Rambler, Winnie said, It has its original motor and tranny and is rarin' to go any time. She explained that this model was designed as a practical, everyday family car that its owners could be proud of. She smiled, The car is not sporty or fancy, but it has beautiful classic lines. Wheeler bought her Rambler in 1982 when she lived in San Luis Obispo. She saw it parked on the street near where she lived and fell in love immediately. I walked up to the house where it was parked and asked to talk with the owner, Winnie said. The owner turned out to be a lovely young woman who had just graduated from Cal Poly. The car had been given to her when she was in high school by her great-grandmother after the elderly woman had to stop driving. And yes, she wanted to move on to something sportier and would like to sell. Winnie finished the story: She asked for $1,500, I offered her $1,000 and she took it. Those two women took very good care of the car, and I have tried to take good care of it too. It's a three-woman-owned car. I bet there aren't many of them around. Winnie said she drove to Ocean Shores using the Peninsula route because she tries to avoid the freeways. I'm sure those freeways have testosterone laden cement, she said. Male freeway drivers are compelled to pass me, no matter how fast I'm going. They can't stand being behind an antique car driven by an elderly white-haired lady. They scare me sometimes, so I take the secondary roads. Winnie loves to talk about her Rambler. I've driven the car lots of places; I'm known as the Rambler Lady in the Ramblin' Rose, she said. I like going to car meets, they're something like a swap meet, she continued. Most of the car owners belong to the Cascade Rambler Club locally and the AMC Club nationally. We're all on the lookout for parts and accessories to take to meets so we can trade with someone who might have something we want. Wheeler has a fantasy about driving her Rambler back East to some of the really big antique shows. More realistically, she's looking forward to going to Gresham, Ore., next month for a meet and taking part later in the Run to Roslyn. That's really fun, she said. The cars get in a long cavalcade up the mountain, and then we have a parade, socialize, trade, eat and drive back. Very little restoration has had to be done to Ramblin' Rose. The back seat has been reupholstered and panels on the rear side doors rebuilt, but that's it. Wheeler observed that next year she'd have to have the car repainted for the first time, plus put in new carpeting and replace some of the chrome. I like doing as much of the work myself as I can, she said. I'm making some new door handles and ash trays. I get after any rust that shows up, I keep it waxed, and I make sure the dog never gets in this car. Winnie is one of the many active retirees on South Whidbey. I discovered that besides being the pleased owner of an antique Rambler, she collects old glass, works with stained glass, enjoys quilting and rug making, collects, cuts and polishes rocks, plus works part time at Jim's Hardware in Clinton. She lives on the high bank section of Clinton, in a house with a lovely view that was moved to that spot 30-some years ago by the previous owner when the I-5 extension offered free houses if moved to a new location. When she stands beside her Rambler and puts her palm down on the hood, she's definitely sending a message: This car belongs to me and I love it. "