2017-06-15 / News

Car Customizer Jack Walker Will Be St. Ignace Show Guest of Honor June 24

By Erich T. Doerr


Missouri car customizer Jack Walker has been selected as the St. Ignace Car Show’s Guest of Honor. Mr. Walker has customized a number of cars over the years, often from the 1950s, while also helping promote the St. Ignace Car Show, bringing in his vehicles as featured entrants and contacting others about bringing their cars to the show. He’ll be attending the show this year with this black 1959 Chevrolet Impala. (Photograph provided by Jack Walker) Missouri car customizer Jack Walker has been selected as the St. Ignace Car Show’s Guest of Honor. Mr. Walker has customized a number of cars over the years, often from the 1950s, while also helping promote the St. Ignace Car Show, bringing in his vehicles as featured entrants and contacting others about bringing their cars to the show. He’ll be attending the show this year with this black 1959 Chevrolet Impala. (Photograph provided by Jack Walker) Famed car customizer Jack Walker has attended the St. Ignace Car Show 15 times throughout his career, but his appearance at the 2017 show will mark the first time he has been honored as the event’s Guest of Honor. His long history in St. Ignace also includes working with his friend Ed Reavie, the former show organizer, to promote the show across the country. This year will mark his return to the show after a several-year absence.

“I’ve always wanted to come back,” Mr. Walker said. “This was one of my favorite shows for years.”

“He’s a really good guy with a strong following,” Mr. Reavie added. “I think he’ll have a good weekend…He’s had some good stuff here.”

Mr. Walker, 78, lives in Belton, Missouri. His love affair with the horseless carriage began like so many others, with building model cars as a child. When he reached driving age, he moved into drag racing, but it proved too expensive to pursue. He decided to customize cars, and his interest in vehicles has never waned. Today, Mr. Walker still displays his cars at shows all over the country, including an upcoming show in Indianapolis earlier this month.

Mr. Walker’s first custom car was a split window 1963 Chevrolet Corvette named the Condor that featured gullwing doors and a custom front. He first acquired the custom in a wrecked condition around 1970, when he traded his drag racing car for it. He rebuilt the car and began showing it through International Car Show Association events. He continued to campaign the Condor for several years, always working to improve it.

Throughout the following years, he built a handful of customized cars while buying others that he then customized even further with new modifications or paint schemes. Most of the cars Mr. Walker customized were from the 1950s, with Chevrolet and Mercury models as his favorites. One of the only 1940s cars he ever did was a 1940 Mercury convertible. He worked for Detroit’s Championship Auto Shows taking custom cars to events all over the country. He usually would bring one of his custom cars to each show, along with about three built by other people.

Cars “had more style back in the 1950s than there is in today’s cars, in my opinion,” Mr. Walker said.

Mr. Walker’s favorite car that he ever built was a clone of the legendary Hirohata Merc. He started with a 1951 Mercury, just like the original car, and changed every panel on the car to make it an almost exact duplicate of the original.

“I wouldn’t be where I am if wasn’t for that car,” Mr. Walker said.

The chop top Hirohata Merc is one of the best known custom cars of the 1950s. The late George Barris, the Californian customizer who later created the original 1966 Batmobile and was the 1985 St. Ignace Car Show Guest of Honor, built the original car for the titular Bob Hirohata, a Navy veteran. The real car shot to nationwide fame after it was featured in the 1955 car theft movie “Running Wild.”

Mr. Walker’s experience with the St. Ignace Car Show began after Mr. Reavie spotted his Hirohata Merc in a magazine and called him about bringing it to the show. Mr. Walker agreed to do so, as he was still just becoming well known and was taking advantage of as many chances as he could to promote himself. Mr. Walker admits when he accepted the offer to come to St. Ignace, he didn’t actually know where it was and his initial thoughts were that it was likely near Detroit. When he found out it was in the Upper Peninsula, he still gladly made the more than 900- mile trip to be in the show.

Mr. Walker became a staple of the St. Ignace show as he attended 13 of them in a row during the 1980s and 1990s, often providing featured cars for the event. He returned to attend two more shows later on. One trip here saw Mr. Walker offer Mr. Reavie a rare chance to drive his Hirohata Merc. Mr. Reavie recalls taking the car gingerly through downtown as he didn’t want to hurt it, with people stopping to watch as the unique vehicle drove past.

“It was fun,” Mr. Reavie said.

Mr. Reavie said that custom cars are his favorite part of the car world because there are no boundaries to what can be done. He credits Mr. Walker’s work with helping bring custom cars back into fashion during the 1980s. Mr. Walker also helped the show itself by working with Mr. Reavie to get in touch with the owners of custom cars from across the country, and encouraging his friends to attend the event, securing the presence of a lot of top vehicles for display here.

“He was a great connection to the custom car world,” Mr. Reavie said.

Today, Mr. Walker has sold off all of his custom cars, with the Hirohata Merc as the last to go. He owned the car for 35 years before selling it less than a year ago. The car was sold to a group that will be taking it on a tour of Europe.

While his custom car collection has been broken up, Mr. Walker is still bringing a classic car to display in St. Ignace: his mildly customized 1959 Chevrolet Impala. The car is black with a red interior. Mr. Walker has owned his Impala for about five years, fixing it up during that time.

Mr. Walker is still working on classic cars today. His current project car is a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air two-door hard top. He is working to make the car into a more streetusable vehicle by modernizing it with a General Motors LS3 V8 engine.

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