Riepenhoff’s father, Leo, bought the 1938 Buick Special from a local dealership when it was new. He used it to deliver farm products and get in supplies and sundry on other trips but always kept it in the garage when it wasn’t being used.
“My dad drove it to Portsmouth and took eggs in the back seat to deliver to customers down on Grimes Avenue in Portsmouth, where the new Portsmouth High School sits,” Roger said. “He stopped at a station in Wheelersburg and put a dollar’s worth of gas in. That was five gallons, and it would last him until the following week.”
Today, the car has 109,000 miles on the odometer and everything on it is original except the tires and the shiny black paint.
“It was getting dull and in the early 1980s I had Bennett’s Body Shop repaint it,” Riepenhoff said. “But there’s not one speck of rust or one drop of body putty on it anywhere. The spare tire in the trunk, I’m pretty sure, is the original Montgomery Ward tire that came with it.”
On Wednesday, he backed it out of the garage at his home off Ohio 522, 2 miles north of Wheelersburg and just a stone’s throw from where the family farm was. The big Buick Dynaflash 8 kicked to life with just a touch and there was not one vibration evident in the purr of the big engine.
“It absolutely runs like a new one,” Riepenhoff said.
When Leo Riepenhoff died in 1964, Roger bought the car from his mother. He’s kept it in the garage, too, except when bringing it out for a short drive or to enter it in an occasional antique car show.
“After I was sure the car was mine, I did something my father would never have done. I took it out on the road and opened it up. I wanted to see what she would do,” Riepenhoff said. “I hit 105 mph and there was not a hint of vibration in the front or in the steering wheel or anywhere.”
The speedometer is numbered up to 120.
The car, which weighs 5,535 pounds, sold for $1,022 when it was new. The books that list such information says there were 11,265 Buick Specials built for domestic sales and another 76 for export. The 1938 version is referred to as the highest point reached in style and the “King of the Line” among antique car buffs.
Today’s price to a collector lists at $25,000 to $30,000.
Riepenhoff has no intentions of selling it.
“I’d like to see it kept in the family,” he said.
His son, Steven, of Cincinnati has a son named Travis, who has a son named Braxton.
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236.