Eric Barnes of Richmond bought a 1969 Corvette for $20,000 in March 2020 and spent an additional $25,000 over the next 12 months restoring it.

On Saturday, he entered the beauty in Lamar Consolidated High School’s annual Auto Fest fundraiser.

But there was no trailer waiting to two the vintage automobile home.

“I restored it to drive it,” he said. “It’s not sitting in my garage waiting for the next car show.”

He wasn’t the only owner at this year’s auto fest to enter a vehicle restored for daily driving.

Mike Van Note of Boling entered a restored 1966 Ford Galaxie he says he drives regularly.

“This is not a trailer queen. We want to enjoy her every day. I didn’t spend all this money to have this car sit in a garage. No way.”

Proceeds from the annual car show, held at the natatorium, help fund the school’s auto mechanics program.

More than two dozen vehicles, some vintage, some new, were entered into this year’s show.

It was Eric Barnes first time to ever show his restored Corvette.

He and his wife Laurie spent several hours discussing the restoration project with other car enthusiasts.

Barnes calls himself a “Jeep man,” but when a buddy in his car club showed off his vintage 1969 Corvette, Barnes said he wanted to buy it if it ever became available.

“I like Jeeps. I own Jeeps. I enjoy driving off road and working on my Jeep, but when I saw this beauty I told him if you ever decide to sell it, let me know,” he recalled telling his body.

In March 2020, he purchased the cherry red automobile for $22,500 and has spent an additional $25,000 over the next year restoring it to showroom condition.

The restoration project included a whole new interior (beautiful two-tone red leather seats and dash) and restored engine.

Also the manual steering and brakes were replaced with state-of-the-art rack-and-pinion steering and hydraulic-assisted brakes.

Eric, a computer engineer, did some of the work himself, even though he’s is not a professional mechanic. He had the interior restored by a professional upholsterer.

“The way I figure it is, if you spend your whole day in front of a computer, you need to do the exact opposite when you’re off.”

Van Note also isn’t a professional mechanic or upholsterer; he’s Director of Operations at Smart Financial Centre in Sugar Land.

Yet that didn’t stop him and his wife Terri from doing some of the restoration on the 1966 Ford Galaxie.

“I’m a hands-on guy,” he explained. “I’m pretty good with my hands. I always remember what my grandfather told me: ‘It’s already broke, try fixing it.’”

He and his wife bought the car in 2011 for $1,800 and began the restoration project in 2015. Over the past five years, Van Note figures he put close to $60,000 into restoring the Galaxie to showroom perfection.

They had Space City Customs in Brookshire perform the “frame off restoration” — stripping the original vehicle all the way down to its frame and then rebuilding it.

Space City rebuilt the chassis and did all the paint and bodywork.

The restoration project included “shaving” the car, which means removing door handles and any extraneous components to make the body flush from bumper to bumper.

For instance, there are no visible bolts holding the bumper to the frame as was with the original vehicle.

Because its door handles were removed and filled in and painted, a key fob is required to open the door.

A simple click and the door opens about an inch or two, just enough to get fingers in there to pull the door open.

The original FE 390 engine was also restored.

Van Note designed and built the interior himself.

“The Space City shop owner was generous enough to allow me to do the rest of the build in his shop by allowing me a section of his shop to work out of,” Van Note recalled.

He said it took him several attempts to get the dashboard the way he liked it.

It paid off: He won best in class for his interior.

Van Note said the “one-off” restoration project was designed to make the vintage automobile look like a ‘66 but with a modern interior and conveniences, such as a modern dashboard components, key-less entry.

Unlike many show car owners, the Van Notes didn’t restore the Galaxie just to have it sit in the garage between shows.

“We finished the restoration project about a year ago and have been driving it ever since,” he said.

“This is not a trailer queen. We want to enjoy her every day. I didn’t spend all this money to have this car sit in a garage. No way.”

Van Note recorded the restoration project on the Fordmuscleforums site, which details the build in almost every step.

Like Van Note and Barnes, Billie Medina of Rosenberg also drives the restored automobile she entered in Saturday’s auto show.

She got the restored 1970 Chevy Camaro for her birthday, which was Saturday.

“I said I wanted a restored Camaro for my 50th birthday and I got one,” she said.

She traded in her 2010 Camaro for the bright red beauty.

Unlike Van Note and Barnes, however, Medina will have professionals work on any restoration or painting that needs to be done to the vehicle.

Fortunately, the vintage auto was completely restored when she got it.

How much did it cost?

“More than we were hoping to pay,” she said.

She said she will eventually have the Camaro repainted blue like her 1978 Camaro, given to her on her 16th birthday by her late grandfather, Bill Cook of Rosenberg.

Judy’s mother, Judy Cangelosi of Rosenberg, joined her at the Auto Fest.

Cangelosi entered her late dad’s Ford Ranger, purchased new by Cook in 1973.

The truck, along with a Medina’s 1978 Camaro, sat in the garage for years before Medina cleaned them up and started showing them.

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