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Restoring the classics

Self-taught mechanic has been bringing cars, bikes back to life for 65 years


Although never verified, car enthusiast Bud Bloomquist of Willmar was told by a man he sold his rebuilt 8-cylinder engine to in 1975 that the engine was put in a restored limousine once used to transport Eleanor Roosevelt after President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed away.

Bud Bloomquist works on an engine in his garage outside of Willmar. Bloomquist has been restoring and fixing vehicles for 65 years. Contributed photo

“I don’t know for sure if it’s true,” said Bloomquist, 79. “I met (the late) Peter Lamb at a National Street Rod Association Show in Memphis, Tennessee. He lived in Boston, and he bought my 1932 Ford Cadillac three-window coupe from me.”

While Lamb was driving the vehicle back to Boston, the water pump went out. It was then that he decided to put a Chevy engine into the car and sell the 49 Block Cadillac engine that Bloomquist had rebuilt.

“Peter wrote me a letter to tell me he had sold the engine to a group that was restoring a limousine that was once used to transport Eleanor Roosevelt,” said Bloomquist, who is adamant that he is not claiming the story to be true until it can be verified.

Bloomquist, a self-taught mechanic who learned from watching others, grew up in the Twin Cities area, has restored countless vintage vehicles and even bicycles over the past 65 years.

Bloomquist has been around trucks and vehicles his whole life. His father was a truck driver, and Bud would often travel with him.

“My heroes were the mechanics on the road,” he said. “I learned how to build and work on engines from watching them. My grandfather was like an inventor, always building things.”

Bloomquist has restored many cars since he started at age 14. He joined the Ambler’s Car Club of Minneapolis and St. Paul in 1970. He also joined the Minnesota Street Rod Association in 1970, and joined the Willmar Car Club in 2001 shortly after he and his wife of 58 years, Sharon, moved to Willmar in 1999.

“My favorite car was that 1932 Ford Cadillac that I sold to Peter Lamb,” Bloomquist said. “The paint eventually started cracking, and it had a rumble seat in it which I thought wasn’t safe for the grandkids, so I sold it. I didn’t want to sand it down and have it painted again because my interest is in restoring a whole vehicle. But I really like that car and it was hard to get rid of because I had always dreamed of owning a 1932 Buick when I was younger.”

Bud Bloomquist of Willmar stands by the 1952 Buick Special that he restored using parts off other Buicks. Photo by Scott Thoma.

Bloomquist’s “baby” now is a 1952 Buick Special that he bought in the Twin Cities 18 years ago and fully restored it.

“When I first saw it, it was in pretty bad shape,” he said. “I worked on it for seven years. I loved every minute of it.”

Bloomquist restored the vehicle from various parts of other Buick car parts from various years.

“The body and the engine are from the ‘52 Buick,” he explained. “It had dual exhaust manifolds and dual carb setup from a 1941 Buick. The engine is rebuilt. It had a dyna-flow automatic transmission and I converted it into a 3-speed on the column. The rear end of the car is from a 1955 Buick Century. The lower front end has Fatman spindles.”

The chrome wire wheels were purchased from an Ambler’s Car Club member that came off a 1937 Ford.

The original Buick emblem on the front of the car remains, but Bloomquist removed the “Buick”, and at the request of his wife, it now says “Ruby”.

“That was our 40th wedding anniversary (in 2004),” said Bloomquist. “The 40th anniversary is ruby, so she wanted that on the car.”

When he first acquired the vehicle, it was rusted and had various colors of paint.

“I saw it as black right away when I looked at it,” Bloomquist said as he turned around to showcase the shiny black paint covering the vehicle.

The vehicle is a two-door hardtop but has the look of a convertible when the windows are rolled down because there are no braces in between the front and back windows.

“I did all the work on the car, but Rick Schnell did the paint job and Fred Romo did the upholstery work. They are two guys that once belonged to the Ambler’s Car Club with me many years ago. It’s the last Ambler’s project we did together.”

A sign hanging in Bud's Garage, amongst awards and other things. Photos by Scott Thoma

In his secured building adorned with awards he has won at various car shows over the years, is a row of vintage bicycles that Bloomquist converted into a version of a motorcycle with lawnmower engines affixed to the sides.

Hanging on a wall above the motor bikes is a fully restored Indian Board Track Racer bicycle that has also won several awards at shows.

For 22 years, Bloomquist worked for Red Owl as a Thermal King mechanic. He then started his own business called Blizzard Truck Refrigeration with his wife and sons, Brad and Brian, all working for the company. Bloomquist retired in 2012.

Bloomquist is currently working on some other restoration projects in his garage, including a 1997 Ford F-150 Stepside and a 1948 Jeep panel truck.

“Just another day in the shop,” he said with a smile. “I really enjoy what I do.”

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