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Car restoration a labor of love

For a city of 11,000, Picayune has a surprising number of classic car enthusiasts, who come out in full force for regional events like Cruisin’ the Coast.

A 1933 Plymouth painted a glossy orange with an interior that is still being reconstructed is one of many cars in Hot Rod Heaven’s workshop in downtown Picayune. Closer to the edge of town, a 1934 Buick sits near the front of B&B Motorsports’ garage floor.

“Where does your car rest, here or here?” asks Barry Barone, pointing first to his heart and then to his shoulder.

Restoring and maintaining a classic car is a labor of love, according to Barone, owner of B&B Motorsports. Many car owners want to restore the car they had as a teenager, finally buying it back after years or finding a car of the same make and model.

The hobby is one of nostalgia, according to Hot Rod Heaven owner Sonny Nuccio. Nuccio still has the first car he entered in a car show when he was 18.
Both shops were busy with customers in the weeks leading up to Cruisin’ the Coast.

Restoring classic cars can include adding modern conveniences like air conditioning and power steering, or a new engine that can allow a car originally built to reach a maximum speed of 25 to 30 mph to be capable of traveling at interstate speeds, said Barone.

A trend that Barone has seen is more people interested in swapping their carburetor motor for an LS motor to take their classic car on long road trips.

Some people want a car restored exactly like it came out of the factory, said Nuccio, but other times his shop makes upgrades all the way down to the chassis. Of course, upholstery and a beautiful paint job are also important in a restoration.

“You’re always doing something to it,” said Barone. “You’re never satisfied. You buy a classic car and you’re driving around, next thing you know, you want air conditioning, then you get air conditioning, and find out you need to rewire gauges, then upgrade the transmission so you can drive down the interstate. It never stops.”

The number of people interested in building hotrods or collecting classic cars has exploded, said Nuccio. While interest is high and customers are more focused on detail and quality, getting original parts has become harder, said Nuccio. Often that means parts have to be modified or recreated.

Still, creating “automotive jewelry” and bringing dream cars to the road is gratifying.

“When I die, these will be left behind like works of art,” said Nuccio.