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Restoring a classic car sparks a surprising friendship

Stafford residents work to restore a 1958 Aston Martin — despite their disagreement over local land use issues


by:  VERN UYETAKE - Dave Adams, 60, and Tanner Halton, 34, pose by their restored 1958 Aston Martin. “Just imagine this as a gigantic puzzle.”

Behind Dave Adams rests an all-black, sleekly-built 1958 Aston Martin. It seems both sophisticated and slightly incongruous resting on Adams’ mowed front yard.

Even the rims of the restored DB2/4 Mk III are blackened with paint—something Adams is quick to point out is completely accurate for the period.

If this car is a puzzle, than the last piece just fell into place.

But that’s now. When Stafford resident Tanner Halton hired Adams to help restore the automobile, it was broken down, abused and stored mostly in boxes.

The restoration took seven years, the process slowed by financial considerations, tough decisions and hundreds of missing pieces — everything from the minutiae of nuts and bolts, to the car’s original seats, which were inexplicably lost in transit.

“Most people don’t lose seats. I do,” Halton said.

You wouldn’t guess it from the easy rapport of their working relationship, but given the circumstances under which Halton and Adams met, the two might just as easily been opponents as partners.

In 2005, they found themselves on opposite sides of a contentious land use debate in the Stafford area.

Adams, an outspoken advocate on a number of local issues, was in favor of designating Stafford as a hamlet, a level of government without authority to tax residents.

Halton, whose family has a background in development, disagreed.

Adams eventually invited Halton on a drive of the area, which coincidentally took place in another vintage Aston Martin, owned at the time by Adams.

The two found they had a lot in common — including a love of classic European cars. by: VERN UYETAKE - As part of the restoration process, the Aston Martin was repainted a lustrous black.

“It was a good lesson for both of us: Don’t rely on stereotypes.” Adams said. “I’m sure (Halton) saw me as an owl-loving, tree-hugging environmentalist wacko ... and I am those things. But I’m also a very serious gearhead.”

Halton said the difficulties of restoring a classic car mirrored those in Stafford.

“This (vehicle) has come out incredible. But it took a whole lot of stress to make it happen,” Halton said. “The same thing could happen with Stafford. But you’ve got to have that stick-to-it-ness. When you disagree: keep going. Don’t stop the conversation.”

Soon after their meeting, Halton hired Adams to restore his Aston Martin. by: VERN UYETAKE - Tanner Halton stands next to wife, Robin Halton, 33.

As the work continued, the job changed from the relatively straightforward task of building a “driver” — a useable vehicle that’s built to take wear and tear — to a show car, capable of meeting the rigorous requirements of professional auto shows.

According to Adams, that required great attention to detail — everything from finding authentic hose clamps to lining up screwheads on the machine’s undercarriage.

Larger considerations, like deciding whether to keep the original paint, recoat or start fresh also slowed down the rebuilding effort. Adams, who describes his work as a sort of automotive archaeology, said the wait was to be expected.

“I spend a good deal of time counseling my clients. At the top of the list is patience,” Adams said. “It took 40 years for the car to get worn out, beat up, torn apart and thrown in boxes. Don’t expect it to get thrown together in a month or two or six or eight.”

Looking at the ebony sheen of the finished product, it’s easy to see why Ian Fleming placed James Bond behind the wheel of a gadget-laden Mk III in “Goldfinger.”

Unfortunately — or maybe fortunately — in real life, the ejector seat doesn’t come standard.

Viewed from the front, the car’s hood hangs over the grill, dipping and curving at oblique angles. Reminiscent, as a poet might say, of an inky tidal wave or the top lip of an open-mouthed kiss.

Halton and Adams’ hard work and craftmanship has already paid off.by: VERN UYETAKE - Dave Adams shows off the rebuilt six-cylinder engine of the DB2/4 Mk III.

At this year’s Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance, the Mk III was named Best in Class for sports cars more than $6,000 through 1975.

And while the Aston Martin has only just been completed, Halton has plans to sell the car in two weeks — at the RM auction in Monterey, Calif., the largest classic car auction in the U.S.

“It’s tough to let go of the project,” Halton said. “We got it in a really rough condition and it’s leaving perfect. Or as close to perfect as it could be. It’s a nice bookend.”

Their professional relationship is almost over — but not their friendship. When they posed for one last photo in front of the Aston Martin, Halton’s wife, Robin, joked that the two “make a cute couple.”

When someone arrives on the scene, Halton turns to introduce Robin.

“This is my wife,” Halton said, pointing to his spouse of four years. Then he turns back to the car. “And this is my girlfriend.”

by: VERN UYETAKE - Tanner Halton and Dave Adams said communication, trust and patience were key to surviving the seven-year-long job.  by: VERN UYETAKE - Dave Adams sits behind his Aston Martin prototype. by: VERN UYETAKE - The restored Aston Martin comes with a complete tool set and original leather-bound owner's handbook. 
by: VERN UYETAKE - The Aston Martin will be up for sale on Aug. 16 and 17 at the RM Auction in Monterey, Calif.




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