The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Features

April 17, 2012

Rogers has had a life full of cars

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 — You’ve got to hand it to Norman Rogers. When he does a project, he does it his way, and on his time.

Rogers has loved cars since he was a child. When he was 15 — a year before he was even legal to drive — he got his first car, a 1941 Ford Convertible. He worked on it whenever he could and have it ready to show off when he turned 16.

“I just sort of picked up and ran with it as a kid,” the Albemarle resident said.

“I never played golf, hunted or fished or those kind of things.”

Since then, he’s driven cars, fixed cars and even sold cars over the past 50 years. He even restored three Chevrolet Z-24 models to give to his three grandchildren, who aren’t of driving age yet.

He worked on and restored two Chevrolet Z-24 Convertibles for his granddaughters, who live with Rogers’ son, Rex, in Greensboro. When they began school, he gave each their own car.

And when a grandson was born after the two girls, Rogers did the same for him. Only in that case, he couldn’t find a convertible to restore. So he fixed up a Chevrolet Z-24 Coupe and recently gave it to him.

“Being the old car man I was, I wanted to give them their first car,” Rogers said.

“Knowing that you don’t get your first car until you are 16 or graduate from school, I was afraid I wouldn’t be around for that many years. So I gave them each a car when they started school, just as a joke.

“They do show and tell with them in school. They’ll say ‘It’s my car because it’s got my name on the license plate’.”

It’s one particular car that captured Rogers’ heart and desire to fix up. And, in the end, he received some national recognition for his accomplishments.

“I was not looking for a car,” said Rogers, now 76.

“A friend of mine ran across it in Mt. Pleasant. He got with me, he knew I was an old car buff. He said ‘I found this Mustang. You think you’d be interested?’ He said ‘I think it can be bought.’ ”

So Rogers went to take a look, liked what he saw and paid $800 for it — a 1968 Ford Mustang with a hard top. When he brought it back home, it sat in one of his buildings for a year before he decided to tackle his latest project.

Rogers read magazines and went to car shows to get ideas for the car. He spent four years, he figures around 2,000 man hours here and there, restoring the classic. He did it all by himself, except for about five minutes where he said he got his son to help him put in a windshield, simply because he couldn’t do it by himself.

”We didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Rogers’ wife, Peggy.

“He’s got so much talent that I knew he would finish it if he was physically able.”

He said he “stripped it down, blasted and cleaned and started straightening, welding, priming and painting.”

He added 13 coats of paint to it, included a 289 V8 motor and added other custom features to it so the finished product was just like he wanted. One of those touches that has caught people’s eyes when he takes it to local car shows is the fact he added a new Mustang grill to the front of it.

He finished it in 2010 and, on a hunch, submitted a photo and write-up to the magazine Modified Mustangs and Fords. The magazine has a reader-submitted back page that includes a photo and short write-up of the car pictured.

Not long after, he got a call from the magazine’s editor, who wanted to do a major feature on Rogers’ work. A reporter came out, took photos and did a write-up of Rogers and his work that was featured in the April 2012 edition.

Rogers went all over gathering copies of the magazine to give to family and friends. That includes Spurgeon Brooks, a 90-year-old former neighbor who learned that, after all these years, Rogers was still tinkering on those old cars.

“It’s amazing what he did with it, it really is,” Peggy Rogers said.

“From the pictures (of the old car) to that … pretty amazing.”

That car sits in his office at work, Rogers’ “mancave.” In that office are trophies he’s won, old photos, engines, his original tools and a desk that’s designed to look like the front of a car.

It’s a place where he does his best work. But he believes that Mustang will be his last work of art.

Maybe.

“I wouldn’t want to start another car,” Rogers said with a laugh.

“I’m not expecting any more grandkids. I’m supposedly through with grandkids.”

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