- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2000

Upon reflection, Randy Denchfield said, "I educated myself for eight years."

As the 1980s drew to a close, he began yearning for a special antique car. The problem: He didn't know which one. That's when his antique automobile education commenced.

After viewing countless antique cars at various shows and auctions as well as reading myriad publications about antique cars he began to appreciate certain makes, models and years of manufacture more than others.

Eventually, he narrowed his search to cars made during the 1930s. "That's when the most beautiful cars were built," he opines.

Mr. Denchfield determined that the car of his dreams would have headlights in buckets, a rumble seat, dual side-mounted spare tires and running boards.

During the 14 years of manufacture from 1927 to 1940 it has been argued that LaSalle never made an ugly car.

Since Mr. Denchfield agreed with that assessment, he began actively searching for a LaSalle, preferably a 1935 model, although a 1934 would be acceptable.

Since a total of only 7,195 LaSalles were built in 1934 and 8,651 in 1935, the search was expected to be arduous. How many of the 15,846 LaSalles from those two years survived was a mystery figure.

After investigating a few cars, which proved to be disappointing, Mr. Denchfield saw an ad for a 1935 LaSalle in Huntington, W.Va. He responded to the ad with a telephone call, asking the owner to send photographs.

"No," the owner replied. "You're so close you can drive up to see the car."

After receiving such a reception, Mr. Denchfield, not expecting much of a car, took his teen-age son Ryan for a February road trip to West Virginia.

The owner had backed the car inside the garage so the father and son Denchfield team could receive the full visual effect of the long nose of the 1935 LaSalle when the garage door was opened.

"My hear just stopped," Ryan said.

Who says teen-agers don't appreciate fine art?

Mr. Denchfield was equally smitten by the impressive beauty and fine details of the 1935 LaSalle, seemingly staring back at him. He was especially attracted by the low (9 inches top to bottom) V-shaped windshield. The car met all of his requirements, Mr. Denchfield said, plus it had suicide-hinged doors and the top went down.

Both father and son were excited about the 1935 LaSalle rumble seat roadster. They managed to keep cool and returned to their Chevy Chase, Md., home. During the next three months Mr. Denchfield negotiated with the owner via telephone before they agreed upon a price. The owner even volunteered to deliver the car on the back of his truck to Mr. Denchfield on the next Wednesday, April 29.

The date should have triggered an alert: It was the birthday of Mr. Denchfield's wife, Susan. However, it didn't. Even so, Mr. Denchfield was certain his wife wouldn't mind if a truck delivered a car to their home on her special day.

She was not overly thrilled when a truck appeared at their address. She was even less than thrilled when the antique car it was carrying wouldn't start.

As her husband was pushing the handsome car into the garage, she asked a question that should have been asked before "Does this car run?"

"I don't know," Mr. Denchfield replied. "Just look at the style it doesn't need to run."

A faulty accelerator pump was the culprit and, once the carburetor was rebuilt, the LaSalle has functioned perfectly for two years as of tomorrow.

Research indicates Mr. Denchfield is the fourth owner of the LaSalle, which sold new with a base price of $1,325. The original owner sold the car after 20 years to the second owner, who had the car painted maroon and black with matching upholstery.

Another 20 years passed before the third owner took possession for the next 23 years when Mr. Denchfield purchased the LaSalle two years ago.

Since then, it has been strictly a fun vehicle. Mr. Denchfield is always looking for an excuse to climb behind the three-spoke banjo steering wheel, release the floor-mounted brake and go for a drive.

Beneath the long, narrow hood is a 248-cubic-inch straight-eight-cylinder engine cranking out a smooth 105 horsepower. Only the 1934-35-36 LaSalles were powered by straight-eight-cylinder engines; all the rest had Cadillac V-8 engines.

The LaSalle is complete, even down to the LaSalle hubcaps and distinctive taillight lenses.

Taking the place of traditional louvers on each side of the engine hood are five chrome portholes, each with a dozen slots to help keep the engine running cool.

The top is easily lowered, and Ryan and his sisters Robyn and Regan are always eager to walk up the steps on the right rear fender that lead to the rumble seat.

With his wife beside him, Mr. Denchfield explains the beauty of the LaSalle rumble seat roadster.

"The whole family jumps in and we go. We don't get fussy about it."

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