- Associated Press - Sunday, May 22, 2016

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (AP) - Steve Coats II learned to love cars as a child, in his father’s garage. He got his first vehicle when he was 12, a 1967 Chevy pickup. Since then he’s owned 42 others, the Bourbonnais family man is just 28.

He has a white 1953 Ford, but that’s just a daily driver. There’s a 1957 Mercury in the drive, but that’s just one he’s going to fix up for his wife. The special car in Coats’ life these days is just outside the garage. You can’t miss it: He gave it a coat of satin purple paint with flames and a shiny white top with purple flakes.

But you probably can’t identify it: The front end is a 1954 Ford Crown Victoria. There’s a 302-cubic-inch Mustang engine under the hood, teamed with a contemporary five-speed transmission. The back fenders came from a 1955 Packard, and they’re adorned with fender skirts Coats fabricated himself.

“I just don’t have any interest in modern cars, none whatsoever,” he explained. “I like working on these. I like driving them. Heck, if I could have any other car, it wouldn’t be a new one. It would be like a 1948 Buick.”

There is still work to be done on the “Ford-Packard-Mustang.” Coats lowered the top by three inches in the front and three and a half inches in the back. It gave him the look he wanted, but with his frame - 6-foot-5, 250 pounds - it created all sorts of adjustments from the windows to the seat brackets.

“I couldn’t sit in it until I lowered the seat mounts,” he said, noting that employing this type of fabrication skill is part of the fun when a guy builds a throwback hot rod. “I had to make the new motor mounts for the engine, too. It’s all part of the deal.”

That “deal” means that Coats, a supervisor at a local factory, works within a fairly tight budget. He’s a husband and father of three, so, he keeps expenses down by doing as much of the work as possible himself, in his own garage. He does the painting - except for the flames - the bodywork… he even makes his own custom wheel covers.

“I’ll try to get to 10 to 15 car shows this summer. I’ll probably drive it as far as Woodstock for a show,” he said. “And these cars will go down the road. This one is lowered five inches, and I imagine it will run along at 80 if I wanted to, but it gets a little shaky at that speed.”

The speed 5:

1. Coats’ purple flame machine weighs in around 4,300 pounds, but he expects 18 miles-per-gallon performance on the highway.

2. The Packard Caribbean only used those fenders and taillights one year, so this model will never be easily identified.

3. How much time does Coats spend in the garage. “I’m out there seven days a week. I don’t have any other hobbies.”

4. The 1954 Fords were the first to get Ford’s new overhead valve “Y-block” V8. It was a 256-cubic-inch powerplant rated at 130 horsepower. With a four-barrel carb it pushed out 160 horsepower, but this was reserved for law enforcement sales only.

5. Coats noted that “In general, everything is for sale, but not this car. Not really.”

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Source: The (Kankakee) Daily Journal, https://bit.ly/24znC2b

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Information from: The Daily Journal, https://www.daily-journal.com

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