Almost as unique as Paul Reeders classic American Motors Metropolitan is the way in which he became enamored of the little cars in the first place. In 1970, as a teen in Williamsport, a neighbor and longtime family friend summoned him across the street to the neighbors garage. Inside was a most unusual, albeit interesting vehicle. In young Reeders mind it was a fascinating car.
As a typical teen, he loved all cars. But in very short order his fascination for the tiny Metropolitan increased ten-fold. The neighbor asked Reeder if he would like the car. Thus began Paul Reeders love affair with the cars.
The car was cosmetically sound, and the body in good shape. The engine was a different matter. It burned oil at an alarming rate. The smoke from which entered the passenger compartment to such a degree as to require that the windows be kept down when the vehicle was driven. It certainly needed work, but it was still the greatest car in the world to Paul. It was his car. A parts car was located, the engine swapped out and his affinity for that car grew all the more.
There is little doubt that car made quite an impression. It also made an impression on Pauls father, when young Reeder was driving him to work one day. In the course of the commute in the Metropolitan, the front wheel fell off the vehicle causing the spindle to dig into the pavement and resulting in a rather abrupt halt to the trip, also making an impression in the street as well. A tow truck was called, the Metropolitan was hauled to a garage whereupon the garage owner offered him $50 for the little car. Reluctant to see his first car go, but no doubt with urging from his safety conscious father, Paul agreed to sell the car.
In the intervening years, there was college, marriage, career, and a burgeoning family to consider. Paul had little time or impetus to pursue another of the odd little cars. All that changed in 1993. Although he searched off and on for his actual first car, Paul held small hope of finding it. Then in 1993, he spied one of the Metropolitans in the Auto Locator. The vehicle was located in Wilmington, Delaware, and his initial inquiries satisfied him that, although the vehicle was not his original vehicle, it had whetted his appetite all over again. He purchased the little vehicle made by England’s Austin Motor Company. Side by side with his 12 year old son Jon, he slaved weekends, summers and most spare moments to restore the 1956 American Motors Metropolitan.
The vehicle retrieved from Delaware that day bears little if any resemblance to the car they enjoy today. The shell came to them complete but in very poor condition. It wasn’t running, the body was a rusting relic and the interior was shabby at best. Today it is vital example of the small vehicle engineered by Nash-Kelvinator and built by the Austin Motor Company for the American market.
In July, at the Metropolitan Owners Club of North Americas annual meet, the Reeders vehicle won the Concurs Medal for excellence in show and restoration. It is an award that can only be garnered by meticulous attention to detail, and a lot of research.
We learned as we went along, remarks Reeder. Once Paul and son Jon made the commitment to their own project and networked with the countless other Metropolitan owners, they discovered an interesting phenomenon. They were being asked to restore the vehicles for other people, such was their familiarity with the restoration and correctness of the vehicles. Thus was born their own shop Metropolitan Restorations. People kept calling and asking for this part, or to ask us to repair a vehicle, remarks John. The small fledgling company started as a sideline for the pair while John went to Penn College. Almost three years ago, he decided to pursue the restorations fulltime. Through the network of over 7500 members of the Metropolitans owners club he has managed to stay busy. To date, the company has sent its finished restorations throughout the Northeast and mid-Atlantic States as well as to England.
The Reeders vehicle won the Concurs Medal for excellence in show and restoration
Right now we have a two year backlog of work, adds John. It is a niche vehicle, and people who love these cars want to preserve them accurately and correctly, observes dad. Paul, head teacher at the Mifflinburg Elementary School, helps out evenings and weekends. What began as a freebie for Paul Reeder instantly became a passion. Through this fixation, he works side by side with his son, bolstering the bond between them, doing something they both enjoy.
Used with permission from The Sunbury Daily Item Featured Article dated 12-18-03 Author Chuck Koons