Turning Things Around: Restoration hobby leads La Jollan to two 1960 El Camino classics

ONE FOR THE ROAD: In response to an invitation to classic car owners to share their vehicle love stories, more than a dozen car buffs contacted La Jolla Light to be interviewed about their prize possessions. In this series, we present their delightful roadster experiences.

Daniel Månsson, a La Jolla resident and native of Sweden, is what you might call “a classic car flipper.” He takes older cars in good (not perfect) shape, drives them around for a while, restores them and sells them.

“If you’re good at restoring cars, it’s not necessarily an expensive hobby,” he said. “I’ve made money on all my cars, but I do a lot of research and know what I’m getting into. The most difficult thing is when the work that needs to be done isn’t visible right away. The only time you really get into trouble is when you fall in love and want to keep them all.”

Such is the current case. Månsson has two 1960s Chevrolet El Camino classics — one he bought to fix up and sell (but hasn’t done so yet) and the other he plans to keep and drive.

“When I walk into the garage, I see these beautiful El Caminos and know they were built before the Digital Age and before safety requirements went into effect that limit what you can do with a car,” he said. “There is a lot that is not the most practical, but it’s aesthetically amazing. As a creative person and a photographer, I want to be around things that inspire me. It’s like driving a piece of art, especially when the paint is well maintained. It’s a treat to be able to jump into a 50-year-old car.”

While he is working on the El Camino’s presently, in the past, he has worked on a surf van, a ‘70s classic sports car and a vintage truck.

“I do some of the stuff myself, and though I’m not a big mechanic, I have some idea as to what’s going on,” he explained. “But the amount of time you spend on a vehicle depends on how much you want to learn. Sometimes I toy with it and if I can’t fix something, I’ll take it in. There are two schools of thought: Some people love to do everything themselves, some like to take it in. I’m in the middle.”

Månsson noted that some cars can be purchased for a few thousand dollars but that parts are expensive. Conversely, there are some car parts that are manufactured by the millions and are cheap and accessible.

Another trick he uses is to find cars that are in good shape so there are only minor repairs to make. “I don’t want something brand new. I want something I can use for a while, drive around, take to the beach, put bikes in and enjoy — and not be afraid to ding it. I want it to be well-maintained, but time-accurate. I want it to look good, but if you look up close, you’ll see some marks on it. It doesn’t have to be perfect,” he said.

He joked that his wife, Anissa, wants a ‘50s pickup truck, so that will likely be his next project.

When it comes to finding cars and getting repair tips, Månsson said he does research online, keeps an eye out on the street, and talks to fellow car enthusiasts. “I want to know things, but I’m not a mechanic, so I learn from people I talk with. I’ve met car guys who know a lot about (whatever I’m driving) and can tell me what’s special about it. People are happy when they see my cars, which makes me happy. These vehicles are a door-opener and help introduce me to others in the surf community. I surf, and I like to meet people and talk to people,” he said.

Anissa added, “Especially when he came here from Sweden, he didn’t know anyone and he got to get to know people through his car. Now when he goes surfing at Tourmaline, people always want to come up and talk about it, share stories and so on.” She said she likes to cruise the beach and that having older cars makes every day errands “an event.” She’s no stranger to classic cars — Anissa’s father owned a 1949 Mercury and a few older Corvettes.

Månsson’s interest in classic cars started back home, and grew when he moved to San Diego. “I always liked ‘50s post-war culture — the surf scene, the hotrod culture and the cars that came out of it. There are car festivals in Europe and Sweden, but the roots are here in California,” he said. “For me, classic cars have always run parallel to the surf culture. A lot of my surfing friends are also into older cars. They go hand in hand.

“A lot of people ask about the engine and want to hear how it sounds when I start it. It’s mostly guys who think it’s cool. I like that this is a part of my everyday life.”

Editor’s Note: In response to an invitation to classic car owners to share their vehicle love stories, more than a dozen car buffs contacted La Jolla Light to be interviewed about their prize possessions. In this series, we present their delightful roadster experiences.

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