NASHPORT – Finding space in Gary Stone’s garage is tough.
His handiwork is respected in the classic and antique car circuit. That’s among the reasons he doesn’t spend much time at Gary Stone Restoration outside of Nashport.
“When I moved to Ohio, I worked for a couple of auto collision and repair shops and I was doing that on the side,” Stone said. “I was so overwhelmed with requests that I had to focus on this full time.”
Restoring cars was not Stone’s original path. The 57-year-old grew up on a dairy farm and decided to get a degree in agricultural business at Vermont Technical College. During his college years, Stone discovered he had severe allergies, which changed his path.
After receiving his degree from VTC, he chose to pursue another passion in trade school. Six months later, Stone was certified in collision and repair, and his skills have been put to good use ever since.
“I used to come home on the weekends and I wasn’t feeling well. I went back to college and by Wednesday I was feeling good,” Stone recalled. “That’s how I found out about my allergies. I finished my degree but knew I had to do something else. I had an interest in bodywork and painting and I became one of those rare people who graduate twice in six months.”
Stone enjoyed Vermont, but the colder weather affected the length of the car season. Stone and his wife, Cindy, considered their options. They happened to live next door to a Longaberger consultant who recommended the couple a vacation in Ohio.
They fell in love with the area and moved here almost 20 years ago, and business has never slowed down.
“It’s a longer season in Ohio,” Stone said. “You can drive older cars longer and enjoy them more. Customers from all over the world will send their cars here to have the work done.”
Stone’s work has been featured in numerous publications. One of his most recent jobs was Rolls Royce winning Best in Show at a prestigious motor show on the cover of the November/December 2021 issue of The Flying Lady.
Another car, a 1949 Volkswagen Beetle, was so well restored that Stone said the owner donated it to a local museum.
“There were only two 1949 Beetles originally shipped to America before servicemen began repatriating them after World War II,” Stone noted. “I had to get some specific parts and I take pride in the quality and restoration of them as much as possible. When I sent it back to the owner, he didn’t want to drive it because I had done a great job, so he decided to put it on display.”
The challenges can be numerous. Stone has restored Rolls Royces worth between $750,000 and $1 million, as well as rare cars such as a 1953 DeSoto.
Much of his work is focused on making older cars more comfortable. He used modern parts to update vehicles, such as adding an automated lift plate to a 1953 Dodge Power Wagon.
Stone’s work is primarily on the exterior, noting that he doesn’t update internal parts like engines and transmissions.
“All the prep work is the same regardless of the vehicle,” Stone said. “Very few cars I work on are restored to their original form. Most have general modifications or custom parts. I try to keep it as close to the original as possible and I usually do what people want me to do.”
While work has remained steady for Stone, he said the supply chain has sometimes made it difficult for him to track down parts. Yet his customers are patient and willing to wait for his craftsmanship.
“I have never advertised. I’ve given out cards at car shows, but it’s all been word of mouth,” he said. “I’d rather talk about the cars than about myself. I’ve seen a lot of history and worked on a lot of great cars. It’s something I really enjoy doing, and I’m glad so many people can enjoy my work.”