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Jonny Wicks: Carried Away With Cars

UC transportation design student Jonny Wicks is a driven car collector. His current collection ranges from a 1930 Model A to a 1966 Lincoln Continental – all in various stages of completion.

Date: 5/14/2007
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Andrew Higley
UC ingot Lots of students drive old cars. After all, “old” is often affordable.

Jonny Wicks
At left is Jonny's 1966 Lincoln Continental while, at right, is his 1965 Vespa motorcycle, the 1975 Swing Bike, the 1940s Firestone bike, and his 1954 Chevy pick-up.

Insofar as that goes, Jonny Wicks, 27, of Salt Lake City, a transportation design student in the University of Cincinnati’s internationally recognized College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, doesn’t seem to have steered an unusual course. Until, that is, you realize just how old the vehicles are that he drives (or is building) – and that he wouldn’t do it any differently even if he had a trunk filled with spare cash.

Between his current home in Cincinnati’s Price Hill neighborhood and his parent’s home in Salt Lake City, Jonny has a collection of vintage automobiles – a few of which he drives and all of which he is or has built.

They include

  • A 1930 Model-A Roadster
  • A 1937 Chevy Sedan
  • A 1950 Cadillac 60 Special
  • A 1954 Chevy pick-up (which he drives almost daily)
  • A 1965 Vespa motorcycle
  • A 1966 Lincoln Continental

Oh yes, and Jonny’s collection also extends to restored vintage bicycles, including

  • Mid 1940s Firestone bike
  • A 1965  Schwinn Hollywood
  • A 1975 Swing Bike

Jonny Wicks

It’s a lot of cars (and bikes) – and a lot of work – for one person though Jonny says that if he works on a project solid, he can build a hot rod in about two months, “longer if I also need to make my own parts,” he adds. Working solid, it takes him about a year to restore a car once he’s located parts and accessories. This from a student in one of the most demanding design programs in the nation, one that requires full-time commitment in any given quarter.

“I do it because I love it. Old cars have a heritage and a soul. Actually, my basic problem is that I’m always starting new projects, or I’m changing my mind on an existing project,” Jonny states, adding that he began restoring his 1937 Chevy sedan about 11 years ago. He would long ago have completed that project except that he no more than finishes one part of the restoration before going back for a restoration “redo” of another portion.
Certain projects, though, do take precedence. He’s building the 1950 Cadillac for his wife. Considering who it’s for, that’s one project that will get done. And he fixed up his 1954 Chevy pick-up in no time flat. “Because,” he admits, “it was for me. I’ve wanted one forever. The 1954 is a unique year. It was a year in which Chevrolet made some changes to their pick-up which resulted in a slightly different body style and a number of distinctive characteristics. I love it, but other transportation design students might not because it doesn’t go above 50 mph.”

Jonny began restoring vintage automobiles when he was 14. That’s when his dad bought him a 1968 Camaro which they worked to restore. And which Jonny then sold six months after he got his license. Jonny then took the money from the sale of the Camaro and decided to plunk it down on a “Dick Tracy car. I wanted a mafia car, a crime car.” Not long after selling the Camaro, he saw his 1937 Chevy sedan up to its hub caps in mud. “It didn’t have windows. It didn’t have tires, and it was absolutely beautiful. My dad and I got some wheels on it, and I rode in it as we towed it home.”

With all his projects, Jonny feels like his cars come alive over time. “I remember when I was 17, and I rebuilt an engine for my 1968 Pontiac Catalina. I didn’t know if it would run, but after I got it all back together, I put the key in the ignition, and it started. It was so exciting knowing I’d done that. I remember thinking the car felt like it was alive.”

If this kind of talk is alien to you, you’ve never hung around bonafide car lovers or in a transportation design studio. Pretty much every transportation design student in UC’s top-ranked program speaks with the same enthusiasm as Jonny does.

And it’s why Jonny feels lucky to have found the program, which is one of about five such respected transportation design programs in the country and the only one located at a public university. Before starting at UC, Jonny says he looked at a few of the industrial design programs that had transportation tracks and feels lucky to have found the Cincinnati program.

Jonny Wicks
Jonny sits on his 1965 Vespa motorcycle. At left are his 1966 Lincoln Continental and the 1940s Firestone bike. At right are his 1965 Schwinn Hollywood bike and his 1954 Chevy pick-up.

“My uncle knew Cincinnati because he’d traveled here. He paid for me to fly here and check it out. I just loved everything about the program from the first time I saw it,” he says. And so, he packed up – at least part of his collection – and moved to Cincinnati. “With me here, I have the bicycles I’ve restored along with the Vespa motorcycle, the Lincoln and the Chevy pick-up. I’m trusting my dad to watch the rest.”

Once he graduates, Jonny would like to build concept cars for automakers (as would just about every transportation design student in the country) or he’d like to start a small firm where he not only designs and builds custom cars but works with clients to restore their own vintage autos.

That way, he could make his passion for cars pay. Though he’s already planning to do that. For instance, when graduation rolls around in 2009, Jonny plans to sell the restored Lincoln Continental to pay off his college loans.



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