The classic car hobby has always been strong in my family, as far back as my Grandfathers on both sides: Stanley Oles Sr. and Clayton Burr. Today, I am happy to share these cars and experiences with my Father Stanley and Uncle Jim, as well as my son Clay and the rest of our family. Although the majority of these cars are owned by Jim, he is generous enough to share them with us. This post outlines the classic cars that are currently in our family, as well as car models we are thinking about acquiring in the future.
1973 Citroen SM in Metallic Blue
Right now, the crown jewel of the collection is this 3.0 liter 5-speed SM. Jim is the third owner of this car (2nd owner had it from 1975 to 2017 when we acquired it). We fitted the "euro" front light bar as well as the French RGB alloy wheels. The car was resprayed once in its original Blue Metallic color, with its original natural brown leather interior still intact. Stan and Jim added cooling upgrades as well as a custom fuel injection system that mimics the original Weber carbs, run by a Haltech ECU and an iC7 Digital Dash display to keep tabs on vital information.
1972 Citroen SM in Black
This is a 2.7 liter 5-speed, sporting a set of the RGB alloy wheels. The car was originally metallic brown with a natural brown interior. Currently it is vinyl wrapped black (a tribute to the SM that Jim owned in the 70s). A unique feature of this car is the factory-equipped metal sunroof. Future plans for the car include a full respray as well as a fuel injection setup similar to the 73 SM, as well as a euro front light conversion with square LED lights to mimic the factory setup under glass covers.
1972 Citroen SM in Beige
This car was pulled out of a field in southern Illinois where it sat for 10+ years. Thankfully, although the paint and interior are in rough condition, the car was stored elevated off the ground which helped prevent rust in the chassis. Surprisingly, with some maintenance, the car starts and runs, with functioning suspension lift! Unfortunately, after repeated drives, the car still smokes heavily so it will probably need an engine refresh. Future plans include a full restoration as well as an EV conversion featuring the new Ford EV crate motor.
1957 Citroen Traction Avant
This car was imported to the US in 2009 by fellow Chicago Citroen enthusiast Gary Bartholomew. After spending some time in Arizona, it now finds itself back in Chicago! Although the paint and interior are in good condition, the car immediately received some mechanical attention under our care including upgraded CV joints, a power disc brake conversion and rear drum upgrade, plus an electric power steering conversion and a Holley Sniper EFI conversion with custom intake manifold. The car also sports a self-contained air conditioning unit in the trunk area. We are ready to start putting some miles on this old car!
1957 Mercedes 190SL
This car has the longest history with the Oles family, having been acquired by my Uncle when he was 15 and restored by him, my Dad and my Grandfather. An interesting feature of this car is the set of shell-backed sport seats shared with the 300SL. After spending a brief period in the 70s with an early turbo setup (!), the car was converted to EFI in the 00s.
1978 VW Beetle Convertible
This is a low mileage example (currently reading 13K miles) that was acquired from Jim's neighbor who was the second owner. While the paint and interior were in excellent original condition, we added upgraded suspension, disc brakes in the front and Pedrini Alloy wheels from a Porsche 914. This car is a fun, reliable summer cruiser with a working original 8-track player.
1964 VW Beetle
I acquired this car for my Father while I was on production in LA. The car needed new front fenders, which we were finally able to source from Europe. It has a narrowed front axle with a front disc brake conversion. We are currently assembling a 1776 size flat four engine for the car, and it will be off for a full respray soon.
1990 Nissan Skyline R32 GTR Bee-R 324R
This car was factory tuned by Bee Racing in Japan and fitted with the full Bee-R 324R conversion which mimics the styling of the R34 GTR with some unique touches. Although the car is in good shape mechanically, it is currently being resprayed in its factory Jet Silver Metallic. Upgrades include a carbon fiber hood, bigger Tomei twin turbos, titanium exhaust and AEM standalone ECU.
1992 Nissan 240SX
It seems this car is a continual work in progress. Last year, we swapped the motor to the JDM SR20DET turbo setup with many upgrades including a custom oval exhaust (for ground clearance), Haltech ECU with iC7 digital dash display, Touge Factory Air Cup front suspension lift, plus a custom stereo, JDM OEM Type X Kouki wing and body kit and many other upgrades. After the GTR is painted, this car will be next in line.
2000 Acura Integra GS-R
This is the third Acura Integra that I have owned, including a 1992 GS Leather and a 1997 Type R. This car is often considered the pinnacle of front wheel drive performance, created during the golden 90s era of Japanese cars. Great steering feel, 8000 RPM redline, and the perfect, flickable chassis combine to form an iconic car. This example has been passed down to my son Clay because I think it is an excellent platform for developing driving skills.
1982 Chevrolet Corvette
My Father has owned this car since 1990, so we have quite a history with it in our family. I remember taking this car to prom, as well as many memorable road trips to the Bloomington Gold car show. The car is almost completely stock, right down to the factory Cross Fire Fuel Injection. Other than needing a new fuel tank a few years ago, this is the easiest to maintain car in our fleet by a long shot. You can't beat an American V8 for reliability.
Schwinn Stingray Fastbacks: '64 Violet, '64 Black, '70 Sky Blue, '72 Campus Green, '76 Candy Red, 1976 Hurricane, 1964 Jaguar MkIV, 1950 Black Phantom, 1976 Swing Bike
I have always been into bikes, from my first Stingray that I still own (72 Campus Green) to my college years working in bike shops to the current crop of Stingrays that I restored over the COVID lockdown. I find that bike projects are economical, fun and very rewarding. They are my favorite bikes to ride around the neighborhood, and they ooze style from their sparkly banana seats to the many chrome details.
1934-37 Citroen Traction Avant Cabriolet
I am thankful for all the cars we currently have in our collection, and honestly it is all we can do to maintain them and keep them in running condition. If we never got any new classic cars I would be fine with it! That being said, the fun part of collecting cars or bikes or action figures or anything is dreaming about what's next. We have had a lot of fun with the Traction Avant and it is a super rewarding car to drive. The Cabriolet version is a much rarer beast and I have never seen one Stateside. They have 2-doors with a folding windshield and a rumble seat in back which is SO COOL. I hope we can find one for sale in the US, but we might have to travel to Europe to source one. It would be a great car to share with the GIRCCCA and enter into shows and tours with. If you have any leads, please contact us!
1959-2000 BMC Mini Cooper
There are several BMW-era Minis in the Oles family (Supercharged Coupe, Supercharged Convertible, Turbo Clubman), but we have never owned an original BMC Mini. I had the opportunity to experience my friend Jeff's Cooper and it sparked an interest. Currently, we are deciding if we would rather have one with the original 10 inch wheels or the later 12 inch wheel versions. I think we would be fine with either RHD or LHD. It would be nice to have a real British car in the fleet. I also have fond memories of my Dad and Jim working on Jensen Interceptors in the 70s - it would be fun have one of those around again!
The 1965 Shelby Mustang above belongs to my friend Adam and I absolutely LOVE it. I spent about 10 years searching all over the US to find one of these cars. For one reason or another, it never really worked out. It would be nice to have another classic American car in the collection, whether it is a Mustang, another Corvette (1957!!!!) or some kind of Muscle Car. I never get sick of American V8s, especially ones with fire-breathing horsepower.
For whatever reason, we have never had any Italian cars in the family. My Dad and Uncle used to repair Maseratis in the 70s, and the SMs do have a Maserati V6 under the hood. But it would be nice to have something Italian in the garage - maybe an Alfa Romeo, a Lancia, a Maserati Merak (for the SM connection) or something cute like a Fiat 500. The Autobianchi shares the simple Fiat 500 running gear with added style and would make a great little runabout for in-town errands.