If you’ve spent any time in and around your local body shop, chances are you’ve spied a familiar silhouette hidden under a tarp usually pushed deep into a corner. Such was the case for Texan Doug Leopold and his shop, Classic Collision and Restoration.
“The customer’s cars always come first,” says Doug. But to understand the saying “the plumber’s pipes always leak,” we must start at the beginning.
“When I was 16, my dad took me car shopping,” begins Doug. Without much of a plan and a short bank account, “I ended up finding a 1982 Buick Regal that was in pretty nice condition for a decent price. It wasn’t anything special, just transportation to get me to work and school.” But, it was a key to what every young man craved – open roads and youthful freedom.
Then it happened. “Just a few months after getting my car, a friend of mine took me for a ride in his ’65 Mustang. I was hooked, and I knew I had to have one.” Leopold spent the next few months combing local rags before locating a tired, yet promising ’66 for the paltry sum of $1,800.
Doug and his father tore down the pony over the next few months, rebuilding what they could, and getting it ready for paint. The eager teen purchased a shop manual and learned to handle the valve cover gaskets, water pump, soft trim, and HVAC system. Doug called upon his dad and family friends to assist with auto skills he had yet to acquire.
“Being in high school, I couldn’t afford much, so I prepped the body as well as I could and let Maaco paint it red. It was a typical inexpensive paint job, but good enough.” Satisfied with its new red hue, fresh interior, and Cragar wheels, Doug’s Mustang was ready to ride.
Then fate intervened.
Early one Saturday, just weeks after completion, a motorist running a red light would crush not only Doug’s many hours of hard work, but a fair portion of his pony’s front end. Fortunately, Leopold escaped uninjured. “As luck would have it, he pushed me right in front of a restoration shop” says Doug with a shrug. Hearing the incident, “the shop owner came out, gave me his card, and told me he could fix my car.”
Webster’s defines fate as, “a cause by which things, in general are believed to come to be.” It seemed that more than an inattentive driver had struck Doug, although it was unknown at the time.
Following some post-accident insurance wrangling, Doug’s injured steed hobbled into the shop. With his prized horse occupying a stall, Leopold became a regular at the shop. Eventually, Doug struck up a friendship with its owner and as you may surmise by now, began helping out where he could.
“I started by cleaning the shop, washing cars, sandblasting, and doing other odd jobs. I helped him fix my car, and eventually, he taught me how to do bodywork, use a spray gun, and everything else having to do with restoring cars.” The shop would become Doug’s second home through the rest of high school, college, summers, and every chance he could get. “Old cars became a passion for me.”
Doug eventually returned to his automotive calling with a degree in hand – this time, restoring cars full time. In short order, Leopold would marry his bride Laurie, welcome his first child, and open his shop, Classic Collision and Restoration.
With more than two decades of experience, Doug’s shop employs more than a dozen like-minded employees and an impressive history of quality work. “Although we do regular collision repair, the majority of our work is auto restoration and street rods. We do almost everything in-house including metal fabrication, dustless blasting, rust repair, bodywork, paint, mechanical, exhaust, etc. And of course, Mustangs are my specialty,” notes the proud owner.
Now about that car hidden in the back.
Doug tells us, “In 2008, I decided I wanted to drive an old Mustang again. I was restoring cars for customers every day and didn’t have one of my own. At first, I wanted to restore my Mustang just like it was in high school, but in the back of my mind, I had really always wanted a fastback.” A new search began.
“I found a ‘65 fastback three-hours away that the seller had taken apart and then lost interest. With the deal complete, Doug loaded the car along with boxes and scattered parts into the back of his truck. “It took about a week to sort through everything and get the car on my rotisserie, blasted, and epoxy-primed. Then we worked on it at the shop, as time permitted.”
Slowly but surely, Doug and the crew at Classic Collision massaged the body to better than new, “We reinforced the body with subframe connectors, torque boxes, and extra supports welded in where I wanted.” Doug shares. “We welded up all of the unnecessary holes and smoothed every panel in the engine compartment, tackled the floors, and carefully planned every subtle custom touch.”
Upon closer inspection, Doug’s mention that “every part was massaged back to perfection,” may be understating things just a bit.
“I planned out a way to hide all of the A/C, heater hoses, and wiring in the engine compartment to make it as clean as possible,” Doug points out. “We spent hundreds of hours block-sanding and massaging the body to be as razor straight as possible. All door, hood, and trunk gaps were welded and ground on to make each gap perfect.” Satisfied with his work, Doug laid down a custom color mixed by himself. He used PPG products with a DBC basecoat and PPG glamour clear for a rich wet appearance.
Balancing customer needs, kids in soccer, baseball, etc., and all of the normal family responsibilities, it would take an additional three years working in his home garage to reassemble and complete.
At first glance, Leopold’s Shelby-inspired restomod leaves little room for argument that this first-generation thoroughbred enjoys far greener pastures today. Thanks in part to lessons learned years ago by an impressionable Texas teen, and an early Saturday appointment with fate.