hermiston herald

Hermiston Herald

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The secret's out

By Karen Hutcheson-Talaski of the Hermiston Herald

Above: A 1946 Ford Tudor customized by Bill Holton won best of class in radical street sedans at the Portland Roadster Show.

HELIX - A "secret lab" in Helix may not be so secret anymore.

Thanks to two best of class winning entries and a first runner up in the 50th annual Portland Roadster Show on March 3-5, Holton Secret Lab is definitely on the map.

Tucked away in the hills east of Hermiston, Holton Secret Lab has been turning out custom restoration jobs, classic cruisers and street rods for auto afficionados full-time since 1992. Owned by Bill and Marcy Holton, Holton Secret Lab is located on a Century Farm homesteaded by Marcy's Norwegian grandfather in the 1880's.

Restoring cars is a passion for Holton, who started working on cars in his dad's auto body shop when he was 15 in Vale.

Holton's father started Vale Autobody in the 1940s after returning from World War II. Each car, truck or van he returns to its former glory is ready to be driven, not just sit in a showroom.

"There were 550 cars in the Portland Roadster Show. It's a big show. About 30,000 people a day go through there."

- Bill Holton

"That's what I like about my cars," Holton said. "It's a user."

The three automobiles that won best of class and first runner up at the Portland Roadster Show demonstrate Holton's skill as a restorer.

A 1948 Chevrolet pick-up owned by Wayne Swearingen of Pendleton was driven to work every day for 38 years, Holton says. The gleaming maroon pick-up took best of show for stock pick-ups at the show. A 1946 Ford Tudor complete with flames (a Holton Specialty) owned by Ron Mulanix of Milton-Freewater, took best of class for radical street sedans. The third vehicle, a blue 1941 Tudor owned by Ron White of Hermiston was first runner up in the mild street sedan class.

That three automobiles from Eastern Oregon took best of class is pretty amazing, Holton says. The competition to get into the show is fierce. "There were 550 cars in the Portland Roadster Show," he aid. "It's a big show. About 30,000 people a day go through there."

Holton Secret Lab owners Bill and Marcy Holton stand next to two prize-winning vehicles Bill customized.

"The guy bought it and left it sitting in his barn," Holton said. "Mice had made a home in the interior."

To look at the Mustang now, a person would never know the shining maroon exterior and pristine interior was once a home to mice.

To find out more about the"secret lab," visit www.holtonsecretlab.com or call 1-866-FLAME-IT (1-866-352-6348).

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