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Car buffs find solace in restoring classics

By Matt Montgomery

Piedmont resident Al Ridgely and Oklahoma City resident Ed Jones have been friends for a long time. But, it wasn’t until about 10 years ago when they lost both of their wives that Ridgely and Jones began to spend a lot of time together restoring classic cars into works of art.

Ridgely can be seen driving around Piedmont in one of several classic beauties, but the one you will most often see him driving is a 1957 Buick Century, which he said he would turn down an offer of $100,000 because the car means too much to him.

Ridgely and Jones recently finished their dream project in restoring a 1965 Plymouth Belvedere GTS, with a 460 cubic inch motor and a glossy stop light red paint job.

He said they began building that car as a project for Jones and his wife to begin rekindling their marriage, but sadly his wife, Judy, passed away in 2003. Esta Ridgely died in 2002.

“We had been fooling around and doing some car shows, then when our wives passed away, we began going through that mourning process,” Ridgely said. “Ed and I became better friends after all the trials and tribulations and had gotten through it together. If it hadn’t been for my friends, I don’t know where I’d be because of my past.”

Ridgely said his friends helped him through some of his darker days of drug addiction and alcoholism, but Jones stood by his side when Esta died and Ridgely was right there by Jones’ side when Judy died, and the cars helped harden the glue that sealed their relationship.

“When I die, which could be anytime, he’s the one who gets most everything, including my cars,” Ridgely said. “Building the GS and building cars saved us. When I started back with cars and music, it helped.”

Cars have and will always be in Jones and Ridgely’s lives, until the day they die. They said that when they were growing up, they both turned wrenches and it evolved over time into a hobby and now into an obsession.

Ridgely said for the past 10 years, Jones has been at his house on Fina Road restoring the Buick Century, the Belvedere, a 1968 350 cubic inch Camaro and they are soon to start restoring a 1955 Nomad that sits in Ridgely’s garage awaiting Ridgely’s and Jones’ touch.

Ridgely also is an avid collector of old Coca-Cola memorabilia and pretty much anything classic and collectible from time’s past.

Matt Montgomery/Gazette
Al Ridgely, driver, and Ed Jones, passenger, take a ride to Ridgely’s gas-pump converted mail box in Ridgely’s 1957 Buick Century last Friday.

He also restores old gas pumps and other relics from the 1930s to the 1950s.

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