Car collection secret in Metamora

Adam Larck
The phaeton that Phil Fischer owns is the only known one in existence in the country.

Drive past the Victorian house off Illinois Route 116, and all you may comment on is the house.

However, many more treasures are hidden behind the house that antique car collector Phil Fischer has found over the years.

“I literally was born loving old cars,” Fischer said. “I can remember back … I’m from Mt. Carmel, Illinois, originally. I can remember back in grade school of standing on the running board of a Model A someone had, grabbing the handle and pulling myself up to look inside of it. So it’s literally my whole life.”

Fischer, who moved up to Metamora from Mt. Carmel in the 1970s to work for Caterpillar, has amassed a rare collection of 18 cars throughout the years.

While each car has an interesting backstory, some of his biggest memories come from the 1929 Oldsmobiles he has collected.

The ’29s he has collected have six different body styles. Out of those six styles, Fischer already has five.

“It all started with the blue sedan,” he said.

The unpurchaseable car

Fischer’s first car actually wasn’t a ’29 Olds, it was a green ’31 Model A coupe. The coupe eventually led to Fischer joining the Illinois Valley Antique Automobile Club.

“We were going on a one-day tour and we gathered at a shopping center in Peoria,” Fischer said. “This guy approached me and asked me if I was interested in another old car. You don’t ask an antique car collector that because the answer is always yes. He had a 1929 Oldsmobile.”

The blue Olds, a four-door sedan, was located on the far side of Peoria just off the downtown area. When Fischer was taken out to see the car, he found it in a barn and he couldn’t believe it.

“I had a dream about finding a car in a barn and it was mine,” he said. “I just assumed everyone in the world had that dream that’s into cars.”

He said that inside the barn sat “the fuzziest ’29 Oldsmobile I’d ever seen.” The reason for the fuzz was because dust had been collecting for years on the motor oil that was poured over the car to preserve it.

After seeing that the odometer read 23,715 miles, Fischer asked how much the car was. While the starting price was $1,200 for it, Fischer noted that some key pieces of the car was missing. However, he had an interesting idea for the price.

“I said, ‘Well, you’re talking to a real unique guy. I like to have fun with it. I will give you what that car was advertised for in the magazines in 1929,’” Fischer said.

He brought the magazine down with the original price of $1,050, and the car was sold.

After buying the Olds, Fischer found out another unbelievable fact about the car.

“I had heard about a car in Peoria that no one could buy because they didn’t want to sell it,” he said. “Doctors were after it, lawyers were after it. It just went in one ear and out the other because nobody could buy it.

“I just bought the car that couldn’t be bought.”

He added that the car was also wanted by a guy in the auto club, and he wouldn’t talk to Fischer for 10 years after he bought it.

What Fischer did next with the car surprised even the previous owner; he drove it home to Metamora.

He and a friend sat out on a Saturday morning to air up the tires, check the spark plugs and more before heading out.

“I hit that starter and the first piston went and fired and it was running,” he said. “Everybody was shocked. But, it was throwing smoke. It looked like the building was on fire. But, it died, and we couldn’t get that thing to restart.”

After dumping all the oil out of the carburetor, the car finally started the long trek home, although Fischer added that he had to stop every mile to clean the fuel screen.

The sedan is the only car Fischer owns besides the phaeton that has won a national title.

“It’s funny,” he said. “I was feeling guilty about showing the Phaeton all the time, so I took the blue one that I restored up to a national meet just to see if I can win with it. Yeah. So now I have two national show car winners.”

The one of a kind car

The rarest car in Fischer’s collection may be his red ’29 Olds phaeton.

“The phaeton is the only known surviving Phaeton in the country,” he said.

There were only 78 of the models built for the U.S., nine of which came with the Special trim his has.

He found the phaeton in an old car magazine being sold by the owner in Melbourne, Fla. It was originally advertised as a ’28 Olds touring.

After buying the car for $5.000 and transporting it to Metamora, he found out what the car actually was.

“While taking it apart we finally found the serial number for it,” he said.

The phaeton is also one of the most expensive cars in his collection over the years. Fischer had been working on restoring the Stevenson House that the Historical Society owns in Metamora when he got the car in 1996, and used the money he got from the restoration for the car.

“I’ve got over $100,000 in that $5,000 car,” he said. “If someone had told me I would come up with that kind of money I would have told them they were out of their freaking mind.”

The reason so much money is invested in the car is because he had a company in Rockford do the major work for the car while he did some of the minor work to get it ready to show at Oldsmobile’s headquarters for its 100th anniversary in 1997.

However, Fischer just recently discovered a problem with the front tires that has been there ever since the major work was done to it.

The wheels have an inner and outer race that secures it in place, but both inner races were in the wheel well, which Fischer said was physically not possible to fall in.

“I finally got it fixed after 15 years. It’s a good thing I didn’t want to drive it,” he said.

The car has the most honors in his collection. It has was 13 national titles, all first-places, as well as three national best of shows.

The car also got invited to the Meadow Brook Hall Concours d’Elegance competition in 2000. The event, an invite-only event with celebrity judges, is often won by multi-million dollar cars.

However, Fischer found a way to entertain the judges looking at the car. Before the competition, he had found 1929 carpet tacks at a flea market he used to secure the carpet in the back.

When the judges got to him, he showed them the box of tacks used on the carpet, which got the judges writing furiously in their notebooks he said.