A go-to place for classic car collectors.
Convoys of black stealth limousines barely rate a second glance when they cruise past the local landmark, a white surveyor’s post that a young George Washington reputedly erected here in the mid-1700s. Residents in the tiny town of White Post, 50 miles west of Washington, D.C., know that the international celebrities, Middle Eastern sheiks and other well-to-dos rolling by are focused on a more contemporary destination—the half-acre of garages and workshops that are White Post Restorations. The business is renowned but so low-key that most visitors have to ask for directions.
White Post Restorations is a place where lovers of classic cars indulge their collector’s appetite. Owner Billy Thompson, 71, and his 20 restoration craftsmen (at $100 an hour, you don’t call them mechanics) work only on cars predating 1970. And what cars they are: The White Post crew is currently restoring a 1923 Hudson convertible and a 1956 Crown Imperial limo. Not long ago, they restored a ’58 Dodge in which the owner had proposed to the love of his life. If you need an estimate, look elsewhere; restorations take one to two years to complete and are billed in $30,000 increments.
Thompson, as colorful as the cars he restores, was 12 when he started sweeping floors in the four-bay repair garage his father built in 1940 behind the house where he still lives. “I commute 37 steps to work,” he quips. He says his client list has included actress Stephanie Powers (owner of a 1967 Mercedes), business tycoon Bill Marriott (a 1934 500 K Mercedes) and many foreign royals he refuses to identify. “All my customers are famous if they pay their bills,” he quips. Two of the rarest cars White Post has restored were a Scarab (a limited production 1930s car hailed as the first mini-van) and the Tucker from the 1988 movie of the same name.
Thompson’s crew researches, documents and photographs each new vehicle, then assigns it to a master restorer, who leads a team of technicians who completely disassemble the car, down to the bolts. Each part is tagged, inventoried and sent to specialty sections of the facility for cleaning, stripping, restoration or rebuilding. The entire car—wood parts, upholstery and the exterior colors—will ultimately replicate the original. Of his clients, Thompson says, “They’re just good old boys and their toys. They put bread on our table and we put joy in their life.” And what does this granter of automotive wishes drive? “A hot rod Lincoln,” says Thompson. As he puts it, “just wheels.”