With a name like “O’Hara,” it was only fitting that Julie O’Hara Tronson choose the color shamrock green (her favorite color) as the paint for her 1952 Plymouth Belvedere touring coupe.
“It was my Great Aunt Tressie’s car,” explains Tronson, who lives near Doyon , N.D. “My Mom and Dad bought her at an estate sale. My dad was a Dodge man, thank goodness. So, it is a family car, and I am the third owner.”
With a green and cream color, the vehicle has acquired an Irish theme. Tronson admits she has a bit of an addiction for classic cars. And she’s found other ladies with the common interest. For the past two years, Tronson has joined the Lipstick Run, an all-women’s classic car tour.
Founding members of the Lipstick Run are Liz Kitzul, a.k.a. Hot Rod Liz, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, who drives a ‘23 T-bucket with matching trailer, purple in color; Barb Balanyk, of Brandon, Manitoba, who drives a ‘34 Ford pickup; and Kathy Milne, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, who drives a ‘38 Chevy Master Coach.
“These Ladies have been doing the Lipstick Run for decades and I have been lucky enough to join them on two tours, but we have been friends since 2009.” Says Tronson.
During the most recent tour, Tronson realized the value of her unique friendships.
“It was the beginning of our Lipstick Run and man, we were excited! We met at the Erskine rest area, in Minnesota. We were on our way to Dale and Pat Sohlstrom place in Duluth. We heard Dale was cooking so we made tracks for his and Pat’s place. I noticed in between Bemidji and Grand Rapids, I started to feel and hear my car not running right. We stopped in Bemidji for gas, and I thought maybe I had picked up some poor gas at the stop before, so we stopped at a parts store for some fuel filters. We decided to try and replace them at Pat and Dale’s house.”
The problem would prove to be more complicated - even for a girl who’s been around cars all her life.
“We left Grand Rapids, and I got just past Warba when after about one minute of the car running smoothly, I felt a big bang and the Bel spit smoke out both pipes and I knew that was all she wrote.”
Tronson said she coasted for a bit but because of her car’s immense weight, before she gradually came to a stop on the side of the road.
“My lady friends would not leave me by myself on the roadside, they stuck by me the whole time!”
Tronson contacted her friend Dale who got a hold of Ted Vadnais of Warba.
“Ted showed up with his pickup and tow rope. He checked it over to make sure it wasn’t something simple and then towed me about half mile back to a campground. Dale then gets a hold of his friend Chuck Beck and Paul Johnson, who made calls to some friends with an enclosed trailer to try and get the car back to Grand Rapids.”
Tronson says her “pickup crew came pronto, which was such a blessing.”
This crew included Dustyn Smith, Noelle Albers, and Brad Beier.
“Thank goodness for the calvary, it took all seven of us to push and pull the Belvedere into the trailer. We then went to Brad Beier’s shop where Brad’s son Adam was, and the car was unloaded and pushed right into Brad’s shop. Brad reassured me the car would be safe there until I finished my Run or had my husband come with the trailer to pick it up.”
Tronson was very grateful for all the help she received.
“It made me realize that being part of the car enthusiast family doesn’t mean you have to be family to have friends help you out. The ladies and I realized we have made some new friends under terrible circumstances.”
The ladies were able to stay at a hotel in Grand Rapids while they decided what to do next. After she called her husband, Tronson was encouraged to continue the tour with her new friends.
“I certainly didn’t feel like going on without my car but in the end, I decided to make the best of things, continue the trip and have Rick fetch me in Erskine at the end of the trip.”
Tronson would continue riding - this time in shotgun as a navigator.
“Since it is hard to leave your Car Baby in someone’s hands, much less someone you just met, it was daunting for me.”
But Tronson says she was comforted by the guys in Grand Rapids who took her prized Bel into their hands and dismantled the motor to find the root of her problem.
“I cannot say enough about Brad putting my worried mind at ease. While I was on the Run, Brad and Adam pulled the motor and took it to another friend, Jigs, David Gibeau. He dismantled my motor to see how bad it was. There were many questions since I had had the motor rebuilt less than 10,000 miles before. It was going to take a while before Jigs could sort it all out but, in the end, it appears a lifter keeper let loose, letting the lifter, rod and everything else fly apart. As Brad explained it, we will never know why this happened and had to chalk it up to ‘s**t happens!’ At first, everyone thought the motor was gone but when Jigs investigated it further, they decided there had been a lot of good work done on the motor and it was worth saving. I was so thankful, again, that these new friends were helping me sort out the issues with my car.”
In the meantime, the ladies had made it to Kalamazoo Mich., to a National Street Road Event.
“We saw many of our friends from Chicago and more friends from Canada. We saw the Gilmore Car Museum, the Henry Ford Museum near Detroit, went to Gas City car Show and James Dean Run and had a personal tour, with Mike Ojard, of some tugboats in Duluth Harbor, organized by our friend Dale. It was all interesting and fun.”
After returning home, Tronson waited for her car’s motor to be rebuilt.
“I was simply overwhelmed with people helping me and helping me through tough times. I have not met every one of them personally but hope to when I go to pick up the car. I just wanted to reach out and thank everyone that helped with my Belvedere. I can’t wait to get to pick up my car and hit the road again. A sincere thank you to everyone who helped in any way, happy and proud to call you, my friends,” sincerely Julie O’Hara Tronson.
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