There was a time, long ago, when Early resident Ron Weckwerth and his two sons, Chris, 40, and Steve, 35, weren’t car guys. That would be prior to 1991.
That was the year the three embarked on an adventure and passion that took them deep into the world of finding old cars and restoring them as highly customized, pristine classics, as well as cars in a car-show category known as resto-mods.
Sitting at a table in one of the two Subways the brothers own in Brownwood, Chris and Steve Weckwerth talked about the car shows, the awards, the knowledge they’ve gained, the fabulous people they’ve met, the memories — experiences, the brothers said, that no amount of money could purchase.
They talked about the Heartland Cruisers, the car club that hosts a summer car show and Tuesday Cruise Nights, and their involvement with the club.
And, they talked about their father, who wasn’t present that day.
The brothers had made sure of that. They wanted an article about their dad and the cars to be a surprise to Ron and a recognition of “all the hard work he has done and all the hard work the Heartland Cruisers have done,” Steve said. “He’s going to be just blown away.”
When asked to describe their dad, Steve replied, “My father is …”
“Very hard-working, a perfectionist,” Chris finished. “He came from the old school — you’re going to work or you’re not going to get paid.”
The brothers credited their father and their mother, Arlene, with instilling in them the values and discipline that have meant success for the two men in business. In addition to owning the two Subway restaurants, the brothers are also involved in commercial and residential real estate.
Their parents, Chris said, had made sure they were well rounded and educated. “When we were kids, they made sure that we were well traveled,” Chris said. “We thought it was normal to travel.”
Chris and Steve were born in Minnesota, and the oil business brought the Weckwerth family to Early in the 1980s. Their father continued working in oil, and the family survived the hard times of the oil crunch of the ’80s.
If the brothers didn’t start out life as car guys, they were garage guys. Growing up, the brothers said, they worked in a garage with their dad.
“The garage was everything,” Steve said. “Everything was just working hands-on with our father — bicycles, lawn mowers, motorcycles …”
“Anything that had a motor in it,” Chris said.
In 1991, their evolution into car guys began.
Steve was 13 or 14 when he decided what car he wanted to have when he turned 16: a 1966 Corvair Corsa convertible that had once been the family car, but now sat in storage in Minnesota in deplorable condition.
“I saw it as a sharp looking convertible,” Steve said.
Steve and Ron drove to Minnesota in a pickup with a flatbed trailer to retrieve the car. When they saw the car, Ron saw a disaster and proclaimed “it’s not worth it.” They drove the car back to Texas, though, and Ron decided he would “try doing some body work.”
The brothers and Ron embarked on restoring the old hulk, and succeeded wildly. The car turned out so nice, they realized this was a show car, not a car for a high schooler.
“This is what kicked off my father’s body work,“ Steve said.
“All done in a two-car garage,” Chris said. “Then he realized you can get these wrecked cars and rebuild them. People saw his work on the Corvair and would want him to fix their cars. He pretty much stayed busy throughout the ’90s. Word just got around about the work he was doing.”
The brothers turned the pages of an album that contained photos of dozens of cars -- Camaros, Mustangs, a Dodge with huge fins, a 1950s-era truck, the 1981 Honda Accord that had been Steve’s high school car, and the 1990 Ford Ranger that belonged to Chris in his college years.
The two-car garage yielded to a three-bay garage as the three men worked together to restore the cars. Ron was self-taught and learned by trial and error, Chris said.
“We’ve done dozens and dozens of cars in that shop,” Steve said. “We kept that shop full of cars that were being redone.”
Ron, meanwhile, had continued in the oil business but retired a few years ago.
The three are no longer as active in car restorations as they once were. Ron still does some restoration, a car at a time, and he is currently working on restoring a 1969 Chevrolet truck, the brothers said.
Each of them still owns a 1960s-era customized car that they sometimes drive around but mostly are show cars.
Ron’s car is a 1963 ½ Ford Falcon Spring convertible. Chris owns a 1966 Mustang, and Steve’s car is a 1965 Mustang.
“The three cars now are a snapshot of the past 23 or 24 years worth of working -- dad and sons working and learning,” Steve said.
At a recent Tuesday Cruise-in of the Heartland Cruisers, club members presented the Weckwerths with a plaque of appreciation to commemorate the Weckwerths’ involvement in the car club.
At the same time, the Weckwerths presented the car club with a donation.
Heartland Cruisers member and Early Assistant City Administrator Wayne Creel said “character” is the best way to describe the Weckwerths, and family is their top priority.
Referring to the three classic cars the Weckwerth men now own, Creel said, “the thing that’s really phenomenal is the fact that they have built the three cars themselves. It’s just really neat to see and father and two sons enjoy the car hobby and they get to enjoy each other.”