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Keelers one-man operation enjoys those classic cars

by: Cliff Newell, 
Car guy Vic Keeler of Lake Oswego enjoys classic vehicles.

When the founders of the Oswego Heritage House Car Show got started eight years ago, they did a very wise thing.

They got Vic Keeler on board with the project.

Keeler, of course, is a Lake Oswego automobile institution, having owned Vic's Auto Center for 34 years and now operating Motor Cars by Vic, which is located right in the same building.

It's strictly a one-man operation and it allows Keeler to do what he likes the most: Restore classic cars.

'I love the old ones,' Keeler said. 'They're the ones I grew up with, the cars from the '50s, '60s and '70s.'

Working in his immaculate shop, Keeler can provide a tune-up, electrical work or rewiring. In fact, if you've got the money and you've got the time, you can be assured that Keeler can turn the old car that's been sitting in the garage into a sparkling showpiece.

It can be a luxury model, like a Mercedes, Ferrari, Maserati or a Lamborghini. Or it can just be a Pontiac GTO. He especially likes Thunderbird convertibles. Keeler's latest project is a 1957 Chevy owned by Denny Miller of West Linn.

'People come in with a laundry list and ask how much I can get done,' Keeler said. 'If I can't do it, I can send it to someone who can.

'I work alone, right in the shop, which is the way I want it. It's a different pace from a regular auto repair shop, and I like that.

'I've been in the auto business since 1957,' he said. 'I deserve to slow down.'

There is an excellent side benefit for having his own shop. Staying in the shop keeps him out of the house.

'I keep out of my wife's hair,' Keeler said. 'She doesn't want me to get in her way. So many guys retire and start telling their wives how to load the dishwasher, and they've been doing it for 40 years.'

Keeler's work on the classic auto show fits right into his business. It started when he got a call from John Baines, who said he was thinking of starting a car show in Lake Oswego. So Keeler became of one of its founding fathers.

'John told me there were so many people who had old cars sitting in their garage,' Keeler said. 'He said we ought to have a show to bring them out.

'It's been fantastic. We opened at Millennium (Plaza) Park and we were unsure how many people would show up. We had such a great response.

'We get antique, classic and street rod people all together. We don't segregate the cars, and that creates a lot of camaraderie.'

Keeler got into the big show himself this year, displaying his 1940 Chevrolet coupe.

Keeler has been a car guy practically his entire life. He grew up on a farm in Kansas, working on combines, tractors and also a Model A Ford.

'I made it a hotrod,' Keeler said. 'Back then we thought noise meant more horsepower.'

After 50 years, Keeler makes much less noise at his shop on Boones Ferry Road. But his enthusiasm hasn't diminished one bit.

'I'll be working here for a long time,' he said. 'My son will probably have to drag me out.'

For more information about Motor Cars by Vic, call 503-699-8600. It is located at 3975 Lake Grove Ave. in Lake Oswego.