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Quam gives new meaning to the term 'collector'

Iowa native has nearly 90 antique vehicles
Sep 27, 2013
Photo by: Brooks Taylor John Quam of San Francisco, Cal., stands beside his 1914 Kissell prior to the beginning of Thursday’s Red Flag Horseless Carriage Tour.


Mt. Pleasant News

John Quam is in town for a little drive this weekend.

But it won’t be anything like his excursion next year around the world.

Quam and his buddies are part of this year’s Red Flag Horseless Carriage tour, an event he missed last year due to a heart attack.

It is a new year and this year Quam wasn’t going to miss it, smiling in the autumn morning’s sun while patting his restored 1914 Kissell.

The Kissell is one of nearly 90 antique vehicles owned by the San Francisco, Calif., resident and inherited from his late father.

“I am actually beyond collecting,” he chuckled. “My father only bought cars he liked. The only problem was he liked them all, but most of all, he liked very unusual cars.”

Such as the 1914 Kissell. The Kissell is stored most of the year in a museum in Hartford, Wis., the community from which the car originated. However, during the last two years, the vehicle has made its way to Iowa for the tour.

“My dad found this car underneath a one-room schoolhouse near the Iowa-Minnesota border,” Quam recounted. “It was there along with a Pierce Arrow.”

Quam, a native Iowan, who grew up in Ames, said he spent about three years restoring the Kissell. He hoped to have the car done before his father passed away but didn’t quite make it. “I was kind of disappointed I didn’t get it done, but my dad saw most of it (restoration work) before he died.”

To honor his late father, Quam painted his father’s birth and death dates near the rear of the car and a “91” — the age of his father when he passed — is painted on the hood.

The 86 vehicles owned by Quam are in locations throughout the Midwest. Two of his prize vehicles are prototype vehicles made for the 1934 World’s Fair.

Retired from Fisher Controls, Quam said he now has a real job — working on and driving his antique cars.

“It’s pretty crazy, actually,” the Californian said. “I only started doing this restoration work for about 10 years. I taught myself,” he added proudly.

He also dabbles in music. One of his old rock bands — The Notables — was recently inducted into the Iowa Rock of Roll Hall of Fame. He also did some picking with Jerry Lee Lewis and the Everly Brothers quite a spell ago.

Approaching rapidly is an event Quam is anxiously awaiting, a trip around the world. Modeled after the Great Race hosted in 1908, Quam will drive his 1928 Plymouth around the world next year.

The trip, he said, will have him driving around 60,000-120,000 — a far cry from the estimated 12,000 miles annually he puts on his vehicles.

So what vehicle is Quam’s everyday mode of transportation? A 2010 Mazda 5 mini-van. “There probably isn’t anything more boring,” he said referring to the Mazda, “but I live in the San Francisco Bay area and driving a collectible daily in that weather would be hard on it.”

As Quam talks about his cars, his thoughts continually go back to next year’s trip. He thinks it will be the trip of a lifetime, and he said time is running out.

“When you get to be 70 years old, you realize you have more past than future,” Quam reflected, “so you better enjoy each day you have,”



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