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Monday, June 2, 2014

Don Himsel's 'Vocies': ‘Rattle Can Cars’ a lifelong passion for man

By DON HIMSEL

Telegraph staff

Don Himsel's 'Vocies"

Charlie Gish and his friends called them Rattle Can Cars. ...

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Don Himsel's 'Vocies"

Charlie Gish and his friends called them Rattle Can Cars.

Gish’s head-turning roadster was parked in the old Simoneau Plaza lot, well away from other drivers’ swinging doors, while he went inside the Dunkin’ Donuts for a coffee.

“The car is what it is because I am from the ’50s. Back in the ’50s we had these cars,” said Gish, back outside talking about his ride. He explained the term “rattle can,” because of the spray paint they used. The familiar ball would rattle when you shake the can. “It’s like one I had,” he said. “Primered, red rims… We had no money for rims. Batteries and motors were from the junkyard. Whitewalls were painted on the tires.

“We were the hot rodders,” he said. “We didn’t buy new cars. We were simply putting together things that were crazy.”

His love affair with cars started at 16. Then came adulthood. Marriage. A house. A child.

“In the middle of all of that I bought cars, and I made cars. Every one I sold I would do something to the house with the money. I could tell you the rooms of the house I sold my fun cars to do something to. My wife was for the whole thing,” he said.

Gish went over his ride front to back, inside and out, describing the work that went into the car’s slow and deliberate development. He thinks back, his reflection shining in the spotless chrome headlights.

“It’s the last one like this. I worked hard this winter. Re-did everything. I overdid it. I felt it physically, even mentally. I felt the age,” said Gish.

He fondly remembered a white ’54 Chevy he had for many years. It was a real showpiece.

“You go through those phases, then you go back to your roots,” he said. “That was not my roots, to be a shiny car guy. I wasn’t into that.”

It’s a different story now, a lifetime later.

“This is nostalgia,” he said. “It’s exactly that. This is me. This car is me.”