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College Pt. biz gives TLC for cars

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It’s one of many cars he has restored at his College Point business, Paulea’s Quick Lube, on...

By Cynthia Koons

The sign on Frenchy Lavoie’s garage is so faded the shop would be hardly noticeable without the shiny red ’68 Raleigh Sport Camaro peering out of its doors.

It’s one of many cars he has restored at his College Point business, Paulea’s Quick Lube, on 130th Street.

“In order to restore cars, I don’t do it for the money, I do it for the love,” he said.

Lavoie rebuilds most of the cars for himself. In his garage, he repairs cars and does oil changes, tune-ups and auto body work on both foreign and domestic vehicles, including a Volkswagen owned by this reporter.

“I’m good with my hands,” he said. “I learned by watching. If I see something done once, I can do it myself.”

The first time he built a car was when he was 13, and the car was a ’67 Firebird.

“I was working on the car. I remember that was the day there was a big blackout, in 1973,” he said.

From there he started repairing and rebuilding cars in Queens.

“I got finessed when I started working for a dealer,” he said. From working at a dealership, he went on to a GM school in Tarrytown, N.Y. where he placed fifth in his class of 28 students.

“Back in ’73 when electric ignitions came out, that’s when the old-timers stepped out,” he said.

Those old-timers were the mechanics who rebuilt cars from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.

His skills date back to the 1920s.

One of his favorite cars that he reconstructed was a 1928 Ford Model A. Pictures of it hang in the hallway leading up to his office.

“The best is when we drive them,” he said.

The Ford has rumble seats that his two children ride in when they drive around Bay Terrace, where they live.

He has 12 or 13 restored cars, including Mustangs, Mercedes and Corvettes, that he keeps in garages in the area. Most of the cars he reconstructs are his own.

“When you restore an antique car, you have to have an open checkbook,” he said.

Lavoie invests his money and much of his time in his car collection.

“Sometimes I’ll be here until 11, 12, 1 o’clock,” he said. That’s the time that he says he can relax and enjoy the art of rebuilding cars.

It’s a love that doesn’t keep him away from his family or wife, either.

“My wife is the backbone,” he said. “My wife is the one that normally looks at the cars and buys them.”

Frenchy, whose real name is Paul, said the shop’s name is a combination of his and his wife Lea’s names.

He said his family drives some of the cars, and some of them are kept as an investment for the future to be given to his children after he is too old to build them anymore.

“Old cars are what you call a retirement plan.”

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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