Mike Nelson rides in his car Rosie, a 1923 Roadster that he and his wife Nancy recently restored. Photo by Mindi Larose

When Mike Nelson’s dad wanted him to have his 1923 Chevrolet Superior Roadster Mike didn’t really want it nor did he know then what to do with it. The car was built in Oakland, and Nelson’s dad bought it in 1961 in California. It even came with an original monkey wrench with the owners name barely carved at the top. Mike still has that wrench today.

The old car stayed in the San Bernardino area in the thirties then went to the high desert, Roy Rogers’ country, and after WWII it was returned to San Bernardino. In 1960 Mike’s mother Rosemary had her eye on the car, and Mike’s father bought it from a 17-year-old who had run into financial problems. He named the car Rosie.

The hitch was that the Roadster came with a Model “A” Ford, which Mike drove to high school. He wanted to drive the Roadster but his mother said, “keep you hands off, it’s mine”.

In 1979 or ’80 the Nelsons brought Rosie to Squim on a flatbed trailer where it stayed in the barn until a year or so before Mike’s mother died. Meanwhile, she kept giving hints that it would be nice if Mike had it. When she died a few years ago his dad wanted his son to have it. Rosie had never been restored and was a dirty gray color, rusty, with parts strewn in the front and basically in the midst of being disassembled.

Not sure what to do with the broken down Rosie, Nelson said he had it transported to where he lives now. When they arrived daughter, Jasmine, would have nothing to do with such an eyesore and was afraid to even go near it for fear of “catching something.” Eventually, Mike went out to the garage to try hand cranking it to start which only lasted a minute or so. The second try was even less and on the third the old girl refused to turn over.

At this point Mike’s wife, Nancy, took an interest and together they decided to restore it. They discovered that antique parts (before WWII) were hard to find, especially little things like slotted screws, hexagon bolts which when new only cost about two cents and now Mike found them to run $85 each with the bolt having to be rebuilt.

Nelson says he is excellent at troubleshooting but when it came to the carburetor it threw him for a loop. He said the float setting has to be precise. Seeking advice from a California friend it was discovered that the early models used a larger condenser so to increase the size he had to add a second one for the ignition to start.

The couple said they started restoring the car three years ago and finished the process just before the winter storms came. They had fun doing it. Mike has plans to build a flatbed to carry his prize showpiece to various cars shows or anyplace that is not close by. A&W restaurant in Port Orchard informed him that there is an informal car show there every summer. Nelson says, “That car is an adventure to drive” and he loves showing it off in Key Center to various friends and businesses. This antique car developed from a piece of junk to a grand piece of beauty complete with nickel-plated chrome window frames that were so worn it was hard to tell what they originally were.

As he drives along he said he notices horns beeping and people of all ages waving. Rosie sports a business sign on the side that says “Mr. Mike’s Fixit,” the name of his home and business repair.

Nelson says his goal is to have people see, touch and ride in it versus becoming an antique in a car show that a person can barely get close to. One time Mike was waved over by a sheriff who Mike said just wanted to look at it. Rosie travels at 40 miles per hour, max, holds 10 gallons of fuel and gets about 26 miles per gallon. She has a 154 cubic inch, 30 horsepower engine.

Mike said there are only four other Chevrolet Superior Roadsters know to exist today.  One, he said, is being driven and enjoyed like theirs, one is in Germany, and two are in museums. Mike has also restored a 1956 Chevy and a 1968 Chevrolet Cheval.

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