Widow restores her husband's dream car

Larry Edsall
Special to The Detroit News
Body panels were altered to give the 1971 DeTomaso Pantera a more contemporary look.

Ever since he rode in one owned by a friend, Randy Brickle's dream car was a 1971 DeTomaso Pantera, a car designed and built in Italy but an exotic sports machine that drew its power from one of Ford's big American V-8 engines.

Brickle wanted one of his own, wanted to find one and restore it with his own hands. He was so committed to the project, said his widow, Cheryl, that, "He bought a house with a big garage and remodeled the garage so he could restore the car."

But, she added, "then he got sick."

Brickle found and bought his Pantera, and thought he'd found someone to restore it for him when he couldn't do the work, but the car was far from finished by the time cancer claimed Randy's life.

"Cheryl was frustrated that the car didn't get done in time for him to enjoy it," said Jim Ring who, with his brother Mike, were asked by Cheryl to complete Randy's car.

Operating under the Ringbrothers banner, Jim and Mike Ring are among the country's leading custom car builders. They not only finished the Brickles' Pantera, they turned it into a gleaming yellow showpiece known as ADRNLN.

The speedometer’s only number is 71, in honor of the model year.

Oh, a note about that color: The Brickles founded and operate the company that paints the yellow stripes and white markers on highways throughout Wisconsin, and thus the Pantera's paint had to fit the family business's color scheme.

But once they got into the car, the Rings realized the original restoration plan was not going to work. As Jim put it, the car not only looked like it had been "painted in a chicken coup," but, as with so many old cars, its sheet metal and mechanical parts were, well, "basically junk."

But Cheryl was committed to build the car her husband would have wanted, so the Rings did just that, rebuilding the car as if DeTomaso and the designers from Ghia were still in business and were producing a new Pantera.

Except for a small section of the roof and left-side bodywork, every exterior panel had to be redone anyway. Fender peaks were heightened and fender flares widened. The tired old Ford engine was supplanted by a 600-horsepower Wegner Motorsports GM LS3, and various components were added to keep that power cruising fast but sure between the lane lines.

The Rings even were able to recruit Nike's Skunkworks Design Team to help create the car's interior design and the sports shoe company got so into the car that its underground design group also created a one-off pair of retro-styled shoes to match the unique interior.

And then, about two months ago, Mike Ring said, Cheryl contacted him to say that she had been diagnosed with cancer and needed to get her things in order.

"I'll never be able to drive the car," she told him. "Will you give me some suggestions on what to do with it?"

She also wanted to go for a ride in the car.

"Are you afraid?" he asked her as they explored the car's dynamic capabilities.

"Not of this," she responded.

As it turns out, Cheryl's prognosis is very good, and she anticipates a full recovery. Meanwhile, the car and the shoes will be sold at the annual Barrett-Jackson classic car auction in January in Scottsdale, Arizona, with proceeds from the bidding on the unique shoes earmarked for cancer research.

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at ledsall@cox.net.