‘Old never gets old’

Classic cars breathe new life into Austin County

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They only get better over time.

As new technology is developed every day, rendering previous technology practically obsolete, some of the old school tech continues to stand the test of time and deliver when called upon.

That’s what runs through the mind of Jeff McDaniel every time he turns the key on his 1959 Chevrolet Apache, the same model he drove throughout his high school and college days in Oklahoma.

“The new stuff today becomes old quick but the old stuff from back then seems like it never gets old. The old stuff never gets old,” he said.

It retains memories from the past and adds to the experience of owning a piece of history which can take you back in time to what McDaniel described as some simpler times.

“We did that back then where you’d stop and people looked at each other’s cars, so it makes me think of those days before the social media when you talked to people face to face,” he said. “You only kind of get that today because people will say, ‘Hey, what year is that?’ and you talk to them. It reminds me of the days when you had conversations with people and laughed with each other, you can laugh now, but it’s between a screen.”

Things got done in person and with bare hands, and the familial connection seemed closer than today with screen distractions getting in the way. Cars were worked on together; they were passed down to start a new chapter in its history.

That is going to be the case for Byron Burnett’s 1964 Ford F-100, which will soon go to the care of his daughter once it’s out of the friendly confines of the garage at Bumbera’s Performance.

“I have two daughters; Shannon (36), who lives in Austin, and Kristi (33), who lives here in Houston,” Burnett said. “Kristi, my youngest, is the one who went to Kenny Bumbera and told him if for any reason I was not able to claim Pearl, that Pearl was her truck.”

It was originally Burnett’s grandparents’ vehicle and his grandfather affectionately named the truck Pearl after his wife, and Burnett knew his time to enjoy the ride was close to running out.

“Pearl was purchased new in 1964 by my grandfather, Lee Alexander, from the Ford dealership in Grand Prairie, Texas,” Burnett said. “If I was going to enjoy driving Pearl again, I wanted to have time to do that. And secondly, I now know of a shop and a family that I could trust with something as important to me as is Pearl. This is a major renovation. As extensive as these upgrades would be, it had to be done by one that I could trust would be safe and dependable.

“My grandfather was a simple, working man who just wanted a simple work truck,” Burnett continued. “I did not want Pearl to have the appearance of a ‘Trailer Queen.’ Yes, updated with today’s modern conveniences and safety features but still the same work truck that my grandfather and grandmother relied upon for daily transportation.

“I wanted Pearl to remain the same work truck I rode in to school; the same work truck that hauled hay and cows, and the same work truck that hauled me and my cousins in her truck bed over the two-lane, black-top roads and through the open countryside of cattle and cotton,” Burnett said.

On top of that, he wanted to maintain the memories he made, not only with his grandparents, but with his own children as well.

“When Pearl went into long-term storage in my garage, the two girls, then 8- and 10-year-olds, would sit in Pearl’s cab and pretend they were on the open road on an adventure,” he recalled.

The garage it’s being worked on in has a close-knit family feel to it as well and that’s part of what sets them apart after nearly 30 years in the industry.

“There aren’t a whole lot of people that do what we do and there aren’t a whole lot of people that do it on such a broad spectrum that we do,” said Kendall Bumbera, the middle child of the next generation of Bumberas who handles all of the marketing and social media for the garage. “We can work on a 1900 Model A to 2019 Mustang. We’ll do everything and you have the family aspect of it too; your chances of talking to somebody who is blood when you walk in the door is pretty high and that means that we care and we’re happy that you’re here. So that personal touch sets us apart on the service side and then as far as what we can do on the vehicles, there’s not a whole lot that we don’t or can’t do.”

The business started shortly after Kenny married Cheri in 1992 and they set up shop off Highway 6 and Memorial Drive for 20 years before moving to Katy for seven and ultimately ending up in Sealy, 6513 SE I-10 Frontage Road in April. All that moving around, however, did little to keep cars away from Kenny’s reputation under the hood.

“He started doing this whole thing and hanging out with the hot rodders in the ’60s and ’70s on Westheimer and so he kind of became known as the carburetor guy,” Kendall said. “Then as those cars got older, and everyone else got older, people still have those cars and so he was the guy then when they were new and now he’s still the guy for those cars.”

That love of cars is being passed down the generations, much like the cars themselves.

“My dad founded the company with my mom, Cheri. Kristin is the oldest and we’re all five years apart,” explained Kendall. “She’s always worked for the company; she does all the books, the accounting and also does tuning on cars. Then I do all the marketing; all the social media and graphic design, I do all that. And then Boyd is the other Bumbera child, he is 21. He is the high-performance specialist so he basically he’s new school, and my dad is old school.”

Now, when one person brings through a specific model car, similar ones make their way out of the woodwork and swarm to the garage to get their work done there as well.

“It depends, any given week we can have all new ‘Vettes in here,” said Kristin, the eldest who is in charge of the books and accounting while mixing in some tuning and driving every so often. “It’s kind of weird because if you park a Volkswagen out front, we’ll have four Volkswagens show up. Like the Cobra Kit car out there, we’ll have four or five of those. If it’s an old truck, they’ll be here. I guess people see it and then call a buddy.”

“That’s like the Bronco one, we did a Bronco build then three showed up,” Kendall added.

“So it depends, we always tell people you come this week, it’ll be different next week, there’s always a rotation,” said Kristin.

That rotation, however, brings a consistent type of person, and car owner, around although she added that has slightly changed since moving out of the hustle and bustle in the city.

“In Houston and Katy, a lot of people bought a classic because it was something that they remembered their grandpa having or they had as a kid or wish they hadn’t sold it. So they bought one kind of like it and they needed to put all this money into it to make awesome,” Kristin started. “Out here, it’s probably the exact opposite; they did own it, they still own it, they maintained it, they or their grandpa has had it and then it got passed down to them. It has a whole lot more meaning which makes our job even more fun because we get to work on something that’s super sentimental and we get to pour just as much heart into it as the customer does.”

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