Man, 89, rebuilds car for his wife

James Dalgaran, 89, built this Model A car for his wife, Irene. His car will be on display during the annual Antique and Classic Car Show at Life Care Center of Kirkland on Aug. 20. - Contributed
James Dalgaran, 89, built this Model A car for his wife, Irene. His car will be on display during the annual Antique and Classic Car Show at Life Care Center of Kirkland on Aug. 20.
— image credit: Contributed

In 1968, former Bellevue resident James Dalgaran bought his wife, Irene, an unusual gift for Mother’s Day - a 1931 Model A Ford. Forty-three years, numerous parades, and a complete restoration later, this gift has remained in the family as a valued memento.

Model A cars were conceptualized by Henry Ford in the late 1920s and were one of the first cars built on the assembly line, an innovation that was designed to make cars affordable so that every family could own one. Dalgaran, 89, said he has always been fascinated by antique cars and has been a member of the National Model A Car Club for 50 years.

But his fascination did not stop there. According to his wife, Dalgaran and a couple of his friends thought it would be “real fun” to tear the car down to the ground and put it back together again like a “picture puzzle” in 2000.

“It took them almost three years to accomplish this,” said Irene. “But they had a wonderful time and it turned out beautifully.” She watched him and his friends build it in their garage on Whidbey Island, sometimes working as often as five days a week over the nearly three years.

“They loved doing it,” she said. “There’s no one who loves cars more than the old Model A people.”

The Dalgarans’ car will be one of hundreds featured in the 13th Annual Antique and Classic Car Show on Aug. 20. It will take place from 2-4 p.m. at Kirkland Life Care Center. The event is free and open to the public.

“It’s a chance for the community to interact with the residents that are here,” said Linda Riel, the activities assistant at Kirkland Life Care Center. “This is something they look forward to every year.”

For the residents at the center, the show is a chance to reminisce about automobiles and reflect on memories that are triggered from seeing the cars they once drove.

“For some residents like (Dalgaran), the Model A was their first car so it gives them a stroll down memory lane,” said Riel.

Dalgaran was receiving rehab at the Center when many residents noticed his unique car in the parking lot. Residents were enlivened when they saw the remodeled vehicle and eagerly took photos with it. It also caught the attention of the directors, who asked him if it could be part of the car show.

It was not the first time the Dalgarans’ car received attention from strangers.

The vehicle is noisy when driven and has a horn that goes “ahooga” when rung. Irene said the first time they drove the car into their neighborhood, all the children in the vicinity ran up to see what it was because it was so unusual.

She also noted that the Model A had a rumble seat - an exterior seat in the rear of the car that became the ideal place to give the neighborhood kids a ride since it was only big enough for children.

The car has also been featured in many July Fourth parades in local cities such as Bothell and on Whidbey Island, she added.

As for the Dalgarans’ own three kids, they grew up with the car and have many fond memories of it. Irene reminisced about how her son used to drive it to Interlake High School in Bellevue where it would receive a great deal of attention while parked in the parking lot.

One day, even the principal had to get involved. According to her, he called Irene one day and asked her not to let her son drive the car to school.

“He parks it in front of my office window and it feels like I’m babysitting all day long,” the principal said.


Atia Musazay is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.

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