KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - When Charlie Sims first laid eyes on a 1936 Model 40 Buick, he fell in love.
His dream was to have it restored, but a recent bout with a rare type of cancer put a halt to his dream.
In 2009, Charlie was diagnosed with chordoma, a rare tumor that occurs in the spine and base of the skull.
"The night the surgeon told me he had cancer, I told the kids he was going to have this car," Barbara Sims, his wife, said.
She got together with a few of Charlie's friends and had the car restored.
"I took my savings from my retirement and the kids pitched in. It's just something I wanted him to have," said Barbara. "I wanted to make sure he's got something he's always wanted. Hopefully, he will be able to use it for many years."
Barbara surprised Charlie by unveiling it recently at the 2nd annual Street Rod Car Show at Woodland Church of God.
"I've been messing with cars for quite some time," Charlie told the Kokomo Tribune after the unveiling.
Charlie restored a 1957 Chevy a few years back and has since sold it.
"All of them are special." he said of the many cars he's had over the years. "But l think the '57 Chevy I did was my favorite. I wish I had the money to buy it back."
After restoring the Chevy, he saw a 1938 Buick at a car show in Ohio and had to have it.
"I was at the Street Car Nationals in Ohio when I saw it," the 69-year-old said. "They only made 1,700 of them. I liked the car and the body style. It's a four-door. Most people don't make a street rod out of four-doors, but I'm at that point in my life that speed is not that important. I'd rather put a CD in and enjoy the ride.
"I really liked it. I started looking and found one 15 years ago in Logansport in the middle of the woods," Charlie continued. "The only other ones I've seen is the one in Ohio and a guy here in town has a black and maroon one that's all original."
After purchasing the car, Charlie set his goal on restoring it someday.
Then in 2009, he began his first bout of cancer.
Charlie felt achy and had numbness in his arms and legs. An X-ray revealed the rare tumor.
After numerous surgeries including proton radiation treatment, Sims is hopefully on the road to recovery, she said.
"The minimum life span for this type of cancer is seven years," said Barbara. "There's very minute research into it. This man has gone through so much. He has a lot of faith."
Then, three years later, Charlie was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"I went to Howard Community (Hospital) and they said they thought I had incurable lung cancer. I went through treatment for that and they sent my biopsy to California and found out it wasn't incurable."
That feeling, he said, was similar to how he felt when he saw the car restored for the first time.
"When they drove that car around the corner, I had the same gut feeling I did when they told me it was incurable. It was a gut-wrenching feeling," he said.
Charlie had seen the car during the restoration, but never imagined it would be completed so fast. Charlie said Ken Rice and another friend, Walt Adams, got with his wife and made the restoration happen.
"I had no idea. I was thinking it would be another four to six weeks before it was done," said Charlie of the restoration.
"I could not believe it. It wasn't even running last time I saw it. They worked 12 hours a day to get in the state it's in. I haven't driven it yet."
After displaying it at the car show, Charlie said Rice put it back on the trailer and took down to Centerville to get the interior finished.
"It's got an LT engine and a Ford transmission," Charlie bragged. "It's a real nice car."
As for his health now, Charlie said, "so far so good."
"I just finished the fifth of sixth treatments and they said that type of cancer has a 65 percent curable rate," he said. "If you're going to have cancer, this is the kind to have — it's treatable. The doctors said if I make five years, I'll be doing good, and it's been five years and I'm not showing any signs."
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