Better than new

John Kubal/Register: In their spacious Brookings backyard, Ed and Deanne Weninger show off their vintage and meticulously restored 1929 Dodge Coupe that had been owned by his grandfather.

Weninger takes grandfather’s coupe from rust, ruin to total restoration

BROOKINGS – At 93 years old (born – manufactured – on April 19, 1929), it looks great and runs great. 

It’s a Dodge Brothers 1929 DA Deluxe Coupe, owned by longtime Brookings resident Ed Weninger.

The car has had three owners: the first is unknown; owners two and three are related, and both brought fond affection and love to it. 

It’s now Brookings resident Ed Weninger’s car; he got it from his maternal grandfather after it had sat on the family farm for 50-plus years. Since 2010, when he retired from Brookings-based Daktronics after 40 years, he has put time and treasure into the Dodge’s complete restoration. 

“I played in the car as a little kid,” Weninger said. “My mother learned to drive in this car. She drove it in high school.” One of the unique features of the car is its “rumble seat,” that folds open and seats two. But with no overhead protection, it likely wouldn’t have been a fun ride during falling rain or snow.

Walter Chrysler bought the Dodge Brothers Co. in 1928. 

“But the reputation of Dodge Brothers was so strong that Chrysler continued to use the name until 1938,” Weninger explained. “In 1938 they dropped ‘Brothers.’”

However, he noted that “anyone that has vehicles from 1914 through 1938 can belong to the Dodge Brothers Club. It’s an international association.”

Two brothers, two Dodges

Weninger’s maternal grandfather bought the coupe used. His research suggests that the model he owns would have cost about $1,000 to $1,200 when new.          

It had originally been shipped to Chadron, Nebraska. Weninger believes his grandfather purchased the car in Rapid City. But in what year and who was the original owner? 

“We’re not sure,” he explained. “Because my mother didn’t know, and I wasn’t old enough or have had the presence to ask my grandpa when or where he bought it.”

Interestingly, Weninger’s great-uncle (his grandfather’s brother) purchased a 1928 Dodge at about the same time. And while there’s no certainty about when the brothers bought their cars, Weninger believes, based on what family history he knows, that the brothers bought their cars in Rapid City during the Great Depression – in 1934 or 1935. Whatever the case, Weninger’s car went to rust and ruin, unused for 50 to 60 years. 

“We pulled it out. It was at home on the farm,” Weninger explained of his acquisition of the car. “My brother brought it here in 2007.” And he began the restoration.

“I took the engine out and completely disassembled it,” he explained. “The block was bored down here at Napa (Auto Parts). I was able to buy pistons, valves and rings from a California company.

“That’s the original engine; it’s got the same serial numbers. It matches the frame and the serial numbers on the ‘build card.’”

Grandpa did some jury-rigging

That original automobile, however, had prior to Weninger’s restoration required a lot of jury-rigging to keep it running.

“My dad drove it,” he explained. “He talked about driving it. When I took it apart, I could see grandpa’s handiwork to keep it together. There was wire in different places. The radiator was not original. He had taken the radiator off and put a radiator on it from a different car. It didn’t fit, so he made Z-brackets on the bottom to fit it. He had a forge; this was on the farm before welders and electricians.”    

Weninger did note that his grandfather “had actually studied auto mechanics in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1917. I have his textbook in my library in the house. So he was able to maintain his own cars.”

His wife, Deanne, says Ed put about 14 years – on and off – and thousands of hours into the car: “And he was still working. It’s a hobby.” 

And while he has a few other old cars, the Dodge is the only one that required total restoration. 

“He’s a one-car guy,” she added.

That one-car guy credits Deanne with her moral support and hands-on help in bringing the Dodge from “absolute total disassembly” to a rolling piece of automotive history.

For their day-to-day driving car, the Weningers rely on a 2006 Lincoln Town Car. Ed said it’s “the first and only brand new car I ever bought. For the most part I just drove old junkers and kept them running. I used the money to buy Daktronics stock.

Contact John Kubal at [email protected]

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