‘The Freedom of Being Able to Do What You Love’

BY SHAWN BRALEY
Published: 6/3/2017 11:30:17 PM
Modified: 6/3/2017 11:30:30 PM

Chelsea — Antoine Lutz hails from a long line of artists. A silversmith, woodworker and gardener in his spare time, among many other pursuits, he keeps busy during the workday with another kind of art: keeping “countless” old Volvos on the road.

Lutz, 60, the high-energy owner of Lutz Motorworks, works exclusively on vintage Volvos, as he has for almost 30 years. Originally from Connecticut, he moved to Vermont in 1984 and started the business — inside a quintessential old barn in Chelsea — in 1991.

He took time recently to answer a few questions about his appreciation for old Volvos — he’s owned more than 50 over the years — why he likes working on them, and why he has no intention of revealing the identity of his favorite Upper Valley back roads. (Questions and answers have been lightly edited.)

 

What first drew you to Volvos? Was it something about the brand’s style or did you like working on the engines and such?

 

At 16 years of age, I purchased a 1966 122S Volvo. That was the beginning of my fascination with this product. I love their robust construction, safety record and unbelievable longevity. After owning that original car for over 40 years, I just traded it to my cousin. He is enjoying it today in North Carolina.

 

Did you ever dabble in Saabs? Or Subarus? Or one of the “Big Three” American automakers?

 

I enjoyed working on many types of foreign and domestic products in my younger years. Those experiences helped me to fine-tune my specialization of working on vintage Volvos.

 

Volvo is still seen as an iconic Swedish brand, but the company used to be owned by Ford and in 2010 was bought by a Chinese holding company. Does any of that influence your appreciation for Volvos?

 

Yes. That is exactly why I work on pre-’93 models and earlier, as that is when the change of ownership occurred. The company’s vision and platform changed completely. In vying for a different market, Volvo lost some of the simplicity and robustness of the previous product.

 

In your eyes, what’s the best model Volvo ever built and why? Which one was the worst?

 

Being ever so slightly biased, I would have to say the 240 series was the best offering after the Amazon series of the ’60s. I have my opinions on the worst, however this format does not allow for frank discussion on this subject.

 

What’s the best story you have, or have ever heard, about a Volvo repair?

 

I had a local client whose car was named “The Goat Roper.” As each outer door handle failed, it was replaced with chains, brass doorknobs, barn door handles and various other salvaged materials. The funny thing is that they worked better than the originals. The car finally succumbed to its age, abuse and mileage of over 300,000 miles. Among its many unusual duties, the car was used for logging, a hostel and hauling big game after the hunt. I would always repair it so that it would make it to the other side of the country and stay there ... but it always seemed to come back to Vermont.

 

What aspect of your personality is most helpful to being a mechanic?

 

Honesty, attention to detail, good product knowledge, creativity, determination and a damned good sense of humor!

 

If you weren’t an auto mechanic, what would you like to do for a living?

 

I would do all the things I currently love to do when I am not working on clients’ cars: vintage motorcycle repair and fabrication, fine metal working, woodworking, collecting vintage tools, gardening ... the list goes on. Choosing self-employment comes with its pros and cons, but for me, the pros far outweigh the cons. There is no price for the freedom of being able to do what you love.

 

What’s your favorite Upper Valley highway: Interstate 91, Interstate 89 or ...?

 

Personally, interstates for me are a tool, sort of like a hammer. Use them when the need arises. Secondary roads are more to my liking — less speed, more relaxing and, as a rule, way more interesting to travel. My love of riding vintage motorcycles and automobiles makes secondary roads more conducive to an enjoyable experience.

 

Do you have a favorite back road that you take when you can?

 

Yes. There are quite a few local roads here in the Upper Valley, but I am not telling as I want them to remain my favorite roads! There are so many secondary and Class 4 roads in the Upper Valley that one would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite. For me it would depend on the season, road conditions and the vehicle that I happen to be using.

 

Editor’s note: This is the first in an occasional series of illustrated interviews. Suggestions for future subjects are welcome at sbraley@vnews.com.




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