The Dart: Classic Dodge car brings back teenage memories

Published 12:34 am Monday, October 8, 2012

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Clark Feiser drives his 1958 Dodge Regal Lancer home after working Pilgrimage tours at Auburn Thursday afternoon. Feiser, who has had the car for 20 years, said he has driven the car more in seven years than in the 13 years he had it while living in Pennsylvania.

NATCHEZ — Gripping the steering wheel of his 1958 Dodge Regal Lancer, Clark Feiser can’t help but think back to his teenage years.

It’s not because he’s driving past familiar landmarks or even on the same streets.

The wide white bias tires outside and the unique trim and door panels inside explain some of Feiser’s smile, which stretches from ear to ear when he’s in the classic car reliving the memories it brings back.

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“This is the only car I’ve ever wanted,” Feiser said running his hand down the large fins rising on the car’s back end. “I had a car like this when I was a teenager, but just not this nice.”

The chance to relive teenage memories and talk about his prized possession was just too good to pass up when The Dart landed at Feiser’s Thistledown Drive house last week.

“I love to talk about my car to whoever wants to listen,” Feiser said laughing. “People are always coming up to me and asking, ‘How much you want for it?’ and asking me about the car.

“But I’m not selling it anytime soon.”

Feiser purchased the car 20 years ago while living in Pennsylvania.

During his teenage years, Feiser proudly drove two Dodge Cornets, the lower end model of the car he drives now.

One of those two was the first car Feiser ever purchased — something he said was a blessing for several reasons.

“Those were the days when not everyone had cars, not like nowadays where just about every teenager has their own car,” Feiser said. “If you had a car to drive to school you were very fortunate.

“And the guys who had the cars got the girls.”

The Regal Lancer was added as the “top of the line” model in 1958 to the already popular Dodge Cornet, Royal and Custom Royal models.

With only 1,163 Regal Lancers produced in the United States, Feiser said he jumped at the chance to take it off the hands of a seller in Pennsylvania.

“He’s called me if not a dozen, half a dozen times since I bought it asking to buy it back,” Feiser said. “There was another guy who has one and is trying to make a list of all the remaining ones in the country.

“What he told me is that there are only eight in the whole country.”

Since purchasing the car, Feiser has only done slight modifications — installing seat belts, replacing the front seat cover and interior headliner and tuning the 350 horsepower engine, among other things.

With every modification, installation or repair, Feiser said the most important thing is to ensure the car remains as close to the day it came off the assembly line.

“I don’t know if you’d call me a purist, but I prefer to keep the car original,” Feiser said. “I’m not one to soup everything up like a hot rod or anything like that.

“I want to keep it original.”

Originality and preservation, however, come with a hefty price tag, which is why Feiser said he’s holding out for the next big project on this to-do list.

“The next thing is to get a new paint job, but it won’t be cheap because you can’t just tape up all this little parts,” Feiser said pointing to a Dodge logo on the front of the car that’s been extinct for years. “That probably won’t happen unless I win the lottery.”

But unlike some classic car collectors who leave their prized possessions in the garage hidden from the world, Feiser uses the car as his daily commuter — something he couldn’t do in Pennsylvania.

“Back there, if you have an antiques car license plate you can’t drive your car to work or at night,” Feiser said. “Here you can drive it anytime, so I take full advantage of that.”

Feiser, his wife Phyllis and the Regal Lancer all moved to Natchez in 2005 to retire. The couple rode the Delta Queen down from Pittsburgh to New Orleans in 1991 and just couldn’t get Natchez off their minds.

Feiser said he’s put more miles on the car in the seven years he’s lived in Natchez than in the 13 years he had the car in Pennsylvania.

“(Phyllis) loves to ride in it too, so we’ll always be out just taking a ride in the car,” Feiser said. “If people don’t associate me with the car yet, they’re getting there.”