By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz have been all over the country since their television show American Pickers debuted on the History Channel in 2010.
But their most expensive purchase, airing Monday, April 10 at 9 p.m., came in Keizer.
Last September, a week before the pickers were scheduled to visit, Zane Leek, along with his mother and brother, met to go through all the stuff his father had left them to determine what was and wasn’t for sale.
One item they decided they wanted to hold on to was a 1922 Ace motorcycle. But that was before Wolfe offered $45,000 for the bike Leek believes his dad paid around $35 for when he spotted it under someone’s porch in Portland in the early 1960s.
“I love the bike,” Leek said. “It was a classic old bike but it didn’t run and it needed a lot of parts. Obviously, none of the stuff is mine. It’s my mom’s stuff and I got to thinking my mom is never going to get any enjoyment out of that motorcycle, she’s never going to ride it and my brother, he’s never going to ride it. I’m 46 years old. I’m probably never going to ride it in my lifetime. We can take the money from that to get something that we really want on the road.”
The one car that comes to mind is a 1950 Frazer Convertible the family took on trips to Colorado Springs, Long Beach and into Canada.
“Our family vacation was a car show, usually,” Leek said. “It’s been all over. It’s a pretty rare car. They only made like 65 of them.”
But the Frazer hasn’t ran in 15 years.
“I’m trying to get it back on the road and make it drivable again,” Leek said. “It needs brakes and carburetor work, all that stuff from sitting. It needs attention.”
Wolfe and Fritz weren’t satisfied with just the 1922 Ace. The pickers also purchased three 1930s motorcycles, a 1947 Knuckle engine and another $5,500 worth of miscellaneous items for a grand total of $90,550, the biggest buy Wolfe and Fritz have ever made.
The pickers, with a crew of 11 people, spent two days between Zane’s childhood home in Keizer and his parent’s property out in Macleay. They ate lunch at Birdie’s Bistro.
“The nice thing was there was nothing that was staged,” Leek said. “Mike and Frank never went inside the buildings first. What you see on TV will be exactly the way it happened. All the negotiations were real. It was a really good time. It was so much fun. I woke up at about two in the morning after the first day, after we filmed here and at my dad’s, and thought ‘Oh my God, did I just sell all my dad’s stuff? Is this real?’ My dad would be pissed if he knew I was selling all his stuff. I’m part hoarder, too. I try not to be.”
When Zane’s father Larry died, he left the family 150 cars, jammed pack into storage buildings in both Keizer and Macleay. Most no longer run and all of the vehicles need at least a little maintenance.
The collection even included a fire engine, which Zane’s mom donated to a museum in Brooks.
“Dad would drive something until it needed brakes or whatever and then he’d go buy another car,” Leek said. “It was easier to go buy another car than it was to fix it. I enjoy the working on them more than the collecting them. I love the collecting but I like working on them. I like taking stuff that’s broken and making it work.”
Larry only bought American-made and the more rare the better. His favorite brands were Kaiser, Studebaker, Hudson and Packard. That has stuck with his son.
“I like driving something that’s not like everything else on the road,” Zane said. “It’s engrained in me. Dad had always driven something different.”
Zane’s first car was a baby blue 1960 Studebaker Lark that he drove to McNary High School in the late 1980s.
“I was a nerd in school and probably still am but I just liked driving something different,” he said. “It’s just more fun. And I like the challenge of driving something old because new cars are so easy now. I pride myself on being a good mechanic. Driving something old keeps me sharp on my skills and it makes me learn new stuff.”
Zane drove a 1960 Studebaker Hawk to work in Beaverton, where he’s a firefighter, for 12 years until he wrecked it.
“That was my daily driver and it was a great car,” he said. “I wrecked it and it just broke my heart. I killed my car. Never once got left stranded. That’s something I took pride in.”
At the moment, Zane has five cars insured, including a 2006 reliable Jeep and a more fun 1946 Willys Jeep, which he worked on with his dad.
“It doesn’t look very nice but mechanically it’s sound, new engine, transmission, it’s all new,” Zane said. “I don’t have to worry about scratching it. I found it out in Wilsonville when I was working there at the fire department. We used to go out to this mobile home park all of the time for fire and medical calls. I used to see it sitting behind this guy’s house. One day after work I just knocked on his door and asked if it was for sale. My dad, brother and I drug it home and put a new engine in it.”
Zane said he was out in the shop with his dad probably as early as three years old. The project that has kept him busy over the past year is a red 1957 Studebaker truck he paid $400 for to a woman in Grants Pass.
“I needed something that I could haul junk with, tons of scrap metal and things like that,” Zane said. “This truck will be handy in getting rid of some tonnage.”
The Leeks would like to sell the cars they don’t want and then use that money to restore the ones they do want.
“I’ve narrowed it down to about 15 I’d like to keep, which is still a crazy amount,” said Zane, who was a little disappointed Wolfe and Fritz didn’t purchase any cars when they visited Keizer.
But months later, Zane received an email from Wolfe, who wanted his dad’s old 1936 Nash Lafayette coupe. Off camera, the two agreed to a price and the most expensive pick ever continued to grow.