SNOWMASS VILLAGE - "Turn it on, wind it up, blow it out, GTO."
Summer. Warm nights. Radio rock 'n' roll. The cool cars have their tops down and everyone is out cruising for a good time. Cool cars and cruising on warm nights are a summer tradition across the U.S.A.
While cruising may not be part of a Snowmass summer (yet), the town is home to some cool cars, including two classics restored by Jeff Jandegian and Jeff Head at the Snowmass Conoco.
Jeff Jandegian moved to Snowmass in 1982 and opened the Snowmass Conoco with his friend from second grade, Mike McLarry. The two grew up together in California in the shadow of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. They ran the Conoco together for 21 years until Mike sold out his interest to one of their longtime workers, Jeff Head.
"In high school, the popular cars were the muscle cars; the '55, '56, '57 Chevies," said Jandegian. "We didn't have much money as a kid. So after I got my first real job, I bought a restored Corvette and painted it yellow."
Jeff Head grew up in the Moab desert, far from California's car culture.
"Growing up in Moab, we were in trucks," said Head. "There were a few street cars but you didn't want to stay downtown, you wanted to be up in the hills. So we were always in four-wheel-drive vehicles."
Together, the two Jeffs and their staff of mechanics and workers provide Snowmass Village and the winter/summer resort with needed gas and general automotive services. But in addition to their gas station work, the two Jeffs have also created a budding art partnership. Together, they have created more than 100 metal sculptures and projects, restored or further enhanced two classic automobiles, and are now working on restoring classic gas pumps.
"I always liked working with my hands," explained Jandegian. "My whole family was in the art business. My dad hand-painted signs, and several of the signs in the station here were painted by him."
"I was into wielding, but never did artwork until after I started working here in Snowmass," said Head. "I worked on a ranch, and if something broke you had to fix it. There wasn't anybody to call."
Their first car project was Jandegian's '55 Chevy.
"I saw an ad in the Denver paper and bought the car sight unseen," said Jandegian. "A friend of mine from Denver went and looked at the car, and then called me up said that if I didn't take it, he would. Everything was original. And it was slow. So I put a Corvette motor and turbo transmission in it, along with some new rims and wheels."
Their second car project, Head's '51 Chevy pick-up, was much more extensive.
"A guy in Glenwood had it parked on the side of the road," explained Head. "We had just been talking about getting an old truck, so when I saw it, I flipped a U-turn and looked at it. It was old and looked it. A guy from a paint store in Glenwood told us how to (restore it), step-by-step. It took us three years."
Inside the timeless Conoco gas station (you can't say it's restored, more like it's weathered), a metal sculpture of a hen oversees the action from its roost on the end of counter. The sculpture is lifelike; the metal delicately layered, shaved and wielded.
"That piece took us about 100 hours," explained Jandegian. "Basically it's all done in our heads. We just start making it. I do most of the ideas and the designing. Jeff does most of the wielding. We've done headboards, horse saddles, benches, at least a hundred pieces, many of them for customers of the station here."
Their latest project is a couple of ancient, rundown gas pumps that they hope to restore. "It's a 1938 gas pump," said Jandegian. "We looked for a gas pump for five months and found one in an old gas station in New Castle. It was owned by a family and abandoned. We got some old pumps, signs and brass handles."
What's a fully-restored gas pump worth?
"If it's operational, then about $10,000," said Head. "You can get replicas, but they're plastic."
And the same goes with these two Jeffs: you can find replicas, but they are Snowmass originals.
Steve Alldredge is the former assistant editor/writer for the Snowmass Sun. He now runs a
local communications company whose clients include Related Colorado. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.