'The Saint' Car Brings Man Back to Franklin Memories

Thursday, July 05, 2007

'The Saint' Car Brings Man Back to Franklin Memories

New Jersey Herald, Sunday, June 24, 2007
'The Saint' car brings man back to Franklin memories
By TOM HOWELL JR. (thowell@njherald.com)

FRANKFORD — As the Robin Hood-like hero of the 1960s British television series "The Saint," Roger Moore rode a sporty white Volvo 1800 to fame and a role as James Bond.

After negotiations with an overseas owner and extensive repairs, Franklin native Bill Krzastek, 55, rode that Volvo to the Chatterbox at Ross's Corner last weekend.

"I'm very surprised to see it here," said John Smith, of Hampton, marvelling at the car's gleaming white body and shiny chrome. "It's perfect, ya know?"

Adapted from novels written by Leslie Charteris from 1928 to 1963, "The Saint" TV series ran from 1962 to 1969.

Moore played Simon Templar, the show's namesake whose initials "ST" appear on the license plate of Krzastek's keepsake vehicle.

Templar was a crusader who worked within or outside the law to root out crooks and corruption. His fast Volvo was unique and pure, and the Swedish auto manufacturer never made another "enthusiast-driven" car, Krzastek said.

"It put Volvo on the map worldwide," he said. "All of a sudden, every week, here was Roger Moore streaking across the screen with this white, sleek sports car."

The car was built and first used in 1967. Earlier versions of the model were made in Britain, because Volvo did not have the capacity to build it in Sweden, according to Krzastek.

But the company built a new factory in Sweden in 1963, and an "S" at the rear of Krzastek's car indicates its country of origin. Besides acting, Moore was the original owner of the car, according to logs known as a "green book."

Krzastek grew up in Sussex County and graduated from Franklin High School, but now resides in Waynesboro, Va., where he teaches high school math.

"The Saint" series allowed him to bond with his father, Mathew, when the show ran in the 1960s. Mathew Krzastek suffered a stroke in 1975, retired from the Franklin Post Office, and always had a request for his son when he visited Virginia during the 1980s.

"He'd say, 'Hey Bill, you got any Saints episodes?'" Krzastek recalled. His father passed away in 1993.

Nostalgia and an affinity for stylish cars set Krzastek on a mission to rescue The Saint's Volvo from a British museum owner's storage facility.

"It was literally rotting in his warehouse," Krzastek said.

Krzastek talked the previous owner down from $75,000 to $54,000 after an independent assessment, but the restoration cost an estimated $25,000.

The car had to be stripped down to bare metal in some interior parts, and the doors' rocker panels and the body's nose panel were replaced due to rust. The process was called a rotisserie restoration, because the car was placed on its side in a way that lets it turn.

Two British television stations, the BBC and ITV, filmed segments on the car's restoration.

"I thought it was quite the grand project," said Dan Reder, of Wantage, Krzastek's boyhood friend.

Another high school friend, Joe Prtorich, of Frankford, marveled at the car and the scope of the restoration.

"You've got to trust someone half the world away to take this apart and put it back together," he said.

Once complete, the car was shipped in a crate from England and made the rounds at car shows throughout North America. Stops have included the Carlisle Import Festival in Pennsylvania and a recent auto extravaganza in London, Ontario, Canada.

"It's been in both Londons now," Krzastek said. "All of a sudden, folks have been really excited about seeing (the car)," Krzastek said.

The Franklin native heard about the Chatterbox's classic car night and decided to check it out.

"I said, 'Holy smokes!' The place was full of cars," Krzastek recalled.

The Volvo's steering wheel is on the right side, which is customary for a British vehicle. Krzastek said he does not need a special permit to drive it, and post office work in his youth prepared him for driving in the configuration.

It's great for picking up mail, but terrible at drive-thrus, Krzastek joked.

The Wanderers Car Club, which hosts cruise night at the Chatterbox, were thrilled to have a celebrity car in the lot on Saturday.

"I thought it would be a real attraction for everyone," Wanderers' member Sandy Mazza said. "Who doesn't remember 'The Saint'?"

Classic cars such Krzastek's harken back to a generation when new car models were released amid "a lot of hooplah" and anticipation.

"Today they all look alike," she said.

Chatterbox owner Don Hall said it was nice to pull back a memory through the gleaming white Volvo.

"From film to reality," he said.

Copyright © 2007 The New Jersey Herald. All rights reserved.

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