By Noah Rosenberg
BAR HARBOR — Ronnie Power parks a 1999 Heritage softail Harley Davidson motorcycle in the living room of his modest ranch home in Town Hill. “I bought this a couple years ago and put 4,000 miles on it in the first summer. This isn’t my first bike,” said Power, firing up the V2, four-stroke engine indoors to a thunderous roar. “I flew her in the ditch the year before last. I came around a corner, and there was a truck coming on my side of the road. These bikes can come out from under you real fast. They do not like dirt.”
Keeping a 700-pound operating Harley Davidson behind the couch is not your run-of-the-mill statement piece. But for Power, it’s a natural extension of his love for all things mechanical.
Power’s passion for powerful machinery goes well beyond owning motor bikes. Since he was seven, Power always has been interested in welding and how things work and are put together. He found a mentor in his father’s friend and former Otter Creek resident Nelson Sennett, who passed away in early 2010. Power recalls an early memory working with Sennett. “He taught me how to weld because my father told him that he couldn’t teach me, and he wanted to prove my father wrong.” Since that pivotal point in his life, Power interest in welding and all things mechanical has focused on automobiles. He claims to have worked on well over a 1,000 cars and is currently working on adding two more to that list.
Next to his one-story home sits his two-story garage workshop where he modifies, repairs and in some cases builds hot rods, rat rods and other classic vehicles. Hot rods are modified versions of classic American cars that were produced around the mid-1900s. The exteriors of hot rods usually resemble the original design. Engines, however, receive serious “under the hood” improvements. That can translate to 10-20 times the horsepower of the original model.
This fall, Power has been building two hot rods, a 1931 Model A Sedan delivery vehicle and 1923 Model T Ford pickup convertible. The Model A body came from Lamoine. But remarkably, much of this project is being created, from frame to body, by hand, by Power, in his workshop.
Power has made some of parts by hand, including a 6-foot splash apron that runs along the side of the car. “I worked for that one,” he said.
He has appropriately christened His model T “Some Assembly Required.”
“In the beginning, I picture something already done,” Power said. “I can picture it shiny and painted so I know what I want, and I won’t stop until I get it.”
The 1931 Model A is actually one of two that he has been working on with friend James Greenlaw. At the beginning of the project, they decided to build the two car frames simultaneously. “It’s kind of like mission impossible. There’s so many measurements, and they’re all different.”
The body that Power obtained was actually a four-door. But he preferred the look of the two-door sedan. So he welded the back doors shut, replaced the back windows with a metal panel and custom built a rear delivery door.
Power wants to paint his Model A a burgundy color. He believes he still has about a month of work on both cars but admits he’s not exactly sure about that estimate. He takes great pride in his work. But what drives him is how much he enjoys the process. “You don’t know how much fun it is until you do it,” he said. “It’s a toy room. A play room that’s all it is. But if you can’t do something in this shop, you might as well hang it up.”
With more than 50 years of experience working with metal and machines, Power thinks anyone can build hot rods so long as they’re willing to learn. “You do have to learn what the tools will do. But the biggest part is learning what you can do, and that’s the most fun.”
Power has continued to reach out to people interested in learning how to weld and build cars and is particularly interested in inspiring a younger generation of craftspeople. A few years ago, he helped a girl and her father build a car for her graduation and recalls the spark he saw in her. “I saw that in her the moment I saw her. She was a real go-getter. She would come out from under the car covered in tar or whatever they were doing, and she just plain loved it.” he continued.
“If you find something that they love, then they’re going to push for it,” he said. “If they push for it, they can do anything.”