Crown Point dentist lives life in the fast lane

2013-05-09T00:00:00Z Crown Point dentist lives life in the fast laneCarrie Rodovich Times Correspondent
May 09, 2013 12:00 am  • 

When Dr. Mark Van Buskirk was a young boy, he learned to work on cars by helping his father restore Volkswagens.

Many of his life’s milestones can be marked by the car he was driving.

The first car he owned was a 1968 Volkswagen Beetle.

His affinity changed from Volkswagens to convertibles and sports cars, and when he graduated from dental school, he celebrated by buying himself a British Triumph TR6.

After he got married, he gave his wife a white MGB.

“I always loved to work on them myself,” he said. “I’d be in my Dad’s garage, pulling them apart and putting them back together.”

In the 1990s, he purchased a 1940 Ford truck through a patient, and began racing it in the Newport, Indiana, Hill Climb.

“It’s a steep dirt hill, and it tests the sturdiness of a car,” he said. He’s either raced or attended the race for the last 20 years, and at one point held the hill climb record.

On a trip to Las Vegas, he learned about a 1932 Ford roadster that was in pieces in California. He purchased it and had it restored.

“It’s an iconic hot rod,” he said. The car was invited to numerous prestigious car shows, including Pebble Beach Concours DeElegance in 2003.

“I took that car to California, Detroit and Colorado, and drove it all over,” he said. “I had a lot of fun with that car.”

In 2007, he sold the car at auction for $380,000 and purchased a 1929 Ford roadster.

He learned that the car was raced at the Bonneville Salt Flats, and had the car restored to how it was in the 1950s and 1960s.

In 2008, Van Buskirk decided to race it Bonneville, and reached a peak speed of 150.116 miles per hour. In 2009, he blew the engine of the car, and in 2012, the car raced at 146 miles per hour.

This year, he is having the car fine-tuned and hopes to reach a speed of 178 miles per hour, which the car reached in 1954. This will be his final drive in Bonneville.

“Driving in the salt is like driving on snow. You have to take off gently and get it into high gear. You go at least three miles,” he said. “Going that fast feels different in an open car, without a top and no windshield. You really feel the wind in your face.”

Dr. Van Buskirk said he enjoys researching his vehicles and finding out the history the cars have.

“One of the great things about restoring these cars is learning the stories behind them. The stories make them more valuable,” he said. “Did it accomplish something? Was it owned by a famous person? Was it in a movie?”

He bought a 1947 car transporter while he owned the 1932 roadster to move it up and down his gravel driveway. After he purchased it, he learned it was used in the movie “Gone in 60 Seconds.” It also was used as a model for a Hot Wheels car. He currently drives the transporter in local parades.

Other cars in his collection include a 1931 Model A owned by his father, as well as a friend’s 1972 Dodge Charger as well as the 1947 car transporter

This January, he went to Burbank and met Jay Leno and got a tour of his cars, and got to ride in Leno’s fire truck around Burbank.

In July, he will be driving his friend’s 1932 Ford Tudor from Los Angeles up to Victoria, British Columbia for a “Deuce Days” event.

After this summer, Dr. Van Buskirk isn’t sure what new automotive adventures await him.

He is considering selling the 1929 roadster, and is thinking of purchasing another 1932 Ford.

“Race car sort of impractical. They’re made to go fast, but they’re not something you can really drive on the street,” he said. “I don’t want to do a ground-up restoration. I want to get something I can drive.”

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