by Brandon LaChance
Once upon a time in a rural Illinois village named Dwight, a boy named Phil Becker continuously went to the News Stand to check out new hot rod magazines.
A girl, Deb, who worked at the News Stand, caught Phil’s eye.
Over time, Phil asked Deb on a date with a car magazine opened in his hand.
“We’ve met a lot of great people going to these shows. We now have great friends on the east coast, the west coast, and all over the midwest,” said Phil Becker, a 1967 Dwight Township High School graduate who began working on cars in high school. “We all venture to the shows, run into each other, then go out to eat and shoot the breeze.
“It’s kind of a small niche thing, but you meet a lot of friends. We’ve traveled everywhere from the west coast clear to the east coast. We’ve been to Boston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Arizona, Chattanooga, and all through Texas. If there is a big city, we’ve been there. The only region we really haven’t been to is the Northeast. It’s interesting because you meet different people from all over.
“It comes full circle because my wife, my kids, and my neighbors are all a part of this. Both of my boys are car nuts. Both of them have hot rods. I’m very proud of them.”
The Becker family enjoyed some family time during the Grand National Roadster Show Jan 28-30 at the Fairplex in Pamona, California.
Phil and Deb brought their 1932 butterscotch three-window Ford Coupe and their grey 1932 Victoria.
The butterscotch was chosen by Darryl Hollenbeck, who paints high-end cars and winner of the 2016 Grand National Roadster Show, as one of the Top 12 cars at the show, while the Victoria was chosen as the Best Rod at the indoor show, which filled nine buildings.
“Our sons and their families were in California also. It was a family event,” Deb Becker said. “We had airline miles out the ying-yang because I use a Southwest Airlines card, so we flew them out there. They hadn’t been there and it was on their bucket list.
“We said, ‘We’re not getting any younger and we don’t know when we’re going to show a car.’ We asked them to come and they were excited. They helped us load and unload. They were a big help.”
The three-window butterscotch 1932 was visited by Chip Foose, an automobille designer known for the reality TV show called ‘Overhaulin’.
Foose visited with the Beckers for 30 minutes and took photos inside the butterscotch.
“They didn’t have the Roadster Show last year because of Covid. This year we decided to go out there,” Phil Becker said. “One thing we hadn’t done yet was show the grey 1932 Victoria. They let us know they were going to do a 90th Anniversary for the 32s.
“I thought it would be pretty neat, so we brought both the butterscotch 32 three-window Ford and the grey 32 Ford Victoria out. The grey 32 Victoria was featured inside. They put us right at the front door and I was estatic about it. The three-window 32 had been out there 10 years ago. We had it in the gathering of the 32s outside. I think they had 400-500 32s that were invited from all over.”
Although winning awards, chatting with TV stars and respected members of the automobile world, and having a couple of the best showcars in the country is awesome, Phil and Deb Becker light up brighter when they talk about their family and friends.
It’s hard not to when the people they care about have been part of their love for cars. Actually, they’ve shared their passion.
“When you show cars, you need what’s called a judge’s book because to look at the car is one thing, but to look at the judge’s car shows you how you got there,” said Deb Becker. “It shows all of the details from when it started to when it was finished.
“Todd has started creating judge’s books. The first one he made, he gave to Phil as a Christmas present. Once people saw it, they’ve been hiring him to make them. He’s done three or four since then.”
Phil believes the couple is at the “end of their rope” in terms of restoring and showing cars as they’re getting older and want to focus on other commitments.
However, they’ll never forget the family bonds they’ve strengthened, the people they’ve met, or the memories they’ve created.
“It went from running the little Texaco Station to buying one car and fixing it up,” Phil Becker said. “Friends like Larry Seabert would paint the cars and do the body work while I did the chassis work. It was just on a part-time basis.
“The older we got and when the kids went to college, it kind of stopped. Then you realize dreams only come around once. It was incredible it happened twice for us. I’ve been real fortunate to have the family, friends, and support that I have. If it wasn’t for the friends and the family, it may have stopped and never started again. You hang around the people that have the same passion that you do and you feed off of everyone else.”
Brandon LaChance is a journalist with The Paper. He can be reached at 815-876-7941. , firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @LaChanceWriter.