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Jack Fehan, 85, renowned for custom car restoration

Oct. 12, 1932 – March 8, 2018

Jack Fehan had a reputation for restoration that stretched far beyond his auto collision shop on Young Street in the City of Tonawanda.

“At the Camaro National, the top score is 1,000,” said his longtime friend and Camaro fancier Chris Tucker, “and off the truck his car scored 992 points. That’s what on a national level that he was capable of. He was very, very well respected in the car show community.”

His pride and joy, however, was a custom classic, an emerald blue 1932 Chrysler that he fitted with power windows and air conditioning.

“It was basically taken from a junk yard,” Tucker said. “He worked on it and massaged it and that car was the best in show wherever it went. I’ve driven some older cars and I was shocked at how good that car drove.”

He died March 8 in Kenmore Mercy Hospital after a period of declining health. He was 85.

Born John Fehan, he was the youngest of seven children in a pioneering Tonawanda family that once provided food and lodging for St. John Neumann and helped found St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in 1836.

He attended St. John the Baptist School and Kenmore High School, then served for two years in the Army stateside.

His older brothers joined his father’s linoleum business, the John D. Fehan Floor Covering Co., but his interests lay elsewhere.

“As a child, as a teen, he always was tinkering with cars. He wanted to take everything apart and put it back together,” said his sister, Mary Jane Lucca. “On a Sunday, he and his brothers would take a Model T engine apart after church and have it back together by suppertime.”

He began working for Mill Stream Collision in the City of Tonawanda and eventually bought the business. He sold it when he turned 65, but continued coming into the shop.

“He loved cars and his job so much, for the next 10 years he was never late for work,” Tucker said.

When he wasn’t working on cars, he went to car shows.

“To say he went to car shows a lot was an understatement,” Tucker said. “He’d go two to five times a week. I can’t remember when he took a car that it didn’t win best of show, but that was not what Johnny was about. He went there to hang out with friends and see the cars.”

He also regularly attended the classic car swap meets in Carlisle, Pa., and went to races at Watkins Glen and elsewhere as a guest of his nephew, Doug Fehan, who manages Corvette Racing for General Motors.

He was a past president of the Buffalo Niagara Builders Association and twice was honored as Builder of the Year.

“He was very humble, low-key,” his sister said. “You’d never know what he did unless you talked to him.”

Mr. Fehan once had a farm in Amherst on property that was acquired for the University at Buffalo North Campus, then had a home in Getzville. For the past year, he lived with a nephew on Grand Island.

“He’d always have something with a motor, a Jeep, a scooter, when he came over,” his sister said. “He had my kids spellbound.”

His longtime companion, Valentina Zbieski, died in 2010.

In addition to his sister, survivors include many nieces and nephews.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 17, in St. Pius X Catholic Church, 1700 North French Road, Getzville.

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