Recently we lost an exceptional automotive talent. Harry Sherry, owner of Sherry Classic Autos, passed away March 1 at the age of 82.
Harry’s Shop was located in Warsaw, Ontario, and for over five decades, it turned-out award-winning automobiles, including multiple class winners at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, in California. Harry was world-renowned for his high-quality restorations. His work resides in museums and private collections all around the globe.
His specialty was the classics: Duesenberg, Cord, Mercedes-Benz, and the McLaughlin Buick. General Motors hired Harry for the restoration of a very rare 1908 McLaughlin Buick. If you asked Harry what his favourite was, he would reply, “ALL!” He especially enjoyed the Marmon, which was manufactured from 1903 to 1933. Over the years, he restored a number of models of the Marmon.
When Ford Canada decided to get serious about drag racing, they hired Sherry Classic Auto to paint the race cars including the semi. He also was under contract to maintain the appearance of the rig and cars for the race season.
There is another side of Harry that doesn’t get a lot of attention. Hot Rods, Custom Cars and his support of local car clubs. As a member of the Kontinentals Rod and Custom Club (located in Oshawa) I met Harry in 1960-61.
At that time, club members were taking their vehicles to Harry for a variety of work including: removing trim, chopped tops, paint, etc. We became friends, and in 1985, Harry became an honourary member of Motor City Car Club. He came to club meetings gave technical seminars and would have open houses for the members.
I remember my first visit to his shop. There were three or four classics being worked on and I was taken aback by the attention to detail and the workmanship. Especially the paint. Even more so when I discovered that the paint booth had a dirt floor! They would water down the floor before painting.
Harry’s was one of the first shops in Canada to experiment with candy paint, in the Sixties. Harry was instrumental in creating a number of award-winning hot rods and customs for club members, including Louis Balogh’s full custom 1956 Buick, Wes Keenan’s radical, custom 1954 Chevrolet, Stu Sharp’s 1932 Chevrolet coupe, and Ed Benetin’s 1931 Ford Roadster, to name a few.
In the early Nineties, Performance World Custom Car & Truck Show introduced the Harry Sherry Award of Excellence, which would be awarded annually. Harry would attend the show, make his selection, and personally present the award to the deserving recipient at the awards presentation on Sunday.
At our most recent club meeting of the Motor City Car Club – on March 3, 2021 – we got reminiscing about Harry, his influence on the club, and telling stories. I’d like to share a couple:
In 1963, Stu Sharp had his 1932 Chev Coupe in Harry’s shop for a candy apple red paint job. When it was completed, Harry invited Stu to drop by the shop and have a look. When Stu first saw the coupe, they were just completing the cut and polish. His comment to fellow members: “Outstanding!” During that visit, Stu decided to sit in the coupe. For some unexplained reason, he pushed the brake pedal.
You know the rest of the story. All of the brake lines hadn’t been finished and the freshly-painted, candy red drivers’ side front fender got its first wash… using break fluid!
In either 1972 or 1973, Bob Clarke decided it was time to add colour to the Anglia. Bob is the M.C.C.C.’s current club president. He’d been driving the car in primer and he went to see Harry to get a price to paint the car.
Harry spent considerable time going over the Anglia, checking door gaps, fitting of the hood, and his hands were all over the car. He stood back… studied the car… turned to Bob, and said, “1,700.”
Bob was pleasantly surprised and said, “OK, when can you start?”
Harry was startled by the quick reply and said, “That’s 1,700 hours… not dollars.”