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Episode 24, Eric Wohlberg: cycling champion, vintage Buick driver

Eric Wohlberg and beloved 1964 Buick LeSabre estate wagon.

Eric Wohlberg spent more than a decade traveling around the world to compete on two wheels. He participated in three Summer Olympics for Canada and won multiple cycling national individual time trial titles and stage races.

But Wohlberg, 53, of San Jose, in his sixth year as a director for the Rally Cycling Team, now prefers four-wheel transportation. He often travels to the team’s camp and its races in the United States and his native country while driving one of his two vintage cars.

Eric Wohlberg and beloved 1964 Buick LeSabre estate wagon.
Eric Wohlberg and his beloved 1964 Buick LeSabre estate wagon. Images © James Raia/2018

Since 1990, Wohlberg has owned a 1965 Mustang Fastback. For his 50th birthday, he purchased a 1964 Buick LeSabre estate station wagon.

“I think every man over the age 50 should be driving a Buick of some sort,” Wohlberg said recently during the team’s recent pre-season training camp along beachfront property in Oxnard. “It’s a rite of passage.”

The well-worn interior of Eric Wohlberg's 1964 Buick LeSabre estate wagon.
The well-worn interior of Eric Wohlberg’s 1964 Buick LeSabre estate wagon.

“Right now, that wagon is driving down property values. The place where it’s parked in front of is for sale, so that house is probably going for $15,000 or $20,000 less. I am sure the owner will be happy when it’s not there.”

Wohlberg’s interest in vintage cars and their repairs dates to his youth. He was raised on a wheat farm in Saskatchewan where his family had to be self-sufficient. His father led the way.

The creatively done, makeshift engine of the Eric Wohlberg's 1964 Buick LeSabre estate wagon.
The creatively done, makeshift engine of the Eric Wohlberg’s 1964 Buick LeSabre estate wagon.

“If something broke, you had to fix it; that’s all there is to it,” said Wohlberg. “I just had that same farm-boy mentality. If something breaks, you do your best to fix it. Sometimes it might break a little worse when you are trying to fix it. But that’s how it goes. It’s a never-say-die attitude.”

Wohlberg is humble. While not equipped at his home to do total rebuilds, but he knows his cars well and does most of the repairs.

Monterey Auto Week, the yearly international pilgrimage in August to all things automotive is among Wohlberg’s favorite weeks of the year. He camps on the beach in the station wagon with his girlfriend and absorbs the car culture.

“It’s amazing the attention my car gets down there,” Wohlberg said. “Once all the Lamborghinis and Ferraris are judged, I can score 9 1/2s and 10s with my station wagon. With my Mustang, people always want to know if it’s for sale. I’ve had a couple of offers for the wagon. It’s a beautiful wagon and they’re kind of coming back into style.”

Wohlberg’s description ideally defines the term, “beauty in the eye of the beholder.”

The engine compartment is a collection of mismatched parts, the fodder of creative mechanics. The exterior is weathered. The interior is old and worn. The driver’s seat floor mat bears the image of a road runner. A religious figurine rest in the center of the dash, accompanied by a plastic toy rifle. What’s not to like?

“It’s a fun old car; it’s a little rough,” Wohlbeg said. “It’s a 50 or maybe even a 100-footer. But it gets the job done. I can haul a lot of stuff in it. I beat it up; it’s perfect for the foul weather on highways 101 and 880.”


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