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C. Gordon Kirwan Jr., businessman, car enthusiast, dies at 84

C. Gordon Kirwan Jr. of Woodbine in Howard County enjoyed restoring and driving vintage automobiles.
C. Gordon Kirwan Jr. of Woodbine in Howard County enjoyed restoring and driving vintage automobiles. (Family Photo)
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By Frederick N. Rasmussen
Wednesday, February 23, 2011; 12:27 AM

C. Gordon Kirwan Jr., 84, a retired businessman who enjoyed restoring and driving vintage automobiles and became an authority on early Fords, died of cancer Feb. 8 at the Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home, a nursing home in Washington.

He lived on a farm near the Howard County community of Woodbine.

Mr. Kirwan found his first car, a Brewster green 1910 Model T two-door touring car, in a Milton, Del., barn. He fully and accurately restored it to its original splendor in a three-car garage and restoration facility that he had erected on his farm.

His restoration work earned him the Henry Ford II Trophy that was presented by Ford Motor Co. in 1973.

Mr. Kirwan went on to restore a 1910 Peerless Model 27, a 1909 Packard, a 1911 blue Ford Roadster Torpedo and several American LaFrance fire engines, including one dating to 1917.

In the late 1980s, Mr. Kirwan began restoring 1965-era convertible Ford Mustangs, one of which was purchased by a collector in Australia.

The antithesis of the "no touch" fussy car collector, Mr. Kirwan believed that his cars should be seen, enjoyed and driven.

Family members said Mr. Kirwan, who doted on his cars and considered them his "fourth daughter," enjoyed driving to vintage auto rallies.

When Mr. Kirwan and his wife went "automobiling," they dressed in vintage dusters and goggles that would have been worn by a motorist of that era.

He toured with Glidden Auto Tours and was a founding member of the Friends of Ancient Road Transportation Society, which also crisscrossed the country on vintage motor-car tours.

The couple traveled from Maine to Key West, Fla., and made several transcontinental trips. In 1985, they were invited by Rover cars of Coventry, England, to help celebrate the brand's 100th anniversary. They shipped one of their cars overseas and began touring England, Scotland and Wales.

Carl Gordon Kirwan Jr. was born in Baltimore and attended the University of Maryland. He was an Army Air Forces veteran of World War II.


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