Darrell Hewitt: In love with customizing cars
by BETTIE MARLOWE Banner Staff Writer
Jul 06, 2014 | 838 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Darrell Hewitt
 Currently he’s working on his Oldsmobile 442, which he plans to enter in Whirl Wheels Car Show in January, 2015. He has named the 442 Toni in memory of his wife. This is one car, he confides, which will stay in Cleveland.
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Darrell Hewitt has enjoyed two love affairs — one with his wife, Toni, of 40 years, and the second with perhaps a dozen others, including one named Alice. And Toni, who died just a few months ago and whom he calls “a great woman,” approved of the “other women” in his life, sharing in his second love — cars. Alice is a blue 1963 Oldsmobile Jet Fire.

His love affair with cars has been going on for 20 years and now he has a dozen cars altogether — five of them antique.

His first car was a 1963 F85 Olds. His dad advised him to sell it — “it’s an old car.”

“I like old cars,” Hewitt told him. So, “I had it fixed up and painted and it always won in the car shows.”

Through the years, he has won some 150 trophies for his cars. But what he’s most proud of is the 2014 Memorial Award from the 17th Annual Rods and Relics Auto Show given in memory of his wife by South East Street Toyz.

Hewitt met Toni at Bradley Memorial Hospital — it so happened both of their mothers were there. Immediately, Daryl wanted to date Toni, but she was only 14 years old and told him, “You’ll have to ask my daddy.”

So he went to her house to make his request. “The whole family was there,” he said — “mother, father, aunts and uncles.”

The only way her dad would grant permission was after they “got to know one another — through letters.”

Hewitt was in the Navy at the time, so they stayed connected through letters and married May 19, 1973. They were blessed with three children: David and Christine, both of Cleveland, and Elaine, of Georgia; and three grandchildren.

He said the Navy was a great career for anybody. He believed the saying, “Join the Navy and see the world.” During his 23 years in the Navy, he “saw the world” — he was three years in Vietnam, he saw a former pope, went to Paris and saw the Eiffel Tower and visited England.

After his retirement from military service, he came home and did odd jobs before going to work for Maytag. He retired in February 2003.

Once at a car show, Hewitt saw his wife admiring a certain car. “I saw her lay her hand on it and pray,” he said, “so I bought it for her. She put it in a car show five years ago in 2009, and it won a trophy.

Besides his cars, Hewitt’s garage holds other collectibles, such as posters, mementos and pictures from events and people of years gone by. If you are interested, he may reveal a diorama of the ’50s tucked into the trunk of his one favorite car. But he probaby won’t tell you he plays a harmonica. He’s been known to play it in church, where he and his family attend at The Church of God, Southside.

Now he’s working on a 442 Olds he has named “Toni.” By January, he plans to have it finished and will enter it in Whirl Wheels Car Show.

But, Hewitt says, the car will stay in Cleveland in honor of his wife.

The Oldsmobile 442 was a muscle car introduced by General Motors as an option package for F-85 and Cutlass models sold in the United States beginning with the 1964 model year.

The “442” comes from the configuration of the car: a four-barrel carburetor, a four-speed manual transmission, and dual exhaust.

And all eyes are on Hewitt as he works on his “442.”

It seems the garage, also, is home for a family of raccoons, which check on his progress as he pursues his dreams.