By Savanah Bandy

At only 19-years-old, James Newton is already a classic car aficionado. 

The recent graduate of College Heights Christian School has eight classic cars in his collection to date, and his passion for the hobby started well before he could even think about driving one. 

“I guess it started when I was little because I carried Hot Wheel cars around everywhere,” he said. “Then I got into building model cars with my dad. My dad bought a 2002 Camaro in 2014. We bought it from our friend in San Antonio. It was a rare 35th anniversary Sebring silver with the SLP package. One of only 74 made. That made me fall in love with cars!”

James bought his first car in 2018. 

“I purchased a 1997 Mustang GT. I had it wrapped by Just Wrap It, added racing seats, did engine work and added new wheels and new suspension,” James said. “It was really fun and exciting because when I bought the car, it was really rough. By just adding a few modifications and wrapping it, it was cool looking. The color was matte army green, and I chose black wheels. I added new headers and did some minor engine work. It looked mean and sounded mean.”

In high school, James took two years of auto technology at Franklin Technology Center to learn more about how to work on cars. His process starts with the paint and body, and basically stripping the car clean. He works with the help of JT’s Performance and Driveline to rebuild the engine. He has his bodywork done in Duenweg.

Since 2018, James has steadily amassed a collection, including Chevy pickups spanning 1963 to 2003; two Camaros; a BMW; and his most recent: 1979 El Camino. 

“I can’t say I have a favorite vehicle – they’re all my favorites – but if I had to pick one it would be my ‘79 El Camino because I’m currently restoring it,” he said. “It is currently in frame off and will be a full restoration with a supercharged LS swap.” 

He shows off his rides at the local car shows and enters competitions, but he said he’s more motivated by the camaraderie and getting inspiration from like-minded people than winning trophies.

“I’ve gone to most of the local car shows and Newton’s Jewelers likes to help sponsor them. I’ve been going since I was about 13. I enjoy it because I’m interacting with people who have the same passion as me, and you see cool cars. Some of my favorites are the Car Buddy Cruises. The Emancipation Car Show is a favorite. We are local, so we support local, and there is always a good turn out.”

For James, restoring cars has been an outlet for him in challenging times. James is the fourth generation of the Newton family, the owners of Newton’s Jewelers in Joplin, Missouri. Within the past few years, he lost both his grandparents. His grandfather, Bunny Newton, passed away in 2019, and his grandmother, Jane Newton, passed away in 2021. His grandparents were second-generation owners and extremely beloved in the community. 

“Working on cars definitely helped me get through it,” James said. “It takes my mind off things by working on them.” 

James started working in the family business in high school and is highly skilled at polishing, examining and maintaining fine jewelry. In the fall, he will attend the New Approach School for Jewelers in Arrington, Tennessee. 

“I plan on learning the trade and continuing our family legacy,” he said. 

Even as James approaches a new chapter in his education and career, he has no plans on slowing down on car restoration.

“I want to continue dealing and collecting cars all my life,” he said. “I love doing it. By restoring a car, you can put whatever you want into it and make it your car.”

James Newton’s Classic Cars:

1963 Chevy Pickup with 355 V8

1985 Chevy Pickup with 6-liter LS swap

1967 Camaro with 383 Stroker

1979 El Camino

2011 SS Camaro

2003 Chevy Silverado

1996 Chevy Silverado

1998 BMW 23 Hardtop

See more photos in the July 2022 print edition.