It was when Jeff had the Astra at Russ Freund's Spokane shop, Extreme Customs, that JF Launier first saw the car. "I wanted it, but I couldn't pay a lot of bucks," he admitted. Recalling that Barry Blomme, one of his customers at his Osoyoos, BC shop, JF Customs, was looking for an early Corvette, JF rolled the dice so to speak.

"So I said to Barry, 'do you really want a Corvette or do you want something more exciting?'" he started. "'I found this old custom, and I really like it; it's more futuristic than the 'Vette and it's ahead of its time,' I told him." One look, according to JF, and Barry was sold. Over the next few weeks, they worked up an arrangement whereupon Barry would buy the car and JF would restore it.

While the extent of damage that the Astra endured prevents us from giving a step-by-step account, we can say that the JF Kustoms crew, including Jerry Billups and Sean Calverly, stripped the car bare and restored it rotisserie-style.

The body is freaking amazing," JF observed. "It's built like an aircraft; the aluminum panels are [countersunk] and screwed or riveted to the steel. Some are bent over the steel. The doors are basically steel boxes that the aluminum skin is wrapped around. The quarter panels are aluminum skin that is screwed to the steel structure-the door opening. It's nothing we could take apart. It's like the panels were run through the English wheel, screwed in place, and then stitch-welded together. The hood is made of maybe 16 pieces of aluminum-seamless, gas-welded aluminum."

The things that made the Astra the masterpiece it is were intact, but components like the lacy steel floor panels required outright replacement. The aluminum skin was largely straight, but the passenger door had suffered a hard hit at one point in its life. Neglect, not wear, required that JF strip, repair, and refinish every part of the car. While obsolescence required JF to make some concessions (urethane paint mixed to resemble the car's last paint job in lieu of lacquer to reflect Jay's darker blue, for example), he said he tried to remain as faithful to the car's original construction as possible.

Most remarkably, the timeline to finish the car to a level of detail probably higher than it ever enjoyed was a mind-boggling 10 months. As though inspired by fate, his goal was the West Coast Customs' annual (and last) event in Paso Robles, California-the location where it crossed paths with its own history.

According to John Everett, Jay's brother, "My girlfriend [now his wife] and I were talking that day about what we were going to do." On a whim, they decided to drop by the show, "We had no idea the car was there," he admitted. "I'm really not a custom guy, but I rounded the corner and saw it."

Somewhat taken aback by this apparition, John called Jay's older daughter Kim Everett-Enriquez, who happens to live in nearby Cayucos. "I couldn't believe it," she said, reeling. "I just burst out, 'that's my dad's car!'"

Without a doubt, Jay Everett's Astra is one of the underappreciated icons of its time. Whereas custom cars defined the era, the Astra was far beyond custom in the sense that it wasn't a manipulation of an existing design-or someone else's dream, as Ed Roth would say. It was, on the other hand, a unique expression of its owner, who merely used a few parts from production cars.

The Astra is also important for what it represents to the design world. Whether or not he sold it to start his business, Jay embarked upon a career as a prototype and model-maker for some of the most influential designers of the 20th Century. He made fiberglass World's Fair exhibits and furniture prototypes for Charles and Ray Eames and Polaroid camera bodies for Henry Dreyfuss and Associates. Next time you hoist a Michelob, toast Jay; he prototyped the iconic curvy bottle for designer Gerome Gould.

The car also represents Jay's earliest expressions as an advanced thinker. The IBM exhibit his shop created for the '64 World's Fair in New York employed animatronics reportedly more sophisticated than those in Disney's Lincoln Speaks, an exhibit that debuted at that same year and fair. It's only if you understand that Disney is considered the inventor of animatronics because of its display at that same World's Fair that you realize how advanced Jay really was.

Sadly, Jay Everett died in 1996, more than a decade before we rediscovered how innovative he really was. In a sense, that car that became the Astra was his first of a long and illustrious line of progressive designs.