Heino and Martin Omdahl are often called “the twins.” Not because they look alike – the brothers, ages 61 and 58 respectively, have their differences physically – but because they have done everything together since they were kids. In their teenage years, the two were interested in bicycles: acquiring them, riding them and fixing them. It was only natural to start collecting cars next.
So eager were the brothers to be car owners that Heino bought his first car, a 1963 Ford Fairlane, two months before either of them even had a license. He paid $100 for it, and the two got right to fixing it up.
By the time Heino was 17, and Martin only 15, the brothers were seasoned pros. The pair had purchased, restored and sold about 20 vehicles. The strategy: Buying at bargain prices, then selling high after they were meticulously restored.
“We are on the same page,” Heino says. “We combine goals, and working together makes things easier. My brother is my best friend; I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Fixing up cars became a lifetime pursuit. Now, the Omdahls are opening their collection of 50-plus classic cars to the public in a venture called 1st Street Classics. The collection includes cars from the ’60s and ’70s, all lovingly restored by the brothers, housed in an airy 20,000-square-foot building on – you guessed it – First Street, just off Capitol Drive. All the antique autos have been lovingly restored by the brothers. They’re parked proudly, side-by-side in immaculate condition with glossy finishes, shiny wheels and bright undercarriages.
“It’s like a museum,” Martin says. “When people come in, we like to share our cars with them. When was the last time people saw a collection like ours? It’s a talking point.”
The cars range in value from $40,000 to $150,000. One of the prized pieces is a fierce 1969 Grand Sport Stage One Buick Skylark, a powerful muscle car that’s one of only 800 ever manufactured.
The Omdahls’ collection focuses on American-made cars, but they do own a few European brands; specifically, a 1994 Ferrari 348 Spider and a 2000 Porsche Boxster S.
One of their most gorgeous cars is a 1970 Chevelle Super Sport, beloved by gearheads for its high-horsepower engine – a game changer when it was released – and timeless design. The Omdahls’ Chevelle is a bright canary yellow, and Martin calls it “The Transformer” for its resemblance to Bumblebee from the blockbuster movies.
It’s possible you’ll see one of these cars cruising around town this summer, as the brothers share their keys with the family. But you can guarantee an encounter by calling them to make an appointment.
1st Street Classics: 3889 N. First. St.; 414-964-4580; By appointment only
JULY 4 | 5961 S. 108th PL., HALES CORNERS
It’s an Independence Day tradition! Check it out as a spectator, or show off your own prized auto.
JULY 7-9 | 350 CHROME PL., IOLA
Not only is this the biggest car show and swap meet in Wisconsin, it’s one of the biggest in the U.S.
JULY 17 | 1035 W. PROSPECT AVE., APPLETON
This one’s free for spectators and is open to cars from 1992 and earlier.
This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s July Issue.
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