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West Branch man gets in gear for charity 'Helping Hannah's Heart'

Hand-built roadster will be raffled for Helping Hannah's Heart Foundation

Doug Siemen sits Tuesday in the roadster he built at his house near West Branch. The car will be raffled off in May at the Vintage Torque Fest 2019 in Dubuque to benefit Helping Hannah’s Heart Foundation. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Doug Siemen sits Tuesday in the roadster he built at his house near West Branch. The car will be raffled off in May at the Vintage Torque Fest 2019 in Dubuque to benefit Helping Hannah’s Heart Foundation. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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WEST BRANCH — When it came time to decide the color of the new 1925 Ford Model T-inspired roadster he built from scratch, Doug Siemen knew it had to be red — not because it’s an appropriate color for a fast car, but because of what the hot rod was created to benefit.

Siemen, 44 of rural West Branch, has been volunteering for a decade now at charity car shows for Helping Hannah’s Heart Foundation, a Bettendorf-based charity that benefits families who are financially impacted by their children’s congenital heart defects.

But instead of just helping around the shows again this year, Siemen decided to have a bigger impact on the foundation by building the red hot rod — complete with heart shapes on the brake lights — so Helping Hannah’s Heart could raise money by raffling it off.

“It’s a heart foundation so it had to be red of some sort,” Siemen said. “It’s just helping kids with congenital heart defects. Put on a car show and hopefully raise enough money to make a difference somewhere.”

The car will be raffled in May at the charity car show Vintage Torque Fest 2019 in Dubuque. People who are interested in entering the raffle can do so by purchasing a poster vintagetorquefest.com.

Siemen said he became heavily involved with the charity and its car shows after being in the “right place at the right time.” While at a swap meet, he met John Wells who — with wife Kim — put on a series of car shows, including Vintage Torque Fest, to benefit Helping Hannah’s Heart.

“I just think it’s astounding the amount of time, work and money he did for this just to give it away,” said Steve Day, a Cedar Rapids resident and Siemen’s friend who also volunteers at car shows. “Neither one of us has ever done a thing like this until he stepped up and did this.”

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Siemen, a physical therapist assistant, said he began rebuilding cars when he was 14 but this roadster was the first one he completely built from scratch. Day said Siemen hand formed the body out of sheet metal to improve the quality of the car — instead of making or purchasing a fiberglass one — which likely doubled the time it took to construct the car.

In all, Siemen said the construction took him nine months and he doesn’t “even want to know” the number of hours. The roadster is street legal and received a title as a 1925 Street Rod roadster, he said.

“I just wanted a hot rod. What’s more hot rod than a Model T roadster?” Siemen asked. “It’s like a go kart with lots of power.”

Since completing the build, Siemen is in the process of driving the roadster around to car shows in Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and other states to show it off and sell raffle tickets.

Day said Siemen has “a garage full” of his own cars he wants to rebuild, but he put them on the back burner to focus on the Helping Hannah’s Heart roadster.

“I’ll be glad to see it go in some ways but then I’ve got to get something done on my own,” Siemen said, adding that he has a 1927 Model T roadster pickup sitting in his garage, waiting to be refurbished.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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