Don Palmiter was just 2 years old when his parents snapped a picture of him sitting proudly behind the wheel of his older brother's pedal car.
"It was a 1948 Steel Craft Pontiac® station wagon. Burgundy with cream trim," he says with the warmth and emotion usually relegated to describing an old flame. It's a passion that has earned him the reputation around Hallmark and with ornament enthusiasts as "The Car Guy."
Palmiter says growing up he loved art, but it wasn't until his senior year of high school in 1967 that he knew he'd make art his career. At that time, Hallmark actively recruited seniors. One week after graduation, Palmiter was producing and embossing greeting cards. By the mid 1970s, he made the jump to sculpting.
Then, in 1987 Palmiter was thrilled to make the move to the Keepsake Ornament division. He quickly realized there were few men among the avid ornament enthusiasts. The reason? There was nothing masculine in the offering. Palmiter began to wonder what men would be enthusiastic enough about to start collecting. He needed to look no further than his own first love: cars.
Three years after presenting his idea, the American Classic Car Series was launched with tremendous success. Palmiter decided that he needed to pay homage to his first car, that 1948 Steel Craft Pontiac® station wagon pedal car. So in 1991, Kiddie Car Classics was launched.
"I travel to signing events all over the country," Palmiter says. "People will show me pictures of the pedal cars they had as children and then have me sign that exact replica. They are thrilled that I have created an ornament from 'their' car. I can't tell you how much I thoroughly enjoy that."
1968 FORD RANCHERO GT
20th in the All-American Truck series
Don Palmiter has spent many years studying, sculpting and perfecting the details in his hand-crafted trucks. This year marks the All-American Truck series' 20th anniversary, and so Don selected a model that had evaded him in the past.
Don explains, "I work with an editor who is also a car lover, and we choose the trucks that we are going to do, but the Ranchero is not your typical pickup truck. It’s more of a modified station wagon pickup, but the pickups have a dedicated following. Ford quit making the Ranchero sometime around the '70s, and so this ornament captures that part of truck history. I want the series to have a variety. I don't want it all to be the same kind of pickup."
Advertisements from the 1950s consistently place the Ranchero in a Southwestern setting, but they weren't meant for heavy-duty use. "It's not a rugged pickup truck. It's more finessed," Don says. "It's more for a country gentleman, not a work truck."
Don chose a color scheme to reflect the Ranchero's breezy personality, completing the look with white sidewall tires—certainly not typical of your everyday pickup!
INCLUDED IN PREVIOUS PROFILE (February 2013)
30th in the Nostalgic Houses and Shop series
“I try to incorporate a personal story or surprise into every Keepsake Ornament that I create, whether it’s an Italian restaurant named after a dear friend or a piece of furniture based on one of my own antiques. This ornament has its own story that I think collectors will really appreciate. If you look inside, there is a tiny replica of the very first ornament from the Nostalgic Houses and Shops series—a brightly painted Victorian House tucked right underneath the Christmas tree. There is a lot to be excited about in 2013 for fans of this series, but I don’t want to spoil any surprises just yet!”