Car Stories, Great
finds, Investments, rare unique vehicles
Back in 1978, I was living in St. Louis and driving a
truck for a living. I had a gnawing desire to
find a '57 Chevy to fix up. Through word of mouth, I learned
of an old couple in Pocahontas, Arkansas, who had "an old Chevy, but
were too feeble to drive it anymore" and "might want to sell it."
I made the pilgrimage from St. Louis to Pocahontas, filled with
anticipation. Sure enough, there it sat. A '57 210, 4-door sedan, dusk
pearl with a white top. From the street, it looked pretty good. As I
walked closer, though, I began to get sick. It had been "re-painted,"
stem to stern, apparently with a barn brush. The old lady explained,
"Well, it had a little surface rust on it, but I painted it over." She
sure did. She'd went to Mr. Good wrench and bought a gallon of bonafide
dusk pearl lacquer, then proceeded to paint. I had visions of her, one
hand on her aluminum walker, and one hand on the barn brush. The paint
was a half-inch thick in places! Big dried sags... Unsteady nerves had
slopped streaks of dusk pearl onto the windows, the chrome trim... it
was a sight to behold. Hey, but God love her, she tried.
With unmitigated gall, I asked if she'd take $500 for
it, but she stuck to her guns and demanded the full $600 purchase price.
Shame on me. I asked if it would make to trip back to St. Louis, and she
stiffened up and said, "Well, land yes, it'll make it to St. Louis."
You've got to love old people.
Well, soon the dusk pearl was stripped and the body was made ready for a
change to matador red. It turned out good, and about a year later I had
a near perfect '57, with only 61,000 original miles. I calculated that,
and it meant that the old couple had driven the car about 15 miles a
week, since they'd bought the car used in 1959. That made sense. Perfect
Jim Harper, Cleveland, OH
Here's another tale for consideration. ---Jim Harper
P.S. The pic is of me and my big brother, Charles, with the very '57 I
speak of in the story. The skinny runt behind the wheel is yours truly.
This car is fodder for still a third story--- a very dramatic one, with
a near-death experience. Long story short: 12 years after trading the
'57 off, the car nearly killed my brother. "Sometimes They Come Back..."
I'll send it soon.
Sometimes They Come Back
Back in '57, my big brother had the fastest car around. And it was
stock. A 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air, with power-pak and stick shift,
finished in Matador Red. It had skirts, was lowered in the back, and was
festooned with custom pin-striping he had done himself. The hood lost
its ornaments in favor of a "leading-in" job that gave the hood the look
of the '57 Corvette. Even the 283 engine had finned Corvette valve
covers. It was fast. And nothing could touch it.
The day came when, with nearly 70,000 miles on the odometer, my brother
decided to trade it in for a new '63 Impala SS. About ten years later,
he was driving along and spied a car that looked a lot like that red '57
at a used car lot. He stopped, and sure enough, it was his old car. He
knew it the minute he spied the pin-striping. Out of nostalgia, perhaps,
he bought it back.
One day, he was out for a drive in the old red bomb, and had pulled up
to a red light. Some young boys were eyeing his ride and gave him the
old "thumbs up." So, my brother did what any self-respecting owner of a
hot car would do --- he revved the engine.
Trouble was, it wouldn't stop revving. In seconds, that old V-8 had
wound to top RPMs, and the ungodly whine sent my brother into a panic.
Before he could think to simply turn off the ignition, BAM! It blew up.
He sat at the light and, upon coming to his senses, spied a hole in the
floor. A large chunk of the flywheel had passed through the bell
housing, through the floor, and through the roof of the car. It had
narrowly missed his head. He heaved a heavy sigh.
Needless to say, within weeks he had fixed the damage and got rid of the
car. The moral of the story is this: When you have a hot car, think
twice before trading it in --- and if you do, for heaven's sake, don't
buy it back!
The Bike Ride
Back in the days of Brylcreem, poodle skirts and white buck shoes, I was
a skinny, freckle-faced 10-year-old, who couldn't wait for fall.
September, you see, was when the new cars came out. And back then you
didn't have to wait five years to see something truly new.
It was 1957, and my big brother had recently bought a new leftover '57
Bel-Air 2-door hardtop with power-pak, skirts, and three-on-the-tree. He
would pay me fifty cents to help him rub on the Simonize, but I would've
done it for free, just to be near to that wonderful car.
Anyway, as I said, it was fall, and that brought the promise of
something new down at Thompson Chevrolet in beautiful downtown Loveland,
Ohio. If the '57 was that cool, how much cooler must the new '58 be, I
thought. Like a kid anticipating Christmas, I waited.
After weeks of being tempted by a TV ad with a car under a sheet in
living black and white, the announcer finally told the date. With glee,
I mounted my trusty Schwinn bike and rode with all speed toward town,
singing "see the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet." With the cool autumn wind
blowing my fire-engine red hair, I turned the corner for the final
approach to Thompson's showroom window and skidded to a stop.
And... there it sat. A big, yellow convertible with the strange name
"Impala." It's rear end was turned toward me, and perhaps that was an
omen. Never, in my entire young life, had I been so disappointed. Never
had I witnessed anything quite so ugly. Big, bulky, bug-eyed... ugly. I
rode slowly away, filled with sadness. That day, at ten years old, I
knew in my heart that there would never, ever be another Chevy with
quite the pizzazz and excitement of a '57 Chevrolet.
These days, at car shows, the inevitable '58 Impala shows up. And I
can't help but remember that fall day, and that bike ride. Oddly, these
days, I'd give anything to own one.
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