I remember vividly as a little boy when my dad would take me to the annual 4th of July car show in the small town I grew up in. Cars would come from miles around to be put on display by their owners. It was something I always looked forward to and a wonderful experience I could share with my father. These cars would converge on this beautiful park next to the town’s lake on multileveled soccer fields, where they were sorted by different year, makes, models, and classes. Later in the evening, before the sun would set, these cars would leave the park and head for downtown, where they would cruise the strip. We would then get to see the magic these cars in action, hear revving of their engines and feel the rumble of their exhausts as they cruised and circled the strip. I was hooked and was quickly addicted to hot rods!
My dad was a car guy, but he just loved cars. Although he could never afford anything fancy, he was always changing from one car to another and they always seemed to bring a smile to his face for some silly reason. For me, the late model ’30-‘40s were always my favorite. Nothing could ever seem to match their shape and lines. I have fond memories of my dad and I just driving around our town and looking for old cars. Sometimes we would take off and go looking for something we could maybe take on as a project together.
One summer day, when I was in junior high we stumbled on a run down 1942 Chevy truck in the back yard of a house in an older neighborhood. It was love at first sight for me and what I would consider my “barn find” moment. I could tell that it had my dad’s eye as well. Although the truck wasn’t for sale, we knocked on the door and proceed to ask the owner how much he would take for the truck. After a little negotiating we walked away the proud owners of our new father-son project. With the big chrome grille and bubbled fenders, I thought we had won the lottery!
Since I was so young, we didn’t do too much with the truck for a few years and it sat for a little over a year. My freshman year of high school I took metals class and decided to ask my teacher if I could do the body work on the truck as part of project grade. I had big ideas for this baby!
After a little body work and tinkering, my father told me he wanted to leave the truck stock, which was not a 15 year old’s vision of a hot rod. I had to break it to my father that I didn’t want to spend the time and energy work on the truck if that was what he wanted to do with it. So my dad put it up for sale and we sold it to a ranch that used it for tour rides. It actually made the local paper several years later. Luckily, we were able to double the money of the sale of the truck.
As I was getting closer to my 16th birthday and the freedom that a driver’s license would bring with it, I found a 1965 Chevelle Super Sport for sale that was parked at a gravel lot on the south end of town. This muscle car had got my eye because I had never seen a Chevelle with side pipe exhaust like I had seen on Corvettes. It just worked!
As soon as I got home, I called the number that was on the 4 sale sign to try and find out the details. A gentleman answered the phone and proceeded to tell me that the car had been owned by his sister’s husband, but that he had passed away and he was helping her sell the car. (It wasn’t until years later I would randomly find out from the gentlemen that helped build the car that the owner was shot and killed in a drug bust by the local DEA. What a story!!! My car had actual ghosts in it.
I told my dad about the car, where it was parked, how much the guy on the other end of the phone told me it would cost, and that we had to go get it. My dad gave the guy a call when I was not home and he then proceeded to tell me the car had been sold. I was devastated! That was my car! Well, we had to move that winter before Christmas. When it came time to move my older sister and younger brother came very sick, so my dad and I had to pack up and move the entire house through a snow storm without much help from anyone. We got into a huge fight that almost came to blows between a defiant son and his old man. Even though we managed to get it done, it was bad!
With Christmas in just a few days, it was a very unsettling time. Christmas was never a huge event in our house hold, but was still one filled with love and sharing. On Christmas morning we rose to find a few gifts from Santa and spend time with together. My father told me I need to go out to the garage to grab something for my mother, and as I opened the door saw the 1965 Chevelle SS sitting there in all its glory. I could smell the off gassing that seems like all old cars emit. In little time I had a few tears in my eyes and could not hold back the love I had for this car, and for my father.
Twenty-six years later, I still own the same car and have been able to fix it up over the years. I plan to pass it down through my two boys and hope they can have the same connection to it, that it has between my father and I. I am proud of this car and what it represents. It is a piece of America and a part of automotive history. I love that people are drawn to it the same way I was when I was 16. It gives me great pleasure to be able to share this car and it’s story with other people. It is built to drive and should be.Andy, '65 Chevelle SS