THE '57 CHEVY
The ironic thing is that until the day he died at age 88 in September of 2002, my dad could fix anything...especially cars. The whole time I was growing up in Hugo, Oklahoma, he ran an auto repair and salvage business. I don’t know if there was a ‘hiccup’ in the gene pool when I came along but I did not inherit his gift of working with his hands. I did, however, duplicate his love of and appreciation of cars. I just don’t work on them.
I could keep them clean. And I made sure my cars over the years stayed that way. So it was in high school when I traded up to my first 1957 Chevy and set out to make it the prettiest car in southeast Oklahoma. I had bought the car with a $600 bank loan, which my dad co-signed for me. I purchased it from ‘an old man,’ who, I’m sure now that I look back, wasn’t nearly as old as I am now! It was a beautiful silver two-door hardtop and the body was perfect. After all, it was a fairly late model ‘used car’ in 1962...still a long time from becoming a Classic. The one major blemish it had was a set of ‘ugly’ Western Auto mesh seat covers that the seller had installed earlier in the car’s life. I couldn’t wait to get home to remove them. Expecting to findworn out seat covers under the atrocity I’d been sitting on during the drive home, I was exhilarated to find the original black and silver upholstery underneath...in pristine condition. I was so glad he’d had the foresight to install those Western Auto seat covers! So, for the last two years of high school and for my first year at Oklahoma State University in the mid-sixties, I drove a beautiful 1957 Chevy. Then I traded it off and bought a later model Chevy. I’ve regretted it ever since.
Fast forward forty years. That’s how long it took me to correct the error of my youthful ways. On Labor Day weekend, an 18-wheeled enclosed transport delivered my second ‘57 Chevy. I had no trouble convincing my wife that every Baby Boomer should buy the car of their formative years, even if he had to wait four decades to do it. When they lowered the tailgate to the trailer, my throat constricted around a gasp, just as it had done the first time, so long ago. There it was, a fully-restored ’57 Chevy...this one a coveted (at least by me) convertible. And, as a nod to the times, I bought it over the internet from 1,500 miles away. My friends thought I had taken leave of my senses; buying a car I’d never laid a hand on made no sense to them. I wasn’t worried. I’d contracted with an inspector who gave me written report before I closed the deal. So, I got exactly what I was expecting. I immediately filled it with gas and washed it. And that about maxed out the limits of my ability to work on cars.
I have a great appreciation for Classic car owners who spend years of loving care, and money, restoring the Chevys. You make it easier for ‘dexterously challenged’ guys like me to fulfill our fantasies.
Of course, this time around, six hundred dollars would barely cover a set of tires. But then, who among us can put a price on the memories of our youth?