Celebrating Cars

This spring, we invited readers from all over the state to share tales of their vintage vehicles. We received a trunk load!

Posted on Jul 13 2007 in Features

julycoverTrips together down memory lane began with a flat tire

My husband and I met over a flat tire in 1959. He stopped to help me fix it. We started to date and in 1960, he bought this beautiful car: a 1960 red Chevy Impala convertible.
One of our great memories is driving to Indianapolis in 1960 for the Indianapolis 500 — how cool was that?!

We married in December of 1961. Kenny was in the service, so we had to sell one of the cars. We sold the 1960 Chevy. Years later, we decided if we ever saw one like it for sale, it would be ours.

In 1995, we found our “dream car.” It was not the same one that Kenny had bought in 1960, but it was just like that one.

We have enjoyed our car so much by going to car shows, parades and just a “cruise” on Sundays to the root beer stand.

We had a teen say to us at one of the car shows, “You had the most fun in the ’50s and ’60s: good music, great cars and a more relaxed lifestyle.”

We thank God that we were able to enjoy those times and have been able to relive our times with our “Memory Car.”

Kenneth and Mary Lou Burkhart, Huntington, Ind.
Car: 1960 Chevrolet Impala convertible


howellSerendipity in the road: Long quest to repossess ‘The Judge’ ends with favorable verdict 

My interest in GTOs dates back to about 1966. At that time I was a freshman in high school and had a morning paper route. I would drive my bicycle by a new red gorgeous GTO and knew that someday I would own a GTO just as nice as that one.

After I graduated from high school in May of 1969, I received a phone call from a salesman at the dealership in Linton where my parents had purchased several new cars. He invited me to visit their showroom when I got a chance because they were going to order a special new GTO called “The Judge” being introduced by Pontiac for their inventory.

howell2They knew I had a great fondness for the GTO, so they wanted me to help order it as if I were going to buy it for myself without having the obligation of purchasing it. Well, I believe to this day it was a plan that worked. On May 31, 1969, I purchased that new 1969 GTO Judge.

The GTO didn’t have a lot of options, but it ran as if it came right off the NHRA circuit. When I was breaking it in, for the first 5,000 miles I changed the oil and filter every 1,000 miles. It was not what the owner’s manual had actually recommended, but is what I thought would guarantee long lasting performance. As far as performance, just ask some of the “good ole boys” in the Bloomfield area about the “Silver GTO Judge” that Howell owned. It proved to be probably one of the fastest street GTOs around.

In early 1971, the toll of owning a new car and being just out of school a couple years was mounting. The insurance companies had decided that high performance cars were a real risk to insure for young people in particular, and the rates were beginning to show. I had to sell or trade it on something more affordable. On March 13, 1971, I traded in the GTO on a 1967 Buick Electra 225. The days of owning a “high performance” GTO were gone — but not forgotten.

I was sure I did the right thing. But it didn’t take long to yearn for performance after having had it once before. In the back of my mind, I had to have a GTO once again.

In 1974 while making my deliveries as a letter carrier at an apartment complex on Bloomington’s west side, I saw my GTO again for the first time in three years. I knew it was mine: there were not that many ’69 Judges around in Palladium Silver. As luck would have it, I just happened to have a parcel to deliver at the building where the GTO was sitting asked the recipients about the GTO. They weren’t sure who owned it but they thought it was a couple doors down.

I tried a couple doors down and BINGO! I found the GTO owner visiting his mother-in-law. I introduced myself, since I was in uniform, and went on to explain that I was sure I was the original owner of that silver GTO parked out in front. His name was Mike Breedlove. I quickly jotted down his name and address for future reference in case I just might have the opportunity later to purchase it back. He said if I ever needed to contact him to call his parents on Woodyard Road in Bloomington and they would let me know where he was living.

Nearly eight years later, after losing track of my original GTO Judge, I took the plunge and started another GTO restoration project. I learned about it from the Wheels and Deals magazine. My wife Carla, and my 9-year-old son, Chris, and I drove north of Crawfordsville to see what the condition was of a 1969 GTO which was listed. It really brought back memories when I pushed in on the clutch and turned the key, then I heard that familiar grind of the starter and the final rumble of those very identifiable mufflers.

More years passed.

Then one fateful day in 1989, I was at work and stopped in the break room and met a new employee. I asked him where he was from and he said that he was raised out on the west side of Bloomington on Woodyard Road. Having heard the buzz word of Woodyard Road, I immediately thought of my old GTO Judge.

howell4I asked him if he knew of a family by the name of Breedlove, and he said that was his last name. I then asked if he had owned a Pontiac GTO. With a curious look on his face, he said, “yes,” he did own a 1969 GTO Judge. “Why do you ask?”

Well, did I have some news for him! I told him that the GTO he had owned was mine. He and I both were amazed that we had connected once again some 15 years later after meeting at the Bloomington apartment complex. In 1975, Mike had enlisted in the Air Force and was stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City, S.D. He said he sold the GTO around 1977 to a guy on the base. (Sadly, Mike passed away in 1994.)

By January 1993, curiosity about my original GTO got the better of me. In hopes of tracking it down, I sent a letter to the South Dakota Bureau of Motor Vehicles with a $2 fee to search for the VIN number I provided from the original window sticker I kept. The BMV mailed back the information a week later. A handwritten note in the right hand corner of the dot-matrix computer printout read, “I did an all-states check & this is what came up … Good Luck, Susan.”

The name that was pulled up was Duane Pullins of Maple Lake, Minn. I immediately called him later that evening. He informed me that he indeed was the owner of a GTO that I had described and was quite surprised to be getting a phone call from me. We spoke for about 15 minutes sharing information back and forth on the GTO’s condition, and also verifying when and where the car was bought. He purchased the car on Jan. 28, 1978, almost 15 years to the day prior to me having called him. The parts listed missing were the bell housing, transmission, bucket seats, rear seat, and the rear end housing had the ring and pinion and axles removed.

The GTO was still being stored on a ranch in South Dakota. He had plans on moving it to Maple Lake in the next year or so. He did say he had intentions of restoring the car but at that time hadn’t done much. He did promise that if he ever decided to sell the GTO Judge, I would be the first one he’d contact since I was the original owner.

I later received a letter from him in February of 1993 which had a photo copy of the build sheet which ultimately verified that it was indeed my old GTO. He also stated in the letter the condition of the interior was categorized as poor. The console was gone, and both door panels were rough, along with the head liner, the dash pad also was cracked in several places.

In September of 1993, our local car club was invited to participate in a Festival Parade in Scotland, Ind. Arriving early for the event, a car club member and I walked the flea market and found a vendor from Jasper who sold used license plates. We walked over to the booth and browsed through a cardboard box full of plates. They were all arranged in neat order and some even filed by counties within the state of Indiana. After looking through about four or five plates I ran across a Greene County, Indiana plate that was dated 1969. It had a white background with black lettering. At that time it really didn’t mean much to me. I purchased it for a dollar and went on my way.

Later that evening while in my shop where I kept all of my keepsake stuff on GTOs, I found some old enlarged black and white photos of my old 1969 GTO taken when the car was new. Guess what the rear license plate had on it? I had coincidently purchased my original license plate back from a dealer that collected license plates for a $1! I was hysterical to say the least. What are the odds of finding the original license plate from your first new car after 25 years?

My wife said, “Well, we can forget about winning the Lottery because I used all of our luck on finding that license plate.”

That was a good year. I found both the GTO and its license plate. It was almost unbelievable. When I showed him my license plate find, my brother said it was meant to be for me to have the GTO back someday.

For the next 10 years, I would occasionally call or write the owner of my old GTO to see how his GTO project was coming. Finally, in March of 2003, I had decided that I wasn’t getting any younger to do a restoration so I mailed him a letter with a final offer to purchase my GTO back. I finally came to accept the fact that I probably wouldn’t ever see the Judge again. A few days later, I received a phone message on my answer machine that stated that he was now willing to discuss selling the GTO back to me.

Immediately, I returned his phone call and we then discussed the GTO’s condition and also discussed the fact that my GTO Judge had most of the front end and other parts over onto another 1969 GTO, and that I would probably want to purchase both GTOs to make mine whole again. We agreed to a final price for both GTOs, and I made arrangements to take the last week of March off work to drive up and purchase both GTOs.

Some friends of mine and my son helped me take two pickup trucks with trailers to Maple Lake on March 29, 2003. My wife made us up some nice “Judge Retrieval Team” T-shirts for the special occasion.

The trip to Minnesota was driven non-stop. We were lucky and just missed an ice storm in the outskirts of Minneapolis. We arrived at Duane’s home around 8:30 a.m., and for the first time, Duane and I met face to face. It was kind of like meeting a pen pal for the first time. After getting acquainted, Duane and I went in to sign the bill of sale and other documents. It was then official: I was once again the owner of the 1969 GTO Judge that I had first purchased at the age of 17.

howell3While my son and friends loaded the two GTOs on their respective trailers, Duane and I were looking through the original parts that went with the Judge. One prize was the original glove box lid with the “Judge” badge still intact. After we got everything loaded onto the trailers, we had a quick bite to eat and then prepared for the journey back home to Bloomfield.

The trip home seemed to take forever once we got back into Indiana. We arrived home at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 30, 2003. The GTO Judge was home once again, and I vowed to myself and to others that had helped me and encouraged me to get the GTO back that I would definitely some day complete the off-frame restoration.

I finally completed the restoration project three years and three months later on June 28, 2006. I created a Personal Web Page at http://home.insightbb.com/~grhowell to share photos and provide an update on the restoration progress.

The effort, time and money that went into the restoration was well worth it. It is a feeling of great accomplishment that I have my GTO Judge back like new again. After cruising in it at the age of 17, and now having the very same GTO back at the age of 55, I cannot find the words to describe the way I feel, but it is a dream come true.

Gary Howell, Bloomfield, Ind.
Car: 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge

brown‘Scentimental’ journey: ’39 Chevy put spice in love life

I got my first car, a 1939 Chevrolet, in the summer of 1966. I was going to be a senior that year and was working at a lumber yard to pay for a car. It cost $125 and didn’t run. But by the time school started in September, I had it running. And, with a fresh coat of paint, it looked pretty good.

I asked a girl in my class for a date and was excited when she accepted. I remember trying to clean the mohair interior to make it smell good before our date. I found the best way to make the interior smell good was to sprinkle Old Spice After Shave in the heater and turn it on.

After graduation in May of 1967, a buddy and I drove the ’39 to Florida for a little vacation before we both left for the Navy. We had a trouble-free trip until a flat tire stopped us in Kokomo on the way home. After we made it home, I parked the car in the garage. It sat there until I got out of the Navy four years later.

I then married that high school sweetheart, and we started a family — so the car had to sit for a while longer. But I finally got it running again. I still drive it every summer and plan to drive it to our 40th high school class reunion in July. My wife and I will celebrate 36 years of marriage this year. I think it was the Old Spice in the ’39 Chevy heater that won her over!

Tom L. Brown, Argos, Ind.
Car: 1939 Chevrolet


chesterA Rebel lineage: Grandma’s car was a ’69 SST 

My first memory of my 1969 AMC Rebel SST is of me sitting in the passenger seat as a young child in the early ’70s. I remember the distinctive smell of the interior and looking up at my grandmother who was sporting around the streets of Sunnyvale, Calif.

In 1987, my parents purchased the Rebel with the intention that it would be my first car to drive to high school. They thought I would be pleased. But I protested, “But Dad, that’s grandma’s car!”

I wanted to look cool driving to school, and that would not happen if I was seen in my grandmother’s car. My dad assured me that the Rebel was a “cool” car. “Trust me,” he said.

Dad was right! Everywhere I went, people would give me a thumbs up, or comment, or turn their heads, or offer to buy her. I fell in love with her elegant yet sporty curves, the hum of her 290 V8 engine, and her ability to turn on a dime.

I moved to Indiana in 1998 while the Rebel sat in California. I went to a local car show and found the inspiration I needed to ship the Rebel to Indiana after seeing an amazing 1970 Red, White, and Blue AMC Rebel Machine. The owner connected me with the Hoosier AMC club. I soon found that AMC cars were relatively plentiful in Indiana, but no one in the club had ever seen a 1969 Rebel SST.

I restored the car with the help of my new Hoosier AMC friends by overhauling the engine and adding a new intake manifold/4 barrel carburetor, bigger camshaft, and hardened valve seats (no more lead additive!).

The transmission has been rebuilt, and the car has been repainted in the original Bittersweet Orange stock color. I also refurbished the interior. When I pulled up the old carpet, I found all kinds of tell-tale items, such as a red pistachio shell from my high school friend, a hair clip from my grandmother, and an old pack of 1970s-era cigarettes that my uncle probably stashed for when he borrowed the car.

I enjoy bringing the car to local car shows, and I’ve won some awards. But what I enjoy the most is the attention the Rebel receives as a rare example from the AMC lineage of cars.

Julia A. Chester, West Lafayette, Ind.
Car: 1969 American Motors Corporation Rebel SST


wernerSharing a joy ride: Plymouth PJ touring sedan returns to the road in style

In 1959, at age 15, I bought a 1935 Plymouth PJ touring sedan with 35,000 miles. A man in his 80s lost his license to senility and needed to sell the car. The price was right: $300.

It was cool to cruise in a classic car — especially one decked out with chrome, fat fenders and running boards. Although not especially efficient, it turned heads and was reliable transportation to and from school and neighboring towns.

Then in 1961, I was sitting in a highway median waiting to cross when a ’56 Chevy struck me trying to pass another car. The collision flattened the right front fender, cowling, headlight, and rear fender. The Chevy was totaled. We dragged home the Plymouth with a tractor and uncertain what to do, backed it into an old barn. Though it was 26 years old, the car had only 40,000 miles on it.

In 1966, my dad pulled it out for a second look. The car was still in great shape despite the damage. An old body man uncovered a front fender and headlights from a ’36 Dodge. The match wasn’t perfect, but only three people noticed.

Over the years, it spent more time sitting in a shed. The chrome pitted, thick layers of dust accumulated, and the windows grew brown and opaque. I considered selling it multiple times, but my wife, Becky, had no patience for such talk. So, we left it resting quietly in the barn.

Three years ago, my son, Matt, found a pair of original headlights online. The PJ finally would sport the proper chrome teardrops again. Time for a third look. My wife and son launched an effective campaign to renew the old Plymouth PJ. After 45 years, it was time to return my first car to the condition I found it back in 1959.

The original interior is intact and the motor, never rebuilt, runs like a top. New chrome and glass were installed and it’s been repainted the original color, Gunmetal Light Poly.

Now complete, I participate in local car shows for fun.

Last summer, a fellow REMC member spotted my car at a show and had a request: would I drive him and his daughter to the chapel for her upcoming wedding? It was a tremendous joy to share my car with their family on such a special day. I look forward to sharing my car with many more people over the years to come.

Robert Werner, Union Mills, Ind.
Car: 1935 Plymouth PJ touring sedan


modelTTale of a Model T: ‘The best $10 we ever spent’

In July of 1962, I was reading through the “old cars for sale” in the Fort Wayne Sunday Journal and saw an ad for a 1925 Model T Ford Coupe.

I called the man that owned it. He lived in Fort Wayne, but the car was stored at his brother’s farm in Auburn.

My wife, Evelyn, and I were going to see her mother and dad at Turkey Lake in Steuben County that day. So, we went to Auburn where the car was stored. We looked it over and decided to buy it. They wanted $300 for it.

We did not have a checkbook or much cash with us, but we put all the money we had together and came up with $10 for a down payment. They accepted it, showing a balance of $290. We had to pay the balance by the Friday of that week and get the car.

That $10 was the best $10 we ever spent.

As we were driving out of the lane that day, we met a rollback truck from Ohio coming in. They had come to buy and get the car.

The car was original with Ford tools in a leather bag. This car has a tool box on the running board plus a flower vase inside and other accessories.

Through the years, my wife and I drove the car to shows and parades. My wife passed away 11 years ago, but I still have the car.

Glenn B. Kiser, Angola, Ind.
Car: 1925 Model T Ford



Who’d have thought a girl from the heartland of America could fall for a Brit? But in just three short years, I could be driving my dad’s little, red sports car — a bright red ’59 Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite.

Due to her petite size, when I was about 4 years old, I lovingly named her “baby car.” It’s not just me, though. She’s got a face children can’t help but love. With her bright eyes and flashy smile — reminiscent of my own shiny, silver orthodontia — and with her animated features, she looks like she could have just driven out of the movie “Cars.”

I can’t personally describe the restoration, though I have seen all the pictures and heard all the stories. An album documents the restoration from the sandblasting of the rusty shell to the first test drive.

I was not even born when she came into the family, but I have had many great memories with her. In the summer, my dad and I often go golfing together. I trust you can imagine how awkward it can be trying to fit two people and two oversized golf bags into such a small car. Also, whenever in a parking lot, we must find a spot, “baby car approved,” which generally means parking in the back 40, in order to prevent her from getting “blemished.”

The Bugeye is certainly a fair weather car, unless you have a cover for it. This little convertible never has and never will sport a top, because, as my father would say, “We don’t want to scratch the paint.” Therefore, the baby car will always remain, “topless.”

Though built for fun not for show, I begged dad when I was young to enter her in car shows. A few times he has said “yes” on one condition: I help get her ready. I’m actually quite excited to do so, and since then, we have now entered her in a few car shows.

A couple weeks before the show, my dad and I can be seen washing, waxing and polishing the Sprite. This hard work has been rewarded by a couple trophies, which now proudly sit on display in my room.

Sure, I may get my license in three years, but would you let a 16-year-old drive your pride and joy? That verdict is still out.

Stephanie Pitman, Frankfort, Ind.
Car: 1959 Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite


eichhorn1Hoosier teen brings old Texas ‘bachelor’s car’ up to speed 

In the fall of 1975, I was 15 years old. My grandparents went to Kerrville, Tex., every winter, and I asked grandpa to look for a 1957 Chevy. He didn’t find one, but he told his cousin who lived there to keep looking.

He called one day saying an old bachelor was to trade one in to the Chevy garage and they were going to allow him $500 for it. I sent him $550, and he bought it for me. I became the proud second owner of my ’57 Chevy.

In July of 1976, when I finished drivers training, my family and I left for Texas to pick it up. I drove it home, starting out at a slower speed because it hadn’t been out of the city limits. By the time we got it home, we had it up to speed limit and it was humming like a top.

When we got home, we found the fender skirts in the trunk, and an old picture from 1959 in the glove box.

I had it repainted and a new interior put in it. It’s Tropical Turquoise and the top is India Ivory. It’s a two door hardtop, 283 four barrel, power glide transmission with power steering, power brakes and dual exhaust.

I parked it in my dad’s barn in the fall of 1976, and didn’t drive it much until the early 1990s.

eichhorn2In November of 2000, my buddy and I started a frame-off restoration. With a lot of long weekends and hard work, we had it finished in June of 2001.

We’ve had it to a lot of shows and won many trophies, but what my wife, Sue, and I enjoy most is to go out cruisin’ in it.

We’ve had a lot of good offers from people wanting to buy it over the last 31 years, but it’s not for sale.

If our grandson doesn’t show an interest in it (when we’re too old to drive it, of course!), it will be part of our estate sale.

Kent Eichhorn, Decatur, Ind.
Car: 1957 Chevy


snyderTwo tales: one car

The husband’s view — In 1974, I bought a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T, sight unseen from our milk hauler for $600. All I knew about it was that it was black with red stripes.I wasn’t even sure what a ’68 Charger looked like.

A few weeks later, we went to get it and the moment I laid eyes on it, I thought, “that is the sharpest looking car I have ever seen!”

I had a lot of fun with that car. It was the car that my wife and I drove on our first date. A few years later after getting married and buying a house, etc., the Charger was given away to get rid of it.

Twenty-some years passed, but I always had hopes of owning another one. Out of the blue one day, a fellow calls me and says, “I know you used to own a ’68 Charger. I need money and I need it now and my Charger is for sale.”

I told him he had just called the wrong guy; I had just bought a camper and couldn’t afford it.

He asked me to come look at it anyway because I might find someone interested. So I did.
It was in better shape than I ever dreamed I would find one. A couple of weeks went past when my wife said, “this opportunity probably won’t come along again will it? You had better buy that car or you’ll always regret it.”

I bought it two days later.

I spent about 600 hours rebuilding this car and did it in six months. My son used it on his wedding day. We go to lots of cruise ins, shows and just go out for fun drives. Every time I walk past this car today, it still has the same affect as when I saw my first one 30-some years ago.

The wife’s view: married to Mopar — My husband, Bruce, has a ’68 Charger. Although he wins a lot of trophies with it, that is not the reason he loves his car. Bruce likes to talk “Mopar” to anyone who will listen. I watch him at shows meet others who are infected with “Mopar Madness.”

I ask him every show: What is your favorite car here? The answer is always the same: “MINE!”

Bruce is a mechanic of farm equipment. I think his car is his escape from reality. Road trips are my favorite, rather than car shows. It’s fun to never have to be a certain place for an afternoon.

Bruce likes to take anyone for a ride that asks. We probably don’t have the most classy car. But we do have fun, and that’s what really matters most.

Bruce and Connie Snyder, Winchester, Ind.
Car: 1968 Dodge Charger


brewerHow Barry met ‘Walty’

I truly believe that things are just meant to be sometime.

A dear friend of mine happened to stop by my workplace two years ago and asked if I wanted to buy her father-in-law’s old car that had been sitting in a shed for years. Her mother-in-law was moving to a retirement center, and the family was cleaning up the property.

At first, I said “probably not,” as I have too many family vehicles already, but out of curiosity I would take a look. That very evening after work, I drove back through and old alley to meet my friend at an old one-car shed.

As she unlocked the door, I was guessing it probably was a dented up old whatever from the ’70s. But as that shed door grew wider, my heart literally jumped out, and I got all bug-eyed, as they say!

There sat a VERY dirty white 1966 Dodge Dart Station Wagon that had not been on the road since 1981.

It still had the original tires, flat of course, with only 47,500 miles on the odometer! But the interior was like new, and I fell in total love!

My friend asked if I would give $200 for it, as a neighbor had offered her $100! I called a rollback wrecker, and had it home in three hours!

I had “Walty,” as we lovingly named the car, on the road in one week, after replacing some brake lines and fuel lines, and putting on four new tires. His motor is so quiet you cannot hear it run.

My trusty Dart originally was purchased new in December of 1965 by Walter and Frieda Melhiser of New Albany. Walter bought the station wagon as a work vehicle; he was a master dry wall man and painter, threw his ladder on the roof rack, and off to work he went!

He rarely took the car away from the area, except for a yearly trip to see the Cincinnati Reds with his family. The kids’ Reds ticket stubs and used gum are STILL in the back ashtrays!

“Walty” is my best buddy. We drive all over Southern Indiana and Kentucky on Sunday drives. He runs perfectly, drives like new, and we get A LOT of attention wherever we go!

Walter and Frieda have now passed on, but their trusty old wagon will live forever as I go down the road of life. Thanks forever to Walter, Frieda, Norman and Joyce Melhiser for allowing to keep their family memories alive!

Barry K. Brewer, Palmyra, Ind.
Car: 1966 Dodge Dart Station Wagon


moneyThe Blue Truck

When Ryan and I started dating as juniors in high school, a 1957 Full-size Chevy truck came into the relationship also. This is when I learned how BIG of a car guy my husband-to-be was, and still is.

My father-in-law Mike was a shop teacher at our high school and found this truck for Ryan. They brought it into the school shop for his classes to work on restoring. I, at the time, did not have a clue about automobiles except you put gas in them and drove them around.

The classes did quite a bit of work on this truck. They took off the spare tire from the bed fender and made the fender into a solid fender. The class worked on overhauling the small block engine, gutting the interior and replacing it.

The truck was a three-on-the-tree and was switched to an automatic. The truck went from an ugly brown to a blue metallic. It is called, “The Blue Truck.”

We would take it cruising every Friday and Saturday night in our hometown and were pulled over several times by the local law enforcement. We even drove the truck to our Senior Prom.

When we both went to college, “The Blue Truck” sat in his parent’s basement. But once Ryan finished college with his teaching degree, he started restoring the truck again to the way he really wanted it. He placed the gas tank into the bed and redid the wood in it. He replaced the engine with a Chevy 350 small block and also lowered the truck to where it is about 6 inches off the ground.

When we got married in June 1997, we left the church in our “Blue Truck” and did the biggest burnout.

One year later, Ryan and I bought us a new toy to add to the collection, a 1996 Corvette. Sadly, we had to place the truck into storage with torque converter problems. One day, my husband will fix the problem and the truck will be back to cruising status.

We have added to our family since we have gotten “The Blue Truck” and the Corvette.  We now have a 5-year-old daughter who is into cars, a 1963 Nova convertible, a 1999 Supercharged Buick and 2000 Camaro. We will always be CAR lovers.

Angie Money, North Vernon
Vehicle: 1957 Chevy truck


langelierMost folks’ nightmare is one man’s ‘dream’ car

This is the story of a 1949 Cadillac Landau Hearse.

I purchased my wonderful vehicle in St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Canada from a car rental agency for cinema and TV. This hearse premiered in a TV series called Jackie Bouvier Onassis Kennedy which was released in 2000.

This car looked very nice, however, it did not run properly. A friend and I worked on the mechanics quite a lot and rewired practically the entire vehicle as the old wires were almost nonexistent.

In order to start the car, the ignition was the same as a light switch in a home. I asked my uncle, a retired GM mechanic of 50 years, to help me connect the wires and fuse board. To see the lights, the dashboard, meters, horn, etc., all coming alive again was really exciting, interesting and motivating!

The hearse was a home for kitty cats for awhile; my girlfriend towed a moving truck out of the mud with it; and a Halloween party with us dressed like vampires with a casket in the back made some good memories!

As a 1949 funeral car, there is a lot of history, mysteries and adventures!

I “camped” in it with my girlfriend; we put a mattress in the back. It was very fun, comfortable and spacious for camping, except the morning sun baking the black exterior made us feel like we were melting.

I drove this beast around, but not too far, and it broke down a few times. During a parade once, my transmission cable broke, but fortunately it was still on drive so I was able to get back home with it.

After two years of work, the hearse was running well, and I was pretty confident about it. I went to my work with it. Everyone was excited, and I was the talk of day. I work for a pipe organ factory, therefore, I am in churches quite often. So, pipe organs, churches and hearses go together — like a horse and carriage!

The big test was when I drove 800+ miles across the north east of the United States. It was quite an experience as we met many people who wanted to have their pictures taken with the hearse, waved at us and gave up thumbs up!

The restoration is still a work in progress. I purchased another 1949 Cadillac Series 62 on eBay and totally dismantled it to interchange parts. My dream came true, I finally got the hearse I always wanted. It is truly an adventure! I love it!

Stephane Langelier, Kendallville, Ind.
Car: 1949 Cadillac Landau Hearse


kraljMore than a hand-me-down

I am a car nut. It’s my life … my passion … my love. This fire was started years ago in my youth, heavily influenced by my dad and his 1931 Chevy coupe.

He picked up the Chevy in 1969 and began working on building his dream street rod. His influence was his brother, my Uncle Nick, who had built a 1932 Ford roadster. My dad wanted to build something to cruise along with him. To Dad, the car was something of a hobby, but to me the Chevy was my dreams of the future and the hot rod it was destined to be.

I spent a lot of time watching my father tinker with this project in his spare time. I picked up quite a bit at my young age. I think I was 6 or 7 at the time. I learned how to sort nuts and bolts into corresponding sizes. I was taught the proper safety procedures when working when power tools, and how to cuss when those safety procedures weren’t followed. I’ll tell you I don’t remember a darn thing from second grade … but I recall vividly the time my dad taught me how to tell the rear end was not a posi-traction by the way you turned one tire and the other one would rotate the opposite direction.

Always wanting to help I would grab some various tools and pretend to “fix” things for my dad. I would screw bolts into places they would fit and tighten nuts onto places where they didn’t belong. I would spend time sitting in it and pretending to drive … one hand on the steering wheel and shifting with an imaginary shifter.

Over a few years, Dad managed to get a bit of work done on it, but soon family life brought this project to a halt. Raising two kids on a single income was a little more than he expected, so putting family before the hobby, the project had to be sidelined.

Fast forward 20 years, the family is grown and Dad is ready to retire. The 31 Chevy gets put out front and becomes the focus of Dad’s attention. He picks up some new pieces and begins complete the project 27 years in the making. The car moves to Uncle Nick’s house for assembly and something happens: Dad is offered a 1935 Ford pickup that is very close to being drivable and it’s cheap. So, he bought it.

Unfortunately this project is soon a pile of parts on the garage floor as he decided for a complete rebuild. So Dad, at age 65, comes to realize that he really doesn’t have the desire to finish one project, let alone two. So in passing he tells me that he wants to find someone to buy the Chevy.

I raised my hand.

We talked about it off and on for a year or so and came to an agreement. I was worried that he would be concerned with my plans for it which differed quite a bit from his vision from so many years ago.

Dad was thinking I didn’t want to build his hand-me-down. But the Chevy would stay in the family where it belonged.

The ’31 now has a permanent home in my garage awaiting its turn in my spotlight. This car has always been in my life and hopefully it always will. Right now, I am in the parts gathering and planning phase, but if all goes well, work will begin soon.

Considering its history, it looks like I’m ahead of schedule!

Mike Kralj, DeMotte, Ind.
Car: 1931 Chevy coupe


Back in the family again

“Nelley Belle” became a member of our household just before Christmas 2006.

But she’s not really a newcomer; she has been a part of our extended family since 1957.

Nelley Belle is a 1956 Ford Fairlane club sedan. My uncle Don Hamersley was a Ford dealership technician at Clinton, Ind., when Nelley was sold new to a dentist in Montezuma, Ind.

She was then traded-in in ’57 and my uncle bought her, named her, and made her part of the family.

During her early years in Indiana, she made many trips down the gravel road past the Mound, the home place of the famous WWII writer Ernie Pyle, which was near where my grandparents lived.

In 1960 my aunt and uncle moved to Tucson Ariz., along with my cousins and Nelley where she spent the next 46 years.

Over the years, she made many trips to Indiana in the summer for visits after school was out, but she spent the cold winters in Arizona where she taught my three cousins to drive on a stick shift. In the late 1970s, my uncle lost possession of her in a divorce settlement, and she fell into disrepair and vandalism. Uncle Don reclaimed Nelley some 20 years later and began a loving restoration, like nursing a sick child back to health.

We are so glad Uncle Don was able to reconnect with Nelley and enjoy the car he loved so much in his later years.

Uncle Don went home to his heavenly father in 2005. Our family in Arizona has so much sentimental attachment to her that they hated to sell her to a stranger so they contacted me. I, too, was a long time Ford dealership technician and loved old Nelley Belle, so a deal was struck.

Our son Joe has “fallen” for the old girl and has become part owner along with my wife, Katy, and myself. After a few small repairs and some beautiful paint touch up by Robin Sheets of Parkersburg, Nelley Belle will be on the road again and hitting a few shows around the area in 2007.

Dale Fairfield, Crawfordsville, Ind.
Car: 1956 Ford Fairlane club sedan


johnsonFrom Louisiana to Indiana: ‘Henry’ finds a new home

Meet Henry! Henry was born in 1952 and spent most of his life in Louisiana.

Henry lived a pretty good life, but was starting to show his age when he moved to Bloomington, Ind., in 2005. Henry underwent an extensive facelift, which results in the way Henry looks today. Henry loves going for country drives, going to cruise-ins, and hanging out at car shows.

Henry has an original 6-cylinder engine and three-speed transmission. The six-volt system is still intact. Henry’s facelift included new paint, inside and out, new chrome bumpers, chrome taillights, all new oak bed with stainless steel strips, and new upholstery. Henry was originally green, then painted red and now back to green.

Gary Johnson, Bloomington, Ind.
Vehicle: 1952 Ford pickup