Happy endings aren’t reserved for Hollywood, nor 1965 Chevrolet C10 pickup trucks that find their way home after 55 years, multiple owners, and thousands of miles.
As we wrote in March, Walter McMillan has been a man on mission, feverishly searching for a car or truck sold through his grandfather’s dealership, Buddy Allen Chevrolet in Terrell, Texas, sometime between 1934–68. McMillan thought he had looked everywhere and exhausted all avenues during his pursuit. So, in desperation, he reached out to Hagerty, shared his story, and asked for help.
Before long he was hot on the trail of a Blue Green C10 wearing a distinctive Buddy Allen farm bumper. McMillan calls it fate.
“Less than a week after the story ran, I got a link that showed a prior sale (on ClassicCars.com) from about three years ago,” he says. “When I saw Buddy Allen Chevrolet stamped into the rear bumper, I got goose bumps. I just had to find it.”
Coincidentally—or perhaps not—the seller of the truck was PC Investments, based in Sherman, Texas, just four hours north of McMillan’s home in Austin. Only two years before, McMillan, who is named after his grandfather (Walter was Buddy’s real name), purchased a 1971 Chevrolet Nova from PC Investments. So he called Donnie Smith, the company’s former general manager.
Although Smith now works for Main Street Classic Cars in Denison, he traced the truck to a buyer in Missouri, who told him he’d sold it on eBay after only a year of ownership. McMillan’s attempts to find the California buyer’s name and contact information proved fruitless, but Smith wasn’t giving up.
“On his own, Donnie tracked it down to John Thomson in Escondido,” McMillan says. “I never would have found it without him.”
McMillan spoke to Thomson, who confirmed that he owned the C10. Thomson said he’d put a lot of work into the truck—moving the gas tank, lowering the rear end 3 inches, dropping the front 2 inches, installing seat belts, replacing the wooden planks in the bed, and adding new rally wheels and fresh Cooper tires—and he didn’t want to sell it. After hearing Walter’s story, however, he finally relented.
There was just one little problem. Thomson swapped out the original bumper for a new chrome version, and he no longer owned the Buddy Allen bumper.
“That was the most important piece,” McMillan says. “I would’ve wanted that bumper even if he hadn’t sold me the truck.”
Thomson had given the bumper to Dustin Russell, a friend of Thomson’s son, and Russell sold it to a co-worker. McMillan begged Russell to buy it back, offering extra cash for his trouble. It took Russell three months—“three long months,” McMillan says—to finally track it down. When the truck arrived in Austin earlier this month, the bumper was safely resting in the bed.
With everything accounted for, McMillan set out to undo some of the previous modifications, including returning the painted side trim to its original color of Gold Pewter, to match the interior, and of course, re-installing the Buddy Allen farm bumper. Zack Masias and Jared Cook at Precision Auto Body in Austin (owned by Rey Hernandez) sandblasted the heavy-duty bumper and repainted the lettering, in addition to performing some other touch-up paint work on the truck.
McMillan says the only thing he has left to do is return it to its original stance.
“Hagerty’s story started everything,” he says. “Every time somebody Googles ‘Buddy Allen Chevrolet,’ that story comes up, so people keep reaching out.”
That has resulted in a few tips, including the discovery of another Buddy Allen vehicle, a 1957 Chevy Bel Air that McMillan says he can’t afford—yet. “The service manager at a used car dealership saw the sticker and wondered about it. He searched ‘Buddy Allen Chevrolet’ and found my number.”
Walter McMillan will celebrate his 64th birthday on October 5, but he says he has already received a great gift, and he isn’t referring solely to the truck. “Believe it or not, we’ve never been a huge car family,” he says. “My grandfather, who died when I was in my 20s, didn’t bring us (the four McMillan children) into the dealership so we could all work on cars together or anything like that. He wasn’t really a car guy; he was an old-school businessman whose business happened to be selling cars.
“The best thing about this whole story is that it has brought the family together more often. I’m looking forward to all of us sharing the truck. Three of us still live in central Texas, not far from where we grew up, and we’re getting along now as well as when we were kids. It’s been fun.”
McMillan family members gathered earlier this month to welcome the C10 home. McMillan says his mother and his grandparents would be happy about that; his mom—who was “kind of the core of our family”—passed away on March 12, 2018. Walter began looking for a Buddy Allen vehicle shortly thereafter.
“My mom and I were pretty close,” he says. “I never cared much about family artifacts and stuff, but near the end of my mom’s life she started bringing stuff out and telling stories. It dawned on me that you have to protect your family’s history and pass it on. I’ve become more sentimental and protective of that.
“This has been a treasure hunt that I can credit my mother for, and it wouldn’t have happened without the help of some great people. I don’t know what’s going to happen to the truck when I’m gone, but I hope that it stays in the family.”
Maybe, it never really left.