Have you seen a car or truck from Buddy Allen Chevrolet?
Walter McMillan is pretty much the most agreeable car buyer you’re ever going to find. He’ll take any Chevrolet or Buick, either car or truck—it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that it hails from Buddy Allen Chevrolet in Terrell, Texas, and that it was sold sometime between 1934–68. That’s because Buddy Allen was McMillan’s grandfather.
“I’m on a mission to get a car or truck that my grandfather sold, and I’ve exhausted all of my ideas,” McMillan says. “I’m hoping someone out there can help me out.”
McMillan, 63, of Austin, was named after his grandad, Walter P. Allen, better known throughout his community as Buddy. Allen owned the Chevy-Buick dealership in Terrell, about 30 miles outside Dallas.
“Terrell was a town of about 15,000 back then, and it isn’t much bigger now—mostly farmers going back four or five generations. It’s the kind of town where everybody knows everybody,” McMillan says. “My grandfather’s father was the president of American National Bank, so he worked there as a teller. My mother told me he didn’t like it much, so in 1934 he decided to try the car business. He and a partner started Buddy Allen Chevrolet in October that year, and by March 1936 he was the sole owner. He started selling Buicks then too, and he was also involved in the oil business in the Texas panhandle.”
After World War II, the citizens of Terrell couldn’t wait for the opportunity to buy new cars, and Buddy Allen certainly wasn’t buying the first one himself. “Pa knew about a soldier who was on his way back to Terrell, and as the story goes, he refused to sell the first new car from Detroit because he was saving it for that soldier.”
A yellowed newspaper clipping from the 1950s describes Buddy Allen Chevrolet as “one of the city’s outstanding firms, employing 21 persons and having a monthly payroll of $2021.” It went on to say, “Buddy Allen Chevrolet Company has the largest and most complete establishment of its kind in Kaufman County. The building affords a display room, offices, parts and service departments, and a modern Humble [Oil] Service station.”
McMillan remembers the dealership well. “When I was little, we’d go to my grandparents’ place for a couple of weeks in the summer,” he says, referring to himself and his three siblings, who grew up in Kilgore, Texas, before moving to Austin. “Grandpa would bring us to the dealership and show us off. I remember my brother starting a car once [laughs]. That didn’t go too well. He got himself into some trouble.
“The building is gone now,” McMillan adds. “It’s just a vacant lot.”
After retiring in the late ’60s Walter “Buddy” Allen became even more active in his community. Over the years he served as director of Terrell Chamber of Commerce and on other civic boards, as well as various committees of the local Episcopal Church. He died in 1981. “He was just a super nice man and a gentle soul, a small-town businessman who cared about people.”
McMillan says he has enjoyed riding motorcycles most of his life, but when he turned 60 a few years ago, “I got bit by the old car bug, and I bought a couple.” In addition to his 1964 Buick Riveria and 1968 Ford Mustang High Country Special, he says he just has to have one that came from Buddy Allen Chevrolet/Buick.
“I’ve tried everything I can think of to find one,” he says. “I’ve taken out ads, I’ve joined clubs, I even drove around Terrell asking people. I did get one lead in Fort Worth—I found an old ad online, and the year before the guy had sold a ’66 truck that had ‘Buddy Allen Chevrolet’ on the bumper. He put me in touch with the buyer, and we talked. I told him why I wanted it, why it was so important to me, but he didn’t want to sell it. I even tried to overpay and he said no.
“I’m not going to give up, though. Hopefully someone can help.”
Anyone with information about a car or truck sold by Buddy Allen Chevrolet from 1934–68 can reach McMillan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (512) 736-4510.