Our Cars: Chris Winslow’s 1971 Chevelle

Flint native Chris Winslow has always liked mechanical things, with a particular fascination for engines. Although his grandfather spent 30 years working for GM in Flint and his mom had stints on the Hydromatic transmission line and painting car bodies, automobiles weren’t a big deal in the Winslow household and young Chris developed his own enthusiasm for cars. That enthusiasm was already fully developed when Chris joined Hagerty in 2009, giving him the opportunity to combine his personal interest with his career.

Title: Assistant Manager Sales and Service

Years at Hagerty: Two

Car: 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle

Background: Sales and Service Assistant Manager Chris Winslow got into cars the hard way – on his own – although his grandfather did show him how to perform basic maintenance like oil changes and tire rotation. He recalls that “my parents never really had the passion like I have.” That doesn’t mean that Mom and Dad Winslow weren’t supportive. They encouraged Chris to work hard for his goals and to put his full effort into every project. Of course, he adds, “As I got older and became a mechanic, they were always happy that I had the skill to fix their cars.” The elder Winslow was particularly pleased when young Chris fixed his sister’s car, but not nearly as thrilled about the engine swap in the driveway.

Like a true motor head, Winslow’s first set of wheels was a running project. It was also a compromise. When his father finally agreed that 17-year-old Chris should have a car, Dad put his own spin on it. He needed a truck, so Chris’ vehicle would serve two purposes. Father and son eventually came home with a 1984 Chevy C10 Silverado pickup truck that Chris describes as “a total money pit.” Apparently the Chevy had been a work truck for a long time and had a worn out 305. He admits that “it got to be fun when I dropped a 350 in it and switched to a 700r4 transmission.”

Why a Chevelle? Three things made this car the right first collector vehicle for Chris Winslow. “It was local, the price was right and it was a Chevrolet.” The original intention was to find a 1967, ’68 or ’69 Camaro, but the ones in his price range either needed restoration or were parts cars. Although the Chevelle wasn’t exactly what he had in mind at first, “The more I looked at it, the more I really started to like the car. Chris was about to make the owner an offer when he discovered that the man had never had it titled in his name. His first inclination was to back away from the deal, but Chris’ wife suggested that they pay the fees to get the owner to properly title the car. Not only did it work, but Chris found out that his wife was fully behind purchasing the car. As an added bonus, there’s room in the back for their new daughter’s car seat.

Repairs and Modifications (planned or completed): Chris hasn’t done anything major to the car, although he’s been trying to undo quite a bit of the past owners’ shoddy work, including a cowl induction hood missing the key parts that make it work. He’s also chased a lot of leaks and electrical issues. He’d love to be able to drop in a new crate motor, but budget limitations may force him to upgrade the existing 350cid engine. For the summer of 2011 he has plans to mount new wheels and tires so that he can “get rid of the drag strip skinnies in the front.” He also wants to add a limited-slip differential and new gears to the 10-bolt rear axle.

Hobby activities (clubs, events etc.): At the moment, Chris isn’t involved in any car clubs. His most common activity with the car is to work on it with the help of a friend. Last year he particularly enjoyed a couple of Hagerty’s early morning Cars and Coffee events and he’s hoping to do more in the coming year, as well as attend a few smaller shows.

Favorite Drive: Right now, any drive Chris takes in his Chevelle is his favorite.

Best and Worst Moment: The best moment was when Chris took his wife for her first ride in the Chevelle right after a tune-up. When we got back he asked her if she liked it, and she replied that she loved it. He then asked if he should make it faster and she said for sure. He’s not sure whether that was a best car or wife moment, but he’ll take it either way. The worst moment was when he pulled the manifold off to fix a weeping gasket and it took two years before he had time to reassemble it.

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