We had admired, driven, and owned classic cars for years. On occasion, we
would see a nice '50's or '60's car (our favorites) similar to one we used to have
that would bring back fond memories. But you can't always keep the old car
when you need to buy a newer one, no matter how much you'd like to, so
you just smile and move on. That is, until, purely by accident, you happen to
stop in Medford, Oregon (because it was half-way home from a 1989 visit to
the SeaTac area) and discover there is a Classic Chevy Club National Meet
going on at the motel you're staying in. Suddenly your old feelings over-power
your common sense and you conclude You've got to get yourself one of these
again! But which one?
So, the rest of the way home, and many times in the days that follow, you
wrestle with the issue and conclude that the favorite you'd like to own again,
your all-time most favorite car, was your 1962 Chevy Super Sport convertible.
You ordered and purchased it new after careful consideration, and drove it al
over the country while in the Service as an Army helicopter pilot.
You might have kept it indefinitely if the chance to get a Caddy dealer's
loaded personal (new) '65 Caddy had not come up. Our first Caddy!! We'd like
to have kept the SS, but I was on my way to Viet Nam again and we couldn't
keep them both, so with 99,000 on the clock, the SS was traded in. Still looked
brand new. White body and top, with turquoise bucket seats and console, just
like the day it came off the showroom floor. Ahhh, good memories. The Caddy
was great, but time marches on and in 1968, after 65,000 miles,it was just
another car we used to own.
Now zoom back to that post-Oregon experience. I keep good records,
and have a good memory, and with this in the back of my mind, I wondered if
we could find our actual '62 SS Convertible. I recall asking the Caddy dealer
"Whatever became of our '62?" I remember him saying it was purchased
by a gentleman who worked in a sawmill in Cross City, Florida. Heck, that's
only 3000 miles from here! On an upcoming trip to the East Coast to visit my
sister in Florida, why don't we just swing up through there on Rt 27 and see
if it's still around??? Yeah....
So, upon arriving in Cross City, we stopped at the local Florida Highway
Patrol Hq and asked if there was a sawmill there that had been there 30 years
before? He said Yes, there were 3 still there! WOW!!! So we went to the first
two sawmills, spoke to their leader, showed him the '62 SS PIX,and asked if
anyone had ever seen it. Struck out on both. But the owner of the third one
said "Yeah, that was old Leroy. He's long retired, but his ex-wife still works
here" and paged her to the office. She spoke fondly of the car, but didn't know
what he did with it, since he got a "newer car (and wife) every three years."
Worse yet, for financial reasons, her "Ex"wouldn't reveal to her where he was
or any contact information, but, she did have a phone number of a relative in
Alabama, where he had presumably gone. So we tried something else.
We motored to Tallahassee, the state capital, to the FL DMV and tried to
see if they still had any record of the car's VIN. You've seen the TV "Where's
the Beef" commercial? The DMV clerk looked just like that lady. She sweetly
told me that, due to the time span, she'd have to go pull up an archive file,
"so just sit down and make yourselves comfy". She returned about 15 minutes
later and said the records seemed to show the Chevy had left the state nearly
30 years earlier and it wasn't clear exactly where it went. (Note: The first car I
bought in Alabama in 1954, a '55 Chevy Bel Air 2 DHT, had the title filled out
in PENCIL! Before the days of computers.)
But "Granny" was determined to aid my search by noting that Leroy had
bought a lot of cars (8) over the years and noted that a number of them were
re-registered in Alabama. So, Montgomery DMV, here we come!
We were able to meet with the supervisor of the AL DMV office, who was
similarly accommodating, but he gave the bad news that due to the giant task
of entering registration data when they converted to computers, they only
entered VINs that were active within the previous 5 years, so, while it was
likely Leroy had probably had it there a long time ago, it was not in their
records and was likely just sitting behind one of his relative's chicken house
and rusting away (a not uncommon fate in that area many years ago).Bah
Humbug! So we came home.
Once back here, we started looking at older cars parked alongside houses
around here, and drove down streets we didn't normally use, to see if we'd
find a '62 SS Convertible anywhere. We did see one, an overpriced red one
we wouldn't have taken if they gave it to us. Then, one day we saw a different
car that caught our eye, a '61 Chevy Nomad Station Wagon that, although
deteriorated from sitting alongside a house for four years,was still appealing in
its Ermine White over Seafoam Green colors, and only about four blocks from
our house! Whoa!!
We spoke to the residents, whose brother owned the former family car,
nicknamed "The Boat". Purchased here in the San Francisco Bay Area, the
once "Family Car" later became the family's second car when a newer one
came home. The kids learned to drive in "The Boat" and it saw shopping duty
at the malls as Mom's Rural Assault Vehicle. Finally, the parents retired to
Arizona, the daughter got married, and the car was given to the son, but he
never re-titled it. It really didn't excite him, so he started to take the engine
apart to do some sort of imaginary upgrade,but couldn't figure how to do
whatever he had it mind, so much of the engine was laying in the back.
Imagine! A rear-engine '61 Nomad SW!! What a concept. The head of the
house wanted it gone, so for $300 we had a rear-engine '61 Nomad! Well,
almost. We drug it home on a rope and I titled it as second owner and started
to get it going again, ostensibly as a "driver" for my wife.
Years earlier we had picked up a similar 6 passenger '61 Nomad for
$120 and found it to be a utilitarian truck (today they're called SUV's), but
we didn't like the color and it had the 348 engine and would pass everything
but a gas station, so we sold it. But The Boat had the 283 with "Power Pack"
and there was something about the color that quickly grew on us, and it had
just a few miles short of 100,000 on the odometer, so we decided to go the
other way and make it a "show car". This was 1991 and the original interior
fabrics for seats and headliner were still available.
So we worked on everything to the smallest detail to Concours Level
for almost 10 years. Inside, outside, mechanical, electrical, underneath.
Even took the door locks apart. Fortunately, the car was quite complete and
not abused, except the easily replaced valve covers had vanished, so starting
with an unmolested car, and getting lucky finding original correct vinyl, it was
possible to build a brand new '61 Nomad 40 years later.
I didn't say it wasn't expensive, just that it was possible. We lucked out,
finding engine and tranny rebuilders and exterior painters (no body rust in this
area) and an upholstery shop that did outstanding interiors (and who would
let you in their shop to guide exactly how the interior needed to be sewn (by
1961 practices). After getting the vehicle driveable, I drove it to the shops
to get it painted, headliner installed, etc. I detailed all the accessories like
the power steering and generator, including re-stamping the ID tags myself.
Finally, it had all come together beautifully and I was polishing and
waxing a couple final items in anticipation of driving the product of our ten
year restoration project to its first show at a nearby college in the morning.
I went to bed a happy person.
Next morning, after a nice breakfast, we loaded a few necessities in
the back of the wagon and started down the street, headed for the show.
As we turned the corner onto Rainbow Drive when I happened to glance
down at the odometer as it rolled over to 00,000.00 !!! The car confirmed
that indeed, it was brand new again with "0" on the clock! Actually, it had hit
100,000 miles, but we knew what it meant and I took a picture of the event!
Since then we have driven the Nomad all over the country and to Canada.
It attracts attention everywhere we go, whether in parades or shows or just
driving across the country. It has appeared on the cover and in stories in
National magazines. In 2000 it was awarded the AACA Bomgardner Award
in Philadelphia for the Best Restored Postwar Car (Western Division) in the
country, and in 2002 was one of the featured cars at the International Chevy
Show in Vancouver, BC. It's one thing to win an award at a show; it's another
to see YOUR car on all the posters and T-shirts for a prestigious show. At
national Chevy Club Shows, it wins all the "Best" Awards and scored 992 out
of 1000 at a show in Southern California. More significantly, this car has never
been trailered; we drive it to all the shows!
It doesn't have a nickname ~ any suggestions?